Voyage of the Beagle  

Posted by Big Gav

Ms Extreme Right
A number of commentators have noted that as Ann Coulter is now on the cover of Time magazine, we must have all officially fallen through the looking glass.

Ann Coulter's mass media celebrity status certainly adds to the feeling of unreality that gets deeper with each passing year of the new century - one thing I found myself asking frequently a few years back is "what the hell is happening in america ?".

As Hunter S Thompson would say if he were still with us, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro" - so here's a post than I suspect that is a fair bit weirder than normal, even for this blog. So - if you've popped enough red pills for now, or if you haven't had your valium, then it might not be the time to read this venture into the world of peak oil paranoia and conspiracy theories - normal service will resume tomorrow.

[As a side note, the rumours swirling around following HST's death get stranger by the day (including a link to the bizarre story of "Jeff Gannon" - and that link is not work safe I might add) - and some of the rumours about "Ms" Coulter are a bit unusual as well, though perhaps a group calling itself "Strap On Vets For Truth" might not be an entirely reliable source of information. This story about Ann's visit to a market may not be true either - and that link definitely isn't work safe either, nor is it for those of even slightly delicate sensibilities].

There are certain things I'd always taken for granted that any rational conservative would think of as normal values (even if they weren't always followed) - non-intrusive government, responsible management of the economy (particularly the budget deficit), defence forces devoted to defence (or at least to maintaining the status quo) rather than wars of aggression, separation of church and state, equality of opportunity, some basic controls on corporate power, paying at least lip service to the concept of transparency, not rigging elections, not corruptly handing out vast sums of money to cronies of the administration and, most importantly, not behaving like outright fascists - which all seemed to be thrown out the window shortly after the world trade centre came down (or even earlier in the case of election rigging, for example).

A basic understanding of peak oil provides an obvious explanation for some of these transgressions (such the invasion of Iraq and the associated propaganda hyping the ridiculous "war on terror") even if they are perhaps rather less than virtuous. Given the history of the western world over the past couple of hundred years they are all entirely explicable as a continuation of the usual geopolitical forces at work.

Unfortunately some of the other aspects are lot more difficult to comprehend - but some of the more obscure corners of the peak oil world are happy to address them, as we'll see shortly.

Getting back to the lovely "Ms" Coulter, its hard to imagine that someone who publically comes out with quotes like the following would be anything other than ostracised in the rest of the anglo-saxon world - but it seems its OK in the US now:
"We should nuke North Korea right now, just to give the rest of the world a warning."

"I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days to talk to liberals."

"[Anti-war Democrats] know that the American people support defending America, unlike them. Their real feelings are coming out as much as they can right now, which is that they're desperately dying to provide aid and support to al-Qaeda."

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building."

"Liberals hate America. They hate all religions except Islam. Liberals love Islam, hate all other religions."

The Coulter phenomenon is just one more aspect of what Counterpunch calls "The Brownshirting of America".
James Bovard, the great libertarian champion of our freedom and civil liberties, recently shared with readers his mail from Bush supporters. For starters here are some of the salutations: "communist bastard," "asshole," "a piece of trash", "scum of the earth". It goes downhill from there.

Bush's supporters demand lock-step consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the September 11 attack on the US--truths now firmly established by the Bush administration's own reports--as treasonous America-bashing.

As well, Bovard is interpreted as throwing cold water on the feel-good, macho, Muslim butt-kicking that Bush's invasion of Iraq has come to symbolize for his supporters. "People like you and Michael Moore," one irate reader wrote, "is (sic) what brings down our country."

I have received similar responses from conservatives, as, no doubt, have a number of other writers who object to a domestic police state at war with the world.

In language reeking with hatred, Heritage Foundtion TownHall readers impolitely informed me that opposing the invasion of Iraq is identical to opposing America, that Bush is the greatest American leader in history and everyone who disagrees with him should be shot before they cause America to lose another war. TownHall's readers were sufficiently frightening to convince the Heritage Foundation to stop posting my columns.

Bush's conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country.

