Open Thread December

Decline and Fall

Decline and Fall

Decline and Fall
by John Michael Greer

p.2 – The language of politics these days consists largely of snarl words. When people on the leftward end of the political spectrum say “fascist,” or “Empire,” for example, more often than not these words mean exactly what “socialist” or liberal mean to people on the right – that is, they express the emotional state of the speaker rather than anything relevant about the object under discussion. Behind this common habit is one of the more disturbing trends in contemporary political life: setting aside ordinary disagreement in favor of seething rage against a demonized Other on whom all the world’s problems can conveniently be blamed.

p.4 – The 5 percent of humanity that lives in the United States of America uses around a quarter of the world’s energy and roughly a third of its raw materials and industrial product. This disproportionate share of the world’s wealth doesn’t come to us because the rest of the world doesn’t want such things or because the United States manufactures some good or provides some service so desirable to the rest of the world that other nations vie with each other to buy it from us. Quite the contrary: the United States produced very little during much of its empire’s most prosperous period, and the rest of the world’s population is by and large just as interested in energy, raw materials, and industrial product as Americans are.

Open Thread November

It Was An Oil Bubble [Not]

When the price of a barrel of Brent crude oil peaked at a record $145.40 on July 3, 2008, there was lots of talk about “peak oil.” Industry experts were speculating about whether the price might continue to rise to $200 or even higher. Global oil demand was growing faster than global oil supply. It was widely believed that global oil reserves were likely to dwindle because all the cheap stuff had been found. The remaining reserves would require higher prices to develop. Now that the price has plunged from this year’s high of $115.15 on June 19 to Thursday’s $76.13, the focus is on how low can it go, what I called “trough oil” in late October.


Jim Rogers On Putin, Oil Prices

JR: It’s a fundamental positive for anybody who uses oil, who uses energy. It’s not a positive for places like Canada, Russia, or Australia. It seems to me that this is a bit of an artificial move. The Saudis, from what I can gather, are dumping oil because the US has told them to in order to put pressure on Russia and Iran. And it’s probably not a real move. I read about shale oil like you do. But at the same time, North Sea production is declining. Russian production will start declining next year. All the major oil fields that we know about — all the production is static or declining. So it doesn’t quite add up on any kind of medium-term basis I can see.




November 2014


If Nuclear Negotiations With Iran Fail, US Will Be Blamed
by Muhammad Sahimi, November 03, 2014

At a symposium in Washington on October 23, Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State who leads the US negotiation team with Iran, asserted that, “We hope the leaders in Tehran will agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that this program will be exclusively peaceful. If that does not happen, the responsibility will be seen by all to rest with Iran.” Given all the concessions that Iran has made, given US excessive demands on Iran, and given the fact that, in effect, the US is trying to impose a new and illegal interpretation of Iran’s obligations under the NPT and its SG Agreement and the meaning of “peaceful nuclear program,” it will be the US that will be blamed for the failure of the negotiations, not Iran.

October 2014

Hezbollah Is Pushing Lebanon Towards Disaster

September 2014

Iranian foreign minister on U.S. strategy on Islamic State


The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower by Robert Baer (2009)

Open Thread October

A few of my friends were outraged – OUTRAGED! I tell you – a few weeks ago when Urban Outfitters was under fire for selling bloodied Kent State sweatshirts. Boring.

Sears Under Fire For Swastika Ring



Swastika Ring





The War Nerd: The long, twisted history of beheadings as propaganda
[thank you, Dave]

For the American/Western audience, you’re hoping to provoke disgust and horror intense enough to weaken support for any more intervention in Iraq. Finally, you’re hoping that some Kurdish and Shia Iraqi fighters will see or hear about the video, because you want them terrified of you. It was that terror that led many Iraqi Army units to bug out before they ever even saw the black flag of IS up close. As Brando intoned while the sweat dripped from his fat face in Apocalypse Now, “Terror is your friend…” When you’re a relatively small conventional fighting force like IS, terror is your best weapon

No Pain, No Game

But Almond is dead serious: Supporting a spectacle that causes brain damage is immoral. He calls out individual commentators, including President Obama. They acknowledge the severity of football’s downside, right? So how can they fail even to consider its abolition? Elsewhere, in a passage representative of the book as a whole, he writes: “I’m going to get hammered for asking these questions. Fine. Hammer away. But don’t pretend that’s the same as answering.”

