Peak Oil - Civil Unrest

SUBHEAD: Will we need marshal law to avoid Mad Max living?

By Tom Whipple on 31 December 2008 for Falls Church News Press

Image above: National Guard face residents of Newark, New Jersey during unrest in the summer of 1968.

Before grappling with 2009, it might be useful to remind ourselves that there is a dark side to what lies ahead. There was a little flurry in the news last week when it was discovered that the Army War College had released a report talking about preparing for civil unrest in the U.S.

When you read the report, it turns out to be yet another warning about generals preparing for the last war. It devotes only three pages to the idea that the Army might soon find itself so embroiled in helping local authorities cope with civil unrest that international commitments, such as the war on terrorism, could become secondary concerns.

Since the close of the Civil War, America has enjoyed nearly 150 years of domestic tranquility. There were, of course the Indian wars, some labor disputes and a handful of urban riots in recent decades, but these were isolated and did not last for long. Even during the great depression of the 1930's America's social fabric stayed largely intact.

Signs that these idyllic decades may be coming to close are starting to arise. In the last few weeks the deteriorating economic situation has seen serious disturbances in Greece and Thailand. We are beginning to read of disturbances in Russia and China. Most realists foresee that 2009 will be a bad year with stock markets declining, unemployment rising, real estate values falling, government bailouts continuing, deflation morphing into inflation, the dollar falling, and oil prices rising. Thus far the economic downturn has not had a serious social impact.

However, food banks are running short, shoplifting and other property crimes are on the rise, child neglect is increasing as is infant mortality. However, considering the pace at which people have been thrown out of work during the last year most seem to be getting by - so far.

Of all the world's nations, America is probably the worst prepared to deal with deep, prolonged economic hardships, for more of us have disconnected from 19th century, rural, somewhat self-sufficient, lifestyles than in most other countries.

In the 1930's many found that they could still return to the family farm, where food, shelter, and meaningful work was available. In 2010 that option exists for very few; we have become dependent on a complex infrastructure fueled by oil for our food, water, clothing and warmth.

Start reducing the flow of oil and increasing numbers of us are going to become increasingly desperate. There are too many turns in the twisting paths that the current economic and oil depletion crises could take to speculate on the details of what is likely to happen.

However, there are many potential "failed states" around that we are likely to have concrete examples, shortly, of what happens in the 21st century when civil order breaks down. It is clear that we are already seeing the opening ripples of what might turn out to be the major social problem of the century - caring for large numbers of destitute people. Most of the social nets in America such as unemployment insurance, charities or shelters have strict time or limited resources. Already charity and religious contributions are starting to drop.

As the situation worsens, it is going to be much cheaper for governments at all levels to provide essential food, shelter and other services, rather than wait for desperate people to start stealing and become ensnared in the criminal justice system.

One of the key benchmarks of the next few years is how quickly governments will redeploy resources away from 20th Century priorities such as space travel, expensive weapons systems, and highways towards simply getting people through the decades of transition from current lifestyles.

The change will not be an easy one. Before we get to mobs in the streets, we are likely to go through a time of increasing petty crime and the ensuing pressures on the criminal justice system.

Somebody is going to have to think through the appropriate response to major increases in shoplifting and burglaries by people who are trying to feed children after having exhausted all other avenues of assistance. It is likely that who is kept in prison and for what is going to have to be rethought.

State and local revenues are already dropping rapidly and the day is not far away when choices between funding school systems and maintaining vast prison systems will need to be addressed.

Alternative forms of deterring criminal behavior and forms of punishment will need to be devised. Indeed the economic situation could deteriorate so rapidly that some of these changes may need to be made in months rather than years. It is likely that part of the of the solution to getting hundreds of millions through decades of shortages will involve increasing infringement on what many now consider their civil liberties.

Better forms of personal identification will be necessary. It is likely that rationing of many things we take for granted such as fuel, food, medical services and travel and even places of residence may become necessary. Other societies have found such measures necessary in times of crisis. America has not faced a serious domestic crisis for 150 years.

We have never faced a situation where 300 million of us bound up in a complex and interdependent society has had to make major involuntary changes in our lifestyles.


Uala - Sweet Potato

SUBHEAD: An important staple food of Hawaii.

By Linda Pascatore 31 December 2008 for Island Breath -

Image above: photograph of flower of sweet potato by Forest & Kim Starr. From (

Uala, or sweet potato, was a canoe plant brought to Hawaii by the Polynesians. The sweet potato, or Ipomoea batatas, is a member of the morning glory family. It was an important staple food in Hawaii.

The plant has heart-shaped five lobed leaves, and small pink-lavender flowers similar to the morning glory. The vine is purple or green, the leaves dark green, and the flowers purple/lavender. It is a perennial, and spreads and creeps along the ground, and produces root vegetables. Different varieties produce sweet potatoes in various colors; purple, red, orange, yellow, and white. The skin and flesh are often different colors.

A white skinned tuber may have purple flesh, or a purple skinned potato have yellow flesh. This plant originated in Central or South America, where it was cultivated 5000 years ago. From there it spread throughout the Caribbean.

During later invasions of South America, the Portuguese and Spanish found the sweet potato, and dispersed it throughout Europe and their colonies. Somehow, it appeared in Polynesia, at least 500 years before western contact. The theory is that it was carried to the Polynesia by migrating birds, or even possibly accidental drift of a lost raft or boat off the South American coast.

Sweet potatoes are only very distantly related to potatoes (originating also in South America) and yams (originating in Africa). There is evidence of cultivation of the sweet potato in Hawaii from at least 1000 AD. Ulala was especially abundant in Niihau, where it was eaten more frequently than taro.

This is probably because the drier conditions in Niihau are more conducive to sweet potato, than taro which requires more water. Over 200 varieties of this plant were found in Hawaii. It can grow from sea level to 5,000 feet elevation, and will grow in poor soil. Each plant can yield over one pound of potatoes. Most varieties produce in three to seven months after planting.

Image above: the Leaves of sweet potato leaves on ground crawling vine.

Uala is best cultivated from slips of the plant, which are replanted. The slips should be cut about 6-9 inches from the end, with the growing tip remaining intact.

Since this is a vining plant, it is good to put them in mounds or the edges of a garden, because they will spread out significantly. Soil that is loose or loamy will facilitate the growth of large tubers.

When harvested, the tubers should be dried or cured for a week before consuming. In Hawaii’s climate, they do not need to be harvested all at once, but can be left in the ground until needed. We recently obtained purple Molokai sweet potato starters from a friend.

So far, they have been an easy plant to grow, not requiring much care. We are waiting for our first harvest. We did have some wild pigs in our yard, who were very interested in the sweet potatoes. They rooted around them, and did a little damage. Interestingly, Kane Pua’a, or Kamapua’a, the pig man, is the god of the uala.

The ulala is considered a good plant for famine conditions, since it is so quickly producing the easy to grow under a variety of conditions. In areas of Asia which are plagued by tsunamis, it is often the first crop that is replanted after the storm.

In Hawaiian, there was a saying: He ‘uala ka ‘ai ho’ola koke i ka wi.

The sweet potato is the food that ends famine quickly. Uala tubers can be baked, steamed, or boiled. Sweet potato poi can be made by boiling, peeling, and mashing. The leaves are also edible. Sweet potato can also be fermented into an alcoholic drink, uala awa awa.

Polynesians had many medicinal uses for uala. It was used as a tonic for pregnant women, for asthma and congestion, to induce lactation, as a gargle for a sore throat, and as a laxative. Raw uala mixed with ti leaves could induce vomiting. All parts of the plant were also used as feed for livestock, especially pigs.

In China today, sweet potatoes are cultivated primarily as pig fodder. Compared to other vegetables, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional content, and is a better source of complex carbohydrates, protein, Vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium; according to a study at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. They are also considered a good food source for diabetics.

