Arctic Ice Melt, Chasing Ice, Chris Hedges, Climate Change, Corporate State, Environmental Collapse, Extinction of Man, Gross Inequality, Inverted Totalitarianism, IPCC, Mass Media Manipulation, Morris Berman, Mythos and Logos, Nature Bats Last, Oswald Spengler, Overpopulation, Peak Oil, Religious Fanaticism
This blog is cross-posted at The Spiral Staircase. Feel free to comment here or there.
To orient oneself in life, a person chooses from among myriad narratives, typically assembling a hodgepodge worldview out of diverse parts. According to Oswald Spengler, cultural artifacts (e.g., the arts, humanities, and sciences) arise “needing the guidance of inspiration and … developing under great conventions of form.” The very same can be said of our origin and orientation stories, ancient or contemporary. Narratives intertwine and need not necessarily be discrete, mutually exclusive, or competing, even though that’s what’s often implied by time-worn tensions underlying science vs. religion, sometimes understood more philosophically as logos vs. mythos. Indeed, they cohere despite conflicts of logic and their being ahistorical. The power of subscription and consensus overcomes all objections.
If a master narrative exists, it ought to be simply reality obtained, though that is probably visible to only a small percentage of people able to apprehend the world clearly. For the rest, scales not yet having fallen from the eyes, the considerable benefit of hindsight can help clarify the view, but only if one has sufficient nerve to behold it honestly. Instead, our dominant inspirational narratives promulgate a wide variety of incompletely fulfilled hopes and desires. Few such promises bear much resemblance to reality, those of economists, politicians, and clerics demonstrating the most striking discontinuities from the actuality experienced by ordinary folks. A Chris Hedges article at TruthDig.com called “The Folly of Empire” discusses this departure from reality in his characteristically erudite style (apologies for the long nested quote):
… absurd promises of hope and glory are endlessly served up by the entertainment industry, the political and economic elite, the class of courtiers who pose as journalists, self-help gurus like Oprah and religious belief systems that assure followers that God will always protect them. It is collective self-delusion, a retreat into magical thinking. “The American citizen thus lives in a world where fantasy is more real than reality, where the image has more dignity than the original,” Daniel J. Boorstin wrote in his book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. “We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly iridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real. We have become eager accessories in the great hoaxes of the age. These are the hoaxes we play on ourselves.”
I don’t usually lump into the mix entertainers, sports figures, gurus hawking self-help books and programs, or media pundits offering half-baked analyses because only idiots expect truth from them, but perhaps I should include them considering their stranglehold on the public’s wasted attention. Most of today’s media-driven narratives rely on conventions, gestures, and rhetoric that are notoriously predigested and therefore immediately swallowed by the guffawing crowd, disinviting additional analysis or careful consideration. This bears a curious family resemblance with intellectual conditions that sparked the Reformation. Further, because such mediated (or should I say medieval?) content is composed largely of fiction, pageantry, and untethered conjecture, no time is needed for the narrative to actualize. Hope functions in the present tense and requires no closure.
Perhaps the quintessential inspirational narrative was trotted out by the Obama campaign back in 2008, which relied on promises (empty, we later found out) to fulfill everyone’s desire for a better life, calling on hope and change to achieve those promises. Another religious hope narrative promises to enhance one’s afterlife, earned in earthly realms through achievements in social justice and the judgment of posterity. Both adopt time-honored conventions and are part of what is described in Morris Berman’s book Wandering God as the ascent tradition. Significant among those conventions is orientation along a vertical axis as seen, for instance, in easy acceptance of the legitimacy of hierarchy (and therefore egregious power, wealth, and class stratification and imbalance) and a longing for transfiguration, transcendence, and communion with god (or the gods) above.
Looking back across history, evidence of “progress” and growth is legion. However, most of those achievements are demographic, material, and technological, each having their unique and unintended blowback. What’s notably lacking as we sally forth into the 21st century is the ability to transcend our own base nature, which is characterized by corruption, violence, stupidity, short-term gratification, and inability to achieve the utopian dreams that populate the minds of many despots. So that same history is marked by downturns and setbacks. One might even say that the overall upward trend of history is pockmarked by periodic scars. Still, nothing just yet has stalled the hubris of history rising (unless domestic peak oil in the 1970s and global peak oil a few years back prove to have been among the first of a series of turning points). And judging from blog traffic and commentary, the steady stream of negative assessments in scientific literature, and news reports telling of weather and ecological calamities with increasing frequency and severity, awareness is beginning to dawn on even the most congenital optimists (plus some fools and the average ignoramus) that what goes up must eventually come down. Since history has gone vertical, hard limits must eventually assert themselves.
The plethora of charts, tables, graphs, and infographics that evidence not just rising trends but verticality is frankly astonishing. Sometimes a gradually ascending slope is observable within a short timeframe, such as receding glacial ice documented in Chasing Ice. Other times it takes long traces of historical, evolutionary, or even geological time to observe. Even short timeframes often conceal effects that lie handily beyond normal perception, but we luckily have scientists trained to recognize short- and long-term trends. Too bad they’re uniformly ignored and/or pilloried by a public spoon fed the blandishments of corporate marketing and political propaganda. Typically, ascending curves (whether geometric, logarithmic, or exponential) don’t appear to be walls (limits) when viewed from the far left or from within a narrow time band, meaning microscopically close. Zoom out or to the right, however, and the trend pointed into the stratosphere is readily apparent, such as in the following video (animation) of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere:
Similar x-y coordinate graphs showing, for instance, energy use per capita and human population growth demonstrate the same trajectory but at much briefer durations. Trendlines are mathematical abstractions, like fiat currency being printed into existence. At some point, gravity takes hold and drags everything back to earth (reality), though that eventuality can be forestalled for a surprisingly long time. The return trip down various vertical trends is approaching ever more quickly as lift skyward fizzles like an Icarus nightmare. Or in the case of atmospheric carbon, we can’t stop the rising trend we unwittingly initiated from blowing through the roof and rendering the earth uninhabitable.