Real Life is Not Spin Art

The ebola melodrama has all the mojo to set the global economy’s hair on fire. And it comes along at a very strange time: just as central bank hoodoo approaches the brink of its own epic fail – as in, accounting fraud, check-kiting, and public relations can only work as a place-holder for authentic economic relations for so long before the ominous shadow of reality sweeps in on black swan wings. The markets were already well into the puking stage of their own hemorrhagic contagion last week. Maybe the S & P starts bleeding from its eyes and ears this week.

There’s certainly blood all over the overburdened back roads of the Bakken play all of a sudden, where $88-a-barrel shale oil doesn’t even allow you to pretend that you’ve got a profitable venture going. The shale oil fairy tale has been at the center of a matrix of lies America has been telling itself about its economic meth buzz. Saudi America and all that malarkey, all in the service of America’s master wish of all wishes: please Lord, let us keep driving to Wal Mart forever.


Total American crude-oil product consumption dropped during the recession from a peak of about 20.9 million barrels per day in the summer of 2005 to 18.5 mbpd in the spring of 2013 – 11%. It has risen since then to 19.0 mbpd.

The liquid transportation component dropped from 14.7 mbpd in the summer of 2007 to 13.4 mbpd in the spring of 2013 – 9%. It has since rebounded during this “recovery” to 13.8 mbpd.

Happy motoring, y’all!


The Kafka File

The Kafka File

October 2014

Amazon Must Be Stopped
It’s too big. It’s cannibalizing the economy. It’s time for a radical plan.

In other words, we’re all enjoying the benefits of these corporations far too much to think hard about distant dangers. Besides, the ideology of Silicon Valley suggests that we have nothing much to fear: If these firms no longer engineer breathtaking technologies, they will be creatively destroyed. That’s why Peter Thiel, the creator of PayPal, has argued that the term “monopoly” should be stripped of its negative connotation. A monopoly, he argues, is really nothing more than a synonym for a highly successful company. Insulation from the brutish spirit of competition even makes them superior organizations—more beneficent employers, better able to both daydream and think clearly. In Thiel’s phrasing: “Creative monopolies aren’t just good for the rest of society; they’re powerful engines for making it better.”

Gapple and Oogle, Our Defenders
Names Encrypted for Their Security
by Fred Reed
October 06, 2014

Those at the policy level are another thing. Many are intelligent, some extremely so. They understand not just the laws, but law. Many have educations of the first quality. Harvard was not always a prep school for I-banking. They are familiar with history, understand the philosophy of constitutional government, and understand the consequences of our current direction. They know what they are doing. And keep doing it.

Why? Partly because they are screened to be as they are. Just as the military attracts highly aggressive men, who then want a war in which to use their training (would Tiger Woods practice his golf swing for a lifetime without wanting to be in a tournament?) politics attracts and favors the unprincipled and manipulative. It is a playground for psychopaths, for the charmingly conscienceless, for the utterly self-concerned. These now rule us.

This is obvious. Yet in the past there were sometimes men who understood that, to maintain a constitutional democracy, you have to pay the price of allowing freedom. They, and the courts, actually defended the right of people to say things that the government and its client groups did not like. They saw the danger of trying to control every aspect of everyone’s life. Today? Neither the courts, nor the Supreme Court, nor the President, nor the Congress, nor the military, nor the intelligence agencies shows any sign of wanting to rein in the abuses. It’s Apple and Google or nothing, and the government will threaten them with everything short of beheading. Maybe short of beheading.

Clapper Under the Bus
by Andrew P. Napolitano

This war we are now entering is unlawful because we have invaded Syria without a congressional declaration of war and without a legal or moral basis for doing so. It is morally wrong because ISIS is an imminent threat to the U.S. only in the minds of the members of Congress who love war, not in reality. And it is blind to recent history because it will become a more superior recruitment tool for ISIS than our original invasion of Iraq was for al-Qaida. The only reason al-Qaida and ISIS exist in Iraq is as resistance to the American invasion and occupation, an invasion that has materially detracted from the liberty and safety of the U.S. and the stability of the region.

