Monday, December 31, 2012

Paul Fussell Remembered

Kunstler's New Year's Forecast


"...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

Donate to! 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.

"Another Day in Paradise"

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Playing the Race Card Cynically

The tweet refers to Brian Schatz, who was born on the mainland but came to Hawaii with his family when he was three.

Mock outrage.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Music, Part 10

Christmas Music, Part 9


(I doubt if those were real Marines.)

Kunstler: In the Shadow of Christmas

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.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Peace on Earth (1939)

This Christmas is overshadowed by the Newtown massacre, among other violence. So here is a reminder of why we all should strive toward peace on earth. Peace on Earth was way ahead of its time.

Available here:

and here:

Zero Dark Thirty

Christmas Music, Part 6

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Everyone is trying to answer the main question about the Newtown massacre, Why? And it's becoming a cacophony. They all have part of the answer, but not the full one.

Hattie's Web has an excellent post on America's gun culture. Check it out.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Questions About the Newtown Massacre

We know the Who, the What, the When, the Where, and the How. The question left to answer is, Why.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Kunstler: Homeless

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

Goliath Book Cover

To be released on 9 April 2013.

"Why Did Florida Fire Allen West?"

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

Glenn Beck: Artiste Manqué

Jerry Saltz, art critic for New York, elaborates. In the embedded video, Beck paints clothes on several nudes: "painting a thong on a print of a Rubens (whom he calls the "butt-crack guy") and adding a sweater and jeans to a Lucian Freud," according to Saltz. Then it goes downhill from there.

Dude is one sick puppy.