It’s often said there is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole. Presented with the likelihood or certainty of battlefield death, holdouts succumb and cash the eternal-life insurance card of a last-minute profession of faith. Same as death-bed conversions. Thousands of years of philosophy and religion might prepare us to face our inevitable demise if we bothered to learn anything worthwhile besides how to make money, and yet in all our frailty, many of us cannot accept that our final departure is merely a fact of life, not a gateway or journey to somewhere else. (Um, opinions vary on this, obviously.) The final departure of Homo sapiens sapiens is even harder to contemplate.
So what foxhole moment awaits us? Here’s one: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in late September 2013 a publication by Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report, which presents the underlying physical science behind climate change (used to be called global warming). The IPCC website states that “The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is being released in four parts between September 2013 and November 2014. It will be the most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change since 2007 when Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was released.” Preparation of these reports has been ongoing for decades already, and the difficulty of their assemblage assures that they’re already out of date at the time they’re released. Being the work of governments, AR5 is also reputed to be remarkably conservative in its conclusions, as contrasted with prophesying near-term human extinction (NTE or NTHE) as those of us unconstrained by geopolitics have begun to do (mostly taking our cues from Guy McPherson of Nature Bats Last). That’s not a gambit for attention, BTW. It’s about a soul-destroying a realization as there is, and no one comes to admit it easily.
The likelihood of anyone plunging into the 2216 pages of this first of four parts of AR5 is, well, dismal. One could easily level the accusation that the IPCC is burying its findings behind pages and pages (and pages) of prefatory material; acknowledgements; missing or incomplete figures, tables, and citations (to be inserted when?); technical and executive summaries; glossaries; references; and dry obfuscation. That’s not really the case, though; the data and discussion are abundant and available for anyone capable of deciphering it. Technical and scientific analysis and discussion is exactly what Working Group I delivers in these chapters:
- Observations: Atmosphere and Surface
- Observations: Ocean
- Observations: Cryosphere
- Information from Paleoclimate Archives
- Carbon and Other Biogeochemical Cycles
- Clouds and Aerosols
- Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing
- Evaluation of Climate Models
- Detection and Attribution of Climate Change: from Global to Regional
- Near-term Climate Change: Projections and Predictability
- Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility
- Sea Level Change
- Climate Phenomena and their Relevance for Future Regional Climate Change
I downloaded the report and sought something succinct to quote, such as an answer to the question “Just how fucked are we, anyway?” but the technical summaries proceed with this sort of dry, useless, blank, uninformative text:
The primary purpose of this Technical Summary is to provide the link between the complete assessment of the multiple lines of independent evidence presented in the 14 chapters of the main report and the highly condensed summary prepared as the WGI Summary for Policymakers. The Technical Summary thus serves as a starting point for those readers who seek the full information on more specific topics covered by this assessment. This purpose is facilitated by including pointers to the chapters and sections where the full assessment can be found. Policy-relevant topics, which cut across many chapters and involve many interlinked processes in the climate system, are presented here as Thematic Focus Elements, allowing rapid access of this information.
The WGI Summary for Policymakers is not contained within the larger report but both can be found at this link. It’s unclear how much of the report was used in preparation of this story at National Geographic, but the story provides five takeaways from WGI:
- On the extreme weather front, the report concludes it is “very likely” that cold days and nights have decreased, while warm days and nights have increased, since 1950 …
- The oceans have warmed with “virtual certainty,” the report concludes, at a rate of about 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.11 Celsius) per decade since 1970 in the upper 246 feet (75 meters) of surface water …
- What about those polar bears? Sea ice (as well as glaciers and ice sheets) has declined overall since 1970 …
- Sea level rise has happened, and will happen in the future, as a result of global warming, the report finds …
- More than half of the global warming observed since 1950 has a human cause, largely from the greenhouse gas effects of gases such as carbon dioxide emitted from burning fossil fuels ….
The ellipses indicate brief discussion behind each takeaway. The conclusions are hedged, of course, relying on observations of what’s happened so far and omitting extrapolation of trends that go vertical. Even the three levels of confidence communicate not certainty of our fate (exact details TBD) but hope that projections are subject to change or we can do something to reverse things or at least forestall the worst. Like IPCC, National Geographic is yet to have its foxhole moment even though the evidence is staring them ghoulishly in the face. If one is at all engaged in this subject, I suppose it makes sense to stay hunched in the hole chain-smoking cigarettes and making do with what meager rations and sleep are available. My sneaking suspicion is that the go order will come quickly enough to catch lots of shivering, quivering, wavering souls before they get to their last eternal hope. In the meantime, the fat lady is singing, the coal-mine canary has expired, pigs are flying, and hell has frozen over. We’re vertical against the wall, facing the firing squad, and what’s left to do, though no one knows just quite when, is to get horizontal.
Speaking of extinction, near term or a bit further down the road, is the latest uploaded vid from McPherson:
Kevin Moore said:
I watched it earlier today.
Yes, everything that matters is getting progressively worse, and the general level of scientific illiteracy coupled with the refusal of more than a handful of people per thousand to even talk about anything of significance guarantees a dismal ending.
Guy must be tired, exasperated, disillusioned……. However, it would be good if he could avoid obvious errors, such as which planet lost its atmosphere, when the first atomic bomb was developed etc. And I think it is better to avoid hyperbole; incompetent and mendacious as TEPCO is, I cannot see them setting off a global cloud of radiation that kills 2 billion people in a week.
Erm, kevin, not sure if Guy was mistaken re Tepco, or if I am mistaken, but from what I gather if one fuel rod or piece of fuel rod, begins to burn, that can make all further work on the site impossible, and set off the rest burning, so all the crap on that site escapes into the environment into the indefinite future with no controls at all.. I’m not sure that the risk of the harm that causes to living organisms CAN be exaggerated, although I was surprised by the ‘week’, I think that IS too short a time scale.
This is possibly Guy’s reference
Kevin Moore said:
I cannot profess to know what is going on at Fukushima , and we hear conflicting reports about practically everything, even the number of ‘spent’ rods. The air is thick with lies and misinformation.
It seems to me the really dangerous phase, when the cooling systems failed and there were meltdowns, is over. What could be more dangerous than a reactor core overheating and melting its containment? Talk about TEPCO dropping fuel rods, rods coming into close proximity and going critical, casings spontaneously combusting due to lack of cooling seem like hyperbole to me.
It seems to me that only another earthquake and tsunami during fuel rod removal would cause the kind of global disaster some people imagine.
I expect to see a report some time in the next few month about successful removal of the spent fuel rods.
I do not expect to see any report about the safe long-term storage of nuclear waste. As far as I know there isn’t one. The nuclear industry just keeps accumulating nuclear waste and hiding it.
I agree that one side is playing it up, and the other is playing it down, and without first hand on site info and specialist knowledge it’s very hard to make a judgement.
I know the basic physics and I did quite a lot of intensive investigations of that industry several times in my life. I never believe ANYTHING they say EVER.
On the other hand, the alarmists often – even usually – get the info all wrong, can’t even tell the difference between data from nuclear bombs and nuclear reactors and so forth.
I don’t think it is hyperbole, though, kevin. I think if one MOX rod gets to start heating and then burns, that can make the whole site so radioactive that nobody can even approach it anymore, and it can set off the rest to burn too.
What will they do then ? Dump concrete on it all from the air ? I don’t suppose they have the slightest idea.
Fukushima is the most serious and continuing disaster in human history except Climate Change that could finish us all: Meaning it too could.
People I’ve talked to about the possibility of a fuel pool fire in reactor 4 just think I’m a crazy wing nut. None of them have much of a clue what a fuel pool is let alone that we have dozens of them suspended 100 feet in the air and one in particular about to come crashing back to the ground.
And these are the ‘smart’ people. Our next generation of ‘leaders’.
The media hasn’t been interested in this story since they trotted out all the ‘experts’ the first day who told us not to worry. There appears to be a strict corporate and government wide blackout on news and data regarding this, possibly the most serious single event in human history.
This could be lights out for Japan and much of the west coast. The ocean between us is already a wasteland of debris and poison of many kinds.
But nobody cares, mostly they just want to know what happened at the recent Apple event or whatever.
I’m glad I’m old, the humans will get what they deserve and I wont be around to have to see it or deal with it. I’ve spent my life mourning for the Earth that once was and have grown weary from it.
There will come a day, even if Tepco succeeds on this one, that the fuel pools around the world will no longer be maintained, they will dry out and start to burn. We’ll have fuel pool fires burning all around the world. This is inevitable given the nature of human societies. The more chaos and violence the corporations and elite spawn the closer we come to that day.
These young people that think they’ve got the world by the tail and have everything figured out, I don’t have any sympathy for the festering slow death they will experience. Everyone was warned about these exact scenarios years ago, but the ‘smart’ people told them not to worry and they went right back to their narrow minded selfish lives.
John Christian said:
I do believe there are some stories about how close we were to making half of Europe uninhabitable because of the disaster in Chernobyl. No doubt the truth around the real dangers would never have been printed in news media or we would have had complete chaos as people panicked.
I have always believed, and still do, that human beings have no understanding of risk management when the benefits are so great compared to the possible risks of a technology. We see this repeated over and over again in all kind of technology, because the motive has never been to be better humans, but for someone to make profit. We see this particularly now with regards to global warming from CO2 emissions. When reports say that 97% of scientific papers around impacts of global warming conclude that AGW is real, its clearly not sinking in – just because the benefits seem so much greater than the risk. Similarly the latest IPCC AR5 say they are 95% sure that global warming and climate change from it is caused by our emissions of CO2 (and land use). No doubt if you told someone there was a 95% chance that the plane they were going on was going to crash, they wouldn’t go near that plane. Well, but for some reason a large portion of humanity has no problem betting on the 5% chance that the scientists are wrong.
Not agreeing with the time schedule of Guy McPhersons mass extinction, I seriously think we are on our way down that path faster than we think. Considering how fast things are happening this past decade, 2030 sounds plausible when things go exponential, and by then its really out of our hands. Question remains though if methane emissions will be as fast as Guy says – it might be, it might not be. But I am not gambling on that at all so I am and will for the rest of my life be very active and vocal about this problem that we are ignoring in the face of near term profit. No doubt, serious collapse of the economy hits within 2050 as we face serious resource limits on the planet – so no matter how you look at it, the coming decade will be vital for how it all turns out.
Added a new movie to the library:
Speaking of alternative realities, a good example (by investigative historian Eric Zuesse) of how the wealthy control the masses with fake astroturf groups:
…promoting class warfare by aristocrats against everyone else (i.e., against the people who rely on those social programs), was developed by DeMint at greater length soon afterward in a lecture on May 8, 2001 at the Heritage Foundation, an organization that had been established in the late 1970s by Richard Mellon Scaife, Joseph Coors, and a few other dedicated True Believing aristocrats. Coors, in fact, was the head of Ronald Reagan’s “kitchen cabinet” before Reagan became the U.S. President and obtained an official cabinet. As I have documented recently, the Kochs started in 2002 to pour millions into the Heritage Foundation, and this money funnel to Heritage continued up till very recently, when Jim DeMint was basically running the Tea Party from his perch there, and was even choosing the people, like Ted Cruz, to be funded into Congress so as to carry out the “Tea Party” operation. The Kochs and their friends have heavily funded the “electoral” campaigns of all of these operatives – including of DeMint himself, while he was in Congress, and now atop Heritage.
A much more extensive historical account of the origins of the “Tea Party Movement” can be found in three earlier reports that I did.
This is “democracy” in today’s United States. The agenda of the Republican Supreme Court in Citizens United, etc., is to increase this “democracy” by removing the limits on campaign finance. Instead of one person one vote, we are increasingly moving toward one dollar one vote, which will leave the 1 percent of who own almost everything owning the government too. But is that democracy? Or is it fascism? And do Republicans and other conservatives know the difference between the two? And do non-conservatives even care whether they do? Because that’s what we’re getting more of, even if Republicans, or even liberals, don’t care about it – and maybe even because they don’t care about it.
Many journalists care so little about it so that, for example, Jacob Weisberg, the Chairman and Editor in Chief of the Slate Group, in a October 13, 2011 article titled “Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party: Compare and Contrast,” opened: “The Tea Party movement began on Feb. 19, 2009, when Rick Santelli, the CNBC financial journalist who reports from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, ranted against the government bailing out homeowners who couldn’t pay their mortgages.” He portrayed both groups as grassroots movements. He closed: “As spontaneous, unpredictable movements, … they have more in common than meets the eye.” Some in the press, such as Rupert Murdoch, cooperate knowingly with the Kochs and their friends. Others do it because … because what? Is there an excuse for that? Should it even be called by the name “journalism”? Or perhaps instead: “propaganda.”
Hard to imagine that the human race will get a handle on such life-altering crises such as climate change when they can’t even differentiate propaganda and conspiracy from life-and-death reality.
Kevin Moore said:
The COs animation is superb. I don’t suppose 350.org will find it very useful.
Kevin Moore said:
Brutus. Thanks for reminding everyone about hockey sticks.
Albert Bartlett was right, unfortunately. R.I.P.
Prof. Bartlett and the hockey stick shape are both on point for this post, but I omitted them because they didn’t quite fit thematically, and it was too long already. But yeah, it’s quite accurate to connect the dots as you did. I agree, too, that the CO2 animation drives the point home exceedingly well.
Kevin Moore said:
Another kind of hockey stick.
The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.
John Christian said:
From the page you linked:
“If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.”
Albert Bartlett surely had a clear message that still has not sunk in…
One can begin to wonder when China will accept US states as payment for the debt instead. I am sure they wouldn’t mind a piece of Hawaii.
Aptitude Design said:
Alaska would be more appropriate: but the Russians would not get the joke
Wow, Brutus – great post! It’s all too obvious to those of us who are honest with our view of reality (for example, just driving to work on notices dying trees everywhere, roads constantly littered with animal carcasses, the decay and collapse of the economy evident via retail real estate emptiness, etc.).
Kevin – that hockey stick you pointed out will continue to be the case if there is another president (or else the US will default and collapse, and with it the world economy).
Saw this this morning (more news on the big methane time-bomb):
while in Fucked-up-a-shima, we now have (quote from letter of a Japanese investigaive journalist):
“But deep under the surface the ground water is also being irradiated, and the ground water flows out to sea and mixes with the seawater through sea-bottom springs. It is too late to do anything about this.”
We’ll all be choking on the stench of death before long.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The Sixth Stage of Collapse
[a good quick read, here’s the two paragraphs before his conclusion]
And so it seems that there may not be a happy end to my story of The Five Stages of Collapse, the first three of which (financial, commercial, political) are inevitable, while the last two (social, cultural) are entirely optional but have, alas, already run their course in many parts of the world. Because, you see, there is also the sixth stage which I have previously neglected to mention—environmental collapse—at the end of which we are left without a home, having rendered Earth (our home planet) uninhabitable.
This tragic outcome may not be unavoidable. And if it is not unavoidable, then that’s about the only problem left that’s worth solving. The solution can be almost arbitrarily expensive in both life and treasure. I would humbly suggest that it’s worth all the money in the world, plus a few billion lives, because if a solution isn’t found, then that treasure and those lives are forfeit anyway.
