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How My Family Was Affected By The US Civil War: War and Collapse in American History – Chapter 2

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 23, 2018

 

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This is really the story of two young guys, and how they joined the army and went to war together. One of them died young in battle, probably on his very first day of combat. The other made it through the war and lived to great old age. Both these men had families, and I am a descendant of both of those families. The one who died in battle was my great-great grandfather. He was in his early thirties, and left a widow and four very young children behind. The other was his wife's brother.

Original Plantation House

This story is not in any history book. I have pieced it together from a few odd remnants of the past. Obituaries, tombstones, a couple of military reports, some history books and some Civil War websites. I never knew these guys and nobody who did know them is left to tell us anything about what happened to them. What I'm telling you is completely true to the best of my knowledge, but a lot of it can only be inferred, and not known with absolute certainty.

I'm not going to write a book about the US Civil War. I'm not a real history scholar, and even if I were, the events of that conflict have been more than adequately documented by hundreds of good writers. For the few people who might have missed it, I'll mention the Ken Burns documentary "The Civil War", the best piece of film about the war, and one of the best shows ever aired on TV. I could listen to those interviews he did with the late Shelby Foote, who WAS a great scholar, for hours. My wife fell in love with Dr. Foote, thanks to Mr. Burns. Foote wrote a lot of books, and some of them are on audio if you can find them.  His soft Georgia drawl was epic, and he even looked a little like he might have been a reincarnated Confederate general. I'm sorry he's gone.

I do think a little bit of context is helpful in understanding the story of these two guys, and what happened to their country and how we were plunged into war, and the way things worked out for regular people. Bear with me, I'll get back to the real story, I promise.

Wars are never started by regular people, but by powerful elites who usually think they have something big to lose if they don't go into battle. The simplified version of history that says the US Civil War was started over slavery is only partially correct. It's more correct in my view to say that the war was fomented primarily by a few angry, arrogant, rich southern men who wanted to see their slave-based economy  continue to be sanctioned and allowed to spread into the West, where more and more new states were being added to the Union. Ironically, it was the American and the French Revolutions, with their flowery promises of liberty and equality for all men, that changed conventional thinking world-wide and swung public opinion against human bondage. The point of view of these angry southern men was perhaps best articulated by Edmund Ruffin of Virginia. Historians would call these rapid secessionists the Fire Eaters. They wanted a war and they got what they wanted, and dragged the entire South into a war that would affect generations to come.

In the first half of the 19th Century, the intellectual capitol of the world wasn't any American city. It was Paris. In those days, young men from affluent US families flocked there to study medicine and art. There were no rock stars, but the best American writers, like the highly successful James Fenimore Cooper, moved to Paris to live. One of Cooper's best friends, a very good artist named Samuel Morse, spent years in the Louvre, often on self-constructed elaborate scaffolds, carefully copying the works of the European masters, which was deemed the best way to learn art. Although Morse was a far better painter than most of his contemporaries, real success eluded him, and he eventually turned his attention more to one of his hobbies, which was the perfection of a device to transmit written messages over great distances using electricity and wires. In 1840 he patented the telegraph, which would make him very rich, and in the process, unleash a round of disruptive technology that would make the world a much smaller place.

Now….I took American History in college like everybody else, and I had a good professor. We read a few of those Catton books that were so good. But that was over forty years ago, and I remember very little of it now, frankly. When I realized my ancestor actually died in the war, and that the date of his death was recorded, I went to whatever online archives I could find, to find out what I could about his military service.  When I was visiting my son in Chicago, I stopped in at one of my favorite bookstores, Myopic Books, and picked up a good used paperback about Lee's first Maryland campaign, and I began to re-educate myself.

One important thing to remember is that when wars begin, soldiers with experience from the last war are always in great demand. I learned that in the US Civil War, many if not most of the military officers called into service on both sides, had seen service in the land grab we call the Mexican-American War, which was fought in 1846-1848. That war was staged primarily from the brand new State of Texas, under general Zachary Taylor, and so many Civil War soldiers had been to Texas. One of our young soldiers, the older of the two, served in that conflict, and that's where the Texas connection begins in our story.

http://cdn.stateuniversity.com/assets/logos/images/4622/large_OLDLIB1.gif The generals in the war were mostly graduates of America's fairly new elite military college, West Point. In the 1850's there was a technological revolution going on. Across the West, everywhere, railroads were being built, and telegraphs. Most of the generals who served in the Civil War had been participating in that boom, working as civil engineers.

At the beginning of the war, southern volunteers rushed to sign up for a military campaign many thought would last less than three months. In contrast, by the end of the war the Confederacy was conscripting boys and old men and those who were formerly deemed unfit. This is why nobody in Texas got off light, even though not that much actual shooting occurred on Texas soil. It was hard to escape conscription, although you could buy your way out of it. There were also forms of alternative service, which I had never heard of, but it comes up much later, at the end of this story. That impacted my Dad's great grandfather, and I'll talk about what happened to him too, in a short footnote at the end of the main story. I still don't know much about what really happened to him.

So, my direct ancestor went to the war with his brother-in-law, who had been in the Mexican war, and who was mustered into the Confederate Army as a Captain. He eventually rose to the rank of Major. The older man was responsible for writing reports during the war, and a couple of them do endure as a part of the real record of the war.

One of the most interesting campaigns of the war was Lee's first raid into West Virginia and Maryland. He knew he was vastly outnumbered by the Army of the Potomac led by a stodgy old military academician, General McClellan, who was thought before the war to be a fine administrator and an expert trainer of soldiers.

As it transpired McClellan always stayed far from the front lines in a position of relative safety while his subordinates fought battles under heavy fire Lincoln soon sacked him and replaced him with Grant. Afterward, McClellan became extremely active in politics, and he came very close to defeating Lincoln in the election of 1864. The election was only saved because Sherman delivered the city of Atlanta by defeating the legendary Hood's Texas Brigade in July of 1864. This was a major turning point in the war. Had Hood been able to hold Atlanta, the war might have ended in a negotiated peace under President McClellan. That day, July 22nd, the current course of today's American Empire was set, and
the course has never really shifted.

But Lee went to war against McClellan. He knew he was greatly outnumbered, and he wanted to pick the spot where he could best defeat McClellan. It appears he decided that it be in the difficult terrain of some mountainous country in northern Maryland.

I found out that my two guys mustered into the army together in the late winter of 1861, in Columbia South Carolina. They were among the very first volunteers. The older of the two, the army veteran, is said to have formed up a company from his local area. Their regiment numbered about eleven hundred men. They would go on to fight in major battles in virtually every theater of the war. They were with Lee when he surrendered at Appomattox . That is, the 11 officers and 77 enlisted men who were left. The rest perished.

So….my great great grandfather went to war under his commanding officer, his brother-in-law. The date of his death is exactly three days before the battle of Antietam. The battle that day was a skirmish action, an attempt to wear down the Union troops marching west from Washington DC as they tried to get through three narrow Appalachian passes. It is known as the Battle of South Mountain. Lee had just successfully carried out his bold attack on the Union Armory at Harper's Ferry West Virginia. He had split his troops, sending some of them ahead toward Antietam ahead of his main contingent. Lee had all  his men on a forced march north for a week, and many of them were ill-equipped. Some were barefoot. The only thing they had to eat was green corn they picked out of the fields. Most of them had diarrhea.

 

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There is a great debate to be made about this strategy of Lee's. History says that the Union Army found a "lost dispatch" in a hastily abandoned Confederate encampment, detailing the Confederate plan, which allowed McClellan to anticipate Lee, leading to his subsequent defeat at Antietam. It might be more likely, and some modern scholars now think, that Lee deliberately leaked his plan to encourage McClellan to approach the Antietam battlefield through the mountain gaps, which would give him a good place to winnow down the Union Army's twenty-five thousand man advantage. No one really knows for sure. Lee never said.

On September 14th, 1862, three pitched battles took place between the Army of the Potomac, led by McClellan, and Lee's forces, under the command of General James Longstreet. On that day Longstreet and most of his command had traveled further north to reconnoiter and when the Union army was sighted, he had to hurry back toward the encampment to provide reinforcements.

McClellan knew Lee had split his forces to go after Harper's Ferry, and  he desperately needed to breach the Confederate defending positions in the three  strategic mountain passes near Boonesboro. If he could rapidly push through with his 75,000 man strong army, he could beat Lee to northern Maryland and take on the two much smaller Confederate forces one at a time. If it had worked according to plan, Lee's army might have been destroyed then, in late 1862.

My ancestor died in the action at Turner's Gap, I believe. This was the center of the three mountain passes, and it was attacked frontally by a strong force commanded by two of the Union's best generals, Ambrose Burnside of sideburns fame, and "Fighting Joe" Hooker.  Turners Gap was defended by Confederate General D.H. Hill, who was Stonewall Jackson's brother-in-law. At the start of the battle, the Confederates only had one division of five brigades in place…about five thousand men, which Hill had to spread over two miles. The southerners fought bravely, and the South Carolina regiment was brought up to re-inforce Hill. It would have been a rout but for the terrain, but darkness fell before the Union force could completely break through the Confederate line.

One of our two soldiers, the young Captain, made a report to his commanding officer that day. No mention was made of his fallen brother-in-law. Maybe he thought his friend was among the missing and might still turn up. More likely, it just wouldn't have been appropriate, since the other man was only a private. Here is his dispatch:

[On September 14] the regiment marched from Hagerstown, Md. (Lieutenant Colonel Thomas C. Watkins in command), to South Mountain; reached there about 4 p. m. Found General D. H. Hill's division on the right of the road, engaging the enemy. This regiment was ordered to the left of the road, and marched around the mountain, then filed by left across the mountain, then by right flank forward, when we came in contact with the enemy and immediately opened on them, the enemy occupying a very favorable position against us. After engaging them for about half an hour, we were ordered to fall back, which we did some 30 yards, through in some confusion, Lieutenant Colonel T. C. Watkins calling to the men to rally to their colors and fall into line. While thus exposing himself, and, having succeeded in forming the regiment in line of battle, he fell, struck by a musket-ball in the head. Thus fell a brave and skillful officer at the head of his command, encouraging and rallying his men with the last breath of life. This misfortune caused the regiment to fall into confusion. I then assumed the command, rallying the regiment three times, but the pressure from the enemy was such that it was impossible to hold our positions, and finally fell back to the main road leading to Boonsborough, and there formed under the cover of a fence, where we remained until ordered to fall back on Sharpsburg, it now being night.

History says 325 men were killed outright that day, and a lot more were never accounted for. About 1100 men killed or MIA in all, and my ancestor was one of them. According to reports, a local farmer was paid a dollar apiece to bury some of the dead troops, and that as many as 60 were dumped into an old well. No marker exists to mark the grave of my forefather, as far as I know

Had McClellan hit the gaps again the next day it might have been a quick and decisive defeat for Lee. Instead McClellan inexplicably paused, allowing  Lee to get his troops in place on a nearby village called Antietam. On the 17th, under heavy artillery bombardment from both sides, the single bloodiest battle in all of human history took place, resulting in over 23 thousand dead or missing. I have never been to the Antietam battleground, but I'm told it is the least changed of all the old battleground sites, and looks today not that much different than it did in the fall of 1862. I hope to visit up there someday.

Antietam

The ghost of Bill Kettchel still sits glumly on the bluff
Not but a few paces from where he  was fell
He has risen majestic at night from the well.

Still screaming out loud, Hey give em hell boys, give em hell

Dropped in head a foremost by the heel of his boot
Give em hell goes the echo, by god give em all  hell

The fields glistened  brightly with crimson and gore
The fighting was grisly like none seen before.
All stacked up  like cord-wood a good  ten foot high, they smote grey and  smote blue
by  the hip and by the thigh.

Give em hell boys by god, came the echoing cry.

Now musket ball splatter, now cannon grape rain.
March through the death gauntlet and line up again.
As the dying lie crying Under shade tree spread wide.

I'm a Yankee doodle dandy. Yankee doodle do or die.
A real live nephew of my uncle Sam born on the fourth of July.
Look away ,look away look away.

Dumped in head a  foremost  by foot and by heel. My self, Andy, Caleb 
Rest daily in the well. By day we lie peacefull, at night we rebell.
Especially those nights when the moon is aglow
We rise to the mouth and we holler and shout.

Give em hell boys  by god, just send them all straight to hell.

Geno Cattouse

HEAT DOWN! 🔥

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 21, 2018

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Around this same time last year the heat in my digs quit on me.  I have a fairly typical boiler setup that runs on natural gas.  I'm not too good with doing mechanical repairs anymore, its tough with only one arm that works right.  I was never very good at it even when both arms worked though.  So trying to diagnose and repair this problem myself was out of the question.

http://daxushequ.com/data/out/47/img59894575.jpg I didn't notice the problem right away, I am pretty accustomed to and comfortable with the cold.  I just threw on another layer of clothing and figured I was getting cold leakage through the windows and doors because it was so cold outside.  Temps had dropped into the negative digits farenheit.  So I go to sleep all bundled up with an extra blanket too!  This is Eskimo style living, they about never got undressed through the winter.  They even had special flaps in the clothing so they could excrete or have sex without undressing. lol.

I woke up sometime in the middle of the night, I don't remember exactly the time, maybe 2AM.  My fingers were numb, they were outside my blanket arrangement and I wasn't wearing mittens.  So now I finally go check the thermostat, which is BLANK.  I think the temp was in the 30sF.

So I call the emergency maintenance number for the complex, and miraculously a maintenance man does show up in around 20 minutes.  He works on the boiler for around an hour and thinks it is fixed.  Sounds to me like it is on and the thermostat shows 38F, so I thank him, bundle up some more and add mittens and back to bed, this time in my -40F rated sleeping bag.  I sleep comfortably, but when I wake up the digs are still pretty cold, but not as cold.  The boiler was working but it wasn't pumping the water through the pipes too well.  So another call to the maintenance department, another visit and this time the MM upped the pressure and it did finally work properly.  That was the only emergency heat call last year, rest of the winter season things worked just fine.

I learned a few things from that experience though, the most important of which was that I was under prepped with NO Electric Space Heaters!  I never bought one of these in my prepping because I was always working on the premise of having no electricity available in a total collapse scenario.  So at least as far as heat goes, I didn't deem an electric space heater as a necessary prep.  I did however buy electric cooking gear in case I ended up homeless to use in cheap motels to heat up soup and so forth.  In only a partial collapse situation or your own local problems though with personal infrastructure, electric space heaters are a MUST HAVE prep!

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71AtCuqCdsL._AC_SR201,266_.jpg So after this episode I stocked up on electric space heaters.  I got the small ceramic kind with a blower as well as the oil-filled radiator type.  More on the advantages and disadvantages of each type later.

Besides that, over the summer I also experimented with methods of heating using FIRE for my Stealth Van Bugout Machine, SaVANnah.  This involves heating up Rocks which you can then wrap in a towel and shove into your sleeping bag by your feet to keep your toes warm or keep in your pockets as hand warmers.  You can find out more about these techniques on the Diner YouTube Channel.

Fast forward to this winter, and through December the heat was working just fine.  We had a pretty mild December though, and our first real COLD SNAP didn't come until January.  Heat operated fine until the cold rolled in, then it collapsed in the middle of the night AGAIN.  This time when I woke up with cold fingers, I wasn't so dumb.  First thing I did was check the thermostat, and it was down to 55F.  Not as cold as last year, I caught it early.  So now it was time to dig into the HEAT PREPS!

https://i.pinimg.com/236x/7c/fc/b2/7cfcb2d9ef46f6a5e25a716a2d5b8c22--radiators-gadgets.jpg The first thing was to insure I had a Warm Spot in the digs to retreat to if the temps became so low as to be unbearable inside the digs, even layered up.  To do this, I took my Oil-filled electric radiator and dropped it in the bathroom, a small interior room with no windows and put the setting on maximum.  The oil filled radiator doesn't provide Instant Heat like a ceramic one does, but because of its thermal mass once it is up to temperature it provides more steady heat to the room.  The bathroom is also a small space, maybe 100 sq ft.  I closed the door, and within an hour the bathroom temperature was in the high 60s.  I actually had to shut the heater off because it was getting too hot in there.  If I had to, I could bring my laptop in there with a makeshift desk, a cushion for the Throne (lid closed) 🙂 and keyboard out Doom without freezing to death.  I could also bring a sleeping pad/air mattress and bag in there if necessary, although since my best sleeping bag is good to 40F Below it's hard to imagine a situation where that would be needed as long as the electricity is functioning.

Next I took one of my small ceramic heaters and dropped it under my desk near where my feet rest while keyboarding out the Doom.  This would keep my toes warm, and the confined space under the desk allows only one outlet for the heat as it moves upward, directly past where I am sitting.  This would allow me to remain at my normal position rather than having to move the Diner Command & Control Center into the bathroom.  lol.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41SIzIJwvjL.jpg Finally, I dropped an Electric Blanket under my sleeping bag to radiate heat upward and keep me toasty warm through the night if the bag insulation wasn't doing a good enough job.  Also unlikely to need to switch this on, but in place just in case.  It uses much less electricity than the space heaters, and while you are asleep you can switch them off saving energy, money, and reducing your Carbon Footprint.

As it turned out however, I really didn't need to use any of the electric backup heating systems, because I have another appliance in the digs which operates on Natural Gas fed in by pipes, the STOVE!

After getting all the electrics set up, I turned on the two front burners of my stove to the high setting and just let them run.  Inside 2 hours or so, temps in the digs were back up to the 60s.  Before going to sleep, I shut the burners off to reduce the chance of fire burning the place down.

The gas stove is a relatively simply device which although it has some electronics added to it these days is mainly just a valve which lets the gas out at some rate, slow if you have the valve mostly closed, fast if you open it all the way.  Although most of them these days have an automatic sparking electric starter, even if your electricity is out you can start them with a Bic Lighter, or even Flint & Steel.  So during the duration of my heating woes with the boiler which lasted several days this time, the stove picked up the slack and kept the place warm and cozy.

In terms of getting the fix done this time, the MM was a bit slower to arrive on the first call, took almost an hour.  After perusing the varios valves and tapping in various places, he determined the problem was with a fan that does exactly what I have no idea.  However, he did not have such a fan and would have to come back the next day with it.  Would I be OK?  I said sure, no problem, the stove is picking up the slack here.

Next day he comes back with the fan and installs it, and the boiler does indeed seem to spring back to life!  At least it is making noises like it is alive anyhow.  MM leaves, and now I wait for the heat to come back up in the digs WITHOUT the stove burners on.  I go to sleep comfortably again in my sleeping bag, but wake up as usual after a couple of hours to take a piss.  This is an every 2 hour thing for me these days.  Exiting the sleeping bag, the digs once again feel a bit cool, and in fact the temp has dropped from when I shut off the stove burners.  So I call the Emergency Number to see if I can get him back, but the manager asks me if I can hold on until morning so I say OK.  I flip the stove burners back on here for an hour before going back to bed and surf some Doom on the internet.

Out with the old…

By the next day when the MM returns, the heating system has begun to actually work, the issue there is that once all the pipes are low in temp it takes quite some time for the boiler to get the whole system up to your set temperature.  Especially true if the pumping system is not working so good, which was the case for my system.  It wasn't just the bad fan, the whole system had more or less reached the end of its designed lifespan, around a decade.  Planned Obsolescence in action.  On returning to check out the problems, the MM announced to me he had received approval to REPLACETHE BOILER!  I got a whole new system!  For FREE! 🙂

Now, had I been a "homeowner", this whole episode would have cost me $1000s.  3 visits from the MM, one where he spent about 4 hours replacing the fan.  Cost of the new boiler, around $700 for this one I think.  5 hours of installation time with 2 contractors working on it.

While he was at it also, I had the MM fix my outdoor electrical outlet so my ceramic heater would work outside and I can sit in comfort on the porch even in winter.  He also fixed the SQUEAK my fridge had developed over the last few month, replacing the compressor motor there. By catching this one in advance of a complete failure, I saved myself the possible loss of all my frozen meats and refrigerated goods.  Again, I got all this repair work done for FREE!  You have to figure in these bennies of renting when you measure against the so-called financial benefits of "ownership".

Getting back to the main topic here of heating, had my gas AND electric not been operating, I have a Plan C of my indoor safe kerosene heater, and a Plan D of making an outdoor fire on the porch to heat up rocks to bring inside as hand and foot warmers and sleeping bag warmers.  I hope never have to go all the way to Plan D.

…and in with the new!

What this also should tell you is how generally unlivable most McMansions will be after SHTF Day arrives.  Even if you are still getting NG or are running your heat off your own propane tank, the various fans, pumps and solenoids that control these boiler systems WILL give out on you, in all likelihood inside around 15 years.  In my case, not only were the fan and pump bad, the tank itsef was corroded through which is why the whole thing had to be replaced.  Acidic water in this neighborhood.

http://www.logcabininteriors.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/impressive-rustic-log-cabin-ideas-using-black-river-stacked-stone-fireplace-with-wooden-mantel-shelves-across-unfinished-wood-for-kitchen-storage-cabinets-decoration-600x450.jpg If you want a resilient heating system, it should be as simple as possible, aka a Fireplace/Wood Stove arrangement.  However, most McMansions aren't built in a way where such an arrangement would be very efficient at keeping the whole place warm.  Too many rooms and the heat wouldn't circulate without some type of forced air blower system, once again adding complexity and hardware provided by industrial manufacturers.

What you really want in terms of a dwelling is an open space where the fireplace can do its work heating the whole main room, and an open upstairs Loft space where the heat flows upward to naturally without obstacles.  You can add to this one big ceiling fan to circulate the warm air back down again to keep a more even temperature for the whole dwelling.  The only thing one of those needs to operate is an electric motor, and there are plenty of those around to scavenge for years to come from automobiles, power tools etc..  However, even without the ceiling fan, an open space arrangement works the best for wood heating.

The best form of dwelling for this purpose is a Dome which needs no interior walls to hold upt the ceilings and roof.  However, few homes are built in suburbia as domes, so this choice isn't too generally available unless you build one yourself.  Options include Geodesic Domes and Monolithic Concrete Domes, and they can go from lightweight and portable to heavy duty and able to stand up to an F5 Tornado or a CA Wildfire.

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/809203a1-d0d8-493c-9dc5-776864900dd6/66026_medium.jpg  Other important factors to consider in heating your home are the Insulation, Thermal Mass & Total Volume of the home. Smaller the better, and these days McMansions are built to grandiose proportions that NOBODY needs to live in.  I have many folks I know with McMansions that have living rooms ALONE large enough to house a half dozen people, and then there are the other 10 rooms in the 5000 sq ft behemoth.  It's beyond ridiculous how large some of these dwellings have become.  You can easily house and raise a family of 4 in a 1000 sq ft dwelling.  Typical Pioneer Cabins were around 600 sq ft, and often these folks had 6 kids growing up in them.

Insulation is one area where the Age of Oil provides advantages.  Modern foam core insulation is fabulous for keeping temps outside that are either too hot or too cold from infiltrating the dwelling.  You also don't want too many windows, even double pane glass, because there is always leakage around the seams.  Shutters on the outside are good to have, as well as drapes inside for further insulation around the windows.

If you have a large thermal mass inside the dwelling, this can help offset temperature changes throughout the day, hot or cold.  A large brick fireplace/stove arrangement is probably the simplest thermal mass arrangement you can set up.  You heat the bricks up with fire when it's cold, then they will radiate heat into your dwelling even after the fire is extinguished.  You seal up your dwelling with shutters and drapes to retain the heat when the fire is not burning.  Similarly, you can drag cool night air through the chimney to cool it down with a fan, and this will help keep your digs cool during the day if you seal up.

Even better on the thermal mass level are the Monolithic Domes, where the whole structure provides the mass and is insulated from outside temperature changes with polyurethane blow foam.  Such structures also have little leakage between the outdoor and indoor environments.

Whatever system you choose for heating your dwelling, the main thing is to keep it as simple as you can without reliance on Industrial Age technology.  To keep your total energy costs down, the smaller the better on the total size of the dwelling.  With creative design, you can partition off areas that really NEED heat, and those that don't.  Your kitchen and bathrooms and anywhere with water pipes will need heat, most of the rest of the rooms dont need it except for comfort.  Keep all your rooms with water pipes flowing into the core of the building.

Regardless of your setup, you will always need a source of fuel if you live in a cold climate, which most people in North Amerika do these days.  In fact over this winter so far, it has been colder in places like Norfolk, VA than in Palmer, AK where I live.  You have a primary source, usually natural gas or oil.  A secondary source, the electric grid.  Generally your last resort in the typical dwelling is wood, but it has to be available in the neighborhood, and most suburban locations don't have too much of it left.  So you might have to start burning your furniture on those cold winter nights when the Polar Vortex comes to your neighborhood. lol.

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The Bumpy Road Down, Part 2

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool January 7, 2018

Lake Huron shore looking north to Bruce B Nuclear Generating Station
Taken Dec 17/17—there is much more ice on the lake now.

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In the last post in this series I started talking about the bumpy road down—the cyclic pattern of crash and partial recovery that I believe will characterize the rest of the age of scarcity and make for a slow step by step collapse, rather than a single hard and fast crash. Because I expect this to take place differently in various parts of the world and for people of various social classes, I guess it should really be "The Bumpy Roads Down".

At any rate, this led to looking at the next expected bump in the process—a financial crash of even greater magnitude than the global financial crisis in 2007-8. We looked at what's leading up to this (a huge debt bubble), how it might start (with one or more currency crashes) and what might trigger the process (a spike in the price of oil).

From where I sit this crash seems essentially inevitable. We are living beyond our means—the available surplus energy is simply not enough to support the continued growth that our economy requires. Some degree of "degrowth" is going to happen, whether we like it or not. The only uncertainly is exactly when it will occur, how far it will take us down and by what route. I'd be surprised if it started sooner than the fall of 2018. I don't really care to guess how much longer it might take to get started—years, easily.

Of course, as we learned in the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08, these things tend to teach us new things about how they work as they are happening. While we learn more with each crisis, there are things about each one that we would never have guessed in advance. And I am certainly not claiming to be exempt from this.

Since I wrote that last post, I read David Korowicz's "Financial system supply-chain cross contagion – a study in global systemic collapse", and much of what I have to say in this post has been influenced by Korowicz's ideas.

His essay directly addresses how things may proceed once a crash gets started, and how difficult it will be to do something about it. He focuses on the degree of interconnection in our modern world and how a financial crash can spread to other parts of the economy. He also looks closely at how fragile our globalized economy is, with many supply chains based on "just in time delivery" and minimal inventories of important supplies.

Before going on with the rest of this post, I'd like to share some thoughts that came to me as I was reading Korowicz's essay. It seems to me that when talking about such subjects, one has to consider one's audience and what one is trying to achieve.

Korowicz clearly feels he is speaking to a doubtful audience and he is eager to convince them. As he says, "The consensus view, even if backed by experts is not, in and of itself, a justification for the consensus view." I sympathize with him in that—the majority of people today are functioning at a high level of complacency and denial. They will latch onto any morsel of hope and use it to convince themselves that everything is going to be fine and that no extraordinary action is required. If you give them that morsel, the rest of what you have to say may well be lost on them.

And so it is very tempting to spin (and Korowicz has spun) a rather one sided story, lacking the sorts of subtleties and nuances that are needed for a solid understanding of any subject and which I have tried to make an identifying characteristic of this blog. I am not going to change that goal, and so some of my readers will see what follows, in this and my next few posts, as unreasonably optimistic. If that is what is necessary to take a balanced approach to the subject, then so be it.

David Korowicz is an intelligent and well informed man and so even he makes some qualifying statements about the solidly gloomy picture he paints: "a collapse could have intermediate states, characterised by partial breakdown and semi-stable states." And near the end of his essay he suggests that we should classify countries as red, amber and green, according to the likelihood of their suffering severely in the crash he is talking about. And he admits that there are indeed some green countries, and interestingly (to me) includes the U.S. in that group. But the essay was written in 2012 and things have changed in the U.S. since then.

For those looking for nothing but hope and reassurance, I'm sorry, but I must make it clear that the bump I am talking about here is likely to be a big one and solidly jarring, especially to those who aren't expecting it. When I say that this shouldn't be considered a fast collapse, I mean that a significant number of people will still be able to get food, shelter, clothing—that "just enough" will still be attainable for most of us. I meet people quite regularly who clearly consider that any change in their lifestyle, however minor, amounts to "the end of the world", and who are simply unwilling to consider that such things may happen. I know they find most of what I have to say to be way too pessimistic. I think they are in for a rude awakening.

But enough of that, let's take a closer look at how the coming crash is likely to proceed. Tim Morgan predicts that it will start with a "currency crash?" What does he mean by this? Simply that at some point currency traders will lose faith in the value of some particular currency. They will all start selling out of it pretty much at once—what is known as a "run". This would cause the price of that currency to drop drastically compared to others, with negative effects on the economy of the effected country, perhaps leading it to default on its debts. But why this loss of trust? In the case of Britain, Morgan (a Brit himself) points to a lack of economic growth, high debt, Brexit and poor economic management by governments over the last couple of decades, including a laisser faire approach to regulating business and the financial industry.

It will probably only take one currency crash (or maybe not even that many, if the price of oil spikes high enough) to trigger a loss of faith in debt and start a wave of bankruptcies and government defaults. Banks and other financial institutions will be at the head of that wave. Modern banking is based on the idea of a fractional reserve—banks are allowed to create money out of thin air when they make a loan, rather than just loaning out money they already have. The loan itself then becomes an asset, a claim on the future productivity of the debtor, based on trust that the debtor will prosper and be able to pay back the money he has borrowed, with interest. Under this system banks' real assets amount to only 2 to 9% of their total assets. The rest is debt, or from the viewpoint of the bank, credit they have extended as loans. It is normal to have a very small percentage of debtors default on their loans, but according to Korowicz, defaults of around 4% are enough to leave a bank in big trouble, and it may end up going out of business, as the financial community loses faith in the debts it holds.

Since the amount of risky debt is much larger than ever before, it seems likely that many of those "too big to fail" banks will indeed be in trouble this time around. In 2008 governments took steps to prevent this, but governments whose currency has crashed and/or who have defaulted on their debts, won't be able to be of much help. Even governments which aren't in financial trouble themselves will face a bigger challenge than they did in 2008, since interest rates are already pretty much as low as they can go. And also because more banks (and other businesses) will need help, in the form of loans on very favourable terms, or outright bailouts. Still, because the effect of a crash like this touch on pretty much everyone, there will be immense pressure on governments to do whatever they can.

As I understand it, what governments have done and will no doubt do in the next crash is to print money to offset the bad debts of failing financial institutions and other businesses. This has been done indirectly, by borrowing money from the central bank of the country. Because it ends up on the government's balance sheet as debt, owed to the central bank, paying the interest is a big budgetary problem. Paying back the principle is a problem for future generations.

Conventional economic wisdom holds that printing too much money causes inflation—the price of goods goes up to match the excess money circulating in the market. This didn't happen to any significant extent in the years following 2008, perhaps because that excess money, rather than going into circulation, was poured into the black holes of the banks' balance sheets.

It seems likely to me that central banks will take a lot of blame for "letting" this next crash happen. There is actually no reason that governments have to borrow money for bailouts from independent central banks. Those banks could be eliminated and governments could take on their role themselves, creating money without incurring debt or interest charges. And as long as that money goes straight to paying off bad debts, the amount in circulation won't increase, and it shouldn't cause inflation.

If this disaster was limited to the financial industry alone it would be bad enough. It is important to realize that in our capitalist system if a business is not profitable, or if investors lose hope of it eventually becoming profitable, it's not going to be running for long, especially in the middle of an economic crash. Even if it is the sole provider of goods and services that folks like you and I consider to be necessities. One would hope that governments would step in to preferentially bail out companies that really do have a vital role to play.

The financial sector also provides many critical services to businesses and in a crash such as we're talking about, those services may not be readily available, thus hurting businesses that would otherwise still be viable.

Perhaps the most basic of those services is moving wealth from what we think of as "investments" (where the point is to earn a return) to ordinary money with which one can buy goods and services. We take this for granted in "normal" times and are largely unaware of what is going on in the background to make it happen so smoothly. During a crash and in its aftermath, this will no longer be the case and without that ready access, businesses and individuals will find it difficult to continue operating as usual.

To judge from what happened in 2008, those banks that are still in business will also get very conservative in their lending practices and much less trusting of the banks at the other end of transactions. The free flow of credit and funds that the commercial world counts on would grind to a halt, at least temporarily, and so the financial crash would spread to the commercial sector. From the viewpoint of ordinary people this is very bad news.

Mind you, in 2008 things were pretty serious. Many people lost their houses because they couldn't pay their variable rate mortgages when the payments went up—indeed that was what started that crash. In the recession that followed, many businesses downsized or went bankrupt and laid people off. Some of the unemployed fell through the cracks in the social/community/family safety nets and ended up homeless and destitute. A lot of wealth and savings disappeared into thin air. But despite all this, the supply of consumer goods continued unabated. If you could afford to shop, the shelves were far from bare.

I think this is likely not to be the case in the upcoming crash. There will be some noticeable effects in the day to day lives of ordinary people, beyond the obvious increasing unemployment, tighter credit and a decrease in the value of whatever savings you may have left.

The basic issue is that today, more than at any time in our history or prehistory, we rely on a complex, internationally networked economy to provide us with the necessities of life. Supply chains have been optimized, with minimal inventories and "just in time" delivery so that they are very efficient, but also very fragile. One little thing can go wrong, a long way down the chain, and within days (sometimes within hours), the whole supply chain begins grinding to a halt.

The global economy relies of a few critical systems, which enable supply chains to function.

The first of those systems is banking itself. The sort of day to day transactions that all of us take part in really are necessary to keep the world working. Most individuals and businesses rely on chequing accounts, over draughts, lines of credit, debit cards, credit cards and so forth, all of which will stop working if your bank fails. At the international level, banks issue letters of credit that facilitate the shipping of goods from one country to another.

Shipping is itself a critical system, and is dependent not just on banking but also, among other things, on energy, mostly in the form of petroleum products: bunker fuel for ships, diesel fuel for trucks and jet fuel for air freight. I suspect that shipping will suffer a good deal of disruption during this crash, not just at the international level, but also among the trucking companies who move goods around within countries, and on which we are very dependent.

Even if mining, forestry, fishing, agriculture, the electric grid, manufacturing and retail remain untouched in a crash (which is by no means certain), problems with just banking and shipping can make for very unreliable supplies of things that we have come to take completely for granted.

When it comes to necessities, water seems straightforward, right? It comes out of the tap. But most municipal water treatment facilities keep only a very few day's supply of treatment chemicals on hand. If deliveries of those chemicals stop, it won't be long—as very few days—before you can no longer rely on the safety of your water supply.

And there is always food on the supermarket shelves, right? But that's only because of daily deliveries that rely on many long and complex supply chains. If those deliveries stop, there is probably only about three days of food available in most communities, less than that of perishable items.

In the developed world, and even many areas in the developing world, access to medical care is taken for granted (the U.S. is an exception). But modern medicine relies on pharmaceuticals and other consumable supplies of which hospitals keep a very limited inventory, relying instead on regular deliveries.

I mention those three areas because they are necessities for everyone, and the supply chains that provide them to us are likely to be negatively affected during a financial crash. In fact, it will be hard to find any industry that isn't affected to some degree.

Now the conventional thing for a collapse writer to do at this point is to suggest that once this starts, it will be impossible to stop and everything will grind to a halt, bringing industrial civilization to an abrupt end and likely enough the human race with it. When you've been studying collapse for a while and coping with disbelief from most of those around you, it is natural, I suppose, to be eager for something to finally happen that will prove you right beyond all doubt.

But I am not that sort of kollapsnik. I'm pretty sure that collapse has been going on for decades not and that it will take a few decades more before it is complete. And along the way, what is happening will be far from obvious to the many people.

To understand why I hold this opinion, we need to do a couple of things:

1) take a systems dynamic approach to the events we are talking about. First off, the model of a fast collapse with a catastrophic impact at the "bottom" is fundamentally flawed. It may portray fairly accurately what happens when you jump (or are pushed) off a cliff, but that is not exactly the situation our civilization faces. We need to look at what happens when overshoot occurs in nature, in systems more like the one we inhabit. Which is, after all, a subset of the ecosphere. Overshoot is a common enough phenomenon and usually works in fairly predictable ways.

2) look at the sort of things governments, communities and individuals can do to limit the damage when a financial crash spreads to other critical systems.

I set out recently to draw some graphs illustrating overshoot and pretty quickly gained some new insights into this process—insights that I think are worth sharing.

So I'll wrap this post up now and carry on with points 1 and 2 above next time.

No, Not NEOM Nor Even Women Can Save Saudi Arabia and its Monarchy from Peak Oil and Collapse [part 1/2]

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on December 8th, 2017

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You know things have taken a turn for the desperate when women have started to drive. Or rather, when they're about to start driving in Saudi Arabia.

Although repeated efforts over the years to allow Saudi Arabian Miss Daisies to drive themselves haven't managed to budge things in the slightest, it's nonetheless a bit ironic that the sole country in the world that doesn't allow women to drive automobiles is also the country sitting on the greatest amount of (easily accessible) reserves of the stuff that makes those vehicles go vroom. Strangely enough though it's not as if women are completely repressed in the kingdom built upon sand, what with women allowed to become lawyers, doctors, engineers… and jet airplane pilots. That all being so, it's hard to imagine any other reason for why women shouldn't be allowed to drive wingless vehicles (in a time and place where they're nearly impossible to function without) than to provide a leash upon women's necks for the all-male monarchy, clerics and their acolytes.

Surprisingly enough though the "inconvenient" restriction from Happy Motoring beset upon women is soon to be lifted, what with a royal decree read live on TV in September stating that come June 2018 Saudi Arabia will be ushered into the 20th century via women's permission to join men and cows in the quest to equally belch our way towards an overheated climate. Fantastic this surely is for our soon-to-be Saudi Arabian sisters in bovinity, but is this fine example of equality inherently an occasion for celebration?

Yeah, maybe not.

"Strong enough for a man but made for a woman" (photo courtesy of The Internet)

While the expected crowd of cornucopian-minded activists – that fail to realize that the world doesn't revolve around the West but rather around energy – have denounced the decree as "cosmetic reforms" and "little more than a public relations stunt designed to cement this notion of the Saudi regime as the liberator of women", nothing could actually be further from the truth. Because in reality there's one reason and one reason only why the Saudi Arabian monarchy has decided to "mend its ways", that being nothing more than the fact that it's expensive to not let women drive.

Since women who are restricted from driving automobiles can't just wait around on their husbands/fathers/brothers/sons to drive them to and from work or to do a simple errand, the citizens subjects of Saudi Arabia are forced to employ nearly a million and a half foreign workers (60% of the kingdom's domestic workforce) to work as chauffers in order to drive around Miss Saudi Arabian Daisy.

With those million and a half or so chauffers requiring individual families to fork over $500 of their own money per month as well as food and accommodation, the cumulative $10bn or so in remittances (most of which are sent to the Philippines, where most chauffers hail from) are a huge drain on not only Saudi Arabian families but the Saudi Arabian economy as well.

Until recently this detriment to Saudi Arabia's coffers hadn't been much of a problem for the rulers of the oil-rich kingdom themselves, but thanks to the 2015 crash in oil prices black gold hasn't been bringing in anywhere near the amount of foreign currency as it used to, leaving Saudi Arabia in the mind-boggingly absurd position of tumbling towards bankruptcy (which according to a 2015 estimate by the International Monetary Fund would occur by 2020 if the situation didn't change).

With the price of oil having crashed from $114 in 2014 to a paltry $28 in 2016, the difference in price not only contributed to a loss of $390bn in anticipated profits for Saudi Arabia in 2015, but thanks to a 13% reduction in its GDP – and even though it burned through $115bn in foreign assets in order to minimize the damage – it still ended up with a deficit of $136bn in 2015 and then another deficit of $107bn in 2016. Even the "magic" of economists couldn't do much with the latter figure, only able to whitewash it down to a loss of $79bn when delayed payments and IOUs to contractors were excluded. Those exclusions would include such things as the 50,000 workers that the Binladin Construction Group terminated without having received their back-pay, and who upon having exit visas foisted upon them (necessary to leave the country thanks to the slave-like kafala system) decided to stick around and torch a fleet of company buses instead.

Just another day in paradise (photo of non-Binladin bus courtesy of Ulises Vizcardo)

With oil windfalls accounting for 90% of the treasury's revenue (it pumps one in nine barrels consumed worldwide everyday), Saudi Arabia's foreign assets not only proceeded to haemorrhage hundreds of billions of dollars from a high of $737bn in 2014 (for a while $6.5bn were being lost each month), but the kingdom's fragility was then made strikingly evident by the fact that for the first time since 1991 it was astoundingly forced to turn to the world of private finance in order to raise a 5-year $10bn loan from a consortium of global banks in order to finance its deficit.

How is it possible, you might ask, that a country with not just a bounteous supply of crude but a bounteous supply of sweet crude – that costs only $10 per barrel to extract – can be on the verge of insolvency? That would be partly due to the fact that Saudi Arabia isn't so much a country as much as it's a kingdom, a kingdom which in turn doesn't so much have a government as much as it has an absolute monarchy (or rather a theocratic dictatorship) which has to contend with the high upkeep costs of the society it's built.

Founded by king Abdulaziz Al Saud in 1932 (which is where the name Saudi Arabia is derived from), the discovery of oil some 80 years ago has allowed for a procession of kings (all sons of Al Saud) to take on the role of what is essentially CEO of the family business, a family business that happens to be an absolute monarchy, or better yet a petrocratic dictatorship. With countless scions of the royal clan expecting/requiring massive handouts (one of them is rumoured to have purchased the only privately held Leonardo da Vinci last month for $450.3mn), a population that pays no income tax, gasoline priced at a little higher than zero dollars per litre (which it has to import since it's a net gasoline importer), and so forth, prior to the recent crash of oil's price Saudi Arabia required a per barrel price of about $94.80 to break even due to its need to convert oil proceeds into payoffs to buy political loyalty, the quiescence of conservative clerics and the merchant class, as well as the subservience of its subjects.

To put it a bit crudely (no pun intended), what the aforementioned implies is that Saudi Arabia and its monarchy are screwed. Because if Ron Patterson's recent conveyance over at Peak Oil Barrel that "Saudi production peaked in 2016 at 10,338 kbpd and their average production for 2017 is down 443 kbpd so far" is an indication that Saudi Arabia has already reached its all-time peak, then that means that Saudi Arabia's prospects aren't about to get better anytime soon. Or rather, ever.

(image courtesy of Ron Patterson / Peak Oil Barrel)

Don't try and tell that to the Saudi Arabian monarchy though, what with it apparently not being too concerned with its peaking supplies of oil so much as it's leaning towards the much more palatable notion of "peak oil demand", a wishy-washy theory that has been recently espoused by the smartest men in the room over at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Financial Times, and Bloomberg. Without delving into the notion of peak oil demand (I'll save that for another time), what the Saudi Arabian monarchy is effectively worried about isn't so much its supplies of oil peaking (and then decreasing), but rather the fabled renewable energy utopia where everybody's car is essentially powered by a strap-on of which causes demand for Saudi Arabia's oil to drop to nil.

Put a bit differently, the Saudi Arabian monarchy is worried that technology is going to make its crude energy supplies obsolete. And if you think I'm exaggerating, think again.

Courtesy of a glitzy conference held in Riyadh in late-October, it was announced by the kingdom's Crown Prince that plans were afoot to create a $500bn megacity called NEOM that – you guessed it – will be entirely powered by wind and solar energy and so will provide a "new blueprint for sustainable life". Eschewing the need for pyromaniac Filipinos and the like, NEOM will not only boast more robots than people (in a coinciding event a "female" android named Sophia was the first android in the world to be granted citizenship – in the country that has been unable to grant basic rights to women no less), but according to the Crown Prince "Everything will have a link with artificial intelligence, with the Internet of Things – everything."

Spanning an area encompassing 26,500 km and crossing into Egypt and Jordan, NEOM is "the future of Saudi Arabia", one in which will be found "digital air" for all (free Wi-Fi), driverless vehicles, a population fed by solar-panel-powered vertical farms growing hydroponic food, and so on and so forth.

With NEOM being independent of the kingdom's "existing governmental framework", and featuring cutting-edge technological innovation, environmental sustainability, and gender equality (a promotional video apparently showed women jogging while wearing croptops, although as I don't watch video I can't confirm whether or not cleavage was allowed as well), NEOM promises to be almost completely at odds with the values and image currently portrayed by the ultraconservative kingdom. As the Crown Prince elucidated himself,

We can do 98 percent of the standards applied in similar cities, but there is 2 percent we can't do, like, for example, alcohol. A foreigner, if they desire alcohol, can either go to Egypt or Jordan.

So although foreigners will have to venture elsewhere if they desire alcohol (and possibly cleavage), "Neom's duty is to be a world hub for everyone in the whole world" as the Crown Prince also explained.


Whether or not you think this phantasmagorical Jetsons-on-steroids-Bitcoin vision is even possible, there's still the issue of how the Saudi Arabian monarchy expects to be able to pay for it all, what with its forecasted 2017 break-even point of $74 dollars per barrel meaning it's still about $20 off the mark and so still going broke. Although I'll touch on this a lot more in part 2, this is, in part, where the Saudi Arabian monarchy expects its Wonder Women in shining armour to come to its rescue.

On top of the aforementioned $10bn hit that Saudi Arabian families must collectively take in order to employ foreign chauffers, there's also the fact that many women (who make up the majority of the kingdom's university graduates) find that after deducting the chauffer fees from their salaries there's pretty much no monetary point in working. And since the Saudi Arabian monarchy needs to quash those $10bn in remittances, and since it especially needs an increase in women's participation in the workforce so that it can boost its GDP (Norwegian housewives that moved into the workforce nearly doubled the tax base and are said to have contributed "more to Norwegian prosperity than the coincidental discovery of North Atlantic oil reserves"), the monarchy obviously felt it had no choice but to modernise itself by aiming to increase women's participation in the workforce from 22% to 30% by 2030, in part by giving them access to the aforementioned strap-ons.


But as much of a genuine improvement it would be for Saudi Arabian women to no longer have to be slaves to their men and so have the opportunity to join their men as wage slaves instead, they'll nonetheless still be slaves to their men. Because while come June 2018 women will not only be able to drive in Saudi Arabia but won't even need permission from a man to get behind the wheel or procure themselves a driver's license, this is by no means the most pressing demand of Saudi Arabian women and activists in general.

Because the fact of the matter is that Saudi Arabian women still live under what is known as the guardianship system, a system in which women aren't allowed to marry, work, study, open a bank account, travel abroad, nor even get certain kinds of medical treatment without the explicit permission of their guardian, this guardian of course being a male, a male who might be their husband, father, brother – even their son. That being so, newly-minted female drivers might want to take extra precautions and stick to the slow lanes, considering that upon arrival at car accidents some ambulance personnel have been known to refuse life-saving treatment to women until the woman's guardian had arrived and provided approval, nearly leading to death.

Although dissent towards the lifting of the driving prohibition was mostly muted due to the tight leash the monarchy has on the media and prominent voices, it wasn't too long ago that support for the prohibition was rather de rigueur

Nonetheless, with ten million women over twenty years-of-age (read: potential drivers and thus GDP-contributors), the monarchy seems to figure it can make even more converts via more decrees, the latest one unveiled in late-October and which is to provide women with equal access to bread and circuses (women are slowly being given permission to enter sports stadiums).

However. It wasn't a week after this latest decree that another first was achieved in the kingdom, this one being the first time in Saudi Arabia's history that the heart of Riyadh was attacked, courtesy of a group of Yemeni rebels who launched a ballistic missile towards the capital's airport.

Fortunately enough the missile was intercepted over north-east Riyadh thanks to the Patriot missile defence system that came courtesy of the decade-old deal between Saudi Arabia and the United States, the President of the United States not being able to contain his effusive glee by pointing out that

We make the best military equipment in the world… You saw the missile that went out? And our system knocked the missile out of the air. That's how good we are. Nobody makes what we make…

Perhaps. Because as a senior Yemeni air force official told CNN,

This is not the end. Saudi cities will be a continuous target. We are entering a new phase.

With this in mind, and to give the monarchy a bit of credit, could it be possible that the monarchy realizes that maybe, just maybe, those missile defence systems aren't going to be able to hold out forever, and that perhaps it might be a good idea to hedge its bets by, I don't know, testing the waters to see if it can cash out while it still can? Could it be that some factions within the monarchy have seen the writing on the wall and so have decided to make a deal?

I'll touch on that a bit more in this post's follow-up. In the meantime, and since there isn't a thing besides peeing while standing up that a man can do and that a woman shouldn't be allowed to do, let's all rejoice in the new-found privileges soon to be bestowed upon Saudi Arabian women and so stand back – way back – in awe as the next volleys of fireworks begin their ascent across the skies of Riyadh.

President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz, quite possibly paying their final respects to the Age of Oil and the Age of Saudi Arabia (photo by The White House)

How My Family Was Affected ByThe US Civil War: War and Collapse in American History – Chapter 1

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 14, 2017

 

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Like a lot of southern poor people, I grew up without knowing too much about my family history. We are a long generation family anyway, and when I was born I only had one grandparent left alive. He passed away when I was 12, and although I knew him fairly well, he never regaled me with any stories. He was, as my mother would have said, an old coot. A widower who raised five kids as a single dad on a subsistence farm. Never held a job other than farming. And oh, yeah. He was a cripple who limped badly and walked with a cane, the result of a venomous snake bite he got as a boy.

 What I knew, I got from my Mom and Dad, who were kids who grew up during the Great Depression. Then their lives were forever altered by World War II which was the defining event of their entire lifetime. They were good country people who came up the hard way, and then lived in a relatively affluent post-war era that made the rest of their lives seem pretty easy. They lived their lives a day at a time, and never dwelled on the past. All I ever got was a few bits and pieces.

I never even cared that much about my family history until I was much older, and by then there was nobody left to ask. About twenty-five years ago I went to the State Library here in Austin, and found that my Dad's family first paid taxes on land around where I grew up in 1856. I wondered then if I had any Confederates in my attic, so to speak, but a quick search showed no evidence of any Civil War pensions paid to anyone with my last name, which is not a common one. I guessed that maybe my family lived so deep in the backwoods on the frontier that the war passed them by.

I know better now. Eventually I learned that the Civil War touched not only both sides of my family, but the families of everyone in the entire country who was alive at that time. No one was unaffected, and most had their lives deeply changed by that bloody conflict. But that's skipping ahead. At that point, I put my inquires aside and conducted no further research. I had hit a dead end. End of story.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/94/62/70/94627080e01ff1a6a9b45b9dd8bcd9e1.jpg Fast forward to two years ago. For Christmas, one of my grown daughters gave me a DNA test. You know, "23andme". It took me a few months, but eventually I did the swab and sent it off….and after several more months I got the report. I had always figured I was a mutt. I knew from my prior research I was a fifth generation Texan whose ancestors were pioneer farmers. I was surprised to find that genetically I'm about as Anglo as you can get. As Anglo as most people who are born in the UK. 75% British DNA, 10% French/German, and the rest mostly unspecified Northern European. More Neanderthal variants than 94% of the people who have catalogued their DNA on the 23andme site. 1% Finn. Maybe a Viking in the woodpile? No Native American at all. No southern European. No African. No Asian. Hard for me to believe, really. I knew I was a white guy, but I never figured I was THAT white. So much for the Great Melting Pot. Live and learn.

 When you do the 23and me thing, you can put your DNA report online publicly and maybe make touch with some relatives you didn't know you had. I was eventually contacted by a distant cousin I'd never met, who was connected to me through one of my mother's great aunts. Super nice guy who was trying to find family photos and piece together his own family history. We talked a bit, and I found out he'd just retired…from practicing dentistry in Houston, for about 40 years. Go figure.

But I digress. This story really begins with a free family tree app that some 23andme affiliate offers on the site. A freebie. I didn't know much, but I knew my grandparents and some of my great grandparents names. I filled in boxes. I soon discovered that in very recent years that the internet has burgeoned with a variety of formerly difficult-to-find records, particularly cemetery records. Thanks to a lot of dedicated local folks who put their community cemetery records onto national databases. Voila! One name led to another. I began to figure things out.

One thing my Mom had told me as a kid was that her family came from South Carolina, and that they had a plantation before the Civil War Right! I thought she was tripping. It wasn't that I didn't believe she was sincere, but Mom was one of those sweet southern women who are not quite as connected to reality as the rest of us. Sort of like Zelda Fitzgerald, but from a far less affluent family.

But in my search, I found that my Mom's grandfather, who is buried in East Texas, was indeed from South Carolina. One day I decided to look to see if there were any records of South Carolina plantations once owned by her family of origin. Her maiden name was not a common one either. It took me only minutes. Not only was there once such a place, it still existed, in Kershaw, SC. I found it on a site that catalogues antebellum historical properties and landmarks. It was still owned by some distant cousins. I managed to find an e-mall address for them and shot them a short note. They got back to me. Coincidentally, I had already planned a visit to SC to visit some other friends. Would it be possible for me to visit? Yes?
 
 A few months later I found myself standing on the front porch of a house built by one of my long dead cousins in the 1870's. For a few seconds I felt extremely nervous and wondered if I should have even come. But the door was opened and my wife and I were invited in and treated to all the southern hospitality that folks in that part of the world are known for.

It was the second house built on the property, the original log plantation house having been disassembled and used to repair barns in the mid 20th century. My cousin, who is in his early eighties, helped tear it down when he was a boy. I met his wife, his son (the last heir) and another cousin who used to run the local historical society up there. They served us a fine southern lunch, which could have been Sunday dinner. I will never forget their kindness and generosity. The house was full of historical photos of my distant relatives, two of which had served in the state legislature. As my cousins laughingly pointed out, I look a great deal like them.

My youngest cousin, the son, will inherit what is left of the original farm. There's about a thousand acres left….of the original twenty thousand. I had read that there was a family cemetery, and I wondered if it might be the final resting place of my great-great grandfather? As it turned out, the answer to that was no. But his older brother, the patriarch, is buried there, along with several other family members whose markers have not endured. We walked down a path in the woods through a big grove of tall oak trees to the family plot. Nearby is a slave cemetery, which has also been fenced and preserved, although no markers remain there either. We also visited the cemetery at a very old local church where many other relatives are interred. The headstones there remain, but acid rain has mostly obliterated the names. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. All forgotten in 150 years time.

http://www.jakehannam.com/web/pictures/susanna_hoffmann_tombstone.jpg

Water Woes

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 12, 2018


The Monastery – From left to right. Animal cottage and chicken pen, Old house, pump house, tavern building/our house.

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Oh, the glories of country living…

 

Today, about 10am our water stopped running. Our pump house that I built is 15ft square and 4ft high. It is well insulated and we put a light bulb inside when the temp drops below 20 degrees, and put a space heater in when it drops below 10 degrees, just to make sure the pipes inside don't freeze. It is located down our pasture, across a frozen creek, and down the old driveway about 200 yards from the converted tavern to house we live in. Misa walked over to check the pressure gauge, came back and said we have 0 pressure, and the space heater was still on. We figured that the pressure regulator device had gone bad. She drove 20 miles to town and got a new pressure regulator and some fuses, while I gathered the tools necessary to take the bad one off and replace it with the new one. I took a short nap and when I awoke she was back. It is 16 degrees here with a wind chill of 9 degrees.  We trekked over to the pump house and began the operation.


