Ignorance

Amerikan Brexit: Coalitions of the Ignorant

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 10, 2016

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The election of 2016 is over, and the mood in the country is that the People Have Spoken. A majority of voters have soundly rejected Business As Usual, as personified by Hillary Clinton, and voted for what they perceive as Change, with a Capital T, as in Trump.

The truth is that there was never a better poster child for crony capitalism and corruption than Clinton. The thousands of leaked emails and the revelations about shady deals with foreign despots funneling money to her through her non-profit front disgusted anybody who took the trouble to read during the election cycle….and for those (most Americans) who don't bother to read, Mr. Trump was happy to Tweet about it and call her a criminal day after day on the campaign trail.

I expected Ms. Clinton to win, not because she was a good candidate, but because she was a very savvy politician with a well-established constituency among the black and brown urban poor and the educated liberal elites, and because the Big Money was behind her. She knew how to play the game, as it has always been played.

But this election threw a monkey wrench into the gears of electoral politics. For the first time in history we have seen an election shaped by social media. Mr. Trump, himself a TV personality with lots of name recognition, was able to shape the election by saying things that most political observers would have called political suicide, and he made it work to deliver the Presidency of the United States.

For the past several years, Republican candidates had courted the same people who turned out to vote Mr. Trump into office, with some success. But they never delivered on their promises, and this time that group, the high school educated working class whites, showed their dissatisfaction by abandoning the Republican Establishment in the primary, and further demonstrating their anger and frustration with BAU by sweeping Trump into the White House.

I don't think Trump will deliver the goods either, because declining energy resources dictate that the pie will keep getting smaller, and because the ship carrying the US industrial economy set sail for China long ago now, and it won't be coming back. Never mind the widespread effects of global climate change, which Mr. Trump and most of his base don't believe is even real.

Mr. Trump will have to depend on his bombast and charisma to keep his support. The figure he most reminds me of in recent history, is Hugo Chavez. Poor Venezuelans still love Chavez, even though he threw their country into total economic chaos. I'm sure Trump will be able to keep some of his base behind him for the next four years, or longer. But it won't be because he was able to make America great again.

I think it would be good to examine Mr.Trump's coalition of support, and Ms. Clinton's, because even though she lost the election, her base still exists, and  it is outgrowing Mr. Trump's support base over the long haul. In other words, they will be back with a new candidate, who might appear in four years to completely dismantle whatever Mr. Trump creates. They might even come back with a vengeance. Time is on their side, as long as the country can rock along without a complete systemic collapse.

It's easy to understand Clinton's support. At the bottom are the extremely entrenched have-nots in our society. They can't get along without a SNAP card and Medicaid. There is a very large group of Blacks and Hispanics (and a even a few whites) who have, for nearly three generations, benefited from free food and free medical insurance and subsidized rent. They are motivated to AVOID making much money in the mainstream economy, and they are motivated to AVOID being legally married,  to qualify for the benefits they depend on. These benefits are almost always restricted to being doled out to single mothers with children. Families have to avoid the appearance of being a family when social workers come around, and any significant income has to come from the black market economy.

The black and brown Americans who pull themselves up above poverty still identify politically with this group, and largely vote with them, although some of the most successful do abandon ship and turn conservative. The black working class remains firmly behind the Democratic Party, which always gives lip service to taking care of "the unfortunate". The Hispanic component favors open borders and free immigration, because a large number of them are from immigrant families, many of whom arrived here illegally.

To that bloc (which is growing by leaps and bounds because of the Hispanic component with their Catholic religion and large family size), the Democrats add a much different demographic group,which are the liberal whites, who have been brought up to believe in policies of racial and gender equality, and who feel sorry for those at the bottom. These whites are not all rich, but they are,as a group, well educated, and they have jobs in government, education, and technology that allow them to achieve a measure of financial success. Enough to keep them from being angry, and make them in favor of a diverse society, which they've been taught to value anyway.

The Trump constituency, examined in hindsight of the election, appears to be a coalition too. The base is the white working class, the people who once constituted the bedrock of American society, not college educated, but who managed to make decent livings in our industrial manufacturing sector. Union workers and unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. At one time a man could make a reasonable living in this country if he was just willing to get up in the morning and go to work and give a reasonable effort. Jobs were plentiful, and if one didn't work out you could always get another one.

These people are now strongly  anti-immigration, because they perceive that new arrivals take away employment that is their birthright. It is a little more complicated than that, but they don't see the fine detail of how technology just eliminates the need for so many working stiffs.

They  accuse the Democratic party of bringing in more and more immigrants in order to build the liberal welfare state political base, and that makes them angry too. They happen to be right about that one.

The other part of the coalition, which includes some of the above group, and some other, better educated white people, is the Religious Right, the very same people who brought you the likes of Ted Cruz and even Marco Rubio  (who wasted no time last night in giving all the credit for his re-election to Jesus Christ his personal savior. I don't know if Jesus was listening, but the Evangelicals were, and gave Rubio a huge round of applause when he said it. Little Marco knows which side his bread is buttered on.)

This group is motivated by their shared agenda of ending abortion in any form for any reason, making birth control difficult, and bringing public prayer (Christian prayer, that is) back to public schools.  Ending sex education is another issue. They want kids raised like mushrooms, kept in the dark, and fed on a diet of horse shit. They are people who have been conditioned to believe that our society's decline is due to moral decay, and who see nothing wrong with making America into a Conservative Christian theocracy.

The working white poor, as a demographic group, are in decline, but the Religious Right keeps growing. Their churches have turned into huge mega-arenas that put thousands under one roof on Sunday morning, where preachers skilled in hypnosis techniques drive home the message. The Religious Right doesn't love Trump, but they were willing to hold their noses and vote for him in droves, because he comes from a Catholic family background and has been careful to (at least in recent years) give lip service to the Christian Conservative agenda.

Both the Democratic base and the Republican base are motivated primarily by emotion, and neither one is willing to understand that the decline of our country and Western Civilization has to do resource depletion, overpopulation, and climate change.

They cling to their own particular emotional lifeboats, and have no interest in hearing that all of us are going to be living on less energy, less money, and less complexity in the near future, and that many of us will simply not be living at all, as our ability to use technology to produce more and more food and labor from less and less effort, goes away forever.

They deny climate change, because they don't live on waterfront property. Or if they do, they'd like to flip their house before it becomes worthless. The city just needs to build more storm drains and do a little more backfill. All those storms are just normal climate variation. Floods and droughts have always happened. Watch your step, there, don't get your feet wet.

That's my view. Pardon me if I'm not excited by the wave of change sweeping the country. I see another kind of wave coming, one that will give both of these groups of willfully ignorant Americans a reality check they aren't looking for.

Peak Ignorance

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 8, 2015

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“They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds… 

‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’

‘Have they no refuge or resource,’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons.’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?'”

– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

In these pages, we often discuss various apparitions of doom, or what looks like doom.  Many vectors are economic, a function of too much debt and concatenating fraud that must inevitably collapse like a house of cards. Some argue with justification that the latest shuttered storefront does not an economic collapse make, and that such trends are cyclical, seen throughout history. Fair enough.  In point of fact, we probably won’t know that collapse is upon us until too late.
 
Yet a harbinger of collapse is upon us right now, and its manifestations emerge with each day’s headlines: peak ignorance.  With every statement from an elected official rejecting scientific evidence, with each embrace of superstition, with banning of books and curricula,  we see a retreat from logic and reason heralding a new dark age, a rejection of habits of mind established since the Enlightenment.  “Peak Ignorance” is a mine that will yield rich veins worth exploring not just today, but in future screeds as well.  But for now, let’s go to the videotape.
 
