peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
This is a pile of frustration I've been saving up for a good weekend dumping. Therefore, as all good LJ posters should, I will now include an LJ cut. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
A few years ago, a friend at work had a problem while driving. He heard a noise, probably from the front end of his vehicle. Since he was driving a 60-foot articulated passenger coach packed to the gills with commuters, this could have been a real problem. It was. Though he didn't notice anything at first, when he made a simple lane change he noticed the coach didn't respond to his steering wheel like it used to, instead becoming sluggish in turns. He dropped his speed and made for a turn-off from the freeway to inspect outside the seat. Probably a front blow-out. It wasn't.

He notified control about the weirdness and just took it slow to town, then drove the bus to the garage and notified the mechanics about the weird. The next day, all hell broke loose. )

Addendum, November 15, 2013: The Archdruid has some salient thoughts on the sequential processes both growing people and growing civilizations use to understand their worlds relevant to the above post:

It’s not merely that the government of every major industrial nation is trying to achieve economic growth by following policies that are supposed to bring growth in theory, but have never once done so in practice; it’s not merely that the populace of every major industrial society eagerly forgets all the lessons of each speculative bubble and bust as soon as the next one comes along, and makes all the same mistakes with the same dismal results as the previous time; it’s not even that allegedly sane and sensible people have somehow managed to convince themselves that limitless supplies of fossil fuels can somehow be extracted at ever-increasing rates from the insides of a finite planet: it’s that only a handful of people out on the furthest fringes of contemporary culture ever notice that there’s anything at all odd about these stunningly self-defeating patterns of behavior.

It’s at this stage of history that reflection becomes necessary. It’s only by thinking about thinking, by learning to pay attention to the way we transform the raw data of the senses into figurations and abstractions, that it becomes possible to notice what’s being excluded from awareness in the course of turning sensation into figurations and sorting out figurations into cascading levels of abstraction.

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Orson "Approves")
All to often, people like to toss out the tired trope about how much energy a single Google search consumes. I say it's tired simply because the same tossers never seem to consider what energy uses a single Google search avoids. Seriously, think of a hard question to answer simply, like the wonky one I provide below this cut. )

Someone has tried to answer this, someone named "barath" over at Controposition. He notes: "A key part of understanding the energy use of the Internet is that its embodied energy, or emergy, is important to include." In his conclusions, he notes that roughly half of the studies ignore this. (His quick calculation suggests the embodied energy is about equivalent to the wall socket input over the life of the hardware.)

It gets better, though. Sure, energy is important. A trip to the library is probably more energy-intensive an endeavor than a Google-y. But what inputs are required to get this hardware built? In other words, what are the internet's material dependencies?

Prepare to have your mind blown. Luckily there's a magnifier for this image. A lot of stuff goes into your computer, Cupcake, and a lot of that stuff comes from some unstable areas.

Something to consider.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I haven't been following the news lately, but last I checked our atmosphere hit a milestone in human history by finally reaching the 400 parts per million concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In doing some preliminary research for this entry, I find that the number has since been revised downward . . . to 399.89 ppm.

Well, excuse us. That's entirely different, but still, as the article fairly explains, it's not the number captured in amber and preserved for all time that matters most, but rather "the rate of rise that is most important." That, sadly has not really slowed.

Ah, but I'm not here to boom all gloom and doom on y'all. I'm here now to crow about what is talked about, but not enough, and what should be heralded across the intertubes as more important than an arbitrary odometer moment: There is good news to be had.

You see, a rich guy has offered a prize for a viable process to remove CO2 from our atmosphere. $25 million will be granted in the Virgin Earth Challenge to the most viable candidate. So far, there are eleven finalists. First, lets winnow out the least likely challengers, and point out why they fail. )

Next, let us inject some much needed optimism. )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Just stumbled upon a New York Times article concerning sustainable development that posits a problem with a popular model, that of the Three Pillars of Sustainable Development. Those pillars are the Environment, Society, and the Economy. Here's a National Council for Science and the Environment page discussing the issue, and an image from the same page depicting the pillars in question:

Hmmmm. . . . )
peristaltor: (Default)
On December 8, 1953, President Eisenhower made an address to the 470th Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, a speech now called the Atoms for Peace speech. In it, he noted that the US and the USSR, both with atomic weapons, had the power to do unspeakable damage to the planet if those weapons were ever actually used, and which resulted in a stalemate now called the Cold War, where the two nuclear superpowers reserved the right to destroy each other if one flinched:

To pause there would be to confirm the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world. To stop there would be to accept helplessly the probability of civilization destroyed, the annihilation of the irreplaceable heritage of mankind handed down to us from generation to generation, and the condemnation of mankind to begin all over again the age-old struggle upward from savagery towards decency, and right, and justice. Surely no sane member of the human race could discover victory in such desolation.

