Monday, December 31, 2012
"...Two hundred years of cheap fossil fuel programmed mankind to expect limitless goodies forever on an upward-swinging arc of techno miracles. Now that the cheap fossil fuels have plateaued, with decline clearly in view, the hope remains that all the rackets of modernity can keep going on techno miracles alone.
"Meanwhile, things and events are in revolt, especially the human race's financial operating system, the world's weather, and the angry populations of floundering nations. The Grand Vizier of this blog, that is, Yours Truly, makes no great claims for his crystal ball gazing (Dow at 4,000 - ha!), but he subscribes to the dictums of two wise men from the realm of major league baseball: Satchel Paige, who famously stated, 'Don't look back,' and Yogi Berra, who remarked of a promising rookie, 'His whole future's ahead of him!'"
"The bottom line for shale oil is that we're likely to see production fall in the years directly ahead, to the shock and dismay of the 'energy independence' for lunch bunch. 2012 may have been peak shale oil. If the price of oil does go down to a level that seems affordable, it will be because the US economy has been crushed and America is mired in a depression at least as bad as the 1930s, in which case a lot of people will be too broke to even pay for cheaper oil. Hence, the only possibility that America will become energy independent would be a total collapse of the modern technological-industrial economy. The shale oil and gas campaign therefore must be regarded as a desperate gambit by a society in deep trouble engaging in wishing and fantasy to preserve a set of behaviors that can no longer be justified by the circumstances reality presents."
"My forecast for China in 2013 is a widening crack in the political façade of the formerly omnipotent ruling party, organized agitation by unemployed factory workers (with government blowback), bullying of their senile neighbor (and historical enemy) Japan, and sullen, peevish behavior toward their ailing trade partners, Europe and especially the USA. Worldwide economic entropy cancels out China's putative advantages in cash reserves, stockpiles of "stuff," and government that can do what it pleases without a loyal opposition tossing sand in its gears."
"Contrary to the wishful thinking of Tom Friedman, globalism is winding down. The great contraction leads back to a regional and local reorganization of activity in all nations. The world becomes a bigger place again with more space between the players and a larger array of players as big nations break up into autonomous states. This is really a new phase of history, though it is only just beginning in 2013."
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Swans.com is one of the most interesting and deserving web magazines around. Its budget is meager compared to those of CounterPunch and Antiwar, both also worthy, but Swans is far less known, hence it has a more difficult time raising funds. As they say, money makes money; Swans can't even afford to hold a lucrative cruise like The Nation or National Review.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Hawaii Gov ignores Senator's dying wish, picks white male to replace minority for Senate... drudge.tw/ZDSBcc— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) December 27, 2012
Friday, December 28, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
In the Shadow of Christmas
By James Howard Kunstler
on December 24, 2012 9:05 AM
Do you know why scenes or even just shots of freeways so seldom appear in the movies we watch? Because they are so depressing that nobody can stand to see them. The jolts of terror that you get in a horror movie at least inform you that you're alive, but the sight of a freeway only reminds you of what it's like to be dead.
By extension, the true condition of the USA is too depressing to think about, and that's largely the reason for our political paralysis. The "fiscal cliff" is only one step on a stairway to a different disposition of things, a world made by hand, in which we will no longer be prisoners of the freeway or hostages of the WalMart corporation, and I'm in favor of hastening the journey to get there rather than waste what remains of our wealth and spirits in futile rear-guard actions to stay where we are. There may be fewer frenzied days of Christmas shopping in that future world, but the company will be better, and the music will include the sound of your own voice.
It's not that hard to imagine where history is taking us, if you accept the fact that it means a very different shape and texture of daily life. For instance: the jobs problem. We seem disappointed that none of our policy dodges -- money-printing, stimulus packages, bailouts, wars -- can bring back the working-stiff paradise of 1965 in which assembly line workers made as much money as tenured college professors and a year at the State U cost $500.
I don't happen to be a political conservative in the standard sense, but the right-wingers have a point when they say there are a lot of idle people out there who can't be supported forever by transfer payments. A lot of positions will be opening up in agriculture, but not in the way it is practiced today. The Agri-biz model of food production is not going to be operating much longer. We're on the verge of a world food crisis that will provoke a complete revolution in farming, from the giant scale to the small and local scale, from industry to husbandry, from automation to loving care. The transition might not be a smooth one, since it entails questions of land ownership that, historically, get settled by political upheavals. But eventually we'll get to that place of social re-set and there will be plenty of work for even the partially able-bodied. Hard to imagine, I know.
The future is quite the opposite of the robotic wet dream currently being sold out of the corporate propaganda mills. It's much more likely that human labor (and human attention!) will be needed in millions of local economic niches, since rebuilding local economies is at the heart of that future. This will be true in the activities that support local agriculture, but also in rebuilding Main Street commercial networks, the physical reconstruction of towns and neighborhoods to replace failed suburbs and failed giant metroplex cities, in transportation, education, and medicine, and in running households that are organized differently than today's familiar McHouses.
Right now the political process is resisting any effort to imagine that future, the aforementioned right-wingers most of all, despite their recognition of the transfer payment trap. More disturbing, though, is the likely apprehension by those in authority that the current arrangement of things is dangerously fragile. They are hostages to their own unwillingness to imagine living differently. So, doing nothing to upset the current system of organized complexity seems like the only safe option.
These implacable forces of history cannot be held back forever and will only move toward greater criticality in 2013. My annual forecast on these questions will come out next week in this space. Meantime, find whatever joy you can in the frantic exertions of Christmas, as practiced today, mostly on the freeway, coming and going to and from the WalMart or Target or TJ Max -- and if you happen to be on the path to living differently tell us what your Christmas is like in the comments roll.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
He is also the author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (Soft Skull Press, 2005)
Friday, December 21, 2012
Available here: http://archive.org/details/PeaceOnEarth1939
and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfH3MXYF5Xo
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Friday, December 14, 2012
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Monday, December 03, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on December 3, 2012 9:14 AM
Even if the so-called economy were "recovering," the people of the USA would be stuck in a physical setting for daily life that has no future - the nightmare infrastructure of subdivision houses, strip malls, and WalMarts, all rigged up for incessant motoring. Of course, the so-called economy is not recovering because there is no more cheap oil. If oil ever gets cheap again, it will be because nobody has enough money to pay for it and surely you can connect the dots to what that hamster wheel of futility means.
In fact, the heart of our economic predicament is that the American economy came to be based on the construction of ever more suburban stuff, the financing of which, especially the houses, became the fodder for an episode of epic swindles that has left our banking system a hollowed out shell of accounting fraud. In short, we built even more stuff with no future, and ruined our society in the process. How tragic is that?
The behavioral habits, practices, and consequences of being stuck in that living arrangement may end up being at least as problematic as the physical residue of it. It has left the people in a network of alienation, anxiety, and misery that defeats exactly the mentality needed to break free of it. For the truth is we're faced with a massive necessary re-ordering of daily life in this country, and there is no vision or will to get on with job.
