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Pulling Back The Curtain On The Energy Transition Tale

Pulling Back The Curtain On The Energy Transition Tale

OK, I am going to try to keep this quite short and to the point. Everyone familiar with me knows that I have been rather outspoken against what are commonly called “technofixes” for a considerably long time. Of course, this has always been for very good reasons, being that technology is what has caused the predicament of ecological overshoot in the first place. However, given the hype, marketing, advertising, and PR work done by the industries involved, many people are unaware that these technologies do not reduce fossil fuel use, they actually INCREASE their use by requiring (among other things) a considerably larger electrical grid, storage of energy for when intermittent devices are not generating, and large losses due to the realities of electrical transmission. Because the overwhelming message presented to society over the years that technology is “great” and does so much for us, the inculcated message is that technology can do no harm. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While technology has definitely accomplished very many awesome feats, these have all come at great cost to all the nature surrounding us which we ourselves are a part of; and we cannot live without this nature because we depend on it for the ecosystem services it provides, giving us habitat. Technology use is actually what supports civilization and is the cause of ecological overshoot.

Finally, this paper by William Rees and Megan Siebert (based upon this particular study) has been distributed showing once and for all that the technofixes that are constantly hyped about are nothing but an illusion, quote:

We have exposed fatal weaknesses in the technologies widely advanced as solutions to the climate crisis. The notion of clean energy is an illusion that ignores innumerable biophysical realities and costs that cannot be afforded by any reasonable measure…

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Power Is An Illusion, Control Is A Facade

Power Is An Illusion, Control Is A Facade

This past year in numerous countries the public is being bombarded with lessons in power and control that have been forgotten for generations. I think the majority of westerners in particular have long believed themselves “safe” from totalitarian government, from collectivist micro-management and from communistic cultism. They thought we had moved beyond the nightmares of the 20th century. They thought that the “new world” was going to be more Utopian, and that freedom would grace us naturally along with technological progress.

Sure, in the back of everyone’s subconscious there is the fear that the good times are an illusion and that dystopia is just behind a thin veneer of economic stability and false optimism, but most people do not really think such catastrophes will happen in their lifetime. We are now in the midst of a deliberately over-hyped pandemic, strict national lockdowns, civil unrest, riots, aggressive tech censorship, intrusive government censorship, unprecedented corporate and treasury debt, stagflationary central bank stimulus and the collapse of massive financial bubbles. Yet, I still don’t get the impression that many in the public really grasp the extent of the danger; they still believe that the situation is going to heal itself without any effort or much sacrifice on their part.

This is the first lesson of power: Entire societies can be easily influenced when they suffer from delusions that the bad times will be fleeting, and that governments will keep them safe no matter what.

It is a historically proven pattern that governments tend to CREATE problems instead of solving them, and this is because the power dynamic of government never changes. The politicians we “vote” for are not in control, rather, the elites who fund their campaigns and who permeate their cabinets are in control…

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The Illusion Is Failing

Sometimes the magic fails.

The secret to the trick is accidentally revealed. The woman was always in the box.  The eye is no longer deceived. And there’s no getting the audience’s sense of awe back.

Just like a bungled illusion, once trust is broken, it’s gone.

For many during 2020, the loss of their jobs and businesses — in many cases due to incompetent government management of the pandemic — has been both a blessing and a curse.

Of course nobody likes being laid off or losing a business they’d carefully built up over the years.

But for a significant number of those people, however, they’ve now been given time (against their will, admittedly) to reflect and realize how much they hated their work in the first place.  For them, the illusion has been broken.

They won’t go back to pretending their former lives were acceptable or tolerable, and they’re actively looking for employment that better fits their values.  Time for something new.

Others have realized how much they really disliked what air travel had devolved into. With its demeaning theater of faux displays of ‘safety’– being groped by TSA agents and having to perform a striptease to get personal items through the security scanners.

I’m one of these folks.  I’ll be traveling a lot less in the future, no matter what happens with the SARS-2 virues. I’ll be content to stay local and conduct my business via Zoom calls as much as can possibly be done.  I won’t miss the pat-downs, delays, crowded seats, and cancelled flights.

Similarly, social media has now been revealed to be run by petulant sociopaths whose goal is for you to see exactly what content they want you to see, because that fits their profit incentive.  But they do so under the guise of “protecting” us from uninteresting or inappropriate material.

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Democracy and the Illusion of Choice

Democracy and the Illusion of Choice

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The neoliberal logic of everything for the rich is now so deeply embedded in American political economy that its base assumptions appear untouchable, except in rare and extraordinary circumstances. With the Covid pandemic exacerbating the current crisis of capitalism, political and economic defense mechanisms make restoring the people and institutions that created the crisis appear to be the only alternative (once again) to solving it. And from the potential victory of a social democratic program five months ago, electoral choice is now between a right-wing demagogue and the chief architect of the carceral state, militarization of the police and liberal obeisance to capital.

There is a connection between the Democrats three-plus years spent pushing the un / disproven Russiagate story and Joe Biden’s miraculous ascent as the establishment candidate in 2020. The Russiagate allegations shifted attention away from rejection of the Democrat’s political program in 2016 so that they could run the same program again in 2020. Amongst the political variables open for ‘discussion,’ the choice of candidate is all there is. The political program is determined at the intersection of campaign contributions, the needs and desires of capital, and the ids of oligarchs freed from public accountability. Democracy has nothing to do with it.

Graph: the ‘racist backlash’ theory of Donald Trump’s election effectively divided the victims of neoliberal economic policies by race. The actual number of white racist and neo-Nazi groups has been declining since 2012. And before rococo explanations for this decline are sought, the rise and fall of hate groups tracks unemployment quite closely (graph below). Whatever the nature of Mr. Trump’s appeals, when Black Separatist groups are excluded from the ‘hate group’ data, the number of white racist and neo-Nazi hate groups followed the unemployment rate lower. Source: SPLC.

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How the GDP Framework Creates the Illusion That By Means of Money Pumping the Central Bank Can Grow an Economy

HOW THE GDP FRAMEWORK CREATES THE ILLUSION THAT BY MEANS OF MONEY PUMPING THE CENTRAL BANK CAN GROW AN ECONOMY

In response to a weakening in the yearly growth rate of key economic indicators such as industrial production and real gross domestic product (GDP) some commentators have raised the alarm of the possibility of a recession emerging.

Some other commentators are dismissive of this arguing that the likelihood of a recession ahead is not very high given that other important indicators such as consumer outlays as depicted by the annual growth rate of retail sales and the state of employment appear to be in good shape (see charts).

Most experts tend to assess the strength of an economy in terms of real gross domestic product (GDP), which supposedly mirrors the total amount of final goods and services produced.

To calculate a total, several things must be added together. In order to add things together, they must have some unit in common. It is not possible however to add refrigerators to cars and shirts to obtain the total amount of final goods.

Since total real output cannot be defined in a meaningful way, obviously it cannot be quantified. To overcome this problem economists employ total monetary expenditure on goods, which they divide by an average price of goods. However, is the calculation of an average price possible?

Suppose two transactions are conducted. In the first transaction, one TV set is exchanged for $1,000. In the second transaction, one shirt is exchanged for $40. The price or the rate of exchange in the first transaction is $1000/1TV set. The price in the second transaction is $40/1shirt. In order to calculate the average price, we must add these two ratios and divide them by 2. However, $1000/1TV set cannot be added to $40/1shirt, implying that it is not possible to establish an average price.

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The Essence of Control Is Its Concealment

The Essence of Control Is Its Concealment

For thousands of years “control” of humans, both at the micro individual and macro collective level, was obvious and institutionalized. It was the way the world worked, with pharaohs, chiefs, kings and queens, along with their sycophant and supporting courts, wielding power and control at the top. Arrayed along the bottom were the slaves, serfs and peons of various rank and stature, while scattered about the thin middle were the skilled tradesmen, shopkeepers and professionals such as they were.

It was the most effective social order of all millennium; a control system based upon claimed mutual benefit through the collective sharing of resources and defense, though never fairly or just. With disease, pestilence,hunger and death always lurking around the corner, it just made good sense to gather in groups and subsist as best we could. The pecking order quickly sorted out, with sociopaths and ruthless killers quickly rising to the top.

Of course, things are very different these days…right?

No one likes to think/believe/know they’re being controlled; therefore the tendency is to practice partial/full proactive/reactive denial of any and all evidence of overt and covert control and influence. It’s an ego thing mostly, and those who wish to control understand very well the art of leveraging a person’s ego against him or her “self”.

While at times the blatant and blunt use of force to control is deemed necessary and has distinct and powerful benefits for those who wield the control (and severe detriments for those being controlled) for the most part modern societies are much more productive, compliant and malleable when the illusion of freedom is heavily promoted and widely believed to exist.

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The End of Illusion

The End of Illusion

Photo Source Christopher Michel | CC BY 2.0

The following is the Epilogue from Jeffrey St. Clair’s and Joshua Frank’s new book The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink, available now from CounterPunch Books.

In the spring of 2017, the carbon dioxide readings at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawai’i cracked 410 parts per million, an all-time record and a frightening one. On Earth Day, climate marches took place in cities across the world. Trump’s policies didn’t drive the spiking CO2 levels, but they did propel tens of thousands onto the streets for a few hours of fun. Where were those people during eight years of Barack Obama, an oil and gas man of some distinction? Where were they during eight years of Bill Clinton, one of the greatest environmental con men of our time?

Has Donald Trump finally shattered our illusions, so that we can see clearly the forces—economic, political and technological—that are plunging the planet toward a man-made heat death? Is he, in fact, a kind of clarifying agent for the real state of things?

One can hope so.

Except one mustn’t hope.

As Kafka, the High Priest of Realism, admonished his readers, “There is hope. But not for us.”

Hope is an illusion, an opiate, an Oxycontin for the masses. Instead of hope, we need a heavy dose of realism. A realism as chilling as reality itself.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha instructed us that the world is suffering, and indeed it is. He also advised us that the cure for suffering is empathy, especially for those living beings—among which we would include redwood trees, sea coral and saguaro cacti—which have no defense against the forces that are inflicting that globalized torment.

That’s where we come in. Defenders of the Earth need to abandon all hope before entering the fray. Hope is a paralytic agent. Hope is the enemy.

The antidote is action.

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Elections and the Illusion of Political Control

Elections and the Illusion of Political Control

Photo Source Paul Sableman | CC BY 2.0

As if on special at Metaphors-R-Us, and just in time for the primary elections, CNN published an article on fake buttons that are provided to give people the illusion of control. It seems psychologists determined that fake buttons at crosswalks, in elevators and in other public and quasi-public places convey a sense of control without the power of control. In the space between upcoming elections and the creeping realization that connected capitalists still control the country, the question is of what reform candidates can really accomplish?

Staying with the metaphor for a minute, of relevance is that these buttons are engineered illusions— they are intended to deceive. The modes of existing they are designed to facilitate— office dwelling, high-rise living and urban traffic, preceded the psychologists’ additions. The fake controls are a response to adverse reactions to these modes of living. The question left unasked is: why are people having adverse reactions to the absence of control? The follow-on question is: what are the human consequences of the distance between the illusion and real control?

The progressives running in upcoming elections seem to be decent enough people. And reflexive cynicism— say about the plausibility of reform politics, only passes for knowledge in some particularly deplorable circle of hell. With apologies, welcome to hell. National Democrat Nancy Pelosi is promising to preclude all of the irresponsible social spending on progressive programs with ‘pay-go,’ the national Democrats’ austerity-in-a-can. And the New York Times is endorsing Andrew Cuomo over Cynthia Nixon because (corrupt machine politician) Cuomo can better ‘stop Trump.’

Graph: Given the relationship of economic distribution to political power, it is a good proxy for the distribution of political power. Since the 1980s a rising proportion of national product has been shifted from working class workers to the very rich.

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President Trump Confident in Missile Defense: In the Grip of Dangerous Illusion

President Trump Confident in Missile Defense: In the Grip of Dangerous Illusion

President Trump Confident in Missile Defense: In the Grip of Dangerous Illusion

The US is pushing ahead with expansion of the nation’s homeland ballistic missile defense (BMD). The effort enjoys strong bipartisan support in Congress and among experts. Many allies place a high value on BMD cooperation with the United States. However, there are ample reasons to question the efficiency of US missile defenses, especially the capability to protect against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

“We have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97% of the time,” President Donald Trump said in his interview with Fox News on October 11, adding “and if you send two of them, it’s going to get knocked down.” He was talking about the threat coming from North Korea to be repelled by the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) in Alaska and California – the $40 billion project administered by the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

The US military conducted the first-ever missile defense test involving a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile in May. The ICBM-type target was fired from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands toward the waters just south of Alaska. The mission was to prepare for countering an intercontinental missile launched by North Korea. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) described the test as an “incredible accomplishment”. According to Vice Admiral Jim Syring, director of the agency, “This system is vitally important to the defense of our homeland, and this test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.” The assessment appears to be exaggerated as the test was not conducted in a realistic environment.

The next test of the GMD system is scheduled for late 2018 and, for the first time, will involve firing two interceptors against one ICBM target. It makes unsubstantiated the president’s affirmation that two interceptors are enough to knock out a North Korean missile as no such tests have been conducted so far.

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Bitcoin in an Illusionary Age

Bitcoin in an Illusionary Age

Bitcoin III

It is altogether fitting that crypto currencies, in particular Bitcoin, have witnessed a meteoric rise in this illusionary age.  Not only has their monetary value gone to dizzying heights, but they are now being touted as the destroyer of the current, crumbling monetary order and the next paradigm upon which a new money and banking system will emerge.

In an era where sacrifice, hard work, loyalty, ingenuity, tradition, and independent thought are considered anathemas, while affirmative action, sloth, effeminacy, office seeking, and something-for-nothing schemes are endemic in every walk of life, it is not surprising that non-tangible, computer-generated currencies would become a “natural” feature of such a world.

While it has always been a haven for charlatans, traitors, cheats, thieves, liars, and serial adulterers, contemporary political life has become even more of a sham.  The most glaring example of politics’ utter corruption can be seen in the recent departed chief executive officer of the US.  Unless one abandons all critical thinking, Obummer was unqualified to be president because of the obvious fact that he was not born on American soil.  Not only did this disqualify him, but his educational and professional backgrounds have not been verified.  Neither his collegiate records nor his supposed teaching career at the University of Chicago Law School have ever been exposed to public scrutiny.  From the few utterances he has made about his supposed specialty – constitutional law – it appears that he has only a rudimentary knowledge of the subject.

Cultural life has descended to the basest of levels and has abandoned nearly all of Western Civilization’s glorious achievements.  Consider music.  The dominant form of what passes as music today is not the works of the great maestros of the past – Bach, Mozart, Beethoven – but instead, noise in the form of rock, hip hop, rap, grunge, or whatever the latest degenerate trend is in vogue.

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Made For Each Other

Don’t be fooled by the idiotic exertions of the Red team and the Blue team. They’re just playing a game of “Capture the Flag” on the deck of the Titanic. The ship is the techno-industrial economy. It’s going down because it has taken on too much water (debt), and the bilge pump (the oil industry) is losing its mojo.

Neither faction understands what is happening, though they each have an elaborate delusional narrative to spin in the absence of any credible plan for adapting the life of our nation to the precipitating realities. The Blues and Reds are mirrors of each other’s illusions, and rage follows when illusions die, so watch out. Both factions are ready to blow up the country before they come to terms with what is coming down.

What’s coming down is the fruit of the gross mismanagement of our society since it became clear in the 1970s that we couldn’t keep living the way we do indefinitely — that is, in a 24/7 blue-light-special demolition derby. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with accounting fraud, but in the end it is an affront to reality, and reality has a way of dealing with punks like us. Reality has a magic trick of its own: it can make the mirage of false prosperity evaporate.

That’s exactly what’s going to happen and it will happen because finance is the least grounded, most abstract, of the many systems we depend on. It runs on the sheer faith that parties can trust each other to meet obligations. When that conceit crumbles, and banks can’t trust other banks, credit relations seize up, money vanishes, and stuff stops working. You can’t get any cash out of the ATM. The trucker with a load of avocados won’t make delivery to the supermarket because he knows he won’t be paid.

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The Illusion of Freedom

The Illusion of Freedom 

   A campaign rally last week in Michigan. In the current presidential contest, a frustrated white working class has been receptive to anti-democracy messages. (Carlos Osorio / AP)

The seizure of political and economic power by corporations is unassailable. Who funds and manages our elections? Who writes our legislation and laws? Who determines our defense policies and vast military expenditures? Who is in charge of the Department of the Interior? The Department of Homeland Security? Our intelligence agencies? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? The Department of Labor? The Federal Reserve? The mass media? Our systems of entertainment? Our prisons and schools? Who determines our trade and environmental policies? Who imposes austerity on the public while enabling the looting of the U.S. Treasury and the tax boycott by Wall Street? Who criminalizes dissent?

A disenfranchised white working class vents its lust for fascism at Trump campaign rallies. Naive liberals, who think they can mount effective resistance within the embrace of the Democratic Party, rally around the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, who knows that the military-industrial complex is sacrosanct. Both the working class and the liberals will be sold out. Our rights and opinions do not matter. We have surrendered to our own form of wehrwirtschaft. We do not count within the political process.

This truth, emotionally difficult to accept, violates our conception of ourselves as a free, democratic people. It shatters our vision of ourselves as a nation embodying superior virtues and endowed with the responsibility to serve as a beacon of light to the world. It takes from us the “right” to impose our fictitious virtues on others by violence.

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The Dangerous Illusion That Risk Can Be Offloaded Onto Others

The Dangerous Illusion That Risk Can Be Offloaded Onto Others

This confidence in central banks raises a pernicious systemic risk.

Do you drive carelessly because your auto is equipped with airbags? Perhaps not. But would you drive more cautiously if you were perched on the front bumper? If even the slightest collision would crush the driver’s legs to pulp, I think it is safe to say we would all drive with a higher awareness of risk and with greater caution.

The faith that airbags and dashboards protect us in all conditions and times is misplaced. If vehicles were truly safe, how is it that 32,700 people lose their lives in vehicle accidents every year in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of others are injured?

The risk, we are assured, is statistically low: “only” 21 Fatalities per 100,000 Licensed Drivers (practically zero, eh, except that it adds up to 32,700 people killed each year).

What statistics do not adequately describe, of course, is that most of those accidents occured in high-risk settings in which the drivers’ focus and/or ability was impaired, even as they reckoned risk was managed/limited by the equipment, their safe driving record, etc.

In other words, the somewhat inebriated gent who slips behind the wheel on a dark rainy night senses the heightened danger; but reassured by the fact he’s never been in a fatal accident, by his car’s airbags, by the low statistical odds of getting killed, etc., he roars off into the unlit darkness. The odds of an accident in these conditions are much higher than the average listed in statistical abstracts, yet they are glossed over by the apparent “low odds” of the drive ending badly.

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“Representation” … and “Consent”

“Representation” … and “Consent”

Democracy is an incredibly successful long con. It works because of theillusion of consent. People actually believe they are “represented.”long con lead

And so, they accept impositions that would otherwise be intolerable, if imposed on them by a king or afuhrer or generalissimo.

But when the “people” have decided… .

Except of course, they’ve done no such thing. It is all an illusion, a rhetorical sleight-of-hand that deftly hides the reality that it is not the “people” who decideanything but rather a small handful of individuals who wield vast – almost unlimited – power by claiming to act on their behalf.

Which is a fine-sounding literary device but as a political actuality it is an atrocity.

Have you ever consented to anything the government does to you? Been offered the free choice to accept – or decline? And not subject to violent repercussions in the event you do decide to decline? What sort of contract is it that you’re never actually been presented with but which you’re presumed to have signed – and which you are bound by whether you’ve signed – or not?

It is very odd.

The courts have ruled that by dint of having applied for permission to travel – that is, having applied for a driver’s license – you gave given your implied consent to, well, pretty much anything the state decides to do to you. Even when in flagrant abuse of your alleged rights, as enumerated in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Yet few, if any of us, have actually consented to this abrogation of our rights.

We are simply told that we have, since we submitted (under duress) to the necessity of obtaining a driver’s license, so as to be able to travel semi-freely, under certain terms and conditions.

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Maintaining the Illusion of Stability Now Requires Ever-Greater Extremes

Maintaining the Illusion of Stability Now Requires Ever-Greater Extremes

This much-needed re-set to an economy that serves the many rather than the few is what the Powers That Be are so fearful of.

On the surface, everything still looks remarkably stable in the core industrial economies. The stock markets in Japan, Germany and the U.S. are only a few percentage points off their highs, and we’re constantly assured that inflation no longer exists and official unemployment is low.

In other words, other than the spot of bother in Greece, life is good. Anyone who signs on the dotted line for easy credit can go to college, buy a car or house or get another credit card.

With more credit, everything becomes possible. With unlimited credit, the sky’s the limit, and it shows.

Europe is awash with tourists from the U.S., China and elsewhere, and restaurants are jammed in San Francisco and New York City, where small flats now routinely fetch well over $1 million.

In politics, the American public is being offered a choice of two calcified, dysfunctional aristocracies in 2016brittleness is being passed off as stability, not just in politics but in the economy and the cultural zeitgeist.

But surface stability is all the status quo can manage at this point, because the machine is shaking itself to pieces just maintaining the brittle illusion of prosperity and order.

Consider what happened in Greece beneath the surface theatrics.

1. Goldman Sachs conspired with Greece’s corrupt kleptocracy to conjure up an illusion of solvency and fiscal prudence so Greece could join the Eurozone.

2. Vested interests and insiders gorged on the credit being offered by German and French banks, enriching themselves to the tune of tens of billions of euros, which were transferred to private accounts in Switzerland at the first whiff of trouble. When informed of this, Greek authorities took no action; after all, why track down your cronies and force them to pay taxes when tax evasion is the status quo for financial elites?

 

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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