What's Behind Egypt's Problems?

We have all been reading about Egypt in the newspapers, and wonder what is behind their problems. Let me offer a few insights.

At least part of Egypt’s problem is the fact that in the past the government has threatened to reduce food subsidies. Now it is planning to hold food subsidies level and raise energy subsidies, but it is not clear that the dollar amount of subsidy will be enough. The government is taking steps to make food and energy affordable for most, but there is worry that the steps being taken will not be enough.

Egypt’s Declining Financial Situation

There is a good reason why one might expect Egypt to start running into problems with energy and food subsidies. Its own financial situation is declining at the same time that the cost of food imports is soaring. If we look at a graph of Egyptian oil imports, exports, and consumption (using a graph from Energy Export Databrowser, which graphs BP Statistical Data), we find that Egypt’s oil use has been rising rapidly, at the same time the amount extracted each year is declining.

Figure 1. Egypt’s oil production, consumption, and exports

Starting about 2010 or 2011, Egypt will change from an oil exporting nation to an oil importing nation, if there are imports available on the world market. The catch is that Egypt isn’t the only one with declining oil production–world oil production has been approximately flat since 2005, and the countries that produce the oil are using more and more of it themselves. The result is that there is less oil available for export, even as countries like Egypt need more.

The oil that Egypt exports provides funds for the subsidies that it offers, so reduced exports mean less funds are available for subsidies. Egypt has recently been able to ramp up natural gas exports, and these exports have allowed subsidies to remain in place.

Figure 2. Egypt's natural gas production, consumption, and exports

If a person looks closely at the green portion of the graph, natural gas exports have been fairly flat since 2005. It sounds like they can be expected to remain relatively flat, too, because according to the US Energy Information Administration:

Given increasing domestic demand, combined with popular pressures in recent years against LNG and gas export contracts (particularly with Israel), the oil minister declared in mid-2008 that no new gas export contracts would be made.

So Egypt is still getting some export revenue from hydrocarbons, (and just as importantly, tax revenue related to the export revenue), but the natural gas amount is likely close to flat, and the amount from oil exports has gone to zero. Egypt subsidizes both oil and natural gas sales internally, so it is likely that the government is not getting much revenue related to be portion that is used for internal consumption. In fact, it may very well be a net loser on the part that is used internally because of its subsidies–revenue on exports is supposed to make up the difference. If Egypt needs to actually purchase oil from abroad in the future, its expenses can be expected to go up significantly.

Other Budget Pressures

Based on information from the CIA World Fact Book, Egypt was already significantly overspending its revenue in 2009 (the last year available), with revenues of $46.82 billion and expenditures of $64.19 billion. For 2010, the Factbook reports government debt amounting to 80.5% of GDP, putting its debt level far above that of most other African and Arab nations.

If Egypt’s oil production is down, follow-on industries like refining and chemical products are likely down as well, making it difficult to increase revenues from these sources, or to obtain additional taxes related to the spending of workers in these industries. The Suez Canal is one of Egypt’s sources of revenues, but with world oil exports down, revenues from it are likely dropping as well.

Cutbacks in oil production and in Suez Canal transport can be expected to exacerbate unemployment problems. The Egyptian unemployment rate was listed at 9.7% in 2010 by the CIA World Factbook.

Egypt has a history of a fairly egalitarian approach to distribution of income. In 2001, the CIA Factbook lists its GINI coefficient as 34.4%, which is near that of the United Kingdom, and much better than, say, that of the US. But in recent years, the CIA Factbook says

Cairo from 2004 to 2008 aggressively pursued economic reforms to attract foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth.

These economic reforms likely raised the income of some people, but not of everyone, creating a wider gap between the rich and poor. This may lie behind reports of concerns by the poor that they are falling farther behind economically. With the county’s history of a more even income distribution and the recent rise in food prices, this rising income inequality may be becoming more of an issue.

Need for Food Imports

Egypt’s population has been growing rapidly (estimated at 2% per year by the CIA World Fact Book – about 3.0 children per woman), but the population is concentrated in a narrow strip along the Nile River. (Graph from Population Databrowser.)

Figure 3. Egypt's population growth since 1950

As population grows, the amount of land needed for housing and businesses rises, and the amount of land for agriculture falls. So Egypt can produce less of its own food, as time goes on.

Egypt is reported to be the world’s largest importer of wheat. In 2010, the oil minister stated that Egypt imports 40% of its food, and 60% of its wheat. The problem this year is that world wheat production is down (at least in part due to weather problems in Russia) so world exports are down:

Figure 4. World wheat production and world wheat exports from USDA

A longer term problem, though, is that world wheat production has not been growing to keep up with growing world population. Part of this lack of growth may be competition from biofuels. Part of the lack of growth also relates to the fact that the “green revolution” improvements (adding irrigation and fertilizer) are mostly behind us. While irrigation and fertilizer greatly improved production at the time of the change, gains in production since 1990 have been much smaller.

The cost of imported food, particularly wheat, has risen, partly because of the relatively smaller harvest, and partly because the cost of production and transport is rising because of rising oil prices. Figure 5 shows the close relationship food prices and oil prices. The Food Price Index used in this graph is the FAO’s Food Price Index related to food for export; Brent oil prices are spot prices from the EIA.

Figure 5. World food price trend is similar to Brent oil price trend.

With oil prices higher now (because world production is close to flat, and as countries come out of recession, they want more), food prices of all types are higher as well. Oil is used directly in the production of grain and indirectly in storage and transit, so its cost becomes important.

The higher food prices contribute to the overall inflation problem that Egypt already had. In 2010, the CIA Factbook estimated the inflation rate to be 12.8%. Since wages don’t always rise to match inflation rates, inflationary pressures have no doubt put more pressure on the government to increase subsidies, at a time it cannot really afford to do so.

Impact on the Rest of the World

Why does everyone else respond so strongly to Egypt’s problems?

One reason is that other Arab countries are also feeling some of the same pressures. Food prices are rising everywhere. Many low income people spend in excess of 50% of their income for food, so a rise in food costs becomes a real issue. People have come to depend on oil and food subsidies. If they are taken away, or not raised sufficiently to compensate for the higher costs of imports, it is a real problem.

Oil prices seem to be affected as well. If the Suez Canal should be closed because of disruptions, it could affect oil transit, particularly to Europe. According to the EIA:

An estimated 1.0 million bbl/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed northbound through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea in 2009, while 0.8 million bbl/d travelled southbound into the Red Sea.

The amounts being transported through the Suez canal are now likely down a little from these amounts in 2011, because of reduced imports/exports worldwide, but they are still substantial. Europe’s oil imports are about 10 million barrels a day of oil, according to Energy Export Data Browser (using BP’s data). If all of the amounts that flowed northbound went to Europe, they would amount to about 10% of Europe’s imports, or about 7% of Europe’s consumption. In fact, some of these exports go farther–in particular to the US, or to Canada, so the amount in question is probably lower than this relative to Europe’s consumption, say 4% or 5%. But even a small shortfall is a problem, in a world that needs oil for transport, food production, heating, and many other uses.

The inability to send products southbound through the Suez Canal is likely to also be a problem. Part of what Europe does is refine oil, keep the products it needs, and send other products to customers elsewhere. The whole system is set up assuming close to “just-in-time” production and delivery. While there is some storage capability, after a few days or weeks the system is likely to start running into problems. Those in need of the refined products being sent southward through the Suez Canal will be facing a shortage, and Europe will have excess supply. Of course, it is possible to use longer shipping routes, but this uses more oil for shipping and takes longer, so is more expensive. There is also a time-delay when the new system is put in place.

All of these problems (relating to both north and south-bound oil traveling through the Suez) can be worked around, but there could be a period of disruption for a while, as supplies begin traveling a longer route.

Original at Our Finite World.

I vaguely recall Aldous Huxley discussing Egypt's population potential and the Aswan Dam in Esquire Magazine a half century ago. Huxley wrote regularly for Esquire but I am unable to find the article.


I keep having all these flashbacks when I go looking for old stuff: wild, disorienting hallucinations, even.

I did manage to find a more contemporary quote which I think is pertinent:

I don’t know anything, have no expertise, haven’t even ever looked at the economic situation. Hence, no posting. If there comes a point when I have something to say, I will.


The Manila Parallel
I am not writing about Egypt for tomorrow’s paper; I’ve done a bit of homework on the economy, but really don’t feel that I have much to contribute — besides, other stuff is happening in the world, and someone should be writing about it.

That said, I’m a bit surprised not to see anyone drawing the parallel that has jumped out at me (maybe because I spent time in the Philippines in 1990 and 1991, working for UNDP): the People Power revolution in Manila in 1986. This has some of the same feeling: a dictator who’s a long-time US client, a mass popular uprising that’s more about the perceived corruption of the government than about any particular ideology; El Baradei seems to be playing something like the Corazon Aquino role.

Obviously the fact that this is taking place in the Middle East makes it a lot more fraught, but the script does seem similar.

The Philippine example may also serve as a useful model for what to expect if the revolution succeeds. The Philippines didn’t turn into Sweden; there was still plenty of corruption, democracy remains imperfect, etc. — none of which changes the fact that getting rid of Marcos was a very good thing. Egypt won’t turn into Sweden either, but maybe, just maybe, something good is about to happen.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/ January 30, 2011, 5:36 pm

Bahala na. Thanks for posting that. I actually just got back from Manila, and I was comparing Egypt now to the Warsaw Pact nations in 1989. Don't tell my wife, or she may hit me with her tsinelas.

Something I sent to a friend who asked me about the situation in Egypt:

First, some disclaimers. I'm not over there, and I'm not an expert on Arab history. That said, the basic situation seems pretty straightforward. Egyptians have been under the rule of Mubarak for almost 30 years now. The government is closed and repressive. They get massive economic and military aid from the US, largely due to their peace treaty with Israel and their willingness to enforce the blockade of Gaza, with whom they share a land border. Oil production is declining, jobs are scarce, and the population and food prices have been rising. All of this is like a recipe for civil unrest. The successful revolution in Tunisia appears to have been the spark that set this specific f*cker off. It looks like now either Mubarak uses the military and police to crush the uprising and put a lid on the situation, or his government falls and he flees (likely to Saudi Arabia). A new government could well be more open and less oppressive than the current one, but is not likely to have any better answers in terms of food or energy or jobs.

Putting on my Noam Chomsky hat for a minute, if you recall the late 80's and the revolutions that swept through the Warsaw Pact nations, they came one after the other. The Soviet Russians had been attempting to keep dictators in power who were friendly to their interests, in order to reap the economic and foreign policy benefits of empire. But the nations under their regime didn't share a language or culture with the Russians, and the dictators got older and more brutal, and Russian attention was distracted by a long, costly war in Afghanistan. So popular uprisings spread from one to the other, overthrowing the puppet dictators and substantially weakening the Soviet Union. Now we, as Neoliberal Americans, are in largely the same boat the Soviets were in. We support puppet dictators across the Arab Middle East, both to protect our ally Israel and to preserve access to large quantities of Arab oil at reasonable prices. This could fizzle out, or it could be the beginning of the end of American Empire. We even have our pointless, unwinnable war in the same place! Spooky, no?

And maybe the USA is also distracted by a long, costly war in Afghanistan?

It's a very interesting situation, that goes with saying, and that first graph is pretty damning.

But I'm not sure you can consider Egypt totally in isolation - there's definitely a common thread that seems to be running through the regime-run Arab states: the people of the nations have finally had enough of the oppression/repression.

It is easy to make oppression/ repression not look too bad, if a regime has plenty of oil money to throw around. Once it runs out, it is a problem though.

Egypt seems to have electricity for nearly 100% of its population, so it is doing well in some regards.

Well, yes, I agree. If it had been a transparent democracy that fell into hard times then I'm sure there would also be protests but I think the government would have dissolved long before now and I'm not sure the resentment amongst the people would have been as great.

The rising food prices and unemployment have obviously accentuated the problems but this has been simmering for some time. Like you say, when the regime has enough money it can mask the problems either through fear or disillusion. The fall of Tunisia seems to have awoken the people of Egypt to the fact that it's their country and they can make a difference after all.

What Gail is saying is "Why now"

the example of tunisa?

sure by why tunisa now?

the economy is in a state that rebellion seems to make sense in a cost benefit equation of your average arab?

and One main reason for this economic malaise?

lack of cheap energy? perhaps... I think so

Sure, point taken - it does look like a lack of cheap energy from oil could be the catalyst needed to precipitate the revolutions.

yes it can be lack of cheap energy, but the fluctuation that start the actual change can come from anywhere. An internal situation or an external one. Another interesting point is whether it is possible to understand the level at which the fluctuations in 1) energy supply problems due to closing gap export 2) political instability 3) massive un-employement 4) hostile neighbourhood and more are such that the system is no more able to get back to the status quo. What about the presently "rich" super-consuming countries?
Where is their tipping point?

there is a lot of noise in the analysis of anything like this.

what is fair to say [I think] is that energy/food metrics moved the population into the margins where other effects can come into play. What looks like a chance concatenation of events is often only of significance because it is acting around some harder underlying economic baseline conditions or a perceived change in economic conditions

Its hard to think of a revolutionary example that hasn't had some economic precursor.

I tend to agree. Particularities matter. But there is common background over much of N Africa, ME. Summed up by Rockman's comment on the balance of hope/aspiration and the despair of the cornered. (Was the same in revolutionary France 200 years ago perhaps?) The big picture though is daunting. I posted this over at Gail's blog before I realised Gail was on Oil Drum

Your [Gail's] analysis also of world grain and the old green revolution is spot on. Grain importing nations have an increasing problem.
Egypt is still rated as having a viable economy and even with a still steeply rising population (albeit entering the demographic transition) has managed to grow a significant middle class. See all those cars and flyover highways. However, they have a very large poor population. These people must subsist on staple foods, grain and lentils/beans, as they always have done . This may be good for their arteries, but they must get enough food. The overall import figure of 40% of food, a significant proportion being wheat, compares and contrasts interestingly with UK, where we import something like 60% of our food, but are about 80% self-sufficient in grain for direct human consumption. We have a smaller population, only 60M, and we remain much higher up the food chain, for now at least.
A looming issue across much of N Africa and ME that you did not mention is water. This compounds the region's agricultural issues.

Egypt has been under vicious political lockdown during the years when the economy could extract increasing utility from their own and global resources. But that political repression was part of the Middle East and North African background for strikes on the USA and the twin-towers, culminating in 2001. Small world. Which smallness seems to be a sub-text of your post.
Thank you Gail.

EGYPT: Fears of a food crisis after Russia's wheat export ban
August 8, 2010

Russia's decision to ban grain exports is fueling anxiety among Egyptians that an international wheat crisis could lead to massive food shortages in the Arab world's most populous country.

Egypt is the world's top wheat importer, annually buying 6 million to 7 million tons from the international market. About 50% of that comes from Russia. However, record high heat, accompanied by wildfire and drought, has forced Moscow to abandon its commitments on wheat exports in order to protect Russian needs. That means Egypt will not receive 540,000 tons of wheat that was scheduled for delivery by Sept. 10.
Egyptians' greatest fear is a possible increase in the price of subsidized wheat products, such as bread, which are heavily relied upon by millions of poor citizens. According to U.N. figures, one-fifth of Egypt's population of 80 million are living on less than $1 per day.

Russia's grain ban showcases Egypt's love of bread

"Subsidized bread is the most important thing the government gives to the people," said Egyptian economist Mohammed Abu Pasha of investment house EFG-Hermes. "It is a very basic and sensitive issue and the government had to act quickly to reassure people. It is not about elections, it's about possible social unrest."

Even the language here conveys how essential bread is. Egyptians alone in the Arab world call it "aish," Arabic for "life." It's one of the few affordable staples in the country -- costing the equivalent of $0.01 per round loaf.

Yes. Water must be part of the agitation. It is plenty scary that the Nile flow no longer reaches the sea.

The standard surpressing regime is maintaining the pressure from unsatisfied citicens. If they don't balance that up, they will revolt. But adding pressure comes at a cost. Tunisa for example had 4 diffrent security police offices. So you invest money into supression, but you don't want to over do it; you need money to build palaces and statues and send your children to school in european countries as well. It is basicly a matter of balance.

In this case, daily life for the average egyptian worsened faster than the regime could react to, and the kettle was allowed to boil over.

"What Gail is saying is "Why now"" revolutions are pretty difficult to exactly time otherwise action would be taken to head them off at the pass. Once they have started then they can be unstoppable.

But why now? The advance in communications has made the mobile phone with camera ubiquitous so a photo (e.g. of someone beaten up and killed by security forces) can rapidly be spread widely, many people have satellite television so can see what is happening in other countries and understand that an elite have enriched themselves at the expense of the masses. IMHO if the "family" of ben ali had not done this in such a gargantuan way they would probably still be in power today.

The situation in Egypt is similar, the elite are wealthy by any measure especially by comparison to someone on $2 per day. When we were there during the previous food riots people would beg for the left over food from our plates. Imagine you are in that position and you see the elites becoming more and more wealthy.

I think this internet thing is a massive red herring

I have to think so as well. Electronica is going to affect tactics and tipping points, but these things (like oil) really have greater power sources that drive them. There are facebook and twitter coordinated bits in protests elsewhere as well.. they won't go this far unless there are actually people who are ready to go outside and face down the police in the kinds of numbers that just did.

So what makes "people who are ready to go outside and face down the police in the kinds of numbers that just did"??
Once the knowledge that a large group of people can overcome the police force "gets out" and is known to most people then it changes the dynamic. In Tunisia it took a few weeks for the critical mass to build up, but in Egypt they now know what is possible and it has happened in just a few days even with far more violence by the police.
Most countries have proportionally fewer police and so they could easily be outnumbered by criminals if they were organised, especially if TSHF, and so only have control with the support of the people.
Note, I did not say it was the Internet that enabled this but better telecommunications. Most people in Tunisia and Egypt do not have PCs or Iphones but they do have mobile phones with cameras so can take pictures and record videos and send them on to people with PCs who can then upload them to YouTube etc.
Today (Tuesday) there may be more than one million people demonstrating in Cairo and demonstrations will be taking place in all major cities even though there are no clear political factions in charge. Fingers crossed no "accidental" events that could result in total chaos.
Agree with FMagyar below phones, PCs etc are an extension of the person, just like a kayak when paddling:-)

Today (Tuesday) there may be one million people demonstrating in Cairo and demonstrations will be taking place in all major cities even though there are no clear political factions in charge. Fingers crossed no "accidental" events that could result in total chaos.

I think we may be seeing the beginings of an attempt by other ME countries to try and head things off at the pass here...

(CNN) -- The king of Jordan dismissed his government Tuesday and appointed a new prime minister, a move follows protests calling for political reform.

King Abdullah II asked Marouf Al Bakhit to form a government that will implement "genuine political reform," the Royal Court said in a statement.

Whatever "genuine political reform," might mean? Thermodynamics trumps political reform every time, the laws of the universe are immutable, the king has no power over the tides.

PCs etc are an extension of the person, just like a kayak when paddling:-)

LOL! True dat!

The fall of Tunisia seems to have awoken the people of Egypt to the fact that it's their country and they can make a difference after all.

I think the real thing is not igniting the desire, but the Tunisian example shows that it might not be a futile excercise. In some sense we may be seeing a series of copycat revolutions.

I think a quote from  Decimus Junius Juvenalls back about 100 AD says it all:
“that the common people—rather than caring about their freedom—are only interested in “bread and circuses””
And now there is no bread.

“that the common people—rather than caring about their freedom—are only interested in “bread and circuses””

Of course our idea of 'freedom' is generally related to the ability to dispose of assets and of time as one wishes. If most of your time is used getting your bread and your few assets are critical to that endevour, then using what little that remains to divert yourself with a circus might be the ultimate expression of caring for freedom ?- )

actually Idoagreewithnick

IMO what is happening is the world is sensing the waning influence of US empire.

If you don't think that the people of these countries understood, at least to some degree, that they were being repressed by a dysfunctional US backed dictatorial gov and exploited by the corporations that were empowered because of this condition then you have not communicated with anyone from those countries. I have and they knew/know.

This is life at the end of empire., get used to it because it is going to get real messy.

I don't think I buy that.

This has happened before. The Shah of Iran. Ferdinand Marcos. Baby Doc Duvalier.

I suppose you could argue that the US Empire has been waning since peak oil USA, ca. 1970...but that still doesn't explain "why now"? Why now, and not 30 years ago?

I agree with you Leanan. We can go on forever about the causes of the discontentment. Pick a flavor or any combination. That’s not the interesting part of the equation IMHO. For me the question why are they making a stand now (if this is actually a sustainable stand)? I think it’s just the opposite of desperation…it’s hope. Hope that a change might actually be possible. Nothing destroys the ability of any group to overcome difficulties than the belief that they can’t succeed. In another life time I saw the very dark side of defeatism as well as amazing results when leadership was able to instill some level of hope. Even if the optimism wasn't fully supported by reality...not everyone gets ou alive. Few willingly sacrifice themselves in a hopeless effort. But give them some possbility of success and many will put it all on the line IMHO.

No way to prove it but my suspicion is that the success of tossing out the leadership in Tunisia has generated such hopes in other societies. OTOH if the uprising in Egypt is put down harshly and the body bags begin to stack up the globe may quiet down again. But if, against the odds IMHO, the citizens of Egypt take control we might see more local uprising around the globe. The poverty around the globe will remain and perhaps worsen. But without hope of success I expect most societies to just lay down and continue to wither away.

We can go on forever about the causes of the discontentment.

I really don't think the discontent is new. I can remember incidents like apartment building collapses, where Eqyptians express hatred for their government, which they feel is respnsible for their lack of opportunity. And are from maybe 15years back. What is new, is the sense, that mass popular action might be able to quickly overthrough the regime.

I think it’s just the opposite of desperation…it’s hope.

Well this is where it gets confusing for me. For surely, if the main cause was an energy crisis then the driver would be desperation, not hope?

I happen to agree - it very much seems like a hope driven revolution, not desperation. That's why I still think the main driver is rebellion against the oppressive regime, not mindless panic.

I think its unwise to get overly precious of a single term in a discussion like this which has a broad underlying conjecture such as energy/food costs.

It is very easy to get side tracked by some thinking on the mindset of an entire populations in what at the end of the day is cartoonish modeling of political aspirations

hope vs desperation... ? yeah maybe more one than the other or both oscillating? How do you model that or measure it?

WHT is going to hate this graphic but what the heck...


In the above scenario the complex array of discontents and motivational factors in favour of rebellion[copy catting etc] never manifests itself because things are just not that bad enough to warrant it


however here economic conditions have deteriated to an extent that when combined with a complex array of other factors triggers revolution

whatever pokes its head above the economic conditions as a coherent political demand will be perceived as a cause or reason for rebellion, and they usual are but these political demands do not exist in a vacuum... everybody dislikes their government even in democratic locales such as the USA or the EU but this doesn't transfer into mass protest until some sort of economic cost is endured.. which is why you see violent protests in greece or even student unrest in the UK, or the poll tax riots etc etc etc...

now before I get a new one ripped for this awful piece of pseudo scientific garbage I want people to understand its just a graphical representation of an abstract idea I find hard to articulate in any other manner.

'He's a great man, a WISE man..'

I always thought the sequence that said it all had 'Satisfaction' blaring as the light skier toting gunboat's wake first hammers a family doing laundry on the river bank and then swamps a simple raft that two men ferrying their bicycles are poling along. 'All American' oil fueled arrogance cresting--the scene set just about right on US Peak Oil--Francis you were brilliant.

"I love the smell of Napalm in the Morning!!" - General Boo Radley..

That's a good take, a combination of (1) a variation in the underlying level of discontent and (2) a variation of the threshold for instability. I use that all the time in the modeling of failures.

Here is a figure that I use in my book:

Abstraction for the time dependence of a failure occurrence.

The arrows represent the variations in the rate at which forces act in breaking down a part and the red area to the left represents a variable threshold level. When both of these grow wildly, you end up with greater amount of failures.

Without doing the politics, I have heard one thing from a certain set of the analysts. The common thread between Tunisia and Egypt is that they do have somewhat of a growing middle-class and as in western countries, the government fears unrest in the middle class more than the lower-classes. They can control the lower class, but the middle class has knowledge and can unify, just like what happened in the USA during the 20th century. That could be just coincidence and some argue that this won't have impact (see http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Little+will+come+Egypt+middle+class+re...)

this is an interesting point. The idea of your paper "Failure is the complement of success" - which you refer to oil discoveries - goes surprisingly well in line with the history of national economies during periods of rapid growth - which in fact was a pretty "bumpy" ride: Especially the rapid industrialization in the 19th (and 20th) century lead to a rapid growth (of the overall GDP etc.), but also to a series of dramatic faliures: investment bubbles, crises, wars etc.
An example among many others is the Crash of 1873, which has a lot of paralels with the crash of 2008 (
http://srnels.people.wm.edu/articles/realGrtDepr.html )

So it might be interesting to check if your statistical method also applies to historical economy data.
Of course one should strive for avoiding these failures - just like avoiding dry oil wells. And I still hope that mankind will learn from the mistakes we are making now.

god zooks! Psychohistory

I think it works better as an analogy than as a mechanism to fitting historical economic data.


There are some general systems theory aspects that may apply to a degree -- perhaps a little better than heuristics, but not quite theoretically provable either.

Complex systems tend to be more stable when they include many interfaces, and thereby manifest an ability to maintain homeostasis in the face of significant shifts on particular interfaces. The converse is that if a system becomes tightly coupled to just a few others, it becomes "brittle".

Further, given a population of similar systems in a shared environment (a population, if you will), each experiences random, individual stressors as well as shared stresses. During low-stress situations, stress correlations are low and variances also are low -- all just bump their way along more or less randomly, but similarly. If you monitor the stress levels of the individuals as environmental stress increases, it is common to see increasing correlation of stress and low variance -- all get stressed together, as they work harder to maintain homeostasis. Go a bit further, and the population shatters -- correlation goes away and variance goes way up, as some "fail spectacularly" and others "survive" or even prosper. Equifinality no longer remains an achievable goal for the population at large.

Given a population of nations with similarly growing stresses, it is not surprising to see all struggle, and some to hit a breaking point. The specific breaking point for each may not be terribly important (except to those affected, of course!), as all may fail in unique ways but still share many common stresses. To maintain "health", you have to reduce the overall stress levels.

And, of course, even in good times some members of the population will fail anyway, so it should not be viewed so mach as cause-and-effect as a statistical likelihood - a probability density. I think humans would do well to focus less on their natural desire for narratives, and more on what the behavior of sets and statistics really indicate. WHT probably "gets" this intuitively, but most of us don't.

Good points. I always go back to the popcorn popping example to demonstrate correlation. You can time the popping of individual popcorn kernels under stress (i.e. heat) and the general random-popping statistical trend will turn out the same whether you dump them in oil all at once or pop them individually. However, if you pop them all at once the effect can get delayed because the mass will absorb lots of the heat causing the temperature to go down and then it will take longer to reach the threshold as the temperature rises. The mass of popcorn provides an inertia against popping but it can only delay the ultimate effect so long.

I think humans would do well to focus less on their natural desire for narratives, and more on what the behavior of sets and statistics really indicate. WHT probably "gets" this intuitively, but most of us don't.

Well you are half right. What we need to develop are narratives that incorporate what the behavior of the sets and statistics really indicate. We've a long history of doing just that. Stories helped us keep track of what plants were deadly and what were helpful. What behavior saved the day and what destroyed the village. We are story tellers, possibly first and foremost. Complex story telling is what sets us far apart from every other species so far as we can tell.

Many, many predators do complex analysis of the odds for a hunt's success, sometimes several times during a single hunt--nearly intuitively--only we record the story of the hunt on the cave wall. Underestimating the power and importance of story telling to our species would be a truly fatal mistake.

Complex story telling is what sets us far apart from every other species

Or at least that is the story we tell ourselves.

[ i.mage.+]
[i]= image, [+]= more info

Complex story telling is what sets us far apart from every other species so far as we can tell

the qualifier seemed important to me ?- )

Haven't had much of 'feeling stuck' thing lately myself--but my life has been just a shade more on the edge than many. A least more on the edge of America, I live within a mile of the edge of the 'suburban bush.' ?- )

Some years back when I was feeling a bit more stuck I was accepted and enrolled in a post graduate program that loaded a pile of reading, writing and pressure onto our full semester of eight hour classroom days. The reward for completing the trial was a secondary education certificate--whoopee. Amid all the crap and case studies we had to wade through there was one paper that stood out. I found it enlightening.

Memory, Imagination, and Learning: Connected by the Story by Professor Kieran Egan.

It's worth a read and it is where I was coming from.

... and it is where I was coming from

It is where we all come from.
That is so because our brains have evolved as cause and effect story telling machines. It is part of how we internally model the outside world and how evolution has shaped to model the outside world as social creatures who tell one another stories.

BTW, another good book on oral culture, memory techniques, etc. is the Memory Book by Jerry West (the basketball player)

Sorry midi, got sidetracked by the picture of Dennis. I like your graphic. Of course the underlying base economic conditions are somewhat more involved than might be imagined--things like disposable time figure in--but the simplicity of your visual has beauty. Nicely articulated.

Why now, and not 30 years ago?

For the same reason that a pot of water at one atmosphere of pressure only boils once it reaches exactly 212 degrees Fahrenheit and not a nanosecond before. In other words the conditions were met for this to happen and therefore it did.

And yes the US Empire has been waning for some time now but I don't think that in and of itself is the main cause of this rebellion. In a way both the waning of the Empire and the the unrest in Egypt are both symptoms of the underlying problems of economic growth and a population in overshoot coming up against real physical limits. As far as the big picture goes quibbling over a few years one way or the other and asking why now is really almost irrelevant. In other words the political causes for this revolution are deeply rooted in physics and thermodynamics and no matter who finds themselves in power after the coming transition they will face exactly the same underlying and probably unsolvable problems and will necessarily fail unless they start planting the seeds of a completely new paradigm. The old order is toast and anyone who tries to maintain BAU will find that it can't be maintained, certainly not by authoritarian means. Thermodynamics doesn't bow to dictators or anyone else for that matter.

+10! Well said, Fred.

the underlying problems of economic growth and a population in overshoot coming up against real physical limits. As far as the big picture goes quibbling over a few years one way or the other and asking why now is really almost irrelevant. In other words the political causes for this revolution are deeply rooted in physics and thermodynamics and no matter who finds themselves in power after the coming transition they will face exactly the same underlying and probably unsolvable problems [Greer and others call this our Predicament] and will necessarily fail unless they start planting the seeds of a completely new paradigm. The old order is toast and anyone who tries to maintain BAU will find that it can't be maintained, certainly not by authoritarian means. Thermodynamics doesn't bow to dictators or anyone else for that matter.

(emphasis added)

The existence of Al Jazeera probably played a role, both in their coverage of other uprisings and in their non-pro-western (and non-pro-western-puppet-dictator) stance.

Saudi Arabia is busily shipping in wheat, I hear. They are worried that they will be next.

And if they are?

Consequences for global oil markets?

I doubt they are next. Saudi Arabia still has a lot of oil to export in exchange to food. They'll take some more time.

I belive the timing was a consequence of the rise of the price of weat (or the falling production this year, if you want to think supply-sided). But the affected countries should be the ones without enough food production and with non-essential imports already cut to the extreme.

So, as China bids up the price of oil, KSA bids up food! Now, there's a cycle that could cause some real problems.


Lets see--about 31 or 32 million people in Saudi, counting non-nationals--just don't think they can affect the price of wheat near as much as billion point three Chinese can affect the price of oil. I really wouldn't get too concerned about KSA food imports having an overly dramatic effect on the big picture.


The price of wheat is not the problem in Saudi it will only be a problem when the Saudis can't afford it.

When the Saudis can't afford wheat that will probably be the least of our problems.

Remember, it is the marginal cost of food that is determinative. What does it cost for the next bu. of corn, the next barrel of oil, etc. And, to get food, you need to bid the next price. Hence, a few million Saudis with lots of dollars can have a disproportionate impact on food costs. Plus, it is not just that there are more and more Saudis or Chinese, but there are more and more people, all bidding at the same time. Those in Bangladesh have less to bid... they get no food. Those in KSA have a lot of money - viola! They are fed.

So... yes, those Saudis, who do not grow all of their food, impact the cost of food in international markets.


No doubt every importer and grower impacts the cost of food. Saudi's import 2-3 million tonnes of wheat a year, the world wheat stockpile sits in the 170-180 million tonne level, with yearly world wheat producion in the 670-680 million tonne range (I've seen it stated as low as 640 depends on the source and manner of reporting I'd guess). So a disproportianally large effect on wheat prices by Saudi does not amount to a 'dramatic effect' which was my term.

China is importing near 5 mbpd of crude and if memory serve world production of crude seems to be hovering around 70 mbpd. I'm guessing China's pressure on crude prices will have a significantly greater impact on future wheat prices than Saudi's wheat imports will.

To imply that Saudi will be pushing up the price of wheat with force comparable to that which China will generate pushing up the price of oil--which is how your original statement came across, is more than stretch.

Of course the family in Bangladesh that doesn't get to eat the marginal bushel of wheat the Saudi's have bid up will find the effect more than dramatic. No arguement there.

I understand your point, Luke. And, I appreciate it.

I meant my comment as a microcosm of what is happening in the world... petroleum importers and food importers (China as an example of one, KSA as example of the other) bid up prices... and the real cause is that 6.8 Billion strong gorilla in the middle of the room (and growing). And, my rant today has been that none of the PTB give a damn; there is a buck to be made, and, By God, we'll make it! No matter that it costs the survival of many species. No matter that it costs the survival of our species. WE will die rich! And screw everyone, and everything else! Especially the Bangladeshi family that starves while we enjoy it. And the polar bears, spotted owls and fur seals. WE are entitled, and this is our century!!

Just a minor change in a paraphrase: 'Ask not what your country can do for you. TAKE IT BY FORCE!'


no matter who finds themselves in power after the coming transition they will face exactly the same underlying and probably unsolvable problems

I've been wondering why the Islamic Brotherhood (eg. Islamist statists) haven't been more prominent thus far. Aside from all the other obvious reasons so far posited in the media, I wonder if all or part of the reason might be that they know this quote, eg. they don;t want it?

It seems as if there's this false choice stuck in the minds of middle easterners between ( evil ) dictatorship/monarchy on one side and the Islamist ( aka evil ) state on the other. With those two forms of government to choose from, middle easterners just can't win. The (assumed) alternative is just as bad as what is there already so there's no point in trying to change it. It reminds me of Democrats vs Republicans.

Then again.... http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/02/02/my-take-egypt-is-not-iran/

If you don't think that the people of these countries understood, at least to some degree, that they were being repressed by a dysfunctional US backed dictatorial gov and exploited by the corporations

I think this grosly overstates the influence the US had. No doubt we have helped these regimes, mainly by giving them lots of money, and no doubt they are under some obligation to us because of that. But, I really don't think US support is the primary prop for these regimes. Its more that when we have found them, we work out a way to exploit them for our own agenda.

Enemy of the State,

If you think that giving the Egyptian Government over 2 billion dollars a year exploitation let me know?

Egyptian Government over 2 billion dollars a year exploitation let me know?

Thats not the point I was trying to make. Culpability is not the same as capability. Mainly that money is a bribe because our politics makes supporting Israel very important. And much of it comes back to the US military Industrial complex in the form of weapons sales. But, we are not calling the shots for the regime, I think our controls levers are more like pushing on strings. Actually the Eqyptian internal problems are not so different from our own, a small elite which is becoming increasingly international is gaining a too large and growing share of the wealth and power.

Enemy of State,

On second thoughts I think you may be right. I certainly agree with you that Egyptian internal problems are not so different from you own, they certainly reflect the problems in Europe in the ability of the politicians inability to get to grips with it. Thank you

For accuracy, I think it should be noted that almost all the (variously $1.5 to $2 billion) per year US aid to Egypt has been provided as military weapons, clearly not primarily intended to aid the average citizen in furthering their aspirations to democratic government. Fighter jets making menacing low-level passes over Cairo are not likely trying to intimidate the elites.

I think this accent on the importance of oil really misses the point. The vast majority of Egyptians are too poor to own a vehicle and anyway the price of petrol is most heavily subsidised.

I was brought up in Cairo and I can say that I have been waiting for, hoping for, something like this for 50 years. Essentially, the game is up and the people who have controlled the people for so long through the TV and media have had their say. No one believes anything any more - just take a look at the The Palestine Papers: A fact-based play in one act and try to understand that the only people who are still being fooled by appearances are the Western public.

The average Egyptian 18 year-old knows far more about international politics and geography than his/her American counterpart. Believe me. Don't think that because they are so poor they must be stupid. It is their American-approved leadership that is stupid - Robert Fisk: Egypt: Death throes of a dictatorship

What worries me if the uprising succeeds, and Egypt moves towards democracy, is what the US and other big players are going to do to 'manage' the fledgling government. As with Haiti, getting 'US approval' of a new regime might be the worst thing that could happen to Egypt. Again.

(Did our State Department get privatized and fed into the Chamber of Commerce at some point?)

PS, I don't know if you heard otherwise,if you still have connections in Cairo, but Fisk said ..

"Those same demonstrators last night formed a massive circle around Freedom Square to pray, "Allah Alakbar" thundering into the night air over the city."

While I heard a little different detailing from Democracy Now!'s Sharif Abdel Kouddous, speaking also from the ground in Cairo.

There is a great sense of pride that this is a leaderless movement organized by the people. A genuine popular revolt. It was not organized by opposition movements, though they have now joined the protesters in Tahrir. The Muslim Brotherhood was out in full force today. At one point they began chanting "Allah Akbar" only to be drowned out by much louder chants of "Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptian."


( My name is also Rob't Fiske, oddly enough )

"Allah Alakbar" thundering into the night air over the city."

One question to be begged is whether this is Iran 1979 all over again.

Or will it be the French Revolution?

What power groups will come rushing in to fill the vacuum?
How will that affect the global economy?

