Saturday, March 19, 2011

Re-inventing America Addendum: Michael Ruppert talks about Peak Oil and the collapse of industrial society

Michael Craig Ruppert is an interesting man. He transformed from a LAPD narcotics officer to whistle-blower to social activist, and, in the process, has suffered health problems and poverty. Ruppert famously revealed the CIA's involvement in drug trafficking during the Reagan administration, and confronted CIA director John Mark Deutch in 1996 at a televised meeting in Los Angeles. His involvement with the so-called 9-11 truth movement cost him some respectability in the progressive community. From 1996-2006 Ruppert published the blog/newsletter From The Wilderness, which can still be accessed, though it is no longer active. His current activities are chronicled on the From the Wilderness' Peak Oil Blog.

Ruppert is the author of Crossing The Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil, published in September 2004, and Confronting Collapse, published in 2009.

The documentary film, Collapse, released in 2009, chronciles Ruppert's history and his transformation into one of the founders (or at least the patron saint) of the Lifeboat movement, which seeks to develop a sane, sound, and sustainable network of communities prepared to endure what they say is the coming cataclysmic collapse of industrial society. Critic Roger Ebert gave the film 4 stars.

Michael Ruppert has paid a substantial price for his steadfast activism, and whether one agrees with him on every point or not, we turn a deaf ear at our own peril. I view Michael and the late Chalmers Johnson as prophets of a dire future that we seem to be hurtling towards.

Mike Ruppert has an unblemished track record for saying things that are incendiary, outrageous, shocking—and true. Our new president needs desperately to hear the uncomfortable message of this book about energy and the economy, and so do the rest of us.

—Richard Heinberg, PhD, author of The Party's Over, Peak Everything, The Oil Depletion Protocol and senior fellow, Post Carbon Institute

The following eight videos are of a talk Ruppert gave in Vermont in 2010.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Daryl Hall & Todd Rundgren reunite for the 40th edition of Live from Daryl’s House, this time live from Todd’s house in Hawaii.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Re-inventing America, Part 1

I was originally going to title this post "Restoring America." But I realized that restoration is not really what fundamental change for USA is about. The America that I would like to see gestated then birthed is one that has probably never really existed before, except in (mostly) short-lived outposts in isolated corners of the nation. My inspirations are many, but chief among them would be David Korten, at least insofar as a sound economic future, followed soon after by Van Jones. But in fact the constellation of my inspiration is as diffuse as the seeds of real change (versus change inspired by fear, i.e., right wing, reactionary change, which is not really change at all). Before I list what I consider to simple, foolproof changes that I believe would fundamentally begin to alter the landscape of the socio-economic-political landscape of the USA, I'd like to briefly summarize what I think constitutes our present dilemma.

Where we are:

  • Contrary to popular believe, we are not a true democracy. The U.S. is mostly a corporatocracy, wherein huge corporate interests, often multi-national in nature, exercise enormous control over the direction of public policy, media reportage, tax policy, and taxpayer expenditure.
  • We are supposedly a "free market" economy. This is one of the greatest myths perpetuated by our politicians (who are, in the main, vassals of the aforementiond corporate interests). What we really have in the USA is a system of corporate socialism, succinctly summarized in the words of author Thomas Frank: "socialize the risks, privatize the profits."
  • A sizable portion of the American population have passively surrendered any sense of investment in the future of our nation to elected officials who by-and-large have little interest in true populist causes. No matter how much their actual economic and political power erodes, many Americans persist in the mantra of American exceptionalism and the belief that their quality of life is still second to none anywhere else on the planet. It is this disconnect that that led the late Howard Zinn to call America "the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority."
  • In concert with the preceding, is the growing contempt of the American people for intellectualism. Intelligence (and that word has a broad embrace of of many gifts, not necessarily connected to academic credentials) is increasingly viewed with suspicion, if not openly mocked, chiefly by faux populists such as Sarah Palin, but even in our media. My favorite example of this is the popular TV show "The Big Bang," in which brilliant scientists are portrayed as lovable but hapless nerds and geeks with little pragmatic competence. In the popular media, true cultural intellectuals have been replaced for the most part by pundits, whether of the left, or the far more omnipresent right.
  • The fading status of reason and intellectual depth in our country is personified by two striking disconnects in comparison to the rest of the developed world: 1) our rejection of evolution as the driving force of life's diversity (only 1 in 4 unconditionally accept evolution as true according to a Gallup Poll), and 2) our stubborn refusal to accept anthropogenic climate change as a reality (about 40% at last count, and rising).
  • Also conjoined with our fading intellectual capabilities is the continued downward spiral in our children's performance in science and math against a worldwide standard.
  • Somewhere around 2005, the U.S. became a net food importer (despite the widely tauted efficiencies of food production increasingly managed at an industrial scale). I would hazard a bet that most citizens don't know this (or care), as they are quite pleased to purchase asparagus and apples year round at the local supermarket. However, a nation that is no longer producing the majority of its own food supply faces enormous risks of food insecurity in the future.
  • Empire feeds the corporate state. With 700+ military bases around the world, despite the collapse of our proverbial bogey-state, the Soviet Union, the corporate state is thus poised to respond to any threat to its interests (mostly the continued flow of oil and other resources). At the late Chalmers Johnson wrote: "As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order." While the vast military apparatus safeguards global corporate interests, it also spawns an entire growth industry of military contractors, to provide goods and services to military personnel, as well as the manufacturing of military aircraft, ships, vehicles and, of course, weapons, many of these latter making their way into the black market side of arms dealing, and thus often end up being used against our own forces. The corrupting influence of this cycle is never so apparent as in the hiring of retired military brass by these corporate contractors, which has reached record numbers.
  • A further indication of the corporate/militarist state's festering corruption is the fact that CIA agents are quietly allowed to moonlight performing corporate espionage. Yes, I kid you not. The twisted logic proffered by their spook administrators is that is the only way that they can keep their best agents in the Company (vs. jumping ship and going into the far more lucrative field of corporate work full time). This was detailed in the book "Broker, Trader, Lawyer, Spy: The Secret World of Corporate Espionage" by Eamon Javers.
  • Our entire society is based primarily on rampant over-consumption (the media euphemism is "consumerism"), which proceeds at a completely non-sustainable level. Americans constitute 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of the world's energy. Americans eat 815 billion calories of food each day - that's roughly 200 billion more than needed - enough to feed 80 million people. The average American's daily consumption of water is 159 gallons, while more than half the world's population lives on 25 gallons.

Monday, March 07, 2011

America Is NOT Broke ...the Madison speech by Michael Moore

America Is NOT Broke ...the Madison speech by Michael Moore

Delivered in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday, March 5th, 2011. Video available here.

America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'├ętat, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we'd have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic -- and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here's what I learned: Money doesn't grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don't pay their fair share of taxes, the state can't function. The schools can't produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs. That too caused a reduction in tax revenue. Everyone ended up suffering because of what the rich did.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. Saying that the country is broke is repeating a Big Lie. It's one of the three biggest lies of the decade: 1) America is broke, 2) Iraq has WMD, and 3) The Packers can't win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there's lots of money to go around. LOTS. It's just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn't work, they've got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:

1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day -- this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart -- because you -- yes, you, too! -- might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep you head down, your nose to the grindstone, don't rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it's Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin' awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. "Here! Take our money! We don't care. We'll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!"

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant known as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone who tells us America is broke and broken. It's just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we make this happen? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois -- whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn't have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn't be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more -- something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job -- their $19,000 a year job. That's how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilot who flew me here to Madison today. He told me he's stopped hoping for a pay increase. All he's asking for now is enough down time so that he doesn't have to sleep in his car between shifts at O'Hare airport. That's how despicably low we have sunk! The wealthy couldn't be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They had to take away his sleep. They had to demean him and dehumanize him and rub his face in it. After all, he's just another slob, isn't he?

And that, my friends, is Corporate America's fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement -- a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don't understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. "Why are they all standing out there in the cold?" I mean, there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!

"There's something happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you ...?"

America ain't broke! The only thing that's broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it's one person, one vote, and it's the thing the rich hate most about America -- because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat. We are with you. We will win together.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

How the Rich Soaked the Rest of Us

Three graphs tell the story, plain and simple. It's their world now. For as long as it lasts.

Relative increases in net household incomes of Americans from 1979 to 2005.

Share of national income taken by top tranches of earners.

Take a poke at the right wing Kochs

Yes, that is supposed to rhyme.

It is unlikely that one can can root out all products produced by the billionaire right-wing puppet masters David and Charles Koch, but here is a list of items manufactured by their companies. For a little bit o' progressive bite back, boycott these goods:

Angel Soft toilet paper

Brawny paper towels
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft 'n Gentle toilet paper
Sparkle napkins
Vanity fair napkins
Zee napkins

Georgia-Pacific paper products and envelopes
All Georgia-Pacific lumber and building products, including:
Dense Armor Drywall and Decking
ToughArmor Gypsum board
Georgia pacific Plytanium Plywood
Densglass sheathing
G/P Industrial plasters (some products used by a lot of crafters)
FibreStrong Rim board
G/P Lam board
Blue Ribbon OSB Rated Sheathing
Blue Ribbon Sub-floor
DryGuard Enhanced OSB
Nautilus Wall Sheathing
Thermostat OSB Radiant Barrier Sheathing
Broadspan Engineered Wood Products
XJ 85 I-Joists
FireDefender Banded Cores
FireDefender FS
FireDefender Mineral Core
Hardboard and Thin MDF including Auto Hardboard,
Perforated Hardboard and Thin MDF
Wood Fiberboard
Commercial Roof Fiberboard
Hushboard Sound Deadening Board
Regular Fiberboard Sheathing
Structural Fiberboard Sheathing

(INVISTA Products):
COMFOREL® fiberfill
COOLMAX® fabric
CORDURA® fabric
DACRON® fiber
SOLARMAX® fabric
SOMERELLE® bedding products
SUPPLEX® fabric
TACTEL® fiber
TACTESSE® carpet fiber
TERATE® polyols
TERATHANE® polyether glycol
PHENREZ® resin
POLARGUARD® fiber and
LYCRA® fiber

A tip of the Mirsky hat to Lauren Kelly and AlterNet.