Wolcott: "Worse Than a Fool"

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair fame has a provocative piece today that begins by looking at the Richard Rainwater piece in Fortune (which, initially had a kind mention of TOD) and ends up discussing Rich Heinberg's case for impeaching the president because of dereliction of duty with regard to "ignoring the very real threat posed by Peak Oil."  The integration of the two lines of logic is an interesting polemic.
----- Original Message -----
From: bill payne
To: james@jameswolcott.com
Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2006 6:00 PM
Subject: digest this

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada has an idea about what to do about it.

In 1980, the US and Britain engineered Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran in an attempt to crush its new revolutionary Islamic government. That war inflicted nearly one million casualties on Iran. President Ahmadinejad led volunteers in the war.

Saddam should face trial for his many crimes, but in a proper legal venue, under full western and international law. The trial should be moved at once to the UN tribunal at the Hague. A fair trial will establish an important international legal precedent.
Dead dictators tell no tales. If allowed to fully testify, Saddam would reveal the whole sordid story of America's long, intimate collaboration with his regime, and how the U.S. and British governments of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher encouraged, armed and financed Iraq to invade Iran.

1 http://www.prosefights.org/larryeverest/larryeverest.htm
2 http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2292
3 http://www.proseights.org/buehlerpayne/buehlerpayne.html
4 http://www.jya.com/nsasuit.txt,
http://cryptome.quintessenz.at/mirror/whp122397.htm [Austria] or http://www.prosefights.org/cibolafraud/nsasuit.txt
5 http://www.aci.net/kalliste/speccoll.htm
6 http://biphome.spray.se/laszlob/cryptoag/buehler-tape.htm
7 http://www.prosefights.org/baltimoresun/shanebowman.htm


my only quibble with your logic is this Bill, while it is the executive that controls foreign policy in our system, it is the Congress that writes the checks.  The Democrats controlled the pursestrings over the entirety of the time period, and therefore at best implicitly endorsed any action taken...so, both sides are complicit in this in my opinion.  To try to blame this on a person or a party when it happened twenty years ago is going to be a very tough case to make.
I get so damned tired of this type of equivocating on the part of conservatives.

Reagan - 1980 - 1988
Bush 1 - 1988 - 1992
Clinton - 1992 - 2000
Bush 2 - 2000 till present

Seem that the bulk of the responsibility lies with Republicans and their policy apparatchik.

Given the above which group or subgroup of Democrats are you going to pin the blame on.  BE SPECIFIC!!!!!!

Stop seizing every opportunity to transfer blame when it's plain to all where the buck should stop.

now that's funny.  I haven't been called a conservative in a very long time, not since I was last in the politburo anyway...  

was I not clear the first time?  And I quoteth:

my only quibble with your logic is this Bill, while it is the executive that controls foreign policy in our system, it is the Congress that writes the checks.  The Democrats controlled the pursestrings over the entirety of the time period, and therefore at best implicitly endorsed any action taken...so, both sides are complicit in this in my opinion.  To try to blame this on a person or a party when it happened twenty years ago is going to be a very tough case to make.
Now, if I read that correctly, and I do, since I wrote it, I said that the Democrats controlled Congress over that WHOLE PERIOD (save the Republicans having the Senate by two or three seats for six years (81-87)--but that's technically irrelevant really because the actual spending of money in American government is done by the House of Representatives, which was controlled by the Dems the entire time.
Actually the Republicans had a working majority in the House during that period because they had a faction of Southern Democrats, lead by Phil Gram, who had not yet jumped to the Republican party, who voted with the Republicans.  That's why Reagan was able to get legislation through Congress.
The Biggest non-answer I have seen recently.

You failed to address the criticism and only spoke in vague generalities.

Why don't you apply the same discipline to your political musings that you apply to Peak Oil analysis?

I think his initial comment sufficed. This is an oil website, not a political one. Democrats and Republicans are both definitely to blame. When was the last time you saw John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, or Harry Reid stand up and announce their conversion to peak oil? The problem is one that is seriously rooted in every aspect of our culture, corporations, and in every part of the political spectrum in Washington. Did you think the Oil companies and Detroit only gave money to the Republicans? Who are you kidding?
Frankly, the buck doesn't stop. And that's the problem. The cycle of political power generated by the processes of lobbying and media control affects all parties. Every politician is for sale - if not because of what they did to get in, then because of what they need to do to stay in. "Politics is the art of compromise". They are all compromised, every one.

War, and assassination are just the flower of American politics. The root is monopoly. It is no historical accident that the greatest wars and revolutions have followed from polarization of wealth, and all historical American injustice can be traced to the exigencies of tycoons. In our time, with its record dozens of billionaires and its record hundred trillions of debt, we endure total corruption.

The question then is not where to transfer blame. It is what to change, specifically, to end monopoly and the tendency toward monopoly. How do we fix the buck so that it will stop, not in the pockets of the billionaires, but in the goods and services that are real social wealth?

