Hot Fudge Sunday March 27

USS Barry fires Tomahawk missile towards Libya

Sundays bring us the political talk shows. If you see something interesting on one of them, jump on the comment board and talk about it. Unsurprisingly, Libya dominates the airwaves this week. According to Politico, here is the lineup for this week’s shows:

Meet the Press (NBC) — Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, Secretaries of State and Defense, respectively, plus the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking Republican Dick Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will all be discussing Libya.

This Week (ABC) — Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will most likely provide his anti-Obama view on Libya, countered by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rand Paul (R-KY), who will provide the Tea Party view…as well as an almost certain coy nondenial denial of his candidacy for President.

Face the Nation (CBS) — Clinton and Gates will appear here as well. More of the same.

State of the Union (CNN) — Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin (D-MI), and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former CIA Director Michael Hayden, both of whom from the Bush 43 administration, will discuss Libya. CNN is the only show this week to discuss the Japanese nuclear power crisis in Japan, with Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione. Finally, economic topics will be covered with former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and former White House Budget Director Alice Rivlin.

Fox News Sunday — Former House Speaker and current Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Senators John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will all provide their views on the conflict in Libya. Given that Lieberman has for years been as hawkish as any Republican, this is another one of those “fair and balanced” Fox viewpoints of the three Republican perspectives on Libya.

Newsmakers (CSPAN) — Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, will discuss the GOP’s plan to cut their funding.

Political Capital (Bloomberg TV) — Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius discusses the PPACA, which is reaching its first anniversary.


About Michael Weiss

Michael is now located at http://www.logarchism.com, along with Monotreme, filistro, and dcpetterson. Please make note of the new location.
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132 Responses to Hot Fudge Sunday March 27

  1. Chris Rich says:

    Events in Libya will move faster than the cogitations of these various addled windbags wallowing in beltway fog.

    It won’t turn on on the ground arms races so much as a tipping point where clans who threw in with Daffy see the end and shift alliances with the bat of an eye over mint tea.

    It will happen like a Diebold voting machine turning d’s to r’s. At this point there are arms supply channels shaping. Tanks and heavy weapons aren’t what they once were especially when they date back to the Soviet era. Getting parts must be about as much fun as it would be to source parts for a Jugo.

    Modern insurgency warfare gives reasonably brave or foolhardy ground troops an edge due to the accuracy of shoulder fired anti tank gear and a human behind a bush is a fairly wretched target for a T 72’s main gun.

    As it is, the main director of the daffy viciousness against everyone, a senior corp commander was captured by rebels yesterday. Must suck to be him. Daffy just has his fun loving moron metrosexual kids running what’s left of his best units.

    By the time the beltway windbags huff and puff their way through postures the carpets will be pulled from under them. A wonderful side effect of lint headed American exceptionalism is a seeming paralysis at making sense of cultures that aren’t us.

    I ascribe this to an utter lack of curiosity about the rest of the world wedded to further myopia akin to beer goggles. And no I really don’t expect any of them to come up with much of anything useful or informative. Juan Cole has it covered.

  2. Mule Rider says:

    Clinton and Gates looked like absolute stooges on MTP. They are symbols of the absolute incompetence of this administration and leave no question that our standing in the world is on the precipice of a rapid decline over the next few years.

    We have lost our way as a country, and the consequences are going to be dire. George Bush had oversight over the initial destruction of our country, and Barack Obama is poised to oversee the finishing touches of our demise.

  3. shortchain says:

    MR,

    Except that all the polling that has been done demonstrates precisely the opposite. In fact, the only segments of the world’s population which seems to have a completely negative opinion of Barack Obama’s administration are:
    1. Friends and associates of middle-eastern dictatorships.
    2. The right wing of the Israeli politics.
    3. The right wing of American politics.
    4. The “firedoglake” section of the left wing of American politics.

    Among everybody else, his popularity, while not white-hot, is at least comfortably warm.

  4. Mule Rider says:

    And Tom Ricks just embarrassed the hell out of himself….

    “Not all Islamic extremists are our enemy?….”

    Really, Tom? Because i’m pretty sure if you were to ask all Islamic extremists if the United States was their enemy, you’d get a resounding, “YES!!!”

  5. Mule Rider says:

    “Except that all the polling…”

    You lost the argument right there with the ol’ argumentum ad populum trick.

    Epic fail. Sorry, try again.

    You need more than public opinion on the matter to determine whether it is the right course of action or not and whether it is competent or not.

  6. shortchain says:

    MR,

    I merely interpreted your words: “our standing in the world”.

    I interpreted that to mean the opinion of the USA held by the world, so an accusation of “argumentum ad populum” is off the table. If you meant something other than our standing in the eyes of the population, perhaps you could have said so.

    And then you can explain what you do mean, and the context in which it is appropriate. Because if you mean “diplomatic effectiveness” — there seems to be no decline in the effectiveness of American diplomacy, relative to that which was the rule in the Bush administration. Quite the opposite.

    I’m not disputing you in general, I’m just trying to understand what you mean.

  7. shortchain says:

    Max,

    I don’t take exception to MR’s response — I’m just curious what he means. Frankly, as a long-term member of the “firedoglake segment” of the political spectrum, I’m not exactly an Obama booster.

  8. Mule Rider says:

    “Assertion”

    Call it what you want but I’m sharing an opinion….one backed up by FACTS. This country’s weak and declining (economic) health is indicative of our weak standing in the world; disagree if you like, but there is no need for me to scramble to provide “evidence” for all of your inane challenges to my opinions/assertions. I have better things to do, and if you don’t like what I have to say, simply use the IGNORE feature in your brain.

  9. shortchain says:

    MR,

    If you meant “economic standing” — that can hardly be laid at the feet of the Obama administration.

  10. filistro says:

    Oh, Muley is just trying to start a fight 🙂

    Actually, I’m watching Gates and Clinton right now, and finding them very calm and impressive… also reassuring. As Clinton says… imagine if they hadn’t acted, and Daffy had gotten to Benghazi and begun shelling his citizens, with massive bloodshed and refugees pouring over the border, destabilizing Egypt and further roiling the rest of the ME.

    As for world reaction… it’s only in America this is even controversial. The rest of the world overwhelmingly thinks… “Well, DUH. Of course we had to do it. What choice did we have?”

    Canada doesn’t view itself in any fashion as taking part in a war. It sees its military participating in a NATO humanitarian/peacekeeping mission with the full approval of the UN, precisely as it has done many, many times in the past.

    This entire Republican freakout is just because the GOP is terrified the mission will succeed and Obama will look competent and strong going into the election. And they would rather see America fail than see Obama succeed.

  11. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Mule, and I say this with great respect because you HAVE, at times, made excellent arguments, you cannot state “I’m sharing an opinion….one backed up by FACTS” and NOT produce those facts when asked!

    Something is self-evident ONLY when pretty much everyone agrees to that thing.

    Opinions are FINE. We all have them and we often state them here, but we also should, when asked, give the reasons (facts) for why we arrives at that opinion. Doing so may well cause the thinking folks among us to change THEIR opinion. NOT doing so makes us appear stubborn, possibly ignorant and lessens one’s credibility.

    Call it sophistry if you wish. You’d be correct to a point. But the good thing about sophistry in it’s original use in classical Greece, the sophists were a category of teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching excellence.

    Many times I DO disagree with points made here, many times I don’t necessarily disagree, but am willing to consider an assertion made and simply want to hear the factual data that person used to arrive at that opinion/assertion. I may well use Socratic argument to boil it down, but, truth be known, I have changed MY opinion several times because of arguments made here.

    I have NO problem on my making an assertion (see: Civil War: causes) to have it challenged. I have had to go back and research to make sure my facts are straight and they are as I remember them and not have MISremembered over the years (as has happened to us all). If my opinion/assertion is not strong enough to stand up to that, I NEED to rethink it!

    It’s actually a GOOD thing to do and an exercise for one’s mind and reasoning.

