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October 5, 2017

Climate Scientists Offer No Alternative Where It Comes to the Climate Crisis

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Technocracy has one vision for Earth.

 
 
James Hansen continues his second career as a nuke shill. This is a perfect example of how the climate crisis (and all the other environmental crises) will never be met by anyone from the establishment, including the “climate scientists” who analyzed and publicized climate change. To paraphrase Machiavelli, you can’t take action with the same people who first analyzed the need for action.
 
If you’re in any doubt about Hansen’s corporate technocrat ideology, check out the person he calls his nuke mentor, Tom Blees, and the straight nuke propaganda site Blees presides over. Blees is also associated with the Breakthrough Institute, an ideological clearing house for every kind of corporate-technocrat “environmental” scam, from GMOs to geoengineering. Hansen is now thick as thieves with the most odious of climate change deniers. Personally, I prefer the old-fashioned de jure deniers. They’re more honest and thus less spiritually repulsive.
 
To recap the fact, there is one and only one way to avert the worst consequences of climate change: Greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stop destroying carbon sinks, rebuild carbon sinks on a massive scale.
 
All else is a lie. Especially, any version of claiming the crises can be met within the framework of productionism and capitalism is the most odious lie of all.
 
 
 
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January 24, 2016

Three Good Actions and No Evil Actions

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A basic watchword for director Howard Hawks was that “A good movie is three good scenes and no bad scenes.” It strikes me that this is a reasonable expectation for those who claim to want what’s good for people and the environment. How about we phrase it, Three good actions and no evil actions.
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This is a supplement to my earlier post about what’s necessary and what’s insufficient. Unfortunately there will be the need for many reprises. To repeat the basic fact:
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There is one way and only one way to avert the worst consequences of climate change: Greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stop destroying carbon sinks, rebuild carbon sinks.
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There is no argument which can be made against this fact, and anyone who tries to say it’s wrong or ‘complicated or that there’s some kind of workaround or shortcut or magic bullet is a fool or a liar.
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To call for the insufficient is always pointless and stupid and abets evil. Usually it’s actively evil, since it’s usually in order to shout down the call for what is necessary, as is the case with the pro-nuke liars and shills among false “climate change activists”, including former standout climate change activist James Hansen. As much as I appreciate Hansen’s years of work publicizing the climate change evidence and his civil disobedience against Keystone and elsewhere, this cannot justify an overtly evil action like shilling for nukes, any more than the alleged environmentalist history of Patrick Moore or Mark Lynas, if this history in fact existed, would justify or mitigate their current crimes.
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It’s clear that this is no passing lapse on Hansen’s part. He’s not someone who mentioned nukes in passing a few times as possibly part of the mix, though that too would be discreditable. No, he’s a systematic, aggressive, belligerent propagandist for the nuclear cartel, and therefore among the second type of climate change deniers, those who claim to care about climate change but really use it to shill for some kind of corporate welfare scam. Hansen was furious about the COP21 outcome, denouncing it as “a fraud” and “bullshit”. But contrary to what one might think, his anger wasn’t because the agreement was a complete fraud. No, he objected only because it included no “incentives” (i.e. new government subsidies) for nuclear reactors. I stress new subsidies since nuclear power, just like industrial agriculture, has always been 100% dependent upon corporate welfare, without which it would cease to function immediately.
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See the COP21 press release of the four “climate scientists” turned science deniers where it comes to the facts about the nuclear industry. This communication is quite peculiar in that it reads as a pro-nuke manifesto which mentions climate mitigation as an alleged fringe benefit, rather than a climate action manifesto which mentions nukes as an alleged potential part of mitigation. The emphasis is telling. (Of course, any Western establishment figure jaunting off to a secretive globalization cabal meeting like the COP21 to participate as an insider “stakeholder” or “expert” should be regarded with the highest suspicion. No chance of their kind standing outside with the real people who are forcibly excluded, like Southern indigenous and civil society representatives. For a true conference of the true people, see here.)
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Indeed, we see from nuke apologists like these the same types of vileness as from other corporate hacks. In this case we have lies about nuclear energy displacing fossil fueled generation, the fraudulent framing of options as being between fossil fuels or nuclear (where it comes to agriculture and food the false comparison is always industrial with industrial, monoculture with monoculture, poison with poison, never industrial vs agroecological, never poison vs. healthy), the standard fantasies about thorium reactors, and many others. We’ve all heard this form of corporate sloganeering before: “Safe and environmentally-friendly nuclear power”. Just like for “clean coal”, fracking, “climate-smart agriculture”, and the similar slogans propagated by similar climate denialists. How about this from Hansen-Streicher on the absolutely intractable crisis of nuclear reactor toxic waste: “Nuclear waste: it is not waste, it is fuel for 4th generation reactors!” The ExxonMobil and Monsanto flacks are jealous of that one. Most despicably of all, Hansen spits on the dead of Chernobyl and those already dead or who will die from Fukushima.
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The industries that commit mass murder are the same who ravage the Earth including driving the global climate to insanity. The deniers and liars for the murders are the deniers and liars for the ecological ravage, no matter what front they put up. Anyone who doesn’t get by now that these are all peas in a pod and that the one and only climate solution is to greatly cut emissions, stop destroying sinks, rebuild sinks, those and nothing but those, is beyond help.
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Indeed, some of these shills seem to be fundamentally ignorant about even the basics of today’s nuclear deployment and the physical possibilities for its continuation and expansion. Needless to say, only an idiot thinks expanded nuclear energy could replace fossil fueled electricity generation instead of just adding to the consumption maw. That’s like believing corporations could ever want to “feed the world” even if it were economically possible for them to do so, which it’s not. The kind of person who wants to build more nuclear reactors is never the kind of person who actually wants to reduce GHG emissions and therefore energy consumption. It’s always the kind of person who wants for everything cancerously to “grow” forever. (“Growth” as the Western ideology envisions it is directly analogous to cancer in every way, from the brainless proliferation to the inevitable death.) It’s the kind of person who is cancer incarnate. I don’t know if Hansen is actually such a person – he didn’t previously seem to be so – or whether in his old age, worn down by all the struggles, he’s weakened and let himself be co-opted by the cancer people. Either way he now speaks for evil every time he says a word about nukes.
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Why do they feel the need to be nuke shills, even though this contradicts everything else they say about human health, GHGs, and environmental destruction? There’s always corruption. I don’t know if these “climate scientists” are getting nuke money the same way other scientists get money from Big Oil or Big Coal or the fracking industry, but the result is the same. Then perhaps there’s the crackpot notion which I often see phrased as “you can’t oppose everything”. I guess the idea’s supposed to be that you can oppose the US government’s wars in Iraq and Libya but not in Afghanistan, or something like that. It makes no sense to me, but that’s the logic. The moment one embraces this lie, or joins with it deliberately, one abdicates the entire cause and betrays it in principle.
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I’d say what has to be opposed is what needs to be opposed, whatever its extent. But in fact where it comes to climate change and the rest of environmental destruction (these are one whole and cannot be separated – whatever poisons also causes climate change, and whatever causes climate change also poisons) it’s not necessary to oppose “everything”, as there are superb alternatives available, starting with agroecology and decentralized renewable energy. When privileged system cadres and those who are still part of the shrinking Western middle class say they can’t oppose everything, they mean that they accept the Big Lie that their own extremely high-footprint lifestyles are sustainable in a way compatible with averting the worst of climate change and the rest of ecological destruction. In other words, in the end they join hands with the most unreconstructed Republican-type de jure deniers in believing the extremely destructive, privileged, expensive yet extremely cheap and shoddy Western “way of life is non-negotiable”, indeed is morally defensible, and propagate their lies accordingly. Ergo Hansen’s Patrick Moore-like lies and smears attacking environmental groups. Cowardly bullying shills are the same no matter which climate crime they’re shilling for.
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In the end we have the same old phony difference like the one between conservatives and liberals. Both commit and support the same crimes, but the latter are more likely to cry crocodile tears over it. Thus our liberal deniers will pretend to care about climate change and the rest of environmental destruction (once more, these are one whole and cannot be separated*) and even reject some sources of it, especially coal. (But many will temporize even there – “clean coal” and similar scams.) But they’ll then flip completely and support other vectors of destruction, such as nukes or corporate agriculture, where the latter are bolstered by the appropriate lies told to the ignorant.
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[*Nor can socioeconomic justice be separated from environmental redemption. All social injustice goes with ecological destruction, and all ecological destruction is accompanied by socioeconomic crimes. Environmental domination always goes with social domination, and often the former has the latter as one of its main purposes. The attitude of “man against nature” always goes hand in hand with man against man.]
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The same goes for traitor organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy which support corporate crimes and ecological devastation around the world. They do this not because they sincerely believe this is the best environmental outcome which can be attained. They do it because at best they want some environmental amelioration but only within the framework of continued corporate domination, which they assume also ensures their own luxurious circumstances. I say “at best”, though no doubt many of them are nothing but mercenary frauds who care zero about the Earth.
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All of these kinds of shills are part of what I’ve often described in these pages (most recently here), the template of “regulation” within the framework of corporate rule. Its steps:
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1. Corporate rule and the projects of corporations are normative and must go forward under all circumstances.
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2. A regulator, NGO, etc. may choose to try to ameliorate the worst “abuses”, or may just pretend to do so, or may actively assist the corporation’s worst crimes. Whatever it does, under no circumstances may it ever significantly hinder the corporate imperative.
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3. The regulator/NGO/celebrity type then goes forth, puts its seal of approval on the fraudulently “regulation”, “agreement” or whatever, laundering the fraud and the crime, and tells the people to stand down and go to sleep. It tells the people they can sleep easy knowing the “professionals” are in charge. Where necessary it snarls at them to STFU and stop questioning their betters.
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Do we the people really want to avert the worst of climate change and the rest of environmental destruction? Then we need a radically different template, one whose first principle is the opposite of the corporate template and whose second follows from it.
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1. Ending environmental destruction and building an ecological mindset and society is necessary and normative and must go forward no matter what.
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2. Given this framework, where it’s necessary we may take small steps, but each step must be along the vector toward the ecological and/or abolition goals. Under no circumstances can a retrograde step, a step which hinders progress along this vector, be practical or acceptable. So the one and only measure of the expedience of an action is whether or not it’s along the right vector.
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As a movement rises committed to this ecological principle and this strategic and tactical principle, its actions will speak for themselves and will need no fraudulent seals of approval.
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I’m sick of the seemingly omnipresent and infinite corruption of this Sodom and Gomorrah. In this City of Destruction all we see are the destroyers and the willingly self-destroyed. I’m not looking for the perfect in anyone, just a few good actions and no evil actions. So far that seems like too much to ask, and it’s definitely far too much to ask of anyone who’s part of the corporate system.
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Therefore the new ecological movement through which humanity and the Earth must come together to germinate and push up toward the sun must come from completely outside this system – outside its institutions and most of all outside its ideas. The system’s institutions and ideas are all modes and vectors of cancer, and it’s no accident that figurative cancer also kicks us in the gut most literally with a growing epidemic of physical cancer, the vast majority of it caused by agricultural and industrial poisons. There can be no safety there and no recourse. “Pick your poison” in the most literal sense, where that’s the best the likes of James Hansen and the WWF can come up with, is at best a confession of complete bankruptcy, exhaustion, and surrender. This is no direction to keep heading.
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There’s one way and only one way to honestly and constructively face up to climate change: Greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, stop destroying carbon sinks, rebuild carbon sinks. This is congruent with abolishing all anti-ecological poisons, the only way to face up to all forms of ecological destruction and the only way for humanity to feed itself going forward. These are the only possible goals, since all other paths lead to the same death. The only possible goals then dictate the only possible actions.
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We have everything we need for the affirmative work. The ideas are fully developed, the science is fully proven, the practices are fully demonstrated and ready for global deployment. The new movement needs no special technology or nonrenewable resources or concentrated wealth or power to fully flourish and let humanity lead itself to health, vigor, prosperity, and fulfillment. It needs nothing but for the cancerous institutions, ideology, and practices to be abolished. These must in the end perish anyway, and Earth will heal itself and continue. The only question is whether humanity will assert itself in time with the necessary transformative actions. I know we can, and I write in the expectation that we will.
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March 18, 2011