FDR's great promise of the 4 freedoms - freedom from fear, freedom of worship, freedom of speech, and above all freedom from want - everywhere in the world - is far farther away today than it was when he made it. We had a great country, once. Now we are pariahs abroad and slaves at home. Our money does not serve the opportunity for social goods, but the perpetuation of social evils.

The buck is broken. If we don't fix it very soon we will be too.

Wolcott and Heinberg both have a set of balls on them.


Um.  Not like that "girlyman" gubernator out in Calee, eh?

(sorry, couldn't resist.)

More seriously.  "Worse than a fool" describes our political leader.  "Worse than fools" aptly describes the vast number of American consumers who ought to be citizens, but have no idea of what that might mean.

Impeach Bush?  Sure.  But how do we impeach the entire Republicratic establishment and an electorate that does not know enough to care or care enough to know?

Therein lies the rub.

I remember reading a piece on Rainwater a few months ago, maybe it was the same story, and came away with the feeling that he was a lot like many of the readers of this TOD site, i.e. with the same kind of concerns -- albeit with a heck of a lot more money under his belt.
Re: "which, initially had a kind mention of TOD"

What happened there?

there was a set of links to the right of the article ("blogs Rainwater reads" or some such) in the original Fortune article (which gets archived at CNN).  When they do the archiving, all of the neat stuff in the sidebar goes away.  
Rainwater is renowned for accurately predicting future trends, which is how he turned the Bass Family's $50 million to $5 billion--a hundred to one return.    

What I found interesting is that Mr. Rainwater is building a greenhouse and drilling water wells on his farm, near a small town in the Carolinas.  He is also putting in large storage tanks of fuel.  

Rainwater became concerned about Peak Oil after reading Jim Kunstler's last book, "The Long Emergency."   According to the Dallas Morning News, the principal reason that Bush included the "Addicted to oil phrase" in the State of the Union speech was because of the Fortune interview with Rainwater.  So, in a real sense, the "Addicted to Oil" phase was inserted because of Jim Kunstler's work.    (Rainwater arranged for Bush to be a partner in the Texas Rangers, which put him on the road to the Governor's mansion in Texas, then the White House).  

There was an interesting quote in the article.  Rainwater didn't want the world to "Wake up some day and ask how come some doofus billionaire in Texas made all this money and he didn't warn us?"

BTW, Don Evans, a long time friend of Bush--and former Commerce Secretary--has also stated that he believes that we are at or near Peak Oil.

If we were to reach that point where the American people were capable of impeaching a (p)resident that deserves far worse, then we could be at the point where they might unite to do something about peak oil.

Until the people recognize that Bush represents, in so many ways, the feckless attitude of the consumer mobs, the right wing noise machine, the Dems and Repubs, the corporate pirates, and the looney religious right, then we are lost. To impeach resident Bush is to impeach the American people. They have egregiously wallowed in their Falstaffian cheap energy revelry and ignored the consequences: environmental devastation, impoverishment of the people, destruction of the United States' creditworthiness, increased racism, sexism, ageism, and a marked decrease in the health of the people.

The people have to accept that they made a mistake. The blind desire to be right is killing this country, and it is killing the planet. Ego must be set aside. This is not the time to be worried about seeming the fool.

The basic premises are:

Reduced population is good.
A healthy environment is good.
Health care is good.
Eating healthy food is good.
A sustainable world is good.


So, what are the basic things you see that we need?


This passage tends to be a bit much -

'The people have to accept that they made a mistake. The blind desire to be right is killing this country, and it is killing the planet. Ego must be set aside. This is not the time to be worried about seeming the fool.

The basic premises are:

Reduced population is good.
A healthy environment is good.
Health care is good.
Eating healthy food is good.
A sustainable world is good.


Such writing tends to make me nervous, shall we say, living as I do in a country that actually hit at least 3 out of 5 of your suggestions in living memory, at least - but then, Nazi Germany is not really the model you are advocating, I am certain. Though you may want to pause and think about the fact that Nazi Germany ranks higher on your scale than today's America.

We can certainly agree that population pressures are a major cause of problems, both socially and environmentally. Where I have my problem is what seems to be an almost constant drumbeat to take care of the problem of population pressure  by reducing the population now.

And this is made worse when combined with the idea behind a 'blind desire to be right' - ever thought that what seems to be your desire, blind or not, essentially equals mass murder?

Again, there is much to debate about peak oil, sustainability, and how certain societies seem to have developed a cancer's approach to the larger world in which they exist, but please, face the reality of your desire to 'reduce' (cull? - to put a word in your mouth) population.

New paradigms are fine, pointing out the flaws on solely relying on technology are fine, even pointing out much of the undoubtedly unavoidable human suffering (climate change being accelerated by coal burning as the oil runs out, for example) is quite acceptable.

Constantly pointing out how the 'die-off' of the 'overshoot' is the only salvation is a very old paradigm, looked at from here. Actually, it is a pretty old paradigm in America, too, except for the mass murder part. Have you ever actually questioned the intellectual company you seem to keep, or are  you just proving you are unconcerned about seeming a fool?

To add another aspect of this debate which also often seems to escape Americans - we will all die, long run or not. For example,  how China managed its population over a generation did not involve mass murder (in most people's eyes, at least), but do these results count in your 'overshoot' projections?

Peak oil is not 'poof' and no oil tomorrow - it is also possible to plan on a scale of decades, or in terms of generations (like the German forests, managed over several centuries since being clear cut). Maybe this is an advantage living in a society and area which has reminders of thousands of years of history in daily life - this too is part of what makes American perspectives seem so provincial when expanded to the wider world.

And no, this is not a technological fix, blind faith in anything, or even looking for a new paradigm - living without oil is normal when looked at from a historical European perspective. Sometimes, I have the feeling that people in America can't grasp the astoundingly simple fact that most of the world's people live in societies which completely pre-date the industrial era.

But growing up as an American in the 70s, I certainly do believe that America is in for a real world of hurt in the next few years. Quite honestly, I don't care that much about the looming disasters concerning a small fraction of humanity in a fairly small part of the world - see how easy it is to be callous about other people? I truly don't care about what happens to you and every single person you know and see and live within 500 miles of (hell, I think Americans have earned just about every bad thing likely to happen to them)- but unlike you it seems, I don't think them all 'dying off' is a good or necessary thing. As a matter of fact, I think trying to have them live in a way that keeps them alive is a worthy goal, involving all sorts of old paradigms - like vaccinating children, to give a trivial example. And you know something intriguing - vaccinations don't require an oil based economy at all. Hmm - old paradigms before the age of oil just might be useful after the age of oil? Unless, of course, you think dying children is a way to make the future brighter. I don't.

And if the term "population reduction" would be rephrased as "voluntary population reduction"? That certainly would make things less rigid, would it.

Your essay seems more than a bit much: it is an over-reading that indicates a desire to create a straw man that makes it emotionally easier for a reader to brush off an argument that is quite simple and logically consistent.

For instance,

Though you may want to pause and think about the fact that Nazi Germany ranks higher on your scale than today's America.

Hmmm. I see no reference to Nazi Germany in my piece. I am totally baffled by your reference. As I am not advocating reopening the ovens, nor book burning, nor am I advocating a fascist government, I am absolutely baffled.

You mention that you live in a country that actually hit at least 3 out of 5 of your suggestions in living memory. Then you go on to imply that these things are bad things by claiming, by inference, that Nazi Germany achieved these things. You, of course, do not list them. Again, I am baffled. Why are any of these things bad? Who can complain about a reduced population, a healthy people, healthy food, a healthy environment? Who can complain about sustainability? Are these bad goals? I am baffled. Your logic is either seriously flawed, or you are not much of an historian.

Your logic train seems to work like this: The United States wants to expand the superhighway system. Hitler developed the autobahn. Therefore, the United States is a Nazi regime. If this essay were handed in by one of my students in freshman English, after a rather hearty laugh, I would count off five points for a serious logical flaw.

You are unhappy with my constant drumbeat to reduce population now. I have analysed your essay and it seems that the operative word in my assertion that we must stop population growth now is, in fact, the word "now." You seem to think that I am advocating the killing of people willy nilly to reduce the population. Again, I search my writings and I see no such demand or suggestion. You are putting words in my mouth -- might distasteful words at that.

Here is the logical conundrum spelled out for you. Stopping anything presumes a starting point where you actually begin the stopping. So to use a crude example: Let's say you want to stop your car at a stop sign. You have five hundred feet in which to accomplish this task. You are traveling sixty miles per hour. I presume that we can all agree on the the physics of the matter. In effect, if you wait to start braking until you are abreast of the sign, you will go into the intersection and be hit by a truck. By the way, you are carrying in the car's back seat three babies and fourteen sacks of loose broken glass. Let's say you wait to brake just five feet before the stop sign. Hmmm. Probably going out into the intersection again. Let's say we start stopping at fifty feet. May make it, but the babies and broken glass are going to be a problem. So, the best time to start stopping would be sooner than later. In  the case of population control, now is inherently better than later. Can you see that? Is that so hard?

Now, you have turned my implication that many who argue invalid points continue to do so because of their "blind desire to be right" around and have pointed it back at me. Hmmm. Refer back to debunking administered earlier. Which of these things are wrong?

Reduced population is good.
A healthy environment is good.
Health care is good.
Eating healthy food is good.
A sustainable world is good.

I think these things are right. They are inherently right. They are inarguable. To argue against them is, well, not very bright.

Though I have in previous posts referred to nature's cull, I have never advocated the actual extermination of anyone. You did not just put the word "cull" into my mouth, you put an entire idea that I have never stated and do not intend to state in my mouth.