Yet, if Clapper and his spies so miserably failed to educate the president about a threat he now claims is real, why do they still have their jobs? They have their jobs because if the president fires them, they might freely speak the truth, and the truth is the president’s enemy. They have their jobs because the president is so bad at performing his.

September 2014


Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State
by Opeyemi Agbaje – 9/9/2014

Peter King Demanded an Investigation To Find Journalist’s Sources Like Peter King
by Marcy Wheeler, Sept. 9th, 2014

Homeland Security was built to fend off terrorists. Why’s it so busy arming cops to fight average Americans?
From Ferguson’s military police to loaning drones and tracking your every move, the agency’s expensive, violent sinkhole of bureaucracy needs reform – now

The Grand Delusion – Sept. 9th, 2014

The Grand Delusion – Sept. 9th, 2014


This is the best I could do showing trends in oil consumption over the last decade. It is fairly simple, I hope, to understand demand and where it comes from by looking at these numbers. I started with the spreadsheet of oil consumption from BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy 2014.

I sorted the list from the greatest increase in barrels per day from 2003 to 2013. So the countries at the bottom of the list in yellow are all using much less oil then they were 10 years ago. Uzbekistan is the only country in this group that is neither European nor industrialized. Or maybe it is. I know very little about Uzbekistan.

At the top of the list, I separated major oil producers/exporters from the field and color-coded them blue. These countries will not be drawing oil from the rest of the world anytime soon.

I compressed about 30 countries and regions in the middle of the list into “All Other Countries.”

This leaves us with only China and India as significant individual contributors to demand growth. Brazil is the only strange case. It basically is right on the cusp every year of being either a net exporter or importer. They apparently swap some of their heavy crude for sweet crude from West Africa because of their overall refinery setups. I arbitrarily left it in with China and India.






So we have the most dynamic, westernized, industrialized countries reducing their demand through recession, technology and efficiciency. Their wages and disposable income have flat-lined so basically they can’t afford $100 oil and are coping with that. Growth has and will continue to suffer in these countries with $100+ oil, but they are adapting.

Next we have a bunch of basically overpopulated, Middle-Eastern, Gulf-States rolling with dollars and giving gas away free to their huge, young, unemployed populations. Saudi Arabia uses 1.5 million barrels per day just to desalinate water. Who knows how long this party will last.

But of the remaining countries, China and India have increased demand more than all the others combined. They have been building roads, buying cars, and clearly buying gas in a decade that coincided with the price of oil quadrupling. Their economies continue to grow at a record pace, and it is the rising incomes that allow them to outbid Americans for the juice. China also reported only uses 20 percent of its oil for transportation. It is mostly to fill in gaps in electricity production. Scary.

The key here, in my opinion, is that production doesn’t really matter as much as both exports and who is going to be buying those exports. Brazil is always looked to for future “deepwater, unconventional oil production” expansion, but if their domestic consumption is going to be rising just as fast, it is irrelevant to anyone’s geo-economic strategic outlook. Similarly, the reality is that North America could potentially be energy independent. I would have thought this far-fetched 3 years ago, but I have to admit I’ve become more optimistic about this for several reasons I’ll get into later.

Currently we only get 2 million barrels per day from the Persian Gulf (1.4 mbpd from Saudi) and another 2.5 mbpd or so from North and West Africa, Columbia, Venezuela, and Russia. Why are we so committed to the Middle East with not just the US Navy but our entire defense structure when 18 out of 20 million barrels per day of exports from the region go mainly to East Asia and partially to Europe? Think about it.

Why do we let Israel and Saudi Arabia call all the shots?


