21 October, 2004

(runs screaming around the town)

It's like being back in Delhi - every car in Boston must be blaring its horn right now. And why shouldn't they? The Red Sox are in the World Series.

I can only hope the cacophony here is commensurate with the wailing and gnashing of teeth that must be rising up over the Bronx right now.

18 October, 2004

(runs screaming from the room)

Everyone has been linking to the Suskind article about George W. Bush, and I will too! Read it. You will not regret it, I promise.

'Was Hael' from one asshole to another

Yesterday Vladimir Putin announced that terrorist attacks in Iraq are being waged to influence the election in favor of John Kerry.

It's understandable that Putin supports a Bush presidency, considering the varying treatment he got in the first debate. Both candidates were careful to say that they viewed Putin's moves to consolidate power in Russia as detrimental to democracy. But Bush's response was far lighter and gave Putin the benefit of the doubt:
BUSH: I found that, in this world, that it's important to establish good personal relationships with people so that when you have disagreements, you're able to disagree in a way that is effective.

And so I've told him my opinion.

I look forward to discussing it more with him, as time goes on. Russia is a country in transition. Vladimir is going to have to make some hard choices.

'Transition', you'll note, is code for "We'd like to pretend there's a democracy here, but there isn't, so we'll just say it's in 'transition'."

On the other hand Kerry opened as follows:
KERRY: I regret what's happened in these past months. And I think it goes beyond just the response to terror. Mr. Putin now controls all the television stations. His political opposition is being put in jail.

Needless to say this is not pulling many punches.

Putin rode to power on this War on Terrorism stuff. He invented it. Long before Bush was milking 9/11 for political ends, Putin was stirring up Russians over Chechen terrorism. In fact, there's rumors that the 1999 series of apartment bombings that sparked the whole Russian invasion of Chechnya (and which Putin made his main plank when running for office) were arranged by none other than Volya himself. And he's been constantly pushing for the West to recognize the Chechen conflict as part of the global "War on Terror", and thus give him free reign to commit all the atrocities he wants. After Beslan, more than a few right-wingers jumped on his bandwagon. Bush has several times used Beslan as an example of the evil of the Terrorists. He's clearly coming on board.

At this point a second Bush presidency is starting to look pretty bad. War in Iraq, war in Iran, the destruction of Palestine, dictatorship in Russia. Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?

09 October, 2004

The only times I believe in God

1) when I really really want something and cannot devise a way for myself to achieve certain ends.
2) when I want someone to blame for a striking set of coincidences having negative consequences in my life.

Is there a word for this? Atheism doesn't quite seem to capture it.
Situation 2) arises more often than situation 1), partly because I think the only way that a being such as a God could exist, is if that putative God were a real asshole or had, like Depeche Mode said, a "sick sense of humor." There are lots of God-fearing Christians who would now point out that I'd go to hell because of what I wrote. I think that because I don't believe in hell, then I can't end up there.

08 October, 2004

The effect of oil depletion on man-in-the-moon marigolds

At Aram's command, I went to see this documentary yesterday, entitled "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream". It was 78 minutes long, and since I am something of a fanatic about the topic I was a bit skeptical that I would really learn anything from the film.

The cast of characters was fairly familiar: Richard Heinberg, who wrote "The Party's Over", and Mike Ruppert of "From the Wilderness" crackpot/crank-land, Colin Campbell who started this business by publishing "The Coming Oil Crisis" back in 1996, various others. The film made zero effort to present alternative viewpoints, which was unfortunate, since the claim is not without controversy.

The nutshell version is, "We're going to pass our peak of oil production just like M. King Hubbert said back in the day, probably somewhere around 2010 although maybe it already happened. Suburbia won't be able to deal with the resulting climb in oil prices, and as a result it will disappear."

All of those interviewed seemed to think (or were presented as believing) that this was the End, the Big Kahuna. Ironically, Heinberg at one point quipped, "A lot of people think about the point at which we're going to run out of oil, but that's not really what matters." But all of their projections seem to assume that they're talking about the tap turning off in 2010.

In the discussion afterwords (with William Moomaw of Tufts, who was lead author on the IPCC report of 2003, but unfortunately, like the film, said little about global warming) I asked why we wouldn't expect the same sort of thing we saw in 1973 to happen again - economic contraction, extreme conservation and a resulting drop in consumption. Of course, this time the drop in consumption comes first, but the dependence should be the same. The film doesn't have a satisfactory answer to this, and I think in general this is why Heinberg and his ilk have such a hard time being taken seriously. Okay, oil prices will go up. The economy will take a spill. Does it REALLY mean the end of life as we know it?

I've never seen a serious economic projection of what would happen to oil price and economies assuming the depletion scenario is correct (which, don't get me wrong, I believe it is). Maybe oil instantly hits $400/bbl and people abandon their cars on the freeway en masse. But I doubt it. People are more creative than that. Moreover, people are committed to playing Nintendo and wearing brand-name shirts. Rhetorical excess aside, I don't really believe that the end of oil means the end of civilization or technology. I think it just means a really long and really shitty depression. The Gi-normous Depression. But there's been little systematic examination of what really would happen.

On a parting note, one of the audience members had an interesting comment about the confluence of global climate change and oil depletion creating a "perfect storm". Scary.

01 October, 2004

"I will hunt down the terrorists...

...and kill them." Twice. And that's the one I'm voting for.

The one thought that kept recurring in my mind as I watched the debates is "What would happen if a terrorist struck the debates, killing Kerry and Bush?" Of course, the answer was "Dick Cheney will declare martial law and I'll be in jail three times over as a union member, a communist, and a Jew."

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