What issue could possibly unite names as disparate as Michelle Bachmann, Chris Christie and Rand Paul with Jenny McCarthy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Charlie Sheen? It’s the anti-vaccine movement, of course. One of the most ancient and taken-for-granted tenets of membership in a civil society is the obligation to prevent the spread of disease among one’s village or tribe– a factor of civilized life for centuries.
 
Quarantine is what communities did before vaccines. Wikipedia tells us the word comes from the Italian (seventeenth-century Venetian) quaranta, meaning forty, which is the number of days ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during the Black Death plague epidemic. Quarantine is as ancient as the Old Testament, in which infected people were separated to prevent spread of disease. Many of the dietary restrictions in Leviticus can be seen as means to prevent transmission of pathogens. Closer to modern times, the advent of sewerage and public sanitation has saved uncounted lives lost in past eras to uncontrollable outbreaks of disease. One’s duty to prevent spread of disease to our neighbors has been so taken for granted it’s been uncontroversial. Until now, when we find ourselves amidst an entirely preventable measles outbreak.  Chris Christie famously stepped in it this week with his statement about “balancing” the rights of parents to supervise their children’s vaccinations with the public health.  He took a great deal of public criticism and in fact tried to walk it back.  Christie, and Rand Paul with his latest statements found themselves making common cause with a fringe movement that unites far left and far right in the belief that inoculation is  either a government conspiracy or poison.
 
This discussion comes in the wake of a much-publicized measles outbreak with its epicenter in southern California. The New York Times published this map of measles outbreaks, current as of Feb. 6:
A majority of the cases this year have been tied to an outbreak at Disneyland, which began in December. At least 40 people who visited or worked at the theme park contracted measles, and the disease has now spread to at least six other states. The map shows the counties where cases have been reported.
 
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Measles was declared eradicated in the US in 2000. One would have thought by now the established principle of “herd immunity,” having reduced the incidence of many childhood diseases to the level of statistical error, would have been settled science. But as in the law,  where the longstanding principle of stare decisis has been ratfucked by Federalist Society-vetted jurists, nothing is ever settled.  And now, center stage, are a coalition of wealthy liberals and tinfoil hat wrapped conservatives seeing black helicopters in a war against public health and welfare. Why? Several reasons — a fading memory of vaccine-preventable diseases, adverse media coverage, internet misinformation (we are shocked, shocked) and litigation.
 
(As a child, like most of my friends, I hit the trifecta: mumps, measles, and chickenpox.  I lived, but am grateful that my daughter had the MMR vaccine available.  Each incidence of those childhood diseases takes two weeks out your life, is no fun for the kid, and is unsupportable in a household where both parents work,  and presents a special disaster for single parents.)
 
For those who distrust the government/industrial axis that results in guaranteed profits for Big Pharma, I am not wholly unsympathetic.  For that reason I had grave reservations about the Gardasil vaccine recommended for young women.  Many anti-vaccine proponents cite a connection with autism corresponding to the presence of ethylmercury (thimerosol) in vaccines, a suspicion not borne out through scientific investigation. (For a thorough, objective and useful look at the history of thimerosol in vaccines and the autism controversy, please see this nuanced and peer-reviewed article by Dr. Jeffery Baker in the American Journal of Public Health.)
 
Surprising as it may be to have this discussion in the 21st century, this is where we find ourselves. Our culture is so polarized that even scientific principles are not immune from relitigation in the court of public opinion. The anti-vaxxer agenda is a bit of utter fecklessness that poses a public health threat to us all.
 
In other Peak Ignorance news this week… Wonkette moved a story about a kurfuffle in Vermont:
 
 

Here’s a sweet little story of Democracy in Action. A bright eighth grader writes to her state legislator with an idea for a law: Vermont doesn’t have an official Latin motto, so why not adopt one? And for that matter, make it a reference to history? Neato!

So state Sen. Joe Benning — a Republican who was actually trying to do a good thing, which he has probably learned to never try again — introduced a bill to adopt the motto “Stella quarta decima fulgeat.” — May the fourteenth star shine bright.” Because Vermont was the 14th state, see? Benning noted that when Vermont briefly minted its own currency, it was engraved with “Stella Quarta Deccima,” so the phrase had real historical cachet.

And then Burlington TV station WCAX put the story on its Facebook page with the headline, “Should Vermont have an official Latin motto?” and all Stupid broke loose when morons thought that Vermont was knuckling under to a bunch of goddamned illegal immigrants.

Charles Topher at “If You Only News” collected some of the worst of the over 600 comments from concerned Vermonters intent on protecting ‘Murka from invading Latin hordes:

We are pleased to report that satire is alive and well, and some wags have taken to replying in kind. Some gems quoted in the Wonkette article include: 

  • I’ve got no problem with that. I’m more concerned that you stop teaching the Hindu-Arabic number system in schools. I for one am sick of all the pandering to foreigners in this country. We should be using American numbers.

  • This is America, not the ancient Roman empire. What’s next, Justinian law? If they don’t want to learn modern English, they should go back to the colosseum where they belong!

  • What’s Latin for, “A state full of crotchety old farts, half of whom are almost too stupid to breathe”?

  • What have the Romans ever done for us!?

This is ltoo easy, even for me. Yet there is a deeper issue at work. An historic American mistrust of intellectualism is taking hold again.  The Guardian’s Patricia Williams even posted a recent article on this theme of academic book bannings, firings, and assaults on scholarship itself. This is testament to the rise of local right wing control of school boards, the better to weed out authors and ideas that might promote critical thinking or even activism. Consider, for example, this list of books and authors removed from the Tucson public school system as part of elimination of a Mexican-American studies curriculum.

The authors and editors include Isabel Allende, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Kozol, Rudolfo Anaya, bell hooks, Sandra Cisneros, James Baldwin, Howard Zinn, Rodolfo Acuña, Ronald Takaki, Jerome Skolnick and Gloria Anzaldúa. Even Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Shakespeare’s The Tempest received the hatchet.

Anti-intellectualism in the US has a long and ignoble pedigree. As Ray Williams, writing in Psychology Today has it,

Richard Hofstadter, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for his book, Anti-Intellectualism In American Life, describes how the vast underlying foundations of anti-elite, anti-reason and anti-science has been infused into America’s political and social fabric. Famous science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Mark Bauerlein, in his book, The Dumbest Generation, reveals how a whole generation of youth are being dumbed down by their aversion to reading anything of substance and their addiction to digital “crap” via social media.

Journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America, adds another perspective: “The rise of idiot America today represents–for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power–the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is an expert.”

So ignorance has several vectors, but ultimately one small set of beneficiaries. Will we will be smart enough to sort this out?

***

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

Collective Insanity

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on August 13, 2014

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…I toyed with some other titles for this Rant, like “Collective Stupidity” and “Collective Ignorance” which are both in abundance these days, but as you observe the spin down progress its way around the Globe, as vast as the Stupidity and Ignorance are, both are overwhelmed by sheer INSANITY. There is insanity everywhere you look nowadays. So today’s Rant is on Collective Insanity.

Let’s start with the Stock Market. While millions more Amerikans drop out of the Labor Force every year, the Market levitates to ever more stratospheric heights. The “Smartest Guys in the Room” invest in Dogshit companies like Facepalm and PoopOn that have never turned a profit in their entire existence. Since these guys are Certified Smart with Ph.Ds from MIT, Harvard and the London School of Economics, you can’t attribute this to Stupidity, so it must be Insanity.