  When I unscrewed the pressure regulator, the last of the pressured water came spraying out. It got everywhere. Then we attached a small hose to the spicket inside to drain the rest. If the pressure drops to far we have to pump up the tank with air with a small electrical air pump, so I was working fast. I couldn't get the the regulator off the pipe it was attached to. While trying to do so I broke the pressure gauge and she had to go back into town to get a new one while I went back across to try to get the regulator off the pipe. In doing so I smashed my shin with a hammer as deflected off the vice grips I had attached to the pipe while holding the regulator stable on the floor. I still couldn't get it off. I decided to go put it in the table mounted vice in the garage, which is connected to the tavern building, and use a small piece of rebar to turn it, it came off. Now I had to go back over to the pump house to get the new regulator to place it on the pipe. Put teflon tape on each end of the pipe and screwed the new one in place. She returned with the gauge at about the same time. We walked over to put the two new gadgets on, plus two new fuses. On the wet floor I began to work, but my glasses were fogging up so bad I had to take them off, and it is hard for me to see anything in detail without them. So basically working by feel, I attached the new gauge, put the wiring back on, which Misa diagrammed on her cell phone, and put on the gauge. Put one fuse in, and the other refused to cooperate for 10 minutes, but finally did.


    I flipped the electricity back on and WAH LA, it worked, and not only worked but she happened to get a higher pressure regulator and our water is blasting out the faucets. I haven't taken a shower in two years because the pressure is so low . I hand wash my whole body about once a month. I think now the shower will work great. Yahoo!


  If we had called a pro to fix it probably would have cost about $300, we did it for $40, plus we would have had to wait for a day or two to get them here. As many of you know I am taking Prednisone, and I drink about 12 glasses of water each day.


  When I woke this morning I had the strangest song running through my mind. It was frantic and made little since to what I normally create, but I did my best to create the obscure song, and called it "Forced". Go figure!


  I chose this life style in a monastery because I desired to know what life and our universe/s "are" the best I could. With a vow of poverty, and bailing wire and duct tape, we have kept this place going for 34 years. I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

Copicing for Coping with Collapse

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Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on January 5,  2018

A Tour of Fox Wood

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Note from RE

Our old Collapse Blogging friend Jason Heppenstall (aka "Hepp") has gone into the Video Production Bizness, starting off with a Tour of his  Woodland Property in Cornwall, UK.  Hepp has been working hard on the property since he acquired it around 5 years ago when he decided to take his family off grid as much as was reasonably possible, leaving his job in Denmark and moving back to his native shores of Jolly Old England.

So far things seem to be coming along swimmingly well there, and he has good and realistic plans for future development which you will hear about in the video.  We look forward to future installments of his video series on Doomsteading in the UK.  Along with our own Doomsteaders Eddie in Texas, David in Canada and Palloy in the Tropical Rainforest, you can find many good hints for getting a good Doomstead set up here on the Doomstead Diner.  You will find most of the hints and discussions inside the Diner Forum on the Doomsteading forum and the SUN Forum.  Come join us for a Collapse Meal as we prepare for the End of the Age of Oil.

Death of a Mall Man

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on January 7, 2018

 

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Death of a Salesman was written by Arthur Miller in 1947, and is widely considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th Century.  It's a play about broken dreams and the lifetime failure of the protagonist, Willy Loman.  It's a sad and depressing play about the failure of the American Dream which doesn't seem too odd now, but this play was written in 1947, right after the end of WWII and at the beginning of the grand explosion into suburban housing, car mania and endless consumerism we live in today.  Some folks hitched a ride on the great bandwagon of prosperity that came with this expansion, but many did not and ended up much like Willy Loman did.

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/dam/assets/171010194133-sears-store-closing-780x439.jpg Nonetheless, despite the fact that the Great Consumer Culture never really was the great success it was made out to be, the illusion continued to be sold from the 1950s onward, right up today with the online retail giants of Amazon and Alibaba.  The illusion is falling away though now, most significantly in the form of Mall closures all around the country.  The "Anchor" stores of large retailers like Macy's, Sears and JC Penney are all downsizing as fast as they can to avoid Bankruptcy, with new store closures announced on a monthly if not weekly basis.  This will not of course avoid bankruptcy in the end, but it does drag it out and delay it, in some cases long enough for Vultures like Eddie Lampert to strip mine the rotting hulk for whatever assets are still left.

Although folks just a decade or two younger than myself may not believe this, there once was a time here in Amerika before Malls dotted the landscape and before rampant consumerism became the cultural religion.  When I first returned from Brazil in the late 1960s, there were no Malls at all.  The consumerism in those days was happening in the Department Stores like Macy's, which were the first outlets for all the merchandise being produced in the aftermath of WWII.  In fact you can say the whole "Black Friday" sales gimmick was kicked off by Macy's with their Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.  The Media of the era backed this up with films like "Miracle on 34th Street", with Edmund Gwynn playing a Macy's Santa and the young Natalie Wood playing a little girl who really BELIEVED in Santa Claus.  The film was a completely shameless promotion of the lifestyle being sold, complete with the perfect Suburban House being handed by Santa Claus to Natalie and her parents at the end of the film

http://club.berkovich-zametki.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image20.jpg For the Millenials who like to drop in and blame the Boomers for the rampant consumer culture we have now, catch the date on "Miracle on 34th Street", it was produced in 1947 also, the same year Arthur Miller wrote Death of a Salesman.  Sense a little cognitive dissonance here?  Which narrative do you WANT to buy into?  Most people want to believe in Santa Claus, the dark side of reality is not so pleasant. In any event, this all predates the arrival of the Boomers on the scene, they were just starting to be born in 1947 and did not have a whole lot of control over the direction the culture was being pointed by those who stood to make a profit off of this type of wasteful living.  It in facts predates even the Greatest Generation, the parents of the Boomers who returned from WWII to buy suburban tract housing just being built on the GI Bill.  You can see the beginnings of this as early as the late 1800s with the first Sears Catalogs for buying by mail order.  Sears was at one time before its long downhill slide the Amazon & Alibaba of its era rolled into one .

As I mentioned, when I returned to the FSoA from Brasil in the late 1960s there were no malls to speak of, and really this was true right through the 1970s, although I think they started to put them up at the end of the decade.  The oil crisis of the early 70s was over, the Dollar was freed from the Gold standard and credit was flowing out fast and furious to the well connected.  The first mall I remember going to was called I think the Galleria,and that was in the early 1980s.  It seemed pretty impressive to me back then, although I know compared to some of the monstrosities built later it was probably pretty small.

The malls quickly developed their own culture, particularly among the teenagers of the time and Mall Rats were born.  Generally high school age with some of the older ones sporting their own carz to haul themselves and a few friends to the Mall parking lot, it was a place to gather, smoke weed and try to pickup girls if you were a male.  I was a little too old for this scene at the time, but I observed it as I walked around and window shopped all the great merchandise all in one place.

The malls had their heyday from the mid 1980s until the late 1990s and are the best example of the conspicuous consumption mania that dominated this period.  More credit flowed out to build more malls, and more new roads to get to the malls which were usually pretty far out from a city center because that was the only places you could get enough land at a cheap enough price to build one.  This spelt the death knell for many shopping districts in the small to medium size cities and they began to wither and decay.

You can look at this period as the "blow off top" of the Amerikan Retail market which began with Sears in the late 1800s.  There was just a ton of STUFF being sold in these places and there was always something new and cool you just HAD to have, especially if you were a teenager.  How were people AFFORDING all this great new stuff though?

The building mania of roads, malls and subdivisions provided many jobs in construction at a pretty good wage through the 80s and 90s, so there was some money flowing out into the suburban consumer's bank accounts, but overall it was stagnating pretty significantly.  Most of the money being spent at these malls was still more debt, now Credit Card debt as Visa and Mastercard vastly expanded the number of people they would offer credit to and the computer and communication systems evolved to become all automated.  "For everything you ever wanted but could not afford, there's VISA".

https://waunafcu.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/VISA-shoppingbag-Adproof-Final2-1024x1024.jpg Everybody got a Visa card in those years, even college students with no income.  Even if you were the rare person who could fog a mirror but did not qualify for a bank issued card, you could get store issued credit cards from all the major retailers, Sears, Macy's, etc.  You could stack your wallet full of them, and it just seemed like Free Money.  Small monthly payments at first, but the buying every time you went to the mall became habitual.  Those small bills got bigger and bigger, and there were more of them coming in every month.  Your total monthly bill was now more than you had discretionary cash to cover.  By the time you graduated college, between the credit card bills and the student loan bills, there was no money left to pay rent with, even if you found a job.  It was back to Mom's basement for the next decade while you tried to pay off the bills.

Mom & Dad also got addicted to the credit cards and shop till you drop at the mall, and they weren't making any more money either.   For them though, the Banksters came up with another solution to ever increasing household debt, the HELOC loans.  The equity built up over years living in a McMansion was refinanced, all the bills consolidated at a lower monthly payment and Mom & Dad were free to spend again!  Unfortunately this backfired for many in 2008 when the sub-prime Real Estate market went tits up and many of these McMansions went underwater.  Dad, an aging Middle Manager somewhere got laid off, the McMansion got foreclosed on and this was another formerly middle class family reduced to abject poverty.  All the equity in the home had been burned up at the Mall, and now besides not having a home to live in they still had the accumulated debt on the refinanced mortgages, which were now recourse loans the banks could continue to hound them for.

Although the process started before the 2008 Financial Crisis, the process of store closures in these mega retail palaces vastly accelerated at this time.  People simply had neither the income nor the credit necessary to keep up the Shop till you Drop lifestyle.  Teenagers no longer got a car on their 16th Birthday as a de riguer gift from Mom & Dad, now they got a smart phone instead.  Instead of gatheirng together at the Mall to socialize, they instead spent their time on Social Media.   If they did have any money to buy some electronic toy or fashionable article of clothing, they did it online with the smart phone, not at the shops in the mall.  Once the big retailers closed their doors in a given Mall, foot traffic decreased exponentially and the smaller shops and food courts that depended on that traffic began to shutter their doors also.  Many of those Malls built in the 80s & 90s are now empty and rotting hulks, awaiting demolition if the township they are in can find the money to demolish them.  Many more will close this year, and in the years to follow.  This model for the culture is finished, although a few places still hang on as the local employees hope for a miracle turn around to save their jobs.

https://s-i.huffpost.com/gadgets/slideshows/347062/slide_347062_3671582_free.jpg

The motivation to write this article came from an article I read published by WaPo on New Year's Day 2018, First, this town lost its Macy’s. Then Sears. Now, all eyes were on J.C. Penney.  The article is too long to paste in its entirety, but there are a few interesting observations made I would like to reflect on.

First let's look at the location of this Mall and the economics of the neighborhood.

There were four days until Christmas, and this customer had decided against shopping online to come to a real store and talk to real people. To Barbara, that meant she had to provide something he couldn’t get from clicking buttons on a computer. Could the Internet assure the customer that he was making the right choice? Could it praise him for being a thoughtful husband? Could it make sure that he was getting the best possible deal?

That was what Barbara could offer at the last remaining department store in the only mall in Hermitage, a city of 16,000 in Western Pennsylvania. J.C. Penney used to be one of three anchor stores at the Shenango Valley Mall. Then, one day last March, both Sears and Macy’s shut down, becoming two of the more than 500 department stores that closed across the country in 2017. Headlines have called the shrinking of these American staples the “retail apocalypse.” In Hermitage, employees called it “the funeral,” because of the way it sounded as customers lined up to make their final purchases. “I’m so sorry,” they said. “I’m in shock.” “What are you going to do?” “What am I going to do?”

What might have been just a sign of the times in a bigger city was a life-changing and economy-altering loss for Hermitage, the kind of place too far from anywhere to be considered a suburb, but too developed to be considered rural or to attract visitors with small-town charm. The closest thing Hermitage has to a downtown is the intersection where its mall sits, surrounded by McDonald’s, Walgreens and Dunkin’ Donuts. The biggest buildings down the road are Kohl’s, Kmart and Walmart. The retail industry is the third-largest employer in town, just behind health care and manufacturing.

So where is Hermitage?  Let's look at  the map.

As you can see, Hermitage sits about dead center between two "major metros", Cleveland and Pittsburgh, on what used to be some of the best farmland in the world.  Somewhere along the way, probably in the 70s-80s this area was developed as a suburban bedroom community for those cities, as well as the more minor metro areas of Youngstown and Akron.  However, even by the 80s all these towns were in decline in the heart of the Rust Belt.

The neighborhood has no "charm" like an old New England town or an old town along the Mississippi River that got left behind when the interstate highways were built, so it doesn't even have that going for it.  It never developed any real economy outside the service economy for the locals of medical care, restaurants and retail.  With retail going down the toilet, there's not much left there in the way of local employment, and it's not like you can drive to Cleveland to find a high paying job either.   What is left to drive the economy there?  Aging Boomers who are collecting Social Security and Pensions about covers it.

Next let us look at the Demographics demonstrated in this article.  The main focus is on a Jewelry Salesperson who got her job for the Christmas Season, Barbara Cake.

Barbara Cake shows watches to customers at the J.C. Penney jewelry counter. (Dustin Franz for The Washington Post)

But come November, J.C. Penney was still open, and the most important season in retail was about to begin. Sharon Loughner, the general manager, was confident that the rush of holiday customers was on its way and, with little choice of where to go, that they would be coming to her store. She would need more workers to do all the extra fetching, folding, stacking and selling, and so she put out a call for seasonal employees.

Among the parade of well-qualified applicants from Hermitage and towns nearby came Barbara, a 67-year-old woman who seemed to represent all that retail used to be. She was impeccably dressed for her interview. She planned to wear a pantsuit each day. She talked about catering to the customer’s every need. She addressed everyone, no matter their age, as “sir” or “ma’am.”

For J.C. Penney to succeed, it needed employees like Barbara, whose necklace and bracelet, Sharon noticed, coordinated perfectly with her outfit. Sharon thought of the department where the sale of a single item could equal a dozen sweaters in ­revenue.

“How would you like,” she asked Barbara, “to work behind the jewelry counter?”

Wait a minute…since when has a 67 year old retiree been the ideal retail saleswoman?  Back in my younger days, the department store sales people were all in their 20s or 30s the most.  If you weren't out of sales on the floor level and into management or working as a buyer for the store by the time you were 40 you were a complete LOSER.  Now you have aging retirees lining up for these positions which pay barely over minimum wage, and they need to meet their daily quotas too!  Great way to spend your retirement years!  Barbara needs to do this so she can save up enough money to buy Iphones for her Grandkids.

Barbara accepted, not thinking about the arthritis in her hands that would make it hard to work the small clasps, the plantar fasciitis in her right foot that would act up if she stood for hours, the reading glasses she would need to see the small numbers on the price tags. She had been an executive secretary for 30 years, and now, a few years into her retirement, had done the math on her savings, her mortgage payment and her grandchildren's Christmas gifts and decided it was time to return to work.

The job at J.C. Penney was guaranteed only until the new year, but if she worked hard enough, she thought, they might keep her on. As a “sales associate,” she would be expected to sell about $1,500 worth of merchandise a day and would bring home $8.50 an hour, before tax.

She studied up on diamond ratings and learned to lock the jewelry counter’s glass cases to help prevent shoplifting. She learned not to ask if customers had J.C. Penney credit cards, but to assume that they did, so they would feel like they should. “And that will be on your Penney’s card, sir?” She survived Black Friday, perfecting her response to unhappy customers: a hand over her bedazzled brooch and a sincere apology. “I’m sorry, ma’am, we don’t have the Fitbit here.”

It's all so pathetic and sad, particularly considering the people immersed in this decaying culture have no understanding of why it is occuring or why their hopes and dreams that things will improve in the future will not come to pass.  We're not looking at a "cyclical downturn" here, this is a structural problem with capitalism and the energy intensive economy it was built on.  To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, "The jobs at the Hermitage Mall are going boys, and they ain't never comin' back".

 

Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back
To your hometown

The jobs that were available to provide money to BUY goods in the retail economy over the last couple of decades were jobs that where the work was SELLING the goods, like Barbara Cake is still trying to do in the Hermitage JCPenney Jewelry department.   The jobs actually MANUFACTURING these goods disappeared in the decades before that and were offshored to places like China, India & Mexico, where labor could be purchased at a much cheaper price.  So there wasn't much left in the way of remunerative work besides becoming a part of the retail/service economy already.

Paradoxically, while by the numbers retail sales have been climbing back out of the sewer since the Great Recession of 2008-10, retail jobs have been decreasing at the same time.  Steve Hansen on Global Economic Intersection recently covered this phenomenon in his article, Death of Retail Employment Growth.

Pundits continue to rejoice in the improving retail sales pointing to an improving economy. But consider this: inflation adjusted retail sales per capita is barely at the levels seen before the Great Recession (blue line in graph below).

The per capital retail spending curve roughly approximates median household income (red line in graph above). Most of the middle and lower classes spend all they make. My point is that retail sales is limited by population and their income.

However, the noteworthy aspect of retail is the contraction of the retail workforce (red line in graph below) all while inflation adjusted retail sales(blue line in graph below) continues to expand into record territory.

Another way to look at the data in the graph above is the rate of year-over-year growth where the difference is more apparent.

Many blame the shakeup on Amazon's AMZN (U.S.: Nasdaq) presence in the retail marketplace. Of course, their e-commerce model coupled with their automation / robotics adoption is putting pricing pressures on the entire retail industry.

While there has been much play in the Newz about automation coming to Driving in the form of self-driving Carz & Trux that will eliminate millions of driving jobs in the Taxi and Trucking industries, in reality the retail industry is much more amenable to automation than driving is, and frankly I am surprised this hasn't gone further, faster.  Most of the Grunt level jobs in retail, be it stocking shelves or running a cash register are extremely repetitive and they exist in a controlled small environment, unlike carz on the road.  Robotic Pallet Jacks could easily negotiate the aisles and stock the shelves and self-checkout scanning kiosks already exist in most of the larger food stores and superstores like Walmart.  So even forgetting for a moment about the transition to online retail through Amazon and Alibaba, any surviving Brick & Mortar stores have a lower potential number of retail jobs that would be available.  1 clerk can monitor 10 self-checkout kiosks instead of 10 clerks on individual registers.  That's a 90% reduction in jobs right there!

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/ze0FolfHxbTeCgUAHNz_VYbIqfI=/0x508:4425x3827/1200x800/filters:focal(0x508:4425x3827)/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/47195816/automat-grand-central-1.0.0.jpg I can also envision a system where you have to swipe your card and pay for an item even before you take it off the shelf.  This is the way the old "Automats" used to work, where you had to drop your quarters into the slot to get the door to open and take out your Tuna Fish Sandwich. There actually was one of these places still functioning on 14th Street in NYC in the 1970s  when I went to High School in the neighborhood, although they had their heyday in the 1940s to 1960s. Vending machines were the succesor to that. You already have kiosks in the airports for Best Buy where you can swipe your card and get a new Bluetooth Headset for your Smart Phone if you forgot it in the rush to get to the airport.  I can easily see entire aisles in the store with these type of kiosks instead of regular shelves.

There is just about no job in the retail industry that couldn't be easily roboticized, and if BAU were to continue long enough I would certainly expect this to occur.  It is however all extremely energy intensive and very complex, and besides that it still depends on the consumers having MONEY to buy the shit in the kiosks!  Where are they going to get this money?  This sector of the economy is about the last one with jobs left for J6P, what is left after those disappear?

At his point you need to start talking about the UBI, or Universal Basic Income.  Nice idea in principle, but in practice if you pass out a fixed amount of money for people to spend, you ALSO need to control the PRICES for the items they buy with this money, at least the essentials like food, housing, transportation, communications and health care.  Without price controls, the providers of these goods & services will keep raising their prices to the maximum the market will bear, leaving everyone just as impoverished as they were to start with!

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/09/26/article-2767973-218A203900000578-783_634x461.jpg Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), I don't expect BAU to last long enough to see all retail and all transportation of goods to be roboticized to any significant degree.  Retail is shutting down already too fast for this to occur.  As I write this article, both Macy's and Sears announced new Store Closures and employee layoffs, in the case of Macy's numbering around 5000 new folks on the Unemployment lines.  Both of these corporations have long been destined for Bankruptcy, and you wish somebody would put them out of their misery already.  Like a lame horse, watching the suffering dragged out is quite unpleasant.

For myself, watching this aspect of our Industrial Consumer Culture head inexorably toward its inevitable death is quite similar to my visit to the Boeing Museum of Flight, where the development of the aircraft industry is celebrated.  There I suffered Cognitive Dissonance between my knowledge of how the aviation industry has expanded warfare and made it more deadly on the mass scale, and my admiration for the technological prowess involved in building these machines.

In this case, while the overall Consumer Culture disgusts me, I admired the architecture and sheer SIZE of these malls when they first went up, and I LIKED having all those stores in one place to walk around to and at least window shop.  At the time I was quite unaware of DOOM and how unsustainable the whole model was, it seemed like this was the mark of a successful society and economic system.  After all, here in the FSoA we were shopping at STOCKED Malls, while the Soviets over in the USSR were lining up just to buy food at the grocery store!   Capitalism was SUCCESSFUL!  Communism was a FAILURE!

There was a certain amount of truth to that also, looked at in terms of Instant Gratification.  What the system was doing though was mortgaging out the future, with the expectation of an infinitely growing economy, which is of course impossible in a Finite World.  Capitalism was a fabulous model for burning through resources at the fastest possible rate, meanwhile creating waste and pollution at previously unimaginable levels.  One trip to the dump or the "landfill" in your neighborhood should be enough to convince anyone with functional brain cells the model is not sustainable.

https://media.nbcchicago.com/images/652*489/120709+landfill.jpg

So where do we go from here?  For a time, Amazon & Alibaba and other online retail will replace the Brick & Mortar retailers, but they also are limited in their lifespan and will last an even shorter period of time than the malls did, which if you count it from the very beginning in 1980 or so to say 2020 was 40 years.  From my POV, the online model gets max 10 years from now, but that is only assuming there isn't a collapse of the Monetary System or a major Thermonuclear War.  Even without those cataclysmic events though, if the consumers are not being issued out enough credit to buy the merchanidse, it just won't sell.  An ever decreasing percentage of the population has access to such credit, generally issued out in the form of wages.  Without a UBI or something similar to keep the commerce going, it's finished.  As mentioned above though, UBI has its own set of problems, and besides that the political and financial Elite are not predisposed to handing out Free Money to anyone but themselves.  If all else is failing though, it may be undertaken and work for a short period of time.

What comes after this is anybody's guess, although it is likely to be a much more local system utilizing direct barter rather than money.  Also nearly certain at this point is an enormous reduction in the global population as the overall syatem of money and trade fails in ever larger circles beyond just the retail goods sold in malls.  In fact in many of the poorer countries, large segments of the population are already being priced out of affording food, which leads to increasing political destabilization in those countries.  Some quite large countries like Iran and North Korea can be included here, and these countries have means to strike out militarily if existentially threatened by food shortages, which seems likely.

Until this does turn into an armed conflict though, the best the local in any neighborhood can do is to try and develop some Food Security with long lasting foods in storage or means to grow your own, or both.  If you have lived inside it for a lifetime as I have, don't feel too guilty about mourning the demise of the Malls and all the great stuff they were selling for the last 40 years.  It was a dream, a hallucination, a mirage sold to all of us by those who stood to make an enormous profit from it and live richer than any King, Pharoah or Emperor from the past.  Unfortunately with such dreams, you eventually do wake up from them, and reality sets back in.  Then you gotta deal with that.

The Emperor Dump Has No Hair

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on January 3, 2017

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   By all accounts the world has gone and entered into a pharmaceutical induced hallucination of narcissistic and instant chicanery.  The entire hallucination is conjured to a fevered pitch of delusional bliss, and manipulated by card carrying psychopaths.  The big black snake went and crossed the river and pissed out a bunch of fracked oil for a healthy 1% profit.  The trickster God went and got himself elected President of Merika and forgot how to pronounce pronunciation while he was at it.  Now the worried amongst the diminishing thinking class of people left on our planet think this trickster Dump might start a nuclear holocaust!   A big fat steaming pile of dumpy poppycock I say!  A president Dump even.  I shit out the likeness of his Dumpness in my toilet bowl from time to time. 
   
   We are entering into our 17th year of continual war in the Middle East.  We're all one cancer cell away from bankruptcy.  We're one pretend chemical industrial food product away from terminal cancer.  Dump's gonna drop a nuclear dump on us any day now.  The coral is dying and the ocean is filling with plastic.  Robots are on their way to making human labor obsolete.  I guess the scientist that technology up this wiz bang, to cheap to meter reality, better come up with the singularity app stat.  Cause we're all going to have to float on to the next chapter sooner then later if things keep going the way they are going.  Otherwise we're going to have some real big problems, and I don't think Dumps gonna be able to drop turds out of his shit hole to cover it up either. 
   
   Indeed, there seems to be doom around every corner…waiting.  I've been waiting for 10, going on 11 years now, for doom to arrive and erase a recognizable pile of business as usual from my view.  I'm still waiting.  Not even a year ago I was splitting bamboo poles and weaving them into baskets.  I was making shakuhachi flutes and playing them.  I was even getting paid money to make chicken coops out of bamboo.  I was making money designing permaculture landscapes in suburbia from time to time.  Money for hugelkultur!  Unfortunately the people in our society with the money AND Earth ethics are rare.  Most people don't see the point when eggs, meat, cheese, vegetables…and microwaveable entrees are too cheap to price in the big box stores.  If you want to support yourself and your family with Permaculture then you have to get certified as a pemaculture teaching wizard.

   Unfortunately energy still has a pretty steep meterable cost.  It's metered in dead brown people over there…in our 15, going on 20, year war on terrorism.  When times are tough we can meter energy in unemployed vets and starving children drifting up dead on the coast of the Mediterranean.  I guess the silver lining is that at least they aren't starving any longer since they are dead.  One less worthless eater to feed!   We need to look on the bright side of life, not the miserable, dead, brown, glass half empty, shitty president Dumpy side.  If we all just believe that unicorns are real, and that their rainbow colored skittle shit is a cure all to the cancer that ails us, then we can all watch football and everyone's team will win forever! 
   
   How much longer will business as usual last?  I mean the stock market is healthier then it's ever been.  Even more healthy then before the great depression.  Even more healthy then when tulips sold for a billion dutch dump wigs.  It's even doing more better then when Chia Pets and Pet Rocks reached their pinnacle of mind dumbing numbing trumpness.  Who didn't want a Pet Trump?  You didn't even have to feed it!  Personally I've grown weary waiting for the crash.  It's not as if the trash pile is getting any smaller over at the land of away.  All of my recycling and natural yield wielding has been for naught.  It's morning in Merika and the sun is rising over the land of Dumpness.   He's dumping unintelligible turds out of his finger tweeter everyday, and he's got a legion of repukelicans puking up his poopy poop in unison. 