Corporations Are Extensions of Government

 

The nuclear disaster in Japan has once again highlighted the basic insanity of this technology. Allegedly failsafe systems readily failed, and aggravating the catastrophe has been the failure of spent rod storage, which again reminds us that no one has come up with a solution for what to do with nuclear waste because there is no solution.
 
We all know what the solution will be. It will be directly dumped in the ghettos of the poor, overseas and probably domestically as well. Any nuke supporters out there – you know it. That’s what’s going to be done.
 
I’m not going to rehash the whole argument here. Instead, I’ll just mention how nuclear energy is one of the most egregious examples of corporate welfare. The entire structure from uranium extraction to electricity delivery is a massive, bloated corporate/government nexus. Nukes = Big Government, Big Corporatism. In fact, as many objections as I have to nuclear energy, my main objection is that it represents the further centralization of political and economic power, the further concentration and intensification of corporate and government power. It’s a further step in the opposite direction from where we need to be heading.
 
As for the idea that nukes are somehow a substitute for fossil fuel extraction and burning, and that when we choose nukes we’re choosing not to blow up mountains for coal or drill offshore, that was never anything but a fantasy. The US has deployed nuclear reactors for forty years now, and there’s been no slackening in the pace of fossil fuel extraction or imports. It’s clear that the corporatist nuke complex is built only in addition to the exploitation of fossil fuels, not in place of it.
 
Indeed, the fact of the corporate/government nexus means that the economy couldn’t work that way anyway. There are no substitutes for existing rackets, only new members of the gang. There’s no established sector where supply has anything to do with what would be demanded in a truly free market. On the contrary, the goal in every sector is simply to produce, with the government guaranteeing the rent extractions wherever there’s insufficient demand.
 
The oil and coal companies have no purpose or responsibility but to produce and sell oil and coal. They bear no market risks or responsibilities, for example to “compete” with nuclear energy, because the government guarantees their rents with however many subsidies are necessary. There’s indirect subsidies like policy which favors increased energy consumption, military spending, and allowing externalizations of costs and risks on society and the environment. But there’s also things like alienation of public property through absurdly lenient royalty and mining laws. This is simple embezzlement, like all other privatization. Then there’s examples the way the government simply refuses to enforce the Clean Water Act where it comes to mountaintop removal mining. This is another example of how corporatism is legalized organized crime. There are also direct subsidies, tax breaks, and so on ad nauseum. The government will extend this hospitality however far is necessary to guarantee the sector’s accustomed level of rents.
 
So nukes do nothing to mitigate this corporate welfare sector. They merely become another, gratuitous one. Big Government doesn’t get more intrusive on the “free market” than this. The health racket bailout is merely an extreme example of the way the government creates forced markets for corporate rackets. This is the nature of the command economy.
 
Add the government’s imperial, police state, contract enforcement, and imprisonment functions, all on behalf of its corporate owners, and we have the bagman/goon theory of government. There are several different versions of the Big Lie to pretend that the government is not simply an extension of corporations, and vice versa. Conservative lie about being against Big Government when they really just want all government resources to go to the bagman/goon functions. But they don’t want it to get smaller, only bigger. Similarly, liberals lie about the government being a counterweight to the corporations. But they also want the corporations themselves to exist. In the end, liberals also want the government to keep getting bigger, but only as bagman and goon. By now they’re indistinguishable from conservatives on policy. Then there’s the more honest and childish “libertarians” who admit the existence of the command economy and claim to want to get rid of the bagman/goon completely, in favor of a direct corporate dictatorship. The corporations themselves are more intelligent than this and want to try to maintain the facade of government. Libertarians as well usually end up supporting the Big Government bagman/goon functions.
 