Kevin Moore said:
Orlov educated by Guy?
Better late than never.
Great essay, Brutus.
Did you see this one from Ian Welch ?
I didn’t, but I read it and reply at the site. I don’t think he’s confused, just unfocused.
The UC Davis Pepper-Spraying Cop Gets a $38,000 Settlement
Lots of earthquake and volcano news lately
Kevin Moore said:
Current item is about pigs getting sick and dying in the industrial food production system.
d’ja see this?
Powerful Nations and Companies Fight Back Against NSA Spying
Posted on October 24, 2013 by WashingtonsBlog
New Telecommunications Infrastructure Is Being Built to Avoid American Spying
One of India’s largest newspapers – The Hindu – reports:
Most of Brazil’s global internet traffic passes through the United States, so [the Brazilian] government plans to lay underwater fiber optic cable directly to Europe and also link to all South American nations to create what it hopes will be a network free of US eavesdropping.
A consortium of telecom and undersea cable companies competing for the contracts for the proposed BRICS cable show what they think the project should look like: (map)
(BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.)
The BRICS countries have the muscle to pull this off. Each of the BRICS countries are in the top 25 largest economies in the world. China has the world’s second largest economy, India is 3rd, Russia 6th, Brazil 7th, and South Africa 25th.
As Reuters notes:
* The BRICS countries make up 21 percent of global GDP. They have increased their share of global GDP threefold in the past 15 years.
* The BRICS are home to 43 percent of the world’s population.
* The BRICS countries have combined foreign reserves of an estimated $4.4 trillion.
* Intra-BRICS trade flows reached $282 billion in 2012 and are estimated to reach $500 billion by 2015. In 2002, it was $27.3 billion.
* IMF estimates of GDP per member in 2012, China $8.25 trillion, Brazil $2.43 trillion, Russia and India at $1.95 trillion each, South Africa $390.9 billion.
China is also dropping IBM hardware like a hot potato due to security concerns. Intel and AMD may not be far behind.
Economic powerhouse Germany is also rolling out a system that would keep all data within Germany’s national borders.
New Hardware Is Being Built to Thwart Spying
Anti-virus legend and wild man John McAffee claims that he has created a $100 hardware router which will block NSA snooping:
There will be no way (for the government) to tell who you are or where you are ….
FreedomBox has been developing a similar concept for years: (device pic)
And numerous other competitors will soon jump into the fray.
Of course, one of the simplest hardware solutions is to unplug. For example, by using an air gap, duct tape or a typewriter.
New Internet Architecture Is Being Developed to Minimize American Spying
ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the organization which controls domain names and internet addresses.
ICANN has long been a U.S.-controlled organization. Even after ICANN become more international on paper, it has still been dominated by America.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the Web. For example:
W3C tries to enforce compatibility and agreement among industry members in the adoption of new standards defined by the W3C. Incompatible versions of HTML are offered by different vendors, causing inconsistency in how Web pages are displayed. The consortium tries to get all those vendors to implement a set of core principles and components which are chosen by the consortium.
Together, ICANN and W3C – along with groups like the Internet Society and the Internet Engineering Task Force – are largely responsible for administering the electronic “plumbing” of the Web.
In response to NSA spying revelations, all of these groups just told the U.S. to pound sand. As Tech Crunch notes:
Key Internet stakeholders, including [ICANN, W3C , Internet Society, Internet Engineering Task Force and others] have released a statement condemning pervasive government surveillance and calling for an internationalization of the Internet’s underlying framework.
Post-NSA revelations, the United States has lost its standing as the Internet’s defender. Instead, it has been revealed that as a country we have systematically worked to undermine its encryption, and the inherent privacy that it grants users.
Instead of keeping the Internet safe, we have built an industry designed on its subversion. And now the Internet is ready to break up with us. From the joint statement:
[The parties] expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance. […] They called for accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.
Indeed, the head of ICANN has thumbed his nose at the U.S. and expressed support for Brazil’s fight against American spying. As Agence France-Presse reports:
Brazil, which has slammed massive US electronic spying on its territory, said on Wednesday it would host a global summit on internet governance in April.
President Dilma Rousseff made the announcement after conferring in Brasilia with Fadi Chehade, chief executive of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).
“We have decided that Brazil will host in April 2014 an international summit of governments, industry, civil society and academia” to discuss Brazil’s suggestions for upgrading Internet security, Rousseff said on Twitter.
Kevin Moore said:
The new statistics reveal that priority species have declined on average by 58 per cent since 1970. The government has described this as a “statistically significant decrease”.
Around 70 per cent of the priority species have declined in the last forty years, according to the new data, which shows that moth species have faced the hardest time – declining in abundance by around 88 per cent.
Climate change and habitat loss are thought to be key factors, according to experts. Butterfly numbers have also declined by around 40 per cent compared to 1970 levels.
Entertaining at the end
Kevin Moore said:
The Crisis of Civilization
Kevin Moore said:
Lieberman has quite a few things right but seems to be clueless about where humanity is headed energetically and environmentally..
Dan Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, argues that our 21st-century lifestyles are out of synch with our Palaeolithic bodies, and that is leading to trouble. We might be living longer than ever before, with lower infant mortality rates, but we are also prone to a huge number of problems, ranging from less serious ailments such as flat feet (from wearing shoes), having to wear glasses because of the rise of myopia (caused by all that reading), and lower back pain (those damn chairs), to the increase in allergies, as well as far more serious diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Most of these, until recently, were extremely rare or even unknown, and, what’s more, many are preventable.
