Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Mechanism and policy
In the light of day, my previous message seems a bit alarmist. First, it was a response to the 2nd amendment nuts who say that guns defend against tyranny. As I showed, guns are useless against tyranny. The Shiites of Iraq had guns. We now know just how *many* guns -- the country was freakin' FLOODED with guns, piled high and deep in everybody's garden with ammo to match. That didn't help them against Saddam's tyranny.
Still, there are some easy objections to make. First of all, the police forces of the United States are highly decentralized. It seems unrealistic to believe that the mechanism of a police state is already there. Yet the War on Drugs proves that even this decentralization is, in the end, a fraud -- by offering the appropriate carrots to state and local governments, the federal government has managed to get pretty much every law enforcement agency onto the same page.
The next thing that comes up is, "but surely the police would refuse to enforce a stupid or oppressive law?" Ask the black residents of Birmingham Alabama how many policemen refused to enforce the oppressive laws that prohibited black people from having equal rights. Hint: None. Zero. If it is the law, police officers will enforce it, even if it's a law as stupid and ridiculous as outlawing a naturally growing herb or mushroom that anybody can obtain just by walking in the woods. The "War on Drugs", and, for that matter, New York City during the RNC convention when thousands of people were snatched off the streets by police officers and taken to internment camps for the duration, proves that what was true when Police Chief Bull Connor released his thugs against civil rights marchers in 1963 is just as true today. If the law says to do it, they will do it. Policemen who have a problem with that do not stay policemen, they leave the profession.
So the mechanisms are there. What is lacking, what seperates the United States from being a police state, is the policies. Our political processes have not turned this mechanism against ordinary citizens in a major way because our political processes, while creaking towards the precipice, are still a ways away from completely collapsing into such disorder that a "strongman" can come forward and gain the support of the majority of the people in order to restore order. Any government, in the end, depends upon at least the willing aquiescence of the majority of the population in order to continue existing. Saddam was not popular, but the majority of Iraqis clearly had no problem with him being their Dear Leader (otherwise, as we have found out, they most certainly had the weaponry to depose him at will), because he maintained a safe and orderly society, and for most people that's all they care about. Most people don't care about these lofty philosophical ideas and stuff. They just want to work, eat, raise their children. They just want to be left alone. All that is necessary is for a sustained political collapse to occur with resulting disorder, and the police will not only enforce the dictates of a strongman -- but the majority of the populance will support them in this.
The mechanism is there. All that is necessary to put it into play is policy. And that's a scary-assed thing to see, because it gives major players in the political game the incentive to speed the collapse of the political process. Dear Leader is just a symptom of a game that's being played, and I suspect we will see far, far worse in the future, especially as the economy starts to crumble under the weight of Peak Oil...
-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin
Labels: peak oil, politics, prison state USA, war on drugs
Posted by: BadTux / 4/04/2007 10:56:00 AM
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
On energy density and nuclear power
Two words: Energy density. Nuclear power is currently the only technology which has the energy density to replace oil, gas, coal and so forth. We could put solar panels on every patch of barren ground, windmills in every windy pass in America, biofuel rapeseed on every piece of marginal ground not needed to raise timber or food, and still fall woefully short even of the energy requirements of modern agriculture, which is a very energy-intensive process that requires hauling enormous amounts of food long distances over a transportation infrastructure that requires enormous sums of energy to operate even if we transition it all to electrical or hydrogen operation. And without modern agriculture, we have a great die-off, because we now have far more people on this planet than can be supported by primitive agriculture.
Frankly, I prefer being alive to being dead. I've looked at some of the modern nuclear reactor designs, and they're far safer than Three Mile Island (which itself was far safer than Chernobyl, a weapons reactor converted to civilian use which would have never been permitted to operate in the United States). Note that the so-called "hydrogen economy" is basically a mechanism for storing nuclear power in an energy-dense manner for individual transportation, rather than a method of generating energy... the only method for generating energy is nuclear power, whether it is the nuclear power of the sun (which also powers the wind as well as solar cells and plants), or nuclear power from man-made reactors. Even oil, gas, or coal is just nuclear power in the end, since it is just stored nuclear energy from the sun, energy stored in hydrocarbon bonds rather than in batteries...
- Badtux the Energy Penguin
Labels: economy, energy, peak oil, technology
Posted by: BadTux / 3/27/2007 08:18:00 PM
Monday, March 26, 2007
Can you eat gold?
As others have noted, the U.S. Treasury is printing money with all the fervant abandon of a Weimar Republic finance minister, and, as expected when you have too much money chasing the same amount of goods, the value of the dollar is falling. In addition, the sub-prime market is collapsing, and since the notion that trillions of dollars of collateralized securities can be allowed to suddenly vaporize into nothingness and cause a deflationary spiral similar to 1929 is ridiculous, the Treasury will be printing yet more money shortly to bail out the holders of those collateralized securities.
Those are short-term problems. Long term, there are even bigger problems on the horizon. The U.S. economy is hollowed out and makes nothing of note anymore, other than increasingly worthless dollars that we export in ever greater numbers to buy the essentials of life. The American "lifestyle", which is heavily petroleum dependent, is unlikely to survive $25 per gallon gasoline, which is coming within the next twenty years. Add to that the melting of the ice caps, which will submerge many of the important coastal cities, and we may be setting up for a Dark Ages that will rival that which occurred during and after the fall of Rome.
What to do? Some folks say "buy gold." The problem is, you can't eat gold. If the currency collapses and you're reduced to barter, nobody is going to trade stuff to you for gold. They're going to trade stuff to you for something useful. Something that can be eaten, or that they need to keep warm or housed.
So now we know what's NOT useful. Some other things I can think of that aren't useful:
- Lots of food. Food goes bad after a while, so you end up having to rotate it out. Food is also very bulky. It would be hard to store enough food to be useful in the long run.
- Seed. Not bulky like food, but unless you're actually a farmer, impossible to rotate out as it goes bad. Illiquid -- you can't easily get rid of year-old seed.
- Guns. Well, lots of guns would actually be *very* good to stock since as governments collapse neighborhood militias and other such substitutes will take their place, except that in a pre-collapse world lots of guns also tend to result in unwanted attention from the BATF. See: Branch Davidians, Waco. Oh that's right, you can't, because they're dead. Anyhow, the U.S. is already awash in guns, so I think we can figure that there will be no shortage in the future either.
So, what WOULD be useful? Well, being young, feral, and vicious would be useful. Being an attractive breeding-age female would be useful. Since this penguin is neither of those, however, that doesn't seem like a good plan of action. Beyond that, well, discuss.
- Badtux the non-survivalist Penguin
Labels: economy, global warming, peak oil
Posted by: BadTux / 3/26/2007 01:44:00 PM
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
$3.20 per gallon for regular at my local gas station (which is one of the cheaper ones in the city).
Here is what I want to do to oil company executives:
Too bad penguins can't fly, or I'd do it to their face rather than to their shoe :-(.
-- Badtux the Poopy Penguin
Note: For more about penguin defecation than you ever wanted to know, check out this igNobel-prize-winning paper...
Labels: peak oil, penguin porn
Posted by: BadTux / 3/14/2007 09:16:00 PM
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Day before yesterday, gas was $3.01 per gallon here. Last night, it was $3.05 per gallon. I hate to see what it'll be tonight.
I wouldn't mind so much if all these billions were going into some fund to create an alternative to oil. But they aren't. The oilmen are raking it in and piling it up. Which goes to show that oil and the open market don't work once we're past peak oil, which we probably are.
If there was someone making, say, widgets, and piling in billions in profits, someone else would start making widgets too. But ain't nobody makin' no more oil. What we've got, is what we've got. And the alternative energy guys still aren't getting enough money to come up with some viable alternative to oil. It'd be easy enough to do -- just whack an oil windfall profits tax on the oil companies. But it ain't happenin'.
Gotta go, gotta get dressed in all my motorcycle duds to get 50+mpg on my morning commute...
-- Badtux the Raped Penguin
Labels: economy, energy, motorcycling, peak oil
Posted by: BadTux / 3/08/2007 08:38:00 AM
- Name: BadTux
- Location: Some iceberg, South Pacific, Antarctica
I am a black and white and yellow multicolored penguin making his way as best he can in a world of monochromic monkeys.
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Cost of the War in Iraq