Tuesday, April 17, 2012

It Doesn’t Compute

April is supposed to be the height of hot dry season here in Cambodia. The sun is now directly overhead and most years there’ll be few clouds and no rain for months around this time or it may rain once or twice between January and May. This year we’ve had clouds nearly every day with occasional rains which have been very heavy at times. The rain cools things off a bit, otherwise it’d be in the mid to upper 90’s with humidity up around 50% - super sweaty weather for sure. The rain also relieves me of having to water my plants which now takes about an hour every other day.
Last month America experienced an unprecedented late spring heat wave in which not only about fifteen thousand high temperature records were broken but they were surpassed by 20 and 30ºF  margins, even in one case 40ºF - equivalent to 22º C. In many cases overnight lows were higher than the previous record highs.  
And yet, mention of global warming by America’s politicians is either off limits, for those who you believe still have a brain left, or derided as a monstrous hoax by the idiot/lying class of conservative politicos. Besides it’d be too much trouble to actually do anything about it so we’re just going to keep drilling baby drilling. That’s the ‘practical’ option; after all, think about all those windmills and solar panel arrays and geothermal sites that would have to be developed as an alternative. Or how about the great inconvenience to all those people who’d have to conserve energy by turning off lights they aren’t using. No, as long as there’s a drop of oil or cubic meter of gas in the ground, it’s easier and simpler to stay on our present path.
But it’s kind of depressing just the same to think there are no good options on the table, none that would change the present trajectory to destruction. Bill McKibben, leading climate campaigner, has stated unequivocally that full development of the Canadian tar sands spells certain doom since it’s the dirtiest oil on the planet requiring a lot of energy for processing. The Keystone XL (for extra large) pipeline that’s supposedly essential to the exploitation of that oil is planned to bring the oil to the Gulf coast strictly for export, it’s not even for America’s use. Routing the pipeline across Canada to the Pacific Ocean is possible but it would be much more expensive going over the Rockies, besides the people on that route decidedly don’t want it. The Alberta tar sands don’t produce crude oil, rather a thick tar like substance called bitumen. It is highly corrosive to pipelines and a section operating in Michigan has experienced twice as many leaks as a typical crude pipeline.
An oil platform in the North Sea has recently had a gas blowout and copious amounts are now bubbling to the surface. There’s now a two kilometer exclusion zone for ships, four for airplanes and six for any kind of drilling work, otherwise an explosion of magnificent proportions is possible. It could be six months before the leak can be plugged. The methane that is leaking has 20 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is now big business in many parts of the US. In addition to large quantities of methane leaking out when fracking is used to bring oil up from layers of shale, it also causes earthquakes, permanent contamination of groundwater and results in large quantities of toxic liquid waste to be disposed of. The toxic chemicals used in the process are trade secrets so the people are not allowed to know what their environment is being poisoned with. Typical of America where the corporations own the government, but how do the people who run those corpses live with themselves, how do they sleep at night knowing the havoc they are wreaking on the environment?
Now that global warming has reduced summer sea ice, the Arctic is now open for exploration. There couldn’t be a more difficult or more dangerous place on the planet to experience a blowout. If one happened in winter with the sea covered in thick ice,  temperatures of minus 40 or 50 degrees and darkness all the time, drillers would just have to wait until the next summer to even begin to tackle it. By then the ocean could well be beyond repair.
Meanwhile with the developed world in the economic doldrums, demand for fossil fuels there is not growing much, but here where I am in Asia growth is very fast. Cambodia which is growing at 7% is typical of this area. At that rate an economy doubles in 10 years and since we are starting from such a low point, electricity demand is growing 25% per year. India and China, which combined have nearly a quarter of the world’s population, are growing even faster at 8 or 9%. China is adding to it’s wind and solar power production very quickly but at the same time is still adding the equivalent of a 1 megawatt coal powered plant every week. They’re also buying cars like crazy and why not? Isn’t everybody supposed to be rich, to be able to live like Americans?.
It doesn’t compute, the numbers don’t add up, the world cannot continue on its present path. And yet it will, until it can no longer, because the voices of reason are overwhelmed by the quest for profit.
On another note, America’s political left will once again yearn for a presidential candidate who not only represents their own views, but the people at large. After all, it isn’t just people who call themselves Democrats who want a single payer, Medicare for all, health care system, it’s desired by 2/3rds of the population. It isn’t just Democrats who want taxes raised on the wealthy before Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are cut, it’s a large majority of all Americans. It isn’t only radical socialists who want to eliminate subsidies for the big oil companies, the world’s most profitable corporations, it’s the people at large. It can’t happen because of the obscene power of the corporations and because the Dumbocrats who’re supposed to represent progressive policies are feckless crybaby wimps, gutless wonders who have no fight in them.
The Senate recently held a vote to eliminate big oil subsidies, the Repugs said we’ll filibuster, the Dumbos said, Okay great, we give up. Instead why not say, Okay great, go ahead and filibuster, go ahead and spend a week or two or more explaining to the people of America why it’s so important to subsidize the oil companies while you, the masses, face budget cutbacks in all the programs you so greatly depend on for your quality of life.
But I’ve said it all before and I’m having a difficult writing lately because it seems so hopeless. I greatly admire those political, social, environmental campaigners who never give up, who keep pounding at the truth to try to break through the fog of corporate media and hegemony but I find it hard to maintain any faith that any of it will make a difference.
Still I’m heartened by the people’s response to the one percent’s harsh prescriptions on the lives of the rest of us. In Greece, for instance, jobless, homeless people are taking over and squatting in unused public buildings, with many also being used as community space. Some 70 buildings have been converted in Athens. Crises bring adaptability and change, or at least the opportunity for such. FDR took that opportunity and ran with it, to the great benefit of the people at large and the great frustration of the 1% who are still livid after all these years about Social Security, for instance, and the way it keeps millions of seniors out of poverty or at least off the streets.
Obama’s good at talking the talk, but he walks, along with the Congress, with the banksters. He just signed into law the JOBS act. The acronym stands for Jumpstart Our Startup Businesses. It aids startup businesses by exempting them from normal accounting rules and reporting. According to Matt Taibbi, one of the best investigative reporters of the financial scene who writes for Rolling Stone magazine, who coined the giant vampire squid moniker for Goldman Sachs, it’s basically a license to commit fraud. So after financial shenanigans brought down the world economy, the president and congress are eagerly facilitating further fraud.
Meanwhile the Repugs have given Obama a great electoral gift by waging a war on contraception in particular and women’s health in general. Thanks to sanctimonious Rick Santorum who believes that sex should only be for procreation and blubberhead Rush Limbaugh who called a young woman a slut because she advocated for contraception health coverage, Obama now has a 20% lead amongst women. There’s always been a political gender gap in America with men typically voting Repuglican while women vote Dumbocrat, but before the recent conservative tirades against women the gap was a few percentage points. With the manic Repug quest for ideological 19th century purity, Obama is way out in front.
I guess it’s a good idea that the Repugs are shooting themselves in the feet. Though I couldn’t personally bring myself to vote for Obama it’d be good if he gets to appoint supreme court justices and as I’ve mentioned previously he’s a good ambassador to the world even if he’s a mediocre president for the American people.

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