Wow, so much going on in the world, so little time to talk about it.
Our “Truth in Strange Places” award this month goes to the CIA for joining the reality-based community and going public with its assesment that Iran has not had a nuclear weapons program for several years. Mr. Bush has denied that he knew this until recently, but his denials have the ring of a man attempting to convince his wife that he has no idea how those lipstick stains got on his collar, or a petulant three-year old declaring that there is too a monster under his bed. We may never know all the arm-twisting that went into this turn of events, but apparently we have US CENTCOM commander Admiral William Fallon to thank for preventing this particular apocalypse. Fallon made it clear during his Senate confirmation hearings that there would be no attack on Iran on his watch, and he appears to have kept his promise. Making this “no risk” risk assesment public has made the neocons’ war drum beat sound pretty hollow, although there is still some chance that Cheney and Bush may find other excuses to whomp the Iranian tar baby a good one.
Meanwhile, the US economy is being managed in such a way that it’s slowly spiralling downwards, rather than vanishing in a puff of smoke. There was a lot of anxiety at the end of November when the Dow approached the 12,500 mark, which is the point when computer-generated selloffs would have kicked in and precipitated a crash, but Abu Dhabai bought a chunk of Citicorp for 7.5 billion and the market’s been happy ever since. The Cheney-Bush administration came up with a window-dressing scheme that sounds good but will only help a small minority of those who are burdened with sub-prime loans. You can bet the troubled banks that made or bought the loans will get better treatment. All the while, the credit freeze set in motion by the collapse of the subprime pyramid scheme continues to spread. New construction and big business deals are grinding to a halt.
Nobody wants the dollar to die, because they’ve all got so many of them; but at the same time, they’re getting to the point where they don’t want any more of them. China had to put the brakes on its banks by telling them not to lend any more money. Sooner or later the hot air that’s keeping the dollar afloat is going to cool. The smart money is leaving the country, folks.
And the smart lungs are going to want to leave the planet in a few decades, if oil- and coal-burning executives and their allies in the US, Chinese, and Indian governments have their way. The Chinese shrug and say it’s our fault they’re building over 50 new coal-fired plants every year, and in the US there’s pie-in-the-sky talk of carbon capture. From Kansas to Shanghai, the CO2 emitting crowd is doing everything they can to keep doing things the way they always have. And if they do, says the IPCC, planetary CO2 levels will go off the charts, and the oceans will absorb so much carbon dioxide that they will become seriously acidic, killing off the plankton, diatoms, and seaweed that contribute about 70% of the planet’s oxygen. That would, duh, make it hard to breathe. Now, that’s the panel’s worst-case scenario, but the plain truth is that the IPCC’s report has been chided as too conservative by many scientists, because much of the data that has come in since the International Comission started writing its report indicates that the meltdown is speeding up. We can continue to live as we have, as long as we don’t mind starving, drowning, or possibly just plain smothering our great-grandchildren. Or, we can make radical changes in the way we live and give them a fighting chance. In this season, when so many people venerate a new-born baby, it’s something to think about.