Kevin Moore said:
Submitted by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform blog,
“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
– Thomas Edison
The kabuki theater that passes for governance in Washington D.C. reveals the profound level of ignorance shrouding this Empire of Debt in its prolonged death throes. Ignorance of facts; ignorance of math; ignorance of history; ignorance of reality; and ignorance of how ignorant we’ve become as a nation, have set us up for an epic fall. It’s almost as if we relish wallowing in our ignorance like a fat lazy sow in a mud hole. The lords of the manor are able to retain their power, control and huge ill-gotten riches because the government educated serfs are too ignorant to recognize the self-evident contradictions in the propaganda they are inundated with by state controlled media on a daily basis.
“Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.” – Hendrik Willem van Loon
The levels of ignorance are multi-dimensional and diverse, crossing all educational, income, and professional ranks. The stench of ignorance has settled like Chinese toxic smog over our country, as various constituents have chosen comforting ignorance over disconcerting knowledge. The highly educated members, who constitute the ruling class in this country, purposefully ignore facts and truth because the retention and enhancement of their wealth and power are dependent upon them not understanding what they clearly have the knowledge to understand. The underclass wallow in their ignorance as their life choices, absence of concern for marriage or parenting, lack of interest in educating themselves, and hiding behind the cross of victimhood and blaming others for their own failings. Everyone is born ignorant and the path to awareness and knowledge is found in reading books. Rich and poor alike are free to read and educate themselves. The government, union teachers, and a village are not necessary to attain knowledge. It requires hard work and clinging to your willful ignorance to remain stupid.
The youth of the country consume themselves in techno-narcissistic triviality, barely looking up from their iGadgets long enough to make eye contact with other human beings. The toxic combination of government delivered public education, dumbed down socially engineered curriculum, taught by uninspired intellectually average union controlled teachers, to distracted, unmotivated, latchkey kids, has produced a generation of young people ignorant about history, basic mathematical concepts, and the ability or interest to read and write. They have been taught to feel rather than think critically. They have been programmed to believe rather than question and explore. Slogans and memes have replaced knowledge and understanding. They have been lured into inescapable student loan debt serfdom by the very same government that is handing them a $200 trillion entitlement bill and an economy built upon low paying service jobs that don’t require a college education, because the most highly educated members of society realized that outsourcing the higher paying production jobs to slave labor factories in Asia was great for the bottom line, their stock options and bonus pools.
Instead of being outraged and lashing out against this injustice, the medicated, daycare reared youth passively lose themselves in the inconsequentiality and shallowness of social media, reality TV, and the internet, while living in their parents’ basement. They have chosen the ignorance inflicted upon their brains by thousands of hours spent twittering, texting, facebooking, seeking out adorable cat videos on the internet, viewing racist rap singer imbeciles rent out sports stadiums to propose to vacuous big breasted sluts on reality cable TV shows, and sitting zombie-like for days with a controller in hand blowing up cities, killing whores, and murdering policemen using their new PS4 on their 65 inch HDTV, rather than gaining a true understanding of the world by reading Steinbeck, Huxley, and Orwell. Technology has reduced our ability to think and increased our ignorance.
“During my eighty-seven years, I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.” – Bernard M. Baruch
The youth have one thing going for them. They are still young and can awaken from their self-imposed stupor of ignorance. There are over 80 million millenials between the ages of 8 and 30 years old who need to start questioning the paradigm they are inheriting and critically examining the mendacious actions of their elders. The future of the country is in their hands, so I hope they put down those iGadgets and open their eyes before it is too late. We need many more patriots like Edward Snowden and far fewer twerking sluts like Miley Cyrus if we are to overcome the smog of apathy and ignorance blanketing our once sentient nation.
The ignorance of youth can be chalked up to inexperience, lack of wisdom, and immaturity. There is no excuse for the epic level of ignorance displayed by older generations over the last thirty years. Boomers and Generation X have charted the course of this ship of state for decades. Ship of fools is a more fitting description, as they have stimulated the entitlement mentality that has overwhelmed the fiscal resources of the country. Our welfare/warfare empire, built upon a Himalayan mountain of debt, enabled by a central bank owned by Wall Street, and perpetuated by swarms of corrupt bought off spineless politicians, is the ultimate testament to the seemingly limitless level of ignorance engulfing our civilization. The entitlement mindset permeates our culture from the richest to the poorest. Mega-corporations use their undue influence (bribes disguised as campaign contributions) to elect pliable candidates to office, hire lobbyists to write the laws and tax regulations governing their industries, and collude with the bankers and other titans of industry to harvest maximum profits from the increasingly barren fields of a formerly thriving land of milk and honey. By unleashing a torrent of unbridled greed, ransacking the countryside, and burning down the villages, the ruling class has planted the seeds of their own destruction.