Where do the Smartest Guys in the Room GET the money to invest in this Dogshit? From other certified Geniuses like Helicopter Ben Bernanke and his successor, Dammit Janet Smellin Yellin, who seem to think that paying par prices for absolutely worthless collateral with freshly printed FRNs so that the Smart Guys trading have still more Funny Money to play with will somehow get the economy rolling again back to the Holy Grail of Perpetual Growth. Since you can;t have perpetual growth in a finite world, this concept is flawed from the get go, and also here since Helicopter Ben and Dammit Janet are also cetified as smart, stupidity can’t be the answer, so it must be Insanity again…

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For rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

——————-

Don’t miss the recent interview with Josh Ellis on his Gone Viral Blog, “Everyone I know is Broken Hearted”

Or the Top Rant, ANTI-DOLLAR!!!

The Retail Death Rattle

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

Published on The Burning Platform on January 20, 2012

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“I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest, to make money they don’t want, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.”Emile Gauvreau

If ever a chart provided unequivocal proof the economic recovery storyline is a fraud, the one below is the smoking gun. November and December retail sales account for 20% to 40% of annual retail sales for most retailers. The number of visits to retail stores has plummeted by 50% since 2010. Please note this was during a supposed economic recovery. Also note consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP. Also note credit card debt outstanding is 7% lower than its level in 2010 and 16% below its peak in 2008. Retailers like J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Sears, Radio Shack and Barnes & Noble continue to report appalling sales and profit results, along with listings of store closings. Even the heavyweights like Wal-Mart and Target continue to report negative comp store sales. How can the government and mainstream media be reporting an economic recovery when the industry that accounts for 70% of GDP is in free fall? The answer is that 99% of America has not had an economic recovery. Only Bernanke’s 1% owner class have benefited from his QE/ZIRP induced stock market levitation.

The entire economic recovery storyline is a sham built upon easy money funneled by the Fed to the Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks so they can use their HFT supercomputers to drive the stock market higher, buy up the millions of homes they foreclosed upon to artificially drive up home prices, and generate profits through rigging commodity, currency, and bond markets, while reducing loan loss reserves because they are free to value their toxic assets at anything they please – compliments of the spineless nerds at the FASB. GDP has been artificially propped up by the Federal government through the magic of EBT cards, SSDI for the depressed and downtrodden, never ending extensions of unemployment benefits, billions in student loans to University of Phoenix prodigies, and subprime auto loans to deadbeats from the Government Motors financing arm – Ally Financial (85% owned by you the taxpayer). The country is being kept afloat on an ocean of debt and delusional belief in the power of central bankers to steer this ship through a sea of icebergs just below the surface.

The absolute collapse in retail visitor counts is the warning siren that this country is about to collide with the reality Americans have run out of time, money, jobs, and illusions. The most amazingly delusional aspect to the chart above is retailers continued to add 44 million square feet in 2013 to the almost 15 billion existing square feet of retail space in the U.S. That is approximately 47 square feet of retail space for every person in America. Retail CEOs are not the brightest bulbs in the sale bin, as exhibited by the CEO of Target and his gross malfeasance in protecting his customers’ personal financial information. Of course, the 44 million square feet added in 2013 is down 85% from the annual increases from 2000 through 2008. The exponential growth model, built upon a never ending flow of consumer credit and an endless supply of cheap fuel, has reached its limit of growth. The titans of Wall Street and their puppets in Washington D.C. have wrung every drop of faux wealth from the dying middle class. There are nothing left but withering carcasses and bleached bones.

The impact of this retail death spiral will be vast and far reaching. A few factoids will help you understand the coming calamity:

  • There are approximately 109,500 shopping centers in the United States ranging in size from the small convenience centers to the large super-regional malls.
  • There are in excess of 1 million retail establishments in the United States occupying 15 billion square feet of space and generating over $4.4 trillion of annual sales. This includes 8,700 department stores, 160,000 clothing & accessory stores, and 8,600 game stores.
  • U.S. shopping-center retail sales total more than $2.26 trillion, accounting for over half of all retail sales.
  • The U.S. shopping-center industry directly employed over 12 million people in 2010 and indirectly generated another 5.6 million jobs in support industries. Collectively, the industry accounted for 12.7% of total U.S. employment.
  • Total retail employment in 2012 totaled 14.9 million, lower than the 15.1 million employed in 2002.
  • For every 100 individuals directly employed at a U.S. regional shopping center, an additional 20 to 30 jobs are supported in the community due to multiplier effects.

The collapse in foot traffic to the 109,500 shopping centers that crisscross our suburban sprawl paradise of plenty is irreversible. No amount of marketing propaganda, 50% off sales, or hot new iGadgets is going to spur a dramatic turnaround. Quarter after quarter there will be more announcements of store closings. Macys just announced the closing of 5 stores and firing of 2,500 retail workers. JC Penney just announced the closing of 33 stores and firing of 2,000 retail workers. Announcements are imminent from Sears, Radio Shack and a slew of other retailers who are beginning to see the writing on the wall. The vacancy rate will be rising in strip malls, power malls and regional malls, with the largest growing sector being ghost malls. Before long it will appear that SPACE AVAILABLE is the fastest growing retailer in America.

The reason this death spiral cannot be reversed is simply a matter of arithmetic and demographics. While arrogant hubristic retail CEOs of public big box mega-retailers added 2.7 billion retail square feet to our already over saturated market, real median household income flat lined. The advancement in retail spending was attributable solely to the $1.1 trillion increase (68%) in consumer debt and the trillion dollars of home equity extracted from castles in the sky, that later crashed down to earth. Once the Wall Street created fraud collapsed and the waves of delusion subsided, retailers have been revealed to be swimming naked. Their relentless expansion, based on exponential growth, cannibalized itself, new store construction ground to a halt, sales and profits have declined, and the inevitable closing of thousands of stores has begun. With real median household income 8% lower than it was in 2008, the collapse in retail traffic is a rational reaction by the impoverished 99%. Americans are using their credit cards to pay their real estate taxes, income taxes, and monthly utilities, since their income is lower, and their living expenses rise relentlessly, thanks to Bernanke and his Fed created inflation.

The media mouthpieces for the establishment gloss over the fact average gasoline prices in 2013 were the second highest in history. The highest average price was in 2012 and the 3rd highest average price was in 2011. These prices are 150% higher than prices in the early 2000′s. This might not matter to the likes of Jamie Dimon and Jon Corzine, but for a middle class family with two parents working and making 7.5% less than they made in 2000, it has a dramatic impact on discretionary income. The fact oil prices have risen from $25 per barrel in 2003 to $100 per barrel today has not only impacted gas prices, but utility costs, food costs, and the price of any product that needs to be transported to your local Wally World. The outrageous rise in tuition prices has been aided and abetted by the Federal government and their doling out of loans so diploma mills like the University of Phoenix can bilk clueless dupes into thinking they are on their way to an exciting new career, while leaving them jobless in their parents’ basement with a loan payment for life.

The laughable jobs recovery touted by Obama, his sycophantic minions, paid off economist shills, and the discredited corporate legacy media can be viewed appropriately in the following two charts, that reveal the false storyline being peddled to the techno-narcissistic iGadget distracted masses. There are 247 million working age Americans between the ages of 18 and 64. Only 145 million of these people are employed. Of these employed, 19 million are working part-time and 9 million are self- employed. Another 20 million are employed by the government, producing nothing and being sustained by the few remaining producers with their tax dollars. The labor participation rate is the lowest it has been since women entered the workforce in large numbers during the 1980′s. We are back to levels seen during the booming Carter years. Those peddling the drivel about retiring Baby Boomers causing the decline in the labor participation rate are either math challenged or willfully ignorant because they are being paid to be so. Once you turn 65 you are no longer counted in the work force. The percentage of those over 55 in the workforce has risen dramatically to an all-time high, as the Me Generation never saved for retirement or saw their retirement savings obliterated in the Wall Street created 2008 financial implosion.