I remember when conservatives favored restraint in foreign policy and wished to limit government power in order to protect civil liberties. Today's young conservatives are Jacobins determined to use government power to impose their will at home and abroad. Where did such "conservatives" come from?

Now - the arrival of fascism in America has often been a favourite topic in peak oil circles - from respected figures like Richard Heinberg and The Oil Drum all the way out to more offbeat sources such as From The Wilderness and (which would appear to be simply conspiracy theory sites to someone unfamiliar with peak oil). Energy Bulletin has also noted that there has been some interest recently from fascist style politicians in the UK in the peak oil idea - although up until now it has seemed as if freepers are afraid of peak oil in the US - the right wing blogosphere never seems to mention it (I guess the market takes care of all environmental and resource scarcity issues, so they don't need to be considered). One peak oil theorist even asks "Is America Fascist ? Does It Matter ?

The idea that the US is descending (or has descended) into fascism is one that has been voiced pretty frequently elsewhere over the last 18 months or so as well - for example:

Robert F Kennedy Jr (Fascist America), David Neiwert (The Rise Of Pseudo-Fascism), Robert Byrd (Senator Byrd is correct to Equate Bush With Hitler), Thom Hartmann ("The Frauds Of The Clergy, The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: "It Can Happen Here", When Democracy Failed - 2005, First They Came For The Terrorists..., The Myth of National Victimhood - All Wrapped and Delivered for Christmas), Lew Rockwell (Red State Fascism), Gary Boatright (Christian Fascism Has The Power), Katherine Yurica (The Despoiling Of America), Ron Paul ( Where To From Here?, It Can Happen Here), Laurence W. Britt (Fascism Anyone ?), Davidson Loehr (Living Under Fascism), American Conservative (Hunger For Dictatorship), Progressive Trail (Fascism: Are We There Yet ?), Bouphonia (Who Among Us Does Not Love Virulent Hate?) and Kuro5hin (69 Years Later, Is It Happening Here?).

One member of the "hive" at Daily Kos also has a diary called "This Week In Fascism" that collects these sorts of links.

Now, even though the warnings about fascism have come thick and fast, its hard to believe the US is a completely totalitarian state yet - as the Socialist Workers Party points out, if it was they'd all be in jail.

Say It In German
Still - unless this is all just left wing, paleo-con and libertarian agit-prop, the slide down the slippery slope does seem to have begun - and the weirdness doesn't end with the nastiness pointed out in the articles above. For example, you have Morgan Stanley's Steven Roach looking at the economy and saying "I am not a believer in conspiracy theories. But the Fed's behavior since the late 1990s is starting to change my mind.". You have the Taipei Times noting that 2.1 million americans are in prison - as a proportion of the population this is 7 times higher than in communist China and authoritarian Russia. You have Seeing The Forest noting that the administration has blocked Democrat supporters from attending international conferences. You have the, to me, incomprehensible Minute Man Project going on. You have Paul Krugman saying that the new bankruptcy legislation will create a Debt-Peonage Society. You have pre-election rallies for the Bush-Cheney campaign where attendees are rigourously screened and have to sign loyalty oaths. You have billboards appearing showing pictures of "Our Leader". You have a mass media system that seems to have been largely transformed into a right wing propaganda organ.

Naomi Klein pointed out in a recent interview that there are ways to prevent fascist regimes from seizing power - but that citizens of the US and other western countries are ill-prepared to recognise when this is happening.
I lived in Argentina for a year making this film [“The Take”] about what happened in Argentina after their economy crashed. Argentina lived through a very brutal military dictatorship, so they know how to identify the beginnings of fascism before it’s really in place. Because they lived through it, they learned the hard way.

So when their people took to the streets against the government, the first thing the government did was declared a state of siege—a state of emergency and a curfew—and told everybody that they had to go home. And people spontaneously had this reaction that was, “We know what they’re doing. They’re using fear to try to prevent us from expressing our political opposition,” and they knew that because they had experienced it—very brutally, in that they lost 30,000 people to a military dictatorship.

So they just, en masse, poured into the streets in 2001. When I was in Argentina talking to people, that was the most significant thing—that they had stood up to fear and there was this moment for the country.

I’ve also heard very similar descriptions from friends in Spain about their reaction to the Madrid bombing. Where you had a very reactionary government wanting to use the attack to justify their very unpopular presence in Iraq and to win the upcoming elections. To say, “I’m the father figure, everybody go home and be scared, I’ll take care of everything,” and people responded the way Argentineans responded.

In Spain you also have this history of fascism, and people could see it starting to arise and they just rejected it. They poured into the streets and had these marches against terror, which were really marches against being terrorized, against being afraid. Then they proceeded to elect a government that was proposing a completely different approach to the war on terrorism—you know, bring the troops back from Iraq and so on.

There isn’t the same history in the United States and I think that’s why people are much more easily manipulated. But I think knowing that history does help a little, and making those parallels to other parts of the world where you can see how terror is used as a political weapon. It’s easier to see it happening somewhere else than it is to see it happening to you.

One of the things I find ironic about peak oil is that you end up looking at states that are examples of partial collapse (Cuba and Argentina for example) as the source for ideas abut the way ahead.

Richard Heinberg says that as we hit the peak oil point, we basically have 2 choices - "Powerdown" and "Plan War" (plus the unlikely to eventuate option of "Waiting for the Magic Elixir", where some amazing new energy source comes along and saves the day - this devolves back to Plan War if a new source doesn't arrive).

Unfortunately this choice could be likened to "The Prisoners Dilemma - if everyone cooperates and attempts to gracefully adapt to less energy as we slide down Hubbert's Peak then we can aim for a least bad outcome - but if one player cheats then the players who choose to "Powerdown" may find that things don't go so well for them.

Heinberg believes the US has already made its choice - and its not the Powerdown option. Given the nature of the prisoner's dilemma and the (unsurprising) lack of trust between the various major countries of the world, its hard to imagine any other scenario now (barring some highly unlikely out of the blue event like a successful worldwide workers revolution - but I doubt the masses remember Marx and Trotsky any more. The "second superpower idea popular at WorldChanging could be an interesting alternative - but its track record opposing the Iraq invasion doesn't inspire great confidence).

If we take a slightly bigger picture look at the happy isles of oceania, we can see the different nations making different choices - the US, UK and Australia all seem to be preparing for Plan War (along with, to a greater or lesser extent, the ugly political control mechanisms mentioned earlier), while our smaller cousins in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand seem to be choosing the Powerdown option (or at least not actively preparing to fight). Obviously the Powerdown option is very attractive for small countries that aren't in possession of any major energy reserves and aren't located in positions of strategic significance - which describes Ireland and New Zealand pretty well and I think we can regard Canada as being in a similar position (they do have energy reserves but they've signed up to provide them to the US in any case).

You could see these two approaches in evidence at the Anzac Day memorial service at Gallipoli last week.
The leaders of Australia and New Zealand, even as they shared a pre-dawn podium at Gallipoli, remembered Anzac Day in distinctly different ways to serve their divergent political agendas. A war of the past was interpreted for the present to help these governments deal with the wars of the future.

"State memory is, even if individual bureaucrats are not conscious of it, purposive and manipulative; it seeks out symbols that reinforce its identity and its claims," wrote a foreign policy scholar, Ian Gambles, in 1995.

And so New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, used the opportunity of the dawn service at Gallipoli to emphasise its power as a warning against war: "As the successors and descendants of the soldiers who fought here, it is our responsibility now to reflect on their service and sacrifice, and to work for a world in which future generations will not face the horror which these brave men faced with bravery and with honour."

By contrast, John Howard's speech at Gallipoli drew out none of these themes, reached none of these conclusions.

This is the chief lesson that the Prime Minister drew from the Gallipoli venture: "History helps us to remember but the spirit of Anzac is greater than a debt to past deeds. It lives on in the valour and the sacrifice of young men and women that ennoble Australia in our time, in scrub in the Solomons, in the villages of Timor, in the deserts of Iraq and the coast of Nias.

"It lives on through a nation's easy familiarity, through Australians looking out for each other, through courage and compassion in the face of adversity."

While Europe doesn't seem to be following the US example with regards to creeping fascism, and nor does it seem to be gearing up to fight for oil (with their global warming adjustment efforts helping to make them somehwat less oil dependent), it does seem to be implementing its own surveillence state - though its hard to imagine this will be as comprehensive as Total Information Awareness program and its successors that the US has been trying to implement.

[As an aside I should note that the ability to implement a total surveillence state these days is something Orwell wouldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams - the amount of data people trail behind them these days is astounding. Obviously everything you do online is likely to be recorded somewhere (just visiting this page would leave traces (at a minimum) at your ISP, Blogger (ie. Google) and the various bits of tracking lint in the sidebar like SiteMeter, Alexa and the Referrers tracker. In real life you leave a trail of financial transactions (except where you pay cash), your mobile phone records show where you've been and who you've called, your car electronic tollway pass shows where you've been - and there are whole categories of new tracking applications opening up - the UK is the master at this sort of thing with cameras mounted everywhere through London, and all sorts of weird new stuff appearing, like helicopter based scanning of car registration plates. Bruce Schneier's blog is a great reference if you're interested in this sort of thing.]

Now - if we accept for the sake of argument that "Plan War" (along with increasingly totalitarian government) is the most likely outcome as we head over the peak, it seems that there are a number of choices that we can make as individuals, which I'll loosely categorise as:
  • "Get With The Program" / "Sell Out" - Join "The Party", (and become born again if you're in the US) and prepare yourself mentally for likely future conflict.
  • "Work For Change" / "Resist" - Work to change the system so that peaceful adaptation can be attempted - with the Post Carbon Institute, the various Green parties and the Second Superpower idea being a reasonable place to start
  • "Head For The Hills" - find yourself a suitable, reasonably isolated, location and powerdown on an individual basis, while hoping the winds of change don't blow too strongly in your vicinity.

Obviously the choices narrow down as circumstances change - if a major war does erupt attempting the "Work For Change" option would be a brave move. In the meantime, if you think this Plan War / fascism scenario doesn't sound completely insane, its probably worth thinking about what your personal preference for the future is.

It should be noted of course that that the Fascism option has been tried a few times before and has never been successful in creating a stable society in the long term - however it generally does result in a large amount of misery for anyone within the state and often for those outside it as well - with Nazi Germany being the most catastrophic and extreme example of what can happen.

The idea that things will get ugly on many levels as we move past the peak was (to my knowledge at least) first dwelled upon at length by the pioneer of our peak oil blogistan, Jay Hanson.

Most peak oil bloggers don't tend to mention Jay, nor to quote from his astoundingly depressing, but grimly comprehensive archive of material at and the various newsgroups that spawned to discuss his work.

"In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection"- Charles Darwin

This post was partially prompted by a mention of Jay on one of the peak oil news groups recently, where someone described meeting Jay on a cruise (for those who don't keep track of these things, Jay headed for the hills a few years ago and doesn't update dieoff any more - although he does surface periodicially - usually on April Fools Day - for brief Q and A sessions, one of which finishes today):
I can't really remember the details but it was during dinner when Jay talked about what he had been doing after he had sold his sailboat and settled in Hawaii. It was mostly older american couples onboard and we were looking for non-republicans to eat with as this was after Bush had been elected. I must say we really hit a bulls eye with Jay and his wife.

He mentioned studying energy systems and evolution theory which got me curious and I started asking questions and then it took off from there. I think I must have heard the term "inclusive fitness" atleast 50 times in the days that followed. :)

We talked some philosophy as well, he's really into Hume. He's a really nice guy, calm and with a great sense of humour (of the ironic type, but I guess that's pretty obvious to anyone that has read his stuff).

I had quite a good chuckle when I read this - I've only done one cruise in my life and Jay Hanson would have been a most unusual addition to the passenger list - but as it was around the Galapagos he probably would have been particularly informative given his obsession with evolution.

Thankfully the cruise wasn't a struggle for survival but you could see evidence of tribal behaviour emerging pretty quickly with the passengers almost evenly split between Americans and British - and the two groups had quite a surprising amount of mutual loathing. In this situation being Australian was quite a good way of optimising my inclusive fitness as both groups accepted me as one of their own...

A Means of Control
Now, while Jay has a lot of pretty unusual views, his track record of predicting the future isn't bad, having predicted the Iraq invasion years ahead of time as the signal the peak is about to arrive.

However Jay thinks that various forms of totalitarianism are inevitable on the way down (as is mass die off), so he isn't the place to look for inspiration if you're worried about the rise of fascism (or anything else, come to think of it).

If the anarchy scenario were to reach its natural conclusion, the global elites would be eliminated by the angry masses. Those who managed to escape would die more miserably than the poor since they are unsuited for day-to-day survival because they lived their lives like queen bees.

But when the above scenario seems inevitable, the elites will simply depopulate most of the planet with a bioweapon. When the time comes, it will be the only logical solution to their problem. It's a first-strike tactic that leaves the built-infrastructure and other species in place and allows the elites to perpetuate their own genes into the foreseeable future: "War is a male reproductive strategy. All that is needed for the strategy to evolve, is that aggressors fight and win more often than they lose".

The global genocide will be rationalized as a second chance for humanity -- a new Garden of Eden -- a new Genesis. The temptation will prove irresistible:

Dr Rumsfeld ?
"Strangelove said, 'Offhand, I should say that in addition to the factors of youth, health, sexual fertility, intelligence, and a cross section of necessary skills, it would be absolutely vital that our top government and military men be included, to foster and impart the required principles of leadership and tradition.'

"The arrow had not missed its mark, and around the table there was an outbreak of sober, nodding heads. Attention was concentrated more than ever on Doctor Strangelove.

"Strangelove went on. 'Naturally they would breed prodigiously, eh? There would be much time and little to do. With the proper breeding techniques, and starting with a ratio of, say, ten women to each man, I should estimate the progeny of the original group of two hundred thousand would emerge a hundred years later as well over a hundred million.'"

How could it be otherwise?

Its not just Jay Hanson talking this way though - the theory expounded on "Survivng Peak Oil" is not uncommon - and I'll leave it as the last piece of food for thought on the subject.
Sometime ago, an awareness came to me, that the changes being introduced by governments were in reality an abuse of Citizens.

In opposing the proposed Free Trade Agreement, the NAFTA, and the MAI (the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, and then living under the draconian changes brought in by the conservative government of Mr. Mike Harris in Ontario: I began to realize that there is a pattern and a plan being followed to control the citizens and put them in a position of powerlessness - the opposite of mutual respect.

Other negative changes that have taken place, which have affected people on a very deep level, have been our loss of faith in different institutions, such as the Red Cross, (the "tainted blood scandal"), and public services, (contaminated water in Walkerton, Ontario). Etc.

The federal Bills C35, C36, C17 and C42 which took away our civil liberties, were proposed in the aftermath of September 11, and are the Canadian equivalent of the PATRIOT Act of the USA . These laws cancelled many of our fundamental rights, including habeas corpus, one of the most fundamental human rights, grounded in ancient English Common Law.

You may be asking. What has this got to do with corporate globalization and the end of oil?

Well, the people "in charge" through the ages wanted to control people for their own benefit. And now that they are aware that oil is running out, they know that they "just have to" be able to control people, as and when they want: physically, mentally psychologically and spiritually. This is because, when oil runs out, things will get ugly, and people will start stealing and killing, and destroying THEIR property, etc.

(Structural violence, another type of systemic abuse, is already happening worldwide, and closer to home in North America’s "back yard," in the form of starvation of entire populations of countries in South America. This is because their land was stolen away; people have no where to grow food and they cannot earn any more than "starvation wages". A few people in these countries get rich by exporting "cash crops" to North America, and here we drink affordable coffee and have tropical fruits in the supermarket.)

Also, the people in control know that the amount of energy available, after the end of oil, will only be able to support approximately 2.5 billion people, as opposed to the 6.3 billion people that now inhabit the earth.

So large numbers of people will be dying off, and this has to be done as "neatly" as possible, preferably without this tragedy being seen by the people who will be remaining alive, so that they will be unaware and will not have to feel guilty.

In order for "rich" governments and their multinational corporation backers to control a population - similar to an abuser who wants to control the person who is being abused - the population needs to be fearful on an "on again, off again" basis. The people need to be financially insecure (with less and less discretionary income and increasing expenses), and dependent, with low self esteem. People who are feeling guilty, worn out, stressed, subservient, alone, shunned, and worthless are easier to control than people who are not afraid, who trust other people, who are self-sufficient, proud, with a good self image, who have a stable income and expenditures (who can plan ahead), who are independent by nature, who feel valued and part of their community.

The people "in the know" - mostly men - behave in a very similar way to abusers in cases of domestic violence. Corporations of all sizes, encouraged by investors and "Right-Wing Think-Tanks," have coerced all levels of government, "by reward, punishment and persuasion", to introduce more and more insidious controls and reduced government supports for people. The rest of us citizens are like crabs being heated up in a pot of water, not realizing why we are getting so hot and fearful, and feeling that it is all our fault. This has been done with the help of the corporate-owned media, where most innocent, believing, trusting citizens get their information.

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What do you mean weird post? You writing this stuff prevents all of us from going insane.

Try as I might, I can't find anyone on the right acknowledging anything semotely related to reality, whether oil depletion, as you mention, or some other important stuff.

We are no where near peak oil.

We may be near peak chep oil.

Canada is mining its tar sands for oil and Europe is making deals with dictators. The MO is available to any one who reads about Saddam's oil deals.

I kind of like the wars of liberation Bush is implimenting. That used to be the stand of the old left. "Down with dictators". The new left's motto seems to be "Dictator? No problem. Lets make a deal."

I can understand it though. Better to have the dictators stoning gays there than Bush preventing gay marriage here, eh?

WHT - I meant "weird" in the sense it doesn't conform to what Jay would call a "normative" set of ideas. And I'm not saying every last thing I lnked to or quoted is necessarily true.

However a lot of the ideas presented do some to explain the otherwise inexplicable events we can see occurring - so obviously its worth discussing what shape the future may take by extrapolating these trends (ugly as that may be - I had to avoid linking to some of the dieoff articles which may have been a bit too blunt about the situation ).

m. simon - thanks (?) for the flurry of comments. Its always interesting to see what someone who hasn't bought into the idea of peak oil thinks.

I'm afraid you'll need a bit more evidence about us not being at the peak than just raving about tar sands though. You need to understand natural gas depletion and EROEI of tar sand extraction first perhaps - those are the key issues to address if you're claiming tar sands will hold the peak off for a few more years.

I'd recommend you study the ASPO depletion model and read Richard Heinberg's books first.

As for Bush - are you saying you are in favour or fascism ? Or do you have some argument that would explain that the US hasn't adopted fascism so we can relax and sleep more peacefully in our beds at night.

And BTW - by "liberation" did you mean liberation of oil or of people ? What does liberty mean to you exactly ?

wow. that's good work, Gav. linking it now.

I think you're dead on right. Bush and the right grow the government because of the choice of not "powering down."

We had liberties here in the US once...and we also believed in limited government. But, now, we're going to grow government to maintain an "order"--the very definition of fascism.

Sad days, my friend. Sad days.

I thought you were marginalizing the ideas as being weirder than you would normally post. Instead, I would call it a perfectly sensible post.

Today's weird becomes tomorrows normative. If that's the case, we need more weird to keep us motivated to connect the dots.

Anonymous   says 4:43 AM

If anyone has been watching NHL Hockey lately, then you'd see that the final playoffs are between the carolina hurricanes and the edmonton oilers.

What great Irony

Will hurricanes, oil shortages, or oil shortages because of hurricanes lead to the fall of the US economy sooner...

find out in the final matchup!

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