When the underclass observes Wall Street bankers committing the crime of the century with no consequences for their actions, they learn a lesson. When billionaire banker/politicians like Jon Corzine can steal $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of farmers and ranchers and continue to live a life of luxury in one of his six mansions, they get the message. Wall Street bankers are allowed to commit fraud, reaping profits of $25 billion, and when they are caught red handed pay a $5 billion fine while admitting no guilt. No connected bankers have gone to jail for crashing the worldwide financial system, but teenage marijuana dealers are incarcerated for ten years in our corporate prison system. The message has been received loud and clear by the unwashed masses. Committing fraud and gaming the system is OK. Only suckers play by the rules anymore. A culture of lawlessness, greed, fraud, deceit, swindles and scams was fashioned by those in power. Reckless disregard for honesty, truthfulness, fair dealing, and treating others as you would like to be treated, has permeated the beliefs and behavior of our society.
The ever increasing number of people in the SNAP program along with abuses committed by retailers and recipients, the skyrocketing number of people faking their way into the SSDI program, billions of taxpayer dollars lost to Medicare fraud, billions more lost paying out earned income tax credit refunds based on non-existent children, public schools falsifying test scores, students cheating on SAT tests, credit card fraud on a grand scale, failure to report income and falsifying tax returns, and a myriad of other dodges and scams are just a reflection of a moral and cultural collapse. The dog eat dog mentality glorified by the media, with such despicable men as Dimon, Greenspan, Corzine, Clinton, Trump, Rubin, Bernanke and Bloomberg honored as pillars of society, has displaced honesty, compassion, humanity, shared sacrifice, and caring about our descendants. Self-interest, self-indulgence, and a narcissistic focus on what is in it for me today has led to an implosion of trust and an attitude of “who cares” about our fellow man, morality, right or wrong, and the fate of future generations. We ignored the warnings of our last President who displayed courageousness and truthfulness when speaking to the American people.
“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Me Generation has devolved into the Me Culture. While the masses have been mesmerized by their iGadgets, zombified by the boob tube, programmed to consume by the Madison Avenue propaganda machines, enslaved in chains of debt by the Wall Street plantation owners, and convinced by their fascist government keepers that phantom terrorists are hiding behind every bush, they surrendered their freedoms, liberties and sense of self-responsibility. There will always be evil men seeking to control and manipulate the ignorant and oblivious. A citizenry armed with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and moral integrity would not passively submit to the will of a corporate fascist oligarchy. Well educated, well informed citizens, capable of critical thinking are dangerous to rich men of evil intent. Obedient, universally ignorant, distracted, fearful, morally depraved slaves are what the owners of this country want. As the light of knowledge flickers and dies, we sink into the darkness of ignorance.
“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.” – Samuel Adams
Cult of Ignorance
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” – Isaac Asimov
“While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.
In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.” – Henry Hazlitt
America’s cult of ignorance, combined with the selfish interests of various constituencies, the character weakness of the people elected to office, a lack of understanding or interest in basic mathematical concepts, and inability to comprehend the long term and unintended consequences of every piece of legislation, have brought the country to the brink of fiscal disaster. But still, the vast majority of Americans, including the supposed intellectuals and economic “experts”, are basking in their ignorance, as the stock market reaches a new high, the local GM dealer just gave them a 7 year $40,000 auto loan at 0% on that brand new Cadillac Escalade, Bank of America still hasn’t foreclosed on their McMansion two years after making their last mortgage payment, and they just received three pre-approved credit card notices from Capital One, American Express and Citicorp. As long as Bennie has our back printing $1 trillion new greenbacks per year, nothing can possibly go wrong. Our best and brightest economic minds are always right:
“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929
“Many of the new financial products that have been created, with financial derivatives being the most notable, contribute economic value by unbundling risks and shifting them in a highly calibrated manner. Although these instruments cannot reduce the risk inherent in real assets, they can redistribute it in a way that induces more investment in real assets and, hence, engenders higher productivity and standards of living.” – Alan Greenspan – March 6, 2000
“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” – Ben Bernanke – July 2005
The profound level of ignorance displayed by economists, politicians, business leaders, media personalities, and the average American, regarding the mathematically unsustainable path of our fiscal ship is perplexing to me on so many levels. If the Federal government was a family, the budget ceiling debate would be put into the following terms. Our household earns $28,000 per year, but we spend $38,000 per year and add $10,000 to our credit card balance, which stands at the limit of $170,000. In addition, we owe our neighbors $2 million we don’t have because we promised to pay if they voted for us as Treasurer of our homeowners association. We celebrate our good fortune of getting approved for another credit card with a $30,000 limit by increasing our spending to $39,000 per year. Intellectuals scorn such simplistic analogies by glibly pointing out that the family has a crazy uncle with a printing press in the basement and can pay-off the debt with his freshly printed dollars. And this is where the deliberate and calculated ignorance by the highly educated Ivy Leaguers regarding long term and unintended consequences is revealed. They ignore, manipulate, cover-up and obscure the facts because their wealth, power and influence depend upon them doing so. But ignorance doesn’t change the facts.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
Nothing exposes the ignorance of various factions within our society better than a debate about budgets, spending, and unfunded liabilities. This is where every party, group, special interest, and voting bloc ignore any and all facts that are contrary to their selfish interest. They only see what they want to see. The fallacies, errors, omissions and mistruths of their positions are inconsequential to people who only care about their short-term self-seeking interests. When I question the out of control spending on entitlements and our impossible to honor level of unfunded liabilities, those of a liberal persuasion lash out with accusations of hating the poor, starving children and throwing granny under the bus. Anyone suggesting we should slow our spending is branded a terrorist by the overwhelmingly liberal legacy media.
