Published on The Doomstead Diner on February19, 2017
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As our economy spins down, our climate deteriorates, our geopolitical system descends into chaos and warfare, placing BLAME for this sad state of affairs is a popular thing to do amongst Bloggers and people who comment on blogs. This Blame Placing works its way down from the very large to the very small. In this article, I will cover the way various Pundits and Commenters in the Collapse Blogosphere like to place blame for the ongoing Collapse of Industrial Civilization.
WE ARE ALL TO BLAME
This is the biggest subset, as in all of Humanity. The reason for our self-destruction is all of us, and Human Nature. Because "we" are all to blame, we also all deserve to DIE. As soon as possible too, since if we all die fast enough, maybe some other furry animals and trees will get to live! This is the argument you get most often on blogs like Nature Bats Last. It's the Nihilist/Misanthrope argument.
WESTERN WHITE PEOPLE ARE TO BLAME
This reduces the subset to a smaller group of people, those who as gross cultures took the most advantage the earliest from the accessing of the fossil fuel energy resource. Once that was accomplished, these cultures went on a centuries long tear subjugating other cultures all over the world, from the First Nations people in the FSoA to the Villagers in Me Lai in Vietnam and the residents of Allepo in Syria today.
BOOMERS ARE TO BLAME
This is very popular amongst the Millenial crowd, although there is a lot of self-directed guilt by the Boomers themselves as being responsible for this mess. The meme here is that Boomers created the wasteful, consumerist culture we live in and today live high on the hog while the younger generation suffers and their future is ruined.
THE BLACKS/LATINOS/NATIVES WELFARE LEECHFUCKS ARE TO BLAME
This is the spin you get on the alt-right type of website, where the population of the underclass is painted as lazy and stupid and sucking wealth from the "good productive" members of the society who still have jobs. This remains a popular blaming meme, but is beginning to fail as more of the people who used to blame these folks themselves fall off the economic cliff. To paraphrase Martin Niemholler, "First they came for the Blacks. I did not speak for them. Then they came for the Mexicans. I did not speak for them. Then they came for the Water Protectors trying to stop the Oil Pipeline under the Missouri River. I did not speak for them. When they came for me, nobody was left to speak for me".
THE CHINESE/RUSKIES ARE TO BLAME
The argument here is that these nations are the aggressors, while the Western Iluminati counties are just trying to defend "Freedom & Democracy" globally. Which by any measure is a complete crock of shit. By no means are the folks running China or Mother Russia very nice, warm and friendly people, but you can't really place the blame on them for this clusterfuck. Mostly, they have been behind the Eight Ball and just reacting all along the way. As things really spin up here, Vlad the Impaler is being painted as the Big Bad Guy, but he's just a creation of the whole system, and no different than the people who are running NATO, th EU or the FSoA. Well, you could make the case he is doing better at it, since his popularity ratings are consistently higher than those of EU heads of state. lol.
THE .01% IS TO BLAME
This blame paradigm puts our problems on the shoulders of those who have reaped the most profit from the system, the .01% of the population that controls the banking system, most means of production and most of the land mass of the earth. The folks who today fly around in Private Jets to go to conferences at Bilderberg in Switzerland. AKA, The Masters of the Universe or Illuminati.
THE CENTRAL BANKS ARE TO BLAME
This blame placing goes on the back of Fiat Money, and generally those who do this blaming are Gold Bugs. The idea being here if we had just stayed on a Gold Standard for money, our economic system would not have run amok. The CBs are blamed for the problems whether they print money or don't print money. If they print money, it devalues and you get inflation in something, somewhere. If they don't print money, you get a loss of "liquidity" and deflation. Either one screws with the purchasing power of the average J6P.
THE MEDIA IS TO BLAME
In this case, because the MSM has been brainwashing us with Bernay's style Propaganda for so long, people don't know the Truth (with a capital T), and as a result have been hoodwinked by the .01% that controls this media. So it's a corollary of the Illuminati argument. The media is also blamed for being "lefty" or "liberal", another popular group to receive blame, particularly from the Alt-Right folks mentioned above.
LEFTIES ARE TO BLAME
A very popular meme amongst the fans of Capitalism as an economic system. Socialism or Communism according to them were big failures, and all the people receiving some sort of social welfare benefit are a drain on the society. Lefties also like to kill unborn babies and want to steal money from good hard working citizens through taxation and give it to lazy, unproductive citizens.
RIGHTIES ARE TO BLAME
Righties are blamed for being war mongering, selfish and greedy people only looking out for themselves. By and large, righties have more money than lefties, and the righties feel they deserve their money and the lefties are thieves trying to steal it from them. Righties also tend to be fairly intolerant of any group other than themselves, mainly White European descendents. They also tend to believe abortion is murder and women should be forced to have babies they don't want or can't support. They definitely think LGBTQ people are perverts in need of a shrink at least, if not being jailed for moral turpitude.
CORPORATIONS ARE TO BLAME
Corporatism is a fairly new word, which fans of Capitalism invented to try and make a distinction between the Big Corporations they hate and the Small Bizman they love. Corporations get blamed from both sides of the Lefty-Righty divide for just about everything, from screwing up our economic system to screwing up the environment to stealing resources from poor people…you name it, if it is Evil the corporations are responsible for it!
RELIGION IS TO BLAME
A very popular meme, as long as it is somebody ELSE'S Religion you are blaming. Atheists blame all religions for the woes of the world. Christians blame the Muslims, Muslims blame the Christians, and everybody blames the Jews. lol. Buddhists don't get much blame, because if a Buddhist falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Druids occassionally get blamed, because they wear silly costumes and have long beards full of yesterday's lunch menu particles. Panentheists like me don't get much blame, because first of all there are vanishingly small number of Panentheists around and just about nobody else even understands what they are and how Panentheism differs from Pantheism.
BIG GOOBERMINT IS TO BLAME
Goobermint is the favorite Blame Punching Bag of the Alt-Right, Tea Party & Libertarian type folks who believe in the "Free Market", "Property Rights", "Deregulation", etc etc etc. Goobermint is blamed for getting in the way of bizness, encroaching on Freedom and Liberty, waging wars, being inefficient and wasteful of money, being loaded with imbecilic politicians, and most of all, TAXING too much!
OK! There's a brief rundown of many of the forms of blame you run across around the Collapse Blogosphere. It's not complete, for instance Vegans blame Carnivores for eating meat, and Permaculturists blame Industrial Ag for running an unsustainable food production paradigm. Pedestrians and Cyclists blame Car drivers for wasting gas and running them off the road. etc, etc, etc. Everybody's got an axe to grind on someone or something else.
Now, the issue is, what in this litany of things to blame is worthwhile to consider in terms of it being True or not as the underlying cause of the problems we face? I'm not going to make a Value Judgement on that in this article for the most part (it would take too long and this article is already long enough), if you have read my work for long enough you know where I place most of the blame.
I will take issue with the "Blame Generalists" though, the folks at the top of the list who blame ALL of Humanity for our problems! That is ridiculous though, because if you blame everyone, you blame no one. HTF is a Kalahari Bushman responsible for this mess? He has the same "Human Nature" you do or Lloyd Blankfein does, but he hardly caused the same damage as either you or Lloyd did. He did cause some of course, but what you have to do is determine LEVELS of blame. Who caused the MOST damage? Who was MOST responsible? Who had the MOST control? Who was relatively Powerless and who had Power to change the direction of society at any given point in history?
Also pointless is to blame entire generations of people, because all generations have been part of one long continuous slide, basically from the time we invented Agriculture to today. I never had any say in the choice from moving from Nomadic Hunter-Gatherer living to sedentary Ag livingor Industrial living, so HTF is that MY fault? I'm not going to take the blame for that. I'm also not going to take blame for being born a White Male, nor will I take blame for the folks running the country I live in dropping the Death From Above on Syria either. I DEFINITELY will not take the blame for The Donald being elected POTUS or the fucking stupid Executive Orders he pitches out either.
Then you have the issue of whether it is worthwhile to try and assign blame at all? Individuals, even entire classes of people get blamed, and often enough that blame is incorrectly applied, so does that mean we stop placing blame entirely because it's "not productive"? I can't place blame on DAPL for trying to run a pipeine under the Missouri River? I can't blame them for setting Attack Dogs on the Water Protectors? I can't place blame on Lloyd Blankfein for being a greedy scumbag? It's unproductive of me to blame The Donald and all the people who voted for him for being idiots? What?
Basically, somebody has to be held accountable for the actions taken as a society, and saying "We ALL are to Blame" is completely ridiculous, because we are NOT all to blame, at least not in equal amounts anyhow. The amount of blame you shoulder depends on how much control you had over the direction the society took. Most of us had virtually ZERO power even just during the time period we were alive, and we certainly had no power whatsoever over what came before the date of your birth. You're stuck with the society you are born into unless you have enough power to change it, and few do.
However, unless SOMEBODY is held accountable for the poor choices, you can't change the direction of the ship, the Titanic will sail into the Iceberg. The very FIRST thing you must do to change the direction of the society is get RID of the people in command of the ship who are sending it into the iceberg. To do that, you have to place some BLAME here, and blaming all the passengers on the Titanic for being passengers is just plain stupid. There IS Blame to be assigned here, it must be assigned and then there must be Punishment assigned as well. Otherwise, the same shit keeps happening.
Our society in aggregate has become like Parents who never will spank their children or even rebuke them in any significant way. Kids pick up on this pretty quick, and generally by the time they hit Junior High they feel INVINCIBLE! The Teachers are POWERLESS to punish them for misbehavior or disrupting the class learning. In fact, often the TEACHER is blamed for the problem, both by the parents and by the school administrators. All sorts of totally useless forms of punishment like Detention are dropped on, which actually punishes the teacher as much as the student, since now you have to spend an hour or two extra after the school day is over to monitor this detention, and you have the same behavior problems to deal with in the detention room as you had in the classroom! So your daily torture as a teacher is just extended here with this method.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on February 12, 2017
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Just going back a few years, the "BRICS" were all the rage as the next great Superpower conglomeration. BRICS stood for Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa.
3 of them Brazil, India and South Africa also fit in the category of "Emerging Markets", and EMs were where all the Hot Money was flowing for investment during the period, seeking high yields and return on investment.
What could be more perfect, right? Great resource availability and populations willing to work at low wages to supply industrial products to the world! Not to mention Russia & China as large military powers with the capability of making a good fight with the FSoA if challenged! Even if they don't have the aircraft carriers the FSoA has, they have Nuke ICBMs, and they have cruise missiles capable of sending any FSoA Carrier Group to the bottom of Davey Jones Locker. The Chinese field a 1 Million Man Standing Army. Lotta potential Boots on the Ground there!
So a lot of betting went down that this group of Nation-States was going to make a serious challenge to the European and Anglo-Amerikan hegemony over the industrial economy, not to mention the Bankstering system which runs it. Even to this day, you have some pundits like Pepe Escobar claiming the Chinese are going to build a "New Silk Road" that will bring the BRICS to ascendancy as the inheritors of the failed policies of the Western Europeans and Anglo-Amerikans.
Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way here, and precisely the opposite has occured or is occuring as I write this article. What fucked up in the BRICS master plan?
To begin with, it was a typical financialized bubble. Beyond that, you have countries here with Goobermints that are corrupt beyond belief, it's possible they are all more corrupt than the FSoA Goobermint, although of course that is hard to imagine. To top it all off, you have the issue that even if said countries have energy resources left like Brazil and Russia do, you have populations that cannot afford to buy those energy resources and retire the debts incurred by the extractors of the energy.
India already jumped off the cliff with the demonetization of the biggest Rupee notes by His Modiness, which sent the entire economy into a tailspin. Not to mention the fact it further impoverished already impoverished people, and as bad as their farmer suicide problem was before this, one has to figure it has been worse since. A VAST number of Indians have no bank account, or even Goobermint ID. For them, it's entirely a Cash Economy, and no Cash, no Economy.
This of course does not even touch on the Climate and Environment problems the Indians have, or their Energy problems or population overshoot problems. Then they have the constant battle with the Pakistanis, so overall the place is a complete fucking mess. They may even start exchanging Nukes with the Pakis, since they both got 'em
Moving down to South Africa, they probably have the worst problems with drought of any of the BRICS, although Brazil is not doing too well with this problem either. Besides that is the perpetual racial divide problem of South Africa and the fact that its entire economy is a mineral resource extraction economy, and globally nobody is paying much for resources, because the Konsumers of the resources are running out of money to buy them with. Well, except for the filthy rich who are still buying some Diamonds at Tiffany's, but unfortunately there aren't enough filthy rich to fund an entire economy this way. Tiffany's isn't doing too good either, they just fired their CEO.
Doing slightly better than these two locations are the Middle Kingdom of China and Mother Russia, but not by all that much plus Newz doesn't really escape well from either Nation-State, so you can't be entirely sure of WTF is going on there. In Mother Russia, one of Vlad the Impaler's political opponents recently went to the Great Beyond, apparently resultant from Poisoning. Another one, Alexander Navalny who was a Blogger so I like him 🙂 was convicted of some kind of felony so is no longer eligible to run against Vlad to run Mother Russia. He was probably the only opponent of Vlad who stood some chance of beating him, at least in popular voting. The Ruskies do have some cheap Oil left though, and their population is not too large given the land mass available there. On the other hand they have NATO troops massing on their borders, not a good sign.
Of all the BRICS, the Chinese have weathered the storm the best so far, but by no means does this presage a rosy future for them. In fact the Chinese are TOAST, and are in worse shape than everyone in the BRICS except perhaps the Indians. Reason of course is Population Overshoot, but by no means is that their only problem. They've blown a Credit Bubble that makes the one Da Fed blew up look like Child's Balloon next to the Hindenburg. Forget about not drinking the water, half of it is not even fit for human contact! You can't walk outside in Beijing without at least a surgical mask on, but really you need a full blown activated charcoal gas mask or better yet a SCUBA tank. This is not a recipe for a bright future for the Chinese.
However, of all the BRICS, the one in the WORST shape right now and is clearly exeriencing a FAST COLLAPSE is Brazil. Their economy is in complete collapse, corruption is systemic and now they are losing control of the social structure as well.
In the state of Espirito Santo which borders on the state of Rio de Janeiro which is home to the city of Rio, Corcovado (the big Christ statue on the mountain) and numerous Favelas (slums), the Military Police recently went on strike because…they weren't getting PAID! Big fucking surprise, who is going to work at anything if you don't get your paycheck at the end of the week?
Problem for these cops of course is that just like under Amerikan Law, Strikes of "publicly essential personnel" are ILLEGAL! So even if you're not getting paid, you're supposed to KEEP WORKING! Does this sound like SLAVERY to you? It does to me.
Since these cops are MILITARY cops, one suspects they can't even quit either until whenever their enlistment in the military runs out. Not that they would quit anyhow, because in all likelihood there are no other jobs for them to take in the neighborhood. So they got a bit creative here on this one, and instead of the cops themselves not showing up for work, their families went out and blockaded the stations, so the cops could not go out on patrol. Of course, they had the option of possibly Arresting their own families for "obstruction of justice", but who is going to go out and arrest their own wives, kids, fathers and mothers, or shoot them? Not gonna happen.
So in the wake of this absence of cops on the streets of Vitoria (the capital of Espirito Santo), the population at large took the opportunity to go an a rampage of looting, raping and killing. There is of course a large population of people living the criminal life in Brazil, because there are no opportunties for them in the "legitimate" world. They deal drugs, they steal, they kill people. It's like Chicago on Steroids and much larger. Its not like everyone is a criminal, but without a police presence, it's "Criminals Gone Wild".
So Da Goobernator of Espirito Santo asks for help from Da Federal Gobermint, and they promise to do "watever it takes" to restore order and send in the Military to replace the cops on the streets. Except how many do they send in? A Big 200 soldiers to police a city of 2M people! That is 1 for every 10,000. Even only 1% of those 10K are criminals, that is still a 100:1 ratio! However, in this situation it's probably more than 1%, since many normally law abiding type citizens will take the opportunity to go loot the local grocery or Iphone store.
Normally, they put out on the street 1800 cops, so to do the same job you would need around the same number of soldiers. So now you have to pay the soldiers instead of the cops, and Da Federal Goobermint of Brazil is in no better position to do that than the states are, they are BROKE also!
Even if they could field enough paid soldiers to go in there to restore order, Vitoria and Espirito Santo as a whole is a relatively small state in Brazil. What happens when the same thing occurs in Rio De Janeiro or Sao Paolo or Brasilia? Sao Paolo has something like 20M people now, that by itself is an order of magnitude larger than Vitoria. What is to stop this from spreading to Sao Paolo? They are broke too, and besides that running short on water and the money to run their sewage treatment plants, garbage collection etc. It's not just cops not getting their paychecks, just about all the public workers are seeing wages withheld because Da Goobermint doesn't have the money to pay them.
Unlike the FSoA (also broke), the Brazilleiros cannot just issue infinite debt and have it recognized as worth anything. They have gone through NUMEROUS periods of Hyperinflation, and they are trying to avoid that problem with "austerity", but austerity means people either are paid to little to live on or not paid at all. Jobs are cut, pensions are cut and you get a downhill spiral as people have no money to spend in the economy. They can't afford to buy enough food to feed their kids. At this point, they get desperate, and take desperate measures. That is what the cops in Espirito Santo are doing.
The problem here of course is that like many other resource based economies, the Brazilleiros are running short on resources people around the globe can afford to buy at the prices they cost to extract. There are some big oil fields in deep water off the coast of Brazil, but their own state company of Petrobras is broke, and oil majors like Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are not going to put up debt money to drill these fields, because there is no profit in it. These companies are already bleeding red ink on properties they are drilling here in the FSoA, and beyond that there is an oil GLUT due to collapsing demand around the world. So the Brazilians will not be saved by the Oil underneath the ocean floor surrounding them.
It's only a matter of time before the chaos in Espirito Santo spreads to the rest of Brazil. How much time? Then from there it spreads to other SA countries dependent on resource exports, and the chaos grows. Then it makes it to Mexico, then it migrates across the border to the FSoA. How long will that take? Timeline, Timeline, Timeline. Like Location, Location, Location in the world of Real Estate, that's always the question, not what the final outcome is.
Published on the Economic Undertow on January 30, 2017
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Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves
— William Shakespeare
The Colosseum in Rome was named for a gigantic portrait statue of Nero commissioned by the emperor in AD 64 to commemorate … himself. It stood within the Domus Aurea, a 300 acre complexes of palaces, gardens and pavilions Nero ordered built at public expense not far from the old Republican Forum, between the Palatine and Esquiline hills. The Domus’ occupied what was previously a residential district for Roman elites adjacent to a marshy lowland. The grounds can be compared to another marshy lowland favored of the elites, the National Mall in Washington, DC. At 309 acres, the two compounds are not entirely identical: one was intended to be as a tourist attraction, the other, a playground for a single person,.
As for the Domus …
… Its size and splendor will be sufficiently indicated by the following details. Its vestibule was large enough to contain a colossal statue of the emperor a hundred and twenty feet high; and it was so extensive that it had a triple colonnade a mile long. There was a pond too, like a sea, surrounded with buildings to represent cities, besides tracts of country, varied by tilled fields, vineyards, pastures and woods, with great numbers of wild and domestic animals. In the rest of the house all parts were overlaid with gold and adorned with gems and mother-of‑pearl. There were dining-rooms with fretted ceilings of ivory, whose panels could turn and shower down flowers and were fitted with pipes for sprinkling the guests with perfumes. The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens. He had baths supplied with sea water and sulfur water. When the edifice was finished in this style and he dedicated it, he deigned to say nothing more in the way of approval than that he was at last beginning to be housed like a human being.
The pond was supplied with water from an aqueduct built for the purpose and surrounded with its own colonnade. The rotating hall and other features were said to be powered by a water wheel. The 400 rooms were arranged on two floors as a kind of maze intended for banquets and entertainments, there are no signs of any sleeping quarters. Nero did not live there but in another palace on the Quirinal Hill.
Rooms were built with 30- foot vaulted ceilings, were lit with skylights and clerestories, decorated with frescoes, elaborate mosaics, fountains and grottoes. The complex was constructed largely of brick and Roman concrete then finished over with marble, alabaster and other colorful stones. Nero’s statue might have been the largest cast bronze artwork of ancient times, exceeding the by-then destroyed Colossus at Rhodes. By comparison, New York’s Statue of Liberty rises one hundred and fifty-one feet from her metal base to the torch. Lady Liberty was built like a car or a washing machine in a factory, assembled from hammered copper sheets riveted together onto an iron armature. Nero’s sculpture was cast in sections which were then braze-welded together and hoisted onto its base. It was a marvel of Roman artistry and craft; the techniques needed to make large castings were lost and forgotten for over 1,200 years until they were reinvented by Donatello in the early half of the fifteenth century.
Not content with showing his proficiency in these arts at Rome, he went to Achaia, as I have said, influenced especially by the following consideration. The cities in which it was the custom to hold contests in music had adopted the rule of sending all the lyric prizes to him. These he received with the greatest delight, not only giving audience before all others to the envoys who brought them, but even inviting them to his private table. When some of them begged him to sing after dinner and greeted his performance with extravagant applause, he declared that “the Greeks were the only ones who had an ear for music and that they alone were worthy of his efforts.”
While he was singing no one was allowed to leave the theater even for the most urgent reasons. And so it is said that some women gave birth to children there, while many who were worn out with listening and applauding, secretly leaped from the wall since the gates at the entrance were barred, or they feigned death and were carried out as if for burial. The trepidation and anxiety with which he took part in the contests, his keen rivalry of his opponents and his awe of the judges, can hardly be credited. As if his rivals were of quite the same station as himself, he used to show respect to them and try to gain their favor, while he slandered them behind their backs, sometimes assailed them with abuse when he met them, and even bribed those who were especially proficient.