Obama Lays Out Broad Strategy for Years of War Against ISIS
White House Denies ‘Mission Creep’ as War Expands – Sept. 9th, 2014

Sleeping With the Devil (2004)

The Rise of China vs. The Logic of Strategy (2012)

Humanitarian Bombs – September 2014


The Tower Of Babel Comes To Paris: The Folly Of Obama’s “War” On ISIS
by David Stockman • September 20, 2014

Perhaps the amateur warriors running the show in the Obama White House have not noticed, but their foolish campaign against Russia over the Ukrainian civil war is a direct threat to the only thing that keeps the Russian economy alive—its gas and oil exports to Europe. At the same time, elimination of the Assad regime would almost surely compound that threat by opening up a new gusher of competition for the European energy market in the form of a pipeline through Syria and Turkey for transport of Qatar’s now stranded but massive deposits of natural gas.

Another war in the name of humanitarianism: we don’t fight men, we fight monsters
by Jeff Sparrow Sept. 2nd, 2014

These days, invasions are more like social work. Western nations today always fight in the name of humanitarianism, so that contemporary wars possess a distinctive vocabulary and grammar.

For instance, each new humanitarian intervention must first distance itself from the previous one. In 2013, when John Kerry argued for military strikes in Syria, he presented his plan as a contrast to previous actions: the Syrian intervention, he said, would not resemble the Libyan intervention. He didn’t mention that the Americans and their British allies had sold the Libya mission on an identical basis. For Libya, you see, was to be nothing like Iraq. But then, Iraq, too, was meant to be different. In 2003, George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard all contrasted their war with the disasters of Vietnam.

Now here we are again.

Iraq in 2014 will be “nothing like” the 2003 intervention, says Tony Abbott. “They are two very different situations,” he explained. “What’s happening now is a humanitarian involvement.” Which, of course, was precisely what Blair argued – and look how that worked out.

The necessity of the “not like last time” trope stems from the almost universally disastrous record of recent humanitarian missions. Libya (remember that?) offers a particularly vivid example, since, back in 2011, the mission there was widely described, in David Owen’s words, as “the prototype for a new kind of intervention.”

So, after all that humanitarianism, how’s Libya travelling?

The Grand Delusion – Sept. 1st, 2014

Sept. 1st, 2014

The peak happened at the turn of the century between 1998 and 2003. It may have happened slightly earlier or later. The exact year may never be known, but it we will only see it more clearly the farther away from it we get. And it is irrelevant. It happened.

For the first decade of this century there was (and continues) a debate about the legitimacy of “The Peak Oil Theory.” The “theory” (its alarms, claim some, having been sounded no less then five times in the last hundred plus years since oil was discovered in Pennsylvania) is actually simply the curve on a graph. It is based on mathematics related to observable traits of the oil reservoirs as crude oil is produced from them.

The “peak” was the midway point on a bell curve which contained all the world’s “reserves.” The debate largely focused on the date of the peak, past which oil production was declining – this of course lead to debate about how many “reserves” there were.

The debate produced dozens of good books and information about the most important [fill in the word, I’m at a loss for one] of human existence: oil. But the peak had already happened. Everybody missed it because they were looking at the wrong numbers.

Around the turn of the century, the price began to rise. It at least quadrupled in about a decade from $20 to $80. And I’m not talking about the price of oil that the consumer is willing to buy oil at, at the pump, filling out the demand/supply equation. What rose and is really key to an understanding of oil economics is the price at which global producers are willing to pay to extract 90 million barrels per day(mbpd).




The blue line is a six-month average of the monthly Nymex price, inflation adjusted.
The red and green lines are the maximum and minimum price from the PRECEDING 3 years to the blue line.

Energy Independence

A New American Oil Bonanza

The reason for the improved economics of road travel can be found 10,000 feet below the ground here, where the South Texas Eagle Ford shale is providing more than a million new barrels of oil supplies to the world market every day. United States refinery production in recent weeks reached record highs and left supply depots flush, cushioning the impact of all the instability surrounding traditional global oil fields.

So oil prices — and those at the pump — are easing.With the Labor Day weekend approaching, the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.43 on Thursday, according to the AAA motor club, nearly a dime lower than a month ago. Energy and travel analysts project the lowest gasoline prices this holiday weekend of any Labor Day since 2010, and the highest level of motor travel since 2008.



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