To understand the absolute idiocy of retail CEOs across the land one must parse the employment data back to 2000. In the year 2000 the working age population of the U.S. was 213 million and 136.9 million of them were working, a record level of 64.4% of the population. There were 70 million working age Americans not in the labor force. Fourteen years later the number of working age Americans is 247 million and only 144.6 million are working. The working age population has risen by 16% and the number of employed has risen by only 5.6%. That’s quite a success story. Of course, even though median household income is 7.5% lower than it was in 2000, the government expects you to believe that 22 million Americans voluntarily left the labor force because they no longer needed a job. While the number of employed grew by 5.6% over fourteen years, the number of people who left the workforce grew by 31.1%. Over this same time frame the mega-retailers that dominate the landscape added almost 3 billion square feet of selling space, a 25% increase. A critical thinking individual might wonder how this could possibly end well for the retail genius CEOs in glistening corporate office towers from coast to coast.

This entire materialistic orgy of consumerism has been sustained solely with debt peddled by the Wall Street banking syndicate. The average American consumer met their Waterloo in 2008. Bernanke’s mission was to save bankers, billionaires and politicians. It was not to save the working middle class. You’ve been sacrificed at the altar of the .1%. The 0% interest rates were for Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein. Your credit card interest rate remained between 13% and 21%. So, while you struggle to pay bills with your declining real income, the Wall Street bankers are again generating record profits and paying themselves record bonuses. Profits are so good, they can afford to pay tens of billions in fines for their criminal acts, and still be left with billions to divvy up among their non-prosecuted criminal executives.

Bernanke and his financial elite owners have been able to rig the markets to give the appearance of normalcy, but they cannot rig the demographic time bomb that will cause the death and destruction of our illusory retail paradigm. Demographics cannot be manipulated or altered by the government or mass media. The best they can do is ignore or lie about the facts. The life cycle of a human being is utterly predictable, along with their habits across time. Those under 25 years old have very little income, therefore they have very little spending. Once a job is attained and income levels rise, spending rises along with the increased income. As the person enters old age their income declines and spending on stuff declines rapidly. The media may be ignoring the fact that annual expenditures drop by 40% for those over 65 years old from the peak spending years of 45 to 54, but it doesn’t change the fact. They also cannot change the fact that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 every day for the next sixteen years. They also can’t change the fact the average Baby Boomer has less than $50,000 saved for retirement and is up to their grey eye brows in debt.

With over 15% of all 25 to 34 year olds living in their parents’ basement and those under 25 saddled with billions in student loan debt, the traditional increase in income and spending is DOA for the millennial generation. The hardest hit demographic on the job front during the 2008 through 2014 ongoing recession has been the 45 to 54 year olds in their peak earning and spending years. Combine these demographic developments and you’ve got a perfect storm for over-built retailers and their egotistical CEOs.

The media continues to peddle the storyline of on-line sales saving the ancient bricks and mortar retailers. Again, the talking head pundits are willfully ignoring basic math. On-line sales account for 6% of total retail sales. If a dying behemoth like JC Penney announces a 20% decline in same store sales and a 20% increase in on-line sales, their total change is still negative 17.6%. And they are still left with 1,100 decaying stores, 100,000 employees, lease payments, debt payments, maintenance costs, utility costs, inventory costs, and pension costs. Their future is so bright they gotta wear a toe tag.

The decades of mal-investment in retail stores was enabled by Greenspan, Bernanke, and their Federal Reserve brethren. Their easy money policies enabled Americans to live far beyond their true means through credit card debt, auto debt, mortgage debt, and home equity debt. This false illusion of wealth and foolish spending led mega-retailers to ignore facts and spread like locusts across the suburban countryside. The debt fueled orgy has run out of steam. All that is left is the largest mountain of debt in human history, a gutted and debt laden former middle class, and thousands of empty stores in future decaying ghost malls haunting the highways and byways of suburbia.

The implications of this long and winding road to ruin are far reaching. Store closings so far have only been a ripple compared to the tsunami coming to right size the industry for a future of declining spending. Over the next five to ten years, tens of thousands of stores will be shuttered. Companies like JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack will go bankrupt and become historical footnotes. Considering retail employment is lower today than it was in 2002 before the massive retail expansion, the future will see in excess of 1 million retail workers lose their jobs. Bernanke and the Feds have allowed real estate mall owners to roll over non-performing loans and pretend they are generating enough rental income to cover their loan obligations. As more stores go dark, this little game of extend and pretend will come to an end. Real estate developers will be going belly-up and the banking sector will be taking huge losses again. I’m sure the remaining taxpayers will gladly bailout Wall Street again. The facts are not debatable. They can be ignored by the politicians, Ivy League economists, media talking heads, and the willfully ignorant masses, but they do not cease to exist.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”Aldous Huxley

 

The Week In Doom, November 3, 2013

That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964Off the keyboard of Surly1

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 3, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Behind the Mask

klansmen

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”
                                                                 ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

In This Week In Doom, Pakistan is in a lather because we droned away another Taliban leader; with closing of the NATO supply routes to Afghanistan certain to follow. The funeral was held in secret, for fear of the famed “double tap”  now the USA’s calling card for drone warfare.  In Japan, TEPCO reports record profits at the same time  Fukushima waxes even more ominous. Golden Dawn provocateurs are shot in Greece. Ostensible liberal Dianne Feinstein offers a new NSA bill to codify and extend mass surveillance.  Obama’s popularity takes a hit as it turns out that some people actually don’t get to keep their health care coverage; a result almost guaranteed when you invest faith in the ethical behavior and decency of insurance companies. SNAP card  recipients take a 5% reduction in their buying power at the same time that inflation for commodities such as food nears double digits.  For that give thanks to a Congress intent on hitting America’s poorest while they’re down.  Tiny plastic beads are invading the Great Lakes. Lou Reed died. And away from the prying eyes of mere citizens, the Trans-Pacific Partnership continues to be negotiated by corporate lobbyists and free-trade charlatans. According to some, this agreement has little to do with free trade but everything to do with enabling a global corporatocracy,  and assuring the primacy of corporate rights over any others, local control or preference be damned. If you have not heard of this, give full credit to the lickspittles in charge of your loyal corporate media.

Yet for all that, this week’s thoughts are much closer to home.

For most of us, Halloween marks the beginning of a festive holiday season. For my part, ever since my daughter was too old to trek for her own candy boodle, she and a girlfriend  have made it a tradition to come to my home to pass out candy to little ones.  Likewise, for Contrary’s family, Halloween was a High Holy Day fully invested with creativity, imagination and effort. Her family went all in for Halloween. She has albums full of pictures of Halloween parties past, where every member of her extensive  family turned out in full costumed, make-up bedecked regalia.

In this context, then, for this Halloween, Contrary and her niece Sassy (who is staying with us) went all out in decorating.  I arrived home Halloween evening to find my quite ordinary home bedecked with crime scene tape, lit tiki torches,  young ladies in full costume, the works. Quickly the game was afoot: gaggles of parents and kids meeting on corners, traveling en masse from house to house to share in the season’s bounty.  it was a Halloween season ordinary in every way save one.  After the trick or treaters had come and gone, Contrary alerted me to this little bon mot,  which ended up putting this quite ordinary suburban neighborhood into the unwelcome glare of a national spotlight.

Better luck next year to the woman who will be handing out fat-shaming letters to overweight trick-or-treaters because America’s Worst Neighbor officially resides in Norfolk, Virginia.

A since-removed Craigslist post attributed to someone living in Norfolk neighborhood of Larchmont-Edgewater has riled up residents who say the sentiments expressed therein are not their own.

Writing under the headline “Reminder: Overage Trick Or Treaters Stay Out!,” the anonymous poster starts by ranting about “kids older than twelve going house to house for free candy.”

We hate seeing kids older than twelve going house to house for free candy. Doing so is illegal and this year we will be calling the police on you bastards. Overage trick or treating is a Class 4 misdemeanor and carries a $250 fine. This will also go on your criminal record if you don’t have one already.

Were it to have ended there, the post, found in the site’s “Rants and Raves” section, would be acceptably grouchy.

But it doesn’t end there. Instead, it goes from a rant, to a rave, to unabashedly racist:

And you niglets, stay the hell out! We’re a white neighborhood and we don’t want you baboons here!! You little turds better think twice going into my neighborhood or you will be legally punished.

“That`s awful, that`s awful,” Larchmont-Edgewater resident Ainel Alerth told NewsChannel3. “When I see that, I don`t know where it comes from, where all the anger comes from. Why are we using these words?”

Another resident, Timo Mitchell, agreed with the poster insofar as overage trick-or-treaters were concerned, but less so about the rest.

“I can understand if you have a 16 or 17-year-old show up without a costume, but just a blanket statement to say all kids of different colors can’t come in?” said Mitchell. “I don`t think that is appropriate for this neighborhood, because we are very eclectic here.”

Nobody wants crackers for Halloween.

One of the things I like about my neighborhood is that very little ever happens here. Here I raised a daughter, and taught her to read, to ride a bike,  play soccer, and know that she could walk to and from school in safety.  Thus to find that in this place, behind nicely manicured lawns and freshly painted doors, lurks the same sort of sentiment one generally encounters behind a tobacco barn, or on the sort of rural billboards that used to encourage the impeachment of Earl Warren, is deeply disconcerting.

 

One commenter:

Welcome to the “post-racial” South. I grew up in Norfolk, but not in that neighborhood. My wife lived there, though. It’s definitely upper-middle class, but borders on the Lambert’s Point neighborhood, which is decidedly African-American, though it’s becoming gentrified with the expansion of Old Dominion University. There are still a lot of crusty, old money bigots living in Larchmont/Edgewater. And while this saddens me, it doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s still the South, after all.

The story spread like an unwelcome fungus. A brief search search show that I could find it here, here, here, and here.

Even Wonkette, fergodsake.

One should never forget that Norfolk was one of the battlegrounds for “Massive Resistance.”  Little remembered or talked about now, “Massive Resistance” was that policy declared by Harry Byrd in 1956 to prevent public school desegregation in the wake of the Brown versus Board of Education decision of the Supreme Court in 1954.

To implement Massive Resistance, in 1956, the Byrd Organization-controlled Virginia General Assembly passed a series of laws known as the Stanley plan, after Governor Thomas Bahnson Stanley. One of these laws forbade any integrated schools from receiving state funds, and authorized the governor to order closed any such school. Another of these laws established a three-member Pupil Placement Board that would determine which school a student would attend. The decision of these Boards was based almost entirely on race. Another facet of these laws was the creation of tuition grants which could be given to students so they could attend a private school of their choice; again, in practice, this meant support of all-white schools that appeared as a response to forced integration (the “segregation academies“).

Later in 1956, the NAACP then filed lawsuits around the state in response to these laws in an attempt to force integration of Virginia schools. By 1958, things had come to a head. Federal courts ordered public schools in Warren County, the cities of Charlottesville and Norfolk and Arlington County to integrate.

Six schools in the city of Norfolk were closed,  eventually reopened by a judicial appeal. Many members of the “Lost class of ’59”  are still alive, and reside in the city even yet.

Why make such a big deal out of some garden variety ignorance?   Something has changed. And not just in Norfolk. Other unwelcome Halloween news included this

 

 

A group costume features a man dressed as Martin, wearing blackface and a blood-stained hoodie, and a man portraying Zimmerman, wearing a shirt that reads “Neighborhood Watch.” In a photo uploaded to the Facebook account of Caitlin Cimeno, the woman in the picture, the man portraying Zimmerman has fashioned a gun out of his right hand and has pointed it at the man dressed as Martin.

Cimeno’s Facebook account has since been deleted, but the photo has gone viral and elicited widespread condemnation. (Per Gawker, one of the men chose to set the photo as his Facebook profile picture before then swapping it out and setting his profile to “private.”)

According to the Smoking Gun, the men in the Martin and Zimmerman costumes are residents of Florida, where the Zimmerman case took place.

The Stir’s Lisa Fogarty takes particular issue with the pair “choosing to make light of the murder of a 17-year-old child.” She also adds that the men, aged 22 and 25, aren’t naive children who made a regrettable choice: “[T]hese men are too old to not know or understand that it’s also disrespectful to the family that is grieving for Trayvon.”

Ah, madness.   And perhaps I can hear you saying, “Yes, you old scold. It’s just a couple of young people with really bad taste.”  Sure. But these are somebody’s children. What have we taught them?

Recently, America–firsters had to endure criticism by Vladimir Putin of the notion of “American exceptionalism”   in a New York Times op-ed piece.  We understand “American exceptionalism” to be characterized by that historic sense to carry on a particular mission in the world, at all times informed by the message of freedom. Is the flipside of that old notion a negative exceptionalism, where the US has been racist, murderous, and rapacious?  Is it such a stretch to think that, while we feel ourselves entitled to deal out death from above in Yemen and Pakistan, that the old demons of racism, ignorance, and intolerance may not also feel themselves free to once again raise their heads at home?

While we may feel free to lecture the world on what its values are to be (economic and extractive), and strike our opponents from above by drones with murderous accuracy, we act as the freedom to do so is our God-given right. No… We are not special; the cavalry is not coming; there is no happy ending. The flipside of American exceptionalism is a blood drenched darkness. A darkness that requires ignorance to flourish. A darkness that just raised its snout where I live.

It’s a reminder that things are not always what they appear to be. That the order, that the sense of law, the services we take for granted, the institutions, the sense of community we think we enjoy all hang by the merest of threads.

Apparently you never know which of your neighbors has a hood in their closet.

Culture of Ignorance: Part I

Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn

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Published on The Burning Platform on October 27, 2013

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“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”

– Thomas Edison

The kabuki theater that passes for governance in Washington D.C. reveals the profound level of ignorance shrouding this Empire of Debt in its prolonged death throes. Ignorance of facts; ignorance of math; ignorance of history; ignorance of reality; and ignorance of how ignorant we’ve become as a nation, have set us up for an epic fall. It’s almost as if we relish wallowing in our ignorance like a fat lazy sow in a mud hole. The lords of the manor are able to retain their power, control and huge ill-gotten riches because the government educated serfs are too ignorant to recognize the self-evident contradictions in the propaganda they are inundated with by state controlled media on a daily basis.

 

“Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.” Hendrik Willem van Loon

The levels of ignorance are multi-dimensional and diverse, crossing all educational, income, and professional ranks. The stench of ignorance has settled like Chinese toxic smog over our country, as various constituents have chosen comforting ignorance over disconcerting knowledge. The highly educated members, who constitute the ruling class in this country, purposefully ignore facts and truth because the retention and enhancement of their wealth and power are dependent upon them not understanding what they clearly have the knowledge to understand. The underclass wallow in their ignorance as their life choices, absence of concern for marriage or parenting, lack of interest in educating themselves, and hiding behind the cross of victimhood and blaming others for their own failings. Everyone is born ignorant and the path to awareness and knowledge is found in reading books. Rich and poor alike are free to read and educate themselves. The government, union teachers, and a village are not necessary to attain knowledge. It requires hard work and clinging to your willful ignorance to remain stupid.

