Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's Not the Economy, Stupid

Now that unemployment is the lead headline every day it's time to realize that this is no longer about 'the economy'; it's about technology and population. Yes, we've had a veritable parade of fiscal hurricanes—offshoring, Enron, banking and housing insanity, and trillion-dollar wars—but those are merely storms. And in the same way that storms knock dead wood off trees, it's not the storm that kills the tree, and it's not the economy, or even China, that takes jobs away by the millions.

Every day it takes fewer people—and jobs—to produce the same amount of goods and services. This is far-and-away the dominant force in our employment picture. (The only way we'll get those jobs back from China is if we somehow have 1.3 billion people and they have 300 million. Be careful what you wish for.) Every day that we continue to expect an upturn in the economy to solve our unemployment problem is a day lost in working toward a real solution. No number of cars or homes sold can solve this problem because, it turns out, growth is precisely the opposite of sustainability. Thirty years ago we talked about population but not any more. If we continue to attack the problem solely with increased production and consumption, the peaks and valleys of economic peril will only get more pronounced.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

10 Ways for America to Burn More Oil

10 Ways for America to Burn More Oil

The sight of oil and gas being intentionally burned---to no energetic purpose---atop the gushing Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has reinforced for me the notion that energy really must be free in America. How else can you explain so many examples we see every day of energy being wasted so thoughtlessly? It must be because energy, despite all the Chicken Little 'peak oil' talk and whatnot, is apparently so plentiful we must find ways to dispose of it. So here's what you can do to help burn off this embarrassment of riches.

1. Put video advertising screens everywhere... at every gas pump, department store clothing area, and highway roadside. LCDs for everyone.
2. Require every household to have one of those inflated, illuminated, motorized lawn globes, year-round. If you don't like the one with Santa and the blowing snow, perhaps you can find one of Osama and Halliburton hero Dick Cheney arm-in-arm doing the Hora as oil rains down on them.
3. Keep the lights on in every office building all evening while people are cleaning a few offices at a time. And in those office buildings, put a new plastic trash bag in every cubicle's trash can every day, for the few pieces of paper discarded.
4. Whatever you buy in a store, however small, insist on getting a bag, plastic if possible. Or better yet, a paper bag inside a plastic bag!
5. Make those suburban lawns as big as can be. And buy a riding mower. The bigger the better.
6. Keep spending every penny we have on private transportation. Buses and trains don't waste nearly enough oil.
7. Flush a gallon of water down the drain every time someone uses a urinal... it made sense 100 years ago so it must still make sense. Think of the energy it takes to treat and deliver water.
8. Put up toll booths at the midpoint between every current roadway toll plaza. Stopping traffic twice as often will burn huge amounts of oil. And when they're built, double the number again. It's a lose-lose winner.
9. Make more babies. Ultimately our only strategy to burn this oil as fast as BP spews it is population. Pop, baby, pop.
10. And finally, just keep letting that BP well run until every last fish and fowl is killed. Don't funnel it to the surface with a stack of concrete or steel cylinders. Don't trap it with a big tube or the world's best pumps. Just let it gush.
America has never failed to rise to a great challenge and there's no reason this should be the first time. Just because we don't seem to be able to build cars fast enough to burn all this ugly black goop doesn't mean we can't solve this problem. We can burn this oil if we're all willing to sacrifice and work hard. God bless you all and God bless the United States of America.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Archeologists Unearth Remains of America

July 8, 9710: Archeologists yesterday announced they have found fossil remnants that may explain the demise of the land once known as America. It appears the 'Great Experiment' didn't collapse in any sort of sudden cataclysm but slowly decayed, almost rotting to death. The Americans seem to have perished...
...waiting in line at the airport, grandmotherly and baby terrorists alike, some in their underwear, all with their shoes off. A separate breed, almost another species, appears to have had their brains removed, identified by uniforms with the letters TSA on them. All were smiling cooperatively.
... tearing up credit card solicitations. By the countless billions.
... saving money on car insurance in a pathetic tail-chasing reenactment of Xeno's paradox, they were saving so much money that car insurance companies would have had to be paying them, were it not just another scam of a commerce system gone berserk.
... submitting rebate forms. Apparently all goods and services were free-after-rebate, and almost all money exchanged hands in reverse, through coupons and rebates. Those items that weren't free after rebate were simply advertised as free... after, of course, the 12-year monthly contract. Some 12 million of the fossilized Americans were found reading their communications bills, trying to figure out what company they came from. Many had kitchen implements thrust in their eyes, apparently self-inflicted to make the bill-reading less painful by comparison.
... in toll booth lines and in front of casino machines. In a desperate bid to save patronage-bloated systems, a war of non-productive taxing went berserk. States bet on millions of slot machines and local authorities put up toll booths everywhere. By the end, only six people actually succeeded in conducting commerce and manufacturing.
... frozen in front of their computers, 'surfing the web' as it was called, trying to find for 'sex tapes.' (This was in the days before politicians and celebrities had to submit their video sex transcripts to the public.) Those millions who succeeded in finding the tapes died of something called 'reality television,' similar to flesh-eating bacteria it turned their brains to a slimy gelatin that oozed out of their ears. The closest evidence, found in relics called newspapers, traces the phenomenon back to a mythical white bronco.
... turning to stone in hospital waiting rooms; these were the lucky ones that actually had health insurance. As near as the researchers could tell, those without health insurance were condemned to push wheelbarrows full of green paper bricks back and forth between hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. In perhaps the strangest twist, the doctors didn't actually perform medicine but simply followed the uninsured around and charted their movement of the wheelbarrows. It seems as if medicine in those days had been brilliantly reduced to numerical accounting... reminiscent of ancient Egypt's precocious use of geometry to build pyramids in honor of their leaders.
But in America, the monuments seem to have been erected for those who can hit a ball or leap the highest with one. These 'athletes' must have been the ones with political power; it couldn't have been the posturing figureheads in the seat of government, who were all found crushed under huge tomes that simply enumerated favored corporations. This sort of 'exception' methodology seems consistent with the financial mechanism of the rebate system.
The real deity however seems to have been jobs (or Jobs?). Fifty million died praying for jobs, whereas the rich people with jobs prayed to Jobs... apparently spending every last dollar on "i" devices, never able to satisfy their self-indulgence. Scientists are still trying to work this all out.
Only one thing in our current society seems to have survived all this time, a weather broadcaster on Comcast-Chinamerica channel 2794, a man by the name of Dick Clark. In other news, computer programmers have discovered a diabolical new problem that they are calling Y10K.