Pres. Eisenhower then continued, suggesting an alternative direction to a hopeless standoff. He proposed formation of a UN-led "international atomic energy agency" to "be made responsible for the impounding,storage and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials" and, more importantly, "to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind."

Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.

Thus the contributing Powers would be dedicating some of their strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind.

Here's some interesting alternate history fodder: What if the US had actually followed this path to peace? )

NB: I'm pulling double shifts at work all week, so this is a quickie, full of the flaws most quickies have. If I do further research on this and find it to be full of crap, I'll note such a thing later.

X-posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
Almost a year ago, I shared a graph from Calculated Risk of various economic crises of the past overlayed on the current one:

Embiggenate the history.

Back then, I noted that recessions usually take as long to a make a full recovery as it took to get to the trough. Based on that, I said 15 months would be the real test. It hasn't been 15 months, I know, but let's see how much progress is being made by looking at this recent Spencer England piece over at the Angry Bear:

Enlarge the recovery.

Some caveats: First, it looks like The Angry Bear graph only includes employment in private industry, rather than combining private and government figures. That would explain the difference in how far the bottom seems to have fallen in this recession, ±7% verses just under 9%.

[See note at bottom to explain the strikeout.] It also looks like the Angry Bear has the employment bottom at 23 months from peak, while Calculated Risk has it at 25. It's possible CR "smoothed" the data, taking a running average of the months just prior and just after the month graphed to minimize seasonal employment and other sudden, jolting effects. (It's also likely that both smoothed the data, but that CR added more months before and after the graphed to enhance the smoothing.) That mini "double dip" at the bottom of the Angry Bear graph between months 23 and 27 would average out at 25, giving credence to my theory. That would play havoc with comparing the other recessions. For example, check out the CR 1974 line (teal) and compare that with the blue '74 Angry Bear line. It looks like AB allowed more months from start of the downturn, 17 rather than 6, which is what might expect with smoothing (not to mention the data lack of less shock-sensitive government employment). That long slight dip from start to ±12 months would smooth right out of the line, shortening it considerably. This means we're not really looking at the same data; only two lines based (presumably) on the same data, one smoothed and one more rough.

Still, looks like we've got a lot of recovery to make to get back to "normal", don't it? I'll keep my eye on Calculated Risk sometime after July to see if we make it back, or if this one, like the '74 oil-based recession, is going to run a bit longer . . . you know, like until we develop a technology just as energy-dense and inexpensive as petroleum.

Edit, The Next Morning: [ profile] cieldumort points out that the two graphs actually track different things, job losses verses hours worked. I am an idiot for equating the Angry Bear line for the Calculated Risk line. The correlation between the two data points is still striking to me, but not the same. Therefore the talk of data smoothing very probably doesn't apply here.
peristaltor: (Default)
I've left this final discussion of distributed generation until now simply because I was struggling for a way to describe the dynamic method of electric utility pricing that wouldn't repeat my description from years ago. A dynamic system is one with a near infinite range of price variation, an irreducible continuum of cost, not just the three Peak, Shoulder and Off-Peak rates of Part II. It's a system that allows for more than just simple energy arbitrage, though that would be a key dynamic element of the system.

It turns out anyone who understands dynamic markets can envision this electricity market which prices needed power on the fly electronically. That's not the real element to discuss, I've decided. The truly important and revolutionary promise of distributed generation is not found in its pieces and parts but in the transformative promise the dynamic interaction of small parts can make: By spreading the responsibility for providing power to as many participants as possible, the entire grid can function with increasingly smaller elements and, by extension, with increasingly simpler organizations overseeing those elements.

