Russia and the Ukraine – The Worrisome Connection to World Oil and Gas Problems

What is behind the Russia/Ukraine problem? It seems to me that what we are seeing is Russia’s attempt to fix a two-part problem:

  1. Some oil and gas exporters, including Russia, are not receiving enough oil and gas revenue to meet their needs. They are not able to collect enough taxes to provide the services they have promised to their citizens, plus allow the amount of reinvestment that is needed to maintain production. Russia is starting to experience economic contraction because of the low revenue situation. This situation very closely related similar problems I have written about  previously. In one post I talked about major independent oil companies not producing enough profit to provide the revenue needed for reinvestment, and because of this, cutting back on new investment. In another, I talked about the problem of too low US natural gas sales prices, relative to the cost of extraction.
  2. Some oil and gas importers, including Ukraine, are not using their imported oil and gas in productive enough ways that they are able to afford to pay the market price for oil and gas. Russia gave Ukraine a lower natural gas price because some of Russia’s pipelines cross Ukraine, and Ukraine must maintain the pipeline. But even with this lower natural gas price, Ukraine is behind on its payments to Russia.

If a person thinks about the situation, it looks a lot like a situation where the world is reaching limits on oil and gas production. The marginal producers (including Russia) are being pushed out, at the same time that the marginal consumers (including Ukraine) are being pushed out.

Russia is trying to fix this situation, as best it can. One part of its approach is to make certain that Ukraine will in fact pay at least the European market price for natural gas. To do this, Russia will make Ukraine prepay for its natural gas; otherwise it will cut off its gas supply. Russia is also looking for new customers who can afford to pay higher prices  for natural gas. In particular, Russia is working on a contract to sell LNG to China, quite possibly reducing the amount of natural gas it has available to sell to Europe. Russia is also signing a $10 billion contract with Iran in which it promises to construct new hydroelectric and thermal energy plants in Iran, in return for oil exports from Iran. This contract will increase the amount of oil Russia has to sell, and will increase the oil available on the world market. Russia’s plan will do an end run around US and European sanctions.

Gradually, or perhaps not so gradually, Russia’s exports are being redirected to those who can afford to pay higher prices. European Union purchases of natural gas imports have declined since 2008, presumably because they are having difficulty affording the current price of gas, so they are being relied on less for future sales.

The Russian approach seems to include building a new axis of power, including Russia, China, Iran and perhaps other countries. This new axis of power may threaten the US dollar’s reserve currency status. With the dollar as reserve currency, the US has been able to buy far more goods from other countries than it sells to others. Putting an end to the US dollar as reserve currency would leave more and oil and gas for other countries. If purchases by the US are cut back, it will leave more oil and gas for other countries. The danger is that prices will drop too low because of the drop in US demand, leading to lower production. It this should happen, everyone might lose out.

I am doubtful that Russia’s approach to fixing its problems will work. But if Russia is “between a rock and a hard place,” I can understand its willingness to try something very different. It now has more power than it has had in the past because of its oil and gas exports, and is willing to use that power.

The US/European approach to this problem is to loan Ukraine $17 billion to pay for past natural gas bills. The hope is that with this loan, Ukraine will be able to make changes that will allow it to afford future natural gas bills. There is also the hope that the United States can step in with large natural gas exports to Europe and Ukraine. In addition, the US and Europe are trying to impose sanctions on Russia.

I find it very difficult to believe that the US/European approach will work. The idea that the United States can start exporting huge amounts of natural gas to Europe in the near future borders on the bizarre. There are many hurdles that would need to be overcome for this to happen. Installing LNG export facilities is among the least of these hurdles.

In fact, the West badly needs both the oil and gas that Russia is producing, so it really is in a very precarious position. If Russia cuts off exports, or if Russia is forced to cut off exports because of financial difficulties, both the US and Europe will suffer. It is clear that Europe will suffer because of its dependence on pipeline exports of oil and gas from Russia. But the US will suffer as well, because the US is tied closely to Europe by financial ties, and by import and export arrangements with Europe.

Furthermore, the US/European approach involves a great deal of new debt, in an attempt to fix an inherent inability of the Ukrainian economy to afford high energy prices. Without a huge transformation, Ukraine will be in even more financial difficulty when it comes time to pay back the new debt–it will need make debt payments at the same time that it needs to pay for more expensive future natural gas. More debt doesn’t necessarily fix the situation; it may make it worse.

The US powers that be do not understand what Russia (and the world) is up against, so the policies they propose are likely to make the situation worse, rather than better.

Background

We live in a world in which some countries use far more energy products than others. One question that the new proposed axis of power raises is whether this disproportionate share of energy use should be allowed to continue to exist.

Figure 1. Per Capita Energy Consumption, based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy data and EIA population data.

Figure 1. Per Capita Energy Consumption, based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy data and EIA population data.

The United States, Europe and Japan got to the position of using a disproportionate share of energy resources by way of being first with industrialization. This early industrialization set up a pattern of using energy for “frivolous” things–large, heated homes; private passenger automobiles for individual citizens; businesses that were not necessarily as energy-efficient as they might be. In the early days, imports were limited and cheap. As local supplies became depleted, imports rose. The cost of imported oil and imported gas (except for natural gas in the US) rose as well, making the imported fuel harder to afford. Now the early users–that is, the US, EU, and Japan, are the ones struggling to keep up past consumption levels.

In some ways, Ukraine is not too different from the EU is this respect.  Ukraine also got to the position of using an above average share of energy resources, by being early in its industrialization, during the era of the Soviet Union. Ukraine, prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, was using as much as energy on a per-capita basis as the US-Europe-Japan group (Figure 2), because of its heavy industry.

Figure 2. Figure similar to Figure 1, but including Ukraine's per capita energy consumption as well.

Figure 2. Figure similar to Figure 1, but including Ukraine’s per capita energy consumption as well.

Once the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine had huge difficulties: Exports of oil and gas from Russia (upon which Ukraine’s industry depended) collapsed. Ukraine’s industry had been set up under the Soviet-Era model, and didn’t produce the variety of goods, cheaply, that people outside the Soviet Union expected to buy. Ukraine also didn’t have alternate sources of energy supply, if Russian supplies were cut off, because a major source of energy was pipelines of both oil and gas from Russia.

The Ukrainian economy has struggled for many years. Trying to transform it now to be successful competitor in the world economy is likely to be a difficult task. If Ukraine tries to make goods for the world market, it will find itself in competition with Asian competitors. The Asians are hard to outcompete, in part because their labor costs are low (because it uses workers with little energy use, so they can live on low salaries) and in part because their energy costs are low (often from coal). Safety standards are often low as well, adding to their low-cost structure.

If, instead of making goods for the world market, Ukraine decides to specialize in high-priced services, such as financial, medical, or educational services, it will find that it has a great deal of competition from the EU. It will also find that the EU is having difficulty making the service model work. The service model provides little for export, for one thing.

The Russian Energy Situation 

Russia’s cost of producing oil is among the highest in the world. Mark Lewis, in a presentation at the November 2012 ASP-USA meeting estimated that Russia needed a price of $115.90  a barrel, to cover both its cost of extraction, plus Russian budget needs from taxes. If costs are rising at, say, 10% per year, the current required cost today would be about $134 barrel. Current oil prices are not much over $100 barrel, which is too low.

Russia is the second largest oil exporter in the world (after Saudi Arabia), exporting approximately 7.2 million barrels a day. We in the rest of the world very badly need Russia’s oil exports to continue, to keep up world oil supply. Without this oil, the world economy would suffer badly.

With respect to natural gas, Russia is the single largest exporter in the world (Figure 3, below), exporting more natural gas than all the Middle Eastern countries combined. The cost of producing Russia’s natural gas is likely very high, because Russia is extracting it from more and more difficult locations. Also, Russia is transporting this natural gas greater and greater distances. New pipelines or LNG facilities are necessary to facilitate this transportation, and these are expensive as well.

Figure 3. Natural gas exports by country, with some countries grouped. Exports from the New World are excluded, since they historically have mostly stayed in the New World.

Figure 3. Natural gas exports by country, with some countries grouped. Exports from the New World are excluded, since they historically have mostly stayed in the New World. For example, Canada exports natural gas to the United States by pipeline.

When an oil/natural gas exporter doesn’t get enough revenue, there is a danger of recession, or even collapse. A major part of the problem is that oil and gas exporters depend on tax revenue to fund government services, such as roads, schools, and public health. This tax revenue depends on profitability of the companies selling oil and gas. If prices are not high enough, tax revenue suffers. In fact, the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union took place after a period of low oil prices made it impossible to justify investment in new more-expensive-to-extract fields. Russia began to recover once oil prices began rising again, making new investment oil investments profitable again.

Ukraine has been a particular problem with respect to natural gas exports for Russia, because it has used a significant share of Russia’s natural gas exports, without paying market price for them (Figure 4). In fact, some of the time, it didn’t even pay the below-market price Ukraine had contracted for, for natural gas exports–the reason for Ukraine’s debt to Russia.

Figure 4. Ukraine natural gas imports as a percentage of Russia's natural gas exports.

Figure 4. Ukraine natural gas imports as a percentage of Russia’s natural gas exports.

Also, with Russia’s total natural gas exports close to flat (see Figure 3), the high exports to Ukraine have limited the amount available to members of the European Union. If Russia bases its economy on the sale of oil and natural gas, it needs a high enough average price, to fund its overall costs.

Ukraine continues to need Russia, because Russia is the source of its oil and gas supplies. The IMF recently approved a $17 billion loan to the Ukraine, to pay off its debt to Russia and for other purposes. The loan is contingent on fiscal reforms, including a 50% increase in natural gas prices, raising taxes and freezing the minimum wage. My expectation is that the Ukrainian situation will spiral downward, with lower and lower energy use (because citizens won’t be able to afford the high cost of energy).

Russia needs the US, because it is having trouble obtaining enough investment capital, because of current low oil prices. It needs to continue relationships with oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, hoping these companies will help provide investment capital. The catch is that they too are having difficulty. Exxon Mobil has reported falling profits for four quarters. The same Exxon article mentions that the company cut capital and exploration costs by 28% as a way of getting income and outgo back into line. So Exxon Mobil is “hurting” as well, for the same reason that Russia is hurting: inadequate oil and gas prices.

To keep income in line with necessary expenditures, Russia has essentially no choice but to insist on higher prices from the country that is a big consumer, but can’t pay its bills–Ukraine. These higher prices are likely to push Ukraine’s economy down further, likely making the IMF loan impossible to repay.

To Which Countries Can Russia’s Natural Gas Be Exported?

The market for Natural Gas imports is somewhat restricted, as shown in Figure 5, below. This chart includes natural gas imports from all sources, including the Middle East and Africa, not just Russia. I have omitted the Americas, because it currently tends to operate as a separate system, with the US, Canada, and Mexico connected by pipelines.

Figure 5. Natural gas imports (excluding new world) by country grouping. FSU is "Former Soviet Union." Based on EIA data. Chart omits Switzerland and other non-EU European natural gas importers.

Figure 5. Natural gas imports (excluding new world) by country grouping. FSU is “Former Soviet Union.” Based on EIA data. Chart omits Switzerland and other non-EU European natural gas importers.

When it comes to finding locations for Russia to export natural gas to, the countries of the European Union are a large share of the natural gas market. (In Figure 5, I have omitted a few small European importers that are not part of the EU, and not part of the FSU, such as Switzerland, but this omission should be small.) Ukraine and other Former Soviet Union countries are gradually being squeezed out, because they cannot afford today’s natural gas prices. Asia is growing in its natural gas use. The prices paid in Asia have tended to be higher than in Europe (Figure 6, below), so it is natural for Russia to look to Asia as a growth area for its natural gas exports.

Russia cannot easily walk away from the countries it currently exports to, because it needs natural gas revenue, and the pipelines are already in place.

Can the United States Actually Help Ukraine with Natural Gas? 

Ukraine’s big problem with natural gas is that it can’t afford to pay market prices for it. This issue is likely to continue to be a huge problem in the future, regardless of which country is planning to export natural gas to it. Greece has had a similar problem, with inability to pay for natural gas imports from Russia. On my view, Ukraine’s inability to afford natural gas is its number one problem. The problem can be temporarily “papered over” with an IMF loan, but unless there are huge structural changes to the economy, the basic problem won’t be fixed.

Let’s suppose that Ukraine actually finds money to pay for imports. Can the US provide the natural gas imports required? Can it also help with European imports? Many people look at the disparity in natural gas prices around the world (Figure 6), and expect that US can provide natural gas to Europe as well .

Figure 6. Comparison of natural gas prices based on World Bank "Pink Sheet" data. Also includes Pink Sheet world oil price on similar basis.

Figure 6. Comparison of natural gas prices based on World Bank “Pink Sheet” data. Also includes Pink Sheet world oil price on similar basis.

If a person looks at the situation closely, it is hard to see that US exports will happen in large enough quantity, in a fast enough time frame, to make any difference. I recently wrote a post pointing out some of the issues, called The Absurdity of US Natural Gas Exports. I point out in that post that the United States is currently a natural gas importer. Our own natural gas in storage reservoirs is at record low levels, and there is concern that we may not be able to refill them in time for next winter. The amount of natural gas required by Europe is huge, if it were to try to replace Russia’s contribution. So we are talking about the need for a very large change for the US to be able to help Europe and the Ukraine.

There is one scenario in which the United States might theoretically be able to help Europe. This scenario would require a lot more than putting LNG export terminals in place. In particular, we would need:

  • Much higher US natural gas prices than are currently the case, in order to make it economic to extract shale gas that seems to be present, but that is not economic to extract at this time. US natural gas prices would likely need to rise to two to three times current levels, perhaps to current European levels.
  • The US economy would need to weather the storm that these higher natural gas prices would cause. Homeowners would find that the cost of heating their homes is much higher, but that their salaries are not any higher. Utilities that use natural gas would find that their sales price of electricity needs to be much higher, affecting both homes and businesses. The US economy would suddenly become much less competitive in the world market place, because of its higher cost structure compared to countries using coal as their primary fuel.
  • In order to extract this higher-priced natural gas, we would need to greatly ramp up the number of shale gas wells drilled, perhaps to 10 times the current number of wells drilled per year. Part of the big increase would take place because of the greater total amount of natural gas required. Part of the increase would take place because we would now be drilling wells with lower productivity–partly because of lower monthly output, and partly because of shorter productive lives. Without adding low-productivity wells such as these, there is no way that production can be ramped up as much as required. (This is the reason that higher natural gas prices are needed.)
  • To drill this huge number of wells, we would need many more drilling rigs. We would need many more engineers. We would need many more trucks hauling water for hydraulic fracturing fluid. In dry areas, we would likely need to transport the water required for fracking much longer distances than in the past. We would need to dispose of much more waste material, causing potentially many more problems with pollution and with earthquakes. We would need communities willing to put up with all of these problems, in order to help other countries in need of natural gas imports.
  • Someone would need to build a huge number of LNG transport ships to carry all of this natural gas. It is not clear whether LNG import terminals would be needed as well–the ones currently in place tend to be underutilized.
  • Many more pipelines would be needed, both in the US from the new wells to the terminals, and in Europe, connecting LNG terminals to the new users. Many of these pipelines will be used for only a short period of time, as wells deplete quickly.
  • The cost of LNG the US will be able to send to Europe will likely be more expensive than current European natural gas prices, when the combination of the higher US natural gas cost, plus LNG transport cost, is considered. If there are new European natural gas imports, say from Israel, the additional high-priced natural gas from the US may not be needed. It is also not clear that Europeans will be able to afford the new expensive natural gas, either. The high-priced gas will tend to make the European economy shrink, because salaries will not rise to match the new higher costs.

Conclusion

The US approach to the Russia /Ukraine situation reflects a serious misunderstanding of the situation. Russia has little choice but to try to raise the price of products it is selling, any way it can. It needs to cut out those who cannot afford its products, including Ukraine. If Europe increasingly cannot afford its products, Russia needs to find customers who can afford them.

There is little chance that the United States is going to be able to help Europe with its natural gas needs in any reasonable timeframe. Our best chance at keeping the global economy “working” for a little longer is to try to keep globalization working as best we can. This will likely require “making nice” to countries we are unhappy with, and putting up with what looks like aggression.

Policymakers like to think that the US has more power than it really does, and like to encourage stories suggesting great power in the press.  Unfortunately, these stories are not true; we need policymakers who understand our real situation.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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768 Responses to Russia and the Ukraine – The Worrisome Connection to World Oil and Gas Problems

  1. interguru says:

    I am preaching to the choir, but here is an article, How Fossil Fuels Subsidize Us , that does so

    I believe that Nate was the first person I saw describe oil in terms of equivalent human labor. A barrel of oil has an energy content of about 5.8 million British thermal units (Btu). A trained athlete can output about 750 Btu/hr of work over a period of several hours (Source). Thus, 1 barrel of oil has the energy content of 7,733 hours of labor by a trained athlete. At an average US hourly wage, that would equate to $188,000 worth of labor for a $100 barrel of oil. That is the subsidy Nate meant. We are greatly subsidizing our human labor with the ancient energy of fossil fuels to drive productivity and create wealth. “Cheap energy, not technology, has been the main driver of wealth and productivity” and “Energy is almost everything.

    “There was virtually nothing in my office—my body included—that wasn’t there because of fossil fuels… I had understood this intellectually before—that the energy landscape encompasses not just our endless acres of oil fields, coal mines, gas stations, and highways…. What I hadn’t fully managed to grasp was the intimate and invisible omnipresence of fossil fuels in my own life…. I also realized that this thing I thought was a four-letter word (oil) was actually the source of many creature comforts I use and love—and many survival tools I need. It seemed almost miraculous. Never had I so fully grasped the immense versatility of fossil fuels on a personal level and their greater relevance in the economy at large.”

    Once a truck carrying a load of nuts crashed into a tree. A family of squirrels living in the tree discovered this new resource and began to live the high life on the nuts they had just found. But as their population grew, so did their demand for nuts.
    But that truck crash was a one-time event, and the squirrels were depleting their nut windfall as their population grew, and they were making a mess by leaving their discarded nut shells everywhere. The squirrels failed to adequately plan for the day that there were no longer enough nuts to feed everyone. Recently, they were able to frack open a hidden compartment in the truck to find a few more nuts, but being squirrels they failed to use this brief reprieve to plan for a future without as many available nuts.

  2. edpell says:

    A not too subtle reminder from mother Russia.

    This article has it all. http://rt.com/news/159644-low-reserves-fossil-europe/
    spin and counter spin. [/sarcasm on] But the good news is all the EU needs to do is “take decisive action”.[/sarcasm off]

    “The study found that the UK has just 5.2 years of oil, 4.5 years of coal and three years of gas before it completely runs out of fossil fuels, said the researchers at the Institute based at Anglia Ruskin University, in the East of England.

    France is also in poor shape with less than a year’s worth of fossil fuels in reserve, and Italy has a single year of oil left and less than a year of gas and coal, but France unlike its southern neighbor generates almost 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.

    In contrast Russia, with its huge landmass, has more than 50 years of oil, 100 years of gas and more than 500 years of coal. Norway also has extensive reserves of oil and gas under the North Sea.

    Dr. Aled Jones, who is director of the Institute, said that countries with small reserves of fossil fuels would become vulnerable to rising energy prices.

    “The EU is becoming ever more reliant on our resource rich neighbors such as Russia and Norway, and this trend will only continue unless decisive action is taken,” he said.”

    http://rt.com/news/159644-low-reserves-fossil-europe/

  3. MJ says:

    Former sec. of treasury, Tim Geithner, making the rounds on the TV “news” talk programs about his new book he has put out. Saw him today on Face the nation and he puts a positive spin on things today. New energy technologies and revitalized manufacturing sector. The financial crisis was caused by “excesses” outside the governments oversight! Nothing in regard to the “excesses” now by the government QE, deficit, or bubbles. They had to make unpopular decisions but you do what you have to do!

    http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/former-treasury-secretary-timothy-geithner-bailout-unfair-but-necessary/

    • edpell says:

      When you want to sell your book you put out sugar.

    • These folks must be hired based on their ability to spin creative stories.

      • MJ says:

        Interesting if you listen to his interview that he uses the “power grid’ as an analogy to the financial system! You have to do whatever to keep the lights on and we did what we had to do to keep the financial system from collapsing.
        So there you have it…THEY will do ANYTHING to keep BAU

        • The power grid is a good analogy to the financial system. (Another is the operating system for a computer). Thanks for pointing this out.

    • These folks must be hired based on their ability to spin creative stories.

  4. Paul says:

    I think someone referenced this earlier — here’s the online version of Robert Newman’s History of Oil — he is a comedic genius — although the topic is not really that funny…

    Only one thing he got wrong – renewable energy being a possible solution (governments have spent trillions on solar — and they have failed) … everything else — I reckon he’s dead on

  5. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    This will be a plea for more Reverence. I said elsewhere that I tend to stay out of disputes that I think are pointless or hopeless. I hope these are not pointless or hopeless.

    With regard to religion. Religion CAN encourage a narrow focus on ‘us’ versus ‘them’. Alternatively, religious practice can encourage believers to look at what is common not only to humanity but to all creation. In the latter case, religion is moving in the direction of Reverence, as defined by Paul Woodruff. ‘Reverence is the well-developed capacity to have the feelings of awe, respect, and shame when those are the right feelings to have….Sometimes it is right to be respectful, and sometimes wrong: that’s obvious. Sometimes our feelings should rise to the level of awe, but not always…No capsule definitions will tell you. Nor can any human wisdom give you a complete and final answer.’

    I think it is ridiculous to reject someone’s contributions because they profess some religion. I think what we are, communally, about on this blog is sharpening our expectations of energy and our physical future. Secondarily, some of us are writing about rational responses to that probable future. Again, absent some dogmatic assertion that the true believers will be raptured away to glory, I welcome all thoughts that seem to be rooted in realistic terms. If the thoughts were prompted by the writer’s religious beliefs, I will still examine them on their merits. And, more frequently than not, the writer’s religious values will have some common ground with my non-religious values.

    With regard to the fellow living in a sort of cave in eastern Oregon. He is clearly doing some things which would stand any of us in good stead should times get much tougher, very quickly. Rather than throw stones at him, we should study what he is doing. That doesn’t mean that he has all the answers…but he probably has more answers than most of us. Those who want complete answers, right now, to a complete and fast collapse scenario shoud reread John Michael Greer’s book Our Ecotechnic Future. Pay attention when he talks about succession….one cannot grow a climax forest in a clear-cut. It is necessary to begin with weeds, and progress through the stages.

