DrumBeat: February 1, 2009

The farms race: Wealthy countries short of fertile land are gazing hungrily at Canada's prairies

The Arab states invest their oil fortunes in the craziest things, from the proposed Mile-High Tower in Jiddah to the indoor ski resort in dry-as-dust Dubai. Perhaps the craziest idea yet is Saudi Arabian wheat. Some 30 years ago, the lake- and river-less kingdom decided it should be self-sufficient in wheat.

It worked. But the subsidies to farmers at times approached $1,000 (U.S.) a tonne. Last year, the Saudis finally concluded that desert wheat made no more sense than Nunavut pineapples. The farms will disappear within a few years, after which the country will be entirely dependent on imports. But from where?

Answer: from any nation willing to sell or lease vast tracts of its farmland and - here's the kicker - allow the Saudis to export most or all of the food grown there back home, bypassing the international market. Such "offshore farms" are a quiet, though burgeoning, form of neo-colonialism. And they have the potential to unleash a new food crisis.

Two children should be limit, says green guru

COUPLES who have more than two children are being “irresponsible” by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the government’s green adviser has warned.

Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming. He says political leaders and green campaigners should stop dodging the issue of environmental harm caused by an expanding population.

BP completes transit pipeline replacement

With no ceremony, no public announcement, and little further comment, BP PLC has quietly closed the books on one of the company's most costly moments as operator to the nation's largest oil field, Alaska's Prudhoe Bay.

The company completed a new $500 million, 16-mile transit pipeline and put it into service just before Christmas. It replaced a corroded line that, thanks to a long-standing pattern of cost-cutting and mismanagement, was the cause of a 200,000-gallon spill nearly three years ago.

BP later had to partially shut down Prudhoe Bay in August 2006, a time when the market was highly sensitive to production losses. By the time full production resumed, about 13 million barrels of oil had been kept off the market.

Will the Real Gazprom CEO Please Stand Up

The great Russian-Ukrainian gas war is over, and it is time to assess the outcome. On the surface, the result looks promising. Finally, Russia and Ukraine have concluded a normal long-term gas agreement. Both gas prices and transit tariffs are market-related and based on clear principles without shady intermediaries or arbitrariness. The gas prices will probably average $230 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2009, while investment bankers had expected $250.

Ireland ‘will not survive fuel crisis’

The Irish government needs to spend at least €500m improving its “fragile” oil infrastructure to avoid a fuel shortage in the event of disruption to world supplies, according to a new study.

The assessment of the security of the country’s oil reserves, commissioned by Eamon Ryan, the energy minister, warns that Ireland has less than two thirds of the 90-day back-up supply recommended internationally.

As Economy Sinks, Russians Protest

MOSCOW — Protesters held demonstrations throughout Russia on Saturday, offering largely subdued, but pointed criticism of the government’s economic policies as the country continues to sink deeper into an economic morass.

Antigovernment protests are rare in Russia, and the latest come amid growing public anger with a government not used to widespread criticism after years of economic growth. Officials had initially hesitated to publicly acknowledge Russia’s economic troubles, brought on by a steep drop in oil prices and the worldwide financial downturn.

The government has allocated billions of dollars to bail out troubled banks and companies but has yet to put forward a clear long-term strategy for dealing with mounting unemployment and a rapidly devaluing ruble.

Gordon Brown condemns wildcat oil refinery strikes

Gordon Brown condemned wildcat strikes as indefensible amid frantic efforts to prevent the row over the use of foreign labour escalating into mass industrial action.

Afghan Street Protests After US Raid Kills 2

KABUL (AP) -- Hundreds of Afghans demonstrated Sunday against an overnight U.S. military raid that one villager said killed several civilians. The American military said its forces only killed two militants.

The angry protesters gathered on the main highway linking Kabul and Kandahar near the site of the raid, the latest to stir up Afghan ire against foreign forces accused of killing civilians.

Graveyard of analogies

Are the Americans destined to meet the same fate in Afghanistan as the Russians? Ahmed Rashid argues that it is not too late for Washington to make good on its promises.

Utilities Turn Their Customers Green, With Envy

A frowny face is not what most electric customers expect to see on their utility statements, but Greg Dyer got one.

He earned it, the utility said, by using a lot more energy than his neighbors.

“I have four daughters; none of my neighbors has that many children,” said Mr. Dyer, 49, a lawyer who lives in Sacramento. He wrote back to the utility and gave it his own rating: four frowny faces.

Gas prices start February higher

Gasoline prices are still 37% down from a year ago and off 55% from their July high of $4.114 a gallon.

Britain 'must revive farms' to avoid grave food crisis

Britain faces a major food crisis unless urgent steps are taken to revive its flagging agricultural sector, warns one of the world's most influential thinktanks.

Following a week in which world leaders and the United Nations expressed deep concern about the prospect of global food shortages, Chatham House suggests there needs to be a major shake-up in the UK's supply chain if the country is to continue feeding itself.

Cuba: former sugar workers discuss challenges of boosting food production

MADRUGA, Havana province, Cuba—The year 2008 brought both important changes and new challenges for Cuba’s farmers and workers engaged in agriculture.

Between January and September, working people and their revolutionary government began implementing a number of measures to increase food production and reduce imports, which account for some 60 percent of the food consumed on the island.

Gaza desperately short of food after Israel destroys farmland

Gaza's 1.5 million people are facing a food crisis as a result of the destruction of great areas of farmland during the Israeli invasion.

According to the World Food Programme, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and Palestinian officials, between 35% and 60% of the agriculture industry has been wrecked by the three-week Israeli attack, which followed two years of economic siege.

Energy and ecology: why societies really succeed and fail

Throughout the urban phase of human history societies have expanded and then contracted, succeeded and then failed, sometimes to expand again at another time. The concept of a society ‘collapsing’ is a relative one. In his book “Collapse,” Jared Diamond defines the phenomenon as “a drastic decrease in human population size and/or complexity, over a considerable area and for an extended time.” By this definition every social group in history except modern technological society has at some point in their history collapsed, so there is nothing unusual about it.

Why do societies collapse? The apparent or proximate reason is often social strife, either within a formerly cohesive social group, or actual open warfare with an external enemy. But, all complex, urbanized societies are ultimately dependent upon agriculture; no army fights for long without food. In fact the Mayans, who had no pack animals and therefore no way to transport large quantities of food, would periodically break off battles to return home and harvest corn. This agricultural base is in turn dependent on the ecological health of the home environment, especially on fertile soil and adequate water. Thus the ultimate cause of collapse is often the deterioration of the ecosystems that feed human societies.

Projects ‘delayed, not deferred’

DAMMAM – Development projects in Saudi Arabia are not being deferred, contrary to press reports and speculation by some quarters of the foreign business sector, according to the chairman of one of the ten top leading construction and engineering companies in the Eastern Province.

“What is being done now is that Saudi Aramco, SABIC, and other mega projects proponents are undertaking pricing review of their projects, but are not deferring or stopping projects that are already on stream,” he said during the signing of an agency agreement between Supply & Support Services Systems Co., Ltd. (S4), a local suppliers of products and services for the energy sector, and Lindner AG of Germany here, Thursday.

“Due to the current economic downturn, which has not deeply affected the Kingdom, our local companies are now taking the opportunity to reschedule their projects in anticipation of the turnaround of the global economy hopefully by the end of 2009,” he said.

Medvedev in hurry for new gas pipelines: Bulgarian TV

SOFIA (AFP) — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for the speedy completion of two new gas pipelines that bypass Ukraine in an interview with Bulgarian national television Friday.

"The new energy routes such as the South Stream and the Nord Stream pipelines have to be speeded up," Medvedev said during an interview from his Meiendorf Castle official residence.

"If we can diversify supplies, Europe will depend less on the whims of the political regime in one country or another," he said according to the BNT channel.

Foundation Coal idling 3 WVa mines

Mine operator Foundation Coal Holdings said Friday it is idling three underground mines in southern West Virginia in the latest sign that the recession is catching up with the industry.

Netanyahu says Iran will not get hands on nukes

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 TV, Netanyahu said if elected prime minister his first mission will be to thwart the Iranian nuclear threat. Netanyahu, the current opposition leader and head of the hardline Likud party, called Iran the greatest danger to Israel and to all humanity.

When asked if stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions included a military strike, he replied: "It includes everything that is necessary to make this statement come true."

Do not ignore the data centre energy crisis, warns expert

“Throughout 2009, running out of power and space will prove a constant threat to data centres. Consolidating servers and becoming energy efficient is now not just a tick in the green computing box, but a necessity for any organisation that aims to minimise server downtime and failure,” says Mike Vinten, CEO, Thesaurus.

Debate over the impending capacity and energy crisis is intensifying in the data centre industry. As data centres fill with increasingly demanding hardware and cooling systems, the energy crisis looms large and will impact upon many locations in the UK and across Europe.

Will family's 4th generation at GM be its last?

"Cars were powerful," Smith says. "Gas mileage did not matter. Cheap gas was readily available."

The 1970s forever shifted the landscape when an oil embargo suddenly created long lines at the gas pump. Americans turned to small, fuel-efficient Hondas, Datsuns and Toyotas, now readily available.

"There was a certain amount of hubris among the automakers," Smith says. "They got complacent."

When they scrambled to catch up, some of their early efforts were flops, even disasters - the Ford Pinto and Chevy Vega. Smith, who was a mechanic at the time, recalls that "every time I saw a Vega come in the door, I cringed."

Mass transit is in trouble despite more riders

Driving is down. Transit use is up. And soon, bus and light-rail service nationwide will become less convenient.

The impending cuts here in our area are part of a much larger trend. Nationwide, transit systems are in economic crisis, just when riders are demanding service the most.

Clean Energy Spending Needs To More Than Triple: Report

DAVOS - Clean energy investment needs to more than triple to $515 billion a year to stop planet-warming emissions reaching levels deemed unsustainable by scientists, the World Economic Forum said in a report on Thursday.

The hefty investments required in renewable energy sectors such as solar and wind energy need to be made between now and 2030, the report, which was co-written by research group New Energy Finance, said.

New nuclear reactor’s waste is seven times more hazardous, Greenpeace exposes

International — Greenpeace has uncovered evidence that nuclear waste from the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), the flagship of the nuclear industry, will be up to seven times more hazardous than waste produced by existing nuclear reactors, increasing costs and the danger to health and the environment.

The revelation comes soon after President Sarkozy’s decision to build a second EPR in France.

Yucca is no solution to energy crisis

There is no question that significant amounts of green power will be needed in the near future. Coal and oil are not solutions. Wind and solar may be part of the solution and, while natural gas has filled the void during the past few decades, its skyrocketing cost has raised serious questions. My conclusion is that nuclear energy must be considered.

I know the biggest obstacle is dealing with the waste stream. Long-term burial in Yucca Mountain is not the answer, nor is on-site storage, but there is a third option that has been developed that holds great possibilities. It requires a smaller investment, shorter storage time and a process our scientists have had success with. It is known as the 300-year Spent Nuclear Fuel Disposal Solution and, as its name suggests, it requires only 300 years for the spent fuel to decay instead of the tens of thousands of years in the current plan.

Organics growth spurt clipped by recession

LONDON/CHICAGO — As recession drives consumers to cut costs, their commitment to organic food has been tested with sales growth slowing – but so far, sales are not falling. How green are our wallets?

Earth’s big problem: Too many people.

But how can we ease population without taking draconian steps? By developing in ways that we should be anyway, experts say.

Are there too many people on Earth?

That question is rarely raised today, in part because it conjures up the possibility of governments intruding into the most private and profound decision a couple can make. In a worst-case scenario, authorities could impose discriminatory policies that would limit births based on such criteria as race, ethnic origin, cultural background, religion, or gender.

But with huge, vexing questions such as food security, poverty, energy supplies, environmental degradation, and climate change facing humanity, some are asking whether aggressive measures to control population growth should be on the public agenda.

...“You’ve got to get a president who’s got the guts to say, ‘Patriotic Americans stop at two [children],’ ” says Paul Ehrlich, a professor of population studies at Stanford University. “That if you care about your children and grandchildren, we should have a smaller population in the future, not larger.” Professor Ehrlich wrote the groundbreaking 1968 book “The Population Bomb,” which predicted disastrous effects from unchecked population growth.

Strike by 24,000 refinery workers averted for now

HOUSTON – A strike by some 24,000 refinery workers was averted, at least for now, as both sides agreed to extend negotiations for at least 24 hours.

Workers at refineries near New Orleans, Houston and as far away as Billings, Mont., will show up for scheduled shifts Monday, though negotiators will be back at the table on Sunday.

It's useless forecasting oil price: Shell chief

Concern is rising among top energy officials that the oil industry is facing a deeper set of financial ailments and future supply problems.

According to industry estimates, around $100 billion (Dh367 billion) worth of oil and natural gas drilling projects - mostly in nations that aren't members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) - have been either delayed or cancelled over the past year because of the world's financial problems and weak oil prices.

Those reassessments may well hurt future energy supplies but they also have big implications for oil companies.

Russia cuts oil export duty from February 1

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) - Russia is lowering as of February 1 export duties on oil and petroleum products, responding to a fall in world oil prices amid the ongoing global financial crisis.

Under the government decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday, the oil export duty now stands at $100.9 per metric ton compared with the previous export duty of $119.1 per ton.

Morales ousts oil chief as bribe concerns swirl

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - President Evo Morales dismissed the head of Bolivia's state oil company on Saturday amid suggestions that money stolen from a slain businessman may have been destined for a bribe.

Unrest over BP's choice of chairman

There is growing uncertainty among the oil giant's non-executive directors and major shareholders over whether Skinner is the right man.

Questions are being asked about his decision to turn down rival BHP Billiton's £43bn takeover offer a year ago. Critics also point to Rio's £28bn purchase of aluminium producer Alcan in 2007, a move that saddled Rio with enormous debts.

German operators of hijacked ship in contact with Somali pirates

Berlin - The German operators of a tanker hijacked off the coast of Somalia are hoping to stay in touch with the ship after establishing initial contact with the pirates, they said Sunday. "We hope to stay in dialogue," with the pirates on board the MV Longchamp, a spokesman for Bernhard Schulte ship management company said, hours after they had received a first phone call from the captors.

Crashes prompt search for safer ride to oil rigs

Helicopter operations play a vital role in local oil exploration, providing the main form of transportation to more than 5,500 platforms fanned out from the Texas and Louisiana shores. Platform-bound flights take off as many as 9,000 times a day, the NTSB estimates. Because radar coverage does not extend over the Gulf, pilots must fly at low altitudes and with ample distance from other aircraft, whose exact locations are unknown.

Three years ago, NTSB officials began to press for more safety technology on such flights. Progress has been made on some recommendations, but little action has been taken on others.

Saudi gov't offers more funding to non-oil exporters

A plan to boost non-oil exports in Saudi Arabia has been expanded to offer more companies involved in the industry extra funding, it was reported on Sunday.

Riot? If I were 20 years younger I would take to the streets

The riots in Paris and the demonstrations against foreign work forces being used at British oil refineries and a power station seemed to be a presentiment of widespread civil disturbance, especially in this country. We are, after all, only at the beginning of a slump which is predicted by the IMF to hit Britain more seriously than any other developed nation. It will be longer and deeper and we can already see the hardship, the bills accumulating.

The view from the front

Westminster Editor James Cusick travelled to Grimsby, near the Lindsey oil refinery, to see for himself the effect of last week’s strikes. He found a town backing the striking workers but fearful of what might happen next.

Food, Finance and Democracy in Crisis

Is it true, Raj asked, that the overweight population is predominantly in the USA and other Western countries, while the starving live in Africa and the Third World? To some extent, yes. The USA is indeed the most obese country on Earth. Only 4 out of 10 Americans have a "normal" body weight. But we must remember that at the same time, 40 million people in the USA -- more than 10 percent of the population -- are going hungry. This contradiction between obesity and hunger is not just an American phenomenon. The second most obese country is Mexico, a developing country where there are extreme levels of hunger. In fact, every country has these vast inequalities.