So, if you have not been eating uala regularly, it is time to try this sweet, and nutritious vegetable. In Hawaii, you can easily find several varieties of the vegetable at farmer’s markets, and in local supermarkets. We usually bake them in the oven, but have also made sweet potato fries, ot boiled and mashed them with a little milk. They are a filling comfort food, which is also delicious and good for you.

Note: For previous articles on flora and fauna select "Hawaiian Nature" from "Archives Menu".

See also:
Island Breath: The Gecko: Our Little House Guardians 9/7/08

The American Century

SUBHEAD: The end of Pax Americana will be a good thing.  

By Juan Wilson on 31 December 2008 for Island Breath

Image above: The author and his sister, Diana, with the family Cadillac in front of their Levitt home in 1954.

The American Century fell short of its advertised shelf-life. Many see the American Century beginning at the start of the 20th century after the Spanish American War. Given the disasters of the first half of the last century (world war and economic failure) there really is not much to brag about. I do not see Pax Americana beginning until 1945.  

It began at the end of World War Two. Facing a global war, and with great industrial effort, we worked our way out of the Great Depression by arming ourselves for conflict on an unprecedented scale. That effort culminated in dropping nuclear devices on innocent civilians in urban centers. At the end of the war our enemies, as well as our friends, were in ruins. Physically, America was untouched. 

To our credit, unlike other victors, we aided those we vanquished with as much generosity as we gave to the allies who fought alongside us. We created goodwill from what might have been enmity and envy. In 1945 Americans began in earnest “enjoying” the fruits of their labor. We were transformed from warriors and industrialists into commuters and consumers. How sweet. As we stared into the glow of our TVs sipping iced colas, suburbia spread over the land like a suffocating oil-soaked comforter.  

The American Century died on September 11th, 2001 at the age of fifty-six. Since then America has been a zombie nation living in a voodoo economy. It is an economy that has been pretending that it was thriving as consumption and obesity reached new limits. Our fantasy of wealth, built like a house of cards, has been propped up by our continued investment and deployment of massive armaments since WW2. Our spending on weapons surpasses all the rest of the world combined. It’s all we make on our own anymore. 

The American Century finally had a stake driven through its heart on October 1st 2007 after the DOW Jones Industrial average peaked at nearly 14,100. Its been cut in half since then. The financial engine of the United States has disintegrated like a wedding cake in the rain. There is nothing left but a muddy hole in the ground. Our capability to be World Police is gone. Our levels of consumption are plummeting. Our economy will never recover. 

If the average world citizen acted like the average American the Earth would look a lot more like Mars than it does now. With seven-billion individuals the only way forward is down. Down in numbers and down in resource depletion. The alternative is the death of the oceans, the death of the forests, the melting of the poles... namely mass extinction. 

As Americans our job now is to climb back down from limb we trapped ourselves on. Obviously, one way down is climb out further, break the limb and take a catastrophic fall. That may now be inevitable, but we must try, in any case, to inch ourselves back from our suicidal perch. 

 Not only must we do this successfully, we need to demonstrate our effort to the rest of the world. Why? Because they are watching, and have been watching for a long time. I lived in Iran in the late 70’s, before the Shah fell and the imams took over. There was a deep seated love-hate relation with America. 

A common sight was a man with close-cropped hair and beard, in a western style jacket and pants standing outside a movie theater showing a Hollywood blockbuster selling cigarettes, one at a time, out of a familiar red and white box calling out “Marr-burrru, Marr-burrru!”. 

Later, outside the besieged US Embassy, those same men could be seen shouting “Death to America!” Forty-years ago philosopher Marshal McCluhan observed that American movie industry was an incendiary revolutionary stimulus. 

American movies projected onto screens in dusty theaters and thatched-huts an experience of wealth, freedom and happiness that was unobtainable in most of the world. At once, what we had was both coveted and despised. Coveted because it represented dreams coming true. Despised because it meant the end to local customs and culture.  

After 911 Americans lost an opportunity of self-examination. Only a few voices were raised to ask “Why would anyone do this to us?” If we had seriously answered that question we may have had a jump on the momentous changes underway now. 

Our unraveling might have been better anticipated. We could have reduced some of the pain we are just beginning to feel. Of course , this is not the first wafting of smoke that should have alerted us to danger. The energy crisis thirty-five years ago was the real wake-up call. We chose to sleep-in with the Reagan Administration. We chose to build a house of cards based on funny-money pouring into the coffers of the Saudis and Chinese. It’s late. The bed is on fire. But it’s not too late wake from or dream world.  

That does not mean getting a loan from Capital One for purchase of a new Toyota hybrid so you can drive it to Kukui Grove for a visit to Costco to purchase a flat of organic California strawberries. That world we know may seem to be holding on, but it is lingering voodoo economics. We, like others everywhere, must create locally nourished economy and culture. For us it cannot be dependent on tourism, GMO cornfields, Starwars research, or regular deliveries of oil and Matson containers. 

 I think it does mean acquiring tools and trades for the future. It is time, while you can, to invest in producing your own food, energy, and goods. As we move further into the collapse, our economy will have to be produced out of your garage and garden.

That includes jobs and food. Long trips will be within the KauaiBus service network. I advise getting some decent hand tools; some modest solar panel and electric storage capability; find a clean local supply of water; get material for a raised garden, chicken coop or rabbit hutch; discover a useful service you can offer your neighbors in trade for what they might offer you. 

The Hawaiian culture offers an invaluable background knowledge of how to do well here even if western civilization is driven to the stone-age. Even so, there are great dangers ahead. Blessings to you on this new year. It will certainly be an adventure.


Debt Rattle - The End of Credit

SUBHEAD: We are running headfirst into the wall.

 By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 30 December 2008 at the Automatic Earth -

Image above: It's time to get serious about credit. By Bill Frymire

2009 will be the year credit disappears. That, more than any other single factor, is what will determine our economic futures. It will get very ugly, because our economies, even our entire societies, run on credit. There is no replacement.

Governments and central banks are trying to pump your money into the existing banking system, ostensibly with the idea that a credit flow can be (re-) started that way. The idea is so ridiculous that we have to wonder about the intentions behind the policies. To restart credit, they would have to go through any channels BUT the banking system. 

The reason is simple: the banks are bankrupt, with losses on their books that are many times larger than any sum that has been, will be or even could be handed out to them from the public coffer. For the man in the street, things won't get better if existing banks are bailed out or nationalized. They will get worse - much worse.

A government that buys a bank outright, also buys the -s o far mostly unrecognized - losses. A government that merely pumps money into a bank will see that money evaporate on the hot plate of yet-to-be-revealed losses. 

The loss of credit that will be the prime characteristic of the financial world in 2009 marks a watershed moment in our societies, which will have to scramble to find a new model for survival, for getting things from A to B, and to simply feed their citizens. 

The credit system that we have lived in for the past decades is gone and will not come back in our lifetimes. The losses, when they are revealed, and they will have to be, no matter how much the ruling classes resist this, are simply too big.

What is at risk in the derivatives trade alone is more than all the money on the planet. Societies and their governments can do some things to mitigate the damage, to minimize the suffering. 

But none are doing them to date. First, private and small business deposits in banks must be guaranteed. Then, the banks must be folded, along with their losses, which mainly consist of bets gone bad. In order to make this work, governments must set an example of frugality that needs to be adapted by all citizens. 

The Keynesian overspending that rules the day is a recipe for making the disaster much bigger than it already is. And following Keynes without demanding that the books are opened and losses revealed, is nothing short of criminal behavior.

Then, what needs most attention is what people need most: basic necessities. Water treatment and sewage systems are the most important barrier between a society and widespread disease. They will become, in relative terms, much more expensive for everyone. Forced rationing may have to be applied. 

Every level of government needs to look long and hard at where the food for its people comes from. If it is possible to feed everyone of your citizens, action needs to be taken to make sure that self-sufficiency is established.

A national government will be mostly useless in these things, you need smaller entities to be efficient. Increasingly empowering lower levels of government has another advantage: it’s much easier for everyone to track where their money is going. You see, I can write all this, and much more, and know that every word I write is true. But I don't think any of it will be done while there is still time.