Among the tribulations of this living arrangement is the utter loss of connection between place and purpose often expressed in the phrase "loss of community," which is a little too abstract to me and fails to convey the tragedy of individuals living with no sense of purpose -- and by that I mean duties, obligations, and responsibilities to other human beings.
Obviously, the whole idea of a single-family house by definition dictates a certain disposition of things. It will lack the dimension and social relations of a household composed of multiple generations plus non-family members, helpers, employees, servants. And it should also be obvious that the single-generation, single-family house is a product of mid-20th century industrial dynamism that made even factory worker wage slaves rich by historical standards - Tom Wolfe pointed out years ago that the average GM assembly line drone enjoyed more sheer physical luxury at home than Louis XIV.
Put the single-family house in the context of a suburban monoculture organized to conform relentlessly to the dictates of single use zoning, and you get a recipe for instant (and permanent) social dysfunction. Then, fill that house with electronic diversion devices and a microwave oven and you end up with a very few disconnected humans who rarely share a meal and exist, while "at home," in a narcissistic vapor-realm of canned entertainment, pornography, texting (i.e. melodrama created to fill a void of purposelessness), and the sado-masochistic combats of video games (a substitute for purposeful, virile endeavor), all floating on a virtual river of relentless advertising.
It always interests me to see the emergent purposelessness of the American Dream expressed so vividly in the television sitcoms of that mid-20th century day - the very moment of its emergence. Ozzie Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet seemed to have absolutely nothing to do except sit around the kitchen waiting for somebody else to come in for a cup of coffee. He clearly had nowhere else to go. The ennui of Ozzie Nelson was a source of mirth to busy hipsters who savored the ironies of behavioral kitsch - loving what's horrible for the horror it induces. But it really isn't so funny since it is a portrait of an un-manned man trapped in utter purposeless and reduced to the pathetic existential status of somebody endlessly waiting for nothing. (Cue Samuel Beckett....)
Anyway, that was then and it's all crashing down now in a great galumphing debris-field of bankruptcy, psychosis, regret, obesity, and foreclosure. So what comes next? They say that the millennial generation is the most group-oriented, cooperative bunch to come along in the march of Boomers, Xs, and Ys. How much of this is an hallucination of transient computer connectivity, I don't know. The fact that it is so difficult for them financially to even hope to form a household will surely be a defining factor in the choices they make ahead about how exactly to inhabit the landscape. I think they will make out better in this project than their Boomer forerunners, who started out in communes sharing toothbrushes and graduated to dismal McMansions in a geography of nowhere, while dedicating their careers to the looting of posterity.
I'm quite sure that many will rediscover a sense of purpose in the re-ordering of social life that lies ahead, which includes a return to different household arrangements and probably much more hierarchical social relations. Implicit in the latter is the now-utterly-incorrect-and-taboo notion of someone knowing their place. The catch is: you need to have a place in order to know your place, and therefore know who you are - and in a society full of people for whom place means nothing, there is little chance of acquiring a real identity, other than the sham raiment of the app-supported avatar life that has taken the place of being human.
I had a fugitive thought the other evening walking through my beaten-down small town in the late fall chill. I imagined that instead of the blue tomb-like glow of television emanating from house to house that I could hear the sequential music of parlor pianos, and voices singing to them, and of healthy people coming and going from warm kitchens to fetch firewood, and of groups of people gathered around tables for a meal, and generally of buildings that were truly inhabited, not just storage containers for lives unspent. I grant you it was a fleeting nostalgic fantasy. But isn't nostalgia just a state of being homesick?
Sunday, December 02, 2012
In light of all his antics it seems obvious, but this article points out yet another reason:
To improve his chances at winning reelection, he chose to leave his Fort Lauderdale-area home and run in a more Republican-friendly district about 100 miles north. Bob Crowder, a well-liked Republican sheriff, challenged him in the primary. When the two crossed paths one day in June, the sheriff extended a hand to the congressman. “No, thanks,” West said, turning away. His refusal to shake hands with a member of his own party made a bad first impression in his adopted district. ...
Murphy won by 1,900 votes. In Martin County, the district’s Republican stronghold, West received 4,800 fewer votes than Mitt Romney, while Murphy outperformed Obama by 3,700 votes, a sign that a significant number of Republicans split their ticket. It didn’t help that in the final weeks of the race, Crowder, West’s spurned GOP rival, endorsed Murphy. West believes he lost because voters accustomed to pandering politicians couldn’t handle his directness. “I just talked the truth. I think that a lot of people maybe are not comfortable hearing the truth.”
Saturday, December 01, 2012
Dude is one sick puppy.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Les Inrockuptibles.com Practice your French and augment your hipness quotient with this music/culture magazine (which I heard about just today).
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The lyrics to Wonder's anti-apartheid song "It's Wrong" (1985).
28 November update: Stevie Wonder cancels gig:
@mikopeled I know another major recording artist who refused despite being offered a huge fee. I wonder if Stevie oversaw negotiations.— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 28, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on November 26, 2012 9:05 AM
There is surely a correspondence between an exhausted culture and a populace devolved so far into mental dullness that it can't recognize its predicament. We don't seem to get how much the industrial production spree of the past 200 years has just plumb worn us out, not to mention the ecosystem we were designed to dwell in. My general sense of things for at least a decade is that we are closing this chapter of history and heading into something smaller, slower, and simpler, and that we could either go there willingly or get dragged there kicking and screaming by circumstances.
It interests me to reflect that the way things are temporarily is the way people define normality, and think things will always be, so that if you are living in a big city like New York where so much remaining wealth is concentrated, and you are dazzled by the whirr and flash of things, including all the pretty young people drilling into their iPhones, you might expect a longer arc to the moment at hand.
Out here in the provinces it's a different story. The exhaustion is palpable. I dropped into the mall at mid-day on Sunday to take the pulse on the ballyhooed post-Thanksgiving ritual shopping frenzy and the place was like a ghost town. The sparse stream of supposed "consumers" had the dazed, beaten-down look of people pushed beyond the edge of some dark threshold, like displaced persons in a low-grade war zone.
Their behavior seemed ceremonial, though, mere acting-out as opposed to acting. They were not carrying bags with purchases. I saw almost nobody actually shopping, that is, fingering the merchandise, in either the two department stores I passed through or the smaller shops lining the corridors. There were strikingly few clerks in either the big or little retail operations and you got the feeling that these stores were now expected to run on automatic pilot, with a skeleton crew of employees because the margins just aren't there anymore. They are going through the motions of being in business, and when Christmas is over some will not be there anymore. America has had enough, notwithstanding the latest YouTube videos showing crazed mobs fighting over worthless plastic crap at the "Black Friday" WalMart openings elsewhere around the country.
The physical condition of our so-called towns (many of them just "facilities" smeared carelessly over the landscape) is something else. We are not taking care of our property in part because we don't have the money, but also because so much of it is obviously not worth caring about, was not designed and built to be cared for - and anyway, there is the lure of the narcotic flat-screen television within to distract anyone with a fugitive thought of opposing the pervasive entropy of these times. The disgrace of this nation - I mean it quite literally - is now total, from our bodies to everything around us. We are entropy made visible.