What is a corporation, really? It’s clearly nothing but an artificial extension of government. Even in Dartmouth vs. Woodward, the original SCOTUS case which first invented the concept of a corporate “right” under the Constitution, John Marshall called the corporation “an artificial entity…existing only in contemplation of law.” This, what Ted Nace still calls the artificial entity theory, is actually the definition of a corporation. Subsequent “theories”: the transparent veil, the organic/natural entity, the “corporate personality”, were simply exercises in absurdity intended to Constitutionally justify jurisprudence and legislation which empowered this particular government branch over other branches of government and over the people themselves. In chapter 14 of his Gangs of America, Nace describes how even corporatist jurisprudence found these theories ultimately unusable (as explicit doctrine, though not as implicit guiding ideology) and discarded them in favor of ad hoc rationales.
 
Nace writes, “A business can exist without the blessing of government. A corporation, by definition, cannot.” As he says, this isn’t a theory, but a definition. From there it’s axiomatic that it cannot have Constitutional rights, any more than any other government body.  Here’s the extent of the rights of a corporation according to the artificial entity theory:
 

The artificial entity theory does not deny that corporations can
have some rights, but it limits those rights to the functional ones necessary
for the corporate entity to participate in the legal arena: the right to
own property, the right to enter into contracts, and the right to defend its
property and enforce its contracts in court.

Implicit in the artificial entity theory is the philosophy that legitimate
power can only emanate from democratic institutions. The theory
reflects the wariness toward corporations inherited from the colonial
period, a belief that corporations will inevitably seek power over their
legislative masters. Such fears have even older roots in traditional English
law. For example, mortmain (“dead hand”) clauses in church charters
limited the amount of land that the congregation could own, in
order to prevent the accumulation of real property in immobile corporate
hands. (p. 192-3)

 
Anything beyond this, for example the notion of a corporation having Constitutional rights, is an example of the solecism of sovereignty, a sovereign over sovereigns, a self-contradiction of the concept of sovereignty itself. We see how the exile of corporations from the text of the Constitution was indicative of how the framers recognized the corporation as too dangerous a concentration of anti-democratic power. They would not have been surprised to see the evolution of organicism, originally a liberal theory intended to create counterweights to the state, to the natural entity theory of the corporation, i.e. an extension of state power through the profit-seeking corporation, to its ultimate manifestation in fascist theories of the “corporate state”. The line of descent here is logical and, given the inherent fact of power’s encroachments on liberty wherever it possibly can so encroach, inevitable. Once again we see the inner affinity of liberalism and all other authoritarian corporatism.
 
The correct view of sovereignty is as follows:
 
1. The people and only the people are sovereign.
 
2. The people can constitute a body to incarnate this sovereignty, whatever they choose to call this body. Government is the most common term, but it can also be called other things.
 
3. Whatever its form and name, this sovereign entity cannot then create a new sovereign form which it then places prior to itself. This is a conceptual absurdity, a constitutional abdication, and a political usurpation. Yet that’s precisely what the “natural entity” theory of corporations claims: That even though a corporation is an artificial creation of government, it is also prior to the government in its rights and prerogatives.
 
We see how it’s impossible for the government to charter a corporation, thereby creating an extension of itself, and then declare this extension not only outside itself but prior to itself. Yet that’s exactly what government claims when it confers Constitutional rights on corporations.
 
We can analyze this absurdity another way if we look at the Bill of Rights, most of which have been hijacked for this fraudulent corporatist purpose. The purpose of the Bill of Rights was to restrain the tyrannical actions of government against the people. So by definition these rights are the rights of the people vs. the government. How can they also be the rights of government vs. government, which is the way we have to view such notions as “corporate free speech”?
 
In practice, such “rights” are in fact still meant to be the same government vs. the people, but with the tables turned. In its corporate form, the government is now represented as the victim of the people, which needs to have its rights protected against the people. It’s actually the criminal minority which needs protection of its “rights” against the democratic majority. Once again we see the fundamental malevolence of the ideas contained in Madison’s Federalist 10 and 51. That’s what’s really going on with the campaign to invent corporate rights under the Constitution.
 
What’s the real relationship of rights and corporations? What’s the answer when a corporatist demands to know, “Can the police search corporate premises without a warrant?”, as Greenwald and others did in defending Citizens United and the concept of corporate speech? The answer is that a corporation is in the same position as any other government entity. Does the IRS or the FDA have “rights”? What happens if the FBI wants to conduct a search of another government premises? Whatever the procedure, no one claims it must recognize a Constitutional “right” of that government agency. The procedure with the corporate/government agency must be the same.
 
I’ll conclude with a reprise of the conclusions of two earlier posts, the first on the identity of corporations and government, the other on how to limit government and corporate assaults by limiting the government’s pro-corporate power:
 

Let’s get rid of ALL government regulation. That means all government assaults on our rights as citizens and human beings. And it means eradicating big corporations and all the regulations and taxes those corporations impose upon us.

1. Corporations are artificial creatures of the government. So by definition they are extensions of the government, and all corporate power is laundered government power. Every regulation and tax a big corporation inflicts upon us is really a government regulation and tax.

2. Corporations directly write or implicitly dictate all government laws, regulations, and taxes anyway. So any direct government regulation or tax is being imposed upon us by the big corporations.

So however you look at it, whether you approach it from the “left” or the “right”, whether one’s preferred mode of thought and expression is anti-corporate or anti-government, either way it comes down to the same thing.

This is one tyrannical nexus of regulation and taxation, corporate and government, all of it purely predatory and parasitic. The only answer, the only way forward, is to rid ourselves of this evil nexus in all its manifestations…..

The radical extension of government’s contract power as well as the radical extension of its initial arrogation in empowering corporations in the first place are expressions of Big Government at its most aggressive. How ironic that it’s the self-named “libertarians” who have been the most fervent ideologues of this radical, aggressive Big Government, and all these aggressive interferences in the market. (There’s no such thing as a “free” market, but there are certainly more or less free markets. A market where government interferes to create corporations is a market greatly distorted by Big Government action.)

So there’s a basic principle and practical outline for policy advocacy.

1. Limit corporations by limiting government, and limit government by limiting corporations.

2. The most simple and far-reaching solution: Abolish the government power to create corporations in the first place.

3. Short of that, the basic concept is to limit the contract recognition and enforcement power to the kinds and magnitudes of contracts which are in the public interest.

March 12, 2011

Chernobyl in Japan?

Filed under: Dance of Death, Scientism/Technocracy — Tags: — Russ @ 5:24 am

 

I can’t tell how bad it is yet, but after dire news of how officials at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Okuma were trying to stave off a meltdown, we’re getting reports of an explosion inside the plant.
 
Here’s the text of two e-mail alerts from Stratfor:
 

Red Alert: Japan Warns of Possible Nuclear Meltdown
March 12, 2011

Japanese officials are cautioning that a nuclear meltdown may occur at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant near the town of Okuma. According to Japan’s Jiji Press, some of the reactor’s nuclear fuel rods were briefly exposed to the air after the reactor’s water levels dropped through evaporation. A fire engine is currently pumping water into the reactor and the water levels are recovering, according to an operator of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which operates the plant. A TEPCO spokesman said the company believes the reactor is not melting down or cracking and that workers are currently attempting to raise the water level.