    It is unfortunate that the internet seems to encourage rock throwing and other bad behavior. I refer back to Woodruff’s reference to ‘feeling appropriate shame’.

    Don Stewart

    • xabier says:

      Religious beliefs and structures can sometimes be captured by our most primitive – and therefore most violent -impulses (let’s not forget Neolithic genocide, etc) but also sometimes help us to transcend them.

      At their best, they can extend the concept of ‘Us’ to include vast numbers of people of all classes, levels of intellect and different ways of life – this itself can help limit violence and extend compassion and decency. Or they can of course flip into internally repressive regimes, just like any atheist structure.

      But in a very violent world of strongly competing groups, they can provide, ready-made, the basis of order and decency withing the group itself, and the strength that comes from group loyalty in resisting the aggression of others – we have to be realistic, things are not nice and will get worse as resources are strained.

      The irrationaliity of religion may well have very great survival value.

      Modern, atheist, non-conformist liberalism,the dominant ideology in Western Europe, based on the unfounded assumption of human goodness and rationality,and arbitration and counselling to resolve problems, is a poorly-adapted belief system for hard times. An indulgent creed for easy times, fossil-fuel-fed times.

      Some of the very worst people I have known were very proud of their total rejection of religion, but supported those engaged in murder in a political cause, and remained unrepentant even when the evidence of the lasting and futile harm caused by such deeds was evident to all. Secularist fanaticism is quite as frightening as any repressive church or cult.

      • I agree. Religions in various forms have stuck around through the ages. Our current liberal political structure requires a lot of energy resources to support it. It is likely to disappear and be replaced by something closer to a dictatorship or kingship, with few social programs, because of lack of resources.

        We need some social groups to continue. Religious groups are a good candidate. I am sure there are others as well, such as sustainability groups, but they do not have as long a history.

        • Don Stewart says:

          Dear Gail and Xabier

          Six points of reference may let us triangulate something that is close to the truth.

          First, Paul Woodruff: ‘Reverence, in Thucidides, is one of the crucial virtues that, along with justice, has little hold on the minds of men when they are at war with each other or battling a natural disaster. Only in a stable social order can these virtues flourish, and their flourishing serves the order in return, by giving it stability through the satisfied loyalty of all parties to the state’. In short, crises which destabilize the social order also tend to undermine the ability of humans to exercise the virtues, which further undermines the social order. Woodruff recounts Greek mythology in which ‘reverence and justice supplement an earlier gift of fire and technology, which Prometheus stole for us from the gods, hoping that they would keep our species alive. But Zeus saw that technology alone, without virtue,, is no defense against mutual destruction…Zeus instructs Hermes to give reverence and justice to everyone’.

          Second, the young Paul Woodruff was a junior officer in the US military in Viet-Nam. He saw many examples of official abandonment of the virtues and the willful execution of atrocities, but he also saw junior officers disobeying orders and preserving their sense of virtue.

          Third, Dmitry Orlov’s books The Five Stages of Collapse and his new book Communities That Abide.

          Fourth, financial capitalism which is essentially a dog eat dog system held together with paper money and debt.

          Fifth, when I was about 15 I took a group of orphans to a boy scout camp. I did not know any of the boys, who were aged 12 to 16. I was selected for the job by one of the adults who worked for the Boy Scouts. I can only describe the group as having fallen to a very low state in Orlov’s scale of collapse. They were fed by the authorities every day, but violence and theft were minute to minute occurrences. Nothing that I knew about influencing behavior in groups of ‘normal’ boys had any effect on them. I was very glad to escape back to my lower middle class life at the end of the week.

          Sixth, the major potential rallying points for virtue in a world with declining physical resources are religious groups, families, and intentional communities. It seems improbable that large political groups can function as rallying points, since they will be totally discredited (I think). Religious groups have the advantage that they have been around for a very long time and have the ability to incite belief and obedience. However, very few religious groups are also economic production units. A religious group which is also an economic production unit focused on ‘low on the food chain’ technologies would seem to be a good bet. Families have historically been the bedrock production unit, but Woodruff observes that families have deteriorated under the onslaught of financial capitalism and consumerism. Well designed intentional communities would seem to be a good choice, but it takes a long time to build virtuous behavior in a group which is both heterogenous and perhaps not chosen carefully in terms of production specialties. Geoff Lawton said that, in a group of permaculturists, any individual can only live with one in twenty of those in the large group. In short, living together ‘close to the bone’ requires both virtuous behavior and also a lot of practical skills, neither of which is rewarded by financial capitalism.

          My conclusion is that ‘the center cannot hold’, just as Woodruff claims, unless the group is practicing the virtues as understood by the Greeks and the Chinese all those millenia ago. That fossil fuels and the invention of financial capitalism and debt have allowed us to permit the virtues to atrophy. And that we don’t have any institutions which are ready to step into the breach.

          The most hopeful descriptions Woodruff provides are the functioning of an amateur chamber music group performing Mozart for their own pleasure, and two lovers making love. So music and sex might save us?

          Don Stewart

          • Virtues certainly have not been uppermost in most people’s mind. We don’t have a lot of choices for groups right now. Kinship groups have historically been important, but now families are scattered all over the country.

        • Stefeun says:

          Here we are!
          In fact you’re not talking of religion, you’re talking of social link.

      • Lizzy says:

        I read an excellent book on religion — “The History of God” by Karen Armstrong (ex nun). It’s quite dense with small type. I read it with a dictionary to hand!

  6. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    I recommend reading this:
    http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2010/04/the-collapse-of-complex-business-models/

    It begins with Tainter’s book and follows through the logic that the internet is going to destroy a lot of traditional media. On this site, most comments seem to focus on the notion that ‘all those servers take a lot of energy’. I think you will find that the paper comes from quite an oblique angle.

    Of course, currently the media moguls, including the descendents of the AT&T who were alarmed back in 1996, are trying to put the genie back in the bottle, and have the Supreme Court safely in their corner. We’ll have to see if anarchic models can survive government hostility.

    Don Stewart

    • I am less worried about government hostility than oil problems, problems with the electric grid, rising interest rates bringing down the financial system, and a host of other things.

      The author does make some good points though. If you want to make something 90% cheaper, take out 90% of the materials. If it is a labor intensive process, take out 90% of the labor.

      The Age of Limits conference I am speaking at over Memorial Day week-end is almost outdoors. Many of the attendees will camp. Food will be cooked by volunteers. It doesn’t follow the model of actuarial conferences or academic conferences, and the charges to attendees are a fraction of the usual charges.

      • Stefeun says:

        Bonjour Gail,
        reg. Age of Limits conf., I assume your next post here will be somewhat related to your presentation about converging crises, but…
        can we expect a video of your presentation?

        • The post I just put up is related to my Age of Limits talk. (The talk covers other topics as well.) I have been told that a video recording will be made of the talk, and I plan to make a PDF of my talk available as well.

          • Stefeun says:

            Thanks!
            looks like last years videos were taken as well, but don’t seem to have been broadcasted.
            I found only little info, such as this one:
            http://youtu.be/WBFijbhLuCA

            I note you’ll be the only woman as a presenter… and unbearded 😉

            • The list of presenters is not complete. Carolyn Baker will also be presenting, so there is another woman involved. Her session will be fairly different. It is called “Feels like fear, anger, grief, despair . . . and joy.” You are right about all the male presenters being bearded.

              They are working on improving the quality of the videos taken. I am not certain how well they turned out last year.

  7. tmsr says:

    Just came from the zillionth meeting on New York State’s new energy system (official name Reforming the Energy Vision (REV)). We talk endlessly on how new wires, new substations, new generators, new… will fix the problem. No one EVER says the fuel input cost is rising and will continue to rise until there is no system.

    There are some interesting ideas being put out that might improve efficiency by 20% which is fine but in the end without cheap coal, natural gas, oil the system ends. The 20% is an extender only.

    • edpell says:

      signed edpell

    • And no one mentions the Jevons paradox, something we have been living with since we became ”civilised” :
      The Jevons paradox (not to be confused with the Rebound Effect, which is the reductionistic view of this phenomenon) states that if a system gains the possibility of using more energy, through increases in efficiency, it will use this opportunity to “do more” – exploring new activities and expanding the set of functions, which can be expressed – rather than “doing the same, while consuming less”. This paradox (more efficiency leads to more consumption), stated by Jevons in the first half of the 20th century, has proved right over and over in several applications. This implies that it is very naive to expect that technical improvement in efficiency will lead “per se” to lower consumption of energy. The truth is that sustainability is not a technical issue, but a cultural one.

      • Stefeun says:

        Agreed, End of More,
        Jevon’s paradox is much more important than we first imagine,
        and its counter-productive effects are under-estimated.
        For example, a saved amount of oil here (due to better efficiency, insulation, etc..) will likely lead to higher carbon emissions in the end, because it’ll be used by China which have bigger part of coal in their mix.

        Reg. Sustainability I don’t agree: you can feel like a steady state is viable when you’re far enough from the limits, but it’s only a matter of time to reach them.
        To delay this point (where we are today) we humans should have had very strong cultural guidelines, clear goals for everyone, 100% cooperation, etc.. in order to fight against laws of Physics.
        Of course we didn’t: more food = bigger population, like any other species.
        We think we’re smarter than bacteriae, but the facts are there.
        One big difference is that we managed to reduce death-rates due to diseases. That was of course good for living people, but on a global level it just helped to accelerate worsening of our problem (not exactly Jevon’s, but similar pattern, where a solution brings much bigger problems).

        • xabier says:

          The Golden City of Sustainability is just the mirage in the desert with which we delude ourselves.

          Having said that, I do wish the ride to destruction were not quite so rapid as it is!

          • Christian says:

            Good points. I guess while almost nobody is interested right now in suriving the peak things will change, even surviving comes to be impossible

      • Bringing population down is a big part of reducing energy. You won’t see that brought up much.

        • Stefeun says:

          Sure, but even if such scenario was realistic, I don’t think it could fix our problem.
          Lower population means less customers and workforce, and therefore a shrinked economy.
          If our economy is -as it seems- geared to forever growth and cannot slow down, it is likely to crash as soon as the global market starts to decrease.
          So, one way or another, lack of people, lack of oil, lack of credit, …

        • Greg Machala says:

          Reducing population may reduce overall energy consumption but, would it not also reduce the possibility of having enough people with the intellectual prowess to design, build and maintain the complex systems we have created? For instance, has anyone ever considered the odds in every 100 births of having a child with the intellectual capacity to grasp the concepts such as silicone chips, quantum mechanics, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics and other complex skills needed to build, rebuild and maintain our current level of technology? Is it one in 100, 1000, 10000? How many of these highly skilled people are needed to build a Boeing 777? That doesn’t even take into account the staff needed to train and educate these gifted individuals. It is the “system” that is so large and so complex it is difficult to wrap ones head around the magnitude of the problem we face. My feeling here is that if we were to reduce population, that would have a feedback loop of reducing our access to technology and the “solutions” if affords us.

          • You may indeed be correct. I have seen a similar argument about the value of cities.

          • xabier says:

            Greg

            Good point! I was reading some speculation on the fate of the engineers and surveyors of the Roman Empire the other day – they just disappeared, at least in the Western half of the Empire.

            There used to be a saying: ‘It takes thousands of people to make one fine gentleman’, referring to the huge labour base and surplus wealth required to feed, educate, clothe and house the said ‘fine gentleman’. A similar perspective.

          • InAlaska says:

            And yet Boeing just took orders for 800 new dreamliner jets over the next 10 years!

    • Sustainability almost becomes a religion as well. The belief is that if we keep growing the amount we do with a given amount of fuel, we will be able to keep our current way of life.

      I am not sure the problem will be that oil price will rise too much; it might be something related–oil companies will stop drilling, because the prices are too low. The system cannot ultimately stay together. There are too many parts that are inflexible–we need to keep roads paved and the electric grid operating. We can’t afford to replace everything at once. The banks need to keep operating. Ultimately, the system “breaks.”

      • Greg Machala says:

        Sustainability implies perpetual motion which is a physical impossibility. Even the sun isn’t sustainable. To me balance is a better word. We as human beings must balance our existence with that of the natural world. Anything else (in the long term) is futile.

        • I haven’t seen the analogy to perpetual motion, but it is a good one. Even to stay even, we need to use more and more energy. I find that the people who promulgate a “steady state economy” are way off base.

          • Greg Machala says:

            Yes I absolutely agree. Just to stay even it takes more and more energy each year to extract the same net amount (of resources) as the previous year. Because resources are the foundation of our economy; there can be no steady state economy. At least not an industrial one. That is why seemingly everyone worships growth.

        • InAlaska says:

          Actually, it sounds as if you are saying that life itself is unsustainable in the long term. If the sun is not sustainable, than life is not sustainable. So in microcosm if eternal economic growth is not sustainable, than we have nothing to worry about. No moral choices to make. Its all pre-destined to fail. In that case, I don’t feel so bad about the opportunities we have squandered because ultimately, while good choices may stave off the inevitable for awhile, it comes eventually.

          • Paul says:

            That sounds about right — once we started to dramatically manipulate our environment to increase our food supply (i.e. we stopped behaving like animals) we doomed ourselves.

            I am not aware of any other species that multiples forever – so why would humans be any different.

            As you correctly point out, we might have made some other choices along the way that delayed the die-off …. but other than from a personal standpoint (i.e. that 30 or 40 more years of BAU would have been beneficial to me) all of this is moot.

            The cake was baked long ago.

  8. Interguru says:

    More on China in Africa

    from NY Times Into Africa: China’s Wild Rush

    a sea change that arguably began with an op-ed essay last year in The Financial Times by Lamido Sanusi, who was recently suspended as Nigeria’s central bank governor. He wrote: “In much of Africa, they have set up huge mining operations. They have also built infrastructure. But, with exceptions, they have done so using equipment and labor imported from home, without transferring skills to local communities. So China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones. This was also the essence of colonialism.”

    plu ca change …..

    • Lizzy says:

      You’re spot on, Interguru. This is not really a mystery or surprise, is it?
      It’s been around at least since the Greeks and Romans, and probably with the Chinese before that. Within societies it’s been around forever as it’s a question of taking what you can for survival or seeing your kids starve. Those who are more powerful are the winners, at least in the short term. We might think it’s nasty and selfish, but it’s survival of the fittest. “Fittest” in the Darwinian sense — most apt. I fear we might see it closer to hand in the next years.

    • Colonialism seems to have been a profitable model, while it was working. I can see why the new player would try to repeat it.

      • few seem to grasp that colonialism could only function as long as ‘colonies’ could feed back net wealth to the host country. Hence Rome could dole out free food to its unemployed from the tributes of grain from North Africa, The British empire fueled its trading system by world colonies, this functioned well enough until policing the colonies became impossible, just like the Romans, we couldnt afford the armies necessary to keep or territories under control.
        This has an exact parallel to today: the USA is in effect a colonial system, which expanded westwards in the 19th c on the back of steam power, held together by trade, just like the British empire, and, in the same way, guarded by the world strongest army—incidentally–just like Rome too. When armies can no longer be supported, empires dissolve into disparate nations. Empires must always expand and consume more in doing so, when they can no long expand, they collapse. The USA has nowhere to expand to, hence overseas military adventures to disguise this simple truth. This is why I sign myself End of More—because there isn’t any. tinyurl.com/oa854gt

        • I am afraid you are right. There is no steady-state empire, just as there is no steady-state economy.

          • Christian says:

            Well, Rome got its full extension under Hadrianus, early 100’s, and its western half knew a complete failing in 476. So, three and a half century of plateauing and slow, somewhat managed descent. They tryied a separation in four circa 300 and lately adopted the halves (an anthropologist would not be surprised halves working better), which made it possible to save the Eastern part.

            Not surprising in our speedy times things go faster, but taking an Angloamerican empire lasting two centuries wouild be a better account

            • Paul says:

              One of the main differences now would be 7.2 billion people fed by oil and gas reliant food crops and animals.

              When Rome fell there were no so many people and they could continue at least to feed themselves.

            • Christian says:

              Not everybody. Almost all Italy was fed from Egypt, for instance, and social disruption, supply chains breaks and foreign invaders must have made some damage I guess

  9. Paul says:

    China’s Fractures Widen: Real Estate Bailouts Begin In Six Cities

    http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/chinas-fractures-widen-real-estate-bailouts-begin-in-six-cities/?utm_source=wysija&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Mailing+List+Mid+Day+Friday

    Of course Japan is a moose waiting for a windshield…. but I am left wondering if China is in fact not in worse shape — they’ve printed 15+ trillion dollars since 2009 — most of which went into malinvestments …. now the time to pay the piper is upon us — insolvencies are epic… they continue to print more and loan the cash to insolvent entities which use the cash to make interest payments on loans they will never repay…. and now this appears to be stepped up with direct bailouts.

    What I wonder is — is China not the US pre-2008? As in once the retail level speculators recognize the market is falling or about to fall… do they start unloading (or at least not buying) — and we get a massive housing crisis?

    The Chinese do not like their govt rather they tolerate it – ONLY as long as it delivers prosperity.

    When that promise is broken all hell could break lose… as we have seen there have been attacks on real estate offices when developers have sold tranches of properties at lower prices…

    If this happens one could imagine the Chinese Deep State attempting to deflect the fury aimed at them — Japan would be the likely scapegoat.

    This black swan could swoop down very quickly — keep in mind what happens when a moose runs into a car — very different from a bug hitting the windshield — the rest of us are riding in the car….

    • Thanks for the link. China is indeed a worry. It is a big part of what has been pushing the world economy along. But it is very hard to see how all of the loans will ever be paid back, and the growth trend cannot continue indefinitely.

    • Stefeun says:

      This one’s worth reading as well, also from Stockman:

      “Why China Will Implode: Its A Monumental Building Aberration, Not An Economy”
      by David Stockman • May 15, 2014
      “But when a nation’s debt outstanding explodes from $1 trillion to $25 trillion in 14 years, that’s not capitalism, even if its red. What it represents is monetary madness driven by the state.

      In just two years, from 2011 to 2012, China produced more cement than the US did in the entire 20th century”
      http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/why-china-will-implode/

      And if you have 5 minutes left to watch a video:
      China’s Local Government Debt `Big Time Bomb’: Dong Tao, chief regional economist at Credit Suisse Group AG, talks about China’s economy and local government debt. He speaks with Zeb Eckert on Bloomberg Television’s “First Up.” (Source: Bloomberg) May 5, 2014
      http://www.bloomberg.com/video/china-s-local-government-debt-big-time-bomb-tao-ij_Z50D3QmWt2NqVHHMtVA.html

      • Paul says:

        Stockman is excellent — however he is failing (as is almost everyone else) to connect the dots and ask the question – WHY?… in his recent post below he again fails to ask WHY?

        Yes we know about the corruption – the money printing – the seemingly insane policies…

        And I used to rant about this madness as well — UNTIL — I stepped back and said — wait a minute — Bernanke and his masters are not stupid or insane — what do they know that I do not know???

        Asking myself that question lead me down the rabbit hole — and it’s the reason I found this blog… I was looking for answers… and Gail presents the most logical explanation for why growth has stalled — and why we are not going to recover.

        Unfortunately she will be proved right.

        Global central banks still have their foot on the accelerator—tapering by the Fed notwithstanding. The evidence for that is plain as day—-namely, essentially zero money market interest rates throughout the OECD world including Europe, Japan and the US. There is no chance whatsoever that money market rates would be zero on the free market—-and not for six years running.

        But they are zero notwithstanding 2% official inflation for the last decade throughout the OECD for one reason: the central banks have flooded financial markets with trillions of excess liquidity.

        So how is that working out? Its not. Today the Wall Street Journal reports that the 34 DM economies which comprise the OECD suffered a further deceleration of growth in QE1. Real GDP expanded by just 0.4% over the prior period or about 1.6% on an annual basis.

        More http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/zirp-is-failing-worldwide-anemic-q1-growth-in-34-nation-oecd-provides-more-evidence/?utm_source=wysija&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Mailing+List+AM+Tuesday

        • Stefeun says:

          Paul,
          I could have written the first part of your comment myself (provided that my English were a bit better than it is), except that “Stockman is excellent”.
          I don’t know him enough to make any judgement, but it seems to me that he -like almost 100% of the observers- is watching the situation from his own point of view, or through his own glasses, explains why he’s fed up about it, and proposes fixes for the symptoms, while missing the real deep causes.

          What I appreciate with Gail’s work is that she’s always trying to get the whole picture, taking all new “input” and trying to connect it with the rest, in very un-emotional, honest and humble way. That gives very big strength to her statements.

          I’ve been a silent reader for a couple of months, finding more and more interest in the articles and comments, and then started to comment myself when Gail mentioned François Roddier, whose views contributed a lot to my -poor- understanding of “how it works”.
          I also appreciate that there are real constructive discussions going on here in the comment section; an island of wisdom in the wild cyberspace; hope it’ll remain below the radars for a while.

          • Paul says:

            Excellent in that he saw through the matrix… he was a senior Republican and like Paul Roberts turned on the entire system… few do

        • Christian says:

          Interesting. So we must assume not taking account of finances GDP was negative, does anybode has these figures?

          • Paul says:

            When I see a GDP print of 0.1% (US) or 0% (France) I assume the number was big time negative — but the spin machine cannot print a negative number — or CONfidence gets killed. So they instruct the MSM to go with 0 or slightly above 0.

            That said – GDP is meaningless — when you sell autos by handing our subprime loans is that really growth? When you give students a trillion dollars of loans — and they buy stuff with much of it — is that growth?

            This is just the tip of the iceberg — how much of the GDP number we are seeing is related to stimulus/QE/ZIRP?

            We are told these are temporary measures — they are not. If we stripped them away not only would GDP go negative – it would totally collapse.

            We are so close to the edge that I am getting vertigo….

    • InAlaska says:

      Well, I can speak from experience because, since living here for 22 years, I’ve hit two moose. The first moose bounced off the bumper of my truck. It barely scratched my truck but I broke its leg and it ran off into the woods but left a huge tuft of hair sticking out of the radiator grill. The second moose totaled my vehicle and almost killed everyone inside. It depends on velocity of vehicle versus size of moose. So you can use either example as an analogy for how the future may unfold.