Egypt relies heavily on tourism.
This is not going to help that industry for any time soon.
America is no shape to help Egypt when America can't today even help itself.

Was it Indiana Jones who said, "I have a bad feeling about this"?

sb - I see it the same way. "Freedom" for the Egyptian people may have huge price tag. And much of the bill may not be paid for decades. Folks might imagine something akin to our American evolution but that great experiment led to some not so great times. Such the complete subjugation of the native population and civil war that cost the lives of over 600,000 combatants. Again another worn out saying still fits: freedom is not free. And sometimes not very pretty.

Coming out of a revolution, it helps if you have fertile soil, or some other natural resource to rebuild with.

I wonder if Egyptians could set up a bunch of Desert Solar Generators to pipe some watts up to Europe and Eastern Europe? Might be some fertile soil for that crop.. make them look like Pyramids and boingo!, you've got some new Tourist attractions, too! (I'd go for the coffee, but that's my Swedish blood talking..)

That's a very good point joker. Whatever the outcome should the people's revolt work it's difficult to imagine a very stable beginning. And that lack of stability will hinder any significant investments in infrastructure IMHO. That was one advantage of dealing with a dictator: keep him happy and your investment is relatively safe. If Egypt falls into a series of failed govts little investments will be made at a time when it will become very critical with the worsening effects of PO coming down the road.

A silly analogy for sure but fighting for control of the Egyptian govt today may be like figting for contol of the Titantic after it hit the berg. The Tunisian president ran out rather quickly. Perhaps he realized it was time to grab one of the last seats left in the lifeboat.

I am drawing parallells to Haiti. The only nation to start as a slave revolution that suceeded. But they never managed to build a nation that generated wealth, and are now the poorest on the western hemisphere.

According to some accounts, Haiti was throughly punished from the start of their independence by the colonial powers for being disloyal and that perhaps had something to do with their never being able to manage a nation that generated wealth.

Haiti was throughly punished from the start

That is true. And the US joined in the punishment, because of the danger a successful slave revolt posed to our own slave states.

Haiti was made to pay France reparations for their liberty.

They didn't finish paying until 1947. Just another reason why nothing you might observe about Haiti can readily be applied to other countries. Haiti's special.

I am aware of all these facts. Intresting how the french thought the Hatins OWED them anything, after having been slaves for generations.

However; it does not matter what was the cause as long as we know they could not build wealth. Egypt may get their freedom, but is there any wealth potential for them to build on? If not, there will be things to learn from the haitin experience.

Yes but, Haiti is still an environmental nightmare.

The only country, right now, that is consistently rebuilding Haiti, is Spain. All the others have given up.
And they never were our colony, rather the Dominican Republic at the other side of the island was, they have been independent for nearly two centuries.
Sometimes a leader makes a difference. Balaguer in the Dominican Republic, either a strong man or a dictator depending on your point of view, was a strong believer in Ecology and protected the Environment. There's a good chapter about the Dominican Republic in contrast with Haiti in Jared Diamond's Collapse.

Egypt has quite a bit of water flowing in the Nile. And traditionally it had very fertile soil in the Nile valley. Elsewhere, not so much. But >90% of population lives in the Nile valley or the Nile delta. In recent times, they also have a lot of hydro-power from Aswan Dam. But the Dam has interrupted the muddy floods that maintained the fertile soil. It is a very different place than Arabia or Palestine, or Cairo, Illinois! Mostly, it's problem is 30 centuries of corrupt and foreign government.

Rockman, you seem to have fallen into the trap of many Americans. You are thinking like a protected isolated American. We spend 10% (average)of our wages on food. Egyptians, China, etc. spend upwards of 40% on food. Don't you think if 40% of YOUR spending increased by 30% you would grumble, talk to a friend, who talks to a friend, meet at the coffee house, meet in the street with like minded friends? You sound shocked that people of average means would feel hunger. This is happening the world over. When OUR COUNTRY, mashes 40% of our corn crop into ethanol at a subsidy cost of .58$ per gallon, you wonder why oh why would other countries be hungry? This isn't about freedom, this is about jobs and food! 10% unemployment+ 30% increase in food costs= REVOLUTION! Do these numbers look familiar? Where else do you see rising unemployment and raising food/energy costs? Did I hear you call for more cake?

landrew - I'm going to guess that English is not your first language since your reply doesn’t' seem to have any bearing on my post. Perhaps you just needed any lead in for your rant. I don't begrudge your rant...I suspect it has a valid basis. If you care to respond to any of the points I did make I'll be glad to reply.

BTW: I've spent time in some sh*tholes on this globe that make Egypt look not so bad. Try not to be so patronizing...you'll get more meaningful responses IMHO

landrew was writing here quite frequently during the BP spill time frame. As I recall, he has a hyperactive style.

Well a lot of these countries need to control their population growth. When you consistently grow your population faster than GDP, it is a recipe for suffering. They shouldn't be looking at our corn crop for food, they should be looking to live within their own means and primary part of that is to stop creating new mouths to feed. But religion mucks everything up.

Han Solo? Both?

I should know I can leave it to the Jedi to answer that one..
(Of course, by the end of the series, most of the major characters had said those words as well..)

You wrote upthread you were swedish. Then follow the link in my bio.

It seems they have cleared all the extraneous BIO info (or is the Bio separate from the 'User Page'?) .. I think they were changing the membership programming.

I'm Part Swedish, one Fourth. I hate to think how much Java I would be drinking if I was pure-blooded. But if I come over for a visit, would you teach me to weld? I am building a little 'Astromech Knockoff' Droid, and I'm running out of threats to keep him in line. He's called Bad Dog.

Crap, they purged the bio. Does this have anything to do with the spammer problem they are fighting?

And I'll show you how to weld, if Ihave access to a tool shop at the time. The economy is a bit shaky at the time.

You're telling me.. and WE'RE in the rich lands!

It's ok, my droid is supposed to save me.. if I can just get him to listen to me.


If you ever want to visit southwest Virginia, you are welcome to drop by our place for a day or two.

I can teach you the abc's in two days -assuming you have good eyesight at arms length and reasonably steady hands. You can learn enough in four hours to GET STARTED making simple repairs and building simple projects.We can accomodate a couple in a spare bedroom, and put up kids on a sofa if necessary.(It takes several times as long working with a group, or intellectually challenged individuals.)

No charge, it would be a pleasure for me as an old teacher to have a truly eager student for a couple of days with whom I can enjoy some serious conservation.

This are some very decent parks nearby, and good hunting and fishing, but out of state permits are getting expensive.

This invitation is hereby extended to any of the other regulars with whom I have exchanged comments who may be in this area at some point in time.

We need pleasant weather for a good experience.

Drop me a line here on TOD with contact info.

General information for those looking for work , or advising their kids:

Welding is basically a simple skill, and it doesn't take long to master the basics.It is a really great skill for those into self sufficiency, who can afford the equipment, have stogare for it, and will use it often enough to justify the expense.If there are few or no welders willing to work on small jobs at modest rates, it is possible to develop a profitable sideline repairing and perhaps fabricating equipment for local farmers and contractors-but it takes a long time!

Developing real professional skill and indepth knowledge takes a long time; a good anology is that you can learn to play golf well enough to enjoy the game very quickly, or enough about cooking to get by on toast, bacon and eggs in just a few tries.Unfortunately for those who want to earn money welding, most small one horse contractors, farmers, etc, who need welding done frequently either learn to do their own, or have a long term relationship with an established one horse welder.

This means that there are far fewer repair and fabrication jobs to be had than one might guess; and the jobs that do come the independent one horse welders way are often sort of tricky, the ones the farmer or contractor is "afraid of" due to technical difficulty or the need for seldom used tools .

In my opinion, the only practical way to become an expert is to obtain employment in the field, where you canm work with more experienced people,at your employer's expense, or thru a formal apprentice ship, etc. But one must remember that in the last analysis, this trade is as much physical as it is mental- no golfer or musician or welder ever becomes truly expert except thru long hours of practice.

Employment opportunities for guys who are strictly welders are unfortunately not at all plentiful, and probably never will be again.Such welding jobs as ARE available are mostly physically and mentally punishing.

All this having been said, welding skills are a very big plus for anybody working in the trades where welding is occasionally requiored, from construction to farming to oil field work;on many occasions, a man with modest welding skills can save his employer from having to call in a contractor; multicraft workers are first hired, last fired, and better paid, except where unions control hiring.

Many thanks for the offer, Mac!

I'd love to visit Virginia sometime.. tho' travelling has been a bit scarce lately.

I can be reached at Jetpig at Earthlink period Net ..

(Eager to see User pages resurrected. I liked what Eric Blair had done to really furnish his to the max..)

Bob 'Soldering will have to do for now' Fiske

Close, it was Han Solo.

America could help itself by not endorsing the first set of willing strongmen who sign up to 'Handle' Egypt in the coming months. (See, Taliban, Al Quaeda, Sadaam Hussein, Shaw/Iran)

One question to be begged is whether this is Iran 1979 all over again.

Or will it be the French Revolution?

the parallels between the French revolution and the Iranian one are surprising... not least in that the revolutionary theories expressed by the revolutionaries on the street were in dreamt up in Paris and that the history of the revolution transforming into a dictatorship after a period of terror is also analogous.

in other words the revolution of 79 was more like the french revolution than not...IMHO!

It seems to me, having read a lot of History that all popular revolutions French Russian Chinese take your pick, have all morphed into totalitarian dictatorships over time. I will expect that if Mubarack is ousted that the same will happen in Egypt, only this time being a Muslim country it will morph into a theocratic fascist state on the lines of Iran and the Sudan.

I think that depends on the existence of civic institutions and education. Eastern Europe changed peacefully. In any other revolution, the regime was the only thing in existence, see Romania. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia had some experience with democracy and had high functioning societies (based on cheap coal :-), so there was a natural replacement for the system. Romania, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Vietnam, 1789 France, 1917 Bolsheviks etc had vacuum. US Declaration of Independence - peaceful process - in part thanks to British civics!

Actually, the American Revolution was a pretty messy affair, lasting at least from the First Continental Congress in 1774 until the ratification of the Constitution in 1788. The national government was not entirely secured until the Whiskey Rebellion was defeated in 1794.

Right. My (Kosciuszko and Pulaski tainted) perspective was that Revolution war was between newly created country and Britain.

But my point really was that the change from one rule to another (British to US here), as militarily complicated as it was, was from one complete, working entity, to another one, based on the civic order already existing in the colonies. The Declaration of Independence did not burn and slash the past, the newly formed country did not have to reinvent everything from scratch. E.g. There was already a working idea of democracy in the colonies in 1700s. Quick lookup about Jefferson and House of Burgesses. Idea of electing representatives has been around for 170 years already.

Democracy is probably the best outcome we can hope for. As the talking heads on the Sunday talk shows are pointing out...the odds are against a good outcome. The Philippines turned out okay, but it's hard to think of other examples.

south korea, south africa (so far so good)

Hard to think that any examples would suffice at this point.. I think there are variables (the ones we are here for) that put all of this into fairly new terrain. The communications technology makes it especially hard to anticipate, as it can benefit the populace with relatively small amounts of power. (and that's not just Twitter or CellPhones.. I think Radios overall have opened avenues for coordinating the masses that don't have a historical precedent.. but that coin, too, has both sides.)

Then again, Ecclesiastes does say there's 'nothing new under the sun' .. but I still think it'll be hard to predict just what part of history this one is going to rhyme with.


The impact of the Internet in this uprising cannot be overstated. Looking back to when Suharto was thrown out it was the Internet that allowed the common folks to get believable news reports from outside the country. The new social media combined with blogs give unnamed people who may be anywhere in the world the ability to motivate millions to take action. It is notable that the Egyptian government shut down the Internet and cell phone system. Mubarak does not want to become the next Suharto. There is some doubt how long the Internet can stay off without hurting business in Egypt and thereby making the financial situation even worse. It is like treating a bloody nose by putting a tourniquet around the neck.

I think the internet aspect is over rated

its biggest effect has been to ritualise the confrontations between the state and the protestors and reduce state violence. and that really is because of the dynamic egypt has with the rest of the world>>> USA.

Seeing as I just contradicted myself upthread, I'll make my position even messier..

I think communications add an unusual kind of lubricant to these situations, making certain events develop momentum differently than in the past, and reducing the Insulation that keeps the developments away from as many otherwise indifferent ears.. that said, it still needs it's basic energy-source to drive it. The people have to be frustrated enough, angry enough, desperate enough ..


I think communications add an unusual kind of lubricant to these situations, making certain events develop momentum differently than in the past, and reducing the Insulation that keeps the developments away from as many otherwise indifferent ears..

I partly disagree, I think it goes deeper than that, our communication and social networking tools have become integrated into our cognitive processes. We as individuals within society and communally think differently now than we did before we had these tools. Yes there was deep dissatisfaction with the regime but these communication tools helped bypass what would have been previously effective means of control and suppression.

Even if the Egyptian government isn't quite up to speed on the theories of Lambrous Malafouris they seem to have instinctively known that they had to remove access to those cognitive prostheses to stem the tide of protest, I think however that they were way too late the genie was already out of the bottle and it isn't going back in.


The mainstream approach to cognition holds that it happens in the mind and that material culture is nothing more than an outgrowth of our mental capacities. Archaeologist Lambros Malafouris is challenging this deep-seated idea with a radical new notion: the hypothesis of extended mind, which posits that material culture is not a reflection of the human mind but an actual part of it. Take, for instance, a blind man's stick. "Where does the blind man end and the rest of the world begin?" he says. "You might see the stick as something external, but it plays a very important role in the perceptual system of this person. It extends the boundaries of this human—the stick becomes an integral part of the cognitive architecture."

So even though the Egyptian government tried to remove the Egyptian people's new walking sticks hoping they would just blindly flail around all they accomplished was temporarily shutting off the lights but the people already had their bearings and know where they want to go. Their brains have been rewired in ways that the government can no longer control. The people have seen the light so to speak.


Internet= a way faster means to spread information and disinformation and rewire the hearts and minds of the people

I think this accent on the importance of oil really misses the point. The vast majority of Egyptians are too poor to own a vehicle and anyway the price of petrol is most heavily subsidised.

To focus on vehicles misses the point. No matter how poor the Egyptians might be whether or not they have a push cart or a pickup is irrelevant. Even the basic foods that the poor eat, ultimately depend on cheap energy, as we run out of that, they will still be squeezed just like everyone in the chain the only problem is the poor will drop off the end of the chain. That is the ultimate consequence of the contraction in access to cheap energy.

Again it goes back to basic thermodynamics. We are faced with physical limits. The whole economic and political ecosystem will be affected. It's a game of musical chairs, after every round there are fewer chairs, to some that means going from private cars to bicycles and public transportation to the poor it might mean starvation.

Oil is the single most important energy source for the entire interconnected global economy, to miss that point makes it impossible to understand how it affects everyone from the wealthy and politically empowered to the impoverished at the very end of the chain and makes it impossible to understand why any revolution that tries to maintain a growth based economy is doomed to political failure.

Unfortunately neither those in power nor those aspiring to a better life get it and everyone will continue to try to find ways to keep things going as they have by putting new people into the same system that has already failed. It is the underlying paradigm that must be tossed, there is no other way but a lot of people will probably die trying to maintain the status quo thinking that a change in regime will make a difference. It won't. New flies on the same old sh!t won't change how it smells...

The average Egyptian 18 year-old knows far more about international politics and geography than his/her American counterpart. Believe me. Don't think that because they are so poor they must be stupid.

I have no trouble accepting that. The quality of the US media bread and circuses has most of our population too confused to see whats happening. Al Jazeera is a much better news service than anything commonly watched in the US. (Yes it is available here, but because of our Islamiphobia almost no-one watches it.)

Find Egypt on this map from Fox News. (Hint- it's next to Iran)

"An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." -Thomas Jefferson

Gecko, I really, really hope you are going to tell us that you photoshopped this map, right? Please tell me I'm right!

No, I think this was posted at Zerohedge yesterday.

One of my kids' friends insisted that this was a fake.

I searched the net a little to see what the deal was, and the best I could find in short notice was the assertion that this may have been a real TV screen shot, but it was from 2009 and is being recirculated now.


My wife and I laughed at the memory of a local news channel a year or two ago showing a map of the U.S.-Mexico border showing Ciudad Juarez as being right across the border from the most southern point of Big Bend National Park. And this was a channel in Albuquerque! We figured that some intern got chewed out after that broadcast...

A big part of the importance of oil in this analysis is the ability to subsidize food to stabilize domestic prices in the face of international price spikes.

Egypt has lost that ability, and we are in the middle of an international price spike in wheat, its most important food import for low income households.

I was wondering when this was going to be a topic.

The notion of economic trigger for revolution or protest ain't no biggy in my book. " let them eat cake" for all the revolutionary theory and political explantion its the economic circumstances that triggers people into "what have I to lose" mindset.

yes the crunch of 07 and declining EROEI of the worlds primary energy production is in the mix but it is also conflated many times over by local and regional issues.

Ireland and Egypt do have things in common.

The eia shows Egypt importing 100,000 bbl/day in 2009.


The trend is more or less in agreement with your excellent graph, but why the discrepancy?


The graph is an Energy Export Databrowser graph by Jon Callahan, based on BP Data. I think the graphs are really nice, so use them sometimes, instead of making my own. Jon is a reader, and has provided these free for everyone to use.

One thing a person learns when working with oil data is that there are several sources of data, and they are all a little different. Part of the difference is definitions (BP seems to include NGLs, but EIA doesn't), but there are other difference as well. There is no one source of data that is "the" correct source--you just have to live with little difference.

This post was absolutely necessary. We have the factors you mentioned converging.

I have done some more graphs using EIA data (International Energy Statistics) here:


I am working on a more detailed post which will focus on subsidies and Westexas' export land model which he has quoted in a comment below.

Thx - Great graphs!

As noted below, Egypt's observed 14 year net export decline rate (21.7%/year) was 14 times their observed production decline rate (1.6%/year). Consumption increased at 3%/year over the decline period.

However, even if they had showed no increase in consumption, their net exports would still be down by about 37% in 2009, relative to 1995, versus a 20% production decline.

What exactly are they consuming? According to EIA for 2006 it broke down as follows:

Gasoline		11.66%
Jet Fuel		4.35%
Kerosene		0.54%
Distillate		30.55%
Resid			29.04%
LPG			14.75%
Other			9.11%

These out of 658.44 kb/d total. 2000-2006 YOY changes averaged:

Total			13.51
Gasoline		3.44
Jet Fuel		2.72
Kerosene		-2.65
Distillate		6.34
Resid			-2.27
LPG			8.11
Other			-0.18
They obtain electricity from three sources, here are percentages:
     Gas	     Oil	    Hydro	
1990	2006	1990	2006	1990	2006
39.60%	72.10%	36.90%	16.10%	23.50%	11.20%

The shift away from resid would be part of the move away from oil based power, perhaps also the increase in LPG. The World Bank data I obtained this from shows Egypt as the 25th largest power consumer in the world for 2006, at 115.4 billion kwh, up from 42.3 bkwh in 1990. The oil consumed for power would be ca. 82 kb/d.