When I accuse Wall Street bankers of criminal fraud and ongoing manipulation of the financial markets, the CNBC loving apologists for these felons bellow about the market always being right. When I rail about the military industrial complex and our un-Constitutional invasions of other countries, the neo-cons come out in force blathering about the war on terror and imminent threats. When I point out the horrific results of our government run educational system and how mediocre union teachers are bankrupting our states and municipalities with their gold plated health and pension plans, I’m met with howls of outrage about the poor children. The common thread is that facts are ignored because each of their agendas requires ignorance on the part of their team’s fans.
The following chart of truth portrays an unsustainable path. Ignoring the facts will not change them. This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s an American problem.
“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.” – Henry Hazlitt
Henry Hazlitt may have written these words six decades ago, but they aptly describe Paul Krugman and the legions of Keynesian apostles whose bastardized interpretation of Keynes’ theory has led us to this fiscal cliff. How anyone can truly believe that borrowing to consume foreign produced goods versus saving and making job creating capital investments is a rational and sustainable economic policy is the height of ignorance. One look at this chart exposes the political party system as a sham. When it comes to the fiscal train wreck, set in motion thirty years ago, the ignorant media pundits peddle a narrative about politicians failing to compromise as the culprit in this derailment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compromise is what has gotten us to this point. The Republicans compromised and allowed the Democrats to create a welfare state. The Democrats compromised and allowed the Republicans to create a warfare state. The Federal Reserve compromised their mandate of stable prices and preventing financial calamities by inflating away 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in 100 years, while creating bubbles every five or so years, like clockwork. There are a myriad of facts related to the chart above that cannot be ignored:
•It took 192 years for the country to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. It has taken us 30 years to accumulate the next $16 trillion of debt. We now add $1 trillion of debt per year.
•If the Federal government was required to use GAAP accounting, the annual deficit would amount to $6.7 trillion per year.
•The fiscal gap of unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government pensions is $200 trillion.
•Using realistic growth assumptions adds another $6 trillion of state and local government unfunded pension benefits to the equation.
•The Federal government has increased their annual spending from $1.8 trillion during Bill Clinton’s last year in office to $3.8 trillion today, a 110% increase. The population has increased by 12% over that same time frame, and real GDP has advanced by 25% since 2000.
•Defense spending has increased from $358 billion in 2000 to $831 billion today, despite the fact that no country on earth can challenge us militarily.
•The average Baby Boomer will receive $300,000 more than they contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetime. Over 10,000 Boomers per day will turn 65 for the next 17 years.
•The Social Security lockbox is filled with IOUs. The funds collected from paychecks over the last 80 years were spent by Congress on wars of choice, bridges to nowhere, and thousands of other vote buying ventures.
•A normalization of interest rates to long-term averages would double or triple the interest on the national debt and increase our annual deficits by at least 30%.
•Obamacare and the unintended consequences of Obamacare will add tens of trillions to our national debt. The initial budget projections for Medicare and Medicaid showed only a modest financial impact on the financial situation of the country. How did that work out?
•Entitlement spending in 2003 was $1.3 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2008 was $1.7 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2013 was $2.2 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2018 will be $2.8 trillion, as these programs are on automatic pilot.
When you consider the facts in a rational manner, without vitriolic denials, bitter accusations, acrimonious blame, and rejection of the entire premise, you come to the conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return. Decades of bad choices, bad leadership, bad men in important positions, bad education, bad governance, and bad citizenship have led to bad times. But very few people, across all socio-economic classes, have any interest in understanding the facts or making the tough choices required to save future generations from a life of squalor. We willfully choose to ignore the facts.
“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” – Aldous Huxley
Our degraded and ignorant society is incapable of comprehending their dire circumstances or acting for the common good of the country. We are a nation on the take. Greed really is good. Everyone needs to play the game. From the top floor corporate CEO suite to the decaying urban wastelands, we have chosen comforting ignorance to uncomfortable knowledge. Our warped form of democracy enriches the few at the top, while dispensing enough subsistence payments to the lower classes to keep them from revolting, while enslaving the middle class in debt and convincing them it’s really wealth. Mencken understood the pathetic impulses of the American populace decades before we reached our point of no return.
“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – H.L. Mencken
The only way a democracy can survive is if the population is knowledgeable, vigilant, skeptical, educated, individually responsible, self-reliant, moral, capable of critical thinking and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. A nation of takers, fakers and blamers will not last long. We’ve degenerated into a nation of knowledge hating book burners. Our culture of ignorance will lead to the destruction of our culture and the ignorant masses will wonder what happened.
“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.” – Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
In Part Two of this examination about our culture of ignorance I’ll explore the roles of technology, family breakdown, government, and propaganda in creating the ignorance that is consuming our system like a mutant parasite. If you are seeking a happy ending, I suggest looking elsewhere.
For all his vitriol, Jim Quinn never mentions the collapse of the environment and because of that his essay is nearly worthless. Jim Quinn is a capitalist and that explains the shortcoming. I like the Ray Bradbury quote though.
Kevin Moore said:
I think the quotes are great, one of the main reasons for copying the essay here.
Also, in the original link is a nice graphical presentation of debt ‘going exponential’.
But as you say, it’s only money. Without an intact environment it’s all meaningless.
Walking along a local beach a couple of days ago I saw millions of dead bluebottles (Portuguese man o ‘war) washed up. Never seen so many. Lack of predators, presumably. Death of the oceans. Oops, Murder of the oceans.
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