Again, when you state that die-off or overshoot is my solution to the situation, and that it is the only salvation is a hallucination on your part. I never state that I want these things. I only state that that may be the result if we continue on the more, more, more technology path. See, now follow me closely, I am against the continuation of technology at all costs because it will cause the overshoot and dieoff. You see that? Do I need to repeat? I am nowhere advocating murder on any level. I am only examining what I feel physics demands, that every action result in an opposite and equal reaction. Uh-oh, I think I went a little too deep for you. Sorry. Perhaps the intellectual company [I] seem to keep are misinforming me. Oh that you had such friends. I wouldn't have to be writing this in such a simple form. You could ask those intellectuals to explain it to you. The one sure way to seem the fool is to argue in a pathetic and ignorant fashion. That makes you...well, you know, the fool. You.

Again, with the China reference, you seem to be flaunting your foolishness. After I had advocated the reduction of population, you then bring up China and ask me how China managed its population over a generation [and] did not involve mass murder (in most people's eyes, at least), but do these results count in your 'overshoot' projections? I would ordinarily not cover this rather simple mistake in argument if my colleagues and I were passing around freshmen papers and your poor paper were amongst them. They would understand your logic flaw. You, having actually committed the flaw, do not. If you need more explanation -- it is so hard to gauge the depth of ignorance and stupidity from a single example of writing -- I will be happy to break this down into single syllable words at a later time.

Peak oil is not 'poof' and no oil tomorrow. Duh. I did not say that either. This is getting wearisome.

Most of the rest of your essay trails off into generalizations and piffle, except the part where you say that I believe them all 'dying off' is a good or necessary thing. That is a another example of poor writing skills, logic and reading ability. I have never said that. I have said that it may happen, will certainly happen if we do not back down off the technological limb, but I never, ever, said I would view that as a good thing. Your accusations are just kind of silly.

Your final straw man argument is, you think dying children is a way to make the future brighter. I don't. Tsk, tsk. Woe to us child-hating intellectuals. I hang my head in shame. Wait. Just wait a minute. Upon further review of my writings, I notice that I have never advocated child murder. Damn you straw man builder.

Nice to see a reply. I should point out first, today's Germany hits at least 3 1/2 of your points but I couldn't make such a stark contrast between your cheery view of the future with its unavoidable die-off of the overshoot. Here is an interesting link at http://www.wpherald.com/storyview.php?StoryID=20060322-020039-9503r if you would like to read about how the world's largest exporting economy manages to stay that way over decades - but then, developing, using, and exporting technology like windmills or solar systems is just part of the whole problem, seems to be your general view.

Maybe that is my main point - to talk about changing paradigms and the crystal reality of billions of people not existing as the only way to improve our world is simply disturbing.

Please, continue pointing to flaws in arguments and expressing your ideas, but think harder about the reality you see as the best for the rest of us.

And because the pedant lurks, the point about Nazi Germany was simple - Nazi Germany did believe in healthy food, population reduction (for everyone else, at least), and health care (for the fit, but still essentially universal). And I have noticed a strange tendency whenever pointing to history, Americans seem to think this means a comparison to themselves or their government, or their society. I was comparing your list's points, and it is still not refuted that using your list, Nazi Germany actually scores higher than America - at least in health care, and likely healthy food. Though thankfully, today's Germany scores higher still - the population is demographically shrinking, food is still healthy, universal health care, and as seen in the link above, at least a half point for real world sustainability.

Population reduction now is an interesting point - Europe is doing it, China with its 1 child policy involving forced abortion (that was the arguable 'murder' part) did it for at least a generation - but nowhere do I see anything concrete, except you pointing out that old paradigms will lead to mass death, and the new paradigms will also mean mass death. 6 billion don't fit in your 1-2 billion people boat - in case you're curious, this thought can be reduced into an election campaign slogan from German politics over the last couple of decades - 'the boat is full.' (Even more interesting, it comes from the Republikaner.)

But writing 'See, now follow me closely, I am against the continuation of technology at all costs because it will cause the overshoot and dieoff' leads me to a different conclusion, since the only thing currently preventing the death of billions in our unsustainable world is the continuation of technology. Or is their death now better than their death later? It just doesn't work both ways. This is not putting words in your mouth, it is drawing a logical conclusion from what you write. Of course, 'all costs' is a decent point - Europe and Japan, for example, haven't used technology at 'all costs' for a couple of generations at this point. The world is much larger than America, a point not addressed at all in your reply.

To avoid the essay form, a final quote - 'They are inherently right. They are inarguable.' Sadly, we can probably both agree, I am wasting my time trying to discuss any of your assumptions or conclusions.

I'm still baffled. Are these not good things?

Reduced population is good.
A healthy environment is good.
Health care is good.
Eating healthy food is good.
A sustainable world is good.

If any country achieves these things, then that's a good thing, right?


If you cite methods, then argue methods. I was not talking about methods.

I will not bother with a point by point rebuttal as it is clear that you cannot understand the argument well enough for my effort to be worthwhile. As they say, never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. And you are clearly annoyed. And I wish to waste no more time.

Why don't you give him more than 90 minutes to respond? Maybe it is because you are a Nazi.
You posted a list of things that are nice...puppies are nice and so is ice cream.

The healthcare being good....our western healthcare causes a higher older population. I work in the healthcare industry in an ER and on a rig.  So much is disposable and so many people are involved in care I can provide by myself. Example if someone gets a small cut on their hand and I clean it and want to put steristrips on it.
1 I tell the captain who calls his boss and a company rep.
2 Call a real MD on shore who concurs.
3 Treat the patient.

The ER on shore is the same way 10 people are involved in care that could be performed by one.

I have seen the argument that cigarettes are goid because people die younger and don't cost society a long retirement.  Taking the moral issue out I would like to see the economics of that.

The other thing is genetic diseases.  If we are to treat these and make patients comfortable in life they should be encouraged to adopt or not have kids.  Passing the bad genes on is horrible.

My main point is Health care is not always good. In a Capitalist system anyway. I am a staunch republican but my view is askew when it comes to medicine.  

Preventive medicine is good would be a better statement.
Vaccines and checkups  and genetic prescreening.

Just a thought

Kind of a silly question, but why is it that in the article, Peak Oil is capitalized, and global warming isn't?
The simple answer is that Wolcott, like a many good professional writers, usually gets to rely on an editor to correct for conventional English usage.  He does the blog thing for free -- alas no editor.
Rainwater exemplifies what's truly unique about the period we're in. As I've mentioned before, I'm an old Marxist. But this isn't in the book. Capitalism was supposed to fall because of its own internal contradictions. Well, it did several times, although not where it was supposed to, and the result wasn't what is was supposed to be, and then capitalism came back, which it wasn't supposed to.

Marx was counting on building socialism on top of a highly developed productive infrastructure prepared and bequeathed by capitalism. That's not going to happen either, it looks like.

Instead, it looks like resource depletion, energy first, and overpopulation is going to bring things tumbling down and force major changes on humanity. It's no longer a question of "seizing the means of production" in order to bring a better life to the masses. The issue now is human survival under human conditions.

Should have figured it wouldn't be that easy -- a few bloody revolutions and we'd live happily ever after -- but it never is.

So now, in much reduced circumstances, mankind is going to have to figure out how to live sustainably on a much smaller energy and resource budget. War will be eliminated, at least big ones, because we won't have the budget or the means.

If not "proletarian internationalism", is it too much to hope for the development of a certain sense of species solidarity, "we're all one tribe", in trying to figure out how to survive? Is is too much to hope that we will rescue the major branches of science and human culture?

What Rainwater exemplifies is the insight that the issue is no longer primarily class struggle, but a struggle for survival that, to some extent, transcends class lines. (Not that there won't be and isn't struggle over who suffers the most, who dies first.) Capitalism in its current form will not allow us to survive.  What good is a beefy portfolio if the wheels come off the human cart? Not that anything like the Soviet experiemnt can ever be repeated. Not that capitalism and the market can be dispensed with. But clearly it has to be somehow brought under control.

What will work? Stay tuned. That's what needs to be worked out. But there needs to be freedom to experiment. Which means freedom to think, to speak, to dissent, but above all freedom from invasion. Planet-wide. These now become survival issues, not pie-in-the-sky blather.

Back to Rainwater. Even some, perhaps many of the very wealthy, are beginning to realize that it can't go on like this.

BTW, I remain a Marxist in several senses: his book Capital stands head and shoulders above any other work of science I've ever read -- and I've read a great deal. (I'm not saying everything in it is right -- but is an enormously deep and powerful analysis.) Secondly, Marx was a materialist -- i.e. reality-based you'd say these days. Third, his favorite saying was: doubt all. Do you doubt that?

I'm glad to see a few kind words for Marx. He was the last of the great thinkers who tried to put it all together--philosophy, history, economics, sociology, political science--in one huge ball of wax. Of course, he failed in his prophecies, but he accomplished much. Not least, he demolished Hegel, one of my least favorite philosophers of all time.

What I find terribly sad is that probably most Americans think of Soviet Communism as something that Marx thought up, when nothing could be further from the truth, just as some fanatics today have twisted the writings of Mohammed into the hate-filled corrupt dictatorships that would be anathema to the founder of Islam. In other words, Marx was not a Marxist (nor was Freud a Freudian nor Keynes a Keynesian). I wonder if there is some sort of historical law that says the ideas of great thinkers will be inverted and distorted 180 degrees by the worst people in the world. If not, I hereby sate it as Sailorman's Conjecture.

wisdom indeed.

The distortion is not even in the same cartesian space, Don.  The distortion is usually achieved by removing a dimension or two, by oversimplification.  

It's not just flipping on its head, it's more like telling a four dimensioner to look at a 'Flatlander.'  

