Chill, baby, chill: Arctic oil exploration and climate security


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My wife’s engagement ring contains a marquis cut diamond appraised at $2000. I bought it at a pawn shop for $600. The pawn broker was ready to shoot me dead if I tried to steal it. When I paid him the $600 he was asking, he got teary eyed, ransacked his back room for a jewelry box, admitted he would have taken $550 because he could tell I am a good man, and promised that she would have no choice but to marry me in the face of that sparkling gem. It is a thing of beauty, no doubt.

Diamonds are plentiful and relatively indestructible. The second hand market is glutted with diamonds that no one wants because, without the sentimental value, they are comparatively cheap. Oil is not like that. Once it is consumed it exists only as a cloud of excrement. Our collective cloud of excrement has become a life-threatening problem as a result of economic forces set in motion by the General Motors streetcar conspiracy, in which five companies were convicted of conspiring to destroy electric-powered mass transit in favor of oil-powered transportation. Continue reading


Rereading Atlas Shrugged as South Africa becomes a dictatorship

atlas-shruggedKarl Marx was a brilliant diagnostician. His analysis of the way in which unregulated capitalism can drive inequality was incisive, especially considering the lack of data available to him to prove his point. His solution, on the other hand, was appallingly destructive.

That seems to happen fairly often. People notice a social or economic problem, assess and diagnose its cause with astonishing aplomb, and then suggest a solution of startling naiveté based on cartoonish assumptions about the way people behave.

Sometimes the cartoon solution reflects the cartoon in real life. Continue reading


Too many people + unbridled consumption = trauma for billions

Does disaster loom, brought on by population increases and a governing economic system predicated on ever more growth?

Scratch a problem involving homo sapiens. Smog choking cities. Carbon dioxide and methane warming atmosphere or ocean. Forests rapaciously slashed. No fish where fish used to be. Nuclear waste with no safe home (ever). Pollution everywhere. Children without education. Billions of poor without hope or safe drinking water or adequate food. Disease and death induced by the absence of health care.

And wars. Plenty of wars.

In such examples of human trauma amid conflicts over life-sustaining resources, there’s a centrality rarely discussed.

Too. Many. People.

When I was born, in 1946, America housed just over 141 million people. Today, the 50 states approach 320 million people. Despite a declining birth rate, America gains a person every 16 seconds, thanks largely to the admission of about 1.5 million legal foreign workers each year.

When I was born, the Earth had about 2.5 billion people. The Census Bureau anticipates 9.3 billion people globally in 2050. That would be almost a four-fold increase in the people Earth would seek but likely fail to adequately support.
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This just in: the surviving members of Aerosmith sell out (BIG TIME), and can somebody get Mr. Perry a tissue?

It has been observed, here and elsewhere, what a fucking embarrassment Steven Tyler has become. Once Aerosmith was among America’s greatest bands, and today they occupy the #5 spot (with a bullet) on my Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen list.

It was refreshing, then, when Joe Perry brought the hammer down on his silly-ass 64-going-on-14 Teen Beat bandmate. Reports TMZ:

Perry went off on Tyler during an interview with the Calgary Herald — saying, “It’s his business, but I don’t want Aerosmith’s name involved with [American Idol]. We have nothing to do with it.” Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Nursery rhymes as industrialist propaganda

By Patrick Vecchio

One of the goals of education is to leave seeds planted in students’ heads. Some seeds sprout right away and grow into trees that always bear fruit. Others sprout several years later, when conditions are right. Some never grow. And some grew so long ago, back in our first days of school or even before, that we never think about the harvest because we take it for granted.

Every now and again, I find myself pausing to think about one of those earliest seeds. Such was the case today, and I pondered the meaning of words etched deeply into my brain. What was the real message in that little nursery rhyme? I asked. And what did it tell me about my life today?

It shook me.


Row, row, row your boat Continue reading

Cursèd be my cubicle

Two flimsy gray walls, three filing cabinets and one rarely used dry-erase board make up the landscape of my work cubicle. My mind travels often to places I have been and those I long to see, yet this is the daily scenery starving my adventurous soul.

I used to love my job. That was before it became three positions in one.

