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« What Gets Us Into Trouble? | Main | News Flash for Paul Krugman (and other progressivists) »

July 07, 2011


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step back


I feel your pain.

Maybe the answer lies in what this other blogger wrote about the delusion of the Casino Cave (a.k.a. the modern Plato Cave):

Politics is just another casino. Another set of flashing lights and loud music pumped into the isolation chamber that is Wash. D.C.

Whatever Chu was before he entered the bubble, whatever Obama was, that's all gone. No human can escape the lights fantastic of the Borg Collectivizing machine that is known as Wash D.C. politics.

I think the sign on the front gate says:
"Abandon all hope ye who send your representatives here".

Mark Twain

George, I have these exact same thoughts, including the thought of voting for Homo conservativist incipient to just hasten the slow train wreck.

It is depressing. Sometimes the truth is not a happy truth, but a depressing truth.

I've spent the last couple of years trying to imagine what a truly sustainable (and wise!) civilization would look like. I cannot come up with any realistic example that does not involve a very large amount of authoritarianism. Hence, I discount the viability of such a society forming. Though, it is possible that very small, very remote, sustainable (and wise!) society could form. Though it would also, by necessity, require not much "wealth" in the society, or others would come to take that wealth away. As time marches on, even food and fresh water will be considered "wealth", so even those small examples might not survive for many years without facing increasing external threats.

I really appreciate your posts, even when I don't comment. It is surprising to me how much my thinking mirrors yours and others on these topics. Yet, there are far too few of us to change the larger beast (humanity).

John D

Obama's response to today's dismal job report was nothing short of pathetic. He needs to announce that he is not seeking reelection (and possibly leveling with us) or keep up the charade until he hits the 'dog ate my homework' in his excuse rolodex.


George, et al.,

Coming from a person whose top-tier "education" did not take as prescribed, allow me to say that the Anglo-American Power Elite and a growing share of their professional middle-class surrogates have already written off the sovereign nation-state known as "The United States"; that is, the American republic-cum-empire long ago was usurped by a takeover by the rentier owners of the firmly entrenched militarist-imperialist corporate-state, with the result being deindustrialization, financialization, and wholesale plunder of decades' worth of future labor product via compounding interest and taxes.

As such, the US has not had an "elected" president and commander-in-chief since as long ago as "Tricky Dick" and LBJ (products of the old party system). Since then, each successive POTUS has been an appointee of the vetting counsel of the one-party Trilateral Commission, Business Roundtable, Council on Foreign Relations, and AIPAC, including most of the recent selections being among the more flawed, compromised, purposefully ineffectual characters one could imagine.

To that point, the one-party rentier corporate-statists do not want a popularly elected statesman or man or woman of high moral, ethical, or intellectual bearing, possessing a personal sense of social and economic justice, as they might actually appeal to the self-interest of too large a share of the unwashed working-class peasantry and actually inspire a mass-social movement against the wealth, privilege, and power of the rentier-oligarch caste.

As the permanent structural effects of peak global oil production, falling available net oil exports, falling per capita net energy, and water and food shortages take hold, and in agreement with "Mark Twain's" thinking above, I do not rule out the emergence in the midst of myriad crises a kind of private, feudal, gov't-less police-state in which virtually everything of economic value is owned by the top 0.1-1% of US households, including arable land, forests, minerals, water, ports, transportation, and private paramilitary forces.

In this context, the gov't known as "The United States" is a de facto unelected corporate-state that has no actual obligation to the full faith and credit of the US Treasury, meaning that Social Security, Medicare, federal trust and pension funds, and interest and principal to holders of US debt could be reneged upon by the stroke of a keyboard with little or no recourse from the masses. The corporate-state owns the gov't and its obligations, and the owners could with little effort or remorse simply cancel (or restructure at dimes or pennies on the US$) what it owes to itself and say, "Sorry, no more obligations, no more cash, no more benefits, thank you very much." I suspect this is what will eventually happen.

As I watched the launch of the last US Space Shuttle flight today, it occurred to me that we might be witnessing one of scores of examples ahead of the end of the Space Age coinciding with the onset of the end of the Oil Age, which by extension signals the beginning of the end of what we think of today as capitalism and western civilization.