The youth of the country consume themselves in techno-narcissistic triviality, barely looking up from their iGadgets long enough to make eye contact with other human beings. The toxic combination of government delivered public education, dumbed down socially engineered curriculum, taught by uninspired intellectually average union controlled teachers, to distracted, unmotivated, latchkey kids, has produced a generation of young people ignorant about history, basic mathematical concepts, and the ability or interest to read and write. They have been taught to feel rather than think critically. They have been programmed to believe rather than question and explore. Slogans and memes have replaced knowledge and understanding. They have been lured into inescapable student loan debt serfdom by the very same government that is handing them a $200 trillion entitlement bill and an economy built upon low paying service jobs that don’t require a college education, because the most highly educated members of society realized that outsourcing the higher paying production jobs to slave labor factories in Asia was great for the bottom line, their stock options and bonus pools.

Instead of being outraged and lashing out against this injustice, the medicated, daycare reared youth passively lose themselves in the inconsequentiality and shallowness of social media, reality TV, and the internet, while living in their parents’ basement. They have chosen the ignorance inflicted upon their brains by thousands of hours spent twittering, texting, facebooking, seeking out adorable cat videos on the internet, viewing racist rap singer imbeciles rent out sports stadiums to propose to vacuous big breasted sluts on reality cable TV shows, and sitting zombie-like for days with a controller in hand blowing up cities, killing whores, and murdering policemen using their new PS4 on their 65 inch HDTV, rather than gaining a true understanding of the world by reading Steinbeck, Huxley, and Orwell. Technology has reduced our ability to think and increased our ignorance.

“During my eighty-seven years, I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.” – Bernard M. Baruch

The youth have one thing going for them. They are still young and can awaken from their self-imposed stupor of ignorance. There are over 80 million millenials between the ages of 8 and 30 years old who need to start questioning the paradigm they are inheriting and critically examining the mendacious actions of their elders. The future of the country is in their hands, so I hope they put down those iGadgets and open their eyes before it is too late. We need many more patriots like Edward Snowden and far fewer twerking sluts like Miley Cyrus if we are to overcome the smog of apathy and ignorance blanketing our once sentient nation.

The ignorance of youth can be chalked up to inexperience, lack of wisdom, and immaturity. There is no excuse for the epic level of ignorance displayed by older generations over the last thirty years. Boomers and Generation X have charted the course of this ship of state for decades. Ship of fools is a more fitting description, as they have stimulated the entitlement mentality that has overwhelmed the fiscal resources of the country. Our welfare/warfare empire, built upon a Himalayan mountain of debt, enabled by a central bank owned by Wall Street, and perpetuated by swarms of corrupt bought off spineless politicians, is the ultimate testament to the seemingly limitless level of ignorance engulfing our civilization. The entitlement mindset permeates our culture from the richest to the poorest. Mega-corporations use their undue influence (bribes disguised as campaign contributions) to elect pliable candidates to office, hire lobbyists to write the laws and tax regulations governing their industries, and collude with the bankers and other titans of industry to harvest maximum profits from the increasingly barren fields of a formerly thriving land of milk and honey. By unleashing a torrent of unbridled greed, ransacking the countryside, and burning down the villages, the ruling class has planted the seeds of their own destruction.

When the underclass observes Wall Street bankers committing the crime of the century with no consequences for their actions, they learn a lesson. When billionaire banker/politicians like Jon Corzine can steal $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of farmers and ranchers and continue to live a life of luxury in one of his six mansions, they get the message. Wall Street bankers are allowed to commit fraud, reaping profits of $25 billion, and when they are caught red handed pay a $5 billion fine while admitting no guilt. No connected bankers have gone to jail for crashing the worldwide financial system, but teenage marijuana dealers are incarcerated for ten years in our corporate prison system. The message has been received loud and clear by the unwashed masses. Committing fraud and gaming the system is OK. Only suckers play by the rules anymore. A culture of lawlessness, greed, fraud, deceit, swindles and scams was fashioned by those in power. Reckless disregard for honesty, truthfulness, fair dealing, and treating others as you would like to be treated, has permeated the beliefs and behavior of our society.

The ever increasing number of people in the SNAP program along with abuses committed by retailers and recipients, the skyrocketing number of people faking their way into the SSDI program, billions of taxpayer dollars lost to Medicare fraud, billions more lost paying out earned income tax credit refunds based on non-existent children, public schools falsifying test scores, students cheating on SAT tests, credit card fraud on a grand scale, failure to report income and falsifying tax returns, and a myriad of other dodges and scams are just a reflection of a moral and cultural collapse. The dog eat dog mentality glorified by the media, with such despicable men as Dimon, Greenspan, Corzine, Clinton, Trump, Rubin, Bernanke and Bloomberg honored as pillars of society, has displaced honesty, compassion, humanity, shared sacrifice, and caring about our descendants. Self-interest, self-indulgence, and a narcissistic focus on what is in it for me today has led to an implosion of trust and an attitude of “who cares” about our fellow man, morality, right or wrong, and the fate of future generations. We ignored the warnings of our last President who displayed courageousness and truthfulness when speaking to the American people.

“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Me Generation has devolved into the Me Culture. While the masses have been mesmerized by their iGadgets, zombified by the boob tube, programmed to consume by the Madison Avenue propaganda machines, enslaved in chains of debt by the Wall Street plantation owners, and convinced by their fascist government keepers that phantom terrorists are hiding behind every bush, they surrendered their freedoms, liberties and sense of self-responsibility. There will always be evil men seeking to control and manipulate the ignorant and oblivious. A citizenry armed with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and moral integrity would not passively submit to the will of a corporate fascist oligarchy. Well educated, well informed citizens, capable of critical thinking are dangerous to rich men of evil intent. Obedient, universally ignorant, distracted, fearful, morally depraved slaves are what the owners of this country want. As the light of knowledge flickers and dies, we sink into the darkness of ignorance.

 

“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.”Samuel Adams

Cult of Ignorance

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”Isaac Asimov

  

“While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.

In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.”Henry Hazlitt

America’s cult of ignorance, combined with the selfish interests of various constituencies, the character weakness of the people elected to office, a lack of understanding or interest in basic mathematical concepts, and inability to comprehend the long term and unintended consequences of every piece of legislation, have brought the country to the brink of fiscal disaster. But still, the vast majority of Americans, including the supposed intellectuals and economic “experts”, are basking in their ignorance, as the stock market reaches a new high, the local GM dealer just gave them a 7 year $40,000 auto loan at 0% on that brand new Cadillac Escalade, Bank of America still hasn’t foreclosed on their McMansion two years after making their last mortgage payment, and they just received three pre-approved credit card notices from Capital One, American Express and Citicorp. As long as Bennie has our back printing $1 trillion new greenbacks per year, nothing can possibly go wrong. Our best and brightest economic minds are always right:

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“Many of the new financial products that have been created, with financial derivatives being the most notable, contribute economic value by unbundling risks and shifting them in a highly calibrated manner. Although these instruments cannot reduce the risk inherent in real assets, they can redistribute it in a way that induces more investment in real assets and, hence, engenders higher productivity and standards of living.” – Alan Greenspan – March 6, 2000

“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” Ben Bernanke – July 2005

The profound level of ignorance displayed by economists, politicians, business leaders, media personalities, and the average American, regarding the mathematically unsustainable path of our fiscal ship is perplexing to me on so many levels. If the Federal government was a family, the budget ceiling debate would be put into the following terms. Our household earns $28,000 per year, but we spend $38,000 per year and add $10,000 to our credit card balance, which stands at the limit of $170,000. In addition, we owe our neighbors $2 million we don’t have because we promised to pay if they voted for us as Treasurer of our homeowners association. We celebrate our good fortune of getting approved for another credit card with a $30,000 limit by increasing our spending to $39,000 per year. Intellectuals scorn such simplistic analogies by glibly pointing out that the family has a crazy uncle with a printing press in the basement and can pay-off the debt with his freshly printed dollars. And this is where the deliberate and calculated ignorance by the highly educated Ivy Leaguers regarding long term and unintended consequences is revealed. They ignore, manipulate, cover-up and obscure the facts because their wealth, power and influence depend upon them doing so. But ignorance doesn’t change the facts.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley

Nothing exposes the ignorance of various factions within our society better than a debate about budgets, spending, and unfunded liabilities. This is where every party, group, special interest, and voting bloc ignore any and all facts that are contrary to their selfish interest. They only see what they want to see. The fallacies, errors, omissions and mistruths of their positions are inconsequential to people who only care about their short-term self-seeking interests. When I question the out of control spending on entitlements and our impossible to honor level of unfunded liabilities, those of a liberal persuasion lash out with accusations of hating the poor, starving children and throwing granny under the bus. Anyone suggesting we should slow our spending is branded a terrorist by the overwhelmingly liberal legacy media.

When I accuse Wall Street bankers of criminal fraud and ongoing manipulation of the financial markets, the CNBC loving apologists for these felons bellow about the market always being right. When I rail about the military industrial complex and our un-Constitutional invasions of other countries, the neo-cons come out in force blathering about the war on terror and imminent threats. When I point out the horrific results of our government run educational system and how mediocre union teachers are bankrupting our states and municipalities with their gold plated health and pension plans, I’m met with howls of outrage about the poor children. The common thread is that facts are ignored because each of their agendas requires ignorance on the part of their team’s fans.

The following chart of truth portrays an unsustainable path. Ignoring the facts will not change them. This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s an American problem.

 

“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.” Henry Hazlitt

Henry Hazlitt may have written these words six decades ago, but they aptly describe Paul Krugman and the legions of Keynesian apostles whose bastardized interpretation of Keynes’ theory has led us to this fiscal cliff. How anyone can truly believe that borrowing to consume foreign produced goods versus saving and making job creating capital investments is a rational and sustainable economic policy is the height of ignorance. One look at this chart exposes the political party system as a sham. When it comes to the fiscal train wreck, set in motion thirty years ago, the ignorant media pundits peddle a narrative about politicians failing to compromise as the culprit in this derailment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compromise is what has gotten us to this point. The Republicans compromised and allowed the Democrats to create a welfare state. The Democrats compromised and allowed the Republicans to create a warfare state. The Federal Reserve compromised their mandate of stable prices and preventing financial calamities by inflating away 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in 100 years, while creating bubbles every five or so years, like clockwork. There are a myriad of facts related to the chart above that cannot be ignored:

  • It took 192 years for the country to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. It has taken us 30 years to accumulate the next $16 trillion of debt. We now add $1 trillion of debt per year.
  • If the Federal government was required to use GAAP accounting, the annual deficit would amount to $6.7 trillion per year.
  • The fiscal gap of unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government pensions is $200 trillion.
  • Using realistic growth assumptions adds another $6 trillion of state and local government unfunded pension benefits to the equation.
  • The Federal government has increased their annual spending from $1.8 trillion during Bill Clinton’s last year in office to $3.8 trillion today, a 110% increase. The population has increased by 12% over that same time frame, and real GDP has advanced by 25% since 2000.
  • Defense spending has increased from $358 billion in 2000 to $831 billion today, despite the fact that no country on earth can challenge us militarily.
  • The average Baby Boomer will receive $300,000 more than they contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetime. Over 10,000 Boomers per day will turn 65 for the next 17 years.
  • The Social Security lockbox is filled with IOUs. The funds collected from paychecks over the last 80 years were spent by Congress on wars of choice, bridges to nowhere, and thousands of other vote buying ventures.
  • A normalization of interest rates to long-term averages would double or triple the interest on the national debt and increase our annual deficits by at least 30%.
  • Obamacare and the unintended consequences of Obamacare will add tens of trillions to our national debt. The initial budget projections for Medicare and Medicaid showed only a modest financial impact on the financial situation of the country. How did that work out?
  • Entitlement spending in 2003 was $1.3 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2008 was $1.7 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2013 was $2.2 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2018 will be $2.8 trillion, as these programs are on automatic pilot.

When you consider the facts in a rational manner, without vitriolic denials, bitter accusations, acrimonious blame, and rejection of the entire premise, you come to the conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return. Decades of bad choices, bad leadership, bad men in important positions, bad education, bad governance, and bad citizenship have led to bad times. But very few people, across all socio-economic classes, have any interest in understanding the facts or making the tough choices required to save future generations from a life of squalor. We willfully choose to ignore the facts.

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” Aldous Huxley

Our degraded and ignorant society is incapable of comprehending their dire circumstances or acting for the common good of the country. We are a nation on the take. Greed really is good. Everyone needs to play the game. From the top floor corporate CEO suite to the decaying urban wastelands, we have chosen comforting ignorance to uncomfortable knowledge. Our warped form of democracy enriches the few at the top, while dispensing enough subsistence payments to the lower classes to keep them from revolting, while enslaving the middle class in debt and convincing them it’s really wealth. Mencken understood the pathetic impulses of the American populace decades before we reached our point of no return.

“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – H.L. Mencken

The only way a democracy can survive is if the population is knowledgeable, vigilant, skeptical, educated, individually responsible, self-reliant, moral, capable of critical thinking and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. A nation of takers, fakers and blamers will not last long. We’ve degenerated into a nation of knowledge hating book burners. Our culture of ignorance will lead to the destruction of our culture and the ignorant masses will wonder what happened.

 

“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.”Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451

In Part Two of this examination about our culture of ignorance I’ll explore the roles of technology, family breakdown, government, and propaganda in creating the ignorance that is consuming our system like a mutant parasite. If you are seeking a happy ending, I suggest looking elsewhere.

