300 Years of Fossil-Fueled Addiction in 5 Minutes

Here’s a nice little animated history of fossil fuels (below, about 5 minutes long), produced by the Post Carbon Institute. I recognize the voice of Richard Heinberg as the narrator, so you can be sure the technical presentation is reliable.

But Jonathan Hiskes, writing about this video in Grist, complains that it lacks advice on specific steps which could be taken to achieve resilience:

“Giving the public this sort of foundational knowledge is useful, but it would be helpful to give them some concrete steps to take — build a neighborhood solar co-op, get a Complete Streets plan passed in their town … for example.

That’s a good point. Hiskes should take a look at the work of the Post Carbon Institute itself. It’s a combination think tank and resource center for concrete solutions.

And local readers can take heart. There’s an organization here in Nevada County whose mission it is to bring people together to work on the kind of positive specific projects that will ease the transition to resilience: A.P.P.L.E. (the Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy) was founded precisely to address the issues raised by the depletion of fossil fuels. (Full disclosure: I’m a member of the A.P.P.L.E. board).

Check out Heinberg’s tale. It’s fascinating.

And for hope, and a way to take action (which is the expression of hope), contact A.P.P.L.E. and the A.P.P.L.E. Center.

NASA’s Fermi Telescope Finds Giant Structure in Our Galaxy

(Excerpt from) … ScienceDaily (Nov. 9, 2010) — NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. The feature spans 50,000 light-years and may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy.

“What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center,” said Doug Finkbeiner, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who first recognized the feature. “We don’t fully understand their nature or origin.”

The structure spans more than half of the visible sky, from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Grus, and it may be millions of years old. A paper about the findings has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Read full article here.

Should Obama Enlist a “Team of Rivals?”

Progressive economist Robert Kuttner, writing in Huffington Post, suggests that — given the terrible record of Obama’s economic advisors — he should employ the sort of “Team B” process used by the CIA in the 1970s in order to challenge “prevailing notions about national security.”

According to Kuttner, Obama should enlist this Team B and allow it to work and make its suggestions free of interference or critiques by his existing team.

“So let’s bring in an economic B-Team to do the same exercise: Nobelists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman; Rob Johnson of the Institute for New Economic Thinking; Damon Silvers of the AFL-CIO; Larry Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute; Jamie Galbraith of U Texas; Bob Reich of Berkeley; Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute; and Jane D’Arista or Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute, to name a few.

“Even Paul Volcker, to whom the President turns only as a last resort, is an honorary B Team member. Several of these would make a better treasury secretary than Geithner, and Obama needs to hear their views unfiltered through appointees who have every reason to be defensive.”

After reading Kuttner’s suggestion, I was so taken with it that I dashed off a note to the President (at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact) urging him to read Kuttner’s article, and suggesting that “Lincoln would have loved this idea!”

Of course, by now most of us who had naively high expectations of Obama are well over the hope that he might aim to be another Lincoln or FDR.

Kuttner’s suggestion is good and sensible, one that President Obama could implement easily and with little political risk.

Nevertheless, Kuttner himself seems to doubt that Obama would be receptive, and I suspect he’s right:

“I am weary of writing pieces whose theme is “Here’s what Obama needs to do.” Just between us, I’m not sure the man is paying attention.

“So my next posts will be about what we need to do. And here is the general point: We need to build a movement — a movement that politicians and the media can’t ignore.

“If you are like me, you have been in dozens of conversations lately in which smart people ask each other, “How come there is no real grass-roots progressive movement?”

“Among plausible answers I’ve heard are these:

“Ordinary people are beaten down and fearful. Remember the expression, “a revolution of rising expectations”? This is a counter-revolution of depressed expectations …

“Young adults are so economically stressed that they don’t have time for a movement …

“Folks today are too busy being entertained with social networking.

“And speaking of social networking, the internet, absent strong political leadership, is not the medium of a real movement though it can be tactically useful. MoveOn, in its prime, was the germ of something real. But progressives have too many parts, and no coherent whole. The Colbert-Stewart sanity rally was a hoot, but no movement.”

Kuttner, who is always worth reading, promises to talk more in coming weeks about how to build a real movement.

Fareed Zakaria: This is the 3rd Time the GOP Has Made This Promise

Fareed nails it, reminding us of what we should have remembered before voting!

“Past Peak Oil, Travelling Towards Transition”


Anita Sanchez is an environmentalist and a “designer of visions” (my phrase, not hers). She creates what she calls “eco animations.”


The following short animation (see video below) superimposes a piece of the history of industrialization on the likely peak oil timeline (where peak occurs at least by mid 21st century).

The beauty of her work is that it looks beyond the civilizational dislocation of peak oil to what may lie beyond (if we are wise) … a sustainable world economic system.

In her title, she alludes to the Transition Movement, a rapidly growing worldwide network of “transition towns,” towns that are working explicitly towards energy independence and “socioeconomic localization.”

Past Peak Oil Travelling Towards Transition Animation from Anita Sancha on Vimeo.

Poor and Working Class People Are Not Stupid

Lynn Parramore, writing in new deal 2.0, quotes some illuminating Wall Street Journal statistics on income class vs. voting preference, and concludes, “poor and working class people are not stupid.”

This reminds me of my father, who spent his working life as a railway postal clerk, a good job during the Depression years, when he was the sole support of a young family. He was a smart man who wanted to be a chemist, but he kept faith with his family during all those hard years, and did what he had to do.

He clearly saw, throughout his career, that whenever Republicans were in power, they would usually block postal employee raises. Being opposed to Republicans was a simple equation for him, as it continues to be for me.

Being a Democrat, however, is no longer as simple as it used to be.

The following chart, with Parramore’s comment, shows that it nevertheless remains a simple choice for a lot of working people today:

Voters who said their income is…

Less than 30K per year voted 58% for Dems, 40% for Repubs
30K – 49,999: 52% for Dems, 45% for Repubs
50K-74,999: 46% for Dems, 52% for Repubs
75K – 99,999: 43% for Dems, 56% for Repubs
100K-199,999: 43% for Dems, 56 for Repubs
Over $200,000: 36% for Dems, 62% for Repubs

“Notice that as soon as you pass the average household income level in the United States, which is currently around 50K per year, you see voters trending Republican.

“What to make of this? Well, poor and working class people are not stupid. They know darn well that Republicans are out to put the squeeze on them. Make no mistake: they’re plenty mad at Democrats for all the bank-centric bullshit and backroom deals. They are outraged that the same crooks that got bailed out are now kicking them out of their houses.

“But they aren’t fooled by the phony populism that the Right is spewing. They know that between the two parties, the Democrats at least have a vestigial memory of standing against the brutal income inequality, exploitation, wage depression and ripping of social safety nets that the Right has come to think of as the norm.”

That’s a sad but accurate word, “vestigial.” Not only is the Democratic memory of opposing income inequality “vestigial,” so too is the Democratic spine.

We’re still waiting for FDR to return.

See Parramore’s full article here.

What Obama Should Have Done Instead of Feeding the Fat-Cats

James Galbraith, economics professor at UT Austin, writing in new deal 2.0, gives the most succinct critique I’ve read yet of how Obama blew it. Here are a couple of choice excerpts:

“One cannot defend the actions of Team Obama on taking office. Law, policy and politics all pointed in one direction: turn the systemically dangerous banks over to Sheila Bair and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Insure the depositors, replace the management, fire the lobbyists, audit the books, prosecute the frauds, and restructure and downsize the institutions. The financial system would have been cleaned up. And the big bankers would have been beaten as a political force.

“Team Obama did none of these things. Instead they announced “stress tests,” plainly designed so as to obscure the banks’ true condition. They pressured the Federal Accounting Standards Board to permit the banks to ignore the market value of their toxic assets. Management stayed in place. They prosecuted no one. The Fed cut the cost of funds to zero. The President justified all this by repeating, many times, that the goal of policy was “to get credit flowing again.”