As he grew into maturity, Nero was consumed by his insecurities, his crimes were many, there were no checks upon his viciousness and greed. The Domus was built in an area that had been ravaged the great fire of 64:
When someone in a general conversation said: “When I am dead, be earth consumed by fire;” Nero rejoined “Nay, rather while I live,” and his action was wholly in accord. For under cover of displeasure at the ugliness of the old buildings and the narrow, crooked streets, he set fire to the city so openly that several ex-consuls did not venture to lay hands on his chamberlains although they caught them on their estates with tow and fire-brands, while some granaries near the Golden House, whose room he particularly desired, were demolished by engines of war and then set on fire because their walls were of stone. For six days and seven nights destruction raged, while the people were driven for shelter to monuments and tombs. At that time, besides an immense number of dwellings, the houses of leaders of old were burned, still adorned with trophies of victory, and the temples of the gods vowed and dedicated by the kings and later in the Punic and Gallic wars, and whatever else interesting and noteworthy had survived from antiquity. Viewing the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas and exulting, as he said, in “the beauty of the flames,” he sang the whole of the “Sack of Ilium,” in his regular stage costume. Furthermore, to gain from this calamity too all the spoil and booty possible, while promising the removal of the debris and dead bodies free of cost he allowed no one to approach the ruins of their own properties; and from the contributions which he not only received, but even demanded, he nearly bankrupted the provinces and exhausted the resources of individuals.
Nero was known to disguise himself then go out into the city at night and rob passersby, also break into houses and shops and steal the contents which he would later sell in the palace. These encounters were often violent so that soldiers were sent to follow behind at a discrete distance and rescue the emperor from those who fought back.
Then, it became notorious that the depredator was the Caesar; outrages on men and women of rank increased; others, availing themselves of the license once accorded, began with impunity, under the name of Nero, to perpetrate the same excesses with their own gangs; and night passed as it might in a captured town. Julius Montanus, a member of the senatorial order, though he had not yet held office, met the emperor casually in the dark, and, because he repelled his (Nero’s) offered violence with spirit then recognized his antagonist and asked for pardon, was forced to commit suicide, the apology being construed as a reproach.
Nero was suspected of conspiring with his mother to murder by poison his step-father, the emperor Claudius. It is possible the youthful Nero was not involved directly, but he became emperor as a consequence and was thereby an accessory. He later grew weary of his mother’s interference and had her put to death after a brutal ordeal; he also murdered his half-brother, also the daughter of Claudius by his second wife (Claudius had four wives); Nero also killed his own two wives along with the husband of the first so as to gain access to her; also a man who was his mother’s lover; also his first cousin and maternal second cousin along with that individual’s widow, children and father-in-law. Nero did away with many servants including long-time tutors and advisors, Seneca, and possibly Sextus Burrus, his military aide. Due to his insatiable need for funds he used the plot of Gaius Calpurnius Piso as an opportunity to murder hundreds of distinguished Romans; their wives, children, even their servants in order to confiscate their properties, he also murdered ordinary citizens.
Nero needed the money because of his stupendous wastefulness …
Accordingly he made presents and wasted money without stint. On Tiridates though it would seem hardly within belief, he spent eight hundred thousand sesterces a day, and on his departure presented him with more than a hundred millions. He gave the lyre-player Menecrates and the gladiator Spiculus properties and residences equal to those of men who had celebrated triumphs. He enriched the monkey-faced usurer Paneros with estates in the country and in the city and had him buried with almost regal splendor. He never wore the same garment twice. He played at dice for four hundred thousand sesterces a point. He fished with a golden net drawn by cords woven of purple and scarlet threads. It is said that he never made a journey with less than a thousand carriages, his mules shod with silver and their drivers clad in wool of Canusium, attended by a train of Mazaces and couriers with bracelets and trappings.
Nero gave himself over entirely to debauchery and vice.
Besides abusing freeborn boys and seducing married women, he debauched the vestal virgin Rubria. The freed-woman Acte he all but made his lawful wife, after bribing some ex-consuls to perjure themselves by swearing that she was of royal birth. He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his house attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife. And the witty jest that someone made is still current, that it would have been well for the world if Nero’s father Domitius had had that kind of wife.
All of this and more were paid for out of the Treasury then extracted with increased violence by the tax collectors.
In point of extravagance and notoriety, the most celebrated of the feasts was that arranged by Tigellinus; which I shall describe as a type, instead of narrating time and again the monotonous tale of prodigality. He constructed, then, a raft on the Pool of Agrippa, and superimposed a banquet, to be set in motion by other craft acting as tugs. The vessels were gay with gold and ivory, and the oarsmen were catamites marshaled according to their ages and their libidinous attainments. He had collected birds and wild beasts from the ends of the earth, and marine animals from the ocean itself. On the quays of the lake stood brothels, filled with women of high rank; and, opposite, naked harlots met the view. First came obscene gestures and dances; then, as darkness advanced, the whole of the neighboring grove, together with the dwelling-houses around, began to echo with song and to glitter with lights. Nero himself, defiled by every natural and unnatural lust had left no abomination in reserve with which to crown his vicious existence; except that, a few days later, he became, with the full rites of legitimate marriage, the wife of one of that herd of degenerates who bore the name of Pythagoras. The veil was drawn over the imperial head, witnesses were dispatched to the scene; the dowry, the couch of wedded love, the nuptial torches, were there: everything, in fine, which night enshrouds even if a woman is the bride, was left open to the view.
Nero was a coward, he never led an army in battle, nor was the Empire expanded during his rule. The Romans waged an on-again, off-again war against the Parthians in Armenia (eastern Turkey). An uprising by Boudica in Celtic Britain was triggered by oppressive taxation and cruel Roman administration …
To all the disasters and abuses thus caused by the prince there were added certain accidents of fortune; a plague which in a single autumn entered thirty thousand deaths in the accounts of Libitina; a disaster in Britain, where two important towns were sacked and great numbers of citizens and allies were butchered; a shameful defeat in the Orient, in consequence of which the legions in Armenia were sent under the yoke and Syria was all but lost.
The legions ultimately prevailed in both places, Boudica’s army was scattered and she committed suicide. The Parthians withdrew and Armenia remained a Roman client.
I may fairly include among his shows the entrance of Tiridates into the city. He was a king of Armenia, whom Nero induced by great promises to come to Rome; and since he was prevented by bad weather from exhibiting him to the people on the day appointed by proclamation, he produced him at the first favorable opportunity, with the praetorian cohorts drawn up in full armor about the temples in the Forum, while he himself sat in a curule chair on the rostra in the attire of a triumphing general, surrounded by military ensigns and standards. As the king approached along a sloping platform, the emperor at first let him fall at his feet, but raised him with his right hand and kissed him. Then, while the king made supplication, Nero took the turban from his head and replaced it with a diadem, while a man of praetorian rank translated the words of the suppliant and proclaimed them to the throng. From there the king was taken to the theater, and when he had again done obeisance, Nero gave him a seat at his right hand.
Given a little time it is likely Nero would have put on the bridal veil and wed the king of Armenia, the dowry was already paid. And yet, the ordinary Romans were satisfied with their emperor, whose outrages were directed toward others, whose vices were to them only rumors. The plots against Nero rose from the elites, whom he prosecuted with increased ferocity until he was undone by bad luck: besides pestilence, there were damaging storms and food shortages. Rome was entirely dependent upon grain shipments from the provinces particularly Egypt. Interruptions for any reason held serious consequences. As belts were tightened, Nero’s popularity with the ordinary citizens evaporated:
When another rebellion arose in the western provinces he ignored the warnings, seeming at first not to take them seriously. After a delay of some days, during which he was abandoned by his courtiers and bodyguards, he fled to the house of a servant in a nearby suburb. Declared a public enemy by the Senate, he committed suicide to avoid being beaten to death in the Forum. He was 32.
Nero was in office for fourteen years, which seems to suggest his reign was successful; he was not deified afterward which suggests it was not. Leaving aside the epidemic and famine, it is likely the better classes of Rome had grown anxious of his vanity and licentiousness; the constant demands of the tax collectors; also the debasement of the currency and persecutions and murders. Nero’s follies did not bring the empire to a end or even lead to it; ironically his vast money-waste stimulated the Roman economy … there were no other places for the funds to go outside of the empire. Over the course of the following year, Nero was succeeded by three mediocrities; Galba, Otho and Vitellius; the fourth, Vespasian, was at least competent.
The Domus was a public reminder of Nero’s excesses, within a decade it was stripped of its decorations and partly abandoned to the bats and wild dogs. Parts of the building were used as storerooms or as stables. The pond was drained to allow for the foundations of the enormous amphitheater built in its place. Other parts of the palace were built over or became dumping grounds for garbage and rubble left over from earthquakes and building demolition. It was this accretion of structures and material that preserved the remains of the Domus that can be seen today …
Vespasian removed Nero’s likeness from the Colossus and fitted it a new head representing the Roman sun god; later Hadrian moved the statue to allow construction of the new temple of Venus and Rome on the original site. The triumphal arch of Titus and the Bath of Trajan were built nearby along with warehouses, bakeries and apartments. Note: the temples of ancient Rome were not houses of prayerful worship and propaganda like churches today; the priests acted as notaries, mediators, fiduciaries, keepers of vital records and contracts; temples functioned as banks, law offices and trading rooms as these things did not exist as such during that time. The last mention of Nero’s statue was in a description of the city in a manuscript published 354 AD. It was likely broken up, perhaps toppled by an earthquake, with the remains sold off as scrap: Sic Semper Tyrannis.
– C. Suetonius Tranquilis, ‘The Lives of the Twelve Caesars’
– Publius Cornelius Tacitus, ‘The Annals’
– Furius Dionysius Filocalus / Unknown author ‘The Chronography of 354’
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 5, 2016
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
–Pastor Martin Niemoller
Our foreign policy requires an externalized enemy, as our economy requires a state of permanent war. Were peace to break out across the world, the US economy would shudder to a halt within 60 days.
Ever since Reagan announced "Morning in America" we have been tempted with the promise of returning America to the golden postwar era when white male colossi like Patton, Marshall and MacArthur strode like heroes astride a grateful world. And the corresponding postwar boom in which American industry sold everything it could make to a prostrate world. Who paid for it with money we lent them.
Trump's call to "Make America Great Again," prints nicely on red ball caps but is short on specifics. One example put in practice is the recently announced Muslim Ban, giving color of law to demonization of the Muslim "other." [Note: On Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart blocked the entirety of trump’s de facto Muslim ban from taking effect. His ruling, which applies nationwide, froze all relevant provisions of trump's executive order.]
In a recent Harper's article, Lawrence Jackson ruminates about the leaders of the Atlantic-facing victors, usually known as "the West:"
The most arrogant inhabitants of these nations …understood themselves to be the ordained directors of human beings across the globe, across space and time. They were committed to civilization by the sword. Yet not even Reagan was mighty enough to reinstall the American militants who ached to battle the Russians and the Chinese. Reagan took to politics for what he couldn’t achieve in his original profession, acting. He stood in the shadow of John Wayne, a cultural hero who… declared that the problem was that the values of white rule weren’t being exported vigorously enough. Wayne’s films gave audiences a steady dose of what historian Richard Slotkin calls “regeneration through violence.” Both civilization and capitalist bonanza depend on violent encounters and imperial expansion. If the country is to be healthy, it needs some frontier populated by some brand of enemy.
After 9-11, to forestall a "peace dividend" breaking out, America's best minds concocted the Global War on Terror, a concept plastic enough to permit many interpretations, and unwinnable enough to guarantee the Permanent War Economy. Having recently defined that enemy as brown people planet-wide coming for our golfs and guns, now they have infiltrated our borders! Clear and present danger! Wearing hijab! Sharia Law in our streets! Can female genital mutilation for Barbie be far behind?
Enter trump. In our empathy-free times, we think little and care less about what such reckless decisions mean to individuals. Today I am going to challenge you to care.
Several weeks ago, I listened to a Ted Talk by Deeyah Khan, raised in Norway by an Afghan mother and Pakistani father. Khan recounted the rejection and isolation felt by Muslim kids growing up in the West, and the way they get squeezed between two worlds. At a time when executive action careens towards an unconstitutional ban on immigrants fleeing the very countries we bomb, this talk opened my eyes—and ears.
Khan recounted the story of how she had to subsume her own dreams for her life and take on those given her by her father. To be famous, he said, “it's either got to be sports, or it's got to be music." So he threw away her toys and dolls at age seven, and was given a ratty Casio keyboard. She practiced music for hours each day.
Khan started singing and playing, and became good enough to perform before growing audiences. Let her tell it:
I became almost a kind of poster child for Norwegian multiculturalism. I felt very proud, of course. Because even the newspapers at this point were starting to write nice things about brown people, so I could feel that my superpower was growing.
Until one day, she was headed into a store for candy, and found her way blocked by a man intent on making sure she understood who really ran things in Norway.
There was this grown white guy in the doorway blocking my way. So I tried to walk around him, and as I did that, he stopped me and he was staring at me, and he spit in my face, and he said, "Get out of my way you little black bitch, you little Paki bitch, go back home where you came from." I was absolutely horrified. I was staring at him. I was too afraid to wipe the spit off my face, even as it was mixing with my tears. I remember looking around, hoping that any minute now, a grown-up is going to come and make this guy stop. But instead, people kept hurrying past me and pretended not to see me.
So she learned that when faced with persecution of brown people, white people tend to not want to get involved. But her fellow brown people would have her back, right? Not exactly.
Some men in my parent's community felt that it was unacceptable and dishonorable for a woman to be involved in music and to be so present in the media. So very quickly, I was starting to become attacked at my own concerts. I remember one of the concerts, I was onstage, I lean into the audience and the last thing I see is a young brown face and the next thing I know is some sort of chemical is thrown in my eyes and I remember I couldn't really see and my eyes were watering but I kept singing anyway. I was spit in the face in the streets of Oslo, this time by brown men.
The threats continued and the oppression, this time from her fellow Muslims, got worse. And it took the edge that we often hear that the Islamic world visits upon women:
The death threats were endless. I remember one older bearded guy stopped me in the street, and said, "The reason I hate you so much is because you make our daughters think they can do whatever they want." A younger guy warned me to watch my back. He said music is un-Islamic and the job of whores, and if you keep this up, you are going to be raped and your stomach will be cut out so that another whore like you will not be born.
Her family realized they could no longer keep her safe, so they sent her to London. She resumed her music career, but with similar results.
Different place, but unfortunately the same old story. I remember a message sent to me saying that I was going to be killed and that rivers of blood were going to flow and that I was going to be raped many times before I died. By this point, I have to say, I was actually getting used to messages like this, but what became different was that now they started threatening my family.
Eventually after transitioning to work as a maker of films, she moved again, this time to the US. She makes this point:
What most people don't understand is that there are so many of us growing up in Europe who are not free to be ourselves. We're not allowed to be who we are. We are not free to marry or to be in relationships with people that we choose. We can't even pick our own career. This is the norm in the Muslim heartlands of Europe. Even in the freest societies in the world, we're not free. Our lives, our dreams, our future does not belong to us, it belongs to our parents and their community.
So this lack of freedom to choose personal autonomy is what we decry in our conflict with Islam: "Islam is a death cult." "Look how it treats women." Yet compare and contrast with the policies announced and espoused by the current trump/pence regime.
Trump wants to completely ban abortion, with exceptions only for rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is in danger. He's backed this up by showing support for a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He has also said there should be "some sort of punishment" for women who seek abortion if outlawed.
He has said of Planned Parenthood, which provides low-cost family-planning services, cancer screenings, and other health care to millions every year, "It is like an abortion factory, frankly."
Mike Pence said he wants to see Roe v. Wade on "the ash heap of history", and has a long record of attacking reproductive freedom in his state.
Also on the books are rollbacks of all 25 of the grant programs managed by the Office on Violence Against Women, housed in Justice. The grants, established by 1994’s Violence Against Women Act, go to organizations working to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and elder abuse. Perhaps to be expected from an administration that featuresprincipal with a history of domestic battery.
Denying women reproductive freedom has long been the Holy Grail of Christian Dominionists who have never gotten over The Pill. The Pill gave women the ability to control pregnancy, and with it far more autonomy over their lives. Couple these efforts with the assault on programs that combat violence agaist women, and you begin to trace the outlines of a program to re-chattelize women that sounds positively… Islamist.
Consider in the singular example of Deeyah Khan how Islamists treat women, and realize that this story is re-enacted across the world millions of times over. Then compare with announced trump/pence policies designed to deny women access to services won over decades of activism and legislation. It would appear that the difference is merely one of degree. Policies to repress the rights of women stem from the same shrunken root: an insecure manhood and a need for control. Women, beware short fingered vulgarians and the men who serve them.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on From Filmers to Farmers on February 3, 2017
Feeling in a bit of a masochistic mood a couple of Saturdays ago I decided to take a stroll over to the Donald Trump protest outside of Melbourne's State Library, the place to be if you had the need of getting the wax cleared out of your ear drums. I managed to listen to the first couple of speakers, but the inanity of it all became way too overwhelming and I realized I had to get my apparently not-quite-masochistic-enough arse out of there before I did something stupid like turn around to the lady behind me and tell her "I hope you're hurting your voice as much as you're hurting my ears."
Not that I needed the protest to confirm things for myself, but there still doesn't seem to be all that many people in the United States – nor Australia for that matter – that appear to have much of a grasp of why it is that so many people managed to have voted for Trump, some pundits even dismissing the very reasons when they're staring them right in the face – that this was essentially the result of class warfare, not racism. Just before leaving office Barack Obama himself stated that had of he run for a third term he would have defeated Trump. If he's correct – and I think he is – then how is it that Trump won the election thanks to racism? Put a bit differently, how is it that Obama was able to win two elections in a nation that's supposedly so racist that it was able to put Trump into office? Answer: That's not why Trump got elected.
Fact of the matter is that out of the two most detested candidates in US election history, voters were more disgusted with the tried-and-tested corruption, and so rather than vote for the devil they knew who wouldn't release her Wall Street speeches and possibly would have started a war with Russia, they voted for the devil they didn't know who wouldn't release his taxes and might possibly start a war with China. As a result, and with many would-be Democrat voters deciding to sit this one out, Hillary Clinton received 3.5 million fewer votes than Obama did in 2008, and could very well have been the one person in the United States most unlikely to beat Trump.
Anyway, while Trump protesters couldn't be doing a better job of doing exactly what is needed to get Trump re-elected in four years' time, Australians might be doing exactly what is needed to get Pauline Hanson – dissenter of "multiculturalism" and leader of Australia's right-wing One Nation party – eventually elected as well, albeit with a bit of "catch up" required first. Because if Hanson can bide her time, it's only to her benefit that Australia happens to be a country populated by a significant enough amount of bigots which may one day be enough to tip the scales in her favour. And no, what I'm talking about isn't Australia's storied preponderance of racial bigots, but the astounding amount of classicist bigots it has. All one needs to look at for evidence of this is the tragic event that unfolded in Melbourne's CBD just two weeks ago to the day.
Deciding to delay my lunch by half an hour so I could get my latest blog post up, while walking up Elizabeth Street to the Queen Vic Market I happened to be cut off at Bourke Street by police tape that was just going up, about half an hour after a crazed individual had indiscriminately plowed through pedestrians on one of Melbourne's busiest streets, killing six and injuring scores of others.
Without knowing what had happened I pulled up Reddit on my phone-number-deficient smart phone to get the low-down, and going through the first round of comments on the relevant post it wasn't too surprising to see a stream of people surmising it was an ISIS hit and that Muslims were ultimately behind it all. These were the racial bigots, and they were summarily responded to with derision by their fellow Redditors.
An hour or so later it was revealed however that not only was the crazed individual not affiliated with ISIS in the slightest, but that he wasn't Muslim either – he was a born-and-bred Australian of European background who had been involved in a stabbing just a few hours earlier. While this shut up the racial bigots, a whole new wave of comments came in denouncing the individual as a "bogan meth-head". These commenters are what I'd call the less sophisticated portion of Australia's classicist bigots, and as is about the standard fare here the derision on Reddit was nowhere to be seen this time around. (I have noticed exceptions before, but they're comparably rare.)
For those who don't know the local lingo, "bogan" is Aussie for the more American and Canadian epithet of "redneck". Spend enough time here, and with Australia being one of the most urbanized countries in the world (one can never actually overtake the kollapsnik's wet-dream of Singapore of course), if you have an eye or an ear for such things you might soon notice that Australia should perhaps be more known for its classicist bigotry rather than its racial bigotry.
Gold diggers out to get their hands on the Trump family jewels
While it's often stated that racial bigots are "uneducated" (which I think is a gross over-simplification), I've come to notice, in Australia at least, that most classicist bigots stem from the educated classes. And while there is undoubtedly Australians who like to "punch up", I can't help but get the impression that there is a vastly greater amount of Australians who like to "punch down", down upon those who they themselves are intent on not becoming. And although this can only be chalked up to personal, anecdotal experiences, the majority of Australian classicist bigots that I've come across have been of the female persuasion, and a majority of those have been of non-European backgrounds (some born in Australia, some not). Coincidences? For the most part, yes, I think so (I certainly hope so!). Nonetheless, I think it speaks volumes when the part of the population (and I'm not just talking about women with non-European backgrounds) that prides itself over its supposed inclusiveness via "multiculturalism" – a system that is supposedly free of prejudice against other people – readily, and most often without derision sent back its way, partakes in "punching down" – the quasi national sport for the recently vindicated and their European brethren of the more privileged classes.
As recently stated by Tim Soutphommasane, Australia's race discrimination commissioner and author of the book Don't Go Back to Where You Came From: Why Multiculturalism Works, "Too often people can forget that the burden of racial tolerance isn't something that weighs upon everyone evenly." Very true. But what isn't also mentioned is that people – possibly even Soutphommasane – can forget that the burden of socio-economic tolerance isn't something that weighs upon everyone evenly either. And if there's one person out there that understands and took advantage of this, that would be Donald Trump.
To Trump's advantage, the candidate he was up against in the recent United States general election happened to be a classicist bigot, one that wasn't quite adept as he was at BSing certain portions of the populace. Perhaps it was a bit unfair when Clinton was called out for wearing a $12,000 Armani jacket while giving a speech on income inequality, because it should be no surprise that billionaire Trump routinely wears $7,000 Brioni suits. But while Clinton could nonchalantly state to the "LGBT for Hillary Gala" crowd that "you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables", Trump was in Las Vegas (absurdly) stating that "I love the poorly educated!" One of these people was better than the other at hiding that they're full of it – as well as at pandering to the poor, the racial bigots, and the Bernie Sanders supporters disgusted with the sabotage-extraordinaires Hillary Clinton, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Democratic National Committee – and it was that person who won the election.
The voluntary inmates protesting Trump, escorted and proceeding
in an orderly fashion (those are police vehicles in the top-left)
In the meantime, the one candidate that wasn't full of it (albeit seemingly daft when it came to peak oil and the collapse of industrial civilization) had his campaign sabotaged by Clinton, Schultz and the DNC, and had of he fairly won the Democratic primary it's quite likely that he would have trounced Trump at the polls. That being so, who then is ultimately more responsible for Trump's election? Trump's backers, or Clinton/Schultz/the DNC and all those who voted for Clinton in the Democratic primaries, in effect preventing Sanders from being the rightful president of the United States, a president who by no means would have required a Woman's March?
On top of that, is firing away at Trump really going to be any more productive now than it's been over the past year, or is it not possible that it's the very thing that will further galvanize his supporters (and win him new ones) on his way to re-election in 2020? Trump's strategy has essentially been to (falsely) frame himself as the victim of a rigged system and then pander to millions of people who are victims of a rigged system, rigged for people like, well, him. Not only that, but Trump is still playing the victim, and people are still falling for it – most recently with his comment in front of the CIA's Memorial Wall where he claimed to have had more inauguration attendees than Obama in 2009. (I've expounded on this strategy of Trump's earlier, one where he's playing the "heel" of which he's drawn upon from his time in World Wrestling Entertainment.)
What Trump is essentially doing is running the "eternal campaign" (as South American populist presidents have been doing for decades), because not only has he not errantly forgotten to get out of campaign mode, but rather is already campaigning for 2020 – "Keep America Great!" is the campaign slogan he's already registered – although he doesn't seem to have gotten the domain name in time. The only thing left to wonder is, once the United States is inevitably in a (by no means Trump-induced) appreciably worse economic and social condition in three years' time, whether Trump will place the blame on Obama or some other scapegoat, or whether he'll claim against all evidence that things are doing much better than before and that any media outlet and pundit who says otherwise is lying.
This is where we return to the situation in Australia, the place where the operator of Hanson's social media strategy, Saraya Beric, seems to have at least an inkling of what's going on. As The Guardian reported,
The more party figures attacked Hanson – who routinely attracts withering derision from members of the broader public opposed to her right-leaning agenda – the more supporters rallied around her, Beric says.
Isn't it a bit ironic that by voting for the corrupt vagina-clad
candidate in the Democratic primaries that we're now having
Vagina Marches to stop the vagina grabber? Particularly
when there were women much more worthy than Clinton,
and who don't playing the gender card?
If Hanson's as sharp as I'm not so sure she is, I imagine she'd be well served by having her followers going around places like Melbourne and Sydney and rather than have them tear down Donald Trump protest posters, have them take just one down, photocopy it a few hundred times, then plaster said cities in hopes of riling up the vitriolic, earwax-clearing anti-Trump sentiment. And if she could figure out her own way to bait her opposition into denouncing her the way Trump did with all his Tweeting and "straight talk", then she may be able to create an aura around her of somebody who's on the receiving end of the classicist bigot's condescension, thus gaining sympathy with what is bound to be Australia's increasing population of "bogans" (more on that in a moment).
Because while Trump does have some valid platforms (he did after all back out of the TPP, as Sanders would have done), Hanson does as well (One Nation is provisionally against coal seam gas, AKA hydraulic fracturing, AKA fracking). And the more Trump has gotten vilified, and the more his economically downtrodden supporters have been dismissed as nothing but deplorable, irredeemable, sexist, racists, the more his voters – some of whom fall under none of those categories/stereotypes – have gotten galvanized. Even worse, these marginalized portions of the world's first-world countries are quite likely to increase in the next few years when the next economic bubble bursts (the fracking bubble?), enlarging the proportion of those who see people like Trump as the "human molotov cocktail" to be thrown upon the "punching down" portion of the upper crust, and possibly as the means to burn down the village to
save burn down the village.
Returning to Australia again, if there's one thing though that Hanson doesn't have going for her it's that Australia is nowhere close to being the socio-economic basket case that the United States is. While Australia's minimum wage of AUD $17.25 is almost double that of the United States' USD $7.25 per hour, it also has a pretty decent universal health care system (although not as good as Canada's if I'm not mistaken), a decent unemployment system, a decent retirement system, and on and on. However.
This can't, and won't, last forever – and probably for not too much longer either, for the simple reason that the onset of peak oil and other energy shortages imply the protracted collapse of industrial civilization in Australia, just like everywhere else. While Australia came out of the recent recession virtually unscathed for the simple reason that China was its largest trading partner, the United States and the worldwide economic slowdown has finally been catching up with China, which has thus had its desire for Australian coal, iron, and other mining products – the biggest, but shrinking, sector of Australia's economy – wither away. On top of that, and with Australia having reached its peak of oil supplies in 2000 (increasingly supplanting them with imports from Middle Eastern countries, which themselves are on their way to peaking), the party is really on its way to being over.
Taking all this into account, one need only look at the creeping situation in Australia: while the mining industry is slowly collapsing, Australia has willingly jettisoned its entire car manufacturing industry and now must import every last vehicle. It should go without saying that losing and disposing of a growing amount of predominantly blue-collar jobs bodes no better for Australia than it has for the United States, and Melbourne and the rest of Australia has another thing coming to it if it really thinks it can sustain its way of life via imports of Chinese tourists, imports of Chinese students paying inflated student fees, and imports of latté-sipping Europeans.
In the meantime, Hanson's One Nation secured 4.3% of Australia's vote in 2016's federal election, including 9% of the vote in Queensland. Is Queensland therefore a "backwards" den of "bogans" – as educated, female visible minorities proud of their "multiculturalism" have told me – or might it actually be an early warning system providing a closer ear to the ground? Taking a look at the election results in the northern beach suburbs of Queensland, it is seen that One Nation actually scored as high as 24.7% of the vote in some regions; could something be in the drinking water that's making Alice River, Deeragun, Northern Beaches, and Bluewater more racist than other places? Not quite.
Lo and behold, and mimicking what's been going on in the United States' rust belt areas that voted for Trump (after, I'll repeat, they had Sanders stolen from them by Clinton/Schultz/the DNC), these suburbs surround the now-defunct Yabulu nickel plant. So while there may very well be a higher than average amount of people who hold racial prejudices in certain parts of Queensland than other parts of the country, it's quite possible that a fair amount of these people who are being economically marginalized are vulnerable and/or susceptible to falling for racial scapegoating (which in Australia may unfortunately not be very tough to pull off), or that for whatever reason they've felt that they've had little other option that to hold their noses while voting for One Nation.
In regards to the former, while Australia is a nation pretty much founded on racism (which, to be fair, so is the United States – a country founded by slave owners who wanted their freedom from the oh-so oppressive Brits) and which only four decades ago got rid of its White Australia policy, there's also the fact that 49% of Australians recently polled as being in support of One Nation's ban on Muslim immigration, including 34% of Green Party respondents. And just a few days ago Scott Morrison – Australia's current treasurer, former immigration minister, and the guy who some see as the country's next back-stabbing successor to the prime minister's office – refused to denounce Trump's recent travel ban and instead stated that "Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia." And that's all during a time when the Australian economy is still doing quite well. One can only imagine how such situations are going to escalate once things actually start to get hairy (and by hairy I mean hairy – hairier than all the front-mullets of Melbourne's hipsters combined).
"When [fill in the blank], we fight back!" Alright, sure
While mentioning all this to an acquaintance of mine – a card-carrying member of Victoria's Green Party and former political science student nonetheless – I was assuredly told that because of Australia's parliamentary system where politicians – not the people – pick the party leader, Hanson will never be able to come to power in a major party. And because of preferential voting, I was again assured, One Nation will never be able to win an election. Roughly translated, this suggests that better-off Australians can screw over the lower classes and the otherwise economically marginalized all they want and not suffer any blowback nor rendezvous with pitchforks, thanks to governmental firewalls. "It can't possibly happen here!"
Not only is this nonsense (and bound to backfire), but this was said to me after said individual informed me over and over again that were he American he would have voted for Trump in order to rid the country of Clinton corruption. In other words, the cognitive dissonance in Australia can be just as astounding as anywhere else.
This all being so, is attacking Hanson and One Nation head-on the wisest thing to be doing if the idea is to avoid a White Australia Redux? We've already seen – and still see, but generally still aren't cluing in – that this hasn't, isn't, and won't ever work with Trump. But having also attended a Hanson/One Nation protest a few months ago (out of curiosity – and masochism) where the modus operandi seemed to be that "we" win if we can yell louder than they can (and which gave me the impression that rabies does in fact exist in Australia), the approach seems to be the exact same as to what got Trump elected in the first place. Namely, the dismissal of the concerns of the marginalized, and the over-simplifying idea that voters of right-wing populists are nothing but backwards, racist "bogans", thus missing out on the valid concerns that right-wing leaders – sometimes far right-wing leaders – are tapping into: economic marginalization.
Is there anything that can be done to counter this? Well, having read Soutphommasane's book a few years ago, it's quite apparent that he has absolutely no comprehension of what multiculturalism authentically is. In short, since the term "culture" comes from the Latin cultura (to cultivate plants and/or animals), an authentic multiculturalism would, at its base, thus entail multiple methods of cultivation – the implication being local cultures adapted to their places, irrespective of skin colour or any other differences. For as I wrote in a previous post (in part 1/4, listed below),
It's often said that 'we are what we eat.' But since the majority of the food that the majority of us eat is grown in monocultures, would that not then make us monoculturalist rather than multiculturalist?
With everything I've written in this post in mind, I'm starting to get the impression that the only way to stop this far-right insurgence is to outflank them, similar to how Trump snagged the disaffected would-be-Democrat-voters who watched as Clinton and company sabotaged Bernie Sanders' campaign. How to do that? Well, as absurd as it sounds, and having nothing to do with that identitarian BS, the best way to assure that Australia never sees Hanson and One Nation (or some other equiavalent) rise to power might very well be to rescind Australia's Multicultural Policy, the same as it got rid of its White Australia Policy some fourty years ago.
I won't start elaborating on that for another few months, but in the meantime, and for those who are a bit curious and want a head start in understanding what an "authentic multiculturalism" actually is, I'll leave you with the following (which I'll be re-posting before I start elaborating):
Paging Tim Soutphommasane!
Published on the The Slog on January 28, 2017
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Why the False Alphas in power fear citizens who discriminate, discern and decide for themselves
There has always been a tension between the citizen self as selector of the best future, and the controlling State as guardian of the revered past. Elector naivety and technological advance are combining to destroy contrarian creativity.
I want to open today if I may with a brief observation about the noun ‘discrimination’, and the verb to discriminate.
The history of this noun over the last half century has been one of almost unmitigated negativity. Although in the last two decades it has been replaced by the even more vague suffix ‘ism’, it began life in the race relations industry as ‘racial discrimination’ – that is, discrimination against someone on the basis of ethnicity – skin colour, facial features and so forth.
This has led two generations to be unthinkingly convinced that all discrimination is A Very Bad Thing. By slipping into such a misguided belief, they have allowed the idea to take hold that nothing – no person, no country, no system and indeed no culture – should be “judged”….except, of course, about those things that their own belief systems deplore….and even there, double standards abound and abide.
My point is simply this: among many other elements of genuine tolerance, what the intolerantly correct have forgotten is the diametric difference represented by discrimination against and discrimination between.
The ability to discriminate between truth and lie, persuasion and dictation, original and copycat, silly and sensible, intelligent and wise, genuine and counterfeit, real passion and simulated enthusiasm, social good and political tactic, ideological bigotry and measured governance – or ultimately, empirical and fanciful – is the most important foundation stone of equality of opportunity and civilised fair play. It underpins everything to do with the best option.
The muddling of ‘against’ and ‘between’ goes a long way towards explaining the contemporary retreat of, and decline in, the persuasive power of those of us broadly in favour of kindness, compassion, laughter, goodwill and reality in the shaping of communities.
Sadly, it also explains completely the nonsense of “quotas of success” based on gender, age, social class, culture and ethnicity. It promotes the poorly qualified as a sop to indiscriminate equality – and allows those who succeed on the basis of tribal connections based on nepotism, networks, old school ties and so forth to laugh in the face of those with better qualifications being left behind. It dumbs down education by lowering the bar. It patronises those perceived by radical chic whites to be “in need of help” to succeed. And above all, it results in a dearth of competence. But apart from that, Mrs Lincoln, it’s an excellent play.
It is ironic, is it not, that Leftlib fluffy fancy helped produce a mathematically illiterate Tory Chancellor in George Osborne, and a constitutionally illiterate Shadow Home Secretary in Diane Abbott. Neither have any of the qualifications required for good governance, and both of them are obscenely obvious double-standard hypocrites.
It would probably be fair to say that the Left has lost the plot on social equality, the Right retains its plot to remain socially superior…and the Establishment continues to pervert any semblance of equality before the law.
This is why I have seen myself for many years now as both disenfranchised by politics, and yet at the same time above it. It’s why I reject ideological hubris in favour of Benthamite governance to the benefit and fulfilment of the greatest number.
The Left is obsessed with special-case minorities, the Right remains determined to promote the undeserved privilege of monied minorities. A plague on both their houses, I say.
But there is more to my frustration with contemporary Groupthink than a simple desire to be rid of its dysfunctional discipline.
The West’s cultures – especially those pertaining in the UK and US – represent a coincidental copulation between two devilish influences: the insistence on ideological conformity, and the development of increasingly advanced technology.
Homo sapiens has been (for all its flaws) a remarkably successful species. This success is based on competitive selection within tribes, and cooperation between them. Not only do we have powerful survival instincts and unconscious selective drives, the overwhelming majority also have a left brain hemisphere which dominates the emotions while we are awake.
The bad news is that, for much of the time, the uncontrolled drive for greed and power among a tiny minority ensures their emergence as what I choose to call False Alphas. These self-styled leaders do not operate for the good of the greatest number in human society….but their fame, power, oratory and wealth make them highly electable to public life, the most likely to succeed in business and banking, and the most attractive to potential Alpha and Beta partners of the opposite gender.
Be they persuasive as part of a political Party, social movement or religious tendency, the control freakery of such False Alphas insists on unswerving loyalty to a belief system in general, and them personally. The application of “correctness” to several key areas of human life – education, religion, politics, gender relations and commerce – has been an enabling process for the establishment of rigid conformity. I think there is little doubt that it started in politically devised education; but there is no knowing how or where it will end, other than the certainty of tears being involved.
The bottom line is a stronger pull towards the herding instinct than perhaps at any time in the recorded history of Homo sapiens. Referring back to the first section of this essay, there has never been more pressure to stop the natural process of intelligent minds discriminating between what they are told….and what they might, as unique individuals, think. Seventy years ago, George Orwell predicted the emergence of Thoughtcrime. Today’s robotic thinking is but a small step away from such legislation….think ‘non-violent extremist’. Think Theresa May.
It is to our great collective misfortune that this inherent danger has been exacerbated by technology in many forms.
It allows for 24/7 surveillance of actions and geographical location – a capability bound to strike fear into the hearts of intelligent contrarians.
Worse still, it presents itself variously as fun, as positive social behavour, and even “for your own protection”. For the less intelligent or enquiring among us, Facebook and Twitter, Blogging threads, vlogs and so forth are called – surprise, surprise – social media. In reality, they are anything but. Equally, every shop, petrol station, public arena, club, mall, legislature, bank and office building is riddled with cameras.
But while this is the highest profile concern in 2017 – and even now, I would estimate only around 15% of any citizen franchise is worried – there are other dimensions of technology at least as dangerous to the survival of personal liberty.
Uppermost in my mind at the minute are a growing genre of “labour saving/greater efficiency” devices.
SatNav is one. Not only does it, in neuroanatomy terms, cause the orienteering centres to atrophy; it is also developing in a direction via which in-car devices will be two way: you will know exactly where you are…and so will the security services.
Buying online is another. Much easier, cheaper and convenient than physical shopping in most cases: but opening every castle’s front door to those keen to know what you’re buying…from which they can extrapolate why. Would you, today, go to a website explaining fully what paedophilia is and offering scientific books about it for sale? I wouldn’t: such an action could be construed by sovereign blackmailers as more than enough evidence to put you away as “some kind of sicko”
EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at the point of sale) is a third very real and present danger. Stops the risk of being mugged for your cash, saves all that struggling with change…and increasingly now, no need even for a pin number on smaller purchases: tap the terminal with your magic plastic and hey presto – paying for stuff was never easier. What this process will facilitate, of course, is the eventual disappearance of untraceable cash…and your last chance of nickel-and-dime tax evasion – while large multinational businesses continue to make ‘deals’ that are flagrant tax evasion in return for cash-flow.
In the last year alone, France has cut the amount one can pay a supplier in cash by 90%….and developed an ID card for self-employed suppliers designed to become, over time, an electronic record of all outgoings and receipts – but already issued with an upfront tax demand for €2,500.
In that same year, electorates in Britain and America have dared to flout received wisdom and vote down what the Establishments so clearly want. The reaction of both the neocon and liberal élites to these developments has been to orchestrate “opposition” to the democratic decisions involved. This is reassuring to the duped herds, and frightening for the objectively supine.
More and more of us are supine, distracted, disenfranchised, and cynical than ever before. More and more monied power is being distributed among fewer and fewer False Alphas than ever before. More and more easily updated records exist to control, scold, threaten and smear every contrarian voice. More and more types of tax expenditure and privilege have moved beyond our power to oppose them.
In 2017, 21 out of 28 EU States have overt legislation making it illegal to encourage non-payment of tax.
On every level, our ability to discriminate between élite greed and good governance is under attack and thus being undermined. At every turn, the False Alphas’ ability to discriminate against individual citizens via financial, social and media penalties is being expanded. But the Rule of Law and Equality before the Law are withering on the vile dead wood feared by every discerning cultivator of civilisation.
Don’t be fooled by those who insist that to critique the status quo is to commit a criminal act. To paraphrase JFK, “Ask not what your State can do for you….investigate instead what your leaders are doing to you in the name of the Superstate”.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 29, 2017
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.”
The first full week of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump was both cruel and absurd. Nothing about this should be surprising. Trump is a singular example of the cult of personality, a manifestly unfit individual whose path to power has enabled a hidden phalanx of anti-democratic hedge-fund plutocrats and white supremacists to get their paws on executive power. These political apostates have funneled into the palaces where the wheels and gears of power are kept, like the mob storming Versailles, the better to finger the crystal and steal the silver.
The first week of the Trump administration marks the violent reassertion of the prerogatives of White Males against the legacy of Barack Obama and the Great Arc of History. This crowd's capacity for brutality is unimaginable by middle class Americans who grew up on the legacy of the New Deal and amidst the prosperity engendered by winning World War II. Truly, who among us ever thought we'd have to beat Nazis again in this lifetime?
The first realization of the coming kleptocracy dawned as Trump announced his cabinet choices, resembling nothing so much as the Dread Pirate Roberts naming the plunder all star team to crew a new pirate ship.
Now, the owners of this glittering casino and their gum-toothed spawn are clawing back their presumptive place at the top of a so-called "meritocracy" that rewards their gene pool with the sweet perks of "freedom" and "capitalism," which is political code for one class prospering off the suffering of another. The subsequent rewriting of laws then institutionalizes the grift and makes it like, official, dig?
If you've spent the week under a rock, here's a summary of week one executive actions:
An order to “ease the burdens” of the Affordable Care Act, "to the extent allowed by law". On Thursday, Trump cut all advertising to alert Americans that the ACA enrollment period ends on Tuesday.
He reinstated the “global gag rule,” a ban on federal funding for any international group provides abortion information to women. With NO exemptions for hospitals and clinics that don’t actually provide abortions, or for facilities that treat women with complications from abortions.
Trump issued executive memoranda to restart construction on the stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
Trump signed an executive order taking action on immigration. He announced plans to build the border wall with Mexico, and insisted Mexico would pay for it with tariffs. He threatened “sanctuary cities” with federal funding cuts, and announced plans to build more detention centers.
Politico reports that the executive orders signed this week were composed by chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and were so hastily wrought they may be unenforcable or even illegal.
Trump removed the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation economic agreement supported by none of the presidential candidates, and against which candidate Trump campaigned.
Trump’s declared war on the press through his surrogates. At his briefings this week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer called on outlets that peddle fake news and praise Trump ahead of the AP and other mainstream outlets. Stephen Bannon suggested this week the media “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut.”
He announced an initiative to look into imagined "voter fraud" by which the three million votes by which he lost the popular vote were cast by "illegal immigrants." In a CNN interview, VoteStand founder Gregg Phillips said that he can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Clinton received at least 3 million “illegal” votes for president in 2016. Phillips stands accused of being a "revolving door hustler" and a state-level grifter dogged by controversy.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump issued an executive order halting refugee resettlement and suspending travel to the United States from the Muslim-majority countries Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. As I write, refugees and immigrants are being detained at airports all over the world because of the refugee ban. This includes an Iraqi military translator detailed at JFK airport. Crowds of protestors gathered at JFK and other ariports across the country, chanting,
“No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!”
or a variant
“Say it loud and say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!”
The order also bars legal permanent residents of the U.S. from returning home if they are now travelling overseas, even though they already went through "extreme vetting" procedures to get their green cards.
Late Saturday night, Federal Judge Ann Donnelly in New York issued a nationwide temporary injunction, halting the implementation of part of Trump’s executive order on immigration and blocking the deportation of travelers with valid visas detained at airports. This in response to a suit brought by the ACLU.
The judge further ruled that the government must immediately stop deporting travelers from the named nations, including refugees who already went through a rigorous vetting process, and provide a complete list of all those detained. The Intercept published an update.
Suffice it to say that when Michael Moore, Dick Cheney, and the Pope are all on the same side of an issue, and you're on the other side, you've crossed the line: you're an asshole.
Hours after Trump signed this executive order heralding this global descent into barbarism, a mosque in Texas went up in flames.
Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler told the Victoria Advocate he had no theories about the cause of the fire, but he is seeking assistance from state and federal fire investigators.
Just week one.
While Bannon writes, Trump tweets and Washington burns, the left continues to squabble about assigning blame for the Trumpenkrieg to various Hillbots or Berniebots or Steinswine. This endless circular firing squad, which obtains any time three of more "progressives" share the same space, is why we can't have nice things. And why we have Trump.
One of the great shortcomings of the age derives from late stage capitalism. It is the keenness of focus on measurement at the expense of all other values. Remember working in businesses when profitability was enough? No more: now profitability must be maximized. How it works: most American industries are mature indistries, which over time become less profitable. These mature industries exist at a time of little real growth and the end of cheap energy. In this environment profitability comes from two sources: 1) squeezing more out of your current operation, and 2) stealing share from your competitors. Our "business leaders" conjure results from these two foci though spreadsheet worship, and concoct strategies by which they can wring the last erg of energy out of a workforce, all in the name of "efficiencies." Enter automation, Amazon, and subcontractors.
American political philosopher Richard Rorty saw this coming. In his 1998 book “Achieving Our Country,” now much quoted in the New Yorker and around the internet, he observed our present circumstances:
"Members of labor unions, and unorganized and unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
"At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. . . . Once the strongman takes office, no one can predict what will happen. "
No one can predict what will happen. But if Trump's first week is predictive of the future, the cruelty and absurdity of this week will continue until Robert Mercer and the Koch brothers determine he is too loose a cannon and needs to be impeached. Which will install President Pence. Remove Pence? There's Ryan. With Orrin Fucking Hatch in the on deck circle. Vote them out in 2018? Talk to your Republican governors about who will actually be allowed to the polls in 2018.
By 2020, don't be surprised if the franchise is not restricted to white male property owners with a net worth of $1 million. As God intended. And there are still assholes out there who will argue that voting doesn't matter.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He has squeezed out numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.
Published on the The Slog on January 15, 2017
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
There has never been a new Presidency quite like this one. The inauguration is still six days away, and already the American People have been given a torrent of disinformation about the President-Elect. Will it in time get even worse.
He likes it when hookers piss on him, he is being blackmailed by the Kremlin, he is the creature of Deutsche Bank, he paid bribes to the FBI, he has gigantic debt, he plans to use the US to leverage his company into the world’s biggest conglomerate, he is a Fifth Columnist Hell-bent on destroying NATO, he’s going to deport everyone who isn’t a WASP, and during his media career he groped the entire female population of the USA.
Most if not all of this stuff is utterly risible tosh.
But of course, to write this immediately renders me (under the current Queensberry rules of political news debate) a racistscumfascistbigot….and, naturally, the target of the New York Times and their Orwellian campaign to hunt down “fake news”. If it wasn’t so dangerously concocted by Soros Associates – and naively soaked up by the Progressively Correct – it would all make for the most wonderful off-Broadway surreal farce.
The doctored DNC-issued opinion polls, The Washington Post ‘98% chance that Clinton will be the next President’, the Electoral College drive, the Russian hacking drivel, the Soros-orchestrated demos, and then the Meryl Million have been all been variously wheeled out, launched, run up the flagpole and floated. All of them having careered off the road or sunk, the time has come for the top echelons of what the conspiracists call The Deep State to have a crack. But when they come onto the field, the production genre switches instantly from farce to horror.
What we’re now seeing is an attempt to snow The Donald into the Military-Industrial-neocon nutjob narrative. From what we’ve seen so far – although that too could be just more disinformation – he’s not managing to control the hawks terribly well.
But his problem is that he isn’t yet inaugurated: so even among some of those he’s appointed, there’s a power-control vacuum….and they’re making the most of the chance to cook the goose before the new head chef takes up his post.
The two months following next Friday will define very clearly how well Trump has prepared for the onslaught. There are three possible outcomes: either Trump really is just another cleverly disguised stooge; or he has the radical aspirations and wherewithal to strip the covert State of its power; or he will be given his head, and then terminated if he fails to deliver on what the Hoods want.
As time goes on, it gets easier to believe that something has been going on to take power further and further away from the US electorate since November 1963. It’s over half a century since the young President was assassinated, but with the forward march of film and sound technology since the early years of this century aggregating doubts about the killing, fully 73% of Americans now do not believe the Warren Commission, and over half do not believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Since 2012, a third doubt has been added to the original two I always had about the murder:
- How could 22 separate witnesses right by the motorcade imagine they smelt cordite?
- How could anyone believe that the fatal bullet (it blew the President’s head apart) was from the same gun that went straight through its victims without serious damage?
- Why did the CIA hijack the Zapruder film over the post-assassination weekend, and why did the CIA’s film analysis unit tell a serious former Government investigator on film in 2012 that the film in the national archives “is a crude and obvious fake”?
The original 1963 home movie was an 8 mm twin-track film, from which over 14 frames have been removed, and hand-tinting of five others has been undertaken – after the senior CIA analyst edited the real original minimally “to reduce public stress on seeing the more explicit frames”. The original expert insisted in the 2012 documentary, “this is not the original I saw….the damage to the President’s head has been clumsily obscured, and the cranial explosion massively reduced”.
The motive looks damning: to mislead viewers as to the calibre of the gun – and the direction (immediately behind) from which it came.
We will never know exactly who planned the JFK assassination, or indeed who carried it out. But it’s hard to deny in 2017 that Kennedy was blown away by the unelected part of the US. It remains as deadly as ever. I hope Donald Trump has secret service men around him he can really trust.
Published on Peak Surfer on December 25, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
In Nanjing they have banned gas and diesel powered motorbikes, scooters, and trike-cabs or trike-trucks and replaced them with electrics. While most vehicles are retrofits, new electric bikes and trikes are sold in showrooms and all around the city repair shops, battery stores, and parts dealers are easy to find. As a result, the air is fresher, the streets are clean, and the city is much quieter. It is a pleasure to sit in an outdoor café without having to breathe two-stroke engine fumes or listen to their din. They have not yet banned petrol-fueled cars and buses, but that can’t be far away, once they have the replacements lined up.
We confess Nanjing has been on our bucket list since we read Gavin Menzies’ flawed but enticing 1421: The Year China Discovered The World. We wanted to see the Nanjing Shipyards where Admiral Zheng He had constructed the great treasure fleet that traveled the seven seas by discovering an ingenious method of calculating lines of latitude, marking and recording the timing of eclipses and the transit of Jupiter’s moons at different observation points.
|Zheng He Shipyard Park, Nanjing|
Whether Zheng reached the Americas is still disputed, and the official Chinese version has him going no farther than the Cape of Good Hope, but it is undisputed that he built a floating city of wooden ships like nothing the world had ever seen, before or since. Six hundred years ago the Ming armada weighed anchor on the first of seven voyages almost a century before Christopher Columbus or Vasco da Gama. If a 1763 replica of a 1418 chart is any evidence, Zheng’s geographers accurately charted the entire world’s coastlines. Each continent of the world has correct shape, mass, latitude and longitude, and position. All oceans of the world are displayed, along with many major rivers (the Potomac to present-day Washington DC) and innumerable islands.
|Replica of Troop Ship|
Decades later, the ships of Columbus and da Gama combined would have fit on the main deck of a single vessel of Zheng’s fleet. One such design, likely a troop transport at 71.1-meters (233.3 ft), was reconstructed in 2010 and is in the old drydock of Longjiang shipyards. Its stability was created by a V-shaped hull, a long keel, and heavy ballast. The keel is made from wooden beams bound together with iron hoops. In stormy weather, holes in the prow would partially fill with water when the ship pitched forward, lessening the turbulence.
National Geographic in June 2005 wrote:
Treasure Ship drydocks
The greatest seafarer in China's history was raised in the mountainous heart of Asia, several weeks' travel from the closest port. More improbable yet, Zheng was not even Chinese — he was by origin a Central Asian Muslim. Born Ma He, the son of a rural official in the Mongol province of Yunnan, he had been taken captive as an invading Chinese army overthrew the Mongols in 1382. Ritually castrated, he was trained as an imperial eunuch and assigned to the court of Zhu Di, the bellicose Prince of Yan. Within 20 years the boy who had writhed under Ming knives had become one of the prince's chief aides, a key strategist in the rebellion that made Zhu Di the Yongle (Eternal Happiness) emperor in 1402. Renamed Zheng after his exploits at the battle of Zhenglunba, near Beijing, he was chosen to lead one of the most powerful naval forces ever assembled.
We used Trip Advisor to find Zheng He’s museum at the shipyard. We took an iPhone screen shot of the Chinese characters for its address and showed that to the taxi driver, who agreed to take us there for about $7. It was an hour ride across the city, made nearly twice that long by an official motorcade with helicopter escorts that forced us off the six-lane expressway and onto the crowded back-streets, but we got there eventually and the driver agreed to wait for us while we toured the museum.
That museum, really a large and quite tranquil nature park in the middle of the city, was one of our best experiences in Nanjing. You enter through an ornate gate and pass through a large plaza with roller skaters and hot dog carts until you reach the edge of the canals, originally constructed by Zheng in the early 15th Century to get his ships from their cradle and crane assembly lines to the Yangtze River and thence down to the ocean.
Zheng was a great-great-great-grandson of Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar, a Persian who served in the administration of the Mongol Empire and was the governor of Yunnan during the early Yuan dynasty. His grandfather and father had the title hajji suggesting that they had made the pilgrimage to Mecca and also that young Zheng knew Arabic. His later names of Ma Sanbao (三保 ("Three Protections") and Sanbao Taijian (“Three Treasures”) suggest he may have also had Buddhist training.
|Hardwood drydocks >600 years old|
Between 1405 and 1433, the Ming government sponsored seven naval expeditions. Vast forests were cut in Southeast Asia to supply the cranes, masts, mahoganies and teaks required not just for the ship but for the dry docks. Zheng He's first voyage departed 11 July 1405, from Suzhou and consisted of a fleet of 317 ships holding almost 28,000 crewmen. To the lands he visited, the Admiral presented gifts of gold, silver, porcelain, and silk; he returned with ostriches, zebras, camels, giraffes and ivory. On his 4th voyage he brought envoys from thirty states to pay their respects at the Ming court. One stone stelle says he visited more than 3,000 nations.
During the reign of the Yung-Lo Emperor Zhu Di, the Ming fleet consisted of:
- More than 250 Nine-masted "treasure ships" (宝船, Bǎo Chuán or Pao chuan), ranging from 400 to 600 feet long (from one to two football fields) by 170 feet (55 m) beam (more than the width of a football field) and manned by 400 to 1000 crew. Contrast this with a Ford or Nimitz class aircraft carrier, with only 1/3 more length and a more narrow beam.
- Eight-masted “Equine ships” (馬船, Mǎ Chuán), about 103 m (338 ft) by 42 m (138 ft) (roughly the size of a football field), carrying horses and tribute goods and repair material for the fleet.
- More than 400 seven-masted supply ships (粮船, Liáng Chuán), 78 m (256 ft) by 35 m (115 ft), containing staples.
- Some 400 six-masted troop transports (兵船, Bīng Chuán), 67 m (220 ft) by 25 m (82 ft).
- 1350 five-masted 50-meter Fuchuan warships (福船, Fú Chuán), Zheng He’s destroyer escorts.
- 1350 eight-oared 37-meter patrol boats (坐船, Zuò Chuán).
- Water tankers (水船, Shuǐ Chuán) with at least 1 month's supply of fresh water, especially for the horses.
Zheng He set sail with anywhere from 300 to 800 of these ships in each voyage. Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta both described the fleet’s largest ships carrying 500 to 1,000 passengers in their translated accounts. Niccolò Da Conti, who witnessed the fleet in Southeast Asia, estimated the Treasure Ships at 2000 tons.
Zheng He's tomb in Nanjing has been repaired and a small museum built next to it. We did not see the tomb, and anyway he is reported to have been buried at sea, but we traced the routes of the slips where the ships had launched, amazed to see teak timbers still in the ground and dating to that period. We went to the statue of Zheng He and visited the windlasses, steering wheels, and rudders from his ships, and two 2.5 m (8 foot) iron anchors weighing over a thousand pounds each, Walking among bronze statues of the shipyard workers, we watched a child play the giant ship’s bell from the Admiral’s flagship.
Zheng He reshaped Asia. The maritime history in the 15th century was essentially the Zheng He story — a story placing peaceful trade and cultural exchange above conquest and cultural destruction.
Leaving the museum we rushed back to the hotel for a rendezvous with our student guides who were taking us to meet Professor Pan Genzing, top biochar researcher at Nanjing Agricultural University. Professor Pan had arranged a welcoming supper for the distinguished members of the board of the International Biochar Initiative and because we were in China at the time, and on the board of the US Biochar Initiative, we were fortunate to have been invited.
Over the next two days we were also invited to observe the IBI board meeting, attend the unveiling of the Asian Biochar Center, take a field trip to a biochar research station, and speak at an international biochar seminar, where we gave a short slide talk on cool microenterprises and the drawdown economics of cool villages. All of these events were accompanied by elegant feasts of pretty much anything with wings, tails, fins or carapaces, served nearly whole and whirling around on huge lazy-susans. We were reminded of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
While this cuisine is quite different than what we enjoyed at Wu Ling (and had almost no rice), it demonstrated the scope and breadth of Chinese culture, enriched in so many ways 600 years earlier by the voyages of Admiral Zheng He.
Less than a day in paradise,
And a thousand years have passed among men.
While the pieces are still being laid on the board,
All things have changed to emptiness.
The woodman takes the road home,
The haft of his axe has rotted in the wind:
Nothing is what it was but the stone bridge
Still spanning a rainbow, cinnabar red.
— Meng Chiao (9th Century)
Nanjing, October 19, 2016
As this is the fourth and final memoir in this series, we thought it best that we step back and paint the broader context.
|Annette Cowie at Nanjing International Biochar Symposium|
As we described in our book, The Financial Collapse Survival Guide and Cookbook (2d Ed. 2014), the Bretton Woods economic system of the West is poised at the precipice of collapse. Historically, this is normal. All civilizations cycle between growth and retraction, and when growth has been exponential, contraction will track the reverse curve. We are passing over the peak at the top of the roller coaster.
When the first cracks in the delusion of infinite fossil energy consumerist cornicopia appeared in the form of the 2008 market crash they were papered over with new and bigger debt. Money was fiated out of thin air by an exponential expansion of government lending. China sees that.
|L-R: Pan, Lehmann, Renaud, Miles, Sohi|
Russia sees that. Europe is in a condition of Keynesian extend and pretend. The United States simply doesn’t discuss the subject. It imagines that in a pinch it can just lend again. And again. 2008 is viewed as a liquidity crisis, solved by creating more liquidity, ie: debt.
The new guys on the block, knowing nothing of petrocollapse or ponzinomics, figure that the one thing the US has going for it still, empire wise, is its military power. So like Roman Senators, the architects of the Third Reich, or the Mayan Overlords, the Pentagon crazies continue along a course of conquest, intent on sucking more resources to the center from the periphery to fuel even greater military expansion. Since the early 90s the US has been busy ringing China and Russia with more than 400 military bases and modernizing its now dangerously archaic nuclear arsenal.
China, for its part, has had a quite adequate supply of atomic rocketeers on low alert for the last 40 years. Their missiles and warheads were in separate buildings. After the recent US election, that changed. China has moved to high alert, mounted its warheads and prepared to fuel its missiles on short notice. Both Russia and China have said they do not seek war but, echoing Bismarck, "If you want war, you shall have it.”
|Vegetables growing in sand at China Biochar Research Center|
In 1966 Robert F. Kennedy said, “There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May you live in interesting times.’” He was not far wrong, although the proverb was not Chinese. In Cantonese, "interesting" can mean dangerous or turbulent, therefore the phrase could, in Chinese, be something of a curse.
Make no mistake: the empire in decline is the United States. The empire in ascent is China. But both suffer the fatal disease of addiction to exponential fossil-fuel based consumer culture and the cancer of biological degradation of the ecosystems required, not just to sustain empire, but for human life on the planet. Any ascent by China that adheres to the Western growth model will be short-lived.
|Yellow Bikes, Nanjing|
China is the world's top holder of U.S Treasuries — $1.16 trillion as of September — and any decision to dump those would have impact. President-Elect Trump, who has financed his personal fortune by borrowing heavily and plans to do the same for military and infrastructure spending, will surely understand that. He may want to trot out the big guns in order to make offers that cannot be refused.
A clash of declining empires is not something to look forward to, especially when both are armed to the teeth with suicidal weapons and at least one side thinks they should be free to use those to get their way.
“I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody,” Donald Trump told GQ. “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them.”
|Stephen Joseph and Annette Cowie|
The Chinese, along with the rest of humanity, can only hope he is sincere. Given the choice between slow extinction later this century when warming passes 5-degrees C (while holding out for the possibility of rescue by a cadre of energized young emergency planetary technicians) or immediate, but nonetheless painful, death-by-atomic-holocaust, which would you choose? The pistol or the poison?
It is all so silly, and so unnecessary. Is there something in the water, or some worm eating away at our brains? Why are we behaving as if we actually deserve to go extinct?
Chinese milennials are hip, intelligent, highly educated and well-traveled. They suffer a naïvete similar to their Western counterparts when discussion turns to the advanced state of climate change and the future availability of energy and other resources. To set them up as patsies for the ideological insecurities of USAnians is nuts. To engage China militarily is suicidal. Why can't we all just get along?
Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 21, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
"May you live in interesting times," says the old Chinese curse. The election of Donald Trump to president of the United States was the starting pistol for interesting times. From now on, not much will remain the same.
On the night of the election I had tried to stay awake to watch the whole thing unfold. Because of the time difference I knew there would be no clear results until early morning, and so I ended up going to bed at about 1am— at which point all the TV pundits were saying it was 'practically impossible' for Trump to win. So I went to be bed, but barely managed three hours of sleep due to fitful dreams. My phone was on the table next to the bed when I awoke, but I couldn't bring myself to turn it on and see all the "First Woman in the Whitehouse" headlines. I put it off and tried to snooze a while longer. Unable to do so I eventually reached over and turned it on with a 'better get this over with' attitude.
That was when I almost fell out of bed in shock.
It was like Brexit all over again. Brexit on steroids. The impossible had suddenly been proved possible. A spell had been broken and the world had been turned on its head. Donald Trump—a giant ego on legs—had pulled off the impossible. He had taken on the arrayed masses of media, celebrities, pundits, received wisdom and social inertia—and beaten them all. Thrashed them, in fact.
The stunned disbelief on social media rapidly turned into white hot anger. I felt a great disturbance in the force—it was as if a million voices cried out in terror; and then there was violence. Protestors rampaging around the streets, setting fire to cars and smashing window. Yes—the great hissy fit had begun.
From my perspective across on the other side of the Atlantic, I had one immediate cause for celebration: my family would not be nuked. Given Clinton's bellicose rhetoric about surrounding China with missiles and 'taking on' Russia, I had every reason to believe that she would willingly start a world war within months of taking office. With Nato forces building up on the border of Russia in numbers not seen since WWII, and the mainstream press squirting out anti-Russian propaganda from every orifice, and with Russia itself drilling its citizens for imminent nuclear war, I felt I had every reason to be concerned—especially as I live close to a couple of likely military targets. But on the morning on October 9th I got my geiger counter, my iodine pills and my copy of US Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survival Manual, and put them away in my bottom drawer. For now.
But, of course, global nuclear war is a piffling matter for those more concerned with transgender bathrooms and the breaking of glass ceilings for power crazed career politicians. "But what about Pussygate?" scream the angry mob of social justice warriors. To which I would reply that there are plenty of places where presidential fingers don't belong, but frankly I'm more concerned about them being on the big red button.
So, yes, a large bubble has been popped. This is what the apocalypse looks like. The word 'apocalypse' means 'living the veil'. It's a consciousness thing. The apocalypse will happen at the level of human consciousness before it happens (if ever) on the physical plane. The fake doctrine of neoliberalism/neoconservatism/globalisation—that has made the world we see today, has been exposed for what it is. And all of those who happily went along with it feel a deep terror in their bones. They sense, perhaps correctly, that all of the horrors America and the West have unleashed on the world over the last four decades—horrors which they thought were safely locked away in the basement—have been awoken and are starting to walk up the stairs, feet shuffling, hands outstretched. Not even the soothing tones of Barack Obama can convince them to go back down again—they know they are done for.
So who are all these people who are so terrified? They are the ones who have fallen prey to the globalist controlling mindset. For them, it's all a matter of identity politics, victim statuses and the almighty ruling patriarchy. Status is conferred by your relative minority status, delineated along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation etc. By shifting the entire nature of politics into the realm of identity politics the globalist class have quite brilliantly— with the unflinching support of the mainstream media and Hollywood—cast a magic spell that almost succeeded in enslaving the entire world. And because identity politics so enfeebles people, it was easy to divide and conquer them and get them to conform to their idealised state of passive obedience. This idealised state is one where everyone is defined in a very narrow sense, there is no collective grouping outside of one's own little group, and anyone who objects to this state of affairs is called a 'racist' or a 'homophobe' or a whatever. With everyone so caught up in policing one another the globalists have been able to continue their destructive course of war profiteering and handing democratic sovereignty to corporations largely unchallenged.
The power of the spell is broken now, even if the socially-engineered, weak-minded apologists for the power set refuse to believe it. For what they don't realise is that the election of Trump—and Brexit before it—was the anguished howl of a people who had had enough and were unwilling to acquiesce to the madness any longer. In that respect, Brexit and Trump's election will go down as the most important historical events of Western civilisation in the 21st century. If you don't believe me, just wait.
Yet the people still entrapped by this spell believe in maintaining the status quo so vehemently that they are quite unable to function when their overlords are exposed as frauds and fakes. They are fine with their military raining death down on foreign nations so that they can plunder their oil (but don't turn away the refugees), fine with supporting a candidate who takes blood money from a nation that routinely kills gays and stones women for adultery (as long as we have freedom and equality) and fine with starting a nuclear war which would kill millions of innocent people (because Putin said something nasty about gays). They are also the ones who loudly insist that it is racist to be against globalisation, although they always assume that the benefits of globalisation will accrue to themselves, and if you find yourself living in a wasteland of drug addiction, crime and unemployment because of it, well then that's just your own stupid fault and you're probably a racist so there.
These people are all going to be swept away into history's compost bin, and they know it. It would be a good thing if they could be brought round to see reason—after all, some of them are good people and it's not their fault they've been brainwashed. But, alas, in most cases they are too far gone and it is impossible to reason with them. They belong to a superfluous unproductive class for which there will soon be no further need. They are the corporate PR flacks, the media, the overstuffed university faculty members, the fat layers of government who produce nothing but new regulations and rules to penalise everyday people, and the political hangers-on and other assorted medieval court fauna. As the global energy pie shrinks and the very real limits to growth assert themselves, these people will find themselves pushed out of the picture. No longer will they boast on Facebook about not being able to change a lightbulb as though menial, physical, useful skills are for the Untermensch classes—they'll be too busy fighting among themselves about whose fault all this was and forming circular firing squads.
For anyone who thinks they might detect a note of glee here, they'd be right. I would dearly love to see the likes of The Guardian, the Clintons and all the other warmongering, social engineering, psychopathically driven impediments to real human progress tossed into the fiery abyss. But, gratifying as that might be, it doesn't mean everything will then be all sweetness and light. Indeed how do we even know what to expect next? As has become abundantly clear to many people, the world of mass media, talking heads, opinion formers and politicos don't offer us any useful guidelines any longer. That's why the polymathically inclined turn to other areas where they might find better tools for human understanding—and one particularly useful area is the realm of mythology and psychology.
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung noted the various archetypes manifest in human consciousness, and explained how we relate to these in our lives (although they exist on a subconscious level so usually we don't realise it). Joseph Campbell took this a stage further in his analysis of myths throughout human history, drawing out these archetypal figures to help make sense of such a widely diverse universe of stories. These archetypes are encoded in our minds and have been there from the time of our earliest ancestors. For the most part they lurk there unseen, only revealing themselves in times of need, when they help us to make sense of the world when everyday logic seems to fail us. This, of course, flies in the face of progress and scientism and the other pseudo-religions we like to insist are useful to us, and so many people choose to ignore the lessons of mythology. So it goes.
The archetype that should concern us today is the one they call the Trickster. The Trickster is a magician—someone who can conjure something seemingly impossible out of nothing. Magic, by the way, is the ability to take something from a non-physical realm and bring it forth into the physical one. It is the ability to change human consciousness through act of will. We all do it, usually without realising it, and politicians try to do it more than most of us (check out the Clinton team's disastrous experiments with Spirit Cooking). The Trickster is adept at this, appearing in times when civilisations have become stale and moribund, and when politics seems dead and insipid. The Trickster strides onto the stage and explodes the neat order of things, creating chaos and mayhem and collapse. Trickster is a disruptive intelligence. He laughs as he brings down elites, chuckles as he tosses political grandees into oblivion and cackles with mischief as he throws entire societies into turmoil.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 1, 2017
“History is as light as individual human life, unbearably light, light as a feather,
as dust swirling into the air, as whatever will no longer exist tomorrow."
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Every new year, pundits attempt to make sense of the events of the year past, or make bold predictions about what will happen in the next. Your scribe is neither motivated nor ambitious enough to do either. Our job here is to look at certain of the year's events through the jaundiced filters of collapse and doom, the purpose being to make sense out of what 2016 left at our doorstep like a burning paper bag filled with turds.
Much is been made of the political developments – Brexit, the coup in Turkey, Syria and the refugee crisis, the election of Donald Trump as president, with many thousands of tons of aggrieved punditry launched in a nearly 24–7 assault of PR artillery to try to "make sense of it all." There is simply no making sense of it within the confines of ordinary time and news cycles. Better to soar to the 50,000-foot level, unbearably light, to the vantage point of history, to discern larger trends.
This year's events are symptoms of an evil zeitgeist which is bad news for those of us on the left or so-called "progressive" side of politics. They are harbingers of a sweeping counter-revolution, made possible by a 40-year assault on the funding and functions of government and its efficacy, such that even ordinary people question the very legitimacy of government itself. An underfunded government rarely works.
Never forget that it was the French revolution that gave us Napoleon. And that in 1933, The German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which gave Adolf Hitler the power to enact laws without the involvement of the lawmaking body. Thus everything that Hitler would come to do was perfectly legal and achieved through parliamentary means. Consider this on the eve of a Trump presidency and a Tea Party Congress motivated by the most atavistic impulses ever to spring from a Koch brother.
(And if you find this comparison to Hitler overly hysterical and are moved to invoke Godwin's Law, allow me to refer you to the Tea Party Republic of North Carolina, where legislative Republicans enacted a putsch and passed new, restrictive legislation essentially stripping the newly elected democrat governor Roy Cooper of much of his executive power. Watch now for other states to start pulling the same shit. Feel free to join in a rousing chorus of, "It Can't Happen Here.")
When one considers who Trump has chosen for his own cabinet, the one common thread that seems to run through each is a prior career dedicated to opposing the regulations of said department. William Astore describes Trump's cabinet as "a Coup Waiting to Happen" and as a clique of warrior-generals ready to end the American democratic experiment by the time the limos are parked at the White House.
Yet 21st-century America is witnessing a new and revolutionary moment: the elevation of losing generals to the highest offices in the land. Retired Marine Corps general James “Mad Dog” Mattis, known as a tough-talking “warrior-monk,” will soon be the nation’s secretary of defense. He’ll be joined by a real mad dog, retired Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn as President-elect Donald Trump’s national-security adviser. Leading the Department of Homeland Security will be recently retired general John Kelly, another no-nonsense Marine. And even though he wasn’t selected, retired Army general David Petraeus was seriously considered for secretary of state, further proof of Trump’s starry-eyed fascination with the brass of our losing wars.
And why does this matter, you may ask? Didn't Truman appoint McArthur, and Bush appoint Powell? WTF?
A republic… founded on civilian control of the military needs true civilians as a counterweight to militarism as well as military adventurism. Recently retired generals are anything but that; they’re not even speed bumps on the road to the next set of misbegotten military “adventures.” They are likely to be only one thing: enablers of and accelerants to military action. Their presence in the highest civilian positions represents nothing short of a de facto military coup in Washington, a coup that required no violence since the president-elect simply anointed and exalted them as America’s security saviors.
Mattis is one thing; Flynn quite another. By most measures, he has a reputation for not playing well with others. Flynn is known as an ideologue with a virulent, irrational hatred of Islam and a penchant, like his boss, of unburdening himself on Twitter. Often wrong but never in doubt, he was forced from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, after which he became a harsh critic of Obama. Of Flynn, Astore observes:
Rising to prominence during the Trump campaign, he led the chant against Hillary Clinton (“Lock her up!”) at the Republican National Convention in July. (His son recently helped spread the false rumor that Clinton was involved in a child sex trafficking ring involving a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.) Flynn, who sees Islam as a political conspiracy rather than a legitimate religion, is an angry warrior, a dyed-in-the-wool crusader. That Trump sees such a figure as qualified to serve as the nation’s senior civilian security adviser speaks volumes about the president-elect and the crusading militarism likely to be forthcoming from his administration.
One does not have to try hard to imagine a preference for military solutions to diplomatic problems being favored as part of "Making America Great Again." And with Twitler already composing 140-character love poems to nukes, it is a short leap to see the Doom Meter set a couple of clicks higher. Never forget that war is always a great way to balance the books.
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
– Warren Buffett, The New York Times
Military adventurism is bad enough. Meanwhile at home comes the Trumpenkrieg.
Look at what has happened over the past 40 years. Ever since Saint Reagan announced that "government is not the solution: government is the problem," tax cuts for plutocrats and trims to the social safety net to pay for them have been the order of the day.
In broad strokes , here's what has happened in the last 40 years: The Corporate State's agenda has been to oblige American labor to compete at global prices through an assortment of "trade deals" long on exporting American jobs but short on results: NAFTA, GATT, Fast Track, FTAA , the TPP. Corpstate has worked to privatize social benefits and social services, abolish negotiated benefits like pensions and health care, slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and has broken the power of unions. All against a background of massive deregulation: airlines in 1978, trucking in 1980, telecom in 1984 and 1996, electricity in 1992, oil and gas extraction in 1980, and finance, repeatedly between 1978 and 2000. I'm sure you've noticed the benefits "trickling down."
No? Maybe someone's been pissing down your back.
All of these consciously planned policies have led to the manifestation of what Spawn of Satan Allen Greenspan once defined as the "precariat," people who face diminished prospects of achieving middle-class status—a good job, homeownership, decent retirement. This is by design.
If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. . . how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations.
Sound familiar? Don't blame the immigrants, don't blame the Mexicans: blame the plutocrats. By 2020, a study estimates more than 40 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. This constituency—notably white—is angry, and with good cause. Since 1998 white Americans have seen declines in both their incomes and life expectancy, with large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse. These are the people who, in anger and hopelessness, have chosen a billionaire builder who stiffs his subcontractors.
With Trump and the Tea Party foxes in charge of the henhouse, there is little question about the future direction of economic policy. The end game will be not only the dismantling of the New Deal, but also most of the 20th century. The only questions are whether and when the much anguished white working class (who voted for Trump) realizes how badly they have been played, and what they will do about it.
“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama
"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
— U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump
The assortment of oilmen, climate change deniers and other sociopaths that Trump has chosen to direct energy and environmental policy will exacerbate the greatest existential threat of the age. We are supposed to ignore the record of the hardcore climate denier that Trump named his chief White House strategist, the hardcore climate denier Trump put in charge of the EPA, the climate action opponent Trump named as his Chief of Staff, the fossil fuel executives and lobbyists placed in charge of Energy and Interior, and the conservative Supreme Court judge he can name who will ratify whatever. This at a time when every sober observer of world climate is waving frantically signaling that we must do something NOW.
The human onslaught to destroy life on Earth is unprecedented in Earth's history. In a sobering article, Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist, Robert J. Burrowes reviews the heinous toll of man's environmental dominion:
Planet Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event and Homo sapiens sapiens is the cause. Moreover, this mass extinction event is accelerating and is so comprehensive in its impact that the piecemeal measures being taken by the United Nations, international agencies and governments constitute a tokenism that is breathtaking in the extreme.
And it is no longer the case that mainly ‘invisible’ species are vanishing: those insects, amphibians and small animals about which you had never even heard, assuming they have been identified and given a name by humans.
Of course, some of what is happening is related to the ongoing climate catastrophe and there isn’t any good news on that front. See ‘What’s Happening in the Arctic is Astonishing’.
Of course, military violence has devastating consequences on the Earth’s ecosystems too, destroying land, water and atmosphere (not to mention killing human beings) in the fight over resources.
When Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump about his thoughts on climate change, the president-elect responded,
“Nobody really knows. Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast.”
He’s not alone; according to Pew Research less than half (48%) of all American adults believe that the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity. They are wrong, if consistent; in 2016, news from around the world made climate change undeniable to anyone paying attention. And Trump has made certain noises about getting NASA out of the earth-monitoring business, the better to not confuse citizens with evidence that might interfere with worship of "growth."
As climate change becomes ever more observable and its effects more evident, half of Americans remain firmly in denial. Ecocide is an appropriate word. And in the view of cynics, earth will be just fine in the long run; it's humans that will have it tougher.
An impressive array of notable people left us in 2016: Prince, Mohammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Fidel Castro, John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Arnold Palmer, and Leonard Cohen. But 2016 left us Trump. Fuck us.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on the Economic Undertow on December 23, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
Santa came early this year, he left presents for all the children … whether they wanted them or not!
Hard to say what Santa will offer next year, Christmas may be cancelled … or Stukas might be dive-bombing Poland. In the twilight of ‘More’ anything is possible except ‘more’.
Americans who voted against Trump are feeling unprecedented dread and despair.
I have never seen anything quite like the grief being felt by the majority of American voters who did not vote for Donald Trump.
Back in 1980, there was disappointment among Democrats when Ronald Reagan won. In 2000, after the long Florida recount and the intrusion of the Supreme Court into the decision, there were plenty of upset people who thought Al Gore, not George W. Bush, deserved to be president. But the losing voters in those elections were not despondent. They were not breaking out in tears weeks later. They were not waking up each morning with feelings of dread about what was to come.
This time it is different … (David Frum):
“Construction of the apparatus of revenge and repression will begin opportunistically and haphazardly,” Frum wrote. “It will accelerate methodically.”
Do you mean the apparatus of revenge and repression aimed at Chelsea Manning, or the citizens of Boston? How about other ‘Brand X’ whistle blowers? (Justice Integrity Project):
OpEd News (OEN) Publisher Rob Kall, another speaker, has a different view. “Since Obama has taken office,” Kall reported in ‘RoughTime for Whistleblowers’, “most whistleblowers say his administration and his DOJ treat whistleblowers worse than any previous president.”
Kall quoted GAP Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, a well-credential ethics advisor in 2001 at the Bush Department of Justice. It promptly ousted her from her job and tried to inflict harsh reprisals in her later career after she provided to superiors her opinion that FBI personnel committed an ethics violation in questioning American John Walker Lindh after he was caught with the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Obama,” she told Kall, “has brought more prosecutions against whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than any previous president and all presidents combined.”
Thank you sir, may we please have another! Everyone knows Trump is a Fuhrer who is making lists and identifying enemies, (WaPo):
Obama administration tries to shut down visitor registry program before Trump takes office
The Obama administration on Thursday took the unprecedented step of creating obstacles to a widely-anticipated but poorly understood plan by President-elect Donald Trump to establish a Muslim ban or registry — by dismantling the registry system that already exists.
In fact, almost every ‘crime’ the oafish Trump is being accused of in advance has been committed already by preceding administrations including Obama’s, starting illegal wars, snooping on citizens, raping the environment, cozying up to bankers, bankers, bankers and more bankers.
Don’t forget Obama’s ‘drone war’, suspension of habeas corpus, arbitrary imprisonment and torture in secret prisons. These programs took form under Bush but Obama did nothing to end them or much to rein them in.
Erratic, bullying, Nazi, paranoid … all are unpleasant to contemplate, but are hardly new. The issues that defines our new (gauche) president are matters of form rather than substance. The conflicts of interest, the ‘massive self-enrichment’ by office holders and ‘retaliation by means fair and foul’ are as entrenched in Washington as traffic jams. Our small-d democracy isn’t threatened, it vanished a long time ago, after people decided to let ‘experts’ tend to their affairs and for corporate marketing and PR to do everyone’s thinking for them.
Comparing Combatants in Syria – Iraq Theater
|COUNTRIES – INTERESTS||WHAT THEY INTEND TO GAIN||COST||WHAT THEY OFFER||GOVERNMENT: CURRENT | PROPOSED||ECONOMY|
|USA||Arms sales. To destabilize region to import consumption||Operational expenses & loss of influence||Transient tactical advantage for no one in particular||Corporate plutocracy / None||Capital destruction – consumption / Ponzi finance|
“Corporate Plutocracy / None” … that’s us!
So is Capital destruction – consumption / Ponzi finance!
This generated blind fury across the mediasphere; the suggestion is Trump is a nuclear madman.
Obama’s Russian Rationale for $1 Trillion Nuke Plan Signals New Arms Race
February 23 2016
The Obama administration has historically insisted that its massive $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program does not represent a return to Cold War-era nuclear rivalry between Russia and the United States.
The hugely expensive undertaking, which calls for a slew of new cruise missiles, ICBMs, nuclear submarines, and long-range bombers over the next three decades, has been widely panned by critics as “wasteful,” “unsustainable,” “unaffordable,” and “a fantasy.”
It’s okay as long as ‘our guy’ does it: it wasn’t Trump who ringed Russia with military bases, missiles and combat formations, it wasn’t Trump who sent spies and provocateurs to destabilize Ukraine or attack Russian clients Syria and Libya from the air. It wasn’t Trump who is engaged in questionable wars in multiple countries across the globe all aimed at driving energy- and resource consumption to the world’s largest energy hog. It isn’t Trump who made al-Qaeda into a defacto ally of the Pentagon and the CIA, who gave the militants arms and training, who enabled the rise of Turkish neo-Ottoman ambition alongside Saudi Salafism and state terror. It was Obama who did all these things and more, following in the footsteps of American presidents going back to Truman.
Or was it? Whoever is president doesn’t matter, he is irrelevant. Our managers (including Trump) are actors reading from scripts, performing at the direction of shadowy back-door men, employed strictly by how they conform to the public expectations created by corporate marketing. Conforming includes how they look, dress, speak, where certified and whom they ‘know’; where they live and work and how they travel. Trump himself acknowledges this reality by selecting as footmen those who are possessed of a certain je ne sais quoi, that is, they have the appropriate outward appearance. Activities that require labor, skill, difficulty or do not present a marketing opportunity are penalized with diminished status. There are no grimy proletarians, mechanics or farmers in the current administration or those set to come; nor in Congress or the Courts. Instead, there are neatly coiffed thievish mandarins. Because our Ponzi- economy is divorced from reality the scam managers are expected to be incompetent, they have to be even as they are fashionable. There is no penalty for stupidity in America.
Competence is unacceptable except where it allows for the proper internal functioning of the enterprise. Our ostensible Ponzi- masters are grasping buffoons while those tending the boilers (Goldman-Sachs) must know what they are about.
The conflict in America is not between ‘left’ and ‘right’, ‘liberal vs. conservative’ but between logic and illogic, between reality and denial. The establishment’s factions are parties to malfeasance and mis-communication. To tell the truth is to acknowledge that business as usual is bankrupt regardless of who is in charge, (Brooking Institute):
Another Clinton-Trump divide: High-output America vs low-output America
Last week, as my colleague Sifan Liu and I were gnawing on some questions asked by Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post, we happened upon a revealing aspect of the election outcome. While looking at number of influences on the presidential vote outcome, we found that in a year of massive divides, one particular economic split stands out.
Our observation: The less-than-500 counties that Hillary Clinton carried nationwide encompassed a massive 64 percent of America’s economic activity as measured by total output in 2015. By contrast, the more-than-2,600 counties that Donald Trump won generated just 36 percent of the country’s output—just a little more than one-third of the nation’s economic activity.
Candidates’ counties won and share of GDP in 2000 and 2016
Figure 1: US counties voting preference, (Brookings Intitute, click for big).
Here you can see very clearly that with the exceptions of the Phoenix and Fort Worth areas and a big chunk of Long Island Clinton won every large-sized county economy in the country. Her base of 493 counties was heavily metropolitan. By contrast, Trumpland consists of hundreds and hundreds of tiny low-output locations that comprise the non-metropolitan hinterland of America, along with some suburban and exurban metro counties, as Indeed Chief Economist Jed Kolko pointed out in a tweet …
The foundation of Brooking’s argument is breathtakingly false, yet is so fashionably rendered anyone looking at it uncritically would take the authors’ premise at face value: that the metropolitan areas who fell to Clinton ‘produced’ greater ‘output’ than the backwards redneck promised lands that supported Trump. By way of Brookings’ logic, the consumption that takes place in cities is ‘productive’ because the various banks magically output ‘money’ to pay for it.
Cities are sinks not sources, their actual output is little or nothing but waste. The backwaters of America don’t ‘produce’ either, they extract our nation’s wealth — our non-renewable resource capital — and speed it to its death. Soil fertility, water, oil, gas, coal, metallic ores along with the lumpishly unfashionable activities that require labor, skill, difficulty … all these and more are sucked out of our towns making stops at Hillary Clinton’s capital-annihilating colonias on their way to the landfill. Retail sales and speculation are measured as production by Brookings’ economists and the banks which fund the process, lending abstract ‘wealth’ into existence using the wasting processes as collateral. Given four- hundred-plus years of mechanized pillaging the flyover counties have been emptied out with the extractive returns captured by well-positioned rentiers. The locals cry, “where’s our cut?” The fact of the question itself reveals the answer …
Establishment whines about ‘fake news’; what is fake is denial of the onrushing consequences of resource squander and how these are making themselves manifest.
Figure 2: Fed Funds by FRED, (click for big). Immediately before president-elect Obama took office in ’09, Santa gave the children negative real interest rates, that is, yields below the rate of inflation. Bargain basement borrowing costs were the incentive for firms to borrow astronomical sums, to fund carry trades of all kinds, to become larger and more concentrated, to buy out competition, to overpay for the firms’ own shares. Tycoons borrowed to buy luxury real estate, yachts and fine art. This offered the impression of a recovery from the ’08 crash, everyone looked like geniuses for a little while including Obama, for whom it can be said it is better to be lucky than good …
Even without the Fed, rates would have been low. Because of the Great Recession, there was a ‘flight to safety’ and the bidding up Treasuries in the absence of real, non-financial returns elsewhere. Added was systemic moral hazard and the eagerness of banks to lend back-and-forth to each other. The outcome was dollar carry trades speeding US inflation around the world; ‘Lucky Obama’ able to enjoy interest rate tailwinds every single year throughout his term in office.
Figure 3: Chart by estimable Doug Short, (Click for big). Obama is jumping ship before the storm breaks: 10-year Treasury rates are galloping upward due to dollar preference which pressurizes foreign exchange and unwinds dollar carry trades. The ‘official narrative’ is future US inflation but the decline in bonds is the re-pricing of repayment risk and the forex depreciation that is certain to come. In developing countries, borrowers with cavitating currencies cannot repay their dollar debts. The incoming president promises (more) tax relief for overburdened tycoons, those expected to pick up the tab are the same developing countries already tapped to service and retire prior rounds of credit expansion.
Remember dollar preference? Don’t pick up that economics textbook, you won’t find it there! Just because Marshall or Keynes didn’t write about it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Dollar preference is what it sounds like: given the choice between accepting a dollar as payment or one- or more foreign currencies; between holding the dollar or spending it for shit or between holding the dollar or non-cash assets, people will choose the dollar. At issue is what determines the dollar’s worth. Conventional Lucas/Friedman economics suggests ‘efficiencies’ going forward discount future money: this and time preference ‘discovers’ present monies’ worth. The conventional narrative supports the rate-setting role of central banks and centrality of monetary policy. Debtonomics insists dollars and other currencies are priced by their exchange on demand for petroleum, something that takes place millions of times every day at gas stations around the world. Question for Donald Trump: millions of motorists vs. a handful of central bankers and corrupt politicians, who wins? The worth of the dollar is the fuel price bargain each one represents relative to other currencies, also what future dollars will be worth in a fuel constrained world. In this narrative, dollars are a proxy for fuel as dollars and other currencies were proxies for gold was during the periods of the gold standard. As such the dollar is a hard currency now becoming harder, to be hoarded out of circulation for the value it represents.
Put another way, dollar preference is the convergence between the value of the oil capital and the dollars that are exchanged for it. Fuel by itself is worth more than the real-world enterprises that make use of it regardless of what means are used to ‘adjust’ the price. By this way of reasoning, fuel in the ground in North Dakota is worth more than fuel wasted in a car stuck in traffic on an LA Freeway. Business (wasting) enterprises earn nothing on their own and are essentially worthless. They exist solely to borrow, gaining- and making use of credit is their primary product: other goods and services are intended to justify credit issuance in ever-increasing amounts. Part of this stream becomes the property of well-positioned ‘entrepreneurs’: enormous unearned borrowed profits are what drives the system. When debt = wealth, there is an incentive to take on as much debt as possible, keep what you can for yourself and to shift the retirement- and servicing burdens onto others.
Our economy as nothing more than a vast cost-shifting regime, our ongoing crisis is the shortage of ‘others’ able to bear the burdens of rapidly increased surplus-related costs.
Figure 3: Emerging market currency ETF: carry trades have been unwinding since 2011 as the dollar becomes stronger. A dollar carry is a way to sell the dollar short; investors borrow in the US at low rates then ‘sell’ dollars for higher-yielding assets in another currency. Decline of dollar becomes profits to those holding the overseas assets. When the dollar strengthens as it is doing now, the deal is a bust. Any asset appreciation in an overseas currency is more than offset by foreign exchange losses. What this means is costs are more difficult to shift, that dollar debts held overseas cannot be retired. The export of dollars and the shifting of costs that have been the mainsprings of globalization; that and the petroleum trade. Resource depletion and dollar preference are undoing all three …
Figure 4: Polygon of Doom: since 2008, price peaks in oil markets are followed by sharp declines, the amplitude of peaks diminish as the world’s customers go broke, chart by TFC Charts (click for big). Unraveling of carry trades, currency depreciation, runs out of forex and generalized credit contraction ruins millions of customers at a time. This in turn strands oil drillers who cannot extract the cheap petroleum as our economy requires. In our over-financialized world, fuel shortages don’t manifest themselves as gas lines or odd-even days. Rationing takes place through the credit transmission channel. When oil price rises high enough credit vanishes and customers cannot buy. How high is too high? Last year $65/barrel turned out to be pricey enough to torpedo China’s currency; the diminution of Chinese consumption crushed the price of crude. The current barrel price of $55 appears to be too high with another predictable banking- and credit crisis unfolding in Europe.
Energy deflation occurs when shortages cause prices to fall instead of rise. This is another something not found in your macro textbooks, it’s real nevertheless and unfolding under @realDonaldTrump’s nose. Because shortages can’t make customers richer, they are unable to borrow in order to bid up the price. The drillers are stranded because they don’t have customers to sell products to. Ruined customers is the reason why oil prices have declined 60% since 2014, broke customers are why the entire oil extraction industry is insolvent.
Oil prices can only decline as there are diminished returns on each energy dollar invested … diminished GDP, diminished credit availability, diminished ability to meet ever-higher real extraction costs. Going forward, real energy costs will increase relative to the ability to meet them … even as nominal costs decline. The result is a net-energy death spiral or ‘energy deflation’ similar to Irving Fisher’s Debt Deflation. Whatever the fuel price happens to be at any given time it is too high. The price falls to meet the market, but fuel is removed from the market because of the drop in price, the ongoing shortage reduces the ability of customers to meet the price which is still too high … in a vicious cycle.
Energy deflation and dollar preference are large forces beyond the control of politicians, generals or central bankers. They are driving countries and events toward involuntary conservation. America’s new president is the product of economic failure; the inability of the economists to make correct analysis, a long grinding recession disguised as recovery; media falsehoods and the unwillingness of Americans and others to face reality, government policy failures and the headwinds of resource depletion. Trump and his cretinous gang of thieves represents the last gasp of a defunct industrial system that is sinking under the weight of its own costs.
Keep in mind, oil producing states like the US tend to be autocratic. The US, Canada, Mexico and others are on their way to becoming single-party police states like Saudi Arabia or Iran. Because of autocrats promise of access to energy, they gain ascendancy with their populations’ eager consent. What is at stake for Americans and the West is democracy itself: a choice between the right to have a say in our own affairs versus the false-promises of energy-driven ‘prosperity’ offered by autocrats … the choice between the (vague) promise of convenience or having a functioning republic.
Published on From Filmers to Farmers on December 23, 2016
(photo by Mike K.)
Tis the season for presidential pardons, and all throughout the land the peasants are calling for their Caesar to release not Barabbas this time but the other guy. The "other guy" isn't exactly Jesus of course, but he is nonetheless rather well known for staunchly "speaking truth to power". I'll avoid a re-cap of the shenanigans at play, instead summing it all up by pointing out that yes, the "other guy" – Edward Snowden – did most certainly break the law. However, is breaking the law always such a bad thing? As Martin Luther King Jr. put it,
To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. The oppressed must never allow the conscience of the oppressor to slumber.
(photo by flash gordon md)
King's and Snowden's country, the United States, has a bit of a history when it comes to preferring freedom from obtrusive government authority as well as of noncompliance when it comes to unjust laws. This began of course with the Boston Tea Party, which was not only an illegal act of disobedience but eventually led to revolution and freedom (of sorts) from Great Britain. Proceeding this were abolitionists who refused to bow down to Fugitive Slave laws, followed by the Civil Rights Movement, and more. On the other hand, what Adolf Hitler did to Jews, political dissidents and other "miscreants" was perfectly legal. In other words, there's lawful and unlawful, but there's also right and wrong.
The question then is: Should Barack Obama pardon Edward Snowden? When recently asked this by German media outlet Der Speigel, this is what Obama had to say in reply:
I can't pardon somebody who hasn't gone before a court and presented themselves, so that's not something that I would comment on at this point. I think that Mr. Snowden raised some legitimate concerns. How he did it was something that did not follow the procedures and practices of our intelligence community. If everybody took the approach that I make my own decisions about these issues, then it would be very hard to have an organized government or any kind of national security system.
At the point at which Mr. Snowden wants to present himself before the legal authorities and make his arguments or have his lawyers make his arguments, then I think those issues come into play. Until that time, what I've tried to suggest – both to the American people, but also to the world – is that we do have to balance this issue of privacy and security. Those who pretend that there's no balance that has to be struck and think we can take a 100-percent absolutist approach to protecting privacy don't recognize that governments are going to be under an enormous burden to prevent the kinds of terrorist acts that not only harm individuals, but also can distort our society and our politics in very dangerous ways.
And those who think that security is the only thing and don't care about privacy also have it wrong.
Come again? Did Obama just say that the very second Snowden "goes before a court and presents himself" that he'd have him pardoned? Am I missing something here?
Of course I am, because that's undoubtedly not what Obama was saying in the slightest with his faux addressing of the issue, made obvious when we realize that Obama's statement is incorrect several times over (made all the more curious since Obama was a constitutional lawyer prior to becoming president). Because if we go back just a few decades we see that Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon before he had been indicted, and if we go back just a few months (we're talking January of 2016) we see that Obama himself pardoned three dual U.S.-Iranian citizens who had yet to be charged. That Snowden can't be pardoned is therefore factually untrue, something that Obama must very well know.
To then suggest that Snowden would actually have a chance to "make his arguments" is also patently false, and which is hard to imagine Obama not being aware of either. Since Snowden is charged under the draconian WWI Espionage Act (meant for punishing foreign spies), this means that he'd be given zero opportunity to make his case before his peers – something that happened to Daniel Ellsberg when he was on trial.
Another leisurely round of golf with the bankers
(in this case, investment banker Robert Wolf)
Could this all be evidence of Obama hitting senility a bit early? Although one might somewhat hope so, it's probably more likely the case that Obama's interests simply lie elsewhere. Because the fact of the matter is that over the span of two national elections Obama raised millions of dollars from Wall Street donors, a faction that in return got exactly what it paid for. As Ron Suskind pointed out in his book Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, Obama's appointment of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner rendered any reformation of Wall Street moot from the get-go. In describing Obama's first meeting with the "golden thirteen" (which included JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein), and after Obama had just pointed out that "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks", Suskind conveys that
After a moment, the tension in the room seemed to lift: the bankers realized he [Obama] was talking about voluntary limits on compensation until the storm of public anger passed. It would be for show.
Following that, there was
Nothing to worry about. Whereas Roosevelt had pushed for tough, viciously opposed reforms of Wall Street and famously said, "I welcome their hate," Obama was saying, "How can I help?" With palpable relief, the CEOs carried the discussion, talking, easily now, about credit conditions and how loan demand was soft because it should be: businesses were already overleveraged.
It should be no surprise then that not only have the banks gotten bigger under Obama's administration, but that none of the bankers – whose fraudulent behaviour collapsed the United States' housing market and then its economy (and then many of the world's other economies) – saw any criminal prosecution. Was Obama hindered from taking action on this due to an "obstructionist Republican Congress that undermined Obama's presidency"? Hardly, particularly when "hope and change" was essentially a well-marketed cover for a protection racket.
Having therefore let the Band of Barabbas' go hog-wild, and having no intention of pardoning Snowden, I can't help but wonder why Obama doesn't just do what his heart must truly desire – to pardon the boldest Band of Barabbas member of all, Bernie Madoff.
A tickertape parade rehearsal on Wall Street for the return of New
York City's prodigal son – and bestowal upon him of the key to the city!
And I'm hardly joking here. Nearly eight years ago when the manure was hitting the fan I couldn't help but go around asking others (with tongue firmly planted in cheek), "Hey wait a second. If the big banks are getting bailed out, why isn't Bernie Madoff getting his fair share as well? Doesn't he just need some stimulation? Could bailing out Madoff not get things rolling again and save the economy?" That obviously got people thinking I was a crack-baby or something, but that doesn't negate the fact that the Bank of Madoff hit a snag for essentially the same reason that the big banks got thrown off kilter: they're all Ponzi schemes. As Wes Jackson put it during his speech at The Land Institute's 2010 Prairie Festival, "Bernard Madoff deserves a ticker tape parade for showing a small part of a much larger Ponzi scheme."
But while Madoff's Ponzi scheme is easy enough to understand – he required continual inputs of new money from investors so that he'd be able to make payouts to previous investors, in effect enabling his "bank" to maintain the appearance of solvency – the greater Ponzi schemes we live amongst aren't as easy to see. As economist John Kenneth Galbraith famously stated, "The process by which money is created is so simple that the mind is repelled."
Perhaps the best way to pull back the veil on this is via explaining the "magic" that goldsmiths performed some 400 years or so ago. Back when gold was the monetary standard people often kept their "money" in the goldsmiths' vaults for safekeeping. In return they were given notes of credit, notes which many people decided to trade amongst themselves rather than worrying about the bothersome and repetitive tasks of continually withdrawing and depositing their gold. Many goldsmiths then realized that hardly any of the gold ever left their vaults – about 90% just sat there – and so got the unscrupulous idea to not only conjure a few extra credit notes out of thin air, but to lend out those notes with interest (otherwise known as usury, which used to be a big no-no in the Bible and the Quran until its definition [in the bible] got watered down to mean charging too much interest rather than charging any interest at all).
Poor Madoff, he only wanted people to Feel the Bern
(photo by thierry ehrmann)
In effect, due to the goldsmiths' finagling there ended up being more notes in circulation than there was gold which the credit notes could be redeemed for. (This is now practiced by banks in a more modern fashion under the moniker of fractional-reserve banking, backed up by paltry Federal Deposit Insurance's and such.) On top of that, the added charge of interest meant that not only did the divide between credit notes and redeemable gold increase even further, but that people – and the economic system as a whole – were thus placed on a treadmill whereby they had to keep running faster and faster lest the monetary system collapse in on itself. How's that so?
Take this analogy: Imagine a blank slate where money doesn't yet exist. A bank is then started up and proceeds to create $1,000 out of thin air (which is exactly what banks do today and is how roughly 95% of our money is conjured into existence). It lends out $100 to each of 10 farmers to facilitate their trading amongst one another, tacking on top of that an annual interest rate of 10%. The bank therefore expects back a total of $1,100 at the end of the year, but it only created $1,000. In other words, there is an inherent shortfall of money in the system – by $100 – from the get-go. While at the end of the stipulated year some of the ten farmers may have earned enough from their peers to pay back their loans plus interest, there will not only be inevitable losers due to the inherent $100 shortfall in the system, but any farmer who not only made enough money to pay back the $110 but also earned some extra cash which they stuck under their mattress for safekeeping effectively took money out of the system and left even less for the "losers" at the other end – "losers" who effectively have even less possibility for securing the needed money to pay back their loans, never mind the added interest.
So while the charging of interest means that a perpetual widening of the gap between the rich and the poor is baked into the system, it also means that the system is inherently bankrupt and would implode in on itself were it not for the banks continually conjuring more and more money into existence in order to try and pay off (more like cover up) the inherent shortfall. New and increasing supplies of conjured money are therefore continually lent out (all with added charges of interest of course) so that said "suckers" can service at least the interest on their previous loans by going into even more debt, in the process bestowing upon the bankers' Ponzi scheme(s) the appearance of solvency.
The SEC??? The entire monetary system is a Ponzi scheme!
(photo by nrv75)
If you're starting to scratch your head and say to yourself, "Hold on a second, this kinda sounds like what's going on with Greece," then congratulations! You now understand how the monetary system works! (You can read my two posts on the Greece story here and here.) That being said, unscrupulous goldsmiths/bankers/Ponzi schemers weren't always given the free pass as they are today.
For starters, it wasn't as if people never caught on to what the goldsmiths were doing way back when. The first people to catch on to the goldsmith's fraudulent creation of extra notes unsurprisingly rushed to the goldsmith's to exchange their credit notes for gold before supplies ran out and their notes were thus deemed worthless. This was (and still is) called a "run on the bank". Initially it was the goldsmiths who pointed the finger at the person/people who started the bank run(s) and got them strung up on the gallows. This eventually got straightened out and the pitchfork wielding masses made sure that it was not them but the goldsmiths who got hung by their necks.
We're currently stuck back in stage one where "the losers" get blamed for the bankers' bamboozling. It isn't the bankers' or the monetary system's fault – it's those damn Greeks who are too lazy to work, those damn Greeks who are so corrupt that they don't pay their taxes, those damn Greeks who spend all their time Greeking one another.
Obama: "Yo Berns – to me you'll always be the real Bernie, not that
other loser"; Madoff: "Peace. And to me you'll always be the real
Bush the Third, not that low-energy loser Jeb"; Obama: "Word";
Madoff: "Word" (image by marvelous_blue)
So while Obama has done nothing but play along with the bankers' scam(s), not only did he not even slap the bankers' wrists, but he instead slapped the bankers' salamis while watching them get bigger and bigger. And the only mistake that Madoff made that rendered his salami not worthy of being slapped was that rather than being too-big-to-fail he was too-impotent-to-bail. Sure, Madoff is said to have run the largest Ponzi scheme in history with his Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC, but this is categorically untrue since the banks' Ponzi schemes are infinitely larger than Madoff's bush league-worthy $64 billion scheme.
That all being said, and although I'm definitely on side with Snowden rather than those who would see him jailed (or worse), I sometimes fail to see the point behind his leaks, and not just because his exposure of the privacy violations partaken by the United States government should be taken as common sense in the first place. No; why I sometimes fail to see the point behind Snowden's leaks parallels something else that Martin Luther King Jr. stated, paraphrased and expanded upon by Morris Berman:
Martin Luther King… apparently said to Harry Belafonte, just before he (i.e., King) was assassinated, that he thought he might have been making a big mistake; that he sometimes felt like he was herding people into a burning church. This is a very different insight, quite obviously, than the notion that black people should be getting a larger share of the pie. After all, who wants a larger share of a rotten pie, or to live in a church that is burning down?
Fact is, while Snowden has a lot of worthwhile things to say about digital rights, he doesn't seem to have anything to say about the bigger picture in which those digital rights exist amongst. That, namely, would be the burning church of fossil-fueled industrial civilization, a civilization whose best-before-date has now been reached due to the emergence of peak oil. The reason for the aforementioned statement is that the Ponzi scheme(s) we live amongst require perpetual growth in order that an increasing amount of loans are progressively taken out so that the system is able to keep from imploding in on itself, and since peak oil means there will no longer be an increasing amount of fossil fuels to power growing growth, well… well awww shit!
While economies will inevitably collapse within collapsing industrial civilization, and since even benevolent governments have been doing little to nothing to address the quandary of peak oil, it's not hard to imagine our peril(s) being blamed on scapegoat after scapegoat, paralleled with reactionary governments clamping down on dissent, leakers of classified information being no exception of course.
With that in mind, Snowden recently pointed out that
Perhaps the best-known case in recent history here is Gen Petraeus – who shared information that was far more highly classified than I ever did with journalists. And he shared this information not with the public for their benefit, but with his biographer and lover for personal benefit – conversations that had information, detailed information, about military special-access programs, that's classified above top secret, conversations with the president and so on.
When the government came after him, they charged him with a misdemeanor. He never spent a single day in jail, despite the type of classified information he exposed.
We have a two-tiered system of justice in the United States, where people who are either well-connected to government or they have access to an incredible amount of resources get very light punishments.
I'm not so sure about Snowden's assessment of this though. Because the only thing that Petraeus did was expose information (albeit highly classified information). What Snowden did was expose a system. Yes, Petraeus may very well have merely had his
salami wrist slapped for what he did because of who he is. But were he to have exposed what Snowden did there's no way he would have gotten off as lightly, and is why there's a slim-to-none chance that Snowden is going to see the light of (American) day anytime soon.
None of that is to say though that Barabbas should be released and that the "other guy" shouldn't be – he should be (as should Chelsea Manning). As a recent CNN article even put it, "President Obama should suck it up and pardon both leakers before the incoming administration makes two ugly situations uglier." Touché.
Free Bernie! (photo by carnagenyc)
But regardless of whether or not the "other guy" gets released, there's one thing I can guarantee you, and that's that he holds no super powers that would enable him to forgive us of our sins of having built up a civilization dependent on extremely large amounts of concentrated energy and of having done virtually nothing to wean ourselves off of them after decades of warnings. For when it comes time to pay the piper, cries of privacy violations won't be standing in the Four Horsemen's way, we can be sure of that.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 17, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
The whole world is like a chessboard, the two main players are the US and Russia, (formerly the Soviet Union), but there are other players too. Saudi Arabia and Iran are important regional players in the Middle East, and Turkey wants to be important again as well. The objective of the game is to raise your own score, in terms of political influence and control of resources, and/or lower your competitor's score. Thus reducing a country to chaos can be bad for your opponent and hence good for you.
Saudi Arabia is Wahhabist Muslim and is the creator of Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Iran is Shi'ite Muslim, who are the principal enemy of the Wahhabists. Iran's allies include Iraq's Shia, Syria's Alawites (Assad), Lebanon's Hezbollah, Palestine's Hamas, Yemen's Houthis.
After WW1 the British and French, having defeated the Ottoman Empire and dissolved the Caliphate, redrew the map of the Middle East, settings up a mix of different ethnicities and religions in each country, so they would be difficult to rule, and therefore weak and dependent on imperial support. In return the West wanted their oil.
So in the 1970s, the US had a plan to undermine the Soviet Union by supporting Muslims against the godless Russians in what it called "the arc of instability" – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not being Muslims themselves, they needed the cooperation of a Muslim ally, which was Saudi Arabia (which turned out to be a very bad choice).
Saudi Arabia set up their Wahhabist proxy force, Al Qaeda, and sent them to Afghanistan with logistical support from Pakistan, and weapons from the US, to fight to Russians. This worked, but once the Russians had gone, the US lost interest in Afghanistan, though Saudi Arabia didn't. They cultivated the Taliban, and moved Al Qaeda all over the place in the Middle East and North Africa, and set up madrassas to teach their particular brand of Wahhabist Islam, looking to destablise regimes and bring about a new Caliphate with Saudi Arabia controlling Mecca and Medina, and naturally supplying the Caliph.
In 1979 Iran had had enough of the brutal US puppet dictator, the Shah, with revolutionary movements formed around the communists and the ultra-conservative Shi'ite clerics. The US chose to support the clerics, and assisted Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile in Paris. The CIA helped him continue the Shah's work of killing off the extremist communists, and form a government with the moderate communists. Having consolidated his government, he then turned on the remaining communists, threw them in jail, where they were later murdered. Things were going well for the US – they had managed a real revolutionary situation and were still in there. Then Khomeini revealed that his Islamic Revolution was for all Muslims, both Shi'ite and Sunni, and the common enemy was the interfering western powers, with the US as "the Great Satan".
This was a major set-back for the US, and forced them to keep relying on Saudi Arabia as an ally against Iran, even though Al Qaeda was an enemy too in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The first country for Iran to start exporting their new ideology to was Iraq, which was a Ba'athist (secular) state, run by the 20% Sunnis under Saddam Hussein. They were already strongly anti-Israel, "the Little Satan" and majority Shi'ite. The US supported Iraq in its war with Iran, but could only manage a draw.
Then in 1990-1 came Saddam's big mistake – Iraq considered Kuwait to be a province of Iraq (Basra under the Ottomans) and Kuwait was slant-drilling in the Rumaila oilfield to take Iraqi oil. Saddam thought it had a green light from the US to invade Kuwait, but somehow they got it wrong, or were misled. Instead they were quickly driven out of Kuwait by the US, and subsequently the CIA used a Shi'ite Iraqi proxy force under Allawi to try regime change which failed. Saddam remained under sanctions and CIA plots till the invasion in 2003.
In 2001 the US used the 9/11 attacks to justify invading Afghanistan and expelling the Taliban. This put the US at odds with Saudi plans. The Taliban melted away and left the US scrambling to find a puppet to run the place. This of course didn't work well, due to corruption and the opium trade, and the Taliban re-emerged to sew chaos which continues to this day.
In 2003 the US then invaded Iraq, overthrowing Saddam. Ironically this turned Iraq over to Iranian influence – Iraq was 60% Shi'ite, and Allawi became PM. Allawi had been given asylum in Syria during Saddam's final years, so was an ally of Assad.
So now Russia was close to getting Syria, Iraq and Iran back on its side, cutting off Israel from Europe plus Turkey. With former-Soviet Armenia onside, and Georgia partly dismembered by South Ossetia, it would be easy to form a bloc Russia-Georgia-Armenia-Iran-Iraq-Syrian. This would cut off Azerbaijan and all its oil from Turkey and the West – for a big win on the chessboard.
To make matters worse for the US, Turkey has Sunni Islamic ambitions too and obviously this doesn't fit well in NATO or Europe. Turkey has a Kurdish problem too, because the WW1 map split the Kurdish lands between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The Kurds don't have any friends, but the US are using them as their proxy force at the moment in Syria and Iraq.
This of course angers Turkey, so Erdogan has invaded northern Syria to block the Kurds from controlling the entire Syrian border, and within Turkey the crack down on the Kurdish Turks continues. Meanwhile the (entirely credible) accusations of US involvement with the attempted coup, and membership of NATO and the EU, and the flood of refugees from Syria, are increasingly destabilising Turkey.
As the remaining civilians and rebels are being extracted from East Aleppo, and being let go in rebel-held Idlib, an important battle has been won, but the war continues. The US is putting more "trainers" and weapons into Syria, and the Russians are moving in two companies of their elite Chechen fighters, the Syrian tragedy is set to continue, and we remain on the brink of WW3.
So no white hats at all anywhere in the Middle East, and not in US or Russia either. However the duplicitous US and its tame media are so clearly struggling to find a coherent policy, and coming out with so much crap about caring for the children of Aleppo (but not about the children of Mosul, who they are bombing) that it makes Putin look really statesmanlike. Let's hope a new President Trump will sort it all out.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on December 11, 2016
“In a hundred years time, perhaps, a great man will appear who may offer… a chance at salvation. He'll take me as a model, use my ideas, and follow the course I have charted."
–As quoted in “Der Führer als Redner,” Adolf Hitler, by Joseph Goebbels
On December 19 of this year, the 538 members of the electoral college will meet to cast their votes to actually decide the outcome of the election of 2016. Those people appalled or mortified by the election of Donald J. Trump as President are hoping that "Hamilton Electors" will rise up and in a fit of conscience serve as a deus ex machina to deliver the US from inaugurating a president who lost the national popular vote by somewhere north of 2.6 million votes.
What these people are hoping for is an electoral college revolt. I'm not liking their chances. We have to remember that the framers of the Constitution didn’t trust direct democracy, period. The Electoral College is a fail-safe to protect the presidency from a candidate who’s popular but unfit for office. The name "Hamilton Electors" stems from Alexander Hamilton's explanation of the need for a check upon the popular passions. Writing in Federalist 68 , he said the body would consist of
A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
In other words, anything BUT a rubber-stamp for the popular will, a second level of discernment, to ensure that
"…the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."
In other words, a "break glass in case of emergency" device to prevent panderers, prevaricators and pussy-grabbers from ascending to the office of mountebank-in-chief.
To which I say, "good luck with that." I rank second to none in my loathing for Trump and the gaggle of foxes he has assembled to guard the public henhouse. Yet, in a recent article in The Atlantic on the subject, College of Charleston political science professor Claire Wofford explained
“there is no explicit federal or constitutional ban on electors selecting candidates as they wish, even if that means departing from the popular vote of the state.”
Past practice enables us to believe we have voted for a slate of electors who will faithfully deliver votes in the "winner take all" fashion followed by most states. In almost every other presidential election in history, members of the electoral college have voted in accordance with the popular vote. With notable exceptions. The election of Rutherford B Hayes over Samuel Tilden 1876 provides an instructive example of our nation's capacity for electoral skulduggery.
The 1876 election was a "reform" election. The administration of Ulysses. S. Grant was one of the most extraordinarily corrupt administrations of all time, even given low 19th century standards. In 1868 Grant was swept to electoral victories by a nation grateful for victory. But he made the mistake of appointing an assortment of military and business cronies to important offices in his administration at a time of unparalleled growth, western railroad expansion, booming manufacturing, and abundant opportunities for corruption.
The list of Grant era scandals is impressive: the "Gold Ring" and the Black Friday Gold Panic of 1869, (starring Jay Gould at the center of a plot to corner the gold market), the New York Custom House ring, the Star Route postal ring, a treaty breach to allow gold mining in the Black Hills, the Whiskey Ring of 1876 (a tax evasion scam) and many more. Grant appointed reformers, but the public had had enough. Grant's personal reputation remained untouched by scandal. Yet In 1931, authors Frederic Paxson and Christian Bach wrote that
personal scandal has not touched Grant in any plausible form, but it struck so close to him and so frequently as to necessitate the vindication of his honor by admitting his bad taste in the choice of associates.
In the conventions of 1876, the Rs nominated Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a reformer. The Ds nominated Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York, setting the stage for the most contested election in US history.
In a voting result that resonates today, Tilden outpolled Hayes in the popular vote with 4,284,020 votes to Hayes' 4,036,572. But Tilden's 184 electoral votes were still one short of a majority, while Hayes' 165 electoral votes left him 20 ballots shy.
These 20 electoral votes were in dispute in four states: in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and Oregon. Each party claimed its candidate had won the state: Democrats had won the state elections, and Republicans claimed the Democrats' used fraud, violence, and intimidation in the Southern states and "threw out" enough Democratic votes for Hayes to win in those states. Grant directed Congress to resolve the competing claims.
In January 1877 a 15 member Electoral Commission (comprised of eight Republicans and seven Democrats) met and voted to resolve the competing slates of electors. The result was the Compromise of 1877: the Electoral Commission ruled that the disputed votes belonged to Hayes, in return for which the last troops were withdrawn from Southern capitals. Quid pro quo: Hayes was awarded the White House with the understanding that Hayes would remove the federal troops whose support was essential for the survival of Republican state governments in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.
The departure of Federal troops meant Reconstruction was over. The net result was the abandonment of American blacks, civil rights, and the effect of federal law in the South. Political power in the Southern states devolved to the Democrats. Jim Crow was born, and hard won civil rights gained by blacks disappeared for generations. And to enforce the new order, "strange fruit" hung from southern trees.
So in the same way that George W. Bush a 5-4 vote of a stacked Supreme Court to stop the Florida recount in 2000, Hayes won a presidency having lost both the popular vote and the Electoral College. But he did win the 8-7 vote of the Electoral Commission. Proving that laws are as perfectly elastic as they need to be.
So absent Hamilton Electors, an alien invasion or proof that the Russians hacked the election, we will have to deal with the horror of a Trump Presidency and his Chamber of Horrors cabinet whose members seem chosen precisely for their opposition to the premises of the agency they have been chosen to lead. This ought to be good for the doom industry.
When Reagan's "Sagebrush Rebellion" looks like a polite exercise in manners in comparison, what will "normal" look like? These people have, in Charlie Pierce's phrase, "a sweet tooth for authoritarian solutions to the inconveniences of democratic government." The game will be to get the feds out of the regulation business and send responsibility back to the states, who will avoid the responsibility like cancer and force it onto already broke localities, where it will disappear for lack of money.
Want an abortion, too bad, so sad, goodbye. Not a choice you get to make. Freedom from government regulation only applies to corporate persons and their owners and does not apply to use of your private parts.
As Paul Ryan turns Medicare into a voucher system, and the voucher pays about fifty per cent of the premium, Trump-voting Uncle Fud will have to decide whether he can live on kibble and cat food in order to pay the premiums.
As Trump-voting rural whites on disability suddenly have to work and there is no work to be had because automation took their jobs, who will they blame? They didn't realize those moochers and takers they threw under the bus during the campaign were themselves. Time to start cooking meth again.
As Betsy DeVos gets that hated federal money diverted from your local district, and public schools become charter schools where the voucher covers a fraction of the tuition, they'll at least have a choice as to which religious affiliation they choose for their kids. Snapping the spines of public teachers' unions is just an added bonus!
As the roads stop being paved, streetlights stop being replaced, as trash collection becomes occasional, as the drinking water becomes a fetid hellbroth of god-knows-what (a la Flint), as the bills mount and when people lose their homes, as we "Make America Great Again" by rediscovering the family values of three generations living together in a two bedroom house, who will they blame?
Trump voters will savor the satisfactions of having "gotten the government off their backs."
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and who, like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on Peak Surfer on November 20, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
“Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us. And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”
Last week, we recalled the words of Hitler’s social architect Albert Speer, “One seldom recognizes the devil when he is putting his hand on your shoulder.” And yet, despite all the entreaties to slay the beast and make sure its dead — from Ralph Nader, Naomi Klein, Joe Brewer, whomever — we have to confess, after Paris and now after Marrakech, the only highway back to the Holocene that can support mammalian life such as ours is being constructed by and for monster corporations like Citibank and Monsanto.
At a side event in the business tent we sat down in a corner to have some local Arabica while we awaited the next session. We struck up a conversation with the elderly gent in the adjoining seat. He was John Scowcroft, Chief Credit Officer and Executive Managing Director at S&P. We showed him The Biochar Solution and the usual conversation followed. Turns out he is leaving S&P to start a CCS group to seize the profit potential in carbon management futures.
Later, at a side event called Beyond Paris: Investor actions to manage climate risk and seize low-carbon opportunities, we were listening attentively to James Close, World Bank; Erick Decker, AXA Group; Michael Eckhart, Citigroup; Pete Grannis, NY State Comptroller’s Office; Anthony Hobley, Carbon Tracker and others, when Rachel Kyte spotted our book, The Paris Agreement, and leaned over to ask, “Is that any good?”
“Fantastic!” we gushed.
A former Vice President of World Bank, she is Ban Ki Moon’s Special Representative to the business community.
Over the course of the two weeks in Morocco we had brief encounters like this too many times to catalogue. We tell you this not to suggest we are anyone special but to say that in this critical time we — you and I — have been given access.
Historically this is the rarest of moments. Crisis makes for strange bedfellows (ask James Comey and Julian Assange). Citibank, with branches in 160 countries, went from financing $12 billion in green project finance in 2013 to $24 billion in 2014 to $48 billion in 2015 and likely $100 billion this year. Deutsche Bank will tally $350 billion in investments aimed at decarbonization in 2016. More importantly, the big banks have dumped $500 billion in fossil asset portfolios since Paris and would have liked to dump much more if they only had a safe place to park it, even interest-free.
The board rooms have Trump-proofed the Paris Agreement and the whole paradigm shift that came with it. There is absolutely no way any clown show is going to hijack these negotiations now. Wall Street, the Illuminati, the Buddhist monasteries, NeoLib Academe, The Vatican, the Royals and the Chinese Triads are all 110 percent committed. They are shoulder to shoulder in the doorway.
Rachel Kyte told the crowd, “Carbon is an investment risk that is not yet priced in.” This situation is not likely to last much longer. We hovered longest in the venues that were looking at drawdown, and we could see that so much of the finance and political world is focused on technological fixes like geoengineering and CCS (carbon capture and storage) that putting a price on carbon and taxing the polluters is coming, Trump or no. It is the only way you can economically justify those uneconomical, harebrained, bait-and-switch schemes.
In a brief, airport encounter, an IPCC working group leader told us $45 per ton would be needed to make the 2-degree limit achievable with sequestered scrubber gas.
Of course, we know better. Putting carbon underground costs nothing and pays handsome returns if you do it by planting mixed species, mixed age, ecosystemically functioning, climate resilient and rainmaking forests and coppice, pollard and patch renew them periodically to derive food, fiber, building material and most importantly, biochar, to create cascades of products and services in a circular economy with no such thing as waste. That does not require a $45/ton price or even 4 cents. It will earn you vastly more. Real wealth.
The best way to raise land value is to increase its beauty with biodiversity, increase the organic matter in its soils, build humus, make biochar and be a contributing member of the local community. Just doing that reverses climate change and generates multiple revenue streams for any poor sod who stumbles into it.
The Secretary General of the British Commonwealth, Hon. Baroness Patricia Scotland, at the closing plenary of the Joint High-level Segment [COP agenda item 18 and CMP agenda item 14 and Item 4 of the provisional CMA agenda] uttered the word “permaculture” for the first time at a United Nations podium:
"Mr. President, I speak for the Commonwealth collectively, a family of 52 member states, among them countries in all continents and oceans that are highly vulnerable to climate change. Our priority is to move from agreement to action. Small islands threatened by rising sea levels and larger states vulnerable to flooding or desertification share the common advantages of a common language, common law, and closely related systems of governance. These similarities enable us to work together without distraction and get straight to the nub of issues.
"High on our agenda for 30 years has been the impact of climate change. This long-standing focus bore fruit a year ago when our Biannual Heads of Government Meeting assembled in Malta. Days before COP21, our member states, in their rich diversity, agreed to set ambition high and paved the way for the Paris Agreement. Our practical and distinctive Commonwealth contribution is technical support, offered by our Climate Finance Access Hub.
"A month ago, we convened a ground breaking and dynamic gathering on Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change. It brought together biologists, ecologists, oceanographers and regenerative development specialists to consider ways of reversing the human impacts of climate change. Our focus was on developing positive action for the living world to restore climate balance, including biomimicry, permaculture, ecological engineering, and circular economies. It is through such pioneering approaches, I believe, that as on so many occasions in the past, the potential for our Commonwealth networks’ meetings will be mobilized to lay the foundations on which progressive global consensus can be built to create a safer and more sustainable future for all."
Contrast this to the buffoonery of the apparently tipsy US Secretary of State, obviously winging it:
While the national commitments, or NDCs, that were pledged at Paris in 2015 bend emissions downward, they are still not on a course correcting trajectory. Our planet is moving out of the Neutral Zone, the one location we know of in this galaxy where you may find life. The UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report, even while understating the risk, says we are headed towards 3.4°C warming by 2100 (we think will likely get there much sooner). To get back to a 2-degree "safe" zone (with 66% certainty) we would need 25% lower emissions in 2030 than there are today. And yet, incredible as it may seem, emissions are still rising.
When you are racing against extinction you cannot afford to fritter away time or forget the first rule of holes. 2016 will be the 15th record-breaking year this century in terms of heat, since measurements began. That is 15 new records in 16 years, a pattern any sports fan should recognize as extraordinary. Globally we are already up 1.2 degrees, although closer to 5 degrees near the poles. Humans have never lived on a planet with 400 parts per million CO2 in its atmosphere before.
2ºC is a vanished target now. But this isn’t a 2ºC or bust fight. It’s a fight to limit consequences. It’s a fight for every 1/10th of a degree. If we fail to hold to 2ºC, we have to fight for 2.1º; failing that, we battle on for 2.2º. With millennia of impacts at stake, we never get to give up, even if we end up in 4ºC. For future generations, 4º is still better than 4.1º.
It is useful to remember that in 2007 the Met Office produced a four-degree scenario on behalf of HM Government. Climate scientists from other institutions also contributed their most up-to-date research on climate impacts at the time.
As we mull (or bemoan) the average intelligence of Republican presidents, we recall that it was Group Captain James Stagg, also of the MetOffice, who changed the nail-hard mind of Dwight D. Eisenhower and got him to postpone D-day by 24 hours, despite Operation Neptune being already well underway. The MetOffice is not an outfit whose predictions should be trifled with.
- Heat changes will not be the same everywhere. Mid-continent North America and Europe and parts of Africa will be 6-7 degrees warmer. Most of Russia and Africa will be 8 degrees or above.
- In densely populated eastern China hottest days of the year are 11°F warmer. In Toronto, Chicago, Ottawa, New York and Washington DC, make that 22°F hotter. Europe is somewhere in between.
- The permafrost is gone across vast regions of Canada and Russia. Atmospheric methane, 100 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, spikes, inexorably pushing temperatures towards 5 and beyond.
- Half of the world’s population has inadequate access to water.
- Half of all Himalayan glaciers are significantly reduced, 70% of the water supply to India and China.
- In South America, many glaciers disappear completely, taking 75% of Peru’s water with them.
- Fish populations crash from acidification and coral loss.
- Forested areas burn, including a large area of the United States, Mexico, South America east of the Andes, Southern and East Africa, the Sahel, eastern and southern Europe and Australia.
- Maize and wheat yields reduced up to 40% at low latitudes. Soybean yield decreases in all regions. Rice yield declines up to 30% in Asia.
- Water supplies to rivers drops up to 70% in many regions.
- The loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet contributes 3.3 meters to sea level rise. Greenland ice losses add 7 meters globally.
- The Netherlands and Southeastern England are inundated. Seychelles, Miami Beach and the Hamptons have disappeared. The San Francisco Bay extends almost to Sacramento. Most of those displaced, however are in India, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia.
So, at four degrees, who would be left to fight for 4.1? What possible good would it do?
|Real world tracks scenario RCP 8.5|
As we left Marrakech we felt ambivalent about the outcome. Paris had sent the high benchmark and these follow-on COPs are supposed to fit the nuts to the bolts. There was still a very uncomfortable level of pushback amongst the underdeveloping, with India and Indonesia, both big coal users, saying that economic growth had precedence over near-term emissions cuts. Turkey is planning to build 70 new coal plants. These errors assure the already underdeveloping will continue digging a deeper hole for themselves. New Zealand, which talks a good disinvestment game, plans to increase petroleum exports from $3 billion to $30 billion per year by 2025.
All countries’ leaders need to take stock, a point that was made poignantly clear by this slide from the MetOffice:
It shows that the world cannot begin atmospheric carbon drawdown later than 2020 — three years from now — or the two degrees red line will be broken.
Clear next steps emerged from discussions: end fossil fuel subsidies (including fracking); phase out coal and then ban it; cancel all new fossil fuel infrastructure orders (including supertankers, arctic exploration and DAPL); set higher efficiency standards; subsidize agroforestry and renewables (down to zero cost); enforce LDN (Land Degradation Neutrality — no net land loss to sprawl, desertification or deforestation — 102 countries have signed on); and reform agriculture to an organic, no-till standard.
These next steps got no farther than discussions, however, and what emerged from Marrakech was more palliative statements and promises that next year will be better. Tick tock. Clown show. Tick tock. "Time is not on our side." (John Kerry) Tick tock. (Donald Trump) Tick tock.
Having Said Nothing About Smashing the Glass Floor, it’s the Democrats that are Ultimately Responsible for Trump’s Win (part 3/3)
Published on From Filmers to Farmers on November 28th, 2016
All people are equal, but some people are more equal than others
(with apologies to George Orwell) (photo by Gage Skidmore)
According to a well known actress by the name of Amy Schumer (second cousin to Chuck Schumer, the Democratic apparatchik disliked by some for his alleged ties to Wall Street), "People who voted for [Trump] are weak" and a bunch of "kicking and screaming babies". Which is a bit rich coming from a liberal, a person who is supposedly against monolithically generalizing groups of people – Muslims, immigrants, gays, etc. – but has no problem monolithically labelling voters of the opposition as what might as well be deemed a bunch of degenerates (or "irredeemable" "deplorables", as Hillary Clinton described "half" of them). Putting things a bit more diplomatically, former British prime minister David Cameron stated while still in office that proposals of Trump's were "divisive, stupid and wrong", to which Trump, in pure Trumpian Aikido-styles, twisted around and replied with "I'm not stupid, OK?"
So let me ask you this: Who's the more stupiderist here? The stupid ones that pulled the levers and voted in I'm not stupid, or the stupid ones who should have known that the stupid were actually stupid enough to vote in I'm not stupid and so stupidly put in their stupidest candidate who was bound to lose against the only (I'm not) stupid candidate as stupidly stupid as their stupidest?
Confused? No worries. Because if you want to know who's truly the stupiderist of them all, then you need look no further than yours truly. That's because I spent the past year and a half telling everybody I could "Nuh uh, you just watch, Trump – the future triager-in-chief – is gonna win this thing." And then, having never heard Trump utter anything else besides "you're fired!" in my entire life, I decided to listen to the three presidential debates. After the first and then the second I was telling everybody – including died-in-the-wool and died-in-denial Clinton supporters – that Trump had obliterated Clinton.
However, after listening to the third debate in which I laughed even harder than at the first two, and after continually hearing Clinton tell Trump (in what could only come off as condescending to anybody but the true-believers) that he lives in an "alternate reality", I couldn't help but start getting the impression that Clinton was practically handing Trump the election on a silver platter. Was Clinton really that daft that she'd overtly ostracize a significant chunk of the electorate who are living in an alternate reality (more on that in a moment), effectively throwing away the election? "Naw, she can't be." But if she wasn't that daft (which is where I ultimately went wrong), then what was going on? Well, it was at that point that I proceeded to envision some mumbo-jumbo, cockamamie, highfalutin nonsense that supposed that seeing how Clinton knew she was going to win the election (because, as I began considering, it was rigged), she was purposefully being condescending and antagonizing towards a significant portion of the electorate with the specific purpose of driving a wedge between the left and the right, something that Trump – the fall-guy also supposedly in on the rigging – would milk to no end, in effect providing a perpetual distraction in the face of peak oil and the collapse of industrial civilization. However, and as we all now know, that didn't quite happen. What did happen is that Trump played up the outsider, populist role and left plenty of space – if not traps – for Clinton to expose herself as the status quo elitist candidate.
Anyway, and as I think was obvious enough from the start, Trump's promises of looking out for the little guy, going after the "establishment", etc., are quickly turning out to be a rather unsurprising sham. Trump has already pointed out that prosecuting Clinton over her email debacle is not a priority, and having told his supporters (albeit mildly) to stop harassing minorities, it's possible – possible – that the worst of his rhetoric was simply made to cater to a particular segment of the population in order to help garner a few extra votes. For as he replied when asked whether he'd gone too far with the tone of his campaign, "No. I won." Part of the act? Let's hope so. (In case I'm being too dismissive I'll point out that Nafeez Ahmed doesn't think it's an act at all and should be taken very seriously.) Nonetheless, and when the time comes, it can be expected that tax cuts are going to go to the rich, corporate tax rates will be lowered, regulation on banks will continue to be reduced, infrastructure will continue to decay, and it's going to become even harder to be poor in the United States. Or in other words, more of the status quo.
The requisite tractor shot, necessary for the Big Ag vote
In effect, and much like the outgoing and fraud-of-a-president Barack Obama – who appointed Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner to key positions in his administration, propped up a fraudulent banking system, and didn't jail a single banker – Donald Trump should be taking home Advertising Age's Marketer of the year award for 2016. As Noam Chomsky put it,
Right after the  election, President Obama won an award from the advertising industry for the best marketing campaign [edging out the shysters at Apple] and the International Business Press executives were euphoric… They said, We’ve been marketing candidates like toothpaste since Reagan. This is the greatest achievement we have.
To which Chomsky then added
I don’t usually agree with Sarah Palin… But when she mocks the ‘hope-y, change-y stuff,’ she’s right.
Henry Kissinger, Barack Obama… since the award now goes
to incoming US presidents who have yet to, but are about to,
bomb the living daylights out of the Middle East
even more than their predecessor, in all fairness it's now
Donald Trump's turn to take home the Nobel Peace Prize
(photo by Utenriksdepartementet UD)
In other words, the United States may very well be going from the empty words of a president who promised to help minorities to the empty words of a president who promised to screw over minorities. From the BS marketing-parlance of "Change We Can Believe In" to the BS marketing-parlance of "Make America Great Again", both worthy of the glowing approval of the grifters sashaying down Wall Street and Madison Avenue.
For while Trump and company are putting together what appears to be the ho-hum corporate plutocracy one would expect from your run-of-the-mill Republican hack, Trump advisors have reportedly floated JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon as a possible Treasury secretary. That likely won't come to fruition, but it will allow Trump to appoint his preferred choice of Goldman Sachs partner, hedge-fund manager, and Hollywood producer Steve Mnuchin, followed by a "hey, at least we didn't appoint Jamie Dimon!"
