Mr. Putin can’t seem to get a break in the western media. I watched his recent interview with CBS’s Megyn Kelly with her tiresome, boring questions like, “did Russia interfere in our election,” “did your ambassador meet with Trump’s election officials,” “isn’t it true that you’re a corrupt murderous thug,” etc. Only in response to Kelly’s last question did Mr. Putin get to name a handful of his achievements in Russia. But someone ought to better prepare his talking points on this score. The below excerpt from my upcoming book summarizes how Russia has changed during the 17 years since Mr. Putin has been at helm.
So far, the dreams of 1,000-year empires and stable world domination have eluded the ruling elites throughout history and across the globe. Empires arise, sustain themselves for a century or two and then rapidly decay and collapse. The collapse may appear relatively fast and obvious in hindsight, but in reality it spans decades, may appear as a series of temporary crises and only become obvious very late into the slow-motion train wreck. Continue reading
We should be very concerned about the surveillance state in the west – but our privacy is not the main reason why.
Wikileaks’ latest dump of CIA documents confirmed what many of us suspected all along, especially after the Edward Snowden revelations: that the NSA (and GCHQ…) use our computers, mobile devices, and even internet-connected TV sets to spy on us. Some people feel they have nothing to hide, so they aren’t bothered about it. Others feel outraged on the grounds that it violates our civil liberties and our right to privacy. But there’s a much more important reason to be concerned about mass surveillance, and it isn’t about the privacy of the vast majority of us. Continue reading
Last year I published a report with the (justifiably) bombastic title, “$500 per barrel: could oil price rise tenfold?” One of my central claims was that producing oil requires investment of real capital including materials, equipment and highly skilled labor, and that, “as more and more resources are required to generate the same amount of liquid fuels, energy production is becoming ever more expensive to society in real terms.” Thus, as it becomes more expensive in real terms (as the deteriorating EROEI figures indicate), the fact that energy has recently become cheaper in nominal (dollar) terms can only be a temporary abberation. EROEI stands for energy return on energy invested; in the early 1900s, we obtained 100 barrels euqivalent of oil per barrel invested (EROEI of 100 to 1); today we are at about 15 to 1 globally and at 11 to 1 in the USA. Continue reading
Donald Trump and his administration have been at the receiving end of passionate denounciations and scorn from many opinion leaders in the media. At the same time Trump’s approval rating among American voters has ranged between 50% and 60%. Here’s a statistical sketch of this American riff-raff and why they may support Trump.
Fully 35% of Americans do not have enough money to live comfortably (english: they can’t make ends meet). That’s more than 110 million people. These Americans have to supplement their cost of living with credit card debt. The Urban Institute reports that this same proportion of Americans (35%) have debt in collections (180 or more days past due). On average, the households that carry credit card debt are over $16,000 in the hole, paying an average interest rate at 16.1% (that’s $2,600 per year just in interest). Continue reading
Suppose you lived in a community where an old but well maintained bridge connected two river banks, enabling people and goods to move across. The bridge would represent a piece of community wealth, although its existence would only marginally impact the community’s ‘GDP’. Now suppose someone proposed to boost the community’s economic activity (GDP) by blowing up the bridge and building a new one. Continue reading
Yesterday I saw a brief speech by Leonardo di Caprio imploring people to vote – not for the candidate who ignores science. He was talking about the scientific consensus on global warming and mentioned that 97% of all scientists agree that global warming climate change is a man-made phenomenon. This 97% consensus figure is so compelling, it is only fair to explore where it came from.
Where “97% consensus” comes from
One Margaret Zimmerman conducted an opinion survey in 2008. The “survey” consisted of a two-question online questionnaire sent to 10,257 “earth scientists” (?), of whom 3,146 responded. Continue reading