Moreover, US crude oil production per capita has fallen 62% since the peak in 1970, with the decline trajectory being a reflection of the production increase from 1920 to 1970. Now global crude oil production has peaked and available net oil exports have been in decline since '05. At the trend rate of decline of US crude oil production, the US will reach the point of no return for the systemic per capita net energy logistics curve collapse threshold no later than '13-'15, with the effects of full collapse being underway by the early to mid-'20s.

If so, it matters not a whit whom the Power Elite's vetting committees select for affirmation by dwindling members of the active electorate who still think that their vote counts.

What remains now is for those who see the inevitable to begin to adapt to a future in which we Americans must somehow function by consuming at a material standard of consumption at 65% to 70-75% less consumption of crude oil over the next 10-20+ years.

Trading virtual debt-money book entires and designing i-thingies, building them in China, and lending underemployed Millennials fiat digital debt-money to buy them and text and stream videos 24/7 are not examples of real wealth creation.

No politician, CEO, economist, central bankster, nor mass-media influential can remain elected or keep their jobs by telling us the truth in order to prepare us for the inevitable.

FWIW, I have not voted in a pResidential selection since '80, which was the first election in which I was eligible to cast a ballot. Once was enough for me to discern how the system worked and to learn that I didn't have enough money to participate in the best gov't money can buy.


It is ütterly depressing (for me European spectator) to see grown-up and academic 'Merricans arrive at the thought of voting "conservative".

Palin for president! (Oh wait, can't we find a stupider clown?)

Perhaps Obama just waits till TSHTF. Telling hominids about reality? Ha! Those able to accept reality need not much telling. The unwilling can only be persuaded when all reality breaks loose.

Alas methinks this strategy won't work out in the U.S.: When things get worse, ever more ridiculous polit puppets will get elected - out of an act of defiance. Folks might even go voting just for that obscene fun.

Obviously 'Merricans love to vote against their self-interest. Perhaps that's how the Dems became the 3rd wing of the Reps.

step back


We 'Mericans don't have much of a say in how our government is run.

Once a guy (or gal named Palin/Bachman) gets into office, it doesn't matter what they "promised" during the campaign. We can't remove them from office for failing to live up to their promises.

Obama gave us that hopey changey thing, including a promise to end the wars.

But now the USA is in three resource wars: Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan.

Where next do our legions of empire march? And what voice does the 'Merican public have in stopping the insanity? None really.

George Mobus


Appreciate the link. Insightful thoughts, but where was the 'solution'?

It's a trick question, of course, because you probably already know that I don't think there are solutions in the traditional sense of that word. What will happen is what has always happened and always will. Evolution through selection on whatever variability exists within our species is THE solution, nature's solution.


It sounds like you are converging on the same thought (just expressed to Step Back) that there really is nothing that can be done, or said, to fix things, to "change the larger beast".

So while it is lamentable for us (observers) to watch as the human comedy/tragedy plays itself out, feeling a sense of helplessness in not being able to get the majority of people to see what is so clearly evident in the evidence, and change their thinking and behaviors to come in alignment with nature, we need to take solace in knowing that nature really does 'know' best.

The 'solution' is for those who have the wisdom to see to form permaculture communities far from the maddening crowds (but choose locations wisely!) and live according to the laws of nature.


As expressed, I don't expect Obama to solve any of this mess. But I do look for integrity, the willingness to tell the people the truth. I don't have a great deal of confidence in the wisdom of the masses, but I do think they have the right to know why their world is being turned inside-out. Of course if he really doesn't know himself we can't question his integrity, only his intelligence (real intelligence not rhetorical wizardry).


Thanks for the comment. I think many who read this blog probably share most of your sentiments by now.


I have a number of European friends (as well as Asian) that express considerable puzzlement over how American political economy plays out. And American decision making is extremely puzzling even to Americans. Nothing seems to make sense anymore.