  12. msgkings says:

    Also, MR, you can’t cry (and you are crying here) foul re: quoting opinion polls when your initial post in the thread is a fact-free, wildly alarmist pure opinion, and an example of mclever’s perfect description of often overheated blog and message board posts.

    Your second paragraph at 07:25 is pure hyperbole, and hardly new. Insert any past president and you’ve heard it since Adams. Before it had to be written in a paper or magazine or broadsheet.

    And do you really think that kind of post will do anything other than get you ‘blog attacked’? It’s like posting that Bush = the demise of our nation at Free Republic in 2006.

    As far as your one ‘fact’ (America’s current economic trouble = weak standing in the world) is belied by the FACT that of the advanced, developed countries, the US is probably actually going the BEST economically, hard as that is to believe. Relative to Japan and Europe we’re doing ok.

    Your posts in this thread are far from your best work, MR. But I suspect you know that. Today you look like you just want to kick a hornet’s nest and see what happens. Free country and all, hope you enjoy yourself.

  13. drfunguy says:

    MR
    “Clinton and Gates looked like absolute stooges on MTP…”
    Exactly what part of your post is even demonstrable as fact? Not the above.
    “We have lost our way as a country” I don’t think so.
    our standing as a country will decline? Well obviously thats a prediction, not fact.
    I too am curious what you mean beyond the obvious, that you don’t care for Clinton, Gates or Obama.

  14. drfunguy says:

    @msgkings
    It is likely that Canada’s economy is doing better than the US, largely due to better banking policies the past decade or so.

  15. msgkings says:

    @ drfunguy:

    True, Canada is doing better for that reason and an economy based on natural resources. Australia is too. But they are pretty small potatoes, and staunch US allies. Our standing with them both is unwaveringly good.

  16. filistro says:

    @msgkings: Our standing with them both is unwaveringly good.

    Well, maybe in recent years. Since Obama’s election, I mean. During the Bush years, there was plenty of wavering in Canada. In fact, things got pretty ugly up here.

    From the article (circa 2006)… “in many ways, the dominance of the U.S. makes for an easy target, even easier since George W. Bush came to office. One Canadian analyst recently asserted that Bush is the least popular president there since James Madison, and Madison was president during the War of 1812 when we invaded Canada and burned Toronto.”

  17. msgkings says:

    I’m well aware of the effect W had on our standing with the rest of the world…to claim Obama has worsened what was arguably the WORST foreign image we’ve ever had is the nuttiest of all wingnuttery. Honestly, pure comedy gold.

  18. Mainer says:

    Come on Mule man you can do better than that. We all know how much you dislike this president and any and all things that might or might not be associated with the Democratic party but with out offering any thing other than Fox or Republican presidential wanna be sound bites for reason or rebutal it just comes off as whinny bull shit.

    Chris is right that the talking heads are becoming weaker and weaker on a broad range of subjects. We don’t have reporters or investigative journalists any more. All we have now are a bunch of parrots that wouldn’t know an orriginal thought if they tripped over one. Libya is a prime example. All the damned hand wringing and nay saying is just more Mule on tv pretending to be thoughtful analysis.

    No one knows exactly how this is going to play out but there are indicators that would seem to say that the prognosis is not that this will turn out to be a protracted civil war. Consider for example that the rebels already control or most likely will soon control territory that contains 80% of the Libyian oil reserves. They will control the only LNG facility, they will have all but one of the nations principal refineries, 5 of the 6 main oil terminals and the bulk of the nations pipelines. In terms of population they most likely have over half of the nations population.

    Quadaffi has a military that is showing much less interest in standing and fighting on a level playing field. If the rebels play this well and only wish Quadaffi and his inner circle to hell out of there and continue to keep communications open with all the tribe/clan groups then this could end abruptly. Doesn’t mean it will but it sure as hell could and most liekly will because Quadaffi’s hold on power was always some what tenuous even in the good times for him. It was always about playing off one group against another or in many cases paying for his support. The less he is seen as not being able to pay to play the less support he is going to have. Some how vowing to fight to the lass drop of your supporters blood has to be ringing rather hollow to many at this point. The rebels have continued to accept with open arms defectors (turkeys like the one they captured will pay dearly I suspect but grunts that change sides because they see the light or find the chance continue to be welcomed.)

    A long running guerilla effort by Quadaffiites is becoming less likely as well. Reports would seem to indicate that as the rebels move back along the coastal highway individuals and groups that have stayed behind to cause trouble are being ratted out by the civilians in the area almost enmass. Libya even with all of its oil has needed to import a considerable amount of some petroleum products like gasoline and diesel. Most of the port facilities the rebels have or are reclaiming either can still function or will be able to with minimal effort. So with the now in place coastal bloackade which side do you think is going to have fuel and which one none?

    No this isn’t over and the rebels could use more arms but all those trucks coming in from Egypt are quite capable of changing that if they are not already. No not a done deal but much less to worry about today than there was a week ago. So all of this damned politically motivated hand wringing and parroting should with any luck at all make those spouting it look appropriately stupid…….but it most likely will not. They will just find some thing else to bitch and moan about and be treated as though they actually know some thing. Interesting some of the retired major officer talking heads have been better than the rest but I note fewer of them being talked to…….must have wandered from the wanted script of doom and gloom ratings races.

  19. Chris Rich says:

    Mainer, I see you are also moving beyond the strictures of ameri-mush media and finding some substantive things to chew on.

    Al Jazeera is generally the most useful in things impacting their own back yard. They can even read that calligraphy and know what ghost vowels best work in it.

    The BBC has been fairly alert and they probably still have old file data from when they were covering the Afrika Korps in the early 1940s.

    The Russian press is like a smarter counterpart to firedog slants and seems to be happily blithe about being wrong.

    I bet you even looked Juan Cole up.

  20. Mule Rider says:

    “If you meant “economic standing” — that can hardly be laid at the feet of the Obama administration.”

    That was my primary point, but as a I made very clear above, much of the demise kicked off under George Bush’s watch. I only said that it would continue and possibly be completed under Obama’s watch.

    It’s amusing to watch most of you in here. I’ve never seen such a group of people with their fingers stuck firmly in their ears simply assuming things are magically “getting better.”

    You don’t even realize the danger/perils that lie ahead and how this country is about to undergo one serious and devastating fall from grace where our standard or living across the board is compromised and poverty and misery grows exponentially.

    And this has nothing to do with Bush v. Obama or Republicans v. Democrats. It’s amazing that some of you try and turn everything into partisan cheerleading or sniping. This isn’t partisan in nature. It’s just a simple FACT. This country is about to face enormous challenges in the months and years ahead that neither party has answers for, and we’re all going to pay dearly.

    If you don’t like or accept that news, fine, I’m not trying to persuade you. But your misguided optimism can’t change the immovable object that is our destiny.

  21. MR,

    We have lost our way as a country

    And what “way” was that? Most of what I interpret as “our way as a country” was never sustainable, though that’s really clear only in hindsight.

  22. drfunguy says:

    MR
    “this country is about to undergo one serious and devastating fall from grace ”
    I may actually agree with that prediction, but it is hardly fact.

  23. Mr. Universe says:

    Fact: Unemployment has actually dropped (not by enough, mind you).
    Fact: Wall Street is posting record profits (this doesn’t make me happy, mind you).
    Fact: Public Sentiment in the rest of the world towards America has grown, not dropped.

    Mule, unless you have evidence (note: FACTS) to the contrary, you really need to take the glasses of doom off.

    We have lost our way as a country

    Translation: We have lost our way as a Republican corporate hegemony

    And if I have anything to say about we are going to continue to lose our way.

  24. dcpetterson says:

    Mule,

    You don’t even realize the danger/perils that lie ahead and how this country is about to undergo one serious and devastating fall from grace where our standard or living across the board is compromised and poverty and misery grows exponentially.