 Would Dubya's Democracy be an example of Sailorman's Conjecture?
Yes, but only to some extent. Many people have stated versions of my conjecture in one form or another. After some reflection, I am going to restate it as a corallary to Lord Acton's famous dictum:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Sailorman's Conjecture: Absolute corruption includes total perversion of the best ideas of the greatest thinkers.

Now in regard to Bush, he is not in Stalin's league. (Yes, that is faint praise.)

Nice post.  Even though Marx was wrong, he is still very right.

BTW, which famous capitalist said and I paraphrase, 'If you want to know how capitalism works, just read Marx'?

As a longtime Sailormanian I disagree completely ;-)
Hmmm.... Christ and Christianity too, eh?
Oh my goodness, yes! Nobody's ideas have been more thoroughly perverted than those of Jesus. Nobody's.

Having said that, it is also true that nobody's teaching have been perverted more than Mahomet's. He preached a message of tolerance and forgiveness; He explicitly rejected the forced conversion of Jews and Christians to Islam and made the excellent point (not original with him, also found in Jewish tradition) that God sees every deed, and that you are judged by your deeds by Allah and not by whether you profess to be of one religion or another. Thus, for Mahomet, a nonbeliever who does right things is morally far superior to one who claims to be of Islamic faith yet violates the spirit of Islamic law.

Capitalism was supposed to fall because of its own internal contradictions.

 Like all crafty prognosticators, Marx did not predict the exact time of the fall. He did suggest that human society would be so wracked by the pain associated with the dissolution of the capitalist mode of production that capitalism would be rejected and some other form of social organization would be established in its place.

 What is interesting is that Hubbert, in his introduction to his essay on Peak Oil, speaks of the contradictions between a science and fact based petroleum extraction system and the capitalist consumption system which operates in parallel.

"If not "proletarian internationalism", is it too much to hope for the development of a certain sense of species solidarity, "we're all one tribe", in trying to figure out how to survive? Is is too much to hope that we will rescue the major branches of science and human culture?"

We are not all one tribe.

I remember reading Alvin Toffler's book, The Third Wave, in 1979. At the time I was shocked by his pronouncement that the U.S. and the Soviet Union weren't really that different.

They were just different flavors of industrialism. His first job was on the Detroit assembly lines, and he wasn't very happy with the mind-numbing, de-humanizing life of a factory worker, be it in America or Russia.

I believe the book advocated something he called "The Information Age," with power decentralized, more freedom, more interesting work for people, and, of course, a move to alternative energy and new ways of living like "flex-time."

What bothers me most about Bush is that he's a reactionary. He wants to centralize power into an authoritarian, scarcity-oriented militaristic government just as the world's people were becoming used to peace, prosperity and a chance at freedom.

He has turned the clock back to fear and militancy right when the world should be working together to end the age of fossil fuel.

That was an amazing book, and it caught the edge of something that was just about to happen.  Remember the word "prosumer?"

It was the Tofflers' contraction of producer and consumer and part of their prediction that the old lines of production and consumption would break down.

As we "prosume" news here on the blogs it's pretty easy to see how that played out ... but for a long time "prosumer" got a "huh?" or derision from the unwired.

A couple of weekends ago my wife and I went to our local Congressman's ( http://www.house.gov/stark/ ) townhall meeting.  For background, this guy is pretty liberal.  Rather than asking about peak oil I asked him about impeachment, citing the recent Harper's article by Lewis Lapham.  My question was along the lines of, 'You say the pendulum always swings back, but maybe that's what people in Germany thought would happen in the 1930s.  Why not try to pursue impeachment, even if it doesn't have any chance of success, so that you can say that you honestly tried?'.  I also asked him about his participation (or lack thereof) in John Conyers' hearings.

He had several excuses for why he wasn't going to start anything.  He wasn't going to do it because the Democratic Party has told them not to do it because it wouldn't play well in North Dakota or other red states; it wouldn't work anyway so what would it matter; and wasn't I aware that he had been instrumental in bringing the Articles of Impeachment forward for Nixon?  As for why he wasn't involved in John Conyers' hearings, he said that he wasn't a lawyer so he wasn't going to insert himself into those lawyerly processes, and he was focusing his attention on Healthcare and Medicare (because he's on that subcommittee I guess).

After hearing him talk about how things would work out because the pendulum was swinging back in the Democrats' favor because of blunders like the Dubai ports deal, I thought, This is the Democratic strategy.  Wait for the pendulum to swing without actually doing anything.  Continue to be hopeful that Republican self-destruction will ensure your party's success without doing a damn thing.

I'm possibly being a little harsh because I understand that it's hard for a Democratic Rep. to have much impact right now, but the overall sense I got was -- especially if he was telling the truth about what the Party told him -- you can forget about leadership from the Democrats.  If we have major energy supply problems, there's no chance that Democrats will do the right thing.  They might do less bad things than the Republicans, but that's not saying much.

Kunstler was right to call them the Mommy and Daddy parties.