  10. Christian says:

    This surely is the best blog in the world. Intelligent and brave people, assorted thematic, the finest host. Just sorry my english doesn’t allow me to go deeper in humour, but I’ve just started writing in a third language right here. Have a beer in an old family stein in my hand (my grandfathe’s main souvenir from his native Germany: a stein collection). Cheers

  11. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-05-16/where-worlds-unsold-cars-go-die
    ‘Where the World’s Unsold Cars Go To Die’

    That’s an article now running on Zero Hedge. If you go to the link and scroll down you’ll be amazed at the thousands of cars being stockpiled. The article seems to suggest they have no where to go? Pics in England, Spain and Russia. Maybe they should match them up with the ghost cities in China. LOL! Then all they would need are mannequins in cars and apt’s. to complete the look. It would be like a twilight zone episode – drop someone off in the middle of the city and they would spend hours running around, yelling, “Where is everybody?!”

    • Christian says:

      That is how all cities will end up, Where is everybody?

      It recalls Bradbury’s Mars after humans coming back to Earth, an entire archaeological planet

      • Paul says:

        For those wondering if BAU can go on for another 10 years — I think this is just another nail in that coffin…. We are surely in the final innings if what these photos appear to depict is real i.e. manufacturers rolling millions of cars off the lines that cannot be sold… yet they continue to roll them off to keep people working…

        Here’s a tidbit to go with that article….. auto manufacturers count their sales based on how many cars they produce — NOT on how many cars are actually sold.

        So again if this article is correct the car sales numbers are false — which means GDP reports are false since autos are a huge component.

        And of course subprime auto loans are back in full force – yet even that seems to be not enough to keep the hamster running.

        We are beyond the point of rationality and into the real of the surreal.

        • Stilgar Wilcox says:

          “Here’s a tidbit to go with that article….. auto manufacturers count their sales based on how many cars they produce — NOT on how many cars are actually sold.

          So again if this article is correct the car sales numbers are false — which means GDP reports are false since autos are a huge component.”

          Excellent point about false car sales as part of GDP, Paul. As you mention, manuf. is not the same as sales. And when we realize 1st qtr. GDP was .01% even with those false auto sales numbers, we are already at least for one qtr. back in the red, like 08/09. So the Fed will simply keep tapering QE until they hit zero by when – October? Long before then (I predict) Yellen will make a hot line call to the digital printing presses to fire them back up again. Might as well go for broke and QE 150 billion a month and really get those top 1% properties going through the roof and send the stock market into the stratosphere. Let’s fill up the Utah salt flats with cars. Let’s give all those fat cats one more giant going away party and fill their golden parachutes at the expense of the taxpayers. Let’s see just how big a divide can be created between the have’s and have not’s before shtf.

          • tmsr says:

            I agree completely on QE150 billion per month.

          • B9K9 says:

            It probably is already $150b per month; and that’s just the recorded transactions via “Belgium” and other shell buyers. What’s to say money is being printed and distributed, but not being officially recorded? At this point in the farce, as Kunstler so eloquently stated, “anything goes and nothing matters.”

            I still stand by my assertion that when the SHTF, we’re going to see something along the lines of a 10:1 devaluation (aka default). It will need to be done under the cover of an emergency decree, which in this case would be wartime measures. Add in a dose of price controls, rationing, travel restrictions, and of course, managed dissent, and we’ll be ready to kick off the long decline.

            • Paul says:

              I wonder how the final chapter plays out — do we suddenly get an announcement one day that explains what and why – with an an announcement of martial law, rationing etc… i.e. have they identified a point at which they determine there is no way to keep the charade going and they try to have an organized collapse?

              Or do governments try to hang on to BAU until something snaps and total chaos strikes virtually overnight?

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        Yeah, where is everybody? Maybe in the future there will be a whole city of survivors living in some of those cars.
        “All right now, we’re asking everybody to disconnect their battery so we don’t have anymore accidental horn honks in the middle of the night.”

        I remember reading Bradbury in high school. Great Sci-fi!

        • ordinaryjoe says:

          Bradbury was one of the greats! Perhaps they should offer minivans that are devoid of windows except the front windshield and thickly insulated. Paint them neon green with the zombie contamination symbol. When the spice no longer flows just point them S-SE and your good to go!

        • InAlaska says:

          I’m sure you read Dune, as well. Or at least your parents did, Stilgar. As I recall, that character was the old man of the desert. Also great Sci-fi!

    • xabier says:

      It ties in with what my friend who has a car dealership and repair shop told me the other day, that people are hanging on to their old cars and not buying new ones so much. Also ditching large diesel vehicles for smaller petrol ones: very noticeable over the last year or so – the so-called British ‘miracle recovery’! Cousins in Spain have observed the collapse of the ‘rush hour’ in their town, and again people hanging on to their old cars…they do, they’re broke!

    • Lizzy says:

      I understand a lot of the cars shown are waiting to be shipped to market. There have always been big stock-piles of cars in the UK before they were despatched.

    • It would be interesting to see how the numbers of these cars has grown over the years. I bet the rise in price in recent years has been a factor, as has been the lagging wages of young people and the increased number of young people with student loans.

      • Thanks. Snopes thinks the auto story is badly inflated. There was a temporary overstock problem, right after the drop in new car sales a few years age, but that has been fixed. (Some of the pictures are old.) Even now, there is a need for a temporary holding place for some cars that are soon to be loaded on boats to be transported somewhere. But these cars will be sold, eventually.

      • Stefeun says:

        Yes, the ZH article obviously lacks documentation. Even if -partly- true, it would require much more figures and detailed demonstration (but is it really useful?…).

        Here’s an argued reaction from Matt Hardigree (Jalopnik):
        “I, more than anyone, get the appeal of this story because it seems to largely rip off an article I wrote — including the images and headline — more than five years ago (which itself was largely a rehash of a Guardian article).”
        http://jalopnik.com/that-zero-hedge-article-on-unsold-cars-is-bullshit-1578124255

        • Paul says:

          The issue is moot — even if those cars were eventually shifted — this is how it was for a large part done — through subprime lending http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-08/good-job-is-good-enough-as-subprime-car-buyers-lift-sales.html

          This is a classic line She was “so happy she couldn’t see straight.”

          Stefeun – just pulled into the airport finishing up an 18 day bucket list – your country is marvelous and the people beyond friendly — and very tolerant of my very poor language skills — we are very pleased to have had the chance to see this diverse fantastic country while it is still possible

          A couple of takeaways – as in most of Europe I notice minimal suburbia — if it weren’t for the fact that all the farmland were farmed using chemical inputs I suspect much of Europe would transition relatively well after the SHTF.

          We did a champagne tour at a small outfit the other day — the owner mentioned (and I hope I get this right as he kindly had us taste 5 glasses of bubbly afterwards) that in the past all bottling was done by hand and the handled 1000 bottles per day.

          Now with machines they do 1600 per HOUR.

          Let’s project through the entire food production chain — and we can see that even if our ag land could produce food once chemical inputs are removed — there would still be a problem on the production side. We simply could come nowhere near forcing through the bottle neck that would come as a result of the loss of mechanization.

          • Stefeun says:

            Ha! first time I hear that French people are “beyond friendly”, probably the champagne…; “bunch of moaners” is much more frequent 😉
            Reg. diversity of landscapes (and traditions) I fully agree, though; we’re very lucky to have all that concentrated on relatively small area.

            • Paul says:

              We almost exclusively stayed in B&Bs…. started doing that a few years ago as we find it a much better way to experience local culture — of course most people running B&Bs tend to be pretty friendly so that would explain the contradiction heheh…

              It is good to be back on the farm though — need to get on the shovel in the morning and back into condition after doing nothing but drink wine and eat too many ‘formulas’

    • Lizzy says:

      I saw an article in Mish’s Global Economic blog today about this:

      “A few days ago a reader sent me a link about unsold cars piling up around the world. I did not touch the story because I had already seen it, years earlier in fact.

      Flashback January 19, 2009 Unsold Car Images From Around The World.

      Nonetheless, the story was recently picked up as “new” in so many places that Bloomberg’s Barry Ritholtz felt the need to set the story straight in The Truth About Auto Sales.
      This week, an e-mail landed in my inbox with the header “Unsold Cars.”

      Normally, I would have deleted the e-mail without a second thought. But several things about it warranted further notice.

      The first were aerial photos of thousands of cars. Wow, this really was a lot of cars.

      The second was the phrase “Timestamp: Friday, May 16th, 2014,” which suggests that these photos were brand new.

      What struck me was how familiar it all looked. Maybe that was because I posted those same photos on The Big Picture blog and Business Insider in February 2009.

      The origin of the photos was a Jan. 16, 2009, article in the Guardian by Nick Mead. Note that this was smack in the middle of the financial crisis, when anything purchased on credit simply froze. At the time, other sites also picked up the photos from the Guardian, such as car blogs like Jalopnik, and market sites like Mish’s Global Economic Analysis.

      The truth about these five-year-old photos didn’t stop the usual doom and gloomers from immediately running with them. Zero Hedge, Silver Bear, Daily Paul, and too many others to list here re-posted these old snaps as if they were new.

      Which raises the following question: How trustworthy are your favorite Internet sources? It varies a lot.

      UPDATE: Since I wrote this over the weekend, two other sites have identified the photos and story as false: Debunker site Snopes.com and, in far less family friendly but much more amusing language, the auto blog Jalopnik.
      Moral of the Story

      It’s best to fact check, especially if you don’t have a good memory. As with Barry, I did not bother posting the story last week because I knew I had seen those images before. Barry only posted the story because so many places incorrectly posted the story as new.

      Note: The Silver Bear reference is incorrect. It is an undated duplicate of my 2009 post.
      Read more at http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/#7T1YMa8Ls3e0WpwC.99

      • Paul says:

        Agree – running that story was over the edge… but then ZH and other MSM sites have an excuse — they don’t have budgets like the MSM to fact check stuff…

        The MSM is actually far less reliable — they constantly run blatant lies — almost everything publishing in the MSM is a lie…

        David Stockman has it right when he calls ‘journalists’ for the MSM presstitutes who regurgitate edicts passed to them by the Ministry of Truth.

        The MSM has almost 0 credibility… whether it’s job numbers, GDP, or yet more claims of recovery… the MSM is one big fat lie.

        Examples:

        http://dollarcollapse.com/media/amazingly-deceptive-headlines-part-1/

        http://seekingalpha.com/article/2223563-beneath-the-headline-reports-housing-starts-data-appear-bearish

        So I will give ZH and others that reported the car story a break… in fact ZH breaks more stories than the entire MSM combined — they should have gotten a pulitzer for exposing the truth about jobs numbers i.e. that most of the jobs created last year were part time and low paying…

  12. interguru says:

    There is some dawning at the top

    from the soon-to-be Bank of England’s Chief Economist via Zerohedge

    He does not mention energy as such, but he does see that something is rotten in the state of Dennmark ( and elsewhere )

    In the light of the financial crisis, those [macro and micro model] foundations no longer look so secure. Unbridled competition, in the financial sector and elsewhere, was shown not to have served wider society well. Greed, taken to excess, was found to have been bad. The Invisible Hand could, if pushed too far, prove malign and malevolent, contributing to the biggest loss of global incomes and output since the 1930s. The pursuit of self-interest, by individual firms and by individuals within these firms, has left society poorer.

    The crisis has also laid bare the latent inadequacies of economic models with unique stationary equilibria and rational expectations. These models have failed to make sense of the sorts of extreme macro-economic events, such as crises, recessions and depressions, which matter most to society. The expectations of agents, when push came to shove, proved to be anything but rational, instead driven by the fear of the herd or the unknown.

    The economy in crisis behaved more like slime descending a warehouse wall than Newton’s pendulum, its motion more organic than harmonic.

    …we are a co-operative species every bit as much as a competitive one. This is hardly a surprising conclusion for sociologists and anthropologists. But for economists it turns the world on its head.

    In this light, it is time to rethink some of the basic building blocks of economics.

  13. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail
    Few more thoughts about music, rhythm, group efforts, and individualism.

    A very rich society with lots of energy slaves can afford to do things wastefully. As the energy slaves go away, it will become crucial to survival to do things efficiently.

    Dr. Atul Gawande was the commencement speaker at UNC this year. In 2009 he wrote a story for The New Yorker comparing medical care in two contrasting Texas towns. In one town, the doctors emphasized teamwork. In the other, they emphasized individualism (every doctor for himself). He labeled them ‘cowboys’ vs. ‘pit crew’. The pit crew performed better by objective measurements. In an interview this year, he said ‘We’re suddenly discovering that the 5 percent sickest patients account for half of our health care costs, and that the system doesn’t work for the sickest and the people with the greatest suffering’. He then goes on to describe how it takes a team of doctors to adequately address the problems of the sickest, and that a 20 minute office visit doesn’t cut the mustard. Talking about the current surge in C-sections, he says ‘I don’t think its really about whether you pass one law versus another law. It’s about building a professional culture, incentives and systems that comes together and works.’

    In Seven Samurai, we see the search for ‘a culture and incentives and system that works’. The movie begins with a village of farmers trying to decide how to defend themselves against a team of bandits. The bandits are probably not very disciplined, but they are driven to co-operate by hunger. One bandit against a village will likely fail, but a team of bandits may get all the food. The villagers go to town to look for Samurai to hire to defend them. The Samurai are proud individualists, who excel at things like one on one swordsmanship. But they are also driven by hunger (no current wars to earn their keep) and also their taste for adventure. The Samurai begin their task by doing the drill and ceremonies as recommended by the Army Manual. The villagers have never thought about the joint defense of their village, and have no idea how a military unit might function. The Samurai teach them. The villagers meet initial success against the bandits (who fight as individuals), which emboldens them. Then one of the Samurai breaks discipline and goes off on his own to kill a few bandits. This weakens the defense and some bandits get into the village and do some damage. The final scene shows the villagers co-operating in something they have always co-operated on..planting rice to music. The surviving Samurai leave the village, remarking that ‘once again, we have been defeated’. One speculates that the defeat they sense is that they will never be able to co-operate with each and plant rice…they will always be individual swords for hire.

    The local Catholic church recently had a festival of some saint, who was a gardener. So they built a communal garden in honor of the saint. They do not do individual plots…in recognition that ‘we are all in this together’. I don’t know how it is working out for them in practice.

    I think these stories illustrate that one of the great balancing acts in life is the decision whether to take on a task co-operatively or as individuals. Scott Nearing, who was a communist, was always trying to get his Vermont Yankee neighbors interested in doing things co-operatively, and finally gave up in frustration. Corporations now make quite a bit of noise about ‘teamwork’, but I think that the incentives and systems are still very much in Gawande’s ‘cowboy’ mode for the most part. When G. W. Bush spoke, it was always about ‘you and your competitors’…no recognition that teamwork had much of a role.

    If the government were to cut its medical expenditures in half, then we can visualize several different outcomes. First, the system could just collapse as everyone grabbed for whatever money they could get. Second, the culture and incentives and system might rapidly form itself to do more with less, as Gawande would prefer. I think most of us believe that the First scenario is likely, but that the Second is much to be preferred.

    To the extent that our future involves physical labor, best performed by co-operative groups, we should keep music and maybe even processions carrying wooden saints in mind.

    Don Stewart

    • My experience recently with respect to people with relatives near death is that really ridiculous decisions are being made by families (and not discouraged by the system).

      One friend has a sister who has brain cancer, and cancer in many parts of her body. She is getting daily radiation treatment to extend her life. I don’t know the age of the woman–probably 60s. It is hard to see any point in this treatment.

      Another woman I know recently had her 95 year old mother, who is suffering from incurable diseases, in intensive care. For what purpose?

      I know when my husband’s mother was near death (the doctor said, “All systems are shutting down”), we were asked if we wanted her transferred to intensive care. We said, “No.” What surprised me was that her coverage was a Medicare plan through Kaiser. A person would think that Kaiser would inject some sense into what happens. I suppose that if it is a general Medicare approach that whatever treatment the family wants (or that the doctor “sells” to the family as being typical/useful/helpful), it is hard for a single provider to go counter to the system.

      Maybe team treatments would be helpful, but a lot of the treatment is just plain absurd.

      • With prepaid plans there can be an incentive to do less. In certain fee for service situations there can be economic incentive to do more. In either case I would agree that too much is done far too often. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=273434

      • Christian says:

        I saw Lisandro’s likes go up somewhat, gracias

      • ordinaryjoe says:

        The title of Farley Mowat’s book SNOWWALKER refers a practice of some northern tribes. When a elder decided that they were a burden to the tribe do to age or other circumstance , some chose to go for a walk, they didnt return. They walked out into the environment that had provided them with their life. This was a personal decision, the people that chose it were missed but their decision was respected.
        I love my life I would never toss it away, but i would like to go with some grace and calmness. I tell my friends and family “if I should die just drag me outside and let the coyotes have me”. This suggestion which seems to me a natural, desirable, and eco friendly solution to the problem of what to do with my body after my death invariably is met with a look of horror. The horror to me would be that significant resources would be spent to enshrine a piece of decaying flesh. So maybe in the end Ill save someone a bunch of trouble and go for a snow walk.

        • Paul says:

          Amusing Farley Mowatt was not allowed into America in 1985 — because of his environmental stance. One can imagine that if he were still alive he’d be designated as a terrorist threat by homeland security and most definitely not allowed across the border.

          http://www.longislandwins.com/news/detail/when_environmental_author_farley_mowat_was_banned_from_the_u.s

          • ordinaryjoe says:

            My favorite Mowat book is THE DOG WHO WOULDNT BE, Farleys account of his childhood growing up in Saskatoon with his dog Mutt.

            • xabier says:

              ordinaryjoe

              What’s the saying: ‘A clever man can learn much from a dog, and more from a smart one, but a dumb human has nothing to teach a clever dog’?

          • xabier says:

            Paul

            All is not lost yet in the US. A good friend of mine who was expelled (totally unmerited, as he is a good friend of the USA but had made some criticisms of foreign policy ) some years ago has been granted a visa once more and is free to visit old friends in the States. We must conclude that in the meantime NSA has been monitoring all his communications -the metadata – and found him to be, after all, a man with a clean bill of health. That his status should be revised shows signs of intelligence at least.

            • Paul says:

              Since realizing the bigger picture (i.e. that political discussions are all mooted by the fact that the world we live in is on the verge of ending) I seldom get involved in discussions of politics … although if provoked I can behave like a rattle snake…:)

              The tempest in a tea pot analogy works for me — NSA spying while a big issue really is not much of anything when one considers that computers will not exist in the near future…

      • Quitollis says:

        For christianity, voluntary death is a “sin”, yes a “mortal sin” and you go to hell forever. For capitalism, it is a customer lost unless you can maximise the price of death. Christianity is the “will to life” of the trashed, capitalism as a development of christianity? (lol)

        There is a time to call it a day folks, maybe soon enough.

        • ordinaryjoe says:

          “For capitalism, it is a customer lost” Yup its a sin not to spend the entire resources you accumalated during your life labor on prolonging your life for a few days.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        I hear you Gail regarding cancer. My Brother had small cell lung cancer (which is 99% certainty of death) but adding to that it had spread to other parts of his body including his brain. I tried to the point of a screaming/yelling match with my Mother to please let hospice services come in to let him die peaceably. Oh, no, she absolutely insisted in a rage of emotions and tirades on transporting him to a hospital some distance away. He went through hell, it cost a fortune and he died a week later. 5 years later she said it was a regret of hers not to have let him die via hospice. I was speechless and have since made sure in documents that my wife has say so over me if I get to the point of not knowing what is going on, to make life and death decisions, and specifically not to allow my Mother any say so whatsoever.

    • Quitollis says:

      XXI. VOLUNTARY DEATH.

      Many die too late, and some die too early. Yet strange soundeth the precept: “Die at the right time!

      Die at the right time: so teacheth Zarathustra.

      To be sure, he who never liveth at the right time, how could he ever die at the right time? Would that he might never be born!—Thus do I advise the superfluous ones.

      But even the superfluous ones make much ado about their death, and even the hollowest nut wanteth to be cracked.

      Every one regardeth dying as a great matter: but as yet death is not a festival. Not yet have people learned to inaugurate the finest festivals.

      The consummating death I show unto you, which becometh a stimulus and promise to the living.

      His death, dieth the consummating one triumphantly, surrounded by hoping and promising ones.

      Thus should one learn to die; and there should be no festival at which such a dying one doth not consecrate the oaths of the living!

      Thus to die is best; the next best, however, is to die in battle, and sacrifice a great soul.

      But to the fighter equally hateful as to the victor, is your grinning death which stealeth nigh like a thief,—and yet cometh as master.

      My death, praise I unto you, the voluntary death, which cometh unto me because I want it.

      And when shall I want it?—He that hath a goal and an heir, wanteth death at the right time for the goal and the heir.

      And out of reverence for the goal and the heir, he will hang up no more withered wreaths in the sanctuary of life.

      Verily, not the rope-makers will I resemble: they lengthen out their cord, and thereby go ever backward.

      Many a one, also, waxeth too old for his truths and triumphs; a toothless mouth hath no longer the right to every truth.

      And whoever wanteth to have fame, must take leave of honour betimes, and practise the difficult art of—going at the right time.

      One must discontinue being feasted upon when one tasteth best: that is known by those who want to be long loved.

      Sour apples are there, no doubt, whose lot is to wait until the last day of autumn: and at the same time they become ripe, yellow, and shrivelled.

      In some ageth the heart first, and in others the spirit. And some are hoary in youth, but the late young keep long young.

      To many men life is a failure; a poison-worm gnaweth at their heart. Then let them see to it that their dying is all the more a success.

      Many never become sweet; they rot even in the summer. It is cowardice that holdeth them fast to their branches.

      Far too many live, and far too long hang they on their branches. Would that a storm came and shook all this rottenness and worm-eatenness from the tree!

      Would that there came preachers of SPEEDY death! Those would be the appropriate storms and agitators of the trees of life! But I hear only slow death preached, and patience with all that is “earthly.”

      Ah! ye preach patience with what is earthly? This earthly is it that hath too much patience with you, ye blasphemers!

      Verily, too early died that Hebrew whom the preachers of slow death honour: and to many hath it proved a calamity that he died too early.

      As yet had he known only tears, and the melancholy of the Hebrews, together with the hatred of the good and just—the Hebrew Jesus: then was he seized with the longing for death.

