Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ignorance Based Fear and the Denial of Reality

We've had another attempt to blow up an airplane, this time by a 23-year-old Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab. He used the same type of explosives as that carried by the attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid. Common features: both men were fanatics and neither of the attacks worked.

Herein lies essential base of al-Qaeda (which translates to "the base"). It has thousands of loyal recruits who are willing to lay down their lives for their cause. In fact, their life circumstances make them ill suited for anything but cannon fodder. Those with any education, military training or political power quickly become leaders within the movement. These leaders, conveniently for them, are too "important" to sacrifice themselves. This by default leaves, by and large, an uneducated and unsophisticated group to actually carry out attacks.

It is this reason, the very poor quality of the attackers, that has prevented the majority of attacks. It is not anything done by any security measures, airline procedures, domestic and international spying, or anything else, it is the sheer incompetency of fanatics. It is also a natural function that as continued suicide attacks occur, the pool of attackers gets closer to the bottom of the barrel with each attack. In fact, suicide attacks in general seem to be just from the point of view of strategy, a product of illogical thinking. It wastes the most fanatical soldiers.

Look at the immediate evidence. The best that al-Qaeda can do at present is Richard Reid and Umar Abdulmuttallab. These guys couldn't even detonate explosives with fire. If this really is the best they can do, then their major operational problem is incompetence.

This is not to say that there will not continue to be attacks by misguided fanatics. There are plenty of Mohammed Atta's, and Timothy McVeigh's out there, and some of them will pull it off. By and large though, it is their own fanaticism that is the best ally of everyone in the world.

Balancing out their incompetence is the false sense of security produced by creating an illusion of safety that involves taking away nail clippers and screening your shoes. However, any one who has flown knows the sham that this process has become. Disinterested TSA agents chatting with each other, an over reliance on technology, and a realistic assessment that the likelihood of an attack is low all make for a typical casualness towards the process that makes it resemble a Kabuki theatre.

Now you can expect tighter security for a few weeks, maybe even months, then everything will settle down. That is what the leaders of al-Qaeda will do. Wait for another lull. The reality is that another attack is already being plotted, another apple is being pulled from the bottom, and after that one there will be another and another. Eventually one will get through. No matter how poor the quality of their members and no matter what is done.

It is not uplifting to think or predict that it will happen again, it is just realistic. It is comforting though to note that even the successful plots carried out have been dwarfed in number by those thwarted. It is also something to keep in mind that a more realistic view of those carrying out fanatical attacks is as a mostly incompetent and illogical lot without the ability to do much more than blow themselves up.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. mnn.com. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer