Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Give me more oil or I'll hold my breath", a new school of American foreign policy is growing

/ how to generate Onionnesque headlines - for real /
On the heels of US presidential candidate Clinton's pledges to smash OPEC in a confident if utterly vague and unspecified way, reaching the "hollow threat" concept to unprecedented heights, the US congress has one-upped her, passing a bill to sue OPEC over oil prices, under US law, a move that even the hypertrophic jurisdiction cheerleaders in the current White House think is a bad idea. Ignore that in the current price range most oil producers are producing at near capacity. Notice however that the implementation of their proposals can only be established militarily and would certainly destroy supply along with demand (demand destruction in the form of mountains dead people, I mean to imply), to reach an uncertain final balance.

Meanwhile, back in reality, the International Energy Agency (hardly an alarmist institution, one is obliged to notice), flinches, as it is...:

...preparing a sharp downward revision of its oil-supply forecast, a shift that reflects deepening pessimism over whether oil companies can keep abreast of booming demand.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency is in the middle of its first attempt to comprehensively assess the condition of the world's top 400 oil fields. Its findings won't be released until November, but the bottom line is already clear: Future crude supplies could be far tighter than previously thought...

We're heading to a broad acknowledgment of the reality of Peak Oil, it seems, albeit obliquely, and a wide range of experts are predicting rough but promising to scary times, the last link being about the latest predictions of the man who wrote the Hirsch Report. Our world is about to be not very subtly transformed it seems.

This post came about through the utilization of this Eurotrib Diary, a website where peak-oilers (and other commie pinkos such as myself) abound. For a more dedicated peak-oil hub, check out The Oil Drum.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Milgram dissident

/ who disobeys? /
If you haven't heard of the Milgram experiment on obedience, see the relevant Wikipedia article first. Then, if you want, watch Milgram's fascinating short (44') film on the subject, Obedience:

I stumbled upon (via Metafilter) a first person account from one of the people who actually refused to continue the experiment (one of the 15 out of 40 only to do so in Milgram's first experiment), titled Resisting Authority: A Personal Account of the Milgram Obedience Experiments. It is a fascinating story that reveals - aside from the fact that this guy sort of figured that the whole thing might be staged that the man in question was a member of the Communist Party of the USA. This I think is highly relevant and I quote the man in full on his political opinions and their relevance to his behavior in the experiment:
In retrospect, I believe that my upbringing in a socialist-oriented family steeped in a class struggle view of society taught me that authorities would often have a different view of right and wrong than mine. That attitude stayed with me during my three and one half years of service in the army, in Europe, during World War II. Like all soldiers, I was taught to obey orders, but whenever we heard lectures on army regulations, what stayed with me was that we were also told that soldiers had a right to refuse illegal orders (though what constituted illegal was left vague).
In addition, in my position during the late 1940s as a staff member of the Communist Party, in which I held positions as chairman in New Haven and Hartford, I had become accustomed to exercising authority and having people from a variety of backgrounds and professions carry out assignments I gave them. As a result, I had an unorthodox understanding of authority and was not likely to be impressed by a white lab coat.
In the early 1950s, I was harassed and tailed by the FBI, and in 1954, along with other leaders of the Communist Party in Connecticut, I was arrested and tried under the Smith Act on charges of "conspiracy to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government by force and violence." We were convicted, as expected, and I was about to go to jail when the conviction was overturned on appeal. I believe these experiences also enabled me to stand up to an authoritative "professor."
This is not to say that membership in the Communist Party made me or anyone else totally independent. Many of us, in fact, had become accustomed to carrying out assignments from people with higher positions in the Party, even when we had doubts. Would I have refused to follow orders had the experimental authority figure been a "Party leader" instead of a "professor"? I like to think so, as I was never a stereotypical "true believer" in Party doctrine. This was one of the reasons, among others, that I left the Party in the late 1950s. In any event, I believe that my political experience was an important factor in determining my skeptical behavior in the Milgram experiment.

Update June 20 2008: A recent trial of the Milgram experiment concludes that: "Among other things, we found that today people obey the experimenter in this situation at about the same rate they did 45 years ago"...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Guantanamo:..."rats are treated with more humanity"

/ sami al-hajj is free /
Sami Al-Hajj the AL Jazeera cameraman arrested and detained without cause in the Guantanamo prison camp, is now free, realeased on May 1st. A campaign for the release of Al Hajj has been active these past six years, a cause which was well known in the Arab world, but not as much reported in the West (see this recent NYT article though). His case was picked up by Amnesty International and there was a campaign for his release. Recently sketches/cartoon of his from Guantanamo were forbidden release by the gulag's authorities, but were re created from their descriptions by Lewis Peake, a political cartoonist:

This is Sami Al Hajj's interview after he was released:

I quote from the moving interview as reported in the World Socialist Web Site the following shocking (well, for those whose view of the world is informed by the Mainstream Media, anyway) statement:

Although US officials have given multiple rationales for his detention, al-Hajj told reporters that a primary purpose was “to abort free media reporting” in the Middle East. He said that in the hundreds of interrogations to which he was subjected, his captors repeatedly tried to get him to say there was a link between Al Jazeera and Al Qaeda.

Thus Al Hajj was used as a hostage and abused as a mafia abductee in the war against Al Jazeera. The War against Al Jazeera I emphasize not Al Qaeda. But hey what's he gonna do? Sue? Yeah right...