Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Today in the United States

As I believe I have mentioned before, I do the Today in Iraq post on Sundays. It's sort of a penance, I guess, on behalf of our nation that has so disastrously failed to live up to the ideals we glibly announce to the world and condemn others for dishonoring. I call it a penance because it is always painful to wade through the grotesque violence of a typical day in Iraq, and the rushing sewer of lies that continues to issue from our government and military.

Like many of us, I feel profoundly betrayed by the putative opposition party and the purportedly independent news media, in the entire sordid history of this war. Even today, while the ineluctable force of reality has at least turned them from mindless cheerleaders to what they want us to perceive as constructive critics, hardly anyone of prominence will tell us the truth.

This is a war for control of natural resources. All other rationales that its perpetrators have given are pure fabrications, and were quite clearly nothing but fully conscious and deliberate lies -- and the Democrats in Congress knew perfectly well that they wre lies, as I am quite sure did most reasonably savvy reporters. But they all went along with the game. To tell the truth about the war would force the political leadership, and the corporate elite who control the mass media, to enter into a public discourse about the fundamental issues facing the nation, and the world. This they will not do.

They have begun to tiptoe around the edges of the burning ground. The Republicans claim we need to drill for oil in the arctic wilderness and eliminate environmental regulations in order to increase the supply of petroleum. The Democrats want to raise automobile fuel economy standards by 15% or so by 2015, promote "research" into alternative fuels, and -- disgracefully -- suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline.

All of this is equivalent to bailing Lake Superior with a sponge. These proposals are essentially worthless, and their proponents know it full well. They merely serve to deceive the people into thinking that we have only a small problem which can be solved with the expenditure of a few dollars and the acceptance of some inconveniences. To link the price of gasoline to the carnage going on halfway around the world would demolish the national fantasy.

Let me say this slowly and clearly. This is what any responsible political leader must stand up and say to the people. There is a very good chance that there will never be as much petroleum extracted from the earth's crust in any future year as will be extracted this year, in 2006. If that turns out to be true, it won't be off by enough to matter. From now on, or very nearly now, global oil production will decline, year after year after year. It will never go up again. The world won't "run out" of oil, in the sense that there will be none left, but the oil that is left will cost more and more to extract, and there will be less and less of it.

Meanwhile, as we continue to burn what is there at the maximum possible rate, and to burn more and more coal and natural gas to make up for the shortfall, we will only accelerate the change in global climate.

This twin crisis is as threatening as anything our civilization has confronted before, including the rise of Nazism and Japanese militarism, and the threat of nuclear anhilation. But they are either ignored, or actively denied by the political elite and the corporate media. The reasons are not hard to see. Doing what is necessary to meaningfully address these problems would overturn the national power structure, and would demand that Americans accept major changes in their way of life. The captain of the Titanic didn't see the iceberg, but our captain and all of his officers do. They just won't tell us, and they're steering straight into it.

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