Monday, May 26, 2014

Kunstler: Homeless


History is moving the furniture around in the house of mankind just about everywhere but the USA. Things have changed, except here, where people come and go through the rooms of state, and everything looks shabbier by the day, and lethargy eats away at the upholstery like an acid fog, and the walls reverberate with meaningless oratory. The USA is going nowhere because it doesn’t like the new place where history wants to take it.

That is, first of all, a place of far less influence on everybody else, in a new era of desperate struggle to remain modern. That fading modern world is the house that America built, the great post World War Two McMansion stuffed with dubious luxuries in a Las Vegas of the collective mind. History’s bank has foreclosed on it and all the nations and people of the world have been told to make new arrangements for daily life. The USA wants everybody to stay put and act as if nothing has changed.

Therefore, change will be forced on the USA. It will take the form of things breaking and not getting fixed. Unfortunately, America furnished its part of the house with stapled-together crap designed to look better than it really was. We like to keep the blinds drawn now so as not to see it all coming apart. Barack Obama comes and goes like a pliable butler, doing little more than carrying trays of policy that will be consumed like stale tea cakes — while the wallpaper curls, and the boilers fail down in the basement, and veneers delaminate, and little animals scuttle ominously around in the attic.

Everybody I know is distressed by this toxic languor, this sense of being stuck waiting in a place they want desperately to move on from — like the prison of elder-care where so many find themselves hostage to the futility of staving off a certain ending, while all the family resources drain into various bureaucratic black holes. Do we care that the generations to come will have nothing left, nothing at all?

This Memorial Day the usual pieties are noticeably muted. Few politicians dare to utter sanctimonies about our brave soldiers maimed on far-flung battlefields, when so many of them are stuck waiting alone in dark rooms with only their wounds and phantom limbs for company. If regular civilian medicine is a cruel, hopeless, quasi-criminal racket, imagine what medicine for army veterans must be like — all that plus an overlay of profound government ineptitude and institutionalized ass-covering

Even the idle chatter about American Dreaming has faded out lately, because too much has happened to families and individuals to demonstrate that people need more than dreams and wishes to make things happen. It’s kind of a relief to not have to listen to those inane exhortations anymore, especially the idiotic shrieking that “We’re number one!”

Others have got our number now. They are going their own way whether we like it or not. The Russians and the Chinese. The voters in Europe. The moiling masses of Arabia and its outlands. The generals in Thailand. Too bad the people of Main Street USA don’t want to do anything but sit on their hands waiting for the rafters to tumble down. My guess is that nothing will bestir us until we wake up one morning surrounded by rubble and dust. By then, America will be a salvage operation.

There’s a long and comprehensive To-Do list that has been waiting for us since at least 2008, when the nation received one forceful blow upside its thick head. We refuse to pay attention. First item on the list: restructure the banks. Other items: reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act; disassemble the ridiculous “security” edifice under the NSA; upgrade the US electric grid; close down most of our military bases overseas (and some of our bases in the USA); draw up a constitutional amendment re-defining the alleged “personhood” of corporations; fix the passenger railroad system to prepare for the end of Happy Motoring; rebuild Main Street commerce to prepare for the death of WalMart and things like it; outlaw GMO foods and promote local food production; shut down casino gambling.

That’s just my list. What’s yours? And when will you step out of this rotting house into the sunshine?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Learning New Things Every Day

Reading the comments at Hattie's Web today, I saw this: "a ... Fundie Cacklick running for PM in Newfoundland." The commenter is referring to this politician. After a few minutes wondering what a "Cacklick" was, I sounded the word out and realized, Oh, Catholic.

It's a beastly mispronunciation* used to ironic effect. (Cf. Jeebus.)

(*I have and recommend the book.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Blog That Ate Manhattan

The Blog That Ate Manhattan. I found this on the blogroll of A Little Red Hen, and might add it to my own list of links.

I've been very busy so recent posts have been brief statements and embedded tweets. I hope to have more time soon to write substantially.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The "Slight" App

I'm not surprised. And what would Paul Fussell have made of this?

"Texting to someone in the same room."

Gabriel Kolko, R.I.P.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The USHMM also has a gift shop. They've been de rigueur at museums for years.

Before "BringBackOurGirls"

Kunstler: Your Call is Important to Us

Kunstler: Your Call is Important to Us.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Some Random Tweets

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I had no idea today was the anniversary of the MOVE bombing, although I was reading about it this morning.

As a fan of Fiona Apple I took the joke about her in stride. #considerthesource

Monday, May 12, 2014

Kunstler: Whose Client State?

Kunstler: Whose Client State?

My country can cry all it likes about yesterday’s referendum vote in eastern Ukraine, but we set the process in motion by sponsoring the overthrow of an elected Kiev government that was tilting toward Russia and away from NATO overtures. The president elected in 2010, Viktor Yanukovych, might have been a grifter and a scoundrel, but so was his opponent, the billionaire gas oligarch Yulia Tymoshenko. The main lesson that US authorities have consistently failed to learn in more than a decade of central Asian misadventures: when you set events in motion in distant lands, events, not policy planners at the State Department, end up in the driver’s seat.

And so now they’ve had the referendum vote and the result is about 87 percent of the voters in eastern Ukraine would prefer to align politically with Russia rather than the failing Ukraine state governed out of Kiev. It’s easy to understand why. First, there’s the ethnic divide at the Dnieper River: majority Russian-speakers to the east. Second, the Kiev government, as per above, shows all the signs of a failing state — that is, a state that can’t manage any basic responsibilities starting with covering the costs of maintaining infrastructure and institutions. The Kiev government is broke. Of course, so are most other nations these days, but unlike, say, the USA or France, Ukraine doesn’t have an important enough currency or powerful enough central bank to play the kind of accounting games that allow bigger nations to pretend they’re solvent.

Kiev owes $3.5 billion to Russia for past-due gas bills and Moscow has asked Kiev to pre-pay for June deliveries. This is about the same thing that any local gas company in the USA would demand from a deadbeat customer. The International Monetary Fund has offered to advance a loan of $3 billion, of which Kiev claims it could afford to fork over $2.6 billion to Russia (presumably needing the rest to run the country, pay police salaries, et cetera). Ukraine is in a sad and desperate situation for sure, but is Russia just supposed to supply it with free gas indefinitely? As wonderful as life is in the USA, the last time I checked most of us are expected to pay our heating bills. How long, exactly, does the IMF propose to pay Ukraine’s monthly gas bill? In September, the question is liable to get more urgent — but by then the current situation could degenerate into civil war.

The USA and its NATO allies would apparently like to have Ukraine become a client state, but they’re not altogether willing to pay for it. This kind of raises the basic question: if Russia ultimately has to foot the bill for Ukraine, whose client state is it? And who is geographically next door to Ukraine? And whose national histories are intimately mingled?

I’m not persuaded that Russia and its president, Mr. Putin, are thrilled about the dissolution of Ukraine. Conceivably, they would have been satisfied with a politically stable, independent Ukraine and reliable long-term leases on the Black Sea ports. Russia is barely scraping by financially on an oil, gas, and mineral based economy that allows them to import the bulk of their manufactured goods. They don’t need the aggravation of a basket-case neighbor to support, but it has pretty much come to that. At least, it appears that Russia will support the Russian-speaking region east of the Dnieper.

My guess is that the Kiev-centered western Ukraine can’t support itself as a modern state, that is, with the high living standards of a techno-industrial culture. It just doesn’t have the fossil fuel juice. It’s at the mercies of others for that. In recent years, Ukraine has even maintained an independent space program (which is more than one can say of the USA). It will be looked back on with nostalgic amazement. Like other regions of the world, Ukraine’s destiny is to go medieval, to become a truly post-industrial agriculture-based society with a lower population and lower living standards. It is one [of] the world’s leading grain-growing regions, a huge advantage for the kind of future the whole world faces — if it can avoid becoming a stomping ground in the elephant’s graveyard of collapsing industrial anachronisms.

Ukraine can pretend to be a ward of the West for only a little while longer. The juice and the money just isn’t there, though. Probably sooner than later, the IMF will stop paying its gas bills. Within the same time-frame, the IMF may have to turn its attention to the floundering states of western Europe. That floundering will worsen rapidly if those nations can’t get gas from Russia. You can bet that Europe will think twice before tagging along with America on anymore cockamamie sanctions. Meanwhile, the USA is passing up the chance to care for a more appropriate client state: itself. Why on earth should the USA be lending billions of dollars to Ukraine when we don’t have decent train service between New York City and Chicago?

I don't know if it's the "greatest music ever" but it's worth listening to. At the least, it's preferable to 2010s Canadian-American hip-pop fluff (Bieber).

Friday, May 09, 2014

Testing Again

This is a detail from the cover of The End of the Suburbs.


I've had problems posting images to my blog for a while, and my posts were text, with some video embeds thrown in. If this works, expect to see more pictures here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

What We All Want

She's referring to Suge Knight and his assertion that Tupac Shakur is alive.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Kunstler's Latest

"Lying or Just Stupid?"

It’s not always easy to define what exactly is wrong with America, but what ever it is, it’s huge.

— Roel Ilargi Meijer, The Automatic

Nobody knows, from sea to shining sea, why we’re having all this trouble with our Republic.

— Tom McGuane, Ninety-Two in the Shade

Despite its Valley Girl origins, the simple term clueless turns out to be the most accurate descriptor for America’s degenerate zeitgeist. Nobody gets it — the “it” being a rather hefty bundle of issues ranging from our energy bind to the official mismanagement of money, the manipulation of markets, the crimes in banking, the blundering foreign misadventures, the revolving door corruption in governance, the abandonment of the rule-of-law, the ominous wind-down of the Happy Motoring fiasco and the related tragedy of obsolete suburbia, the contemptuous disregard for the futures of young people, the immersive Kardashian celebrity twerking sleaze, the downward spiral of the floundering classes into pizza and Pepsi induced obesity, methedrine psychosis, and tattooed savagery, and the thick patina of public relations dishonesty that coats all of it like some toxic bacterial overgrowth. The dwindling life of our nation, where anything goes and nothing matters.

It’s not just the individual cluelessness of ordinary people leading lives too frantic for a moment’s reflection about anything, but the appalling institutional cluelessness of enterprises where you’d think combined intellects might tend toward a more faithful view of reality. But these days all we get is a low-order of wishful and clownish group-think, such as this item from today’s New York Times discussing a proposed reversal of Gazprom pipelines along the Ukraine / Slovakian frontier as the solution to the Kiev government’s fuel problem:

Nearly all the gas Washington and Brussels would like to get moving into Ukraine from Europe originally came from Russia, which pumps gas westward across Ukraine, into Slovakia and then on to customers in Germany and elsewhere. Once the gas is sold, however, Gazprom ceases to be its owner and loses its power to set the terms of its sale.

Get that? To avoid depending on Russian gas, they’re going to buy Russian gas from sources other than Russia. What New York Times editor can read this story without spraying her video display with coffee? What genius in John Kerry’s “Haircut-in-Search-of-a-Brain” State Department dreamed up this dodge? Who would think that you could improve a Chinese fire drill by tacking on a Polish blanket trick (i.e. trying to make your blanket longer by cutting a foot from the top and sewing it onto the bottom).

The only conclusion the casual observer can come to is, to put it mildly, these institutions have gone completely meshugga. Since I follow the behavior of these organizations, I know that this is not an isolated example. For the State Department, the entire gambit in Ukraine has been a chain of obvious bungles and miscalculations, starting with our sponsored overthrow of the original elected Kiev government, and the absurd presumption that Russia had no legitimate interest in that region’s stability to the strategy of shoot-yourself-in-the-foot financial sanctions. The New York Times (once America’s “Newspaper of Record”), is now a completely unreliable conduit for un-parsed White House backgrounder propaganda and raw State Department spin, with an overlay of editorial PMS brain fog.

Another humdinger on a somewhat different issue caught my attention the other day in the formerly eminent, now degenerate journal Foreign Affairs (May / June 2014): The United States of Gas, by Robert Hefner III. This idiotic article in the current issue hits on all the usual wishful thinking delusions du jour concerning this country’s energy prospects, namely: due to fracking in shale deposits we’ve entered an energy-and-manufacturing renaissance, we’re soon-to-be the premier energy exporter to the world, and US “consumers” (i.e. citizens) can be assured of driving to WalMart forever — in other words, all economic problems solved. These idiots (editors and fact-checkers included) must get all their information straight out of the Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) PR handouts. CERA, of course, is the official public relations shop of the oil and gas industry.

It’s one thing that this article is patently misleading. What’s worse is the complete absence of any understanding of the fundamental dynamic between the high cost of unconventional oil and gas and its effect on capital formation. In other words, the capital investment for continued future drilling will simply not exist. What a surprise that will be to the people who run this land.

There comes a point in the destiny of a failing nation when official lying is no longer distinct from official stupidity. We’ve crossed that boundary in the USA. It pays to remember that societies get what they deserve, not what they expect.

Friday, May 02, 2014