      Had he but remained in the wilderness, and far from the good and just! Then, perhaps, would he have learned to live, and love the earth—and laughter also!

      Believe it, my brethren! He died too early; he himself would have disavowed his doctrine had he attained to my age! Noble enough was he to disavow!

      But he was still immature. Immaturely loveth the youth, and immaturely also hateth he man and earth. Confined and awkward are still his soul and the wings of his spirit.

      But in man there is more of the child than in the youth, and less of melancholy: better understandeth he about life and death.

      Free for death, and free in death; a holy Naysayer, when there is no longer time for Yea: thus understandeth he about death and life.

      That your dying may not be a reproach to man and the earth, my friends: that do I solicit from the honey of your soul.

      In your dying shall your spirit and your virtue still shine like an evening after-glow around the earth: otherwise your dying hath been unsatisfactory.

      Thus will I die myself, that ye friends may love the earth more for my sake; and earth will I again become, to have rest in her that bore me.

      Verily, a goal had Zarathustra; he threw his ball. Now be ye friends the heirs of my goal; to you throw I the golden ball.

      Best of all, do I see you, my friends, throw the golden ball! And so tarry I still a little while on the earth—pardon me for it!

      Thus spake Zarathustra.

      http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1998/1998-h/1998-h.htm

      • Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about beliefs at his time. Times change. Some churches believe different things than others. There are some churches (under the Christianity umbrella) with these beliefs, but not others.

        Even now, churches keep re-examining their teaching on subjects that were once “sort of” settled. Gay clergy are accepted in some denominations.

        • Quitollis says:

          Dear Gail, we all love you for what you are. _Please_ do not reduce yourself to christianity or to some silly variant or other of christianity. We have lost too many good men and women over 2000 years, good voices, good people to that nonsense. I will respect you always for what you have already said for yourself. I will always respect you. Quitollis.

          • In physics, there needs to be a balance of forces, or the whole process will spin out of control. We have friction balancing energy used for productive purposes. We have the growth of one species balanced against the growth of other species, and the energy needs of each.

            One of the forces pushing us along is the push for each person to dissipate more energy. This comes through the drive for higher income and the drive to purchase more goods and services with that income. Just as “Nature abhors a vacuum,” nature also seems to have a push toward dissipating as much energy as possible. “He who dies with the most toys wins.” If a person adds a little capitalism, there is truly a “push” in this direction.

            There needs to be a countervailing force against unbridled dissipation of energy. The poor get squeezed out. It is not good for mental or physical health, or the health of the planet. The two obvious countervailing forces are Government and Religion (hence the long-term tie between the two). I suppose philosophy or education or even sustainability groups can play a role as well, but these are not as well-developed as countervailing forces. Academics like to think that education can, for example, reduce birth rates, but it is not all that clear that in the long term it can play such a role.

            It is clear that the story lines under all of the world’s religions cannot all be right. But in many ways, these are not the point. The point is the passing down of values from one generation to another, and a forum for discussing these values and acting out these values. They are also a forum for meeting others with similar values.

            Fortunately, not many religions are centered on, “He who dies with the most ties wins.” Most are tied to quite different values. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Lay not up treasures for yourself on earth.” “Why do you worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field. They don’t work or make their clothing.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.” It is hard for young people today to realize that they really won’t be happier if they just buy one more widget, even if that is what advertisers tell them. If more young people were involved with religious organizations (at least the right ones), they might be able to see the fallacy of this belief. (Outsiders seem to think that the point is buying a ticket to good afterlife–but they have missed the point!)

            I suppose in Europe, where the government is involved in caring for the poor and oppressed, there is less of a need for religions. But in the United States, there is a need for religions to counter the huge capitalism “push.” And if civilization crashes, religions are likely to have better “lasting power” than most institutions. So I will stick with my decision, even if it runs counter to most readers of this blog.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Gail
              Paul Woodruff, the chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas, has just written a book titled Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue.

              Woodruff identifies reverence as one of the essential ingredients in group survival. The leader must have appropriate reverence for the followers, and the followers must have appropriate reverence for the leader. ‘Appropriate’ because ridicule is the appropriate response to folly.

              Woodruff thinks that reverence is more related to power than to religion. ‘Wars of religion’ can easily happen, but a ‘war of reverence’ cannot.

              Reverence is a brake on power, just as photosynthesis is a brake on solar energy.

              ‘It is a natural mistake to think that reverence belongs to religion. It belongs, rather, to community. Wherever people try to act together, they hedge themselves around with some form of ceremony or good manners, and the observance of this can be an act of reverence. Reverence lies behind civility and all of the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant.’

              I listened to an interview with a homesteader who is living with his wife and two children in a 400 square foot hand made house. He spent a lot of time talking about their practice of civility and the keeping of promises. I think Woodruff would approve.

              You might like to check it out.

              Don Stewart

            • Thanks! You bring up some good points. The issue is broader than religion.

            • interguru says:

              “One of the forces pushing us along is the push for each person to dissipate more energy.”

              This works for non-living system too. A chaotic warm ocean and warm air organizes itself into a hurricane/typhoon in order to disperse its energy poleward more efficiently and quickly..

            • Exactly.

  14. Quitollis says:

    UK’s oil, coal and gas ‘gone in five years’

    In just over five years Britain will have run out of oil, coal and gas, researchers have warned…

    France fares even worse, according to the report, with less than year to go before it runs out of all three fossil fuels…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27435624

    The claim is disputed as “unlikely”.

    • xabier says:

      I see someone dismisses this claim out of hand, but then says rather airily ‘anyway it’s irrelevant, as the UK has a stable supply of imported oil.’ This is the same attitude they have to food supplies – madness! Extended supply chains just do not seem to figure in the calculations of UK governments. Even 70 years ago, they thought very differently, hence the great Royal Navy dedicated to keeping trade communications open. A rather pathetic end to a great nation.

      • Quitollis says:

        Xab, I am glad that the Tories have promised to end subsidies for new wind farms if they win the next election. There are a handful of turbines in this part of the Shires, all placed around one humungous field. I don’t mind them but I would soon lose my patience very quickly if they started to appear all over the place, as the researchers in the BBC article want. One of the best things about living in the countryside is… all the gorgeous countryside and the quaint little villages. I admit that if peak oil is the only thing that will preserve the English countryside from further massive population growth, then bring it on! We simply have to set a limit if we are to preserve the rural charms of the island.

        UK population may double by 2081

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7115155.stm

        • xabier says:

          I quite agree. It’s a soggy little place, with no light for 6 months of the year, but it has its charms. London is now a cess pit, so at least the better parts of rural England might be preserved.

          Unfortunately, the government is in the pockets of the developers who promise growth, and all protective agencies are falling one by one, starved of cash and government support.

          Lord Cowdray is fighting fracking, and good luck to him: more inequality is what we need if it puts money in the pockets of people like him (10th largest landowner in the country) to fight the forces of evil. Government have sold the gates.

          • Lizzy says:

            Xabier, if London is a “cess pit” now, what will happen when the lights go out? I keep thinking of “The Long Emergency” — lifts stopping working, the Underground flooding, sewers stopping working… Those wonderful £145m apartments will be unlivable – no water, no lifts. No food. I look around at our lovely little oasis – old house, large garden, in a little market town, but here (South Northants) we are only a day’s horse-ride from London or Birmingham. Oxford is 10 miles. When the starving hoards face the choice of either dying or looting, we’ll be in easy reach.

            I read in the FT a couple of weeks ago that some very wealthy Americans (bankers and the like) are building discrete, hidden, secure and self-sufficient off-grid safety bases, in remote country areas. Some had huge underground bunkers, well-stocked with food and water. And as we know, America is fully armed, so I would suppose they are defendable.

          • InAlaska says:

            xabier, I just heard on the radio that London has the highest per capita billionaires in the world, followed closely by Moscow, with New York a distant third place. Must be pretty damn nice cess-pit!

            • interguru says:

              If you’re a billionaire.

            • xabier says:

              InAlaska

              Pollution, noise, over-crowding, not nice for poor sweaty people (like me) pounding the streets, so I much prefer my village now. Different for the very rich I imagine: but Mayfair and Knightsbridge, where the super-prime places the billionaires buy are located, are among the most polluted areas of Britain – at least 20% of deaths pollution-related. So, cess-pit it is!

    • The economies of the United States and European countries are so tightly linked that if many European countries go down, the US will as well, regardless of US fuel supply. Banks and debt are important.

  15. MG says:

    The story of the Russia is the story of the country situated at the limits of the natural resources. Large energy inputs are needed to extract them in harsh cold climate and transport them where they are consumed. It means that when Russia is in debt, the limits of the resource extraction are reached. When there are no viable technologies to solve this, this situation could be irreversible.

    When there is a lot of energy, the limiting factor of the man is the man itself: when hitting the limits, firstly the man steals from others, then he kills others and finally commits suicide (e. g. kamikaze of Japan in the WW2).

    The man would not be able to destroy rain forests, if there is no external energy of fosil fuels to assist him. Without the ample energy China would have never been able to conquer Tibet a build a luxurious railway there. Without the ample energy, not only Ukraine will desintegrate, but also Russia. Getting any resources from Russia can be a big problem in the not so far future. Only Asia with its tremendous overpopulation is prepared to sacrifice itself in order to get them.

    • You seem to be saying that Russia, with all its natural resources, should never need to be in debt. I hadn’t thought about it that way–sort of like Saudi Arabia; it should be amassing great wealth from its sale of resources.

      One place where I would disagree with you is with respect to man not being to able to destroy rain forests without fossil fuels. There has been an awfully lot of “slash and burn” agriculture done over the years. Man learned about the controlled use of fire over 1 million years ago. It would be harder to make a wet area burn than otherwise, but I am doubtful that fossil fuels would be needed. The main thing that would be needed is a desire for more agricultural land.

      • MG says:

        Yes, Russia, with its vast area and natural resources defaulted in 1998… The price for the existence of an empire is big. In case of Russia, it does not exploit other countries, as it did during the Soviet era. The end of the Soviet era marked the beginning of the end of its ability to exploit other countries, although some of them (Belarus and Ukraine) still remained under its influence and were using its natural resources for more favorable prices. As you have written, Ukraine was and is heavily dependent on the natural resources from Russia.

        As regards the Brasil, two years ago I saw a movie Histórias Que Só Existem Quando Lembradas (Found Memories) about a formerly cofee growing area in the dryer part of Brasil which is being abandoned (“http://learningbrazport.blogspot.sk/2013/02/historias-que-so-existem-quando.html”) and only old people live there waiting for the death that does not come. For me it was a big parallel to the present world, where the high price of fosil fuels makes people abandoning the agricultural land and this is turning into pastrues and then forests again, which I can also see in my area in Slovakia, where I live (and it is a quite industrial area, I must add).

        The tropical diseases in case of Brasil would be a great obstacle without the modern medicine in the process of defeating the rain forests. In Slovakia, tick-born boreliosis is spreading, I personally know 2 persons living close to me infected by this disease. This is due to the climate change and global warming, evidently.

        Anyway, the degraded agricultural land, which is not economical to continue cultivating, is being abandoned, and the cycle continues with turning it into forest again when possible (or into desert). I doubt that without the gasoline fuelled chainsaws such big areas of rain forest could be deforested. The fosil fuels at least maximized and accelerated the process of “slash and burn” that could not be so easy in the areas where plants are growing very fast, watered by ample and frequent rains. Furthemore, the mechanized agriculture can destroy all the weeds and pests easily, which could otherwise require inconcievable amounts of human labour. Only roads and infrastructure of the big civilization counting millions of people are able to do such a mammoth work of rain forest destruction.

        Simply, it was inevitable for the people in the tropical areas remain hunters and gatherers because fauna and flora was stronger than people in such a climate.

    • interguru says:

      “The man would not be able to destroy rain forests, if there is no external energy of fosil fuels to assist him.”

      The forests of Europe, and North America were clearcut with hand axes and saws before there was widespread fossil fuel usage. It was slower but it happened.

      • MG says:

        I would add that the forests of Sibera needed hundreds of thousands, even milions of “slaves” (i. e. the victims of the communist regime) to build the necessary infrastructure for exploiting Siberia. These too hot or too cold areas simply require additional energy inputs to fight the nature and its obstacles. Either in the form of fossil fuels or huge numbers of people. Anyway, the fossil fuels were the prerequisite of the rising population needed for this task. The construction of Egyptian pyramids was nothing in comparision with it.

  16. Paul says:

    We’re always so negative on this site —- here’s my attempt at a bit of positive news 🙂

    So yesterday afternoon there we are enjoying a couple of beers on the water front in St Tropez (enjoying …. until the bill arrived – $17 for a bottle of beer!!! – always check the menu prices before ordering!!!) observing the botox crowd scampering across the gang planks of their floating blasphemies handing their bags of luxury ‘stuff’ to the minions…

    And I’m thinking — when the SHTF it will be the first democracy we’ve had in history — the high and mighty are going to find out what it is like to live 3rd world style…

    I suspect they won’t deal with it very well…. probably the first to toss back the jar of designer sleeping pills when the caviar runs out.

    • Don Stewart says:

      Dear Paul
      17 dollar beer is NOT a serious problem. Here is a serious problem…and this site is NOT helping…Don Stewart

      For example, stressful situations and the subsequent release of catecholamines shift physiology so that hot flashes worsen, women (and men) lose interest in sex, falling and staying asleep can become challenging, and anxiety predominates. However, did you also know that the effects of stress on the steroidogenic pathway are in addition to these effects caused by increased catecholamines?

      The reason for this compound effect is that stress changes hormone production. The easiest way to understand this phenomenon is by thinking about the downstream impacts of increasing cortisol production. As the body calls for more cortisol, which is required during periods of prolonged stress, a need exists for more of the building blocks of cortisol. These building blocks (steroidogenic intermediates) are the same building blocks used to make estrogens and androgens. So, when they are needed to make cortisol, these intermediates are not available for the production of sex hormones. That means lower levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.

      A lower level of estrogen combined with increased catecholamines leads to more hot flashes. When combined with increased catecholamines, a lower level of progesterone leads to poor sleep and increased anxiety. When combined with increased catecholamines, a lower level of testosterone leads to decreased interest in sex and decreased sexual performance.

      • Quitollis says:

        Just a suggestion for stress.

      • Paul says:

        Thanks Don – my stress levels are pretty low — but 17 buck beer is one thing that releases the catecholamines!

      • InAlaska says:

        Don, and so why is this a serious problem in an overcrowded world?

        • Don Stewart says:

          Dear InAlaska
          I am a very self-centered fellow. A few billion, more or less, who starve, is not a serious problem for me, myself, and I. Mess with my sex life and that is a very serious problem indeed.

          (As I have previously observed, it is extremely difficult on the Internet to make any jokes…at least I can’t seem to do it. Drollery doesn’t fit this medium.)

          Don Stewart

          • Lizzy says:

            But Don — here’s a good one: A wife asks her husband, an engineer…
            “Could you please go shopping for me and buy one bottle of milk, and if they have eggs, get 6!” A short time later the husband comes back with 6 bottles of milk. The wife asks him, “Why on earth did you buy 6 bottles of milk?” He replied, “They had eggs.”

            • xabier says:

              It’s late in the bar. Don’s worried about his sex life. Quitollis is suggesting we do ourselves in. Lizzy’s trying to cheer us up with jokes, and I’m mumbling about what happened in 1235, or the Spanish Civil War or something, but it’s hard to tell as I’ve had too many from my hip flask of home-made Patcharan. Meanwhile, End of More is pointing out that we are lucky to still have fossil fuel-powered cabs to get us home to bed, but not for long…….

          • InAlaska says:

            Don, I got it, thanks.. My question to you was also laced with a tinge of sarcasm and irony, neither of which translate well online. Best wishes for your continued good luck in that category.

  17. ordinaryjoe says:

    Three months since WIPP released plutonium to atmosphere and contaminated many of its employees internally.facility still closed. DOE now says three years to reopen, Three years that high level waste from savanah river, los alamos , and the nightmare that is hanford gets stored somewhere other than WIPP.
    https://www.radcast.org/updates-on-wipp/

    • This was posted at the Leslie Corrice site Fukushima News but may also apply to some situations in the US. http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2014/05/fukushima-radiation-report-tonic-for.html

      • ordinaryjoe says:

        What amounts of ingested plutonium do you consider safe Robert?

          • ordinaryjoe says:

            I have two more questions Robert. As I have stated before to you before these radical sources you cite such mr Corrice stating that radiation is actually beneficial and random mutation a natural part of evolution are a distraction from a the real question. No matter what they state they do not have the right to contaminate my community with radioactive waste. If Mr corrice wants to swim next to Fukashima as he has stated its safe thats fine more power to him. What that argument distracts from is that ocean is home to species and our species has no right to introduce radioactive waste into it. The nuclear industry has told us that leaks were impossible. Now we have Fukashima, hanford WIPP and the narrative changes, now leaks dont matter the materials are harmless as salt as bannanas. My two more questions are this Robert. What right does anyone have to introduce any substance into a community without that communities permission? Would you support a nationwide referendum where the people are allowed to decide whether nuclear waste production should continue?

            • My two more questions are this Robert.

              “What right does anyone have to introduce any substance into a community without that communities permission?”

              –Do you polite? Do you drive a car or ride a bus with an exhaust pipe? Do you use electricity? Is any of it produced by burning coal or other fossil fuels? Do you heat your domicile? Do you expect you lifestyle to be impacted by depletion? Will the closing of nuclear plants increase the burning of coal? Is coal radioactive? Are you radioactive?
              — Personally I consider Arnie Gunderson, Janette Sherman and Helen Caldicott to be ‘radicals’. To each his own.
              –To study radiation hormesis start with the two books by T D Luckey (try your University Library first) or the articles by Luckey and others in the Health Physics Journal.
              –How many known deaths from Plutonium have occurred per year in the US during recent decades? Hint – It will start with a zero and a decimal point .

            • “Would you support a nationwide referendum where the people are allowed to decide whether nuclear waste production should continue?”

              —Would there be an exemption for medical diagnosis and therapy using radionuclides?
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_medicine

              —Should there be a similar referendum regarding the burning of radioactive coal?

            • ordinaryjoe says:

              Robert do you not see Cohens proposal (never implemented) to ingest and breathe large amounts of plutonium as radical? What if the the it was nitric acid acid would that be non controversial? There are certainly radical anti nuclear groups out there, I consider ENEnews such, my perception is radcast does its best to stick to the facts.
              Robert you are a member of a group of people who strongly advocate nuclear power. This group of people includes many that score high on intelligence tests and have performed very well in the difficult science educational system.
              I regard humanities knowledge of nuclear power as the equvilant as six year old being smart enough to unlock a gun cabinet but not smart enough to leave them alone. I see nuclear power as being the epitomy of mankinds arrogance putting its “knowledge” before the relationship to the planet. In the unlikely event of our species survival perhaps there will come a time when we are mature enough to harness nuclear power.
              What is the primary difference in our arguments from a civil standpoint? You argument demands introduction of nuclear waste into my community. My argument introduces nothing into your community. What my argument does is effect your model of moral consumption, that is why you try to obligate me to it by mentioning consumption. I have described my consumption levels to you in the past and I reject your attempt to argue my collusion with the production of nuclear waste. Ive told you before and Ill tell you again Ill flip the main breaker and sell my cars if it will end the production of nuclear waste. An appropriate model of moral consumption is the largest issue of our day and it is clear one does not exist but this is our dillema.
              The fact that nuclear waste production violates basic moral principle by contaminating peoples environment without their consent is contrary to a democratic republic. This violation is right in line with other groups MIC;corporate power, lobbyist ecetera, belief that they have the right to make decisions that effect many others without their consent I notice you did not answer my second question. Robert I respect your hard earned knowledge. Do you respect my right to determine what hazardous materials enter my community? Ill ask you again, do you support the right of the inhabitants of this planet to determine whether the production of nuclear materials should continue, or do you believe that this should continue by the will of a chosen few ?

            • ordinaryjoe says:

              “—Would there be an exemption for medical diagnosis and therapy using radionuclides?
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_medicine

              To me this is nit picking. As you derive your income from it I understand why it is of concern to you.

              —Should there be a similar referendum regarding the burning of radioactive coal?

              Absaloutly. Right after the referendumon nuclear power that will never occur. Robert you do realize that if such referendoms were to occur, even if the vote was not tampered with the results would probably support nuclear power. People generally vote in favor of the consumption model they favor. Such a referendum would probably support the increase of nuclear power, but until the people make this choice the production of nuclear materials clearly violates the principles of a democratic republic.

          • Lizzy says:

            Hi Robert, I can’t reply to your comment below – the option to do so is not there.
            Re your comments about the dangers of plutonium, I have been hearing the same thing.
            Some time ago, there was an excellent BBC documentary by Professor Jim Al-Khalili about the aftermath of Chernobyl and numbers of confirmed deaths — far, far fewer than I or any of my friends had believed. http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html
            The programme went on to say that there is a growing belief among scientists and doctors that danger from radiation is not in linear proportion to the amount of radiation. So, lots of radiation kills you or causes cancer, but the danger drops off quickly. The ‘dirty bombs’ that had us all so worried post 9-11 according to this theory would be hardly more dangerous than conventional bombs. One US professor went so far as to say that if a ‘small’ nuclear bomb went of at one end of Central Park, the other end would be unaffected. This flew against everything I thought I knew as fact.
            (Predictably) Greenpeace et al say this is absolutely not true, and that hundreds of thousands will die due to Chernobyl. They are outraged that anyone dare question this fact. UNSCEAR is the UN Scientific Community on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. I saw on the programme one of their scientists walking though the abandoned Chernobyl site saying she had no fear at all of the place. There were also villagers who had moved back home to the villages now officially out-of-bounds. This is despite the fact that the landscape has “rewilded” with trees and wildlife (wolves, bears, deer, fish in the streams etc etc), and it looks flourishing. There is a thought that the Kiev government likes to insist the area is lethal in order to continue to receive large grants from the EU and other bodies.