But I'll wager there isn't the same kind of incipient species splits between Europeans and Americans as opposed to between the two major groups I identified in the post. Rather, pockets in Europe and all over the world, have different proportions of liberalis and conservatist, and possibly larger proportions of the smattering of the miscellaneous sub-species. This would make it seem as if Euro-think is different from Ameri-think. But the difference is superficial and transient. When TSHTF (which is already happening in Europe as well) you will see much more of the same kind of ridiculous ideologically-based decision-making everywhere.


When TSHTF (which is already happening in Europe as well) you will see much more of the same kind of ridiculous ideologically-based decision-making everywhere.
Well, yes we had that in Germany when folks voted the small neoliberal party FDP into a government coalition with Merkel's CDU -- right after the financial crash! How utterly stupid. But meanwhile the FDP is dead in the water: Just a tiny little bit of pandering to their big money peers was enough to make voters change minds. - Compare that to the grotesque corruption of the U.S. Republicans...

Currently here in Germany there's an amazing surge of Green Party votes. Some is sure due to the Fukushima disaster. But it seems more people note TSHTF as the Greens had warned since decades.

While no party here seriously denies global warming (like the U.S. GOP psychiatric and corporate wings can do without getting called to account), voters have no problem turning to the party representing the hardest take on that reality.

step back


Your recent posts over at TOD are noted:

Tainter certainly has his one theory of why things unfold the way they do.

But allow me please to interject a parallel theory; not mine, but rather one belonging to HG Welles.

Like all species, our species is bifurcating into two subspecies: predators and prey (or Morlocks and Eloi as Welles called them in his Time Machine classic).

It is in the short-sighted greedy interest of our predator class (a.k.a. the elites) to encourage breeding and "growth" among the prey class because that means more worker bees being out there on the field doing their work for benefit of the honey collectors (the predator class). It is also to the benefit of the predator class (a.k.a. the elites) to dumb-ify their preyed-upon species mates. An "intelligent" worker class would be an unsavory prospect for them just as much as a herd of "intelligent" cows and bulls would be anathema for the ranching class.

So how does that get us back on topic?

Well, Obama you see, or anyone who replaces him; must do the work of the predator class. An uprising of the prey class is simply unacceptable.

So when you ask, Does "anyone" see an alternative? I ask which "anyone" are you addressing your question to? The predator class or the prey class? (Question everything)


Step back, you echo well much of what I wrote above. The "prey" are utterly dispensable to the "predator" class/caste. In fact, labor product throughout the world has been cheapened by US peak oil production resulting in US deindustrialization (returns flowing to financial capital primarily), "labor arbitrage" and wealth and income concentration to the top 0.1-1% to 5-10% of US households (who receive 20-25% to 50% of income and own 40% to 85% of financial wealth). We now have something like debt-money "assets" of 6-7 times the value-add productive base of the US economy compared to 25-40 years ago. Therefore, we cannot afford to build out "alternative energy" to necessary scale, let alone sustain domestic value-add production at anywhere near the level we need to sustain our per capita GDP and standard of material consumption hereafter.

Thus, labor going forward will become even less valuable (to labor) and dispensable to the "predators", as labor returns will continue to fall as labor's product declines along with labor's per capita consumption.

But this is not an accident. The Power Elite even before "Limits to Growth" (LTG) foresaw that the combined effects of population overshoot and peak production of vital resources would converge to render real per capita global GDP no longer possible. Some among the group referred to the process as "The Great Leveling", in which the developed world's standard of material consumption would necessarily converge with that of the undeveloped world until the seething peasant masses of the planet, including eventually Americans, would be living at a standard of material consumption equivalent in per capita terms at the levels of the 1930s-50s in the West and eventually back to the pre-Oil Age levels of the early to mid-19th century by the mid-21st century.

"Climate change" ("global warming") is the latest metanarrative being used to condition the reduction of fossil fuel consumption in the West as a transitional phase to allow western firms to squeeze the last profits (returns to capital) from the Oil Age and capitalist era before the long descent of resource depletion, civilizational collapse, and mass population die-off occur.

Upon reading the above comments, most of us will respond with incredulity, dismissiveness, or repulsion; however, this is not the writer's maladjusted dark fantasy but the general view of the world and humanity today by the Anglo-American Power Elite and many of those who are charged with facilitating the elites' objectives.