If a meltdown takes place — essentially the core of the reactor overheating and damaging the fuel rods themselves — it would be the first since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and the Three Mile Island incident in 1979.

Red Alert: Explosion Reported at Japanese Nuclear Plant
March 12, 2011

An explosion occurred March 12 at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan, Japanese news agency Jiji reported, citing local police. Reports of an explosion and smoke come after Japanese officials cautioned that a nuclear meltdown was possible. Officials at the plant had reported that part of the reactor core was exposed to air for a brief moment and that they were attempting to raise the water level to continue cooling the reactor. Officials later stated that steam was vented from the power plant to release the pressure built up by evaporating water. If an explosion occurred, it would indicate that the additional water pumped into the reactor has been unable to stave off the meltdown reaction inside the reactor core and that the plant is experiencing a far more serious crisis than initially reported by the Japanese authorities.

 
Here’s the latest from Al Jazeera.

September 30, 2009

The Iranian Bomb

Filed under: Global War On Terror, Globalization — Tags: , , , — Russ @ 8:59 am
Here’s a rundown on the situation with Iran.
 
1. In spite of some inflammatory rhetoric on both sides, it’s extremely unlikely that any Iranian regime would launch a bolt out of the blue strike against Israel if they had the bomb. But the neocons at least claim to believe this, which gives them their alleged rationale for beating the war drums.
 
A neocon always wants war, somewhere, everywhere. It’s the essence of the Global War on Terror. Any pretext will do, and any conceivable threat, however absurd in practice, will be represented as a plausible clear and present danger to the American homeland. Thus we have had the spectacle of the Eastern European missiles (really meant to help reestablish Cold War conditions vis Russia) represented as a critical defense against the existential threat nonexistent Iranian ICBMs pose to our cities.
 
2. Iran believes it has the right to develop a bomb; that it’s absurd on its face that America and Israel have the right to the bomb but not them.
 
Indeed, Israel is not an adherent of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its own original grounds for refusal were precisely that the Treaty has no ethical basis for dividing the world into the pre-1967 nuclear powers (who got to keep their nukes) and everybody else, for whom they would be forbidden. This was purely an arbitrary, might-makes-right division.
 
So by Israel’s own logic, there’s no basis to forbid Iran the bomb. Iran adhered to the NPT only under duress; clearly where the weak agree under the pressure of the bullying of the strong, this agreement is not binding the way it is for what strong impose on themselves.
 
(American allies India and Pakistan are also non-adherents who have gone on to develop their own bombs.)
 
Also, one of the “three pillars” of the NPT, along with non-proliferation and “peaceful use”, is nuclear disarmament. In theory signatories are supposed to seek a weapon-free world.
 
Of course, American and Britain never intended any such thing; for them that provision was just nukewashing. And by now non-signatory Israel fully supports the arbitrary morality of the NPT division which it originally rejected, now that its own rogue nukes have been normalized within the neocon order.
 
That disposes of the moral right and wrong
 
3. Are the Iranians absolutely committed to developing a bomb, or are they trying to use it as a bargaining chip? This is unknown, but see (8) below.
 
4. To the extent they really want the bomb, they want it as a deterrent. Clearly America is an erratically aggressive, bullying power which understands only strength. You can deal with bullies like neocon America only if your position is credibly backed up by the real threat of force. That’s the lesson of Munich, which North Korea took to heart. Not long ago there was a lot of threatening bluster spewed Pyongyang’s way. Since it’s come to be believed that the North now has the bomb, we don’t hear the Korean war drums as much anymore.
 
5. What’s America’s circumstance? By any reality-based measure, it’s not prepared to start another war. The military is already overstretched (even not counting another escalation in Afghanistan), and fantasies of a few “smart” strikes are not likely to get the job done. Of course our financial and physical resources are spent. As for the politics, the American people have definitively turned against the Iraq war, the polls now run against Afghan escalations and even the war itself. Nobody except the neocons and the corporations wants to launch another war.
 
6. In the event of an attack, Iran’s most likely retaliation would be to mine the Straits of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil exports pass. They have said they would do this, and it’s the only effective thing they could do anyway.
 
The results of the subsequent oil shock and price shock would be devastating to the “recovery”. The green shoots would wither and die without the constant watering of relatively cheap oil. 
 
To mine the Straits they would use a vast fleet of small boats. While America’s military flyswatter can swat fly after fly, we’re talking one huge swarm of flies. If these boats could launch their coordinated sowing, as they would be able if Israel struck unilaterally, it would be excruciating to sweep out the place afterward. 
 
So attack, if it’s to make any tactical sense, has to be coordinated ahead of time between America and Israel (or just launched by America by itself). The attacks would have to try to destroy the whole minelayer fleet preemptively, even though that’s hundreds of small boats all along the Iranian coast. Israel could never do it by itself. 
 
7. So a unilateral Israeli strike is no good. But, if Obama hesitates, could Israel engage in Strangelovian extortion? Could it insist that it will attack, unilaterally if need be and to hell with the consequences, thereby presenting Obama with the equivalent of General Ripper saying “you boys better send SAC in after them or you’ll get destroyed by the commie retaliation”? Could Israel’s equivalent be “you’d better go in with us or face the straits mining without preemption”?
 
So as we can see from 5-7, the military “option” is no good. (Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not crazy enough to do it anyway.)
 
8. Diplomacy? What’s the carrot, what’s the stick? The stick would supposedly be sanctions (Iran is most vulnerable in its gasoline imports). But the requisite Russian and Chinese consent are not likely. Since it’s also unlikely that the Americans would really try to sanction Chinese energy companies (important Chimerica players), it seems that just like with “financial regulation” and “health care reform”, so for Obama “sanctions” looks like yet another empty word.
 
The carrot probably doesn’t exist. Peaceful nuke technological assistance? (The third pillar.) But this would come at the price of bowing to American diktat. So from the Iranians’ point of view this wouldn’t be a carrot at all, but a lesser stick. So far as I’ve read, America has nothing they want; they want America out of their face.
 
9. So it looks like they’ll continue on their current path. They’ll delay talks, go through the motions, but not let American threats, which they perceive to be impotent bluster, to deter them from their goal.
 
If that’s the case, then America must resign itself to the Iranian bomb or take the crazy route of war, which probably won’t work anyway.
 
10. As for we Americans, to us this bomb is of course not a joke. Proliferation is a bad thing, and it’s too bad the corporatist faction in America chose the globalist path which both rendered proliferation more likely and guaranteed that the proliferators would see America as the predator they were seeking to deter.
 
We should see that the real enemy is domestic, and permanent war empowers him. The best way to start waging war against the real enemy is to prevent him from using hijacked American resources to wage imperial war abroad. That means ending the GWOT: shutting down existing theaters and preventing the opening of new ones.  

September 8, 2009

Monuments and Collapse (Scientism 4)

Some weeks back the NYT Week in Review section ran a good piece on the travails of the CERN Large Hadron Collider. While the media was all over how the 15 year, $9 billion project has been plagued by explosions and magnets on strike, and how it just maybe might be able to start running on 50% power by next year, this was the only piece I saw which delved into the eschatological implications.
 
The article, by physicist James Glanz, takes its cue from a recent trip to Belize, where as a tourist he visited the ancient Mayan pyramid at Xunantunich. Pondering how the Maya abruptly abandoned this and other monumental sites after spending centuries building them, and contemplating the boondoggle that is CERN, he was driven to the conclusion that “the similarities between the two projects were clear-cut.”
 
The collapse of the Maya is evidently a mystery to mainstreamers and academics, but not to Glanz’s local guide Albert: they didn’t rotate their crops, and therefore “there was no food”. It’s also not much of a mystery to Peak Oilers who are aware of the agricultural practices of the Maya, how their equivalent of industrial ag led to depleted soil and disastrous erosion. Meanwhile climate change experts explain how the rainfall of that region depends upon a multi-century cycle of the rains falling mostly over the isthmus or further south over the South American landmass. The Maya reached their peak during a favorable rain cycle of hundreds of years; when the rains moved back south, that was the death blow for their already soil-destroying agricultural model.
 