How greedy speculators control commodity prices

In oil markets, we were warned that the dire predictions of the "peak oil" doomsayers were finally coming to pass. In global food markets the rise in prices of staples was correctly identified to be at least partly related to the medium-term policy neglect of agriculture by governments especially in the developing world, but the role of speculation in commodity futures, enabled by financial deregulation, was denied.

Further, it was also argued that the real gainers of this process were the direct producers: not only oil exporting countries but small farmers producing foodgrains that were becoming highly valued internationally. The commodity price boom was supposed to translate directly to income gains for such producers to the point where some governments even argued that there was no need to provide any protection to agriculture since cultivators were already gaining from high crop prices.

But the subsequent collapse of commodity prices — both oil and non-oil — has shown how wrong the earlier explanations were, and how little primary commodity producers are likely to have gained, especially small producers in the developing world.

Kenya Red Cross: 111 dead in oil blaze after crash

MOLO, Kenya (AP) — An overturned gasoline tanker exploded as hundreds of people were trying to scoop up free fuel, killing at least 111 people and wounding 200 in one of Kenya's deadliest accidents, officials said Sunday.

‘Honey, they shrunk the groceries’

Kim Black, scanning coordinator at Alpine Marketplace, said, “It’s not the grocer, it’s the manufacturers. I’ve never seen anything like this in all the years I’ve worked here.”

 Black spends between 14 and 20 hours every week re-pricing items and re-scanning them into the store’s UPC system. She cites high fuel costs as the reason for the huge number of price and packaging changes in 2008, and keeps waiting for the prices to come down as fast as they went up.

  “What troubles me is with the price of gas going down, I haven’t seen prices reflect that change,” said Black. “Oil, sugar and flour — when these prices went up, everything went up. They should be coming down, but I haven’t seen that happening.”

Compromise likely in Obama's fuel rule push

While most people see President Barack Obama's order telling the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its decision that banned California's tougher greenhouse-gas emissions as a victory for environmentalists, I think it's more likely to lead to a compromise that California and the automakers could live with.

To Protect Public Land, Eco Protesters Get Creative

If BLM officials thought it was odd that a 27-year-old dressed like he'd just gotten out of class—as DeChristopher had—was bidding for oil and gas leases, they didn't say anything. At first he simply bid near the beginning of an auction, to keep prices rolling, but as the sales continued, he started to win plots of land—12 parcels in all, more than 22,000 acres, at the cost of $1.79 million. By the end, DeChristopher was simply bidding nonstop, and BLM officials finally caught on to what he was doing and took him into custody. Though now in the hands of the feds, he remains cool. "I told them I was there to commit civil disobedience and that this was a fraudulent auction," he says.

Coal-fired power plants studying carbon capture

Five coal-fired power plants in the U.S. and Canada are studying the feasibility of retrofits to capture and store carbon dioxide, a nonprofit industry research group says.

Electric Power Research Institute said studies are being done at Great River Energy's Coal Creek Station near Underwood in central North Dakota, and at plants in Illinois, Utah, Ohio and Nova Scotia. The group said the research could help guide development of future power plants and how they deal with carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.

Czech president attacks Al Gore's climate campaign

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – Czech President Vaclav Klaus took aim at climate change campaigner Al Gore on Saturday in Davos in a frontal attack on the science of global warming.

"I don't think that there is any global warming," said the 67-year-old liberal, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. "I don't see the statistical data for that."

Parched: Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in

Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer, railway tracks are buckling, and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles, as much of Australia swelters in its worst-ever heatwave.

...Ministers are blaming the heat – which follows a record drought – on global warming. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change.

LEBANON: Climate change and politics threaten water wars in Bekaa

NABHA, BEKAA VALLEY (IRIN) - In the shadow of Black Peak Mountain in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, an historic feud over irrigation is being slowly re-ignited, illustrating how increased water scarcity is triggering social conflict in Lebanon.

Going to the Dogs in Greenland

Climate change may still be debatable in some circles, but in Greenland—the world's largest island, covered by an ice sheet averaging 1.6 miles deep — it's an observable fact.

Stern recipe for change: To stop the world warming we have to cut our carbon emissions to African levels

“Over the next 10-15 years the world is going to move strongly to low-carbon technologies,” said Stern. “There is going to be a very rapid technological change. Areas like construction, transport and power are going to change particularly fast – and that is going to need huge investment as well as creating many businesses.”

The scale of the challenge to business is huge. At the moment humanity generates the equivalent of about 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, roughly equal to eight tonnes for every person on the planet. There is, however, huge variation. Europeans generate 11-14 tonnes per head and Americans about 22 tonnes, while Africans typically generate 1-2 tonnes.


I'm increasingly dismayed by the hypocrisy of the modern child-centric culture.
Much care and attention is being fostered on a generation that will shortly be thrown to the wolves of resource scarcity and economic collapse, caused by the consumptive lifestyle of the parents of these same children.

I cant make sense of it at all.

I cant make sense of it at all.

This is becasue you have tunnel vision only aimed at the solution to the problem. Many people aren't even at the "oh,.. is there a problem?" stage.

The primary function of the human brain is to get as many copies of itself into the next generation as possible. People who ignored population overshoot and went right on reproducing left more ancestors than those who did not. It's tragic and frustrating and will lead to an enormous amount of suffering but that's the way it is.

Ahh, nothing like broadsides that misunderstand human psychology for delving into important topics!

Jokuhl, you poured sarcasm on SolarDude's post without offering one word of explanation as to what was wrong with it. He expressed exactly the essence of Garrett Hardin's "Competitive Exclusion Principle" that I posted in another post below. How did he misunderstand human psychology? Where is he wrong? His last sentence I find profound:

It's tragic and frustrating and will lead to an enormous amount of suffering but that's the way it is.

Please enlighten us as to what is wrong with SolarDude's post other than just posting sarcasm. Please don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with a little sarcasm as long as it is accompanied with constructive criticism instead of just replacing it.


Ron, You're right. I ran out of time, and didn't elaborate. I had to take my ONE daughter over to her grandma's house.

"The primary function of the human brain is to get as many copies of itself into the next generation as possible."

The Human brain is certainly about more than simply putting out the maximum number of genetic copies possible. As is evidenced by our Gay friends, our intentionally childless friends, families with one, two, maybe three kids.. these brains were not faulty for missing the opportunity to make as many as possible. What about the extra wealthy of the world, who could surely afford to feed as many genetic clones as they wanted, but only have a couple, if any. The Human Brain seems very interested in staying alive, in helping the clan or the Nation or the ideology survive.. Some perfectly healthy human brains try to advance our knowledge, or use paints to find an exquisitely intelligent shade of blue. 'There's more under heaven and stars, Horatio, than is dreamt in your Philosophy', the imaginary man said so long ago to another imaginary man.

This is Paint-by-numbers sociology, and Solar House used about two numbers worth of colors.


Point taken Bob, but I don't think SolarDude said anything about the ONLY function of the human brain, he used the term "the PRIMARY function".

There must be variety among all animals else evolution would be impossible. That is to say, there are some who wish to have as many children as possible and some who wish to have no children at all. Pointing out that gay people remain intentionally childless proves nothing at all.

The Human Brain seems very interested in staying alive, in helping the clan or the Nation or the ideology survive.. Some perfectly healthy human brains try to advance our knowledge, or use paints to find an exquisitely intelligent shade of blue.

The brain must stay alive in order to reproduce. Helping the clan, tribe or nation is just another survival technique. And as I pointed out above, anecdotal evidence of what SOME brains do sheds no light whatsoever on what the majority of brains do. All life is geared toward reproduction, else the species would go extinct.

And for that same reason all species must produce far more offspring than the two that it takes to reproduce, else disease, famine and other forms of attrition would cause the species to go extinct. But when that attrition largely disappears because previous checks largely disappear, we have a population explosion. And that is what happened, and is currently happening.



And, as I have said many times before, voluntary [selective] population limiting will ACCELERATE the selfish evolutionary dominance.

And, as I have said many times before, voluntary [selective] population limiting will ACCELERATE the selfish evolutionary dominance.

Solardude may have erred by making the claim about the primary duty of the brain. But, this urge to outreproduce the competition is certainly in our nature. That doesn't mean it is so strong as to be beyond challenge. But on both the family level, but also across nations, ideologies, and especially religions it is still a very strong factor. In the case of many religions a common theme is:

(1) The most important thing in the whole universe is that god is made happy.
(2) The only way to do that is to insure that the one true religion achieves complete dominance.
(3) One strategy to aide (2), is for the true believers to multiply as fast as possible.

Solardude may have erred by making the claim about the primary duty of the brain.

If you think SolarDude made an error here then it would behoove you to tell us what the primary duty of the brain really is.

The primary function of the brain is survival, survival until one can reproduce. There is no evolutionary advantage to survival after one can no longer reproduce except caring for the offspring until they can survive on their own. But everything is geared to reproduction so SolarDude hit the nail on the head. He did not err!


Please, Ron. You're tossing thunderbolts, here. "HE DID NOT ERR!" (I heard a Charlton Heston Old Testament echo with that one.)

There is a whole cycle of events which assure our survival and success. Reproduction is ONE of them. So is Eating. So is Breathing, Surviving Deadly Dangers. Chicken and Egg.. or Cart before the Horse comes to mind..

There is no evolutionary advantage to survival after one can no longer reproduce except caring for the offspring until they can survive on their own.

That's a big 'except' there, considering how many functions grandparents and greatgrandparents serve in human cultures. Focusing it all down to the fact of reproduction sounds like Freudian Reductionism. To find an Essence, you boiled the life out of it.

So is Eating. So is Breathing, Surviving Deadly Dangers.

That IS survival! My God man, is that not blatantly obvious? In order to reproduce one must survive but there is absolutely no evolutionary advantages to surviving unless one reproduces. Everything in evolution revolves around reproduction. Caring for the young until they can care for themselves is part of the reproduction cycle, NOT an exception! Because if you do not care for them the offspring dies and you have not reproduced.

Again, the primary function of the gene is getting your itself into the next generation. That is what it is all about, not God or religion or anything else.


Heil, mein kommandant!

I'm just rereading Platon's Politeia, and I stumbled over a little gem there.

In Book II Socrates decided to search for the meaning of justice by doing a thought experiment, creating an ideal state from scratch to see where justice fits in there.
And when doing so, one of the very first, most basic things for the well-being of a state, right after food and clothing, is this:

"And they will take care that their families do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war."

The english translation could be a bit misleading, maybe, but judging from the greek text I'm certain that it's the size of families he is talking about.
So the need for controlling population growth seems to be common knowledge for Platon/Socrates and their audience, the thought is not presented as outstanding in any way and is not further discussed.

It's a special feature of our culture, one could say the most defining feature, to ignore the law of balance and worship indefinite growth. And it does not help a bit when we replace "God told us so" with "Science says that it's the way we are".

Being smarter than yeast is normal for humans, it's just our culture that needs to catch up.


I'm increasingly dismayed by the hypocrisy of the modern child-centric culture.
Much care and attention is being fostered on a generation that will shortly be thrown to the wolves of resource scarcity and economic collapse, caused by the consumptive lifestyle of the parents of these same children.

I cant make sense of it at all.

Clicking on your "childfree" link takes me to "robert's ferrets." What's up with that?


Try this instead:



Strangely the link you posted apears to be to a site dedicated to Ferrets.

Haha, sorry, I must check urls in future. :)

Who knows. Maybe ferrets are the answer?

But really we have to go beyond a two child policy if we want to have any hope of bringing pop down at any rate that will make a difference. I think the goal should be one child per couple, ideally as late in life as possible. While trends are already moving in the direction, a careful analysis of the elements that encourage this trend should be a high priority. The studies so far indicate that educating and empowering women are the things that move populations most quickly and humanely to lower rates of reproduction and to older first mothers.

I am always surprised how little the importance of waiting till late twenties or thirties to have the first (and hopefully only) child is. If a child born sixty years ago has her child at 15 and succeeding generations follow that pattern, you have four generation born. If the child has her baby at 30 and so does that baby, that is only two generations--half the number on the earth than in the early-childbirth case. And of course every additional child increases the difference--if three kids are born to each mother in each scenario, you get about 80 kids versus under 10. And you get greater reductions if you go beyond thirty.

Another advantage is that if you manage to convince a couple to put off having a kid till they are in their thirties, the odds are very good that many of them will decide not to have kids, or that other events will prevent them from having kids. So the relative difference between the two scenarios becomes even greater.

Of course, if the reduced population uses up resources at many times their replacement rate as the US is doing now, all your pop reduction will not have helped reduce their rate of depletion one bit.

Who knows. Maybe ferrets are the answer?

For population control - only if put down the front of the pants.

Your genes will be replaced by those of immigrants bearing octuplets.

What's YOUR favorite color?

Riot? If I were 20 years younger I would take to the streets

Amen to that.

We need to put blame where blame belongs, and that is the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the ruling class. To foist on the public a paradigm that economic and political power could be perpetually divorced was nothing short of criminal.

Amazing how the unthinking optimism generated by the fantastic achievements of the preceeding two hundred years seems to have vanished almost overnight.

The United States has become the victim of its own history, desperately attempting to re-enact the glories of an earlier age in the belief that this is the sole means of exorcising from the body politic the undoubted ills of the present.

"We need to put blame where blame belongs, and that is the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the ruling class."

Who are, unfortunately, us Baby Boomers, the most selfish generation in history. The American public didn't riot and burn during the Savings & Loan scandal back when, and while they may loudly complain about the current situation, the sheeple will do nothing more than bleat angrily.

On an individual basis, one can only take local action. Prepare for the worst (I always buy a few extra cans of food more than I need when I go shopping), invest cautiously (bonds, cash, gold, private-equity oil), stay connected with family and friends, and, above all, don't obsess about the daily news (I go hiking each week in the Rockies and blank my mind of city-life worries).

the most selfish generation in history. The American public didn't riot and burn during the Savings & Loan scandal

I'm watching a gent toss himself 'into the machine' right now. He's going up to the elected officials and telling 'em they are wrong. In court he pointed out how the Fed Reserve is a private corp - to which the rotating DA in the case asked for a psyhic eval BECAUSE he believes the Fed Reserve is a private corp. (The judge smacked down the DA request BTW) He's lost his job and is loosing his marriage.

The only way *I* see 'riots and burning' is if the general US population feels they have nothing left to loose, and the spark will be set to the tinder of the way laws are applied differently to different people. One set of laws/rules for 'the people' (or sheeple), another for the 'connected'. And, for the time frame you site, if one took the action you cite - there was ALOT to loose for most people.

Its hard for a nation to stand under 'rule of law' when the law is different for one class than another.

I'm not buying it Dale.

Your argument sounds suspiciously like the current Republican party line, which is "everybody's at fault, so nobody's at fault".

But let's take a look back at what really happened:

In the Reagan years after the severe recession from 1981 to 1983, Americans went on a prolonged mental holiday. They were encouraged to do so by Mr. Reagan's own wishful thinking, which seemed to bring good times to the country. Opinion polls showed that once one got beyond the first superficial questions, people realized it was not possible to lower taxes, vastly increase defense expenditures, and balance the budget all at the same time. But Ronald Reagan was president. He accepted the responsibility. He said what people desperately wanted to hear after so many years of increased taxes, stagflation, divisiveness over the war in Vietnam, and social policies that deeply troubled average Americans.

--Daniel Yankelovich, Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World

Of course this only touches on a part of what happened. It was full court press for Reagan and his backers. Academically, the Chicago School and its theology of laissez-faire and market worship were pushed to the forefront and given national prominence. The legitimacy of its theories was given the auspicious imprimatur of the Nobel prize committee. Remember Arthur Laffler and the Laffler curve? These ideologies provided the "intellectual" basis for an army of pundits, political activists and commentators who spread out upon the land like a plague of locusts to convert the multitudes to the one true faith: think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, activists like Grover Norquist and pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol.

And there was also a campaign to "dumb down" the American pulblic.

So are you trying to tell me that Americans weren't the victims of a deliberate, well orchestrated and malicious push to sell them a bill of goods?

Or is this what "leadership," and leadership in all its various components--economic, political and academic--is supposed to do?

I'm in total agreement with Porter:

It is fortunate for the hedge fund managers and derivative traders in Britain that the London mob does not materialise at moments like this to drag them from their spruced-up homes and limousines as regularly happened in the 18th century. In one way, it is also regrettable, because then the mob, which, incidentally, is a shortening of mobile vulgus, affected the conduct of politics and on several occasions changed things for the better.

Porter maybe talking too soon, though. It takes time to produce the convergence of energy and ideas needed to break the chains of more than three decades of incessant propaganda and programming.

Of Course, the Hell of it is that it is BOTH.

We've been allowed to fall into these 'customs', if you will of massive personal energy use, when we know we could figure out how to use less.. it can be tough enough in our society just to eat different food from your Neighbors and Inlaws without getting a lot of flak for judging everyone else and being all 'Holier than thou', and so on.. So as much as we have to, we pick a few things to improve at a time, and still are using FAR more energy and 'Stuff' than we could..

But no doubt, there are actual CRIMINALS in this as well. Lots of them. There has been fraud, repression of ideas, corruption of public officials to sustain 'certain' businesses, etc. These should absolutely be identified and tried and punished.



But that's not what' happening, is it?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't Obama already made it fairly clear that he intends to give a blanket pardon to all the malefactors? I don't remember the exact verbiage, but it's something like "I want to look forward, not backward."

And isn't the Obama administration on the verge of announcing, perhpas as early as Thursday, the rollout of his "good bank-bad bank" policy, which is nothing short of cash for trash--cash to be contributed by the public and trash to be contributed by the same bunch of theives that got us into this?

How popular do you think these initiatives are with the public? Maybe the rank and file were deceived for a while, but now that they are coming to their senses, our leadrship is totally unresponsive. Don't you perceive that something is wrong here?

Clearly, democracy in our country is broken.

I'm with Porter. I say roll out the guillotines. Or as Sydney Smith stated in another era when the libertarians had their fangs sunk deeply into a nation:

From what motive but fear, I should like to know, have all the improvements in our constitution proceeded? If I say, Give this people what they ask because it is just, do you think I should get ten people to listen to me? The only way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is by showing them in pretty plain terms the consequence of injustice.

--Sydney Smith, speech before British Parliament, 1829

So far, on the economic policy front, IMO Obama has not shown himself to be more worthy of the position than the senile guy. At least McCain would have pushed a large tax cut, which would probably more effectively stimulate the economy in the short term. I am not convinced that McCain would have been more of a tool for Wall Street criminals to bludgeon the nation with than this guy.

At least McCain would have pushed a large tax cut, which would probably more effectively stimulate the economy in the short term.

Of the borrow, tax and spend party.

Neither one are willing to ask 'that grinding sound - is that paradigm shifting without a clutch?' The system as they know it and know how to work it is what has gotten 'em (and their underlings) this far - so they will work hard to keep that system. Basic human nature in action.

Tax cuts are inefficient stimulus (as measured by increased GDP years per dollar of excess debt). The multipliers are not completely tied down, but spending programs have a multiplier of about 1.5 (GDP bump divided by headline cost), and tax cuts around .75. And that GDP bump feeds into future tax revenues (and lower unemployment benefits). The net is that the estimated cost per dollar of GDP stimulated is about .5 for spending, but close to one for tax cuts. It is a serious policy error, that politics have meant that about a third of the current stimulus bill is tax cuts.

In my own case, I will be happy to spend any extra refund on solar PV (if prices collapse as much as expected). But most of the tax refunds will not effectively stimilate the economy.

tax cuts are inefficient stimulus but highly efficient politically. politics have rendered this democracy dangerous.

Careful with that axe, Eugene --

You could end up like Robespierre.

Point conceded. But alas, where are the great pragmatic leaders like those who have emerged in our past to speak out against the abuses of a vitiated money class?

There is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with 'a money touch,' but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers.

--Theodore Roosevelt

We have been dreading all along the time when the combined power of high finance would be greater than the power of the government. Have we come to a time when the President of the United States or any man who wishes to be President must doff his cap in the presence of this high finance, and say 'You are our inevitable master, but we will see how we can make the best of it'?

--Woodrow Wilson

Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street.

--Mary Ellen Lease

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

[I warned the working classes] to beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door to advancement against such as they...

--Abraham Lincoln

The railroad man, the monopolist, the speculator, the banker, the mortgage holder, the manufacturer, all merged into a single composite creature, the "plutocrat," whom the farmer hated and feared. The "plutocrat" planted no corn or wheat, built no towns, and battened on the labor of those who did; he foreclosed mortgages, raised freight rates, charged high interest, stole public lands and bought legislatures.

Professor Russel Nye, Midwestern Progressive Politics

There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests above them.

--William Jennings Bryan

We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob...I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it, the forces of selfishness and lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

--Franklin D. Roosevelt

You are absolutely correct, and correct to call me out, in wishing upon the nation a fate as terrible as that of the French or Russian revolutions. However, such an outcome is all but inevitable if we cannot renew what Niebuhr calls a "fairly honest democracy" in which the working, lower-middle and middle-middle classes can see the "possibility of organizing both economic and political power to match that of the more priviliged classes."

So far, all I have heard is a deafening silence from the leadership class as the country moves inexorably towards plutocracy.

Totally agree -- we need another FDR or two.

And it's not a fate I wish for, but French-revolution-type chaos is a distinct possibility. A hundred million p!55ed-off FWO could certainly do a lot of damage.

Everyone isn't at fault (letting your group off the hook) because group X is a fault. How convenient.

So lets blame it all on Reagan.

Never mind that (for example) the S&L crisis was caused by events in the 70s: high inflation and financial institutions that borrowed in short term and lent in the long term - plus, a Democratic Congress's decision to deregulate the S&Ls to let the grow out of their already insolvent situation. Yes, they were insolvent before Reagan took office.

You can fly along at a high enough altitude to be able to see the clouds in any shape that you want. But there are tons of pesky details when you get up close.

You're absolutely right about the undoing of America being a bipartisan endeavor.

And in fact, I believe it is the Obama administration that has now taken up the exculpatory chant: "everybody's at fault."

I tend to be an equal opportunity basher, so if you got your feelings hurt because I made disparaging remarks about your favorite party, sorry.

However, I think you've got your wires a little crossed when you state the deregulation of the S&L industry was a "Democratic Congress's decision":

The Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 (Pub.L. 97-320, H.R. 6267, enacted 1982-10-15) is an Act of Congress, that deregulated the Savings and Loan industry. This Act turned out to be one of many contributing factors that led to the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s.[1]

The bill, whose full title was "An Act to revitalize the housing industry by strengthening the financial stability of home mortgage lending institutions and ensuring the availability of home mortgage loans," was a Reagan Administration initiative.[2]


Furthermore, there was a Republican majority in the Senate at the time.


It was, however, very much a bi-partisan effort:

The bill had broad support in Congress, with co-sponsors including Charles Schumer and Steny Hoyer.[3] The bill passed overwhelmingly, by a margin of 272-91 in the House.[4]

And you are right about another thing also: "You can fly along at a high enough altitude to be able to see the clouds in any shape that you want. But there are tons of pesky details when you get up close."

Remember Arthur Laffler and the Laffler curve?

I remember it being called the Laffer Curve ginned up by Art Laffer on the back of a napkin. That's cause it was such a hoot. A brilliant mnemonic if there ever was one.

Madmen aren't at the helm. The helm is unmanned.

The "ruling class" rules only with the consent of the ruled, and are among the least classy people ever encountered. Discuss.

The ruling class in the UK had more holiday at Xmas than I can take in a year [24 days]. No wonder they don't have time to figure out what's happening.

Still, they must deserve the money and perks over the rest of us because it's a 'free market' right?

Maybe they do, maybe they do. Funny that you mention this today, on the High Holy Day of American football.

Today, a large swath of "the rest of us" in the USA will eagerly hand over money (often via premium cable subscription) and time they whine and moan they don't even have amidst all the gloom and doom, merely to watch steroidally modified beast-men be paid $75,000 to lob a football around a large rug for a few minutes. Seconds-long episodes of football-lobbing, accompanied by many takes of surveyors bizarrely lugging poles and chains about as though it were still some bygone century, will punctuate a four-hour orgy of commercials. (Oh, and just to be fair, equally obscenely overpaid British and European footballers, ie soccer players, and often equally moronic British and European TV, are little different in principle.)

In other words, complaining about perks seems an exercise in utter futility that engages only frivolously Marxist academics, while most of the people on whose behalf said academics affect to speak not only don't seem bothered in the slightest, but fall all over themselves to join in the game as they have nothing better to do. At least some of the "ruling class" take on a degree of responsibility, however little it might be, while the footballers merely play silly games. And against $75,000 for a few minutes' work, many of the "ruling class" are mere pikers - imagine spending endless hours sitting through mind-numbing Congressional or Parliamentary committee meetings, or corporate board meetings.

In the end, the riff about perks and the 'free market' seems utterly bootless despite its emotional appeal. Still, please feel free to get back to us when The Great Shiftless Moron Mass have managed somehow to shift their attitudes to a point where footballers (of either persuasion) can no longer draw obscene salaries, simply because there aren't enough foolish "fans", i.e. fanatics, willing to fork over vast bundles of cash. I think Hell will freeze over first, but I could be wrong. Or not, wait a minute, without the overpaid footballers and such, the The Great Shiftless Moron Mass would find nothing to do with a spare afternoon except perhaps, at least in the USA, to go out and randomly bang away at highway signs despite whines and moans about the high price of ammo.

You don't need a premium cable subscription to watch the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl predates cable, and like the World Series, is available on "free" TV. (Not really free, of course, as others have pointed out. You pay for it by watching ads. But the ads are so spectacular during the Super Bowl that some people watch just for the ads.)

You pay for it by watching ads. But the ads are so spectacular during the Super Bowl that some people watch just for the ads.)

Ads what ads? I see no ads.

But then I am watching on BBC 1 in the UK.

You mean the BBC are short-changing me by not broadcasting the ads? Where do I complain? ;-)

To be honest I'm not really watching (why don't you play something I can understand like cricket instead!) but it is live on BBC 1 and I do have it playing in the background.

The ads will probably be on YouTube tomorrow.

The media will all be rating the ads like critics might rate a West End play on your side of the pond.

While you get ads we get commentators discussing the odds on what songs Bruce Springsteen will play.

Well that and technical analysis which to my untrained ear seemed to suggest that one team is gay and the other is intent on buying narcotics. The ads would definitely make more sense to me! :-)

You mean the BBC are short-changing me by not broadcasting the ads?

I suspect US audiences are being shortchanged by deliberate time delays. Just enough time to allow the censors to deprive the viewers of the opportunity to enjoy wardrobe malfunctions.

We need to put blame where blame belongs, and that is the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the ruling class.

Right, those somsabiches are to blame for everything. The damn ruling class is responsible for all the hunger in the world. They are responsible for peak oil. They are responsible for rivers drying up. They are responsible for responsible for overfishing of the oceans. They are responsible for thousands of species going extinct all over the world. They are even responsible that damn brown cloud over Asia that kills so many people every year.

Yeah right!

DS, try reading the link a little higher up: Earth’s big problem: Too many people and find out what the problem really is instead of placing the blame on The Ruling Class, whoever they are.

Ron Patterson

placing the blame on The Ruling Class, whoever they are.

I'm not sure where you live or what drugs you are on where you have NO idea who the ruling class might be. The place MUST be magical with unicorns when, with the aid of the below common meaning of 'ruling class', you lack such people to identify.

the class of people exerting power or authority
The term ruling class refers to the social class of a given society that decides upon and sets that society's political policy.

Earth’s big problem: Too many people

Righto. Thankfully there was never hunger in the world back when there was less people.

find out what the problem really is

THE problem? Singular? Searching for one answer and one problem is the reductive nature of 'conspiracy theorists'.

THE Problem, Eric, is Overshoot! Too many people are destroying the earth. Of course there was hunger before overshoot but their numbers were never in the billions. There was species extinction before but this is the first great extinction that is man made. The earth's biosphere is being destroyed and it is caused by too many people.

The earth has millions of problems but the ONE problem that will destroy civilization as we know it is overshoot, or simply far, far more people than the earth can support without destroying our own biological support system.

Of course overshoot is the cause of Peak Everything.

To believe that the "Ruling Class" are the cause of our problems, like Peak Everything and the eventual end of civilization as we know it, is truly asinine.

Ron Patterson

Too many people are destroying the earth.

Right. Too many people. Too many people are what caused the breadbasket of the middle east to become the desert we all know and love today. Too many people in Australia set fire to the place (to get rid of the mega fauna) and that made it a desert. Too many people turned the great plains of the US into the dustbowl. (VS the too many people of today)

Why, it was not the few people (like George Herbert Walker Bush) who formed Zapata corp - the ocean de-nuding operation - those decisions and effort where not the actions of a FEW but of the too many people. Perhaps a board of directors is 'too many people'?

To believe that the "Ruling Class" are the cause of our problems

You've already admitted that you can not identify a 'ruling class' - so what qualification do you have to declare an opinion based on what you can not identify is 'truly asinine.'? Or is the 'asinine' label something you just tack onto any argument you are unwilling to accept.

the ONE problem that will destroy civilization as we know it is overshoot

And here I was thinking that other 'problems' like bio-warfare and nuclear weapons could be civilization destroyers. Glad you've set me and everyone else strait.

Eric - this is not a subject to address with Darwinian.

He believes that all the crap that bush administration has done over the last 8 years was just a big OOPS! from a doofus, bungeling, half whit president who couldn't steer straight.

His level of naievity is disgusting.

Yes its about population. TPTB who are tasked with managing these huge populations are not IMO benevolent as anyone with half a brain can see.

And here I was thinking that other 'problems' like bio-warfare and nuclear weapons could be civilization destroyers. Glad you've set me and everyone else strait.

don't be so sarcastic.
you don't have nuclear warfare each and every single day, the same that you don't have biological warfare. but you do have 7 billion people eating, and 3-4 billion consuming like there's no tommorow. plastic, wood, oil and polluting the earth.

we have nuclear weapons, but we're not using them yet. but when all these people will start wanting the same piece of food, only then will you have chaos. look at the root of the problem

Ron I totally agree with you. +10

(would be great having the rating system back :))

Tom, Growth is not an option

Ditto, +100 for Ron.

+1 for Ron (more would than +1 would celebrate growth).

LOL! Great Comment!

Then I give you a +0.000001



Forgive my curiosity, but do you run a bird sanctuary or is Toucan a place?

The wife works in wildlife rehab, and we are in our apprentice phase with falconry licensing. No toucans here, but I just thought the moniker fit me so that's what I went with ;)


I think it's more like an energy flux overshoot than population overshoot. The global economy has turned our resources into waste (sub-resources) at a faster rate than that at which sub-resources have been converted to new resources using reverse entropic processes.

Were we fated to arrive at this situation for this number of people, or does it have something to do with the policies of the ruling classes? I haven't decided yet myself, but think it's more complicated than your comment suggests.

It may be that - in black-box terms - we are just like yeast, and that those who rise to power (sociopaths) are those who will enact the sort of polices that ensure an overshoot/die-off scenario. I hope this isn't the case though, and I'm certainly not sure of it.

It would seem obvious that the underlying problem we face is over population. But, we know that "the Ruling Class" has gone to great lengths to promote population growth, while also promoting increased individual consumption. The Ruling Class as a whole wants to increase it's wealth and to do that, these guys must make and sell more stuff, from which they collect some fraction of the sales which ends up in their respective pockets. Back a few centuries, the Ruling Class (In Europe and the Americas) included The Church, which still promotes increased child bearing by repeated vocal claims that birth control is a sin, etc.

The U.S. population has grown from a mere 3 million people in 1776 to more than 300 million today. Much of that growth was the result of policies which promoted immigration, policies which still pervade the government. Worse, we see many U. S. Government incentives to encourage people to make more babies. The latest Economic Stimulus plan includes increased tax credits for children and spending for local schools. The stimulus rebates are greater for couples than single workers, even where only one family member is the worker. One can find similar efforts to promote childbirth throughout the entire economic system. And, we still have policies which encourage more immigration, such as programs to bring more workers into the U.S., which adds about half of the people to our increase in population every year.