What I see around me, what governments are doing, is that one-trick pony kind of thing: trying to resurrect the dead with money that doesn't belong to them. Before we can begin a reorganization of our societies, the present political and financial ruling classes will have to fall. And that will only happen after an amount of suffering so overpowering it makes me shudder. 

Few of those with power, political, economic, will give that up voluntarily, And few of us will volunteer to do with less. Until we run headfirst into the wall, we will deny the existence of the wall. But first, 2009.

No more loans, not for cars and homes, not for business lines and letters of credit, and increasingly not for governments, who'll be attempting to sell their bonds in an ever more overcrowded marketplace. International bond markets will be but a faint shadow of their former selves. And so will trade, in all its aspects. 

Of course it’s hard to predict exactly what will emerge from the end of credit. What is easy to see is that it will indeed end.


Upside of downward mobility

SUBHEAD: The true economic face of American exceptionalism.  

By Matt Miller on 29 December 2008 in Fortune Magazine - (
Image above: The Yard Sale - an old shopping mode becomes Main Street

The voters in the town hall meeting were so silent you could almost hear them straining to listen. No public official, let alone a newly sworn-in President, had ever talked to them this way. "Look," said the President, walking across the stage with a microphone in hand, "here's what no one wants to tell you. Structural changes in our economy, and new competition from countries like China and India, mean that we're in a different world now.

That pattern we once took for granted, in which our incomes basically kept rising across the board, turns out to be something we can't sustain. Many of you are earning less than your parents did, and the truth is, many of your children will earn less than you do."

The President paused, watching as the words sank in. "I don't think denial helps any of us. I know it won't help us come together to do the things we need to do as a nation to thrive even amid these new realities." Don't worry, you didn't miss the news; the scene above has not happened yet. Few politicians would say those things even if they believed them to be true, because it would challenge a notion at the heart of the American dream: the idea that the kids will earn more than we do.

This idea has been at the core of American experience for so long that it seems to us the natural order of things, a brand of progress to which we're practically entitled. Political leaders plainly believe we cherish this prospect, because it is central to how they talk about our lives. It's as if relinquishing the certitude that the kids will earn more than we do would be to give up something essential in the American spirit.

The problem, as new research shows, is that we have to face a new reality. As many as 100 million Americans now live in families that are earning less in real terms than their parents did at the same age. The rise of such developing economies as China and India means the earnings picture is only likely to get worse. One in three American jobs may be exposed before long to competition from workers overseas, putting an effective wage cap on large swaths of employment even if jobs don't actually move offshore.

New research also shows that, contrary to popular myth, upward mobility is now lower in the U.S. than in many European countries. People sense what's unfolding, even if it remains politically taboo to say so. A July 2007 poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 60% of Americans surveyed say the next generation will be worse off than theirs, vs. 31% who say it will be better off. Yet the truth is that these developments, while hardly what we would choose, are not something to fear.

Yes, they represent a jolt to our expectations and an unsettling break with our history. But if we approach the future with fresh eyes, the tests we now face will present an opportunity to fix serious flaws in our economy. Liberating ourselves from this Dead Idea will force us to reexamine a fundamental question that is almost never explicitly discussed: What is the role of the individual, and what should be the role of the broader community, in assuring opportunity and security in a wealthy nation like the U.S.? As events force us to consider fresh answers to this question, the result will be a good life, and in some ways a better life, even for Americans who face wage strains.

America will have gained the sturdier brand of hope that comes from dealing squarely with unpleasant realities rather than wishing them away. The classless society Why do Americans think a better standard of living for their children is a national birthright? Because this remarkable pattern has largely been our experience since the nation's earliest days.

The new republic's official policy of classlessness and ethic of equal opportunity made it unique in history. In short, America was about upward mobility, the chance to rise from the station into which you were born to whatever heights your talents and efforts might let you attain. This helps explain why America came to lead the world in mass education.

Yet all this individual opportunity might have meant little had America's early years not coincided with the kickoff of the Industrial Revolution. This made the idea of economic progress something that applied on a grand scale, not just to particular people with moxie and drive.

The twin tragedies of the Great Depression and World War II interrupted the general march of progress, but the remarkable boom that followed made earlier norms of generational economic advance seem timid. Real incomes doubled in a generation. Americans at all income levels shared in the gains.

Yet in retrospect, despite the achievements of the boom, the entire episode was in a real sense a historical accident, the result of the U.S. being the only economy left standing after a devastating global war. Foreign competition was virtually nonexistent. Families who'd been through two wars and a depression in 30 years were bursting to enjoy life, and they greeted American manufacturers with long-suppressed appetites for cars, refrigerators, televisions, air conditioners, lawn mowers, air travel, and more.

"Keeping up with the Joneses" became something of a middle-class obsession, as the boom unleashed a competitive consumption spree. Yet this wasn't just the magic of the market. A number of other institutions helped assure that prosperity was broadly shared. Labor unions, a robust minimum wage, progressive taxes, and a sense of restraint on corporate boards regarding the salaries of chief executives all contributed to a sense of a shared economic destiny. As postwar prosperity unfolded, all this gave ordinary people a greater sense of security. The rising tide kept rising.  

The power of the individual
The impact has been profound, and largely positive. Our "can do" spirit and "anything is possible" determination tamed the frontier, helped win two world wars, invented countless technologies, and put a man on the moon. But the way our success mutated over time into the expectation that our kids would always do even better has created three problematic ways of thinking: The first is that we've overestimated the power of the individual to shape his own economic destiny.

The thread running through our admiration of Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln on to such modern icons as Bill Gates, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama is the celebration of the self-made man: In America you shape your own destiny via determination and hard work.

The corollary of our faith in the individual has been a tendency to judge harshly those who fail. After all, with so much opportunity for the taking, if you can't make it in America, it's probably your own fault. The question is whether our instincts here have been shaped by a faith that no longer accurately reflects the prospects of even many hard-working Americans in the global economy.

The second problematic way of thinking is what the author and Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson has called America's sense of "entitlement." In this view, we became so spoiled by progress that we presumed endless growth was simply our due - and believed further that this growth would enable us to solve virtually every social problem, from poverty to racial animus to health inequities. This is the economic face of American exceptionalism, the idea that the U.S. is somehow destined to be blessedly immune from the travails that ordinary nations face.

The distrust of government that has become the legacy of such hubris makes the work of reform harder today, because a high burden of proof is imposed on those who would use government for new purposes. There's a third worrisome attitude traceable to our faith that the kids will earn more than we do. This is the imprudent conviction that we can live beyond our means, because somehow we'll earn enough later to deal with any problems. This outlook represents a dramatic shift from earlier American thinking, as the sociologist Daniel Bell noted in 1976.

"Twentieth-century capitalism wrought a ... startling sociological transformation," he wrote, "the shift from production to consumption as the fulcrum of capitalism." Both as individuals and as a society, we've been gambling on better days tomorrow to make good on unsustainable borrowing today. Such is the toll of a Dead Idea.

These habits of mind leave us ill-equipped to cope with the economic realities we now face. One in three Americans, of all races and at all income levels, now live in families that earn less than their parents did, according to research from the University of Michigan and the Pew Charitable Trusts. This finding is more disturbing when you consider that families work longer hours today thanks to the prevalence of two-earner households.

 The U.S. now offers its citizens a smaller chance of rising from their economic status at birth than do France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Canada, and Germany. The contrast with the "good old days" is stark. After World War II, about a quarter of the men whose fathers had been in the bottom quarter of income distribution made it to the top quarter of income earners over their working lives. Now the figure is more like 6%. So what will these new circumstances mean for individuals and the country?

The answer will turn on the way the new downward mobility affects Americans' attitudes toward the role of government. Public opinion surveys have long shown that Americans see themselves as authors of their economic fate, while Europeans tend to believe that forces outside the individual's control have greater influence. Yet the forces that are now undermining upward mobility in America are in fact largely outside people's control.

Does that mean Americans will be open to more aggressive policies (to bolster health care, pensions, and education, for example) that might promote economic opportunity and security, even if they mean higher taxes or "bigger government"? As the post-American Dream era unfolds, it's hard to imagine that the growing disconnect between the economic trajectory of millions of families and the nostalgia of our public debate can be sustained much longer.

The comforting news, at least from history's perspective, is that our challenge may in some sense be temporary. Britain, after all, was said to be in "decline" from the 1870s onward, even as living standards for the British rose massively over the ensuing 100 years.

Many British families were hurt in those decades when Britain lost its relative economic edge, but once a new global equilibrium had been reached, the broad British earnings escalator resumed its rise.

 Similarly, a period of painful adjustment now for millions of Americans as other powers rise and new technologies are deployed is not inconsistent with an eventual return to broadly shared long-term increases in our material well-being. In other words, "The kids will earn more than we do" is a Dead Idea that could come back to life later in this century.

Or perhaps sooner, if President-elect Obama aims high enough and we get lucky to boot. It seems increasingly likely that Obama will meet the current crisis not only with bold steps to spur near-term economic recovery but also by seeking the kind of transformative reforms required if everyday Americans are to rise again. Again, Britain's example is instructive. Everyone knows that the unifying trauma of World War II helped forge a consensus in Britain under which basic health care and pension security became universal.

But in ways that have gone little noticed in the U.S., this social contract was recently deepened under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as the global economy posed new threats. Consider: Blair introduced and boosted Britain's first-ever minimum wage past $9 an hour, an unthinkable level in American debate (at least until Obama quietly proposed to phase it in during the campaign). Yet British unemployment in recent years has been lower than that of the U.S. Or take schools.

Britain shares the accountability fetish that George W. Bush usefully enshrined in No Child Left Behind. But there the resemblance ends. In Britain high-poverty schools receive more per-pupil spending than other schools; in the U.S. it's usually the opposite. Britain has hiked teacher salaries 25% to lure new talent and drive achievement gains; here, by contrast, little beyond lip service has been paid to address America's teacher crisis.

This isn't to say Britain is nirvana. But it has begun to marry economic efficiency and social justice in ways more likely to sustain a consensus for the open markets and technological change that in the long run benefit most people. In the face of new global challenges, in other words, Britain's political center has moved. The question now is whether Barack Obama can move America's.

Obama has pledged ambitious steps to make health care affordable, improve college access, recruit an army of new teachers, boost wage subsidies, and more. Success will depend partly on his ability to redefine our obligations to those Americans who are fated to lose out during the difficult transition ahead. And that's a task that starts, first and foremost, inside our heads. There has never been a nation with so much of its self-image riding on the idea that the kids will earn more than we do.

The death of this idea as the measure of American progress will force us to rebalance American capitalism and augment our romance with the power of free men and free markets with a deeper awareness of its limits.

 Psychologists say that narcissists obsessed with their own "specialness" can be cured only when they learn to accept their ordinary humanity. Something like this acceptance in the realm of economic life lies ahead for the U.S. We can't control every aspect of our economic trajectory in this new era. But with the right presidential leadership, we can influence how we think about what is happening - and, more important, what we do about it.

• Adapted from "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity," by Matt Miller, to be published in January by Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt & Co. Copyright © 2009 by Matt Miller.

Kunstler Forecast for 2009

SUBHEAD: The coming year will be daunting. Kunstler tells us how.

By James Kunstler on 28 December 2008 for Clusterfuck Nation -

Image above: detail of "Hand with Reflecting Sphere" self-portrait in mirrored ball by M. C. Escher

There are two realities "out there" now competing for verification among those who think about national affairs and make things happen. The dominant one (let's call it the Status Quo) is that our problems of finance and economy will self-correct and allow the project of a "consumer" economy to resume in "growth" mode.

This view includes the idea that technology will rescue us from our fossil fuel predicament -- through "innovation," through the discovery of new techno rescue remedy fuels, and via "drill, baby, drill" policy. This view assumes an orderly transition through the current "rough patch" into a vibrant re-energized era of "green" Happy Motoring and resumed Blue Light Special shopping.

The minority reality (let's call it The Long Emergency) says that it is necessary to make radically new arrangements for daily life and rather soon. It says that a campaign to sustain the unsustainable will amount to a tragic squandering of our dwindling resources. It says that the "consumer" era of economics is over, that suburbia will lose its value, that the automobile will be a diminishing presence in daily life, that the major systems we've come to rely on will founder, and that the transition between where we are now and where we are going is apt to be tumultuous. My own view is obviously the one called The Long Emergency.

Since the change it proposes is so severe, it naturally generates exactly the kind of cognitive dissonance that paradoxically reinforces the Status Quo view, especially the deep wishes associated with saving all the familiar, comfortable trappings of life as we have known it. The dialectic between the two realities can't be sorted out between the stupid and the bright, or even the altruistic and the selfish.

The various tech industries are full of MIT-certified, high-achiever Status Quo techno-triumphalists who are convinced that electric cars or diesel-flavored algae excreta will save suburbia, the three thousand mile Caesar salad, and the theme park vacation.

The environmental movement, especially at the elite levels found in places like Aspen, is full of Harvard graduates who believe that all the drive-in espresso stations in America can be run on a combination of solar and wind power. I quarrel with these people incessantly. It seems especially tragic to me that some of the brightest people I meet are bent on mounting the tragic campaign to sustain the unsustainable in one way or another.

But I have long maintained that life is essentially tragic in the sense that history won't care if we succeed or fail at carrying on the project of civilization. While the public supposedly voted for "change" this fall, I maintain that they underestimate the changes really at hand. I voted for "change" myself in pulling the lever for Barack Obama.

I regard him as a figure of intelligence and sensibility, but I'm far from convinced that he really sees the kind of change we are in for, and I fret about the measures he'll promote to rescue the Status Quo when he moves into the White House a few weeks from now.
Where We Are Now
Without reviewing all the vertiginous particulars of the year now ending, suffice it to say that the US economy fell on its ass and that the "global economy" did a face-plant as well.

The American banking sector imploded spectacularly to the degree that investment banking actually went extinct -- as if a meteor landed on the corner of Madison Avenue and 51st Street.

The response by our government was to shovel "loans" onto the loading dock of every organization that pretended to be something like a bank, while "bailing out" an ever-longer line of corporate claimants with a pitiable song-and-dance.

The oil markets went on a roller coaster ride. The housing bubble collapse grew to avalanche velocity (taking out whole colonies of realtors, mortgage brokers, and construction contractors in its path), the commercial real estate sector developed hemorrhagic fever, retail drove off a cliff on Christmas Eve, the stock market fell in the toilet, jobs and incomes went up in a vapor, and tens of millions of ordinary citizens addicted to revolving credit found themselves in a life-and-death struggle for the means of existence. None of this is over yet.

The Year Ahead
Much of what has been lost in 2008 will not be recovered: enterprises, personal fortunes, chattels, reputations. I expect a period of euphoria to mark the early weeks, perhaps months, of the Obama team. It will be a relief to have a president who speaks English correctly and has experienced something like real life prior to politics. Restoring credibility and legitimacy in leadership will be a big deal. If nothing else, we may recover a collective sense of consequence from a president who tells the truth, even the harsh truth.

The age when it was enough to claim that "mistakes were made" might be over. A sign of this sort of change may be the commencement of prosecutions for misdeeds in banking and securities that are now destroying the entire system of deployable capital. A good place to start will be an investigation of Henry Paulson for insider trading stemming from Goldman Sachs's shorting of its own issued mortgage-backed securities when Mr. Paulson was the company's CEO.

Beyond his case, there should be enough work at Attorney General Eric Holder's office to employ a line of law school graduates stretching from Brattle Street to the planet Mars. It will be salutary for the nation to see those who engineered the banking collapse come to greater grief than the mere surrender of their Gulfstream jets and Hamptons villas.

By the way, being allergic to conspiracy theories, I don't believe for a minute that there is some kind of shadow elite of "Bilderburgers" standing in the background to protect these grifters -- and I also believe the reason these paranoid notions persist is because it is otherwise hard to account for the extravagant irresponsibility of the Bush circle and its servelings.

Apart from "cleaning up Dodge," so to speak, and from issues of collective character-and conscience-in-office, I worry that the avalanche of troubles already ongoing will overwhelm Mr. Obama and his people. It's also well worth worrying whether they will pursue policies similar in kind to the ones pursued by Bush, namely throwing money at everything and anything, and it sure looks like they are planning to do just that.

I am especially concerned about an "infrastructure stimulus" project aimed at highway improvement at the expense of public transit. This would be the epitome of a campaign to sustain the unsustainable. We need to begin planning right away for a transition away from automobiles, not in order to be good socialists but because Happy Motoring is at the core of our unsustainability trap.

The car system is going to fail in manifold ways whether we like it or not, and it will fail due to circumstances already underway. For one thing, it will cease to be democratic as the remnants of the middle class find it impossible to get car loans, or pay for fuel, or insurance, and that will set in motion a very impressive politics-of-grievance setting apart those who are still able to enjoy motoring and those who have been foreclosed from it.

Contrary to what you might make of the the current situation in the oil markets, we are in for a heap of trouble with both the price and supply of petroleum (more on this below). And there is no chance in hell that any techno rescue remedy to keep all the cars running by other means will materialize.

A consensus in the blogoshpere says that the stock markets will rebound strongly during the first Obama months. This is possible just on the basis of pure "animal spirits," but the Obama Bounce will occur against a background of continued dismal business and financial news. It will appear to defy that news.

By May of 2009, the stock markets will resume crashing with the ultimate destination of a Dow 4000 before the end of the year. Meanwhile, jobs will vanish by the millions and companies will go bankrupt by the thousands, especially in the so-called service sector, and in all the suppliers of such, along with the landlords in all the malls and strip malls.

The desolation will mount quickly and will be obvious in the empty storefronts and trash-filled parking lagoons. In the event, two things will become increasingly clear to the nation: that the consumer economy is dead, and that there is no more available credit of the kind that Americans are in the habit of enjoying.

We'll turn around early in 2009 and discover that we are a much poorer nation than we thought because from now on credit will be extremely hard to get for anyone for anything. The businesses that survive will have to keep going on the basis of accounts receivable.

This is the area where the crash of giants will be heard. I've been saying since publication of The long Emergency that comprehensive downscaling in all our activities, from farming to business to schooling to governance, will be the categorical imperative of the years ahead.

Giant enterprises requiring giant loans to get from quarter to quarter will tend to not make it. Borrowing from the future will become a practical impossibility as past bad debts from previous borrowings continue to unwind, cease performing, and get written off. This argument implies that the federal government will tend to flounder just as General Motors, Citicorp, Target Stores and other gigantic enterprises will tend to flounder.

It would be sad to see a President Obama so hamstrung and helpless, and it is largely why I see his role as largely symbolic -- as a reassuring presence encouraging the distressed public to bravely bear their hardships, and to be kind and helpful among their neighbors. Households, like businesses, will have to pay as they go from earned income. The house as ATM is over.

Credit cards are maxed out and credit ceilings are lowering like the ceiling in "The Pit and the Pendulum," preparing to slice-and-dice the old "normal" of family life in America. Bankruptcy will be the new Nascar.

A lot of families will lose everything. They will sift and disperse into the housing owned by other family members -- parents, siblings -- and a strange new not-altogether comfortable kind of togetherness will become common. Over time, a lot of people will go looking for casual work "under-the-table"( and probably low-paying). To some degree, these workers will begin to look and act like a new servant class, and before too long they may be absorbed into the households of people who employ them.

There will be plenty of room for them there. Counties, municipalities, and states will join in the bankruptcy fiesta. It would be reasonable to expect collapsing services as a result. This would be a situation fraught with danger -- of rising crime, of public health emergencies as water systems are not kept up and sewage treatment becomes unaffordable. I don't imagine the federal government stepping into every Podunk or Metropolis from sea to shining sea and propping up these services.

People will have to cope with danger and deprivation. 2009 may be the point where we begin to understand what kinds of places will be more hospitable to human society further ahead. I maintain that our giant urban metroplexes have way overshot their sustainable scale and will contract severely.

With all the economic hardship, we ought to expect a lot of demographic churning, people leaving hopeless places and moving on to something more promising. I believe we will see them move to smaller towns and smaller cities.

The reorganization of the rural landscape into smaller-scaled farms has not begun to occur -- though 2009 might be very hard on agribusiness, given the shortage of capital and if oil begins to march up in price by late winter. Eventually, the rural landscape will require the labor of many more people than is currently the case.

Whatever else happens, 2009 will surely see a massive return to home gardening as budgets become strained to the extreme. As the New Urbanist Andres Duany said recently, "Gardening is the new Golf!"

The Oil Scene
Many were stunned this year to witness the parabolic rise and fall of oil prices up to nearly $150 and then back around $36 by Christmas time. Quite a ride.

I said in The Long Emergency that volatility would be the hallmark of post peak oil because it was obvious that advanced economies could not absorb super high prices and would crash in response; that at some point after crashing, these economies would respond to the new lower oil price, resume their cheap oil habits, and build to another price rise. . . and crash again. . . in a declension of ever-lower industrial activity.

What I probably didn't realize at the time was how destructive this cycling between low-high-and-low oil prices would actually be in the first instance of it, and what a toll it would take right off the bat. We can see now that our first journey through the cycle took out the most fragile of the complex systems we depend on: capital finance.

As a result, a huge amount of capital (say $14 trillion) has evaporated out of the system, never to be seen again (and never to be deployed for productive purposes). It will be harder for the USA to rebound from the grievous injury to this crucial part of the overall system, and Europe has foundered similarly -- though the European nations are not burdened to the same degree by the awful liabilities of suburbia. Even if these advanced economies -- throw in Japan too -- remain moribund, the price and supply prospects for oil look ominous.

My own guess is that the price of oil has overshot on the low end just as it overshot on the high end, and that, when all is said and done, we'll still see an upwardly trending price line over the long haul.

The plunge, which began right after the $147 peak in July 2008, was as much the result of banks, hedge funds, and individuals dumping oil investments and positions to raise cash as it was a matter of the markets predicting a sharp fall-off in economic activity (and supposedly oil consumption). The truth is that demand destruction for oil in the USA has been surprising mild compared to the drop in price.

Jim Hansen's Master Resource Report says that gasoline consumption dropped from 9.29 million barrels a day in 2007 to 8.99 million barrels a day for 2008. That's not much of a fall-off, especially compared to the price drop. As Julian Darley of the Post Carbon Institute put it recently: "There won't be any energy bail-out." And, as many other people have noted, the recent plunge in oil prices strongly implies future supply destruction, since so many planned oil projects have been suspended or cancelled because they are economic losers at $40-a-barrel (or even $70).

Even projects well underway, such as Canadian tar sand production, have been scaled back or shut down because they don't make sense at current prices. Some of these other newer projects will now never get underway -- they have missed their window of opportunity with so much capital leaving the system -- and so the hope of offsetting very-near-future depletions in old giant oil fields looks dimmer and dimmer. Those depletions are very serious.

For instance, Mexico's super-giant Cantarell oil field, the second-largest ever discovered after Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field, has shown a 30 percent depletion rate in the past year alone. (Pemex had forecast a 15 percent rate entering the year.) Cantarell provides over 60 percent of Mexico's total production, and Mexico is America's third largest source of imports -- just after Saudi Arabia (#2) and Canada (#1).

Obviously, Mexico soon will lose its ability to export oil, and as that occurs, America is going to feel more than pinch -- more like a two-by-four upside the head. In short, remorseless depletion is underway and we are less likely now than even a year ago, to make up for it. At some point, then, demand, even if slightly lower, will catch up with declining supply. My prediction for 2009 is that we will see two things occur, possibly at the same time: a resumption of rising prices, and spot shortages.

I say this because the global economic fiasco is sure to produce geopolitical friction, and inasmuch as America has to import almost three-quarters of the oil we use, the prospect for trouble is great. The tragic part of all this, of course, is that the temporary plunge in oil prices has prompted an incurious American public to assume, once again, that the global oil predicament is some kind of a fraud.

Given the flood tide of fraud they have been subject to in banking and investment matters, I suppose you can't blame them from thinking that everything is some kind of a scam. Given feeble car sales this season, there are reports that an increasing percentage of those sold now are are trucks and SUVs. Though I give Boone Pickens high marks for stepping up to the leadership plate, I'm not altogether on board with his energy proposal for swapping natural gas for gasoline in motor fuels while we swap out wind power for natural gas in electric power generation.

I don't believe that the ballyhooed shale-gas-plays of the last few years will prove-out long-term, as some huckster's claim. They are expensive to drill and run, and they all tend to deplete very quickly -- around one year. I'm not convinced we have the capital or the resources even to come up with the steel necessary to drill for it.n>

In the meantime, there are still those who hope (as described above) that various systems will insure the continuation of our Happy Motoring habits. This is an idle hope, and 2009 will be very sobering for those who imagine that hybrid cars, or electric cars, or "air" cars, or any other kind of car technology are going to save the day.

Even if President Obama mounts an "infrastructure stimulus" program, it will not keep up with all the necessary routine road repair that our highway system requires. The extreme financial hardship faced by localities and states insures that they will have to postpone a lot of expensive highway maintenance -- even if the federal government fixes a big bunch of bridges and tunnels -- and so we face the interesting prospect that our roadway systems will enter their own deadly zone of systemic failure even before the whole car issue is settled.

I am waiting to see whether Mr. Obama will undertake a restoration of passenger railroad service. I've said enough about this in the past, but it's worth reiterating that a failure to get comprehensive passenger rail service going will be a sign of how fundamentally unserious we are as a nation.

This is the "other shoe" that a lot of people are waiting to drop. Right now we are caught up in a compressive debt deflation as mortgages stop "performing" and loans of all kinds are welshed on. Since money is loaned into existence, and a great many loans are not being repaid, then a lot of money is going out of existence. That's what I mean when I say that capital is leaving the system.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve has made good on its promise to drop money from helicopters if necessary to prevent an implosion of the banking system (as all that older money goes out of existence), and so it's now a question as to when the amount of new money will exceed the disappeared old money. (Of course when I say money, I mean "money," because we are dealing here in a shadow realm of assumed value.)

In any case, there is bound to be a lag period between the time that the Fed's money is dropped from the choppers and the time it actually filters through the banks and other recipients to the so-called "real economy" of people who buy and sell real things.

The credible estimates I hear run between six and 18 months. I'll only venture to guess that we could see the start of serious inflation sometime in 2009. To some extent, all currencies are now free-falling together, some at slightly faster rates than others, but the situation of the US dollar is so grotesquely dire, and our structural imbalances so monumental, that it is hard to imagine that our currency will not win the international race to the bottom. Gold resumed its movement upward against the dollar a week before Christmas, and that may be an early sign.

The government -- and anyone badly in debt -- benefits much more from inflation than deflation, so every effort will be made to avert the latter. The trouble lies in the government's dumb incapacity to control dangerous things that it sets in motion, so that an inflationary campaign to avoid compressive deflation can so easily lead to a fiasco of super or hyper inflation -- the kind that kills governments and turns societies into murderous monsters. I'll forecast the that the US dollar is worth 40 percent of its current value by next Christmas. Geopolitics

Well, now, who the hell knows what's in store. Aside from a few bombs here and there, and pirates skulking around the horn of Africa, the world scene was miraculously free of major incidents in 2008 -- perhaps the worst being a toss up between the September Mumbai bombings and the fiasco in Georgia, where the US prompted Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili to send troops into the South Ossetia region and the move was answered by overwhelming force from neighboring Russia, leaving the US looking feckless and retarded for our troubles.

But otherwise, there wasn't a whole lot of action out there. Until the last few days of the year, that is. I'm sure the ever-growing cohort of American anti-semites who send me emails will be tickled when I assert that the Hamas rocket attacks against Israel of recent days guaranteed a sharp response from Israel -- and now, of course, Hamas is playing the crybaby card: "... what'd we do to deserve this...?" Well, you fucking fired a bunch rockets into Israel.

Did you ever hear of cause-and-effect? This matter requires no further elucidation, except that it seems to suggest a ramping back up of hostilities. I wonder if it is the beginning of a new coordinated offensive by Islamic extremism aimed at taking advantage of the West's current economic plight (and the West's probable aversion to anything that will complicate its desired recovery).

We'll know in a month or so, I think, since any coordinated campaign (if such a thing were possible) might well be aimed at confounding the new American president. The other hot corner of the world right now is the India-Pakistan border where the 60-year-old rivalry, which has already produced three wars, looks to be gearing up for yet another round. I'm not the first one to say that Pakistan is an extremely dangerous regional player, being an economic basket case, possessing a score or so of nuclear bombs, harboring more Islamic fundamentalist maniacs than any other place in the world, and having a government held together with duct tape and twine. The caper in Mumbai last September could well have been construed as an act of war, but somehow India kept its head. Who knows where this is going. . . .

So far I have only described what is already obviously going on. Add to this the likelihood that Iran is closer to achieving membership in the atomic weapon club. They've been spinning their centrifuges all year and nobody has done anything about it. My guess is that neither the US nor Israel will attempt to take out their facilities in the year ahead.

If Iran used a nuclear device against Israel, or anybody else, they would be asking to become, in turn, the world's largest ashtray. End of story. A different story, though, is how Iran might behave if and when the US Military presence in Iraq is reduced. I can imagine Iran doing anything possible surreptitiously to gain control over Iraq's southern oil regions around Basra, but even the Iraqi Shia don't like the Iranian Shia that much.

Anyway, Iran's economy has suffered hugely from the fall in oil prices. That nation may be in for more internal trouble than they have seen in thirty years since the Shah was tossed out by the minions of Ayatollah Khomeini. There's been a lot of sentiment the past year that as the US and the Europe fall into economic disarray, China would emerge as the great new hegemonic superpower.

While it's come a long way in a quarter-century, China's internal problems are still enormous and worsening. They're in trouble with water, food imports, mass unemployment, and energy. They have locked in some oil contracts around the world, but they are still susceptible to vagaries in the oil markets and Black Swan events.

As the US consumer economy falls into a coma, and the shipping containers from China to WalMart get sparser, the Chinese government will face the wrath of millions of unemployed workers. I believe they will struggle through 2009, perhaps growing more surly as the US dollar inflates and their holdings of treasury bills begins to look more like a swindle.

Russia may be suffering economically for the moment due to the crash of oil prices, but they are energy resource-rich -- at least for the next couple of decades -- and if they don't like the current price, they can keep more of their oil in the ground until the price looks more attractive. I think Mr. Putin has the confidence of the Russian people and will survive the current malaise. Japan remains a riddle wrapped in toasted nori. They're beggaring their own factory workers to stay solvent. Their banking sector has been zombified for a generation. They import 95 percent of the energy they use. Do they have a plan?

One can imagine them sliding in resignation back to something like the sixteenth century, giving up the whole industrial circus as more trouble than it's worth, just as they once gave up on firearms. The over-arching geopolitical theme of 2009 will be the end of robust globalism as we've known it for some time. Reduced trade, competition for energy resources, sore feelings over debts and currencies will drive the nations inward or, at least, direct their energies toward their own regions. Note to Tom Friedman: the world turned out to be round after all.

The big theme for 2009 economically will be contraction. The end of the cheap energy era will announce itself as the end of conventional "growth" and the shrinking back of activity, wealth, and populations.

Contraction will come as a great shock to a world of conventionally programmed economists. They will toil and sweat to account for it, and they will probably be wrong.

Unfortunately, this contraction will do its work in unpleasant ways, driving down standards of living, shearing away hopes and expectations for a particular life of comfort, and introducing disorder to so many of the systems we have depended on for so long. People will starve, lose their homes, lose incomes and status, and lose the security of living in peaceful societies. It will become clear that the Long Emergency is underway.

My hope for the year, at least for my own society, is that we will transition away from being a nation of complacent, distracted, over-fed clowns, to become a purposeful and responsible people willing to put their shoulders to the wheel to get some things done. My motto for the new year: "no more crybabies!"

Coal-Waste Disaster

SUBHEAD: Tennessee accident indicates only fundamental cultural change can end the madness.

By Jan Lundberg on 28 December 2008 in Culture Change Letter #224

Image above: Another dam breach created coal slurry spill in Martin County, TN in 2000

Notions such as "clean" solar and wind power on a massive scale for a renewable-energy panacea, and the idea that roads are a good thing, are why idiocy and tragedy continue. The doomed petroleum infrastructure is just one reason, and all are ignored by our society wearing blinders. We're the animal that errs -- the incorrectly named homo sapiens sapiens. And when we consider "clean coal" or "clean cars" homo idiotus comes to my mind (someone correct my Latin).

The Kingston power plant whose lagoon of toxic waste gave way this week, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, tell us what's wrong in the large sense in their very names, and gives us an indication of what must be abolished: "King's town" and "boss of a valley." Question authority, question "reality."

It a wrongheaded mindset that has allowed "more than one-billion gallons of waste containing potentially dangerous levels of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead, as well as radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium, impurities typically found in coal." [from Southern Exposure's Dec. 26 report, ref. below] Self-defeating reforms are the rule, not the exception: "In recent years, the technology for capturing the pollutants from stacks of coal-fired power plants has become more sophisticated, which means coal combustion waste contains even higher concentrations of toxins."

The article exposed the absurdity of mining and development, as in "developers used 1.5 million tons of coal ash to build a golf course over a shallow aquifer in Chesapeake, Va." But the conclusion of the Tennessee article was only a call for better regulation. Oh, sure. You can expect nothing from the Obama regime or the dominant culture to directly rectify or transform the problems that plague us and the whole Earth.

Even if there were 1,000 Ecovillage Training Centers (in Tennessee at The Farm), and as many Earth University's (in Chiapas on autonomous land), plunked down from on high, there's no logical argument that can herd the "sheople" to try a new approach to living, even if we could commandeer NPR, PBS, the BBC et al for a good spell. For the boss man is too strong, and there's not an open commons where the land ain't fenced or paved, so that people can gather food and erect shelters in peace and freedom.

Too many people, divided as they are -- what leader in power has ever tackled overpopulation? Doing so toppled Indira Gandhi. The Chinese have tackled it but rather too late. Only a collapse of the entire system of industry and consumption will change the playing field. Are things finally crashing down as we speak?

Being compassionate is essential. But to fight for changes on the policy level and possibly legitimize the system is in the end not compassionate if we neglect to prioritize fundamental cultural change. Meanwhile some of us on the latter track continue to develop and point to ways of sustainability. Some of us even risk getting arrested for what we believe in. May the new year make more sense to us in terms of a positive flow of consciousness. * * * * *

"'EMPTY PROMISE': The broken federal commitment behind the Tennessee coal ash disaster"by Sue Sturgis, Facing South/Southern Exposure (Institute for Southern Studies): United Mountain Defense: No Such Thing As Clean Coal: Ecovillage Training Center: Universidad de la Tierra:

Hawaii Visitor Industry

SUBHEAD: Report on the Current State of Visitor Occupancy Numbers in Hawaii...Trouble Ahead.

By Brad Parsons on 27 December 2008 in Aloha Analytics

Image above: Honolulu in a blackout. Photo by Josh Bernard
Every year during Christmas and New Year's, Hawaii usually gets a surge of visitors that bring almost all of the hotels to 100% occupancy levels. We in the visitor industry always look forward to it. Traditionally it is a fun time with lots of visitors; actually, usually too many for the facilities and infrastructure, but it usually only lasts 2 weeks, so we go with the flow and enjoy it. 
Last year the Christmas and New Year's rush only lasted 1 week. That was when I knew something was up with the Mainland and Hawaii economies and shortly thereafter decided to start this blog because after those of us who noticed the visitor spending slump that began in Nov. and Dec. of 2007, there was no mention of it by neither the economists nor Lingle nor other elected officials not in December, January, nor February. It wasn't until Aloha and ATA failed in late March because of the slump that the economists and elected officials finally became aware of it.

A couple of months ago traditional economists finally declared officially that the nationwide recession began in December 2007. Right now we are at just such another dramatic turn of events again, and I suspect the traditional economists, Governor, and elected officials are again not aware of it. What is it that is happening now?

This year we don't even have just 1 week of 100% occupancy in all of the hotels and major accomodation properties throughout Hawaii. In particular, two days ago I surveyed some full accomodation properties on Kauai and was shocked to find that many of them are not even at 50% occupancy. The next day, yesterday, I called a friend on Maui with high level contacts inside the visitor industry, and he reported that there are many hotels there that are not at 100% when they normally would be, even though they are having their low level employees tell most inquiries that they are fully booked, but many are not.

Further, the visitors that are there are noticeably on tighter budgets. Furthermore, my friend noted that there are 4 major restaurants/bars in Lahaina that based on the Fall and now this Christmas season are planning on shutting down and going out of business in the next few months. He mentioned those restaurants by name; they are major institutional names, but I will leave them anonymous for now. My point in all of this is that the visitor levels we are not having right now, that we normally would be, is a clear indication of a dramatic decline in revenue to the state now and in the months ahead.

Just like last December and January, when Lingle among other things was proposing the State buy and manage a resort, I don't think Lingle and most of the Legislature have any idea of the significance of what is happening right now in the visitor industry. This doesn't even consider the effect of the nationwide $1.5 trillion Alt.

A's and Option Arm's mortgage industry problems that will begin in about a month or two when the terms of those start to re-adjust. It may not be until March again that the Governor and Legislature acknowledge the significance of what is happening right now because of the fact that they rely on lagging indicators. If you thought 2008 was a shock for the Hawaii visitor industry, you ain't seen nothin' yet, 2009's gonna be a wild ride. The trick to this is to cut your expenses to the minimum and enjoy what we have here that is free.


Demonstration on Kuhio Hwy

SOURCE: Elaine Dunbar (
SUBHEAD: People displeased Lingle’s actions on Hawaiian rights take to street armed with signs.

[Note from source:
Wow! Front page opportunity on protest. Was hoping somebody would have used it as an opportunity to highlight the fact that there is a solution. Also, that Mark Bennetʻs quote/defense is one of selective omission; regarding the purported use of Hawaiian lands according to the constitution. The main emphasis is for the betterment of Native Hawaiians. But he forgot to include that part. Some lawyer who just picks out the parts he likes and leaves the rest. Too bad a legal spokesperson wasnʻt there to clear up the haze on the issue for the general public, like Kane Pa. There are HRS laws that specifically state the Hawaiians have a right to self determination without the interference of U.S. government. Need to get those laws out in the sunshine so thereʻs no way the bats can find dark hiding places anymore. nOh well. Guess weʻll be protesting until the year 3000.]

By Michael Levine on 27 December 2008 in The Garden Island

Members of the Kaua‘i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice said the protest was designed to show solidarity with a similar event taking place in front of the Capitol on O‘ahu.Protest a ‘solidarity action’ with O‘ahu rally. A group of 25 to 30 activists lined both sides of Kuhio Highway in Lihu‘e yesterday afternoon, waving Hawaiian flags and holding signs voicing their displeasure with Gov. Linda Lingle’s handling of the controversial ceded lands issue.

The demonstration, organized by the Kaua‘i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice, was described by those involved as a “solidarity action” with a similar protest taking place in front of the state Capitol on O‘ahu. That rally drew about 100 people, according to an Associated Press report.