To compare a recent event, while many people are familiar with how Cuba agriculturally grappled with being cut off from the Soviet oil subsidy, not as many talk about the parallel and opposite experience of North Korea. Cut off from the fossil fuels which powered its particularly fossil-intensive version of monoculture, the North tried to double down, expanding production onto ever more marginal land: hillsides and so on.
 
Sound familiar from what America’s corn ethanol dementia has been wreaking?
 
The results were predictable: an erosion disaster which denuded the hills and dumped their debris on what little decent valley soil was left. Who knows how many millions starved in the ensuing famine?
 
There’s strong evidence that the Maya were also driven to deforest their hillsides to try to cultivate them, with similar results.
 
In this calamity, as their monumental agriculture failed, that they had to abandon their monumental architecture as well, like the pyramid at Xunantunich, is not surprising. Nor is it a surprise that they lost faith in the religion to which it was built as a shrine.
 
Similarly, today people are coming to sense that the promises of the progress religion will not be kept. As people lose faith in this creed, they will lose enthusiasm for investment in the monumental shrines of this religion – things like the CERN particle collider, or space travel. That these astronomical things are astronomically expensive, and that the promised results, the SROI (science return on investment) sound ever more gossamer and would take generations to achieve where once great results could be achieved in mere years (and at much less expense), at a time when the world sinks into global depression in direct defiance of the promises of the faith, and as a direct result of the lies of the preachers of that faith, will only render them all the more practically impossible and morally obscene.
 
One can picture the dismay of the Mayan priests as the people drained away. What can have happened to bring this crisis to our faith? And then many of them must have understood perfectly. Many must have also been plantation owners, or were the hired cadres of the latifundia propagating the age old pious fraud.
 
So today we see the same bemusement among the priests of scientism. Glanz describes the angst among the physicists over the plight at CERN. He even goes so far as to offer the moral protest that “many other scientists ardently believe that it would be an injustice if the collider were threatened by delays that are miniscule in comparison to the lifetime of the cosmos” (emphasis added).
 
So in the same way a rich teenager may bewail the cruelty of the world if her parents refuse to spend $50K on her Sweet 16 party instead of only 20, so these scientists are morally entitled to extract infinite billions from the beleaguered workers of the world, giving nothing in return, and are being oppressed if they are denied their entitlement. Glad we got that straight.
 
This has always been the attitude of the true believers among priesthoods, and we’re not going to see this lobby go away anytime soon if it can also offer the prospect of corporatist profit.
 
(In that connection, we’re seeing an old front newly opening up again: new prospects for geoengineering are being touted by studies and in the media as the upcoming Copenhagen conference gets a lot of attention, and as people come to realize that domestic legislative efforts like Waxman-Markey are always going to be insufficient to deal with the climate crisis, and as people start to think that maybe they don’t really want to pay to deal with it. This is the happy hunting ground for disaster capitalism, and geoengineering is a classic disaster opportunity.
 
Of course the people who didn’t want to pay directly through slightly higher energy costs in the short-term, while they’d end up saving money in the longer term, will end up indirectly paying far more for geoengineered corporatism. That in turn will only end up failing to solve the climate disaster while it adds unimaginable new environmental calamities, and how much are those going to cost?
 
But scientism will get a new playground for awhile.)
 
As they scratch their heads over the conundrum, academics don’t want to face the truths of Peak Oil, resource depletion, the collapse of exponential debt, so they may focus on ideology and spirit as if they exist in a vacuum. Thus Glanz quotes anthropologist Richard Leventhal to the effect that physical explanations for the Mayan collapse are “beside the point”. Rather, “these multigenerational projects are based upon a strong and ongoing belief system in how the world works”. So it all depends on faith, and faith simply stands or falls on its own, like faith in the stock market. The physical unsustainability of that faith is meaningless.
 
In truth we know that the spirit, while it can help inspire, can go only so far as the flesh is able. Ideology and its collapse track the sustainability and collapse of the resource base. Explanations which focus only on the spirit are always incomplete at best.
 
If we look at the Decline and Fall of Rome, we see how insufficient were the predominantly spiritual and character explanations of commentators like Vegetius and Gibbon, how these are really supplements to resource and complexity analyses like that of Joseph Tainter.   
 
This is of course an extremity of absurdity, this revival of the collapse of pure spirit, but they’re driven to it by the necessity to deny resource depletion and what it is dictating. Instead they appeal to a kind of patriotism, the patriotism of science. The success of something like the Hadron Collider or the colonization of Mars depends upon everyone continuing to religiously believe in it, and exercise that belief by socioeconomically enslaving themselves to it.
 
And if you question, if you doubt, if you dissent, if you scoff, you are subversive, heretical, unpatriotic, anti-American, treasonous, criminal. The rhetoric isn’t at this level yet, but the attitude is coalescing.
 
In reality, the spiritual/ideological superstructure and the resource base operate in a dialectical interplay which is driven by the base.
 
If we have:
 
A. The physical facts – resource depletion and agricultural failure;
 
B. The spiritual demoralization and loss of faith;
 
then we can see how:
 
A leads to B: the rains, the soil, the oil fails – it means the gods failed;
 
B leads to A: stupidity, short-sightedness, failure to respect, cherish, revere the land – lead to physical destruction and depletion.
 
We can see the results of the progress religion, growth fundamentalism, and scientism everywhere today. If resource abundance originally seduced humanity into its profligacy and wastefulness, we have long been unquestioning, voluntary fanatics about it, to the point that even as gods fail everywhere, the faith still holds strong, at least on the surface.
 
Perhaps the first hairline cracks are appearing where it comes to monumental science projects like CERN. Here the version of the progress faith is the so-called Standard Model. This is the particular detail of the “strong and ongoing belief system” for whose future these particle scientists fear.
 
The failure of faith here would not be lack of “belief” in the Standard Model as such, but in the propriety, the EROI and SROI of investing endless $ billions to carry out arcane experiments to prove or disprove some abstruse mathematical detail, while so many millions lack jobs and go hungry.
 
In the end faith in the system depends upon faith in the proposition that the great bulk of the wealth of society should go into the pockets of a handful of men, for their personal amusement and private religious ritual, and that somehow, in some Utopia thousands of years form now, it’ll all trickle down, and our distant descendents will honor us as saints, that we submitted as slaves today, that we believed these promises which were eventually redeemed.
 
That’s the superstition demanded of us.
 
The article ends with a piece of boosterism from a CERN spokesman: “I sincerely hope that if the human race has managed to survive” as long into the future as we have come since the Maya, “we will have left a big enough imprint on science that people will not have to speculate on what the priesthood of CERN was up to”.
 
But even right now we can only “speculate”. What are they up to?

September 4, 2009

Tech Monuments as Consumerism and Class War (Scientism 2 of 5)

In post 1 we saw how something like CERN comes about. From the scientistic point of view, society is simply another resource to be mined for its own narrow purposes. In this, it is an extension of modern shallowness and selfishness in general. At the same time it allows science itself to become the prostitute of corporate interests. So it happily works as a slave in the mine it has helped rip open. 
 
It’s just like the space program. Obscenely expensive toys for overgrown children to play. It’s an extreme version of the high-maintenance hedonist consumer culture. Technicians of physics who want this toy to play with are no different from a suburbanite who just needs a McMansion, a Hummer, a plasma TV.
 
Do these scientists consider themselves “thinkers” or “artists”? No, they’re just technicians who don’t even produce anything. Any freelance mechanic or carpenter contributes far more social value.
 