In China, a country with massive problems resulting from their large population, "the Ruling Class" has gone to great efforts to limit the number of children per couple. That this approach has not been followed by "the Ruling Class" in the U.S. (or Europe?) is clear evidence that "the Ruling Class" is the CAUSE of much of our continued population growth. That business and government use H1B visas and Green Card programs to promote immigration is even stronger evidence against "the Ruling Class".

Maybe one day, perhaps soon, humanity will recognize that population growth is a crime against the Earth and a threat to the survival of civilization. As one who read The Population Bomb decades ago, I am tired of holding my breath (and my tongue). The idiots aren't listening...

E. Swanson

Black Dog, I got a chuckle out of your post. First time I have heard anyone blame the ruling class for overpopulation. Well hell, I guess some folks must always find someone to blame for the world's woes. Except in China as you point out. Errr....who is to blame for China's overpopulation? Oh I know! The dead ruling class of China.

Oh, and I did read "The Population Bomb", decades ago, just as you did. I do not recall Ehrlich blaiming the ruling class for exploding population. As I recall he was just trying to bring attention to the problem.

One very important point! The so-called ruling class, in democracies, are pretty much a mirror of the general population. That is we elect officials who reflect our very own views. If the "elected" ruling class promoted population control, they would not be a member of the ruling class very long. But of course some conspiracy theory wingnuts believe our elected officials are just puppets whose strings are being pulled by some covert commission somewhere in New York, or Paris, or.....

Your link is not a link. You should always preview your posts and check your links there to make sure they work before you post them.


Sorry about the link. It should have been:


BTW, read the story below about the banks hiring foreign workers. I've got 2 engineering degrees and have lost out many times to foreigners in my search for work the past 30 years. The H-1B visas have let lots of technology workers into the U.S. and they have taken jobs from Americans. I recall several times going to the Unemployment Office to look thru their job files. The jobs listed were often very tightly defined, such that the only person who could fill the position was the person who already had the job. That would be a person who came over on a student or H-1B visa. The job listing was a formality which allowed the worker to obtain permanent residency status so they could eventually qualify for citizenship...

Glad to learn you got a chuckle. I don't think any of this is very funny...

E. Swanson

Ron: You are the only one that thinks the control of the puppet strings is "covert". These guys aren't paying all that money to these D.C. whores because they think they are pretty-when you pay for the dance you get to pick the tune-good thing the change agent is working overtime stopping lobbyist influence.

Ron: You are the only one that thinks the control of the puppet strings is "covert".

Only Ron can speak for Ron, but.....

1) Ron can't even identify who 'the ruling class' is. The Ruling Class, whoever they are.
2) Ron has the belief that elections select people who in democracies, are pretty much a mirror of the general population. Ron ignores that the US of A is a Constitutional Republic and ignores that the choices tend to be between 2 who have monetary backing and a certain psychology who is attracted to running for and using the power of 'The Ruling Class' (Ergo the 2 choices are hardly a mirror). Of course if you can't even identify a ruling class, kind of makes arguing over what the ruling classes have done/not done moot.

Ron posts about how 'there are no conspiracies' - and gets hung up on the whole 'secret' part of conspiracy. VS the out in the open, documented efforts of the class he can not identify - The Ruling Class. So if he does not acknowledge the existence of a 'ruling class' how can there ever be an effect from a non-existent 'class' of people? QED.

Eric, for god's sake stop being so silly. In the USA there is no ruling class. We have a President, Senators, and Governors and so on, but they are not a class of people as was the French Aristocracy. Here we have the upper class, the middle class and the desperately poor. Our elected officials usually come from the middle class and occasionally from the upper class but they are never considered a ruling class.

Politicians almost always start in local government and work their way up. Those who hold different opinions from their constituency do not get elected no matter how much money they have backing them. And last year Obama raised the vast majority of his campaign money form very small donations, mostly via the internet. In other words from the people who mirrored his views.

And for the umpteenth time I have never posted that there are no conspiracies. You just made that crap up.


But beginning in the 1970s, as politics turned conservative again, a group of conservative multimillionaires and foundations underwrote an ever-growing network of policy journals, university chairs, and think tanks. Originally funded in a small way to counter the prevailing liberal bias, by the 1980s they had become influential in constraining government and scripting new directions for tax legislation, monetary policy, business regulation, and even judical decision-making.

The result by 2000 was a Washington in which liberals found themselves muttering about "corruption" that was largely legal behavior--dicision-making lubricated by so-called "soft money" political contributions, and resulting in flagrant tax favoritisms, bank bailouts, gutted regulations, and see-no-evil administration of the federal election laws...

Indeed, through both "hard" corruption--the straightforward, indictable kind--and the "soft" variety, in which bribes wore veils and laws and regulations were bent to dubious purposes, the domination of politics by wealth and corporations circa 2000 bore some resemblance to the captivity of the Sentate by business a century earlier. "The two parties...have morphed together into one corporate party with two heads wearing different make-up."

--Kevin Phillips--Wealth and Democracy

It seems that there is a ruling financial oligarchy who have over time allowed their slaves to create labour saving devices for themselves (at the expense of using unsustainable resources).

The slaves benefitted from the reduced amount of work they needed to do, and/or the potential to elevate their socio-economic position, and the oligarchy received greater tribute, and a more mangageable group of slaves since it formed a natural self-policing hierarchy of managers.

This situation was great for the oligarchy whilst the resources that were propping up the pyramid seemed inexhaustible, but this is clearly not the case now. They are in the difficult position of having to collapse this pyramid which obviously needs to be carried out gradually so as not to cause major class divisions, that would make the task more difficult.

If this slave could consider himself to be certain to survive this process, I would perhaps feel concerned for their difficult challenge.

This is to some degree devil's advocacy, I'm not sure of my own opinions on all this stuff yet.

Maybe one day, perhaps soon, humanity will recognize that population growth is a crime against the Earth

Plenty of 'crimes VS the earth' even with low populations. Population is a 'reason' for 'crime VS earth' only because even a population of one can be 'crimey' VS earth.

The excessive population VS carrying capacity will just make the 'crimes' all that more noticeable is all via the widespread nature.


You are exactly right, but your comment is a little vague on the second half of the ruling class' motivation to encourage population growth. The first half of that equation is that, as you state, it wants more people so that it "can make and sell more stuff." But the second half of that equation, which you allude to but don't state explicity, is that it wants more workers so that it can drive down and keep down the cost of labor.

The authoritative text on this is David Montejano's Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986. In it he traces the ebb and flow of U.S. immigration policy over a 150-year period.

Take one of many examples he gives of those who exploited immigration law to their advantage:

The farmers of South Texas shared two basic concerns: one, they wanted cheap labor; two, they wanted it at the right time and in sufficient numbers.

--David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986

In order to accomplish this, the farmers used an elaborate combination of legal and cultural constructs, what he calls the "webb of labor controls" (its linchpin being immigration law) combined with "the culture of segregation," a racist ideology.

One mistake that ideologues always make is selecting one aspect of our lives and beleiving it stands alone, isolated from all other aspects. For neoclassical economists, for instance, economics is a free-standing edifice that has no interplay with politics, culture, society, morals or aesthetics. This leads them to erroneously conclude that, for example, economic life is not influenced by political life, nor is political life influenced by economic life. This ideologically-induced blind spot is what got us into the economic pickle we now find ourselves.

Darwinian appears to have fallen into the same trap. Even though I agree with him that over-population is a severe problem, and perhaps even the root of most of our problems, he fails to see that population control, which essentially boils down to millions of individual decisions on whether or not to have a baby, is a combination of economic, political, social, cultural and moral influences. I believe the following passage gives a flavor of how all those various influences are inextricably interwoven:

Left to our own devices, sheltered by the traditions of machismo and the harem, we reproduced like rabbits. From the pulpits, priests forbade (and continue to forbid) contraceptive methods. Only during the 1970s did President Echeverria inaugurate a policy of demographic persuasion that managed to slow down (only relatively) a capacity for procreation that makes one imagine a Mexican chromosomal imperialism extending througout our former territories in the U.S. Southwest and as far north as Chicago, New York, Oregon, and the Pacific.

In 1970, each Mexican woman bore an average of six children. Today, we are down to a ratio of three children per woman. But beyond ancestral fears of the United States, beyond traditions of Aztec, Spanish, and Arab machismo, beyond agrarian loneliness, beyond sex as the only form of entertainment and children as the only proof of virility lies a constant will to survive.

--Carlos Fuentes, A New Time for Mexico

And, as Fuentes indicates, a coordinated policy of cultural, legal and moral persuasion can, and did, influence people's decision on whether or not to have a baby.

Darwinian's argument seems to be that population overshoot and the subsequent die off are inevitable consequences of the way the human animal is hard-wired. I'm not ready to accept that as the truth, even though I do acknowledge that changes in culture and values can often only be accomplished with the dying off of a generation, a newer generation with reformed ideas taking its place.

His argument seems to fall pretty much in line with that of the libertarians, which is that economic cycles are inevitable, or can be solved with some simplistic solution like regulating the money supply, and therefore we should just let the plutocrats do whatever they want.

If there is one thing i learned from the book 'friendly fascism' is that the 'ruling class' or 'elite class' is that they as a group are not united all the time. for example some would just favor blunt exploitation of the lower classes, others favor maybe throwing a token concession or two with their exploitation. the one thing i see them all uniting on is to prevent the lower classes from retaking their control.

It's impossible to put people in a box. And many times it's impossible to discern what their intentions are.

Looking at America's most well-known champions for the little guy, Franklin D. and Teddy Roosevelt were wealthy, northeastern bluebloods.

Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln were Republicans.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was a Democrat.

FDR, even though he was hated and despised by the plutocrats, undoubtedly saved them from themselves. It will be interesting to see if some brilliant political operative like FDR emerges this time that can (and I stress "can" because we have a lot more people and a lot fewer natural resources now than we did in 1932, not to mention the fact that the debt bubble is twice as big relative to GDP as it was then) save the plutocrats from themselves.

His argument seems to fall pretty much in line with that of the libertarians, which is that economic cycles are inevitable, or can be solved with some simplistic solution like regulating the money supply, and therefore we should just let the plutocrats do whatever they want.

Good Lord, how do you make the connection between the human prediciment, overpopulation and overshoot, with economic cycles? Some things are inevitable, like the sun rising tomorrow morning. Can you therefore say that my argument is pretty much like the astronomers who say the sun rising is inevitable? I am not a libertarian and comparing me with them is disgusting! I am the exact opposite because, unlike the libertarians, I say there are no simplistic solutions.

We are deep into overshoot. There is no solution to overshoot except collapse and dieoff. And the crash has already begun.


John Michael Greer started the conversation about cycles. Dryki and I picked up on it with a series of comments on the Jan. 30 DrumBeat.

The key word here is providence. Do I believe that population overshoot, collapse and dieoff are providential? Or do I believe something can be done about them?

Well, the truth is I don't know. I argued the other day that, since the Enlightenment, providence has gotten short shift. So that might argue in favor of your theory.

However, your arguments, peppered as they are with dogmatism, strike me more like this:

The human mind cannot grasp the causes of phenomena in the aggregate. But the need to find these causes is inherent in man's soul. And the human intellect, without investigating the multiplicity and complexity of the conditions of phenomenon, any one of which taken separately may seem to be the cause, snatches at the first, the most intelligible approximation to a cause, and says: "This is the cause!"

--Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Tolstoy, by the way, was a great believer in providence, which he made encarnate in the character of the aging General Kutuzov:

Prince Andrei could not have explained how or why it was, but after this interview with Kutuzov he went back to his regiment reassured as to the general course of affairs, and as to the man to whom they had been entrusted. The more clearly he saw the absense of any personal motive in that old man--in whom there appeared to remain only the habit of passions, and in place of intellect (grouping events and drawing conclusions) only the capacity calmly to contemplate the course of events--the more assured he was that all would be as it should be. "He will put forward nothing of his own. He will devise nothing, undertake nothing," thought Prince Andrei, "but he will listen to everything, remember everything, put everything in its proper place, and will neither stand in the way of anything beneficial nor accede to anything detrimental. He understands that there is something stronger and more important than his own will--the inevitable course of events; he can see them and grasp their significance, and perceiving that significance, can refrain from taking a hand in them or from pursuing a personal wish directed to something else.


So I ask you, do you believe that Tolstoy's description of General Kutuzov fits you?

DS, I fail to see any dogmatism in my position. My position is this. The human population is deep into overshoot. That is, we are about two billion past what the earth can support, long term, with fossil fuel. The deteriorating condition of the earth biosphere is proof of this. Water tables are falling in India and China by meters per year. Many rivers no longer reach the sea. Lakes and inland seas are drying up. Species are going extinct. Fisheries are disappearing. Topsoil is washing and blowing away and I could go on and on.

However we are about five billion past what the earth can support without fossil fuel. Since fossil fuel is a finite resource, the outcome is obvious. Now if you call that a dogmatic position, then so be it but I see it nothing but a pure scientific position.

Am I like General Kutuzov? I simply see no connection between this fictional character and I. I am like another Russian fictional General however, who, when five million Chinese were amassed at the Russian border demanding to be given permission to settle in Russia’s vast open territory. He turns to his Colonel and says:

"Come, Zackaroff, let's drink! And close up that peephole. I don't want to have to hear that loudmouth! He sounds like a priest, and he's getting on my nerves. Now that every last padre has his pen or his mike, you can't even hear yourself drink anymore. Yes, it's padre time, Zackaroff, that's what it is. All over the world. They'reoozing out of every country. Thousands of everyday priest, ready and willing to poison the minds of millions of idiots. Bleeding hearts puking out gospels galore."
Jean Raspail, "The Camp of The Saints".

One more point: The term "overshoot", in this case, refers to something that has already happened. Once you are way past the population that the earth can support, then there is nothing you can do to fix it just as you cannot fix an accident that has already happened. You cannot change the past. Is it dogmatic to believe that one cannot change the past? Apparently you think it is.


Ahhhh, but there are simple solutions to most, if not all of the problems we have today.

Real trouble is, there is NO one with the Backbone to do what is needed.

Only the most vicious, can afford to be the most gentle.

"Searching for one answer and one problem is the reductive nature of 'conspiracy theorists'."

Eric, I believe that what Ron was saying was there is no Conspiracy. What he is pointing out is the unmitigated truth that there are 6.8 billion problems, individually and collectively.

Bringing attention to the fact that we are adding 75 million additional people per year to the planet is no wild-eyed the-sky-is-falling editorial. It is a simple fact.


Earth’s big problem: Too many people

Ron as I read the article above(from the Christian Science Monitor no less) I kept waiting for the Cornocopians to chime in and I didn't have to wait long:

Ted Nordhaus (Environmentalist?): "Doom-and-gloomers assume technology is static. The greatest antidote to rapidly growing population is prosperity and development,”

I've heard all of the compulsory arguments before but frankly they don't stand up to scrutiny. I get so tired of hearing arrogant and naive statements from so-called "experts" such as Ted Nordhaus.

IMO Technology cannot save us. We don't have any more time for that. Can we value a healthy planet above high consumptive patterns? I look forward to a time when arsonists are setting fertility clinics ablaze and contraception education is the world-wide norm.


Thanks Joe, I find this statement by Ted Nordhaus truly absurd:

The greatest antidote to rapidly growing population is prosperity and development,”

Prosperity and development are really what got us into this mess in the first place. That is, fossil fuel created prosperity and development and the population then exploded. To quote Eric Sevareid: "The chief source of problems is solutions."


I think what Nordhaus was getting at is the so-called demographic transition. The observed effect that most countries birth rates drop to or below replacement rates once the economy reaches a certain point. There are afew problems with this thesis. I'll simply mention the most obvious ones:

(1) Some societies see religious or ethical domination as more important than the health of the planet, and will not reduce their birth rates.

(2) Can we get everyone up to the transition point before we are overwhelmed by too mnay people?

