Links for the Week — Saturday January 31, 2009

BLOG Links for the Week — Saturday January 31, 2009

nonconform cartoon Charles E MartinThis world is fucked. Maybe it’s the endless brutal winter getting to me. Maybe it’s my resultant lack of exercise. Maybe it’s the total absurdity of the belief that Obama or anyone else can possibly hope to prevent the ghastly slide into truly horrific civilizational collapse that’s now well underway. Or just maybe the wave of changes I’ve been going through for the past year is reaching a tipping point, and I’m on the cusp of a truly radical change, a complete starting-all-over.

Whatever it is, I’m in a cranky mood. I’ve read all my favourite blogs, chatted this week to many of the people I love and think I might come to love, and they have provided me with neither inspiration nor consolation. That is not, of course, their fault, nor their responsibility. But the result is that I’m feeling disinclined to write, to talk, or to do any of the things that I had previously been working on with considerable enthusiasm.

More on this tomorrow, I think. In the meantime, if this week’s links seem a little bland and superficial, it’s because my head and heart are somewhere else. I’m not quite sure where.

The Solution to Peak Oil and Climate Change: Dream On: Richard Heinberg lays out the five steps needed to prevent, or at least mitigate, the coming peak oil and climate change crises. Nice plan, even though it would require a collective will and coordination that our political/economic systems are incapable of. Thanks to Lucas Gonzales for the link.

1. Make a massive and immediate shift to renewable energy
 2. Electrify the transportation system (and stop investing in oil-powered transportation infrastructure)
 3. Rebuild the electricity grid (relocalize, move to “smart” grid)
 4. De-carbonize and relocalize the food system
 5. Retrofit all buildings for energy efficiency and energy production

The Solution to the Broken US Health Care System: Beth Patterson points us to ex-Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s We Can Do Better movement, which has come up with 12 principles for a viable US health care system based on a year of community based discussions — the wisdom of crowds:

1. We cannot solve the health care crisis by simply giving everyone insurance coverage (i.e. this is not just an insurance problem).
2. We are all in this together and have challenged the whole concept of “categorical eligibility.”
3. All Americans should be eligible for and have timely access to effective treatment for at least the same set of essential health conditions (“core benefit”)
4. The core benefit should be portable and not tied to employment.
5. In terms of financing, we believe the first emphasis should be on the public resources already being spent on health care. We are not trying to dictate what people do with their private after-tax dollars, but rather to ensure that public resources are spent in a way that is equitable, efficient and effective in producing health.
6. Market competition should be based on cost, quality and outcomes, not the avoidance of risk.
7. We must explicitly recognize the reality of fiscal limits and that we cannot purchase everything for everyone.
8. We must acknowledge the inevitability of at least a two-tiered system; that people with more disposable income will always be able to purchase more than people with fewer resources. People should be able to purchase additional services that may not be covered in the core benefit. The challenge is to ensure that the core benefit (the “floor”) is adequate to provide for the health of all Americans.
9. All medical interventions are not of equal value and effectiveness in producing health, and therefore a prioritization process must be established to decide what will be financed with the public resources.
10. Individuals should be more directly involved in their own health care treatment decisions.
11. It is important to promote healthy behaviors through strategies that focus on both individual choices (responsibility) and environmental influences.
12. Co-payments should be used not simply to shift costs to individuals, but rather to influence individual behavior by placing lower co-payments (or no co-payments) for highly effective procedures backed by good scientific evidence and higher co-payments on lower priority interventions.

Six Rules for Book Reviewers:
From the late John Updike (thanks to Tree for the link and the one that follows):

1. Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.
2. Give him enough direct quotation–at least one extended passage–of the book’s prose so the review’s reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste.
3. Confirm your description of the book with quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy precis.
4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending. (How astounded and indignant was I, when innocent, to find reviewers blabbing, and with the sublime inaccuracy of drunken lords reporting on a peasants’ revolt, all the turns of my suspenseful and surpriseful narrative! Most ironically, the only readers who approach a book as the author intends, unpolluted by pre-knowledge of the plot, are the detested reviewers themselves. And then, years later, the blessed fool who picks the volume at random from a library shelf.)
5. If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author’s ouevre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it’s his and not yours?
6. Do not accept for review a book you are predisposed to dislike, or committed by friendship to like. Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an idealogical battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never (John Aldridge, Norman Podhoretz) try to put the author “in his place,” making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.”

Eating Dirt is Good For You: Scientists say exposure to a wide range of germs as a baby helps build a healthy immune system. Duh. And still the sales of disinfectants, antibiotics and antibacterials soar, parents shrug off their pets to the pound when the baby’s born, and autoimmune disease rates skyrocket.

