Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Witch of Hebron: A Review.

The Witch of Hebron is James Howard Kunstler's second in the series of books started with A World Made by Hand.  The setting is (way) Upstate New York, after a post-peak, post-war, post-terrorist-nuke collapse.  I am reviewing what I think is the better of the two books within the series.

As the second in the series it has less deep background as to the route of collapse.  It covers the near background (first book information) fairly efficiently.  Thus it seems to move a bit quicker than the first book.
The first book was a cosy’s cozy.  You have the slow strangle of peak oil, the climatic problems of global warming, a sprinkling of nukes to take care of the big cities, and a convenient off-screen flue to efficiently pare down the population.  People plot gardens. The formerly stressed out executive (an alter ego of sorts of the author) uses his hobby  to become a carpenter-cabinet maker, and his other hobby to play in a much sought after folksy sort of band, marries a young just out of her teens (hot) widow, plays around with a (hot) friends wife, gallops around like a latter day Wyatt Earp shooting some bad guys out side of the saloon (or whatever it was) in Albany, NY, and generally just has a fine time.  There is a weird Christ-like martyr scene at the end, but he is saved from destruction by the mysterious new comers with their strange mystical magical ways.  There are various odd encounters and contretemps that for some reason bring to  mind Jack Vance’s Cugel the Clever in The Dying Earth Not for any particular cleverness of character, but for the quirky encounters in a faded land.
Well that gets us to book two, The Witch of Hebron.  She is a “silver-haired beauty”, with spiritual powers to interact with people’s dreams.  She brings to my mind Emmylou Harris.  Which is to say that she is hot.  So we know at least one activity she will be involved in:  Emmylou Harris - meet author's alter-ego.
Intermixed with all of this is a mountain lion, the young runaway son of the local doctor who has picked up some medical skills, a late day Billy the Kid, and a fairly pointless, amazingly obvious deliverance-like bad guy.  All of which is strung together somewhat like a Louis Lamour western with some attempts at magical realism glued into the margins:  but without the macho.  Now you may ask:  Isn’t macho the glue that holds Louis L’amour together?  And I would answer: Exactly!  So what we have is an amiable, politically correct, except for the ever-so-pleasing women,  loosely tied together romp through the Id of Messieurs Kunstler.
Mr. Kunstler generally does a good job with the language, so it was painless.  It was relatively unstressful.   Did it bring up any plausible issues as to where we would be headed after a crash:  maybe a few.  To be honest, if he used the same caustic wit, that he uses in his weekly postings, describing the Lovecraftian denizan of today's Upstate New York,  it would have  more bite.
James Howard Kunstler

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Random Acts of Senseless Violence: A Review

Jack Womack's Random Acts of Senseless Violence is that somewhat rare beast: a completely urban collapse story set in the United States. If North Dakota seems to be slightly overrepresented in these tails, the urban areas are definitely underrepresented. I reviewed Dorris Lessing' completely urban Memoirs of a Survivor but it is in great Britain, and Michell Widgen's But Not for Long is mostly Urban. But other than that I am stumped.




Much like Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, this is a coming of age book of a young girl in trying times. But it is a little different type of story: to put it mildly. The book is the diary of twelve year old Lola Hart. She lives in New York. City and attends a nice prep school. At the start of the novel her mother is a laid off university professor, and her father is a television screen writer. Under normal circumstances this type of work brings in enough money to live very comfortably in a nice section of Upper Manhattan. But in a shrinking economy they are a a tough way to make a living. And things are not good. In one of Lola's first entries:


(Writing to her diary which she as named Ann) Let me tell you more about myself Anne. As you know I'm twelve, and Boob [sister's nickname] is nine. We were both born in New York at Lennox Hill hospital but our parents are from other places. mama is from Los Angeles adn Daddy is from Chicago. They've taken us to both places on vacation. I don't like Los Angles or Chicago. They're horrible places and I'm glad they're burning down.


Well it all begins to slide from the starting point. But instead of moving to some remote location with 5 gallon buckets of stored wheat, they simply move to worse locations in more dangerous sections of the city. The parents struggle to find whatever work they can get, and this leaves Lola to her own devices.

Lola begins to hang out with some of the young black women in her neighborhood. The book does not hide from racial issues: some of the black's hate her because of her skin color and upbringing, other are more accommodating. As time goes on, she begins to hang out with them, and her own behavior begins to change.

This is set against a back drop of military enforcement of martial law, and rioting. What plight of the lower classes, and those so unfortunate to fall into them in these trying circumstances is well highlighted.

The book dates back to 1993, which is somewhat within the height of racial tensions in the big urban cities. The Clinton boom years have not occurred yet, and the slide into economic decay reads somewhat like a slower version of today's books that have slides into social decay. The book is written in an odd "urban" slang that can get a little annoying. The action is very much interspersed with reflection: she is writing in a diary after all. The speed and some aspects of the change seem a little unlikely. The author seems to be taking the cyncial liberal democratic view of the reality of the time. It is a bit dated. It is a bit one-sided, but no more so then your typical after-the-apocalypse-libertarian rants that are fairly common.

I am not sure I would call it an enjoyable read, but it certainly was interesting.

Jack Womack hanging out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lesbian No More

In the movie Splash, the late John Candy tells Tom Hanks that he has had his letter published in the (hardcopy of) Penthouse Forum:   They published my letter. Here it is, "A lesbian no more".
Well apparently this will be the case with Twitter soon.
Rebecca Greenfield, The Atlantic Wire, 27 July 2011. (Hat tip NC).
Anonymous tweeters may have just become a little less anonymous. Researchers have put together an algorithm that can predict the gender of a tweeter based solely on the 140 characters they choose to tweet.
The crux of the research relies on the idea that women use language differently. "The mere fact of a tweet containing an exclamation mark or a smiley face meant that odds were a woman was tweeting, for instance," reports Zax. Other research corroborates these findings, finding that women tend to use emoticons, abbreviations, repeated letters and expressions of affection. Linguists can even detect the tweeters' true identities by how they use the word "my."
I realized very early on that dry-humor did not work well on the internet, so you had to signal your intent, or people thought you were an AO mistakenly.  People may think I am an AO at times, but I want the foundation for their belief to be legitimate, rather than based on a mistaken perception of intent.  I used to use the colon-parenthesis for a smile face, but when the computer started turning it into “J”, I gave it up.
The article I quoted above gives a number of words that women use.  Such as: yummy.  Well that is a show stopper there.  Just typing the word gives me the same hives as walking into a knick-knack gift shop.
All of this is relevant (barely) as we continue our plunge into the matrix, rather than face the dire reality of our situation -  See Orlov.

Crossing the Blue: A Review

Holly Jean Buck, a bit of a world traveler, wrote Crossing the Blue as an imagined post-apocalyptic future created through global warming and peak oil. I believe I was tipped off to it by Nova: who seems to have erased the review when he erased his earlier published materials.


Her biographical information, which is directly from here:


She has traveled through forty-eight of the United States and has lived overseas for a great part of her twenty-nine years. Following postgraduate studies at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, she spent time in many countries around the world, including Wales, England, Ireland, Greece, Kosovo, Columbia, and Japan. She has been a correspondent on international affairs related to the environment and green living—as an intern for Toronto's Walrus magazine—and also has experience in mapmaking, permaculture, managing invasive forest species, and cataloguing antiquities.

 She has an interesting website here.  She apparently is working at something new.

The novel starts in partially submerged Florida ruled over by a dictatorial strong man. People spend their time working on the ex-golf course turned small plot farms, while he has plans for regional conquest.


A young boy-man, and woman escape into the greater United States, and begin their travels toward her home area of the Pacific Northwest. The novel is a bildungsroman [new word for me!]. With the gradual growth of the naive inexperienced young man being a continual slow and plausible process. The female protagonist I take as a self-idealized version of Ms. Buck. Since Ms. Buck's  novelized-selves are not nearly as annoying as some folks, it works out well.

As is fairly common with these traveling  tails, a variety of episodic vignettes occur, some threatening, some not. It does give the book a little bit of a surreal feel, particularly at the earlier stages of the trip. But the locations changes seem to come a little slower later in the book, and settle into a a rhythm that gets a little scary at times.


What there is in the way of moralizing, does have a little big of a lefty-in a sort of hippie (see Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School above) sort of way, but I did not find it to be nearly as overbearing as many books in the genre. I suspect the fact that the authoress has been to many very different places around the globe gives her some alternative experiences to draw on that go a little bit beyond the doctrinaire rantings of our political pundants.


When asked why she did not write a magazine article instead of a novel:


Because, really, who wants to read a bunch of nonfiction or statistics about the state of things? We all know the world’s pretty screwed up. At this point, our problem isn’t lack of knowledge... it’s lack of imagination. I wanted to stir the imagination... and write something that’s fun to read. This work was prompted by the situation of the moment... but the story of Blake and Juliet’s love, that’s eternal. Blake’s coming-of-age, coming into himself, learning to be a magician, so-to-speak-- that’s a timeless story-- and the musings about civilization, those transcend the moment too. This book isn’t just concerned with the future-- it’s also about the past, about how we got to this state.