Since corporations began laying off millions during the economic crisis several years ago, there’s a phrase that’s became all-too-common. Somebody complains about work. Somebody else replies that, “At least you have a job.” Continue reading

NASA, American exceptionalism, and me: older, and less viable

Fourth in a series

As a child turning teen in the late 1950s, the black-and-white RCA in the living room received only three channels … well, four, but we didn’t watch PBS. So I read. Newspapers, of course (after Dad finished sports and Mom finished news). And books. The library was only two blocks away, so I spent afternoons there sampling the stack. I was a small-town boy at the end of the idyllic “Father Knows Best” decade of Eisenhower placidity, a geeky kid feeling the first pangs of puberty.

I longed for adventure beyond being a Boy Scout or tossing a football with neighborhood pals. In the library I found adventure stories set in space, spun with well-chosen words and exquisitely crafted plots.

I discovered Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End.” Then Robert A. Heinlein’s “Methuselah’s Children,” Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” and Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation and Empire.” Science fiction (or, in Clarke’s case, science prediction) captivated me. I became a sci-fi cognoscente.

Then, in 1957, came the shocker: Sputnik. Continue reading

The Fourth four years later: Nothing’s changed

As I predicted four years ago on the Fourth of July, little has changed. This year’s fireworks and barbecues offer only a brief respite from the problems of the nation, how they are worsening, and how those who are supposed to address them remain mere chanters of their respective ideologies.

Four years ago, I predicted that the cost of federal elections would continue to rise, that the role of money would increase dramatically. I did not predict — or even dream it could happen — the outcome of the Supremes’ consideration of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that deepened the hole in which corporate money could hide while paying for “electioneering communications.”

Sadly, I did not predict that more than 30,000 journalists would lose their jobs in the past four years, lessening the ability of the press to hold government accountable. To me, corporations are now essentially the American government; more journalists, not fewer, trained in the same accounting chicanery that allowed Enron to flourish, are necessary to hold corporate government accountable, too.
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Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

The most dangerous idea ever: why the tea party is right after all. Sort of.

The American econo-political system has always been a dangerous proposition, an egg balanced on a knife blade six feet above a concrete floor.

Sure, most countries have elements of the American solution. Many countries now have peaceful exchanges of power decided by voters. Most Western nations have pretty strong protections for individual rights, and in many cases, those are stronger than our Bill of Rights. Most have moved away from centrally planned economies.

But we were the ones who first put it all together. Just as Alfred Nobel figured out how to mix volatile nitroglycerine with diatomaceous earth to create the equally powerful but more stable explosive dynamite, the Founders managed to take an inherently dangerous set of ideas and make them stable. You need only look at the French Revolution to see what can happen when those same ideas are dropped on a concrete floor. Continue reading

Pawlenty tests the bottom of the swamp

Pawlenty (that part which is above the swamp water)Today Tim Pawlenty said “We can start by applying what I call ‘The Google Test.’ If you can find a good or service on the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn’t need to be doing it.”

If he really understands Google, Tim Pawlenty does not deserve to be president on moral grounds. If Pawlenty does not understand the implications of what he said, he does not deserve to be president on grounds of ignorance. Either way, he’s testing the bottom of the swamp.

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GBTV? Glenn Beck on the Internet? All Glenn, all the time?

Would you pay between $4.95 and $9.95 a month to watch conservative talker Glenn Beck for two hours a day on the Internet?

Beck will launch, with partner Mercury Radio Arts, GBTV, an online video network, on Sept. 12. Here’s Beck himself in a five-minute pitch describing his “global plans” and how he will be “champion of man’s freedom” for the mere cost of a “cup of coffee in today’s world”:

Whether Beck is certifiably insane is not the issue here: Rather, he and his partner need to insure that revenues exceed costs. Now that he’s leaving the ready mega-megaphone of Fox News on June 30, that’s not a certainty.
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The American Parliament: our nation’s 10 political parties

Part two in a series.

Forgive me for abstracting and oversimplifying a bit, but one might argue that American politics breaks along the following 10 lines:

  • Social Conservatives
  • Neocons
  • Business Conservatives
  • Traditional Conservatives (there’s probably a better term, but I’m thinking of old-line Western land and water rights types)
  • Blue Dog Democrats
  • New Democrats
  • Progressives Continue reading