The Power Elite are not only keenly aware of the LTG, Peak Oil, and the long-term implications, including mass die-off, they are actively preparing to obtain as much of the remaining resources and means to protect the resources as possible.

The growth of China-Asia is a means by which the Power Elite buys time before the collapse by encouraging US supranational firms' investment and subsidiaries' production in Asia. Once the acute resource constraints become intractable, as appears to be occurring in China and India today, it won't matter how many hundreds of millions of laboring slaves there are to produce cheap goods for the US. US firms' money will come rushing back home.

In this context, China's situation today is much like that of Germany before WW I-II and Japan in the 1930s. But China does not have the benefit of $10-$20 oil as Germany and Japan had after WW II. Neither can China afford a world war with the West and a last-man-standing contest for the remaining resources of the planet.

Phil Henshaw

Sometimes the true "shortcut" is to take the long way around. We might ask, what's the deep problem here?

Isn't the real problem for Obama, as well as for the other political sides, as well as for the social and environmental activists, the business and international community and the scientists as well, that there is no common reality for anyone to refer to??

I get that impression from both from having studied the question for years, and my realization today that the ultimate source of it could be our coming into "the information age". All our realities are now built from hearsay. In the information age every reality is a social construct, built by social agreement within a social network, using information that has many degrees of detachment from its source.

One of many stark examples of the effect is how the social reality of the anti-tax conservatives looks like pure religious dogma. One belief is taking money from the government and giving it to the investor class creates jobs. Economics says it is supposed to as well.

If you ask what investors have been doing with their money for the past 40 years it's quite the opposite, though. The median wage in the US is unchanged in that time while investment earnings have increased fourfold, going things no Republican would be caught dead promoting. Excess investment funds have been going into outsourcing jobs and rampant speculation.

What's even more intriguing is that if you give this information to the press or the liberal pundits or Democrats, it also is not useful to them and "falls outside their reality" too. They don't see how to use it. Apparently the reason is that it argues from direct observation of how the economy IS WORKING rather than coming from "inside the loop" of their socially accepted theories of how it's supposed to, but IS NOT WORKING.

The environmentalists, which I've studied quite a bit, also demonstrate the very same problem. They promote economic stimulus in the form of increased efficiency and productivity to reduce environmental impacts, also just the opposite of what observations shows the economy is doing. The same confounding error is committed by the scientific community too, in the form of their limiting discussing natural systems they can see how to make models of, and so NEVER LEARNING HOW to discuss natural systems that can't be modeled, such as uncontrolled adaptive systems that are endlessly reorganizing.

There is such a wonderfully interesting large variety of them, like individually emerging growth systems, it's the perfect scientific trove for new findings. Quite pervasively, though, I find traditional scientists bound by the language of their social network, and unable to have a discussion about them.

So I think the problem is that all our realities are social constructs, with different ones for each of our proliferating social networks. In the information age they are based on information far detached from its source, out of date and impossible to check. That's taking place in world full of natural systems that are radically diverging from their own former behaviors.

So isn't the question not really how to get your own view to become favored, but "who DO you call?" for any kind of useful advice at all?

Ed Pell

Chu is a politician first and a physicist second. That is how he got the job.

George Mobus


Who would you have "take to account" the deniers? They are called out vigorously by many scientifically astute citizens.

Perhaps as New Corp gets deeper into the poop pile they created, perhaps if Fox News gets booted, then perhaps the American public will not be as brainwashed as has been the case. We can hope.


I had H.G. in mind as I thought about this post. Of course H.G. is basing his speciation on allopatric rather than sympatric separation. The morlocks had to go subterranean and become an in breeding population. In my scenario, the speciation is more of a efflorescence but just two major groups tend to dominate.

You do realize that my question was rhetorical.


I betting you do think there is one 'real' reality, yes. Nature?

As to who to call, I gave up long ago on that question. My adviser is nature.


I didn't know much about Chu before he got the nod. I must admit I still don't really know the person so cannot say where he really stands. But I would agree that his latest actions seem to support the idea that he is political now.


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