Friday, November 18, 2016

The New Shapes of New York

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Rant - The New Yorker

Rant - The New Yorker
By allen ginsberg, channel through River Clegg

Scots and Welsh can have say in Brexit court case

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‘None of the old rules apply’

Julia - interludes

Interludes

This is not written for anyone reading this, because almost everyone reading this is conditioned by the era that is ending. The illusions, delusions, and allusions of that time, are slowly fading, as the stars before the coming grey of twilight morning. The sketched outlines of the constellations become unreadable and ragged, even as people fix on the few that seem to assert that night can last forever.

All stories are journeys, that we have forgotten to discuss in journeys, and in stories, is part of our problem. We hide the stories beneath the surface and assert the moral without the fable. This story begins before the beginning. The story begins in the 1800's with the first modern famine. The end? The end of the story is the end of "The Great Moderation," which was etched finely in wholesale prices some 10 years ago, writ large in energy prices starting in 2002, and is now swelling in the streets of Cairo. It is the end of the "Neo-" age, the new age is not yet here, because there is not one ideology, from far right to far left, that is not a product of the glacialism that the Great Moderation has brought, and wrought its people to be cogs within. It is an age of courts and kings, and other things, whose toppled crowns the future now brings.

The Argument

With energy we make food. The solution to the last series of global crisis points was to match consumption to the bandwidth of energy. This was accomplished by neo-classical economics, which was enforced by neo-liberal policy, and buttressed by neo-conservative politics and foreign policy.

The last crisis was brought on by the liberal and social democratic states preference for inflation, which is to say, a tax on profits of the past, to produce employment - combined with the demographic wave from the Second World War, the "baby boom" reaching their early adulthood. The liberal state and social democratic states reached the point where they could not harness capital and labor, to substitute for key commodities: particularly oil. Oil stability was more important, because the "Green Revolution" brought oil driven food production to the developing world.

The result was "The Great Moderation" where the actual global economy expanded relatively much by an expansion of oil bandwidth and technological application of that bandwidth. As food prices stabilized, so did politics. People who are fed, are willing to wait. Incrementalism, became glacialism.

That same wave aged in the developed world, there is now not enough money to accomplish three politically and economically necessary ends: paying the promises made to the baby boom to get them to wait in the first place, developing the underdeveloped world, and continued control by the top of the neo-pyramid. Thus this age will end.

The Malthusian Equilibrium

For much of human history, the primary activity of economic consequence, has been the production of food. Food was also the main part of energy, and we evolved to live, in the age of muscle. Wind, water, fire, and chemistry, were touched upon but did not rule the aching days of man and the beasts that we had domesticated, while they had domesticated us, along with the plants that we had domesticated, while they had domesticated us.

This is why there are linkages to sunspots in human history: because sunspots represent higher solar activity, as the energy within punches out. It is a small variance, but we are a small world, and a small change towards fire or ice, changes the growing seasons. As agriculture grew heavier in its capital: irrigation, horses, plows, movement became less tolerable. The agricultural revolution is linked to a period of stability in Earth's climate. Paleo-climatology tells us that there were earlier eras of stability, but none as stable as ours, none as warm. The era of the cave paintings from Europe, come from a long period of cold stability, which would mean the same animals could be hunted, and the same technology used.

For most of human history, we rode the “Agricultural Revolution” which was, as much, a climate change. Human beings did not suddenly discover agriculture, they had been edging up to it for a very long time: domesticating the modern dog 14,000 years ago, bee-keeping 13,000 years ago, and the early domestication rice between 14,000 and 12,000 years ago, with the first rye wheats being found at 11,500 years ago. This is the end of the paleolithic or epipaleolithic. Domestication came, and then an explosion in material culture. Energy and animals first, technology second: the neolithic begins somewhere late in this period.

What synchronized this? For the first wave of domestication the answer is easy: the ending of the glacial period around 12,000 years ago would allow those groups who had started domestication to spread out rapidly. We would call them “more advanced,” but that is because climate sided with them. The next great wave of domestication is not associated with an event so dramatic, however, the most logical candidate is a pulse of meltwater that rose sea levels, and was then followed by a period of cooling known as the “Younger Dryas.” A similar wave of domestication occurred aroud the “8.1k event.” There were many who were domesticating, but the water and cooling events culled the winners from the losers. The event established the current coastlines and fertile zones, and those who managed to survive the rapid change, quickly spread their seeds and animals in those zones, from which virtually all are descended today.

This changed with a simple dynamic: the first wave of human agriculture was what humans could do on their own, augmented by domesticating food. The energy went into animals, but not out. The second wave was agriculture improved by animal muscle power. But there progress largely stopped. The other sources of energy that human beings had available: wind, water, and fire; could only be applied in limited ways to getting more energy. It was more efficient to apply them to trade, and to conquest, than to agriculture itself, with limited exceptions of irrigation. There were no wood-driven steam plows. Ships were not harnessed to pull blades.

Among the first ways to apply other forms of energy to food production, was the water mill, which was not developed until the Greeks in around the 3rd century BC. Before then to grind meant to use animal energy to reduce grain to flour.

This is why the coming of the horse, around 4000 BC, left such a mark on human societies: the horse brought the ability to dramatically expand the size of organization, it could be the basis of plowing, hauling, controlling, conquering. It would lead to the first horse empires, and as I described in The Armies of Assyria created the high energy burn empire: an empire that could burn through its own production in conquest. One reason that the Indo-European languages spread as they did, is that they were among the first horse-folk. The result is still on the tip of our tongues.

This created an equilibrium: increased size of organization was the primary means of increasing the standard of living at the center. Thus was established what would be the human equilibrium for almost all of our history: the priorities of human beings were survival, population expansion, cultural expansion, and cultural improvement, and in that order. This meant that the quality of life for the vast majority of people did not improve by very much. Luxury for the few was bought by having more of the many to take a percentage of their products from. Human beings during this time sought a malthusian equilibrium: breeding as fast as food allowed, spreading as far as possible, in order to survive the great plagues and other adverse events. This was to be expected: the Agricultural Revolution, was won by exactly this behavior: establish a physical and ethno-culture, and push it to its limits, or else.

One of the long term consequences is that human organization increased, as climatic conditions were generally cooling and, to some degree, worsening. A warmer, more forgiving climate, allows human settlements, but constriction leads to a series of rises and falls of human society, with each new wave taking some of what came before. Humanity was yoked to the climate, and what we like to think of as purely internal changes, driven by culture, actually are a complex dance between water, temperature, and culture.

The Malthusian Garden

The Course taken by Irish nationalism during the 19th century was largely determined by men and circumstances peculiar to Ireland; its general direction, however, was profoundly affected by wider European influences. Like other nationalisms of the period, Irish nationalism owed to the Romantic Movement its eagerness in seeking out history as an indispensable ally; and during the second half of the century it came to be conceived in historical terms,taking as its intellectual basis an interpretation of Irish history. Most nationalists sought, and found, in Irish history the justification and inspiration of their political opinions...

Thomas Malthus

American privilege is the product of a post-war world, specifically that double conflict which Churchill called "The Second Thirty Years War:" what is conventionally called "World War I" and "World War II." It is in the frame work of America, the untouched victor of the conflict, that international relationships are drawn, and which virtually all Americans function. We do not question where our oil comes from, or why Chinese people would want to spend 18 hours a day in a dark room sewing garments for us to leave on our floors. For some time however, we have been living in a pre-war, not a post-war, world. The gateway moment was the attacks of September 11th, 2001. It could have been a lunge by a spandrel of the post-war economic order, an eddy of air that becomes a tornado from a dying storm. Or it could be what it has become, the moment when those who have long waited for, even longed for, a final conflict – any final conflict – saw a disaster that could be bent to their ends.

The failure of the G-20 conference is an open declaration that we live in a pre-war, not a post-war, world, where the diplomatic politics of the future will be jostling for position in an escalating series of conflicts.

Any essay that declares that we live in a twilight era, a period before the collapse, must be aware of two inarguable truths: societies fall, and, equally, at any moment one can find those who are predicting an imminent and immanent collapse. The two are related. Healthy societies listen to those warnings of collapse which are valid and represent a clear and present danger, and they contain those which are not predictions of doom, but calls for it. When writing such a warning, the author must understand that there are three categories, and he, and his work, belong to one of those three. He is issuing a warning that will be heeded, and so will be effective by being wrong, he is calling for a collapse, in which case he is right if he issues a self-fulfilling prophecy, or he is correctly stating a truth about which nothing can be done, except to ameliorate the effects. He also must realize that this second category is overwhelmingly larger than the other two combined.

The sandwich sign carrier, saying "the end is near" is a figure of cliched ridicule. However, this is to miss his significance: the end is always near, for someone. While the society may be healthy, or at least not in danger of economic, political, or social meltdown, there are always many people within it who are. These two are connected: grand tragedy, is the product of people who become willing to break everything to avoid becoming a small tragedy themselves. Or as Stalin quipped, "One death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." While his warning of global armageddon may be laughable wrong, a world end every time a life is extinguished. Thus is the utility, even of futility.

However, that is not why the sandwich sign prophet of doom got into the business. Instead, he welcomes the end, embraces it, and is compelled to see in that end, a new world, absolved of the sins of the old, and cleansed in a salvation. The Apocalypse of St. John called "the book of revelations" in English, is one such vision. There was no such ending of the world close at hand, and yet, both the sect that the author was part of, and the author's work itself, have been a continuing source of revelation. In a more recent vein, Richard Wagner painted the end of the world he was a part of, and his private writings indicate he more than welcomed the coming Götterdämmerung.

In the vein of warning is a large, and generally smaller, literature. In general, the core of the warning of avoidable disaster, is based on a simple reality: and that is that within any society, there are unsustainable trends. Most are cut off by their own feedback loop. An economist would call this "a tendency to equilibrium." A resource runs low, the price goes up, and either more is found because the higher price pays for exploration and extraction, or people shift to other resources. Smith, in one of his worst sections, argues for profiteering in a famine, because the price husbands the resources. Sen would contradict this with data, showing that the high price of food in a famine works because those too poor and powerless, starve.

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