Wisdom from the ‘tubes’..

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

Brilliant insight….

Black is the new White-PartDeux

The swift and Swiftian guarantee, whereby a domestic minnow guaranteed three global whales, has ushered in a nuclear winter, whose first bites are now being felt.

But the good Brian, having mastered his Goebbel’s, inverts the reality and tells us the perfect fabrication – that he has prevented it.

This is perversion beyond anything that Karl Rove, the man who gave us the ‘swift-boating’ of an American hero.

This man is a truly Irish phenomenon, a Jonathan Swift-redux, a world-class manipulator of words. Sadly, history is repeating itself true to type – the first time was a farce/satire, this time it is a true tragedy.

We are eating our own now, condemning them, our children, to a lifetime of tax-servitude to foreign bondholders.

Black is the new white.

The Republican Party of the USA is rapidly becoming a theological culture. Given that they are 50% of the country, give or take a few points depending on the quality of your advertising and your incumbent, then the USA itself seems to be on the way to becoming one.

Any regular observer of US politics has been aware of this trend for some time now but today I came across some numbers that seem to copperfasten it.

In this survey, 80% of Republicans place the blame for the state of the US economy on Mr. Obama rather than on Mr. Bush, given the choice of only those two alternatives. Moreover, a large proportion of those citing no regular party affiliation indicated that they also blame Mr. Obama.

While Mr. Obama may be criticized for having campaigned as if hope and change alone would be sufficient to solve the USA’s woes, the people have no business thinking that anyone could solve the  problem of that seriousness with a wave of a magic wand or a lipstick.

They will shortly be in an unholy mess if they follow through on these ‘feelings’ and take control of the legislature away from the Democrats in November. Sadly, we are likely to be in that selfsame mess with them if they do.

The End of the World

The ever-insightful Dimitr Orlov has hit another long hard ‘home run’ with this piece.


Nothing more to add to it, other than to say it is the best ‘crisis’ piece I have read all year.

The 4-bladed scissors

Mankind is better at creating problems rather than solving them.

We created plenty of pointless bloody wars. We now know that, inadvertently, we created the conditions that spread plagues amongst our own and other tribes and nations. In the previous century, we did solve a few problems. A stalemate that kept a nuclear war at bay was devised. Some very old plagues were eradicated, an achievement never dreamed of before, let alone accomplished.

But in the main, mankind is very poor at problem solving on a societal or cultural scale. We either endure, or throw enough resources to either overwhelm the ‘enemy’ or exhaust ourselves. In the main, our experience has been of tackling one problem at a time. The literature from Tainter, Diamond and others suggests that when more than one factor type problem besets a civilisation they often fail to cope.

We now have a vast array of tools for generating complex analysis about our dilemmas. We also have a very poor apparatus for deciding what to do about our problems. So we know more about what we are facing into but we are hamstrung from doing anything about it.

Some of the problem stems from the fact that we have a largely reductive science and our toolset currently reflects this state of affairs. We have only recently begun to tangle with the issues raised by dynamically interacting problem-spaces such as DNA-protein interactions, weather systems and networked autonomous computers.

Frankly, we are not good at seeing the wood for the trees. I would like to throw a ‘framework’ onto the bonfire of our vanities, to see if it helps at all.

First of all, our problems can be divided into categories of physical/real and cultural/artificial. Secondly, they can be divided in categories of what we want and what is available. These form Cartesian axes of Availability and Actuality.

Peak resources of all kinds (but principally, crude oil) fall into the category of negative or declining Availability but positive Actuality. Peak Population is positive for both Availability and Actuality.

Peak Debt is negative for both Availability and Actuality. A better way of thinking of Peak Debt might be in terms of an optimal ratio for debt/equity rations for a given technological/EROI situation; clearly, we are in negative territory WRT to global debt/equity ratios.

Peak information is clearly positive and increasing. Information and its hoped for corrolary, knowledge, are intangible and therefore on the ‘Artificial’ side of the graph but on the positive side of the Availability axis.

Cartesian axes of tangibility and rate of change.

Cartesian axes of tangibility and rate of change.

From my point of view, masses of population and information are good things. But, it must not be forgotten that they both imply constraints. Information is not knowledge and it is most certainly not wisdom. It has to be managed and used creatively. Equally, a population has to be fed, watered and housed before it can start to produce anything, whether that be food, art or knowledge.

There are very real negatives in this picture that we are very well aware of.

You might well be asking where climate change is in all of this ‘graphology’. It is in amongst Peak Resources because I view the renewable output of the planet (food, air, water) as a ‘dividend’ of the physical wealth of the planet and, in the same way as we have damaged the debt/equity ratios of our imaginary/intangible assets, we have done the same to the ‘real assets’ and will face declining ‘real dividends’ until we repair the damage done.

Although I have classed Information and Population as ‘Positives’ they are not costless and they can be problems unless they are handled correctly.

Which leads me to my final and unhappy conclusion.

I started this article by saying that ‘Mankind’ had not shown much aptitude to date for handling problems, even if they came one at a time. Each of these four issues constitutes a serious problem for humanity. Worse, each of these represents a constraint on the other.

A blade can be a tool or a weapon. Two blades in opposition to each other is commonly called a scissors and is much more likely to be used as a tool than a weapon arising from its configuration. Humanity faces a ‘four bladed’ scissors, each blade of which cuts on the other.

Our information and our population mean that we are poised on the cusp of enormous potential. But our history tells us that we are likely to end up with bloody fingers before we get the hang of the ‘tool’.

This article was originally created for ‘The Future We Deserve’ project and be seen here.

Clash for civilization

The coming clash will not be between Muslim and Christian nor between East and West nor between rich and poor. Although much has been made of, and from, Samuel Huntington’s famous essay of 1994 regarding the near-term future course of history and his ‘cultural wars’ and, although the current geopolital ‘hot’ conflicts would seem to bear him out, I believe that the conflict that we are globally engaged in the early skirmishes of is a much deeper and uglier struggle.

There are tensions between all of these ‘camps’, for sure.

The poor have nothing to fight us with and so there can be no ‘clash’ with them. I believe, however, that the ‘San Bushmen and the Yanomani and the Aboriginals will be on the planet long after the last trader’s screen blinks off on Wall St.

The East sees little reason to change its growth plans as they have not caused the existing atmospheric carbon increases. The West is being miserly in its offering of technology and resources that might help the East avoid the worst of the West’s environmental excesses. I expect, however, that as the catastrophe unfolds both sides will be driven into each others arms as the real ‘globalisation’ emerges.

The tension between Islam and the Christians is a proxy for the economic and political serfdom that the “Ummah” has suffered at the hands of the British and then American empires since the collapse of the Ottoman empire. The resentment of, and terrorism against, the ‘infidel’ comes from those states where the populace has been denied political expression and economic development by puppet regimes of the ‘West’, which has at the same time looted those countries of their natural resource (crude oil). For proof, compare the peoples of Turkey and Saudi Arabia. There were no Turks on the 9/11 planes and there are none fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan.

So, the conflict between Islam and Christianity is in reality the same as the Northern Irish conflict between Protestant and Catholic; a proxy for a historic battle for economic resources.

So, in the coming struggle, who will be doing the fighting.

The conflict, I expect, will be between the enlightened and the ignorant.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt will be wielded as weapons by demagogues, cynics and the vocal ignorant promoting simple solutions against the complex analysis offered by the reasoned, the reasonable and the eloquent as defenders of truth, hope and knowing.

Ignorance and false knowledge (such as theology) are being used to pervert the minds and recruit the bodies of the gullible, the ignorant and the desperate in every corner of the planet.

For each madrassa in Pakistan, there is a creationist college in the US. For each witchdoctor in the Congo, there is a neofascist skinhead in Moscow. For every bureaucrat, there is a copyright lawyer.

But these are not in opposition to each other. They are opposed to those who believe in tolerance, openness and freedom.

For every Buffet and Jobs there will be an Ellison and a Murdoch. For each Mandela there will be a Putin. For every Dawkins there will be a Limbaugh. For each Obama there will be a Mugabe. For every Pelosi there will be a Palin.

The ‘Dark Ages’ did not lack for daylight. They lacked knowledge and the means to transmit knowledge. But the greatest impediment to progress were elites who fought to keep knowledge and enlightenment out of the hands of the people in order to keep power and wealth under their control.

Line of the Day

Line of the day:

“Facebook is literally filled with master baiters.”

Between the possibly unintended “double-entendre” and the superb analysis of the evolving dichotomy on the Interwebs between social and functional mass participation, the above linked piece is my ‘pearl of the day’. Enjoy.

NAMA ‘Dead on Arrival’, say Ministers

One tires of wading through so much bullshit from the various ‘leaders’ of what passes for ‘society’ in this damp corner of the planet. There is very little perspective on offer from these people and, as the 24-hour news cycle intensifies with all the blogging, tweeting and wiki-ing, all we ever seem to get are reactions to reactions to eruptions of events.

Last year, we, the people, were sold a pup called ‘NAMA’. There were several reasons advanced for so doing. Among them were “the EU approves”, “there is no alternative” and also “our reputation will be mud”.

The principal reason advanced however was that

“our banks are broke and this is the only way to get them lending again so that we can restart the economy”.

I am too pissed off to bother searching out links to instances of these but you all know that that was what was said.

Now, Minister Ryan and Minister Lenihan are announcing a program to ‘force’ the AIB & BoI to lend €12bln over the next 3 years. So before all of the loans are transferred to NAMA, they are admitting what the majority of independent observers said at the time would be the case; that NAMA would NOT regenerate lending in this economy.

Further, this new program of lending has no incentive and no enforcement and no punitive measures attached, so that there is no way to make this lending happen. There is just a new ‘nodding dog’ of a quango to repackage the lies of Ministers. The pronunciations of the ‘Credit Review Office’, which is as underresourced as it possible for ‘one man and his dog’ to be, flies in the face of the quotidian experience of every accountant, credit officer and small business operator in the land.

It’s not so bad to have a politician lie to us. We are well used to it, by now. But that they are setting up quangos using our taxes to pay civil servants to lie to us is a new twist to our ‘Wonderland’.

Addendum – What has a new lending program, however fictitious, got to do with Minister Ryan’s portfolio of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources?

NAMA will not recoup €4.8bn for taxpayer.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

There is nothing more to be said on this subject.

Iceland’s victory

For most of last year a common refrain was the line about the difference between Ireland and Iceland being one letter and six months. I was in a minority, a very small minority, in suggesting that although Iceland looked to be in terrible state that they chosen the wiser path of short term pain for long term gain.

The ‘solution’ being tried in Ireland is mainly one of throwing good money after bad in the hope that the global economy recovers before FF/GP have to face the electorate and that, by then, a ‘rising tide’ will have the appearance of being able to lift all boats.

The shine is rapidly coming off that ‘solution’ as the varying stimuli run their courses into the buffers of debt overhang and artificially high prices for everything from stocks to wages and including houses. The only thing that is not overpriced is the oil we are still consuming at an unsustainable rate.

Meanwhile, Iceland is already suffering less pain than the Irish and the have managed to do so by sticking it to the ‘entrepreneurs’ who took most of the profits and are now taking the losses.

“How different from the home lives of our precious bankers”.

For a snapshot of these remarkable events see the estimable PKrugman’s article here.