And what would these tinpot Edisons do without the boss man to give them their laboratories and their marching orders? Is it even possible to be a technician without spending one’s life repeatedly bought and sold? All they are is a commodity.
 
And then we behold an absurd “prestige” project like a particle collider, something which looks like a parody of the Titanic, which itself had made itself farcical before it even sank, what with its absurd rhetoric about being “unsinkable”. If it had been a character in the drama you would know it was going to sink.
 
Today we are in the age of resource depletion, of Peak Oil. Today all realistic people look at any massive capitalization and think of Ozymandias. CERN, the space program, geoengineering, nuclear power, CCS, Dubai, Las Vegas, Atlanta….these are all one spectrum of hubris. And not even the glorious if fatal Greek pride, but a snivelling, spiritual picayune brat’s pride which seeks to compensate for its puniness and paltriness through big, noisy things. Deep down it’s the same bigger-is-better, flashier-is-better consumerist mindset which got us into this whole mess.
 
But net entropy declares this is all vanity. We should look at a parking lot full of unsold cars (even a potemkin “market” like cash for clunkers can only go so far), or a high-rise condo with all the units unsold and empty, and then compare a high-tech toy like CERN.
 
Of course no one really thinks a particle collider or anything that can be learned from it is going to be of any use at all post-Peak Oil. I guess using that money for real scientific investment, say to develop better post-fossil fuel agricultural varieties, isn’t sexy enough for the scienticians.
 
I fear we cannot afford to waste all this money. Not one cent of it.
 
I don’t know what kind of science could come of such massive capitalizations which would be beneficial to the non-rich during energy descent.
 
I’d be willing to bet two things about CERN:
 
1. It wasn’t funded by private capital. (Costs socialized, including the risk of generating a black hole, however infinitesimal that may be; the guys at Alamogordo thought it theoretically possible the first atom bomb blast would set the atmosphere on fire. At least then there was a war on.)
 
2. Any benefits will be for the wealthy, any profits private.
 
As for spending billions to experimentally validate quantum ideas, why? Spiritually, philosophically, aren’t the ideas enough? It’s an insult to the real spirit of science to assume you need billions of dollars for a toy in order to study science. On the contrary, it’s the mark of a creatively sterile technician.
 
A creative thinker finds all he needs in nature, in the works of the philosophers, in the writings of the mystics, poets, and revolutionaries. Archimedes, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton didn’t need billions worth of technological monstrosities. All they needed was their ideas and some pre-fossil fuel tools. That’s all we need today. (Boscovitch anticipated quantum theory in the 18th century using no special equipment. The idea for black holes also dates to that time.)
 
The issue becomes especially ridiculous when we consider plummeting net energy and EROEI (energy return on investment). It was Newton who said he was “standing on the shoulders of giants”. And today? We have grasshoppers on the shoulder of the Statue of Liberty, and it costs an astronomical amount to lift them up there.
 
The “SROI”, science return on investment, is less favorable by now than Peak Oil’s EROI will ever be.
 
(This provides a good object lesson regarding EROEI and the prospects for tyranny to try to use force to overcome it. All the wealth transfers of corporatism are exercises in not requiring capitalism to earn its keep by actually creating value and generating valid profits. Monumental technology indulgences like the collider or the space program are similar examples of wealth redistribution upward.
 
So in the same way that ROI is overcome in all these cases through politically enabled embezzlement and theft, they will if they can try to overcome the EROEI ramifications of Peak Oil and resource depletion through direct force: slave labor and repression.)
 
Even if any of this “investment” actually produced a return, it would go only to the power and wealth structure. If the technology-will-save-us myth ever did come true, it would only be to power elite fortresses while the serfs freeze in the dark.
 
Do you enjoy the internet? Consider it very useful? In ten years connections probably won’t be available for the non-rich, let alone in libraries.
 
Of course, it’s possible that things won’t turn out this way. Check out this piece from the Washington Post. The writer is clear on the economic devastation and technological stratification likely to befall us. Yet he’s expecting the power elite, out of some newfound goodness of their hearts never before in evidence, to spread the wealth at their own expense. Suddenly, after trickle down failed everywhere else, every time, it will work this time as simple charity.
 
Are we going to count upon this?
 
Do scientism and technology any longer serve man? They do not if they rig up an economy which destroys all meaningful jobs, sets up a totalitarian surveillance system and database, and concentrates all wealth in the hands of a few, who we must then beg to bestow welfare upon the superfluous masses.
 
Politically, that welfare state can never exist. The rich would never contribute to it. And why would the people be willing to live like that? Free-minded human beings would not be willing.
 
No, if it were ever possible to beg for welfare from thieves, that would only be because the thief feared the beggar, and that would only be because the beggar was strong enough to be, not a beggar, but an avenger.
 
These are the inevitable end choices for the technological corporatist state as it enters Peak Oil. Enslavement or revolution.
 
Technology and capitalism are in the same position. Any good they were going to do they’ve long since done. They now add only delusions, oppression, and waste, and misdirect mankind from truly confronting its problems.
 
There is no more “innovation”. This economic crisis and Peak Oil prove that once and for all. What we need to innovate is the wisdom to constructively use what we have.
 
By now it’s obvious, looking at any issue, any problem, what measures could be part of the solution, or could at least help ease the impending suffering, and what just helps build the Tower of Babel higher.
 
Industrialized civilization will have to devolve regardless of what we do. Every class-war cent we spend on self-indulgent monster toys is not only wasted but a crime against the suffering people of today, and against all the people of the future.
 
We have no thinkers left, only appendages of machines. The machines themselves produce nothing but oppression. Without the fossil fuel platform they’ll produce only cobwebs.
 
So much wealth and time wasted……

April 2, 2009

Tar Sands

Filed under: Globalization, Peak Oil, Tower of Babel — Tags: , , , , , — Russ @ 2:26 am

 

A year ago, just as the provincial government of Alberta embarked upon a $25 million advertising campaign to “rebrand” the Alberta tar sands project as eco-friendly, reality dealt their propaganda a major setback when it was reported that a flock of 500 ducks had innocently went to their deaths when they landed upon one of the dead seas euphemistically called “tailings ponds”. There was nothing unusual about waterfowl deaths: workers have attested to a steady attrition of ducks, geese, and wading birds. Only the size of the incident turned it into a PR disaster. Now a year later we learn that this flock was in fact much larger than originally reported, as large as 1600 birds.
 
As horrific as the environmental ravages of the tar sands, the social and economic assaults have been just as bad. The tar sands are a prime example of the drive to compensate for the effects of Peak Oil, that the best and easiest resource has been depleted, by using corporatism, class war, and externalization of costs to render the worst/hardest not as bad or as difficult for a power elite.
 
The Canadian government, in a bizarre display of 3rd worldism, has dedicated the country to becoming an American oil colony. Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a characteristic statement announced Canada as an “emerging energy superpower” with “growing oil deliverability”. What this has really meant is to dump  any concept of the public good, and true capitalism as well, in favor of extractionist rent-seeking.
 
The corporatist master plan for this was laid out in the 1990s “Declaration of Opportunity”, which in classic fashion promised prosperity and self-sufficiency but has delivered only instability, fear, and servitude. The Declaration called for massive subsidies, including extreme deregulation and privatizations, to artificially construct this industry. A gold rush would then heat up the whole economy.
 
What this has meant in practice is the classic colonial petrostate pattern. Canada’s economy and environment are being mined for the export of raw materials, while the gold rush has driven up prices in general. The result has been to further the hollowing out of Canada’s legitimate manufacturing economy, which has faced a sort of stagflation, all for the benefit of tar sands feudalism, a small corporate and political elite merely accumulating wealth they have redistributed to themselves.
 
This has extended to the liquidation of democracy. Under Canada’s current political system (a “two-party” pseudo-democracy much like that of America), where both parties are hard-core tar sands boosters, there is no political space for dissent from the tar sands regime, no way to vote against it.  Secrecy and censorship, the exclusion of public input, as well as the open flouting of the will of the voters (a 2007 Pembina poll found that 71% of Albertans want a moratorium on new projects) have been rampant.
 
NAFTA tightens the stranglehold. Under existing globalist regulations Canada is required to export a set amount of oil to America. (The result has been that Canada must now import oil from the Middle East among other places for its domestic use. This state of affairs is a refutation of the lie that globalization increases capitalist “efficiency” or rationality. Just like with any other capitalist-government nexus, all globalization does is help existing elites concentrate wealth and rig all systems in the interests of themselves.) This is now being extended in the proposed Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), whose goal is complete North American energy integration, consolidation of power, placing the energy industry largely outside the law and into the realm of unaccountable bureaucracy, with Canada and Mexico treated as American mines. This is the essence of corporatist autocracy-seeking. It’s an end run around democracy, environmental and labor regulations, in Canada’s case even energy and national security planning, against any kind of public interest. The SPP seeks security and prosperity only for this corporatist cabal, which fully comprises the titular “partnership”.
 
Peak Oilers should recognize how socioeconomically and ideologically the tar sands and aggrofuels represent attempts to consolidate what’s often called the Fortress world or some similar term. The SPP would be a major step toward this.
 
We can say Canada basically exports not just bitumen and syncrude, but water, natural gas, uranium, boreal forest and muskeg, ecosystems, wildlife, clean air to breathe and water to drink, fertile farmland, intact communities, the social and economic security and prosperity of an entire country, all to enrich a handful of glorified gold-panners and fill American SUV tanks.
 
The basic tar sands math: 1. Take all the things just listed, 2. destroy them, 3. all to produce syncrude (and uranium for nuke expansion* necessitated by the diversion of natural gas from power generation to tar sands processing), 4. in order that Americans can fill their gas tanks, 5. which perpetuates America’s oil addiction and energy insecurity and renders Canada’s insecurity even worse (when Canada could easily achieve energy autarchy if it had a rational, responsible plan), 6. all of this, from the inaugural forest and peatland destruction to burning gasoline at the end stage, pumping ever more carbon into the atmosphere.
 
This kind of aggression vs. the earth and society will only get more intense for as long as an elite insists on organizing civilization around these frivolous, destructive cars.
 
[* One of the truly bizarre aspects of the tar sands Tower of Babel is how, as the processing depletes natural gas and spews carbon, nuclear expansion is supposed to magically solve these problems, even as it exacerbates all the others and creates new one. As Canadian journalist and tar sands commentator Andrew Nikiforuk wrote, “Canada may well become the first nation to use nuclear energy not to retire fossil fuels but to accelerate their exploitation.”]         
 

March 29, 2009

Size, Complexity, and Gluttony (2 of 2)

Yesterday in this post I discussed the inherent instability and proneness to systemic failure of the immense, ramified, Rube Goldberg structures which have come to dominate the world, and which threaten to be imposed as the only conceivable solutions to the problems we face.

The result is a Tower of Babel whose every tottering is met with the call, “Build another layer!”, as every layer renders it only more top heavy, more of an inverted pyramid.

Therefore we have a tottering pyramid of systemic debt, on top of which the technocrats want to build another pyramid of geoengineering, GMOs, aggrofuels, and nuclear reactors. This debt-funded technolgical structure will allegedly allow us to continue with economic, automotive, and consumerist business as usual without starving the world’s non-rich or further aggravating the climate crisis.

And on top of this, as the alleged purpose of the Tower being built so high already, everyone is to continue building his own personal debt pyramid of consumer and carbon debt. The technology will provide the carbon debt jubilee, while the consumer debt, even in the face of everything we see happening now, is still religiously assumed to be sustainable.

This is supposed to allow exponential growth to resume, and the high-impact, materially gilded consumer lifestyle is supposed to be so enabled to continue unchanged, and not at the expense of the world’s poor.

I’ll argue elsewhere that none of these three propositions are likely to be realized, and that the first two at any rate are in a zero-sum game against the third. For now I’ll just say I don’t believe it’ll be possible for the West’s automobile-intensive lifestyle or its extreme carbon emissions to continue except at the direct expense of the world’s poor. This will be the subject of future posts.

For now I want to say a few words on the underlying moral assumptions of the consumer economy and lifestyle. The core of this decadence is the will to buy as much as possible of useless material junk whose only purpose seems to be as sort of psychological salve. Nobody could articulate why America “needed” to stupidly gigantize its vehicles and houses, or why it had to accumulate such a plethora of electronics and machines whose new versions added nothing but bells and whistles, but whose planned obsolescence seemed to trigger a kind of anxiety in people who have been less and less able to define themselves in any way but by their material “things” – the sheer quantity, the literal size, the expense, and the hipness factor. That this psychology existed in the first place, and had such need of being salved, bespeaks a deeper spiritual crisis.

The nature of this crisis is that over the post-war decades Americans developed a smugness and sense of entitlement both morally and materially. They became less willing to do real work, but rather felt the world owed them a living on account of their self-evident moral grandeur and evident ability to generate a consumerist utopia which materialists all over the world aspire to to this day.

Since Americans didn’t want to really work but still wanted to “have it all”, the answer was debt. America used the status of the dollar as reserve currency to financialize the global economy (goosed with petrodollar recycling; in this way America’s debt fixation and its oil addiction attained synergy), and on the domestic front the people more and more racked up debt to pay for a lifestyle binge. (Much of this debt exists in the form of integenerational warfare as the baby boomers waged war on their own children and grandchildren. This battlefront still rages today.)

They developed a psychotic sense of entitlement regrading all these things. And commensurate with all this came a refusal to recognize that all this was founded upon cheap, plentiful fossil fuels and the mining of other abundant resources; but that now we were starting to run up against the limits of these resources.

Faced with these limits, refusing to consciously acknowledge them, refusing to recognze the necessity for devolution and relocalization, America instead seeks to step up the building of the Tower of Babel. The red thread that runs through it all is (1) the refusal to end the binge, to recognize the party’s over; (2) the will of the power structure and its mercenary scientific water carriers is to serve this refusal, and seek its own profit, however crazed.

The whole situation is like in Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, where there’s a materially lavish but morbid, necrophiliac party as right outside the door the plague rages. Of course it soon finds its way in.

America went into debt to buy junk it didn’t need which nobody should really want, and which it didn’t deserve anyway. This is why America’s moral character has become so flabby. On account of the temporary plenty provided by rich natural resources, America got an undeserved windfall, and has mostly lived on the interest.

Between this handout from fate and the vulgar frauds of mass pseudo-democracy, America’s character became completely gutted, as both in attitude and (for a while) in reality it developed its religion of entitlement.

Now that the material wave is receding, all that’s left is the bad attitude, and a social system based on rationing by aggression and stupidity.

One of our paramount needs in this new day of crisis and opportunity is for a character renewal. There are many reasons to reject the green cornucopian siren songs of geoengineering and biofuels, GMOs and nukes and CCS. On an economic level surely the age of monumental architecture is over. It would be an insane waste of effort and wealth to even try such things. 

But we should also ask, what’s the moral quality of a sense of entitlement which says we should burn food to fill our gas tanks, when this causes the price of food to rise unendurably for the world’s poor? When it even leads to shortages, riots, and mass starvation? Wouldn’t such selfishness be evil?

There’s also the the morality involved in an environmental and social baseline. I never had to treat with the costs, logistic boondoggles, and risks of CCS (although these are immense and render the project irrational), since the environmental and socioeconomic ravages of mountaintop removal mining by themselves rule out coal as a constructive part of civilization. Indeed, I don’t even have to reach the carbon issue here. We can say the same vis nukes and the ravages of uranium mining.  In these cases we see how there are many levels of moral, practical, and rational disqualifiers for all these Tower of Babel projects. Different people will place different emphases at different levels of critique, but my point is I don’t see how anyone can with integrity accept the Tower. It is the monumental architecture of terminal decadence.

