Minutiae
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"Chuck Norris doesn't read books; he stares them down until he gets the information he wants out of them."
- ChuckNorrisFactsdotcom

Friday, April 08, 2005
Well gosh. If all the prophecies of St. Malachy, and Edgar Cayce, and those about peak oil, and the end of the maya calendar, and the Yellowstone volcano, and global warming, and meteor impacts, and economic collapse, and solar flares, and earthquakes, and tsunamis, didn't convince me that the end times are upon us
this certainly did.

Honestly now. How many of these doomsday predictions involve an aspect of wish-fulfillment? Some element of cosmic justice in the eyes of those anticipating destruction? We are living in interesting times. Everything is changing. Anxiety about the shape of the future easily manifests as despair over how everything can possibly work out.

posted by Rachel 4/08/2005
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This is lifted entirely from
here. Consider it in light of all the many predictions of our own imminent doom that have been proclaimed as certainties in just this past century. Any time that big changes are underway people get anxious and predict a horrible future. In the midst of major transformations is possibly the worst time to make confident statements that we're sure to be punished for our arrogance and overreach any minute now. The San Francisco earthquake, the first flu epidemic, prohibition, women's sufferage, tuberculosis, WWI, the depression, WWII, the civil rights movement, the cold war, the vietnam war, the sexual revolution, Y2K, and peak oil, have all been offered as evidence that the good days are over and the future is bleak.
If D-Day Had Been Reported On Today

by William A. Mayer

Tragic French Offensive Stalled on Beaches (Normandy, France - June 6, 1944) - Pandemonium, shock and sheer terror predominate today's events in Europe.

In an as yet unfolding apparent fiasco, Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower's troops got a rude awakening this morning at Omaha Beach here in Normandy.

Due to insufficient planning and lack of a workable entrance strategy, soldiers of the 1st and 29th Infantry as well as Army Rangers are now bogged down and sustaining heavy casualties inflicted on them by dug-in insurgent positions located 170 feet above them on cliffs overlooking the beaches which now resemble blood soaked killing fields at the time of this mid-morning filing.

Bodies, parts of bodies, and blood are the order of the day here, the screams of the dying and the stillness of the dead mingle in testament to this terrible event.

Morale can only be described as extremely poor--in some companies all the officers have been either killed or incapacitated,leaving only poorly trained privates to fend for themselves.

Things appear to be going so poorly that Lt. General Omar Bradley has been rumored to be considering breaking off the attack entirely. As we go to press embattled U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt's spokesman has not made himself available for comment at all, fueling fires that something has gone disastrously awry.

The government at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is in a distinct lock-down mode and the Vice President's location is presently and officially undisclosed.

Whether the second in command should have gone into hiding during such a crisis will have to be answered at some future time, but many agree it does not send a good signal.

Miles behind the beaches and adding to the chaos, U.S. Naval gunships have inflicted many friendly fire casualties, as huge high explosive projectiles rain death and destruction on unsuspecting Allied positions. The lack of training of Naval gunners has been called into question numerous times before and today's demonstration seems to underlie those concerns.

At Utah Beach the situation is also grim, elements of the 82nd and 101st Airborne seemed to be in disarray as they missed their primary drop zones behind the area believed to comprise the militant's front lines. Errant paratroopers have been hung up in trees, breaking arms and legs, rendering themselves easy targets for those defending this territory.

On the beach front itself the landing area was missed,catapulting U.S. forces nearly 2,000 yards South of the intended coordinates, thus placing them that much farther away from the German insurgents and unable to direct covering fire or materially add to the operation.

Casualties at day's end are nothing short of horrific; at least 8,000 and possibly as many as 9,000 were wounded in the haphazardly coordinated attack, which seems to have no unifying purpose or intent. Of this number at least 3,000 have been estimated as having been killed, making June 6th by far, the worst single day of the war which has dragged on now--with no exit strategy in sight--as the American economy still struggles to recover from Herbert Hoover's depression and its 25% unemployment.

Military spending has skyrocketed the national debt into uncharted regions, lending another cause for concern. When and if the current hostilities finally end it may take generations for the huge debt to be repaid.

On the planning end of things, experts wonder privately if enough troops were committed to the initial offensive and whether at least another 100,000 troops should have been added to the force structure before such an audacious undertaking. Communication problems also have made their presence felt making that an area for further investigation by the appropriate governmental committees.

On the home front, questions and concern have been voiced. A telephone poll has shown dwindling support for the wheel-chair bound Commander In Chief, which might indicate a further erosion of support for his now three year-old global war.

Of course, the President's precarious health has always been a question. He has just recently recovered from pneumonia and speculation persists whether or not he has sufficient stamina to properly sustain the war effort. This remains a topic of furious discussion among those questioning his competency.

Today's costly and chaotic landing compounds the President's already large credibility problem.

More darkly, this phase of the war, commencing less than six months before the next general election, gives some the impression that Roosevelt may be using this offensive simply as a means to securere-election in the fall.

Underlining the less than effective Allied attack, German casualties--most of them innocent and hapless conscripts--seem not to be as severe as would be imagined. A German minister who requested anonymity stated categorically that "the aggressors were being driven back into the sea amidst heavy casualties, the German people seek no wider war."

"The news couldn't be better," Adolph Hitler said when he wasfirst informed of the D-Day assault earlier this afternoon.

"As long as they were in Britain we couldn't get at them. Now we have them where we can destroy them."

German minister Goebbels had been told of the Allied airborne landings at 0400 hours.

"Thank God, at last," he said. "This is the final round."
Now consider these two articles.
"Nobody believes a weather prediction twelve hours ahead. Now we're asked to believe a prediction that goes out 100 years into the future? And make financial investments based on that prediction? Has everybody lost their minds?

Stepping back, I have to say the arrogance of the modelmakers is breathtaking. There have been, in every century, scientists who say they know it all. Since climate may be a chaotic system-no one is sure-these predictions are inherently doubtful, to be polite. But more to the point, even if the models get the science spot-on, they can never get the sociology. To predict anything about the world a hundred years from now is simply absurd.

Look: If I was selling stock in a company that I told you would be profitable in 2100, would you buy it? Or would you think the idea was so crazy that it must be a scam?

Let's think back to people in 1900 in, say, New York. If they worried about people in 2000, what would they worry about? Probably: Where would people get enough horses? And what would they do about all the horseshit? Horse pollution was bad in 1900, think how much worse it would be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?

But of course, within a few years, nobody rode horses except for sport. And in 2000, France was getting 80% its power from an energy source that was unknown in 1900. Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan were getting more than 30% from this source, unknown in 1900. Remember, people in 1900 didn't know what an atom was. They didn't know its structure. They also didn't know what a radio was, or an airport, or a movie, or a television, or a computer, or a cell phone, or a jet, an antibiotic, a rocket, a satellite, an MRI, ICU, IUD, IBM, IRA, ERA, EEG, EPA, IRS, DOD, PCP, HTML, internet, interferon, instant replay, remote sensing, remote control, speed dialing, gene therapy, gene splicing, genes, spot welding, heat-seeking, bipolar, prozac, leotards, lap dancing, email, tape recorder, CDs, airbags, plastic explosive, plastic, robots, cars, liposuction, transduction, superconduction, dish antennas, step aerobics, smoothies, twelve-step, ultrasound, nylon, rayon, teflon, fiber optics, carpal tunnel, laser surgery, laparoscopy, corneal transplant, kidney transplant, AIDS… None of this would have meant anything to a person in the year 1900. They wouldn't know what you are talking about.

Now. You tell me you can predict the world of 2100. Tell me it's even worth thinking about. Our models just carry the present into the future. They're bound to be wrong. Everybody who gives a moment's thought knows it.

I remind you that in the lifetime of most scientists now living, we have already had an example of dire predictions set aside by new technology. I refer to the green revolution. In 1960, Paul Ehrlich said, "The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergoe famines-hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." Ten years later, he predicted four billion people would die during the 1980s, including 65 million Americans. The mass starvation that was predicted never occurred, and it now seems it isn't ever going to happen. Nor is the population explosion going to reach the numbers predicted even ten years ago. In 1990, climate modelers anticipated a world population of 11 billion by 2100. Today, some people think the correct number will be 7 billion and falling. But nobody knows for sure."
I'm all for being extremely cautious and keeping a watchful eye on the myriad of threats to our delicate interdependent systems of life, but... I'm extremely tired of the repeated shrill hysteria over the threat of the moment. When the year was about to roll over to 1000 people gathered in churches to wait for the end. That fact alone should tell you enough about human nature and anxiety for the future to ward you against the kind of 'I just found out, we're all gonna die!' stuff that you'll find in the latest issue of the NYT or Rolling Stone.

The only constant is change.

posted by Rachel 4/08/2005
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