Petroleum Corn Sugared Zombies

Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams

Published on Epiphany Now on June 10, 2013

ninja fox

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

bloody foxOnce again due to discussion over at the Doomstead Diner I’ve been asked to define what I consider a zombie to be. The issue is that the goal of the Diner is to “save as many as you can,” and from what are we saving all of these people in need of saving? Well, if you don’t know the answer to that question than I’m sorry to inform you that you are most likely a zombie. Now, don’t go gettin’ all pissed off at me cause you fit the description of a zombie. It’s alright to be a zombie. At least you won’t have to worry about not being able to find like minded folk to hang around with (which is a problem for us non-zombies). I’ll now begin breaking down the requirements for membership in zombiehood. First I’ll start with what Wikipedia has to say about zombies:
The idea of zombies is present in some South African cultures. In some communities it is believed that a dead person can be turned into a zombie by a small child. It is said that the spell can be broken by a powerful enough sangoma.
It is also believed in some areas of South Africa that witches can turn a person into a zombie by killing and possessing the victim’s body in order to force it into slave labor. After rail lines were built to transport migrant workers, stories emerged about “witch trains”. These trains appeared ordinary, but were staffed by zombie workers controlled by a witch. The trains would abduct a person boarding at night, and the person would then either be turned into a zombie worker, or beaten and thrown from the train a distance away from the original location.
This idea that a witch can turn somebody into a zombie by killing them and possessing their soul in order to shanghai them into slave labor is mostly what I mean when I call somebody a zombie. Only it’s not a witch, it’s the agents responsible for the Matrix’s hologram that are controlling the zombies. This is mostly done via the thaumaturgy that’s perpetuated by television, Hollywood, marketing, and the corporate directive dictating profit beyond all else. This all leaves the zombie blindly following business as usual (BAU) with no consciousness whatsoever about the consequences of BAU.
A zombie has no idea that petroleum is a limited resource on which we have built our civilization. They have no idea that you can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. They don’t care about 400 ppm carbon in the atmosphere, and they likely don’t care that America’s number one goal is to bomb your ass and take your gas. They don’t care that there is no precedent for GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), that our oceans are acidifying, that our food causes cancer, that allopathic medicine causes cancer, that we are loosing our topsoil at an alarming rate, that our government has been coopted by multinational corporations concerned about nothing but profit whom have decimated the constitution and bill of rights, that we have no freedoms, that we live in a surveillance Big Brother state where they can indefinitely detain you and torture you for no reason other than you fit a profile, or that we are running out of the very energy that is needed to keep all 7 billion of us on planet Earth alive. I can go on and on, but you get the picture (or you don’t…in which case you are a….zombie).
A zombie is incapable of seeing all of the above for what it is. The usual zombie response to any of the above information is that it’s all a libearl conspiracy (or “conservative” one depending on which side of the puppet show you’re on), or scientists know what they are doing and will figure out how to fix all of the problems, or you’re just a kooky nut job for bringing any of that up. A zombie lives their life from day to day having no idea that anything is wrong with our society. They have no idea how close we are to what has been dubbed our “near term extinction” or NTE. This is the idea that we have so destroyed our biosphere that the damage is rapidly becoming irreversible, and that we will soon enter a period where the biosphere will no longer support human life due to exponentially increasing problems due to CO2 concentration (that 400 ppm figure), as well as a host of other environmental problems due mainly to our industrial chemical making proclivities…and lets not forget the nasty habit we have of splitting atoms to insure a continuous stream of free flowing electrons into the magical holes in our sheet rocked walls for the purposes of single use appliances like electric can openers and hair dryers. The problem with this being the nuclear waste that we collectively ignore. It’s not that bad…just bury it or leave it in tanks indefinitely while the scientists come up with the solution. In a couple of hundreds of thousands of years it will no longer be radioactive anyways.
Okay, so you are a zombie if you see no problem with our particle boarded, car dependent, GMOed monocropped, processed chemical food, military/corporate industrial complex, Matrix controlled, NSA electronic communication data collecting, cancer causing for profit allopathic medicine perpetuated, biosphere destroying, petroleum fueled holographic suburban Orwellian New World Bravely carcinomic arrangement commonly called BAU. If you think BAU is just fuckin’ dandy then you are a zombie, and I am not going to waste anymore time with you. I’ve tried wasting my time with zombies. I tried for years after taking the red pill that opened my eyes to the truth about the American Hologram. I tried telling everybody I knew about how poisonous our food is, and how we’re destroying our biosphere to keep a civilization dependent on the limited resources that are fossil fuels alive. My efforts were rewarded with more ostracizing and sideways looks than I care to ruminate on. You see, liberating yourself from the Matrix/hologram complex makes you an Outkast. You become an Outkast because you wake up and realize that you’ve been subsisting by catabolizing your environment in an unsustainable fashion…that same environment that creates a sufficient amount of oxygen and fresh water to keep your zombie ass alive.
It should be clear now what makes a person a zombie. So why does any of that matter (I mean aside from the fact that anthropomorphic NTE is something a hefty percentage of non-zombies are finding it worth while to discuss just now)? It matters because at the Diner we are attempting to save as many people as we can from all of the NTE causing agents. Zombies are people to…so maybe we should change it to “save as many non-zombies as we can.” If it were up to me it would be something like that. At the Diner, we are trying to come up with a model of human socioeconomic strategies and tactics to weather the bottleneck that has been created by all of the zombies blindness and their unquenchable desire for more petroleum sugared brains. We’re trying to “bioneer” a way forward that pays attention to all of the problems our species has created. This is no easy task. We’ve dubbed this entity SUN for “sustaining universal needs,” and hopefully the first SUN project will be creating a viable foxstead for us to hole up in while civilization finishes glutting itself to death on petroleum sugar and the sweat of third world brown child labor for iphones and Bananas.
The zombie issue has become an issue due to my distaste for the way zombies smell. It’s not that I don’t care about zombies because I do. I know they are people to (if we agree to be extremely loose with the definition for “people”). They all have the same Buddha nature as I, and they will all bleed if cut and suffer in the same way. They all have feelings, favorite songs, and laugh and cry just like I do. But they also like watching football and grilling concentrated animal feeding operation pellets over gas while eating genetically modified fried corn chips sprayed with chemical flavorings. I understand all of that, and that’s fine…hell I eat CAFO food…but I’m just not happy about that fact and see a problem with it. Zombies mostly don’t like to read and prefer to have their world views issued to them by thaumaturic idiot panel MSM news. They DON’T SEE A PROBLEM with our society other than that gasoline is costing a bit too much these days…and so is the food…and medicine…and well just about everything else now that I think about it. And this is the main difference between a Zombie and an aspiring post-petroleum human; a zombie does not do anything about any of these problems because they aren’t aware of them. But wait…what am I thinking for? Oh well, my favorite football team is on…holy shit did you see that sack…he got nailed like a motherfucker…that shit was crazy wasn’t it. Pass the corn beer and chips…wait…what was I just talking about?
Nothing, you weren’t talking about anything, you should get back to your beer and chips. Nothing to worry about, nothing to see here, go back to sleep America…your government is here to protect and provide for you. They will grow all of the food, keep all of the steady evolving microorganisms at bay with petrochemicals, and bomb all of the brown people for gas on your behalf. You just eat your chips and drink your beer and the scientists will figure out all of the problems. You can be a zombie, but don’t come runnin’ to the foxstead when diesel is 6 dpg at the pump and our just in time trucking insanity stops being viable. You didn’t do shit to deal with the realities outside of the flatlands projected by the hologram. You didn’t care to concern yourself with the dire reality we’re inheriting for the ride down the back side of Hubbert’s curve. I consider zombies nothing more than nature selecting the next quantum leap in the human genome. As in zombies will mostly be deselected for that leap. This is not a value judgement. This is just facts facilitated by the red pill.
Go back to sleep Zombie America…there’s a zombie apocalypse coming to a theater near you any day now. With any luck I will be surrounded by nature and in the company of a post-petroleum human tribe when that apocalypse kicks off. Thanks to you that probably won’t be the case. I’ll probably still be here, slaving away with the zombies, trying to figure out how the hell to build a lifeboat out of the refuse from this plastic fabrication of a boat we call civilization. If I manage to cobble together said boat…you ain’t gonna be welcome on it. It’s not like belief in Jesus Christ…where you can be a shit bag your entire life and then repent just before your last breath gaining you access to heaven. No, I’ve seen you take your last breath, and I won’t be mourning you. However, there still is time for you to wake up and stop eating brains. So do that…wake up now, while you still can, and be welcome amongst my tribe. Or…perish with the zombie horde. Either way I’m not going to lose any sleep over you…and you’re not welcome at the foxstead as a zombie. It’s nothing personal…just I’ve got a family to support.
You see, I’m holding you responsible for your beliefs. If you are an adult than you are responsible for what you believe and don’t believe. You are responsible for knowing the truth about things. Nobody forced me to open my eyes up and develop a distaste for brains. I decided that I wanted to know what the truth was because it was time to grow up and take responsibility for myself. I’ve done that. Zombies don’t do that. Zombies get on fukitol and watch football drunk and satiated on all manner of petroleum corn sugar, and zombies will watch the zombie apocalypse on the idiot panel during the halftime marketing break. Not me, hopefully I’ll be outside in nature trying to facilitate the growth of food that’s not dependent on petroleum to gain the calories I’ll need to keep me and mine alive once the JIT truckin’ inanity comes to an end. Zombies will most likely be shot on sight and burned in large piles. Such are the concerns us evolving post-petroleum humans have here at the precipice of near term human extinction.
BTW…I have no idea why Blogger decided the text color needed to change in this entry…every time I use the quote option that happens.  ???

 

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