(3) Are there enough resources that even if economic growth were made instantaneous, that we could win the race in (2)?

...and now for a happy story about the banks:

AP Investigation: Banks sought foreign workers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Banks collecting billions of dollars in federal bailout money sought government permission to bring thousands of foreign workers to the U.S. for high-paying jobs, according to an Associated Press review of visa applications.




But how can we ease population without taking draconian steps?

I like Edward "Lateral Thinking" de Bono's plan: Have as many kids as you like, but stop when you have a son.

This preserves the sex ratios, so everyone can find a marriage partner; it allows the family name to continue, important for inheritance; and because of infertility, voluntary childlessness etc, will result in just under two children per family, so the population will slowly contract.

so the population will slowly contract.

Sadly, in reality the world population is accelerating and is in massive unsustainable overshoot already - even if you could get agreement (which is highly unlikely given religeous beliefs), stopping at one son would take several generations to take adequate effect - 'slowly contract' isn't a viable option since the required natural gas, oil and phosphorus will likely be gone for net importing countries in little more than one generation.

A change to organic agriculture and a vegetarian diet likely isn't a viable timely option either - the places in the world with the highest population growth rates (not the OECD) already don't eat much intensive meat or use much inorganic fertiliser.

Sadly, in reality the world population is accelerating

It's only fair to point out that birth-rates are falling all over the planet. So, while the population will continue to climb for the next few decades, the trend is toward a leveling out of population by around mid-century (I think).

We very likely are in overshoot though, so the future sigmoid curve of population that we are projecting may already be moot in a sense, and we will have a crash instead.

Every other species in the ~3,500,000,000 year history of the Earth (including humans up to now) shows something similar to a bell shaped population curve when a new abundant but unsustainable food source runs out - so that is what I expect.

the future sigmoid curve of population that we are projecting

IMO anybody expecting the population curve to just flatten out must show why all the required essentials for crops will level out too - a suitable stable climate, stable top soil, adequate fresh water, unpoluted air, adequate soluble NPK fertiliser, adequate energy for irrigation, machinery, distribution & pesticides etc etc.

My country, the UK, already doesn't have all of these requirements - we only grow ~60% of our food..

Our culture's inability to deal with population as an issue, or even to discuss it, is in my opinion among the most egregious known examples of collective insanity and denial in history. Even Al Gore doesn't raise the issue (at least not in "An Inconvenient Truth"--perhaps he's spoken about it in other contexts). I have heard fellow liberals claim that the Earth could support 20 or 30 billion people if the developed world would stop consuming so many resources. Maybe so, but really now, where does this sort of logic lead us? Do we really want to find out how many people the Earth can hold if everyone lives in a way that uses minimal resources? Why do we have to inflate the balloon until it pops? It's true that some of the wealthy countries in the world are more wasteful than they need to be, and this needs to change, but can we really expect that a sort of voluntary socialism of energy/resource consumption is going to occur on a level that will dispense with the population issue? I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here, but I think we're already in massive overshoot. I don't support draconian regulatory measures, but I do support leadership that acknowledges the issue, provides information, and asks people to behave responsibly with respect to their fertility. I would aim for a goal of reducing the world's population to 1-2 billion.

Would be kind of hard for Gore to talk about population, since he has four kids. Though he did stop when he had a son, so there's that.

True enough, Gore would be a target for charges of hypocrisy...though if I'm not mistaken, he's already been taken to task a number of times on his personal energy use/carbon footprint (though this may have changed recently), and that hasn't stopped him from talking about energy efficiency/sources etc. Which brings me back to a key question: what is it about having children that makes it more or less untouchable as an issue in this country, when other aspects of personal behavior are not? Is it that raising a new generation is, in people's eyes, the ultimate symbol of optimism and selflessness? Is it that it seems too fundamental an aspect of human life to be able to be changed?

what is it about having children that makes it more or less untouchable as an issue in this country, when other aspects of personal behaviour are not?

Because the idea of not procreating is fundamentally abhorrent to human nature in both a conscious and subconscious (i.e. genetically imprinted)way.


I assume the guy with the conehead hat told you that one.


At a purely descriptive rather than normative level, Marco is actually correct. If sterility were not abhorrent to humans, most of us wouldn't be around today. I see population overshoot as an inbuilt tragedy, if only because the 'coneheads' will always outbreed the zero-growth population smarts. The smarts have all the best arguments, of course, but genetically they self-select against themselves.

The fact that Marco appears to morally approve this procreative bias is almost beside the point.

I see population overshoot as an inbuilt tragedy, if only because the 'coneheads' will always outbreed the zero-growth population smarts.


And remember the competitive exclusion principle: if fertility varies in a population that is offered options in fertility, then as the generations succeed one another, the pronatalist elements in the population will, in time, displace the ones who conscientiously limit their fertility. You will have failed to internalize population control. (And unfortunately, some of the more competitive individuals may start thinking about violent alternatives. That means that you will get genocide secondarily.)
- Garrett Hardin, The Ostrich Factor


I don't agree with the abhorrent part, but I agree that a high % of humans would never have been born if effective birth control had been available globally over the last 100 years.

My personal opinion is pretty neutral and irrelevant too: as it happens we have 1 child and due to our lifestlye / choices / circumstances etc... do not plan on having any more. However the choice to only have 1 child (I can assure you) has nothing to do with worry about overburdening the planet.

It is interesting to note that the population explosions are mostly occuring in developing nations rather than the nations that could easily 'afford' the extra mouths to feed. It's a worrying trend.
Even if we waited for these countries to become developed so the pyramid starts to balance (as has hapened in our developed nations) we are way into overshoot territory.


While I understand the inescapable nature of population overshoot, the urgent need to procreate less, the perverse incentives that the need for "economic growth", and cheap labor place on procreation, the lack of control of many poorly educated women over their reproduction, etc, etc, many factors that determine how many children people end up with, I am amazed that I never see anyone explain clearly the appeal of having children.

In my own life (disclosure: having children was always my dream, and I finally had 3, just about as late in life as I could, as it turns out), talking to many older people, including some traditional women from Mexico with 15+ children, it seems universal that people consider having and raising children the high point of their lives, the most joyful, loving, worthwhile, important thing they did.

That may say a lot about the lives of "quiet desperation" many people live, but there you have it.

With y'all going on about how social security is bound to disappear by the time we retire, I can tell you I am glad to have three sons - they can farm, if it comes to that, and they will be at their prime when my husband and I decline.

And now the remaining task is to slash our carbon footprint and energy consumption.

mind you I think President Echeverria, who started population control in Mexico had 8 children.

Do we really want to find out how many people the Earth can hold if everyone lives in a way that uses minimal resources? Why do we have to inflate the balloon until it pops?

It sure seems that way, although why people can't make the connection between this behavior and ever diminishing quality of life I don't know. Oh, actually I do, it's because we must have growth.

In my city, Palo Alto CA, we are told by the regional planning organization that we must build some 2400 new houses to accomodate new growth. This despite the fact that the city is demonstrably at capacity for any reasonable quality of life. For example, all the schools are maxed out and over the years playing field space has been continually reduced as more and more classrooms had to be added. So there isn't enough room for healthy outdoor activities for kids. And when these new houses have been built, what then? Another requirement handed down for yet more? Eventually you have to knock down existing buildings and build ones with more floors. Now, of course this is possible but at what cost to the quality of life. Do people really want to live that way or do they think they (or their kids) can escape to somewhere less crowded and start over?

"Call some place paradise and kiss it goodbye" - How the West was Lost, Don Henley.

"Our culture's inability to deal with population as an issue"

Our culture may be unable, but others sure aren't. Aside from Africa, fertility
is dropping off a cliff, everywhere. Even throughout the third world. It is
quite a phenomenon, difficult to understand. In any case, because of this,
population growth is declining steadily, year after year. Total population
is supposed to max-out toward mid-century, at 9-10 billion, before entering a
long decline.

I live in one of the countries with the lowest birthrates in the world. The reason for the low birthrate here in Japan is the economy. It has been horrible since the bubble burst in 1990. People living on the edge of starvation in one room apartments don't marry and have children, at least here. For a year or two the economy got a little better a few years ago and the birthrate went from 1.29 to 1.33 and everyone gasped. But now the economy is worse than ever. Everything is so expensive: food, rent, etc., even well-off people can't afford more than 1 or 2 kids. There isn't even the will to try, actually, in most cases people are exhausted after 1 or 2 children (work hours are long here and mothers often do work outside the home) and stop having more kids without much regret. After all, you can enjoy a small family just as much as a large one.

I think people here are grateful for birth control and look back on the days (50 or 60 years ago) when people had 7 or 8 kids with a little bit of pity for the parents, especially the mother, who was often pushed to the limits of what she could physically tolerate, just because there was no knowledge of birth control. There isn't much desire for big families here. Maybe because it's not a country "steeped in religion" whatever that means. I have lots of friends without kids and there is no stigma. Nor is there lots of admiration for big families, more like people are impressed that anyone would go out of their way these days when everything is so uncertain.

Thanks for your post from the land of Go. I love the game.

In the UK, each mother can claim a state benefit for each child for 18 years that is approx 2 x the weekly amount that a single unemployed adult can claim for only up to 6 months.

I wonder why they farm babies in the UK??

From the book (that used to be here):

A people can be just as dangerously overpowered by the wattage of its tools as by the caloric content of its foods, but it is much harder to confess to a national overindulgence in wattage than to a sickening diet. The per capita wattage that is critical for social well-being lies within an order of magnitude which is far above the horsepower known to four-fifths of humanity and far below the power commanded by any Volkswagen driver. It eludes the underconsumer and the overconsumer alike. Neither is willing to face the facts. For the primitive, the elimination of slavery and drudgery depends on the introduction of appropriate modern technology, and for the rich, the avoidance of an even more horrible degradation depends on the effective recognition of a threshold in energy consumption beyond which technical processes begin to dictate social relations. Calories are both biologically and socially healthy only as long as they stay within the narrow range that separates enough from too much.


Not sure if others who are affected by the major ice storm here and I don't have the battery power to read the latest DBs.

Here is some of the lessons learned so far...and we are still being told that we are at least 6 weeks from full power restoration.

All my opinions and observations from an area that is totally devasted.

1. The entities locally whose role is provider of services were not prepared. Woefully unprepared that is in many areas.

2. The outside entities are also very very slow to come up to action status. Just heard yesterday that finally the American Red Cross is due to arrive but havent' as yet and will take a few days for them to setup to provide food and whatever else to those who are in desperate need.

I also saw for the first time three Army/National Guard humvees going down the highway and turning off a county road. That is all of them I have seen.

The county seat is still down as well. DES(diaster emergency services) is working hard but took a long time to get their acts together. Same for the 9/11 center,ditto for Fire and Ambulance.

I monitor all radio frequencies and the radio procedures and protocol was very poor. Lots of misdirection. Lots of unclear transmissions.

There are two nearby Amateur Radio Repeaters within our range but neither was active.The repeaters were up for I could access them and hear the ID transmissions but they were not being used. I did hear some hams chattering about inane subjects and using bandwidth that could have been put to far better use.

One repeater down near Reelfoot lake in Tn was very active and had cross communications with the EOC there(Emergency Ops Center)...but it was the only one within my reception range that was doing splendid work. The rest might have been just shut down for what they provided.

A few of the local churches are doing the major part of the heavy lifting. Those folks can be proud for doing so. My church is at present doing nothing though.

Road cleanup. Most done by farmers and residents on those roads. The county and state facilites were nowhere to be seen. Still farmers using their equipment to push down trees aside.

Propane. None. Kerosene.None. Gas..very very limited and long lines. Most stations didn't try to get generators. Generators can't be found.

On the whole a cruel screwup of major proportions. Later there will be bouquets given to those reponders and the truths overlooked.Always politics then and gamesmanship. When a real shakeup should be in the works.

We will IMO learn nothing from this. It was not that long ago that Ike tore us up and we were without power for 5 days. We are into day 6 here now.

Other observations: Local Public broadcasting contributed absolutely nothing except canned music. Its truly a major waste of bandwidth. I thought some station might give an update on the status of something. There were none.

Local response entities I find would rather that their communications not be monitored. The fire chief told me that their freqs were digital and encrypted. If so that is absolutely wrongheaded. The public can monitor the frequency and thereby obtain usefull information in a crisis. They need to know and the frequencies should be used as much as possible. Same as 9/11...the police being encrypted I can understand but even so it is not. In the cities yes but out here no.

So bad communications. Lack of information. Poor response both locally,statewide and nationwide.

Electrical infrastructure. Poor. I saw poles broken in three segments. Can't explain other than most that do this are newer poles. Some poles leaned and the deadman stays(braces) gave way. This to me means the poles were set too shallow and the stays were of not the proper cable strength nor set at proper angles.

Many crossties broke and appeared to do so from being heavy one one side via cable laying. When the poles fell the transformers were trashed as well. They don't seem then to be too robust.

IMO the electrical infrastucture nationwide is likely in the same conditions. You may say that a storm like this cannot be prepared for.
I disagree. It should have been prepared for. Perhaps the cost of materials is part of the reason. However old poles were not broken to such a degree. They fell but many did not seperate. I think better wood perhaps.

After all this is over a town hall meeting should be held and discussions taken such that mistakes don't happen again but I will guarantee that the only meeting held will likely be a celebration for the laying on of hands,etc.

A shame for we could and should learn from mistakes. We won't IMO.

It will happen again I fear as the weather is becoming more extreme and unpredictable.


Thanks for the update, Airdale, and best of luck to you and your neighbours as your pull through this.


We learned here that tree falls and pole break dominos were the major issues. Suburban people don't like to have their trees cut down when times are good, but boy do they scream when the power goes out!

Line falls are not too hard to deal with. A broken pole here and there can be readily repaired. When a mile of poles in a row breaks one after the other it is a major ordeal. Simply having every 10th pole be twice as strong to prevent the domino effect would help a lot.

Here we had one stretch of double-pole transmission line domino for 30 miles. Thousands of poles in one connected failure. It was amazing that it took only 2 weeks to have it rebuild with out-of-state crews.

One local small utility normally stocked 30 spare poles. They had over 3000 break. Without rapid response from outside they would have never been able to serve their customers.

Sometimes the issue is pure neglect, though. There were two stretches near my house where poles were leaning and/or bent due to cross-loads from poorly design interconnects with proper guy-wire stabilization. Anybody could see the potential issue with added ice loading. When the storm came, the added weight of the ice brought down both area, including the leaning poles and part of the unstable interconnect.

As they say in engineering Statics and Strenghts, "Statics problems are easy to solve. Dynamic ones are not. Try hard not to let your static designs turn into dynamic ones."

Sometimes the issue is pure neglect, though.

The decision makers who have power over such things may have also opted to show an increased profit - and planned to address the issue NEXT quarter when their projected budget would increase because of increased demand.

(nevermind that the projected increase doesn't happen or that the plan to address issues has been put off for years.)

The upthread poster talks about a lack of generators - few businesses buy what they need to operate post-disaster as that would cut into their non disaster profit margins. In the case of a gas store, if the roads are 3 inches of ice, few will be driving on them to get to your store where you have a generator running. And if someone HAD planned all that means is their stock of product would be gone first *AND* any increase in price to cover the generator and operation could be considered price gouging and therefore get 'em in trouble with the local, oh, what do they call them the people who make and enforce laws...there is a term for them, but darned if I can remember what the slang term is for those people in that class of rule making and rule enforcement are.

I've referenced this CBC archival entry on a number of occasions, but the sixth news clip in this series speaks of a lone gas station in a community south of Montréal that had generator power and, not surprisingly, its fuel supplies were exhausted in a matter of hours.


I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, but any break in the distribution chain will impact the retail customer in very short order; without additional deliveries, most gas stations, even those that do have auxiliary power, will soon run dry; consequently, any benefit to local residents will be short lived.


The neglect comes from both the company management trying to look good short term financially, as well as the customers planting or allowing the growth of trees along power lines within the EASEMENT.

Here in Tulsa, OK after the 2007 ice storm there was a major push to go underground with the powerlines, until one of the first (a snooty) neighborhood, screamed bloody murder over the "ugly" green transformer boxes to be placed in their front yards. I feel that legal battle shut down the momentum of getting started right after the object lesson, of The Ice Storm. AEP-PSO's reasoning was that the easement in that particular neighborhood was so cluttered with outbuildings and swimming pools etc. build over the years, they couldn't do the horizontal drilling safely.

In my neighborhood, not only is the pole behind the house leaning but it is also around 30+ years old. At least everyone opted to let AEP-PSO trim/cut trees clear of the powerlines. Now we are not getting any underground services for the foreseeable future.

A perspective on pole issues.

I was in town and was told by a good authority that my electric co-op has placed an order for 15,000 poles.

This co-op is one of 4 electric utilities that provide power to my county. KU which handles the county seat is still working but so far its not coming up. The bucket trucks I saw in town, 8 of them, are all sitting idle in parking lots. The city workers are not too well checked out on linesman work, and I know the main one personally and do his electronics work on his shop woodworking industrial grade saws.

So far not even one sighting of my co-ops linesman or trucks. They are maybe waiting for poles.

Transformers are a problem too and every transformer pole down that I saw had a smashed transformer. Mine is at a severe lean and the deadman is broken.

Generators are being sold from truck beds by Home Depot and others at
greatly inflated prices. $400 plus normal costs. If you can get one that is.

What I think is this as far as the future grid infrastructure is that without electricity most folks will surely not survive.
Repeat: Will Not Survive.

Right now the two holding/warming centers for those who have no recourse are running on generators and having problems. There are people on oxygen there and needs for dialysis. It is so far not being met except in extreme cases.

We are still waiting on the Red Cross to make an appearance. A few more National Guard trucks sighted.

The Governor called out all National Guard sites. Roads are passable in some areas and the ice and snow are gone.

I wish that I had more faith in the response centers but I really think that if I was not able to get a message out some way and was in serious trouble that there would be none.

Cingular and ATT cells were out for days and just now coming back. I was told that their ability to respond to trouble calls was inoperable due to THEIR reliance of a working electrical infrastructure. No problems with Verizon. They apparently can dispatch thru their own cellular structure. Lessons learned? Maybe.

Where the real work is done is by the people. Checking on others, getting their generators hooked in. I told them to just pull the meter off the base and hook into the output legs.

Plugs to do this with on the generator are not available. Neither is #6 cable. my farmer friend brought a whole roll and as many 4 prong 240 plugs as he could but he is now out.

Airdale-hunkered down in WKY...got a loaner generator running(had to repair it first) but its a fuel hog. Only run it to keep my freezer up and to charge my laptop and cellphone. I am one of the lucky ones at that.

Hi Airdale,

Glad you're hanging in there. I hope people take to heart what you've been posting. It seems as though the vast majority of people can't envision something like this occurring and, therefore, do absolutely nothing to prepare.

One reason I put in my PV system years ago was after we lost our power following a big snow storm. We had back up generators but ran out of fuel after a week because the stations in town didn't have power to run their pumps. Both my wife and I said, "We're too old for this shit" and put the system in.

I hope you can keep on posting.


Hello Todd & TODers,

Your Quote: "We had back up generators but ran out of fuel after a week because the stations in town didn't have power to run their pumps."

I have emailed and posted this suggestion long before, yet I still see no response by govt. and/or gas stations: It should be no big deal to have temporary customer-powered pedal-pumps for a gas station when the power goes down. Recall that early pumps were all arm swung by lever-action or cyclic-action [photos in link below]:


Another thought: I wonder if a market exists for a chain of strictly customer-pumped gas-stations plus prepaid cash-only basis. If one designed a gas station with this criteria in mind: the money saved by not having to install fancy pumps and the related electrical and computer-metering might give the operator a decided fixed overhead cost advantage over nearby competitors.

I am not a financial analyst, but it would be interesting for someone to run the numbers to find out if this idea could sell gasoline for 10 cents less a gallon or even greater discount. You certainly would have no shortage of customers when the power goes out, and your regular customers would probably enjoy the cost savings plus the exercise vs paying for gym memberships.

the primary reason they don't do that now nor, will they add it back in is 'theft'.

Hello TrueKaiser,

Thxs for responding, but I don't understand your theft reply. It is easy to design around any anticipated theft problem. In the olden days: the cash attendant closely monitored the pumps usage by the customers vs just sitting inside as is the practice nowadays. Locking the pumps [and/or removing the levers or pedal mechanism] is no big deal when shutting down for non-business hours, and security could be further augmented by a master shutoff valve on the main tank that would prevent theft-pumping in case the thieves brought their own bolt-cutters and specialized pumping mechanisms. As I have never worked at a gas-station: I am sure a gas station security specialist could think of more theft prevention measures.

from what i understand, even with those measures theft was still a problem till they started using electronically controlled pumps. In such a disaster situation it will be much harder then back then to stop theft.

We had back up generators but ran out of fuel after a week because the stations in town didn't have power to run their pumps."

This is exactly what happens over and over again every time there is a Hurricane down here in the "SUNSHINE" State. Ironically it seems the sun shines even more intensely for a few days after these storms, you figure at least the damn gas stations would have a couple of solar powered pumps, eh?

I vaguely recall that in the late 50's early 60's in S. America on occasion gas stations would have manual pump operation when power went out. They took the front panel of the housing off and inserted a hand crank. Do our modern gas station dispensers still have that feature?

Hi Todd,

Holding on and doing fine with posting as long as this old, very old, gas generator keeps running. I only cycle it up every 4 hours for 2 hrs or less of run time. Just enough to keep my freezer frozen. The rest I have already written off.

One very important item. I had badly misjudged the extreme need of potable water. Not just for drinking but for keeping your life sanitary. Like washing dishes,and for cooking. Hard enough to wash clothes and that takes a huge amount of water.

But I am now lugging it from a friends house who has a new generator and keeps his well up to speed.

Water is of PRIME importance. Potable water. Not pond water. Not water off the roof.

If it were a complete powerdown as TSHTF then I would pull the well pump and rig a pvc sleeve and a pulley to hoist my well water.

Right now the Nat. Guard humvees are roaming the county and pulling everyone's meter from the base. This I guess is so that the power can come up without heavy loading or where trees have crashed houses.
I am wondering how many poles it is going to take for the whole state.

I understand that other counties are in even worse shape than we are.

The Murray based PBS on FM radio finally got on line. One Judge Exec said that he thought our timber was ruined and be ruined for many years. No more logging he said. No tree farms,etc.



Glad to learn you are getting by. However, the weather forecast suggests more very cold weather is headed south. It's due to arrive here starting tomorrow and the front is on the radar now.

But, a comment is in order regarding the Judge Exec's pronouncement. Consider that all those downed trees are biomass. If that biomass were collected instead of being burned or landfilled, there would be a great source of cheap energy. Cut the better stuff into firewood and store it in a dry place. I don't mean just every local farm type doing that, but set up a company to gather it all and ship it to towns or cities. Also, the limbs and smaller stuff could be run thru chippers and then thru pellet mills, again to produce a useful product from what would otherwise go to waste. There is said to be a shortage in wood heating pellets in some areas and the stuff sells for around $250 a ton (or more). There are machines to do all the work. There's probably some tax credits available as well. Maybe all the chip mills which have been denuding the Southern hardwood forests should make a temporary move to the Ice Zone to clean up on all that free wood.

Instant economic stimulus, if you ask me...

E. Swanson

As a lineman for twenty five years, I have been thru more ice storms than i care to recall, the biggest one was 1998 in ontario/quebec. it was quite amazing.

If your co-op ordered 15 thousand poles then i would advise you that you will be looking at longer than 6 weeks to have your power restored, depending on where you are on the distribution map. The first thing they will do is to repair the main 3 phase lines. That will bring power to large customers and large areas back online. If you happen to be fed from a transformer on a 3 phase line, you will be one of the first restored. Then they will start on the longest single phase lines feeding large numbers of small customers. After that they will work on shorter lines feeding small numbers on customers.

Eight buckets trucks are insignificant based on your description of the situation. 400 would be a good start.

Please be careful about hooking generators up to your own electrical equipment. I have known linemen
who were badly injured by backfeed.

best of luck

p.s. line crews are thrilled about coffee. also cookies.

These problems are entirely due to the shortsighted way infrastructure is built in the US. BURY the lines, I know all can't be buried but most could, sure it costs more but they become immune to ice and wind.

Lines on pole are so ugly I hate how they spoil the view. . I've lived in a few counties and I've never seen such a high percentage of unburried lines as in the US.

About ten years ago when Toronto Hydro upgraded the distribution system in our suburban neighbourhood from 4.4 to 27.6 kV, they gave us the option of moving the service underground, if we paid the extra cost. As I recall, something like 80 per cent of area residents had to sign on and the cost of our portion -- roughly 35 metres -- was over $5,000.00. It sounds great, provided someone else opens up their wallet.


Sounds like shovel-ready economic stimulus to me.

Thanks for that information.

We are pulling the meter off the base and with a 220 line out of the generator hooking the two wires to each leg and the ground and neutral lines to the middle(which in some cases is the neutral/ground. This way one does not have to string cords all over the place. We never touch the weatherhead drops or the upper legs of the base. Just the bottom or top if its fed triplex fed underground.

We know all the lines are dead anyway and are driving all over them down the highways and roads. That will change though.

My desire is as I said. A 5,000 watt diesel generator. I am not going to be relying on the certitude of always available utility power any more.

I am sure far more bucket trucks are here or on the way but I know that my co-op has nothing to handle this. Nothing even close. They are essentially rebuilding the whole shebang. A huge number of transformers are also smashed on the ground.

Three phase. Runs by the shop of my farmer buddy yet he is still hooked on the single lines as I checked that today. His other shop runs off on of a three phase line.

Most three phase that I saw were down. Where they were run at the center of the pole then those poles seemed to have extra support and many didn't topple.


I'm waiting for hybrid vehicles that can be used for backup power. I'm sure some tinkerers have already done that.

Yes, you can connect a 12V inverter to a Prius and get a reasonable amount of power from it. John Sweeney in the town next to me did it. It made the NYT! See it here:


And a note from John, who posted this to Harvard Local:

A word of caution if you are thinking of doing this also. Due to the way the Prius 12v system is designed, 1000w inverter is the max you should hook up so you don't overload and damage the 12v system.

There is no real schematic per se, I just wired the inverter + terminal to the 12v battery + terminal, and the inverter - terminal to the battery -/ground terminal.

In the 2004+ model years, the 12v battery is in the rear of the car on the passenger side. You need to open up the spare tire hatch, and take off a coulpe of plastic panels to get to it, but it took only about 10 minutes all together.

How bout a solar charged 36V 200AMP golf cart with a 1500 Watt inverter on the output side? This is not Hybrid but WTH, it works. Our well motor is 1/4 HP (~300 watts intermittent). The car's aluminized windshield cover will heat the solar coffee maker so what else do you need? I know ... lots of things but IMHO this is a good start.

I have two solar arrays, a 3K grid tie whose purpose is to turn the meter backwards and make me feel happy. The second feeds into a bank of batteries with a separate inverter and AC lines running thoughout the house.

I hooked up the second system to run my daughters medical equipment in the event of a six week outage. I can also redirect the grid tie panels to the batteries if it looks like it will be a while.

As for using hybrid vehicles, let me ask this. If you have a $40K vehicle with $15K worth of hard to replace batteries, would you voluntarily cycle those expensive batteries just so the grid operator could get an extra amp or two? I seriously doubt it. The second people find out .2% of the battery life disappears each time the dishwasher runs, and it will only take a second, people will put diodes on those hybrid batteries. I know my Prius will never be used to run my neighbors Air Conditioner.

I spent about $5000 for my second system using the best stuff available (Xantrex PureSines, Sharp Panels, large 6V batteries. I'm sure a useable system could be built for half that. About the price of a generator, but no gas and no noise.

I'm just rambling, but I hope people use these lower panel prices to design a 25 year power supply in addition to whatever other End-of-World preparations.

Hang in there Airdale.

Thanks for checking in Airdale.
Sounds pretty rough down there.

When you say the local authorities were woefully unprepared, what else might you recommend towns or counties should keep in stock or should build into the system for real preparation for this kind of thing?

What in terms of communications should homeowners have set up as a simple backup for when phones/celltowers are off? CB, HAM/Shortwave etc?

I'm trying to create a way for Maine to start turning the public school buildings into community 'WarmSpot's and Communication Centers in case of large scale breakdowns.. this would involve Solar Heating and some electric, probably a wind turbine as well, so that a radio center and a soup-kitchen first-aid center can be run from there.. while also serving to add to school power during regular times. Could tie in with Adult-Ed in Home-Energy, Emergency Preparedness, etc..

Stay Well.


Apparently the new first responder funding from Homeland Security requires encryption be used. I believe local police & fire departments are using such funding to add to their existing communications and this is taking everything the secure route.

When we had our ice storm and 3-10 days outage for most towns here, we had phone, cable, and power down for most of our town. Once the Verizon fiber UPS batteries died, there was no way for us to be reached by the town, and we weren't informed of any relief efforts. We had a town forum to talk about the event, and one suggestion was to create a low power AM station to broadcast to the townspeople.

When I researched the FCC a bit more on this I found there is no legal way to do it -- the FCC is not currently granting licenses to low powered AM or FM stations (under 100 watts) and allows unlicensed transmission with a 200 ft range or less.

What else can our town do?


Civil Disobedience. Steal the Air back. Build the transmitter.

The FCC is at the beck and call of the broadcast industries right now. But they're also understaffed.

(And create a LOT of press when they try to unplug you.. )

Pirate AM stations are the wave of the future, might as well get started. I used to have great fun with them.

What else can our town do?

Long term - buy some ham rigs. No one needs a license to broadcast during an emergency. For the townsfolk - $50 ssb short wave units could pick up the town ham broadcast.

Short term - the town has the legal power to confiscate (or will claim they do) Take over a local radio tower. Or see about grabbing the highway departments 'tune to AM whatever for info' transmitter.

If there *was* a local tower it would be great -- there isn't, probably due to NIMBY-style zoning. Maybe our town is too small.

The ham radio approach would work great, but I'm trying to solve the "last mile" problem - if the phones, cable, and internet are down to our homes, how do you get the word out? Most homeowners don't have ham rigs or even a pair of FRS radios, but they might have a small transistor radio. If not, we could buy a few cases of them for $5 each and just hand them out to folks who need them. But these are only useful if we can get a signal out to the homes in town.

I don't think the town will go for pirate radio. We don't even have a shelter. The school would serve well if we bought a generator big enough to run furnaces and lights, but because the town decided the building couldn't be legally occupied with an "extra" 100KW capacity to run the sprinkler system, the voters didn't buy a generator at all. Nobody in town government was amenable to a workaround. Everything by the book, I guess.

Airdale, good luck getting your power back! I hope the word gets out nationally - I haven't heard anything about WKY on the news, but then I don't watch very much MSM.


What would I recommend?

Take advantage of the strengths you have. I would find every licensed Amateur Radio operator in the couny and enlist their aid to cover the massive communications needs.

They have the ability to cross channel frequencies and the knowledge of comm protocols or could be taught. I would find a local public radio station and enlist them to do naught else but inform the public.

Does no good to have a warming or feeding station of folks do not know about it. They can in worse case walk to it.

I would make sure that the response areas, DES,Fire&Rescue,Sheriff,9/11 center all know how to cooperate and have the necessary comm gear.

The amateur repeaters have an enormous range and lots of operators who maybe have been to Field Day events where disaster and emergency scenarios are enacted.

Make sure the county has sufficent generators. Make sure that churches and responders get reserved fuel from gas stations. Our mayor said...Do Not sell gas that WE need. These kind of things are not known until you go thru the experience.

I could think of more perhaps later.

If everyone watches how Kentucky responds and finds the glitches then preparedness should be achievable. Lessons from Katrina and Ike 'we' apparently did not learn.

If I was a Ham(I am one) I would right away get all my equipment in shape. My antennas up and functional and guywired down solid. Get a good ,but not too large, diesel generator and store a hundred or so gallons. Put up some PV panels.

I think in the future we are likely to see more of these incidents.
Myself? I was not prepared with my equipment. Quit the local repeater club long ago. I thought the internet and cell phones was sufficient. They are not to be relied on in an emergency IMO.

All DSL here is down as is Cable. I am running EVDO thru cell towers and it was down for some periods but functional for most of the time so far. They must have bullet proof robust towers and infrastructure. Amen to that.


"Get a good ,but not too large, diesel generator and store a hundred or so gallons. "

Don't forget to have a few extra fuel filters on hand. Fuel that is not fresh may have some dirt build up in it or even fungus growth in the case of diesel. Gen set could be quickly shut down from dirty fuel filter. Also condsider using the engine's waste heat for making hot water (where the exhaust runs through a chamber with water pipes inside to make hot water). This could be open system not tied to house water system.

What in terms of communications should homeowners have set up as a simple backup for when phones/celltowers are off? CB, HAM/Shortwave etc?

HF-station for 10/15/80/160 meters? Well, you said to replace phones/celltowers. But seriously for short distances (anything within 30 miles) VHF FM base station gives you an ability to communicate about the situation within your community. Longer distances require you to have a networks of people who all have the same equipment, are independent power (batteries) and can use the equipment and the communications protocol. There is such a group in your area and they are called radio amateurs.

I'm sure airdale knows more about the situation in the US, but basically it should be pretty painless to get a RA license to operate 100 watts at 6m/2m. For emergency communications the most important elements are your antenna and powersupply - a 5/8-vertical on a 10 meter fiberglass pole and a pile of car batteries. The rig (radio) can be anything according to your budget and preference. The most important thing about your rig is your ability to operate it. Learn it and practice on it.

The 'emergency' will come suddenly so you should already have practiced on your station periodically. The easiest way to do this is to operate the station as a hobby - that's what ham radio is about. Next thing to consider is that the emergency will can take everything down. Having your equipment without lightning protection or on the attic isn't the best idea. Your existing antenna and mast will be broken by the wind or falling trees so you should have a spare in reserve, thus a cheap fiberglass pole as a mast is a good idea. Standard car batteries are also the cheapest option for a power supply, charged up ready to go in your garage and a having a system to remind you to keep them charged. If you use low transmit power (1W-5W) to talk with your local area your batteries will last for several days...

Amateur Radio Repeaters are usually useless since they lack enough batteries and aren't managed properly. You cannot rely on them (unless you have a really dedicated emergency-RA team maintaining one in your area). Fortunately the best kind of repeater in an emergency is you! Or any experienced and well equipped amateur who can listen to the traffic in the area and start co-ordinating the communications and information flow and even direct the emergency response itself if the authorities are unable to do so. This has been done many times in Ham history and its your responsibility as a Ham to do so when the moment arrives.

Ones you have the license, the equipment and have practiced on it a bit, you should contact your local amateurs and see if you can form a group interested in emergency communications. Then you can do the most important thing which is to practice it before the next emergency.

- Miikka, OH3GPJ

A comment about battery backup. Instead of buying car batteries, go for the deep cycle type. Car batteries are designed for short, high current use, not slow, deep discharge. The RV/Marine ones are a good start, but the 6 volt golf cart types are even better, as they have more amp-hour capacity. I used 8 of them in a rig hooked to a used pure sine 1000 watt UPS device which I put together as my "are you ready for Y2K?" rig. It ran for about 6 years with minimal (as in, add H2O) maintenance, until the UPS developed a fault in one side of the charging circuit and they died die to freezing. While it worked, it gave very good performance 24/7 as all I used it for was to run my computer and a few lights.

Last summer, I found that the local metals recycler had acquired some surplus phone company batteries. They were VRLA cells with 2 x 2volt cells in each. They weighed 100 pounds each and I got 12 of them, for a total of 15 kwh at rated capacity. Being that they were already 10 years old, I have no clue how much charge they hold. I've not tested them as yet, a process which requires them to be fully discharged. But, for the tinkers out there, they can be brought up to a higher capacity by adding some H2O. It turns out that they slowly lose H2O thru the plastic case and being that they are AGM design, there's not much H2O to begin with. Don't ask me how much H2O to add...

E. Swanson

The repeater near Reel Foot lake in western Tn is on 147.06 mhz and up 600 for offset. It has a tone of 179.9 ,if I recall correctly.

Their operation was flawless. They ran a dual Net Control and EOC and even has a Sat Phone. They were coordinating 'assets needs' as well as other traffic. Judging from their entry in the ARRL repeater handbook they are coupled with DES and run it in emergencies.

What I hear more of on the bands is the term EOC,for Emer Ops Ctr.Reelfoot was running that and coordinating with the State EOC.

Apparently this is something new. Maybe I am out of touch but have not heard the term before until now.

I think its reach is somewhat beyond 9/11 centers and likely needs to be.

So if anyone wants to become active in emergency preparedness within their local areas then going the route of EOCs would perhaps be appropiate.

As we wind down further into more emergency situations of late,witness Katrina,IKE and massive weather conditions and whatever else the future can come up with,,,EOCs would have to be more widespread. You must coordinate or its gets bad.

We had fools going running around in 2 wheel drive pickups and causing grief and further loading of responders. I met a guy on a ATV barreling down my road wide open!

I think some came here from elsewhere just to revel in the diaster and gander at all the destruction.

The State Troopers were not well prepared. When the roads are impassable they are stuck at home. Not even a chain saw in their cruiser. I had to cut my in with a trooper following me on his way home. Once there he was then blockaded. I also had to pull the local town cop out of a ditch after I watched him slide into it by bad driving.

Finally we are clear of snow and ice. Now the National Guard is out pulling all elec meters. I coulda thought up better chores than that for them.

The electric utilities in my opinion bear much responsibility for the failing infrastructure. Lots of blame but they will get none. Instead they will likely be feted!

Sheessshh. They don't listen and learn. Always lay the blame elsewhere. How long have we been building elec infrastructure. When summer is here and times are slow do they go trim trees that may fall over lines on their ROWs? No.


The electric utilities in my opinion bear much responsibility for the failing infrastructure. Lots of blame but they will get none.

There usually is NO planning for anything that exceeds a hundred year event. Perhaps thats what you are experiencing locally? Additionally if the attitude is that this sort of thing is an act of god, then who would dare to defy god's will?
Hopefully once this is over you will find that the respect for/of the people has improved.

The electric utilities in my opinion bear much responsibility for the failing infrastructure. Lots of blame but they will get none.

Hi EoS,

Theological interpretations aside, the public must bear some responsibility as well. No one wants to pay higher electricity rates, but if the distribution system is to be upgraded, it is the ratepayer who ultimately makes good on the tab. The choice is simple. If you truly want a "gold plated" power system, you best be prepared to pay for it. If, however, you want power at the lowest possible cost, then be prepared to accept a lower standard of service.

Hopefully once this is over you will find that the respect for/of the people has improved.

Amen to that, brother.


A tiny caveat here, we pay higher rates in Maine, to build new transmission lines to feed Delaware and New York. We see absolutely no benefit from that. All we see are increased costs. Every time I make cuts here, they are eaten up in rate increases. Maine exports power and we are paying to build new lines for people out of state. I have no clue why I have to pay more, so New York can have more power. I suspect that will end. Maine is actively looking to Canada, and getting rid of dealing with ISO New England. Tip of the hat to westexas, not only are we exporting, we're getting overcharged for it. It will stop. Heck a big wrench will do wonders on some of these very obvious transmission lines.
Old term, "monkey wrenching". More than you know happened in the 60's.

Don in Maine

It will stop. Heck a big wrench will do wonders on some of these very obvious transmission lines.
Old term, "monkey wrenching". More than you know happened in the 60's.

OK, Don... as any good lawyer will tell you, I don't need to know all the details.

Oh, yeah, your FBI file just got a wee bit thicker. ;-)


My brother went through a similar experience a few years back when he was living in Memphis. Severe wind storms knocked out the power and it remained out for something like a week.

He said living through such an experience changes your entire outlook on how the world functions. He said his thinking about how the world works will never be the same again.

...storms knocked out the power and it remained out for something like a week.

He said living through such an experience changes your entire outlook on how the world functions. He said his thinking about how the world works will never be the same again.

Hey, that's it!

Mandatory 1 week complete power-down for everybody!
(Rolling, shock-and-awe blackouts.)

That will give people a sense of the real world and power dependence.

It's what I always say......


If more people would work in the direction of "Less is more", most in KY would not be in the pickle they are in. Sooooo very easy to blame others. The electric company, the FED, the local political hacks, etc.. but what it comes down to, is look in the Mirror.

Super Insulation, a month or so of food and WATER (airdale?), Resilient Grid (not the techno-droid vision of a wet dream super grid we hear about here), Local generation, Local distribution, Local consumption. Simple yet powerful solutions to very basic problems.

What's "your" Plan?

Of Interest - New twist on using the Rail Infrastructure.


The Locomotive is Integrated into the Passenger Vehicle.

Day 6 of the Backout (Whiteout ?) aka Ice Age ver 2.0 in the NW Arkansas Ozarks - Nation Guard here with monster FEMA Generators, Governor flying overhead in a Black Hawk. Power poles snapped off everywhere. Bucket trucks from Kansas, Mississippi, etc, but short on auger trucks to put in poles, crews worked all night and got dozen's of new poles in. Rural electrical coop infrastructure just hammered.
More line crews on the way. Freezing rain sticks to everything, and then smashes everything on the way to earth. Aftermath similar to Hurricanes I've lived thru, minus a devastating storm surge. Above Freezing now and things thawing out. Time to let the batteries charge.
Donald Long - Overlooking Low Gap, AR

More about the Czech Prez ..

James M. Taylor, senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and organizer of the conference, said, "President Klaus is a human rights warrior and a true champion of basic human freedoms. His insight into the negative correlation between heavy-handed greenhouse gas restrictions and basic human freedoms will provide a sensational addition to the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change."

(My Emphasis added)

Does he mean basic HUMAN freedoms or basic CORPORATE freedoms?

It has been known for some time that Klaus is a bit of a nutter when it comes to climate change. Here's what he wrote in the Financial Times in 2007:

As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning. The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists.


I think that sums up his position, and it's probably not very fruitful to argue against his ideological views.

AP Investigation: Banks sought foreign workers

The figures are significant because they show that the bailed-out banks, being kept afloat with U.S. taxpayer money, actively sought to hire foreign workers instead of American workers. As the economic collapse worsened last year — with huge numbers of bank employees laid off — the numbers of visas sought by the dozen banks in AP's analysis increased by nearly one-third, from 3,258 in fiscal 2007 to 4,163 in fiscal 2008.

...Foreigners are attractive hires because companies have found ways to pay them less than American workers.

American Express Kept a (Very) Watchful Eye on Charges

American Express wouldn’t have been the first company to try cordoning off certain industries. Last year, CompuCredit, a subprime lender, got in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission for failing to disclose that it could reduce customers’ credit lines for using their cards at various establishments.

What was on CompuCredit’s no-go list? Marriage counselors, tire retreading and repair shops, bars and nightclubs, pool halls, pawnshops and massage parlors, among others.

Chinese Cautious on Treasury Notes

LONDON (Reuters) — China’s willingness to continue buying United States Treasury securities in large numbers will depend on its need to protect the value of its foreign investments, the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, said Saturday. He also said that a stable yuan is in everyone’s interests.

California's cash crunch: IOUs coming

Starting on Sunday, state controller John Chiang plans to delay sending state tax refund checks, payments to contractors and disbursements to counties and agencies that provide social services. He estimates that the state will be at least $346 million short in February.

There could be no better investment in America than to invest in America becoming energy independent! We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy, new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. Oil is finite. We are using oil globally at the rate of 2X faster than new oil is being discovered. We need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail ourselves out of our dependence on foreign oil.If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota. Jeff Wilson has a really good new book out called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now. He explores our uses of oil besides gasoline, our depletion, out reserves and stores as well as viable options to replace oil.Oil is finite, it will run out in the not too distant future. WE need to take some of these billions in bail out bucks and bail America out of it's dependence on foreign oil. The historic high price of gas this past year did serious damage to our economy and society. WE should never allow others to have that much power over our economy again. I wish every member of congress would read this book too.

If you've either read the Council of Foreign Relations summary, or the pages of this website for the past few years, you will understand it is impossible in any timeframe short of 15-20 years for America to become energy independent unless our population is dramtically lower and/or we reduce our consumption by roughly 1/2. "Green" energy has different energy properties than our current mix - matching energy assets and liabilities in built infrastructure is a political not a BTU problem.

Well, the good news is that we have already reduced our reliance on our three closest sources of imported oil--Venezuela, Mexico & Canada--as their net oil exports fell from 5.0 mbpd in 2004 (EIA) to an estimated level of 3.9 mbpd in 2008. I anticipate that we will continue to reduce our reliance on the combined net oil exports from these three exporters at an accelerating rate.

In any case, our expectation is that we will continue to "solve" our overall imported oil problem at an accelerating rate, although the "solution" will not be one that most people like.

The solution I favor, or more accurately a way to make things not as bad as they would otherwise have been, would be to implement Alan Drake's plan for the electrification of rail transportation.

"our three closest sources of imported oil--Venezuela, Mexico & Canada--as their net oil exports fell from 5.0 mbpd in 2004 (EIA) to an estimated level of 3.9 mbpd in 2008."

From the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Website at:(http://www.capp.ca/library/statistics/handbook/pages/statisticalTables.a...)

Canadian oil production. (For some strange reason the CAPP calculates it in cubic metres, not barrels.)

Year Cubic metres

1971 76,033,475
1972 86,181,001
1973 101,096,480
1974 94,860,188
1975 80,134,152
1976 73,036,845
1977 73,343,757
1978 72,483,357
1979 80,853,441
1980 75,352,148
1981 67,209,901
1982 65,405,857
1983 67,929,210
1984 73,851,263
1985 72,601,209
1986 69,278,416
1987 71,773,217
1988 74,546,504
1989 70,961,566
1990 69,997,999
1991 69,396,958
1992 71,931,831
1993 75,265,357
1994 78,365,707
1995 79,994,430
1996 81,577,177
1997 82,028,453
1998 82,777,488
1999 78,121,236
2000 81,007,212
2001 80,012,923
2002 83,989,753
2003 84,988,447
2004 82,006,193
2005 79,107,068
2006 77,942,440
2007 80,560,984

Peak year was 1973. Production suddenly dropped during the 1980s because of Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program, then recovered in the 1990s as the Alberta oilsands started to ramp up. Current production fluctuating on a plateau because of Red Queen's race between oilsands and offshore oil on the one hand and depleting conventional oil on the other.

And as I noted the other day, the 10 year decline (1997 to 2007) in net oil exports from Venezuela exceeds all of Canada's 2007 net oil exports. While Chavez has not, shall we say, had a positive impact on Venezuela's production, the fact remains that Venezuela and Canada are the two largest sources of unconventional oil--at least in North, Central and South America.

BTW, Canada's increasing consumption in recent years has had a detrimental impact on net oil exports (although net exports have still been rising):

I love this term "electrification of rail transportation." It's like "de-horsification of buggies."

I was trying to be a little more precise regarding Alan's proposals, in order to differentiate electric powered rail from electric cars. Probably the best description would be Electrified Rail Transportation. Alan asks a simple but important question: How did we arrange for mass transit in years past with minimal fossil fuel consumption?

Hi Westexas,

I agree with your sentiment completely. However, I detect something of a lack of ambition.

While we are talking about dehorsifying our buggies on oddball doomer blogs, people in the rest of the world are doing shit.

Consider, for example, the world's first commercial maglev train, in CHINA!

(China, people. Ponder that. China.)

Construction began: March 2001
Public service began: January 2004
top speed in regular use: 431 kph (268 mph)

length: 19.0 miles
total cost: US$1.33 billion

Consider that, instead of blowing $200 billion down the black hole of AIG, we could have built 2,857 miles of cutting edge high-speed maglev track! Admittedly, these are Chinese prices, but on the other hand, this was built between the airport and downtown Shanghai, through a dense urban area, which is much more difficult than flat open fields.