At issue is the Lingle administration’s continued appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruling handed down in January that prohibited the state from selling or transferring more than a million acres of public lands that had belonged to the Hawaiian monarchy prior to the 1893 overthrow. In 1993, President Clinton signed the Hawai‘i Apology Resolution, acknowledging American wrongdoing in the overthrow. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs used that resolution as the basis for a lawsuit filed against the state in the mid-1990s seeking an injunction to prevent the selling or transfer of the ceded lands.

That effort was largely fruitless until the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling overturned an earlier Circuit Court decision early this year. “Until January 2008, we had won the case,” Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett said in a phone interview yesterday. “We believed we had no choice but to appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court because we believe the ruling is contrary to law. “In appealing, we are simply carrying forward the same position that the state has had for 14 years.”

When asked to clarify that position, Bennett explained that the state owns the lands and holds them for the benefit of all of the people of Hawai‘i, a power the state was granted by the U.S. Congress when it was admitted to the union. More than 30 states have filed briefs on the state’s behalf in preparation for the hearing in front of the Supreme Court, which Bennett said is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2009.

He said he expects a ruling by the end of June 2009. Yesterday’s protests were designed to “pressure the Lingle administration to back off its appeal to the Supreme Court and honor the moratorium on the sale of the lands,” according to literature distributed by the Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice. “Lingle uses the idea that the general public needs to benefit from this land, but as a member of the general public, I don’t want to benefit at the expense of the native Hawaiians,” said Katy Rose, one of the events organizers.

“It’s important to show our support and show that we stand behind them in their efforts.” Rose said the response to the sign-holding was largely positive, with a lot of drivers-by honking and giving thumbs up and shakas. “It’s important because this land used to belong to the native Hawaiians,” said Raymond Catania, another activist.

“Local people understand that we should support them on this because they’re on the bottom of society and they need our help. This is their birthright, nobody should take it away from them.”

Community organizer Jimmy Trujillo agreed that the “indigenous people’s right to self-determination ... doesn’t need to be impeded by our government,” going so far as to say he believed the government should support the sovereignty movement. “It’s just an opportunity for the community to show (its) displeasure with the current administration’s decision to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the state Supreme Court decision,” Trujillo said, describing Lingle’s action “fraud” and “illegal.”

“To sell stolen property is a crime in most courts, but that’s what our governor is trying to do.” The timing of the protests — President-elect Barack Obama is vacationing with his family on Oahu this week — could raise awareness of the issue.

Rose said there was a large march planned for Jan. 17 on Oahu, and her group was planning a solidarity action on that date as well. “People have the right to protest and let their voices be heard,” Bennett said, “and we’re certainly listening.”

One Man’s Bid

SUBHEAD: A Utah economics student outbids corporations on national lands.

By Amy Goodman on 23 December 2008 for Democracy Now! - 

Image above: Bryce National Park, Utah. Photo by Ron Niebrugge

Tim DeChristopher is an economics student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He had just finished his last final exam before winter break. One of the exam questions was: If the oil and gas companies are the only ones who bid on public lands, are the true costs of oil and gas exploitation reflected in the prices paid?

DeChristopher was inspired. He finished the exam, threw on his red parka and went off to the controversial Bureau of Land Management land auction that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance called “the Bush administration’s last great gift to the oil and gas industry.” Instead of joining the protest outside, he registered as a bidder, then bought 22,000 acres of public land. That is, he successfully bid on the public properties, located near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument, and other pristine areas.

The price tag: more than $1.7 million. He told me:
“Once I started buying up every parcel, they understood pretty clearly what was going on ... they stopped the auction, and some federal agents came in and took me out. I guess there was a lot of chaos, and they didn’t really know how to proceed at that point.” 
Patrick Shea, a former BLM director, is representing DeChristopher. Shea told the Deseret News:
“What Tim did was in the best tradition of civil disobedience, he did this without causing any physical or material harm. His purpose was to draw attention to the illegitimacy and immorality of the process.” 
There is a long tradition of disrupting land development in Utah. In his memoir, “Desert Solitaire,” Edward Abbey, the writer and activist, wrote: “Wilderness. The word itself is music. ... We scarcely know what we mean by the term, though the sound of it draws all whose nerves and emotions have not yet been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination.” Abbey’s novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang” inspired a generation of environmental activists to take “direct action,” disrupting “development.”

As The Salt Lake Tribune reported on DeChristopher:
“He didn’t pour sugar into a bulldozer’s gas tank. He didn’t spike a tree or set a billboard on fire. But wielding only a bidder’s paddle, a University of Utah student just as surely monkey-wrenched a federal oil- and gas-lease sale Friday, ensuring that thousands of acres near two southern Utah national parks won’t be opened to drilling anytime soon.”
Likewise, the late Utah Phillips, folk musician, activist and longtime Utah resident, often invoked the Industrial Workers of the World adage: “Direct action gets the goods.” More than just scenic beauty will be harmed by these BLM sales. Drilling impacts air and water quality.

According to High Country News,
 “The BLM had not analyzed impacts on ozone levels from some 2,300 wells drilled in the area since 2004 ... nor had it predicted air impacts from the estimated 6,300 new wells approved in the plan.” 
ProPublica reports that the Colorado River “powers homes for 3 million people, nourishes 15 percent of the nation’s crops and provides drinking water to one in 12 Americans. Now a rush to develop domestic oil, gas and uranium deposits along the river and its tributaries threatens its future.” After being questioned by federal authorities, DeChristopher was released.

The U.S. attorney is currently weighing charges against the student. DeChristopher reflects:
“This has really been emotional and hopeful for me to see the kind of support over the last couple of days ... for all the problems that people can talk about in this country and for all the apathy and the eight years of oppression and the decades of eroding civil liberties, America is still very much the kind of place that when you stand up for what is right, you never stand alone.” 
His disruption of the auction has temporarily blocked the Bush-enabled land grab by the oil and gas industries.

If DeChristopher can come up with $45,000 by Dec. 29, he can make the first payment on the land, possibly avoiding any claim of fraud. If the BLM opts to re-auction the land, that can’t happen until after the Obama administration takes over.

The outcome of the sales, if they happen at all, will probably be different, thanks to the direct action of an activist, raising his voice, and his bidding paddle, in opposition.

Protect the "ceded" lands!

SOURCE: Jonathan Jay ( SUBHEAD: A rally in Lihue on Friday against Lingle's plan for Hawaiian land.
Image above: Hawaiian demonstration on Maui in 1995 concerning ceded land.
By Katy Rose on 23 December 2008 -
Join Kaua'i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice in a solidarity demonstration with the big rally being held at the same time in Honolulu! When: FRIDAY DECEMBER 26, 2008 3:00-5:00pm
Where: Intersection of Kuhio Hwy and Hardy St., Lihue (across from Mc Donalds) Why: Governor Lingle is pressing the US Supreme Court to overturn the moratorium on the sale of “ceded” lands. She hopes the US Supreme Court will clear the way for the State to start selling off the “ceded” lands – to big business and development interests. It is WRONG for the state to attempt to clear the way for a fire-sale of Native lands without proper resolution of the many injustices facing the Native Hawaiian people. Tell Lingle and the State of Hawai'i to withdraw the appeal and honor the moratorium on land sales until Native Hawaiians - through THEIR OWN PROCESS OF SELF-DETERMINATION – can deal properly with the question of the “ceded” lands. Bring signs! · WITHDRAW SUPREME COURT APPEAL! · PROTECT NATIVE LANDS! · UPHOLD THE MORATORIUM! · NO SALE! · SELF-DETERMINATION FOR KANAKA MAOLI! · KEEP HAWAIIAN LANDS IN HAWAIIAN HANDS! · CEDED LANDS BELONG TO THE HAWAIIAN PEOPLE!
For more information please call Jimmy at 346-7725 or Katy at 346-7011 see also: