Previously, in this space…
The last note here was essentially just a recycled rehashed brief on things that should be old news, about our oil situation, or, more to the point, our oil predicament. The reason for that recycling was pretty simple, and more than a little irritating. It was a necessity that should not have been necessary.
In a well timed follow up, one piece of actual reality-based oil news came up.
It was interesting, and amazingly relevant to the episode I had just addressed, to find this text beginning that article:
I find it interesting that many of the individuals expressing the greatest concerns about oil and natural gas supplies are petroleum geologists. The list includes, but is not limited to, Jean LaHerrere, Colin Campbell, Art Berman, Jeremy Leggett, David Hughes and Jeffrey Brown.
Prominent entities expressing the view that there is no problem with oil and gas supplies include media sources, politicians and bureaucrats in organizations like the U.S. Department of Energy. Is it more reasonable to expect experts in petroleum geology to give an honest assessment of petroleum resources or politicians, bureaucrats and media sources who stand to benefit from optimistic pronouncements?
Based upon numerous media reports and statements by politicians you may have the impression that life couldn’t be any better for the U.S. oil and gas industry. Production is booming and oil and gas companies are rolling in dough. Fracking has made natural gas very cheap and will soon make oil cheap. Could it be that those reports and statements are not telling the whole story? The petroleum geologists listed above, as well as numerous recent reports that can be found on the Internet, tell a very different story.
That pretty nicely summarizes why so many people are confused and misled about the oil situation (and natural gas as well). Part of this is something worth repeating, even as often as I’ve pointed it out before. [As evidenced by what I described in my last note, there’s no guarantee many people have read any of it.]
Meanwhile, on the international scene…
I comment often here about the vast wasteland of television. There are some occasional pieces of worth and usefulness here and there. That includes the series from Anthony Bourdain, now on CNN, his current series Parts Unknown being essentially a continuation of his series No Reservations on the Travel Channel.
I’ll skip writing an essay on what’s cool about Bourdain’s television programs. The premise running through them is Bourdain, a cook turned writer and television host of travelogue documentaries, travels to places around the world (including his home country, exploring here in the USA), usually as a guest and guided by locals sharing food and drink. His past and present shows form a body of work that’s among the best stuff ever as a guide to the world, and people living in it grounded in reality, living life as real humans. It’s not exactly a “food show”, at least not quite the way some might presume if those words were used to describe it.
You get a much better view of the world, glimpses of actual reality, of real people living real lives, than you’re going to get through most media, especially the deteriorating showbiz infotainment idiocy of the surrounding programming of CNN these days.
About a week ago, the theme of the episode was a visit to Russia, with Bourdain in the company of a Russian friend. As usual, there was a lot of eating and drinking of the local fare, dining with locals, set among good glimpses of day to day real life for people living in the place. There was no great revelation, no news, no great surprise in finding that an overriding factor in contemporary Russian life is that the government is run by Vladimir Putin as what, by the criteria of any sensible human, would be regarded as a dictator, a despot.
The picture was clear; it’s a tricky and dangerous thing for a Russian living in Russia to criticize Fearless Leader Putin, and people who do, or generally cause any inconvenience to Putin’s activities and plans, are likely to have severe problems.
Unfortunately, given all that, even Bourdain, a very intelligent, sensible, no-nonsense character, fell victim to being sucked into cliches.
One thing caught my attention, that struck me as a slight case of, what shall I call it… cognitive blindness, maybe. Talking about the danger of criticism and anything you might call “dissent” in Putin’s Russia, as footage showed bits of public demonstrations, Bourdain’s narration painted a summary picture. Paraphrasing a bit, it was basically that, sure, you can publicly protest, people can have a public demonstration, if they get permission, and stay within their allowed physical boundaries of some permitted zone, with a surrounding large force of heavily armed and armored watching police supervising them, ready to pummel people and haul them off and lock them up if they’re deemed to have stepped out of line in some way.
I watched the video and listened to Bourdain saying this and thought, yeah, alright, if you put it that way, it sounds pretty much like the present day United States of America.
At the end of the hour, Bourdain’s voiceover narration wrapped things up by mentioning events since they had finished shooting the episode in Russia. I’ll paraphrase what he said. It essentially just repeated what has become accepted as a standard narrative of recent events in Ukraine, which basically went like so: people in Ukraine rose up against a Putin-supported despot, and Putin responded by taking over Crimea, and the world did nothing about it, and will do nothing about it… Putin wins again.