   You know it's the end of times when a once Druid Permacultue Bamboo Ninja has given up his lawn mowers for a tractor trailer full of even more fractional reserve digibits.  It just wouldn't be a paradoxical conundrum complete with mythological levels of irony and hyperhypocricy without a Trucker Permie Bamboo Ninja out here on Merika's roadways, hauling freight for BAU.  It's too bad that splitting and weaving bamboo baskets can't pay for a family to live in our current Merikan world.  Who needs primitive skills like splitting bamboo with a knife, by hand, and then weaving it into stupid baskets when the robots are coming?  Who needs natural and renewable landscapes where food is the product and waste doesn't exist?  It's not like robots need food.  Is it?  I mean don't they just plug some plugs into us and harvest our bioenergy in the end?  Aren't we going to upload into the cloud and live in the singularity?  What do we even need the Earth for anyways?  It's not like we're going to need our meat suits in like a couple more years.  Once dump finishes  pooping out his trickster shit we'll all have a good laugh and then depart into the blissful Matrix of human created robot hubris.  I bet his Dumpness will poop out a turd that's got a wig on it as well.  Won't that be hilarious?  Who need a drink?  I'd like a dumpy drink.  A dumpy, stupid, better then you, genetically modified corn colored poopy dump drink to swallow down my load of Dump with.  God Bless Merika, and long live President Turd. 

2018: The Year of the BIG ONE?

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 31, 2017

 

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It's Christmas Eve 2017 as I begin this blog, which I will publish next week on New Year's Eve as my 2017 wrap up blog and maybe some predictions for 2018.  Unfortunately, both looking backward and forward, I'm not terrifically motivated nor do I have any great new insights to keyboard out I haven't keyboarded 1000 times before.  Not like there is any shortage of collapse material though, in fact 2017 was a Banner Year for Collapse on many levels!  I don't think any year since the shit show began in earnest in 2008 has had as many good Collapse stories as 2017.  So motivated or not, I will squeeze out a year's worth of collapse turds, and then tomorrow flush them down the toilet to make room for another load coming soon to our world.

By himself, from his Inauguration onward, Donalditry Trumpovetsky has filled the newz pages of the MSM and the Blogosphere with a steady stream of complete bullshit and insanity.  The Hill has done me the favor of compiling a Top 10 list of Trumpofsky Turds.

The Memo: The Top 10 Trump controversies of 2017

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The Memo: The Top 10 Trump controversies of 2017
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President Trump’s first year in office has produced a relentless stream of controversies.

Trump’s willingness to flout political norms has outraged his critics, even while it has delighted his supporters.

In a sign of just how tumultuous 2017 has been, some stormy episodes that would have been enormous stories under other presidents do not even crack the Top 10 list below.  

We found no space on the list for a Trump speech to the Boy Scouts in July that drew widespread criticism for its overtly political nature; nor for his suggestion that TV anchor Mika Brzezinski was bleeding from the face due to cosmetic surgery; nor for his jab at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as “Pocahontas” during an event honoring Native American veterans.

Here are the ten biggest Trump controversies of the year.

 

  1. The firing of James Comey

The decision to fire FBI director James Comey was the biggest self-inflicted wound of Trump’s first year.

It led directly to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — and to a world of pain for the president. 

Top aides have been indicted, the Russia probe has hung over his first year in the White House and the president himself faces questions about whether he obstructed justice.

Comey delivered dramatic testimony to Congress after the firing. His words were carried live nationwide by at least a dozen TV networks.

The widespread suspicion — though Comey did not explicitly say this — is that the FBI director was fired because he refused to back off an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“It’s my judgment I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” Comey said.

Trump was reportedly advised against firing Comey even by some of his most stalwart aides, including then-chief strategist Stephen Bannon. He went ahead, and the reverberations dominated the rest of the year. 

They will echo into 2018.

 

  1. Charlottesville

Trump’s reaction to a rally by far-right activists in this Virginia city dominated August, and led to some of the strongest criticism of him from within his own party.

The “Unite the Right” rally stretched over the weekend of Aug. 11 and 12. Among those attending were unabashed white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites. They had come to the city to protest the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a park.

Predictably, there were clashes between those attending the rally and left-leaning groups opposed to them. A protester, Heather Heyer, was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by a man reported to have far-right sympathies. According to police, the ramming was an intentional attack.

Trump initially said that there had been “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” The response, suggesting a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who protested against them, caused a furor. 

The controversy deepened further when, at a subsequent appearance, Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

In addition to a blizzard of Democratic and liberal criticism, Republicans including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney all publicly dissented from Trump’s position.

 

  1. Travel ban

Trump had been in office for just a week when he signed an executive order that led to protests in streets and at airports.

The first version of the travel ban that the administration tried to enact banned most travelers to the United States from seven nations with majority-Muslim populations.

Trump and the administration argued such a move was necessary to protect the United States from the threat of terrorism. But it ran into immediate legal challenges. Lawyers argued there was clear religious animus and discrimination, a point that they reinforced by highlighting Trump’s campaign-trail promise to enact a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.

The first version of the ban became bogged down in the courts, as did a second iteration.

But the White House finally got a victory in early December, when the Supreme Court allowed a third version of the ban to go into effect while legal challenges to it are ongoing. 

 

  1. Taking a knee in the NFL

Trump has had a contentious relationship with the NFL dating back to the 1980s, when he was a prominent investor in the rival United States Football League.

But he kicked things into a completely different gear this year, hammering players who opted to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem in protest of racial injustice.

Trump put himself squarely in the middle of the issue during a speech in Alabama in September. Campaigning for incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), who would go on to lose the GOP primary, Trump said people would “love” if NFL owners reacted to a player taking a knee by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired!”

The outburst initially produced a greater degree of solidarity among the players. Trump, though, was loath as ever to back down, and hit the players and owners several more times, especially via Twitter.

It was not clear who won the fight politically, though Trump has repeatedly noted a decline in TV ratings for the NFL.

 

  1. “Little Rocket Man”

Trump’s unorthodox approach extended to the international arena. 

His supporters see his disregard for diplomatic niceties as a long overdue move toward American assertiveness. His detractors regard it as reckless and dangerous.

The most vivid example came in Trump’s ongoing feud with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. In a speech to the United Nations in September, Trump called Kim “Rocket Man” — a simultaneous reference to North Korea’s missile program and the Elton John hit often played at Trump rallies during the 2016 campaign. 

During the same speech, Trump said that the United States would “totally destroy North Korea” if it felt it had to do so.

In response, Kim called Trump “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and threatened to make him “pay dearly” for his rhetoric. 

Trump called Kim “a sick puppy” — and modified his nickname to “Little Rocket Man” — on subsequent occasions.

 

  1. A controversial condolence call

Trump had already shown during the 2016 campaign that he had no compunction about tangling with the relatives of U.S. troops killed in combat, if they criticized him.

Last year, it was Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a U.S. Army officer killed in Iraq in 2004. The Khans appeared at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in support of Hillary Clinton.

This October, it was the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, one of four U.S servicemen killed in an ambush in Niger.

The row began when Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), a friend of the Johnson family, told a local NBC News affiliate in Miami that Trump had told Johnson’s widow, “you know, he must've known what he signed up for.” 

Wilson accused the president of having been insensitive and said that Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, had said that Trump did not seem to recall her husband’s name.

On Twitter, Trump insisted that Wilson had “totally fabricated” what he had said. Members of Johnson’s family, however, stood by Wilson’s account.

The controversy followed on the heels of a related Trump flap, when he claimed, inaccurately, that former President Obama and other past presidents “didn’t make calls” to bereaved relatives.

 

  1. Indictments

The Russian probe led by Mueller began delivering its most serious problems for Trump in late October, when former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his associate Richard Gates were indicted on charges related to money laundering.

A lower-level campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, was also indicted. The bigger threat for Team Trump in that instance was the revelation that Papadopoulos was cooperating with prosecutors.

The biggest news of all came in December, when Flynn, the former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. 

Flynn, too, struck a deal with Mueller’s team. 

Flynn’s flip is the single most dangerous element so far for Trump and his closest confidants.  

  

  1. Kirsten Gillibrand “would have done anything”

The president reacted explosively after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said he should resign in light of the accusations of sexual assault and other misconduct that have been leveled against him by more than a dozen women. 

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,” he wrote on Twitter.

The suggestion that Gillibrand “would do anything” for campaign cash was widely seen as a sexual innuendo. 

But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president, arguing at a media briefing that "only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way.”

Other female Democrats, including Warren, came to Gillibrand’s defense, as did a number of media figures.

Gillibrand herself accused Trump of “a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice.”

 

  1. Sean Spicer and the inauguration crowd

Then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer set the tone for much of what was to come on the first full day of the Trump presidency, lambasting the media for their coverage of the previous day’s inauguration.

Among his criticisms was that the media had not recognized that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

The in-person crowd at Trump’s inauguration was significantly smaller than the audience for Obama’s equivalent event in January 2009, as photographic evidence made clear.

Spicer also got several other facts wrong in his broadside, but he continued to stand by it as long as he served in the White House.

After he left, he was asked by the New York Times if he regretted the episode.

“Of course I do, absolutely,” he replied.

 

  1. The Mooch is loose

There has never been a White House communications director quite like Anthony Scaramucci.

The financier and Trump friend — “The Mooch” to fans and foes alike — was appointed by Trump on July 21, and fired 10 days later.

Spicer resigned as White House press secretary on the same day Scaramucci was tapped by Trump. Spicer was soon followed to the exits by his friend and ally Reince Priebus, Trump’s first chief of staff.

There had not been any time for that tumult to settle down before Scaramucci gave a profane on-the-record interview to The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, in which he attacked Priebus and Bannon in crude terms.

There was no way back from there. The arrival of retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly as chief of staff spelled the end of Scaramucci’s short and tempestuous tenure.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

 

This list of course barely scratches the surface of Trumpsky's gaffes and daily Twitter embarassments.  The issue here is these stories come so fast and furious that they get pushed out of the newz stream after a day or two to make room for the next one.  Besides the "Top 10" Controversies with El Trumpo, we also have lists of his Top 10 Impeachable Offenses too!  However, with both houses of CONgress pwned by the Repugnants at the moment, any kind of move to actually impeach his Trumpness is unlikely to gain any traction.  So we are probably stuck with him dropping Trump-Turds all over the White House through 2020.

https://unitedstatesofjoe.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/mad-magazine-trumpty-dumpty-thumb_560c0935d74883-28381743.jpg?w=640 This does not however answer the question of what will occur in CONgress in the 2018 Midterm Elections.  Several Diners have expressed the opinion that the Deplorables remain enamored of Trumpty-Dumpty despite his many falls and shattered eggshell and will continue to vote Repugnant no matter how quickly it impoverishes them.  They also make the case the districts are so well gerry-mandered the color coding is about impossible to flip anywhere.

There is a lot to be said for these arguments, but in this case @DonaldDumbkopf is so pathetically awful it's hard for me to imagine how the Repugnants can maintain control of BOTH the House and Senate in 2018.  They currently only hold the Senate by a pathetic single seat.  Trumpovetsky's popularity numbers continue to plummet, pretty soon they will be in the negative imaginary numbers.  CONgress Critters are announcing their "retirements" by the truckload, either because they can't stand working under Trumpsky or because they grabbed some intern's ass in 1968, or both.  So I think the 2018 elections are a real crapshoot and pretty tough to call.  You can be sure though that if one or both of the houses of CONgress fall to the Demodopes, the current lockup in Goobermint will get an order of magnitude worse.

Speaking of ass-grabbing and other sexual "harrasment", I can't help but be astounded how quickly this took off and became a first class Witch Hunt forcing numerous Politcos, Hollywood Movie Stars and Corporate CEOs to resign their positions.  Not that I have much sympathy for these folks, but I also am astounded how quickly they all capitulated to just being ACCUSED of something that in most cases happened over a decade earlier.  No criminal charges were brought back then, and for the most part no criminal charges are being brought now because unless they actually RAPED somebody, what they were doing wasn't illegal and still isn't.  You can certainly argue that there is a lot of abuse of power here and that women have been the proponderance of the victims of this, but that was the way the culture was organized.  The "casting couch" in Hollywood goes back to its earliest years, if a young actress didn't put out for the Film Director or the Studio Head, she was back to waitressing in a Diner in no time.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DDKr-6DUwAEIeO5.jpg One thing I don't understand is why some of these guys don't just DENY the accusations?  Who is around to testify whose ass got grabbed at what 1980s party where everyone was wired up on Coke?  You don't even have to lie, just use the "I do not recall" defense, because you were probably so wasted you DON'T recall grabbing some ass at a party!  However, just about uniformly they have all capitulated to the #MeToo foks and resigned or been fired from their juicy high paid jobs.

The height of this nonsense came with the shit-canning of Garrison Keillor of Prairie Home Companion fame.  Garrison was a well known introvert and hardly fraternized with ANYBODY over the 40 years he told his stories over PBS radio shows.  One fucking woman says he "touched her naked back" 20 years ago and Garrison gets the boot?  WTF?

Moving into the future, I can't see how any male could function in a work environment with this Sword of Damocles hanging over your head all the time.  Where do you meet women if not on the job? Just about anything can be considered "unwanted attention" or "sexual harrasment".  Nobody can have any FUN anymore!

 

The Strafing Run of Mother Nature

 

Moving off the Political Clown show of 2017 and over to Climate & Disasters, we had a steady train of these all year, and for a while there in Novemeber not a day went by without some community being completely wiped out by a hurricane and then the aftermath of infrastructure damage.  A full 3 months after Puerto Rico got levelled  by Irma/Maria, they STILL don't have electricity restored to the whole island.  In many places, "restoration" of electric power doesn't mean the grid is back up, it means the Army Corps of Bozos has brought in generators to bring some power back to individual communities.  Also entrepreneurial Ricans are doing well selling generators & inverters these days too!

Puerto Rico without electricity

Not too much followup Newz on what is going on in the FSoA and Brit Virgin Islands these days, but my guess is they are mostly still swimming in shit.  On the upside, if you are looking for a cheap sailboat, many of these slightly damaged floating homes can be purchased for pennies on the dollar now.

http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/img_lectronic_800/2014-10-15_2307_SB33.jpg

https://causaabierta.blogia.com/upload/20090814200328-p20p1-lg.jpg The Hurricane Parade of 2017 in the Carribean was followed closely by the CA Wildfires, culminating with the Thomas Fire which became the largest fire in modern CA history, chewing up over 270,000 acres of real estate and at least 1000 or so expensive McMansions.  Endless great Armageddon style pictures from these conflagrations every day, if this didn't drive home to the Newz Consumer that there is a slight problem with sustainability of the suburban lifestyle in CA I can't imagine what will.

https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user245717/imageroot/2017/11/20/2017.12.12wildfiresmap_0.JPG What you can see from the diagrams of the fire is where the CA Fire folks set up their fire lines.  Huge swathes are left to burn, and what they do is circle the wagons around the rich enclaves with a lot of expensive McMansions built on them.  Getting Special Attention and a LOT of firefighting help from CA Prisons are neighborhoods with people like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Rob Lowe living in them.  So mostly these Jeweled Communities were "saved" by the brave Firefighters/Prisoners working for $2/day and/or some time reduced from the sentence.

However, even though the structures of the Rich & Famous were mostly Saved, they still had to breathe the air until they finally blew out of town to take an air conditioned hotel suite in Phoenix.  The McMansion is still gonna stink like smoke unless they can get the insurance company to total it, raze it to the ground and build a new one, even though it didn't burn at all.

Precisely how many tons of carbon were released into the atmosphere by these fires I do not know, but given the fact that SoCal looked like China for 2 straight weeks and they were handing out filter masks like confetti it was pretty significant.  Not even all the carz driving around LA every day make the atmosphere look THAT bad.  However, at least this acreage is unlikely to burn again next year, but you can't say the same thing about some new Hurricanes dropping in on the Carribean and the GoM next season.  I really wonder what the response will be if Houston gets hit by ANOTHER hurricane next year?  $Billions$ already spent this year, now you gotta go fix it AGAIN?  How many times will people rebuild in the Land of Perpetual Mold Spores?

https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-PONPYMg-Ehw/WVqZjFoMylI/AAAAAAAAHKI/3UUuCSEtDwI3y6KAVFPHGmowTpYnxAQ-ACLcBGAs/s1600/why%2Bbitcoin%2Bis%2Bscam.png The last of the Collapse Storiez I will cover for the 2017 Recap Edition of Sunday Brunch on the Diner is the Bubblicious Bitcoin Banquet, where speculators are still having a field day Pumping & Dumping Crypto-Currency bullshit reaching ridiulous valuations and based on NOTHING.  This form of "money" didn't even EXIST a few years ago, but now is "worth" $100s of Billions if not Trillions of Dollars.  Meanwhile, a new story pops in just about every week of some exchange that got hacked or some scam being run by some con artists in Hong Knog or Singapore to make some money off this mania.  Somebody is going to be left with a very big bag of NOTHING when this one finally plays itself out.

There remain however numerous crypto-currency FANATICS out there who see this nonsense as the SAVIOR of money from the centralized control of the TBTF Banks controlling the global central banks.  What nobody seems to grasp is that it doesn't matter WHAT you use for money, gold, paper, digibits whatever, if you don't have the resources to value the money against, it's worthless.

Anybody who actually HAS some money these days is in a frantic search for some way to protect their paper wealth from theft by Da Goobermint through Taxation or theft by the Banks through Inflation.  Crypto Fanatics are basically people in the world of finance trading around a lot of virtual debt with nothing to back it up at all and besides that is incedibly energy intensive and loaded with complexity that makes it impractical for most of the population to use in any meaningful fashion.

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/17/DJIA_historical_graph.svg/1200px-DJIA_historical_graph.svg.png

https://campustocareer.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/reality-check.jpg The illusion of wealth is being perpetuated by the ever rising stock market, which really only keeps going up because more debt is pitched at it every day.  Energy companies, Tesla, Amazon, Alibaba, NONE of them actually make an organic profit.  All they do is expand the level of their debt every year, as does Da Goobermint as well of course.  This expanded level of debt makes it appear there is a GDP increase, but there really is not.  On a per capita basis, each year we all are incrementally poorer and deeper in debt.  Anyone who believes all this debt can EVER be paid off is in serious need of a Reality Check.

So as we move onward here into 2018, some sort of Reset has to come, but will it actually arrive in 2018?  What form will it take, and how pervasive will the effects be through the economy as a whole?  It's really a Fool's Game to try and predict this, what you really need to do is Hedge as best you can against the possibility this IS the "Year of the BIG ONE".

So, how do you hedge?  Here are a few suggestions, more or less in order of importance.

#1- Have a stockpile of long lasting foods and alternatives for producing electricity at least through temporary disruptions.  You don't need a full blown off-grid Solar PV & Wind Turbinesystem for this, although it's a nice prep to have if you can afford it.  At least have a generator and deep cycle battery and inverter though.  Small emergency setups that can carry you through a couple of weeks without grid power can be put together for under $1000.

#2- Get out of/Stay out of Debt if at all possible.  Many people are too far underwater on this to completely get out now, but you do the best you can and definitely don't take on new debt unless you absolutely have to just to stay alive.  The last thing you want in a SHTF scenario is to see your bank account locked up because you didn't make your last mortgage payment and the bank has frozen your account.

#3- Have a decent size STASH OF CASH that can carry you through at least a couple of months where you can't access your bank account.  Right now here in the FSoA we still do HAVE cash that works, the Almighty Dollar, and the paper version is not going to disappear here overnight, or even hyperinflate overnight either.  It's very fungible currency and you can use it to buy more food and preps pretty much right up to the minute of SHTF Day.

#4- Have a good BUGOUT PLAN in place.  If you at least have a car, you can have a decent bugout plan to GTFO of Dodge if your neighborhood happens to be the latest one to be leveled by Floods, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Wildfires, Drought or Political Upheaval.  Have a selection of different destinations depending on how things shape up, and alternative routes to get there.  Hopefully have friends/relatives at the other end of your bugout plan to join up with.  Have provisions for shelter on the road and for cooking.

#5- Have PERSONAL PROTECTION that is sufficient to at least keep the average Zombie at bay.  You don't need a fucking arsenal for this, but a good semi-auto pistol, a shotgun and a rifle with a scope is probably not a bad idea to have in the car with you.  You can leave the RPGs at home if you don't have room. lol.

I would NOT suggest anyone currently employed in the Industrial economy quits their job to go live in the Tropical Rainforest or the Alaska Bush, even if you are fairly conversant with living the Full Primitive.  You would have to be Cody Lundin to make it out there by yourself or even with a small Tribe.  You will need to see how society reorganizes and become part of some group to be able to make it through the Zero Point.

These principles are timeless and do not prevent you from living a "normal" life for as long as BAU continues.  They don't cost a fortune either, you don't need gobs of money to buy your own Doomstead and set it up with off grid power systems, etc.  You just need to remain flexible, mobile and out of DEBT.  It's about the best you can do, and when TSHTF in your neighborhood, then you can get to the task of figuring out what you will do in the aftermath.

Maybe it comes in 2018, maybe it takes to 2020 or 2025, but a reset is coming down the pike here, as sure as the SUN☼ rises each day over the horizon.  Be ready for that day when it comes.

Remember the Boy Scout Motto. BE PREPARED!

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on October 31st, 2017

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Greetings!

The 31st is finally here, so to all you Americans and Canadians out there, Happy Halloween!

And to all you Aussies and Kiwis who have only just started celebrating this joyous occasion imported from North America – will you please hold on to whatever vestige of culture you have (left) and quit it with this American/Canadian bastardization of yet another cultural marker, what in this case is actually the Celtic equivalent of New Year's Eve?

If I can try and satisfy the curious, it turns out that if we take a look at history rather than TV commercials it turns out that Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (meaning summer's end), a bisecting festival in which the completion of the harvest on one end and the approaching cold dark winter on the other was seen as a boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead. In response to that it was common practice for costumes of ghosts and such to be donned in order to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit, the idea being to ward off any harm from ghosts of the dead that might walk amongst the living.

Somewhat similar to this, with several other imported "celebrations" having quickly picked up speed down here in Australia and New Zealand over just the past couple of years – most noticeable of all Black Friday (do Aussies and Kiwis really want to have their own Black Friday Death Count websites tallying the amount of people that have been literally stampeded to death?) – I almost wouldn't be surprised if come July 4th and 1st of 2018 that I started seeing American and Canadian flags getting waved around in celebration (!). Now would I be surprised if come Halloween a few months later I didn't quite start seeing people donning ghost and goblin costumes but rather dressing the part as Uncle Sam and big beavers (we all know of the "spooky" reputation that Uncle Sam can have around the world, although being born and brought up in Canada I can tell you that some of those beavers are known to get downright vicious as well).

The things some beavers can to do pieces of wood is awe inspiring (photo by Theo Crazzolara)

Anyway, to keep up with the Celtic festivities of summer's end (even though summer is actually only just starting down here in Australia), From Filmers to Farmers (FF2F) is in fact going to don the garb of a ghost in order to ward off the evil spirits of the Medium blogging platform, what in this case is actually the garb of the Ghost blogging platform. I kid you not, because from here on in FF2F will in fact no longer be running on The World's Worst Blogging Platform™ but rather on a platform that derives its name from the idea that it be so unnoticeable that by getting out of the way it in turn allows writers to do the one thing they came to do – write. (That being said, I don't actually write on computers myself but instead write by hand, and following the type-up of a first draft I then make a printout and edit on top of that by hand, rinse and repeat several times over. But hey, it's the thought that counts, right?)

Because that is in fact all that Ghost is – it's "Just a blogging platform", which is literally a tagline it prides itself on. More precisely, it's not a platform out to be an ecommerce store or a social network or an RSS reader or whatever, its sole purpose being to do nothing but straight up blogging, this focus being precisely what allows it to be what is arguably the best blogging platform out there.

If you read my previous post covering the blogging "scene" then you would have read that quote by WordPress' former (2009 – 2011) Deputy Head of the User Interface Group, John O'Nolan. As he also stated in that same blog post (written in 2015),

Three years ago we sat down and tried to imagine what WordPress might look like if it was rebuilt from the ground up using modern technology – purely focused on publishing.

Because after a somewhat unassuming blog post in which O'Nolan fleshed out some ideas ended up going viral across certain swaths of the Internet, O'Nolan took that as a cue and continued with a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 that sought £25,000 in funding to construct the new blogging platform he had envisioned, only to then see the campaign reach nearly 800% of its goal with a whopping £196,362 in contributions.

Although the Kickstarter campaign still fell short of Medium's $174M in venture capital funding by about $173.7M, Ghost has nonetheless benefitted from what is a top-notch crack team that with less than a handful of people was not only able to get some semblance of a platform built so as to produce an income before its scant seed money ran out, but which with what eventually became not even two handfuls of people has continued to build out some astounding software which earlier this year reached its 1.0 milestone. The eight people that Ghost currently employs includes the founder and CEO O'Nolan himself, the co-founder and CTO Hannah Wolfe, three full-time developers (just three!), two people running ghost.org/Ghost(Pro) , and one on support – fortunately half of whom are still male I might add (watch out, those female tech workers are once again taking over!).

The eighth isn't present as she was apparently bursting at the seams at the time

That's not to say though that the Ghost team has built the entire platform themselves, what with there literally being hundreds of people who have voluntarily contributed their coding skills to construct the system. Why would anybody in their right mind volunteer their time to build a blogging platform other than to move up in the Silicon Valley world by perhaps being an unpaid intern for the likes of a Medium? If I had to guess I'd say it's probably got something to do with the fact that Ghost is an open source project built with a top-notch technology stack and which is administered by an interesting non-profit setup.

For starters, the platform can be freely downloaded and/or installed on a system of one's choosing, preferably done via its CLI (not too much skill is needed for the latter). Otherwise, if one would rather avoid the hassle of maintaining updates and such themselves they can always pay to have their blog(s) hosted on Ghost(Pro), the part of the Ghost Foundation setup that allows it to produce an income of which in turn is funnelled back into funding further development of the platform.

"We call this Sustainable Open Source"

As O'Nolan described it in a podcast,

Ghost is a non-profit. We'll make money from our premium hosted service, but we'll use 100% of the money to make Ghost better and pay people to work on it. We won't distribute any profits to shareholders, because there won't be any shareholders. A non-profit has trustees who don't own shares, they just oversee the company. We literally won't have anything for Yahoo! to buy.

What's not to like about that?

I imagine though that even if you're experienced with blogging that chances are you've never heard of Ghost before, something that would be partially due to the fact that the Ghost Foundation doesn't actually advertise and instead relies solely on such things as word of mouth (which includes having its users write blog posts about it out of their own volition).

While I fortuitously came across mention of Ghost back in 2014 due to a button on my then-cPanel interface (I say fortuitous since I've never come across any random mentions of Ghost in the three years since), and while I've also noticed the Ghost platform being used for blogging by such outfits as Elon Musk's Open AI Project, NASA, Bitcoin, and many others (yes, I know, that didn't just score me any points in the collapse blogosphere), the fact of the matter is that most of the Ghost blogs I've seen out there are run by coders or those in related tech fields. By no means though is that to say that Ghost requires a tech-oriented person to use it (on the contrary its user interface is so well designed that there's virtually no learning curve and one can just glide into writing), but perhaps goes to show that the grapevine has yet to extend too far beyond tech-related websites which know a well-built and well-designed platform when they see one.

Because one of Ghost's biggest selling points is its simplicity to use. By concentrating on being nothing but a blogging platform, the core elements one needs for blogging are built directly into the system (such as SEO, social media integration, email subscription functionality, RSS feeds, and more), negating the need for one to fiddle around with a bunch of extraneous plugins that can not only make the system vulnerable in a myriad of ways but can also make it a pain in the arse to use and manage. That's not to say though that Ghost is "blogging for dummies", since the Ghost team have in fact been creating a strong base for a very powerful blogging system, one that is increasingly being catered for a rather "upscale" set of users.

Because while an install of Ghost can be used by virtually anybody, it is however no longer catering itself to being used by the casual blogger but rather by professional journalists, which in light of this means that its Ghost(Pro) service can admittedly be a bit dear for some. While I myself don't use Ghost(Pro) that's not necessarily due to financial considerations but rather because of the added flexibility and freedom I can get by hosting the platform myself. (That and perhaps I'm a nice enough guy to not want to tarnish Ghost's good name by forcing them to host on their servers a blog on the collapse of industrial civilisation next to Elon Musk's Open AI blog.)

That's not to say though that I'm not appreciative of the hard work partaken by the Ghost team and am trying to weasel my way out of financially contributing to the platform's development, because as far as I see it if the capability for taking donations were built into the system in parallel to the subscription functionality currently being worked on then perhaps I (and others who also self-host) could by way of a donation button on their blog forward a portion of those funds to the Ghost Foundation.

I did in fact make an extremely meagre donation about a year ago, although to be honest I can't actually say that it even made it into the realm of the placeholder second to the right

Because no, although the possibility of setting up this blog with a subscription system (read: a paywall) will soon be possible thanks to an upcoming update to Ghost, there's absolutely no chance that that's ever going to happen as I'd sooner shut down this blog in its entirety than lock people out of what is just one of the few blogs out there talking about the rarely touched-upon topic of the collapse of industrial civilisation.

And while I certainly don't want to lock out those who may not have the disposable income for such things, I also don't want to shirk another group of people by avoiding to give credit where credit is due. Because although I had the full intention of once again building this blog from "scratch" (atop of Ghost, of course), when I actually started looking into building a theme a few months ago I quickly realized that there was absolutely no chance that I was going to be technically capable of doing so anytime soon, if ever. That being so, I fortuitously ended up discovering the meticulously designed and constructed (and supported!) Eston theme (which O'Nolan happens to have formerly used on his blog before he moved over to Ghost's stock Casper theme a few months ago), fortunate enough since there wasn't a single other theme out there that I could see as amenable to what I'd want to do with FF2F on Ghost, Eston providing not only an excellent coding base and an excellent layout but also a very versatile design that leaves much possibility for constructing around its core in order to highly customise the theme to one's liking.

Because yes, if you take a look at Eston's live preview and/or have seen FF2F in its hand-coded version (Internet Archive capture here) then you know that a fair amount of the design elements you currently see have been incorporated from FF2F's previous iteration and that significant additions have been made to the Eston theme.

But although I'd similarly put myself under the impression that with an excellent theme in hand that I'd then be easily able to adapt it to what you see before you, I once again couldn't possibly have been any more wrong. Because while the Ghost team and its legion of volunteers are responsible for the blogging platform and Mike Buttery is responsible for the Eston theme, it's Vikas Potluri via the non-profit organisation HexR that is responsible for such a wide range of what's behind FF2F's new iteration that it'd require an entire blog post to elaborate on it all, a contribution that has allowed this blog to be incomparably superior to the extremely drab and "shit-box"-esque version that I would have rather horrendously managed to cobble together.

Because while I certainly did what I'd say is a decent job of doing the grunt work of coding 99% of the HTML and CSS as well as pasting in a bit of other coding, 99.9% of the JavaScript (and Handlebars and JSON and what have you) was skilfully coded and assembled by Potluri, who is very much responsible for what I think is a not-too-shabby looking and functioning blog and who deserves a massive amount of thanks.

Thanks!

(That being said, I do have the reigns over FF2F's private theme repository on GitHub as well as have ownership and thus control over its hosting, so any mishaps you may come across are by no means due to Potluri but rather because of me playing around with things and screwing it all up.)

Otherwise, while I can once again say that all but one of the scripts used for FF2F are open source, in this case that "one" is none other than Eston itself. What this implies is that I can't in return open source what's been put together and instead have to keep it all behind a private repository on GitHub. That being said, I can nonetheless list all the scripts I've found across the Internets and which have been integrated into FF2F's usage of Eston:

With that final note in mind, if you scroll/swipe to the bottom of this page you'll see a photograph in the background of the box listing other posts matching this post's primary tag, that photograph by no means being a shot of some random plant roots but is actually a shot of none other than the roots of perennial sunflowers being bred at The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. You might also see me using that photograph elsewhere (like on my Twitter account), to which I have Jim Richardson to thank for granting permission for its usage. With all that in mind, if you do in fact fancy the photograph yourself and would like to pick up a print of it then you're more than welcome to do so by following the (non-affiliate) link via the embed below:

A Cross Section Of A Sunflower Root

 

Finally, what FF2F will be using alongside Ghost for its commenting platform is the open source forum software Discourse, co-founded by the creator of Stack Overflow and is what even O'Nolan himself has called "the Ghost of forum software". I've unfortunately yet to have the chance to play around with it or to even configure it so that it could at least match FF2F's colour scheme, what with I not having the time to do anything more than integrate it into the blog. To a certain extent all I can say then is that supposing you sign up for an account on this FF2F-hosted Discourse commenting system and actually leave a comment then you'll be figuring out how to use it and what it's capable of at the same time that I end up doing so as well.

What I can say for now though is that while this blog and commenting system are both completely owned and controlled by FF2F and even utilise an SSL certificate (meaning https rather than the unsecure http) you can either sign up for an FF2F Discourse account with your email address (which is what I'd do) or you can alternatively use a variety of any social media logins to safely create an account (FF2F's self-hosted instance of Discourse of course never sees or stores your social media credentials but simply uses their systems for login purposes, as is the fare now).


With the entirety of what I've written above in mind, and supposing that you haven't noticed already, both Ghost and Discourse are some seriously powerful and functional pieces of software, and it might very well be construed that FF2F is punching way above its weight by assuming it deserves to be running on, and with, such software. Moreover, with Ghost becoming increasingly catered to professional journalism (it recently ran a $45,000 Ghost for Journalism development program, a program which I wasn't exactly granted one of the three positions but was awarded a participation ribbon of a free year on Ghost(Pro) instead), not only is yours truly not a professional journalist, but by no stretch of the imagination even qualifies as being categorized as a journalist in any way whatsoever. With that in mind, the current state of "news", and my credentials that continue to shrink with virtually every sentance I write, for better or for worse I've left myself with very few options.

So without any further ado, and with From Filmers to Farmers having donned the garb of the Ghost so that it may venture inconspicuously amongst the living and the dead (or what you might call the to-be-dead due to the coming die off), there's really only one thing that can be said.

Fake journalism, here we come!


p.s. Okay, okay. Elon Musk's Open AI Ghost blog isn't actually hosted on Ghost(Pro) but from what I can tell with Amazon Web Services, although I'm sure you get the point

p.p.s. And here's to hoping the Internet doesn't end tomorrow – this took a lot of work!

Eat it Raw

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 17, 2017

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As regular readers of the Diner know, I have numerous health issues stemming from my spinal injury.  Among these issues for me is an almost total loss of appetite and difficulty eating more than just a few bites of food at any time.  Also a reduced ability to actually taste the food I eat. I was thrilled down in Seattle when I actually managed to eat about 3/4s of a Tuna Sandwich at the Museum of Flight.  It was a very good Tuna Sandwich too, consistency wise.  For someone who was as big a Foody as I was, this is perhaps the most depressing aspect of my injury, even worse than the issues with walking.  The only upside to it is I am not getting fat despite my lack of exercise, in fact I am steadily losing weight.

http://cdn.foodfacts.com/195399.jpg At home in order to get some nutrition down my pie hole, I have experimented with numerous gimmicks and enthusiasms of various foods I can tolerate eating a little at a time.  For a while it was Soups.  I would heat a can of one of my favorite Progresso or Campbells Chunky Soup, and then spend a couple of days eating it by the spoonful right out of the pot on the stove.  I would reheat as necessary, and add a little water to replace the water that boiled off during each reheat.  However, I got tired of this and bored with it and 2 days on the stove turned into 3, then 4.  I started having to put the soup in a tupperware and refrigerate it to keep it from going bad.  Then this leftover soup started sitting in the fridge for a week or two and going bad anyhow.  I stopped opening cans of soup at this point.

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/tomato-cucumber-feta-salad-horiz-a-1200-180x120.jpg My next enthusiasm was Salads, mostly augmented Greek-Style Tomato salads.  I could buy just 2 or 3 Roma Tomatoes in the produce aisle, a block of Feta Cheese, a Red Onion and Kalamatta Olives in a jar and this formed the basis for my salad.  The only thing perishable in there that doesn't last that long in the fridge are the tomatoes, everything else will last a month and more with a vinagarette dressing of some type.  Keep your block of Feta wrapped up tight in plastic, that lasts a couple of months easy.  Kalamatta Olives in the Jar?  Probably last a year in the fridge even after you open the jar.  Further augmentation came from canned gourmet veggies like marinated artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, straw mushrooms etc.  These salads lasted easily a week in the fridge a few bites at a time, but I became bored with them too.

Then I went on a Fresh Fruit & Cheese enthusiasm. Clementine Oranges (the small ones, didn't they used to call these tangerines?), Bananas. Cubed Watermelon & Seedless Grapes mostly for the fruit; Brie (and other soft cheeses), Havarti, Gouda, Gorgonzola and really whatever appealed to me in the Gourmet Cheese display at Fred Meyer or was on a half-price sale.  The Bananas don't last long, you have to eat all of them inside a week or so or they start to turn black and get mushy inside.  Grapes and Clementines last pretty long in the fridge, but they start dehydrating and after about 3-4 days are not so juicy.  Cubed Watermelon lasts a surprisingly long time in a tupperware container in its own juices, up to a couple of weeks it is still pretty crunchy, sweet and juicy.  The cheeses you have to remember to wrap well in plastic after you cut off a hunk for a meal, and always use a nice clean knife rinsed with hot water to remove bacteria on the knife.  Not a bad idea to hold the blade over the stove fire either to further sterilize it.  This also important later for the meat and fish cutting.  If you do all that, your wedge or block of cheese should last in the fridge at least a month before you start seeing Green Mold growing on it.  You can often just cut this off, because it is only growing on the outside surface, the interior is still fine.  In fact, you can eat the part with the mold on it too, that won't kill you and it doesn't change the taste that much.  Just looks a little gross.

This brings us to my current enthusiasm, RAW ANIMAL PROTEIN.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DHY7vsdV0AEd_Wl.jpg

I moved to this enthusiasm for a couple of reasons.  First was the EXTREME Edema (swelling due to fluid retention) condition I have in my legs, which on top of the spinal injury and general loss of strength from that has brought it to the point I can't even stand up if I don't have hand holds and bracing to do it with. The Nurse Practioner I was seeing as my Primary Care Provider before I ditched her for a Physician's Assistant who is equally clueless suggested that the Edema problem might stem from a lack of protein in my diet.  I am fully aware of this nutrition problem, however she did not have a good suggestion on how to SOLVE it since I can't hardly eat anything at all.  I pitched the idea of a feeding tube, but she informed me Medicare won't pay for that unless you are on your death bed in hospital.  So I have to get the right foods down my own gullet myself, somehow.

https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/07/54/72/a0/kansai-japanese-restaurant.jpg So, OK, on the assumption a lack of protein is the proximal problem causing the edema, how can I increase my protein intake?  Well, I have always liked Fish, and even got into eating Raw Fish in the form of Sushi & Sashimi in my college years when I started haunting Japanese Restaurants around NY Shity.  Today, there are Sushi Bars in the major Food Superstores which provide a pre-rolled Sushi plate for anywhere from $8-$15 depending on the type of fish and the size of the plate.  So I started with this.

Of course, due to my low appetite, I can't finish a typical Sushi Lunch plate from Fred Meyer, which usually has about 2 rolls worth of some decorative Sushi concoction that appeals to the Amerikan palate.  Around here, this is mainly Tuna Rolls, Salmon,and California Rolls which have the fake Crab Meat in them with some avocado and cream cheese.  Thing is, while the fish inside is still good the second day, the rice starts to dry out very fast and the texture isn't as nice. Still edible even after 3 days, but really only good the 1st day. Besides that, these rolls are MOSTLY rice, the amount of fish in them is pretty small.  I am interested in JUST THE FISH, not all the decorations or the rice either.

This vid is the shorter one which doesn't show half what gets pitched out when sectioning up a Salmon for Sashimi.  I figured I would spare you watching the head, spine and skin getting pitched out also.  Waste, Waste, Waste.

Back in Edo Japan, I suspect Sushi was what the Peasants ate, while Sashimi which is JUST THE FISH is what the Samurai ate.  The fish was the expensive part of the meal, the rice was filler and calories so the Peasants would have enough energy to work and feed the Samurai.  Samurai needed the fish protein to develop big strong muscles to wield swords with which they could behead the peasants.  The Sashimi JUST THE FISH meal is made even MORE expensive by the fact that in preparing sashimi, only the very BEST parts of the fish are used.  You can't believe the amount of WASTE when a Sashimi artist goes about filleting and slicing up a fish to lay out on a decorative plate.  In modern restaurants, I suspect most of the parts discarded by the Sashimi artist go in the trash, not even composted.  However, going back to Edo Japan, I suspect these parts were collected to make Fish Broth, which again the peasants got to use to make soups and supplement their protein intake above the pitiful amount of fish usually contained in a Sushi Roll.

https://shizuokagourmet.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/sushi-dep-cenovab-5.jpg?w=474 The only platters that have a little more fish on them in the plastic containers at Fred Meyer are the Nigiri Sushi, which is basically a slice of raw fish on top of a pile of rice.  You only get 8 pieces total though, again up here usually Ahi Tuna and Salmon.  The box costs you $12, and I suspect there is no more than 1/4 lb of fish there.  That is working out to $48/lb!  They don't serve a straight Sashimi plate at Freddie's, for that you have to go to the Sushi Bar at our local Japanese Restaurant, Tokyo.  Here you will pay around $25 now for around 12 pieces of fish, usually Ahi Tuna, Salmon, Yellowtail and Octopus.  Maybe about 1/3rd lb total here.

So, I decided that instead of shopping for my Sashimi at the Sushi counter, I would go straight to the Fresh Fish counter!  Bring it home and slice it up myself!  This cut the cost for JUST THE FISH by at least half.  There are pluses and minuses here with doing this.

https://9woclymefe-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/Raw-Ahi-Tuna.jpg Some fish like the Tuna is really EZ to slice up into nice bite size pieces to dip in your Wasabi-Soy Sauce dipping mixture and eat with a bit of pickled ginger.  You do now have the added cost of buying the wasabi and soy and pickled ginger, which all comes included on the pre made Sushi plate, so this reduces your savings, plus you have the work of slicing the fish so the savings aren't quite as much as you hoped for overall.

Salmon is much harder to slice into nice Sashimi size chunks.  It tends to fall apart as you slice, plus you have to get the skin off the back side of the fillet.   They also use larger salmon at sushi bars than you normally find at the fish counter or would buy just to feed yourself.  There is no way I can get the size chunks of salmon equal to the size of the tuna with the salmon I have bought for this so far.

Octopus is usually not available at the fish counter here, and neither is Yellowtail.  So recently I tried Sea Scallops, which I never had in a Japanese restaurant as part of a Sashimi plate.  Had them cooked as an appetizer Scallops Bata Yaki which is quite good, but not raw. I didn't like the texture raw too much, they are a little too soft eaten raw for me.  I am now sticking to cooking the scallops in butter and garlic which is pretty fast and EZ to do.  Finally, I am trying Rockfish (Striped Bass), but it is still in the freezer so I can't report on that one yet.

http://pictures.brafton.com/x_0_0_0_14111881_800.jpg Speaking of Freezing, this is a significant aspect of eating all raw meats and fishies, unless you catch them yourself right out of the water or hunt it down and eat the meat right after the kill.  Raw fish and Raw meat can contain bacteria and parasites which can be quite harmful and even cause death.  Most of the time they don't, and in my long history of eating this stuff raw, I have never had so much as an upset stomach, whereas I got Tomaine Poisoning twice off of cooked meat which practically killed me.  Only in recent years have I taken to the practice of freezing and thawing raw meats before eating.

The reason is this.  If there are parasites and bacteria inhabiting your fillet, if you freeze to -4F for about 4 days, this will kill them as effectively as cooking does, and it doesn't destroy the flavor or texture like cooking does.  So as an additional security/health measure here, I do the Freeze/Thaw before slicing up my Sashimi.  In fact, just about all the "fresh" fish you buy at the fish store nowadays has already gone through one or more of these cycles.  The fish are collected up on large industrial fish processing ships where they do the fillet work, vacuum seal them and throw them in a Liquid Nitrogen Bath which flash freezes them down to something like -321F (-196C).  Then they go through a series of transports generally finally ending up on a Reefer truck where the temp inside the box maybe is around 20F, depending how hot it is outside.  When they get to the Food Superstore, they go in another Freezer, this one down to maybe -10F until they are ready to sell it.  Then it thaws slowly in a refrigerator set around 35F over a couple of days and is put out in the refrigerated display counter for sale.  Pretty much no bacteria or parasites live through this, and your fish is generally quite safe to eat raw right out of the counter, assuming the minimum wage paid fish mongers working behind the counter clean as they are supposed to every night on closing.  I basically took to doing an additional Freeze-Thaw cycle after buying just to add a little insurance here, but at least for Freddie's Fish, I would eat it raw straight out of the counter.

https://www.copykat.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/butcher.jpg This brings us to the next RAW counter down at Freddie's, the MEAT counter.  I actually took to eating raw meat quite a bit before I got into eating raw fish in my college years as the Japanese restaurants proliferated around NY Shity.  After returning from Brazil in my late preteen years, I missed the Churascaria's we often ate at there, where the meat was brought to you on the spit at your table and sliced off right onto your plate.  So I took to BBQing meat myself on a little cast iron Hibachi in the small back yard we had in our NY Shity Queens McMansion which mom got as part of the divorce settlement.  I started with Hamburgers of course, and quickly discovered that a really JUICY burger should have a nice pink inside.  For me, pink turned to RED after a while, although for anyone else I was cooking a burger for I kept it to pink or even well done if they asked for that.  I could never understand that though, well done dries the meat out and it's like eating leather, albeit in the case of burgers its ground up leather.  A well done steak though is like eating the soles off a Cowboy Boot.

Once I realized I liked my meat on the BBQ "Pittburgh Rare" (charred on the outside, still mooing on the inside) I started experimenting with eating the meat RAW right out of the package immediately after I brought it home from the grocery store when it was still nice and bright red straight out of the grinder.  Just ground beef for hamburgers at first on this, and it was DELICIOUS!  Just a pinch or two at a time at first also.  I didn't get sick, even though I had already heard about all the dangers of eating raw meat.  Then I read about "official" gourmet meals like Steak Tartare which featured raw meat, and I decided it was OK to eat this stuff.  After all, carnivores in nature who don't have control of fire eat their meat raw all the time.  I suspect by eating it a small amount at a time for a while I built up my gut so it could digest the stuff well without my getting sick.

http://www.steak-enthusiast.com/wp-content/uploads/primeFilet_lores09_lrg.jpg With the beef, I tried some other cuts  besides hamburger raw, but really unless it is ground up the only one that is any good for raw eating is Fillet Mignon, which is fairly expensive.  Around here these days it comes in aroun $16/lb.  Good ground sirloin though you can get for $4/lb on sale, and the taste and texture are pretty close to the same as Fillet Mignon.  I do occasionally buy the Fillets though, because when you slice them up they LOOK a lot nicer and the visual component of eating is part of the pleasure, one of the parts I can still enjoy.  Up at the top of the page here you see one of my Steak Fillets sliced up Sashimi style, with some Au Jus dipping sauce.

It's the dipping sauces that throw a fly in the ointment as far as keeping your costs down when going with the raw eating, both with fish and with meat.  These days, if you mosey on down the sauces and marinades aisle in the Food Superstore, the choices are endless and these bottles go from anywhere from around $2/bottle if you catch a sale to $8/bottle.  You don't really NEED a dipping sauce of course, and some of the time I will do without a dip to just enjoy the flavor of the RAW MEAT by itself.  However, many of these sauces are REALLY good and enhance the raw eating experience.

https://s3-media3.fl.yelpcdn.com/bphoto/vmY1G93fQBh6NVJjQ8FTIA/348s.jpg On the upside to this, once you buy a bottle of a particular kind of sauce it lasts a long time.  You only need about a tablespoon worth for a whole fillet for dipping as you go.  My current methodology on this is to pick one sauce I haven't tried yet each time I shop and buy a bottle of that, hopefully ON SALE.  One that came in very cheap recently was Dumpling dipping sauce and it's my current favorite.  Thai Peanut sauce is also very good, and of course Teriyaki sauce.  I've had a few failures too, I thought Chinese Hot Mustard might be good, but it was too overpowering for the meat.  The choices are pretty endless here particularly in the Asian Foods aisle, just find your own favorites.

While I am comfortable with both Beef and Fish raw, I don't eat either Pork or Chicken raw.  With pork, I have been told too many stories about Trichonosis and never could bring myself to trying it.  On the BBQ, I always cooked it through until there was no pink showing in the middle, still trying to keep it juicy though.  Similarly with chicken, a few times early on I under-cooked my chicken on the BBQ and it was still gooey and slimy on the inside when I bit into it.  This grossed me out and I always make sure my chicken is cooked through now, however I prepare it.

Now that I have given a not so brief history of how I developed a taste for eating RAW animal protein, I'm going to tie it into collapse issues.  As with my prior post on Luggage, it might not be immediately clear how my diet relates to collapse.  It doesn't really HAVE to relate, since the Diner is both a Collapse Blog and my personal blog, but in this case there is a connection.

One thing for me personally is that these days I am more consumed with my own personal issues of Health Collapse than the collapse of the society at large around me.  When you have the Grim Reaper stalking you all the time it's tough to fix your mind on anything else but fending him off for another day.  However, there are many issues with the food consumption here which apply more generally in the World of Collapse.

https://www.nceagletimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/high-food-prices.gif The first issue is one of COST.  The fact here is that despite not being a very rich Amerikan (in fact a pretty poor one by measures here), I CAN afford to buy what are some of the most expensive cuts of meat and fish on the market to try and up my protein intake.  That's partly because I don't buy much of them because my appetite is so depressed, but much more it is because producing this food is so heavily subsidized in Amerika, and relative to income food is a pretty small part of your daily living expenses, even if you are fairly poor.  If you are SUPER poor and qualify for a SNAP Card, you can STILL afford these foods if you are wise about how you spend your monthly food budget.  I have demonstrated that on numeros occasions in the SNAP Card Gourmet series.  For the vast majority of the world though, these foods are out of the question, they have daily food budgets in the $2/day range (and even less!).  In all probability these foods aren't even available in the markets to buy, even if you had the money.  I doubt sashimi quality Ahi Tuna steaks are available at the markets in Rio, for instance.

The next issue is the cost to the environment.  As most of us Kollapsniks are aware, cattle ranching is extremely water intensive and overall pretty destructive to the local ecosystems.  The space the cows take up and the land used to grow their feed is land taken away from all the other creatures that might be living there.  Over in Brazil, square miles of rainforest are burned every day to make room for more cattle ranching. This argument is often made by vegans who want to get the whole human population to swear off eating meat.

http://southeastagnet.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/brand-taglines-beef-cattle.jpg Here in Amerika though, this leads you to a major Economic problem if Amerikans actually did this.  Meat is the staple food of the Fast Food industry, from Burgers to Tacos.  Every Mickey Ds and Taco Bell would have to shut down.  Those places are among the few still employing people!  I doubt you could convert them over to selling fast food Bean Sprouts and Soy Burgers either, the consumers would riot.  "What?  No BEEF?  It's What's for Dinner!"

Not only do you lose the fast food workers, you lose all those people employed in the Feedlots and Slaughterhouses as well, not to mention the folks doing the local butchery and packaging up the meat into scrumptios looking foam & plasic containers!  While many of them might be re-employed growing bean sprouts, this will take a while in transition.  Shifting the Food Economy here off its focus on Meat is not something you could do overnight, anymore than you can shift the Carz & Trux economy back to Oxen drawn carts.

Finally in terms of the Collapse Blogosphere, this brings up an old debate I had with Gail Tverberg, and one which in fact led to my quitting her website and quit cross posting her blogs.

Gail is a pretty good actuary, and she had some good insights early on to the direction things were going.  However, she also fancies herself to be an Anthropologist and she is a believer in Near Term Human Extinction as well, although she doesn't explicitly admit that in her blogs.  You can read it in the subtext though of the commentary on Our Finite World.

Gail has a theory that because Homo Saps have evolved Small Jaws, we have to cook our food and thus require fire to survive.  So in her opinion, once we can't access fossil fuels anymore, Homo Saps will burn down all the remaining forests on earth in order to cook their food and heat their homes.  This is just nonsense.  Homo Saps will die off much too fast to burn down all the forests, and where most of the remaining forests are is where most Homo Saps are NOT.  Mountainous regions, regions with no available ground water, etc.  No way to transport the wood from where it is growing to the places people live for them to burn it.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/7a/d6/7c/7ad67c4041ba51209e6c77f6ebd7f200--wine-cheese-goat-cheese.jpg The fact is of course, small jaws or big jaws, you don't need to cook most foods for them to be digestible by a current Homo Sap.  My current diet is just about ALL raw foods, or fermented ones.  Besides the Raw Meat & Fish, the fruits I eat are all raw and the cheeses are all fermented.  I don't eat grains that need to be cooked.  My diet is basic Paleo, Fat and Protein.  I don't think I turned my stove on once in the last month, and I am not starving (although granted I am losing weight).  If my appetite was better though and could eat more, I would have no problem existing withough cooking my food, and in fact without most most of my teeth either!

The need to heat your home is also a pathetic argument.  Inuit and Aleuts up here had almost no fuel to work with, they simply lived in small dwellings where their own body heat kept the domicile warm enough through the winter to survive.  Gail is so thoroughly middle class she can't even imagine that, I doubt she has ever been winter camping a day in her whole life.  So to her, when she can't get heating oil for her McMansion, she will go Extinct one winter as she freezes to death.

In order to live on this kind of diet though, those foods you can eat raw do need to be available for you to access.  So if you are going to survive on raw fish, you do need to live near the coast and have a boat to go out and collect fish with.  If you are going to eat raw meat, you either need to be raising it yourself or live in a neighborhood where there is wild game sill roaming around.  If you are going to eat fermented cheeses, you need to be raising Goats or Cows that provide the milk for this.  If you are going to live on fresh fruits, you need to live in a warm climate where these things grow on trees reasonably rapidly.  Finding ONE spot where you can get them ALL is pretty tough of course.

Also true is that currently there are too many people walking the earth to live this way.  That however will NOT be true moving into the future.  A significant percentage of the population is bound to die off.  As more people go to the Great Beyond, there will be more food resource for the remaining population.  Unclear at the moment is precisely how big a percentage of the population needs to buy the farm before this becomes feasible, but I suspect a 99% Dieoff would do it.  That would still leave 75M Homo Saps walking the Earth, which is a long way from Extinction.

Meanwhile, for myself it is a challenge every day to find stuff I can eat to keep this meat package motoring along for another day while I chronicle Doom on the internet.  The RAW MEAT is the current leader of the pack here for me these days, in some tasty dipping sauce.  YUM!

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Winter Solstice 2017 – Cycles

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Published on the Question Everything on December 21, 2017

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The occasion of the Winter Solstice has me thinking about a major fundamental aspect of all system processes. They all involve cycles (which include quasi-cycles or quasiperiodicity, hypercycles, and other variations on the theme of cyclic or almost cyclic behavior). In nature as well as human-designed systems cycling between multiple states is the rule without exceptions. Mountains are built up only to be weathered away into sand that then turns eventually into sedimentary rock in preparation for the next round of mountain building. Living organisms are propagated, develop, reproduce, go into senescence and die. Economies emerge, grow, develop, run out of adequate resources, and collapse. Out of the left-overs of prior societies, new ones emerge, generally because of newer technologies that allow extraction of previously unexploited resources. And the cycle starts over. Most cyclic behaviors in nature are non-periodic, not like a sinusoidal. But the systems pass through states that resemble one another again and again. Another kind of cycle that is often found in systems where energy is gradually declining is the spiral. Each time around the cycle the states come closer and closer to maximum entropy.

Some are tempted to think that the current world civilization will not run out of resources because the emergence of new technologies has seemingly always allowed a new spurt of economic growth and development. But writers like Robert J. Gordon (The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World)), and James Howard Kunstler (The Long Emergency), have identified trends in the invention and development of new technologies suggesting that the economic impacts of the most modern ones are relatively small. Gordon analyzed the phenomenal growth in American productivity and growth of the national wealth and income during the period post-WWII through the 1980s (his total analysis went from the end of the Civil War to the present) and found a strong argument that that growth was anomalous in the long-run, and largely due to the introduction, starting in pre-WWI years, of the most impactful technologies, i.e. communications, air transport, trains, etc. Even the Internet does not have as strong an influence on growth as did these 'seminal' technologies. Similarly, and deeply connected the advent of the age of oil was responsible for tremendous growth once the infrastructure for massive extraction and refining was in place, stimulated mainly by the needs of fuels for WWII. Now that the cost of extraction and refining are climbing relative to the energy supplied to society, the net access to high-power energy is declining at an accelerating pace. That trend does not bode well for our civilization. [Those still insisting that alternative energy sources will permit continuing business as usual should really try to wake up from your dream. A society that might be powered by alternatives would have to necessarily be a much-reduced version of today in the developed world.

The current news about how the economy (of the US anyway) is improving and growing at an increasingly "healthy" pace is based on faulty analysis and deeply flawed theory. It is propelled into the discourse by wishful thinking more than carefully reasoned arguments based on facts and sound theory. The situation is not dissimilar to conditions in 1929.

But just on the principle of cycling in systems dynamics we can confidently predict that the current world economy will collapse. We don't know when precisely, though some trends are starting to emerge that imply it won't be long. This is the way the Universe works. Whether or not a new, very different kind of society will emerge from the ashes is impossible to predict except to suggest that it is a reasonable expectation. This is the way evolution seems to work. The collapse of global civilization may provide a powerful selection pressure on survivors that favor the wise over the foolish (which I suspect represent the vast majority of the population at present). I suspect (and hope) that severe climate change will require extreme wisdom in order to survive and procreate. For better or worse, the core theme of human evolution has been based on cooperation (group selection) and that seems like the path that will most likely succeed for future generations.

Of course, systems do go extinct. Stars may explode sending their elemental components into space for recycling. Planets can enter runaway feedbacks that lead to unlivable conditions (like Venus, perhaps). Dinosaurs (except Aves) no longer roam the planet. Runaway positive feedback in cycles lead to total disruption of the system. In a few of these cases the systems simply disintegrate into simple component parts that might get recycled in new systems (a meta-cycle). In others the parts are just randomly distributed through maximizing entropy. What will the fate of humanity and societies be is anybody's guess. I'd like to believe there is a future for our distant future progeny. But who knows?

The current political situation in the US is a portend of what is to come. But it is also a measure of what processes are playing out. It gives us insight into what happens when a system runs out of energy and internal regulation. Our political process is so completely and unrecoverably broken that it is hard to imagine anything other than some kind of revolution (possibly preceded by another civil war) tearing down the last remnants of a government. None of the branches of government in the US are functional anymore, except of course to serve the interests of the super-rich.

For the Northern Hemisphere the days are going to start getting longer. We will have more light by which to witness the continuing degradation of societies. I don't think the drive toward Spring will bring renewal of the social system. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this Spring Equinox shows us the cycle of despair.

Nevertheless, rejoice in the change of seasons.

Shades of 1928

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Published on the Economic Undertow on December 7, 2017

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Led by these mighty knights of the automobile industry,
the steel industry, the radio industry… and finally joined
in despair, by many professional traders who, after much
sack-cloth and ashes, had caught the vision of progress,
the Coolidge market had gone forward like the phalanxes of Cyrus,
parasang upon parasang and again parasang upon parasang …

 

 

 

 

— Prof. Amos Dice, from ‘The Great Crash’ John Kenneth Galbraith

 

 

 

Since 2009, Americans have been privileged to participate’ in one of the great Wall Street bull runs in history. It is the longest other than the rally from October, 1990 until March of 2000. There have been other great runs; none quite so bizarre as ours considering the economy of much of the world is coming apart at the seams. Credit the banks and their ability to make magic, to lend enormously into the void, to deny reality.

Figure 1: Dow bull markets compared, Notice the little green line that goes up and down precipitously – the Roaring Twenties: (Schaeffers Research).

Bull markets are both psalms and proverbs of the progress narrative; they are driven by ruthless Ayn Randian ‘innovators’ and risk-taking ‘entrepreneurs’ who become rich by dint of their genius, producing gadgets heretofore only imagined, items revealed in the fullness of time to be indispensible.

The car industry is central to this narrative, its products and dependencies were the ‘tech story’ of the 1920s, as smartphones, and Bitcoin are today. Like today’s gadgets, the auto was disruptive: cars were fun to play with and conferred status on the owners. Driving challenged operators as there were multiple ways for the things to murder- strand or otherwise embarrass those who were unlucky or not paying attention. The challenge was part of the fun: industrial workers generally served the needs of their employers, they were slaves to the machines. Cars worked the other way ’round: the machines answered the desires of the operators, the interactivity between the two was a novelty.

More practically, cars offered an alternative to the grip of railroad monopolies and from the, uh … ‘languidity’ of shoe leather, horse-drawn carriages and steamships. It also promised to transform what up to that point had been an unending liability — distance — into an massively valuable asset. Talk about progress: America was a big country that was largely ‘underutilized’. The auto would convert scruffy backlands and hard-scrabble farms into valuable suburban developments; the farther away they were the greater need for auto ‘tech’! Adding more suburbs meant adding more automobiles. The more automobiles, the more areas to be set aside to accommodate them. Needless to say, the money-making potential of this process appeared to be without limit.

For the car industry, its rise was universally virtuous, coinciding as it did with Wall Street finance, the rise of media and marketing, of oil extraction and processing; of industry itself: steel and radio, heavy manufacturing and construction, tool-and-die making, foundry, precision machinery and materials handling equipment along with incremental automation. Along with millions of new cars, thousands of destinations were needed along with new paved roads to knit them together: all of this offered the promise of millions of new jobs. Also, service stations, refineries, pipelines, terminals and ports: electricity would be needed to power these things, money was needed to pay; in advance, on the barrel-head, borrowed at six percent or better.

During the ’20s, government was oblivious; the freshly elected Hoover regime of 1928 was like all others before or since: a prosperity government. The idea behind modern politics is that the various publics (and their bosses) are entitled as a birthright to live beyond their means. It was and is the responsibility of government to provide … or else a new collection of big-business lackeys government would be installed.

Part of governments’ responsibility is to make necessary resources available to business cartels at the lowest possible cost. Politicians were expected to lightly manage the prosperity that resulted; making certain that those at the bottom of the economic food chain were not over-supplied. The expression of this idea can be found in every kind of government including the dictatorships, republics and monarchies, constitutional and otherwise: all of these are prosperity governments. The various politics functioned more or less because there were always more resources to exploit: apparent resource growth and accompanying gross domestic product was able to race ahead of populations and their advertising- driven expectations.

In 1928, both government and industry were eager to genuflect in the direction of self-serving pieties. The tried-and-true (antiquated) ideologies of gold standard, ‘sound money’ and laissez faire non-interference in private sector affairs were universally embraced. Regulation was an anathema, government borrowing during peacetime was frowned upon, neither of these conformed to the ‘small government’ orthodoxy of the time. Regulation would only stifle innovation. Public sector borrowing could only crowd out private borrowers and starve businesses of funds. Yet, even as the car- and related industries expanded explosively using borrowed money, borrowing at the consumer level — top line business revenue, cash flow — was faltering. Deprived customers, the ‘little fish’ at the bottom of the economic food chain were unable or unwilling to borrow to service and retire the industries’ heavy debts.

The American middle class at the time was enthusiastic but too small to carry the burden assigned to it. Most of America’s 120- or so millions were small farmers or laborers providing services related to agriculture. Returns were meager; farmers swept up relatively inexpensive, durable Fords and retired their horse carts, by doing so they removed themselves from both cart- and car markets. Non-union industrial, service, extraction labor tended to be ‘wage repressed’; only a few could afford to buy a car. Accounting, management, retail, marketing, clerical and other ‘white collar’ employment was paid well enough but represented a modest fraction of the workforce. They filled the big cities’ close in ‘trolley suburbs’; they were not inclined to buy second or third houses … or second and third cars. By the start of the Hoover period, the markets were on their way to becoming saturated. Demand for goods started to decline and then commodity prices. Instead of the once-certain returns from industry, there was a more general turn toward speculation financed with debt ‘on the margin’.

“Mitchell asserts stocks are sound; Banker, Sailing From Europe, Says He Sees No Signs of Wall Street Slump. Predicts more mergers, declares Movement Will Continue With “Fusion of a Number of Big Banking Groups.”

— New York Times. October 16, 1929

 

 

 

By October, 1929, the government had made itself irrelevant almost by habit; business was left to its own devices. Managers appreciated this but did not grasp the consequences: they were marching purposefully into a pit of their own making, there to remain until the rise of a more ‘innovative’, ‘entrepreneurial’ government in Hitler’s Germany … and the world’s necessary response to it.

Dow crosses 24,000 mark as banks climb, techs rebound

 

 

 

 

(Reuters) – The blue-chip Dow Jones index raced past the 24,000 mark for the first time on Thursday, propelled by further gains for bank stocks and a recovery in technology shares.

The 30-member index has crossed four similar 1,000-point milestones this year on the back of strong corporate earnings, robust economic data and hopes that President Donald Trump’s tax plan would make headway.

 

 

 

Today, the government purposefully aims to do the same thing, to become irrelevant, to shrink itself until it can be drowned in a bathtub; to give free rein to gamblers without heed, to do so in order to answer obsolete ideological concerns. How can this end well? Speculation by nature escapes all bounds, taking on a life of its own. In the late ’20s there was a speculation frenzy in stocks and real estate. Now it’s bonds, stocks, real estate, art … the ‘everything bubble’. The consequences are not grasped: the fact of out-of-control speculation indicates the economy of physical goods and services is kaput: there is no more ‘real economy’: it’s gambling or nothing.

Stock prices have reached “what looks like a permanently high plateau,” Irving Fisher, Yale economist told members of the Purchasing Agents Association at its monthly dinner meeting at the Building Exchange Club, 2 Park Avenue, last night.

 

 

 

 

After discussing the rise in stock values during the past two years, Mr. Fisher declared realized and prospective increases in earnings, to a very large extent, had justified this rise, adding that “time will tell whether the increase will continue sufficiently to justify the present high level. I expect that it will.”

— New York Times, October 16, 1929

 

 

 

Now as then, bank money flows like a river into speculative assets driving up prices without any change to the nature of the assets themselves. These loans are basically unsecured. Giant firms borrow to buy their own shares, removing them from the float of those publicly available. The resulting scarcity premium is added to ‘fundamental’ share prices. There is nothing else to justify the increase; a market manipulation that has little- or nothing to do with firms’ returns.

The credit flood increases because it must; how else to meet the credit-driven high prices? Going forward, there is no other choice but to lend and to do so without restraint. Industrial business is fundamentally non-productive: it exhausts its capital and ‘manufactures’ entropy as its sole product. Neither the exertions of human labor or the application of new machines can hope to retire industrial debt. Only more loans can do this: lending must continue to expand or the entire enterprise falls off the cliff: ‘once on the debt treadmill it is impossible to step off’ …

While not all land speculating met with success, most investors in the beginning stages of the Florida Land Boom made a profit selling the land to others. An elderly man in Pinellas County was committed to a sanitarium by his sons for spending his life savings of $1,700 on a piece of Pinellas property. When the value of the land reached $300,000 in 1925, the man’s lawyer got him released to sue his children.

 

 

 

 

— Florida History

 

 

 

Fool me once … fool me over and over again! Even if lending continues without hesitation or restraint, it cannot do so forever as service costs are compounding, at some point marginal lending capacity is directed to debt service: the true ‘Minsky Moment’.

Moas now puts the line in the sand at $20,000 for the split-adjusted price when the new year hits. Looking at how things have gone so far for Moas, a month is a long time, and perhaps $20,000 will be broken before that time.

 

 

 

 

Tom Lee, rather conservatively, set a Bitcoin growth of 40 percent to happen by the middle of 2018. His prediction put him at $11,500. That prediction was made a week ago, and in that time Bitcoin topped at around $11,300.

Max Keiser has a much more bullish view, but over a longer time frame as the host of Russia Today’s Keiser Report believes that $100,000 Bitcoin is an eventuality.

— Coin Telegraph, 2017

 

 

 

 

Excess credit inflates the cost of new bitcoins which are basically math puzzles requiring increasingly expensive computing power to solve. Interesting … but to what end? The entire enterprise is the red-headed stepchild of unrestrained leverage: without bank credit, the gambling component and higher ‘bubble’ prices, bitcoin transactions and the infrastructure that supports them would be unaffordable. Like the incestuous/harmonious circular relationship between automobile and suburb, the relation between leverage and the ‘pseudo-currency’ is virtuously self-amplifying … up to a point: more bitcoins => higher prices => more bitcoins. In the end, the regime self-defeating because of the exogenous credit (and electricity) requirements. More suburbs => more cars => more sub … oops! More suburbs means older ones cannot generate the revenue needed to maintain them. More cars means it’s impossible to get anywhere because of the traffic!

The cryptocurrencies are Ponzi schemes, little different from those erected by Clarence Hatry and the ‘Match King’ Ivar Kreuger in the 1920’s. The term ‘currency’ here is simply a narrative flourish intended to shill the Ponzi as ‘innovative’. As with all other schemes of this sort the great majority of suckers who ‘invest’ in cryptos will lose everything, like those who invested in Goldman-Sachs’ Shenandoah- and Blue Ridge Corporations just before the crash:

Most exciting of all were the holding companies and the investment trusts [in the very late 1920s]. Both were companies formed to invest in other companies. And the companies in which they invested, invested in yet other companies that, in turn, invested in yet others. The layers could be five or ten deep. Along the way bonds and preferred stock were sold. The resulting interest payments and preferred dividends took some of the earnings of the ultimate operating company; the remaining earnings came cascading back to the common stock still held by the promoters. Or this happened as long as the dividends of the ultimate companies were good and rising. When these fell, the bond interest and preferred stock soaked up all the revenues and more. Nothing was left to go upstream; the stock in the investment trusts and holding companies then went, often in a week, from wonderful to worthless. It was an eventuality that almost no one had foreseen.

 

 

 

 

— ‘The Age of Uncertainty’, John Kenneth Galbraith

 

 

 

Nothing lasts forever, particularly bull markets. Hyman Minsky observed periods of prosperity and accompanying bull markets carry with them the seeds of their own destruction. Certainly after almost ten years of credit floods and manipulations the seeds are ripened.

If you see a Swiss banker jump out a window, jump after him. There’s surely money in it.

— Voltaire

 

 

 

Just don’t jump out unless it’s close to the ground, good advice that’s rarely followed. Both manias and crashes are expressions of the ‘Paradox of Thrift’, a condition that ordinarily prohibits one-way markets — one where all are buyers or all sellers (or all are thrifty). One-way markets cannot exist for long without severe consequences. A market where all participants are buyers means a market that is ultimately deprived of them. Everyone who is willing to buy expensive bitcoins, tract houses, Leonardo paintings, Manhattan penthouses, Tesla shares has done so: no one remains able to ‘buy from the buyers’. A market where all are thrifty is one where money is ‘saved’ out of circulation so that day-to-day business becomes impossible. A speculators’ market unravels when the supply of free-spenders is used up, then all are forced by conditions to become sellers at once …

Over time, citizens have been made over into ‘consumers’, investors have been forced into becoming speculators: this is the paradox of non-thrift. Americans are forced into penury on account of it, there is too much ‘stuff’ too much quasi-businesslike nonsense; goods have been over-consumed leaving markets that are saturated. As during 1928, businesses cannot endure periods when there is no consumption and they fail, the outcome is the same as too much thrift. Instead of a shortage of currency, there is the shortage of timely demand.

Unknown photographer, crowd outside the New York Stock Exchange building during Black Thursday, 1929.

Q: How would you describe the economy?

 

A: It is a system that allows a select few to borrow immense fortunes. The rest of us; you, me, everyone else, repay the debts.

Q: That’s it?

A: That’s it.

Donald Trump’s tax plan may not be perfect but its timing is: The world’s powers have just wrapped up their central banks’ Quantitative Easing giveaway to tycoons and corporations that began in 2009. Now the tycoons look to government with upturned fluttering hearts. In any case there is little but obligations for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. An unhappy consequence of QE was the oil price crash of 2014. As in 1928 the little guys lacked the credit to bid up the price of fuel. Without high prices, oil drillers were, and still are, underwater.

Tycoons and corporations have taken on more than debt than the rest — and their children — can ever hope to repay. Without credit access to those at the bottom of ladder, the tycoons must retire their own loans. By doing so they become non-tycoons just like everyone else. Thrift — whether it’s intentional or not — denies the tycoons funds, they are ruined by their own creditors, the creditors are likewise ruined. This is happening right now, behind the speculative razzle-dazzle; the steady pauperization of those at the bottom. The rise in asset prices offers a false impression, or more likely, gives a warning …

The only market indicator that matters, the price of gasoline: $2.50 per gallon is affordable for most Americans, over $3.50 and ‘problems’ start to appear in various world credit- and currency markets as they did in 2008. A worrying sign is the nearly three dollar price jump for premium gas, the kind required for luxury- and high performance cars. No wonder owners of these cars are begging for a tax cut.

Luggage: Packing for Collapse

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 17, 2017

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A Baggage Planning Guide for Kollapsniks

You may be wondering what Luggage has to do with Collapse and why I am writing this article for the Doomstead Diner?

If you have been following the stories of the last week in Sunny Incendiary California, you have no doubt been treated to many stories of people who escaped "just with the clothes on their backs".  Others with a bit more warning packed some things at the last minute, but it was relatively willy nilly, whatever was around to grab.  A few relatively intelligent people had their carz pre-packed and ready to go, but that was only AFTER the Ventura fire really got rolling.  Just about everyone was taken by surprise when Ventura ballooned up from 50 acres to 50,000 acres in a matter of hours.

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Your Luggage, that which you can carry with you by hand if necessary, constitutes your FINAL BUGOUT set.  I have written about this before in the Bugout Bags series, here I'm going to expand on this and go into a little more detail on the bags you want packed and ready to go ALL THE TIME.

I've been a Luggage Freak since my first years in Elementary Skule after Kindergarten, when I first needed to start carrying with me my notebooks, pencils and pens, rulers and eraser and my Lunch bag too!  Then maybe a rain slicker and hat if the weather looked like it might change later in the day.  There was a lot of stuff to pack for a day at Skule!

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/8f/94/28/8f9428fd848cb537ff4bcc00ae4e6d61.jpg I was living in Brasil at the time, and back in those days pretty much the only school bags you could find were the kind you carried with your hand by a handle on top.  Sometimes they had an auxiliary shoulder strap, but it was always very thin and cut into your shoulder uncomfortably with any significant weight. They also broke at the attachment point of bag to strap in short order if you carried them this way regularly.  On these cheap bags, the attachments weren't well reinforced. Carrying by hand of course took one hand out of service for doing other things, plus your arm gets tired if you carry a heavy bag by the handle for any significant length of time.

Having some experience with Backpacks as a camper, I always wanted one of those for carrying my Skule Gear.  However, the ones available in those years were too big.  Chinese and Indian women and children were not yet sewing up millions of backpack-sized school bags in endless configurations in those years.  That didn't take off until numerous years later, in fact it wasn't until I had graduated from HS bags of that style began to appear, now including well padded shoulder straps as well as wheels, copying the airline bags.  This has driven down the price of these bags, and you can get really nice ones in the $20 range.  2 or 3 of these bags in different configurations is an important aspect of your Luggage Arsenal.

http://www.waterproofgear.net/upload/photo/f1dfdc21a289b784f420a209565069b3.jpg One of these bags should contain copies of all your most important documents, themselves encased in some kind of case or water-tight bag inside the backpack.  It is the Essentials Bag. Birth Certificate, Passport, Property Titles, Auto Registrations, Marriage documents, tax records etc.  You want the originals similarly protected, but they need additonal protection and should be stored separately.  Bank safe deposit boxes are one choice, burying them in a waterproof safe box another..  For the scramble to GTFO of Dodge though, copies are good enough.  Your Wallet with your Credit/Debit Cards, Medical Insurance Cards, CASH, Blank Checks, FSoA Passport Card and Drivers License is even more important, this NEVER leaves my person.  I sleep with it in the pocket of my pajamas.  My smart phone also is also never more than an arm's reach away.  At the desk, it is plugged in to stay topped off on charge all the time.  When I go to sleep, I plop it next to my pillow.  When I visit the Throne, it comes with me to surf the web while I exert the effort necessary to excrete.  There is no Bugout Situation I can envision where I would not have my Wallet and my Smart Phone with me.

The Essentials Bag is always kept in a "go out the door" location.  This can literally be by the front door, or in my case I keep it by my desk where I am sitting almost all the time I am not sleeping, which itself is a location only a few feet away from the desk.  If I feel a quake (happens regularly here), I am out the door with my essentials bag in under a minute.  That is on Cripple time.  When the legs worked right, I was out the door in 10 seconds.  I made that trip out the door twice in the last decade, in neither case did the building come down but if it did I would not have been crushed under it.

Even in a Wildfire situation though where a neighbor or a fireman pounds on your door to rouse you and inform you of the MANDATORY EVACUATION and you look up on the hillside and see an inferno bearing down on your McMansion, you generally have more than a minute to get packed up and rolling.  Again in the reports from CA, residents evacuating usually took 5-10 minutes to throw a few possesions into bags, throw the bags into the SUV and put the Pedal to the Metal to run the gauntlet through the Inferno and hopefully to safety.

http://cdn.video.nationalgeographic.com/ae/61/a9f24c494c85810b6a2d82d21141/nw-dly-ds1702001-411-drivers-flee-fire-engulfing-california-freeway-vin-spd.jpg

If you have that 5-10 minutes, you can do a lot better than just the Essentials Bag, with the Full Luggage Kit, previously packed and also all ready to go at a moment's notice.  What is the FLK?

The FLK is the full gamut of bags you can take with you on an airplane, bus etc but still manage to carry them all yourself in some manner.

The typical FLK consists of 4 bags, the aforementioned Essentials Bag, a Carry-On Wheely Bag you can bring yourself on the plane and 2 more larger Wheely Bags you can check in the baggage compartment, now at $25/each as long as you stay under the 50# limit for each of those bags.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51aQAd60AeL._SL500_AC_SS350_.jpg https://shop.highsierra.com/dw/image/v2/AAUE_PRD/on/demandware.static/-/Sites-product-catalog/default/dwbb252ee9/collections/_highsierra/Prime/500x500/672944690be01.jpg?sw=1500 https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HTB19ff9KpXXXXbgXVXXq6xXFXXX9/Aluminium-magnesium-alloy-trolley-luggage-High-quality-full-metal-travel-bag-luggage-Metal-Boarding-Travel-Business.jpg

RE's current FLK (approximately, not the exact models I have but close)

How do you carry all those bags at once?  There are a couple of alternatives.  Usually, I stack the two medium size bags with the smaller one on top, and the Essentials Bag on top of the large bag, then pull each of them with one arm.  At least I used to do that, now I get the Airport Wheel Chair Jockeys to do it for me.  However, you can also carry the Essentials Bag on your back and make a "train" out of the wheely bags to pull them with one hand if necessary.  Only do that on flat ground though, uphill too heavy, downhill uncontrollable.

The luggage manufacturing people over in Pakistan also provide these in many configurations made of different materials, from very soft-side stuff like Duffels to semi-soft side ballistic nylon to true hard side made from various polymers or sometimes aluminum.  Each type has advantages and disadvantages.

https://s002.osstatic.net/s/eagl/store/productimages/master/1612_stone_grey_l.jpg?w=320 Soft Side

Advantages: Generally the lightest in weight themselves, and when empty can be folded up and stowed away taking up little room.  Also usually the cheapest alternative.

Disadvantages: Provide the least protection from damage to interior items, and little to no security against theft.

Best Use: Extra clothing you can easily replace if stolen, sleeping bags, tents etc.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91w6v%2BWWwnL._SY679_.jpg Semi-Soft Side

Advantages:  The rigidity provided around the edge of the bag to hold shape offers some protection to interior items.  They also usually come today with their own wheels, so you don't usually have to fully carry them, just wheel them around from the luggage carousel to the taxi, etc.  Because this is the most popular type sold in stores like Walmart & Target, they also come in pretty cheap.

Disadvantages:  Significant increase in the weight of the bag itself, meaning you have less cargo capacity (mainly an airline problem).  When empty, you can't fold them up for stowage, although when purchased in sets they will usually "nest" when empty so you only have the footprint of the largest of the bags to stow in a closet or under the bed.  Almost as low security as soft bags, all it takes is a pocket knife to cut through the fabric of the bag, so if you are in a shelter for instance, your personal property is not very secure when you are not around, even if the bag is locked.

https://images.prod.meredith.com/product/b281acd2bf7bc2bd5e11414e510d4ead/1496570718682/l/swiss-style-29-inch-aluminum-alloy-hardside-spinner-upright-suitcase-silver Hard Side

Advantages: Provides the most protection for interior items, both from damage in transit as well as security against theft.  It takes a bit more than a pocket knife to break into one of these bags, although granted not a lot more.  They are also more waterproof than either of the other types of bags, although they will not survive a complete submersion without the interior items getting soaked, unless you also seal them in waterproof bags.  If you live in a neighborhood where Flooding is a problem, you definitely want to waterproof your valuables as best you can.  If they are Full Aluminum, they also will serve as Faraday Cages and protect from EMPs and identity theft of RFID chips you may have inside.  Weight varies tremendously on hard side luggage.  You can get some variations even lighter in weight than semi-soft, but the materials used can be expensive or they skimp on thickness and they are not as strong and will develop cracks over time.  They can also get "torqued" with bad baggage handling and misalign when trying to close them, rendering them pretty much useless.

Disadvantages:  Like Semi-Soft, they don't fold up for stowage but they also do nest when empty, so not too much difference here.  Possibly a more attractive target for thieves, since they figure if you are using hard side luggage you probably have valuables in it.  Rather than break into it, they may simply take the whole case if they have the opportunity.  Use a cable lock on some fixed object to minimize this risk.  The frame on your cot in the shelter probably will work for this.  In the airport, lock to the row of seats you are taking your nap on while waiting for your plane to be deiced.

What goes in them?

If you add the 3 bags of a typical luggage set to your Essentials Bag as already packed and ready to go out the door bags in a fast evacuation scenario, you have a LOT more room to work with and can carry much more of your personal belongings.  Now it becomes a challenge of deciding what should go in these bags and how it should be organized?  There is no single answer to that question, since for some people it might mean photo albums and family memoribilia, for others it might mean stuff you will need while you live on the road or couch surfing with friends and relatives until you (hopefully) can return home.

https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/FFz4dXaQfnvhITSZGouIzuXJjH8=/fit-in/x/2009/12/02/0573ec38-f4d6-11e2-8c7c-d4ae52e62bcc/dvd.jpg On the photo albums issue, in the modern world this shoudn't be a problem at all.  Nobody has so many pictures in photo albums they won't all fit on a Micro-SD Card that fits in your wallet.  You can also store on DVD-R and have copies sprinkled around to friends and relatives.  Also store them up on the Cloud.  The folks who have this problem are generally older folks who never figured out how to scan a picture, or who were too lazy to do so.  I don't have a lot of sympathy for this problem.

Other memoribilia though can be tougher.  Your dad's Purple Heart from WWII maybe fits, but you're not going to pack his Dress Uniform.  Your daughter's Gold Medal from L5 State Championships for Gymnastics maybe fits, but you're not going to pack all her leotards from the time she was 5.  Your prized Fender Guitar signed by Eddie Van Halen won't fit any of the luggage, but maybe you can carry it on the side.  You definitely can't carry the Steinway Piano though, that is firewood.

I'm not big on the memoribilia conservation, so I allocate my space more to what I think I will need with me to make my time as an evacuee a little more comfortable and tolerable, if not pleasant.  In order from smallest to largest, here is how I distribute out what I want ready to go in an emergency situation.

22" Wheely Bag

Mostly electronics and communication equipment.  Laptop, Tablet, Spare phones, Small Cameras, Flashlights, Chargers, SW Radio, Walkie Talkies, Batteries.  Also in this bag goes some road food, water bottle and various small tools.  Since all these things are rather dense, the weight of this bag can be quite substantial and you have to watch the weight more than the volume of stuff you drop into it.  Remember you may have to hoist it into an overhead compartment on the plane.

25" Wheely Bag

Change of clothing, underwear, socks, hoody sweatshirt, rain jacket & hat.  Not a massive amount of clothing, this can mostly be easily replaced at the nearest Target once you reach a safe location.  Still good to have some extra clothes though in case problems are more widespread and there are no open Targets.  This bag still has at least half the space empty, which I have my big camera kit in, a camping stove, mess kit and some freeze-dried Mountain House food.

28" Wheely Bag

This gets 3 items which take up just about the whole bag: sleeping bag, pad & popup tent.  Since I live in a cold climate, remaining space is for additional layers of winter clothing: Hat, Gloves, Scarf, Insulated vest, long underwear, insulated jacket.  Bulky stuff but not heavy.  If you are not worried about real cold weather, you have a lot more room to work with.

The only bag not packed and ready to go all the time is the Electronics bag, because I use that stuff all the time.  It also needs to be regularly charged up.  However, it is all also close by me all the time and it doesn't take long to throw it in the bag.  The two larger bags sit packed all the time in the front closet.  Total time to get out the door and into SaVANnah (my full-size raised roof conversion van & emergency home-on-wheelz, aka BUGOUT MACHINE!) in the event Mt. Redoubt goes Ballistic, about 5 minutes.

SaVANnah on a Bugout Rehearsal Run

What type of luggage you choose is to some extent a matter of preference, although soft side is really only appropriate for clothing and your sleeping gear made of cloth.  Stuff that can't be damaged by the luggage monkeys handling your bags.   For the rest of the bags, it's either semi-soft or hard side.  When I moved to Alaska, I had already been living out of bags and containers during my trucking years.  However, the containers (PVC generally) really weren't good for taking on a plane, so I bought a set of 3 semi-soft bags from Victorinox, the Swiss Army Knife people.  I always was satisfied with the quality on their pocket knives over the years, and the bags held up pretty well.

https://ak1.ostkcdn.com/images/products/4398195/P12360080.jpg?imwidth=320&impolicy=medium This set of luggage has lasted me over a decade for many trips.  However, recently one of the carry handles on the largest bag ripped off, but even more disastrous was I used the medium size bag to transport some frozen Sockeye Salmon and Alaska King Crab down to Seattle for the Great Tombstone Adventure, and they leaked melting fish water into the bag.  It STUNK on arrival in Seattle and had to be sent to the Land of Away.

So I decided it was time for a new set of luggage, and this time I went for a 2 piece true Hard Side set with aluminum frames which came in at the amazingly low price of $70.  For BOTH of them.  I remember when Samsonite luggage like this sold for $100s of dollars a piece.  There has been a lot of deflation in luggage costs.

I was concerned the quality might not be too good, but they have already arrived and seem sturdy enough to me at the moment.  We'll need to wait for the next Adventure to do a field test on them.

To finish up here on organizing your Emergency Bugout luggage, I mentioned that it was a good idea to have at least 2 or 3 of the smaller backpacks as part of your ensemble.  Why do you need that (or at least want it) when you are already maxed out with 4 bags, 2 for carry-on the plane and 2 more to drop in checked baggage?  Well, you can drop more than that in checked baggage, but it will be expensive.  Besides that, more than 4 bags and it becomes about impossible to move them around yourself, even just from baggage carousel to a cab outside.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/7f/6d/0d/7f6d0dad12e20145c4cdb49211c7e5c4--suitcase-packing-tips-packing-tricks.jpg The reason is for organizational purposes where you do "Bag in a Bag".  Particularly with larger luggage, if you don't have your stuff inside organized in some way and just throw it in the bag, digging around to find it when you open up the bag messes up the whole bag.  Also you often can't find what you are looking for at all!

These bag in bags differ markedly from the ones you use independently.  For those, you like to have a heavy duty material for the bag along with some exterior compartments and attachment points for bungees and other stuff.  For the bag in bags, it is just the opposite.  You want thin lightweight material for the bag, and few to no exterior pockets.  Extra pockets on these bags just makes it too complicated, you forget which pocket on which bag you stored something.  Many bag configurations work well for bag in a bag.  There are lightweight backpacks, gym bags, mini-duffels, laundry bags etc.  Generally you should spend no more than $10 for a bag in bag.

Also mentioned was waterproofing the interior contents of your bags, particularly if your main concern is flooding.  No bag that is light enough to be a travel bag is going to be completely waterproof.  Generally all 3 types will shed water pretty well from light rain/drizzle, at least if not left out too long.

For harder rain, the soft side luggage fails first.  If you haven't done anything else to protect and waterproof the clothing inside, it will be soaked in at most a couple of hours.  However, it's EZ to vastly improve on this problem with a simple disposable lawn waste bag lining the interior when you pack it.  Or you can use multiple smaller trash bags.  The same is true for semi-soft side luggage.

Hard side luggage is pretty much impervious to rain no matter how hard it is coming down, with this exception: Hard Side Zipper Closure bags.  The zipper has cloth to either side where it attaches to the bag, and this is a failure point for the leakage of water.  Besides that, it makes the hard side luggage as vulnerable as the other two types of luggage to EZ theft with a pocket knife.  Don't ever buy hard side luggage with zipper closure!  It defeats the entire purpose and all the advantages of hard side.

Hard side does have one advantage in flooding situations, which is if it is not to heavily loaded it will float, at least for a while.  They are not water tight to submersion though.

https://www.clasohlson.com/medias/sys_master/9276934291486.jpg If you are really obsessive and worried about water damage, particlarly to electronic devices, you'll need to get water-tight cases or bags for them.  These are available in a myriad of sizes and configurations as well, generally sold in the Fishing & Camping dept of your local Superstore.  The issue here is the more of them you use, the less actual serviceable room you have inside the containing bag.  I don't bother with these, flooding is not my major concern and I don't see much likelihood of the luggage getting submerged in an evacuation.

Once you have your complete Evac Luggage Kit organized and ready to go, for the Kollapsnik Prepper it offers great peace of mind that you have done the best you can to be ready for collapse when it shows up on your doorstep, as it can at any time, anywhere, as the folks in SoCal are now aware.  When it does show up, there is often little warning and no time to figure out all the stuff you need, find it and pack it up.  If you have done it in advance though, you can be out the door in 5 minutes with a decent kit of stuff that will keep you fairly comfortable for a week or two at least of couch surfing while you figure out how you will afford to rebuild your McMansion, considering your workplace also burned down and you have no job either.  Your luggage system will not solve this problem.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/12/Burned_mobile_home_neighborhood_in_California_edit.jpg

Trip to Club Morphine


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on Dec.9,, 2017

“They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, no, no, no.”

 ― Amy Winehouse  


RE wanted me to blog about some of my recent adventures, which had taken me away from the community of saints in the Diner Forum and set me adrift in the archipelagos of modern medical technology.

Since I once went to Famous Journalism School, I'll not bury the lede: on Thursday, December 1, I had spinal fusion surgery. It is as extreme a procedure as it sounds: a six hour surgery In which one person known to me and a roomful of otherwise strangers open my back for the purposes of relieving the stress on a woefully-pinched spinal cord, and then leave in place a structure designed to relieve the stress permanently. Such surgery comes, of course, with all the risks attendant to spinal surgery as well as prolonged anesthesia.

Not a walk in the park.

This event had been some years in coming. In 2003, I fell down my own stairs while carrying a child, rolled over my ankle and broke it very badly. Repair required surgery.  And then, since I put too much weight on the ankle going up and down stairs, the surgeon told me it had to be redone. This necessitated spending two months in a wheelchair, where I got an up close and personal view of the life of the mobility impaired. And then the screws needed to be removed in a third surgery: the wages of being a "non-compliant patient."

Both of my knees were wearing out from early athletic misuse, and the wear and tear that comes with carrying a person-and-a-half on them for most of my adult life. I had arthroscopic surgery on both knees , and while the first one responded well, the left knee was left bone-on-bone and largely ornamental. 

Which led to a changed gait, as the body adjusts to pain with a variety of subtle stratagems, some conscious, others not. In the fullness of time, my left hip began to ache. Over time it got worse. Cortisone shots in the hip provided some relief from pain, at least for a while. But with each successive shot the relief window shrank. The last shot that I took lasted for a day. at this point, my surgeon suspected that the problem was rooted in pressure on the sciatic nerve, and ordered up an MRI.

The MRI confirmed his suspicions. I can read an MRI with the same assurance I would bring to translating the Rosetta Stone, but I could tell the difference in the appearance of the spine above and below L5. An X-ray confirmed that my left hip is arthritic and pretty well trashed, but that recovery would start with surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves. 

Given that in the last six months, my life has gotten progressively smaller, more sedentary and more painful, opting for the surgery was a clear quality-of-life play.

D-Day came and went. It took me some time to come out of the anesthetic fog, and my ever-dedicated Contrary was waiting for me. I spent most of the first evening in a morphine-induced haze, abetted by a cocktail of painkillers left behind in my spine courtesy of my surgeon. Contrary tells me that in the recovery room, I asked the attending nurse if it was time for me to try to stand and walk a little. Uh, no, bucko, don't jump the gun, she said. I remained in expansive good spirits even though effectively confined to bed. On the second day, I did get up and moved to my chair for about three hours. 

The Friday after surgery, I was still living large off the drugs the doctor had left implanted in my spine. I was laughing, cutting up, and had a good appetite. On Saturday, not so much. They moved me from ICU into the "ortho wing," which featured a room the size of a janitor's closet. It had room for one chair, which was wedged against the wall at the bottom of the bed. To bring equipment into this room, they actually had to move stuff out. I started to go downhill and had lost all appetite. Probably abetted by the fact that they served up some sort of "mystery meat" that looked like a small brick with moss on it.

Then they took away my magic button, the morphine pump, and substituted oral medication. Problem was they failed to tell me I had to ask for it, so I slipped into a slump of woozy pain and a miserable fog.  It was only after what seemed like two weeks of this that I asked a nurse, "Aren't you supposed to be giving me something for pain?" that she replied, "Yes, but you have to ask for it."

Hmph.

Then on Monday, the Three Stooges Ambulance team transferred me to a local rehab facility. The story of the transport is worth retelling sometime, as these three yokels looked like I was the only thing holding them back from their afternoon beers. They strapped my fat ass to a gurney and fed me into the back of an ambulance, and went barrel-assing down the interstate, obviously forgetting or oblivious to the fact they were transporting a spinal surgery patient. BANG! POW! CRASH! OUCH!!!

They moved me into a local "transitional hospital." It is a large rehabilitation facility, with multiple buildings devoted to different kinds of cases. My wing has responsibility for surgical patients.  The staff consists of a number of specialists who are very good at their jobs. As in most medical settings, the heroes are the nurses. My nursing care is absolutely nonpareil. As has been the dedication of my wife, who has spent the equivalent of two fill time jobs sitting with me and managing a household. And at Christmas, to boot.

My most immediate problem is that my wound keeps draining, and requires multiple dressings over the course of the day.  But it does seem to be getting better. Also, as I get in and out of bed, and move around with the assistance of a walker, I have gained strength every day as well. The days, which have flown by, are filled with therapy; an "occupational therapy" session in the morning, and physical therapy in the afternoon. Both types include simple strength building routines which go to buttress the legs and core. It is remarkable how demanding and challenging some of the simplest actions are post-surgery.

I will be discharged on Sunday December 17 according to plan. I don’t expect I’ll be going back to work before February.  It might be sooner than that; I just don’t know, and from now there is no way to tell.

There is nothing like being dependent upon the goodwill of well-intentioned strangers charged with your care and well-being to imbue one with a real sense of humility and gratitude. I am grateful for their everyday professionalism, diligence and good cheer. And their attitude and good huimor made it bearable. I am also grateful to be heading home for the next phase of recovery, and to be sleeping in my own bed with my own wife.

 So that’s my story. All for now.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 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 was once active in Occupy. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and neither bends, lifts nor twists, and has attempted to be a compliant patient in every particular.

Collapse Step by Step, Part 8 — The Bumpy Road Down, Part 1

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Published on The Easiest Person to Fool on November 26, 2017

 

Lake Huron Waves Breaking Along South Pier, Kincardine

 

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The term “bumpy road down” refers to the cyclic pattern of crash and partial recovery that I believe will characterize the rest of the age of scarcity and make for a slow step by step collapse, rather than a single hard and fast crash. Indeed, that is where the "step-by-step" in the title of this series of posts comes from. And yes, many of the individual steps down will happen quite quickly and seem quite harsh. But it will likely take many steps and many decades before we can say collapse is essentially complete, and between those steps down there will (in many areas) be long periods when things are stable or even actually improving somewhat.

The fast collapse is a favourite trope of collapse fiction and makes for some exciting stories, in which stalwart heroes defend their group from hungry hordes and evil strong men. And if the story happens in the U.S. the characters get to do their best to stop a whole lot of ammunition from going stale. But it seems to me that in most parts of the world things will progress quite differently when disaster strikes. Indeed there is a branch of sociology which studies how people and societies respond to disaster, and it has identified a set of incorrect beliefs, known as "the disaster mythology" that much of the general public holds on the subject. In particular, the expectation of looting, mass panic and violence is not borne out in really. Here are some further links on the subject: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Dysfunctional as today's world may seem to many of us, it is working fairly well for those who are in power. They have a great deal invested in maintaining the "status quo", and in making sure that whatever changes do happen don't have any great effect on them. They also have a lot of resources to bring to bear on pursuing those ends, and a lot of avenues to go down before they run out of alternatives.

The other 80% of us, who are just along for the ride so to speak, still rely on industrial society for the necessities of life. We are hardly self sufficient at all, dependent on "the system" to a degree that is unprecedented in mankind's history and prehistory. As unhappy as we may be with the way things are at present, it's hard to imagine collapse without a certain amount of trepidation. Denial is a very common response to this situation.

Some of us, though, aren't very good at denial. Even if we only follow the news on North American TV, which largely ignores the rest of the world, we've seen lots of disturbing events in the last year or two and it is hard not to wonder if they are leading up to something serious. Many people in the "collapse sphere" are predicting a major disturbance in the next few years, and some think that this will be the one that us takes down—all the way.

I definitely agree that something is about to happen, but I don't think it is going be the last straw. Just one more step along the way.

As always, I am directing this mainly to those who are not highly "collapse aware", so a closer look at what's going on and what this next big bump might look like would seem to be a good idea. And of course I am making generalizations in what follows. As always, things will vary a good bit between different areas and at different times, and all of this will affect people of the various social classes differently. Also beware that I am not an economist, just a layman who has been watching the field with keen interest for some time. What follows is a summary of what I have learned, in a field where there is lots of disagreement and where the experts themselves have been wrong again and again.

Despite all the optimistic talk about renewable energy, we are still dependent on fossil fuels for around 87% of our energy needs, and those needs are largely ones that cannot be met by anything other than fossil duels, especially oil. While it is true that fossil fuels are far from running out, the amount of surplus energy they deliver (the EROEI—"energy returned on energy invested") has declined to the point where it no longer supports robust economic growth. Indeed, since the 1990s, real economic growth has largely stopped. What limited growth we are seeing is based on debt, rather than an abundance of surplus energy. And various adjustments to the way GDP is calculated have made the situation seem less serious that it really is.

Because of the growth situation, investors looking for good returns on their money have been hard pressed to find any and so have turned to riskier investments, which has resulted in speculative bubbles and subsequent crashes. The thing about bubbles is they are based on trust. Trust in some sort of investment that in saner times would be recognized for the risky proposition it really is. But always there comes a day when the risk becomes obvious, people rush to get out, and the bubble crashes.

The dot com bubble was the first to burst in this century, and the real estate bubble in the US was the next, leading to the crash of 2008.

After 2008 many governments borrowed money to bailout financial institutions (banks) which were in danger of failing, since that failure would have had a very negative effect on the rest of the economy. To control the cost of that borrowing and stimulate the economy, they lowered interest rates. These low interest rates have made it possible to use debt as a temporary replacement for surplus energy as the driver of the economy. Unfortunately this is pretty inefficient—it takes several dollars of debt to create a dollar's worth of growth, and the result has been debt increasing to totally unprecedented levels.

Meanwhile, much of the ill advised risk taking in the financial industry that led to the crash in 2008 has continued on unabated. You may wonder why responsible governments didn't enact regulations to stop that sort of thing. And indeed they did, to a limited extent. I suspect, though, that really effective regulations would have stopped growth cold, and no one was willing to accept the negative results of that. Better to let things to go on as they are, leaving future governments to worry about the consequences.

So, in 2017 we are deep into what might be called a "debt bubble." It relies on trust that interest rates will remain low and that any day now there will be a return to robust growth so that we can all make some money and pay off our debts. Those are risky propositions, to say the least.

On top of that, low interest rates have made it much more of a challenge for pension funds to raise enough money to meet their obligations, a vital concern for retired baby boomers like myself.

Those same low interest rates have made it possible for many non-viable or barely viable businesses to continuing operating on borrowed money, where under more normal circumstances they would have been forced out of business. This makes for a weaker economy, not a stronger one.

Here in Canada we still have a real estate bubble going on, especially in cities like Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, and that despite recent government efforts to cool the real estate market by making it more difficult to get a mortgage, and by applying a tax on foreign real estate investors.

And over the last year that have been a long list of natural disasters which have increased the financial stress on governments, insurance companies and even re-insurance companies (who insure the insurance companies themselves).

The more conventional economists have come to think that all this is a normal situation and that it can just keep on keeping on. But there are others who think that this will lead to a crash of even greater magnitude that 2008. And many kollapsniks think this crash will mean the end of industrial civilization.

Some commentators expect this crash to take the form of a rash of debt defaults by governments who can no longer carry the debt loads they have built up. And a similar wave of bankruptcies of those shaky businesses I was just talking about, when they finally get to the point where they can no longer hold on. Tim Morgan, one of my favourite economists (who is certainly aware of the possibility of collapse), speculates that this bubble may burst in a different way than those of the past, with the collapse of one or more currencies. He points to the British pound as a prime candidate for the first to go and thinks that the U.S. dollar may follow it.

Other experts I've asked say that while the U.S government does have huge debts, they are not so large in comparison to the size of its economy—an economy that is strong enough that trust in it is unlikely to fail. I am not so sure. Much of the strength of the U.S. dollar comes from the fact that all trading of oil is done in it. If you want to buy oil then you need U.S. dollars, so the demand for them is always high. But a number of countries who are not allies of the US have proposed abandoning this system, suggesting that they are willing to accept other currencies for their oil. If this were to happen on a large scale it would significantly weaken the US dollar.

But it takes some sort of unusual event to start a crash like this, to initiate the loss of trust. And that brings us back to the fossil fuel industry.

While the falling EROEIs of fossil fuels have hurt economic growth, it is a mistake to think that those fuels are not still the life blood of our civilization. The success of modern industry is based on the productivity boost provided by cheap energy. The price of oil, for many years, was a fraction of its worth in terms of what could be made with the energy embodied in that oil. But when the price of energy goes up, it reduces the profitability of industry, often leading to a recession.

The oil prices I quote here are for Brent crude, just to keep things simple. In fact, oil trades at a dizzying variety of different prices, depending on where it comes from and its quality, among other things. If you look back over the history of recessions since the 1950s it is interesting to note almost all of them were preceded by a spike in the price of oil. In the summer of 2008 the price of oil, which had been going up for several years, topped out just before the crash at almost $140 per barrel.

After the crash, the economy slowed down significantly, and the price of oil dropped to around $30 per barrel due to falling demand. Starting in mid-2009 the economy began to recover and the price of oil increased to over $100. This appeared to be a straight forward case of supply and demand—an indication that the supply of oil was barely keeping up and suppliers were being forced to turn to more expensive sources of oil to meet the demand.

Then in mid 2014 something surprising happened— the price of oil and many other bulk commodities began to go down. By early 2016 the price of oil was under $40/barrel, and it stayed in the range between $40 and $60 until quite recently when it edged up over $60.

All kinds of ideas have been put forth as to why this drop in the price of oil happened, many of them contradictory. It is my thought that two things have been happening. First, demand destruction—a slowing down of the world economy caused by high energy prices. Second, a temporary increase in the supply of oil, mainly from fracking in the continental US and tapping of unconventional oil—tar sands in Canada, heavy oil in Venezuela, and deep offshore oil in various place around the world, that were suddenly profitable when the price was around $100 per barrel.

Whatever is the cause, it is clear that we have had a surplus of oil for the last few years, and this has kept the price down. OPEC discussed limiting supply to force the price back up, but very little came of it, even though the lower price was severely hurting the economies of the OPEC nations.

In the short run, lower oil prices have had a beneficial effect on economic growth. But unfortunately, the big oil companies were making so little profit that they couldn't afford to invest much in oil discovery.

Regardless of what you may think of the idea of "peak oil" on a global basis, it is a simple fact that the output of any individual oil field declines as it ages. Exploration for new oil aims to match that natural decline with new discoveries. For conventional oil, that has not happened since 1963 and by the start of this century this was becoming a problem. A problem that likely had something to do with the run up of oil prices prior to 2008.

Following 2008, higher prices and improved technology (like fracking and the syncrude process for getting oil out of the tar sands) made more oil accessible. But with the current lower prices, that is no longer the case. Furthermore the wells opened up by fracking are proving to have very high decline rates.

So it seems that sometime in the next year or two, the decline rate of the world's oil fields will have eaten up the surplus of oil. Discovery of new oil fields doesn't happen overnight, so there will be a crunch in oil supply. Not that there will be no oil available, but oil suppliers will be hard pressed to keep up with the demand and the price will spike upward. There may even be shortages of some petroleum products until those higher prices pull demand back to match the available supply.

It seems very likely that such a spike in the price of oil will touch off a loss of trust leading to a recession of such severity as to make 2008 look minor.

In my next post in this series I'll look at how that recession—might as well call it a crash—might proceed and what will likely be done to mitigate its effects.

Death From Above

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 10, 2017

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On a strictly Tourista Level, the Highlight of my Great Tombstone Adventure down to Seattle was the excursion K-Dog and I took to the Boeing Museum of Flight, which is a HUGE facility just loaded wih cool historical aircraft of various kinds.  Airplanes are not small things, particularly the modern jets and bombers, so this place takes up acres of space.  Given my limited ability to walk even a few feet without sitting down to rest, touring this museum without the assistance of an EV powered Cripple Cart was out of the question.

Unlike Walmart or Safeway which kindly provide Cripple Carts for the crippled and overweight shoppers,  Boeing does NOT provide these marvelous devices for the touristas who come and pay $23 a pop for the opportunity to view up close and personal these behemoths of the air, possibly the greatest monument to the Age of Oil that exists.  There is no single symbol more impressive than the Jets and the Rockets produced over the last half of the Industrial Age than these machines.  Even the older ones from the first half made of wood and fabric are pretty impressive, given the technology of the day.  I fortunately rented my own Cripple Cart for the week down in Seattle, and had it to tour around the museum.

As a person who both reviles what the techno-civilization and profligate burning of fossil fuels has done to the planet but ALSO admires the technological prowess of the age, visiting this museum brings up conflicting emotions and a lot of cognitive dissonance as I propelled my Cripple Cart around from plane to plane and read many of the displays which chronicled the History of Flight.

I rode on many of these jets, from the typical Boeing 707 to the great behemoth itself, the 747.  I rode the 747 back in the 1970s, when the upstairs was still a lounge for First Class passengers and not just extra seats.  Production has ceased for the 747 as a passenger aircraft, and going forward here only a few will still be produced for hauling heavy freight.  Those 4 big engines produce a LOT of thrust, that's why the 747 was able to piggy back the Space Shuttle to move it around after it glided back down to earth without power.

https://www.revell.de/fileadmin/_processed_/csm_04863__I_SPACE_SHUTTLE_U_BOEING_747_a6bcad4a83.jpg

You don't generally need all that thrust just to move meat packages around taking vacation trips to St. John or Hawaii, it's not very fuel efficient.  747s were cool transport back in the 70s when the fuel came cheap, but in today's market they are money losers.  They're only really good on the most travelled routes like say NY-London, but you always have to make sure they are packed solid so you have to overbook the plane for that.  The more passengers, the more overbooking is necessary.  Flying more smaller more fuel efficient planes is more profitable, or really less of a money loser since nothing in that industry ever really makes a profit.

The same problem killed the Concorde and the SST, the Supersonic Passenger aircraft that were supposed to revolutionize air travel by cutting flight times down to like 3 hours NY-London.  Terrible fuel efficiency here, and besides that the cabin is so small it's like flying coach on a regional jet.  7 hours in First Class in a big fat comfortable seat with free booze is WAY better than 3 hours in a Concorde, so rich fucks didn't pony up for this expensive flight more than once for status.  The only reason a few travellers flew on this White Elephant for a few years was for the status.  Nobody REALLY needed to make it over to London in 3 hours.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/nintchdbpict000003726246.jpg?strip=all&w=960

Besides that problem for the Concorde was the SONIC BOOM problem.  They couldn't fly the plane at supersonic speeds over any land routes that maybe there were some rich fucks who wanted to buy some status on such a flight, like say NY-LA.  Noise pollution complaints came from everyone underneath the plane all along the route.  This aviation boondoggle lasted a few years and disappeared, but there are rumours Elon Musk is trying to bring something similar back, firing Rockets up on ballistic trajectories to hop rich fucks around the world at top speed!  More money being flushed down the toilet here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2017/07/05/TELEMMGLPICT000067773872_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqTw4-AaCxUhcMgOYbK39rJRK2eTpGuUdZNBjIHEvMxoU.jpeg?imwidth=480 Other aspects of the Flight Museum were quite interesting, I did enjoy seeing the type of aircraft that Amelia Earhardt tried to circumnavigate with, that was a very cool looking plane.  I also found the display of the development of Alaska Aviation and the mail routes that funded that to be quite interesting.  To this day, Alaska remains totally dependent on flight to hold the state together as a political unit and to move resources the population needs around the state.  Because it is so mountainous, there is hardly any road system for Alaska beyond the main highways that connect the Kenai Peninsula up though Anchorage then on to Fairbanks.  There are however numerous native villages sprinkled around the state, mainly along the coast as fishing was their historical source of food.  Barges supply these places with the diesel they use to run their generators, since besides not having roads to get there they are not connected to the grid in any way.  To get milk and other fresh produce in there, it's all done by plane at exorbitant prices.  For all the foks who make their living by working 2 weeks on/2weeks off up on the North Slope drilling for Oil, they commute there via plane as well.

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-zfHfiuj-7aY/UTE9O8gAN2I/AAAAAAAAER0/r1QnkO45leY/s400/TMB%2Bcan%2B2012%2Bak%2B%2528669%2529.JPG Individuals who want to have one of those Remote Cabins on a lake off the road system have their own planes, usually single engine float planes they can land on their private and secluded lake.  Obviously, to be in this bracket to own a private plane, even a small single engine Cessna takes a lot of money.  Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers, CPAs and other criminal racketeers are the ones who buy these properties and the planes to get to them.  Getting the materials into these places to build the cabin can be quite the challenge, even if you cut the logs for it where you build it.  This is usually done with Snow Machines in the winter, which travel over the snow and frozen lakes much faster than you can travel in a 4-wheeler during summer.  The rest of the year if you DON'T have a float plane, you are basically stuck at your cabin and you better have enough supplies laid in until the first snowfall, unless you want to spend a full day just getting to the closest store on the road system, which probably doesn't stock much besides Spam in a Can and Potato Chips.  If you want any kind of real choice of foods, you're going to need a car parked in their lot and then drive from there to a population center like Fairbanks or the Mat-Su Valley.  With a float plane, you can do all this a lot faster just flying into Anchorage, shopping and flying back.  This does use a fair amount of gas of course.

https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/imagefield_crop/field_image/news/rm_amer_might2_0.jpg The Museum of Flight isn't JUST about planes though, a huge aspect of it is Rocketry as well.  The development of Rockets is covered from the Nazi V-2 program run by Werner Von Braun that bombed London, all the way through the Space Race with the Ruskies, the Apollo Program, the Space Shuttle and on into the projected future of Mining Asteroids too!  Somewhat surprisingly, there is not a Larger-than-Life Statue of Elon Musk at the center of the Space Pavillion.  Somehow, the general population actually BELIEVES this guy will build colonies on Mars inside 20 years, when we haven't been able to even get a single Homo Sap there and back in the last 50 years since we supposedly dropped a Man on the Moon.  Elon is a bigger GENIUS than all the scientists and engineers that worked for NASA for the last 50 years?  It's just preposterous poppycock, but I give Elon credit for selling it well to Wall Street.  He burns through $BILLIONS$ in debt faster than I can burn through a $5K limit on my Master Card, and they keep shovelling more debt money at him every day!

As interesting as all this stuff is, what you really gather from walking around or cruising your Cripple Cart around the Boeing Museum of Flight is what has REALLY driven the development of flight over the last few centuries, beginning really with lighter than air balloons in the 1700s was not freight delivery or passenger planes for travelling about willy-nilly, but WARFARE.

http://www.battlefieldcommunityleague.co.uk/clanlogos/2017/05/1494041446.jpg By far the preponderance of planes and the most spectacular ones are all war planes of one sort or another.  The ability to go great distances at high speed in relative safety, then drop the Death From Above  on the enemy behind the front line of the battle was a HUGE advantage for anyone who had this power, and it was recognized from the minute that Orville & Wilbur Wright got the first engine powered heavier than air craft off the ground at Kitty Hawk.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/71/Balloon_Corps.jpg/300px-Balloon_Corps.jpg Until the planes were developed, balloons mainly served for doing reconaissance to ascertain the position of the enemy, they weren't attack aircraft.  Even the early wood and fabric planes of WWI were not really ground attack planes, they didn't have enough payload capacity to carry much in the way of bombs.  With a machine gun mounted on the front firing bullets perfectly timed to miss the spinning propeller, they could do Strafing Runs on ground combatants, but really those were more defensive weapons to shoot down the planes of the enemy when they ran into each other above the battle itself.  WWI Pilots became famous for being "Aces" not for all the people they killed on the ground, but rather for the few other pilots of these flimsy planes that were also in the neighborhood trying to do recon they managed to shoot down.  Mannfred Von Richtoffen (The "Red Baron") tops the list here with 80 Kills, which is pretty impressive considering he had to pull them off one at a time and not lose ONCE!

However, compared to the number of people one pilot can kill today dropping one blockbuste MOAB down in the middle of a Syrian suburb, it's chump change.  This bombing ability really only took off in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War, with the shift in planes from wood & fabric to aluminum & steel, with MUCH more powerful engines, albeit still prop engines at this point.  The Picasso masterpiece Guernica commemorates the carpet bombing of that town, one of the first to be razed by Death From Above in the 20th Century.  Many others followed of course in WWII, from the fire bombing of Dresden until finally the annihiliation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Fat Man and Little Boy, the first 2 Nuclear Bombs ever dropped on earth.  Still the only two, but for how much longer that will remain true is an open question.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_AsW-lOVBuzE/TDBUfjr5PdI/AAAAAAAADpU/Qu3Zpbovecg/s1600/guernikagr%5B1%5D.jpg

Guernica

https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/photo/2015/02/remembering-dresden-70-years-after-the-firebombing/d03_3b40632u/main_900.jpg?1423772427

Dresden

http://alwaght.com/upload/logo/201786_31/20178623534732.jpg

Hiroshima

The airplane industry has never been profitable on its own, it always has been the recipient of huge subsidies from Da Goobermint coming from the Pentagon to build new and better airborne killing machines.  The consumer level commercial aircraft emerged in the aftermath of WWII much in the way the automobile industry did, creating an economy to justify building all the factories and burning all the oil necessary for producing more and better war machines.

http://www.twomoreweeks.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/phantom-spash.jpg WWII really never ended.  It became a perpetual air war to gain hegemony over the entire world, and essentially make the "One World Order" possible.  The FSoA had the Jump Start on this with manufacturers like Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas and Lockheed, but the Ruskies could read the writing on the wall and knew if they didn't keep up in Air Power, they would end up under the thumb of the Western Illuminati, who controlled the High Ground of the Air.  They developed their own aerospace industry in under a decade after WWII, an amazing feat.

Thus began the Space Race, which was really less about exploring space than it was about perfecting jet and rocket engines to use down here on earth to power the warplanes and jack spy sattelites into low earth orbit.  Back to the Recon aspect of the development of flight there.

The One World Order never became possible in the end, because the "secret of flight" couldn't be contained, and competing factions of Illuminati in Mother Russia and now China as well have developed aircraft as good or better than those produced by Boeing and the rest of the aerospace industry here in the FSoA.  All these factions are at pains never to go up directly against each other, only rain down the Death From Above on the countries that can't fight back this way.  If/When the majors ever go up directly against each other, you will have a lot of very expensive hardware coming down out of the sky as flaming meteors in very short order.

https://i0.wp.com/www.sipbitego.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Hawaiian-airplane-from-Kona-Airport-to-Maui-airport-with-outdoor-boarding.jpg?w=1080 Moving into the future, the ability to produce and to power these machines will be vastly reduced, until it finally disappears completely.  Of course, the Military will be the last to see their Jet Fuel rationed, the commercial jets flying to St. John & Hawaii will be grounded long before them.  With the end of air travel will come the end of the Tourist Industry which grew up around it.  For many small island nations around the world, the Tourist industry is all they GOT for bringing in FOREX.  Just about none of them is self-sufficient anymore for food, so these places are going to see a very rapid depopulation.  I won't say Dieoff at this point, since at the beginning they will mostly become Refugees and head for…somewhere else.

The end of projecting military power through the air will end the type of world Goobermint we have known since the end of WWII.  Global conflicts over resources will become local conflicts over resources.  The planes will disappear from the airspace, irreperable, irreplaceable and without fuel to propel them.  Gas powered land transport will continue a while longer, but that too will disappear as the road & bridge infrastructure they use decays and the roads become impassable for wheeled vehicles.  There will NOT be a massive Orwellian State running your life at this point.  There will more likely be a few local Warlords duking it out for hegemony over a few square miles of farmland that still has some decent water falling on it.

The timeline from now until then is open to question, it depends on too many variables.  Could be 5 years, could be 50 though I doubt the latter.  The trajectory though is very clear.  What goes up must come down, and we are on the way back down now regardless of the Snake Oil being sold by Elon Muskrat.

In the end, the invention of aviation and flight was among the most destructive aspects of the Age of Oil, perhaps even more destructive than the Automobile.  It made war "clean" and "invisible" to anyone who was not on the wrong end of a bomb being dropped in their neighborhood.  "Surgical Strikes" became a part of the Newzspeak, conveying the idea to the public that bombing could be done as cleanly as a surgeon wielding a knife, with no "Collateral Damage", another euphemism for DEAD CIVILIANS.  The number of dead people is always manipulated and the Newz coming out of a war zone always carefully filtered.  You never know REALLY what is going on out there.

At the same time of course, just about all these machines, even the primitive early ones and the biggest most destructive modern ones are a testament to human ingenuity, and they are quite beautiful in their own way.  The lifestyle they provided a small percentage of the population on earth for the last 50 years also was quite pleasant.  If you were one of those people (as I was and still am) who could afford to fly around even just coach on a commercial jet to go to far flung places for holidays, this totally revolutionized living.  You can live in Alaska and zip down to Washington for Thanksgiving Dinner with friends.  You can bring along frozen Alaskan King Crab with you to share with them for dinner.  Without the airplane, none of that will be possible anymore.

That day is coming soon to an airport near you.

K-Dog casts a spell from the Boeing Control Tower

My Truckin’ Truck Life

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Published on The Doomstead Diner December 7, 2017

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 I have a very distinct memory of being 8 years old and going with my father in his truck for the first time.  It had probably been somewhere between 6 months and a year since I had last seen him.  I saw him once or twice a year when I was a little child, and that was for many reasons, but the divorce of my mother and father at 4 years of age had a lot to do with it.  Like most of our stories it's complicated and nuanced. 
   
        In my memory I'm 8 years old, and I've got on a matching green sweatpants and sweatshirt ensamble, and my father is calling me “grasshopper” as I'm climbing up into his Semi truck, and he's laughing and smiling.  The feeling associated with this is one of fulfillment, contentment, and complete joy.  I've got a lot of memories from these visits.  I would go with him for a week or so at a time, and I would ride all over the country as he delivered loads.  Another vivid memory is going to sleep in the sleeper while he drove.  I opened the sleeper window and listened to the sounds of the road, and was rocked to sleep in a young boys bliss, in the company of his mostly absent father, to the smell of diesel. 
   
        Now I have two young boys.  My oldest is the same age I was at the beginning of these trucking memories of mine.  He knows that I love him, and that I'm proud of him, as does my youngest son.  I talk to them often from the road, as times have changed for truckers.  I have a headset and an iphone, and everything is hands free.  We do facetime.  The other day I sat at the table and watched my boys drink hot chocholate and eat Oreo cookies.  They were in South Carolina at home,  and I was in my sleeper in Kentucky.  My wife propped the iphone up on the table and pointed it at my children as I watched via facetime.  When I was a boy I was only able to speak to my father if he stopped at a pay phone or drove through my town and was able to stop. 
   
        I talk to my wife at least once a day, as I drive freight down the road.  Mostly I transport metal coils, lumber, ceiling panels and the like as I pull a flatbed trailer.  I'm loaded and unloaded via crane and forklift.  My responsibilities are to secure the loads with straps and chains and to transport them safely to the consignee.  I make .39 cents per mile as well as $22 dollars for lumber tarps and $11 for steel tarps.  I've been averaging about $170 a day, and I'll be able to increase that average to around $220 a day as I get better and more efficient at performing my job duties.
   
        After completing phase one of my training, that is passing the exam and acquiring a CDL, I went home for about 10 days before starting phase 2.  That phase involved going over the road with a trainer for three weeks.  I was flown to Phoenix Arizona to start phase two.  The company I work for has been actively increasing their flatbed fleet, and as a result they have more trainees then trainers, and the only available trainer was in Phoenix, so off I flew.  I was able to visit my pregnant cousin and her mother, my aunt, on the day that I flew into Phoenix since they both live there. 
   
        The first active load that I ever drove had me driving within a quarter of a mile of my fathers current house.  I could have driven that load to anywhere in the united states, and I drove right past my fathers house.  We currently are not talking to one another, and it has been that way since 2014 when he and my wife got into an argument while we were visiting for Christmas.  It's tragic and stupid, but there it is.  At any rate, I drove right past his house.  That night, I got off on Cherry road in Fontana California to spend the first night in a Semi truck.  That exit was the exit off of I-10 that my father used to live off of.  The drop yard we stayed in that night was on the same street as my father's old terminal.  It seemed I could not escape this fate, and this was the message I received.  This is fate. 
   
        The second load brought me further into southern California.  I delivered the second load to an alluminum facility that was five blocks away from my mother's current address.  Unfortunately I was not able to visit with my mother.  Even though I could have walked to her house in about 15 minutes, she was busy with work, and I was exhausted with learning a new career.  She's having a house built 10 miles from my current address, in what's been a cow pasture for a century or more, and so neither of us were willing to sacrifice much by way of sleep that day seeing as how she'll soon be living near me. 
   
        I still don't understand this seeming parental coincidence.  Was God trying to tell me something (I currently do not believe in God)?  Is driving a semi truck part of some larger plan for me?  Was driving past my father and mothers house on my first two loads just coincidence?  The first time I ever drove a semi truck, in phase one, U2 came on the radio just as I took the wheel.  Pride was the song.  Another memory I have as a child with my father in his semi truck is listening to U2 blaring from the radio as we drove down the road.  My father loved U2, and it's no coincidence that I have a U2 tatoo on my chest.  It's also no coincidence that I'm writing this from the sleeper of my semi truck.  How strange this life is.  I could have been anything, and yet here I am, finally (and that's exactly how it feels) a truck driver. 
   
         The influence fathers have on their children is immense, and even more so when they are mostly gone.  My childhood was spent mostly longing for the validation of my father, and in confusion as to why he was not there, and as to why he would make plans to see me only to not show up.  Why was he a truck driver?  Inherent proclivities?  Whatever the reason, now I am a truck driver, and I'm just fine with that…on one level at least.  On another level I'm not okay with it.  It's a surrender.  As I slit the carotid supplying idealism with realism, and as I grow up into mediocre and jaded, and as I give up hope…
   
        On a good day I'm getting about 7.4 mpg driving this semi around.  The two fuel tanks hold 100 gallons of diesel each, and I drive about 400 miles a day.  There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 million other trucks doing the same.  We are the literal heart of the economy, and all of that diesel makes it possible.  Whether you agree with it or not, I'm sure you buy stuff, and if you buy stuff then you are voting with your dollars to continue perpetuating this trucking paradigm.  Even locally grown and produced food is transported on semi truck trailers.  Do you live in a house and drive a car, or ride a bike?  Do you wear clothing and go to the doctor?  Everything that collectively makes up our way of life is possible because of those 4 million truckers.  I remember having the epiphany, before I decided to be a trucker, that I relied on groceries from the grocery store and therefore I relied on truckers.  It was a mental and moral defeat for me.  I was agreeing with the way things are because I was eating food.  That is how all pervasive trucks are to our way of life.  You can't even be alive without trucks in this country.  How depressing is that? 
   
        It's bitter sweet for me.  I love most everything about being a trucker.  I love that I'm left alone.  I'm left completely alone.  Everyday I'm by myself, and the only interaction I have with people is at the shipper, consignee, and truck stops as I'm checking in, being loaded and unloaded, paying for my scales, buying morning coffee, and acquiring a shower amongst the other things I need that I can't get from my truck.  For the most part it's just me, satellite radio, and the road.  I have to deal with people by way of their car extensions, and people are their most retarded when behind the wheel of a car.  They are also the most narcissistic and intolerant while driving.  However, I don't see their faces because I'm so much higher up.  I'm the biggest thing on the road, and so I'm not able to be pushed around.  I like that about it as well. 
   
         I don't like most other truckers I run into, and I think the feeling is mutual, but then I don't like most other people regardless of their profession.  It's the same with all people.  Most people in Merika are angry, disgruntled, jaded, financially strapped, and intolerant of others, and all of that regardless of what they do to make money.  I've been struck by just how poorly the people in the trucking world treat me.  The people at the shippers, consignees, and other truckers that I meet mostly treat me as though my presence is a minor hindrance at best, and at worst they talk to me as though I'm an inmate of a personal prison in which they are the warden. 
   
         I've noticed that people think they can talk to truck drivers as though we are the lowest rung of society, and I find that interesting since the job we perform actually allows this dysfunctional society to exist in the first place.  Yet, even truckers can't help but to treat their fellow truckers like shit.  It's peculiar to me, and I think it's indicative of something deep within our collective psyche.  It's like we all know that this arrangement is bullshit, and yet we all can't help but to participate in it.  It's not unlike the self loathing heroine junkie.  That's what our country has become.  We are a collective mass of self loathing, homeless, derelict, and virtuless heroine junkies.  We're all fighting for the biggest dose of the purist heroine so that we can overdose and put an end to it just before we liter the world with plastic piss bottles. 

A Collapse Blogger’s Search For the Most Collapse-Proof Blogging Platform

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Published on From Filmers to Farmers on October 24th, 2017

Discuss this article at the Science & Technology Table inside the Diner

 


Desperate times call for desperate measures (Jeb Bush photo by Michael Vadon)

With just seven days left before this blog moves away from The World's Worst Blogging Platform™ I created and over to an actual blogging platform, I will nonetheless point out that I've been rather content for the past three years or so with this "platform" of mine, and not once have I been jealous or envious of the actual platforms used by the blogs I myself read.

Because while shortly after starting up this hand-coded blog of mine, in late-2014 I did actually take a look at the back-ends of several platforms out there to see what I might add to mine, but the more I delved into them the more I realized I had no interest in them in the slightest. That all changed however in October of 2016 when author John Michael Greer announced on The Archdruid Report his desire to move away from his current blogging platform and that he was open to suggestions. I in turn conducted an updated-by-two-years search, the results being mostly – mostly, but not quite – the same.

If you're at least vaguely familiar with the blogging "scene" then you're probably aware of the three main platforms out there – Blogger, WordPress and Medium – to which can be added the mostly forgotten Typepad, the convoluted-for-blogging Drupal and Joomla (the former being what The Oil Drum ran on), the teeny-bopper oriented Tumblr (purchased by Yahoo!), the Super bowl-advertising Weebly, Wix and Squarespace, not to mention the array of which are in some cases here-today gone-tomorrow platforms like Svbtle, Posthaven, Postach.io, Jux, Postagon, Wardrobe, Jekyll, Anchor, Bolt, Hexo, Silvrback, Roon, Scriptogram, Pen.io, Dropplets, and on and on and on.

Coming from the vantage point of a writer blogging on what can be broadly described as the collapse of industrial civilisation (and the renewal of culture) I am of course wary of using a platform that is itself prone to collapse. Not to say that I'm after something than could somehow survive industrial civilisation's collapse of course, but rather something that can survive its own shortcomings.

With Typepad and those mentioned afterwards being a write-off due to either their hokeyness and/or lack of dependability, that pretty much leaves the Big Three to choose from.

The oldest of these is Blogger (what Greer was looking to get away from, and which many collapse bloggers currently use), a platform launched back in 1999 and sold to Google in 2003 for an undisclosed sum of money. This platform is so archaic though that it's a complete joke. I'm by no means a technophile, but that doesn't mean I'm going to break out my very first computer (a VIC-20 which I was gifted at 4-years-old and somewhat learned to program on) to do my word processing on, any more than I'd want to use Blogger to do blogging on. Moreover, and putting aside Google's propensity for shutting down various services it offers, placing the entire edifice of one's Blogger blog at the mercy of Google is not something I'd be interested in partaking in.

Next up is pretty much the opposite of Blogger, that being WordPress (also used by many collapse bloggers). What we have here is an open source platform, one in which you can either have a certain branch of the WordPress organisation host your blog for you on their servers (that's a whole other story which I won't go into) or, being open sourced, you can freely download the software and host it yourself wherever you please. What this freedom implies is that you retain full ownership and control over your content, a boon for collapse-oriented writers who can tend to have a bit of a rugged individualist streak to them and don't like being too dependant on third-party services.

But upon giving WordPress a look back in late-2014 it didn't take a minute before I was turned off by the whole thing, what with it looking extremely clunky and representative of what I now understand to be "bloatware". Because although it did start off as a platform committed solely to blogging, it's since branched out to becoming more of a generalized application platform. As stated by WordPress' former (2009 – 2011) Deputy Head of the User Interface Group, John O'Nolan,

What is WordPress for? For years WordPress has flipped and flopped without consciously pivoting or focusing. At various points over the last 5 years it has tried directly and indirectly to compete with Drupal, Facebook, Tumblr, SquareSpace, Shopify, Wix and Medium. All without ever focusing for long enough to succeed at one before moving on to the next. The only constant has been following, rather than leading, at each stage…

We all know that WordPress could do just about anything but, maybe it’s time to stop and ask whether it actually should. What we can say with relative certainty is that WordPress cannot become the best publishing platform, website builder, ecommerce store, social network, rss reader and application platform – all at the same time. Stephen Covey once said: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. So what is WordPress’ main thing?


What are the chances that one of WordPress' army of Auttomaticians (otherwise known as "employees") is named Waldo/Wally?

To give it credit, by not having a "main thing" WordPress has however managed to become the Internet's version of Spandex, a one-size-fits-all platform that astoundingly runs 28% of the Internet's websites (so it claims). Problem here though is that it can't possibly build everything into the system in order to please everybody at the same time lest it become a lumbering behemoth. In effect, users are required to install an array of plugins to accomplish what they're after.

Problem with plugins is that while there's literally tens of thousands of them out there allowing users to customize their Spandex, what this also means is that poorly constructed plugins, failed-to-be-updated plugins, and conflicting plugins can not only crash your entire WordPress system (as I witnessed happen to The Doomstead Diner a couple of years ago – Diner Hell Week: The Crash Story), but has led to WordPress being utterly vulnerable to hacking, one recent claim stating that WordPress sites account for 78% of the Internet's hacked sites.

But even with all those bloatware and vulnerability aspects taken into consideration, WordPress is nonetheless a more than half-decent platform, it is open source, and if in 2014 I had to choose a blogging platform to go with rather than The World's Worst Blogging Platform™, yes, I would have gone with WordPress. Because no, I wouldn't have gone with Medium.

Medium's the latest Big Kid on the Block (used only by Nafeez Ahmed as far as I know, a quasi-collapse blogger at that), it having been designed by Evan Williams, a co-founder of Twitter. Twitter however isn't the original source of funding from which Williams was able to start up Medium though, Williams actually being a co-creator of Blogger which was rumoured to have been sold for $20 million (to Google, as mentioned). That being said, Williams didn't just use his Blogger-cum-Twitter booty to start up Medium, relying on an array of venture capitalists that have thrown in more than $174 million of their own funding.

In other words, although Williams is supposedly "not that interested in revenue", but is interested in, as he claims, "building our understanding… deepening our understanding of the world", the fact of the matter is that Medium is at the mercy of "shareholders" whose foremost concern is to see the platform turn a profit, thus requiring it to come up with a business model that can be successfully shown to siphon money over to said shareholders, since running "a billionaire's vanity project" (as Medium was once described) can only last for so long. Needless to say, this can become quite problematic for users of the platform who think that it might provide some stability for them and their writing.

Another problem for writers using Medium is that they don't actually own or control the platform in any way whatsoever, and while Medium can sell, reproduce, or publish a writer's material in any way it wants, regardless of what writers think it can also tear up any agreement or system as it sees fit in order to introduce a whole new business model, relegating the whole thing to being a kind of digital sharecropping.

This isn't mere hyperbole though, since in early-2017 a third of Medium's staff (about 45 people) walked into work only to find out that their jobs no longer existed. Williams and company had decided to embark on yet another business model, this being Medium's third since it was founded in 2012. Because while it first started off with the idea of being a publication itself via hiring its own writers and editors, it then moved on to an ad-driven model whereby it would attract writers who would be given a portion of the dividends. What was this latest epiphany that Williams had in store?

Before I get to that, before Williams got to it himself, and after the recent election in the US, president of the United States Donald Trump stated (specifically in regards to Twitter) that "I doubt I would be here if it weren’t for social media, to be honest with you." Williams did state that

It's a very bad thing, Twitter's role in that. If it's true that he wouldn't be president if it weren't for Twitter, then yeah, I'm sorry.

Williams' shame may be a bit questionable though due to another statement of his where he pointed out that

I don't think Twitter is the worst case of this,

"this" being

a media ecosystem that… thrives on attention [and which is] making us dumber and not smarter.

Damage control? Maybe. Or maybe it's actually damage control + marketing spin. Because as Williams continued,

It is the ad-driven media that churns stuff out on a minute-by-minute basis and their only measure is whether or not someone clicks on it.

And what do you know, but it turns out that Medium's latest incarnation is one where it does away with ads. And how is it, you may ask, that Williams is spinning it now?

Ad-driven systems can only reward attention. They can’t reward the right answer. Consumer-paid systems can. They can reward value. The inevitable solution: People will have to pay for quality content.

In other words, Williams and Medium are going to be the gatekeepers of "quality content" now. And to get access to this "quality content" – which you'll want because you're so intelligent and don't settle for anything less than quality – you'll have to funnel money to Williams and on to his shareholders via the newly introduced subscription-based model, what used to be simply known as a paywall.

Williams may not be a fan of Trump, but if Williams' media brilliance has been to package and sell us the problem (attention-destroying Twitter) and then turn around and also sell us the "solution", then I can't help but think that despite Williams' aversion to Trump that Trump would nonetheless be proud – and a fan – of Williams.


Can Evan Williams save us from Evan Williams? (photo by Christopher Michel)

If that wasn't enough, the method by which Williams and Medium are going to operate this system is so ridiculous that one writer has even go so far as to call it "the gonorrhea of blogging".

That may be a bit of a harsh description, somewhat understandable though when one realizes that Williams' and Medium's new method to save its shareholders journalism is to do away with the "unsatisfying" heart button and replace it with "Claps". So instead of the oh-so-yesterday notion of the single-click recommend – clicking on the like/heart/upvote/favourite button – the idea now is to click – and keep clicking! – on the clap button to show your appreciation. And the more clap(s) you get, the more you get paid.


Oh, but the clap hurts, it hurts!

Anyway, it was once said by somebody that

The state of tech blogs is atrocious. It's utter crap. They create a culture that is superficial and fetishizing and rewarding the wrong things and reinforcing values that are self-destructive and unsustainable.

Yes, the person who said that – and who continued by pointing that he was "pessimistic about the state of media, and that's why I want to work on this problem" – was none other that Williams himself.

I will agree that the state of blogging is atrocious, but if the only option is the dickbar-waving Medium – with its enticing audience of 60 million unique visitors per month but which From Filmers to Farmers would certainly be at the bottom of the curating pile for – then I'd be more than happy to keep running From Filmers to Farmers on The World's Worst Blogging Platform™.

Fortunately though my John Michael Greer-induced late-2016 updated perusal of the blogging platforms out there revealed that one of those here-today gone-tomorrow platforms that I'd noticed back in late-2014 was not only still around, but had also progressed leaps and bounds since, so much so that it was now head and shoulders above the entire competition, and in every way imagineable (for a collapse blogger).

I'll fortunately be revealing what that blogging platform is on the last day of this month, because although I'm grateful for it having gotten me to where I am now, at long last I'll finally be putting this World's Worst Blogging Platform™ to rest while I relaunch From Filmers to Farmers on what may very well qualify as the world's greatest blogging platform.

See you on the 31st!

 

p.s. In order to accommodate the transition and make sure that the DNS records propagate throughout the Internets in time (good for you if you don't know what I'm talking about), starting on the 29th of this month you'll be seeing the front page of this blog switch over to what you see in the image below, followed by the password protection page being lifted as From Filmers to Farmers once again goes live on the 31st – but in its new incarnation.

p.p.s. Sneak peak for anybody who can guess what the password is, which will be revealed below once the blog switches over.

Update 31/10/2017: __________.

 

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