through the looking glass

Hi there! Welcome to another edition of Brain Noise, where I figure out and solve all the world’s… uh, wait. Maybe I’m not figuring out and solving all the world’s problems? Do tell!

As always, I’m trying my best in keeping the delusions of grandeur down in terms of thinking I’ve got it figured out with a master plan for the world. I do think I’m doing better than most these days at getting a grip on understanding what is actually asking the right questions. I should qualify that a bit, really, as even that is more a case of being reasonably good at spotting the people in the world who are asking the right questions.

In the meantime, people continue to be determined to miss things.

After a speech by President Obama, a bunch of people demonstrated an example of quoting out of context for distortion about as gross as it gets, carefully clipping a pair of phrases from what he said, and leaving out what immediately preceded and followed to create a completely different meaning. Then, having ,created an alternate fictional meaning, they went apeshit, shouting that Obama meant something very different from what he said, and meant.

[See down at the bottom for a little addendum.]

That was obvious, unless somebody was determined to misunderstand, or, more to the truth of the matter, make other people misunderstand. That has played out in a barrage of nonsense, not just in an assortment of the sort of faux-poster images that pop up on Facebook in net memes of noise, but in actual official presidential election campaign advertisements from Willard Romney.

Meanwhile, people either protest and shout for boycotts or march in to patronize a crappy fast food chain of establishments based on what somebody in the management of the crappy fast food chain thinks about a matter of people’s private personal lives, drama and grandstanding and pundit chatter flying around, like this is the crucial epic crisis issue of our time.

The idiot circus that the United States Congress has become carries on as if any sound mind left in that body has been completely obscured in the thrash of petulance, arrogance, gross stupidity and lunacy. Any sane, reasonable, properly informed, and responsible public servants of goodwill in the national legislature of the United States find themselves in virtually impossible positions. The broad grip of detachment from reality grips the whole bunch, in some sort of shared game of pretense and hallucinations. Even a broad summary of all the assorted examples of absurdity is way too much to go through, again, now. I’ve already written about many of them, anyway. Is anybody paying attention?

Just to throw in one of the toppers in the circus events of the present, a little cluster of biped critters supposedly in their positions to act as elected representatives of the people, that have been referred to as “the flat Earth five”, are in a little teapot tempest campaign to address “Muslim covert operatives in our government!” as yet another “threat to our national security” in activity of malevolent stupidity that would make Joe McCarthy gleam with joy and pride.

I sit here thinking about what to say, about how much of it, wondering how I can manage to not be simply endlessly repetitive. The same problems continue, the same kind of mad zombie hypnosis hangs on, gripping people with fierce determination.

In American national politics, the massive financial problems of the US federal government continue, with a large chunk of irony that for the most part the same politicians who make the most grandstanding noise and strike poses about “financial responsibility” and even taunting rhetorical nonsense about “being adults” are the worst offenders in completely ignoring reality.

Look at how people in power pose and squawk about anything that suggests any kind of realism in anything that can be stuck under the label of “national security”. The nation has been bankrupted by a perpetual militaristic jingoism that has kept the United States on a basis of being a worldwide military empire, on an endless worldwide World War status, even after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Block, for the last 70 years, with no sign of any change in attitude and thinking.

Raise the subject of the national government financial wreck, and people ignore that, and chatter nonsense about things like Social Security as supposedly being the cause of the problems, and any number of things that some factions call “socialism”.

One fact that gets ignored, in that kind of alternate reality game, is that the Social Security Administration was set up to have its funds separate from the rest of the federal government.

The actual reality has found Congress euphemistically “borrowing” 2.5 TRILLION dollars from Social Security funds.

So, if you hear some politician yammering about Social Security being in financial problems, remember this 2.5 trillion dollars swiped from Social Security and spent elsewhere by Congress.

If you hear yapping about the enormous debt of the US federal government, remember this, and note that 2.5 trillion of that debt is actually a debt owed to the SSA, the Social Security funds of the American people paying into Social Security, by the general fund of the federal government that took this money.

But there are plenty of people who count on the American people not knowing this.

This is just a sample of the reality avoidance happening just in the realm of national politics and government finances. The detachment from reality abounds in damned near any subject you examine. It isn’t just in politics, either, but that’s just part of the general state of public awareness and of the lack of responsibility and cognition among public figures in important positions.

In the news, the BBC reports that Virgin Atlantic reported an annual loss for the year ending this past February due to high fuel costs, adding to the pile of chronic financial troubles for commercial passenger air travel due to fuel costs from the higher price of petroleum in recent years. When are people going to get the hint?

Economist Jeff Rubin is a most rare kind of character, an economist who deals with reality in the subject of hydrocarbon fuel resources. His book “Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller” is very good, definitely recommended reading. As I’ve been writing about repeatedly, hoping to get people to wake up and focus, despite the distorted nonsense being blasted at people telling them what a wonderful endless bounty of petroleum and other hydrocarbons we have, the reality is that we’ve mostly blown through the easiest, cheapest, and best resources of petroleum, and Rubin’s book includes a pretty good metaphor for the situation to put it in perspective. He describes the scenario we have now as like being down to a point of scrounging for change in the couch cushions.

I’ve previously described it as being into a stage of literally scraping the dregs, going after things like the “tight oil” locked in scattered small pockets in the Bakken formation in North Dakota and the nearby territory, deep ocean drilling far offshore at sea, and even regarding things like the bitumen in tar sands or kerogen on “oil shale” formations, things that are complicated and messy and expensive, and are not actually petroleum, as “new oil resources”. Added to this, these things are not new. They’ve been known for a long time. There are reasons why they haven’t been a part of the picture until recently, and it’s about problems and issues much more significant and problematic than just being a matter of the state of the art of “oil technology”.

I caught part of a panel discussion presentation on C-Span with the title “Gulf of Mexico Energy Production”, which happened at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. in front of what appeared to be a small crowd of a few dozen reporters. It almost seems pointlessly and ridiculously redundant to say that this discussion did no more to realistically address the larger picture issues than the usual “energy” discussions.

An article from Chris Nelder from earlier this year (2012) addresses some of the realities of the petroleum situation and the hype about the supposed miracle of the Bakken formation. The reality is much different from the sort of delusional hype being promoted like Newt Gingrich’s recent public speaking appearance I examined previously. The reality is so far removed from the hype it’s not even funny. Not only is the difference in supply vastly different from the hype about “energy independence”, there is also the fundamental issue that all the wonders of the Bakken tight oil and other “unconventional oil” is that it only works at all as a viable operation if the price of oil stays high.

One comment that was tossed out in the “Gulf of Mexico Energy Production” panel was such a clichéd platitude that it just annoys me every time I hear it. It’s a standard; “we need an energy policy”. No shit. Actually having any discussion on such a subject in the realm of American politics today is a problematic matter, to put it gently. It’s invariably a farce. People dance around and spew cliches and platitudes and nonsense that’s factually wrong if and just avoid genuinely facing anything.

When was the last time you heard a political figure or some pundit explain the pattern of Hubbert’s curve, and tell you that US oil production rates peaked around 1970?

I do hope you go and read the full article I just referred to a few paragraphs up, but I’ll throw in a graph that I’ve actually included before in some previous note, but shown here as Nelder included it in his article with an added notation.

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

There is a particular item about this that is important to note. Notice that, after the peak that hit a plateau around 1970-1971, there was another kind of slight rise on the diminishing returns downside of Hubbert’s curve. (In case you just came in, and haven’t learned about Hubbert’s work, what you’re looking at is a real world example of Hubbert’s curve.) That sort of mini-peak, that still didn’t get back up to the all time high peak, came around the mid eighties, as you can see, and this was due to the characteristic curve observed and described by Hubbert, in this case, on a local scale, involving the flow of crude from the Prudhoe Bay field in Alaska.

The Prudhoe Bay field was the single largest oil field discovered in United States territory. The estimated total amount of oil there before extraction started was about 25 billion barrels.

Remember the spiel to a small audience of students delivered by Newt Gingrich that I described before in “when the circus comes to town…“? In the flow of fantasy and nonsense from The Newt, he said that the Bakken formation held 24 billion barrels of oil. That number fits one number that can be found as the high side optimistic estimate of the amount of petroleum estimated to be in the Bakken’s shale formations in the form of “tight oil”, small scattered pockets of crude trapped in the rock formation. That’s an estimate of the total that people think is there, which is a different thing from what people estimate is actually recoverable. The US Geological Service estimated that at between perhaps 3 to 4.3 billion barrels.

Now, pondering all that, look up again and see what the 25 billion barrels of Prudhoe Bay in much more contiguous deposits has done to the overall picture. Does this look like endless “energy independence”, or is Newt (joined by many others) completely full of shit?

But that’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with in terms of politicians in America talking about “energy policy” and acting as if they’re being serious.

One added bit of absurdity in the realm of American politics at the moment and “energy policy” is this. You’ve heard all the noise, it has been around for years as a standard political rhetorical sound bite, about oil as “a matter of national security”, with “dependence on foreign oil”. So what has been the general status quo commonly accepted conventional wisdom? It has been generally to take an attitude that the solution to “our dependence on foreign oil”, as “a matter of national security”, is to use up what we have left of that finite resource in US territory, and find ways to use it up even faster.

That’s a pretty good working demonstration of insanity. I don’t know how much more obvious it could be.

But this is what you get, I guess, when we have apparently become a nation in the grip of people locked in narcissistic hubris, who seem to think that we’re naturally meant to rule the world as a military empire, even as we spend decades bankrupting the country in that ambition, and that somehow we can just have endless amounts of everything we want, just because we want it, and we’re special somehow, not bound by physical reality or limits.


A Postscript- The Obama Teapot Tempest

What President Barack Obama said in the speech in question was this:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life, somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges … if you’ve got a business… you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

In other words, he gave examples of elements of a functioning society that helps build up people’s lives, giving them the background and support that helps make it possible for them to be people who start and develop a successful business.

What has been cropped from that was the excerpt “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”, or maybe “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”, which creates something very different from what he meant, what he actually said.

If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build those things he just mentioned that helped and supported you as part of a functional society. Nobody did that alone. In other words, no man is an island.

He didn’t say “you didn’t build your business”.

The problem is, if it’s necessary for somebody to have this explained, it probably does no good to explain it to them, anyway.

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