Variations on this exhaustion are playing out in other parts of the "advanced" world, Europe and Japan, where all the money-related parts of the modernity machine have gravel in their gears and are grinding into self-destruction. China will get to the same event horizon soon, too, despite the fact that so much of their stuff is brand-new - after all, what use is a set of new super-highways if Brent crude prices remain above $110?
What if we just accept the reality that the industrial spree was a self-limiting adventure and now we have to move on? What do we give up? What do we actually do with our time and effort?
There's a clear trend to give up on the gigantic nation-state, at least in its current corporatist configuration, most recently in Spain with separatists winning this week's election in the northern province of Catalonia. Perhaps greater Spain will now join the defunct entities of Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the USSR. There are rumblings of "secession" here in North America now, where a certain moron-inflected cohort favors a replay of the Civil War, largely for sentimental reasons instilled by TV. What Dixieland doesn't seem to grok is the unraveling of its own Sunbelt miracle economy which was, in effect, a suburban development bubble, and which will land them back in a ditch with a sack of turnips like Jeeter Lester's family in Tobacco Road.
Here are some trends we would benefit from getting comfortable with:
Globalism is withering and will end with a whimper (sorry, Tom Friedman). The economy of North America will become much more internally focused in the decades ahead. If you are young, think about getting into the boat business on the continent's magnificent inland waterway system. There will be no more trucking to move stuff around, and at the rate we're going the railroads will never be fixed.
National chain retail will be dying as its economies-of-scale vanish. WalMart and everything like it will be gone. No more Black Friday toy riots. Sorry. If you are young, think about getting into some kind of local business that will play a role in your rebuilt local economic network. There will be plenty of work for you, but not so much new cheap plastic crap to hassle with. Lots of opportunities for the business-minded!
Farming comes back to the center of economic life. Hard to believe, I'm sure, if you live in an iPhone fantasy-land of apps and tweets. Forget all that stupid shit. The electric grid will certainly fail, or at least fail to be reliable enough to matter, in the next couple decades, and the real value in human existence will be using the land to produce a living. Lots of opportunities for young people who like to work outside. Also, some chance of political revolution to expedite changes in land tenure.
Farewell to the auto age and hello again to real communities. Hard to believe, I'm sure, as you read this in traffic on your iPad, but your commuting days are numbered. Indeed the whole car thing comes to a rather stunningly abrupt halt - though we are certainly doing everything possible now to prop it up. The old Herb Stein formulation will apply here: people do what they can until they can't, and then they don't. The implications in this for how we inhabit the landscape going forward are rather huge. Find a nice small town on a waterway surrounded by farmland and get ready to have a life.
In the meantime, as these circumstances roil in the background, you can be sure that the people running things will campaign strenuously to keep the current set of rackets running. The results will be sad and possibly terrifying. Be brave and seek opportunity in these epochal changes. Modernity has nearly put us out of business. Leave the exhausted enterprise behind and be human for while. Enjoy the time-out from techno-progress that is at hand. It will be something to be grateful for.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on November 19, 2012 9:01 AM
Those inhabiting the economic wish-space got a case of the vapors last week when the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) published an annual report stating that the USA would overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's leading oil producer and reach the long-touted nirvana of "energy independence." The news was greeted in this country with jubilation. Thus, peak credulity meets peak bullshit.
It's been clear for a while that authorities in many realms of endeavor - politics, economics, business, media - are very eager to sustain the illusion that we can keep our way of life chugging along. But under the management of these elites, the divorce between truth and reality is nearly complete. The financial system now runs entirely on accounting fraud. Government runs on the fumes of statistical fraud. The business of oil and gas runs on public relations fraud. And the media runs on the understandable wish of the masses to believe that all the foregoing illusions still work to maintain the familiar comforts of modern life (minus Hostess Ho-Hos and Twinkies*, alas).
And so the story has developed that the shale oil plays of North Dakota and Texas, which started ramping up around 2005 - the same year the world hit the wall of peak conventional oil - and the shale gas plays in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio would enable American "consumers" to drive to WalMart effectively forever.
Now, it happens that the particulars of oil and gas production are so abstruse that the editors of The New York Times, The Bloomberg News Service, CNN, and a score of other mass media giants swallowed the IEA report whole, with fanfares and fireworks, and a nation afflicted with doubt about its future swooned into the first week of the holidays in celebration mode - we're soon to be number 1 again, and the future is secure! Have a nice Thanksgiving and Christmas and prepare to sober up in 2013. When the truth finally emerges from this morass of dissimulation, the disappointment will be epic.
Here's why the shale oil story is not the "game changer" that the wishful claim it is: the price required to get it out of the ground (between $80-90 a barrel) will crush the US economy. Since prices are already in that range, the economy is already being crushed. The result is an economy in more-or-less permanent contraction. As demand for oil falls with declining economic activity the price of oil falls - below the level that makes it worthwhile to conduct expensive shale oil drilling and fracking operations.
Meanwhile, in the background, as economies contract and economic "growth" of the type our system requires no longer happens, the problems in finance and banking get a lot worse. This is largely because interest on borrowed money can no longer be paid back. Loans are defaulted on. As this happens, banks become insolvent. Governments play games with public money - including "money" they "create" out of thin air - to prop up the banks. None of it alters the sad fact that there is not enough real money in the system. The result of all these desperate monkeyshines is the impairment if capital formation. That is, the failure to accumulate new wealth. The lack of new wealth, along with declining prospects for the repayment of loans, leads to a shortage of credit, especially to businesses that require large supplies of it to keep gigantic complex operations like shale oil and gas going.
Shale oil (and shale gas) share some problematical properties. The cost of drilling each well is a big number, $6-8 million. The wells deplete very rapidly, over 40 percent after one year in the Bakken formation of North Dakota. The oil is not distributed equally over the whole play but exists in "sweet spots." The sweetest sweet spots were drilled the earliest and the quality of the remaining potential drill sites is already in decline. The current trend shows declining first-year productivity in new wells drilled since 2010 running at 25 percent.
There are over 4300 wells shale oil in the Bakken formation of North Dakota producing about 610,000 barrels a day. In order to keep production up, the number of wells will have to continue increasing at a faster rate than previously. This is referred to as "the Red Queen syndrome" which alludes to the character in Alice in Wonderland who famously declared that she had to run faster and faster just to stay where she is. The catch to all this is that the impairments of capital formation are working insidiously in the background to guarantee that the money will not be there to set up the necessary wells to keep production at current levels. In other words, shale oil (and shale gas) are Ponzi schemes. The story in the Eagle Ford play in Texas is very similar.
I haven't even mentioned the concerns about fracking and its effect on ground water, and won't go into it here, except to acknowledge that it presents an additional range of concerns.