I’ve been through enough in previous notes about the Ukraine situation as it actually appears to be, much different than the propaganda nonsense we’re fed here, that it should be clear by now that Anthony Bourdain, a sensible character who seems to normally have functioning bullshit detectors, is taken in by the usual narrative we’re supposed to believe. Part of the problems we have about the differences between reality and the narratives of nonsense and manipulation we’re being dosed with here in the US is the whole running problem of people wanting simplistic little stories, complete with neatly defined Good Guys to cheer and Bad Guys to boo. If you’ve read the previous notes about this, and all the assorted linked pages about what has been happening in Ukraine and in all the international geopolitical games, you know it’s complicated, and it’s hard to find any Good Guys in the mess.
Recognize that things are not all roses and sunshine about Vladimir Putin and the governance of Russia, and people just snap neatly into thinking right, so Putin is the head villain of the Russian bad guys, so that means we (the US, despite the growing difference between our government and us, the people) are The Good Guys bringing the freedom and democracy. There’s not so much of facing the more complicated reality, that should be obvious public knowledge by now, about the US government seeing serious unhappiness with the now exiled President Yanukovych among part of the Ukrainian populace, looking at it as an opportunity for a little regime change suiting the agenda of the US neocon cult, and basically creating a huge hell of a mess.
I do mention items seen and heard on television fairly often in writing here, but, I should point out, I really don’t watch an awful lot of television, at least nowhere near the amount that seems typical for a majority of Americans. Anthony Bourdain’s shows are a body of work I find worth watching, in full, now and then, for more than one reason. Maybe the most important thing about them, especially in this context, is the wonderful way that Bourdain goes to a place and manages to capture a glimpse of it in actual reality, both the day to day and the larger culture, of real people living life. It sounds like such an easy simple thing, but it’s a rare thing in television. Most television programming has a surrealistic warp to it, with the irony in recent years being that this is true even in the bombardment of television entertainment programming categorized as “reality television”.
The bubble of reality is more than just persistent. It’s actively promoted, on a daily basis.
In doing a bit of TV sampling here and there, a few days ago I caught a few minutes of the long running public television show The McLaughlin Group. In the episode of the weekend of May 10-11, the situation in Ukraine came up.
Take note of this excerpt from the conversation, and note my added emphasis in bold:
MR. BUCHANAN: Does he really want — does he really want to annex eastern Ukraine?
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Let me just go to another issue.
MS. FERRECHIO: He — (inaudible). (Laughs.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Putin’s popularity — Putin’s popularity within his own country had dropped significantly.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. ZUCKERMAN: When this happened — I’m serious — when this happened, his popularity soared. There is a great impulse within the Soviet Union to be once again this kind of transnational power.
I thought that bit was interesting, and you can draw your own conclusions about that as a slip. It would appear that the man speaking, Mr. Zuckerman, had somehow managed to forget that the Soviet Union ceased to be long ago, had broken up a generation ago, in 1991, even though literally only seconds before that comment, another member of the group had just mentioned the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
I’m sure that many people would think that this is not something to take too seriously, that it’s merely a minor brain fart, it happens to the best of us, but I think that it’s something to take fairly seriously, for a simple reason, and not the way the people there probably intended. I think it was a silly mistake that reveals something very serious, indeed- a lingering mindset among so many people, including supposedly serious and informed people regarded as authorities and thinkers about public and world affairs, that still thinks of the present day Russian Federation as the Soviet Union.
When you have people like this presented as some sort of informed persons speaking with authority on important public matters, it’s no wonder so many people seem to buy into what they’re being told telling them daily that the big evil empire Soviet Union is on a march to take over the world, complete with old Cold War riffing about the Russian Bear out of its cage and on the loose!
Every now and then I’m a bit stunned by coming across some example of allegedly functional adult Americans thinking that not only is the present day Russia still the USSR, but, along with that, they think that it’s still a communist government.
It’s a little discouraging to hope for reality-based reasoned thinking about anything in the public realm and involving government (with armed forces at its disposal) when an astonishing number of people seem to seriously think something along the lines of “well, of course the Russians are the Bad Guys, look how mean they were to Rocky and Bullwinkle!“. Some might think I’m being a bit flippant, but sometimes it really truly is just about that irrational.
But, then, still, after a half decade of Barack Obama as president, there are apparently loads of people who still manage to believe that Obama is some sort of communist, along with a batch of other things people believe about Obama as what I describe as Obama the cartoon villain, an image having little relation to reality. Here we have a repeating subject raising its ugly head, just one of the persistent nagging bits of recent and current events and circumstances that make it difficult to write about things without seeming like I have some collection of obsessive complusions on endless loop repeat. The stuff is not simply going away or something. In this case, this particular subject, the persistent problem is that it seems nearly impossible to have any kind of realistic public conscious grasp of assessing the president as he actually is, in terms of what he actually does (or does not).
Even opening that metaphorical door to try to sort things out a little is like opening a closet door belonging to some pathological hardcore packrat hoarder to try to help them sort and organize things and finding yourself is some kind of avalanche of junk because the thing was packed floor to ceiling with piles of random chaos.