[Paleopsych] Kerry and Armageddon

Werbos, Dr. Paul J. paul.werbos at verizon.net
Sun Sep 12 19:01:09 UTC 2004

Good afternoon!

In the midst of all this nice intellectual discussion -- I have to admit 
that I am increasing
worried, in a very practical way, about whether we -- the human race -- are 
going to make
the right decisions IN THE COMING YEAR, to avoid a very precipitous drop in 
our long-term probability
of survival.

On the one hand, I know that it is irrational to become so pessimistic that 
we stop trying or become paralyzed by
fear. The rational approach is to try harder -- and take some risks --if 
taking risks gives us our best chance.
(In using the word "rational," I am not referring either to common sense or 
to median accepted behavior
in our local tribe; rather, I am referring to the more precise notion of 
rationality discussed by Von Neumann
and by Howard Raiffa, which is the foundation for important more modern 
work. Marshall Loeb's
book, The Battle for Investment Survival, has some interesting resonance 
with these concepts.)

On the other hand -- to ignore or downplay or understate the risks is 
equally irrational, and equally
unlikely to guide us to a clear path out.


What happens in the coming year? Yes, the elections. And ALSO -- the start 
of a new Administration.
And both sides have made convincing arguments that we have little basis for 
optimism if we elect
the other one. (And as for Nader -- I know enough of HIS prior strategies 
that I would not consider
voting for him even if he WERE a serious candidate!!!)

Why the gloom?

To begin with, consider the detailed arguments in:


His key point -- that we KNOW the level of undiscovered oil now much better 
than we did in the past --
really holds up, so far as I can tell. I have checked the optimist and 
pessimist web sites.
Their rhetoric is as extreme as it ever was... but the basic numbers are 
not so disputable any more.
And I have enough first-hand access to the underlying technology that I can 

And then... I cannot give you a URL to the slides... but..

The geopolitical IMPLICATIONS of our growing dependence on OPEC oil
are frightening.

Do you think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are of some significance 
today? Do you
think the recent run-ups in oil prices have been worthy of some attention? 
Well, what happens
when the stress on the global geopolitical system is more than ten times as 


It was a bit scary to me to read a major article in he Financial Times a 
few days back, arguing
that the energy plans of both candidates amount to little more than window 
dressing to
decorate helplessness and paralysis. Their arguments were good. But their 
third alternative was equally useless. Is this really the best that the 
human species can do?

For Kerry, in particular, the need would be to convince people that he really
IS "reporting for duty" as he has said. There is an image out there of someone
who was a forceful take-charge person... who then deviated from popular beliefs
about the Vietnam War because he SAW firsthand what was really going on and 
the courage to
keep his eyes open... and then spent about 40 years relaxing with friends, 
and is now
unwilling to back to any kind of take-charge leadership role. He has tried 
well with some of the Iraq War comments... but... not enough somehow...
at least, that is how I would explain the poll results.

Many people seem to feel that we ARE headed towards the Armageddon, world 
war scenario,
like it or not... and they perceive Bush as more forcefully maximizing the 
probability that we actually
win this coming war.

The past week or two has done much to bolster that idea.

It is strange and sad that Al Queida is so far out of touch with reality 
that they think the Madrid bombings
are a paradigm for how they can get their way politically. "Scare the 
voters and they will elect a wimp."
That's not how it works here, as we all would know. Hit the US in its core, 
in New York... and you end up creating
more like an Israeli psychology of backs-against-the-wall. Spain may have 
imagined they could
just drift over to France and escape the proposed world war -- but the US 
knows we cannot. Our only hope
is to win, if there is a war. That is the psychology. But in the meantime 
-- the taking of French hostages
in Iraq, and the murder of Russian schoolchildren, and the bombing in 
Australia... have done much
to support those who simply want to win Armageddon, and not avoid it. Who 
think that Bush is
their man for this.

And equally serious... the Janata party, now out of power, seems to be 
entering a cycle of control by radical fundamentalists,
not unlike what happened to the republican party under Clinton.

It is strange. One group of fundamentalists feel it is their duty to kill 
cow-killers, and that God will surely
kill the cow-killers and all those who tolerate them in the end. Others 
feel the same about those
violate the Sharia, the version of law invented by Abbasid Emperors in 
order to better control their populations.
And others feel the same about those who would supply birth control to poor 
women in areas
already overpopulated, in danger of millions upon millions dying of 
starvation. All with about the same evidence.

But crazy as these folks clearly are, I see little difference between them 
and the folks who seriously
propose that we solve our car fuel problems by waiting for the Second 
Coming of Hydrogen.
It's probably more rational to wait for Jesus to come down from the clouds 
Yet that is the main foundation of what Bush and Kerry both propose to do
(and spend money on) to someday free us of oil dependency!

Hydrogen is not even a primary energy source, yet so many people talk about how
we will get future energy "from hydrogen!" The professional hydrogen gurus 
know better, but they
smile gently and do not rebuke their fanatical followers, any more than Al 
Ahram inveighs against
their own deluded fundamentalists.

By this time, the numbers are in on the PEM fuel cells everyone is putting 
money into in, in combination with
real hydrogen storage. We know it's a fantasy -- and, more important, it is 
relevant to
what we really need to do. Yet somehow, we can't marshall the clarity of 
mind or honesty to move
on, even when our lives are in danger. And again, this is both parties. 
(Kerry is the one
who has to prove he would be measurably BETTER, in order to justify people 
changing horses in mid-stream.)

Since both parties have put billions into hydrogen+PEM, would they be seen 
as flip-flopping to
ever have any new ideas?

Actually -- there are euphemisms one could use to spin the new thing.
As in: "they... have no PLAN to move us on to hydrogen and fuel cells in 
less than 100 years.
We need it soon, as soon as we can get it. To get to hydrogen... we can get 
there by using methanol
as the hydrogen carrier, methanol -- an energy carrier that Ronald Reagan 
rightly appreciated...
and by making the legal changes we need to give MUCH STRONGER encouragement to
the private sector to get there..."  And that directly leads into the need 
requirements for three-way full flexibility, gasoline/ethanol/methanol, 
which we could
have in two years if we had real leadership.

(Some car company lawyers might object. "$200 per car?" But what about the 
huge losses
in car sales this past year, due to uncertainties about fuel supply and 
cost? Wouldn't
it BENEFIT the car companies a whole lot more than it would cost, to give 
the customer
more of a feeling of security about fuel? Even if it takes a few years for 
the fuel supply
to build up... )

But, yes, it's more complicated that that in the US.

New refineries are a stupid proposal. When Exxon is going nuts trying to 
maintain its PRESENT level
of proved reserves and production, why invest billions that are worth 
nothing in years when they don't
have MORE crude than they do now? A couple of years of profits (in strange 
conditions like this past year)
are not enough to justify such a long-term investment, and it is stupid to 
create "incentives" that
distort market signals by forcing such a myopic waste of money (and 
increased oil

Insufficient transmission capability and insufficient incentives to get 
Texaco/GE-style clean coal onto the
true electric power market also need immediate attention.

People have asked me: what reason is there to believe Kerry would be one 
whit better here than Gore,
who was more determined and more involved, but produced a PNGV program 
which spent huge
amounts of money but simply was not good enough to be useful at all in the 

Of course, the Economist has also pointed out with Bush -- he is talking 
about tax simplification a bit now,
but his dedication to the kind of tax cuts he did before is equally 
clear... and we may ask what hope there
is for the economy to be sustainable under such conditions?


Well, I don't know.

I wish I could see the clear path here...

Best of luck to us all,


More information about the paleopsych mailing list