Excellent article, Matt.

What's Behind Egypt's Problems?

Too many people.

Its a question on how fundamental an answer you want to look for as defined by a contextual framework..

It doesn't get any more fundamental than 'too many people'.

But, at least Egypt has its priorities straight on what to do with U.S. aid:

The Egyptian armed forces have about 1,000 American M1A1 Abrams tanks, which the United States allows to be built on Egyptian soil.


These will be instrumental in the quest to keep their people fed, I'm sure...

What are these for, to keep the Israelis from invading? The Sudanese? The Libyans? The Saudis? The Jordanians? The army of Chad?

As has been pointed out here before, the M-1 Abrams is a horrible fuel hog. I doubt Egypt has the fuel to send formations of Abrams very far in any direction.

What a waste.

Maybe they can be cut apart and the metal made into bicycles and farm implements and solar PV panel frames some day.

I think the destiny of that metal as recycled goods is a dead cert in time.

heaving population

set to hit 100million by 2025 or so.

From Wikile^H^Hpedia

Notable features of the tank include the use of a powerful gas turbine engine (fueled with JP8 jet fuel), the adoption of sophisticated composite armor, and separate ammunition storage in a blow-out compartment for crew safety. With a weight of close to 68 short tons (almost 62 metric tons), it is one of the heaviest main battle tanks currently in service.

So they run on jet fuel, that was new to me. I guess the egyptians import that stuff. Armor plating is composite. A cheramic/metalic compound of clasified specifications that is very durable. I don't know how to recycle that. You couldn't cut it up with an acytelene torch. Plasma cuts everything ofcourse.

"Armor plating is composite. A cheramic/metalic compound of clasified specifications that is very durable. I don't know how to recycle that. "

Arc furnace. The ceramic will turn to slag, the metal will collect under it and be tapped out as usual. Much of the tank's mass is ordinary steel that will recycle fine. And the turbine is made of superalloys (high nickel and cobalt) that will be very valuable in a salvage economy.

Oh, the explosive that makes up the reactive armor will burn quietly unless subjected to a shock comparable to an anti-tank warhead impact. So don't panic about that either.

Too may people - yes

Why now?

Egypt is in deep overshoot. Totally dependent upon foreign food imports and provision of foreign debt, at a time when the hands that feed are withering.

One of the most important allies of OECD in the Islamic world. I imagine Israel will be on high alert. The EU's highway of LNG flows through the Suez Canal.

I don't know all details but I get feeling that Mubarak's regime has done what it could to open Egypt to foreign investment in oil and gas and to tourism that is probably the country's main source of foreign income. Its really hard to see any successor regime doing better.

I see Hillary is calling for elections - how naive can you get?


When is the last time any American official in power talked about population control? The last administration encouraged it with its stand on abortion and birth control. Aid should include birth control and/or tied to it. The elite loves growth,however, and now it is time for payback. And there will be future paybacks as the grim reaper does quiet well with those in overshoot.

Hillary knows it is close to over for Mubarak. She is just trying to position the U.S. to have a chance at some influence over whatever regime follows this.

"The last administration encouraged it with its stand on abortion and birth control"

If by "last" you meant the W admin, then presumably you meant DIS-couraged?

I figure by encouraged 'it', T meant encouraged population growth. Just careless use of pronoun w/out appropriate antecedent...

But in any language, with any grammar, BushCo did all they could to screw the little people to the wall, everywhere.

see Hillary is calling for elections - how naive can you get?

I actually think that call is quite significant. It implies the state department thinks the likelihood that Mubarak is gonna go is pretty high. Calling for elections is a vote of no confidence in the regime, that would come back to hurt her if his regime survives. Sure, he isn't going to leave just because we ask for elections, but the fact that it indicates US intelligence thinks he will likely go should embolden the opposition and dishearten the regimes supporters.

Since elections in Egypt are rigged (and have been for a long time: Protesters say Egypt Elections Rigged, December 12, 2005), U.S. Secretary of State Clinton calling for elections is the U.S.'s way of selecting Mubarak's replacement.

Here's another analysis:

The unrest in Egypt is the latest result of American oil dependency. Is this an absurd statement? Before you vent your disagreements in the comment section following the article, please let me explain.


This is an explanation of high commodity and oil prices but it still goes back to the same allegedly causal factors. The Egyptians, however, are focused on the cause of their unrest, Mubarak. Increasingly inequality may be a bigger factor than the price of food and oil, however. Another country with the exact same or even worse problems but with a popular government seeming to serve the needs of its people would lead to a different result.

Egypt is revolting because they are just now importing oil? Just wait until they are in as bad shape as the U.S.

In any event, as the article implies, the U.S. is a major contributor to misery throughout the world because of the huge costs involved in importing oil and the financial machinations taken to pay for it.

Frankly, it just may be that Egyptians are simply fed up and people are trying to make this way too complex. Occam's razor and all that. Mubarak is 83 years old and has been in power for decades, for Christ's sake. We get tired of our Presidents after about 6 months. I would be on the streets if I were in Egypt and was well off.

Mubarak is 83 years old and has been in power for decades, for Christ's sake. We get tired of our Presidents after about 6 months. I would be on the streets if I were in Egypt and was well off.

+1 Exactly.

The best next step is a 150,000 person US occupation of Egypt so we can write their constitution, figure out who their interim leader should be, and then spend 10 years training security forces.

Also mercenaries. Lots and lots of mercenaries.

The "North-South Conflict" between the developed countries of the "north", and the under-developed, overpopulated countries of the "south" has been recognized and studied since at least the '70s. This has been done mainly in Europe, which is more sensitive to the issues, given the breakup of European empires following WW II. In the case of Europe, the dividing line is the Mediterranean, which has also been a historical religous divide.

There was the "Brandt Commission", chaired by Willy Brandt, which issued reports in '80 and '83. Hardly anything meaningful has been done, since the US was preoccupied with the ending of the Cold War, establishing itself as the sole superpower, and then fighting the War on Terror. The notion of wealth transfers to the poor south was also not something the Reagan and Bush adminsistrations wanted to hear about, nor was population control politically palatable in the US.

So having kept the looming north-south conflict carefully swept under the rug, it may be a novel concept to many Americans. However, I doubt that Europeans are surprised.

See also The Brandt Equation
21st Century Blueprint for the New Global Economy

On a side note:

The graphs from Mazmascience leave alot to be desired.
Having gone to their web site I found this:

Mazama Science is a consulting group that brings together a wide variety of experience in support of web-based access to scientific information. We believe the world will be a better place when scientific data and analyses are easily available through your browser and we are working hard to make that happen.

Laughable really.
They've clearly forgotten one of the first rules of graphic design. Namely:

Those suffering from red-green colour blindness cannot distinguish between colours in the green-red-yellow part of the spectrum. This can make reading maps, using the internet and selecting a matching shirt and tie impossible. The disorder affects about 8 per cent of Caucasian males, but fewer than 0.5 per cent of females.


I have a son who is severely red-green color blind, so I understand the problem (and I must be a carrier). I notice Euan on the TOD staff is frequently asking for an explanation about colors, too. The next time I talk to Jon, I will mention the issue. I think it is really the import/ export graphs that are an issue, and you can figure them out, if you think about it. It is really a shame, because for the rest of us, red and green are really nice, contrasting colors.

The wikipedia page on color blindness has a good summary on colorblindness. About 1 in 12 have some sort of color deficiency: about 8% of men and 0.4% of women in the US. (Interestingly, Caucasians have a higher occurrence of red-green color blindness than Asians and Africans.) The most common, as mentioned above, is red-green color blindness.

One of the most common techniques used to make colors more accessible to those with red-green color blindness is to alter either the hue or intensity of the red and green so that they can be more easily distinguished from each other. From the wikipedia page:

Traffic light colors are confusing to some dichromats as there is insufficient apparent difference between the red/amber traffic lights, and that of sodium street lamps; also the green can be confused with a grubby white lamp. This is a risk factor on high-speed undulating roads where angular cues can't be used. British Rail color lamp signals use more easily identifiable colors: the red is really blood red, the amber is quite yellow and the green is a bluish color.

Altering the intensity of colors means that, even when they are rendered in gray scale, they can still be differentiated.

The colors used in the Energy Export databrowser apply both of these techniques in an attempt to make these graphics as accessible as possible to the color blind. I would be very intersted, Gail, if you could quiz your son and find out whether these graphics work for him or not. I can certainly tweak the colors a little more if need be.

The other thing to note is that colors are not really needed to interpret the graphic. Net exports always appear above the zero line and net imports always appear below. This graphical representation works quite well in black and white. Color is used primarily to draw your attention to what is important rather than differentiate elements that exist side-by-side. You can print the graphics out in grayscale to test this.

A useful tool for simulating color blindess is vischeck. At this site you can upload your image and have it re-rendered according to one of three different types of color blindness. The red and green used in the Energy Export databrowser graphics are distinguishable after re-rendering but not as "pretty" as the red and green that most of us see.

Any other constructive input that could help make the graphics more accessible is always appreciated.


Thanks again Jon for all your graphs: energy, minerals and now population. If you're short of things to do, a time series of GDP/capita would be nice :) Ping me if that appeals and I can help out...

John in Aberystwyth


Thanks for the kudos.

Unfortunately, my current situation is: "Too many projects. Too little time!"

However, if you have any favorite datasets that do a responsible job of compiling international GDP data I'd be interested in them. I'm always collecting datasets to work on in the future. To be useful, these datasets should be downloadable in a single gulp. Writing processing code to work on large files or databases is not a problem. Pointing and clicking on a web page to get a hundred different files is.




I asked my son, and he said the red is darker than the green, so he can tell them apart, even on something like the world map, with some countries being importers and some countries being exporters.

He said if you had tried to use multiple shades of red and multiple shade of green, that probably wouldn't have worked at all. But as long as "darker" and "lighter" works for distinguishing them, it is fine for him.



I am very pleased to hear that these color choices work for him.

Thanks to you and your son for following up on this.


Colourblindness is different by degree for different people.
We all compensate in our various ways - but this is what I see
on the first graph 'Egypt Oil'

On the left are the labels.
net Exports
net Imports

For me (yes I'm seriously colourblind) the word 'Production' and the
words 'net Exports' are the SAME colour.
As there is no correlation between the position of the wording and
the colours on the graph i.e. the consumption line (Black) is below
the bulk of the Production … or is it net Exports graph data.
You can see the problem .. yes ? I have to make a guess as to which
colour is which and therefore a guess as what the graph is actually
telling me.
OK it's fairly unlikely that Egypt is exporting more than it produces.
But - you get my point. (hopefully)

'As to net Imports' being Red. This is something that i have to make
an educated guess at. I can see that there is a net Import moment
at the beginning of the graph (circa 1965-68 )- however I'm unsure
about (circa) 1974. Is that a small dip below the zero line I'm seeing ?
Colourwise - I can't tell.

Colourblindness is curious. Those of us that are see colours although
attributing a name (Red, Orange, Brown etc) can be difficult.
When two colours (Reds, Browns, Greens) are together within one
frame view - they have a tendency to mask each other. One colour
dominating the other.
When designing graphs that use few colours in their representation
it is good practice to avoid Red/Green/Grey/Brown in close proximity.
If they must be used then using cross hatches/dots/gradient lines etc
is good policy.
This might sound like hassle - but 1 in 12 counts for something when
it comes to public opinion. Which is the goal isn't it ?


Thanks so much for commenting again.

I would be very interested in working with you to tailor the graphics so that they work for you. It is absolutely our intent to make the charts as easily accessible to as many people as possible. (Hence the bottom row of links that provide translations into six other languages.)

Unfortunately, I do not have any friends that I am aware of as being color blind (though there must be several). Having someone like yourself who is interested in the subject matter and could pass judgement on the color choices would be invaluable.

I could either adjust the colors or have the databrowsers provide a "dichromat palette" option. That way the red-green pair that seems to be a de facto standard can still be retained while a much better palette can be chosen for those with red-green color blindness.

The R statistical programming language we use for data visualization has special palettes designed for dichromats and I would be very keen to learn how to use them most effectively.

You can contact me directly at jonathan [dot] s [dot] callahan [at] gmail [dot] com.


I'll help with pleasure.

There will undoubtedly be some who think this 'overkill' however here's an anecdote that may provide clarity.

Many years ago I was visiting my doctor and we found ourselves killing time chatting whilst we waited for some test results to be retrieved. He knew I was colourblind and produced a new book of colourblindness test cards he'd received where the cards could be removed from their plastic sleeve page (presumably to be presented in a less formal/clinical setting).

He was amused by the fact that towards the end of the series of pages are a group of cards where the numbers can only be seen by people that are colourblind and not by those with 'standard' colour vision (if such a thing exists).

N.B. The test works by the patient/client being asked to identify an integer/number amongst a psychedelic group of apparently random coloured dots arranged within a circle.

He was less amused when I pointed out to him that all those cards(which test the degree and spectrum of the colourblindness) were in fact upside down.
(I presume the packer at the printers were themselves colourblind .. hehehe)

As you can imagine -if you ask a child if they can see a number amongst a pattern of dots and the number is upside down - there's a good chance they will say 'No'.
Coupled with the obvious problem with numbers such as 6,9,16,19 ... 66,99 etc.

Not a huge amount of use as a diagnostic tool !!!

; )

I'd suggest running them past the link I posted above. That should give you some idea of what they would look like. Once you have something that may work then run it by louisc for confirmation. Between the two you should get something that works.


Egypt's problems are very similar to those experienced by numerous countries confronted with a rapidly declining net energy curve.

The Occidental World is currently subsidizing Egypt (and several other states deemed to be of strategic importance) to the extend of several billion dollars per year but it cannot significantly increase the level of those subsidies without putting in peril its own now very fragile finances...

Hence, the Occidental World is likely to witness the accelerated destabilization of allied developing states, the fall of their currently favourable governments and the subsequent emergence of what can be considered as failed states that could be used by rivals as bases to project hostile power. Therefore, what can now be considered as a relatively safe and even touristic buffer zone might develop relatively rapidly into a border with chaos where hungry hordes would be directly pressing at the gates.

If things continue on the present trajectory, a threshold will likely be reached where needed strategic resources brought from abroad will be insufficient to provide enough strength to hold back the hungry and desperate hordes at the gates. This will not only involve the Occidental World but a number of other surviving geopolitical blocks, such as Russia and China.

These geopolitcal blocks could then implode one after the other (as critical specific thresholds are reached) unless they decide (may be through coordinated decisions) to take a number of preemptive actions to eliminate potential pressure sources. This is however easier said than done...


Interesting article from Foreign Policy comparing and contrasting the armed forces of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen:


Then there is Egypt's military, which takes in about 260 times as much U.S. military aid [as Tunisia's armed forces - H] -- an incredible $1.3 billion annually. That money means that, in many ways, the armed forces rule Egypt, says analyst Daniel Brumberg at the U.S. Institute for Peace. Mubarak, himself a former Air Force commander, has deftly used American taxpayers' dollars to underpin not just the military but his entire government. Egyptian generals are a privileged elite, enjoying weekends and retirements in breezy villas by the sea. They make clear that they expect a say in who rules the Arab world's most populous country once Mubarak leaves the scene.

Aren't we spending a billion a week in Afghanistan? This $1.3 B to Egypt seems like chicken feed. It costs a million dollars a year for our soliders in Afghanistan. Sounds like we got a lot of bang for the buck for a stable Egypt. Anyway, finally Democracy may finally be starting its spread through the middle east. Although neocons need to be careful what they wish for.

US really must learn to think longer-term in its international agenda. What's cheap for one or two decades of "stability" will likely turn out to be very costly overall. Of course, the US election cycle mandates a very short-term horizon, unfortunately.

Personally, I think it's up to Congress (the house, as the more democratic institution) to pass laws controlling such, as the executive operates on far too short a time frame. At least a congressperson can hope to be in power long enough to suffer consequences of bad international policies.

That may be a terrible weakness of the US constitution, placing foreign policy almost entirely as an executive responsibility. It has clearly lead to most of the worst cases of bad foreign policy (Cuba, Chile, Iran, Nicaraugua, etc. etc.)

I'd argue that the US has been long term with regards to oil and the middle east. From establishing Aramco (Read, Oil God & Gold), to taking over
the British empire responsibilities to immediately stepping in when Sadat to power. This has been across many administrations.

In 1995, Egypt was consuming 51% of their total petroleum liquids production. From 1995 to 2009, production fell at 1.6%/year, resulting in a simple percentage decline of 20% over a 14 year period. Over the same time frame, consumption rose at 3%/year, resulting in a simple percentage increase in consumption of 52% over the 14 year period. As a result, net exports fell at 21.7%/year from 1995 to 2009, a simple percentage decline of 95%.

This is a class example of "Net Export Math," as illustrated by the simple Export Land Model (ELM). Most energy analysts would just focus on the 20% decline in production, not realizing that the production decline plus a consumption increase resulted in a 95% decline in net exports.

Egypt's problem isn't special; middle class youth unemployment is a worldwide problem(but especially bad in countries with large youth populations). They had a TV show on the desperate plight of millions of college graduates in China who are unemployed or are ridiculously underemployed ('the ant tribe').

Accelerating technological efficiency is destroying the economic need for and value of workers.

OTOH, business are rewarded with greater profit margins, which accentuates the social inequity.

We have to face the fact that employment is more important to society than profit.

Lowering the retirement age, reducing the workweek, reducing the number of women working and keeping vast numbers of young adults in the military or college longer would reduce the pressure.
It would be great if we could export the surplus humans to another continent per 19th century Europe (or another planet).

A surprising number of young workers seem to be in unpaid 'internships'.

Clearly we need to face up to the problem and collectively do something about it humanely.

Very well said. Even if Peak Oil and climate change were not even real phenomenons, this fact would destabalize the world anyway. There are huge swathes of young people with nothing to do, including in the West.

Ireland and Spain have epidemic youth unemployment. Even a place like Sweden has like 30 % under-30 unemployment.

If you discount students who study because they want to study(and not hide from the job market) the number fall to about 25 %, which is still insanely high. And this is official gov't numbers. Imagine if an independent analyst would look at the data.

The same is true in the U.S.

The true rate of unemployment for all people is around 16-22 %(depending on what definition you use). Everyone who is not working for Big Business or Big Government agrees that it's far higher than the official 9.6 % or whatever it currently is.

On the current rules, when you stop looking for a job, you magically jump out of the index and are no longer tracked. Add to this people who are underemployed(want to work more but cannot find more work) and you get another picture. Creative accounting. But the political opposition says nothing because they know that they would use the same measures to hide the true (sorry) state of the U.S. economy

Peak Oil will increase this. In a sense, I think it will get okay. A lot of meaningless jobs, like 'design consultant', will go away. A lot of old jobs will come back, many more will get into farming and government administration.

A lot of lawyers will probably get the boot as only the best or the most specialized will stay on. Ditto for plenty of media people or random 'sociologists' who don't really do much with their lives.

Peak Oil will, I think, bring a purpose to many peoples lives who are now just lost in their petty lives without a clear understanding what is going on in the world and what they should do about it.

P.S. (As a non-native English speaker, I reserve the right to write surprisingly simple grammatical errors.) D.S.

Lowering the retirement age, reducing the workweek, reducing the number of women working and keeping vast numbers of young adults in the military or college longer would reduce the pressure.

Hang on now for a moment. Women who don't work, breed. We want to INCREASE the amount of working women, at least in fertile age. Or we get even more unemployed little miracles.

I want women (etc.) to be free, in part because when they are, it would seem to be more likely that everyone else is.

In the U.S. much of the unemployed are in prison, so that helps. A lot of this is drug related so I guess that is another reason to not relax the drug laws. We also have a lot of violence involving semi automatic weapons. Maybe this is all meaningless but we have problems of inequality here that seem similar if not worse than Egypt.

One of the arguments for guns that it arms the populous against a repressive government, enabling revolution if necessary. Interesting that we just shoot each other hear while in Egypt they are having a revolution without guns. Perhaps that is all apropos of nothing, but maybe something to think about.

Frankly, if they had something similar in the U.S., I would not be on the streets as they would be too dangerous. The mixture of friendly and unfriendly fire would be too dangerous. Imagine the death toll if this were happening in the U.S. from all the guns. The number of dead in Egypt is rather small considering the numbers of people on the street.

Unemployment is feature of the U.S. and other economies. No one knows how to deal with this in the context of an unfettered capitalist system. Providing unemployment payments in the U.S. is even controversial as it is perceived to encourage unemployment or is considered socialistic. The situation will get much worse in the next two years.

So what happens if the military starts shooting? I think unarmed revolution only works against certain regimes, for political reasons. History teaches me that unarmed people, who face armed foes, are usually treated as livestock.

If all of the military start shooting, in defense of Mubarak, its a different question. But only acting the way they are doing can put the question to the military whether they want to tie themselves to Mubarak or throw him to the wolves.

Given the fundamental problems facing the country, it seems a bad strategic move to tie yourself to a single sclerotic, deeply corrupt administration. Best to have some new administration in place that can be kicked over in turn.

Egypt has what appears to be a form of universal conscription. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_Egypt

It is generally difficult to get military units made up of conscripts to shoot citizens from the same geographic area and ethnic group. In Tianamen Square, for example, the Chinese government brought in units from outside of Beijing to clear the protestors from the square and put down the insurrection.

Possibly there are Egyptian army units from southern Egypt that could be moved to the population centers of the north, but I'm not sure whether the Egyptian units are kept segregated by geographic origin of the conscripts. There were some reports that the early units equipped with old Soviet tanks were being reinforced by units equipped with M1 tanks from their bases "in the desert". But this doesn't necessarily mean that they are staffed by soldiers from places other than Cairo and Alexandria.

So what happens if the military starts shooting?

That is a ridiculous argument (to encourage gun ownership). The way militaries operate these days, and even back 225 years ago, no group of civilians is going to stand up against a determined military without large unoccupied lands to retreat to and pleanty of time and at least some money to organize. Vietnam's revolution only worked because of a) the haven of N. Vietnam, which was politically impossible to invade on land b) the financial / weapons support of Russia c) the implicit support of China, eg. the threat of it joining the conflict whole-hearted.

Estimate for me the casualties if the US citizens decided to militarily defeat the federal government "with force of arms", and the military decided to fight back with determination? Would you join that conflict with just your pistol and an M1? Why on earth?

Far more important to civilian control of federal governments is to always train the standing military to never accept illegal orders, eg. to attack their own country's citizens en mass.

Len- I see your point but in my post I never said anything about wining any wars against large standing armies. My point is simply that unarmed people throughout history are usually enslaved. You might not like weapons, but that is a fact. Also you might want read William Lind’s work on fourth generation warfare and then consider a populations chances against a centralized foe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_generation_warfare

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.
-- Adolph Hitler, April 11 1942

unarmed people throughout history are usually enslaved.

Reference please.

I'd also consider that statement about as relevant today as "People throughout history have rarely driven autos" or "Historically, wars were rarely fought with guided missiles"

Oh, superb. Are you now explicitly quoting the Nazis as advisors?

Now references might be hard to come by since recorded history is 'his story' he being the victor ?- )

Those annihilated wouldn't have been able to record that story. Likely few stories of the enslaved would have made it to 'press' much less the 'archives'. Just to make it more interesting a sizeable portion of the enslaved in times past were women and children but they comprised a relatively small part of the very small literate population that would have been able to write anything.

Sorry about the lack of references. I couldn't find written first person source material ?- )

I couldn't find written first person source material

Because it doesn't exist, e.g. the statement is not true.

Because a written record was not left by many unarmed enslaved or annihilated peoples for the last six thousand years does not mean unarmed peoples were not enslaved and annihilated. My point.

You figure its not relevant today--maybe. I've a couple hunting rifles I haven't used in a while (these days I prefer to target shoot with a compound bow-it is nice to have fifty yard range in the yard). I actually have to make a point to look and see if the guns are still in the house from time to time. But the fact that most in my neighborhood do have firearms in the house does make the police a little less cocky when they venture onto private property in these parts.

Just how important individual citizen armament would have been in the much less centralized world of the past is of course debatable. Possibly the unarmed would have had a much better chance of survival than the armed if they produced tribute of value to the armed forces of the region. Tribute from the newly conquered was very often levied right up to the point where it could be called enslavement. The conquerors had mobile armies to feed, and the guys wielding the weapons weren't growing food.

My point. The archives of the victors were going to contain very little about just how big a percentage of the livelihood they took from those they conquered.

My bad I forgot about all the liberal democracies throughout history, with strong state militaries trained to never attack the free citizens. From now on I will only quote the good guys.

"To disarm the people... was the best and most effectual way to enslave them."
-- George Mason, speech of June 14, 1788

Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
-- James Madison, The Federalist Papers

Mark N..

I think this correlation between tyranny and gun control is hard to support considering that Saddam Hussein's long tenure as a dictator was in a country with almost ubiquitous gun ownership including the mass private ownership of assault rifles.

so i think the relationship between tyranny and gun ownership is perhaps more complex.

Midi- I agree with you, having arms is no magic solution to anything. I just don’t see the logic of how not being armed leads to freedom. Sometimes it is as simple as being able to die fighting as opposed to being killed systematically.

You might have it all backwards.

The military has some fine tools for directing a Vast amount of energy against an opponent.. but look at Iraq, at Pakistan/Afghanistan, at Vietnam, and the US Revolution. Where exactly do you point the gun or target the drone attack in a Home-field war?

Think about how tough it is even in our current fights to distinguish between fighter and civilian, loyalist or insurgent, and then imagine an army in their own land against their own ethnicity and often their own families? It doesn't take too many burned out homes and day-care centers to incite the rest into a level of action that would undercut the army both in fealty and in raw numbers.

I don't presume that it will, but 'it CAN happen here'.
Pray we are all doing what we can to keep other choices viable.

Considering the U.S. army will go as far as to employ non-citizens, you don't have to worry about them "attacking their own country's citizens en mass". Firearms are highly effective at defeating political structures, look at what Loughner almost did and he wasn't even trained. Small groups such as the IRA can cause great changes in a country if done properly.

It's been nearly a decade, and yet people running around in pajamas with Soviet era weaponry are still carrying out attacks in Afghanistan. Eventually the U.S. must leave and go home. Who do you think will be left to run the country, who will be seen as the victor by history?

look at what Loughner almost did

Are you proposing that that maniac might have overthrown the federal government???

Look, if the fall of the US Federal government were in any way threatened by armed insurection of an obvious minority, you don't need to think the US military would treat them as delicately as the civilians in Afganistan are treated, or as those in Northern Ireland. Defeating such a rebellion is a long-established well-known military process, and only requires getting the controlling authority angry enough. See as used in S. Africa in the 1890's. Round up ALL civilians in the contested territory and sumarily execute any who refuse to move into the concentration camps. Easy. It was simply politically impossible DOMESTICALLY for the US to take that step in the Vietnam war or presently in Afganistan (as the British did in Thailand) due to daily live news coverage. It was partially attempted, but Mai-lai etc. halted the process. Noteworthy however, is that at NO time in either of those two conflicts was/is there any threat to the integrity of the US government or homeland.

If not an obvious minority, then why are you even talking insurrection? Simply wait for the next election.

Civilians armed with anti-person weapons is just plain illogical, and foolish. Controlling hand weapons works much better as a self-defence system, eg. statistics for shooting of intruders vs. family members and school kids in US, lack of armed intrusions in Canada. And btw, hunting weapon ownership is if anything higher per capita in Canada than in the US, but handguns are very strictly controlled (or attempted, though lately a lot of them are leaking across the border). Expectation of concealed guns also adds HUGELY to the cost of policing and standard property security maintenance (eg. armed guards in civilian stores and industrial gates), and gains the armed ones little if anything useful but a boost to a lacking manhood.

Your just feeling a bit peeved because you still have the queen on your dollars aren't you ?- ) Canada was always a lot different than the US. You had your federal police in force on the frontier at the outset. US marshals were a bit thin during US western settlement.

The gun culture here may be a bit sick but it isn't going away anytime soon. The old saying 'God created man and Sam Colt made them equal' lays in real deep, especially with all the doomerism out there right now. No doubt there is some kind of visceral draw to it all. Can't seem to get enough violence on film or TV, whether it be deadly martial arts, swords and knives or guns.

Now I've had a drunk run a loaded hand gun right over my gut (he had threatened to shoot my horse during a north woods raft rental business feud that kept escalating-I was headed to my coral to intervene), and another aim a hand gun at my head when I road up to show him my new motorcycle--he'd been getting ripped off at his Chitown area junkyard at that time. Its not a good feeling--just luck of the draw if you live through it. So what-we are short of people?

No doubt there is some kind of visceral draw to it all.

Sure, and I grew up on an isolated farm in North Ontario, I was seven when I gained free access to a rifle (and embarassingly, started plinking every wild creature that moved). I shot a raging wounded bear at 10 feet in the dark and had the old WW1 military rifle jam on the reload. Ran like heck and came back in the morning, found him dead on the spot with a heart shot.

BUT THEN I grew up and left highschool. haven't played with guns since. That's all imaturity. No reason to, here at least, 'cause we can trust the police and they do an excellent job of monopolizing gun violence.

So what-we are short of people?

The problem is, the policies promoted in the US are keeping the wrong ones.

I understand where you are coming from and having a populace armed with what are effectively machine guns doesn't seem all that wise. But don't look for a sudden wave of maturity to overtake the US. The American boy man that Hemmingway described so well hasn't left the scene.

I had posted Mountie story and a 'Beer, bears and bullets don't mix' one as well but decided they didn't really belong here.

Do you ever get back to North Ontario? Falls there must be getting later with the Bay freezing up so late these days. Mid January this year.

Reading your very first sentence makes me reflect on the notion of how our culture helps to imprison us mentally. For example, apparently the at least, US, prison population is ethnically-skewed (red flag) and for another, apparently, some or all US prisons are private and therefore for-profit (another red flag).

In any event, conflicts of interest abound.

I think we need to always be sensitive to what we mean by class, work, employment, necessity, and/or profit, and so forth. "Semantic sensitivity".

...reducing the number of women working...

This and maybe other quotes seem like part of a recipe for, say, negative regression. And I think many women would agree.

...Values... we're getting TED talks about that too.

Gail has touched on something which I think is really important and I think has not been discussed elsewhere. In a round about way, the US and in particular the Bush administration is to blame for the revolutions now sweeping the Arab world. One big reason for what is going on is rising food prices. This is a common theme of the demonstrators in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan.

America's idiotic and immoral biofuels policy is directly to blame for this. Corn ethanol production has exploded in recent years, and it now consumes 35% of our corn harvest to produce 900kb/d of ethanol. The US ethanol industry consumes 13% of the entire global corn crop.

Not surprisingly, the price of corn has more than doubled over the past six years. This has helped increase the price of other grains and food in general. Were it not for our corn ethanol industry, we could triple our corn exports and bring much needed relief to a hungy world.

Our corn ethanol policy should be to discourage the conversion of corn to ethanol when food prices are high. Instead we subsidize it, starving people in the third world in order to produce fuel for our oversized trucks.

High food prices are helping to blow up our allies in the Arab world. If these revolutions spread to Saudi Arabia, then we will really reap the whirlwind from our idiotic ethanol subsidies.

Sadly, President Obama has been a strong supporter of these subsidies ever since he was Senator form Illinois.

I think it's slightly, to understate it, simplistic to state that America's biofuels policy is 'directly to blame for this' (your words).

They haven't helped, of course, but many coutries in the Middle East have had plenty of time to prepare for what's coming, as well as we in the West. Very few countries have(Scandinavia is the exception, and now China has been preparing for quite some time too).

The fact is that Egypt is mostly desert and it cannot sustain 80 million people, most of them young(so there will be more natural population growth) as well as declining oil production on the domestic scale, and add to this it's young population want a Western lifestyle.

It's an impossible equation.

"It's an impossible equation."

Exactly. And if you extend that analysis to our global civilization as a whole you get the same answer. Perhaps just a different timeline.

If we didn't turn our corn crop into truck fuel we'd feed it to cows.

America's idiotic and immoral biofuels policy is directly to blame for this.

I don't think this is really the case. The youths on the street in Cairo, calling for the removal of their 30 year long president, couldn't give a hoot about the US biofuel policy. They may be suffering from high food prices of imported wheat, but the population graph in Gail's key post shows why they have to import so much - that is their first problem.

Lot's of people like to accuse the US ethanol policy of causing problems all around the world by raising food prices, but really, is it the obligation of the US, or other food exporters like Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, etc, to feed the rest of the world?

Exporting food is something that countries do only when they have a surplus - the first duty for any government is to try to feed its own population. The fact that some countries like US and Brazil, are turning some produce into fuel doesn;t change the fact that other countries, like Eqypt, Zimbabwe, Haiti etc, have hopelessly mismanaged themselves.

And mismanagement (which I deem to include corruption/abuse/repression) is what leads to revolts - always.

I'd argue that high and rising food prices are a much more reliable creator of revolutions than 'mismanagment.' Look at where these protests are happening. It is in the poor parts of the Arab world, not the wealthy ones. In every case you will find that food prices are one of the reasons people are on the streets.

The US ethanol industry is large enough to have a major impact on world grain prices. One of the major uses of corn is animal feed, and wheat can be substituted for corn in feed when corn prices are high. Also, some farmers have a choice about which crop they grow. Some wheat farmers will switch to corn when corn prices are high.

The population situation in Egypt is what it is. That is not something America has any control over. There are other contributing factors which make Egypt combustible, but those have been present for a long time. Food prices, together with the global economic crisis, are the key reasons why this revolution is happening now.

Declining oil production in Egypt is important because it means they no longer have the cash to subsidize food.

and the same with mexico shortly

The population situation in Egypt is what it is. That is not something America has any control over.


I beg to differ. The US has everything to do with creating the present situation in Egypt. The slums of Cairo are filled with people and the children of people who have been forced from their traditional agricultural roots because they couldn't make a living competing against the flood of US AG commodities.

And going back to the old system of pumping cheap US Ag products into Egypt won't going to fix the problem - At best it will only push it off into the future and let it fester more and grow bigger.

The price of corn and other grains has remained stagnant since the 60's. Could you make a living if you were paid 1960's wages? The price of corn should be 3 times higher than it is now if it had grown at the same rate as everything else.

You could live on 1960's wages if not for inflation, of course.

Note that the unmentioned factor is population. If we hadn't provided cheap food there would have been starvation and unrest decades ago. The only real solution is population control, and the proven methods aren't terribly popular.

You are absolutely right all the corn and grain the US exported abroad should have had sterilzation compounds engineered into it. Instead we sent missionaries (NGOs these days) with medicine. Infant and childbearing mortality plummeted and now look where we are. Damned immoral missionaries and NGOs causing this overpopulation.

America's idiotic and immoral biofuels policy is directly to blame for this. Corn ethanol production has exploded in recent years, and it now consumes 35% of our corn harvest to produce 900kb/d of ethanol. The US ethanol industry consumes 13% of the entire global corn crop.


I think you are correct in the root cause. However your analysis is incorrect.

The simple fact is Egyptians have wanted to rid themselves of corrupt dictatorial government for 50 years. The US has thwarted the desires of the Egyptian people by propping up dictators with US agricultural commodities and US military hardware. So the gravy train that has kept the rulers of Egypt in power since the 50's is over and the bums are being thrown out. This is really not a surprise. The discontent has been festering for a very long time.

And yes ethanol has broken the back of cheap AG commodities that have held the 3rd world in bondage since WW2. What you are now seeing are new revolutions against post WW2 colonialism that replaced pre WW2 colonialism.

Did you know that Egyptian cotton farmers are now getting the best price for cotton since the American civil war. Think of that 150 years of stagnant prices - and sure something drastic will happen you finally are able to break out of that rut. The Egyptian farmers would be growing their own corn had they been able to do it profitably all these years.

US Agriculture exports have not been feeding the world. US farm exports have been used to destroy the capability of 3rd world countries to feed themselves. Egypt is a prime example of this.

Makes more sense if you presume the goal is to be able to trade grain for oil. Why shouldn't the US want grain to be expensive? How is this policy any different than China and rare-earths?

Sucks to be poor in a land with too little food and too few resources.

Your understanding of the past is flawed.
But the past is now gone - doesn't matter.
Take a look at the future.

The increase in Agricultural commodity prices should be good news for the 40% the Egypt population that will in the future be benefiting from the increased prices because they are the ones engaged in producing those goods that now have greater value.

Assuming the current price structure holds and grows into the future this will have a huge impact in shifting the economic and power structure in countries like Egypt. Egyptian farmers will now be able to afford to improve their lot by investing in better seed, fertilizer and equipment which will increase productivity and profits. New land will be reclaimed and put into production, because that will be now worth doing.

For the urban poor it means some will return to their rural roots since the only reason they left was because they couldn't make a living. For the remaining urban poor they won't just sit there and starve. They will demand higher wages and effect political changes if it is the only means to achieve that goal.

Another issue that we should look at is the possibility that these revolutions will spread to Saudi Arabia. That is a doomday scenario for the US economy and for the Obama presidency.

I think that the chance of that happening is greater than people realize. Saudi Arabia, like Egypt is a country with many unhappy young people. There has been huge population growth there and jobs are hard to find. Like Tunisia, the ruling elite lives in great luxury and keeps much of the country's wealth for themselves.

The Saudi rulers are elderly men with health problems. The King of Saudi Arabia is currently in the US having surgery. His deputy also has health problems and spent most of last year in Morocco. If things start to go wrong, these are not the kind of people who can quickly come up with solutions to the problems. The order of sucession in Saudi is unclear and there are many people who will compete for power. This could undermine the regime's ability to respond to popular protest.

Thanks to the oil wealth, Saudis do live much better than Egyptians. However, there is still unhappiness about the rising cost of living. Unemployment is officially 10.7%, but some estimates claim 25% is the real number. Saudis who post on internet boards claim that most of the population dislikes the royal family.