        • ordinaryjoe. – Yes Cohen’s proposal was radical, but effective. He claimed that Nader did not respond. I am retired and do not currently generate income from the practice of Nuclear Medicine, X-Ray Diagnosis or Therapeutic Radiology. I apologize for the typo – polite should have been pollute. Do you agree that coal and coal ash are radioactive? Sources used for the gamma knife and other cancer therapy can also generate radioactive waste. You have probably read about various incidents involving improper disposal and theft of old Cobalt 60 sources. Actually I do not ‘strongly’ advocate nuclear power as I do not believe that it will be possible to replace fossil fuels with nuclear energy (or windmills and solar panels). I do believe that much of the current radiation hysteria is unwarranted

          • ordinaryjoe says:

            You are certainly correct there Robert I do not have a good understanding of the radioactivity of coal or wood ash, other than i stopped burning coal a decade or so ago because i was scared to dispose of the ashes. I need to become more informed about that. What do they emit alpha beta or gamma? I read about one account of where medical radiocative device was dismantled in a South America scrap yard and several deaths occured. An alert physician realized what that the patients were radioactive and prevented the hospitals other patients and staff from exposure

      • Dave Ranning says:

        Moot point.
        Government is abandoning nuclear in the long run (some recent small increase, but mainly government give aways to corporate supporters).
        And the “free market” will never develop nuclear, as it always a loss without out government guarantees.

    • Wonderful! (With sarcasm implied)

  18. ordinaryjoe says:

    Basic shelter can be improvised with only a few artifacts from the age of fossil fuels.

    • Jeremy says:

      A man who lives in a hole

      http://www.galfromdownunder.com/dan-price/

      • ordinaryjoe says:

        Always wanted to check out Joseph. Dead ends in a massive wilderness. Never will now, not much for burning petrol on road trips anymore. Nice hobbit hole. Hes going to wish he put some windows in when the grid goes down for real. You dont enough light to read war and peace but you need enough light to play cards or chess or you are going to go nuts sitting in a dark hole in a Oregon winter.

  19. edpell says:

    New York State is trying to come up with an energy plan. It is like watching the keystone cops. The politicians have no idea what is going on. But modern micro grids will save us, or some other irrelevant thing will save us. More transmission lines, more local generation, more demand side regulation, … The demand side regulation will “work” in the sense when it is hot and usage is high the corporation/government can turn off peoples appliances. I assume there will be an extra fee so the rich of Manhattan to avoid this unpleasantness.

    Many electric generator plants are being forced into existence by the state and federal government. But they have no customers so they say the New York Power Authority (NYPA) must buy all there unneeded power so they can get the bank loans to build the unneeded plants. This will not end well.

  20. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All
    Ukraine, Indonesia, Food Riots

    Chris Martenson has a nice essay today (behind a paywall for his subscribers) explaining his theory that, when food costs rise above the critical 40 percent of income threshold, then riots and civil war and revolutions are to be expected. Ukraine is above that critical threshold. He also points out that the IMF ‘help’ does nothing to assuage the pain of high food costs, but does a lot to assuage the pain of bankers and Gazprom.

    Willie Smits is a permaculturist, born in The Netherlands, who has lived for 35 years in Indonesia. He practices what we might call ‘village level permaculture’. His talk at the recent permaculture gathering in southern California is also behind a paywall. I will try to briefly describe some of the myriad things he talks about, so that you get an idea what he is doing. But please note, first, that he labels the Indonesian government as the largest systemic problem. The government has a whole laundry list of catastropic decisions: promoting oil palm plantations, turning over most of the land to foreign corporations, taking money from farmers to give it to tourist resorts, mining peat bogs, requiring farmers to buy GMO seeds, destroying very ancient irrigation systems, destroying co-operative arrangements which have persisted for hundreds of years, importing a million barrels of oil and gas per month to make synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and so on and so forth. In short, the government of Indonesia is attempting to destroy the traditional system of growing food and make a grand leap into a fossil fuel based economy. What they actually create is food shortages and unemployment.

    To give you an example of one effort that Smits is currently involved in. He planted a moderate sized food forest on a mountain slope six years ago. Since the forest was planted, there have been no floods in the drainage below the forest, new springs which supply drinking water have appeared, and the streams run year around rather than just in the wet season. Rainfall in the forest has increased significantly. The villagers now get 3 annual rice crops, rather than 2. The villagers are not stupid, and can see that some of this guy’s ideas may not be crazy. Smits uses satellite data coupled with a European Union database of plants to draw maps of what can be grown where in this rather mountainous region. It turns out that sugar palms are well suited to much of the land. Sugar palms are a C4 plant with lots of desirable attributes for turning sunlight and air into sugar. Sugar can be turned into food or fuel. One hectare (2.2 acres) will make 82 barrels of oil equivalent per year, while also growing other crops. By his calculations, sugar palms can grow enough sugar to entirely displace crude oil by 2030, globally.

    So Smits meets with the villagers, who have an agricultural co-op, and lets them manipulate the computer to explore different cropping schemes, and examine the cash, nutrient, and water flows which will result, over time as the plantings mature. To hear Smits talk, the villagers are quite capable of balancing long and short term objectives…but every plan also includes profitability in the short term. Once a plan is agreed upon, the computer prints a detailed recipe for what each farmer is to do in the coming year. For example, a farmer would be instructed to plant based on their elevation such that all the crops mature at the same time. The result is that the village can sell a large quantity to the boat, which will take it to Jakarta. In the past, 50 percent of what farmers grew was wasted. The new system, which basically eliminates competition within the co-op, has virtually eliminated waste. Every farmer in the co-op shares equally in the profits. It’s all very transparent…no secretive middle-men.

    Martenson’s concept of food to income threshold applies to urban poor people and to rural people who are caught up in the commodity farming business. But it does not apply to the members of the co-op that Willie Smits is helping. The co-op members grow almost all of what they eat (just not as isolated homesteads) and they also sell their surplus commodities. The extra money they are making has permitted them to build distance learning facilities and remote medical consulting facilites, as well as fuel motorbikes.

    The question everyone should be asking (instead of the empty talk filling the airwaves) is why the various governments and institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank can be persisting in such disastrously bad agricultural practices.

    Sane agricultural and gardening policies will not solve all the problems of the world, but at least they won’t make them worse.

    Don Stewart

    • following on the above topic-thread, this guy has all the answers too
      Not sure how he came to be in Mexico, his accent is North-east English—but what a guy!
      http://gizmodo.com/this-manmade-island-floats-on-over-150-000-recycled-pl-1575154298

    • Larry Johnson says:

      Don,
      Sometimes you’re amazing as to how close you actually get to the truth. But then you act like someone in a crowded room that bumps shoulders with the person next to them. You apologize and scurry off into a dark corner and continue to sip on the “kool-aid du jour”. Someday just stay in the sunlight and ask that guy next to you, “What are you doing here?” You may be surprised by the answer.

      While the rest of the contributors on this site make noise, you and Gail sometimes make sense. Sometimes so much that neither of you hear it. Just my humble opinion, of course.

      LJ

      “The path to human happiness runs through a garden.”

      • ordinaryjoe says:

        Where did you get that from Don’s post? Are we reading the same post? Don I think your posts and the time you spend creating them amazing. , Thank You.

        • Don Stewart says:

          Dear ordinaryjoe and others
          Many years ago I was deemed an INTJ in the Meyer Briggs test:
          https://www.personalitypage.com/INTJ.html

          At that time, the Meyer Briggs was somewhat looked down on by mainstream psychologists. However, I recently heard a very well known psychologist talking approvingly about its validity.

          I do know that Meyer and Briggs discovered something. At the time, I was managing a fairly large group. We did a two phase exercise. In the first phase, everyone in a specific type was put together as a team and given a problem to solve. It was truly awful. In the groups which consisted entirely of leaders with no sense of what others thought, there was shouting and near fist fights. In the group where everyone was an introverted peacemaker, nothing at all every got done but they were very nice to each other.

          The second part of the exercise used groups with a variety of personality types. These groups functioned easily and productively. It was an object lesson I remember 50 years later.

          At any rate. In my personality type, according to Meyer and Briggs, I get my ideas from others. I don’t exactly steal them, I listen and think and formulate and come out with some sort of program.

          If I don’t see that someone is saying something that is intriguing, sheds new light, or stimulates new thoughts, and if I don’t see any way to translate it into action, I lose interest pretty quickly. I have a hard time getting interested in rebuttal for the sake of rebuttal. I found high school debate to be a pointless exercise.

          I generally try to ‘triangulate’ the truth. I look at the question from position A, then position B, then position C and intuit that some sort of program will probably be productive. So I may look at Gail’s arguments for fast collapse, at John Michael Greer’s arguments for long and agonizing collapse, and come out with something that probably doesn’t please either one. I think that is one reason Gail and I tend to talk past each other.

          Don Stewart

          • ordinaryjoe says:

            Personal understanding of the nature of ones OWN personality, how one learns, and how one interacts is a powerful thing. This understanding is a positive thing and represents personal growth. Attempting to characterize and psychoanalyze OTHERS by their posts and then expressing that opinion on a public forum is not only a exercise in futility not supported by any legitimate methods like M&B but also clearly demonstrates either character issues or malintent. Any technique that develops personal growth is inherantly consentual. The topics discussed on this forum address issues that often trigger emotional responses. Open and honest understanding of oneself is without a doubt probably the greatest factor in trying understand if one is able to perceive the truth. I certainly observe what I perceive as flaws in others perception, but their development is their business. The only legitimate way for me to address what I perceive as a flaw in somones perception is to first validate their right to form their own beliefs and to see if they consent to a exploration of their perception. While this consent can be given or denied in a variety of ways this sort of interaction certainly can not be achieved in a internet forum. Only from a position of respect can any true work be done. There is only one thing worse than a self righteous shrink armed with the tools of the modern shaman and using these tools upon others without their consent while not exploring their own personal growth. That is the wide spread unqualified and untrained internet analysis of others by those seeking only to justify their own beliefs and or agenda. Any sane human understands that the possibility that his/her own perceptions are quite possibly even probably distorted in some way so how can unconsentual analysis of anothers perception be justified. let alone analysis from an individuals internet posts. When I see this behaviour I am very suspicious of that individuals motives.

          • Thanks! That is a pretty good explanation. We need folks of a lot of different types.

  21. Chris Johnson says:

    A new OPEC? An interesting article in National Post, ‘Putin’s New OPEC’ posits that Russia, Qatar and Iran, the three largest gas exporters, intend to ratchet up prices. Can they succeed?
    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2014/05/14/ezra-levant-putins-new-opec/

    • Paul says:

      Some problems with this article:

      “Fracking might seem like a bright, inevitable future for plentiful, affordable natural gas.”

      – duh – what total nonsense: here is the truth: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-30/shale-drillers-feast-on-junk-debt-to-say-on-treadmill.html

      “They also happen to be some pretty rough customers — Iran and Qatar are nasty dictatorships, and Russia has an authoritarian regime that seems to be regressing to a darker past.”

      – remind me of how many countries Iran, Qatar and Russia have invaded? How many people they have water boarded? How many illegal drone strikes they have carried out? How many dictatorships they have installed and support around the world? Tell me how they monitor my every email and phone call.

      That’s as far as I got with the article because the author’s credibility was shot to pieces in the fist few paragraphs… I will assume this is – as usual – another hatchet job on ‘evil Putin’

      The Canadian MSM is as corrupted as the US MSM.

      Generally the only reason to monitor it is to see how they analyze something — then you know you can rule that explanation out when seeking the truth.

      • InAlaska says:

        Give me a break! When did you first realize that all countries play a rough game? Its a rough world. Any country that can spy, does spy. Do you remember, or have you conveniently forgotten, that when the US “invaded” Iraq, everyone howled about how it was all about getting the oil. The US supposedly grabbed Iraq’s oil and was in the country to stay. Well that fantasy didn’t come true. Strange, how that narrative never comes up anymore. The US is a nation full of decent people and usually fields a pretty decent government (plus or minus a few, granted). Accruing all of these evil intentions to the US is your default and it gets a bit old. The US left and it left the oil behind. Blind trashing of the US doesn’t help your arguments.

        • Paul says:

          “The US is a nation full of decent people and usually fields a pretty decent government”

          Is that intended as sarcasm?

          I’ve listed the dictators America has installed/supports

          Let’s go a bit further – how many people did America murder in Vietnam?

          Ask Haliburton how Iraq worked out http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v215/waymjoh/Haliburton_Stock_Price_Since_War.gif

          How about this lovely scene – http://www.theguardian.com/gall/0,8542,1211872,00.html

          Then we have the innocents killed by drones http://www.globalresearch.ca/americas-undeclared-drone-war-on-the-people-of-pakistan/5356569

          Let’s not forget that America dropped not one but TWO nuclear bombs on women and children in Japan.

          I could go on and on about how indecent America is — but as I am writing from France I will use my limited French — here we have what is known as the coup de grace (not be confused with the coup organized by the CIA in Iran which overthrew a democratically elected government and installed the Shah and his murderous SAVAK – all because Mossadegh insisted that Iranian oil revenues belonged to Iran…) ….

          Anyone who after watching this half minute video who thinks America is a decent country is delusional http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4PgpbQfxgo

          Then of course we have this – a wonderful story of mass murder — by a president who wanted to demonstrate he was a tough guy — ironically this won the Academy for Best Documentary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-p4cPoVcIo

          If you would like to dispute any of this feel free — I can pour on hundreds of more examples that demonstrate America’s indecency.

          All of this is so precious in light of the fact that the American government is a totalitarian nightmare in the making — spying on every single email and phone call everyone makes.

          Of course I am very high on the list (higher after this rant of course) — and I would never for the life of me step foot in the bastion of greed, evil and Paris Hilton. Never.

          • interguru says:

            An acquaintance of mine, born in Ghana, says that after the Ghanese watch how the Chinese are treating them, they feel nostalgic for the Europeans and Americans.

            What I find amazing is that after how horribly we treated the Vietnamese during the war, that they prefer us over their Chinese and Russian allies.

            • Paul says:

              You are aware that the Chinese are actually paying for what they take — as in their are buying up mining interests and land around the world….

              Can you point out where the Chinese are torturing people in Ghana who oppose them?

              Remind me of where China starved 500,000 young children to death as part of their foreign policy?

              America is basically a neo-colonial model – they steal — they put in place proxy gangsters who torture and murder anyone who opposes this situation. That is standard operating procedure for America — don’t take my word for it — here’s an American who was involved in this and exposed it —- of course most have never heard of him http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTbdnNgqfs8

              If you want to go tit for tat on who hates who the most — I have been to Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, and Egypt in the past couple of years — and I have had close contacts with many locals including student leaders in the case of Egypt — and opposition politicians in Bahrain….

              You may not know what your government is doing to these people but the people in these places understand full well who is behind the monsters that run their countries. They know who is supplying the tear gas and the bullets (most have Made in America on them of course) and giving the orders.

              The hatred is beyond intense…. strong enough to motivate some of these people to resort to terrorist acts against America.

              You want to talk about hatred — point to someone who’s hatred is so strong that they are willing to strap on a suicide vest and give up his or her life — because they are seething with hatred…

              Then we can go tit for tat on who hates who the most — on who has been treated unjustly.

              Ask you Ghana friend if he is angry enough about what the Chinese have done to him and his family and his country to strap on the vest.

            • interguru says:

              Give the Chinese some time, or you can check with the Tibetans or Uyghurs .

            • Paul says:

              China, Russia, America, Spain, England etc etc… the world leader behaves only as badly as we allow them to. It is the responsibility of the masses to take them to task – if we simply accept that they are rapid dogs and do not try to reign them in — then we get what we deserve.

            • xabier says:

              Interguru

              There was an Iraqui joke: an Iraqui stands and shakes his fist at the sky ‘Filthy Exploiting English Imperialists – come back!!’ From the early days of their independence.

              One can imagine that the Chinese would have the greatest contempt for Africans on racial grounds, much as the Arabs did when the ran the slave trade. The idea of Chinese ‘non-imperialist co-operative ‘ expansion is a joke.

            • Paul says:

              Can someone point out China’s equivalent of the School of the Americas — the one where America trains their flunky stooges in torture, murder and propaganda — which they then use on their own people to stay in power?

              Any references to where China has murdered 500,000 children?

              I am not saying China is benevolent – by no means — but so far no country comes anywhere near close to the murderous torturing monster that is America. When tallying for America we count not only direct atrocities – but also atrocities committed by US installed dictators… that list runs pages long — millions murdered and tortured — on the orders of America’s Deep State

              When China catches up to them — then we can talk about China.

              But for now – America is in a class of it’s own.

          • xabier says:

            Let’s take an historical perspective on this: the Romans were criticised for saying that they brought peace, while really bringing murder and enslavement.

            All empires have dirty hands, very dirty. My ancestors who fought for Imperial Spain all over Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries probably killed women and children and raped – the laws of war allowed it.

            Thomas Hardy the English poet was appalled by WW1 in which the ‘Christian’ nations of Europe murdered their young men: ‘After two thousand years of saying Mass/They’ve got as far as poisoned gas.’

            America in the 20th and 21st centuries has just conformed to the pattern. Even the torture is nothing – nothing – compared to normal judicial procedure in all civilised countries before the 18th century.

            Living in glass houses, let’s not throw stones or we won’t be able to talk for the sound of shattering glass.

            • Paul says:

              Indeed the US is not different than any of the other hegemon throughout history.

              And as you point out, there have been improvements — in the past genocide was standard operating procedure for leading nations.

              I would argue that the reason that there have been some improvements — and the reason that things have not devolved to a far worse state (imagine Genghis Khan with drones — or B52s — or nuclear weapons)…. is that brave people have stood against the atrocities committed by global leaders throughout history.

              Thousands have been tortured and executed so that we could enjoy the relative freedoms we do in much of the world these days. Without these brave men and women — who helped to reign in the excesses — I suspect we’d be living in a far darker world.

              Hence I take issue when I hear comments that world leaders are evil by nature — not worth getting too upset about it (and I hear this frequently). Boys will be boys….

              We are taking a whole lot for granted….

              The US has without question set the stage for a totalitarian nightmare — I recently listened to Valerie Plame speak and she referenced peaceful animal rights protestors being placed on the black list by Homeland Security…. of course the NSA has the goods on every single one of us… the mechanisms are all in place….

              It is far more difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube after it’s out — I suspect — the people of the US of course think ‘well that couldn’t happen here’…. I am sure East Germans said the same thing at one point…

              Well it is happening — apathy comes as a price.

            • Paul says:

              Oh and let’s not forget — this discussion was started because In Alaska stated that American governments are generally decent.

              That is what I was responding to – I did not indicate that China was lily white….

              A hell of a lot of people around the world from Gaza to Panama who have felt the wrath of America’s ‘decent’ government would back me up on this

              What I find particularly amusing is that many Americans actually defend their government – in spite of the NSA disclosures – in spite of the Iraq Wars — in spite of Abu Graib – in spite of Albright’s admission

              Isn’t this kinda like making excuses for the devil? Isn’t it like cheering for a mass murderer? A totalitarian dictator? A thief? A murderer?

              I often wonder – what would it take to bust through the propaganda-induced delusion and make Americans see exactly what their government is all about.

              And the biggest irony is that the government American’s support has turned on them — offshoring jobs — spying on them — and soon enough the totalitarian nightmare will be unleashed on anyone who dares challenge this fascist state.

              I suppose when that happens people will come to their senses – but of course by then – it will be too late.

              Alas – total economic collapse will likely kill off the totalitarian state in the US — you’ll have to deal with the neighbourhood Mad Max instead…

            • Interguru says:

              Paul
              I’m not disagreeing with most of what you say, but I do scratch my head at why the Vietnamese now love us (published and anecdotal reports) while they dislike their former allies, Russia and China. This is a serious question, not a troll.

            • Paul says:

              This reminds of the line in Apocalypse Now — how does it go “Inside every one of these damn gooks is an American wanting to get out” or something like that….

              I have been to Vietnam dozens of times and I cannot recall anyone saying they loved America.

              When I have asked what they think of America the response every single time has been:

              We do not hate America – all we have ever wanted is to be left alone by America – to have independence

              Although I am 100% certain if I would have asked this question in 1970 most people would have despised America.

              Vietnamese no doubt love to trade with America – on fair terms… just as they love to trade with Canada and the EU and Australia and China.

              But don’t get too carried away – it’s not true love…

              Likewise I have traveled many times to the middle east and north africa — without a doubt what the people want in places like Egypt – Bahrain – etc… is to have a decent government — to not be put under the boot of an American puppet regime who sells out the country and its people — they want to live in dignity and to have an opportunity to prosper.

              I was in Bahrain a couple of years ago and I wanted to go in to observe the riots in one neighbourhood — I’d arranged someone to take me but when they saw I was a westerner and what I was up to the driver refused because if stopped he loses his car.

              Another driver was arranged and I told him to just drop me within walking distance as I did not want him to get in trouble… he said no no — I will take you where you want to go — a very eloquent fellow perhaps 27 or 28 — he told me a tale of how he joined protests against the US backed regime some years ago – he was thrown in prison – tortured — and forced to state on camera that he was backed by Iran — he and others were forced to say they were Hezbollah.

              As he pointed out – he had never been to Iran and his protest involvement had nothing to do with Hezbollah – he wanted justice and fairness — as he told me — if Iran is involved in Bahrain then when we get rid of the American backed puppets if the Iranians try to take their place — we’ll protest them as well.

              As he said ‘All I want is for my son to have a chance at a future – to have a job – that is the society I want’

              And btw – he was driving a cab because he was banned from all universities — and from moving abroad to pursue a new life.

              Believe you me — he knows who is responsible for him being tortured and imprisoned — he knows who is responsible for his dead end life.

              He does not love America.

              Nor do people who have been droned by America….

              Now how would we like it if Russia determined there were suspected terrorists in New York — and decided to fire missiles into Manhattan believing terrorists to be hanging out — but unfortunately wiping out people celebrating a wedding.

              And then Putin issued a statement that this was all most unfortunate — but these things happen – we call this collateral damage

              I suspect there would be a fair amount of hate for Russia and Putin.

              Funny how people are unable to see it that way in America

            • InAlaska says:

              Of course, Gail, you’re right that the free rice has other unintended negative effects. But that is different from any ill-intent. Taking the longer view, all of that free food aid over 60 years has probably kept alive a billion or more people who would not have lived to contribute to the overshoot. Not to mention teaching all of those impoverished countries how to boost the productivity of, or reclaim their arable land. Of course, the US spearheaded the movement to educate women so that they now have smaller families. Trying to alleviate hunger and ignorance is it the right thing to do or the wrong?..Wow, now that I think about it, America is to blame for everything. Nevermind…..