“The banks threw a party. Reported profits soared, as did bonuses. With free funds, the banks could make money with no risk, by lending back to the Treasury …

“These facts were obvious to everybody, fueling rage at “bailouts.” They also underlie the economy’s failure to create jobs. What usually happens (and did, for example, in 1994 – 2000) is that credit growth takes over from Keynesian fiscal expansion. Armed with credit, businesses expand, and with higher incomes, public deficits decline. This cannot happen if the financial sector isn’t working.”

Read Galbraith’s full article here.

History of the Tea Party in Four Minutes

If you don’t know what Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange has to do with the birth of the Tea Party movement, you should watch this.

Even if you do, you should watch it.

This is a cute rapid-fire four-minute history of the movement, a mixture of images: tri-cornered hats, semi-automatic weapons, the dewey-eyed visage of Glenn Beck, angry red-faced screamers at town hall meetings, re-dubbed Christine O’Donnell singing, “I’m not a witch, I’m you,” Carl Paladino and the Three Stooges, dewey-eyed visage of Glenn Beck, Rick Santelli’s rant, people snickering at the term “tea-bagging,” dewey-eyed visage of Glenn Beck …

As the narrator says at the end, “Now it’s time to govern. Good luck with that.”

Paul Emery Called Me Yesterday Concerning the IMM Project

I had a short chat with Paul Emery of KVMR yesterday. He called to ask me for an update on the Idaho-Maryland Mine project after reading my brief report in Yubanet about the City of Grass Valley’s recent letter to David Watkinson, President and CEO of Emgold.

In the letter written by Joe Heckel, Community Development Director, the city set a deadline of April 8, 2011 for Emgold to submit “an updated application package and the appropriate funding” for processing its project, or else the city would “consider the application withdrawn and no longer active.”

Although I was a bit nervous — never having done a radio interview before — I was glad for the opportunity to express my opinion on the controversial IMM project. I mentioned the fact that, in the city’s August 25, 2009 council meeting, mayor Lisa Swarthout emphatically reminded David Watkinson that the city had decided that the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) would need to be reworked and recirculated. (See a short video of those remarks by the mayor here).

I said that I’m glad about the deadline, and I also mentioned the obvious fact that the city has been waiting for over a year for Emgold to take the next steps required of it.

I suggested to Emery that he may want to ask Emgold why — in all its recent press releases — it continually asserts that it is “currently in the advanced stage of permitting the Idaho-Maryland Project,” when it is so obviously a long way from satisfying the requirements set by the city.

Paul Emery told me he would contact the city and Emgold for their views, then run a segment on Monday.

The Evening News with Paul Emery and Felton Pruitt is broadcast week nights from 6pm to 7pm at 89.5FM, and is also available for live online streaming here.

You can also subscribe to the podcast of KVMR’s Evening News by plugging the following link into iTunes or whatever podcast subscription program you use:


Will GOP Replace Obamacare with Bloodletting?

Now that many angry Americans have expressed their rage with the dismal state of the economy by giving control of the House to those who created the economic mess in the first place, what sort of medieval science is in store for us?

Sahil Kapur, writing for Rawstory, gives us a clue:

Fresh off a dramatic victory in which it retook the House leadership, the Republican Party intends to hold major hearings probing the supposed “scientific fraud” behind global warming.

The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder related the news in a little-noticed article Wednesday morning.

The effort is a likely attempt to out-step the White House on energy policy moving forward. Legislation on energy and climate change reform, one of President Barack Obama campaign promises, has yet to materialize, though Obama’s EPA recently classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

Holding hearings would please the Republicans’ conservative base, which increasingly doubts the scientific basis for global warming — especially human-induced global warming — and provide a reflection of the new GOP’s tenor.

Ron Brownstein of the National Journal reported last week that in Tuesday’s midterm election, “virtually all of the serious 2010 GOP challengers” have denied that there is scientific evidence that global warming is even happening.

“The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones,” Brownstein wrote.

What’s next?

Will the GOP try to replace “Obamacare” with bloodletting?

Here, Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber (Steve Martin), gives us a clue about what may be in store for us:

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