Debt consumerism’s moral and corrosive effects heightened the environmental devastation and resource depletion it fed off of in a vicious circle. The giant political and social structures this dynamic raised up – centralized, concentrating and intensifying power and wealth – have been used for social and geopolitical domination.

Materially, politically, and spiritually the motion has been away from the freedom this country was supposed to embody. We aren’t living the good life of classical leisure and intellectual fulfillment the apostles of technology promised. Politically we are simply not free. Rather, any voice which does not join in the hymn sung by big government/big business/big media is marginalized. We in the blogsphere are trying to make inroads on this, but as we all know it’s slow, arduous going at best, and it’s unlikely our ideas can achieve “mainstream” status in time. 

Spiritually, we have to rebuild from the ground up. Here too we need to relocalize. Any good idea, and any way of living with integrity, started locally and never got very big. The catch-22 we face is that by the time a truth becomes mainstream it’s no longer a truth, and by the time an idea becomes mainstream it’s been leached of all vibrance and is just the wraith of an idea. We’ve seen what’s happened with the “green” theme as consumerism and the big profit motive got ahold of it. Does this have to be true of relocalization as well? Is a mainstream relocalist idea a contradiction in terms? Or is relocalization not so much an idea as a template for action which can be invested with a great variety of ideas, rhythms, tones? I look forward to finding out.

March 28, 2009

Size, Complexity, and Gluttony (1 of 2)

 

In my online work this morning I read three pieces which synergized for me. (links at the bottom)
 
The subjects of Dave Cohen’s latest column, The Secretary of Synthetic Biology, Joe Romm’s Climate Progress post on the putative nuclear renaissance, and Simon Johnson’s Atlantic piece on the financial crash and oligarchy seemed to have a common thread:
 
1. A will to maintain size, complexity, and exponential debt;
 
2. The enlistment of science and engineering toward this strategy;
 
3. All for the sake of oligarchy and debt consumerism.
 
I’ve written a lot recently about oligarchy so I’ll give that a rest for now, but in this post I want to jot down some notes on the other elements here.
 
Cohen details how Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu is fixated on a broad vision of technological heroism to keep Americans in their personal cars. The project combines every gigantist engineering nightmare: GMOs, aggrofuels, and CCS, all to be RDDD’d over the next 20 to 80 years. The goal is to develop “4th generation biofuels”. Genetically modified feedstock, engineered to be ever more photosynthetically efficient and to sequester unnatural amounts of carbon, is to be grown with hyper-efficiency on minimal acreage. (Or so they claim – that’s how it’s not supposed to compete with food production. But Jevon’s paradox aside, how are you supposed to control this GMO? As Cohen writes, “The mere fact that evolution has placed upper bounds on the efficiency of primary productivity in plants suggests that there are very deep reasons why this is so”. We may be contemplating kudzu of mass destruction here.) It’ll then be burned in biorefineries to produce liquid fuel while the carbon is sequested underground. They say it’ll also produce better matches than any computer dating service.
 
And what grand millennial goal is this all to be toward? What societal vision and strategy? None – it’s all for the sake of debt consumerism and profligate car use.
 
The same can be said for the dreamt-of expansion of nuclear power. Romm’s latest restates and summarizes the truths. It is tremendously expensive, complex, and unmanageable by any measure which correctly discounts black swan events.
 
We are currently undergoing the travails of this black swan burndown as the financial megastructure unravels. Simon Johnson’s article describes, among other things, how and why this humongously ramified structure was built. Again the means and the mindset were triumphalist where to came to size, complexity, and “quant” engineering for their own sakes, while the underlying purpose, the answer to the question “Why? For what?”, was paltry and vapid.
 
When we are asked to look to the putative future gods of size and efficiency, like Chu and the 4th generation aggrofuelers or the nuclear revivalists, we should be looking at the present economic cannibalization of Western civilization as the debt bubble and the bank holding structure collapse. These are all levels of the same Tower of Babel. 
 
Let’s consider a few points:
 
Size is not in fact “efficient”. It is efficient only from the point of view of a rent-seeking gang using political muscle to externalize and socialize costs, and to foist all systemic and black swan risks into a risk bubble which like Vesuvius is assumed on faith to never erupt.
 
The fact is that none of these large structures are cost-effective. They are rather inherently corporatist. There is no conceivable way for nuclear energy, CCS, or bank holding to exist within a true capitalist framework.
 
If we grant this corporatized mega-structure, allegedly efficient from the point of view of having shifted most of its costs onto the backs of the people and the environment, it is still systemically weak. As Kunstler wrote, “the road to hell is paved with efficiency”. The system has no resiliency, no redundancy, everything always has to perform well; the system can sustain no setbacks.
 
Whenever we hear the term “efficiency” in a pro-concentration, pro-centralization, globalist sense, we should think of something that looks futuristically sleek and ultrahealthy, but which is at every moment on the verge of death. We see this now with the finance system. But it’s just as true of the energy consumption system, how both the growing and transport of food depend upon a never-ending flow of liquid fuel, and how that food depends in turn upon the integrity of the soil.
 
When we ponder the prospect that the soil is exhausted; that oil supply would already be constricted if not for the economic depression, but that this constriction will come inevitably, sooner or later; and that the only plans of the powers that be are to build technology bubbles, Towers of Babel, to keep these systems staggering along, we should worry.
When we consider how the practice is to zombify the soil by bombing it with synthetic fertilizer; in order to grow engineered crops which increasingly will be the only ones which can grow in the hotter, drier world, and on such poisoned soil; in order to burn them to produce the fuel which can keep the globalized distribution network humming; which will keep shipping the goods which the people will keep buying with the debt they can momentarily fabricate by still being able to drive their personal cars to work; and which will continue to deliver the natural gas and nutrients this fertilizer requires; and meanwhile how their electricity will come from hundreds of new nuclear plants, all of which will have an endless supply of cheap uranium (or deuterium, if they’re fusion plants); and the carbon from all this activity will be captured and piped underground or to the bottom of the sea, where it will remain safely stored for thousands of years; and therefore the worst effects of the climate crisis and how it could wreak havoc on every element of the Tower I’ve been describing will be averted; and how all of this will be financed by a new and improved bank holding system which will be bigger, more complex, more ramified, and create ever more debt to keep all of this going economically……
 
…when we consider all this,  we should look at what’s happening to the financial system of today, and picture how incalculably worse the devastation would be if just one thing went wrong with the Tower I just described. And how here we’re talking about immediate, direct effects far more extensive and fundamental than not being able to get a bank loan. We’re talking about fuel and food stoppages.
 
In his article Johnson compares America to a banana republic. Indeed, in a sense America is an “emerging market”. Much like neo-feudal systems now slash-and-burn the rain forest in order to produce biofuels (and soon GMO biofuels), and how the economy and the earth are mined to extract the capitalization and the uranium required for nuclear energy, so America has slashed and burned its manufacturing economy and social safety net to replace it with a globalized finance economy. This “new”, i.e. atavistic and reactionary finance economy has plunged us back into a feudalistic Dark Age where, organized along crony capitalist lines, it has been only mining the country, not “producing”. And now with the bailouts the mining has been stepped up.
 
 
Simon Johnson http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200905/imf-advice 
 
Dave Cohen http://www.aspousa.org/index.php/2009/03/the-secretary-of-synthetic-biology/ 
 
Joe Romm http://climateprogress.org/2009/03/27/three-mile-island-anniversary-meltdown-nuclear-power-problems/#more-5163
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