For a first effort she did very well.  Given her propensity for moving on to new areas of interest so frequently, I suspect it may be the last one we see from her.
Holly Jean Buck

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Broken World We Will Work In: not a review

I had seen an interesting short article at Mother Jones via Decline of Empire, and later a post  that commented on it at Small Holding.  The addition of Small Holding’s experience makes it more relevant, because I doubt you could get much different sides of the political spectrum from a lesbian Mother Jones Reporter and, keeper of the “collapse meter”, Small Holding.
Note:   I added to the front end  original block of Small Holding’s quotes because it will be relevant to some additional quotes later.  My addition ends at the XXX.
            Quotes in Grey are comments by Small Holding.

Mac McClelland, Mother Jones, 12 July 2011.


"It's hot in here," I said. It was like 90 degrees outside. "Don't you guys have air conditioning?"
"We do, but it's controlled by the big guys in the suits." Susie said everybody wears hats and coats during the winter because it's freezing inside….
"How much do these people make?"
About $9 an hour. When I said that wasn't very much—when I worked at the moving-company warehouse starting in 1998, I made $10 an hour—she replied, "For them it is. They have no jobs." Also, it's 50 cents an hour more than the people on the previous shift make. In a state with 8.6 percent unemployment [Ohio], fierce competition for limited job openings, and a minimum wage of $7.25, you could do a lot worse. XXX
Technically, these workers are all temps. They're hired as temps by the warehouse company, which is contracted to handle temporary staffing by a logistics company. If they make it 90 days, they have the opportunity to become full-blown employees of the logistics company, which means benefits and an extra dollar an hour. It's been six months since the logistics company graduated someone here from temp to employee status. At one of the other locations Susie manages, no one has been hired as a real employee for two years. One of the workers in this warehouse has been a temp for a year and a half.

It isn't much better where I work. We have had a few permanent hires the last few years, but damned few and only because we are at rock bottom for peon workers that require some skills like lift drivers and such. To be honest though it is pretty much spot on in several regards. After dragging my A$$ through a normal 10 hour day at that place I just have zero sympathy for anyone whining about being unemployed and thinking the government owes them unlimited lifestyle maintenance.

There are 100 people employed in the warehouse I visited, and Susie could fire every one of them today without costing her bosses a dime of lost profits. She has applications from hundreds of people ready to take the job.

Globalism has forced companies to compete with areas they shouldn't. Wealth redistribution has lead to our government taxing companies into margins so thin they are forced to use employees as work animals. Taxes based on continuous growth are now failing as that growth wanes along with cheap energy. Our liberal progressive government leaders give up every advantage an American worker has with their trade deficit agreements and contracts to bring business to disadvantaged countries. Well people when it comes to employment we are a disadvantaged country now so stop letting them give away every advantage we have. Or we could all end up working in conditions like the article portrays
.

At this point, you are probably saying:  “That did not add much to Small Holdings original post.”  And at this point you would be correct

Where this all eventually starts to come together is with the series of book reviews I have been doing.  I have just finished Honey (H. M.) Brown’s kind of creepy Red Queen (it has won best horror fiction awards without having anything supernatural in it: now that’s some apocalypse!), and was trying to decide what to read next.  I did a Google search for post-apocalyptic fiction.  Since my preference is for apocalypse-in-progress fiction, I had to do some digging and sifting.  Finally by skipping all the series-titles at this list, I came across some new items.

One of the items was Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.  When looking closer at it, I realized I already had his critically acclaimed The Wind Up Girl.  It had been on the back burner, because my allotted reading time for fiction had been taken up with apocalypse-in-progress novels.  I knew that the book was somewhat cyberpunky.  I had not realized that it was also a collapse-type book.  I should explain. 

Most cyberpunk novels have an atmosphere of partial urban collapse.  But they tend to bring in a lot of cool (versus practical) technology, and they tend more toward the action-adventure theme.  The characters are usually employed, and paid well, to perform some sort of nefarious dark activities within these grim near-future settings.  The movie Blade Runner is a perfect example.  I love well told Cyberpunk, but it is usually a grim world, not a collapsed one.  So I ordered Ship Breaker and started reading what I had on hand.

Well The Wind Up Girl world is very techi-, but it is also very collapsed.  I have only started it and it is already discussing food production collapses, big-Ag, and mass starvation.  They are also looking desperately for portable energy sources to replace liquid fossil fuels.  So it’s a collapsing world:  apocalypse-in-progress .

But having veered of on a (relevant) tangent, let us get back to the article we were discussing at the top:  the one with the hot factory where nobody is allowed to talk, and if you go to the bathroom more than once a day you can be fired.  Well when I saw the novel Ship Breaker it reminded me of an article I saw many years ago in the Atlantic Monthly, and when I saw Small Holdings post, I remembered the Mother Jones article and thought it all made an interesting continuum.

The Shipbreakers
William Langewiesche, The Atlantic Monthly August 2000: Volume 286 No. 2; article found here.

Dawn spread across [the] gargantuan landscape -- Alang, in daylight barely recognizable as a beach, a narrow, smoke-choked industrial zone six miles long, where nearly 200 ships stood side by side in progressive stages of dissection, yawning open to expose their cavernous holds, spilling their black innards onto the tidal flats, and submitting to the hands of 40,000 impoverished Indian workers. A narrow, roughly paved frontage road ran along the top of the beach, parallel to the ocean. It was still quiet at dawn, although a few battered trucks had arrived early, and were positioning themselves now for the day's first loads of steel scrap. On the ocean side the frontage road was lined by the metal fences that defined the upper boundaries of the 183 shipbreaking yards at Alang. The fences joined together into an irregular scrap-metal wall that ran intermittently for most of the beach, and above which the bows of ships rose in succession like giants emerging from the sea. Night watchmen were swinging the yard gates open now, revealing the individual plots, each demarcated by little flags or other markers stuck into the sand, and heavily cluttered with cut metal and nautical debris. The yards looked nearly the same, except for their little offices, usually just inside the gates. The most marginal yards could afford only flimsy shacks or open-sided shelters. The more successful yards had invested in more solid structures, some of concrete, with raised verandahs and overhead fans.

The workers lived just across the frontage road, in a narrow shantytown with no sanitation, and for the most part with no power. The shantytown did not have a name of its own. It stretched for several miles through the middle of Alang, and had a small central business section, with a few small grocery stalls and stand-up cafes. It was dusty, tough, and crowded. Unemployment there was high. The residents were almost exclusively men, migrants from the distant states of Orissa and Uttar Pradesh. They toiled under shipyard supervisors, typically from their home states or villages, who dispensed the jobs, generally in return for a cut from the workers' already meager pay. The workers chose to work nonetheless, because the alternatives were worse. In the morning light now, they emerged from their shacks by the thousands and moved across the frontage road like an army of the poor. They trudged through the yards' open gates, donned hard hats, picked up crowbars and sledgehammers, and lit crude cutting torches. By eight o'clock, the official start of the workday, they had sparks showering from all the ships nearby, and new black smoke rising into the distance along the shore.

Today roughly 90 percent of the world's annual crop of 700 condemned ships now end their lives on the beaches of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh -- and fully half of them die at Alang. With few exceptions, the breakers are not high-born or educated men. They are shrewd traders who have fought their way up, and in some cases have grown rich, but have never lost the poor man's feeling of vulnerability. They have good reason to feel insecure. Even with the most modest of labor costs, shipbreaking is a marginal business that uses borrowed money and generates slim profits. The risk of failure for even the most experienced breakers is real. Some go under every year. For their workers the risks are worse: falls, fires, explosions, and exposure to a variety of poisons from fuel oil, lubricants, paints, wiring, insulation, and cargo slop. Many workers are killed every year. Nonetheless, by local standards the industry has been a success. Even the lowliest laborers are proud of what they do at Alang.

It is a mind boggling article.  I would strongly suggest you read at least the sections that relate to conditions in India.
This is what we compete against in the open world economy, and this is where we are headed.  I don’t want to sugarcoat past American work experience.  We have our chicken factory disasters after all.  But I have worked with people that worked in those factories (before they got into construction) and they would tell you that they were disgusting, but not really that bad to work at.  You got into a zone and did your work.  So if you think it can’t be worse than a chicken factory, or a no-talking oven of a warehouse, I have some bad news for you.

The Fall of Eden: A Review

The Fall of Eden is listed as being written by Richard Michaels, but according to Amazon, this actually a pseudonym for a New York Times bestselling author who lives and works in Orlando, Florida.   The book appears to be influenced by Luke Rhinehart’s (George Cockcroft’s)  Long Voyage Back which we discussed ealier.  Both have nuclear strikes in the early in the novel, and both have North Americans setting off for the perceived sanctuary of the Southern Hemisphere in sailing craft.

In Fall of Eden, unfortunately there is not all that much boating.  The two brothers have come to the Caribbean island of Saint Bart’s to collect their crazy father.  The nukes are going off pretty much as they are landing; which they figure out when their cell phones stop working.  Most of the time is spent in a high rise hotel, holed up with the staff and using a cache of guns that there nutty (and dangerous) grandfather has on hand to fend off competing survivor groups.  Boating factors in, but it is not a story of life at sea.
It is rare to have a book such unlikeable protagonists.  One brother, Charles, a college professor, is there with his wife and two children.  He may be the weakest whiniest lead characters I have seen since Holden Caulfield's Catcher in the Rye.  Pick a “why can’t we all get along” type argument, and Charles is probably makes it at some point in the book.  His brother Dan, a macho military type, is actually worse.  He has a Barbie doll wife, and likes to use violence to take what he needs from others:  while somehow maintaining the illusion of the moral high ground. 
The bocks summary description describes it as Lord of the Flies comes to Club Med.  It seems more like a story of  sniveling self entitled varieties of the American middle class that cannot get along on a Gilligan’s Island gone bad.  Presumably the hotel staff puts up with them because they have grandpa’s guns.  The staff is not as evil and violent as the “heroes” and thus are reluctant to kill them out of hand:  which is what the "heroes" deserve.
The action is passable, leaning heavily toward the cinematic.  The author seems to be confusing a Barrett Sniper Rifle with a .50 cal heavy machine gun.  Talking about overkill: regardless of which one is actually there.
There are some interesting issues brought up and addressed about survival on these islands.  These are some of the stronger points to the book.  The need for specific skill sets is also an important issue.  As the violence level goes up, the need for an alert defense and the problems of limited information are well portrayed.
The book ends at a transition point.  It leaves open the possibility of a second book, possibly one with more involvement in the open ocean.  By the very end of the novel, the situation  has been straightened itself out to where there might be some interesting adventuring on the sea.  Which is where the novel should have been about a third of the way through. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Last Light: The Review

Last Light by Alex Scarrow (with a hat tip on the recommendation to the Lord Bison) is an action adventure novel that in a very loose sort of way is about the threat of peak oil.




Alex Scarrow, not to be confused with his brother Simon Scarrow with whom he shares a website, is an interesting fellow.

If Puffin's marketing department had tried to invent the ideal author profile to appeal to the difficult early-teenage-boy demographic, they couldn't have improved on Alex Scarrow. A former rock musician, graphic artist and computer game designer, who grew up in the Bahamas and looks like a cross between a surfer dude and a Zen monk? With a fantastically piratical name? That should do the trick. Michelle Pauli, Alex Scarrow: "I have worked really hard to make Timeriders absolute cocaine", The Guardian, 22 July 2010.

He lives in Norwich England with his son Jacob, who makes an appearance in the novel, his wife Francis, and two pet rats. As implied by the above title and quote he has a young adult themed TimeRiders series that is planned to go to nine books. Much like John Christopher famous for the apocalyptic nightmare of "No Blade of Grass" he has switched from apocalyptic writings to the YA market. However, his TimeRiders series is in some unusual Ground Hog Day -way tied in with the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on 911, so there are elements of grimness to his YA writing.

Returning back to the novel; Hmmm....what to say about a very good book? As noted above, it’s not exactly about Peak Oil, the author says as much himself in the book’s explanatory epilogue, but very much in rhythm with it. When (in real life) Al Qaida tried to blow up Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia in 2006, you almost wonder if they had got hold of an advanced copy and were trying to emulate the story in a smaller sort of way. If their plot had worked, you likely would not need to kick on the link to Abqaiq to find out what the heck it is: although we have chatted about this before.



Focusing primarily on the fate of one, highly involved family, the novel’s point of view shifts through a variety of characters: primarily three of the members of the Sutherland family: Father and Oil Company Security Consultant-Andy, annoyed mother who is planning to leave -Jennifer, and not very innocent Freshman in College Daughter- Leona. The young War Hammer Fantasy playing brother- Jake is not used as a primary point of view. However, we do get to hear from a bad guy who has some interest in their affairs, and he offers both an explanatory point of view, and less plausibly, dialog as well.

At the start of the novel, Andy’s paranoia and secretiveness have stressed marital relations to the breaking point. The novel starts with Andy on a consulting assignment in Iraq checking out oil fields, and Jennifer going off to Manchester on a job interview. Leona is just starting her first semester in college and is working at seducing a young lad named Daniel. She is successful in this task, and her boyfriend is a helpful figure for at least a portion of the story.



The whole story runs from Monday to Sunday. With the four points of view to bounce around between, this tends to keep the pace moving. All three characters are away from home when the Middle East bursts out of control with bombings in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Other follow up bombings, and mysterious explosions work to bring the supply of oil to a screeching halt. Britain, who is not one of the countries that works very hard at having a back up oil supply, starts blocking off highways and trains almost immediately to conserve fuel. This of course strands a lot of people in a bad way. Many commuters cannot even get home from work. When people panic, and anarchy begins to reign in some areas, it get ugly quickly. The police concentrate on some areas and leave others to die-on-the-vine.

One of the better scenes is early with the daughter, Leona in the grocery store. She has been warned by her father (by cell from Iraq) to get there before the crowd does.

As they entered the tinned goods aisle, Leona was aware that it was noticeably busier than the other areas in the supermarket they had walked through; half-a-dozen shoppers, like herself, warily eyeing each other up, whilst filling their trolleys with canned goods. As they wheeled their trolleys down towards them, there was a moment of shared communication, eyes meeting, and barely perceptible nods of acknowledgement.

My God, they are here for the same reason!

Somehow, the thought that there were other people out there who had begun to see beyond the news soundbites to something more disturbing , made the bizarre situation she was in right now feel much more real.

They had the same look as Dad; a slightly rumpled, disheveled appearance, unburdened with any fashion sense…they were unmistakable from the same tribe as Dad [edited to avoid confusion/spoilers].

It is hard to say too much more without dropping spoilers.

As a novel it moves fast and is entertaining. It was written five years ago (2007), but outside of a few T.V. shows whose time ran out quicker than the oil supplies, the cultural scene has not changed much.

The actual mechanics of the plot are of dubious likelihood. But this is not very damaging as the book is clearly written as a thriller, rather than as a Patriots-like apocalypse-in-progress primer. It’s setting in England (no firearms) leads to more, not less, tension in scenes with confrontation. The confrontation gets very close and personal. The quality of the writing is superior. To make a comparison with another book I thought a lot of, its military thrills are not of the caliber of [a book whose review I will soon post] Steven Pressfield’s also thrilling The Profession, but its research is its equal, and from a cautionary point of view it is superior.

Alex Scarrow

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anders Breivik and the end of the world kaleidoscope


In an interesting op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens discusses the ideology and background to Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.  He throws in some weak arguments (there may be better ones) that he is neither a Christian nor a conservative based on his actions:  arguments equally made about the late Osama Bin Laden by Muslims.
In between his political pandering, he does bring in some interesting points.  He starts off by conceding that Anders Breivik is a right-wing nut job, and then continues.
Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, 26 July 2011.
The more telling side of Breivik's manifesto is his self-description as "Justiciar Knight Commander for the Knights Templar of Europe," a group he claims has some 80 members and held a secret meeting in London in 2002. The fetishistic medievalism—Breivik seems to have designed a military dress uniform, and wants to wear it to his trial—is significant: Like Osama bin Laden and his epigones, his worldview seems mainly defined by the politics of the 13th century. And that worldview is fundamentally geared toward hastening an apocalypse.
In a superb new book, "Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of Millennial Experience," Boston University's Richard Landes notes just how pervasive this kind of impulse has been throughout history and across cultures, and how much its many strains—Christian, Marxist, Islamist, Nazi, environmentalist and so on—have in common. Breivik, Mr. Landes says, was of a piece: "Like many active cataclysmic apocalypticists, he believed that the socio-political world is in huge tension, like tectonic plates about to crack, and if he can set off a small explosion in the right place it will unleash far greater forces."
Similarly, the purpose of Breivik's massacre wasn't simply to kill off the Labor party's leadership, current and future. It was to create a spectacle, and in doing so energize a cause. It's no accident that he wants media present at his trial: He has now entered what he calls the propaganda phase of his campaign, in which he imagines he will be given "a stage to the world" through which he can win over "tens of millions of European sympathizers and tens of thousands of brothers and sisters who support us fully and are willing to fight beside us." This was precisely what al Qaeda hoped to achieve (and to an extent did achieve) with 9/11.
What it is is millennarian: the belief that all manner of redemptive possibilities lie on just the other side of a crucible of unspeakable chaos and suffering. At his arrest, Breivik called his acts "atrocious but necessary." Stalin and other Marxists so despised by Breivik might have said the same thing about party purges or the liquidation of the kulaks.
He cites  Richard Landes’ book, so we will first go to a recent co-author of Mr. Landis on other books and look at a summary from him that dates back to 1998.
Jeffry Kaplan, The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right, Rutgers University Press, 1998.
From Back cover
The United States and Western Europe are experiencing a new and important cultural and political development: the appearance of a right-wing extremist movement that crosses the Atlantic Ocean and transcends national boundaries with as much ease as do e-mail messages on the Internet. In this book, Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg [contributor] argue that there now exists a set of conditions common to the United States and Western Europe that draws right-wing radicals on both sides of the Atlantic closer together. These conditions, based on demographic pressures, social dislocation, economic changes, and technological advances, have set the stage for the formation of a new Euro-American radical right movement whose motives and characteristics differ from the right-wing groups of the early twentieth century.

That was almost 15 years ago, so the newness is a little thin at this point.  Note, that Mr. Kaplan is no doubt heavily influenced by the 1990s U.S. Militia Movement.  If you look at the source link, you will see that he weights the United States portion of this radical-right a little more heavily than might ordinarily be justified.  What you are actually seeing is the coalescence of an open source guerilla warfare.
An open source guerilla war uses the resources at hand, that a typical middle class person could buy, with an non-hierarchical leadership structure that radicalizes and (to the extent that it does) coordinates through e-mail, twitter, etc.   The overall approach is clandestine.  Mr. Breivik, no doubt, views himself as a sacrifice to the greater cause.
The recent Arabic rebellions would be open source mass movements.  Mr. Breivik, may be trying to ignite something along these lines, or he may be trying to expand the recruitment-action base of his cause:  a martyr to the cause if you will.
So where does all this lead?  We will go to an interview with Richard Landes.  He is asked what are the two dominant apocalyptic scenarios today.  He answers with
·         Climate change
·         Global Jihad
Poor Mr. Breivik’s cultural collapse scenario does not make the list.
He goes on to note that the secular apocalyptic folks are more pessimistic.  They do not necessarily view that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.  He also notes that the Jihadists (and you might put Mr. Breivik as an honored guest in this category) because, while Global Warming may take a while (LOL), the Jihadists can bring cause today.
Daniel Kalder, Big Journalism, 24 January 2010.
DK:  It’s interesting that those who favor one apocalyptic scenario tend to deny or downplay the other. The ‘left’ usually believes fervently in Global Warming while attempting to dismiss Islamist terrorism, while the ‘right’ tends to argue in the opposite direction.
RL:  Yes, and yet the two complement each other. In fact they go hand in hand. It’s our consumption of fossil fuels that feeds money to global jihad.
DK:  If I can stay on Global Warming for a minute- it’s a common belief that apocalyptic ideas appeal mainly to the weak, the marginalized, and the oppressed. But Global Warming seems to appeal mainly to the elite- while the so-called ‘masses’ are frequently hostile or indifferent towards it. Is this unusual?
RL:  That’s true, but in the past many leaders of apocalyptic sects were members of the elite, especially intellectuals who felt that they hadn’t found their place in society. For example Thomas M√ľntzer, who was a theologian and leader in the Peasant’s War in Germany in the 1520s, was a well educated man. Hong Xiuqan in China was also incredibly intelligent, a child prodigy, but he failed the civil service exams, which had something like a 98% failure rate, and after this rejection he embraced apocalyptic belief.
The leaders of Global Jihad are also well educated men from wealthy families. And make no mistake: Global Jihad is an absolutely apocalyptic movement- it was launched in 1979, the year 1400 in the Muslim world. There was revolution in Iran, and an uprising in Mecca led by a man who declared himself the Mahdi, the Islamic savior. And in Nigeria there was an uprising that killed 10000 people.
They’re not apocalyptic in the sense that they talk about the end of time. But they are unquestionably millennial. In the 1990s Al Qaeda decided that it was possible to take over world, like a mirror of western globalisation. They dream of establishing Sharia everywhere, and are actively apocalyptic in how they go about it- they want to establish paradise on earth by first destroying the old world. This is a pre- modern movement with access to hyper modern technology. As I said, even if a tiny group gets its hands on nukes that could cause a catastrophe.
Islamic apocalyptic millennialism is what I call ‘active cataclysmic’- i.e. we are God’s tool/weapon for bringing about the devastation necessary for the millennial kingdom to be realized on earth. This is by far the most dangerous belief in the history of mankind. People need to understand the degree to which our unwillingness to talk about it actually encourages it.
DK:  How long do you think the jihad movement will last? Other millennial-apocalyptic groups such as the Nazis had a relatively short lifespan. The Bolsheviks in the USSR were only truly bloodthirsty and millennial for about 30 years. Right now the regime in Iran appears to be in serious trouble. Won’t it also die out?
RL: Well perhaps, but there’s a big difference between our world today and the situation in the past. Thanks to the Internet the jihadis can draw upon a much bigger pool of potential recruits. There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Thus Global Jihad has the potential to be infinitely self-regenerating.
So what you have is a variety of causes that use various social media for recruitment, and at least some very loose organizing.  The pool in which any cause can gather is so large, that it is highly unlikely that these groups will run out of people.  For varying reasons they all want to bring about, or hasten, the End-of-the-World-as-We-Know-it (EOTWAWKI).   Modern commerce and technology allow a very small group to create disproportionate damage, and advances in miniaturization, and technology are likely to make this even truer in the future.
I suppose how happy you are about this would depend on how much you wanted life to change, and presumably if you thought your goals would not be preempted by other conspiratorial groups.

The Unit: A review.

The Unit:  A novel  is a story set in the inland mountainous areas of Northern California, as a family attempts to hike out to a safe location.

The author,Terry DeHart , is a former U.S. Marine (VMO-2 Ordnance - 1979-1983) and NASA security analyst/technical writeer.  His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and three off them have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  An interesting short story of his, Living Off the Land can be found here.  He lives in San Francisco Bay area.
The book starts off fairly quickly with one of those magical EMP strikes that we wipes out far more than best evidence indicates would be likely.  We have discussed this before.   More realistically than One Second After, we also modest usage of some more powerful weapons:  nukes to be exact.  At one point there is a fly over of one of these areas, and the narration of the disaster below is compelling.  One of the people he notes in his acknowledgements is Dr. Alan Robock whose work on nuclear winter and regional nuclear wars we discussed  before.  There is some foreshadowing of a coming nuclear winter. 
The author broadens the story by frequent shifts in first person narration.  Since the focal point of the story is  a small family - father, mother, teenage girl, teenage boy – traveling to safety, one chapter will have the father ‘s point of view, the next will be the mothers, etc.  Less frequently we get the point of views of the people they run across and interact with:  the bad guys.   
As seems to be not too atypical for apocalypse-in-progress stories,  our little family is rather dysfunctional with its separate components not having a whole lot of love for each other.   Under different circumstances, a breakup would be imminent.   Family cohesion improves somewhat as the trials start, but only up to a point.  A problematic point of the story is that none of the characters are particularly compelling or likable.  Based on the very little bit of the author’s work I have read, it does make you wonder if this is his intended writing style, or if this is own personality coming through the characters.  There is an odd analytic, cold dysfunctionality to all the family members.   The one character who actually seems somewhat sympathetic (a gay hairdresser type- LOL) is barely given his due- the author does not seem to even realize that his hairdresser has displayed more combat efficacy than most of the intended militant combatants.
The occasional sections that shift to the point of view of the bad-guys are interesting.  The book chooses to be race-neutral in its villain; They are never described completely . It does sound a bit like a shadowy version of United Colors of Benetton. It is odd that an author who is willing to deal with the inner tribal rivalries involving gang rape would shy away from this issue:  odd where the comfort zones lie.  

The bad guys have their own deadly concerns.  Although they have the weapons and the violence, they must also deal with threats of violence from within the group.  Although young and inexperienced,  they are quicker to accept the new reality and use what resources they at hand.  Their tactics are clever, and they are more than capable of outwitting the good guys.
You do actually run into a survivalist, who the author treats reasonably well.  As must be the case he is a loner with no family attachments, and (rather realistically) he is getting up in years.    He doesn’t stick around too long, but he has a cool setup, and is fun while he is there.
It is a bloody book,  groups go rogue very quickly, you have crashed buses with the dead handicapped kid still inside in their wheel chair, you have fairly graphic gang rape of one of the protagonists, you have (at times slightly cinematic) gunfire.  The author knows his weapons: an M-16 from a M-4.  While there is the usual tendencies for hero’s to be injured, and the red shirts and bad-guys to die instantly, the general effects are accurate.
There is a bit of overt sermonizing and religiosity, but you also have the power grabbing creepy preacher types making an appearance as well.  There is an obvious suspicion of the government, but the government that remains is the only group in a position to help anyone.
Although, the book has a planned sequel due out in 2011, the book does not end at a cliff-hanging mid-point.  You could stop reading at this point and be satisfied that you have been served a complete story.
Will I read the sequel?  Likely.  As I noted the cold dysfunctionality of the “heroes” that gave me a sense of detachment from this story.  But there is enough there to want to see where the author takes the story.
Terry DeHart - I like the fuzzy spy-pic look