While it is true that Dems. and Repubs. are both complicit in the shortsighted polices that are probably driving the United States to ruin, it is also just as true that we have only the simple, practical choice of voting D or R.  People who see no choice end up, for example, voting for Ralph Nader in 2000.  We know, don't we, what that has brought us?  Is there anyone who still imagines that there really would have been no differences in direction had Gore been elected (as he was, of course, in fact).  The Democratic Party still offers some realistic perspectives for the ordinary citizen.  Some Democrats are definitely aware of the real issues that face the country and the world, even if there are far too many Leibermans still wearing the blue.  The current administration imagined that we could militarily control enough oil resources to avoid, in the short term, the pain of moving out of a cheap oil-based economy.  They were wrong.  They have failed.  The immediate political choice before all of us is to get Democrats back in control of Congress.  Arguments showing that both Ds and Rs are to "blame" only lead to paralysis, or quixotic 3rd party candidates.  That's fine on the intellectual game board, but we live here, in reality.  The longer term goal might be to pound the Democratic Party into some better shape by supporting candidates with realistic perspectives--like Feingold for example, or Ned Lamont.  These people do all have to run, from time to time, in primaries.  What we can't do is stay with the no nothings who have hijacked the Republican Party.
Right.  The Democrats are unwilling to impeach Bush because they are as complicit in "The Greatest War Crime of the Young Millenium" -- an unprovoked and brutal war of aggression complete with all the bells and whistles: rape, torture, murder of innocent civilians, use of our own weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations(depleted uranium, white phosphorus).

The Dems are complicit in the same crimes at home as well, in full knowledge of what they are doing, as they are paid by the same people as the Republicans.

Is the Republicrat political monopoly unassailable?  Very likely, especially as the Dems repeat the blatant lie that Nader is to blame for the outcome of 2000 presidential election.  Gore lost far more votes to Bush than to Nader.  The outcome in Florida was rigged, the Supreme court selected the candidate of choice for the oligarchy, and so forth.  Read Palast's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" for an example of analysis that the US press refused to acknowledge.

The Democrats are all about using fear to keep the sheeple in the Republicratic pen, and so we are stuck with politcal theatrics in Hi-Def, big screen format with plenty of special effects -- all signifying absolutely nothing.

But we all digress!

The change we need will not come about through the political process, nor will any enlightened capitalist billionaires or corporatist re-insurance companies save us from resource depletion and global climate change.  Not even the military-industrial establishment, with eco-friendly, energy efficient, new-and-improved war machines launching mini-nukes like clowns throwing candy to children at a "Get Your War On" parade.

I think Pat Murphy at Community Solutions has hit the nail on the head once again, folks!

"Post-peak -- The Change starts With Us" is available here:


I will ride to my first job of the day on my cargo trike, which I've been determinedly riding for the last 6 or 7 years as one way being the change we need to see in the world. I will work suing the least toxic processes I can.  I scrape by financially but believe that my work as a "micro-eco-entrepreneur" is one of the most significant things I can do.

What concerns me the most is that issues of the day are too-often discussed by an elite and effete group of people who expect the political system )which is enslaved to the so-called "Free Market" superstition and melded with the American Civic Religion of Christo-fascism) to bring about meaningful change.  It will not happen.

We need to be the change and make the change by how we live.  The political system will be challenged and may be transformed by this.  More likely, the political system will bring us more war and repression and a near-collapse of the eco-system as it fights to maintain the status quo while posturing as the progessive agent of change with a capital C.  (C is for Capitalism, Christo-fascism, Corporatism, Corruption, and Collapse.)

We must simply be the change we want to see.  We cannot ensure our own survival.  We are all absolutely vulnerable, and can do nothing about that.  I will try to live as best I can according to what seems right, and leave the outcomes to the Creative-evolutionary process.

Or something like that.  Gotta go!  Gotta keep the kiddos fed!

The biggest problem with presidential politics is that our choices are set by the voters of Iowa (pop 3 million) and New Hampshire (pop 1.2 million). We let only 1.5% of the nation's electorate choose our candidates. Failure in either of these mostly rural, lilly-white states leaves 98.5% of voters with nobody representative of their interests to vote for. The way Congressional candidates, even at the primary level, are chosen is a mystery to most Americans. It's no wonder apathy is so huge.
No, I think most of the time the choices are already pretty much set before Iowa's caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Those who come out on top there are the ones who've already done well on the money circuit, courting the wealthy donors of their party.

Howard Dean came close to upsetting that rite of passage with his internet fund-raising in '04 though. Instead of a few rich people, many average people donated.

Perhaps in the next three years, a really good candidate could raise enough money that way to bypass the old system and take the nomination this time.

I find Heinberg's writing more of a populist move designed to attract attention of a broader range of people, than something that he seriously believes in or hopes for to get roots. He is simply using the negative feelings people have towards GWB to support his cause.

