Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Peak Idiocy

There has been a lot of talk about peak oil recently, but to me the more relevant issue is peak idiocy. The peak oil thesis is that the world will soon be reaching its peak oil producing capacity, and production will start to go down. U.S. oil production peaked in the early 1970s, and has been declining since. The amount of oil in the world is finite, and the amount that can be extracted at anything near today's prices is much less than the overall amount.

The peak idiocy thesis© is that the stupidity of the U.S. government, and the people who have supported it, can only go on for so long before it collapses. The Bush Administration has pursued ridiculous policies (most notably the war in Iraq), and has refused to acknowledge mistakes, and has rewarded the worst bunglers (Bolton, Wolfowitz, Rice) with promotions. This detachment from reality can only go on for so long. Eventually, society is overwhelmed by reality and the idiots are recognized as such.

It is of course possible that the idiocy will continue for many years yet, with the eventual consequences being correspondingly tragic. However, there is some hope today that the nadir has been reached, and that the country is on to Bush's idiocy. Bush's popularity is now down to about 40%, gas prices are skyrocketing, layoffs are up, wages are stagnant, and the stock market is sputtering. Moreover, some honest government officials (e.g. Patrick Fitzgerald) are investigating administration crimes. Am I too optimistic in thinking that we have passed the point of peak idiocy?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Jared Diamond's Collapse

I haven't read the book yet, and I don't have any desire to do so at this point. I loved "Guns, Germs, and Steel", but "Collapse" seems to be a fairly boring framing of the human situation in a Malthusian context. Here's where I got this notion:

Jared Diamond’s new book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, is neither “superb” (The New Statesman), “incisive” (The Washington Post), “magisterial” (BusinessWeek), nor “insightful and very important” (Boston Herald). It is, instead, a telling example of how a smart man can be terribly misled by a fixation on one big idea. In this case, Diamond, a biologist, is trying to apply biology’s master narrative to human societies...

As prophets go, Diamond certainly has impressive credentials. He is a polymath who speaks 12 languages, won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel, and received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. He trained as a physiologist, is an expert ornithologist specializing in the birds of New Guinea, and is now a professor of physiology and geography at the University of California at Los Angeles...

Diamond adheres to the orthodox Malthusian claims that human population growth is exponential while “improvements in food production add rather than multiply; this breakthrough increases wheat yields by 25%, that breakthrough increases yields an additional 20%, etc.” But just looking at the history of the 20th century, it is very clear that increases in food production have been exponential too; in fact, food production has been increasing faster than human population growth. Since 1961 world grain production has tripled, while world population has doubled. Consequently, per capita global food production increased by 25 percent between 1961 and 2004, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

   [Reason: Under the Spell of Malthus: Biology doesn’t explain why societies collapse]

Feingold for President

One of the weaknesses of the Democratic slate of candidates for President in 2004 was that so many supported the Iraq War Resolution. Kerry, Edwards, Gephart, and Lieberman, I believe, all supported Bush at this critical, and ultimately tragic, juncture. Russ Feingold was one who didn't, and he seems to be testing the waters for the 2008 campaign. I don't know much about him, other than that he was a co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, and that he has recently called for a timed withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

I found this statement describing his reasons for voting against the Iraq War Resolution...

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Musings from Detroit, by a former Peace Corps volunteer on the island of Mindoro.

Frank Beckmann Article on Sheehan

I've long enjoyed Frank Beckmann as a sportscaster and commentator. He seems like an intelligent and moderate man. Reading his recent column on Cindy Sheehan, however, saddens me greatly. It is just another example of how terribly divided our country is at the present time.

Clearly, the blame for this rests overwhelming on the shoulders of the Bush Administration and their supporters, such as Beckmann. Yes, that includes the "the 29 Democratic senators who approved the Iraq war resolution in 2003", as Beckmann points out. But how much more those such as Beckmann.

Courtesy of Eric Alterman, here is what Bush (& supporters such as Beckmann) has wrought:

tens of thousands dead; more than that wounded; hundreds of billions wasted; the hatred of the world; the creation of countless terrorists and torture victims, the destruction of a nation; and the dishonoring of the leadership of the United States of America. All in the service of something that “was never realistic,” an “unreality” that was sold to us by a dishonest, fanatical group of ideologues and their cheerleaders in the so-called liberal media.

What’s is perhaps most galling about this is the fact that if you tried to warn your fellow citizens against just this likelihood three years ago when it was still preventable, you were part of some decadent, fifth-columnist coastal elite that hated America, while the chest beating patriots were the ones who drained this nation of its blood and treasure in the service of their own lethal combination of ignorance, arrogance, and ideological obsession. [Altercation - MSNBC.com]

Does this sound shrill Mr. Beckmann?