In the past few days, there was protest in Jeddah which was sparked by the flooding of the city after a large rainstorm. Apparently the city doesn't have a proper drainage system. Protests against the government are very unusual in Saudi Arabia. I think there is a line of dominoes waiting to fall. The first one is Egypt, the next is Jordan, and beyond that is Saudi. Because of the oil wealth, the odds are against a revolution in Saudi Arabia. However, this is not a regime which is likely to respond effectively if things start to go wrong. Iranian oil production collapsed after the '79 revolution and never recovered.

I wonder what effect Mecca has on the inclination of the people in SA to rise up? Being at the heart of the Dar al Islam, the Islamic World, that would seem to keep a convenient pressure also on those people to not upset the Apple Cart, as it were.

I agree to only some extent. Egypt is fairly close to Europe and has a diaspora which is connected to it's young population via the internet. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is isolated in the desert in the deep inner Arabia.

It's also a far more fundamentalist country. If the young are miserable there, it's more got to do with jobs and economic standards. I remain deeply skeptical of any 'democratic uprising' there. Perhaps they may be revolting at the current House of Saud(due to it's close links with the U.S.) but don't exactly expect any fair democratic regime to take hold. One fundamentalist will replace another.

Also, what you are seeing now is interesting. The decision to remove the police was not a victory by the people but an attempt to wreak chaos.

The army is doing nothing and the criminals have been released. There's also reports of plainclothes police joining the looting gangs.

The point is simple: fight back by covert measures and then come in, when people have had it with the looters, and claim: See! I told you so! Only I can maintain stability. This is what happens if you revolt.

Mubarak may still go but whoever gets in his place will be a Western puppet to a varying degree.

Some of them are certainly real looters but it would be naive to think that it's a conincidence that a lot of prisoners have been released by chance(and some have escaped on their own) or that the plainclothes police have stopped seeding inner division.

I doubt that this is the work of Mubarak. It has Western fingerprints all over it.
It's a clever strategy, far more efficient than mere brute force.
Mubarak is getting directions from his political masters, while they can claim that he needs to show restraint with the army and police, people don't pay attention with the looters.

What I wonder about is Yemen. I like to keep an eye on that nation, since it is one of the next in line to become a failed state. They are about to run completely out of water, oil revenues collapsing, the population exploading. Islamists growing very strong there. On the other side of the Red Sea you have Somalia, wich is no longer a nation but an area on the map.

Yemen is next to fall. What keeps them calm now is Cath, but that narcotic takes a lot of water to grow, so when they run out of water, they will wake up. What will they do then?

Yemen is the "Mexico of Saudi Arabia". KSA is doing bomb missions on rebels there every now and then. What will happen when the situation can no loger be maintained?


don't forget the Saudis are building a fence to keep the Yeminies in. The KSA is very well aware of the problem.

You notice that TPTB in KSA have come out strongly critical of the Egyptian protesters. They know how dangerous a revolutionary "spread" to KSA would be.

Iran OTOH supports it. And we all know Iran and KSA are arch enemies.

But Israel is worried about this. They have pece with Egypt after all, and they only have true peace with them and the jordanians. Out of 5 neighbours. Someone should draw a map of this...

Thank you for this brilliant analysis, Gail. Articles like this are the reason why I come back to the Oildrum every day now since years. Congratulations!

I read now about Egypt and also about Tunesia for a while in the mainstream media. Everywhere it is said that the people finally have enough of suppression and want freedom. Amnesty international is celebrating these days already as milestones on the way of human rights in these regions of the world. Nobody seems to ask the question why now and not las year or next year. There was no decicive event, no betrayed poll, no assasination of oppositions etc. (in fact, the desicive event is shown in the first graph in this article). Than I must read that the radical muslim brotherhood is among the people in Egypt that want democracy - however, radical muslims that want democracy, thats not adding up. In fact, without looking at the petrol, nothing is adding up.

All these "revolutions" are not a step to democracy or human rights, it is simply a reaction to the fact that there is less to distribute and more to pay. We are not on the way to global peace and happiness, the battle for food has just taken a new dimension (dozens of deads remind us, how desperate the situation has become. Definetely I have to suffer a lot in my life before I risk my life to change the situation). Of course it begins in the poor parts of the world, however Europe is a food importer also and we have heating problems in addition to food problems. It will be interesting to see, how the development will pursue in these parts of the world (and when I will start to risk my life, brrrr).

Collapse is the sequal to exponential growth (Odum).


I am reminded of this line -
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late!

Too Much - Population

Too Little - Resources for the Population, including Energy, Food & not enough disposable income for the stapples of life.

Too Late - The Politicians & TPTB, in trying to retain the Status Quo, have postponed Risk mitigation too long and unless Innovation/Technology pulls another miracle out of the magicians hat, it may be too late for the cavalry to charge to our rescue, as Debt and a Climate of fear mount.

Excellent article, Gail.

Three points

Firstly, relating to Figure 5, energy and all commodities on organised markets have more or less lost touch with underlying production and consumption, and have become more or less financialised through private (Index Funds; ETFs; ETC; ETPs) investment in/or leasing of physical stocks and public/State reserve stock holdings.

Secondly, re Egypt and Islam, there is an extremely cogent analysis by Haroon Moghul outlining Four Reasons why Egypt's Revolution is not Islamic with particular reference to, and contradistinction with, Iran.

In that context Iran is no more Islamic now than Russia was Communist under Gorbachev and Yeltsin.
What we are seeing there is a struggle between two conservative oligarchic factions - neither of them more than nominally Islamic - in respect of control of the oil and gas complex during the ongoing privatisation process. The June 2009 election was essentially a hostile take-over bid by one faction at which the last vestiges of theocracy disappeared.

But I digress.

Third, and last, you omitted perhaps the biggest issue of all, which is unequal distribution of land ownership, and an unsustainably high level of rent extraction (and wealth transfer) from a land-less urban and rural population crowded into a relatively small area of habitable land.

To conclude, I think that Egypt and the other Med states are qualitatively different from the oil-rich Gulf states, and Egypt at least is most likely to follow a Turkish pattern of a rigorous military secular State operating largely with the consent of a muslim population comfortable with its faith. As with Tunisia that consent will depend upon a fairer share of wealth, and in the case of Egypt, some kind of land reform, fiscal or otherwise, is now essential.

interesting comment about Iran there.

I am not overly concerned by an egyptian revolution as long as it resolved in the main by internal politics rather than becoming reliant on external intervention

its their country

its their country

Well it certainly would be viewed that way if it weren't for a certain canal they have running through it.
The Suez issue is always going to mean Egypt suffers 'special interest' from external Powers.

Rent is an issue I didn't run across in my research. Where you have growing population, and little land, I can see it could especially be a problem.

If you have building ownership, and economic contraction, then you get the opposite issue--not enough buyers for the homes, and falling land prices.

This discussion has so far omitted an Egypt-specific issue.

The Nile Delta is home to 2/3 for Egypt's population and the source of 60% of Egypt's food. Most of the land is within one meter of sea level, with some portions actually below sea level. In the United States, flood control upstream has prevented floods and silt from reaching the Mississippi Delta for about a century, with the result that the delta is no longer being built up incrementally. In Egypt, since construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1970s, the Nile Delta is also no longer flooding. In both river deltas, natural subsidence uncorrected by silt buildup means the land is sinking into the sea at least as fast as sea level is rising. The process is more advanced in the Mississippi Delta, so one can to some extent see the future of the Nile Delta by looking at Mississippi's present.

Long before direct flooding is an issue, salt water intrusion into the ground water is a problem. Periodic floods of fresh water from upstream used to flush out the salt. It also brought essential nutrients from upstream as part of the silt. Now the salt is not washed out and the natural fertilizer settles out upstream behind the Aswan Dam. Soil fertility in the Nile Delta has already taken a double hit from this. While the power output of 2.1 gigawatts from the dam - about half of Egypt's electricity - has been beneficial, the Nile Delta is as doomed as the Mississippi Delta so long as the dam stands.

Artificial fertilizers made from fossil fuels allow farming to continue for the time being. However, it's expensive for the farmers and supplies of fossil fuels, as everyone reading the Oil Drum is aware, are limited.

If the Egyptian people succeed in throwing out the current oppressive government, it may be possible for them to get a more equitable distribution of available resources, but there's no indication that fundamental problems will be resolved by a political power shift. Available resources - food, fuel and fresh water - will continue to shrink. One thing we are not going to see in this region (or in the world, for that matter) is stability.

Art Myatt

Thanks very much for those insights. Very helpful!

There's a Cornell professor, Kevin Morrison, who's done a lot of work on the "resource curse" and his basic findings were that the discovery of lots of resources doesn't necessarily produce a totalitarian regime, rather the revenues from natural resources only allow whatever regime that is in power to continue to stay in power.

It makes logical sense that as Egypt's resource revenues decline, political instability follows. We see the same in Mexico and a dozen other "post peak" countries.

Here's the list from his paper "Oil, non-tax revenue, and the redistributional foundations of regime stability" which shows the countries which are most dependent on "non-tax revenue" (and therefore, in the case of countries most dependent on oil for non-tax revenue, have the most to loose in political stability, post peak):

1 - Bahrain
2 - Butan
3 - Bolivia
4 - Burundi
5 - Congo, Rep.
6 - Egypt
7 - Ethiopia
8 - Greece
9 - Iran
10 - Israel
11 - Japan
12 - Mali
13 - Nepal
14 - Nicaragua
15 - Pakistan

If you're interested in reading his papers, the website is: http://falcon.arts.cornell.edu/kmm368/

1 - Bahrain ...
15 - Pakistan

I just wanted to note they are in alphabetical order, so nothing else should ba taken from the numbers.

Gail, this is just the sort of analysis I was hoping to see from TOD. Very nice.

One point I would like to make is that I think you should not gloss over the effects of US monetary policy on the inflation story. Yes, we do have food inflation due to supply problems and we do have energy inflation due to supply problems, but these problems are compounded by the excess liquidity in top tiers of the financial markets. Money pumped by the Fed into the financial systems is looking for somewhere to go, causing rampant speculation in commodities and increasing prices. Money looking for returns is spooked by the shakiness in the bond markets and commodities are generally seen as a "safe" place to make money in times of low supply.

In other words, the rich want to make more money off of the necessities needed by everyone, but this negatively affects the poor most of all.

The effects of the Fed's manipulation of the value of the dollar are hard to separate from the effects of the supply problems because they are inseparably intertwined in our economic system. It is a difficult subject to get a hold on, especially for those who like to use solid numbers grounded in reality for analysis, because the Fed is not about reality at all. It is about obfuscation and human desires and foibles. But we are in the middle of a hardly recognized economic war and we ignore it at our peril.


No doubt that the Federal Reserve leads the pack in 'printing' up new money, but we should not overlook the inflationary policies of China, Japan, and the ECB - not to mention the IMF, which printed up and distributed $250 billion SDRs ($300 billion US) in late 2009 to all countries of the world.

Washington, DC
Monday, July 20, 2009

What is important to note is that there’s two aspects to this allocation. On the one hand it is a very timely response to the short-term situation. This allocation is going to provide, unconditionally, significant amounts of liquidity to the countries that need it the most. Basically, of this $250 billion, $100 billion are going to go to emerging market and developing countries, of which $20 billion to low income countries alone. And for that group of countries, just to illustrate, this represents a 20 percent increase on average in their international reserves. So it is a very significant injection of liquidity that will allow them to smooth the need for adjustment, in some cases it would give room for expansionary policies, and in general it will help alleviate foreign exchange pressures where they had materialized.


Seems to me that it is a crisis of mismanaged expectations, facilitated by contemporary communications media.

I recall, in 1994, when South Africa was freed from Apartheid rule, and the first free elections occurred, the ANC was telling voters they too could have all the good things they saw the white folks enjoying - a house, a car, nice clothes etc etc etc.

Sadly, of course, once the ANC came to power, and the houses, cars and nice clothes did not materialize for the disenfranchised, some turned to crime to take what they thought was rightfully theirs.

One has to be very careful raising aspirations that cannot be met - apparently the crisis started with college graduates unable to find a "suitable" job opportunity.

Seems like they have taken to adopting a more free-market economy over the last few years - sometimes the rise of free markets and the fall of the social safety net has the result of widening the wealth gap.

I think that you have hit the nail on the head. The real problem with the situation in Egypt is that it might spread from Algeria all of the way through to the Iraq/Iran border. I haven't seen a whole lot of pictures from Egypt that suggest the poor are out in force. They all show people adequately dressed and fed. The signs indicate a fair number are able to make signs in English (undoubtedly a second for third language for most Egyptians.)

The driving force seems to be a large nascent, young and frustrated middle class. Egypt shares this characteristic with much of the area from Algeria to Iran.

It is also clear that the military has so far maintained cohesiveness. They seem to have used their weapons to protect vial institutions, but have not shot into the crowds with massed fire. This situation is unstable. Eventually, the military will either have to gain control or lose it entirely.

I think that there is a crucial nexus between petroleum products in Egypt that has not been emphasized. Basically, wheat is pretty well useless without fuel to cook it. If a family is spending 40% of their budget on food and another 25% on cooking fuel and the prices of food and cooking fuel go up significantly because subsidies are withdrawn, a political explosion results. The subsidies on cooking fuel are crucial.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I don't know about cooking fuels in Egypt, but I know that this is quite an issue in India, where the poor not only uses wood but also kerosene for cooking (and lighting). The IEA has written a lot about it, and that the poor would get into trouble if the goverment would cut the subsidies of this basic sort of fuel.
As for Egypt, I might guess that many people also use electricity and natural gas for cooking instead of oil or kerosene.

I think the specific mix between petroleum based products, electricity, and natural gas might well be a mute point.

All are heavily subsidized in Egypt (75% of price seems to be a figure that comes up often). The subsidies are a real killer for the Egyptian government. They seem to be trying to figure out how to target their subsidies at the extremely poor.

Something like 20% of Egypt's population lives on $2 per day or less. Any increase in either food or energy costs for this group has to be devastating.

The Egyptian military seems to be holding together and holding their fire. As long as the military holds together, this crisis basically amounts to whether or not Mubarak continues to hold power which is probably of little real importance to the West.

Qattara Solar Sustainable Eco-Cities Project

Here's what Egypt should do ... maybe with some seed money from the US as well as some design and engineering assistance ... maybe get some help from other European countries...

They have been talking about the Qattara hydro project for almost 100 years. They should do it now. The idea I describe is a bit different than other proposals (I wrote a bit about this recently, partly inspired by a comment by Bill Woods http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7340/762707 and http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7340/763041 ).

A little more detail: You'd have the Qattara canal (around 30 miles long), which would go from the Mediterranean Sea to the Qattara Lake. The Qattara Lake would be a body of water several miles in diameter at the level of the Mediterranean and near the Qattara Sea (size of England). For maybe half-way around the Qattara Lake, there would be a large, low, several miles long, dam -- horseshoe shaped. The dam would have 300 70-MW low head Kaplan Turbines (20 GW total) around the perimeter. The dam would also have a system of locks so large ships could navigate from the Mediterranean, through the canal, into the lake, and then down to the Qattara Sea.

So, they'd excavate the canal and the lake and build the dam. In addition, they would start construction of a solar eco-city on the lake near the dam that will use some of the power. I assume high voltage power lines also connecting Alexandria (figure the Qattara Lake and dam would be around 90 miles from Alexandria and 150 miles from Cairo).

Once the water starts flowing, it would take less than a year for the Qattara Sea to fill up (to a level 30 meters below sea level).

In the mean time, they would begin construction of another prototype solar eco-city on the far side (south) of the Qattara Sea. They'd build a large solar thermal-electric power plant for this south city. Once water is available from the Qattara Sea, they will pump water from the Qattara Sea for solar desalination plants. Experience with the south city pilot/prototype is then used to build other cities along the shore of the Qattara Sea.

Once the Qattara Sea has been filled, the water flow (and power) from the dam would be reduced. As more and more cities develop along the Qattara Sea, the water flow would be increased. The cities around the Sea would be connected to power lines from the dam. Eventually, the dam could run near full power (20 GW) all the time providing power at night, and during the day it would run replacing water being pulled out by solar-powered pumping by the cities around the Sea.

This proposal is superior to other Qattara proposals because it supports development of cities along the Qattara Sea, and the Qattara Sea would not become too salty since the cities would be pulling out vast quantities of water for desalination and greening of the Sahara.

This project could mean a new beginning for many millions of Egyptian citizens.

the Qattara Sea would not become too salty since the cities would be pulling out vast quantities of water for desalination and greening of the Sahara.

I don't understand. Where does the salt go, if not into your newly formed sea (which also loses quite a bit of water to evaporation)? It would probably be cheaper to use the power to pump the groudwater resources that supposedly exist under tha Sahara. But greening the desert by mining groundwater has its own longterm sustainability issues, it might allow population overshoot to go into high gear, until the aquifer runs out!

In any case, after a few years you could probably use the new deadsea as a source of evaporites, as is done with the dead sea today.

Where does the salt go, if not into your newly formed sea ...

There are many zero-waste strategies in use or under development. See, for example,

Waste from desalination can be sequestered in building products, too.

The idea is not just to make a technical fix. There are all sorts of other green, sustainability, eco, zero-waste concepts that need to be installed along with it.

Where does the salt go, if not into your newly formed sea

The salinity of the Qattara Sea will increase due to evaporation. As the salt concentration increases, the amount of salt in the water pumped out increases. Eventually, Mass of salt flowing in = Mass of salt pumped out, and the salinity stabilizes.

Say, for instance, when the sea is full, for every 10 units of water flowing in, 4 units evaporate and 6 units are pumped out. Salinity of Mediterranean is 3.9%, then salinity of Qattara Sea = 3.9 x 10 / 6 = 6.5%

Say, for instance, when the sea is full, for every 10 units of water flowing in, 4 units evaporate and 6 units are pumped out.

The ratio would change over time as more communities develop along the shore. Eventually, they'd pull out almost as much as flows in.

With large enough solar desalination (they got the land and sun for it), there would be fresh water rivers flowing back into the sea.

IBM says they can do that

Also, the weather would change. All that water that evaporates goes up in the air. A lot of it will come down in the form of rain. In the long run, it should be possible to stabilize the salinity of the Qattara Sea to be the same as the Mediterranean.

Where do they put all the brine from the desalination plants? Will they create an artificial salt lake, or pump it back into the sea, thus raising local salinity slightly? (That part of the Mediterranean is already saltier than average. See map on Wikipedia/Seawater.) They surely won't pump it back into the Qattara Sea.

Fresh water flowing back from the cities will be grey water or sewage and will get recycled into the desalination plants in preference to Qattara Sea water because it will be easier to purify. The more desalinated water is recycled, the less gets pumped from the Qattara Sea, and the more the salinity of the sea builds up.

Irrigation or garden water will probably be drip fed and disappear into the soil.

And I don't think any evaporated water will return as rain. The vapour will diffuse into the dry desert or be blown away. The Aral Sea and the Dead Sea don't seem to get much rain.

How does this solve their basic problems?

How does it solve overpopulation?

Lack of fresh water?

Food production? Importing 40% of it's food and 60% of it's wheat......

and it's mountain of debt? (80.5% of GDP)

Assuming, of course, you just actually solved their energy problem......

How does this solve their basic problems?

It doesn't have to solve all their problems to be worth doing.

How does it solve overpopulation?

Lack of fresh water?

Food production? Importing 40% of it's food and 60% of it's wheat......

and it's mountain of debt? (80.5% of GDP)

Assuming, of course, you just actually solved their energy problem......

Well, like my Pappy always told me ... if you have a lot of land, if you also have the water and energy, you can get everything else you need.

This is a big project but nothing compared to the Pyramids and all that.

Got to say, the protests in Sudan strike me as a little odd - especially since they've now released (unconfirmed) results saying that 99.57% of people voted in favour of splitting the country in two.


the protests are in the North, against the Government in Khartoum - not in the South, which just voted to separate.

Nice article Gail thanks, and started some interesting dicusssion. Bye bye Mubarak I'd say, I hope the Egyptions get something better. I recall during my little tourist trip to Egypt you couldn't help but notice the skewed population, so many young people and kids. It must put pressure on available resourses in the future.

One resource I haven't seen discussed much is water usage (generally, not just damming for power generation).

I recall that there is some controversy over Egypt's huge allocation of Nile water - and a threat from Sudan, Ethiopia and others to start taking more water for themselves. If anyone knows more about this, and how serious this could be for Egypt I'd like to hear...

Mubarak's iniquitous rule,
Has been priced out of food and of fuel.
It will come to us all
But today it's their call:
Do they ride on or dine on the mule?

The planning for the Egyptian revolt's been going on for several years and is following the template illustrated by an Egyptian activist in this Wikileaked cable, http://wikileaks.ch/cable/2008/12/08CAIRO2572.html The mentioned April 6 movement is part of a larger number of civil society groups financed by the USG to refrom Mubarak's government; however, Apirl 6 wanted to go beyond what BushCo wanted (cable is dated 12/30/2008) and institute what we are now witnessing, a goal ambassador Scobey deemed "unrealistic." The question "Why now?" is answered in the cable as the goal was to have Murbarak replaced well before the 2011 election, a goal distinctly helped by Wikileaks and Tunisians, but also by Sudanese. You will note there have been zero counterdemonstrations in favor of Mubarak as corporate media would immediately show them, which was decidedly not the case in 2009 Iran. I point to Robert Fisk's fine reporting for The Independent for those wanting eyewitness views, http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-egypt...

Overpopulation is the root cause of all these problems.

The socialist government builds the Aswan dam to provide cheap food, electricity and other amenities to the Egyptian population. The Aswan dam was kind of a dumb idea probably, but it might have worked - except the population has almost quadrupled since then. Now they're even worse off than before.

No good has come of this population growth, and when the Eqyptian population stabilizes - and it will do soon inevitably - Egypt is going to face an aging population problem that will dwarf anything faced by the West.

The root cause is not the J-Curves (population and consumption),


the combination of the J-Cruve and Bell Curve (depletion) together.....

LIM - I've never bought too deeply into the "big die off" chat. But when you overlay the population expansion over the energy depletion curve as you imply it does seem more plausible at least on a national level. It's certain the world will lend some support to Egypt if it gets that bad but there will limits imposed by similar conditions globally. As someone pointed out elsewhere: even if the Egyptian gov't were replaced by the smartest/kindest leaders on the planet what can they do to change the country's course quick enough to make a substantial difference?

You need to consider the St. Matthews' Island problem, and extrapolate to human populations and environmental impacts.


A big run up to unsustainable populations will result in a die off. The die off will be to a level past just sustainable to somewhere far below.

Using human population statistics and if the St. Matthews' Island results translate (it could be better, and it could be worse), you would see a die off to about 30 Million. Or more. Or less (including, a not pleasant to consider, zero).

But that is the doomer in me talking. Maybe we are smart enough to hold it to die-ff to mere sustainability, or somewhere in the 750 million to 1.5 Billion range. Which leaves somewhere near 1 in 9 to 1 in 4 surviving. There! That is my optimistic side, RM.

The real questions are: when, how fast, and how far will we die off? A few in the MSM have already noted that it is long term unemployment and overpopulation that are driving the unrest in the Middle East. That is why I keep watching closely, and asking whether we are seeing TBOTE. Or was that what happened a few years ago?


My latest post shows details on oil export extinction, Westexas' export land model and petroleum & food subsidies:

Egypt - the convergence of oil decline, political and socio-economic crisis

Look at that uptick in NGL right after 2004. This is consistent with Rune's recent data demonstrating how NGL is the principal liquid replacing conventional crude oil.

Also a good example of ELM.

Of course, Chart 3 (Population) holds the key the the problem... in Egypt, and in the World.

Isaac Asimov used to rant about it! Usually ending with the question, "Isn't anybody listening? Doesn't anybody care?"

Sadly, no one who matters seems to have heard, or to give a damn.


Yes, a 1-2 punch both ELM crossover and LNG replacement happening around the same time as global crude peak.

Egypt is becoming an importer nation just at the time when world export oil is begining to decline (2005: 47 Mb/d, 2010: 45 Mb/d). So the question is not as much if they can afford to import oil, but if there will be any att all to import. If not, Egypt just hit their national Peak Oil Supply. Anw then what?

Two books go a long way toward understanding what's going on in Egypt. First is Kunstler's long emergency. Second is Strauss and Howe's the fourth turning.

A new generation comes of age and they are going to kick ass and take names. Not just here, but world wide.

EGYPT is the "poster child" of the post peak oil world....
End of cheap oil, end of cheap food, civil unrest, riots, poverty, and many other countries are right behind Egypt at the breaking point.

Pretty soon, people will connect the dots from oil to food to life.
Sad that it has resulted in violence. People have become too dependent on the government for support. Same thing could happen here in the U.S. when our oil imports run out. Rising costs of food, energy, and healthcare is already putting a big crimp in the middle class lifestyle.

I found it odd to visit a family with money problems to discover that they had satellite TV, cell phones and other luxuries still operating. Priorities are clearly out of order these days.

Kind of odd that most people think that government reform will solve the problems in Egypt....
Gov't can't create more oil, and can't grow more food.
If the people of Egypt are driven out of hope for change, then it is their last hope.
Replacing the leader may provide temporary relief, but long term they are out of time, oil, food, and money.

Kind of odd that most people think that government reform will solve the problems in Egypt....
Gov't can't create more oil, and can't grow more food.

The government there has done too much already. I'm no libertarian but what has all this cheap food and other staples lead to other than crazy overpopulation? No government on Earth, even the wealthiest, could keep up with the absurdly high population growth rate Egypt has experienced over the past few decades.

Does the general populace there think overthrowing the current government will solve all their problems? The root cause of most of their problems is looking them in the mirror each day.

OVERPOPULATION has been a Taboo subject for far too long......!

"An era of cheap food may be coming to a close":


To the person who said that $1.3B per year in foreign aid to Egypt seemed like a great bargain...I would agree, but only if they would have used some of it to educate and employ their women, and to conduct robust family planning education and provide free access to various effective means of birth control...rather than all those nice M1A1 Abrams tanks we now see sitting in the middle of their streets.

If only Egyptians had achieved zero population growth back in 1990"



That's OK, we will show the world how it is done by controlling our own population:


I'm sure that 400+M Americans circa 2050 will be a real plus for our sustainability.

Emigration to the Gulf countries, to Europe and to other countries from Egypt has been an outlet for a significant part of the Egyptian population growth. Recently, due to economic factors emigration has slowed and some migration back to Egypt has occured. Note also that remittances home from emigrants was estimated to be $9.6 billion or 6% of GDP prior to the economic recession and have dropped at least $2 billion on an annual basis by the end of 2009.

Economically, Egypt does not appear to be a going concern.

If only Egyptians had achieved zero population growth back in 1990"

I find this a little bit confusing. Every article I've seen about Eqyptian unemployment always stars some educated younf man who can't get a job bemoaning the fact he can't get married unless he gets a job. That sounds like a form of population control. But, yet the population has been rising rapidly. So I guess, the few lucky ones must have a lot of children.

Maybe EOS but if Egypt is like my old neighborhood being married/having a job wasn't a prerequisite for having babies. But maybe that was just a Nawlins thing.

......and a lot of wives;-/

A very interesting comment on a thread from DailyKos, where these events are being followed closely:

The online activists that coordinated the protests in Tunisia and Egypt have more scheduled in the coming two weeks. First is Sudan then Syria, Algiers, Libya and Morocco. Basically the entire ME is set to go. I've also seen references to Saudi Arabia on the Anonymous IRC channel.


Surely this is the nail in the coffin:

'Anxious' Israel backs Egypt regime


The USoA is still, by far, the first oil consumer and importer, and went through their peak in 70 (after which they also agreed with OPEC that oil price should be increased, and the embargo was never effective towards the US, tankers from KSA trhrough Barhein straight to Vietnam, there never was an embargo for the US, check James Akins, but they don't even know it) are these guys doing anything about their own consumption ? Or not ?

Or can we consider that their majority is reflected in below vid ? :

While that video is clearly a spoof, alas, far too many 'Murkins - a majority fer sher - hold essentially that sort of viewpoint...

I think it's a bit of a stretch to blame the recent uprising in Egypt on tightening resource constraints and economic hardship, as many countries in the world are experiencing more or less the same type of problems. The average Egyptian has had it pretty tough for decades, so the cause cannot be sudden economic hardship.

Also, looking at the overall financial picture doesn't tell the whole story. Egypt has been trying, with some success, to attract foreign investment for quite some time. The trouble is that the regime is so corrupt that almost all of the benefits derived from such efforts have flowed to a relatively small group of entities controlled by the Mubarak family and their cronies.

I happen to have a very good friend who worked for the US Agency for International Development and spent over 15 years in Egypt, spread out over two separate tours. He oversaw water and sewage treatment projects paid for by US government foreign aid (an inducement for Egypt to play nice with Israel and to pretend to be a friend of the US). His observation was that this has been festering for a long time and that people's anger with the Mubarak regime has been gradually become stronger than their fear of it. This has been increasingly aggravated by the growing ranks of the highly educated unemployed.

The fact that Egypt's uprising came almost immediately on the heels of the one in Tunisia is no coincidence. The Egyptians were surprised at how easy it was to get rid of a ruler, and were greatly encouraged by events in Tunisia. While there has been a lot of fear in the US and Israel over who's going to take over Egypt, my 'man in Cairo' said that as far as he could see, this is a totally secular uprising and has nothing whatsoever to do with a desire to install an islamic government, despite all the fear-mongering being generated by the backers of the status quo.

However, this sort of thing has a way of being contagious, and that is one of the big concerns of the US government ..... that it could spread to someplace like Saudi Arabia or the UAE. For the last century the US has been sponsoring all manner of despots and oligarchs in the hope that doing so will benefit the US, but as we have yet to learn from many painful experiences, it ultimately backfires, often with terrible consequences. This looks like it's going to be no different.

This is largely how I see it too.

It's Peak People.
There have been protests in SA, where the national average income has fallen from something like $25,000 per capita thirty years ago to only around $7,500 today. The lowering of the average wealth per capita is directly resultant from the ever thinner slicing of the oil cake brought about by increased population.
The Saudi people will not be exactly delighted when their country fills up with remaindered despots from the rest of the Muslim world. They once played host to Idi Amin, of cannibal fame, and now they have the Tunisian mob and their stolen gold, and soon maybe Mubarak too. There have also been protests against the rising price of basic essentials in Oman, a country as well governed as any in the Muslim world, but still one with relatively falling oil revenues and a rising population.
That America subsidises all these countries in different ways, for it's own interests, is not lost on the nationals, and so the squirming in Washington is easily understood.
It will be interesting to see what the outcome is, but I very much doubt that a daisy covered sunny upland of hope and prosperity is on the cards for any of us.
Peak People: I keep coming back to this sad truth.

Sure, by the way, when is the US going to put a $2 tax a gallon on gas, at least ? or is it definitely totally committed towards total economic suicide ? (everything points in that direction, one is obliged to recognise it, that's true)

For the last century the US has been sponsoring all manner of despots and oligarchs in the hope that doing so will benefit the US, but as we have yet to learn from many painful experiences, it ultimately backfires, often with terrible consequences

Lets start adding all the failed dictatorships we've sponsored and see how many had terrible consequences (for the US) a decade down the road. Well we still can't run down to a Casino in Havana--but the Cuban revolution can hardly been considered the cause of terrible consequences to the US. Actually having an intractable neighbor just off Florida has probably been good for the US--it reminds us there are other countries out there.

Vietnam was its own domino game and doesn't really fit what the mold you describe. Though no doubt we did pay dearly there. The only big benefit the nation reaped from that was that it kept our military's guns holstered for nearly two decades after we fled the place.

A pile of Central and South American and assorted other governments have had US supported dictators and the like that have been overthrown, but I can't recall such being the cause of terrible consequences for the US.

Lets see we based troops in Saudi to push Sadam back out of Kuwait. Every big player there was royalty or a dictator. That doesn't fit the bill at all but it did get the Twin Towers leveled.

Okay here is the one. Iran. We put the Shah in and got about twenty trouble free years but then paid dearly for them for twenty, thirty and still counting years more.

That is paying dearly once, being inconvenienced a bunch of other times but maybe no more than if we hadn't meddled. Vietnam, of course, is in a class of its own, and the twin tower fell because we were pushing a dictator off neighboring royalties' land. I'm no big fan of our foreign policy but as of yet US hasn't paid all that dearly for all the failed crumbs we've supported. No doubt others have but not the US...not yet anyhow.

Well there ARE consequences beyond just 'the US'...

of course, but somehow the consequences beyond just 'the US' would have to translate into likely potential costs to the US before the state department, CIA and whatever changed what they would thus far interpret as having been a successful strategy. That was my point. I didn't think it was necessary to state it.

It only takes one huge incident...but after that happens its a bit late to change ways. Thus far few consequences have cost the US dearly so there has been little learning. That is the catch.. almost a Catch 22

'Egypt' is behind Egypt's problems.

The concept of the nation-state, of 'glorified prisons humans construct for themselves'...

This seems the underlying problem of energy, peak-oil and our environmental woes-- the mess we've written for ourselves into our scripts of idiocy, overcomplexity, the 'non-negotiable American Dreams', living-rooms-on-wheels (cars), and assorted other fantasies removed from nature, from realities of how ecosystems, that we are a part of, work; the "corporatocratic/corporate-feudal" nation-state set of people-- the so-called governments-- as illusions of the representations of populations of particular geographical areas...

True revolution-- survival even-- would appear to be neo-tribal/"Transitional"/permacultural-- something along those lines at least, and whatever you want to call it... when we no longer think in terms of artificial sociogeopolitical con/re/-straints, no longer give much of their underlying precepts the time of day, and are free to roam, meet, exchange ideas, food/material surpluses, help/volunteer, "hunt and gather" again maybe, and transcend the not-so-great walls, quasi-fences and pseudoperipheries. To truly mature as a species and free-flow like the birds, water, and air.

We can eat our nice graphs and have them too, and try to bang out what's bunged with Egypt et al., but do civilizations collapse from overcomplexity? Do civilizations collapse because of themselves? Do those who do engineering suggest to 'keep it simple'? Is that all most of us really want anyway? A healthy community and environment? A life of meaning? WTF?

Earth, not "Egypt", not (just) "Tunisia" is all of ours, and that matters because Earth is one, and needs to be-- in context with itself and everything else. Everything affects everything else.

Or we become extinct.

So while we discuss the nation-states like Egypt perhaps we would do well to discuss them in context with how Neo, Morpheus or Trinity might discuss The Matrix; "...a prison for your mind..." (etc.)


"Lastly, Gandhi developed the concept of nonviolent revolution, to be seen not as a programme for the seizure of power, but as a programme for transforming relationships. The concept sits neatly with the observation of... Gustav Landauer: 'The state is a condition, a certain relationship between beings, a mode of behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.'...
~ Geoffrey Ostergaard, Resisting The Nation State

Here we may be destined to be writing graphs, etc., of our own demise (even if only of quality/diversity/etc.-of-life and not just for our species), calibrating and managing and systems-analyzing our trajectory off the cliff.
The beauty will be that of our impact at our bottom, manifest as fossils of what (an)other species-- perhaps the mutations of our own survivors-- study, with graphs and tables and doctorates-of-nothing and whatnot, to try to make sense of millennia from now.

After a few days of listening to the Federal civil servants I work with, and looking at comments at various internet sites, and listening to folks calling in to various radio talk shows, I am struck by the number of U.S. Americans who seem deathly afraid of this phenomenon in Egypt.

Many of them seem to have a knee-jerk reaction against any people who dare protest against their government and who dare resist police oppression. Maybe they are projecting their fear of losing access to 'our' oil, and possibly fearing something like this happening closer to home.

One lady calling a talk show disagreed with the host's assessment of the situation and said: "I don't think this is a good thing. What's in it for us?"

Some folks have a lot of nerve...'We' don't have a right to 'have something in it for us' when it comes to Egypt. We shouldn't prop up repressive regimes to serve our own interests. We shouldn't strong arm our way in and take down Mubarak's government either...it is the the Egyptian people's matter to decide.

IMO, the only way we get involved in a big way is if Egypt's government/military/police start slaughtering their citizens...then there is a moral justification to step in.

H - Sadly the attitudes you ascribe to some Americans may be that dark template I envision for the future. Granted we've ignored human rights abuses in the past if we didn't have a dog in that fight. But as more nations (only oil export nations, of course) potentially suffer greater political/economic upheaval more of our citizens will support any effort, regardless of the body count, that helps us towards the unsustainable goal of BAU. Decades ago we openly supported blood dictators if they also stood in the path of Communist expansion. Now it's not the Red Threat that will motivate them but the Black Threat. Black as in the color of crude oil. I've never so much envisioned as much direct action by our military but that we would use foreign agents (read dictators) to keep the oil flowing in our direction.

The Egyption situation may blow over. Or it may become an attempted major step change. And a major step change that's crushed in the most bloody manner. I make a point not to try to predict the unpredictable. But that doesn't mean you can't lay out the possibilities.

"we would use foreign agents (read dictators) to keep the oil flowing in our direction."
One of the biggest issues with the US is that it is seen as totally hypocritical, wants to be seen as a shining beacon but behind the scenes will do the opposite, e.g. claim for freedom of speech but at the same time be readying to shut down the Internet within the US or side with dictators. There are no ringing endorsements for freedom which I seem to remember was once said to be universal.

The military-industrial-banking triangle will push their own interests regardless even if it is to the detriment of Americans. The wealthy elite have gathered more and more wealth whilst the remainder have become poorer - just like Tunisia and Egypt. You are living in a fascist state, the merging of business and the best government that can be bought.

Anyway the genie is out of the bottle, IMHO Mubarak will be gone very soon. Where next, which of the US's dictator friends will be next to fall?

The military-industrial-banking triangle will push their own interests regardless even if it is to the detriment of Americans. The wealthy elite have gathered more and more wealth whilst the remainder have become poorer - just like Tunisia and Egypt. You are living in a fascist state, the merging of business and the best government that can be bought.

Well, as they say, 'Denial' is not just a river in Egypt... At some point even the American people might wake up and realize that they have been sold a lot of snake oil and false promises. The problem is trying to guess who they are going to target with their anger when they finally figure it out? It isn't about democratic freedoms, its about jobs to put food on the table for your kids. If the military-industrial-banking triangle can no longer provide that for the majority, and in my opinion they can't, then conditions will become ripe for radical change even in the US. One hopes that it will be peaceful, radical change, but the opportunity for violence can not be discounted out of hand.

When the ever elusive, American Dream fairytale, finally collides head on with the reality of physical limits there is bound to be some rather severe collateral damage to the business as usual paradigm.

Best hopes for peace on earth to men of goodwill...

Best hopes for peace on earth to men of goodwill... seconded many times.

Military-Industrial-Banking triangle.
The words I'm running into online are, "Corporatist fascist state". And it's not Left wing nut jobs who are throwing definitions like this out there, either.
State interests + corporate interests + hegemonic foreign policy = ?
If people on both the right and the left cannot agree that this is a bad recipe then we're just going to have to reap the rewards we deserve.

I guess people don't mind spending money (reportedly $200M) on roads in South Sudan for the purposes of generating petrodollars.

"U.S.-built highway to Southern Sudan paved with hope
McClatchy Newspapers

NIMULE, Sudan -- Until a few years ago, the main road that connects Southern Sudan to the outside world was in as poor shape as the region itself. Rebels fought inch for inch over control of the dirt road, the front line in a brutal war. Land mines rigged its path, and crater-like holes scarred its face. Few dared to tread it.

Mired in Africa's longest-running conflict, the region was cut off from the rest of the world. Other than combatants, about the only traffic the road saw was refugees fleeing the region southward on foot.

Today, six years after a U.S.-brokered peace deal, the road - which links Juba, the region's capital, with Uganda to the south - bustles with new life, and the current has reversed, now flowing northward. "

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/30/2041809/us-built-highway-to-southe...

In some way, all the oil demand destruction over there will give some breathing room to other economies for a while. It's like round robin of collapse.....revolutions tie up an economy in shackles, credit bubbles pop in other countries, etc. etc. Little by little watch as Cairo just empties out because people can't manage there anymore. It must have been a weak city, a weak nexus, in the huge global finance game. Now it is being taken out by others who need that oil to keep the game going a while longer.

There are abandoned McDonalds restaurants I know, taken out so the others could keep going. Cairo is like that. I am not saying it will be completely abandoned overnight. But much fewer people there in a year or so, probably than before.

where would the people of Cairo go?

Refugees. (Defined as people who are destined to die somewhere else).

Libya, Israel (Yikes!), wherever in the middle east, Saudi Arabia (Yikes! again).

This is something I hadn't given a whole lot of thought to, the idea that Peak Oil could produce the kinds of population migrations I have so far only associated with climate change.

Maybe the could go to Greece? Spain? Portugal? hmmmmm... "People in Motion..."

Yes, motion...

Nation-states appear as rigid artificial, and/or out-of-scale (human scale) constructs that seem to be another phenomenon of the removal of humans from natural systems, the way they work and flow...

If there's going to be a global collapse, so to speak, let all rigid nation-state borders do so as well. That would be a step in the right direction. There'd probably be less protests, if any, if people could freely move. Ostensibly, Middle East environments are not the best areas for food production, given apparent environmental degradation and overpopulation, and so forth. Containing people in such areas if they want to move seems unethical. A bit like what Israel's gov't elite seems to have been doing with Palestine.

As such, one could argue or metaphorise that Egypt etc. are "prison riots".
Getting in new people in gov't seem only to be temporary measures, only to be repeating the same thing (the nation-state concept) over and over again expecting a different result.

Insanity, right?

"...If a population acts to serve its common interest, it will never choose the state. In reaching this conclusion, we need not deny the countless problems that will plague the people living in a society without the state; any anarchical society, being peopled in normal proportion by vile and corruptible individuals, will have crimes and miseries aplenty. But everything that makes life without a state undesirable makes life with a state even more undesirable. The idea that the anti-social tendencies that afflict people in every society can be cured or even ameliorated by giving a few persons great discretionary power over all the others is, upon serious reflection, seen to be a wildly mistaken notion. Perhaps it is needless to add that the structural checks and balances on which Madison relied to restrain the government’s abuses have proven to be increasingly unavailing and, bearing in mind the expansive claims and actions under the present U.S. regime, are now almost wholly superseded by a form of executive caesarism in which the departments of government that were designed to check and balance each other have instead coalesced in a mutually supportive design to plunder the people and reduce them to absolute domination by the state."
~ Robert Higgs, 'If Men Were Angels: The Basic Analytics of the State versus Self-government', June 11, 2007

Hmmm...Looking at the map, it doesn't appear that there are too many suitable places for a lot of Egyptians (say, 20-40M of the current ~ 82M) to migrate to, even if they were unimpeded. Lots and lots of dry lands with marginal abilities to continue supporting the existing populations.

Certainly not too many places in the ME or Africa which have enough natural bounty to absorb that many people, even considering multiple countries/areas. Maybe if 20M people emigrated to 40 or more countries all around the World over the period of 5 years...

But, what would keep the remaining 60M people in Egypt from re-populating Egypt to present levels and beyond, at an even higher fertility rate than at present?

The frontier has been closed for quite some time now...yes, the Earth is round and finite. There are no more safety valves.

Even though folks keep posting that 'draconian' one-child policies would not help the population situation anytime soon, I say that after 20-30 years such policies would result in lower future populations than will otherwise occur.

If all the World had adopted one-child policies 30 years ago we would be better off today.

But, back then, folks would have said that population momentum would make such policies useless to affect population momentum, because humans seem incapable of being concerned with events 30+ years in the future.

It does look dubious for our species.

As for the desert in the area, the permaculture crowd seem to be doing some challenging and successful work in Jordan:

The Permaculture Research Institute (of Australia) has also just launched their World Permaculture Network site today:
Pertinent quotes:

"...Despite being created by the PRI, these features are available to anyone who aligns his/her life in accordance with the three permaculture ethics of People Care, Earth Care, and Return of Surplus to the first two ethics.
...I am acutely aware of the more-than-precarious situation we are in as a race. I have created the WPN as a tool to help fast-track the take-up of permaculture design concepts to help ameliorate our predicament as rapidly as possible. The WPN system has enormous potential if we make use of it in the way designed – i.e. using it to share information, resources, inspiration and encouragement.
...Let’s stop considering permaculture as an ‘alternative lifestyle’ and accept the fact that there really is no alternative. As far as our place in history, it’s permaculture or bust..."


Bill Mollison: The first time I saw a review of one of my permaculture books was three years after I first started writing on it. The review started with, 'Permaculture Two is a seditious book.' And I said, 'At last someone understands what permaculture’s about.' We have to rethink how we’re going to live on this earth — stop talking about the fact that we’ve got to have agriculture, we’ve got to have exports, because all that is the death of us. Permaculture challenges what we’re doing and thinking — and to that extent it’s sedition.

People question me coming through the American frontier these days. They ask, 'What’s your occupation?' I say, 'I’m just a simple gardener.' And that is deeply seditious. If you’re a simple person today, and want to live simply, that is awfully seditious. And to advise people to live simply is more seditious still.

You see, the worst thing about permaculture is that it’s extremely successful, but it has no center, and no hierarchy.

Alan: So that’s worst from whose perspective?

Bill: Anybody that wants to extinguish it. It’s something with a million heads. It’s a way of thinking which is already loose, and you can’t put a way of thinking back in the box.

Alan: Is it an anarchist movement?

Bill: ...You won’t get cooperation out of a hierarchical system. You get enforced directions from the top, and nothing I know of can run like that. I think the world would function extremely well with millions of little cooperative groups, all in relation to each other."

What are the chances of KSA opening up the tap to lower prices, in an attempt to stabilize things in the neighborhood?


ISTR they took to addressing their wheat import problems early last year by sourcing australian supplies

"The Eden that Europeans described when they reached North America was not a wilderness, but a well-managed resource, a complex combination of nature and culture, ecology and economy, a system so subtle and effective that it eluded the settlers who saw only natural wealth free for the taking. The result of this land grab in North America is that only 2% of the land is now wild, its major rivers are polluted, its lakes have caught fire, and its forests are dying from the top down. The tragedy of this commons was that it never really was a commons after colonization, but was surrendered to plunder, privatization, and exploitation in the name of Manifest Destiny and progress."
~ http://www.intelligentagent.com

"The Permian is a geologic period and system characterized among land vertebrates by the diversification of the early amniotes into the ancestral groups of the mammals... Sea levels in the Permian remained generally low, and near-shore environments were limited by the collection of almost all major landmasses into a single continent – Pangaea."
~ Wikipedia

“One manifestation of this ideal of refusing geopolitical borders in favour of older or no borders can be seen in Hogan’s repeated references to the idea of Pangaea, the theorized 'original' landmass that eventually broke apart into the continents... Through their reconnection with Native understandings of space and their successful creation of an effective coalition, Hogan’s characters claim citizenship as Native subjects who have a different but valid knowledge of the world and can forge the political power to help shape that world.”
~ Dreaming of Pangaea: Decolonizing Strategies in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms

Pangea - I for one am glad that you have shown up here...

I don't trust anyone who assumes a mantle. And if I was him/her, I would watch my back as ambitious competitors strive for the status of first surviving member.

Mantle? We're being a little bit magma-manamous and crusty, aren't we?


Crusts crack, Mantles Move.. he's just waiting for the next Continental Congress.

But to "congress" means to coalesce, which brings us full circle back to Pangaea :-)

Edited to add Democracy Now Link.

It looks like it's the "rise of the tribe", so to speak, what someone interviewed (by Democracy Now if recalled) called the "Facebook(Twitter) Generation" re. the uprising in Egypt. "Smart mobs".


It seems to make sense, what when info tech can crunch people's communication together enough where there's a sense that it is the same tribe in the same village.

That's kind of the idea of the metaphor of Pangaea. :)

How do you mean? (I have a new handle, incidentally, but just have yet to change it. :)

At any rate, trust is very important. It can be the difference between, say, fear, corruption, and false security; and cooperation, mutual benefit, and true security-- stuff like that.

In fact, mistrust could be one of the main roots of our global problems.

Lot's of intelligent, insightful readers here.

It is a simplistic observation of mine that most people draw behavior boundaries on some definition of a "tribe". Those within the tribe are fully human; those outside are suspect at best, and can be viewed as baby-eating sub-humans when pressed. Most people have several layers of such bounds, with more generous and reciprocal behavior as the rings come closer to self.

A Pangean perhaps draws the tribal boundary inclusive of all humanity. Many have a primary tribe at the national level; some much more local as well. Most have yet another at the family unit, and almost all have a strong layer at self, and if this one dominates you get sociopathic behavior.

Anyway, I would expect the Pangaean tribe to be quickly overrun by a much smaller and more focused tribe with less lofty but more readily achievable goals. To have a chance, the Pangaean plan would have to strongly subjugate anyone who didn't put Pangaea first, and probably manage population effectively. Unfortunately, those who see the big picture selflessly will volunteer to subtract themselves, while those who are deftly-lying sociopaths will end up running the human-recycling review panel. Idyllic communism turns quite readily into despotism, and in this game of musical chairs those who play by the rules will probably be surprised to find they've never had a chance at finding a chair when the music stops.

Tribe Of Pangaea- First Member was the first formal "proto-iteration" of a name and concept-- around last summer.

Although I wouldn't read too much into a name, it has nevertheless since evolved along with its important concept. FMagyar alludes to this ("prostheses") in one of their posts as do I in my mention of "crunching people together".

As for your mention of rules and musical chairs, I'll offer this quote:

"Species move from competition to cooperation because they discover the economic value of cooperating. It is cheaper, more efficient... All you have to do is look at our pentagon budget and see that a tiny fraction of it would really develop countries that we've been levelling instead... Very much more cost-effective to make friends of them than it is to keep them as enemies."
~ Elizabet Sahtouris, evolutionary biology

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

"Unless you are Arab." Foxnews.

Yeah, but...

Bill Moyers interviewed Isaac Asimov. He asked Asimov, “What happens to the idea of the dignity of the human species if this population growth continues?” and Asimov says, “It’ll be completely destroyed. I like to use what I call my bathroom metaphor. If two people live in an apartment, and there are two bathrooms, then they both have freedom of the bathroom. You can go to the bathroom anytime you want, stay as long as you want, for whatever you need. And everyone believes in freedom of the bathroom. It should be right there in the constitution. But if you have twenty people in the apartment and two bathrooms, then no matter how much every person believes in freedom of the bathroom, there’s no such thing. You have to set up times for each person, you have to bang on the door, ‘Aren't you through yet?’ and so on.” And Asimov concluded with one of the most profound observations I've seen in years. He said, “In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation. Human dignity cannot survive overpopulation. Convenience and decency cannot survive overpopulation. As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies, the more people there are, the less one individual matters.”

Excerpt from Dr. Albert Bartlett: Arithmetic, Population and Energy

Right now the world adds 80 million inhabitants to the population every year, to put that into perspective that is equivalent to the current population of EGYPT. In case some haven't figured it out yet, "Houston we have a problem!" Life support systems on spaceship earth are being severely strained.

Asimov was a smart cookie.

If you can find this article, it is a worthy read of the magnitude of the problem with unfettered population increase:

“Fecundity Unlimited!” (Article, Isaac Asimov, Venture Science. Fiction, January, 1958)

I was fortunate to meet Dr. Asimov in the 1970s in San Francisco (after special Mensa showing of the King Tut Exhibit). The conversation devolved to his frequent rant about population that I have repeated from time to time here. There ensued an extended discussion that was enlightening to all (except perhaps Isaac). That was my first encounter with a thorough analysis of the effect of exponential growth in a finite system, including as I recall the frequently encountered example of bacteria in a bottle over time.

For a list of more articles, and sources, go to:




Thanks for the great link.

Too bad no one listened, no one is listening today, and no one will listen.

"Well, I don't think we have ever had a democracy in this country. I think it's a myth that majorities have ever been able to decide what happens to their communities and their lives. It goes back to the American Revolution when we jettisoned the king, but we didn't jettison the English structure of law. That structure of law developed at the same time England was developing into a global cultural empire. And the folks that wrote the U.S. Constitution, which serves as the DNA or hardwiring for this country, in essence worshiped English common law. We got rid of the King but we didn't get rid of an English structure of law that placed property and commerce over the rights of communities and nature..."
~ Thomas Linzey

So much for an orderly transition. "All hell breaking lose in Cairo":


Well if Mubarak hadn't been such a stubborn old man the crowds could have dissolved long ago, during the peaceful protests.

It's a big shame - am watching horsemen and camel riders storm the square at the moment...

By all accounts the mounted units are pro-Mubarak and charged the unarmed pedestrian crowd. Nice.

Edit: watching the footage again the pro-Mubarak group are attacking the unarmed anti-Mubarak with all types of stones & weapons. The anti-Mubarak (consisting of all demographics) are just fleeing for their lives from the violent pro-Mubarak (predominantly angry young men). Despicable.

Edit 2: Some of the captured pro-Mubarak supporters have police ID...

"Data on police violence, whether in Canada or elsewhere, are scarce. Information on violent practices short of deadly force consists largely of idiographic studies conducted by the media. [see Noam Chomsky's quotes re. the media] In the main, no organizations or individuals, public or private, gather comprehensive data on police violence in Canada... The crucial issue is to determine the proportion of these violent actions that are unjustified (i.e., not legally permissible). This is impossible to gauge accurately from all types of data because they are incomplete and it is commonly recognized that suspected officers, with the collusion of their peers and supervisors, often cover up or destroy incriminating evidence. In addition, the criminal-justice system affords officers a protective shield that is virtually impenetrable... The only analysis of complaints statistics for Canada was done by Henshel (1983)... He made a number of recommendations for the Public Complaints Office: no suggestions were made for controlling police more effectively... Chappel and Graham (1985) examined the use of deadly force by police in British Columbia... Among their most interesting findings was that, despite a number of irregularities in police procedure, no officers were dismissed from the force; the coroners did not waive an inquest; and all officers were found to have acted in the line of duty."
~ Violence in Canada: Sociopolitical Perspectives, by Jeffrey Ian Ross, Ted Robert Gurr

And that's Canada.

"...These 'rich' claim they own land, and the 'poor' are often denied the right to make that same claim. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper... Those in power rule by force [violence], and the sooner we break ourselves of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist."
~ Derrick Jensen

Once Mubarek is gone, the demonstrators will have to decide what it is they want next. Just because they are hungry and poor and the gov't sucks doesn't mean that the existing gov't is the sole cause.

Used to be rallying cry was "resolve the Palestinian situation and there will be peace". Now it is "get rid of Mubarek and food will be cheaper". Neither goal is necessarily realistic.

I'm sure I have oversimplified a complex and long-evolving situation, but I can imagine many futures for Egypt which are worse, especially in the near term, and few which are rapidly better. Too many people and too little resources cannot be cured by any gov't quickly. Unless you get rid of a LOT of people, that is.

I wish I could say I was surprised... BTW has anyone been able to access http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/? They seem to be off the air, also not a big surprise.

I'm watching now with no issues..

What part of the world are you in? I can't get them from where I am in South Florida right now Could just be heavy traffic.

Yeah could be so - I'm over in the sunny UK..

Edit: Geez, it sounds very, very nasty over there now - no reasoning with the pro-Mubarak protesters. Lots and lots of people injured, journalists being attacked...

Link was Ok for me, just now (see timestamp), in the WWW of Mexico.


thanks for reminding me--Al Jazeera News quit working on my sidebar a while back. The print copy is up and running now--my connection is a bit slow for me to worry about live stream video, however every time I clicked it I got the 'not available try again' message. It eventually worked choppily of course.

We know the demand is there. We have seen a 2000 percent increase in hits on our English-language website, and more than 60 percent of that traffic originates in the United States.

I'd love to know what the baseline number was.

Me too. I've half been keeping an eye on the figure in the bottom right of the homepage for the number of people that 'like' Al Jazeera English on Facebook.

It's grown from just a couple of thousand to over 300,000 in the last 12 months or so.

Although I guess that still doesn't help us much!

Egypt has so many problems it seems.

Population problems, Muslim problems, Water problems, Leadership problems to name a few, but especially Population problems.

But they do have lots of sunshine and the river Nile. Maybe, just maybe, they could use the sun to generate electricity. I believe that the first concentrating solar thermal power station was built there in the early 1910's. Maybe they could use the solar in the daylight and the Aswan dam as pumped storage at night?

It could be a very interesting thing to see how it all pans out. Could be the first major country that exceeds the capacity the feed itself for a long time.

I don't hold out much hope though. To misquote a famous UK politician (who had an understanding of demographics). "I see the Nile foaming with much blood".


I don't know even 1% about Egypt.

Never lived there. Never toured there. Can't say I personally even know a handful of Egyptians.

What are Egypt's problems?
I can't pretend that I am qualified to even begin to comprehend them.

Maybe I know barely 1% about USA.

After all, I do live there and do know at least a handful of 'Mericans. But that is barely scratching the surface.

What are USA's problems?
I can't pretend that I am qualified to even begin to comprehend them except to say that the world is full of major headache problems and nobody is immune. Nobody is "exceptional".