    I’m curious about this prediction. (Please understand, this is honest questioning, nothing more — I truly an interested.) You weren’t specific on the nature of the threat. Do you see a return to recession, or perhaps the drying-up of natural resources, or …? Your statement that this isn’t a partisan thing seems to indicate that you think it’s something outside of anyone’s control, possibly something that no policy change could adequately address. Could you let us know what sort of disaster you see looming?

  25. Mr. Universe says:

    For those not keeping score on the topic of the imminent demise of America:

    Eunuch horse hybrids = 1
    Everybody else = 9

    How do you define epic fail again?

  26. Mr. U,

    For those not keeping score on the topic of the imminent demise of America:

    Eunuch horse hybrids = 1
    Everybody else = 9

    How do you define epic fail again?

    You’re wrong even in the numbers you list here. But, moreover, “imminent demise of America” can mean hundreds of different things. In my case, it refers to a decrease in the standard of living of the nation as a whole. I firmly believe that’s coming, and within the remaining lifespan of most of the people who are posting here. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where that doesn’t happen, short of the US committing some form of massive genocide on much of the rest of the planet (which I’m not even sure would be possible at this point, let alone desirable).

  27. Mr. Universe says:

    I wish I had a method to automatically source citations every time someone comes on the board spouting opinions as facts because I know I’m about to have my sources for my previous post challenged. That means I’ll have to dig through my browser history or do a Google search to find them.

    It would be like that scene in ‘Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ where our protagonists have to cross a field and every time they have a thought a paddle pops up and whacks them in the face. So every time some right winger says ‘The economy is tank…SMACK!, or ‘Obama is diminishing Amer…SMACK!

    You get the idea.

    One thing that strikes me regarding the band of rag-tag, untrained rebels actually winning this fight in Libya (aside from having the heavy artillery removed from play) is that the moral argument has already been won. This democracy thing is powerful. I hope the rebels do something useful with it when this is over.

  28. Mr. Universe says:

    You’re wrong even in the numbers you list here

    See? That didn’t take long.

    The last unemployment report I believe was down to 8.9%
    I’m going to go look for the source but Wall Street has been consistently above 12,000 and they have posted record profits.
    And we can split hairs over America’s standing in the rest of the world but I’m going to go with the previous poster who stated that it’s preposterous to think that Obama has diminished that more than George Bush.

    To Michael’s point of a diminished standard of living I will certainly concede to that as I am experiencing it myself currently. I never said it wasn’t going to get worse before it gets better.

  29. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    MW,

    “In my case, it refers to a decrease in the standard of living of the nation as a whole. I firmly believe that’s coming, and within the remaining lifespan of most of the people who are posting here. “

    A review of my posts over the past shows that I concur with this and have so said several times. The GOP meme of the past thirty years of telling people that they DIDN’T have to PAY for the services government provides and that “It’s YOUR money, you know better how to spend it than the government” as justification, has been a fallacy and is the principle reason for the situation. That fallacy bled over into personal finances to the point that the debt load increases astronomically and the individual savings rate actually became NEGATIVE.

    It should be cow’s ass obvious to anyone that such is NOT sustainable.

  30. shortchain says:

    Correction, Mr. U. I’m going to agree with MR on this prediction of imminent demise for America (at least economically, and at least for a portion of the American populace). I put the onset of the disaster 30 years ago, and I say the people affected were the middle class first, then, as the middle class has been reduced to just scraping by, the people who have been shut out of the middle class are starting to get really hard up.

    So make that 7-2.

    I don’t agree that “we’ve lost our way”, though. We were always headed for this, with our declining sense of common destiny and our long-term development of dichotomous wealth.

  31. Mr. Universe says:

    So are all the economic doomsayers here predicting the Great Depression II?

  32. shortchain says:

    Mr. U.,

    While predicting death and doom isn’t a real joy-bringer, it is, after all, the safety bet — you are always guaranteed to be right in the long run.

  33. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    @ Mr U,

    Nope.

    Just a generally lower standard of living for the vast majority of Americans as compared to the period for 1960-1990.

  34. Chris Rich says:

    Natural shrinkage from bloat might seem like a disaster but I always prefer quality of life over standard of living.

    So our capacity to encumber ourselves with stuff and its attending debt is bound to take a hit. But I’m already there and I rather like it, minimal stuff, no debt, the eternal essentials and basic qualities of living remain but the urge to encumber fades.

    Losing weight takes work and significant ‘life style’ adjustments. As a former bloated fatso I can well recall the near trauma that met me when I began the drive to shed and now just wish I had begun sooner.

  35. msgkings says:

    Doom and gloom, doom and gloom. It never ceases.

    It’s the ‘smart’ position. Anyone who thinks we’ll get by are just rubes. And predicting doom is never wrong…you are always just early!

    I go back to this every time: read Matt Ridley’s “The Rational Optimist”

    As far as standard of living: I (and all of you) would much rather have the middle class standard of living in 2011 than 1960. Let alone 1930 or 1900.

    But Chris Rich brings up an interesting point…pure GDP/income/’standard of living’ metrics may be getting less useful as most of the nation no longer has to worry about basic needs. After those are satisfied, should having more and more stuff be the metric? I hope those who are working on happiness vs income metrics continue to make progress.

  36. Mr. Universe says:

    @Shortchain

    One thing I find a general consensus on is that the onset of class war against the middle class is thought to have begun 30 years ago; a conclusion I came to independently myself. Thank you Ronnie Rayguns. I remain cautiously optimistic about the course the country is on (though I don’t consider myself to be a rube ;-)). Some things are going to have to be addressed to undo 30 years of bad habits though and I’m certain Wall Street will not go quietly.

    Foremost: the tax breaks to the wealthy and subsidies to oil companies have got to go. If there is even a hint of continuing the upper level tax cuts by 2012, I will personally lead the inevitable revolution. Corporations lost the argument a while back that tax breaks create jobs. I’ve seen far too many companies hold our municipality hostage under the threat of re-locating to another state only to move anyway after they get the tax breaks because some other state enticed them with…you guessed it; tax breaks. That needs to stop. Everybody in this nation must pay taxes not just the middle class citizens. And when Governors give those breaks to corporations and turn around and demand that the taxpayers make up for the lost revenues they are merely well dressed thieves elected under false pretenses.

    Manufacturing jobs have got to take on a space race kind of mentality, particularly in renewable energy projects and infrastructure. I will proudly wear my cheerleader outfit in this regard (trust me; that’s not something you want to see). That is the only scenario under which I could tolerate tax breaks.

    And I thought Clinton and Gates represented extremely well this morning. I was impressed that Gates actually said that there was no direct impact to America in participating the Libyan intervention but that the was a direct impact to America in the region. I like the guy. And he’s a Republican. But you could see the glee in David Gregory’s face when Gates made the remark. I could hear him thinking, ‘yay, there’s my gotcha soundbite for the week’. They need to give Chuck Todd that job soon.

    President Obama played this one really well. Despite his distaste for war, I always knew if it became necessary, the President would open a can of whoop-ass. Now what we do for the other areas of unrest is still a wildcat in the bag.

  37. mclever says:

    @Mr. Universe

    “Cautiously optimistic.” That’s how I see myself, too.

  38. dcpetterson says:

    I’m a long-term fatalist. Eventually (maybe 5 billion years from now), the Sun will go nova — or at least, become a red giant. When that happens, all life on Earth will cease, and Earth itself may be incinerated. And none of this will matter.

  39. shortchain says:

    DC,

    Hey, I’m a real long-term fatalist. We can escape the solar system eventually (assuming that we survive, as a species, long enough) — but there’s no escaping proton decay. Nothin’ left but bosons and cockroaches (probably evolved into insects of pure energy, by that time).

    ‘Course the alternative is the entropy end-game, which is equally deadly, but far more boring.

    I’m cautiously optimistic, though — I don’t expect to have to worry about it.