The next thing we are likely to hear is that we CAAAAAN'T do such a thing, because we don't have the REEEESOURCES. Well, it seems to me that:

1) steel mills worldwide are shutting for lack of demand
2) base metal mines are closing
3) unemployment is rising
4) Oil and coal prices are at basement levels
5) empty commercial ships are laying around everywhere, and
6) governments seem to be able to spend hundreds of billions of $$$$ on a whim.

Obviously, we do have the resources. What we don't have, yet, is the imagination.

All it takes is the idea "yeah, sure, let's do it." Then, it will be done just like flicking a lightswitch.

I'm not necessarily a fan of maglev. Maybe it is a techno-boondoggle. Also, probably hard to maintain in a techno-constrained future. Plain steel track seems to work just fine for the French TGVs and Japanese Shinkansen, and can be maintained with a pick and shovel.

Due to high capital cost US will not be building any maglev in the near future IMO. Also the energy used per passenger mile on maglev is quite a bit higher than for steel wheel on steel rail systems (don't have exact info but around 50% higher).

I agree that we should be spending more on new rail and upgraded rail lines but here is what the Economic Stimulus has in it for transport:

$30 billion for roads/bridges on top of FY 2009 highway allocation of around $32 billion (which was only 75% paid for by gas taxes, rest from general revenue)

$2.5 billion for airport improvements/expansions

$9 billion for rail transit improvements/expansion

$0.8 billion for improvements to Amtrak's rail passenger network

$0.3 billion for states pay for capital improvements to their rail passenger routes that run commuter trains and Amtrak trains.

For more info on gov. funding of transport in US go here: www.narprail.org/cms/index.php/hotline and click on latest news.

It honestly makes me want to cry. We have such an amazing opportunity right now, and we will piss it away, just like always. In 20 years we will be saying "If we had done what needed to be done 20 years ago, we would be OK".

Why in the world do you "need " to travel 19 miles at a top speed of 268 mph?

The stupidity of the techno-droids never ceases to amaze me...

I wonder if those California IOU's will be transferable? What they might be worth in a secondary market? If this could amount to California issuing scrip?

No reason it cannot be sold/assigned like regular trade debt.

I wonder if those California IOU's will be transferable?

I suspect I'll have a substantial state tax refund not coming this year. I don't know if they have a box, that allows you to use your refund on a downpayment on the next years taxes? If they do, I might check it, and reduce withholding to correct for the downpayment. That seems like if might be a quicker, and more reliable way to obtain the refund.

You know, that's a great idea. Only next year, make sure you under report to only cover 90% of your tax liability. No penalties and no interest free loan to our goofy state.

Peak Super Bowl?

Will Super Bowl XLIII be the end of the game as we know it?

Not as far-fetched a question as you might think. There is something so last century about the extreme excess that is the Super Bowl. At a time when many Americans have to choose between groceries and gasoline, the idea of paying a grown man $78,000 for playing on the winning football team (in addition to the millions he is already hauling in) makes the executives of Bank of America look like pikers.

Well, here's my annual complaint about the Super Bowl: It's always played either indoors, or in some semi-tropical climate. What makes winter football exciting is the weather - and football should be played outdoors.

My suggestion: the Super Bowl should make a permanent home in "The Big House" - Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. It's got huge capacity (106,000) and because it's outdoors, more of the attendees might be actual football fans, as the corporate networkers might not want to sit outside in the Michigan winter for four hours.

Could not agree more.

Personally, due to the lack of fall and winter weather, I feel that it is impossible to play real football below the Mason-Dixon line.

I especially hate teams that are good because they play in their "pinball machine" domed stadiums. The Colts and Cardinals are two prime examples of this.

If one is not happy with the was football is run, one can opt out of participation and your life won't be much different.

Try opting out of other societal constructs where there is similar gross pay differentials.

How exactly does that work with the SB? It's on free TV, so if I'm not a Neilson house, how do they know whether I've participated or not?

How exactly does that work with the SB? It's on free TV, so if I'm not a Neilson house, how do they know whether I've participated or not?

That's what they want you to think. It's not really free. It's paid for by advertising. Companies pay to have their commercials aired. In fact they pay huge amount to get their ads run during the superbowl. What pays for the advertising? You, and everyone else who watches the ads to. You pay first in your time spent (wasted?) watching the ads. Then you pay again when you buy their crap.

If you haven't tried a localized experiment of going without TV for a year, then I won't expect you to understand. Having been TV-free for over a year, I can say, without a doubt, that I have a much easier time sticking to a budget. I don't have the constant inner voice nagging me to buy the new "such and such" that just came out. When I walk into a store now and see something on display in a high traffic area of the store, half the time I don't even know what it is. It's a great feeling. It truly is liberating.

Other expenses for the "free" SuperBowl are your time and the electricity to run the television. I haven't watched the SuperBowl in years, but didn't I hear that they are televising that on ESPN now? Is that right? Isn't that a pay channel? You need to pay for at least basic cable or satellite service for that.

The bottom line in any case, is that it's not free. All the people that are involved with the event are not doing it so they can present you with a good game. They are doing it because they want to make money. Any of the huge amounts of money that are spent on the game for the players, and advertisements are all in the hopes of sucking out even more cash from the masses. Period. If it wasn't so profitable, there wouldn't be a superbowl.


I haven't had a TV for 20 years. The whole sports thing just fades away (I played football for many years). You get to read a lot.
Tomorrow I'm taking off on a 2 day backpacking trip at Pt Reyes (with this scary weather, why not?).
I worked with a brain research group for a while, and they found TV puts one into high alpha almost immediately. Content is not as much of importance as the medium itself. High alpha is a pleasurable, easily manipulated state, and somewhat addictive.
I still can't go into a restaurant and not be almost totally absorbed into a TV broadcast.

Now if I could only lose this internet addiction----

Part of the world's water supplies are increasingly illiquid, water bankruptcy becoming more common:


That's funny, I heard that water supplies were suffering an excess of liquidity:


Hello Rainsong,

Thxs for the info. Consider the looming water shortages plus global warming:

Warm Weather Spurs Car Washing
Probably explains why there are so many car wash businesses in my Asphaltistan and why so many people get their cars washed, waxed, polished, and detailed so damn often here.

It rains very infrequently here in Phx. You would think that when it does rain: people would race to back their car out of the garage to get a free wash. Instead, people rush to get any 'exposed' vehicles under shelter so they don't have to worry about the dreaded waterspots on the glass, chrome, and paint.

Warm Weather Spurs Car Washing

Here in Norther Cali, it seems to be causing people to go out to nurseries and put in expensive landscaping. Considering that on present trend we seem to be heading for a drought of historic proportions. I suspect draconian notices about the watering of landscape will be coming out shortly. Unlike Arizona, in Cali, nearly all precipitation comes over a four to five month season, and if the storm track takes a vacation somewhere else, there is no posibilty of relief until next year. At least in Arizona (and especially) New Mexico where I used to live, we had a winter rain/snow season, AND a summer monsoon. So you at least get a chance of getting some rain during the summer.

The storm track has definitely taken a vacation in Central CA this year. The latest snowpack measurements revealed 61% of the normal water content. Lake Shasta, from which a huge chunk of SF Bay Area and SoCal water originates, is at 31% capacity. By the end of the rainy season in March, I predict that almost every major urban water supplier in the state will start some kind of mandatory restrictions unless February and March decide to test the flood control infrastructure and Donner Pass snow removal capabilities. The farmers in the Westlands Water District in the San Joaquin Valley are already planning on getting no federal water this year.

The deadline is this coming week.

The Reason: Most of Washington’s
Big Credit Lines Will Be Severed!

If you or I spend hundreds of thousands more than we earn each year … and then borrow nearly every penny we need to pay our bills, it’s called “insanity.” When Washington does it, nobody bats an eyelash.

Even before this new phase of the crisis burst onto the scene, Washington was living far beyond its means — spending hundreds of billions more than it earned each year; then borrowing hundreds of billions just to pay its bills.

Now, it’s much worse. Due to massive federal bailouts, plunging tax revenues, and surging social costs, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts Uncle Sam will have to borrow $1.2 trillion in new money to fund its deficit this year, the worst of all time.

If you or I spend hundreds of thousands more than we earn each year … and then borrow nearly every penny we need to pay our bills, it’s called “insanity.” When Washington does it, nobody bats an eyelash.

No, plenty of people care. But because the citizen who cares is not important VS "The Ruling Class", the poor fiscal management continues.

You can see the caring in comments in the public spaces on the internet. Sometimes the caring is expressed as 'Leadership should do this' (thoughtful and workable along with the no so much), sometimes as 'Oh, look at what is going on here today to shaft us', and sometimes as rants that devolve into calling for use of tar sands and feathers. Not all concern gets a 'positive' expression, but do not think for a minute that no one cares.

For really - what effective action can the concerned take?

Edited to cut down on excessive quoting and add a link.

The way you had it, it wasn't clear that you were quoting someone else's work.

Remember Tata Motors? Gonna make the Nano car? Gonna save us all with a cheap car?


Friday evening, Jan. 30, at the stately Mumbai headquarters of India's sprawling Tata Group, the bad news just kept coming: quarterly losses of $54 million, the first in more than seven years; a nearly one-third drop in revenues on a quarter-over-quarter basis; no solid date for the mass launch of the Nano, which has been delayed by several months after the company was forced to change production sites; and no clarity on how the company intends to pay back the billions of dollars in bridge loans it took out to pay for Jaguar/Land Rover.

I guess "receding horizons" are receding even faster than expected.

Oh, but apparently we can afford eleven (11) copies of the new 'Gerald Ford' class of aircraft carriers.


$14B for the first one, and Uncle Sugar promised the next 10 will 'only' cost $8B each. Let me apply a good inflation factor based on my 22 years of military experience...first in class will cost at least $16B and the rest will average $11B a piece. But wait, there's more! These costs do NOT include the Air Wing! Just wait to see how much we are going to pay for the F-35, esp. the Navy version and the Marines' VSTOL version. The costs listed so far do NOT include operations costs, either, which will be massive. The Nimitz class has ~6,000 sailors. This is but ONE new weapons system...you don't even want to contemplate the Army's desired Future Combat System (FCS).

This kind of scratch would bury a whole lot of electric lines, pay for community/convention centers and extra gymnasiums and cafeteria space for schools, all of which could be provided with on-site generation and comms and could be used as shelter during situations such as the current ice storm. All the money spent on these nuclear-powerd ships and submarines could buy civilian nuclear power plants instead. Same can be said for the money we pour into Sandia Labs (Run by Lockheed Martin), Lawrence Livermore Labs, Los Alamos Labs, Pacific National Labs, Battelle, Savanna River, SC Oak Ridge, TN and more than I have time to list.

Time for all of you to do as I have done and email/mail your Congress-people and whitehouse.gov and demand that the U.S reign in its Roman-esque imperial over-reach and invest in training many many people in local EMS and search and rescue teams, true local-use National Guard, FEMA auxiliary citizen corps, fire services, amateur radio corps, and on. President George W. Bush wasted years trying to be mayor of Bagdad and Kabul...now we need to look after our own. How about compulsory first aid and CPR in secondary schools? Compulsory service-to-country: wither military, Peace Corps, Americorps (used to be Volunteers in Service to America -VISTA, domestic forest/brush fire-fighting teams, Civil Air Patrol, etc.)

Write you Congress-people...ALL of them, all of you. The vast majority of them sure as heck are NOT reading TOD.

I agree 100% with your position that much defense spending does little to keep America safe from threats. I used to work for a defense contractor in mid 1980's. One year I put in cost savings of $150,000 in production of fighter aircraft and was given $100 bonus at end of year. They really did not care about saving money as they were guarenteed a percentage of profits on sales.

Problem with reducing this spending is all defense contractors claim they are jobs programs too. Studies have shown domestic spending creates 3 times as much economic activity for each $ spent compared to spending on military. The defense industrial establishment is a very powerful lobby and nearly always gets their way - unless enough of us TAXPAYERS speak up!


I too worked in the 80's for a "cost plus" defense contractor (maybe the same one?) and put in a report to my boss on how to save money and be more efficient. He kicked me out of the office. I was young and naive. Only years later did I come to understand that "cost plus" means never finding a way to be more efficient.

Do you know of a good list of US foreign military installations with troop numbers and cost estimates? (with more info than Wikipedia)

Americans' saving more, spending less

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are hunkering down and saving more. For a recession-battered economy, it couldn't be happening at a worse time.

Economists call it the "paradox of thrift." What's good for individuals — spending less, saving more — is bad for the economy when everyone does it.

On Friday, the government reported Americans' savings rate, as a percentage of after-tax incomes, rose to 2.9 percent in the last three months of 2008. That's up sharply from 1.2 percent in the third quarter and less than 1 percent a year ago.

Some are even expecting Americans to rival their grandparents' Great Depression frugality.

Some experts say consumers have been so shaken by how fast their wealth has shrunk, so burned by credit card debt, that they might not resume their robust spending for years, if ever.

"People are not saving; they are building financial bomb shelters," said Mark Stevens, who runs a management consulting firm, MSCO, in Rye Brook, N.Y.

Matthew Conrad, a financial manager at Complete Wealth Management in Orange County, Calif., says he knows of people who drive a BMW or Mercedes and eat macaroni and cheese for dinner several nights a week. That suggests some are making an awkward shift from free-spending habits and are reluctant to give them up.

Our Love Affair With Malls Is on the Rocks

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the problem: We are reliably informed that whatever part of the economic crisis can’t be pinned on Wall Street — or on mortgage-related financial insanity — can be pinned on consumers who overspent. But personal consumption amounts to some 70 percent of the American economy. So if we don’t spend, we don’t recover. Fiscal health isn’t possible until money is again sloshing into cash registers, including those at this mall and every other retailer. In other words, shopping was part of the problem and now it’s part of the cure. And once we’re cured, economists report, we really need to learn how to save, which suggests that we will need to quit shopping again.

So the mall we married has become the toxic spouse we can’t quit, though we really must quit, but just not any time soon. The mall, for its part, is wounded by our ambivalence and feels financially adrift.

That article is amazing.

Especially the woman who got married at the mall because she loves shopping.

And she's not unusual. There's actually a chapel at the mall for people like her, and about 5,000 couples have married there. Ye gods.

I guess there's someone for everyone. If my sweetheart wanted to get married at the mall, I would run the other way.

Even if the USA keeps growing in the long-term, I figure individuals on average will need to save 10%-15% to even have a chance of meeting their expectations in retirement (save $5,000 per year for 30 years). Good luck on that saving, citizens!

More from Mr. 'The World is Flat":


Wait, what happened to "The Lexus and the Olive Tree"?


The value of Mrs. Thomas Friedman's mall property dynasty has decreased 99%. Friedman wil now say anything to get a paycheck.

Friedman will say anything to get a paycheck.

Mobbie, that's not really fair.

Pretty much all of us will "say anything" in order to continue to be "valued" by TPTB and continue to draw a paycheck so we can live to see another day.

The real question is, what made Tom Friedman the minion of the elite that he is now?

In other words, what societal forces shaped this eloquent writer into being able to write with a straight face the following: "[T]here is no easy escape here, except taking our medicine, getting our fundamentals right again and working our way out of this, brick by brick, by getting back to making money — what was that old Smith Barney ad? — “the old-fashioned way”" ?

Somehow, I get the feeling that when he is at one of these panelist meetings for the rich and heritaged, Friedman watches their eyeballs and keeps track of when they nod approval for mind bending phrases like, "getting our fundamentals right again" and like, "getting back to making money — the old-fashioned way"

He does whatever it takes to get the nod of approval --and the paycheck.

Yes indeed, I was exaggerating. I always figured Friedman was in writing as a hobby. He really does suck at what he probably enjoys. Yet it's hard to tell someone to pick a different hobby.

In support of my thesis that the redistribution of wealth upward over time through the tax code is the root cause of the current financial turmoil: