Monday, February 20, 2017

Kunstler: Fumbling Towards Collapse.

To keep up with how fast things are changing, Kunstler now bookends the week with his column. His latest:
Kunstler: Fumbling Towards Collapse.

In all the smoke and fog emitted by Trump and his adversaries, it must be hard to make out the actual issues dogging this society, and even when you can, to find a coherent position on them. This was nicely illustrated in Paul Krugman’s fatuous column in Monday’s New York Times, “On Economic Arrogance” — the title describes Krugman’s own attitude to a T.

In it, Krugman attempts to account for the no-growth economy by marshaling the stock-in-trade legerdemain of academic economics: productivity, demographics, and labor metrics. Krugman actually knows zip about what afflicts us in the present disposition of things, namely the falling energy-return-on-energy-investment in the oil industry, which is approaching the point where the immense activity of getting oil out of the ground won’t be worth the cost and trouble of doing it. And since most of the things we do and produce in this economy are based on cheap oil — with no reality-based prospect of replacing it with so-called “renewables” or as yet undiscovered energy rescue remedies — we can’t generate enough wealth to maintain anything close to our assumed standard of living. We can’t even generate enough wealth to pay the interest on the debt we’ve racked up in order to hide our growing energy predicament. And that, in a nutshell, is what will blow up the financial system. And when that department of the economy goes, the rest will follow.

So, the real issue hidden in plain sight is how America — indeed all the so-called “developed” nations — are going to navigate to a stepped-down mode of living, without slip-sliding all the way into a dark age, or something worse. By the way, the Ole Maestro, Alan Greenspan, also chimed in on the “productivity” question last week to equally specious effect in this Business Insider article. None of these celebrated Grand Viziers knows what the fuck he’s talking about, and a nation depending on their guidance will find itself lost in a hall of mirrors with the lights off.

So, on one side you have Trump and his trumpets and trumpistas heralding the return of “greatness” (i.e. a booming industrial economy of happy men with lunchboxes) which is not going to happen; and on the other side you have a claque of clueless technocrats who actually believe they can “solve” the productivity problem with measures that really only boil down to different kinds of accounting fraud.

You also have an American public, and a mass media, who do not question the premise of a massive “infrastructure” spending project to re-boot the foundering economy. If you ask what they mean by that, you will learn that they uniformly see rebuilding our highways, bridges, tunnels, and airports. Some rightly suspect that the money for that is not there — or can only be summoned with more accounting fraud (borrowing from our future). But on the whole, most adults of all political stripes in this country think we can and should do this, that it would be a good thing.

And what is this infrastructure re-boot in the service of? A living arrangement with no future. A matrix of extreme car dependency that has zero chance of continuing another decade. More WalMarts, Target stores, Taco Bells, muffler shops, McHousing subdivisions, and other accoutrement of our fast-zombifying mode of existence? Isn’t it obvious, even if you never heard of, or don’t understand, the oil quandary, that we have shot our wad with all this? That we have to start down a different path if we intend to remain human?

It’s not hard to describe that waiting world, which I’ve done in a bunch of recent books. We’re going there whether we like it or not. But we can make the journey to it easier or harsher depending on how much we drag our heels getting on with the job.

History is pretty unforgiving. Right now, the dynamic I describe is propelling us toward a difficult reckoning, which is very likely to manifest this spring as the political ineptitude of Trump, and the antipathy of his enemies, leaves us in a constitutional maelstrom at the very moment when the financial system comes unglued. Look for the debt ceiling debate and another Federal Reserve interest rate hike to set off the latter. There may be yet another converging layer of tribulation when we start blaming all our problems on Russia, China, Mexico, or some other patsy nation. It’s already obvious that we can depend on the Deep State to rev that up.

* * *

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kunstler: "That War You Ordered..."

Kunstler: "That War You Ordered..."

The gaslighting of the American public continues, with Gaslighter-in-Chief, The New York Times, whipping up a frenzy of Russia paranoia.*

It reminds me of an old gambit in fly fishing called the “artificial hatch.” Trout like to gorge on mayfly nymphs as they rise out of a stream and shuck their nymphal shells to fly away as winged adults. The bugs do this in bunches, at a particular time of day, according to sub-species. This “hatch” drives the trout into a feeding frenzy.

A lot of the time, of course, there’s no action on the stream, so the bored fly fisherman whips his line here and there around a particular pool, trying to create the simulation of a mayfly hatch so the trout will wake the fuck up. It is, to be frank a crude dodge, really an act of desperation. But at least it gives the fisherman something to do for a while besides worry about missing another mortgage payment.

The Russia paranoia frenzy is serious business because it indicates that a state-of-war exists between the permanent bureaucracy of government (a.k.a. the Deep State) and the new Trump administration. There are features of the struggle that ought to be much more disturbing than the dubious alleged monkey business about Russia hacking the election and the hoo-hah around a single intercepted phone call between Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador, made to open a line-of-communication between high-ranking officials, strictly routine business in any other administration.

Most disturbing are signs that the so-called intelligence community (IC) has gone rogue in collusion with forces aligned around Democratic Party functionaries up to and including former president Obama and Hillary Clinton, along with CNN, The Times, The Wash-Po, NBC News and a few other mouthpieces of the defeated establishment. Obama and Hillary remain conspicuously sequestered from this maelstrom, but they must be working their phones like nobody’s business. (Is the IC monitoring them, too, one wonders?)

Until his Queeg-on-steroids news conference late yesterday, Trump laid pretty low after General Flynn was thrown under the bus, but he must be plotting counter-moves, with Bannon and Steven Miller straining at their leashes, slavering for blood. Will some employees over at the CIA and the — what? — sixteen other IC outposts that stud the government like shipworms in a rotting hulk — be called on the carpet of the oval office, and possibly handed pink slips? How do you drain that swamp in Langley, VA? Perhaps with subpoenas? Surely Jeff Sessions over at the Department of Justice has got to be weighing action against the IC leakers. That shit is against the law.

The next disturbing element of the situation is all the war-drum beating by the same cast of characters: the IC, the Democratic Party, and major media. Why in hell are we antagonizing Russia? In the last month of Obama’s term — and for the first time in many years — NATO moved a bunch of tanks close to Russia’s border with the Baltic states. Do you really think Russia wants to reoccupy these countries for the pleasure of subsidizing them and draining the Russian treasury? In those twilight days of Obama, government officials made wild and unspecific charges about “Russian aggression,” and vague assertions about Russian plans to dominate the global scene. Major what-the-fuck there. There’s the ugly situation in Ukraine, of course, but that was engineered by Obama’s state department. Do you know why Russia annexed Crimea after that? It couldn’t have been for more transparently rational reasons. And what exactly is our beef with Russia in Syria? That they’re trying to prop up the Assad government because the last thing the Middle East needs is another failed state with no government whatsoever? What’s our plan for Syria, anyway? Same as Somalia, Iraq, and Libya? These stories about Russia’s intentions seem insane on their face. It’s amazing that readers of The New York Times swallow them whole. It must say something about the deterioration of the coastal gene pool. The story-mongers have a purpose though: to promote a state of permanent hostility, neo-cold-war style, to justify the grotesquely overgrown operations of the IC.

Note, too, that the new cold war benefits the thousands of ex-CIA personnel and retired US military officers who have signed on to work as Deep State IC private contractors in recent years. A new cold war is their gravy train. How about a congressional inquiry into the number of private security contractors selling their services to the Deep State, and exactly who they employ? Now that might be a scandal greater than Watergate, but not the Mike Flynn affair.

Have you asked yourself: what would war with Russia look like if the wishes of ninnies like Senator McCain and Lindsey Graham come true? Where’s the battlefield? Do we dispatch a few divisions over to invade Russia proper? Napoleon and Hitler already tried that… didn’t work out so well. And what’s the strategic objective? To occupy Russia and school them in democracy? That’s rich. Or do we go back to fighting proxy wars with Russia in various Third World backwaters as we did so earnestly in the 1960s. Another Vietnam would be grand, right? Just what we need. Or maybe a fifty-year-war like the one in the Congo. Or should we put aside all that penny-ante nonsense and just Drop the Big One, no a thousand Big Ones! Oh, wait a minute… they’ve got plenty of their own Big Ones.

Now, it may be the case that President Donald Trump is batshit crazy, but cooking up fake hostilities with the world’s second-leading nuclear super-power is a strange way to run a coup d’├ętat against the White House. I mean, if it’s that bad, the generals and the senior spooks ought to just step up to the plate without further pretense and remove the fucker — as I’ve been predicting they would inside of sixty days from the inauguration. But then even if Trump is crazy and incompetent, what’s so great about a Deep State security matrix that refuses to be subordinate to anybody, that can do whatever it wants to whomever it wants? This thing is turning into a regular shoot-out at the OK Corral. If you know your history, you’ll recall that Wyatt Earp was hardly the eagle scout he’s depicted as on the boob tube. He was something of a thug, with a mad streak. Maybe that’s what it takes to stand up to the Deep State.

* Gaslighting — a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CNN has a lot of doofuses (see also Lemon, Don).

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kunstler: Made For Each Other.

Kunstler's grumbling about trans rights mars an otherwise very good column.--P.Z.

Kunstler: Made For Each Other.

Don’t be fooled by the idiotic exertions of the Red team and the Blue team. They’re just playing a game of “Capture the Flag” on the deck of the Titanic. The ship is the techno-industrial economy. It’s going down because it has taken on too much water (debt), and the bilge pump (the oil industry) is losing its mojo.

Neither faction understands what is happening, though they each have an elaborate delusional narrative to spin in the absence of any credible plan for adapting the life of our nation to the precipitating realities. The Blues and Reds are mirrors of each other’s illusions, and rage follows when illusions die, so watch out. Both factions are ready to blow up the country before they come to terms with what is coming down.

What’s coming down is the fruit of the gross mismanagement of our society since it became clear in the 1970s that we couldn’t keep living the way we do indefinitely — that is, in a 24/7 blue-light-special demolition derby. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with accounting fraud, but in the end it is an affront to reality, and reality has a way of dealing with punks like us. Reality has a magic trick of its own: it can make the mirage of false prosperity evaporate.

That’s exactly what’s going to happen and it will happen because finance is the least grounded, most abstract, of the many systems we depend on. It runs on the sheer faith that parties can trust each other to meet obligations. When that conceit crumbles, and banks can’t trust other banks, credit relations seize up, money vanishes, and stuff stops working. You can’t get any cash out of the ATM. The trucker with a load of avocados won’t make delivery to the supermarket because he knows he won’t be paid. The avocado grower will have to watch the rest of his crop rot. The supermarket shelves empty out. And you won’t have any guacamole.

There are too many fault lines in the mighty edifice of our accounting fraud for the global banking system to keep limping along, to keep pretending it can meet its obligations. These fault lines run through the bond markets, the stock markets, the banks themselves at all levels, the government offices that pretend to regulate spending, the offices that affect to report economic data, the offices that neglect to regulate criminal misconduct, the corporate boards and C-suites, the insurance companies, the pension funds, the guarantors of mortgages, car loans, and college loans, and the ratings agencies. The pervasive accounting fraud bleeds a criminal ethic into formerly legitimate enterprises like medicine and higher education, which become mere rackets, extracting maximum profits while skimping on delivery of the goods.

All this is going to overwhelm Trump soon, and he will flounder trying to deal with a gargantuan mess. It will surely derail his wish to make America great again — a la 1962, with factories humming, and highways yet to build, and adventures in outer space, and a comforting sense of superiority over all the sad old battered empires abroad. I maintain it could get so bad so fast that Trump will be removed by a cadre of generals and intelligence officers who can’t stand to watch someone acting like Captain Queeg in the pilot house.

That itself might be salutary, since only some kind of extreme shock is likely to roust the Blue and Red factions from their trenches of dumb narrative. If the Democratic Party had put one-fiftieth of the effort it squanders on transgender bathroom privileges into policy for mitigating our tragic misinvestments in suburban sprawl, we might have gotten a head-start toward a plausible future. Instead, the Democratic Party has turned into a brats-only nursery school, with the kiddies fighting over who gets to play with the Legos. The Republican Party is Norma Desmond’s house in Sunset Boulevard, starring Donald Trump as Max the Butler, working extra-hard to keep the illusions of yesteryear going.

All of this nonsense is a distraction from the task at hand: figuring out how to live in the post techno-industrial world. That world is not going to operate the ways we’re used to. It will crush our assumptions and expectations. Lying about everything won’t be an option. We won’t have the extra resources to cover up our dishonesty. Our money better be sound or it will be laughed at, and then you’ll starve or freeze to death. You’d better hope the rule of law endures and work on keeping it alive where you live. And nobody will get special brownie points for the glory of sexual confusion. [Both emphases mine.--P.Z.]

I look for the financial fireworks to start around March – April, as the irresolvable debt ceiling debate in congress grinds into a bitter stalemate, and it becomes obvious that there will be no voucher for the great infrastructure spending orgy that Trump’s MAGA is based on. Elections in France and the Netherlands have the potential to shake apart the European Union, and with that the footing of European banks. Pretty soon, everybody in all parties and factions will be asking: “Where did the glittering promises of Modernity go…?” As we slip-side into the first stages of a world made by hand.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Orthography





Yes, it should.

Capitalization too. #DeVos

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kunstler: Left Behind.

Kunstler: Left Behind.

By her public utterances, Betsy DeVos seemed spectacularly unqualified to lead the bureaucratic enterprise called the US Department of Education. But you really have to wonder: could she do any worse than the exalted mandarins of educational bureaucracy who preceded her?

There is so much not right with public education these days that it could be the poster child for institutional collapse in America. Certainly in terms of the money spent per student, it illustrates perfectly Joseph Tainter’s classic collapse dynamic [Link added by me.--P.Z.] of over-investments in complexity with diminishing returns. Young adults are floundering in high school, or “graduating” as functional illiterates despite the vaunted widespread application of computer “technology.” They can do Instagram on a cell phone, but they can’t read an application for a driver’s license. And the mania for “diversity and multiculture” has left kids without the armature of an American common culture to successfully mold a life onto.

That common culture, by the way, is exactly what allowed waves of immigrants from the early 19th century until the Second World War to find a place and thrive in an American life that was new to them. It also enabled the sons and daughters of former slaves to enter professions and business, even despite Jim Crow segregation. Today, according to the official diktat of the Department of Education, and the propaganda of the politicized teacher corps, the very mechanisms that made previous success possible are essentially outlawed or banished beyond the pale of a functional consensus. For instance, instruction in speaking English correctly.

I have said this before to the scorn and derision of my auditors: it should be the primary mission of schooling to teach kids how to speak English grammatically and intelligibly. Without that capability, they may not be able to learn much of anything else. That this is not regarded as important anymore is a spectacular disgrace. It also brings us to the horrifying issue of race in American schooling. (Yes, this is part of that “conversation about race” that the professional race relations establishment calls for incessantly but doesn’t really want to have.)

The failures of education are especially vivid among the children of the so-called inner city — polite code for black. The school troubles of this group may be attributed to an array of other problems, starting with a social services system that pays teenage girls to have babies without a father present in the house, and the inept parenting that follows in chaotic homes. You could argue that children produced in those conditions are so damaged by the time they get to first grade that they can’t recover.

Under Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, a policy called “racial equity” was devised to mitigate the embarrassing problem of black students being suspended or disciplined disproportionately for atrocious behavior in the classroom. The “solution” to that was to just stop enforcing behavioral standards. The policy placed the blame for students’ disruptive behavior on the “cultural insensitivity” of the teachers and staff, and more generally on “white privilege.” The result, naturally, is greater chaos and dysfunction in the classroom. It is worth reading the piece by Katherine Kersten in City Journal on how this worked out in the St. Paul, Minnesota, district.

Arne Duncan was also responsible for mis-applying federal “Title Nine” law on college campuses (originally drawn up to balance funding of men’s and women’s sports), where it was used to promote the extra-legal prosecution of rape allegations in what amounted to campus kangaroo courts run by ideologues unconstrained by due process. This has produced a star chamber climate of persecution across the country, nicely in-step with the officially sanctioned coercions of the cultural Maoists who are destroying the intellectual life of American higher ed.

American schooling from kindergarten to post-doc has entered a phase of epic failure under the watch of several generations of federal policy “experts.” It suffers from several other illnesses than the ones I’ve already mentioned, namely the tragic over-centralization of school districts into giant schools; and the odious racketeering in loans that drives college education. Betsy DeVos has a lot of damage to undo engineered by her exquisitely qualified predecessors.
Via @MSScheffer

Melissa Harris Perry interviews Beth Fukumoto on her possible defection from the Republican Party.

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11 February update: From Hawaii Free Press, 20 March 2016, a reprint of an e-mail by Rep. Bob McDermott, in which he predicted Fukumoto would leave the GOP.
The Root:
White La. Judge Banned From Local Restaurant After Reportedly Calling Black Patron ‘Fat N--ger’."

Associated Press via Los Angeles Times: "Judge Likes Defendants to Write Their Wrongs." "One way to right a wrong is to write a lot, a judge believes. ... [District Judge Mike Erwin] ...said he hopes forcing defendants to write about their crimes will make them think about what they have done."

Maybe someone should make him write 10,000 times, "I will not spew racial slurs at people."