American Theocracy  

Posted by Big Gav

Karavans points to another reviw of Kevin Phillips' book "American Theocracy" in The New York Times.

There's a book review in today's NY Times of American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips. For those who don't recognize the name, he is a long-time Republican party strategist dating back to the 1960s. In 1969, he published The Emerging Republican Majority and then went to work for President Nixon's administration.

His new book covers the three big trends he sees threatening America's future and that of the world as a result. The reviewer sums them up thusly:
...he identifies three broad and related trends — none of them new to the Bush years but all of them, he believes, exacerbated by this administration's policies — that together threaten the future of the United States and the world. One is the role of oil in defining and, as Phillips sees it, distorting American foreign and domestic policy. The second is the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government. And the third is the astonishing levels of debt — current and prospective — that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating. If there is a single, if implicit, theme running through the three linked essays that form this book, it is the failure of leaders to look beyond their own and the country's immediate ambitions and desires so as to plan prudently for a darkening future.

Furthermore on the oil issue, the reviewer sums up Phillips' thinking:
The American press in the first days of the Iraq war reported extensively on the Pentagon's failure to post American troops in front of the National Museum in Baghdad, which, as a result, was looted of many of its great archaeological treasures. Less widely reported, but to Phillips far more meaningful, was the immediate posting of troops around the Iraqi Oil Ministry, which held the maps and charts that were the key to effective oil production. Phillips fully supports an explanation of the Iraq war that the Bush administration dismisses as conspiracy theory — that its principal purpose was to secure vast oil reserves that would enable the United States to control production and to lower prices. ("Think of Iraq as a military base with a very large oil reserve underneath," an oil analyst said a couple of years ago. "You can't ask for better than that.") Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, tyranny, democracy and other public rationales were, Phillips says, simply ruses to disguise the real motivation for the invasion.

The Financial Review this weekend had a number of articles on the overuse of fear as a political tool, with the "Lies and Statistics" column mocking bird flu paranoia and a book review of "The Politics of fear: Beyond Left and Right" urging readers to begin thinking for themselves again.

In a similar vein, Bruce Sterling's SXSW speech this year reminds listeners of an old Eastern European dissident motto: "Make no decision out of fear.". Onya Bruce.
... his keynote speech at South by Southwest, which you can listen to here, is an entirely different beast altogether. While Bruce throws the crowd some juicy technical tidbits here as well, primarily the SxSW speech is about the future we're building, and what we ought to do about it:
"When you actually ignore reality for years on end, the payback is a bitch brother! ... We're seeing just frantic collisions of fundamentalist delusion with objective reality... We're on a kind of slider bar between the unthinkable and the unimaginable now, bteween the grim meathook future and the bright green future. There are ways out of this situation; there are actual ways to move the slider bar from one side to the other, except that we haven't invented the words for them yet."

The challenge, Bruce says, is that the worst people in the world -- genocidal ethnic mafiosos, fundamentalist fanatics, Washington lobbyists -- are running the show, American government has become the new Soviet Union (ossified, corrupt and widely perceived as illigitimate by the rest of the planet) and things are not good in much of the world. That said, if you look honestly at the world, you see a new story emerging, with millions of smart, dedicated people locked in a struggle to steer us towards a better future using every tool in their power, and that "that's a big story!" Finally, he reminds those of us who are part of that story of the motto of the old Soviet-era Eastern European dissidents: "Make no decision out of fear."

The Oil Drum has a post on dwindling Canadian natural gas supplies and the likely effect on tar sands oil production (something many peak oil commenters, even your humble scribe, predicted long ago). No mention of when the nuclear plants in Alberta are going to get constructed...

The Oil Drum (UK) also has a look at the gas situation worldwide.

The SMH notes that in Australia we're planning to burn as much gas as we possibly can and liquefy then ship off the rest. Thankfully its warm enough here that we won't have to worry about freezing when we are devoid of energy sources in 30 years time (assuming our present path of inaction on the renewables front continues, which I hope is a mistaken assumption).
A NEW alliance between government and industry aims to make natural gas the main source of energy in Australia and ensure the nation gets its share of the booming export market for liquefied natural gas.

The federal Resources Minister, Ian Macfarlane, will announce the alliance at a conference in Perth today, organised by the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association.

The alliance aims within 10 years to ensure that natural gas is used for up to 70 per cent of all new electricity generation and that LNG exports more than triple to 50 million tonnes. It will seek to double the use of natural gas as a feedstock for resource processing.

The plan will attract the scrutiny of the coal industry, which argues - with the Federal Government's support - that clean-coal technologies and other greenhouse gas abatement measures will in time make gas a less greenhouse-friendly fuel source.

Protests are continuing in Ecuador over a "free" trade deal being negotiated with the US and ownership of local oil fields.
Conaie is opposing the signing of the free trade treaty between Quito and Washington, despite the fact that the negotiations ironing out the pact are in the final stretch. Delegates from Ecuador and the US will meet in Washington at the end of this month to negotiate the last part of the treaty, which deals primarily with agricultural issues.

Conaie is also demanding the termination of the country's contract with Occidental and the renegotiation of such petroleum exploitation deals with all foreign oil firms operating in Ecuador.

Crude oil is the main export product of this Andean nation, and revenues from its sale abroad finance about 35 percent of the country's annual government budget. The state-run Petroecuador and the attorney general's office have suggested that the Oxy contract be cancelled because they contend the firm violated it by transferring -- without telling the government -- 40 percent of its shares to the Canadian firm EnCana, which last month sold the interest to a Chinese oil consortium.

The highway blockades, which typically characterize protests on various matters by Conaie, were implemented later on Monday in other provinces including Tungurahua, Carchi, and Imbabura.

Conaie chief Luis Macas said that the Indians were also demanding that US military forces at the Manta air base leave the country. The base, located in western Ecuador, is equipped with powerful radars and other hardware used in the anti-drug fight in the region.

The Indians are also calling for the nationalization of the nation's petroleum and for a constitutional assembly to be convened to carry out a profound reform of the country's political system.

The US is bizarrely declaring an interest in negotiations between Norway and Russia over rights to Barents Sea oil.
Norway should resolve its decades-old Barents Sea border dispute with Russia as it's a security of supply issue for the U.S., the new U.S. ambassador told Dow Jones Newswires late Thursday.

Disagreement between Moscow and Oslo about how to demarcate the border stretching into the Arctic sea has made the 173,000-square-kilometer disputed area - estimated to hold 12 billion barrels of oil equivalent - all but untouchable for exploration and development for the past 30 years.

"We see the border dispute...from an energy security perspective," newly-appointed ambassador Benson Whitney said on the sidelines of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event here. "We have an interest in it and would like to see it resolved."

The political uncertainty caused by the dispute can inhibit development and production in the Barents Sea, "and that can have an impact on the global market."

As the world's largest consumers of energy, the U.S. is increasingly looking to diversify its imports away from politically unstable areas such as the Middle East. The Barents Sea - estimated to have a total of more than 40 billion BOE in the combined Norwegian, Russian and disputed areas - could offer the U.S. a stable alternative supply of both crude and liquefied natural gas.

Elsewhere in the Arctic the campaign to drill in the ANWR has started in the US Congress again. Meanwhile the demographic drift to the exurbs continues unabated.
As the U.S. population rises, more and more people are moving into compact, smartly planned, energy-efficient cities. Ha! Ha! Sigh. Actually, the fastest-growing areas of the country are fringes: suburbs and semi-rural areas on the edges of expanding metropolitan regions. "It's not just the decade of the exurbs but the decade of the exurbs of the exurbs. People are leaving expensive cores and going as far out as they can to get a big house and a big yard," says demographer William Frey, compactly summarizing everything wrong with this crazy country. Americans are drifting to the West and South, seeking low-density areas and affordable housing. Thirteen of the 20 fastest-growing counties are in the South (the census data, from July 1, 2005, does not take into account Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent relocation). Don't come running to us when the cheap oil runs out, people!

Following on from yesterday's Gibson review of "V For Vendetta", Past Peak thought it was OK while Rigorous Intuition seems a little disappointed.

Alan Moore himself (who has a pretty impressive wild eyed anarchist / prophet of doom look about him) seems disgruntled by the whole thing - "The Beat" has a pair of interviews, along with a roundup of other reviews of the movie (Roger Ebert liked it - The New Yorker didn't).
The Beat: Can you in any way encapsulate the political climate that gave rise to V for Vendetta?

Alan Moore: At the time when I wrote it, it was of course for an English alternative comic magazine around about 1981. Margaret Thatcher had been in power for two or three years. She was facing the first crisis of her, by then, very unpopular government. There were riots all over Britain in places that hadn't seen riots for hundreds of years. There were fascists groups, the National Front, the British National party, who were flexing their muscles and sort of trying to make political capital out of what were fairly depressed and jobless times. It seemed to me that with the kind of Reagan/Thatcher axis that existed across the Atlantic, it looked like Western society was taking somewhat a turn for the worse. There were ugly fascist strains starting to reassert themselves that we might have thought had been eradicated back in the '30s. But they were reasserting themselves with a different spin. They were talking less about annihilating whichever minority they happened to find disfavor with and talking more about free market forces and market choice and all of these other kind of glib terms, which tended to have the same results as an awful lot of the kind of Fascist causes back in the 1930s but with a bit more spin put upon them. The friendly face of fascism.

...

So I decided to use this to political effect by coming up with a projected Fascist state in the near future and setting an anarchist against that. As far I'm concerned, the two poles of politics were not Left Wing or Right Wing. In fact they're just two ways of ordering an industrial society and we're fast moving beyond the industrial societies of the 19th and 20th centuries. It seemed to me the two more absolute extremes were anarchy and fascism. This was one of the things I objected to in the recent film, where it seems to be, from the script that I read, sort of recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism. There wasn't a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged. I mean, I think that any references to racial purity had been excised, whereas actually, fascists are quite big on racial purity.

And to close, a note on the third anniversary of the liberation of Iraq.
We're coming up to the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. I'm not sure how Bush is going to mark the occasion. I think we can rule out landing on an aircraft carrier and declaring mission accomplished. — Jay Leno

But to be fair, most pundits did forsee that this adventure in oil capturing would be a challenge - didn't they ?

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