Heinberg should know better than everyone, that Bush's policy is nothing else than a logical continuation of every administration starting from Carter's time. In this line the accusations of facism, dictatorship, militarism to GWB are as valid as to any president in the recent 30 years. And what would the Democrats do if they took ofiice? A gas tax? Are you kidding me??

I think you could take every single thing Heinberg said and apply it against the mainstream media... and I am sure Bush has access to a lot more analysis on this issue than we can imagine. The Pentagon has got to be all over peak oil and explicitedly informed on the state of reserves everywhere on the globe. But... it is the mainstream media where we have traditionally expected honesty and integrity. We have expected them to provide timely information and unbiased context. In regards to Peak Oil they have failed.

And they continue to fail.

The NYT put its Peak Oil story behind a pay wall. It never made it to newsprint in general circulation.

The truth is: without the internet and places like TOD, no one would know anything about it. That doesn't suggest social denial to me. Denial would be if the issue was covered and rejected.    

Excellent point Will. I guess the logjam of money works with politicians & MSM; however our system requires a  " free press" to tell the whole/other story. I guess the only conclusion is that this is so shattering  and could trigger panic ;no one wants risk being the scapegoat?  I am still puzzled about motivations in MSM.
I think one obstacle is personal denial;on every level:MSM ,politicians, whoever. Matt Savinar posits that we have some kind of predisposition- at a very deep level- like a secret worked in our self interest, or we don't take peak oil in( I don't have a reference as I saw this in a couple of post dialogues- & my impression/memory).
  I think generally he is right.We have predispositions- deep ones that hinder or help in learning about peak oil; if you are President or editor of NYT these hinderences would be confronted.
Can you imagine if the peak had hit in 1995 prior to the spread of the internet?

Most people who count themselves Peak Oil aware are that way because, either indirectly or directly, the internet.

Heinberg learned from Jay Hanson for instance. So all the folks who learned from Heinberg's books wouldn't have gotten the bitchslap of reality delivered via Heinberg had he not gotten cyber-bitchslapped by Jay Hanson circa 2000.

I could go on with other examples but you all get the point.


The idea that there really is no choice, that it's a world of "Republicrats," when it leads to simply opting out and not voting, is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Too many people got fed up and opted out back during the late '60s and early '70s.  It's an understandable response to the depressing truths we do in fact see around us, and who knows, it may be fundamentally true.  I'd say Noam Chomsky views the country as simply cooped in this sense, and he's a pretty smart guy--invented a whole theory of language for example, that kinda trumps Wittgenstein.  But I still say that we have an existential choice here, and that is to vote Democrats into office.  Even if it's quixotic, it's the only constructive political thing that's doable right now.  
IMO, existentialism is mitigated twaddle. Consider, for example, the dictum: "There are no innocent victims." Sartre signed off on that.

And in regard to Choamsky trumping Wittgenstein . . . well, that just gave me a hearty chuckle. It is sort of like saying that B.F. Skinner trumped Freud.

Even though the word "existential" appeared, I don't know how much it really related to existentialism.  Perhaps it did, but it was kind of fleeting.  Further, I'm not sure what that quote is about, but it seems to be trying to link moral relativism with existentialism, which is a fair enough arguement, but it's hardly the whole thrust of existentialism.

As for Chomsky, IANALinguist, but from the few articles I read, it does seem that Wittgenstein and his idea of symbols, etc is kind of being pushed out.  Chomsky is definently a genius (read Manufacturing Consent to understand EXACTLY why Peak Oil isn't a huge MSM story), but I think I've moved away from him being a huge hero of mine because of his recent tax shenanigans. Nobody's a perfect idealist, I guess. =(

As far as Skinner vs Freud, well.. I am a psychologist and that's exactly what Skinner did.  Sure, Freud is way more popular in pop culture, but Skinner's (and, of course, Pavlov) behaviorial psychology literally changed for decades the focus of psychology from the rationalism-dominated psychodynamicists to the empiracist behaviorists.  It's only something that's been reversed recently with the emphasis on cultural and sociological psychology.  And, of course, the pendulum is swinging back with the neo-Freudians.  Personally, I find the behaviorists to be sort of flat.  They may describe how we do what we do and how to change that, but they don't do very good at answering the "why" question that still sits at the bottom of psychology: "Why is there consciousness?"

"Why is there consciousness?" The short answer from William Calvin is "to run scenarios" ... isn't it?

(No mention of evolutionary neurobiologists above, so we might as well throw them into the mix.)

Media... should be coming from medium. We have that saying in my country that the middle guy is always an asshole (sorry for the bad lang).

The media will never announce anything the "big guys" do not want to come out. And will never try to sell things the "small guys" do not want to hear. There is a very deep hypocritical duality in our lives and we never admit it - a duality about the truths we know for ourselves but as long as they do not come out there is no problem.

The media must keep on selling - to those fooling and those who want to be fooled. It is setup this way and we have accepted it long time ago. Denial? I'd rather call it a virtual reality, that must be preserved by all means.