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Monday September 19 2011
end of one blog, the beginning of another
It's been a long while since I've posted here. It was just taking too much time and time is something I'm short of with the camera strap business growing. The answer was staring me in the face this past couple of years. Two years ago I moved my gallery for gordy's camera straps to tumblr and that has worked very well. Now I'm moving my blog activity to tumblr. You can find me at http://gordoncoale.tumblr.com/.
There may not be as much in the way of politics (I can't take it any more!) but there will be a lot more photography. Many things happening. New beginnings. Check it out.
Zoe and I went to the mainland today to see her mom. It was beautiful Sunday and the Sunday riders were out in force. They ride the loop from the mainland to Deception Pass on the top of Whidbey Island and down the Island to the ferry. This is on the ferry on the way to the mainland.
"Ok, everyone’s talking about the oncoming recession. What it is is the second downleg of the depression we’ve been in since the financial crisis.
"All of this has been baked in since 2009. Since January 2009, when Barack Obama announced his stimulus, which was not just too small, but put together so badly that it was evident it would not kick the economy out of the doldrums. The stimulus would be seen to fail (it doesn’t matter how many jobs it “saved” what matters if it created a good economy.) Meanwhile Obama made it clear he had no intention of restructuring the economy, shutting down any of the major banks or of disrupting the paper for oil securitization game.
"So, anyway, what’s happened since 2009 was baked into the cake. What is happening is what anyone halfway competent should have expected to happen and that includes the massive wave of austerity in the developed world, the high commodity prices, and the continued liquidation of public assets to feed private greed. If anything it’s slightly worse than I expected. I would have hoped that some nation other than Iceland would prove to have enough guts to tell the vultures to fuck themselves, but apparently we’re all eunuchs or morons these days, and the Greeks still aren’t rioting amongst the mansions of the rich, I notice. So who cares what they think, anyway?
"I suppose it’s tiresome to keep saying “I told you so”. Certainly I’m tired of it, but the point is that this could all be predicted, was all predicted (well, not all, I didn’t get the revolutions in Arab countries, though I know someone who did and the clues were there.) Assume that what is happening is, essentially, what your lords and masters are at least ok with having happen. If they weren’t, it wouldn’t be happening. This isn’t a case of incompetence, they didn’t even try to make this stuff not happen.
"The future you’ve got coming from you is a future of unconventional oil extraction: aka fracking. The play is to get back to cheapish oil and make that run for as long as it can. That is what WILL happen. That is baked into the cake. The only economy these people want to run is an petro economy. They will do whatever it takes to run one and continue to use their position in control of legacy capital to extract rent and tax the future. There will be more controls on so-called intellectual property (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one). There will be more security theater. There will be more austerity, which means taking public assets and turning them into what appear to be revenue producing private assets.
"This will go on until the last drop of cheapish conventional oil has been pumped and the last suburb built. Americans, and apparently the developed world, will do whatever is required to see this happen. They will kill whoever they have to kill. That’s what the developed world is, now. This is only compounded by stupidity like Germany going off nuclear without a clear plan of how to replace the energy. Remember, boys and girls, yes, there is blood mixed in with that oil. A lot of it."
"Here’s the good news about energy: thanks to rising oil prices and deteriorating economic conditions worldwide, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that global oil demand will not grow this year as much as once assumed, which may provide some temporary price relief at the gas pump. In its May Oil Market Report, the IEA reduced its 2011 estimate for global oil consumption by 190,000 barrels per day, pegging it at 89.2 million barrels daily. As a result, retail prices may not reach the stratospheric levels predicted earlier this year, though they will undoubtedly remain higher than at any time since the peak months of 2008, just before the global economic meltdown. Keep in mind that this is the good news.
"As for the bad news: the world faces an array of intractable energy problems that, if anything, have only worsened in recent weeks. These problems are multiplying on either side of energy’s key geological divide: below ground, once-abundant reserves of easy-to-get “conventional” oil, natural gas, and coal are drying up; above ground, human miscalculation and geopolitics are limiting the production and availability of specific energy supplies. With troubles mounting in both arenas, our energy prospects are only growing dimmer.
"Here’s one simple fact without which our deepening energy crisis makes no sense: the world economy is structured in such a way that standing still in energy production is not an option. In order to satisfy the staggering needs of older industrial powers like the United States along with the voracious thirst of rising powers like China, global energy must grow substantially every year. According to the projections of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), world energy output, based on 2007 levels, must rise 29% to 640 quadrillion British thermal units by 2025 to meet anticipated demand. Even if usage grows somewhat more slowly than projected, any failure to satisfy the world’s requirements produces a perception of scarcity, which also means rising fuel prices. These are precisely the conditions we see today and should expect for the indefinite future.
"It is against this backdrop that three crucial developments of 2011 are changing the way we are likely to live on this planet for the foreseeable future."
"There are many familiar symbols that represent the United States of America. There is the flag, of course. There is the strange eye above the unfinished pyramid on the back of the dollar bill. There are the myriad iconic buildings in Washington as familiar to us as the back of our hands.
"Well, the moment has arrived to add a new symbol to the list, one that represents the sad state of our national politics, the ridiculous media coverage of same, and the deranged condition the American people find themselves in today. I suggest Janus, the ancient two-headed Roman god whose faces look both forward and backward simultaneously. In representing the American people, Janus would be a perfect depiction of a person who wants two things at once, and hasn't yet figured out how to do it.
"To wit: every available scrap of poll data indicates that a large majority of Americans are stoutly opposed to the Ryan plan that seeks to end Medicare...and every scrap of poll data also indicates that a majority of Americans are dead-set against raising the debt-limit ceiling.
"Who the what the where the when the why the hell is that?"
"There are four things most people don’t know, or simply don’t appreciate, about physics: 1) the right answer to a question is sometimes surprising; 2) it’s simpler than you think sometimes; 3) that simplicity can spawn terrible complexity; and 4) in simplicity, complexity, and the border in between lies great beauty.
"For example, I bet if you went up to people on the street and asked them why different pendula (I prefer Latin plurals) swing with different times, they’d say it was the weight of the bob at the end. But it’s not that at all: it’s actually the length of the pendulum itself that is the major factor in determining the swing time (called the period) — the mass of the bob has nothing at all to do with it! A heavy bob and light bob will still have the same period if the length of the string is the same (try it yourself).
"Surprising and simple, right? So what about the other two things, complexity and beauty? Well, here’s a perfect example of that:"
I've been playing around with my 50mm/f1.4 Super-Multi-Coated Takumar off my Pentax Spotmatic. It becomes a 100mm/f1.4 equivalent on my Panasonic G1. It's a great portrait lens. This is my grandson Mike who was visiting a month ago.
"Afghanistan, Yemen, and other countries in the Muslim world. So all my work has taken place in the shadow of the war on terror and has in fact been thanks to this war, even if I’ve labored to disprove the underlying premises of this war. In a way my work has still served to support the narrative. I once asked my editor at the New York Times Magazine if I could write about a subject outside the Muslim world. He said even if I was fluent in Spanish and an expert on Latin America I wouldn’t be published if it wasn’t about jihad.
"Too often consumers of mainstream media are victims of a fraud. You think you can trust the articles you read, why wouldn’t you, you think you can sift through the ideological bias and just get the facts. But you don’t know the ingredients that go into the product you buy. It is important to understand how knowledge about current events in the Middle East is produced before relying on it. Even when there are no apparent ideological biases such as those one often sees when it comes to reporting about Israel, there are fundamental problems at the epistemological and methodological level. These create distortions and falsehoods and justify the narrative of those with power."
"The news that frequent CNBC guest Peter Yastrow of Yastrow Origer (and formerly with DT Trading) told CNBC that “We’re on the verge of a great, great depression. The [Federal Reserve] knows it” is going viral today.
"But this is not news to anyone who has been paying attention."
"The U.S. economy continues to stagnate. It's growing at the rate of 1.8 percent, which is barely growing at all. Consumer spending is down. Home prices are down. Jobs and wages are going nowhere.
"It's vital that we understand the truth about the American economy.
"How did we go from the Great Depression to 30 years of Great Prosperity? And from there, to 30 years of stagnant incomes and widening inequality, culminating in the Great Recession? And from the Great Recession into such an anemic recovery?"
"These are discouraging times, but once in a blue moon a bit of hope appears. I am pleased to report on the bit of hope delivered in March of 2011 by Michael Spence, a Nobel prize-winning economist, assisted by Sandile Hlatshwayo, a researcher at New York University. The two economists have taken a careful empirical look at jobs offshoring and concluded that it has ruined the income and employment prospects for most Americans.
"To add to the amazement, their research report, “The Evolving Structure of the American Economy and the Employment Challenge,” was published by the very establishment Council on Foreign Relations.
"For a decade I have warned that US corporations, pressed by Wall Street and large retailers such as Wal-Mart, to move offshore their production for US consumer markets, were simultaneously moving offshore US GDP, US tax base, US consumer income, and irreplaceable career opportunities for American citizens.
"Among the serious consequences of offshoring are the dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that made the US an “opportunity society,” an extraordinary worsening of the income distribution, and large trade and federal budget deficits that cannot be closed by normal means. These deficits now threaten the US dollar’s role as world reserve currency.
"I was not alone in making these warnings. Dr. Herman Daly, a former World Bank economist and professor at the University of Maryland, Dr. Charles McMillion, a Washington, DC, economic consultant, and Dr. Ralph Gomory, a distinguished mathematician and the world’s best trade theorist, understand that it is strictly impossible for an economy to be moved offshore and for the country with the offshored economy to remain prosperous."
I went to the mainland yesterday to visit Zoe's mom (Zoe had a cold she didn't want to share so stayed home) and to see my mom (her 91st birthday). Zoe and I sang Happy Birthday to my mom (Zoe on the phone). This is Ivar's at the Mukilteo Ferry on the way home.
"Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency.
"The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change" – is likely to be just "a nice Utopia", according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions."
"The three worst direct impacts to humans from our unsustainable use of energy will, I think, be Dust-Bowlification and sea level rise and ocean poisoning: Hell and High Water. But another impact — far more difficult to project quantitatively because there is no paleoclimate analog — may well affect far more people both directly and indirectly: war, conflict, competition for arable and/or habitable land.
"We will have to work as hard as possible to make sure we don’t leave a world of wars to our children. That means avoiding decades if not centuries of strife and conflict from catastrophic climate change. That also means finally ending our addiction to oil, a source — if not the source — of two of our biggest recent wars. As the NYT reported in 2009:
"The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.
"Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.
"That’s a key reason 33 generals and admirals supported the comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill last year, asserting “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security.” The Pentagon itself has made the climate/security link explicit in its Quadrennial Defense Review.
"Sadly, the chance that humanity will avert catastrophic climate impacts has dropped sharply this year (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“). And that means it is increasingly likely we face a world beyond 450 ppm atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which in turn means we likely cross carbon cycle tipping points that threaten to quickly take us to 800 to 1000 ppm.
"It is a world not merely of endless regional resource wars around the globe. It is a world with dozens of Darfurs and Pakistani mega-floods, of countless environmental refugees — hundreds of millions by the second half of this century — all clamoring to occupy the parts of the developed world that aren’t flooded or desertified.
"In such a world, everyone will ultimately become a veteran, and Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day may fade into obscurity, as people forget about a time when wars were the exception, a time when soldiers were but a small minority of the population. And if we don’t act swiftly and strongly to stop it, the worst impacts could last a long, long time (see NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe and Nature Geoscience: ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”).
"underpinnings were flawed and as a consequence, the virtuous cycle has ended. It is now in the process of reversing and becoming a vicious downward economic spiral.
"One of the strategies is the Asian Mercantile Strategy. The other is the US Dollar Reserve Currency Strategy.
"These two strategies have worked in harmony because they fed off each other, each reinforcing the other. However, today the realities of debt saturation have brought the virtuous spiral to an end.
"One of the two global strategies enabled the Asian Tigers to emerge and grow to the extent that they are now the manufacturing and potentially future economic engine of the world.
"The other allowed the US to live far beyond its means with massive fiscal deficits, chronic trade imbalances and more recently, current account imbalances. The US during this period has gone from being the richest country on the face of the globe to the biggest debtor nation in the world.
"First we need to explore each strategy, how they worked symbiotically, what has changed and then why the virtuous cycle is now accelerating into a vicious downward spiral."
"Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.
"It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.
"If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapor than cold air.
"It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest."