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Posted By Bakari

The Earth has been around about 5 billion years, life about 4 billion.
Half a billion years for animals, 200 billion for mammals.
200,000 years of humans.
For the first 192,000 years or so, the human population was under 10 million people world wide.
Increasing 10 fold took 6000 more years.
We rocketed from 100 million to a billion in just over 2000 years.
The next billion only took 120 years.
And then 30.
And since the 1950s, we have added a billion people every 13 years or so.

We are at around 6.75 billion people now.

Its estimated that it will hit 9 billion in about another 30 years.
That new 2 and a quarter billion people will be our children.

We like to point to the 3rd world, to Asia and Africa, but in the measure that matters, the US is by far the most overpopulated country in the world, as well as one of the fastest growing.

Population is only an issue because of the finite resources the Earth can provide. If we had unlimited resources there wouldn't be any reason not to keep increasing indefinitely.

If everyone used the same amount of water, land, and energy, and caused the same amount of pollution as the average person in the third world, we would all be ok for a long time to come. Due to lack of ability, what we call poverty, people in the third world tend to use less than their share of world resources.
The average person in the first world uses 5 times more than the overall world average.
The average American uses 20 times more. Each of us uses about 20 times more water, 20 times more fuel and electricity, 20 times as much land to produce our food, produces 20 times more waste and pollution.
Which means that in the big picture, each of us counts for 20 people.

So our 305 million population may as well be 6.1 billion, far more than China's 1.3 billion. They would have to increase some combination of actual population and consumption per person by far before we could legitimately point the finger at them.

It also means that each child we have counts as 20 people, turning our fertility rate of 2.1 (already above the replacement rate of 2) into the equivalent of 42 per woman, 6 times higher than the highest rate of any third world country - and almost 17 times higher than the world average.

In the US alone there are 200,000 children waiting to be adopted.

It is one of the most basic and universal desires is to reproduce. How could it be any other way? Because if that drive weren't passed along genetic lines, our ancestors wouldn't have bothered, and we wouldn't be here to think about it.

There has been a widespread assumption that because it is natural and universal that therefor it should be considered a human right.

Our modern world does not resemble the savanna we evolved on. We also have biological instincts to eat whenever food is available in case it isn't tomorrow - and the result is rampant obesity - and a good number of us making the conscious choice to go against instinct and manipulate ourselves in ways that take into consideration the reality of our world. Violence is natural and universal, but we agree as a society that the costs are not acceptable and make the conscious decision to repress it, both as individuals and as communities.
Because, we can do that, we can think, and make choices.

To make wine or beer, you start with grape juice or grains and add microorganisms.
For them it is an incredible feast!

Character limited blog server; read the rest here:

Posted By Bakari

My original comment was not meant to imply I don't believe that there are tangible effects on people (most notably unemployment, which is certainly up compared to a few years ago).
All I said was that media and politicians largely made it up.  I think it is a self-fulfilling prophesy to an extent, where in people hear constant messages that times are tight, therefor they cut back on consumption, therefor retail markets fall, therefor manufacturers cut back, and employers start laying people off.  Which fuels the beginning of the cycle even more.  This is why business analysts track "consumer confidence".  In fact, to a large extent it is what the stock market is all about.  Its less a question of how well a company is doing and more one of how popular are they.  If people think its doing well, they buy, which itself drives the stock price up.  It works both ways, so if everyone is convinced the market is doing bad, they sell so they don't lose too much by waiting, and then companies don't have the capital to invest.


I think it is totally unreasonable to adjust what it means to be "poor" based on those around you.
If we did that, billionaires could claim to be poor if those around them are multi billionaires.  In fact, everyone except for the single richest person in the world would be "poor".
Clearly there should be some objective standard of poverty.
I think the only reasonable one is the point at which you have a reasonable fear of not being able to provide the basic necessities for oneself and family.  Food, shelter, clean water.  If you can afford so little food that it affects your health, you can claim to be poor.

It doesn't have to be a "big" car.  If you own a car, you aren't poor.  Period.  Never mind that most people in the world couldn't even afford the up-front purchase price of a car.  Much higher than that in the long run is costs for fuel, insurance, parking and tolls, maintenance, tickets...
For hundreds of thousands of years of human existence even the wealthiest people in the world could not buy cars.
Only in the US do people honestly believe that they are a "necessity".
All over the country people claim to be struggling who are paying for cable TV.  They eat out and buy $2 cups of coffee.  They have cell phones and internet connections.  These are things most people and the world can't afford.  They are not basic necessities.

Supposedly a person in the bay area needs 3 times the federal poverty level in order to live "comfortably"

They take it for granted that everyone needs a car.
And since when does every 6 year old need her own room?!
In the case of the 2nd article, I have no contempt for the person they profile.  She (rightly) considers herself middle class.
(Hopefully, after having been interviewed she doesn't change her own standards).
Now, going into collection, obviously a problem.  Thing is, that is another of those uniquely American things: living beyond your means.


[Due to charcter limit, this essay is continued here: ]

Posted By Bakari

A few days ago, coming home from work after dark, a neighbor came over to ask for a jump.
I took the alternator out of my truck, but the charger I use in its place has a quick charge / jump start option, so I brought that over.
While we waited for it another neighbor, someone new I had waved to but never met, came over to see if we needed any help.
Somehow we got onto the topics of being "green" and the recession.

The neighbor with the dead battery is involved with a local semi-official flea market. They are conscious of the fact that, along with being a way to make money, selling things second hand is also environmentally responsible. They are actively looking for ways to be more so, for example sourcing "plastic" bags made of plant materials. She had never heard of plastic island, but understood how it happened and the significance as soon as I described it.
The new neighbor talked about the house of cards credit schemes that led to our economic situation, about concentration of wealth, government and banks and stock markets roles.
While I had plenty of my own to add, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything both of them said.

This in contrast to interactions with neighbors over the past couple years: the neighbor in the 10ft long trailer who blamed all the countries problems on "the liberals", the neighbor who couldn't see any possible reason to run bio-diesel instead of petrol when it costs more - even when I pointed out that even if he doesn't live long enough to see environmental harm affect his life his kids might, not to mention the narrowly avoided fist fight and the 3 year old who buried his dads meth needle.

Like I have written, its funny that global warming is the thing that finally got peoples attention - even though there isn't hard scientific evidence that human activity will change it in a significantly more dramatic way than the natural climate cycles already do - when we have known for many decades that our use of resources is totally unsustainable.
But whatever. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than not doing the right thing at all.

Now combined with economic changes, ideas I have been thinking about all my life are becoming more and more popular. What will life be like after the credit based economy has its debts called in, and we no longer have the capacity to exploit natural resources at an unsustainable level, (as is absolutely vital for the American way of life as we know it)?
Of course there were always others who imagined it coming someday, with varying levels of serious - movies like Six-String Samurai on the one end, cults and militias on the other.
But now I am finding it everywhere.
The Gubbins Experiment, a blog I read about a guy who has given up not only driving, but also accepting rides in any motor vehicle for a year, wrote his most pessimistic post ever. My boss, a small business owner with a contract with BART to run the BikeStation seemed to imply that the end of civilization as we know will happen within the next 20 years, and that it will hit dramatic and fast when it does. I met my most recent friend in part via (literal) dreams of a post-apocalyptic future.
And now, even here in the trailer park, people are thinking in global terms about sustainability and economics.

Contrast it also to discussions I have had recently with some single issue activists, who I found by and large narrowly focused on not just one issue, but one side of one issue, unable or unwilling to consider other points of view, ignoring historical and current contexts that don't support a pre-determined conclusion, and offering more criticism than real solutions.

Maybe I had it wrong all along.

Maybe it is the general public, the random ordinary everyday people in whom our potential salvation rests.
That is the most encouraging possibility I have come across in many years.

Posted By Bakari

I tend to spend time around certain type of people.  I feel fortunate to live in a place where there are so many like-minded people to be drawn to, and to have attracted to me.
They work in education, or in jobs with a direct environmental benefit.
They are socially aware, concerned with the world outside of just their own personal lives.
As such they tend to buy local food, used clothes and furniture, they are vegetarian, vote regularly.  They bicycle and take transit, or if they drive its a sub-compact shared with other people, a hybrid, or powered by veggie oil.
They value things like education, cultural understanding, and tolerance.
They see that the way we do things here is not always necessarily the "best" way to do them.  And a part of valuing what other cultures has to offer entails traveling to other places and experiencing them first hand.

Driving that most-visible-of-all-symbols-of-American-consumption, the H2 (the Hummer luxury model) across the country with a couple of passengers, along the 3000 miles of Highway 80 from SF to NY, uses less fuel and causes less pollution (per person) than doing the same journey in a full loaded commercial passenger plane.

A single round-trip intercontinental flight more than negates an entire years worth of commuting by bicycle.

We are able to get away with travel because it is so grossly subsidized; from our military (which is larger than the entire rest of the world combined) being assigned to guard pipelines to the fact that airports are paid for by taxes, not by the airlines, combined with the fact that we simply have way too much money (the world average income is $7000, but the less developed world averages only $700 per year) and so don't think twice about spending it frivolously, from household doo-dahs to vacations.

When a person travels for education, or humanitarian reasons, with the peace corp perhaps, the plane ticket alone is likely to cost several times more than what the local residents make, and do more environmental destruction than the residents would have done, in an entire year.

And this segues me nicely into my next topic.


[Due to character limit, the rest of this essay can be read by clicking the following link]:

MySpace Blog

Posted By Bakari

 [This was written by my mother, and is re-posted here without permission]



There are so many reasons that I am euphoric about Obama's landslide election to the position of President of the United States that I can't begin to name them all, and when I try, I get tangled up in words, none of which can adequately express all the reasons.

At first I was happy not to have to explain anything as most people around me share my elation, and people all over the U.S. , and indeed around the world, understand in great measure the significance of what just happened here.

However, by the day after the election I was disheartened by the number of people in my LGBT community who were so disillusioned and depressed by the gay-marriage set-backs that they failed to be moved by the significance of Obama's election. It is not all LGBT people, by any means, who are too boggled down by that single issue to appreciate the magnitude of the good thing that just happened. But a significant number seem to be.

Then too are those whose political understanding is narrowed in other ways; those who, for example, believe that the only event worthy of the term "revolutionary" is one where a capitalist system is replaced by socialism overnight. Surely there will be those who say of Obama, as they said of Roosevelt , "he saved the capitalist system from itself," and they will see him, therefore, as an anti-hero.

My initial reaction was to feel sorry that some of my friends and associates were missing out on something so wonderful and I put forth my arguments of why they should celebrate, not mourn, this incredible moment.

As I continued to hear from more and more LGBT people for whom the (temporary) gay marriage defeat overshadowed the election of the first Black president of the United States (who also happens to be more progressive than most presidents of our lifetime), I began to get annoyed by the tunnel vision of so many in the LGBT community who, (like so many individuals in so many oppressed groups), can only see their own oppression, their own struggle, their own specific needs, and can do no more than give lip-service to any other cause. I don't know why I always expect more of activists, (and of everyone I know personally), but I do.

Finally, I came to terms with the fact that badgering people haphazardly with various reasons they should be absolutely elated right now rather than sad and self-pitying was not helping anyone, and that I was wasting too much time reacting to the statements of individuals one at a time. I decided it would be much more productive for me to try to organize my thoughts and share them with everyone at once – and then let it go and let people choose to appreciate or not the wonder of this moment.



[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

Couple years ago I posted about trends in the US government spending (it popped back up to the top because I updated the first graph)
Since then of course the trend I described has only increased and intensified.

Today I look forward instead of backward, and suggest something crazy!

Our government debt is growing faster than GDP.  Now they say that the housing "crises" is likely to spur another rescission.  The war is still going on, the eminent running out of social security funds hasn't been addressed, and taxes on capital gains, stock dividends, and inheritance have been reduced or eliminated and those that haven't been already made permanent are still in the works.

The finance problems in housing loans was primarily due to people deliberately purchasing houses out of their price range with the assumption that the market would not only go up forever, but would continue to go up at the same rate is was at the time.
It didn't, since much of what sent it up was the very speculation based on that assumption, sort of like the non-sense a decade ago.
And they ran out of money, couldn't make the payments.

The country is being run the same way, on extended credit, on the assumption that GDP will always grow fast enough to encourage outside investors.

But as a recession dawns, spending increases and revenue decreases, the dollar continues to fall against the Yen and the Euro.

Part of the draw in buying US currency, (both in the form of federal bonds, which pays for nearly 9% of all federal spending) and by buying into the American economy (real estate, stock in US companies etc.) is our large overall economy and its fairly consistent growth, but a large part is just that the US dollar has been recognized as the dominate international currency for a long time now.

(note that data from the treasury website don't seem to add up, nor do they perfectly match the wiki data - but they are all fairly close.  Also, I rounded the numbers off)

In 2007:
Total US government debt: $59,100 billion
(44% of total held by foreigners)
(25% by foreign governments specifically)

$1,697 billion total federal receipts (revenue)
48.8% income tax
36.4% SS/medi-care
10.4% corporate

$2,887 total outlay (government spending)

Real deficit=$1,190 billion 

The entire $869 of SS taxes paid in '07 is included in the official receipts, however the time when there are more retirees than workers is fast approaching, and any money spent from the fund will have to be repaid - and will not have gained any interest in the meantime.  In fact, they do spend SS funds, but this is borrowing, not real income

Revenue only pays for 59% of the budget of the government.


<entire blog at MySpace>


Posted By Bakari

I have been failing to fulfill my responsibility to provide my non-nonsensical thoughts to my 4 or so readers and the 10 anonymous people who for some reason refuse to let me know who they are.
This is primarily because I haven't had time (from work, spending time with my wife, and video games).
When I have posted, its been the sucky unoriginal kind where I just summarize a news story or post a link I found interesting.
Unfortunately, this is going to be another of those.

On the plus side, I have 5 original ideas lined up, which I am sure I will get to relatively soon. The subjects are written down so I won't forget, and the content has been enhanced and refined by countless raving conversations with people in the real world.

In the meantime...


Virgin Airlines has decided to put 100% of its profits over the next 10 years into developing a non-food crop based renewable bio-fuel to replace petroleum based jet-fuel.
You should avoid flying altogether: although planes are the cause of a relatively small percentage of GHG emissions, this is largely because of the sheer volume of driving we do. Takes a lot of energy just to keep something that weighs 485 tons in the air, never mind traveling at hundreds of miles per hour.  Not that driving to NY is much better (its actually slightly worse if you make the drive solo).  If you have to travel long distance, its best to take the train.
But we all know we're gonna fly at least occasionally.
I think Virgin has earned our business.  Plus, their is innuendo in the brand, which is another plus.

A bill has just passed congress, and is expected to pass the senate soon, which focuses on stopping domestic terrorism (that is, acts done by US citizens and permanent residents) not only before they happen, but before they are even planned. It goes beyond conspiracy to commit a crime to simply holding an ideology which may tend to lead eventually to a crime. While that is not an arrestable offense, it sets up a government agency tasked with tracking and surveillance on individuals which have undergone or are undergoing " 'violent radicalization' [which] means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change."
Look carefully at the syntax of that sentence (a quote from the bill).


It is not based on an actual attempt, plan, or even necessarily even a specific thought of violence, but just having an "extremist belief system" which facilitates violence.
It explicitly includes political or social change. There is no definition of what constitutes "extreme".
Protests have at times included breaking windows, flipping over unoccupied cars, and resisting arrest, all of which can be considered violence.
[entire blog at MySpace]

Posted By Bakari

The history and impact of American over-consumption, in easy to digest cartoon form

The Story of Stuff

A much more detailed and in depth documentary covering similar (its actually far more deliberate than you probably thought!):


(In case the embeding fails or changes, try: or just search for "The Century of the Self" on youtube or google video)

Posted By Bakari

I am a liberal. I am an environmentalist. I commute by bicycle to my job advocating the bicycle as a means of everyday transportation. I run my work truck on modified vegetable oil at significant extra cost compared to petroleum diesel. I have a reasonably strong understanding of the sciences, including an associates in biology and earth science (which encompasses, among other things, geology and ecology)
I don't believe in global warming.

I should clarify; I don't not believe in the same way I don't believe in "God".
I acknowledge that the world is almost certainly getting warmer, and there is a good chance that humans have had something to do with it. It is certainly possible.

Graph of temperature of planet earth over time

Note that the time scale is a log.


The graph is a log in order to more easily see the range over different time scales. Each section exists on its own with a linear scale, I just choose that one because I think it allows for a better perspective.

The graph that is used by people who want to convince people of human caused climate change is invariably that of the last 1000 years. 1000 years, on the scale of global processes, is nothing. It is equivalent to looking at specie change or continent movement over the past 1000 years which would "prove" evolution and plate tectonics are myth.

However, the question is not "is the Earth getting warmer". That is measurable. The questions are: 1 "is there a net positive or a net negative feedback mechanism?" (in other words, will it continue out of control or will it naturally stabilize); and 2 "is it our fault?"

Looking at the larger scale, from the time the earths climate settled into a reasonably stable pattern, there has been a periodic cycle, and we are not outside of the range of normal. From the fact that there have been at least 5 similar cycles so far, there is a strong indication that some negative feedback mechanism is at play which serves to keep temperature extremes in check.


This is not to say that the consequences of a temperature increase (like the ones which have in fact occurred, naturally) are not catastrophic. It has been estimated that at least one of those past times of warming contributed to the extinction of up to 90% of all sea life, and 50-70% of land life.  However, humans and our technology weren't around to cause it.


I have yet to see any compelling evidence that the rate of change is outside the normal range - we simply have no way to precisely measure the change over very small intervals of something that happened billions of years before we existed. Nor is a rapid rate automatically indicative of a ever-increasing one. If there is a net negative feedback mechanism (and the historical global temperatures cyclic nature is a strong indicator that there is) it may simply kick in sooner if the rate of change is higher.

The historical geologic data suggests that it is temperature which affects CO2 levels, not the other way around.

I have heard many times now environmentalists, journalists, and politicians say something along the lines of "there is a scientific consensus" or "the facts are in, the question is what do we do about it" or some equivalent.
There isn't, and they aren't.

<entire blog at MySpace>

Posted By Bakari

after listing off fancy techonlogical off road features, the voice over says:

"despite the probability that you won't, the LR2 is designed for the possibility that you will"

American consumer mindset, right there.

Our homes, our cars, the self-storage industry (which has only exsisted since the 1970s and has doubled in the past few years) all guided by that principal.

Lets all take what we can grab before it runs out...
(and try to forget that it wouldn't be running out if we weren't all grabbing)

Posted By Bakari

I bought a folding hex wrench set from the discount bin.

English sizes on one side, Metric on the other.

Here are the sizes, in order:

Metric -  1.5,      2,     2.5,    3,     4,       5,      6
English- 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 7/32

It should be obvious why even the British no longer use the English system.
The government once tried to have the U.S. catch up with the rest of the world, but gave up after massive citizen outcry.
I once worked with a guy who complained that the metric system was "too complicated".
I pointed out the example of
32/32 - 12 - 3 - 1760  VS  10 - 100 - 1000

(fraction of in. - in. in ft. - ft. in yard - yards in mile VS mm in cm - cm in meter - meters in kilometer)

He conceded that the latter was by far the simpler - but still had a strong objection to the metric system on the grounds that "they would have to change the game of football".

I can't help but to imagin this was the reasoning of most of the protestors. 
Interesting that, what ever the reason, an entire country would be unwilling to put a little effort into getting used to a new standard in order to make everything substantially easier for the rest of time.

I can't think of a reason, nor have I yet to hear one, why exactly one country, out of all the many that there are, should be collectively dumber than every other.

Posted By Bakari

1 more than half of us still believe in creationism, even though we have genetic engineering. This is artificial evolution. It has been done, and is being done continually.  It is no more a "theory" than gravity. Gravity is also a "theory" in the scientific sense of the word.  This does not mean that things might not fall down.

2 we don't use the metric system. It's better in every way - how many mm in a cm? 10. How many cm in a m? 100. How many m in a km? 1000. How many mm in a km? 1,000,000. How many grams of water in 15 cubic cm? 15.
How many inches in a mile? Who the fuck knows? How many ounces in 15 cubic inches? good luck, better have a reference book and calculator handy.
The entire rest of the world knows this, but not America.)

As long as these two facts remain true, how can we expect anything substantial to get better.

Posted By Bakari

In all of history, nuclear arms have been used only one time.
It was by the US.

We bombed two civilian cities, not military targets.

We did nothing to help in Rwanda

We have more biological and chemical weapon knowledge and reserves than anyone (even if we promise to never use them)

We do not set out to save the world, we set out to protect our own interests.

We didn't care that Hitler was engaged in genocide before we were attacked.

There are no examples which show that we are benevolent, moral caretakers of the world.
We are hardly in a position to tell others they can't have weapons.

Funny thing is, a lot of those in support of an armed America and unarmed everyone else, are often the same ones who oppose gun control, because the government has no right to say who should be armed and who not...