  40. Mainer says:

    Msg, I would have to disagree with Chris on some of the economic metrics not being viable because basic needs are being met. I would argue that for more and more Americans they are not being met or are just barely being met with no relief in sight. I live in a very poor area as I have said on here before. We see 70+ percent of our students on free lunch and that does not incude reduced. Sadly a majority of those kids come from families that work but labor no longer seems to have any value. So to those families things like housing, food, heat and transportation eat up low end wages quickly and then not having medical coverage can be the straw that breaks the economic backs of many of them.

    Let us then just consider where I see those around me right now and what this administration is trying to do vice what they right would desire. Housing around here has always been behind the rest of the country but we have people that are in homes they bought back along for 40 to 60K and they are struggling to keep them. Some of the fore closure programs hve helped but would disapear under the proposed House Budget. Note I am not talking personal palaces here just very basic housing and renting isn’t the option you might think because rents can run as high as most mortages when you are buying low end housing. Heat is big around here. Winters are long and they are cold. Low end housing and rents are often those most in need of weatherization so high fuel costs driven by rampant speculation is killing those around me so the answer appears to be cut energy assistance and that comes from both sides of the aisle. Food costs are up in large part due to the cost of fuel ad so is the cost of transportation (don’t belch about the poor should use public transportation because around here there isn’t any and where there is the Republicans would wish to gut it). And with the window now open for many of these individuals to finally get some covered health care we have those which would wish to slam even that opportunity shut.

    I watched the other night one of those new pavRovian commericals about the Chinese laughing at us and almost chucked the tv out the window. I’m guessing they are laughing far less than the corporate whores at whose feet so many would now wish to grovel at. America is not doomed, screw that. America still has enormous potential but some had best soon wake up to what is being done to this country by the right in favor of the few. All four geneological strings that make me were here before this was a country, fought to make it one and have fought to keep it one. Ass whipes that think patriotism begins and ends in their wallet may have a bad time ahead.

    What we need are leaders with at least some freaking vision for the future and not double sets of rear view mirrors. With an ever larger population we can expect some change in national lifestyle. Hey I know there are many that have been living high wide and hansome but look at how many never did and never will before you condem all of us to serfdom.

  41. Mule Rider says:

    “most of the nation no longer has to worry about basic needs.”

    This will soon change. In the next 10 years, a considerable percentage of people in this country will worry about even basic needs.

    For many (millions upon millions), it won’t simply be an issue of whether or not you have HDTV, an iPhone, a decent vehicle, etc. there will really be trouble getting enough food to eat and having/keeping a roof over their head.

  42. Whatevs says:

    @Mule

    Dude, you ever consider anti-anxiety meds? 😀

    Seriously, though, where does all this end of the world prohecy come from? What books have you been reading?

  43. Mule Rider says:

    “Seriously, though, where does all this end of the world prohecy come from?”

    While not the sole driver of my predictions, one very key component to my prognostication is what will be an alarming rise in food and energy prices over the next couple of years that will prove very destabilizing both in this country and especially abroad.

    Food prices are on the brink of rising to unaffordable levels for many around the world and also for many in this country who’ve been used to “getting by.” We’re one crop failure away from ushering it in this year, but even without a major crop failure, we’re still facing a very troubling picture for food supplies the next few years.

    Get ready for rampant starvation and massive unrest….and for the poverty-stricken in this country to increase rapidly in number.

  44. Mr. Universe says:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42296065/ns/business-eye_on_the_economy/

    That makes him (Economist Brett Ryan) a bit more optimistic than most about Friday’s employment figures. He thinks they will show a gain of 200,000 jobs, with the unemployment rate dipping to 8.8 percent

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/business/18wall.html

    “The national economy is slowly improving, but Wall Street has recovered much faster than anyone had envisioned,” (New York State Comptroller) Mr. DiNapoli said in a statement.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7324337.stm

    The average percentage of people saying that the US has a positive influence has risen to 35% from 31% a year ago, according to the survey.

    Those saying the US has a negative influence fell five percentage points to 47%.

    So don’t hit the panic button just yet, Mule. Agree that events will drive the economy. We’ve already seen disruptions in the supply chain because of the disaster in Japan and I agree that the Middle East scenario could take a turn for the worse. That’s why I propose we put in steps to mitigate those potential events rather than deal with them post facto.

  45. shortchain says:

    MR,

    Actually, except in the USA, where we practice unsustainable versions of agriculture, using massive amounts of fertilizer, etc, the cost of food is typically dropping as other countries adopt better agricultural methods. (In the USA, where farmers are motivated to plant as much as possible by what they can get guaranteed via federal crop programs, this doesn’t apply, of course. Also, in the USA we raise a lot of food that we then feed to cattle or alcohol plants.)

    You might want to take a look at this before you go out and dig your bunker.

  46. msgkings says:

    MR = modern day Malthus

    Shine on you crazy diamond…

    And remember, if it doesn’t happen like you are predicting in the next ten years…we can just wait!

    “The Rational Optimist”, Muley. You’ll thank me.

  47. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    msg,

    I was just about to say that Mule must have just finished reading the Rev. Malthus!

    Of course too, Malthus was against government aide to the poor, as a method of keeping population down. Sound familiar?

    Of course, Malthus is ultimately correct in theory. But as long as we have some religions that are still living in the 5th century BCE where maintaining the population was the goal, what with infantile and maternal death rates, of having wives, concubines and many, many children, the possibility of Malthus being correct in practice is real.

  48. Mr. U,

    See? That didn’t take long.

    And then you argue against someone else. The numbers you cited were the number of people who believed in a decline in the US. It was more than one. I defined what I meant by decline, and it has absolutely zero to do with unemployment. It also has zero to do with the Dow. It has everything to do with the standard of living in the US. It’s going to get worse, and while it might get better for a short time, such an improvement will only result in the long run looking far worse.

  49. Max,
    It’s more than just the deficits that we’re running up that will cause our standard of living to drop. That is one factor, though.

  50. msgkings says:

    I don’t think so, Max

    Malthus’ main error was not accounting for technological advances. At every stage the doomsayers have declared that there’s no way the planet’s food production can support x billion people, and every time they are wrong. By orders of magnitude. This is well covered in the book I keep pimping, and I don’t expect that to change.

    Also, almost all demographers expect the planet’s population to peak at 9 billion in about 20-30 years, and then stabilize or even decline. Even in Muslim countries, as their populations get a little bit wealthier, their birth rates decline. Even sub Saharan Africa shows this trend.

  51. Mr. U,

    So are all the economic doomsayers here predicting the Great Depression II?

    Speaking for myself, no, not a Great Depression. More like a long, slow slog.

  52. Mainer says:

    Mule man yes and no. It already sucks for far too many. That it probably does not need to in the way it does is criminal. New Senator Toomey openly is pushing for no corporate tax, zero, of any kind. That is where we are headed and it is screwing the system royaly. If you want to do business here there is a societal cost called taxes. If you don’t want to play by those rules then get the hell out but first pay back every freaking tax break and dime we the people have put into your business then once you are out stay the hell out. You don’t want to be here fine but don’t then turn around and whine because you can’t sell your out sourced crap products here.

    As a first step to understanding our energy situation ban all speculation in energy that does not involve the potential of actually taking posession of the product speculated in. That alone would have cut 81% of the last spike or that seems to be the most accepted number. Then for gods sake cut the oil company welfare to zero. We are smart people or at least smarter than how our leaders are acting Take that money, decide on a program to become energy self sufficient and do it. Oh and along the way take the Bartons of the political world and render them down to supply lamp oil. Hey we might as well get some use out of his worthless oil company pandering fat ass.

  53. msgkings,

    Doom and gloom, doom and gloom. It never ceases.

    I hardly consider it doom and gloom. It’s realism. We as a nation have been borrowing and stealing in every possible way in order to build up the lifestyle we have. It was never sustainable, and never will be. Those bills come due eventually. The more you compress the payment cycle, the more it becomes like a balloon payment. Ask those who had such payments around 1931 how that worked out for them.

    Our remaining question is how compressed we wish that payment to be. Our culture, combined with our political system, points to compression approaching a singularity. What do you think that would look like?

  54. Even if Mule is wrong about the food prices rising because of crop failures (and I don’t think he’s wrong about that…it’s just unclear precisely when it will happen), the more imminent problem is a shortage of water. We consume far more fresh water in this country than is being “created” by precipitation. It wasn’t until the past few years that it has become clear exactly how badly we’re blowing that one.

    The problem with water is that people see it as a renewable resource. And it is. But it’s renewable in the way that lumber is renewable. If you cut the trees down faster than they regrow, the “renewable” nature of lumber becomes irrelevant. That’s what we’re doing with water. And that’s not taking into account the number of places where we’re poisoning the increasingly-limited sources we have.

    Our nation’s agricultural infrastructure is currently dependent upon consumption at a rate exceeding the “regrowth” rate. So are many of our fisheries. And our high-tech electronics manufracturing. And our personal consumption for drinking, bathing, etc.

    This is all solvable through various forms of technology, at least for a while. But we have to be willing to change behaviors that most of us won’t be willing to change until we hit a crisis point. At that point, just like with the economic payment compression, we will have to take drastic measures that will be exceptionally unpleasant.

  55. msgkings says:

    MW:

    Read the book, report back to me.

  56. msgkings,

    Read the book, report back to me.

    Look, I get that there are technological advances that can overcome many things. It may happen in agriculture, but in this country it’s unlikely to occur before some major catastrophe. We had that happen before (Dust Bowl). It’s not pleasant while it’s happening. It would be far nicer if we could avoid it with a bit more forethought.

    The same can be said for water. And that one’s going to be far worse because of how calamitous it will be as it hits. We’ve already seen the first blips (Atlanta a few years ago is the most significant).

  57. shortchain says:

    Michael,

    I agree completely. We could as a nation, move to reduce the severity of the discombobulation we’ll have to undergo, but that would require courage on the part of our leaders and foresight on the part of our titans of industry, as well as a willingness on the part of all of us, the wealthy as well as the poor, to share in the sacrifices necessary, none of these things being readily apparent.

  58. Mr. Universe says:

    @MW

    And then you argue against someone else. The numbers you cited were the number of people who believed in a decline in the US.

    I think there was some cross posting going on on separate topics. But if it will appease everyone, I concede on the number of people here who were arguing that the end is nigh or the decline of the US. I was actually just taking a poke at Muley for being so gloomy.

    no, not a Great Depression. More like a long, slow slog.

    I don’t know. Sounds like you guys are ready to fire up the soup kitchens.

    @msg

    I read that the population will level off at 11 billion. I’ll try to source that as well. And I’ll look up the book you recommended.

  59. parksie555 says:

    Chain, if the rest of the world adopted our “unsustainable versions of agriculture” world hunger would come to an end. Our farmers are by far the most productive and efficient in the world. I agree that boondoggles like ethanol and government subsidies distort the picture but there is no question that our agricultural technology is second to none.

  60. shortchain says:

    Parksie,

    Yes, world hunger would end — for a short while, until all the world had the same water shortages we’re facing, and the soil and what water was left was polluted by excessive use of fertilizers, assuming that available fertilizer supplies wouldn’t run out beforehand (dropping production back to current levels and reducing American production as well), and of course that this wouldn’t slurp up the available petroleum even faster.

  61. drfunguy says:

    @parksie555
    Our farmers mine topsoil to produce huge quantities of dirt cheap food.
    It also takes huge fossil fuel inputs to produce those yields.
    As fossil fuel prices rise food cost will be impacted both in cost of production and in cost of transportation. Poor soil husbandry will eventually cause yield declines but one can’t be sure when… but when you lose more mass of soil from erosion than you harvest in grain it is clearly unsustainable. cf. http://www.rachel.org/files/document/Environmental_and_Economic_Costs_of_Soil_Erosi.pdf
    as one example and not new but I haven’t time to do a thorough review tonight.

  62. parksie555 says:

    So Chain & DrFunGuy – We have been the world leaders in agricultural productivity for at least 5 decades, probably more like 7 or 8. You are telling me that this would not have been enough time for the soil erosion and water shortages you describe to ruin our lead over the rest of the world?

    And with regards to the fossil fuel cost of transportation, that will no longer be an issue when we are using nuclear power to create cheap electricity and using it to fuel hybrid cars and trucks :).

  63. You are telling me that this would not have been enough time for the soil erosion and water shortages you describe to ruin our lead over the rest of the world?

    In a nutshell, yes. But that time is running out now.

    And with regards to the fossil fuel cost of transportation, that will no longer be an issue when we are using nuclear power to create cheap electricity and using it to fuel hybrid cars and trucks.

    Nuclear power won’t do much to produce fertilizer, sad to say. And most of the fertilizer used in American agriculture comes from Dead Dinosaurs. So, once we’re out of those Dead Dinos, we’re also out of the cheap and easy fertilizer. And so our productivity per dollar drops substantially.

  64. Mule Rider says:

    Unfortunately, Michael seems to be about the only other person in the room to “get it.” Doesn’t matter anyway. Like I said, no amount of putting your head in the sand, fingers in your ears, irrational exuberance, misguided optimism, etc. will stop the immovable destiny that is our catastrophic demise.

  65. drfunguy says:

    “Each person in the country on a per capita consumption basis requires approximately 2,000 liters per year in oil equivalents to supply his/her total food, which accounts for about 19 percent of the total national energy use. ”
    Pimentel 2009

  66. Mule Rider says:

    I’d almost be remiss if I didn’t add that some of you should repent and give your life to Jesus Christ, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

  67. msgkings says:

    @ MR:

    Seriously, man, what’s got you down like this?

    You say we’re doomed. OK, time to kill ourselves?

  68. shortchain says:

    Parksie,

    Nuclear power can produce Nitrogen fertilizer (kind of expensive, but doable), but it won’t produce phosphates or Potassium. They’re currently mined.

  69. parksie555 says:

    MWeiss – Simple Wikipedia search tells me that the primary consumption of hydrocarbons in production of ammonia is natural gas, and that US fertilizer production is only about 1-2% of natural gas consumption. Does not sound like that big of an issue to me, but then again it’s only wikipedia.

    Your gloom and doom predictions about US agriculture are starting to sound a lot like Mule’s thoughts about society in general 🙂

  70. msgkings says:

    @ parksie

    I know, right? What’s got into these guys?

  71. Mr. Universe says:

    @Mule

    Like I said, no amount of putting your head in the sand, fingers in your ears, irrational exuberance, misguided optimism, etc. will stop the immovable destiny that is our catastrophic demise.

    I would argue that standing on the corner with a sandwich board isn’t helping matters either.

    The End is Nigh

    This would be funny except that you posted the following:

    I’d almost be remiss if I didn’t add that some of you should repent and give your life to Jesus Christ, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

    Really? Man are you feeling alright? I mean, kudos for having your religion and all, but come on. Have a little faith in humanity for a change.

  72. msgkings says:

    MR, is it time to give away all of your possessions and go St. Paul of Thebes?

    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/447015/Saint-Paul-of-Thebes

  73. parksie555 says:

    Dunno Kings – maybe Mulie had Carolina in his office pool?

    He is scaring me a little bit. If he goes down I might be the only rightie left here. Bart DeP seems to have checked out for good.

  74. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    I think I may be swinging over to Mule’s side!

    No 1’s left.
    No 2’s left.
    A 3 and a 4 playing in one semi and a 10 and an 11 playing in the other.
    Brackets shot to hell all over the country.

    It’s GOT to be a sign of the Apocalypse!

  75. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Sorry. Make that:

    An 8 and an 11 in the other.

  76. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    In the words of that fine old redneck spritual, sung by Archie Campbell on Hee-Haw, lo these many years ago:

    Gloom, despair and agony on me
    deep, dark depression
    excessive misery.

    If it weren’t for bad luck
    I’d have no luck at all.
    Gloom despair and agony on me!

  77. shortchain says:

    Actually, that last one by MR was the funniest of all.