In essence, a distributed system is a democratized system. And a democratized system might be our last best hope. )

Link to Berman article via [ profile] nebris.

peristaltor: (Default)
My last LJ tilted the joust at the simplest involvement one can have with one's electrical consumption and still be considered aware: Real-time monitoring. After all, how can one cut down on one's consumption if one has really no idea how much power the gadgetry scattered about the house is drawing from the power lines? Once that task is accomplished, the question arises about what to do next. That depends upon what options the utility makes available, unfortunately. For that reason, the following two stages of distributed generation, while promising in the extreme for managing power in a resource-poor future, may not be options for all. Still, they are worth exploring. )
peristaltor: (Default)
Don Q. here, ready to tilt at a familiar windmill and get my jousting on with its blades. It's always the case, isn't it. Sometimes you fight the imaginary dragons again and again, never quite vanquishing them, until they become familiars and ultimately family. It's near enough to Thanksgiving to visit with family, isn't it? First, introductions. )

Now that you've met the family, let's discuss what they have to offer. )

The bottom line: DG depends first and foremost upon good monitors that lead to consumption awareness. From that simple start, one can gear up to greater and greater involvement and participation with the electricity we all use, which will be the topic of the next two parts.
peristaltor: (Default)
I had a moment of extreme coincidence the other day. I spent the early part of the day transcribing a bit of interesting info from Oren Harman's The Price of Altruism. Let me share the coincidence. )

And now, let me rant. )

X-Posted to [ profile] home_effinomic

peristaltor: (Default)
Bad Astronomer Phil Plait debunked the notion of an approaching ice age recently, a spurious theory based on misconceptions regarding the sun's magnetic cycle:

The Sun has a magnetic cycle, its magnetic field waxing and waning in strength roughly every 11 years. The strength and complexity of the solar field governs a lot of the surface activity, including sunspots, solar flares, prominences, and coronal mass ejections.

Right now, in 2011, we’ve just left a period of an extended minimum, and the next max is due in late 2013 and early 2014. . . .

At this point you may be asking, so what? If the Sun has fewer sunspots and no flares, what difference does that make here on Earth? And how could it possibly trigger an ice age?

Yes, a good question. Plait goes on to explain. )
peristaltor: (Default)
Lenny loves to tell stories about his old Barracuda. One, I just realized, helps to illustrate the potential -- and more than a few problems -- with biofuels. Click here. You know you want to. )
peristaltor: (Default)
A bit ago, I posted in The Gas Ceiling that, since energy is our economy, and since unfrenzied, more-or-less natural increases in extraction rates may have come to an end in 2005, we should see unprecedented times ahead regarding our economy.

A recent Calculated Risk post came with an interesting way of graphing the impact of recessions:

Click for Statistical Embiggenation

This lets casual observers note the gap between the start and the end of various recessions. Some are longer in duration; other deeper; but most, as you can see, follow a fairly symmetrical bell curve progress with as much time between the beginnings and ends of the recessions. Since we're definitely not out of it yet, it's too soon to say whether or not this recession will follow that pattern, but. . . .

Just glancing at this graph, I noticed that most of them happened in the teeth of -- and probably as a result of -- temporary fuel shortages caused by supply disruptions both intentional and incidental. 1974's recession definitely started with the 1973 OPEC Embargo; 1980's with fuel shocks likely caused by Iran's 1979 revolution (and all the drama attendant thereto); 1981's downturn came soon after the start of the Iran-Iraq War.

Notice also that with the exception of 1969, all of the recessions previously ended with employment levels either at or higher than the previous peak of employment at the start of the various recessions. That 1969 exception is interesting; I've read in more than one book recently that our Western standard of living for a majority of people rose almost steadily from about 1820 to 1970; I have a theory why this happened, but will expound on it another time.

Back to the foreboding ellipsis above. I don't think the rebounded employment level will ever reach the pre-Great Recession mark, or if it does, that the curve will less resemble a symmetrical bell curve and more a cliff plunge followed by a much longer, gently rising slope upward to the "recovery." Why? It's that darned Gas Ceiling. We can't expand the economy without burning fuel, and fuel will be the one commodity that fails to materialize no matter what we try.

Oh, and I put "recovery" above in scare quotes simply because I very much doubt the jobs of tomorrow will in any way resemble the jobs of yesterday. They will not pay as well (adjusted, of course, for inflation or the lack thereof). That's why I think it will be a longer, slower recover this time around; too many will despair of the wages offered verses their wage expectations, and put off employment until the absolute last minute.

I'm not bragging, or reveling here in a Doomer Porn-gasm. Rather, I see this graph as an easily testable benchmark. The other fuel-shock induced recessions recovered after fuel supplies were recovered or secured elsewhere; if that can't happen due to Peak. . . .

We'll see what happens in, according to the graph, about 15 months. If we're back to pre-recession employment, I was wrong.
peristaltor: (Default)
Years ago, I stumbled upon (and was inspired by) a device that turned garbage into electricity:

The "tactical biorefinery" processes several kinds of waste at once, which it converts into fuel via two parallel processes. . . .

The tactical biorefinery first separates organic food material from residual trash, such as paper, plastic, Styrofoam and cardboard. The food waste goes to a bioreactor where industrial yeast ferments it into ethanol, a "green" fuel. Residual materials go to a gasifier where they are heated under low-oxygen conditions and eventually become low-grade propane gas and methane. The gas and ethanol are then combusted in a modified diesel engine that powers a generator to produce electricity.

One commenter to that post, [ profile] atlasimpure, was later re-activated by the Marines and deployed to that theater of war known by combatants as "The Sandbox." A year after I posted about the garbage power thingie, he snapped a picture (in a locked post) of a "molten carbonate fuel cell" access gate.

That tickled memories. King County Metro had installed just such a system at its South Treatment Plant a few years prior:

. . . . [P]luses of fuel cells include few moving parts, modular design, negligible emission of pollutants, and the ability to provide electricity without adding transmission lines and substations. (I emboldened.)

Diesel generators have lots of moving parts and the maintenance difficulties attendant thereto, giving fuel cells operational cost benefit to that original garbage-fueled power device. If, as the King County site mentions, the purchase cost per kilowatt falls, fuel cells will have a distinct advantage over mechanical gen sets. Ah, but here's a question: Why would the military be dumping R&D dollars into energy conservation?

Part of the answer I answered myself in a reply to [ profile] atlasimpure: "Constantly running gensets are proving fuel hogs in country. That's a problem when one considers the supply line complexity and the need for go-juice for real applications. I've read the military is trying new options for reducing waste and powering the bases."

What I had not considered was how intensely the military was pursuing these "new options." From a Canadian publication The Tyee, we learn:

It all started when insurgents targeted the military's long, cumbersome fuel supply lines with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). When the 400-mile-long highway from the port of Kuwait to Baghdad became a shooting gallery, diesel fuel became a liability in a country floating on oil.

In some months, as many as 40 to 50 Marines died guarding convoys ferrying fuel and water to forward bases. Most perished in blown-up Humvees.

In response, Maj.-Gen Richard Zilmer, the commander of 30,000 marines in western Iraq, issued a startling "priority one" request in 2006. Recognizing that oil had become a tactical liability, he called for a "self sustainable energy solution."

Zilmer argued that green power could reduce "the number of convoys while providing an additional capability to outlying bases ...with photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines."

It got better. This philosophy extended to areas of military culture far beyond the simple supply of electricity:

For starters, the military insulated tents with foam to reduce the demand for diesel generators to run air conditioners. (The military earned back the $95-million investment in fuel savings in just six months.) (I again highlighted boldly).

I read about that original trash digestor in 2007. Research proceeded rapidly, it seems. We now have what I suspect is another variant of the original molten carbonate cell packaged in a smaller box, popularly known as The Bloom Box. The 60 Minutes piece contains the usual poor journalistic hype. For example, the first paragraph of the transcript claims this device has "no emissions;" fuel cells, though cleaner than mechanical combustion, must emit. Still, it seemed promising. And interestingly, according to the piece, Colin Powell joined the company's board of directors, further strengthening the military's ties to this greener shift.

It's sad it took so many lives to convince the military of the conservation's importance, but that's human nature. We do not change without crisis.

And speaking of crisis, Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice ". . . . thinks that peak oil will occur by 2015 and that the U.S. government is not prepared for future oil shocks." Not prepared for oil shocks? I'd agree with that. That totally sounds like us Americans. But 2015? Take a peek at this table displaying World Crude Oil Production from 1960-2009 from the Department of Energy. Head down to 2005's world production numbers (far right column). Then continue down the column. Gee, wasn't the big cost increase in gas at the pump after 2005? Yes, that was 2008, wasn't it? And didn't that spur a huge wave of new crude supply exploration?

So why was 2005's world production volume larger than 2008's?

Welcome to peak oil, Admiral Rice, probably ten years ahead of (your) schedule.

[ profile] darksumomo found the Tyee article; [ profile] babystrangeloop added the Department of Energy table.

peristaltor: (Default)
A few years ago, I kinda saw the direction our energy shortages would have on the overall economy and coined a term to describe the phenomenon -- "The Gas Ceiling." It's a play on the Glass Ceiling, the invisible employment/income level above which women could not achieve in a male-dominated corporate business environment, but refers instead to the unknowable ratio of the currently available petroleum fuels to the current economy's demand for those fuels. This article articulates the idea well:

In 2009 the peak demand story seemed confirmed, as prices stabilized around $70 in June, and U.S. consumption remained well off its previous high. Most people thought the nearly 2 mbpd decline in U.S. petroleum demand from 2007 through 2009 owed to efficiency and people driving less.

In reality, only about 15% owed to reduced gasoline demand. The other 85% was lost in the commercial and industrial sector: jet fuel, distillates (including diesel), kerosene, petrochemical feedstocks, lubricants, waxes, petroleum coke, asphalt and road oil, and other miscellaneous products.

Very simply, when oil got to $120 a barrel it cut into real productivity, and forced the world’s most developed economies to shrink. At $147, it wreaked serious damage.

As I explained in “Investment Themes for the Next Decade,” the new normal will be cycles of bumping our heads against the supply ceiling, falling dazed to the floor, rising back to our knees, then finally standing, only to bump our heads against the ceiling once more.

And every time we hit that ceiling, we find it lower relative to the floor. Meaning we can stand only as tall as the last time, but probably not that tall. Our economies will contract. Why:

The reason is simple: Energy is the only real currency. Every dollar of fiat currency or GDP was ultimately derived from cheap energy. Trying to print your way out of energy decline is like prescribing ever-higher doses of aspirin for a headache caused by a brain tumor. Yet those at the levers of monetary policy are, by all appearances, completely ignorant (or in willful denial) of this fundamental fact.

This makes using the remaining energy available to improve the efficiency of energy-dependent systems (like transportation) problematic: experimenting with new fuel injection systems, building prototype high-mileage cars, installing electric transit and electrifying older routes -- all will compete for money, which (as noted above) is generated by burning fuel. Less fuel means fewer dollars. The competition will come down to the very immediate need for individuals to get to work with the cars they own now, verses some speculative system that (cross you fingers!) might work.

I find the "completely ignorant" and "willful denial" folks the most problematic. Sadly, most of the prognosticator "economists" fall into that category, even some of my closest friends. The rise in our standard of living started, after all, way back in 1820 (or so -- it's troubling to come up with exact numbers):

From 1820 to 1970, over every decades, average real wages rose, enabling a rising standard of consumption. These 150 years rooted workers' belief that the US was a "chosen" place where every generation would live better than its parents. (Richard D. Wolff, Capitalism Hits the Fan, Olive Branch Press, 2010, p. 51.)

George Stephenson's Rocket, the first
commercially practical steam locomotive.

1820 . . . a few decades after coal started to efficiently power industrial processes and a few years before this fossilized energy was used to propel transportation. We have been living in a period of increasing expectation for almost 200 years. The economic models on which we depend have only ever been subjected to temporary shortfalls in fuel supplies, never systemic, increasing and permanent shortages. We literally don't have the tools -- conceptual or, by extension, mathematical -- to appreciate our predicament, let alone predict what will likely happen next.

In the last few posts on monetary policy (now tagged How to Make Money), I noted that our economy has never been designed for resilience, that instead it is predicated on systems that increase our money supply or simply go bust. We have no mechanisms in place to carry our society through deflationary periods of bust that will prevent further cascading loan default and continuing economic shrinkage. We instead have constructed a system that tries to walk a tightrope between rampant inflation and collapse spirals.

Without a recovery/depression prevention mechanism, it's no wonder that our economists have been instilled with a selective historicity, education that answers "What will happen if the recessions continue?" with "They never have in the past, so things will undoubtedly look rosier in the future." Nassim Nicholas Taleb has written two books (so far) about why this answer is simply wrong.

Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird's belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race "looking out for its best interests," as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.

[This is the gist of] . . . the Black Swan problem in its original form: How can we know the future, given knowledge of the past; or, more generally, how can we figure out properties of the (infinite) unknown based on the (finite) known? Think of the feeding again: What can a turkey learn about what is in store for it tomorrow from the events of yesterday? A lot, perhaps, but certainly a little less than it thinks, and it is just that "little less" that may make all the difference.

(Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Random House, 2007, p. 40.)

As a society we are all about to incur Taleb's revision of belief. The first linked article author concludes with a question or two: "All of which begs a final question: If the answers are transition to renewables, and rebuilding our infrastructure for high efficiency, then where will the money and energy to do it all come from? And how long will it hold out?"

The answer may come not from economists, but from archeologists, especially those studying the remains of cultures that no longer exist, or those that made the necessary transition successfully. Whichever we as a society choose, expect a few surprise bumps on the noggin along the way.
peristaltor: (Default)

Ellen Dunham-Jones talks about taking dated, energy intensive neighborhood development and turning it into what we should have been building all these years. It's more than just turd polishing.
peristaltor: (Default)
I got a lesson in life last night. Weirdly, I got it from playing with the Nintendo Wii.