The Future of Food: A 2020 scenario from a local food system researcher predicts starvation and riots. I think it’s further off, but accurate. Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.

California Emission Rules Would Bankrupt Detroit: So say the US auto makers, who want more time to fiddle. And they were doing so well before these new rules were announced.

Global Worries Over US Debt Levels: The annual Davos Circus is back in session, with the usual doltish clowns presenting the usual discredited nonsense to the usual clueless crowd of rich and powerful barons digging in to defend their obscene entitlements.

Will an Endless Recession Usher In the Long Emergency?: The tunnel-visioned economists are still talking about how to stimulate citizens to spend more and get deeper in debt, and the timing of the ‘recovery’. But what happens if, this time, there is no recovery, no insane belief in perpetual growth and spending your way out of the crises caused by reckless spending? The Automatic Earth says we should watch Iceland, the Baltics, the Balkans, and Ireland as states that could fall first, as personal and corporate bankruptcies lead to national bankruptcies and, perhaps, a ‘recession’ without end. Thanks to Eric Lilius for the link, and the link to the silly money videos below. And in a similar vein Douglas Coupland asks:

What if we actually do spend 10 percent less this year — and then decide to stay at that level? Is that healthy? Will China implode? What will be the next Iceland?… Right now, it seems almost impossible to imagine ever spending more on things except, maybe, gasoline. And yet the prospect of less consumption fills us with dread. It’s not the having less part that is frightening — people are generally happy as long as everybody’s in the same boat. What’s frightening is the fear that our system can’t handle less, and it’s not as if there’s some other system out there shouting: “Try me! Try me!”

Cloud Computing and the End of the Desktop PC?: Some are speculating that ubiquitous high-speed bandwidth means the end of the need for a hard drive, and hence the end of the desktop computer. I told you so.

All the Key US Economic Data in One Document: From this New York Fed site you can download, each month, in chart form, all the key economic data for the US in one 32-page PDF file. Bookmark it.

Just for Fun: Some treasures on YouTube:

  • Acoustic Alchemy – Wind of Change – music to meditate by
  • The Late Victor Borge – Improvisation – then 80 years of age, Borge had heard but never played this music, and made up this accompaniment on the spot
  • 16-year-old Mary Copeley – Bach’s Little Fugue – recorded by her little brother, as she was just playing around from memory
  • Bernstein – Ravel Concerto in G – second movement, played and conducted by the maestro
  • And finally, the British send up the financial industry, as only they can, in Silly Money. Part 4 is the funniest, but they’re all good.
And if you’re not into video, why not join me as part of Ivor Tymchak’s Cult of Culture. My role in the cult: Big Ass Flonking Integration Luminary (BAFIL), offering other cult members transformation to stellar perfection (TSP), one TSP at a time, through my guided ascension breakthrough (BAFIL-GAB) sessions. It is likely however, that those humble enough to actually enroll for BAFIL-GAB will probably be inherently inadequate to be allowed ascension. But I might be persuaded.

Or you can play The Bailout Game, and see if you can beat Bernanke at his own game. Thanks to Theresa Purcell for the link.

Thoughts for the Week: 

HOUSE FINCH by David Bonta

One finch doesn’t
fly with the others,
his eyes clouded
over. Whatever
panics the others
never shakes him,
gripping the perch
he had struggled
to find, flying by
sound, by shadows,
by the sudden wind
from fifty wings
leaving him alone
at the round
house of a feeder,
pulling gray sun-
flower seeds
from under
its doors.


If I could do it all over again and relive my vision in the twenty-first century, I would be a microbial ecologist…Into that world I would go with the aid of modern microscopy and molecular analysis. I would cut my way through clonal forests sprawled across grains of sand, travel in an imagined submarine through drops of water proportionately the size of lakes, and track predators and prey in order to discover new life ways and alien food webs. All this, and I need venture no farther than ten paces outside my laboratory building. The jaguars, ants, and orchids would still occupy distant forests in all their splendor, but now they would be joined by an even stranger and vastly more complex living world virtually without end.

Image: New Yorker cover by Charles E Martin from September 11, 1971

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14 Responses to Links for the Week — Saturday January 31, 2009

  1. Paris says:

    Starting all over? if you’re not part of the solution, you’re of the problem…So close your eyes, listen to birds or music you like and let your thoughts wander along what you loveSooner or later crzay ideas will jump here and there. Then it’s up to you to catch some, mix them and come up with projects that will make you keep going, alive and happy.Finally a trick against winter blues: citrus smell! I was squeezing oranges for breakfast, cutting lemons for a chiken dish (morroco cuisine) and spreading clementine zest over “crèpes” yesterday…with an earl grey tea, what a warm delicious treat!

  2. Karl Waldman says:

    David,Have been feeling the same way for quite awhile (your first line) — though I just read your book on the plane today and am much more positive now. I don’t have any answers but the questions that you and others like Umair Haque are asking will start to move people in the right direction.The current society is undergoing some sort of phase-change to who knows what and due to a variety of causes (Peak Oil, Peak Credit, Peak Population, etc) We probably won’t know what happened for 10+ years or so I feel like we are in a giant business startup — we don’t have “enough” of anything, nor a strategy and crap is flying at us from all sides and we somehow need to navigate thru this space.Humanity has been thru much worse (though admittedly many people are still in “worse” – though 99% of them live outside the EU, US, Canada, Japan, etc and 99.99999% lived before this era)Gotta to keep pushing on this string….. and thanks for the book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will use the information to adjust.Good luck

  3. Ivor Tymchak says:

    Sorry to hear you are soul sick Dave. My only words of comfort are that you provide a service for others and I, for one, am grateful for that.

  4. Outwest says:

    Dave,Sounds like you

  5. Simon Hazelton says:

    Hi Dave, tough day by the sound of it.Try avoiding the media for the next couple of days. Focus on the beauty that surrounds you, exchange smiles with strangers (you know, that knowing smile!), go and buy a homeless person lunch (yes, even if you are broke) and then remember that you are the one that is blessed with understanding the problems and that someday, we will find a solution to these problems.

  6. Amanda says:

    Dave, you are in my thoughts. I wish to be able to elaborate more on how and regrettable cannot at this juncture. [I horror at the possibility that I may be hosting whatever pestiferous virus those closest to me had the misfortune of containing.]

  7. Rayne says:

    Do you see any relationship between what you wrote on 19-JAN and this post?I do.You’re entering the “dark night of the soul” — you’ve been called, you’ve even questioned the call, but you aren’t answering it yet for some reason. You are waiting for something, but you don’t know what it is; you are deeply frustrated by the lack of a sign from others to proceed, or a path to follow blazed by others.Simon’s comments above are constructive, in that you may do well to take time to reset yourself and find a way to become more open, listening more deeply to the thing that is calling you.Maybe this will help; it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s easy to get my hands on at the moment.Cherish the darkness, roll around in it; before long the light may come and you will be too busy to look inward. The work is never done, and no one person will do it all — but we have the deep of winter to rest and reflect on the work to which we must return in spring.

  8. Sagefool says:

    Dave. You should seriously consider changing the name of your blog. As a side note – just because you don’t feel that you are capable of saving the world does not mean it can not be done.

  9. Jon Husband says:

    Go to a good R&B bar once every week or two and dance your ass off … nothing better for a hurtin’ soul that I know of, surrounded by crowded, sweating people all enjoying the primitive activity of moving not based on thoughts but on feelings and whatever it is that music touches in our essence.

  10. beth says:

    I have no words of encouragement or methods to attempt bring you out of the funk. Why? Well, right now I quite honestly think we are fucked. Not to mention, I’m far too melancholy myself. There you have it. No offense to all you optimistic types.

  11. Simon Hazelton says:

    On a lighter note, I couldn’t help but laugh at these two news stories published 7 hours apart or so. Ironic….

  12. Jeff Patton says:

    If Dave Pollard cannot rise above this bullshit system with his knowledge & insight (or make a new model that renders the current one obsolete) — if Dave Pollard cannot find joyful work — then what hope do I have?Maybe we are fucked.

  13. Hi DavePerhaps trying to save the world is not that important ultimately, in which case you could afford to take your mission a trifle less seriously. (Seriously!) I’ve tried to (begin) to explain my thinking about that at an aside–don’t you receive all manner of comments? The crazy thing, I am willing to bet, is that all those people are well-meaning. I guess I’m just one of them.

  14. Wow Dave, of course, the way you feel when you say the world is fucked is something I recognize, and the more I dig into the way the “world” works the darker my thoughts can become.And unlike one of the earlier commentators, I feel that to care is in my DNA. It’s part of being human, part of who we are.I often say to my friends “I saw the bottom of the bucket”.I too have radically changed my life after leaving a large Telecoms firm, starting to write about sustainable development.One resolution I have made that might help: although I have seen the bottom of the bucket, or because of it I feel it is incumbent on me to use that in my power to support a transition. One of these things is to keep in my mind and heart a positive vision.I would encourage all readers to try this, and to make a little movie out of it, using positive affirmations and pictures.

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