  78. msgkings says:

    @ parksie:

    You’d still have GROG and Gator.

    I know Gator’s gotta be mad Florida couldn’t beat Butler. What a tourney. It’s official. Basic parity among most of the above average teams. Probably due to all the talented players leaving after one year. The marquee programs can’t stockpile the best of the best for 3-4 years anymore. The mid majors get to gel their teams into actual TEAMS over 3-4 years.

  79. drfunguy says:

    Parksie,
    Its only not much of an issue if you assume that you can substitute ammonia fertilizer for soil fertility indefinitely. Do you have any idea what the rates of topsoil loss vs. formation are in the US? Or how much of that is due to our agricutural practices? Cheap food has been a short term benefit but will cost more in the long run.

  80. Mule,

    …for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

    I wouldn’t go that far. I doubt that the living standards of most of the world will drop. Mostly the US and Canada, and to a lesser degree several European countries. My read of Revelations (granted as very much a layperson) suggests that even if the prophecies began, the end wouldn’t hit in our lifetimes.

    Just sayin’.

  81. Mr. Universe says:

    I suggest that we will all be organic farmers eventually. Which isn’t such a bad thing if you ask me.

  82. justsayin' says:

    Well the real “justsayin’ is on and geez, what are you all drinkin? The USA will survive, a little bit tattered and scared but she’ll come back stronger than ever. The thieving of the middle class will start to diminish and the wrongs will right themselves eventually. The end is not near, You all take a stress tab and write in, in the morning.

  83. justsayin' says:

    While I am it, today’s discussion at the lunch table was on the generational disconnect between my generation (children of the 70’s and our parents, depression era kids). We were discussing how they were different about religion, sex, money, careers, education and of course the rapid change in technologies. So mule and Michael cheer up, our demise isn’t imminent, our way of life is just changing. Standard of living decline, not necessarily, but perhaps different, did you really need a hundred different pair of shoes? Why did you have to pay $50,000 for that new kitchen? It seems that priorities change with the times. Times they are achangin’ and maybe its a good thing.

  84. monotreme says:

    Archangel Michael spake thus:

    not a Great Depression. More like a long, slow slog.

    I’m late to the party here, having come home late from an out-of-town trip, but I’m with Michael on this one. Not just a Lost Decade, but a Lost Generation.

    (I note with interest that Wikipedia is suggesting that the Lost Decade in Japan may have, in fact, lasted for two decades so far and is still continuing.)

  85. parksie,
    I looked it up…looks like the only fertilizer that’s petroleum based is ammonia, which can be created plenty of other ways. But that won’t do much for water.

  86. Monotreme says:

    Water can be cleaned with the input of energy. Energy can be produced efficiently (say, by nuclear energy or MW’s favorite, geothermal) but requires water. ‘Tis a conundrum.

    We are beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we need to get back to a billion somehow. I think it will take a generation or two of pain to get there.

  87. justsayin’,

    The USA will survive, a little bit tattered and scared but she’ll come back stronger than ever. The thieving of the middle class will start to diminish and the wrongs will right themselves eventually.

    I think you misunderstand my point. The US consumes way too much per capita, in several key independent areas. It’s unsustainable on any one of those fronts, let alone in combination.

    You could fix the consumption imbalances within the US (which is what it seems you’re talking about) and still not fix the problem I’m talking about. That’s a completely separate issue.

  88. Mr. Universe says:

    Ironic that ocean levels are rising and we’re facing a water shortage.

    Buncha Debbie Downers :-p

  89. Mr. U,
    Not ironic in the least. It’s a shortage of fresh water, not water in general. The rising sea levels only serve to exacerbate the problem. And desalination will be of little use in, say, Colorado.

  90. msgkings says:

    Mathustreme, you are way off about the ‘carrying capacity’ of the planet. But we can hyperbolically type back and forth some more about it on an obscure blog if you want.

  91. drfunguy says:

    msgkings
    How do you arrive at global carrying capacity?
    What do you think it is?

  92. dcpetterson says:

    If we’re going to rationally solve the problems the world faces today, we need to break out of the arguments between Keynsians and supply-siders. It’s time we took a hard look at the works of some of the most brilliant minds of the past. For instance, Jonathan Swift had A Modest Proposal which could well help today, in easing food shortages, addressing overpopulation issues, and providing income for the poor.

  93. msgkings says:

    @ drfunguy:

    Shouldn’t you ask the guy who pulled the 1 billion number out of his rear end? After all, he’s the one calling for 80%+ genocide. That’s the only way we get to his number in a ‘generation or two’.

    I’d say the carrying capacity of the planet is at least 7 billion, because that’s what we have now.

  94. msgkings says:

    @ dcp

    Swift’s proposal is a good one. We should also consider the ideas of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao to get our population down to Monotreme’s carrying capacity.

  95. Monotreme says:

    @msgkings:

    Yes, I pulled the number out of my ass. I don’t know why that offends you so. I never said otherwise, and indicated it was a pure guess.

    You’re right, mass starvation and resource wars are a much better option than the rule of law.

    I’ll give you a carrying capacity of 7 billion. Given that the population is on its way to 20 billion, then I’d sure like to hear how you plan to get it to 7 billion.

  96. shortchain says:

    msgkings,

    What part of “non-sustainable” are you having trouble with? We are washing our precious topsoil down into the oceans. We are using our fossil water.

    By the way, where I grew up, the ground water was poisonous (alkali), so we had an artesian well. When they drilled it, back in the 20’s, the water shot up 10 feet out of the ground. When I was a kid (in the 60’s), it would go maybe 6 inches. By the time we left, they had to pump it to get it out. Now they’re not using the artesian for anything, because it’s more expensive to pump it than to use water from the Oahe Reservoir. (Which is government-supplied water.)

    Also, using that artesian water to irrigate would produce a crust on the soil which rendered it infertile after about 5 years. They’re now pumping water to irrigate out of all the swamps and little ponds — which produces a crust of alkali in about 10 years. The farmers who irrigated when I was there are now trying to buy new land, because the land they have is no longer working.

  97. msgkings says:

    @ Monotreme:

    Wrong again. World population is expected to peak around 9 billion:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/world-population-forecast-to-peak-before-2100-664281.html

    And maybe I’m missing your sarcasm but aren’t you in fact calling for mass starvation and war to get us down to your 1 billion figure in a ‘generation or two of pain’? Because I’m not sure how ‘rule of law’ does that.

    @ shortchain:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Robert_Malthus

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/books/rational-optimist-how-prosperity-evolves

  98. dcpetterson says:

    @msgkings :

    I don’t think Monotreme is “calling for” starvation or war. I think he’s expecting something drastic might happen. Or perhaps the world will become sensible, and voluntarily reduce the birth rate.

    As a matter of fact, as the standard of living rises, and as infant mortality rates go down, the birth rate does tend to fall. Developed countries tend to have a lower birth date than do poorer countries. To oversimplify, you don’t need as many kids to work the fields when you work in an office, and when you’re sure the kids you do have are likely to live to adulthood. In a rural low-tech economy with low population density, having a lot of kids is an asset; in urban high-tech cultures packed into cities, lots of kids is merely an expense.

    So the best way to reduce population growth — perhaps even reverse it — may be to find ways to increase everyone’s standard of living and quality of life. The problem there, of course, is that doing so in the only ways we know requires immense consumption of resources and huge amounts of energy. So we need to find better ways to produce energy, and better ways to recycle used goods into new products. And, we may have to change the way we view all these things.

  99. msgkings says:

    @ dcp:

    Yes thank you, I am actually the one here explaining that we won’t have a Malthusian nightmare partly because of declining birth rates, already knew that bit. Part of my rational optimism.

    I’m kind of hammering on Monotreme because alarmist doomsayers are fun to tease.

    And I agree energy is a key bottleneck, but I also have optimism that the price signals of that bottleneck will (already are) unleash the tremendous potential of our entire race to solve the problem.

  100. Monotreme says:

    @msgkings:

    You said,

    I’m kind of hammering on Monotreme because alarmist doomsayers are fun to tease.

    You linked to a Wikipedia article that says, in part,

    The scientific consensus is that the current population expansion and accompanying increase in usage of resources is linked to threats to the ecosystem.

    That’s all I’m saying. Apparently, when you read it in my comment, it’s “alarmist doomsay[ing]” but when you read it in Wikipedia, it’s a-ok.

  101. msgkings says:

    @ Mono:

    You wrote: “We are beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we need to get back to a billion somehow.”

    I don’t want to get into some big thing about this, but you seemed to be a doom and gloomer (we need to remove 6 billion people?). If I had that wrong, sorry about that.

  102. Monotreme says:

    @msgkings:

    I’m okay with your interpretation. I can see how you would read it that way.

    I think we need to reduce the number of people on the planet. It seems like, and may be, an impossible task, but I think we need to try. If we don’t, then I believe Very Bad Things will happen.

    I’m actually optimistic that we will find a way to do it. So in that sense, I wouldn’t call myself a “doom and gloomer”.

  103. shortchain says:

    msgkings,

    I’m not an absolute doom and gloomer either, but I’ll note for the record that Malthusian mathematics are perfectly correct. In the long run, exponential beats linear no matter what.

    Any increase in the yields of current crops will come at the expense of soil quality after those crops have been harvested and the amount of water (and other chemicals) required to produce those yields, and will have even more deleterious effects down the road.

    Either we’ll have to develop entirely new classes of crops or we’ll have to dramatically change the way we do agriculture over the next couple of generations. And that change can be forced in a catastrophic way by something which makes continuance of the existing methods impossible, or it can be by design and gradual. But it will be dramatic — there’s no escaping that.

  104. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Technology IS the answer.

    As many writers have shown, all we need to do is invent the faster-than-light drive, then we can advance out among the stars and populate the galaxy! Earth is just a minor speed bump.

    So simple!

  105. drfunguy says:

    @parksie555
    “We have been the world leaders in agricultural productivity for at least 5 decades, probably more like 7 or 8. You are telling me that this would not have been enough time for the soil erosion and water shortages you describe to ruin our lead over the rest of the world?”
    Yes that is what I’m telling you. Why would you think that 70 years is a demonstration of sustainability of agriculture? An analogy is saying back in 1970 that we’d have old growth redwood lumber at the current production forever because we’d had it for the prior century…

  106. drfunguy says:

    @msgkings
    “I’d say the carrying capacity of the planet is at least 7 billion, because that’s what we have now.”
    This statement make me wonder if you know the definition of carrying capacity.
    I am actually cautiously optimistic but like others here think we have a lot of changes to make before too long. Hopefully it won’t be too hard on too many people.

  107. msgkings says:

    @ dcp:

    You’re ignoring the most powerful food production tech there is, and still in its infancy.

    Genetics.

    That’s in the book. We’ve been genetically modifying food since the caveman days, we can now do it better, faster, and more powerfully. And we will, to make crops require less and less fertilizer, pesticides, even water. Add in the plateauing population and food supply is not a concern. Seriously, I worry about that less than not at all. YMMV.

    We have other, more difficult bottlenecks like energy production, but I’m pretty confident the human race will get that figured out too.

  108. msgkings says:

    Sorry, that last post was meant to be @ shortchain not dcp, but he’s welcome to enjoy it too. 🙂

  109. msgkings says:

    @shortchain

    And now that I read your post more closely you do kinda point to GM food (‘develop entirely new classes of crops’) so I think we’re not so far apart on this.

    Optimism for all!

  110. Mr. Universe says:

    @mono sodium glutamate kings

    Sorry but GMO’s scare the hell out of me. Once you go down that slope there’s no turning back and it strikes me as the height of arrogance that we think we can control nature in that manner. We can’t really say with certainty how pollen from a GMO plant will affect the food chain and once it’s done, it’s done forever. That genie won’t fit back in the bottle.

    Messing with biodiversity is playing with fire.

  111. msgkings says:

    Don’t know what to tell ya, Mr. U, but we have already done gone down that slope. GMOs are feeding tens of millions (probably hundreds) right now. And that is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    Look, I would like to see the world’s population plateau asap, but I just have every faith that as in times past, those predicting our race’s demise will be (sadly?) mistaken.

  112. Mr. U,

    Sorry but GMO’s scare the hell out of me. Once you go down that slope there’s no turning back and it strikes me as the height of arrogance that we think we can control nature in that manner. We can’t really say with certainty how pollen from a GMO plant will affect the food chain and once it’s done, it’s done forever.

    The same can be said for hybridization, or canine breeding, but it’s been done for millenia.

    Incidentally, cloning scares the hell out of plenty of people, but maternal twins don’t seem to have the same effect, even though they’re biologically essentially the same thing.

  113. Mr. Universe says:

    Yeah but the thing is let’s say you’ve crossed a tomato with genes from a salmon. A bee comes and visits your plant and then flies over and visits my particular type of tomatoes. Presto! I’ve got different artificially inseminated kind of tomato that I may not particularly want. And you can’t be one hundred percent certain that your alteration isn’t going to have some whack biological mutation that renders tomatoes inedible or disease prone, etc.

    A little too much playing God for my tastes. Give me organic. Modifying thousands of years of evolution in a lab…not so much

  114. drfunguy says:

    @MrU you left out the part where Monsanto sues you for stealing their gene (that you didn’t want in the first place) and wins.
    @ msgkings
    GMO’s may be feeding millions, but it is doubtful that any additional food is being produced (or that costs are reduced) by their use. http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/science/failure-to-yield.html
    The two most common genetic alterations are herbicide resistance (“roundup ready”) and chitanase (“BT”-gene) as an ‘insecticide’. Both have worisome effects. The lateral transference of herbicide resistance to weeds is a bad thing and is happening; chitanase effects non-target beneficial organisms including pollenators and predatory insects.
    More than anything GMOs are a scam to divert more agricultural $$ to large corporations, along with control of our food supply. Its a good time to grow open-pollenated heirloom veggies and save your seed.

  115. msgkings says:

    No, more than anything GMO is the only way to feed billions of poor people.

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com

    http://www.rationaloptimist.com/writings/why-ban-genetic-modification

  116. drfunguy says:

    msgkings
    I provided evidence that for the two largest GMO crops, corn and soybeans, GMO varieties have neither reduced costs nor increased productivity.
    Let me know when you have evidence to the contrary.
    I provided examples of negative ecological consequences of GMO crops. Let me know when these are overcome. Also I am interested as to your thoughts on Monsanto’s practice of sueing farmers whose non-GMO crops are contaminated with pollen from their neighbors GMO crops.
    Note: repeating your link to a gushing treatise on the wonders of technology is not evidence. I am familiar with the genre and have yet to see an example that doesn’t rely on straw-man arguments or that doesn’t ignore the reliance of humanities progress on the spending of accumulated biological capitol.

  117. msgkings says:

    I feel you drfunguy, but I can tell nothing I type will change your mind. I’m also ok with you believing I don’t know what I’m talking about. Peace.

  118. drfunguy says:

    msgkings
    believe it or not I am curious about actual data re. yeilds and costs of GMO crops
    I am also curious how its proponants react to the strongarm tactics of companies like Monsanto
    Debate is not just about changing minds, well done it is about learning and I am all about learning.

  119. msgkings says:

    I don’t have time to find hard data (you probably could with a simple Google search if you were truly interested in learning).

    I’m going by what to my mind is a common sense belief that if GMO crops didn’t provide any value (in cost and/or yield) then Monsanto would be bankrupt, and also have no need to be so litigious.

    I’m not saying Monsanto = Mother Teresa, nor do I blithely ignore the risks of GMO. But to me it’s a risk/reward equation (like so much else in life) and the risks are outweighed by the reward of feeding billions.

  120. drfunguy says:

    msgkings,
    I did actually look at data in a recent extensive review which I referenced. I don’t have time for an exhaustive search so I queried you as a proponant for more info.
    Perhaps it is you who are not interested in learning.
    You keep talking about the reward of feeding billions; I say that is a pipe dream.
    Nor do I believe you have actually spent any time looking at the risks.
    But thanks for playing.

  121. drfunguy,
    Genetic modification is a tool, and as such it can be used for great things or terrible things. Monsanto has been pretty dreadful with it, and the long term impact will probably be tragic. But there have been some GMO varieties of rice that produce far more grain with far less water, which will be valuable particularly in Asia.

    Don’t confuse the bad behavior of a company with the tool that company is using.

  122. msgkings says:

    Just let me know when you can explain Monsanto’s profits with their useless product.

    M’kay?

  123. msgkings,
    Explaining Monsanto’s profits is pretty easy. First, you get some people in an area to buy, based on the promise of using fewer herbicides (which is true, but only in the short term). Then, once those are planted, you sue every other farmer in the area for using your patent without paying for it…because they can’t prove that pollen from Monsanto plants didn’t cross over and pollinate the non-Monsanto plants. And make it illegal to then use any seed from any of that crop, which forces everyone in the area to buy seed from Monsanto every year.

    That’s how they’re so profitable. And it’s despicable.

  124. drfunguy,
    You may call it a pipe dream, but this would suggest otherwise. So would this.

    What I don’t hear from you or Mr. U is an explanation as to why genetic modification through gene splicing is inherently more dangerous than hybridizations of centuries past.

  125. msgkings says:

    @ MW

    Agreed, that’s some crap Monsanto pulls. But I was mainly speaking to the efficiency of the GM tools, which you obviously agree with me about.

    I can drop Monsanto from this discussion and still believe, rightly, that GMO is a positive, effective means of feeding the planet.

  126. shortchain says:

    Given that, here in the real world, we cannot divorce GMO’s from the companies such as Monsanto that produce them and then sue everybody for cross-pollination, it’s not feasible to simply wave your magic wand and drop Monsanto from the discussion of same.

    Also, consider this and ponder the Law of Unintended Consequences…

  127. shortchain,
    The biggest Monsanto problem is a legal one, not a genetic one. But I agree that there are often unintended consequences when humans do anything to “control” Mother Nature. My primary issue is that I don’t like it when the tool is confused for those who misuse it.

    Some food for thought about food: would you go back to a prehistoric diet, with no foods or seasonings that you couldn’t get from a foodshed of more than a day’s walk? Not to mention electric refrigeration? Our societies have evolved and created many new methods of culinary storage and preparation that come from various technological advances in transportation, storage, and processing of food. Not all have been good, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the really old food days.

  128. shortchain says:

    Michael,

    Outside of Douglas Adams’ work, electric refrigerators have only a limited capability to destroy the ecosystem, although they did give it a good try, before freon was largely eliminated. Since they don’t multiply naturally, and cross-breed with toaster-ovens, there’s not much of a problem.

    I don’t have any problem with GMO’s being used where appropriate, and under careful regulation. We have to be extremely careful with self-replicating technology, wouldn’t you agree?

    And that’s without the lawyers. Which we are never without, BTW. Having grown up on a farm, perhaps I’m a little radical on the Monsanto issue, but the agribusiness giants are a huge threat to our food supply in ways that, say, Whirlpool, is not.

  129. shortchain,

    We have to be extremely careful with self-replicating technology, wouldn’t you agree?

    Of course we do. But why do we need to be more careful with GMO than with hybrids or the introduction of non-native species?

  130. Mr. Universe says:

    Look, the chasm between making a new strain of Orchid and the industrial food complex is a rather large one and a lengthy and complex issue. It involves corporate control of the food industry, alteration of the natural environment, quashing the organic food industry, use of fossil fuels instead of promoting locally grown foods, the folly of patent infringement, etc.

    And It’s not my field of study. But here’s an excellent read if you really are interested in giving thought towards the subject.

    ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ by Michael Pollan

    A good passage:

    [while accompanying a farmer planting his corn field] 34H31 does not contain the “YeildGard gene”, the Monsanto-developed line of genetically engineered corn currently being pushed. However the 34B98 that neighboring farmers are using does and promises “outstanding yeild potential.” Despite the Promises, Naylor [the farmer] doesn’t plant GMOs. He has a gut distrust of the technology (“They’re messing with three billion years of evolution”) and doesn’t think it’s worth the extra $25 cost in ‘technology fees’. “Sure you might get a yield bump, but whatever you make on the extra corn goes right back to cover the premium for the seed. I fail to see why I should be laundering money for Monsanto”.

    It’s an old story: farmers eager to increase their yeilds adopt the latest in technology, only to find that it’s the companies selling the innovations who reap the most from the gains in the farmer’s productivity.

    And how much of that corn will go towards making alternatives for fossil fuels? Much of it will go to filling gas tanks, not bellies. In a world where McDonald’s french fries actually qualify as a pesticide, the folly of the industrial food complex is like setting bad legal precedent. It’s tough to undo.

    And I haven’t even gotten into the health issues yet. For that, I suggest you rent ‘Food, Inc.’

    And that will have to be my last word on the topic for the day.

  131. shortchain says:

    Michael,

    You ask: “why do we need to be more careful with GMO than with hybrids or the introduction of non-native species?”

    I do not, and did not, state that we did — but I would answer that by saying that, since other than in a few extremely odd cases, hybrids are not self-replicating, there is less to be concerned about. (I, myself, have bred sweet corn back to a plant that looked like its ancestor, BTW, and domestic turkeys released on our farm went back to wild turkeys in about three generations.) As for introduction of non-native species, yes, we need to be very careful about introducing a non-native species, but, since the non-native species will (as recent research has shown) typically not eliminate native species, or interfere with their genetic makeup, the danger to the ecosystem is primarily through displacement, not replacement.

    (Exception: the way white-tail deer are destroying the mule deer out west.)

    GMO’s, on the other hand, create the possibility that, after a few decades, there may be no more genetically unmodified cohorts of the original species left.

    So while alien invaders may disrupt and wreak havoc on an ecosystem, they don’t typically mingle with and alter the genes of the survivors like GMOs.

  132. drfunguy says:

    MW “What I don’t hear from you or Mr. U is an explanation as to why genetic modification through gene splicing is inherently more dangerous than hybridizations of centuries past.”
    Michael, thanks for the references. Not having a lot of time since I am actually doing agriculture as my work (see avatar), I will try to give you a brief yet coherent answer.
    Shortchain answered this in part.
    Another part (mentioned by MrU yesterday): moving genes from a bacterium (or an insect) to a plant is not something that routinely happens through plant breeding.
    Removing evolutionary constraints increases the chances of unintended negative outcomes. One simple example has to do with BT genes in plants and their impacts on mutualistic soil fungi. Most plants growing in soil rely on root associated (mycorrhizal) fungi; of course there are hundred of fungal species and about a mile of hyphae (fungal cells) per gram of soil, mostly of unknown identity and function. Fungi have chitan cell walls as do insects and the BT gene allows plants to produce chitosan which degrades chitan. Some studies show reduced root colonization by these mutualistic fungi when grown in the presence of BT transgenic corn… http://www.springerlink.com/content/h860q446um36358t/
    but there is a lot more to learn about impacts on soil food webs (which you all should know are about the most diverse ecosystems on the planet).
    If any plant had naturally acquired chitosan it would likely have died out due to negative impacts on its pollinators and mutualistic soil fungi.
    This is just one example, BT genes have also been shown to kill non-target insects and other arthropods including important pollinators, I know of no example traditional breeding having such wide-pread consequences.
    I am not against technology, but I have yet to see how the benefits of GMO technology outweigh the risks. http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/GeneWatch/GeneWatchPage.aspx?pageId=46&archive=ye
    There is plenty to do about improving agriculutral productivity without resorting to such risk-prone technology. http://www.theecologist.org/trial_investigations/268287/10_reasons_why_organic_can_feed_the_world.html
    I have said enough.

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