            • Paul says:

              You might want to Google the phrase ‘tied aid’ to find out what food aid is all about

              Most ‘aid’ comes with strings attached. And that that doesn’t does not come remotely near making up for all the theft of resources carried about by Western countries.

              Aid from the west is primarily PR spin — an attempt to make them look good — while they rape the resources of poor countries.

              You want to ‘fix’ Africa? Stop installing dictators and stealing from them.

              Have a look at this:

              Stealing Africa http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/stealing-africa/

              And

              The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtzfCMHX1Yg

          • InAlaska says:

            Hey Paul,
            The US defeated Germany and Japan, and then rebuilt both countries into two of the largest, most prosperous nations on earth. Can’t see your pals in Russia, China or France doing that. After defending the world from nazis, it held off an expansionist Soviet empire for 40 years. Like I said before, its a rough world and the rules are rough too. Nobody said it was perfect, but who else has stepped up to the plate to provide any type of leadership or the rule of law? You can hate it all you want, but without it, you’d most likely be in a gulag speaking Russian or Chinese. The thing about western democracies is that they are usually self-correcting toward the center. There is always extremism but generally it is averaged out toward moderation. Respectfully, put your hate away.

            • Paul says:

              Like any world power America does nothing unless it benefits the Deep State – there is no such thing as a benevolent act.

              I wonder how do you rationalize this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0WDCYcUJ4o

              Respectfully – if there is to be moderation of this topic I would suggest it is your comments that be moderated — because there are millions if not billions of people around the world would would be incredibly insulted by your claim that America represents decency.

              Try asking any of those tortured by one of the dozens of brutal regimes installed by the US how they feel about the US government.

              Take Iran for instance – the US overthrew a democratically elected government and installed the Shah — and trained SAVAK — which then ran a programme of torture and murder on par with Soviet Russia.

              All because America and Britain did not like that Mossadegh wanted Iranian oil revenues for Iran.

              I wonder how you feel about that?

            • InAlaska says:

              Well,I’m not saying its all good. But I also see billions of dollars in US food aid going to impoverished and starving countries all over Asia and Africa. I see bags of rice with “USA” stamped on them going to the worst places in the world. I see the US Navy steaming to help victims of tsunamis in Thailand, earthquakes in Haiti, and probably Bali someday soon. The US Peace Corp sends doctors, engineers and agriculturalists to the poorest nations on Earth. America also supports oil-free Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East against a sea of foes. What I don’t see is any other country doing any of these things…ever…certainly not China and Russia. Why would the world want either of those nations’ as a reserve currency? With any great power, you get the whole enchilada, the good, the bad and the ugly. Hopefully, you get more good then bad. I always enjoy your comments, Paul, but I hate to see it always qualified by this extreme black and white view of this country that lessens the impact of your core ideas. Best regards to you.

            • The other side of the story is that he free rice competes with local agriculture. Ultimately, the countries that are sent the free rice are often worse off. What they really needed was strengthening of the ability of local farmers to feed local populations.

            • Paul says:

              What I find precious is that the US and west — rob these countries blind of their resources — install brutal governments —- creating massive poverty and suffering — and then they ship over some bags of rice and CNN then reports how kind we are

              Oh — and don’t forget to drop a quarter in the Oxfam box at the check out counter — that makes us feel really good and allows to block the fact that much of our prosperity has been built on the back of our robbing weak countries.

            • Stefeun says:

              Yoy’re right: all the logics behind “charity business” is really pernicious, and the real effects are devastating in the end of the day.
              That such crookedness being institutionalized and valorized makes me sick.

  22. interguru says:

    Lights out: The dark future of electric power ( from http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229684.300-lights-out-the-dark-future-of-electric-power.html?cmpid=RSS%7CNSNS%7C2012-GLOBAL%7Cmagcontents#.U3DJ261dU7N )

    Electricity systems are complex, high-tech assemblages in which small failures can interact in unanticipated and often incomprehensible ways. The North American grid, for example, is arguably the world’s largest machine, but is highly fragmented. It crosses borders and regulatory zones and has no single owner or manager. Over 3,100 utility companies are on it.

    Other continent-scale grids have similar weaknesses. The vulnerability of such systems is demonstrated by the Italian blackout of 2003. The event began when a falling tree broke a power line in Switzerland; when a second tree took out another Swiss power line, connectors towards Italy tripped and several Italian power plants failed as a result. Virtually the whole country was left without power. It says something when a nation can be brought to a halt by two trees falling outside its borders. …

    Resource depletion is already having an effect on countries that rely on fossil fuels such as coal for electricity generation. Countries with significant renewable resources are not immune, either. Weather is not predictable and is likely to become less so, courtesy of climate change: in the past decade shortages of rain for hydro dams has led to blackouts in Kenya, India, Tanzania and Venezuela. Deregulation and privatization have created further weaknesses in supply as there is no incentive to maintain or improve the grid. Almost three-quarters of US transmission lines and power transformers are more than 25 years old and the average age of power plants there is 30 years.

    ( bold mine )

    • CTG says:

      Complexity is a hidden killer of our modern city. Cars, computers, financial systems, etc are too complex for many to understand. Once broken, it requires specialised skills to repair/resolve. That skill maybe too far or unavailable when you need it. The item/system will be rendered totally useless….

      • Jeremy says:

        The more you build, the more you need to upkeep and maintain. The harder it gets.
        My grandfather was always “fixing” his old 1920’s home, the plumbing, the front stairs, the heating system….it got to a point REPLACEMENT was the ONLY FIX!
        Good luck to the grid.

  23. Quitollis says:

    UK headlines today: “interest rates to rise because the economy is doing well”. Should we take that at face value? The gov strategy thus far seems to have been to flood the economy with money, ZIRP, QE. Does this news mean that all is now well or that things are about to get worse?

    • CTG says:

      I never believe in any “new world order”, “new world currency” or the elites have new plans for the world. It is a dog-eat-dog world out there and unlike what is portrayed by Hollywood, there will be no grand plan to save mankind when the last chapter of the movie starts. From the comments, statements and actions of the elites, either they are delusional, super optimistic, refusal to accept reality, in denial or just plain “it will turn out fine”…

      • Paul says:

        The UK has ‘recovered’ the same way the US has — by pumping in stimulus — but there is no real recovery in either country — we are getting an artificial bump — just as we did when they kicked in stimulus in 2001 — we all know how that ended…

        This will end the same — but the bubbles are exponentially bigger — and central banks will not be able to bail things out this time

  24. Paul says:

    A whiff of what can be expected as things deteriorate… this will get extremely violent as the scramble for what’s left intensifies — and leaders, unable to do anything once the collapse starts look to deflect the anger of billions across the planet when they realize that there will be no recovery — and start looking for someone to blame…

    I can imagine the financial community will be high on the vendetta list…

    (Reuters) – Thousands of Vietnamese set fire to foreign factories and rampaged in industrial zones in the south of the country in an angry reaction to Chinese oil drilling in a part of the South China Sea claimed by Vietnam, officials said on Wednesday.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/14/us-china-vietnam-idUSBREA4D04F20140514

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      The article says the factories were actually Taiwanese, which is unfortunate. At first I was full of admiration for the Vietnamese people for undertaking such a bold counter offensive. We are definitely in the opening stages of collapse. When countries start to face off over resources it’s a prelude to war. In this case with oil price putting so much pressure on the world economy, I’d say any war action, small or big will simply chew away at remaining resources. I wouldn’t be surprised if more energy is lost in the fracas between China and Vietnam over this drilling rig (for exploration) than what comes out of the ground. Diminishing returns on steroids.

      • Paul says:

        Yet another impact of a globalized world — foreign owned factories — or even products (see how Chinese wrecked Japanese cars and dealerships in recent years) can be targeted — causing huge problems for the owners back in the parent country

        You can attack a foreign country by attacking their assets in your country.

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      Unfortunately, these types of situations playing out fits right in with Nostradamus’ prediction of ‘East vs. West’ in this time period. What is it about human beings that when things get tough, sides get picked?

      This currency war is about to get much more extreme. While the masses have been lulled into a sense of complacency via MSM assertions of breathtaking stock market greatness, the leaders are conversely, acutely aware of the precariousness of the situation.

      I’ve been following this topic for nine years now and compared to what happened in 08, what’s coming seems like it will be much more serious. The difference is under one particular category: Military – up until recently the lid was holding steady. Now it’s rattling. Probably a reflection of fiscal insecurity.

      • Paul says:

        Agree – this is a very serious situation.

        On one hand it appears Russia and China have determined the US is a spent empire — and that they will no longer tolerate the US bullying them and the world — nor will they continue to pour good money after bad into US debt.

        This has been demonstrated by the fact that both have stopped funding US debt and are in fact selling off.

        The US is almost certainly stepping in to monetize in secret http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/12/fed-great-deceiver-paul-craig-roberts/ which would appear to confirm that Russia and China are throwing the US under the bus.

        So where does that leave us?

        Russia and China seem not to be bluffing or willing to compromise — they seem to be serious – USD will not longer be the reserve currency.

        Of course the US elites do not like this — because it means the end of US power — the end of Empire. Do they accept this or do they go down fighting…

        We have to assume that going down fighting could result in a nuclear war….

        My gut says the US backs down — because nuclear war would likely be an extinction event — and even if it were limited (say first strike taking out Russia China capabilities) you might as well call that an extinction event because if you bust up the global supply chains and interconnected financial system with such an act — the global economy would blow to pieces…

        • InAlaska says:

          Respectfully, Its kind of hard to read this stuff over and over again and not respond. Ending USD as the world reserve currency is going to take a lot more than China-Russia-Iran. It is predicated on the notion that the rest of the world economies think they’ll get a better deal from Sino-Rus hegemony than from the US. Not gonna happen. Everyone knows that Russian and China are gangster states that have serious problem running governments under the rule of law. Granted, the US hasn’t had a great track record lately, but most of us know what we can expect from the US. Handing over our economic and political destinies to Russian and Chinese elites sounds a whole lot worse than sticking with what’s sort of working. Paul, sometimes I think your extreme dislike (hatred?) of the US clouds your ability to see it in any other light.

          • Paul says:

            From my digging it would appear that Gaddafi and Saddam were murdered because they were planing to trade oil without using the USD.

            So clearly the US fears anyone who threatens the USD.

            My distaste for America has absolutely nothing to do with my analysis (although I am quite happy to see a state run by war criminals brought to heel) — the cold hard facts support that Russia and China are preparing to throw the US under the bus.

            Neither is buying USD debt — which in itself says they have written off their UST holdings rather that throwing good money after bad.

            If Russia and China trade oil in Yuan (or anything but USD) that seals the deal – the US is done as the global bully. They are a spent power — and the USD as reserve currency is finished.

            The fact that they are confronting Russia directly in the Ukraine suggests to Russia has gravely upset the Deep State — the only question is will the Deep State go all in and attack Russia with nukes — and potentially wipe out the world.

            Putin — and China – appear not to be overly concerned… they seem to be proceeding as planned: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/china-russia-on-verge-of-gas-deal/2014/05/16/969261c2-dcc8-11e3-a837-8835df6c12c4_story.html

            • InAlaska says:

              Hey Paul,
              I don’t see anyway that this conflict would go nuclear. The US and Russia had their fingers on the button for 40 years of Cold War and plenty to hate each other for and they never pushed it. If Russia wants Ukraine they’ll get it and the US won’t go to war over it. But its a matter of how much pain Russian elites are willing to endure for it through economic sanctions. I suspect alot. Russia can threaten to turn off the gas tap to Europe, but doing so would likely cause a chain reaction, systemic global economic meltdown that would take down Russia, too. This is one of the rare benefits to globalization. It puts a brake on war, because it makes war too expensive. There is just too much interdependency now in the spheres of economics, politics and resources for large scale war to be possible. Either we all more or less prosper together, or we all go down together.

        • Someone sent me a link to another article on the situation Paul Roberts writes about in the above link.

          http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a1de1546-c489-11e3-b2fb-00144feabdc0.html?siteedition=intl#axzz31tKmaXcK

          It says, among other things:

          Gennadiy Goldberg, strategist at TD Securities, said: “We suspect that the increase in Belgian holdings may be the product of another entity moving their holdings into the nation rather than Belgium itself purchasing such a vast amount of Treasuries.”

          There seems to be a change in how official data is collected, with amounts showing up now based on locations of intermediaries actually holding the debt. The article suggests that Russia may have moved its Treasury holdings to a different intermediary. It also mentions that financial reform requires greater use of top-rated government debt for collateral for derivative trades. An organization called Euroclear is located in Belgium. Its holdings have “gone up dramatically” in recent months.

  25. Pingback: Há dois tipos de pessoas no mundo: as que procuram a verdade, e as que preferem o consolo. | Achaques e Remoques

  26. pagocs says:

    Der Gail,

    I am sorry if already mentioned this news in the comments, but I had no chance read through all of them. So as I see here is the next step in the big game: http://rt.com/business/158396-gasprom-russia-china-cnpc/

    Regards,
    Peter

  27. CTG says:

    Hi,

    I have a feeling that we are at the stage where everything is on the verge of exploding. Need all your views and comments. In any “experiment on population”, be it rats or yeasts, at some point just before the shark’s fin collapse, “abnormal” events may happen. Example will be like rats biting each other and turn agressive before the eventual collapse.

    From Zerohedge today (5/14 in Asia), it seems surreal that all at the same time, things are happening and although at first glance, they are not related, deep down it may be (due to energy or food perhaps?)

    1. Ukraine issue
    2. China-Vietnam getting more serious
    3. Thailand is also getting worse
    4. Albuquerque, NM police chief being served sitizen’s arrests for the police force being “too violent”
    5. Bundy Ranch (already died down but it was a big issue)
    6. Venezuela having very high inflation and price controls
    7. Chinese police/army preparing for social unrest (drills_
    8. Various uprising in China
    9. XX country’s economy tanking rapidly (insert your country – China, America, UK, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, etc)
    10. So many other smaller issues in practically every country.

    Am I being paranoid or am I being fed too much information or is it very real ?

    • Christian says:

      You’re not paranoid at all, but things will worsen some more before the Big Bubble Burst

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      “I have a feeling that we are at the stage where everything is on the verge of exploding.”

      Accurate synopsis, CTG. Hard not to notice these events indicating not all is well with BAU. The one that shocked me the most is #2, with China willing to wage war to drill for oil in another country’s waters. That’s desperate!

      How about the hypothermia analogy by Ilargi? When it’s cold the body sacrifices the periphery to save the core’s vital organs. Right now the powerful elite are shifting dough from the masses via QE, to the top players to keep things going. To keep real estate values in wealthy areas rising, stock markets tipping to new highs but it’s a game with a bad ending. No way to keep this farce going ad infinitum.

      As a last ditch fantasy fiscal effort, the Fed are trying to end QE, but if the 1st qtr. GDP results of .01% are any indication, QE will have to be raised again before it tapers to zero to keep things going.

    • CTG says:

      Hi, I think the frequency of things happening is really getting higher and higher and I was told that the comments section at MSM like Bloomberg seems to be filled with comments blasting Bloomberg (anyone can verify that ?). If MSM is being blasted by people, then what Paul hopes of “not happening” (i.e. the masses know about this whole finite resources thing) is happening. That the masses are beginning to realize what is happening.

      Any of these “explosive situation” can morph and spread globally in less than one day and with so many new ones popping up, it does not take very long for something to break. Remember that in 1997, Thailand was the trigger point for the Asian Financial Crisis. Now, basically, every country in the world is having the same issue with Thailand (hot money flowing in/out, hot real estate, high debts, high cost of living, corrupt officials/politicians).

      As what someone in the internet says – we are all wading waist high in petrol/gasoline, Central Bankers are pouring more petrol; bankers are passing out matches and politicians are actually striking matches and hoping that none of them would fall into the petrol !

      • Paul says:

        Agree – the matrix is all about CONfidence… if the con artist (thankfully we have the greatest con artist in history as President of the US!) fails to CONvince the sheeple that the matrix is real .. then the matrix vaporizes.

        Remember ‘green shoots’ — how many thousand times did we hear or read that phrase in 2009?

        We don’t call it that any more because that phrase has connotations with failure – nobody wants to be reminded of that — it distorts the matrix….

        In spite of the fact that all data points indicate that the global economy is not recovering people still believe in the recovery meme — they grasp for any headline that supports that — they WANT so desperately to believe that — they MUST believe that

        The MSM and the policy makers who direct the MSM understand this — that is why you see so many misleading headlines — few people are interested in the details of finance and economics — they skim the headline only —- so if you cherry pick a data point you can create the perception that recovery is happening — but on closer analysis you will always find that the headline was bs.

        I follow quite a few sites — and I do see quite a lot of people not believing the spin — quite often when a very obvious edict from the ministry of truth is posted there is an immediate deluge of replies insulting the author of the story and calling him a liar and a presstitute.

        But I still think the psychological need to believe in the matrix – to believe in the recovery — is very strong… I don’t think we are at a tipping point — and I wonder if we ever will be?

        I wonder if something more fundamental has to happen – something that relies on the laws of physics or mathematics?

        For instance this was posted earlier http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-30/shale-drillers-feast-on-junk-debt-to-say-on-treadmill.html I saw an article the other day that indicated fracking was the only thing between us and 150 oil – and we all know what 150 oil means – there is no conning our way out of that

        So what if punters see that article and run for the exits? Fracking collapses — oil spikes — and we revisit 2008 but in a far more weakened condition having used up (I think) all the tools (QE ZIRP) trying to prevent the next collapse.

        • Christian says:

          “It’s a perfect set-up for investors to lose a lot of money,” Gramatovich said. “The model is unsustainable.”

          Honestly, we can’t say Bloomberg is just a part of the matrix

          • Paul says:

            Well… when I see an article like that on the home page then I would agree with that….

            I follow bloomberg and other finance sites and I did not see that article — I was only made aware of it by someone posting it here.

            The MSM does often cover this stuff — but they bury is very deep…

            Bloomberg certainly does publish its share of spin…

      • xabier says:

        During WW2, many British soldiers in the Desert War died because they doused their bedding with petrol to kill bugs – and then lit up a cigarette without thinking. Politicians are wiser? One doubts it.

    • You’re not crazy. Pentagon issued a very clear warning the other day.

      http://www.post-gazette.com/news/environment/2014/05/14/Military-researchers-see-climate-change-as-a-growing-national-security-threat/stories/201405140089

      Also…
      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/jun/14/climate-change-energy-shocks-nsa-prism

      Expect it to get much worse as the baby boomers desperate to maintain status quo (their world “order”) ignore the physical realities of a declining resource world against growing populations, climate change. In other words they are sowing the seeds for immediate phase collapse straight from Order to Disorder by-passing effective leadership helping us to navigate and ride with these “new phase 3 complex” environmental changes.

      Anglo-Saxon baby boomers are literally desperate to hold on to the status quo and in doing so will cause disorder. In doing so it’s a great excuse for them because they will try to establish immediate “order” restrict all freedoms and god knows what else. Always opportunity in chaos for our political leaders. Trust me they know this all too well.

      Reports that say there’s — that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
      —Donald Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense

      Most ignorant laughed at what he said, but to the educated, what he said was incredibly intelligent. He explained brilliantly principles of quite a complex matter. We’re talking IBM level systems analysis stuff.

      “Cynefin environmental phase state framework”

      1. Simple – Known Knowns (relatonship between cause & effect is obvious)
      2. Complicated – Known unknowns (relationship between C&E requires expert analysis)
      3. Complex – Unknown Unkowns (relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance) – where innovation is needed
      4. Chaos – Unknowable (no relationship between cause and effect at systems level)
      5. Disorder – the state of not knowing what type of causality exists

    • There seem to be an awfully lot of issues, related to falling apart of globalization, or to individual exporters having problems, or to individual importers having problems. We cannot sustain growth with limited, high priced oil, and this messes up the financial systems of countries.

  28. Chris Johnson says:

    The role of China in the Ukraine crisis has mostly been overlooked, unfortunately and wrongly. Two years ago China and Ukraine agreed to lease 3 million hectares of Ukrainian farmland, about 5% of its total land. China needs the farmland… China also contracted with Kiev to conduct a serious upgrade of the Crimea port facilities — a project China could finance and construct. Knowledgeable observers are asking if the annexation of Crimea was a move to counter China:
    http://www.silkroadreporters.com/2014/05/13/russias-crimea-annexation-move-china/.
    Other observers wonder whether Czar Vladimir will be able to resist Chinese economic and financial pressures now that Russia’s foreign exchange holdings have dropped so precipitously. Can financial instability lead to security catastrophe? Is the entire situation wobbling off to apocalypse?

    • Christian says:

      Very interesting article! Yanukovitch was flirting with too much people… It reinforces what I was thinking: Putin is not wandering, nor attempting to build anything particular, just continuing to manage Russia’s half millenial neighborhood. He is not interested in taking land (more mouths to feed), and securing Crimea was unavoidable under the dissolution of Kiev’s authority (as it was a direct message to Beijing). This dissolution was produced by the West, because Yanukovitch was prefering Moscow and not them upon some money thing I have forgot -may be somebody remember what- a bad idea may be.

      So, now he is reluctant to absorb more pieces of Ukraine (although he will possibly indulge in some cases in time). If I was him, I would take Donetsk and leave the others to the western wolves.

      The money problem… I’m not in the details enough, but what portion of their imports China stands for? Russian land could be leased… If there is no credit and no international ruble they will have to cut back on social or military spending, or devaluate or erase luxury imports. And/or.

      By the way, here is a link to Lisandro Viale’s page, an argentinean politician I talked about a month ago who mentions LTG. He is an agriculture graduate, and at april 3 there is a quote of Bill Mollison (all in spanish, of course, but you can Like if you want):

      https://www.facebook.com/viale.lisandro

      There is a mention of Oxfam disparities too, I think I finally found someone to follow in politics, kind of a transition leader? As he says there, our party (Socialist Party, usually a kind of european socialist party) has recently formalized a national coalition to next year national elections which is ranking first in voting intention (the whole true is just that we started first, but we’re doing very good), and that among coalition leaders the president of our party is doing the gold medal in the polls! Hope Lisandro don’t go Governor, he would be far more useful in Buenos Aires if it ever happens we win the big prize.