The current price situation in shale gas is different than shale oil. The drilling frenzy in shale gas produced a glut, which drove down prices from a $13 a unit (thousand cubic feet or mcf) to around $2 at its low point earlier this year. That's way below the price that is economically rational to drill and frack for it. The price collapse has played havoc among the companies engaged in shale gas, though it has been a boon to customers. A lot of the drilling equipment has moved to the North Dakota oil fields. There will be less shale gas in the period ahead and the price will go up. It has got to go above about $8 a unit or there will be no reason for any company to be in the shale gas business. But as is always the case in such a correction, the price will surely overshoot $8, at which point it will become unaffordable to its customers. The volatility alone will make the business of shale gas drilling impossible to maintain. Forget about the USA becoming a major gas exporter.
You probably get the point by now, so I will only add a couple of out-of-the-box considerations vis-à-vis the prospect of the USA becoming energy independent.
-- Production is getting so low in the Prudhoe Bay fields of Alaska that the famous pipeline may not be able to operate. If the flow of oil reaches a certain low volume, it takes longer to make the long journey. The oil cools down and gets sludgy and some of the water that travels with it will freeze. This could destroy the pipeline. The capital is not there to retrofit the pipeline for a depleting oil field in a region that is difficult and expensive to work in.
-- Exporting countries (the ones that send us oil) are depleting their reserves and using more of their own oil, resulting in annually declining export rates. China, India, and other still-modernizing nations compete for a growing share of that declining export flow.
-- I have barely hinted at the geopolitical forces roiling behind the sheer business dynamics. But here's an interesting one: the time will come when the US will invoke the Monroe Doctrine to prevent Canada from sending its oil and tar-sand byproducts to nations other than ourselves. Just wait.
Finally, I have one flat-out prediction, one I have made before but deserves repeating: Japan will be the first society to consciously opt out of being an advanced industrial economy. They have no other apparent choice really, having next-to-zero oil, gas, or coal reserves of their own, and having lost faith in nuclear power. They will be the first country to enter a world made by hand. They were very good at it before about 1850 and had a pre-industrial culture of high artistry and grace - though, granted, all the defects of human psychology.
I don't think the US can make that transition in an orderly way. We're too stricken with techno-narcissism and grandiosity. What troubles me is how we will greet the epic disappointment that waits for us when we discover that the journey to WalMart is over. My guess is that being predisposed to superstition and religious fanaticism, the American public will violently reject science and rationality and retreat into a world of shadows. We're already well on our way. The IEA report will just accelerate things.
*Twinkies, and perhaps its sister brands, may be preserved if Grupo Bimbo acquires the rights to the products from Hostess Brands.
Nancy Nall had to say, "I have nothing to say about Hostess, except that I don’t eat that crap myself. Twinkies. Bleh."
I can think of many things that are "Bleh" before Twinkies, which I've enjoyed on occasion. (What does Nancy like to snack on, then?)
Monday, November 12, 2012
A Look in the Mirror
By James Howard Kunstler
on November 12, 2012 8:57 AM
The verdict is apparently in: if Fox News will replace its current heraldic theme music with a mariachi band, and Sean Hannity puts on a sombrero for his nightly broadcast prayer circle, then the Republican Party will once again rule the land...
...Not - in the immortal word of Borat Sagdiyev.
The so-called Grand Old Party now faces a fugue of recrimination that could end in its demise. The party marginalized itself by becoming an alliance of corporate oligarchs with poorly-educated Southern suburban white trash religious fanatics, both using each other to browbeat the nation into transforming itself into kleptocratic theocracy. There are no more people of good will and intelligence left in that camp, and a blame-fest between its two remaining factions can only lead to a death struggle.
The beginning of the end really came with the death of William F. Buckley in 2008. Buckley labored for years to keep the John Birch Society and its agents out of the GOP's leadership circles. For those of you unacquainted with this organization, it was a group that coalesced during the early 1950s anti-communist crusade of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Birchers named themselves after an obscure American soldier and Baptist missionary executed by the Red Army in China during the final months of World War Two. The group was founded and funded by Robert Welch, a Boston candy manufacturer (Junior Mints, Sugar Daddy) tormented by conspiracy fantasies. Another founding board member was Fred Koch, father of the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, who have become the latter-day sugar daddies of the Republican Party.
The Birchers retailed all kinds of ideological nonsense that made them the butt of ridicule during the Camelot days of John F. Kennedy and the heady Civil Rights years of his successor Lyndon B. Johnson. (Bob Dylan wrote a song about them in 1962: "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues.") Everything perceived to be a threat in a changing society was sold by the Birchers as a communist plot - water fluoridation, de-segregation, even, by a kind of tortured logic, the US strategy in the Vietnam War. Since a Democratic president and congress passed the civil rights legislation of 1964-5, the traditionally Democratic "solid South" revolted almost overnight and eventually turned solidly Republican. (It was also good for business.)
Something else was going on in Dixieland from the late 1950s on. The region boomed economically, partly from luring northern industry down with cheap labor, and partly because so many large military bases were located there - hence the hyperbolic, militant patriotism of a region that had lately staged a violent insurrection against the national government. The region also went through an explosion of air-conditioned suburban sprawl because the southern states were geographically huge and the climate was unbearable half the year. The sprawl industry itself generated vast fortunes and widespread prosperity in a part of the country that had been a depressed agricultural backwater since the Civil War.
Consequently, a population of poor, ignorant crackers crawled out of the mud and dust to find themselves wealthy car dealers and strip-mall magnates in barely one turn of a generation. The transition being so abrupt, their cracker culture of xenophobia, "primitive" religion, and romance with violence came through intact. They were the perfect client group for a political party that styled itself "conservative," as in maintaining the old timey ways. Toward the end of the 20th century, as the old northern states' economies withered, and Yankee culture lost both footing and meaning, and poor white folks all over America looked with envy on the glitz of country music and Nascar, and gravitated toward the Dixieland culture of belligerent, aggressive suburbanization, religiosity, and militarism. This cartoon of the old timey ways swept the "flyover" precincts of the nation. Along in the baggage compartment was all the old John Birch Society cargo of quasi-supernatural ideology that appealed so deeply to people perplexed by the mystifying operations of reality. That perplexity was supposedly resolved in a Bush II White House aide famously stating, "We make our own reality." The results of the 2012 election now conclusively demonstrate the shortcomings of that world-view.
And so the news last week was that a different version of America outvoted the John Birch Dixiecrat coalition by roughly two million ballots. Meaning, of course, that there are still a lot of dangerous morons out there, but also that the times they are yet a'changin' again. I am personally glad that Mr. Romney lost because he came across to me as a dangerously hollow, not very smart, pre-cooked personality marinated in cant and opportunism. I'm not so delirious either about the victor, Mr. Obama, though he seems a more reliable character in contrast to his vanquished opponent. I think we can rely on him to not prosecute any misconduct in banking for another four years. But, at least, he's not trying to turn the country into one big prayer circle.
He's surely in for a rough ride in the four years ahead. There is a sickening, heavy sense of foreboding about the seemingly endless financial melodrama. It leads to the bewildering fork in the road at which the split paths lead to two different ways of going broke: savage deflation or turbo-inflation. Either way, you're toast. The gross interventions and arrant accounting fraud that pervade global finance, both in government and in private banking, can only lead to perversity and dysfunction in the operations of money that we depend on to remain civilized.
If America were able to look in a mirror now, it would see an image of a sclerotic society, physically run down, strikingly ugly, and sordid in its cultural programing. It would see an armature for daily life - the drive-in Utopia - with very poor prospects for the future. I don't know if Mr. Obama can get this nation engaged in the great tasks that we have been avoiding for so long: purging corporate money from politics, preparing for post-petroleum reality minus the fantasy that we can just live inside our smart phones, and downscaling and re-localizing economic life. Much of that agenda would seem contrary to the common expectation that Mr. Obama wants ever more government intervention in the economy. The past four years he has seemingly done everything possible to support the status quo - leading a few observers to brand him as a "conservative" - and he still acts like a hostage of the too-big-to-fail banks. I'm not convinced that he'll act decisively for the right things in the right way on anything. At least he won't be running for office again and can act perhaps more freely as he will. Anyway, I subscribe to the sentiment that it was a good thing for the nation to re-elect a leader of mixed-race, to show that we mean it about who is allowed to succeed here.
I spent a lot of time in Dixieland this fall. I can report that its era of hyper-prosperity is on the wane. The boom is pretty much over, except for some deceptive last twitchings over in Texas and in the Northern Virginia beltway counties where lobbyists spawn. The failure of the Republican Party this year marks the end of the economic ascendency of the South. Now they will have to contend with the imminent failure of their suburban way of life and all its comfortable trappings. I've predicted for many years that the process would drive them batshit crazy. When I was in North Carolina in October, I got the odd impression that I was in a giant car dealership masquerading as a state. That's just not going to work anymore. But it remains to be seen whether anything will work in any quarter of this big old country.
One interesting thing is shaping up: a beard-growing contest between Paul Krugman and Ben Bernanke to see who can end up looking most like Rutherford B. Hayes.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Could it be?
It's finally official; Republican war criminal Allen West is a LOSER (according to the state of Florida): bit.ly/RLEdJe— Howie Klein (@downwithtyranny) November 10, 2012
Only a few months ago, West seemed formidable, as this Mother Jones article suggested. Also interesting is the kind of place that would elect such a politician:
Sixty years ago Wellington was pure Everglades, part of an undulating expanse of saw grass and cypress that stretched for hundreds of miles down into Florida Bay. In the years since, the land has been drained, filled in, bought and sold and repossessed. In its place, a fever swamp of an entirely different sort has emerged. Allen West, tea party rock star, is its champion.
It seems to be a very wealthy place, actually. I was thinking of vast housing tracts.
He still won't concede, but it may not be up to him.
20 November update: Allen West has finally conceded.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Ron Paul's Revenge: "Most of Paul’s voters stayed home on election day, or else voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian standard-bearer this time around."
Roscoe Bartlett was defeated, thus removing from Congress one of the very few legislators concerned with peak oil.
(Warning: Copious frank and explicit language. NSFW)
What I would love to see: another installment of Team of Rivals, w President Obama appointing Mitt Romney as Secretary of State in Jan.— Russell Moore (@drmoore) November 8, 2012
12 November update: Bob Nicholas, a Wyoming Republican, who allegedly beat his disabled son, won a second term in the Wyoming state legislature.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
He didn't win.
Sour grapes and teeth-gnashing in tweet form:
Monday, November 05, 2012
The Tides of Event
By James Howard Kunstler
on November 5, 2012 8:32 AM
Mitt Romney's sickening insincerity was on full view Sunday night as CNN served up both candidates complete finish-line pitches to the Ohio crowds thought to hold the fate of the election in their fickle sway. Romney has consistently proved one thing over the whole, long, nauseating course of his campaign: that he will say anything to get a vote, no matter how hollow, fatuous, craven, or at odds with reality the utterance is.
Last night he went on about how the USA would become "energy independent" when he opens all federal lands to oil drilling. This plays on some lamebrain notion that there are vast fields of easy-to-get oil sitting out under the Wyoming hardpan waiting to be tapped. Surely Mitt know better.. or does he? The reality is that these lands fell into federal ownership largely because they had so little value in the first place. If there was another Spindletop lurking under the sagebrush you can be sure it would have been found long before now, so Mr. Romney is just preying on the public's wishful ignorance (or his own) when he says these things.
Which gets to the larger issue of what the "drill drill drill" mantra really means: namely, that Mitt Romney has no idea where history is taking us. The public may be very nervous about how they will pay for gasoline needed to live in the suburban matrix, but the reality of the situation is that the suburban matrix is the problem and doing everything and anything we can to prop it up is going to destroy the nation. Mr. Romney is oblivious to this reality and so you can be sure that his mysterious "plan" for leadership is an empty promise. A reality-based plan, for instance, would be the rapid rebuilding and electrification of the regular railroad system, both as an economic development measure and a national security issue, along with the spirited promotion of walkable neighborhoods and the rebuilding of our small towns and small cities. But Mitt is "a car man," as he likes to say.
President Obama was on display, too, a little later making dubious claims about his accomplishments and distinctions. (Jon Corzine is still at large.) There's no evidence that he understands the true nature of the implacable economic contraction underway and how it will change everything about how we live on this continent. But I think there is a better chance that he could get a clue in the next four years than is the case for Mr. Romney. Also, I don't trust Mr. Romney to deal intelligently with foreign nations, while the specter of yet another arch-conservative idiot on the Supreme Court of the type that would rule affirmative on something like the Citizens United case gives me the vapors... so I have to pull the lever for Mr. Obama. [Note: Kunstler lives in New York, which is solidly for Obama. If he wanted to, he could vote for Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson, depending on who's on the ballot. In Hawaii, there are four candidates on the ballot: Obama, Romney, Stein, and Gary Johnson.--P.Z.]
Finally, I just don't like Mitt Romney. He's the over-eager twerp in the classroom with his arm always sticking up. He's the missionary bozo in a necktie ringing your doorbell to sell a fairy-tale cult religion dreamed up in the 1820s by another over-eager con artist. He's obviously using the national stage to work out his father issues (George Romney ran for president in 1968, blundering his way out of the race early on). He shamelessly panders to the worst elements of his own party - the ignorant, militaristic, punitive-minded Nascar evangelicals - and dissembles so automatically that there is nothing left of whatever core beliefs he might have theoretically developed earlier in his career. He's too chicken to engage with the realities of climate change, so visibly on display this season. He's spoiling to rumble with China, apparently oblivious to the fact that China's leader-in-waiting, Xi Jingping, is an army brat. I pray at my little alter of ecumenical totems that the tides of history will sweep Mitt Romney out to the seas of retirement from public life, where he can enjoy his Medicare entitlements secure in the guarantee that he will not be hassled over any pre-existing conditions.
Speaking of tides, we are now a week past the awful depredations of Hurricane Sandy and a lot of people are yet sitting in the cold and dark. The story is still developing - in a way similar to Hurricane Katrina - in the sense that the ordeals of individual suffering and loss are slow to emerge from the chaos of the moment into public awareness. For instance, it took weeks after Katrina for many property owners to learn that the loss of their house was attributed to "flooding," which is generally not covered in home insurance policies. There are still vast neighborhoods, such as Long Beach, Long Island, where the issue hasn't even come up yet, at least not in the news media. When it does, it will be much bigger deal politically than was the case in Biloxi, Mississippi, or the 9th Ward of New Orleans, where people were more accustomed to the cruel boot of authority, not to mention the frequent tantrums of a subtropical ocean.