Anyway, while Republicans may be a bunch of "kicking and screaming babies", it's worth noting that although they certainly did kick and scream throughout the primaries, they nonetheless had the temerity to let democracy take its course and give Trump his fair shot at winning their party's leadership, a lot more than can be said for the Democrats who undemocratically sabotaged Bernie Sanders' primary campaign. Because yes, if Bernie Sanders hadn't been conspired against by the DNC, chances are he would have won the Democratic primary, and having done so, would have very likely trounced Trump in the general elections. So if there's anybody that's kicking and screaming now, as well as showing no self-critique or introspection, that would be none other than Democrats (except for Zach) who are blaming anybody and everybody else for their own sordid elitism and corruption: Vladimir Putin, (the missing) Julian Assange, James Comey, Facebook, "fake news", Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders, millennials, insubordinate voters, and the Electoral College.
Look, would-be smashers of "glass ceilings"
do not sit on tractors, alright?
Electoral College? Right. Because as memory serves, when Sanders began winning what went on to be 23 states in the Democratic primaries, a majority of super-delegates refused to cast their votes in parallel to the popular vote, making Sanders' candidacy look like a lost cause in the eyes of the media and potential future voters. Where, one might ask, were the Clinton-ite "popular vote" complainers then? Watching re-runs of The Apprentice?
Possibly even worse is the blame put upon sexism and an impenetrable "glass ceiling" – for let's not forget that one of the two comments that helped tank Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign was "binders full of women". In other words, and although Trump did spew an unending array of inexcusable sexist remarks, sexism doesn't quite play the ultimate deciding role in federal elections that some would like us to believe it does. Nonetheless, it was stated in Time Magazine that
It turns out the glass ceiling is reinforced with steel beams… [T]he stench of sexism engulfed Clinton's quixotic bid for the presidency, magnifying her flaws and minimizing her considerable strengths. It's possible that a male candidate with Clinton's political baggage would have been able to transcend his mistakes. It's possible that a male candidate would not have faced the same scrutiny and suspicion, or have been held to the same impossible standards. It's possible a male candidate would not have had such trouble connecting with voters.
For crying out loud there could have been a manicured blue hand
getting sworn in on that Bible next year! (photo by Rachel Docherty)
Now let's get one thing straight. Had of virtually any other female been the Democratic party's candidate, then like Sanders, they too would have likely trounced Trump. White Elizabeth Warren, black Nina Turner – heck, even a woman dolled up in Smurfet blue-face who spent the entire election doing nothing but giggling would have likely also stamped Trump's return ticket to the boob tube. Why, then, was Clinton quite possibly the likeliest woman – person – in all of the United States to lose against Trump?
First off, this was what many have called a "change" election – a time to ditch the status quo. And nobody, it should hardly need explaining, represented the status quo more than Clinton. Although the liberal media did their best to play down and dismiss it, no candidate was deeper in the bankers' pockets than Clinton. Furthermore, Trump readily recognized the position of powerlessness that millions of Americans were, and are, stuck in (the "alternate reality" I mentioned earlier) due to the neoliberal regime which most certainly is rigged against them. When said people then heard Trump repeatedly proclaim that the system was "rigged" against him, they nodded their heads in unison with a "shit yeah this thing's rigged!" This was only exacerbated when the DNC rigged their primaries against Sanders, which not only gave Trump's message more ammo but left those on the left who were themselves already frustrated with the status quo with little recourse but to vote for the racist, sexist, xenophobic guy who at least spoke (or at least appeared to speak) a modicum of truth.
Moreover, we can forget this diversionary nonsense about Clinton's email server and the FBI's on-again off-again investigation. Because what millions of Americans (including neocons) realized was that Clinton had the much more hawkish stance (and history, as Secretary of State), and if anybody was going to get the United States into a shooting match with Russia it sure didn't seem like it was going to be Trump.
Granted, it's easy for me to say since I'm a white male, but I none-
theless much prefer this side of the glass ceiling thank you very much
(photo courtesy of Alison Lyons)
Much how the rural Canada that I've briefly been through is littered with military recruitment offices, I'm quite sure that the (economically decimated) rural areas in the United States are little different and that a career in the military is often the only option for a decent income. So when it came time for many women in the fly-over states to choose between being grabbed in the hoo-ha or the possibility of seeing a family member of theirs return in a body bag, many women chose to take one for the team rather than assist their upwardly mobile "sisters" with their "glass ceiling"-smashing self-aggrandizement. Duh. So no, contrary to how those such as Brooklynite and Salon writer Amanda Marcotte put it, (many) females who voted for Trump are by no means misogynists but were rather principled enough to stand up for their families against predatory politicians who see no problem in sending off the loved ones of the disenfranchised, possibly to their death, for no other reason than their own self-aggrandizement. As John Michael Greer put it,
While affluent feminists swooned over the prospect of a woman taking on another traditionally masculine role, and didn't seem to care in the least that the role in question was "warmonger".
In effect, it was hardly right-wingers that won Trump the election; for years many liberals, with an air of smug and sophisticated superiority, have voted for the kleptocrats of the Democratic party while giddily taking the payoffs tossed their way to appease their upward mobility, their flavour of identity politics, and so forth. Having allowed their hope-y change-y kleptocrats to not only flatten the Middle East after it was deemed not okay for the previous kleptocrats to do so, but to also give them a pass as they exacerbated the divide between the rich and the poor, well, like clockwork the time to pay the piper once again swung back in their direction. This came courtesy of a candidate who exposed Democratic apparatchiks for the elitists they are and who was sly enough to convince people that he wasn't nearly the exact same thing. In just one example, and as Jonathan Cook put it, "He is a climate denier, she is a climate evader." (I am however quite keen to see if Trump does actually pull out of the TPP – and/or if Republican apparatchiks find the desire and means to oust him first.)
Returning to the present, and keeping up with the "momentum" of the anti-Trump brigade, Sanders hasn't ruled out another run in 2020 ("Hindsight is 2020"!), Michael Moore has stated that it's time to "Take over the Democratic party and return it to the people", troops are rallying around a Keith Ellison as the progressive pick for head of the DNC, and on and on and on. Things are going to be different this time! But along with how different the landscape is going to be after a few years of Political Apprentice, one thing that will in all likelihood be vastly different in four years' time is the situation with energy.
The equitable kegger
To get it out of the way, yes, were I American and saw any point in voting in the United States' federal election I would have voted for Sanders in the primaries and probably written him in in the general election as well. That, however, doesn't mean to say that Sanders' campaign ever made much sense, because what Sanders and company are essentially calling for is the equitable kegger. Although I had heard of Sanders prior to 2015 (via the forward he wrote for John Nichols and Robert W McChesney's book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America, which was quite good until its techno-utopian concluding chapter), I proceeded to do an Internet search for "Bernie Sanders peak oil" just before he announced his campaign. That got me nothing but a single measly result, a comment left on Sanders' official Facebook page: "Would somebody please tell Bernie about Peak Oil!"
To infinity, and beyond!
Ultimately, and although he's an equitable one unlike Trump and Clinton, Sanders too is a cornucopian. His plan for free education was based on a tax on Wall Street speculation – on a Ponzi scheme – which on top of being completely absurd is one wonky lesson to be teaching prospective students. And although he was of course being facetious, Sanders recently told USA Today that "I’m going to make Mars a progressive planet. I’ll be there first, planting the flag. People don’t think big enough!" As far as I can tell, Sanders is just as blind to the limits to growth as the rest of them and may very well be deemed the progressive colonialist.
That being so, one can almost already hear the non-acknowledgement-of-limits-to-growth partisan gibberish that will start up again in two and a half years' time once the Democratic primaries get underway, and whose template has already been stamped by The Simpsons creators via their recent comment about their 16-year-old Trump-as-president episode:
In all fairness there could actually be a rake dragging along
behind that thing, which would kind of make it a tractor
The important thing is that Lisa comes into the presidency when America is on the ropes, and that is the condition left by the Trump presidency. What we needed was for Lisa to have problems that were beyond her fixing, that everything went as bad as it possibly could, and that's why we had Trump be president before her.
In other words, Trump is the big bad bogeyman. Yes, the United States' economy is quite possibly going to tank in the next few years, but contrary to what liberals watching The Simpsons on Fox think it'll have nothing to do with Trump – or at least won't need the extra push. Having followed the housing bubble shenanigans to a T, four years is ample time for the overdue fracking bubble to finally burst, once again sending the United States' economy (along with much of the rest of the world's economies) into a tailspin.
But for argument's sake, might it actually be possible that Sanders is aware of the looming fracking bubble burstage, and of peak oil, and of limits to growth, and that although he appears to be supporting the equitable kegger and to be hitting the pedal to the medal so that his John Deere can also hit the precipice at top speed, is it possible that he and company are secretly planning for the equitable spin-down of the United States' economy as the collapse of industrial civilization makes its way from the peripheries (the fly-over states) to the center (the bi-coastal haunts of the affluent chattering classes)? It's possible. But like I showed myself in my previous post, it's probably best to take these federal politicians at face value and presume that they take our energy dilemma as seriously as Democrat apparatchiks value democracy.
Jump up and down in anger as much as you want, but simply voting
for Trump – or even Sanders – isn't going to smash the "glass floor"
(photo by candycanedisco)
Where does that leave us? Well, as I alluded to at the end of my Donald Trump / Anthony Bourdain post several months ago, what this all ultimately comes down to is the smashing of "glass ceilings" versus the smashing of "glass floors". The "glass ceiling" is what Clinton is concerned with – the practice of excluding women of privilege from the pinnacles of power and wealth. Smashing the "glass ceiling" can only benefit the few women at the upper limits of the class structure though, and besides vicarious, vacuous thrills are able to do nothing for the vastly greater amount of women of the wage class and lower reaches of the salary class that Clinton's policies over the years have brought impoverishment to.
Because by an order of several magnitudes there is a vastly greater amount of people in the United States and worldwide who are not only losing their jobs to globalization and automation but who lack adequate access to basic necessities such as food. As if that weren't enough, the amount of people without access to such basics is set to increase even more once the effects of climate change really start to kick in and once industrial agriculture starts to fall apart due to shortages of various inputs – and which neither Republicans nor Democrats (including Sanders) have anything to say about. And although handouts from would-be "glass ceiling" smashers and others can be useful in the short-term, the best solution to getting people fed is via access to land – to smash the "glass floor" – be it via reclaiming the commons, getting young (and astonishingly willing) farmers land to farm on, etc. None of which is easily accomplished.
A few years ago I was privy to attend an event with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson in conversation, one of the questions they were asked being "What can be done to encourage young people to farm, and what can be done to make it easier for those young people who are willing and eager to farm to get started?" As Jackson started it off,
Two guys that are certifiably nuts – Wes Jackson, winner of the
Right Livelihood Award (the "alternative Nobel Prize"), and
Wendell Berry (speaking as the Mad Farmer): "To be sane in a
mad time is bad for the brain, worse for the heart"
(photo courtesy of Dennis Dimick)
Wes Jackson: Next question. [Laughter] I’ll let Wendell go first and then I’ll second it. [Laughter]
Wendell Berry: I'll go first and he can correct me. [Laughter] Well I remember my grandmother saying to me "Honey, don't ever farm." And she was speaking from fourty years of hard times in the fifty or so years that she had been married to my grandfather. And that advice is still going on. And it's because in the agricultural system that we've got, and have always had, the farmer is the last considered and the lowest paid in the whole structure. This is going to make it very hard to keep the farm-raised young people on the farm… There are in spite of all the difficulties some people who – young people – who are attracted to farming. And that is to say they have a vocation. And something does need to be done to help them to get land, and there are efforts of that kind going on. But chances are that it won't be going on fast enough. But nevertheless young people without farming experience are committing themselves to farming, are getting a hold of land – that's marginal, often – but doing well at farming. Their situation still is pretty dire because they're not making enough money from it. This raises another issue, the cheap food policy, that has been a mistake. Food's under-priced, people aren't paid well enough for producing it and so on, which brings up another problem, which is that even cheap food is too expensive for a lot of poor people. So… so Wes take care of that. [Laughter]
As we've just seen over the past year and a half, when people are driven to the wall by globalization, automation and other disenfranchising practices, they can unfortunately become so desperate that they'll vote for the candidate offering a glimmer of hope, even if said candidate is running on a disagreed-with platform of sexism, racism, xenophobia, etc. And while the club of the disenfranchised is bound to enlarge its membership even further (and faster) under a Trump administration than under Obama's, we can best believe that Trump, if he even makes it that far, will be masterminding his plan to ward off the equitable cornucopians once the reactionary (and radical?) Left organizes itself, perhaps even laying the groundwork so that four years after that the host of The New Celebrity Apprentice will be able to Constitutionally take his shot at the presidency (although he'll be 77-years-old by then). Who knows?
No, nobody is coming to save New York City
(image by DonkeyHotey)
Don't ask me, but if there's one thing we do know I'd say it's this: barring democracy having the chance for a more equitable spin-down, whoever's got the more shrewdly effective marketing campaign will continue to occupy the captain's seat on the oh-so magnificent looking Titanic, while its crew and patrons alike argue over the arrangement of the deck chairs. For while Democrats vehemently complained about Trump's prior-to-the-election reluctance to concede if he lost, it's now Democrats who are desperately seeking any means by which they can have the election flipped to Clinton. Following discovery of irregularities in vote tallies where voting machines were used (but which has been dismissed by Nate Silver and 538 as no irregularity), Jill Stein has now –
– ah stuff it, enough of these theatrics, I'm out. If you're sticking around, enjoy the cruise. I hear dodo bird is quite tasty this time of year.
Published on Peak Surfer on November 13, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
We have always wanted to get to this town, ever since we were a young hippy hitching through Europe in 1966 and our rides took us along the southern coasts of France, Spain and Italy. Fate did not carry us here then, but perhaps we are making up for lost time now. Honestly, later in life is probably better.
We find ourselves in the company of brilliant people engaged in transforming the world. While nearly the whole of our 7 billion monkey minds seem transfixed by the US election result, a few of us are quietly sneaking around all that to sew the seeds of what comes next, after the Trumpocalypse.
We could say that the Trump victory was not a global disaster but we would be lying. Dmitry Orlov observed that we at least seem to have avoided World War III with Russia. Naomi Klein, Christopher Nesbitt and Richard Heinberg have eloquently pointed out that the Democratic Party neoliberal hegemony has been shattered, and Ugo Bardi reminds us that Italy survived 20 years of Berlusconi, after all. These are all pluses, but they will not prevent disaster if The Donald has an itchy trigger finger after a few scotches late one night and decides to nuke, say, Cuba.
For Cuba, and for any other country that lacks the means to acquire a missile defense shield, we recommend they immediately put a Trump Tower in their capital. Trump Casino Habana could be world class, totally revamping the weatherbeaten but still popular Malecone boardwalk.
We are watching this drama from within the halls of COP22 as it plays out on the plasma screens in the halls and media centers of Bab Ighli. Some may think what we are doing here is now totally irrelevant, but take it from us on faith, if not on our own warped logic, it’s not.
We have written in the past about the rise and fall of many civilizations and most, if not all, of those had their peak moment just before collapse when their capitals became a clown show. Recall, if you can, the Roman Colosseum, the Mayan pyramid sacrifices, or the Nazi extravaganzas choreographed by Albert Speer.
While the clown show has been playing out in North America, the 22d UN climate conference has kicked off in Marrakech. It has brought together tens of thousands of NGOs, governments and people from all around the world to respond to the existential crisis of climate change.
Existential crises don’t just disappear because the US holds an election. This one is still gathering momentum. It is coming at us like a bullet train.
Marrakech is the first post-Paris meeting of world leaders. It is an important one because having taken the enormous step of setting hard red lines last year — 2 degrees firm, 1.5 aspirational — countries now have to figure out exactly how those goals can be attained. On the negotiating table are mechanisms for finance, monitoring, increasing ambitions, and drawdown.
We are mainly focused on that last item. Emissions reductions are now a done deal. Fossil fuels, including the Dakota Access Pipeline, are on their way to being legally banned whether largely clueless USAnians understand that or not. (Which is not to say the Standing Rock water protectors are not absolutely right to try to preserve their patrimony in the meantime.) What logically follows is a need to start pulling carbon from the atmosphere and as quickly as possible to return both oceans and air to pre-industrial carbon concentrations. There is a scientifically validated and economical way to do that, using carbon farming, regenerative agroforestry, and waste-biomass-to-biochar energy systems, but the hitch is not science or technology. It’s people.
We need to have a carrier medium for this viral paradigm switch; one that can overcome cultural inertia and provide an inviting path forward — a bandwagon rolling through the clown circus. Hop aboard!
Ecovillages weave together the ecological, economic, social and cultural dimensions of the new circular economy (no such thing as waste) by pioneering innovative solutions that enable towns, districts, regions and nation states to achieve the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals of the Paris Agreement.
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is bringing to the table the ‘Pan-African Ecovillage Development Programme’ designed to radically reform current development practices and put communities, ecological generation, and nonmonetary, post-growth wealth creation at the heart of the development process. The full and inclusive participation of communities on the ground from conception to implementation, together with the sharing and transferring of expertise and personally grounded experience, is the key to success.
The results speak for themselves. Africa is home to some of the most innovative ecovillage programs in the world. In Senegal the success of grassroots ecovillage communities has led to the development of a National Ecovillage Agency working to transform 14,000 rural villages into ecovillages. In Egypt the Sekem farm and ecovillage is working with over 800 organic and biodynamic farmers, providing educational programs at the pre-school to university level, and delivering healthcare to more than 40.000 people from 11 surrounding villages. The President of Burkina Faso has declared his intention to implement 2000 ecovillages by 2020. GEN is in process of signing MOU’s with several national governments at COP22.
This success is an example of GEN’s ‘Transition Strategy’ in action – transitioning existing settlements to sustainable settlements and scaling up partnerships with governments, NGOs, and donors to implement policies and solutions at local, regional, and international levels. Building on 20 years of global networking, sustainable development, groundbreaking grassroots work and education, GEN’s intent is to continue to create these types of transformational alliances that grease the skids.
GEN is also using COP22 to announce the launch of the ‘GEN Consultancy,' a highly skilled and diverse network of expert consultants that seek to share some of the world’s best practices in the field of community sustainability and resilience. GEN’s solution is not top-down after the usual UNEP/UNDP model, but empowering the millions of small solutions from people and projects within their own communities.
If the Trump election, Brexit, and the recent anti-peace-deal vote in Colombia show anything, it is that we are across a threshold now where backroom deals, newspaper and politico endorsements, money and even common sense no longer dictate an outcome. Consider the fact that Hillary Clinton could rig the ballots in Honduras and Ukraine or bemoan (in emails) the failure of the State Department to rig the elections in Palestine, but could not rig her own election (though try as she did).
Social media, reality TV, yellow internet journalism and flash mobs are now in control. In this new world, the herd is driven by raw impulses of fear and pleasure-seeking. The ecovillage lure, whether dangled as a prepper redoubt or as a happy eutopia (Lat.: a good place), offers a clear choice. With cool villages that draw down carbon and give us energy, food and water security in exchange, ecovillages offer the right impulse at the perfect historical moment.
Which is why we are in Marrakech.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on Noveber 16, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
Scenarios are a quite common tool used by the United Nations and other international agencies to look at the future of humanity, they are used to group their reflections around coherent visions. We call Scenario 3 one of these archetypal visions that create the international agencies1 and we used in our studies that compare the available fossil fuels subject to peak oil with the expected demand of energy2.
Scenario 3 describes a future of regional competition and return to national sovereignty. It assumes that regions will focus more on their self-reliance, national sovereignty, and regional identity, leading to tensions between regions and/or cultures. Countries will be concerned with security and protection, emphasizing primarily regional markets (protectionism, deglobalization) and paying little attention to common goods, international environmental agreements, and cooperation for development. Scenario 3 describes a future of deglobalization and conflict, it and is, to a large extent, Trump's conservative discourse.
Other scenarios, such as Scenario 1, talk about economic optimism and high growth. The humanity is focused on achieving competitive markets and free trade that would, eventually, benefit everyone by correcting social inequalities and environmental problems. Scenario 1 is the scenario of globalization. There is also a Scenario 2, the one of green capitalism, a friendly version of Scenario 1, which gives priority to protecting the environment and reducing inequality, using technological advances, dematerialization, and the economy of services and information.
There is a fourth scenario at stake,Scenario 4, which consists of a friendly version of Scenario 3. In Scenario 4 there is a major change in values: society reacts against nonsense consumerism and disrespect for life. Citizens and countries decide to assume their responsibilities by being a green example for the rest. Although barriers to trade of goods are rebuilt, barriers to information tend to be eliminated. The emphasis is on finding regional solutions to social and environmental problems, usually by combining drastic changes in lifestyles with decentralized governance styles. Scenario 4 is the ecologist scenario, the one of local autonomy, cooperation and open-source, the closest to the utopias of the Degrowth movement.
The problem is that Scenarios 1 and 2 require a lot of energy, while Scenario is the one that needs less energy because it has less trade and less economic growth. Scenario 4 is also a low energy one. The bad news is that Scenario 3 is blind to environmental problems and leads to the war for resources because there is no lifestyle change towards an austere society based on renewable energy. Only Scenario 4 could be a minimally sustainable one because is the only one that invests in the energy of the future and does not grow a lot.
Trump's victory, like so many other things, shows us that the business as usual options are no longer what we used to call business as usual. We can no longer choose between neoliberal globalization or a slightly more social globalization of sustainable development. In a world where the energy is getting more and more difficult to obtain those scenarios that minimize energy consumption are the ones that have more probabilities of becoming true. Now the only possible options are Scenario 3 (neocons, right-wing) or those that could arise from Scenario 4 (anti-consumerist movements and ecosocialism).
The traditional political left parties should wake up and stop pursuing futures that resemble Scenario 2 and seek a slightly more friendly or greener globalization. Only the political options that are well aware of the planet's ecological limits can be a solid discourse against neoconservatives. In this moment we need to develop a political alternative based on anti-consumerist values, on the defense of the land and on the values of cooperation. Only this alternative can compensate self-destructive neoconservative tendencies that lead us to a dangerous competition for the resources in a planet that is going on a trend of constant ecological degradation.
Margarita Mediavilla teaches at the School of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid and belongs to the research group of Energy, Economy and System Dynamics (GEEDS) She is also engaged in the EU research project MEDEAS dedicated to modeling the energy transition in Europe.