By the time Friday rolls around, I'm usually feeling a little burnt out. Today is no exception. As I was casting around for things to write about, it seemed hard to choose among the various disasters. To wit—
Peak Oil Risks
In an interview conducted by Matthieu Auzanneau, a Paris-based freelance journalist writing in Le Monde, former International Energy Agency (IEA) petroleum expert Olivier Rech expressed his pessimism about the future crude oil supply. We get the usual story about the story itself. The key fact is that Rech is a former IEA petroleum expert, meaning he used to work (2006-2009) for the IEA and now feels able to express his views freely. Those views do not allay our fears about the risks of peak oil. Here's an excerpt.
Auzanneau — Therefore, you are clearly more alarmist than the IEA and Total, the most pessimistic of petroleum companies. Total evokes the possibility of maintaining production on a plateau of about 95 mb/d until 2030.
Rech — It's true. The production of oil has already been on a plateau since 2005 at around 82 mb/d. [NB: with biofuels and coal-to-liquid, we approximate 88 mb/d for all liquid fuels.] It appears to me impossible to go much higher. Since demand is still on an increasing trajectory (unless, possibly, the economic crisis engulfs the emerging economies), I expect to see the first tensions arising between 2013 and 2015.
Auzanneau — And after that?
Rech — Afterwards, in my view, we will have to face a decline of the production of all forms of liquid fuels somewhere between 2015 to 2020. This decline will not necessarily be rapid, however, but it will be a decline, that much seems clear.
You can read the complete interview by following the link above. The Oil Drum reprinted it here.
Jobless Rate Distortions
The first Friday of every month is Jobs Propaganda Day. The "good news" follows the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report. Not every monthly report can be whitewashed by the media, for some reports are so dismal that there's simply no good news to be found. However, today's results are being touted as a resounding success for ... what? The household survey indicated that the jobless rate has dropped all the way down to 8.5%. The establishment survey indicates that 200,000 jobs were created in December. This was my favorite line from the report—
Employment in transportation and warehousing rose sharply in December (+50,000). Almost all of the gain occurred in the couriers and messengers industry (+42,000); seasonal hiring was particularly strong in December.
Despite the surge in jobs for go-fers and delivery boys (or girls) in December, there were the usual cracks in the facade. Those counted as not in the labor force increased by 194,000, which ironically enough is just about equal to the number of jobs created. Those counted in the civilian labor force decreased by 50,000. The consensus (prior to the report) expected the jobless rate to increase, not decrease. And why? Well, if the job market were improving, people would be re-joining the labor force with renewed hopes of finding a job. Didn't happen.
Shredding The Bill Of Rights
When the war on an abstract noun (terrorism) began after the 9/11 attacks, I was very concerned about the eventual consequences. History tells us that such vague "wars" always morph into a war on the rights of ordinary citizens. And that is what is taking place here in America. The Bill Of Rights is no longer worth the paper its printed on.
Most of the attention lately has focused on the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the constroversial provisions found in sections 1031 and 1032. Quite rightly, Human Rights First points out the obvious problem with the NDAA, which Obama signed on New Years Eve.
“I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”
The pledge to seek repeal and oppose expansion of transfer restrictions had melted into a watery “reservation.”
The president’s Saturday statement also makes a new promise.
“I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.” Although the Obama Administration has consistently claimed the power to kill U.S. citizens without charge or trial in the war on terror, as it did to the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, the president now promises not to imprison them.
Of course, a future president still might.
Or Obama might. Who knows? He's broken almost every other promise he's made. As the case of former NSA analyst Thomas Drake makes clear, the Obama administration has extended the repressive anti-civil liberties stance which began under W. This quote is from an excellent New Yorker article talking about Obama's treatment of whistle-blowers like Drake.
When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.”
But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.
[My note: The government threatened Drake with 35 years of jail time under the "espionage" act. In the end he was convicted of logging into a computer sytem he wasn't authorized to use. No "secrets" were exposed. He got one year's probation and was released.]
Covert surveillance of American citizens has proceeded apace. We don't know, and can not know, the extent of it. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't watching you. Everything is secret nowadays, everything is classified. Transparency hardly exists. Young people have been socialized to de-value privacy. Your cell phone can track your location at all times. It just goes on and on.
Technological leaps spurred by the bogus war on "terrorism" combined with the utter corruption which absolute power bequeathes is destroying our civil liberties. What was it Ben Franklin said when asked about the form of government we would have? "A Republic, if you can keep it." But of course we weren't able to keep it.
The United has been an Empire (a national security state) since 1947. And as we all should know by now, there's no longer a "free" press investigating and exposing government wrongdoing. The mainstream media has been utterly co-opted, and those with a conscience don't want to be harassed nearly to the breaking point by the National Security Agency (aka "no such agency") as Thomas Drake was. There is nothing surprising about the steady erosion of our rights as American citizens in a waning Empire. That doesn't make it any less alarming.
So which disaster is most worth of our attention? I'll leave it for you to decide.
Bonus Video — Thomas Drake accepting the Sam Adams award