I don't know how Sandy will affect the electoral results in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but even if polling places can be set up in ruined, blacked-out districts one would think the eligible voters have a lot more urgent matters on their minds.
Anyway, once this dreadful election is over the floodgates of events will open up and we will once again be forced to reckon especially with the epochal forces that seek to shatter the financial system. Sandy was a kind of preview of coming attractions for a different sort of wreckage to come.
Sunday, November 04, 2012
Friday, November 02, 2012
Maybe he's constipated. Somebody fetch him a glass of prune juice at once!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
3 November update: There's a brief overview of the movie (with a few errors and omissions) in John Kenneth Muir's book Horror Films of the 1980s (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007).
Monday, October 29, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on October 29, 2012 9:33 AM
With little to do while waiting for something possibly very bad to happen people tend to get jokey. That was how I felt about the election until Hurricane Sandy came along. For one thing, I happened to travel (by car - how else?) last week from Bennington through Brattleboro, Vermont, and down into a de-industrialized corner of northwestern Massachusetts. There were at least three major highway bridge re-construction projects (and many lesser ones) still underway along the route from last year's Hurricane Irene, which devastated Vermont. There's a fair chance that Vermont will get whacked again, undoing a billion dollars of work along the same mountain river roads. How demoralizing will that be? And where does the local share of the money come from?
I remember, too, being in Wilkes-Barre, in Eastern Pennsylvania just a few years ago and seeing that the city never actually recovered from floods induced by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which coincided with the beginning of the end of the local coal industry. The downtown was functionally dead, with a zombie overlay of social services, wig shops, and street people conversing with themselves. It appears that Hurricane Sandy is going to rip through the same region again, then curl east into my part of upstate New York and finally slog into the same new England states that got bashed last year.
Then, of course, there is the question of what happens to New York City in the next 48 hours, a potential enormity too vast to quantify from here (not to mention Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wilmington, and the toxic waste dump formerly known as New Jersey).
My own main worry, sitting here in comfort, in a well-lighted room, is how widespread the electric power outages might be and how long might they last -- conceivably even through the election. Surely, Mr. Obama is pacing nervously now in some deep underground White House command center, worrying about what might be required if there is no electricity to run the voting machines across the nation's most populous region, or if many hundreds of thousands of voters get stranded at home by broken bridges and washed-out roads, or how many votes his government might lose if the juice stays on but he can't relieve the anticipated misery fast enough... with the idiot Romney kibitzing from the sideline.
I don't know if the US can take that kind of disruption and come out the other side the same way it went in. The systems that keep us going are already in trouble, some of them already teetering, like the airline industry, which can barely keep going with jet fuel clocking at 40 percent of its operating costs due to $90-a-barrel oil. The political system itself is more fragile than we might suppose, despite the seemingly despotic reach of surveillance, the size of the government payroll, and the amazing complacency of the sports-and-fructose-saturated public. Few believe in the two major parties, or what they pretend to stand for, including many officers and foot-soldiers in those parties. If the system finds itself unable to hold an election on the day specified by the constitution, what happens then? Another trip to the Supreme Court. Uh-oh....
Anyway, Hurricane Sandy and all it portends this Monday morning is a nice distraction from all the other things un-winding, tottering, and fracturing in so many advanced nations. Promises of massive (and improbable) bailouts have kept the financial meltdown of Europe a few degrees below critical mass for a couple of months, but the thermometer is inching upward with the ominous Catalan regional election in Spain tipping well toward the secessionists, and Greece whirling around the economic drain, with all of its previous bail-out money merely yo-yoing back to the client banks of the "troika" that arranged the bail-outs, and countries like Italy, Portugal, and Ireland whistling past the graveyard beyond the news media's peripheral vision. And then there is China with its government transition hugger-mugger, its empty make-work cities, its crony banking system unaccountable to anyone, and its extremely modest reserves of its own oil to run the whole hastily constructed shootin' match. They have been working earnestly in plain sight - off the news media's radar screen - to construct a resource extraction empire in Africa, but then they will be stuck with the job of defending 12,000 mile supply lines. Good luck with that.
Finally, there is the nauseating spectacle of the presidential election itself, with two creatures of corporate capture pretending to represent the interests of some hypothetical majority who wish to remain the slaves of WalMart and Goldman Sachs. If Hurricane Sandy causes such massive disruption as to interfere with the election, perhaps that will be a good thing - a sudden, unavoidable re-thinking of our ossified institutional customs, and a thrust into the emergent history of the future.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on October 22, 2012 8:54 AM
There's a good reason why nobody is paying attention to the election this year except the people who, one way or another, get paid to be interested: because for all that's at stake there is no coherent discussion about any of it. By 'at stake' I mean what we are going to do when the major systems we depend on for everyday life begin to wobble and fail.
There is zero cognizance even among the paid kibitzers that we are near that point. Rather, a rapture of techno-narcissism holds in thrall even people who ought to know better, and a chatter-stream of infotainment propaganda spreads an hallucinatory fog of national self-esteem-boosting figments ranging from "energy independence" to "green jobs."
The truth of our situation is an implacable contraction of the turbo-corporate economy due to remorseless looming energy scarcity. That is, strange to relate, not altogether bad news (if we were psychologically disposed to process it, which we are not). It doesn't have to mean that everything in American life goes straight to shit -- though it might. It could well mean that some of the most destructive corporate actors go to shit (quickly and unexpectedly), making room for some really beneficial transformation.
For instance, the tensions of excessive scale and lack of resilience could put WalMart and everything like it out of business. It wouldn't take much to fatally compromise the 12,000-mile supply lines and the 'warehouse-on-wheels' that the behemoth retailers depend on. $6 diesel fuel and a few more currency war provocations against China could put the schnitz on the operating system of national chain retail. It would be the end of the unacknowledged "entitlement" called "bargain shopping," but it would also provide the opportunity to rebuild the very local and regional economies that these predatory outfits put to death thirty years ago - and, more importantly, open up a vast range of careers, positions, and roles for Americans to play in truly running their own commercial economies in their own home-towns, in particular young Americans otherwise demoralized by an economy that has left so many of them stranded.
This is the direction that reality is taking us in, and one wonders why the candidates can't begin to articulate it in these ridiculous show-and-tell spectacles that we misunderstand to be "debates." Obviously it has as much to do with the sheer inertia of the status quo than even with the grotesque distortions of politics inspired by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that has allowed the complete corporate capture of elections. And even that nation-wrecking calamity is probably out-weighed by the US public's wish to keep all the familiar machinery of daily life going at all costs.
