Ramblings

Predicting the future is always hazardous: there are no time-travellers nor Mentats nor psychohistorians on the horizon to offer advice. Malthus was wrong in his predictions by a few centuries but he is casting a long shadow on the fast-approaching rendezvous with new resource limits. We can still beat him if we can harness the sun or its secret, the fusion. But it is a long and squirrely IF.

Humans love muddy metaphors to expound their views. Social challenges and problems are a lot more complex, even for a true anarchy that never is. Muddling-through is best humans do. But it is more fruitful if one is well-informed: learn the rule, perhaps, just to figure out how and when it breaks. Building social constructs like capitalism or socialism or survival-ism are such exercises, not an eternal solution – they help focus the on-going tussle between the haves and the have-nots, the masters and the slaves. Remember divine rights of the king?  They are coming back, yes! Complete with knights, castles, and torture chambers. Slum dwellers are suckers for a fairy-tale god, they love famine-induced spiritualism, and live on to procreate farm labor, and the gun fodder for the deadly games that the ordained uber-class plays with things that go swish-bang in the night or day. Beckets always die prematurely, at times gracefully perhaps, defending stupidity.

Production, interest, capital, growth, dollar, ever-higher GDP are words of an era whose end is suddenly upon us. We do not know it yet, like the chicken that runs about without its head, for want of a new vocabulary that fits the inexorable decline. The new catch words will include barter and make-do.

There is a pedagogic use for “He is dead, Jim” doomers. We pick on doomers because they offer a view that clashes strongly with recent history. But wait, Hobbes will reign again because he said, “…life is short, nasty, and brutish.”  Nietzsche and his “God is dead” will fast disappear along with the uppity middle class as absence of religion takes away the last hope from the wretched, the spineless, and the doomed who find it hard to defend their dignity. I will not be surprised to see a sequel to “Return of the Native.”

Worry not, each community will live by its reach to resources. How they organize and live will depend on the wisdom and courage of the people. Sheep shall have a shepherd, lions a pride.

Meanwhile drive your humvee, lust for the pretty face on the TV, and enjoy modern-day Sinai in Las Vegas with its golden calves while Moses is away.

Perpetual War in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is not a country. Never was, never will be. If you are looking for Talibans, they are everywhere and nowhere. What you have is an amorphous collection of tribes roaming their traditional range. Their allegiances changing with the ability of the range to sustain life. Even in the good old days, the reach of King Zahir Shah’s rule was limited to the major cities, with a lot of help from, yes, the Russians, and it diminished exponentially beyond the city walls.

Afghanistan is inhospitable territory, part of a larger desert. The western mind nurtured on the economics of exploitation and exponential growth where every citizen is monetized has a hard time putting its arms around the hard but independent life of the tribes-people in Afghanistan and NW Pakistan.That part of the world has been a “terrorist” factory since the dawn of humanity.

Some 30,000 years ago, the ancient ancestor of the Pashtuns, in the seventh year of the 100-year famine, summoned his 4 sons, and said, “Go west, young man,” just like Horace Greeley or John Soule…but he did not stop there, adding East, North, and South as well, and told them to beat the crap out of anybody they see. A true story, documented better than any story in the bible, and borne out by the genetic evidence of the earliest of human migrations out of Africa. Arnold Toynbee has called this land the “roundabout of the ancient world.” They have followed their ancestor’s advice like clockwork: descending on India in the times of famine, for example, they ruled the country for thousands of years, setting up dynasties after dynasties like the Moguls, by beating the crap out of the local Nabobs and Rajahs at will.

They beat the British, so the Brits, jointly with the Czarist Russia, invented the Durand line. The Durand line was an acceptance of defeat by the British, but not for trying. NW Pakistan is littered with “monuments” to the defeated and dead British soldiers.

They beat the USSR. And now, they are beating the US/NATO. The alien US/NATO cockroach, like the Russian and the British before, has just swallowed Agent K and the world is awaiting for the slimy explosion with abated breath. The Pashtun (Taliban) have all the time in the world.

To put things in perspective, there is a fable about the Pashtun and the Prostitute – When the Prostitute complained that he was not counting correctly to win the bet on his staying power, the Pashtun said, “Verily, I will start counting afresh, one, …” They may not be good at math, but they have the staying power that the US/NATO cannot match. They have that uncouth will to carry on in the face of certain annihilation that the “civilized” west cannot swallow.

While the Waziristan/Swat Emirate and other stories like that make for good copy, they have little significance. Pakistan inherited the NW territory in 1947 from the British with its Pashtun tribes…and the years of uneasy truce followed. The tribal areas within the borders of Pakistan have always been quasi-independent. (Pakistani Pashtun population is significantly larger than the Pashtun population in Afghanistan.) The tribes invoke their Jirga for justice, do not fully recognize laws of Pakistan, and are free to cross the so-called international border to Afghanistan and back at will. History of Pakistani control over these tribal lands (and those in Baluchistan) is full of military action and aerial bombardments whenever the tribal chiefs have tried to mount unruly insurgency to get more power or money.

Pakistani military profits handsomely from the US (and the USSR in the 70s) oil and opium dreams. General Musharraf followed the time tested strategy: it is not the rebels against the USSR when General Zia was in power, it is the Talibans against the US/NATO. Same difference. We still have to deal with the Pakistani military even so the political power is now in the hands of the feudal landlords, who always win in “democratic” elections.

The land of tribes now has a number of US/NATO bases scattered on the proposed oil pipelines from central Asia and Iran. Are they looking for a 6 foot 5 Arab hooked to a portable kidney machine? Chances of Bin Laden being still alive are rather slim. Even if he is still alive, Al-Qaeda has shown time and again it does not need him or Afghanistan to carry on their low level activities. Are we there for oil? We better hurry, since increasingly, Iran and the central Asian dictatorships are entering into bilateral oil contracts with China, the new 800-pound gorilla on the block, or are compelled to deal with Russia at their door-steps. In short, the strategic reason for us to be in Afghanistan is no longer solid! Perhaps, we are there for opium. Enterprising generals can make a quick buck while the industry sells a lot of arms and ammunition to support their enterprise at the expense of the taxpayer.

The upshot of all this is simple: For the rulers in Pakistan, the militants or the Talibans are an essential part of the strategy to scare and contain an impoverished populace, and they are noisy enough for the Pakistanis to collect billions from US taxpayers. For the corporate-military complex here at home, Orwell’s “perpetual war” is of the essence. It keeps the dollars rolling, rolling, rolling. The corporate-military complex is not worried about winning. All they want is their share of the opium trade as there is little chance to snatch central Asian oil away from China.

Perhaps Sarah Palin was the better choice: she could have unwittingly pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan while keeping the corporate-military complex busy drawing up plans to invade Alaska. They have oil, don’t they?

The Pushtun and the Gringo

I

The Pushtun and the Gringo went to desert
On a beautiful poppy-red drone,
They took shrapnel, and plenty of powder,
Wrapped up in a five ton bomb.
The Pashtun looked to the stars above,
Singing, he aimed his mortar,
‘O lovely Gringo! O Gringo my love,
What a rounceval Gringo you are,
You are,
You are!
What a rounceval Gringo you are!’

II

Gringo said to the Pushtun, ‘You elegant biped!
How charmingly deadly your outburst!
O give me some oil! and the pretty poppies too!
But what shall we do for a house?’
They droned away, for a decade and a day,
To the rocks where the poppy grows
And there on a wall was Goldman-Sachs
With a loan at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a loan at the end of his nose.

III

‘Dear Gold, are you willing to sell for one dollar
Your ARM?’ Said the Goldie, ‘I will.’
So they bought, and were foreclosed next day
By the Congress who lives on the hill.
They dined on oil, and snorted poppy,
Over a hot runcible spoon, oh my Gott!
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They overdosed by the light of Herr Gott,
Herr Gott,
Herr Gott,
They overdosed by the light of Herr Gott.

<can you hear Edward Lear groans?>

There was an old empire who swallowed a dove

There was an old empire who swallowed a dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a bomber,
She swallowed the bomber to bomb the Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a barrel of oil,
She swallowed the oil to fly the bomber,
She swallowed the bomber to bomb the Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a bushel of corn,
She swallowed the corn to make the oil,
She swallowed the oil to fly the bomber,
She swallowed the bomber to bomb the Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a lake,
She swallowed the lake to water the corn,
She swallowed the corn to make the oil,
She swallowed the oil to fly the bomber,
She swallowed the bomber to bomb the Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a bonfire,
She swallowed the fire to boil the lake,
She swallowed the lake to water the corn,
She swallowed the corn to make the oil,
She swallowed the oil to fly the bomber,
She swallowed the bomber to bomb the Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a bible,
She swallowed the bible to stoke the fire,
She swallowed the fire to boil the lake,
She swallowed the lake to water the corn,
She swallowed the corn to make the oil,
She swallowed the oil to fly the bomber,
She swallowed the bomber to bomb the Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

There was an old empire who swallowed a Franken-apple,
She swallowed the apple to proof the bible,
She swallowed the bible to stoke the fire,
She swallowed the fire to boil the lake,
She swallowed the lake to water the corn,
She swallowed the corn to make the oil,
She swallowed the oil to fly the bomber,
She swallowed the bomber to bomb the Babylonian,
She swallowed the barbarian to feed the dove,
We do not know why she swallowed the dove,
Perhaps she will make love.

Die World!

I just talked to the president about our near-bottom position on the world happiness index. He believes this is a sinister terrorist ploy. He said, “I am the happiest guy on earth. And I represent the people. We are all very happy, trigger happy. We love war. I am sure they rigged the votes to put US at number 150 in happiness. I know how it is done, if you get my drift.”

He said, “This will not stand. I am asking Chain-y to wipe out the 149 countries ahead of us. And, just to make sure that no one but no one sneaks ahead of us, we shall preemptively attack and destroy all the countries below us as well. We shall remain number 1 forever.”

Dark Matter


If you love dark cold nights, you must hope there is not enough of the dark matter. If you are an arsonist or enjoy pyrotechnics, you must be rooting for lots of it. The Deep freeze or the explosive disappearance is all yours if you can stick around a few billion years.

However, when Lord Keynes opined, “In the end , we are all dead,” he was talking about a century or two. Limits to Growth, a Club of Rome study, puts the Armageddon right around 2070s.

Exponential growth is a quaint little concept. It is well understood in science. It is characterized by overshoot followed by catastrophic readjustment when inputs to the system become scarce or the output waste overwhelms the desired outcomes.

But who cares? The world is run by the politicians and economists. One specializes in selling untruths and half-truths for economic gain and the other is adept at using voodoo math and supply of money to prove existence of flat earth and infinite growth.

Malthus did not know about the existence of oil, but he knew his math well. We are straining our resources to the limit: water, land, energy, you name it. And the waste products are mounting: garbage, global temperature, and population. Yes, population, 6.5 billion and counting.

Most scientist I know are pessimistic about finding new water resources on Mars, or in our ability to move the earth a few meters further away from the sun for its cooling effect, and finding an equally abundant, cheap, and concentrated source of energy as gas and oil in time.

Most politicians and economists, on the other hand, have no choice but to believe in science. That belief comes easy as they have no idea how science works. Or, wait for Armageddon.

The Armageddon in this case is a collapse of the world population to pre-oil numbers, about a quarter of what it is today, and return to local economies, some benign, but mostly feudal and repressive.

Cheer up, the fit and prepared will survive. Others will find solace in Jesus and the real Armageddon and walk off the cliff to commiserate with their maker.

Just like you, all I want is a nice balcony seat, caviar, and vodka-popsicles .