      Of course he never dooms in his speechs, although he is very aware of the global situation (I personally addressed this issue with him). Most of his political work tends to multiply people in the countryside, altough until now he has always been in the minority.

      The point is the province our party is currently governing, Santa Fe, is not a transition place… A guy who is trying to establish a transition network in Argentina told me he gets not much fellows around him. I replied here people just find it impossible to imagine the country falling short of food, and in case we are to survive the next financial crash things will look different and may be politicians will really do something (what specific things, it is not at all discussed).

    • Good points. Lots of uncertainties. We need a globalized world, not one where every nation is fighting for its own advantage.

      • Christian says:

        I was about to write Argentina could stay with the dollar given Obama helps us with our creditors, but looking at Belgium it’s like “those in the lab” they’re really scared. As an Argentinean I know very well the problems associated to a flying currency, and a currency war could very well happen to be the Big Trigger.

        That’s why I still believe a world currency, issued all at once and usefull just for the few decades -say half a century- of decaying globalisation would be a good shot and could help very much stabilizing commerce and politics.

        • Stefeun says:

          Salut Christian,
          a common currency doesn’t fix anything, if not closely connected to homogeneization of social, work, fiscal, etc… policies between involved countries.

          Look at the Euro: we made monetary union only, and forgot about all the rest.
          Result is that capital can turn around national laws and taxes, while EU countries are competing with each other at all other levels and national govts are more than limited due to EU rules dictated by financial interests.
          The adjustments cannot be made on currency any longer, so the pressure is on wages, pensions and public services (and rising taxes for middle-class).
          Except Germany, the European countries that are not doing so bad are not in the Eurozone.

          • The Eurozone attracted mostly countries with energy problems. As the price of imports rose, and as the Eurozone’s own production fell, this became more and more of a problem.

          • Christian says:

            Salut Steph
            I don’t think at all about an integrative currency, but about a “controlled desintegration” one. Not something to bind more, but according to fuel and commerce forecasts something to deglobalize.

            • Stefeun says:

              Désolé Christian,
              my answer was a bit emotional.
              Reg. what you mean exactly, sorry but I won’t risk myself in discussion about monetary issues, due to lack of knowledge.

            • Christian says:

              Aucun problème Steph, I got nothing about economics neither, until falling upon PO issue I never understood a single bit of it (and didn’t care neither). But now I can reduce it to physics and everything fits. I know nothing of physics neither, it’s just barrel related money is far easier to get than money itself.

  29. Pingback: Another Week of Climate Disruption News – May 11, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  30. Theedrich Yeat says:

    Smackeroo is letting his Russophilia blind him to what Gail is saying. She is talking about the inexorable pincer movement of Russian energy costs and benefits, not about externalities manipulable by Liliputin. The squeeze is due to a complex combo of geology, supply, demand and, above all, politics. This is to say nothing about Russia’s millennium-old tradition of parasitic corruption and bloodthirst, which defeats any and all organizational efficiency and rationality. Vlad’s neo-Stalinist revival is based solely on energy exports. As those wane due to the overarching factors mentioned by Gail, so will his success in attempting to return to the Commie past. And if he does swallow more of Ukraine, that burden will only accelerate Russia’s demise. Sorry, Smack: your ad hominems against Gail notwithstanding, your arguments are irrelevant to any prognosis of Russia’s return to civilization. (And you might want to take a class or two in English grammar.)

  31. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    Asking for permission to go off topic for a post, since my knowledge of Ukrainian/Russian/Crimea recent history does not provide any new insights:

    I’m trying to make sense of some recent new developments and maybe someone can help me piece these disparate ideas together. The first link indicates lower than expected retail sales.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20140513-709398.html
    “WASHINGTON: Retail sales increased 0.1% in April from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted $434.57 billion, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was lower than the 0.4% gain forecast by economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal and marked a big step down from March.”

    The 2nd link below says the initial govt. data suggesting a .1% GDP increase, actually had a .1 to .2 percent decline. If that later becomes official and occurs in a 2nd qtr in a row, then it is considered a recession.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/05/01/why-the-first-quarter-gdp-may-get-even-uglier/

    “ Do the math, and you’ve got an economy that contracted by 0.1 percent in the first quarter — and that might be the optimistic case. Barclays economist Cooper Howes said his calculations show a 0.2 percent decline. In either case, it would represent the worst performance for the recovery in three years.”

    Yet, as you can see from the link below, the stock market today hit a new all time high.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/13/us-markets-stocks-idUSBREA460FR20140513
    Wall St. edges up; Dow, S&P 500 hit records

    At the same time QE is being tapered and is currently at 45 billion a month. Fisher favors continued tapering to cut to zero in October of this year.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-09/fisher-favors-steady-tapering-of-qe-to-zero-by-end-of-october.html

    ‘Fisher Favors Steady QE Tapering to Zero by End of October’
    “Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said he favors a steady tapering in bond buying by the Fed, with a $15 billion cut to zero in October.

    “Barring some destabilizing development in the real economy that comes out of left field, I will continue to vote for the pace of reduction we have undertaken, reducing by $10 billion per meeting our purchases and eliminating them entirely” at the Oct. 28-29 meeting, Fisher said today in a speech in New Orleans. He votes on monetary policy this year.

    Fed Chair Janet Yellen said May 7 that, with inflation and employment far from the central bank’s goals, “a high degree of monetary accommodation remains warranted.” Policy makers haven’t indicated whether their plans for tapering $45 billion in monthly bond buying would mean announcing an end to purchases in October or a final $5 billion reduction in December.”

    So I’m trying to piece this together. QE reduced over several months at 10b a month from 85 to 45 billion a month, with either flat or minus GDP in the 1st qtr, (which for all we know could be the result of reduced QE), with less than expected retail sales in April, against a backdrop of a stock market ballooning to new record highs. What I can’t figure out is how the stock market is going gangbusters in light of these other economic factors. Are we really all so certain that it was cold weather in the East (although it was a relatively warm winter in the West), was the sole reason for the poor 1st qtr. GDP number?

    Can anyone here make sense of these disparate economic indicators?

    • timl2k11 says:

      What is it, almost 6 years of ZIRP now? Giant distortions and bubbles in the markets now.
      The MSM line is 2nd quarter GDP will be thru the roof.
      The Fed’s mission is to reflate bubbled. That’s all it knows how to do. It’s partially succeeded in housing and overwhelmingly succeeded in the stock market. The winding down of QE may take a while to “sink in”. The stock market is a massive bubble right now, totally disconnected from economic reality. I expect another credit crisis and ensuing stock market crash as reality sinks in and bites into the bubble.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        Yeah, MSM just mimics what they are told these days, buying the tired line it was the cold that slowed growth to .1%, with one investment house claiming 2nd qtr. growth will be 3.9%! Can’t wait till July to get the next qtr.’s numbers.

        “I expect another credit crisis and ensuing stock market crash as reality sinks in and bites into the bubble.” It’s going to something to see when it implodes.

    • A couple of articles I ran across (which I just posted in response to another comment) suggest that the Fed is not really reducing QE–instead, they may be running them through “Belgium” (but probably not really Belgium).

      http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38493.htm

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-05-15/russia-dumps-20-its-treasury-holdings-mystery-belgium-buyer-adds-another-whopping-40

      This makes the story sound even stranger.

      • Stefeun says:

        You’re right, Gail, it’s not Belgium it’s Euroclear, and …yes, this story looks really strange.

        Euroclear says it is likely cause of spike in Belgian US Treasury holdings
        http://www.fxstreet.com/news/fxbeat/article.aspx?storyid=ca5fc313-936c-40a2-bde7-ee71a4426041
        see also this list from Google: https://news.google.com/news/story?pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&q=euroclear&ncl=d6vdLcupoz6SEyMyC_9jszoizty8M&cf=all&scoring=d

        From http://dollarcollapse.com/media/amazingly-deceptive-headlines-part-1/
        “Trading powers China and Japan cut their Treasury holdings, while superpower wannabe Russia dumped fully one-fifth of its dollar-denominated debt. Meanwhile, Belgium and Luxembourg and a few others more than made up the slack, enabling the Associated Press to open with a glowingly-positive message (foreign investors love dollars!).
        The truth appears to be something else entirely. How could Belgium and Luxembourg (total combined population 12 million) buy enough US debt to offset Russia dumping 21% of its Treasuries? The answer is that it’s highly unlikely they would do this in a single month unless they’re part of an under-the-table deal through which Western powers are hiding the fact that major holders of dollars appear to be losing faith in the currency and/or bridling at US foreign policy arrogance.”

        From http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/12/fed-great-deceiver-paul-craig-roberts/
        “The Fed would want to keep the fact and identity of such a seller secret in order to avoid a stampede out of Treasuries. Such a stampede would raise interest rates, collapse US financial markets, and raise the cost of financing the US debt. To avoid the rise in interest rates, the Fed would have to accept the risk to the dollar of purchasing all the bonds. This would be a no-win situation for the Fed, because a large increase in QE would unsettle the market for US dollars.
        (…)
        As impelled as the Fed is to protect the large banks that sit on the board of directors of the NY Fed, the Fed has to protect the dollar. That the Fed believed that it could not buy the bonds outright but needed to disguise its purchase by laundering it through Belgium suggests that the Fed is concerned that the world is losing confidence in the dollar.”

        A rough summary could be that China, Japan and Russia have started a massive de-Americanization of their assets, and the FED would purchase these treasuries through tax-heavens, in order to hide this movement away from USD as reserve currency.
        It doesn’t fix the problem, but it delays a little bit the bad consequences.
        Don’t know if the reality is that simple (or even possible?), as there are many other issues (and hidden money) worldwide that could interfere with this situation.
        Every new rabbit out of the magic hat looks ever more bizarre than previous one…

        • Paul says:

          Thanks Stefeun – both excellent sources – I particularly value Roberts insights because he was the ultimate insider — Reaganite + WSJ… does get much more establishment than that.

          He escaped the matrix – few in those positions do.

          I have contacted him directly on a few issues and traded correspondence but interestingly I have passed along some stuff from this site + other info on the oil issue — and he seems not to want to go there…

          In fact there are number of prominent bloggers that I sometimes pass stuff long to and normally they respond — but when I send anything related to the real problem we are facing there is no response…

          For instance this http://www.iea.org/textbase/npsum/high_oil04sum.pdf is for me the smoking gun (Gail posted this on the comments some months back)

          There are no arguing with those numbers — if a 10 buck increase does that what does 100+ buck oil do????

          I am not sure how one can perform a mental trick that allows that not to register….

          So I am left wondering — do the bloggers purposely ignore that — because if they start to pound that drum the whole thing unravels — and very quickly….

          • Stefeun says:

            Thanks Paul,
            hope you enjoyed your journey in France.
            Reg. your question, I first precise that I’m far from being skilled in economics. If I got it correctly, it’s about impact of oil-price increase on the economy, esp. on GDP.

            Contrary to the article you link to, there’s no direct correlation between GDP and oil-price, but there’s a very close one between GDP and the volume of energy consumed (see C.Hall, T.Garrett, JM.Jancovici, and others).
            As far as I understand it, the oil-price was -so far- the result of normal discussion supply/demand (+ some speculation and some political pressures, I guess).

            The problem we’re facing today is that this intersection area for negociation has disappeared: producers need higher price than maximum one the economy could accept.
            So today’s 100$ is somewhere in-between, too low for producers and too high for consumers, with negative impacts for both.
            This high price weakens the economy a bit more every day, but I think the real danger will come from reduction in volumes (which we know is likely to happen soon, if not already started).
            Not sure this was the answer you expected…

        • Maybe someday the real situation will be figured out.

    • InAlaska says:

      Maybe the folks at the federal reserve actually know more about the economy than anyone on this blog site thinks they do. Perhaps they have dedicated their professional careers to making this system work and have a far more nuanced understanding of what will work and what will not work. Or perhaps they are getting lucky that the black swan hasn’t landed. Or both…

      • Paul says:

        They most certainly have a better understanding of the economy than anyone on this blog.

        That’s why they are printing tens of trillions of dollars — they are aware that the economy is hanging on a cliff’s edge because growth has stopped because oil is over $100.

        But does that mean they can ‘fix’ things – not at all – there is no fix for $100+ oil.

        The most they can do is delay the collapse. And I am amazed at how creative they have been to date. There are without a doubt some very bright people working at the Fed and other Central Banks. They are defying gravity!!!

  32. Interguru says:

    All political moves are not purely geopolitical, or even rational. History is littered with moves that appear and usually turn out to be idiotic,

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/10/how-tolstoy-can-save-putin-s-soul.html

    If Putin preferred Tolstoy over Dostoevsky, what a happier, more peaceful place Ukraine would be right now.
    The drama being played out right now in Russia and Ukraine isn’t merely geopolitical. It’s a deep-seated drama of the national soul that’s been around for centuries.

    [Putin follows ] Dostoevsky [ who] believed that Russia’s special mission in the world is to create a pan-Slavic Christian empire with Russia at its helm. This messianic vision stemmed from the fact that Dostoevsky thought Russia was the most spiritually developed of all the nations, a nation destined to unite and lead the others. Russia’s mission, he said in 1881, was “the general unification of all the people of all tribes of the great Aryan race.”

    Listening to Putin speak …… , you’d hardly guess that it was 2014 and Russia recently invaded and then annexed Crimea, and is now saber-rattling on the Ukrainian border. You’d think that it was 1941 and Hitler had just attacked; or even 1812 as Napoleon crossed the Nieman River to invade Russia. Both of these events remain firmly rooted in Russian national consciousness to this day, which is one reason why Putin’s xenophobic words find such resonance among the majority of the Russian public.

    Russia is a weak state dependent on outside and inside investors, both of whom are heading for the exits.

    • Paul says:

      Dostoevsky [ who] believed that Russia’s special mission in the world is to create a pan-Slavic Christian empire with Russia at its helm. This messianic vision stemmed from the fact that Dostoevsky thought Russia was the most spiritually developed of all the nations, a nation destined to unite and lead the others. Russia’s mission, he said in 1881, was “the general unification of all the people of all tribes of the great Aryan race.”

      I thought America was the one on the ‘special mission’ —- ‘to spread democracy and freedom’ throughout the world?

      United States support of authoritarian regimes
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_support_of_authoritarian_regimes

      10 vicious dictators supported by the U.S. government
      http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/205411/10-vicious-dictators-supported-by-the-u-s-government/

      What other dictators does the U.S. support?
      http://www.salon.com/2011/02/02/american_allies_dictators/

      John Perkins – Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTbdnNgqfs8

      Now who is as I type this message recording my every key stroke? When I send an email who is monitoring and recording it? When I make a phone call who has ordered that my discussion be recorded and stored for ‘future reference’?

      Putin?

      Or Obama?

      Anyone who stands against the US Deep State is the lesser of two evils.

      I 100% support Putin and Russia in the Ukraine because America is the one who in their quest to spread democracy — orchestrated the overthrow of a democratically elected government and installed a puppet regime.

      It really is as plain and simple as that.

      This entire episode — like most US foreign policy adventures — drips with hypocrisy.

      Quote of the Year:

      NBC NEWS – Russian President Vladimir Putin broke his silence on the Ukraine crisis Tuesday and accused the U.S. of interfering in world affairs as if it were conducting experiments on lab rats.

      “I think they sit there across the pond in the U.S., sometimes it seems … like they’re in a lab and they’re running all sorts of experiments on the rats without understanding consequences of what they’re doing,” Putin told reporters. “Why would they do that? Nobody can explain it.”

    • I agree about Russia being a weak state. Its economy centers primarily on exports of raw materials, and it must import quite a few goods. It lacks basic things such as reasonable roads and potable water. If investors head for the doors, Russia is in deep trouble.

      • Paul says:

        I am not aware of any country that is not in very deep trouble…

        • Lizzy says:

          Bhutan

          • Paul says:

            Good point. Irian Jaya is well placed (although not a country) — the people living in the remote villages are completely cut off from the global economy so should continue as they have for thousands of years…. no doubt there are a fair number of places like this in other parts of the world…

  33. Interguru says:

    A Marxist look at today’s economy.

    http://chronicle.com/article/Mapping-a-New-Economy/146433/

    Toward the end, Harvey explores the “dangerous contradictions”: capital’s requirement of endless compound growth, the ecological destruction it wreaks, and, in the last chapter, “universal alienation,” in which he explores the forces that hamper meaningful work and promote vapid consumerism. Capital can survive its contradictions, he writes, as long as it heaps more burdens—in the form of class inequality, degradation of the environment, and curtailing of human freedom—on the people and institutions already holding it up

    • xabier says:

      Conveniently forgetting that the Soviet Union committed all of those sins in the development of its industrialised economy – extreme class inequality, suppression of liberty, vast ecological destruction, etc – which suggests that capitalism as such is not the sinner to be put on trial.

      • surely that was the suppression of the masses for the benefit of a priveleged elite, otherwise known as a gangster economy…..winner takes all and the masses starve.
        That is something that will always happen in an uncontrolled economic environment because inevitably a few are smarter than the rest, and take advantage of that fact

      • Interguru says:

        companies’ pursuit of profits and productivity would naturally lead them to need fewer and fewer workers, The more the division of labor and the application of machinery extend, the more does competition extend among the workers, the more do their wages shrink together.eating an “industrial reserve army” of the poor and unemployed: “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery.”

        “The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses.”

        I.E. check out the customers at Wal Mart

        “The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty, and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all which is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his relations with his kind.

        All from the writings of Karl Marx. Even though he totally missed the part that access to easy resources play, his analysis of capitalism still holds today even though his view of the solution is discredited.

        • Dave Ranning says:

          Marx proved time travel, as no one could of been that correct 150 years in the past.
          As the New Yorker stated:
          “Thinker of the future”
          http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1997/10/20/1997_10_20_248_TNY_CARDS_000379653
          (a bit dated, but still right on)

        • xabier says:

          I agree: his analysis could be superb. Alas, as a prophet and messiah – not so good. He also had an odd desire to die in The Revolution, a kind of human stepping stone to the Promised Land: rather strange psychology. What I most dislike is the embedding of the worship of violence in ‘progressive’ thought, which largely stems from his writings – we could have done without that……

        • Quitollis says:

          “The ultimate reason for all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses.”

          Completely and utterly wrong. The real present “crisis” is quite the opposite, that capitalism continued to make us all richer until we trashed the planet and depleted resources.

          • ordinaryjoe says:

            Marx certainly had a talent for analysis. Marx the father of capitalism as he invented the term. There is some sound analysis in Marxs work but nowadays those advocating Marx are mostly delusional believing that the unlimited consumption of a workers paradise lies just around the corner if only the oligarch capitalists can be defeated. Strong opponents or proponents of paritcular classical analysis’s none of which address infinite consumption in relationship to the planet seems to be the norm. If the topic of infiniate consumption is addressed you are a “fascist” to one side a “commy” to the other. Such a great perceived difference of opinion amounting in essence what frequency AM radio is tuned to.

            • xabier says:

              Ordinaryjoe

              To true. When people today in Europe march ‘for Socialism’ rather than Austerity, what they really want is more the fruits of industrial global capitalism, or rather the share they used to get, They are very far from understanding the resource/population situation, on the whole.

      • InAlaska says:

        Externalizing the costs of industrialization (pollution and environmental damage) is certainly not the province of one particular type of economic model. Democratic capitalism is faster and more efficient about it, but usually ends up with some form of environmental regulations,also. Command economies are slower and more inefficient at converting resources into pollution, but they tend never to clean up the mess, because the government is not accountable to anyone. Pick your poison, but both models end up in the same place at the end: a degraded world.

        • xabier says:

          InAlaska

          It’s notable that even in China the authorities seem to be facing regular and violent protests against pollution and environmental degradation. I imagine it must be pretty bad for that to be possible.

    • Quitollis says:

      Finite geological limits to growth and environmental degradation have got absolutely nothing to do with Marxism. They are not the “contradictions of capital” of which Marx wrote.

    • One good point Harvey makes:

      Personal debt, which has emerged as a major burden in recent decades, may be the most crucial challenge. “One of the things about debt is that it tends to foreclose the future—you have already spent the future,” Harvey says. “It is very difficult to have an imagination of something radically different when your future is already pinned to some continuation of capital.”

      • Christian says:

        “Some continuation of capital” that’s the problem, not just personal debt but national debt (which feeds from taxes, ie. personal debt). As Oxfam shows, since 2008 the continuation of capital increases inequality and empoverishes the majority of humanity. It is not just ideal resources per capita falling, but the falling hitting people very unevenly. I see two reasons:

        1) the distribution system was linked to growth and so is not working anymore (lending being the core of the money distribution system): wihtout growth, tanking wealth automatically concentrates. But may be tanking has not always led to inequality, I suppose

        2) QE and the like are designed to boost big players, and so leverage rich people.

        I am afraid even if QE retraits or stops (and the markets survive) inequality will continue to grow

        • xabier says:

          Christian

          The real issue is perhaps not inequality per se, after all what is life but unequal (and so it should be?) Or even poverty, or ‘comparative poverty’, but it is more the plunging since 2008 of ever more debt-laden people into a state which prevents them from servicing those debts, debts without which globalised mass consumerism cannot function. The most remarkable phenomenon of the last two decades, certainly in Britain, America, China, parts of the EU and some parts of Asia, has been the extension of credit on an enormous scale to the lower classes who were previously ineligible for any but the most limited credit.

          • Christian says:

            Yes, I suppose inequality will worsen indeed. Suppose too it’s my own economic situation bringing me to that side

  34. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail
    As to the absence of instruments in Russian Orthodox churches, please see:
    http://www.orthocuban.com/2009/07/why-do-the-orthodox-not-use-instruments-in-worship-part-01/

    Does this history give you some clue why Robert Johnson was deemed to have sold his soul to the devil?

    Quite a few of my relatives, when I was a small child, would have agreed with the quotations from the church fathers about the bad influence of instruments. I think the Church of Christ, still prominent in the southwestern US, does not use instruments of any kind, except for a little whistle which gets everyone on pitch, more or less.

    At any rate, your leaving music off your list of essentials in times of collapse may be misguided. Music is one of the things which makes life worth living. Think of the slaves on plantations in the South, who practiced call and response singing to keep up their spirits.

    Don Stewart

    • Don Stewart says:

      Gail
      One more thought on instrumental music. The Christian church was (mostly) selling the idea of salvation in a life after death….following a dreary existence in this fallen world. Why did they fear instrumental music? Could it be because making music offers something like salvation in this fallen world? If you could sit on the lawn of my co-op on Sunday morning and watch, especially, the chilldren dance to the music, you would be impressed with the ability of music to move body and soul.

      The church fathers always alluded to the powers of instrumental music to stir up animal passions. Aren’t animal passions an escape from the drudgery of the real world?

      I’ve never read a scholarly study on the subject. But I suspect that, as life gets harder once again, making music will be very important in terms of retaining one’s sanity and keeping the immune system healthy.

      If Robert Johnson made a deal with the Devil, then the music he made was viewed by conservative Christians as an alternative form of salvation. I remember discussion along these lines about the young Elvis Presley.

      Churches, like all bureaucracies, don’t welcome competition. As I remember, the Counter-Reformation in Europe featured an explosion of the arts, as the Church of Rome more or less successfully outflanked the Puritan protestants with sensuous art. I have read Frans de Waal’s accounts of his distaste for the Puritan practices in Holland, as compared to the very tolerant practices in Catholic southern Netherlands where he grew up. After all, it was the Catholics who invented the notion of Indulgences….which seem to me an admirable institution, though totally lacking in intellectual justification.

      Don Stewart

      • xabier says:

        Dancing the tarantella was once prescribed as part of medical treatment, not for spider bites but for depression and other nervous disorders.

    • Quitollis says:

      First only voices were allowed in the Western church. Recorders were later allowed for their pure voice-like sound. Pipe organs were after allowed as they sounded like recorders, a big set of recorders with a keyboard in effect. String instruments were considered lusty, if I got that bit right and were not allowed until the Renaissance. I think that Muslims see strings as lusty too, its a Middle Eastern thing. (Hence the association of blues guitar with Satan at the cross roads.)

      I like ecclesiastical music, chant, polyphony, Bach etc. even if I think that the Christian religion is ruinous. Baroque recorder and viola are gorgeous. I basically like all “early music”, secular and religious. Gothic Voices and Ensemble Organum have done some great CDs from different periods and places (they are probably on the pirate bay.)

    • I don’t know that I left music off a list of essentials in time of collapse. People make music, wherever they are, with or without instruments. Instruments can be very simple, or very expensive and modern. From your article, the orthodox thought instruments were too “theatrical” and not appropriate. I still think cost and availability might have played a role in this decision as well. Or maybe it was just a desire to distinguish the religion as having in some sense “higher values” — a way that rich churches and poor churches can both be equal in musical quality.

      • hebertmw says:

        Growing up and schooled as a Catholic I was taught that anything ‘Roman’ the Catholics or Christians were against way back when. Hence, no bathing, no divorce, no sports and no music and dancing. But since we were French ancestry on my dad’s side we ignored the prohibitions, like most Catholic French do. Split-level Catholicism. So maybe that ‘no instruments’ in church thing originated from the anti-Roman stance of the early church.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Gail
        I have a modest proposal for churches. Prompted by reading your comment on ‘poor churches vs. rich churches’; by observing what Justin Johnson is doing, by observing the taboos related to instrumental music in churches, and by reading John Michael Greer’s thoughts on culture preservation (Our Ecotechnic Future, page 206-7).

        The proposal in short:
        1. Church music should be made by primitive instruments and by local musicians.
        2. The primitive instruments (including voice) can be picked up and broadcast by as sophisticated equipment as the church can afford. Thus, a small child’s voice or a cigar box guitar can fill a cavernous auditorium.
        3. Heathens who enjoy playing religious music should be invited to perform. Justin Johnson loves old hymns.

        Some of the advantages:
        1. The ability to make primitive instruments and the knowledge of how to play them, alone or in a group, are the key elements in culture preservation. Reproduction and amplification of music are not key elements.
        2. As the world gets simpler, cavernous auditoriums will give way to small groups under shade trees, and the demise of advanced electronics will not cripple the transmission of the culture.
        3. A mountain man visited my wife’s parochial school in the early 1950’s, and made, by hand, a recorder from a piece of wood in 15 minutes. He then played religious music on the hand-made recorder. The Boy Scout method of making cigar box guitars can be resurrected on a large scale at little expense. Thus, the notion that just about everyone can participate in making music can be put into practice.
        4. As Greer observes, religious institutions have historically been a key element in preserving culture. Greer advises ‘Efforts to link this religious impulse to the survival of today’s cultural heritage will more likely succeed if those who make such efforts let go of the assumptions of contemporary culture, and make peace with the religious forms even when they offend modern sensibilities.’
        5. The notion that ‘our church is rich, so we need a cavernous auditorium with a hugely expensive organ to proclaim the glory of God (or our own righteous selves)’, is just wrong.
        6. If there are still churches who rigidly adhere to forms of worship, then they are clearly in need of the liberating effects of hearing Justin Johnson and others take apart and put back together again some old hymns.

        Rather than be dogmatic, perhaps one Sunday per month for the primitives might be enough. Modern, complex instruments can be used the other three Sundays….so long as we can afford them. The key point is to get people making instruments and playing them, or singing. In my subdivision, we have two singing groups. They should be invited to perform religious music in churches.

        Don Stewart

        • Churches tend to offer more than one type of worship. The fashion in recent years is to have services of two types: one with traditional music, often accompanied by an organ; one with contemporary music, accompanied by instruments of parishioners’ choosing. The contemporary music, at times, can be written by a member of the congregation–I know it is in the church I attend. The partitioners who participate in the music making include an above average number of handicapped individuals–two different individuals with autism, for example.

          One man appeared at rehearsal time with his teen-age daughter who was taking violin lessons, and wanted her to participate, and she did. (She was pretty awful, by the way.)

          Some of the instruments are more like “noisemakers” than traditional instruments. One makes the sound of rain; another makes the sound of horses’ hooves. The people who operate these instruments haven’t had special training (except at rehearsals) as far as I know. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to add even more original instruments.

          And sometimes, people play who are not members of the congregation. The comment I have heard is that they are probably individuals who are taking music lessons from the musical director.

          Even when “organ music” is used, it can be generated by an inexpensive keyboard.

          So things aren’t quite as cut and dried as a person might think. The situation depends on the church.

          • Don Stewart says:

            Gail
            From the Department of the Army Field Manual in 1958:

            ‘During his first few weeks in the army the soldier often asks ‘Why are drill and ceremonies needed? Why couldn’t I spend my time more advantageously learning how to fire my weapon?’ The answers are that individual efforts alone do not bring survival or victory for the soldier; that the soldier has to learn teamwork and the value of unified and cooperative action…’

            When I was a drill sergeant, the platoon sang as it marched. When we had contests, the winner was always a squad of 8 men (no women in those days). If you watch the pre-WWII scenes in the Japanese move Twenty Four Eyes, you see the students singing all the time. The final scene in Seven Samurai shows rhythmic, musical planting of rice by the peasants. Willie Smits says that the cooperative farmers in Indonesia work 15 percent faster if they have music while they work.

            Today, we are very used to the notion that an individual works alone, probably paced by a machine (as Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times was paced by the machine and the assembly line). E.O. Wilson has written a biology textbook making extensive use of computer technology…it is probably aimed at the individual…but I might be surprised and find more team exercises than I expect.

            As things get tougher and work gets more physical, we will need to readjust our habits to the more communal and musical and rhythmic forms described in the Army Field Manual, Twenty Four Eyes, and Seven Samurai.

            At least I think so….Don Stewart

  35. Paul says:

    Good article on why thorium is not going to be the silver bullet http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jun/23/thorium-nuclear-uranium

  36. jeremy890 says:

    Part of the Solution
    Dan Price is featured in this eye awakening video interview of his simple life in eastern Oregon and how he lives without and has the freedom to LIVE:

    • at the risk of personal head-damage—we dont have the resources to allow 7 billion people to live like that

      • jeremy890 says:

        No risk at all, the point is few will CHOOSE to live like him today in United States, even if they could. Many are called, few are chosen. For that matter, many hear the message, few actually listen, those that listen only a few will understand, those that understand, a minority will try, and of course those that try, many will give up.
        If Gail is correct, time is very short and he is in a better position to ride the storm than most of us.
        Good luck to Dan!

        • InAlaska says:

          Well, for one, its not “zero-emissions travel” like the claim, if everything about that trike was created using petroleum, the road was paved with asphalt and it looks like he flew or drove home? Next, I didn’t see much in the way of edibles in that pasture that he reconditioned. His house was made from natural and construction waste. So, good try, nice start, but I don’t think he’ll be weathering much of anything any better than the other 7 billion. The BS meter is high on this story. Pretty shallow coverage of a complex topic.

          • jeremy890 says:

            You don’t? Come on Guys, what is the matter? Boy, you all VERY demanding. Of course it will be a ruff ride for just about EVERYONE. Here is a fellow that is doing something and has a lot going for him. Do we say, wow, what a wonderful attempt.
            I am really disappointed with the reaction.
            I think Dan will be just fine. Out in nowhere (potato country), a tight small town community where everyone knows everyone. Dan is known and liked and will help guide them all in the right direction. I think some sour grapes here.
            Anyway, when the oil drops, we all AGREE the population will drop along with it.
            So what, we all are going to face the SHTF.

            • I liked this story not because of the survival aspect, because of the courage the one man has to follow his path. This blog is rapidity deteriorating and cannot move past the negative aspect of peak oil. Nobody ever said it will be easy. You will think that once in a while people could see something positive within the collapse. Dan actually sent a positive message by demonstrating that human can adapt to various life conditions and discover more about them self by challenging them self.

              People in general are too narrow minded to see these kind of things. Internet is now populated with idiots that seem to represent really well what people really are.

              I will say that again, most people are not worthy of being saved or being helped.

            • Jeremy890 says:

              Thank you, that is what we needed to be written here.

  37. Quitollis says:

    Contrary to the Kremlin propaganda line…

    Pro-Russian forces in east Ukraine linked with far right

    http://anton-shekhovtsov.blogspot.de/2014/04/russian-and-pro-russian-right-wing.html

  38. David says:

    One fact that seems to get missed is that a big part of Russia’s military industrial complex is still located in Eastern Ukraine. This is a legacy of the USSR. Changing Ukraine more for energy just cranks up Russia’s costs of already-overpriced military hardware.

    • Dave Ranning says:

      Like other regions of the world, Ukraine’s destiny is to go medieval, to become a truly post-industrial agriculture-based society with a lower population and lower living standards. It is one the world’s leading grain-growing regions, a huge advantage for the kind of future the whole world faces — if it can avoid becoming a stomping ground in the elephant’s graveyard of collapsing industrial anachronisms.

      Ukraine can pretend to be a ward of the West for only a little while longer. The juice and the money just isn’t there, though. Probably sooner than later, the IMF will stop paying its gas bills. Within the same time-frame, the IMF may have to turn its attention to the floundering states of western Europe. That floundering will worsen rapidly if those nations can’t get gas from Russia. You can bet that Europe will think twice before tagging along with America on anymore cockamamie sanctions. Meanwhile, the USA is passing up the chance to care for a more appropriate client state: itself. Why on earth should the USA be lending billions of dollars to Ukraine when we don’t have decent train service between New York City and Chicago?

      JHK

  39. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and All

    Rambling treatise on collapse, figures don’t lie but liars can figure, and the mental adjustments needed to survive collapse.

    Prompts for this treatise:
    1. Passing through co-op grocery I see a New Yorker with an article ‘Can Ukraine Survive?’. Didn’t spend the money and read the article. But answer this:
    Why not, ‘Can the people currently living in the territory delineated on a map as Ukraine survive if the government we call Ukraine collapses?’

    2. A comic has figured out that Google has enough data stored which, if the data were converted to punch cards, the cards would cover the Earth to a depth of 5 kilometers. Click on this link. He spends about 6 or 7 minutes talking about baseballs and fusion reactions, then gets into his main subject which is Google and data.

    what if you hit a baseball moving at the speed of light
    http://ted.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=07487d1456302a286cf9c4ccc&id=4af1082b25&e=ed6260e2f0

    3. Some proprietary data published by Charles Hugh Smith which shows that, since 1978, televisions have increased in price by 27 percent, while medical and college tuition costs have increased well in excess of 500 percent, using the Consumer Price Index deflators. The deflators are, of course, given a ‘hedonic’ adjustment. When color TV comes out, the bureaucrats make some estimate of ‘quality improvement’ and, if the price of TVs doesn’t actually fall, it is nevertheless calculated as a price reduction. Many benefits such as Social Security and income tax deductions are tied to the Consumer Price Index…so government has a monetary incentive to calculate large hedonic adjustments so that the benefit flows to the government rather than the taxpayers.

    4. My wife and I spent the morning on the lawn at our food co-op listening to Justin Johnson, a musician who likes to play old musical instruments, especially cigar box guitars. He has just recorded a double album, Smoke and Mirrors, which features many very old instruments, old songs, recorded in historic spots in the Mississippi Delta. Very nice booklet accompanies the CDs, with pictures of the instruments and technical notes about them plus biographical data on the modern musicians who have preserved and restored them. See JustinJohnsonLive.com.

    A few quotes about specific guitars:

    4 String Haitian Canjo…Perhaps the most mysterious and unsettling instrument is …this 4-string Haitian made Canjo. The body was constructed from a one gallon can of soybean salad oil, which boasts a bold Stars and Stripes logo, and the words ‘Furnished by the People of the United States of America’. Thick insulated wire is crudely wrapped around the neck, serving as frets, however they do not seem to be in positions that adhere to any standardized tonal system. A tree root, wedged inside of the body, serves as an internal heel to support the neck. The most haunting feature, however, may be the guitar strap, made from a used medical IV tube….this guitar has a beautiful, clear tone.

    1910-1915 ‘Uncle Enos Banjo’ Fretless 5 String Cigar Box Banjo. ..the oldest known 5 string cigar box banjo…It appears to have been constructed according to the first published plans for a cigar box instrument, which were penned by Daniel Carter Beard, co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America in 1884…(the instructions) were included in Beard’s American Boy’s Handy Book in 1890…Despite its age and condition, this old banjo has a wonderful, crisp tone and remarkable clarity.

    1930s Twin Cigar Box Diddley Bows….necks were cut with the help of a scroll saw or hand saw…For the recording, one twin was strung with a bass string, and one with an unwound guitar string, so that the two twins could be united in song for the first time ever. (A Diddley Bow has only a single string.)

    The recording was made at the site where Robert Johnson, the famous blues master, sold his soul to the Devil. You can search on ‘Robert Johnson Crossroad’ and get a load of stuff which may or may not be true. Justin Johnson and his international team had access to a secret old piece of paper which told them exactly where the crossroads is, and took the recording studio there and recorded on New Years Eve after dark. They finished about Midnight, with the puddles of water freezing under their feet and fireworks in the distant background.

    5. Justin Johnson says that part of the attraction of the old instruments is the notion that poor people sat around campfires or under shade trees and just joyfully made music. They didn’t have money to buy stuff, so they used what junk they could re-purpose. To get in the mood, Johnson and his team stayed in share-cropper huts on a former cotton plantation.

    How can you pull this disparate information together to make sense of the notion of Collapse? Some things about collapse are pretty obvious. If there are not enough calories to feed the people, then collapse has happened and the consequences would have been well known to our distant ancestors. But other things are much less clear. The production of Justin Johnson’s CD box requires some very high tech stuff, and even had a special consultant to deal with the issues of recording on-site rather than in a studio.

    Johnson is a one man band. He lays down some bass, records it, lays down some more stuff and records that, then plays it all back and performs live over what he has just laid down. This process is very far from a group of poor people gathered outside the sharecropper’s shacks to play joyfully under a shade tree. But is it better? The sharecroppers would recognize the music, and probably think it hadn’t changed too much. The Kings of Hedonic Adjustment would claim that it is perhaps 10,000 times better. They would measure something electronic and come up with a fantastic improvement in quality. Does anyone actually believe that? Suppose we calculated the cost of ‘making music’ for the sharecroppers and a modern American?

    More to the point. Suppose that all the electronic paraphenalia disappears and we go back to the Boy Scout manual and make our own musical instruments out of cigar boxes and other trash. We sit around making music joyfully. Does that qualify as Collapse?

    Google and the NSA have perhaps a trilllion times more data on you than anyone had when your birth certificate was issued. Are we a trillion times better off? Or have we lost ground to the ‘spy in the sky?’ If the Russians explode high altitude nuclear devices and erase all the electronic storage, will that quality as Collapse?

    Don Stewart

    • Quitollis says:

      Don, the old music sounds fantastic, perhaps you can find us some examples of his stuff?

    • The big issues are food availability, clean water availability, and ability to cook food/boil water. If we can keep those things going, we are probably not too badly off (except in very cold areas). Music can be played in a variety of ways. A cappella music is popular in Russian churches, presumably partly because musical instruments hard to come by.

  40. Quitollis says:

    (voluntary virtue, abstinence — population growth, AGW, pollution, loss of species etc.)

    I saw various commenters touch on these matters.

    I think that voluntary virtue beyond the norm is generally a bad “moral” idea as it tends to reward vice and punish virtue. (Of course “virtue can be its own reward” if we enjoy that life.)

    For instance, those who turn down the thermostat because they worry about AGW have the discomfort of a lower temperature than people who frankly could not give a damn. It is likely to be generally counter-productive to structure society so as to punish virtue and reward vice; it encourages vice.

    Even more seriously, voluntary procreative abstinence is obviously dysgenic because the most “responsible” people then do not breed while the least responsible people multiply. That way we eliminate the genetic traits associated with virtuous conduct and amplify antisocial traits. (The celibate priesthood and monasteries have probably got a lot to answer for in that regard.)

    It is fundamentally unfair and counter-productive to punish the virtuous and to reward the vicious. It would be much more rational and orderly, fair and productive if we structured society with policies that reward virtue and punish vice. That would mean that we consciously gave greater reproduction and consumption to the virtuous while we eliminated anti-social elements.

    In other words a well thought out state eugenics is far more desirable than voluntary abstinence.

    • I don’t think I will step forward and advocate state eugenics, though. It is one of those “don’t go there” topics.

      • Stefeun says:

        Quote from F.Roddier (post #59):
        “Individuals genetically programmed in the laboratory are submitted as other species to natural selection. It is natural selection that makes the final decision. If they are not adapted to their environment, selected-by-humans genes will be eliminated by natural selection. Because it will decrease the genetic variability, any attempt to eugenics cause a decline in world population, a rather salutary effect when resources decrease.”
        https://translate.google.fr/translate?sl=fr&tl=en&u=http%3A//francois-roddier.fr/%3Fp%3D72

        His conclusion is a bit ironic, sadly, but what he says is that eugenics reduce adaptability of a species. So it doesn’t “improve the race”, but on the contrary it limits its possibilities of evolution (in the long term and global scale).
        If the goal is to voluntarily reduce the total population -which I just cannot imagine-, the wisest method would be random elimination (can’t believe I wrote that!).

        Back to artificial selection; it’s all about coherence with the environment.
        As long as we can control the environment, it can work (with massive help of antibiotics, as for our livestock); but release any domesticated animal into Nature, it won’t survive.
        I’m afraid we have sort of domesticated ourselves, and we’re losing control of our environment…

        • Those are good points! All of our messing with natural selection has allowed many to survive that natural selection would not permit–people with inherited disease that they now will pass on, for example. It has also allowed all kinds of behavior that is counter-productive. For example, a blue-eyed blonde like myself shouldn’t live in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I should live farther north, where I am better adapted. And I should have married a husband with similar coloring, to make the arrangement better, relative to my proper location. (My husband is a little darker — German, Scottish, etc, so the difference is not too great.)

          It is hard for us to know what are the “best” traits. Natural selection really does figure this out better than we would.

          • Stefeun says:

            Gail,
            I don’t agree wih you reg. what you say about yourself.
            First, I think that you made a good choice choosing your husband from a different origin; this way, your children potentially have a bigger number of different genes, allowing them to adapt more easily to different environments and build up a better immunological system.
            Second, I don’t think that the phenotype and the living-place must be in-line with each other, maybe not even in extreme climates (for example, the Inuits have black hair, altough living upnorth of blonde Scandinavians).

            To conclude, I think there aren’t any “best traits”, but simply systems -or configurations, or structures…- that can work out well in a given environment, or not. Those that don’t work, because of internal dysfunction or bad resistance to external attack, eventully disappear.
            Considering that the environment is likely to change over time, the best strategy for survival is to prioritize adaptability; we humans are (were?) probably the best species in that matter (probably because we don’t depend that much anymore on other species, but are using them for our own profit).

    • edpell says:

      I will wait until we have honest, citizen oriented government before I support expanding the powers of the government. I am not holding my breath.

      Though I would support sterilization for anyone who wants government money.

  41. Adam says:

    Lights out: The dark future of electric power

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22229684.300#.U292QoWa-6M

    Extracts:

    “We predict that blackouts will occur with greater frequency and greater severity due to trends in both electricity supply and demand. Supply will become increasingly precarious because of the depletion of fossil fuels, neglected infrastructure and the shift toward less reliable renewable energy. Demand, meanwhile, will grow because of rising populations and affluence.

    Deregulation and privatisation have created further weaknesses in supply as there is no incentive to maintain or improve the grid. Almost three-quarters of US transmission lines and power transformers are more than 25 years old and the average age of power plants there is 30 years.

    The looming threat of blackouts cannot be solely blamed on vulnerabilities in generation, however. Overconsumption is also a factor. Between 1940 and 2001, average US household electricity use rose 1300 per cent, driven largely by growing demand for air conditioning. And such demand is forecast to grow by 22 per cent in the next two decades.

    These problem have not gone unnoticed. The American Society of Civil Engineers has warned that without an investment of $100 billion, the US power generation system will collapse by 2020.”

    • Thanks for the link. A lot of people think that if we have oil limits, switching to electricity will “save us.” Everything I can see says that we have electricity problems in exactly the same time-period, especially if we don’t replace nuclear power plants that are near the ends of their lifetimes. Adding intermittent renewables makes it more difficult to maintain a stable grid. There are many other issues as well.

  42. Hope you’re all sitting down and not drinking anything hot whilst listening to this.
    “US to become oil independent by 2037 — EIA”

  43. Jeremy says:

    Man ditches modern world and lives in Hobbit house he made and spends $5,000 a year, living simply. No refrig, car just soaking up the sun

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/photo/what-choosing-poverty-looks-n75796
    Dan Price also has a book at Amazon he wrote about it all