Monday, August 31, 2015
The tremors rattling markets are not exactly what they seem to be. A meme prevails that these movements represent a kind of financial peristalsis — regular wavelike workings of eternal progress toward an epic more of everything, especially profits! You can forget the supposedly “normal” cycles of the techno-industrial arrangement, which means, in particular, the business cycle of the standard economics textbooks. Those cycle are dying.
They’re dying because there really are Limits to Growth and we are now solidly in grips of those limits. Only we can’t recognize the way it is expressing itself, especially in political terms. What’s afoot is a not “recession” but a permanent contraction of what has been normal for a little over two hundred years. There is not going to be more of everything, especially profits, and the stock buyback orgy that has animated the corporate executive suites will be recognized shortly for what it is: an assest-stripping operation.
What’s happening now is a permanent contraction. Well, of course, nothing lasts forever, and the contraction is one phase of a greater transition. The cornucopians and techno-narcissists would like to think that we are transitioning into an even more lavish era of techno-wonderama — life in a padded recliner tapping on a tablet for everything! I don’t think so. Rather, we’re going medieval, and we’re doing it the hard way because there’s just not enough to go around and the swollen populations of the world are going to be fighting over what’s left.
Actually, we’ll be lucky if we can go medieval, because there’s no guarantee that the contraction has to stop there, especially if we behave really badly about it — and based on the way we’re acting now, it’s hard to be optimistic about our behavior improving. Going medieval would imply living within the solar energy income of the planet, and by that I don’t mean photo-voltaic panels, but rather what the planet might provide in the way of plant and animal “income” for a substantially smaller population of humans. That plus a long-term resource salvage operation.
All the grand movements of stock indexes and central banks are just a diverting sort of stagecraft within the larger pageant of this contraction. The governors of the Federal Reserve play the role of viziers in this comic melodrama. That is, they are exalted figures robed in magical Brooks Brothers summer poplin pretending to have supernatural power to control events. You can tell from their recent assembly out west — “A-holes at the J-hole” — that they are very much in doubt that their “powers” will continue to be taken seriously. This endless hand-wringing over a measily quarter-point interest rate hike is like some quarrel among alchemists as to whether a quarter-degree rise in temperature might render a lump of clay into a gold nugget.
What they do doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that a great deal of the notional “wealth” they conjured up over the past decade or so is about to vanish —poof! Perhaps that will look like a black magic act. That wealth seemed so real! The bulging portfolios with their exquisite allocations! The clever options! The cunning shorts. Especially the canny bets in dark derivative pools! All up in a vapor. The sad truth being it was never there in the first place. It was just an hallucination induced by the manipulation of markets and the criminal misrepresentation of statistics, especially the employment numbers.
There are rumors that the Grand Vizeress of all, Ms. Yellen, is flirting with possible indictment over the “leakage” of valuable information out of her inner circle to potential profiteers. Whoops. It may lead nowhere but to me it is an index of her more general loss of credibility. All year she has spouted supernaturally fallacious nonsense about how “the data” guides Fed decision-making. Only her data is contrary to what is actually happening in the pathetic Rube Goldberg contraption that the so-called US economy has become (Walmart + entitlements). Her “guidance” amounts to a lot of futile drum-beating on a turret of the Fed castle, hoping to make it rain prosperity. Her enigmatic utterances have kept financial markets in a narrow sideways channel most of the year until recently.
I’d say she’d lost her mojo, and the lesser viziers on the Fed board are looking more and more like the larval, sunken-chested dweebs that they really are. So where is the nation to turn? Why, to the great blustering Trump, with his “can-do” bombast about “making America great again.” What does he mean, exactly? Like, making America the way it was in 1958?” Behold: the return of the great steel rolling mills along the banks of the Monongahela (and so on)! Fuggeddabowdit. Ain’t gonna happen.
I have to say it again: prepare to get smaller and more local. Things on the grand level are not going to work out. Get your shit together locally, and do it in place that has some prospect for keeping on: a small town somewhere food can be grown and especially places near the inland waterways where some kind of commercial exchange might continue in the absence of the trucking industry. Sound outlandish? Okay then. Keep buying Tesla stock and party on, dudes. Hail the viziers in their star-and-planet bedizened Brooks Brother raiment. Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Friday, August 28, 2015
Thursday, August 27, 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
This culture of firing people for public statements that are irrelevant to their jobs is just totalitarian. https://t.co/tRrL80FchH— Thaddeus Russell (@ThaddeusRussell) August 26, 2015
No more fire, the water next time: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Global Warming and White Supremacy http://t.co/PBoJ2DluSP— corey robin (@CoreyRobin) August 22, 2015
Huh. I think I just accidentally summed up my mission: " I like to write things people can understand, learn from & enjoy."— Kate Theimer (@archivesnext) June 22, 2015
Good political litmus test: Ask yourself, "Would I REALLY be surprised if this candidate proposed a Purge or Hunger Games?"— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) August 26, 2015
Dear everyone, Don't use a work email address for anything but work. Not to cheat, not to order a book. Nothing. At. All. #ashleymadisonhack— Margaret Kimberley (@freedomrideblog) August 22, 2015
Mata Tuatagaloa will today become the first female judge to be appointed to Samoa's Supreme Court http://t.co/wTerWYHNpM— RNZ International (@RNZInews) August 26, 2015
Monday, August 24, 2015
E ven the formerly august New York Times grants that Donald J. Trump has ignited a voter firestorm of grievance against a dumb show election process that rewards a craven avoidance of real issues. Immigration is actually a stand-in for the paralysis, incompetence, overreach, and bloatedness of government generally in our time — but it is a good doorway into the larger problem.
Immigration is a practical problem, with visible effects on-the-ground, easy to understand. I’m enjoying the Trump-provoked debate mostly because it is a pushback against the disgusting dishonesty of political correctness that has bogged down the educated classes in a swamp of sentimentality. For instance, Times Sunday Magazine staffer Emily Bazelon wrote a polemic last week inveighing against the use of the word “illegal” applied to people who cross the border without permission on the grounds that it “justifies their mistreatment.” One infers she means that sending them back where they came from equals mistreatment.
It’s refreshing that Trump is able to cut through this kind of tendentious crap. If that were his only role, it would be a good one, because political correctness is an intellectual disease that is making it impossible for even educated people to think — especially people who affect to be political leaders. Trump’s fellow Republicans are entertainingly trapped in their own cowardliness and it’s fun to watch them squirm.
But for me, everything else about Trump is frankly sickening, from his sneering manner of speech, to the worldview he reveals day by day, to the incoherence of his rhetoric, to the wolverine that lives on top of his head. The thought of Trump actually getting elected makes me wonder where Arthur Bremer is when we really need him.
Did any of you actually catch Trump’s performance last week at the so-called “town meeting” event in New Hampshire (really just a trumped-up pep rally)? I don’t think I miscounted that Trump told the audience he was “very smart” 23 times in the course of his remarks. If he really was smart, he would know that such tedious assertions only suggest he is deeply insecure about his own intelligence. After all, this is a man whose lifework has been putting up giant buildings that resemble bowling trophies, some of them in the service of one of the worst activities of our time, legalized gambling, which is based on the socially pernicious idea that it’s possible to get something for nothing.
I daresay that legalized gambling has had a possibly worse effect on American life the past three decades than illegal immigration. Gambling is a marginal activity for marginal people that belongs on the margins — the back rooms and back alleys. It was consigned there for decades because it was understood that it’s not healthy for the public to believe that it’s possible to get something for nothing, that it undermines perhaps the most fundamental principle of human life.
Trump’s verbal incoherence is really something to behold. He’s incapable of expressing a complete thought without venturing down a dendritic maze of digressions, often leading to an assertion of how much he is loved (another sign of insecurity). For example, when he attacked Jeb’s (no last name necessary) statement that we have to show Iraqi leaders that “we have skin in the game,” Trump invoked the “wounded warriors,” saying “I love them. They’re everywhere. They love me.” In the immortal words of Tina Turner, “what’s love got to do with it?”
Trump’s notion that he can push around world leaders such as Vladimir Putin by treating them as though they were president of the Cement Workers’ Union ought to give thoughtful people the vapors. It doesn’t seem to occur to Trump that other countries could easily get pugnacious towards us. He would have us in a world war before the inaugural parade was over.
The trouble is that it’s not inconceivable Trump could get elected. Farfetched, perhaps, but not out of the question. The USA is heading for a very rough patch of history — as those of you with your eyes on the stock indexes lately may suspect. The country stands an excellent chance of waking up some morning soon to discover it is broke and broken. When that happens, all the anxiety and animus will be focused on looking for scapegoats, and they are likely to be the wrong ones. World leaders considered Hitler a clown in the early going, too, you know. But the Germans were wild about him. He pushed a lot of the right buttons under the circumstances. Trump is worse than Hitler. [Emphasis mine.--P.Z.] And the American people, alas, are now surely a worse lot of ignorant, raging, tattooed slobs than the German people were in 1933. Be very afraid.
In his 20 July column Kunstler wrote, "I’ve proposed for many years that we are all set up to welcome a red-white-and-blue, corn-pone Nazi political savior type. I don’t think Donald Trump is it. But he will be a stalking horse for a far more skillful demagogue when the time comes." Now he says "Trump is worse than Hitler." Is it America's nuclear arsenal that makes him say that? I know a lot of people who aren't "ignorant, raging, tattooed slobs." Kunstler should stay with his July assertion that Trump is just a foreshadowing of an even more charismatic, manipulative pol.
31 August update:
The post-Empire political theater of DONALD TRUMP is thrilling: destroying the G.O.P. and terrifying the U.S. press. pic.twitter.com/M1HbPY1seY— Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) August 27, 2015