This last part is surely understandable, but it will certainly lead to a tragic outcome: political and social collapse. No one in any realm of US leadership will face the difficulty and uncertainty of finding our way out of this predicament. Both candidates for president are devoted to sustaining the unsustainable and telling fairy tales about running the WalMart economy on "green" pixie dust.
The systems that we depend on for running everyday life can all be clearly described and understood: commerce (WalMart); farming (agri-biz); transportation (happy motoring + airplanes); medicine (sickness hostage racket); education (babysitting), and so on. All of them are near the end of their existence in their current mode of operation. But the system in greatest danger is finance, which is system that is supposed to manage our accumulated wealth and deploy the surplus for purposes that keep civilization going. Finance is the sickest of all these systems now and the one that is most susceptible to collapse.
The basic problem is that finance and its organs of banking now run entirely on accounting fraud, which is to say the misrepresentation of our accumulated wealth and the subsequent misallocation of what's left of it. Pervasive accounting fraud and control fraud (the criminal abuse of trust in money matters) is joined by the systematic corruption of markets. The stock and commodity markets can no longer perform their primary role of "price discovery" due to the criminal manipulation of indexes, and in particular the computer arbitrage racket known as high frequency trading, not to mention the absence of regulation and rule-of-law more generally. And the money markets can no longer perform their primary tasks of truthfully pricing debt in relation to risk - that is, establishing interest rates -- due to the desperate interventions of central banks.
The result is a money management system that could collapse at any moment into a vacuum of unreality, and the chaos that would ensue is capable of wrecking the current incarnation of advanced industrial civilization. Mitt Romney represents all the forces that seek to pervert truth in banking, markets, trading, and commercial business. He made his fortune in a business of lethal arbitrage, hunting through the underbrush of American business like a poisonous snake, striking his victims in stealth and then consuming them. Barack Obama, lawyer and president, forgot that one of his duties is hunting snakes, and has allowed the garden of America to become overrun with snakes. There is even the pretty good chance that, if he loses this election, Mr. Obama will become one of those snakes himself.
Personally, I have no faith in either of them, and watching them pretend to battle in the trumped-up arena of "debate" makes me sick.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
...[A] devastating journey through Israel and an anatomy of the extremist takeover of a nation. What Blumenthal finds is a country overrun by extremists, where the Jewish Right has hijacked constitutional protections for both minorities and those in the majority who dissent. Blumenthal investigates the roots of these cultural and political shifts, as well as the malign American right-wing funders who are bankrolling Israeli extremism.
Thos who follow him on Twitter will probably get a sense of deja vu when they read the book, because most of his tweets concern Israel. It's as if the book is being written bit by bit.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
But I've been catching up with blogs, especially Hattie's Web. The retail situation in Hilo is something I'd like to think about more, because I've seen countless stores come and go. The enormous Safeway Hattie mentions is the third incarnation of that market in Hilo, the first being the present site of Ben Franklin Crafts.
But a lot more later.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Monday, October 08, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on October 8, 2012 8:06 AM
The press wet its small-clothes over Mitt Romney's ebullience in last Thursday's so-called debate, as these joint interview contests are styled these days. What a jaunty fellow Mitt came off as, compared to poor Mr. Obama, cloaked in presidential gloom, the wearisome woes of high office and all that - or perhaps just some indigestible tidbit served out of Air Force One's galley, an infected cocktail weenie, a shrimp with attitude, or an empanada with the E coli blues, who knows....
To be sure, Mr. Romney's ebullience had a crafted tang to it, like one of those pumpkin-flavored beers made for the season, especially since all that verve was employed in the service of ebullient lying, statistical confabulation, and self-contradiction. At times his sheer manic zest veered in the direction of what used to be called hebephrenia in the old clinical sense of someone euphorically out-of-touch with reality.
Alienation from reality being at the very core of the current zeitgeist, the American public can only admire somebody who displays such a buoyant disregard for what is actually happening in the universe. To me, Mr. Romney just gave off the odor of someone who will do anything to get elected while Mr. Obama evinced the dejection of someone doubting it was worth it.
Of course, the issues this time around are framed with the presumption that all the current rackets of political economy can be kept running - everything from Fannie Mae to Medicare to suburbia to the systematic looting of the future by the Federal Reserve's shell-game operations with every loser bond instrument lately fobbed off on hopelessly rigged markets - which is exactly the opposite of what reality has in store for us. In fact, the salient feature of these times is the remorseless running down of all these rackets to their entropic end points.
The sad part is that everyone from the leadership down to the lowly clientele of food stamps and gamed disability payments is locked into the vast array of rackets that constitute our national life, and the truth of their failure thresholds is too terrifying to entertain. What to many appears to be a "conspiracy of elites" is just our way of life. Evidence of this is the increasingly eerie way that the financial crimes of recent years somehow vanish into the ethers of history without any official notice from either the media or the police powers of society. In a very serious time, we are just not a serious people. Anything goes and nothing matters.
The central reality broadly ignored is the unavoidable contraction of industrial economies all over the world. The action is especially brutal in the USA, which actually gave up on the nuts-and-bolts of industrial production beginning in the 1970s, but managed to cream off other nation's exertions by reserve currency hocus-pocus, pervasive executive control fraud, and a reckless spewage of glitzy "consumer" service infrastructure over the landscape, which gave the appearance of vitality in the absence of value creation - the exact specialty, by the way, of predatory private equity squads like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital. All of this was enabled by the last gasps of cheap oil, and without it our whole way of life craps out, including the creaming off of leftovers. And this illness of advanced economies is now spreading all over the world.
You would think that the question of what we will do about all this might be at issue in the current election - how we might deliberately face the tasks of reorganizing farming, commerce, transportation, banking, schooling, and all the other practical matters of existence. There is an awful lot to talk about, and much to be done, but nobody is interested. Instead, we've mounted a foolish campaign to keep all the old rackets running, and there is no fundamental difference between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama on that. The empty pageantry of these debates dresses this dangerous madness in the raiment of clowning.
All of this has consequences, of course, but in a society that has ditched all sense of consequence nobody can pay attention to that either. The poet W.H. Auden called his time "a low, dishonest decade." Bad as the 1930s were, the stakes are even higher now, and our clownish inattention conceals darker falsities that could make that terrible era seem quaint. [END]
A good book on tbe importance of manufacturing.
* Fingleton, Eamonn. In Praise of Hard Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity
Sunday, October 07, 2012
Books, Nooks, and Crannies has apparently closed last Friday. It is unknown whether or not the bookshop will continue under new ownership. In any case, I'll try to get Kunstler's book and review it.
Saturday, October 06, 2012
Thursday, October 04, 2012
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
Monday, October 01, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on September 30, 2012 7:15 PM
Flying at higher platitudes in the thin upper air of his own mind last week, Republican candidate Mitt Romney remarked apropos of airplane travel: "[T]he windows don't open. I don't know why they don't do that. It's a real problem. So it's very dangerous."
It turned out that Mitt meant the remark as a gag. But it sheds some light on the hazard of trying to be funny by saying the opposite of what you mean, and also on the essential character of Mr. Romney who, to put it as plainly and directly as possible, is the sort of person commonly described as "an asshole." Hence, the thought that must be flashing through many people's minds these days when Romney's off-kilter, square-jawed, grinning visage floats over the nearest flat-screen: Who would vote for that asshole...? Being given to more baroque taxonomy, myself, I would be satisfied in calling Mr. Romney an empty vessel in a vacant room in an abandoned property in a forsaken land, and leave it at that....
And so it goes on the backstretch of the emptiest election contest in memory. The nation simply can't contend with the existential problems it faces and doesn't want to hear about them. As far as I can tell, nobody is paying attention to the campaigns, not even the reporters, certainly not the bloggers, who have their eyes on the riots and other kinetic unravelings related to the money crisis in Europe. Here, where anything goes and nothing matters, everybody just goes through the motions of electoral politics. It all has the odor of a ritual that nobody remembers the original purpose of - namely, to govern, i.e. to manage society's collective affairs. These days, nobody believes that our affairs are manageable, and their perception is probably correct, especially when it comes to paying for it all, since accounting fraud is now the basis of all financial operations.
But I don't mean to just deplore the situation. It is what it is, and we are at a certain juncture of history because of the choices we have made, and we'll have to see how the consequences roll out. Here's how I see some of them.
The Romney election fiasco will destroy the Republican Party, just as the Whig party fell apart in the last days of Millard Fillmore. The religious nuts and Dixieland ignoranti will demand the expulsion of all non-extremists and Karl Rove will be left at the Nascar track with Honey Boo Boo on his lap and a dwindling "base" of shrieking microcephalics awaiting the second coming of Adolf Hitler in a green satin Mountain Dew race-day jumpsuit. Respectable conservatives (they exist) will have to take their pleadings elsewhere, the venue or party yet-to-be determined, perhaps off-shore somewhere where the downtrodden sew blue jeans and counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
Sunday, September 09, 2012
Monday, September 03, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on September 3, 2012 8:55 AM
Meet the new third party in national politics: Reality.
Reality is the only party with an agenda consistent with what is actually happening in the world. Reality doesn't need to drum up dollar donations from anyone. Reality doesn't have to pander to any interest group or subscribe to any inane belief system. Reality doesn't even need your vote. Reality will be the winner of the 2012 election no matter what the ballot returns appear to say about the bids of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to lead the executive branch of the government.
In the vicious vacuum that national party politics has become, the Republicans and Democrats are already dead. They choked to death on the toxic fumes of their own excreta. They are empty, hollow institutions animated only by the parasites that feed on and squirm over the residue of decomposing tissue within the dissolving membranes of their legitimacy. Think of the fabled Koch brothers as botfly larvae and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association PAC (SIFMA PAC) as a mass of writhing maggots.
These are desperate days in the republic. Between the two empty spectacles of the official party nominating conventions, a terrible nausea rises in the collective gorge of the swindled body politic. The putative contest of ideas is a dumbshow in a hall of mirrors. None of it avails to reduce, mitigate, or even acknowledge, the tensions that may tear this country apart, in particular the web of fraud that shrouds all the operations of money and banking - which is to say: the fate of everything the nation thinks it has invested in itself and its future. In the USA of 2012, anything goes and nothing matters. Reality has a different view of where this all ends and how it will work out.
Compare and contrast the of the Republicans and Democrats with the Reality Party:
The two major parties both propose that the colossal machine of everyday life in America can not only run indefinitely, but continue expanding, and include ever more member people who trade ever more schwag. All that is required, they say, is twiddling the settings of the machine, to get it back to running smoothly as it did in the good old days before the mystifying crash of 2008. They disagree slightly on which dials to twiddle. Reality knows we have entered along-term compressive economic contraction; that there is no way we can persist in the current living arrangement; and that the necessary outcome to avoid immense human suffering can be described as the downscaling and re-localizing of everything we do.
The two major parties regard the rule of law as optional, especially in money matters. Neither party has any will to interfere with a broad array of financial rackets that range from the blatant manipulation of markets, interest rates, and currencies to computerized front-running thievery, traffic in booby-trapped derivatives and counterfeit shorts, pervasive accounting fraud, channel stuffing, irregularities in central bank bullion leasing, flagrant confiscation of private accounts, municipal bond-rigging flimflams, "private equity" looting operations, offshore banking dodges, and untold other scams, rip-offs, and cons that have crippled the basic functions of finance, namely: price discovery, currency as a reliable store of value, and the allocation of surplus wealth for productive purpose. Reality knows that the absence of the rule of law is suicidal. Reality is incapable of pretending that it doesn't matter. Reality provides work-arounds for intractably dishonest political arrangements: civil war and revolution. Both are invoked out of extreme desperation and have unpredictable outcomes. Like Reality itself, they are what they are.
The two major parties pretend that so-called "entitlement" programs can be simultaneously reformed, improved, and abolished - that is, you can have your cake and eat it (with ice cream) at the same time you throw it in the garbage. Reality rejects this incoherent juggling act and proposes that Americans better just make other arrangements for old age, routine medical care, and daily bread. This implies cultural as much as economic transformation and it will occur emergently no matter what empty promises anyone makes. People who want to get food at regular intervals will have to find some way to make themselves useful to others. Medicine will return to the local clinic model and doctors will have to find another motivation for practice besides the acquisition of German automobiles. Old people will have to prevail upon their offspring for care and protection, and they will be expected to play a useful role in the household or community in return if they are able-bodied.
The two major parties both proclaim that the USA is verging on "energy independence." Both parties are lying. Reality knows that the shale oil "game changer" is a mirage. By 2014, the "sweet spots" of the Bakken will deplete faster than new wells can be drilled, and the impairments of banking will constrict the supply of capital investment for that hypothetical future drilling. All the deregulation in the world will not alter the fact that future oil is expensive, exists in places where it is hard to work, and entails unappetizing geopolitical contingencies. Reality favors letting go of automobile-based living and the adoption of walkable communities connected by inland waterways and railroads.
The two major parties believe that the foreign wars are good for business as long as you can minimize the casualties on our side and keep war news off the TV. Reality knows that war as currently practiced by the US Military is a failure if 1.) you can't control the terrain in the foreign theater of operations, and 2.) you can't control the behavior of the foreign population. Notice that we can't do either of those things in Afghanistan or the sundry other places where the US military might be found today. The two major parties also favor the application of war-time "security" operations on the US public inside our borders - i.e. spying, data harvesting, monitoring of cell phone and bank records., et cetera - contrary to what US law and the constitution says. Reality believes that, if the rule of law remains optional, the time will come when American government officials who authorized these activities may be dragged from their command centers and hanged from traffic signals by a citizenry pushed too far.
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama would label Reality a "terrorist movement" if they could and seek to blow it up with predator drones. But Reality is harder to stamp out than truth, which can be shouted down, papered over, fudged, outlawed, etch-a-sketched, exiled, and reviled. Reality is everywhere. It lurks inside and outside the doors of the phony-baloney convention vaudeville shows in its cloak of invisibility, ready to work its hoodoo on the feckless, the fatuous, and the wicked. Reality is America's last best hope. Join the Reality Party.