The Wii has wireless networking and a few games that take advantage. One is Everybody Votes. It's simple. People submit questions and answers. Nintendo sifts through the submissions and finds about one a day to put to the people. Players at home then have the option of voting on which answer they think is right (What is a rhino's horn made of, bone or hair?) or sharing their personal habits (When do you usually shower or bath, at night or in the morning?).

There's another feature. After you've given your vote, you get to guess how the majority of voters responded. I find this feature far more interesting than the actual voting. First, it forces you to guess the demographic makeup of the voters. Next, you have to put yourself in their demographic shoes. I like it for the same twisted reason I liked this ill-fated game show.

Last night, we got the answers from an old question, "Which was invented first, shampoo or the telephone?" Shampoo won. That is, more people guessed shampoo was older on the first round of polling. Ah, but I guessed they would say that in the polling's second round. I originally guessed the telephone.

So I won twice.

You see, this question has an answer. An answer that does not rely upon the whims of those that accept an answer, but rather the answer that exists outside of public opinion. A quick Google search finds that "the first successful bi-directional transmission of clear speech by Bell and Watson was made on March 10, 1876", while "shampoo originated in England in 1877".

The telephone wins. I win. I doubly win because I correctly suspected that most people would not suspect or know this. My Mii jumps for joy.

But my wife pointed out a problem. Her Mii was also jumping for joy, even though she originally guessed "shampoo." Wasn't she right, too?

And that was a problem. In answers testable in the real, physical world, opinion doesn't matter. Opinion may in fact be so very wrong that it clouds one's judgment, interferes with one's ability to see the answer staring them in the face. There are so, so, so very many issues that can be simply or painstakingly tested (depending upon how subtle the science of detection in the specific arena has become) that are being obfuscated because people have already determined the "truth" of the issue and do not wish to confront the hard physical realities that bitch-slap their opinions into submission.

Ah, but the Telly News does not work that way. If you don't agree in the science of anthropomorphic climate change, natural selection as the originator of species diversity, or coming shortages in primary energy supplies, you get just as much air time as experts in their fields. Never mind that there are ten, twenty, perhaps a thousand experts who would disagree with you -- you get just as much time to present your case (or more likely, to try and obfuscate, belittle and dismiss theirs).

The Telly News is wrong to do this. They have probably been cowed by vested interests (which keep funding them through advertising and therefore can yank their leash and chokechain). Their news budget dedicated to actual investigative reporting has been slashed and burned, even though their revenue expectations continue to rise. They are being punked (and I mean that in the proper prison meaning, not as a more recent synonym for "practical joke") by their owners, corporations and individuals who have a very meaty vested interest in seeing public opinion kept ill-informed simply because that ignorance means dollars in their pockets.

Life is not fair. Reality is not balanced. It doesn't matter how many people agree with you: If you hold an opinion on a topic that attempts to directly contradict demonstrable physical evidence, you are very simply just wrong.
peristaltor: (Default)
[ profile] kmo delivered another great podcast the other day, interviewing economist Frank Rotering. Prof. Rotering has an interesting take on human progress and the limits the planet itself places on our expansion, part of which resonates well with what I accept.

For example, I whole heartedly agree that our biological imperative drives our expansion, the desire to eat the richest food (to give us strength and build our energy reserves as fat) and live in the best areas conducive to sating our desires to, well, eat and reproduce a lot. The number of simple behavioral studies that reveal this simple unconscious drive abound, each confirming that despite what we say, we are greedy little piggies that crave tasty (meaning energy-rich) foods and sex with the most reproductively viable candidates. Remember, folks, Darwin's "survival of the fittest" referred to reproductive winners, the organisms that most successfully got as many biological copies of themselves made before they croaked.

Where Frank went off the rails in the talk with [ profile] kmo, though, was where he started talking about . . . capitalism. Wait, haven't I gone over this already?!?

But then the Professor did something very few who throw the C word about willy-nilly actually do: He explained what he meant. I'm not saying he got it right in my eyes, but I will say he at least had the courtesy to quote Marx's writings directly and explain the nitty-gritty details that might elude the less familiar. Someone who has obviously read Marx so carefully is rare to find even amongst Marxists. That was refreshing.

This explanation, though, confirmed something that has been nagging at me for quite some time: That Marx himself missed the most salient element of capitalism's expansionist tendencies, specifically by by conflating the necessity to expand with the ability to expand. )


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