Jim Kunstler

The Leviathan

Freda nudginggc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Freda nudging
Artwork: Anthony Freda
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation November 9, 2015
 

The economic picture manufactured by the national consensus trance has never been more out of touch with reality in my lifetime. And so the questions as to what anyone might do can hardly be addressed. How can I protect my savings? Who do I vote for? How do I think about where my country is going? Incoherence reigns, especially in the circles ruled by those who guard the status quo, which includes the failing legacy news media.

Federal Reserve has morphed from being a faceless background institution of the most limited purpose to a claque of necromancers and astrologasters, led by one grand vizier, in full public view pretending to steer a gigantic economic vessel that has, in fact, lost its rudder and is drifting into a maelstrom.

>For more than a year, the fate of the nation has hung on whether the Fed might raise their benchmark interest rate one quarter of a percent. They talk about it incessantly, and therefore the mob of financial market observers has to chatter about it incessantly, and the chatter itself has appeared to obviate the need for any actual action on the matter. The Fed gets to influence markets without ever having to do anything. And mostly it has worked to produce the false narrative of an advanced economy that is working splendidly well to the advantage of the common good.

This is all occurring against the background of a larger global network of economic relations that is quite clearly breaking apart. The rising tensions between the US, Russia, China, and the Euro Union grew out of monetary mischief “innovated” by our central bank, especially the shenanigans around debt monetization, which have created dangerous distortions in markets, trade, and perceptions of national interest. Nations are rattling sabers at one another and bluster is in the air. The world is bankrupt after thirty years of borrowing from the future to throw a party in the present, and the authorities can’t acknowledge that.

But they can provide the conditions for disguising it, especially in the statistical hall of mirrors that once-upon-a-time produced meaningful signals for the movement of capital. Instead of reality-based choices and decisions, the task at hand for the people in charge has been the ever more baroque elaboration of a Potemkin economic false-front, behind which lies a landscape of ruin scavenged by desperate racketeers. That this racketeering has moved so seamlessly into the once-sacred precincts of medicine and higher ed ought to inform us how desperate and perilous it has become.

The latest installment of the disinformation game was Friday’s employment release from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was a “blockbuster,” implying blue skies everywhere from Montauk to Malibu. Except that no one with a remaining shred of critical faculty can be expected to believe it. 80 percent of the new jobs numbers were attributed to the mystical birth-death model, a pseudo-scientific fantasy of hypothetical new business starts and associated hypothetical new hires. Demographically, the most new jobs went to the over-55 age cohort — grocery baggers and Walmart greeters —  and the fewest to men 25 to 54 (that bracket substantially lost jobs). The official unemployment rate fell to 5.0 rate, with no meaningful discussion of the huge numbers of discouraged people who have dropped out of the workforce.

But the perception of an economy on full throttle chug sent the stock indexes up. The Dow, the S & P and the NASDAQ are the only signaling mechanisms that the legacy media pays attention to, and the politicos take their cues from them, in a feedback loop of false information that begets more delusional positive psychology in those same markets. I suspect the sentiment that reigns now is about nothing more than getting through the holiday season without a financial accident.

But this Fed now finds itself in a trap of its own making. Having so interminably yapped about the interest rate hike, the central bank will have to put up or shut up in December. Only the year-final BLS employment figures might give them an out, if the numbers don’t look so phosphorescent. I think the truth is, this phony baloney economy can’t withstand even a measly quarter-point benchmark interest rate hike. For one thing, it would blow up the operating models of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the buyers of home mortgages who are keeping the construction industry on life support, as well as the parallel rackets in securitized auto and student loans. Imagine all the derivatives bets that would go south. In reality, the Fed knows that it will have to shovel more ZIRP money into the debt-saturated maw of a dying financial leviathan. It can do that, of course, and probably will in the coming winter of 2016, but when that time comes, it will have absolutely no credibility left. And the leviathan will be a little closer to heaving up dead on the beach.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Tick Tick Tick

60m Rose Putingc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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60m Rose Putin
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation September 28, 2015
 

Did Charlie Rose look like a fucking idiot last night on 60-Minutes, or what, asking Vladimir Putin how he could know for sure that the US was behind the 2014 Ukraine coup against President Viktor Yanukovych? Maybe the idiots are the 60-Minutes producers and fluffers who are supposed to prep Charlie’s questions. Putin seemed startled and amused by this one on Ukraine: how could he know for sure?

Well, gosh, because Ukraine was virtually a province of Russia in one form or another for hundreds of years, and Russia has a potent intelligence service (formerly called the KGB) that had assets and connections threaded through Ukrainian society like the rhizomorphs of the fungus Armillaria solidipes through a conifer forest. Gosh, Charlie, it’s like asking Obama whether the NSA might know what’s going on in Texas.

And so there is Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, having to spell it out for the American clodhopper super-journalist. “We have thousands of contacts with them. We know who and where, and when they met with someone, and who worked with those who ousted Yanukovych, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which country, and who those instructors were. We know everything.”

The only thing Vlad left out of course was the now-world-famous panicked yelp by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland crying, “Fuck the EU,” when events in Kiev started getting out of hand for US stage-managers. But he probably heard about that, too.

Charlie then voice-overed the following statement: “For the record, the US has denied any involvement in the removal of the Ukrainian leader.” Right. And your call is important us. And your check is in the mail. And they hate us for our freedom.

This bit on Ukraine was only a little more appalling than Charlie’s earlier segment on Syria. Was Putin trying to rescue the Assad government? Charlie asked, in the context of President Obama’s statement years ago that “Assad has to go.”

Putin answered as if he were explaining something that should have been self-evident to a not-very-bright high school freshman: “To remove the legitimate government would create a situation which you can witness in other countries of the region, for instance Libya, where all the state institutions have disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq. There’s no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the government structure.”

I guess Charlie and the 60-Minutes production crew hadn’t noticed what had gone on around the Middle East the past fifteen years with America’s program of toppling dictators into the maw of anarchy. Not such great outcomes.

Charlie persisted though, following his script: Was Putin trying to rescue Assad? Vlad had to lay it out for him as if he were introducing Charlie to the game of Animal Lotto: “What do you think about those who support the terrorist organizations only to oust Assad without thinking about what happens to the country after all the state institutions have been demolished…? Look at those who are in control of 60 percent of the territory of Syria.

Meaning ISIS. Al Nusra (formerly al Qaeda in Syria), i.e., groups internationally recognized as terrorist organizations.

Charlie Rose, 60-Minutes — and perhaps by extension US government agencies with an interest in propagandizing — seem to want to put over the story that Russia has involved itself in Syria only to aggrandize its role on in world affairs.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but what sort of stupid fucking idea is this? And are there any non-lobotomized adults left in the USA who can’t see straight through it? The truth is that American policy in Syria (plus Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Somalia, Afghanistan) is an impressive record of failure in terms of the one basic aim that most rational people might agree upon: stabilizing the region in a way that does not leave Islamic jihadi maniacs in charge.

Okay, so now the Russians will do what they can to try to stabilize Syria. They’ve had their failures, too (famously, Afghanistan). But Russian territory adjoins the Islamic lands and they clearly have stake in containing the virus of Islamic extremism near their borders. Is that not obvious?

Charlie made one other extremely dumb statement — he seems to prefer making assertions to asking straight-up questions — to the effect that Russia was misbehaving by deploying troops on its border with Ukraine.

Putin again seemed astonished by this credulous idiocy. The US had troops and nuclear weapons all over Europe, he answered. Did Charlie think that meant the US was attempting to occupy the nations of Europe now? Was it “a crime” for Russia to defend its own border with a neighboring state (formerly a province) that, he implied, the US had deliberately destabilized?

The Putin segment was followed by a sickening session with Donald Trump, a man who now — after a month or so of public exposure — proves incapable of uttering a coherent idea. I wonder what Vladimir Putin makes of this incomparable buffoon. Perhaps that America has gotten what it deserves.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Parties Crawl Off to Die

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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trumphillbern fltn
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation September 14, 2015
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I‘ve alluded to being a registered Democrat now and again, a disclosure that makes some readers go feral with wrath. For years I could only justify it as formal opposition to the cretinous brand of Republicanism that washed over the country like a septic wave with the reign of that sainted pompadour-in-search-of-a-brain, Ronald Reagan, whose “morning in America” bromide was among the biggest whoppers of my lifetime. With Reagan, we got the officially-sanctioned marriage of right wing politics and the most moronic strains of Southland evangelical religiosity. (Ronnie stated more than once his belief that Biblical “end times” were close at hand, which should have raised the question of his actual concern for the nation’s future — did he think it had one? — but nobody ever asked him about it.) George H. W. Bush expressed a similar view, perhaps merely pandering to the dolts of Dixie.

So, who in his right mind could have subscribed to that load of bullshit?

Meanwhile, the youthful and magnetic Clintons came on in 1992. They put on a good show of national stewardship in the early going. Bill could speak English fluently, unlike his two predecessors. Hillary’s committee to tackle health care reform came to grief, but the effort at least implied a recognition that medicine was turning into a shameless racket (now fully metastasized). Bill managed to shove through a species of welfare reform — remarkable for a Democrat — that has since deliquesced back into a swamp of disability fraud. But the Clinton turning point was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which opened the door to an orgy of financial mischief so arrant and awful, and to a plague of corruption so broad and deep, that American life is now pitching into a long emergency.

Add to that now the signal failures of Barack Obama: 1) no prosecution or attempted regulation of widespread financial misdeeds 2) no effort to counter the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to buy elections; 3) no end to dubious military operations in distant lands, and 4) healthcare “reform” that only fortified the existing rackets — take all that together and you can only recoil from whatever it means to be a Democrat.

And now the return of Hillary, gliding above the election arena like Rodan the Flying Reptile — caw! caw! Get me outa here! It’s not just her, of course. It’s the whole disgusting circus parade of identity politics, and PC witch-hunting, and trans-sex drum-beating, and girl-lugging-a-mattress-around-campus idiocy, and blame-it-all-on-Whitey whinging, and drone-strike-du-jour warfare, and out-of-control NSA surveillance monkey business, plus throw in the outrageous scams of “civil forfeiture” under a president who was supposedly a professor of constitutional law — the list of Democratic-sponsored absurdities and turpitudes gives me the vapors.

The New York Times ran a front-page story Sunday saying that the Republican nomination-chasers were sounding too ominous, too dark, about the state of the nation, at least for the purpose of getting elected. As if the Times has an interest in them succeeding. I guess they were “just sayin’.” For my money, you can’t paint a dark enough picture to fully capture the decadence and depravity in the current zeitgeist. This, after all, is the basic appeal of Trump — though a panoramic shot of his supporters in one of those stadium love-fests suggests that their very demeanor is a big part of the problem: crowds of overfed tattooed clowns in nursery togs clamoring for a return to 1956. Good luck with that.

More than once I’ve referred to the earlier period in US history, the 1850s, when the political compass points shook loose and parties died. The Whigs disappeared altogether (and fast!) and the Democrats became a rump party of southern slavers. Well, the two major parties of our time are now perfectly poised to enter the Temple Grandin cattle chute of death. But history doesn’t repeat, of course, it only rhymes, and this time there are no other political parties standing by to take their place, no credible institutions, certainly no one like Lincoln. There are only Bernie Sanders and the execrable Trump.

Sanders functions nicely as a foil to the flying reptile. But the self-labeled socialist has a big problem. The public may be simmering with grievance, but my guess is that they are not especially hot for more redistribution of the national wealth — that is, whatever little remains in the hands of a sore beset former middle class. The absence of any other reputible figure on the Democratic “bench” belies a party now more hollow than a supermarket Easter egg.

What we see gathering is a political storm as perfect as the typhoon that has formed in banking. Surely the financial storm will strike first and it will leave the public stupefied with loss. I would not even bet against the possibility of the 2016 selection being canceled in some manner. Imagine, for instance, what the Pentagon brass thinks of Trump. And what they are planning for him. Just sayin’.

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Enter Jeb and Hil

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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hillary-jeb-2016-smiles
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation June 15, 2015
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The Floridian clod seeking to don the mantle of Millard Fillmore made an amazing foreign policy speech at an economic conference in Berlin last week. Inveighing against Russian President Vladimir Putin, he gave a very vivid impression of a man who has no idea what he is talking about.

“Russia must respect the sovereignty of all of its neighbors. And who can doubt that Russia will do what it pleases if its aggression goes unanswered?”

Jeb Bush was averring elliptically to the failed state formerly known as Ukraine, trying to put over the shopworn story that Russia was needlessly making war on its neighbor (and former province).

“Bush called for increased clarity on what type of sanctions would be imposed on the country if Prime Minister Vladimir Putin does not back down against a united international front…. ‘I don’t think we should be reacting to bad behavior [Bush said]. By being clear what the consequences of “bad behavior” is in advance, I think we will deter the kind of aggression that we fear from Russia. But always reacting, and giving the sense we’re reacting in a tepid fashion, only enables the bad behavior of Putin.’”

Note, by the way, that here is yet another scion of the Bush clan who was inexplicably brought up speaking Ebonics: “What the consequences… is?”  Say what?

Ukraine became a failed state due to a coup d’état engineered by Barack Obama’s state department. US policy wonks did not like the prospect of Ukraine joining Russia’s regional trade group called the Eurasian Customs Union instead of tilting toward NATO and the European Union. So, we paid for and enabled a coalition of crypto-fascists to rout the duly elected president. One of the first acts of the US-backed new regime was to declare punishment of Russian language speakers, and so the predominately Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine revolted. Russia reacted to all this instability by seizing the Crimean peninsula, which had been part of Russia proper both before and through the Soviet chapter of history. The Crimea contained Russia’s only warm water seaports and naval bases. What morons in the US government ever thought Russia would surrender those assets to a newly-failed neighbor state?

Was Vladimir Putin acting irresponsibly in this case? The opposite would be a much more logical conclusion. And what interest does the United States have in Ukraine? Surely no more than Russia would have in Texas. And when else in the entire history of the USA all the way back to George Washington did any government official declare Ukraine to be America’s business? Answer: Never. Reason: we have no legitimate interests in that corner of the world. So why in the early 21st century are we making this such a sore spot in our foreign relations? Because our waning influence in the world, in turn a product of our foolish inattention to our own economic problems and failing polity at home, is driving America batshit crazy.

The rest of the world sees this for exactly what it is, friends, former friends, and adversaries alike. I wonder what the Germans thought of Jeb’s intemperate and idiotic speech. Eyes must have rolled in the meeting hall. After all, Russia is their natural major trading partner. How do US-orchestrated economic sanctions against Russia work in their interest? Answer: they don’t. The Germans have been making a lot of discreet noises the past year about dissociating from America’s stupid program of antagonizing Russia. Perhaps Jeb’s jingoistic utterances in Berlin will finally push them over the line.

Meanwhile, Hillary (no last name required) steps out of the starting gate this week, too, pretending to be the incarnation of Robin Hood, as if she would ever shut down the financial rackets that have at once impoverished the former middle-class and enriched grifter opportunists such as Hillary herself. Her event on Roosevelt Island, New York City, looked like unintentional self-satire, as if it were staged by the late-great director Robert Altman for one of his wacky political movies. Hillary’s handlers missed one touch though: a cape would have gone nicely with that electrifying blue pant-suit. As for the speech itself, a bigger bundle of platitudes and insincerities has not been served up since the heyday of Nixon. As the politicians are so fond of saying these days, make no mistake, Hillary is the New Nixon.

 

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Twenty-Three Geniuses

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selfie
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation June 1, 2015
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If there is a Pulitzer Booby Prize for stupidity, waste no time in awarding it to The New York Times’ Monday feature, The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion. The former “newspaper of record” wants us to assume now that the sky’s the limit for human activity on the planet earth. Problemo cancelled. The article and accompanying video was actually prepared by a staff of 23 journalists. Give the Times another award for rounding up so many credentialed idiots for one job.

 

Apart from just dumping on Stanford U. biologist Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb (1968), this foolish “crisis report” strenuously overlooks virtually every blossoming fiasco around the world. This must be what comes of viewing the world through your cell phone.

One main contention in the story is that the problem of feeding an exponentially growing population was already solved by the plant scientist Norman Borlaug’s “Green Revolution,” which gave the world hybridized high-yielding grain crops. Wrong. The “Green Revolution” was much more about converting fossil fuels into food. What happens to the hypothetically even larger world population when that’s not possible anymore? And did any of the 23 journalists notice that the world now has enormous additional problems with water depletion and soil degradation? Or that reckless genetic modification is now required to keep the grain production stats up?

No, they didn’t notice because the Times is firmly in the camp of techno-narcissism, the belief that the diminishing returns, unanticipated consequences, and over-investments in technology can be “solved” by layering on more technology — an idea whose first cousin is the wish to solve global over-indebtedness by generating more debt. Anyone seeking to understand why the public conversation about our pressing problems is so dumb, seek no further than this article, which explains it all.

Climate change, for instance, is only mentioned once in passing, as though it was just another trashy celebrity sighted at a “hot” new restaurant in the Meatpacking District. Also left out of the picture are the particulars of peak oil (laughed at regularly by the Times, which proclaimed the US “Saudi America” some time back), degradation of the ocean and the stock of creatures that live there, loss of forests, the political instability of whole regions that can’t support exploded populations, and the desperate migrations of people fleeing these desolate zones.

As averred to above, the Times also has no idea about the relation of finance to resources. The banking problems we see all over the world are a direct expression of the limits to growth, specifically the limits to debt creation. We can’t continue to borrow from the future to pay for our comforts and conveniences today because we have no real conviction that these debts can ever be repaid. We certainly wish we could, and the central bankers running the money system would like to pretend that we could by making negligible the cost of borrowing money and engaging in pervasive accounting fraud. But that has only served to cripple the operation of markets and pervert the meaning of interest rates — and, really, as a final result, to destroy any sense of consequence among the people running things everywhere.

The crackup of that financial system will be the signal failure of the collapse of the current economic regime. The financial system is the most fragile of all the systems we depend on (though the others do not lack fragility). This is the reason, by the way, that oil prices are so low, despite the fact that the cost of producing oil has never been higher. The oil customers are going broke even faster than the oil producers. Does anybody doubt that the standard of living in the USA is falling, despite all our cell phone apps?

The basic fact of the matter is that the energy bonanza of the past 200-odd years produced a matrix of complex systems, as well as a hypertrophy in human population. These complex systems — banking, agri-biz, hop-scotching industrialization, global commerce, Eds & Meds, Happy Motoring, commercial aviation, suburbia — have all reached their limits to growth, and those limits are expressing themselves in growing global disorder and universal bankruptcy. Do the authors of The New York Times report think that the oil distribution situation is stable?

There were two terror bombings in Saudi Arabia the past two weeks. Did anyone notice the significance of that? Or that the May 29th incident was against a Shiite mosque, or that the Shia population of Saudi Arabia is concentrated in the eastern province of the kingdom where nearly all of the oil production is concentrated? (Or that the newly failed state of neighboring Yemen is about 40 percent Shiite?) Have any of the 23 genius-level reporters at The New York Times tried to calculate what it would mean to the humming global economy if Arabian oil came off the market for only a few weeks?

Paul Ehrlich was right, just a little off in his timing and in explicating with precision the unanticipated consequences of limitless growth. But isn’t it in the nature of things unanticipated that they generally are not?

 

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Muskular Magic

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elon-musk-tesla
 
 
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation May 11, 2015
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Elon Musk, Silicon Valley’s poster-boy genius replacement for the late Steve Jobs, rolled out his PowerWall battery last week with Star Wars style fanfare, doing his bit to promote and support the delusional thinking that grips a nation unable to escape the toils of techno-grandiosity. The main delusion: that we can “solve” the problems of techno-industrial society with more and better technology.

The South African born-and-raised Musk is surely better known for founding Tesla Motors, maker of the snazzy all-electric car. The denizens of Silicon Valley are crazy about the Tesla. There is no greater status trinket in Northern California, where the fog of delusion cloaks the road to the future. They believe, as Musk himself often avers, that Tesla cars “don’t burn hydrocarbons.” That statement is absurd, of course, and Musk, who holds a degree in physics from Penn, must blush when he says that. After all, you have to plug it in and charge somewhere from the US electric grid.

Only 6 percent of US electric power comes from “clean” hydro generation. Another 20 percent is nuclear. The rest is coal (48 percent) and natural gas (21 percent) with the remaining sliver coming from “renewables” and oil. (The quote marks on “renewables” are there to remind you that they probably can’t be manufactured without the support of a fossil fuel economy). Anyway, my point is that the bulk of US electricity comes from burning hydrocarbons, and then there is the nuclear part which is glossed over because the techno-geniuses and politicians of America have no idea how they are going to de-commission our aging plants, and no idea how to safely dispose of the spent fuel rod inventory simply lying around in collection pools. This stuff is capable of poisoning the entire planet and we know it.

The PowerWall roll out highlighted the “affordability” of the sleek lithium battery at $3,500 per unit. The average cluck watching Musk’s TED-like performance on the web was supposed to think he could power his home with it. Musk left out a few things. Such as: you need the rooftop solar array to feed the battery. Figure another $25,000 to $40,000 for that, depending on whether they are made in China (poor quality) or Germany, or in the USA (and installation is both laborious and expensive). Also consider that you need a charge controller and inverter to manage the electric flow and convert direct current (DC) from the sun into usable alternating current (AC) for your house — another $3,500. So, the cost of hanging a solar electric system on your house with all its parts is more like fifty grand.

What happens when the solar panels, battery, etc., reach the end of their useful lives, say 25 years or so, when there is no more fossil fuel (or an industry capable of providing it economically). How will you fabricate the replacement parts? By then the techno-wizards will have supposedly “come up with” a magic energy rescue remedy. Stand by on that, and consider the possibility that you will be disappointed with how it works out.

What gets me about Tesla’s various products and activities is that, when all is said and done, they are meant to extend the fatal rackets of contemporary life, especially car dependency and the suburban development pattern. Car dependency can and probably will fail on the financial basis, not on the question of how you run the car. The main economic problem we face is the end of growth of the kind we’re used to, the kind that generates real capital and enables bank lending. It is already happening and has led to fewer loans for fewer qualified borrowers. It will also lead to the end of government’s ability to pay for fixing the elaborate hierarchy of paved highways, roads, and streets that the cars have to run on. Imagine the psychic pain of the Silicon Valley billionaire driving his $87,000 Tesla P85D down a freeway that the State of California hasn’t been able to repair in five years.


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

 

English Spoken Here

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation May 4, 2015
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Of course, the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore last week prompted the usual cries for “an honest conversation about race,” and countless appeals to fix the “broken” public school system. So, in the spirit of those pleas, I will advance a very plain and straightforward idea: above all, teach young black kids how to speak English correctly.

Nothing is more important than acculturating ghetto kids out of their pidgin patois and into real English with all of its tenses, verb forms, and cases. It’s more important initially than learning arithmetic, history, and science. I would argue that it is hardly possible to learn these other things without first being grounded in real grammatical English.

When these kids grow up, their manner of speech will identify them and their prospects for success at least as much as the color of their skin — and probably more, in my opinion. Their ability to speak English correctly will be the salient feature in how others assess the content of their character

I’m sure by now that the racial justice hand-wringers are squirming over this proposal. All dialects are equally okay in this rainbow society, they might argue. No they’re not. Have you noticed that TV news, business, show biz, education, and politics increasingly employ people whose parents came from India and other parts of Asia. Do they speak in a patois lacking in complex verb forms? Apparently not. Are they succeeding in American life, such as it is? Apparently so.

Notice that the speech issue — how people talk — is never part of the “honest conversation about race” that we are supposed to have. Has anybody noticed that in his public speeches Martin Luther King spoke regular English correctly, if with a Southern inflection? Has anybody noticed how important that was in his role as “a communicator?” Why is this crucial question of language absent from the public conversation about “the intractable problems of race in America?” Is it because both blacks and whites are too fearful, too cowardly, to face this particular problem of how English is spoken?

Perhaps this raises the specter of IQ. I’d like to know how any IQ test can be meaningful when the person taking it can’t speak the language that the test is given in. I’m sure that any ghetto kid drilled in English for two years would show substantial improvement in such a generalized test. But, of course, first the American people of all skin tones would have to admit that this is important.

We don’t want to. We’d rather wring our hands over “structural racism” and other canards. Why? Because Euro American whites have been programmed to “not offend” at all costs; Asian Americans are too busy being successful; and African Americans are too invested in their own excuse-for-failure industry, wringing money from offense-o-phobic whites.

A year ago, I gave the opening day lecture to the entering honors freshman class at Rutgers, New Jersey’s State University. I swear at least half of that class of about 400 young people was made up of first generation kids of parents from India — owing, I suppose, to the current demographic of the state. Many of these kids were very dark-skinned, as dark as African Americans. Guess what? They didn’t speak in any kind of pidgin patois. They spoke regular American English. Do you suppose during their childhoods that the household fretted about “sounding white?” I doubt it. By the way, not only did these very bright, dark-skinned honors students speak English correctly, they also behaved politely. No fights broke out during the convocation. They effervescently launched themselves into their college careers — and then they went out for pizza.

How about it America? Job number one: learn how to speak the English language. Everything else depends on it. Excuses not admissible.

 

 

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Change They Don’t Believe In

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Art: Anthony Freda

Art: Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 13, 2015

The unfortunate consequence of not allowing the process of “creative destruction” to occur in banking and Big Business is that the historic forces behind it will seek expression elsewhere in the realm of politics and governance. The desperate antics of central banks to cover up financial failure can’t help but provoke political upheaval, including war.

It’s a worldwide phenomenon and one result will be the crackup of economic relations — thought by many to be permanent — that we call “globalism.” The USA has suffered mightily from globalism, by which a bonanza of cheap “consumer” products made by Asian factory slaves has masked the degeneration of local economic vitality, family life, behavioral norms, and social cohesion. That crackup is already underway in the currency wars aptly named by Jim Rickards, and you can bet that soon enough it will lead to the death of the 12,000-mile supply lines from China to WalMart — eventually to the death of WalMart itself (and everything like it). Another result will be the interruption of oil export supply lines.

The USA as currently engineered (no local economies, universal suburban sprawl, big box commerce, despotic agribiz) won’t survive these disruptions and one might also wonder whether our political institutions will survive. The crop of 2016 White House aspirants shows no comprehension for the play of these forces and the field is ripe for epic disruption. The prospect of another Clinton – Bush election contest is a perfect setup for the collapse of the two parties sponsoring them, ushering in a period of wild political turmoil. Just because you don’t see it this very moment, doesn’t mean it isn’t lurking on the margins.

This same moment (in history) the American thinking classes are lost in raptures of techno-wishfulness. They can imagine the glory of watching Fast and Furious 7 on a phone in a self-driving electric car, but they can’t imagine rebuilt local economies where citizens get to play both an economic and social role in their communities. They can trumpet the bionic engineering of artificial hamburger meat, but not careful, small-scale farming in which many hands can find work and meaning.

The true genius of Hillary is that she manages to epitomize every failure of our current political life: the obsessive micro-manipulation of image, the obscene moneygrubbing, the tired cronyism, the entitlement masquerading as sexual equality. Mostly, though, she has no idea where history is taking us, in case you’re wondering at the stupefying platitudes offered up as representative of her thinking. I’m not advocating for this gentleman, but it will at least be interesting to see Martin O’Malley jump into the race and call bullshit on her, which he will do, literally, because he has nothing to lose by doing it. The eunuchs on The New York Times Op Ed page certainly won’t do it.

What happens on the world financial scene will determine the flow of events up into the 2016 election. The built-up tensions and fragilities are begging for release. The defining instant might be Greece’s unwillingness to fork over another debt payment, or the death of the shale oil “miracle,” or some act by Saudi Arabia’s enemies, or some chain of exploding booby-traps in the shadow banking netherworld. The great surprise for America especially will be the recognition that our current living arrangements have no future. That’s the only thing that will prompt a new consensus to form around some alternate, more plausible future, and the emergence of a generation willing to fight for it, even if it requires some real creative destruction of the things that are killing us anyway.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The School of Globalism

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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hacker2
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 6, 2015

“…we may be headed into a world where capital is abundant, deflationary pressures are substantial and demand could be in short supply for quite some time.”

Lawrence Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury

Professor Summers must be reading Ben Bernanke’s new blog. Or maybe he’s writing it for walking-around money. At $250,000 a pop for making a speech, Mr. Bernanke can certainly afford to pay high-toned hacks to polish his spin-o-nomics. Raillery aside, Mr. Summers’ utterance provokes some pretty fundamental questions: what exactly is this world we’re heading into, and what exactly does that capital consist of?

It is, first, a world of unraveling globalism. So many people who should know better — members of the supposed thinking class who have suspended their thinking — swallowed Tom Friedman’s dictum that globalism was here to stay, a permanent new feature of the human condition. File that idea in the dead letter office, along with Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History. With the help of competitive central bank racketeering, desperate nations have propelled themselves from financial disorder to geopolitical turmoil and history marches on — lately to the ululations of gleeful beheaders. Friedman’s flat world was predicated on a dominant and sound American polity, and we’ll have neither in that world Mr. Summers says we’re moving into.

In fact the first condition was predicated on the second: that America would continue to dominate the global economy because its polity was sound. We have clearly blown that by rigging together a corrupt troika of banks, market swindlers, and captive eunuch officials who expanded the financial sector of the economy from 5 percent to more than 40 percent, largely by pillaging the middle class and destroying the basis of their income. The USA set the tone for 21st century magical finance, in which “wealth” was “created” by digital accounting fraud. The effects at home are visible on our landscape of suburban hyperwaste and decrepitating older towns and cities.

One might say the main effect of the 50-year-long Friedman globalism orgy was the schooling of other nations in American-style financial fraud. Surely China has now surpassed the USA, considering the structural perversities of their banking and government relations. They really don’t have to account to anybody, including themselves, and the numbers they publish must be even more fantastical than the junk statistics produced by the US BLS. Europe has been a star pupil and only a few months ago announced a Quantitative Easing (fake capital creation) program as ambitious as America’s have been. Japan, of course, is just marking time until it quietly slips away and goes medieval.

Global disintegration has advanced furthest, not surprisingly, in the fragile band of regions most strung out on the primary commodity: oil. The Middle East / North Africa / Central Asia war zone is steadily combusting, and there is no sign of resolution across the whole of it, only the promise that conflict will get worse. Saudi Arabia was the cornerstone of that district, and the senile Saudi leadership finds itself in peril as its military pretends to support splintering Yemen. The other Arabian princes of other non-Saud clans must be watching the spectacle with wonder and nausea. When Arabia blows up, that will truly be the beginning of the end.

The foregoing leads to that other original question: what is that “capital” we’re counting on? I’d propose that it doesn’t exist. It is a figment engraved on the hard drives of the world, a ghost that haunts the people still in charge of that disintegrating global economy. There is still wealth in the world, but a lot less than people such as Larry Summers say there is.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

truthinesslessness

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Lying-Employee
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation March 9, 2015

Nothing is stable, nothing is straightforward, everything is fixed, and nothing is fixed. O nation of busboys and WalMart greeters, awake and sing!

Can an empire founder on sheer credulousness? After last Friday’s jobs report, I think so. For a culture that luxuriates in statistical analysis (and the false idea that if you measure enough things, you can control them), it is rather amazing that we absolutely don’t care whether the measurements are truthful or not. Hence, an economist (sic) such as Paul Krugman of The New York Times might ask himself how it is that Zero Interest Rate Policy only trickles down to places where hamburgers are sold. PK was at it again in his Monday column, yammering about “rapid job growth,” “partying like it was 1995.” Wise men like him are pounding this country down a rat hole faster than you can say Romulus Augustulus.

Apparently the US Bureau of Labor Statistics missed the job bloodbath in the oil industry, especially over in Frackville where the latest western phenomenon is the ghost man-camp (along with ghost pole dancing parlors). It’s a veritable hemorrhagic fever of job layoff announcements: 9,000 here, 7,000, there, thousands of thousands everywhere — Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes — like an Ebola ward in the oil services sector. Not to mention the cliff-drop of capital expenditure, meaning even steeper job losses ahead, Casey Jones. But nobody notices, I guess because they’re out at Ruby Tuesdays eating things bigger than their heads. Are the portions getting smaller, or are their heads shrinking?

Finance is complicated, but not as complex as the wizards employed in it would have you believe. They would have you think it is an order of magnitude more abstruse and recondite than particle physics, when, in fact, it is often not much more than a Three Card Monte switcheroo. The whole ZIRP and QE game, for instance, can be boiled down to a basic wish to get something for nothing, that is, prosperity where nothing of value created. Now, that’s not so hard to understand, is it? Until the economics wardrobe team comes in and dresses it up in martingales and bumrolls of metaphysics and you end up in a contango of mystification.

More galling and worrisome, though, is the failure of anyone even remotely in authority to stand up and publically object to the tidal wave of lies washing over this dying polity, actually killing it softly with truthinesslessness. The code of anything goes and nothing matters is turning lethal and the more it is kept swaddled in lies, the more perverse, surprising, and destructive the damage will be. The more our leaders lie about misbehavior in banking — including especially the actions of the Federal Reserve — the worse will be the instability in currencies. The more central bankers intervene in price discovery mechanisms, the more unable to reflect reality all markets will become. The more that the US BLS lies about the employment picture in America, the worse will be the eventual wrath of citizens who can’t get paid enough to heat their houses and feed their children.

An economist (sic) named Richard Duncan last week proposed the interesting theory that Quantitative Easing can go on virtually forever in an endless chain of self-canceling debt. Government spends money it doesn’t have and cannot raise, issues bonds to “investors,” buys its own bonds and stashes them in a storage vault so deep that the sun will not shine on them until it becomes a blue dwarf — long after the cockroaches have taken charge of Earthly affairs. Duncan forgets one detail: consequences. The consequence of this behavior will not be eternal virtual prosperity, but rather a wrecked accounting system for the operations of civilized human life. We’ve stepped across the event horizon of that consequence, but we just don’t know it yet. My bet is that we start feeling the effects sooner rather than later and when it is finally felt, all the Kardashian videos in this universe and a trillion universes like it will not avail to distract us from the flow of our own blood.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Heroes and Villains

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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-Anthony Freda

Illustration: Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation March 2, 2015

The poet W.B. Yeats was right in 1919 when he said the center cannot hold, as if, following the first great industrial slaughter of modern times, he discovered the lethal vacuum at the center of modernity itself. There was a lot to be nervous about after the First World War. And right away, of course, enter, stage-right, Adolf Hitler. We’re still trying to explain that cat to ourselves, and not just the Germans, either. Who cannot be awed by the appearance of genuine evil in the world?

Although, perhaps most remarkable in our time is not merely the presence of evil, but the eerie dearth of heroes, and by that I do not mean supernatural gym rats in spandex outfits swinging from the Frank Gehry condos on cords of spider silk. I mean living, breathing humans willing to engage with great and implacable forces. American sniper Chris Kyle was one of the rarees, and he was a strange case, really. Not just because of his alleged frailties, his tendency to play up his exploits, brag, maybe lie a little, but because he carried out his lethal deeds mostly at a remove — up there on the dusty rooftops of Fallujah, where he could reach out with his sniper-scope and swat human flies from a position of relative safety. Yet it is not hard to identify with his mission to kill “bad guys” — especially two years after his loopy martyrdom on a Texas gun range at the hands of a deranged fellow soldier driven mad on his own wartime mission.

The more interesting hero to me is Snowden. The purity of his name alone kind of says it all. The documentary movie about his brush with history, Citizen Four (by Laura Poitras, also a hero), is now showing on cable TV. It follows Snowden during the days of spring 2013 when he went rogue on the National Security Agency and revealed to the public the extent to which the American government was prying and worming its way into everybody’s electronic life — ignoring the pain-in-the-ass constitutional limits on such mischief, and setting the USA up to be a police state beyond the frontiers of anything George Orwell dreamed about in his darkest nights of the soul.

It is more than ironic that Snowden was also Mr. Ed, because if you take his comportment on film at face value, never was there such an exemplary and seemingly normal American young man. His heroism resided largely in his amazing composure under the strain of events. He spoke English clearly and calmly, and reacted to the weighty events he set in motion with startling equanimity. He appeared to know exactly what he was doing, and with quiet, unshakable moral commitment. And then he disappeared down the gullet of America’s modern times nemesis, Russia, where he continues to taunt with his very existence, the NSA gameboys, lizard-lawyers and puppet-masters who cordially invite him back home to face, ho-ho, our vaunted justice system. Of course any six-year-old understands that they would love to jam Snowden down some federal supermax memory hole as an example to any other waffling NSA code-jockey having second thoughts about reading your grandpa’s phone records.

And then, strangest of all to relate, there is Putin. Our guys are moving heaven and earth to jam him into a red-hot Satan suit but it’s not working. The pitchfork they want him to brandish looks strangely like a sword of justice. Even Americans of modest intelligence, when not locked into the Kardashian trance, can detect something false in all our official handwringing over Ukraine — the made-in-the-USA failed state now eating itself alive on Russia’s border. Before February 2014, Ukraine was just a struggling, marginal demi-nation still economically dependent on Russia, of which it had effectively been a province for centuries. Mr. Obama and his haircut-in-search-of-a-brain Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry, thought it would be a good idea to make Ukraine our client state instead. They couldn’t have botched the operation more completely. I have to say, Vlad Putin’s composure in the face of this perfidious idiocy is really something to behold, regardless of the roughness of the polity he rules. Our guys, in contrast, look like something less than sheer clueless rogues. They look like empty suits.

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

How Goes the War?

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 16, 2015

Oh, you didn’t notice that World War Three is underway, actually has been for more than year? Well, that’s because most of it has been taking place in the banking sector, which for most people is just an alternative universe of math. The catch, which many people either miss or don’t care about, is that the math doesn’t add up.

For instance, the runaway choo-choo train of linked European sovereign bond obligations with its overloaded caboose of interest rate swaps and other janky derivatives of mass destruction. That train left the station in Athens a few weeks ago bound for Frankfurt. Ever since, the German government and its cohorts in the EU, the ECB, and the IMF have been issuing reassurances that the choo choo train will not blow up when it reaches its destination.

Few people grok that Greece is an entity with an economy not much bigger than North Carolina’s, yet it is burdened with roughly $350 billion of old debt that will never be paid back. The only thing at issue is how it will not be paid back, that is, what mode of pretense will be employed to disguise the inability to pay back this debt. The mode du jour has been the crude one of lending Greece more money to pay back the interest on the old debt. A seven-year-old ought to be able to understand where that leads.

It’s kind of up to the Greeks this week to possibly opt out of that farcical deal. They have at least two other present options: return to being a sunwashed semi-medieval backwater of olive farmers, shepherds, and inn-keepers, or perhaps lease out some cozy corner of their vast Mediterranean coastline to the Russian navy for enough annual walking-around money to keep the lights on for the aforementioned farmers, shepherds, and inn-keepers. Of course, that would drive the US and its NATO quislings batshit crazy.

We’ve already got our knickers in a twist over Ukraine, a so-called nation whose highest and best purpose over the millennia has been as a sort of lethal doormat in front of Russia, leaving adventurers like Napoleon and Hitler bleeding in the snow as they crawled back to their nations of origin. In short, Ukraine has worked so well for Russia that we must be insane to imagine that it would give up that traditional relationship. Yet the US and NATO persist in their foolishness and attempt to back up their Kievan intrigues with financial “sanctions” against Russia.

Russia is doing what it has always done in the face of adversity, which is to suck it up. And, anyway, these western financial monkeyshines don’t hold a candle to ordeals like the siege of Stalingrad. What’s more, the Russians, despite their peculiar alphabet and thuggish demeanor, are at least as clever with computers as our code jockeys. We (in the USA) think just because we’ve made it possible for everyman to drool over Kim Kardashian’s booty on an iPhone screen that we have some kind of immunity against cyber counter-attack from way out east.

It seems to me that Russia (with China and others) is very busy constructing an alternate financial network that will allow for international money transfers and other necessities for conducting normal trade operations, outside of systems like the SWIFT code, which the US has been using as a knout against our imagined enemies. The upshot will leave America high and dry in a lot of what remains of international trade, especially in oil.

Meanwhile we continue to tell ourselves the false and idiotic story of “energy independence,” based on the shale oil Ponzi scheme that blew up last fall — the consequences of which won’t really be felt for about another eight months, when all those wells drilled and fracked in 2013-14, start to fall off their production cliff, and the replacement wells will not have been drilled. We’re still importing almost 8 million barrels of oil a day, contrary to all the fairy tales we tell ourselves. What happens when the sellers decide they won’t take US dollars for it? Hmmmm….

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Welcome to World War Three

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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freda war from tv

Illustration: Anthony Freda

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 16, 2015

In case anyone didn’t get ISIL’s message from their latest video in which 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians have their heads sawn off, here it is: “We’re executioners, not warriors.” Those gouts of blood spilled on a Libyan beach amount to ISIL’s welcome mat to the mass execution of the Euro-American west. The dignity of a funeral is not even on the program.

What we’ve got now with apocalyptic Jihadism spreading clear across the region from Pakistan to Morocco, and Europe blandly ignoring it across the Mediterranean, is an epochal face-off that will change the world. It comes at an odd moment in history, namely as the massive oil wealth of the Middle East and North Africa enters decline. It was that oil wealth that provoked a population spike in a desolate corner of the planet the past century. Now there is a huge over-supply of young men there with nothing to do but act out their angry psychodrama over having no future. When a whole peoples’ prospects for a decent life on Earth dwindle to zero, is it any wonder that they become preoccupied with end-times visions of feasts and virgins awaiting in an after-life?

Partly what you’re seeing over there is an internal fight to control what’s left of the treasure. That battle has already had the strange consequence of disabling the oil production capacity in places like Iraq and Libya, where there is still a lot of oil, but not enough political stability to allow the complicated business of extraction and transport to take place. What’s more there has also been tremendous damage to the oil infrastructure in these places, some from deliberate sabotage, some from shelling and bombing, and a lot from sheer neglect and deferred maintenance. Oil refineries and transport terminals are very delicate machines that require constant loving care.

It’s self-evident now that ISIL would like to control as much of the remaining oil wealth as possible — though I doubt they have the competence to run it for long even if they appear to control the terrain. The Euro-American west always has the option of completing the destruction with bombs and missiles, but then they would also be destroying their own future oil supplies and hence their modern industrial economies.

The Big Prize, of course, is the grand fortress of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is surrounded by Islamic maniacs now, with Yemen recently fallen to the south, the ever-hostile Iranian Shi’a across the Persian Gulf, disintegrating Iraq and Syria to the north, and the festering human compost heap of Egypt and then Libya across the Red Sea. And, of course, along the saddle of the Levant there is Israel with all its enemies and problems. Arabia has a new King, 79, rumored to be weak in the head. The oil revenue is way down and the population still grows, and too many young men have nothing to do but marinate in Wahhabist fantasies. If Saudi Arabia falls apart, it’s game over for modern life as the West has known it (and much of Asia now, too).

The USA, meanwhile, has managed to embroil itself in a completely unnecessary and idiotic struggle over Ukraine, a place of no real strategic importance to us. And in doing so we’ve managed to alienate perhaps the one nation with the will and the motivation to oppose Jihadism, namely Russia, with its vast southern border facing the immensity of Islamic Central Asia.

Europe, meanwhile, is preoccupied playing games with itself over money. Today is supposedly crunch time for Greece. The so-called Troika — the European Central Bank, The European Union bureaucrats, and the International Monetary Fund — still expects Greece to continue to pretend to pay back its debt. That’s been the meaning of “austerity” until now. But Europe is a gigantic debt minefield that no one can really walk across. Other parts of it than Greece are just waiting to blow up, and will, and it’s unclear whether Europe is even paying attention to the blood-red welcome mat that was laid out in Libya last weekend. The true meaning of “austerity” will become clear when Europe finds itself forced to fight World War Three at the same time that its banking system implodes.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

All Twerked Out

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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twerked out
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 9, 2015

Bruce Jenner’s journey to transgender sainthood was interrupted Saturday on the road to Malibu, and with it perhaps the Kardashian Klan’s hopes and dreams for achieving supremacy of the known universe. All of America was twerking at the news because that is what we do and who we are now. The nation’s attention these blizzardy days would have otherwise gone straight from the Super-bowl halftime hallucination to the stupendous narcissistic grandiosity of the Grammy Awards. America becomes, day upon day, one gigantic act of “performance art” geared to shocking a bourgeoisie that has dwindled so deeply that, curiously, there may be absolutely nobody left to shock.

Of course the Kardashians are a mere metaphor for what has happened to this country, and Bruce Jenner is a metaphor for what has happened to American men. Maybe that’s why they persist in the spotlight. It is a well-known fact that motorists on a highway always slow down to see just what happened at the grisly scene of the accident. We can’t take our eyes off these freaks and geeks.

The Romans, on their journey to decadence, lacked the voltage and the wiring to amplify the anomie overtaking them. We’re bathed and bombarded with the images of exactly how disgusting we are. People of WalMart, throw off your chains of debt, indeed! Imagine trying to govern a land of such vicious dolts. Well, here’s a news flash: no one is really trying — whether from a lack of conviction or courage or intelligence, or out of sheer contempt, it is hard to say.

It is heartening, finally, to see Europe attempt to creep away from the intrigues of our Klown Konfederacy at least in the current matter of Ukraine, that poor perpetually over-trodden land of potato-eaters lately torn asunder by America’s idiotic wish to wrest it away from Russia’s 1000-year sphere of influence. Merkel and Hollande stole over to Moscow last week to confab with Mr. Putin. They evidently omitted to inform the haircut-in-search-of-a-brain, Secretary of State John Kerry. Who would want that mule-faced ninny at the table? The Europeans are beginning to say some sane and arresting things, such as: Russia and Europe are part of the same civilization — note the implication that perhaps America is not so much in that club anymore. Perhaps it should be left twerking out on one of its fabulous lost highways until it is all twerked out.

Europe, of course, has its own problems and they are very grave, and they are hard to understand because they derive from a financial system grown so abstruse and impenetrable that the ancient black magic arts look like a game of Go Fish in comparison. At this late stage, they can only pretend to figure out where all the entwined obligations really lead, and what might happen if someone starts to yank on a thread somewhere. The question for the moment therefore is: can they continue to succeed in pretending? A sickening sense of look-out-below spreads through the sentient ranks. This week will be a doozy.

One thing is clearing up: Europe does not want or need to start a war with Russia at America’s insistence. What America needs is a war with itself, a war against the lazy narcissism that has left it susceptible to armies of grifters and racketeers, because ordinary people were too busy twerking and jerking to pay any real attention to the systematic dismemberment of their culture. Waiting in the wings is a whole category of human endeavor quaintly known as virtue, lately absent in the collective consciousness. What a shock it would be if Americans began to witness acts of fortitude and valor among us.

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Apocalypse Now and Forever

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Freda1
Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation February 2, 2015

As a political psychoanalyst I find the Super-bowl halftime show the best concise index of how psychotic American culture is becoming from year to year, and the 2015 version signaled a complete break from reality, a nightmare of twerking robots in a hall of mirrors, as if America had utterly surrendered its tattered soul to some rogue motherboard pulsing deep within Dr. Evil’s subterranean palace of sin. Hence it is the perfect analog for understanding otherwise incomprehensible happenings such as the USA’s role in fomenting further chaos and mayhem in Ukraine.

How otherwise to explain things like this morning’s New York Times report that the USA “now supports providing defensive weapons and equipment to Kiev’s beleaguered forces, and an array of administration and military officials appear to be edging toward that position….”

Earth calling New York Times readers: I regret to inform you that this decision was already reached a year ago when we paid for the coup d’état against the elected President, Viktor Yanukovych, after the poor sap decided to not sign up with EU but rather the Russian-backed Eurasian Customs Union. Whoops! You’re so out of here, Bub, State Department Under Secretary Victoria Nuland burbled in a clandestinely recorded phone call to the American ambassador. Will somebody please find Yats! Yes Yats! [UKR politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk] and plug the Bluetooth earpiece of power into his skull!

And so it went this past year with a cabal of the USA, the EU, and the IMF shoveling financial support (billions!), armaments, and surely boots-on-the ground into the Ukrainian morass. Last week, a reporter in eastern Ukraine approached a soldier in UKR army battle garb only to be told, in pitch perfect American English, to “get out of my face.” Say what??? The You-tube clip was seen all over the world and to this minute no agent of the US government has been called to account over it. Like I said, a hall of mirrors.

But anyway, we get a little ahead of ourselves because all this really begs the question: what business do we have in Ukraine in the first place and why should it matter to us that they align with Russia? And more to the point: why is it not transparently obvious that Ukraine is solidly within Russia’s sphere of influence, and has been, really, for more than 500 years, and for an excellent reason that has been demonstrated most recently in Napoleon’s invasion of 1812 and then Hitler’sOperation Barbarossa, the invasion of 1941.

In both cases, Russia owed it survival to the vast expanse of flat geography represented by Ukraine where “General Winter” was able to carry out his own defensive operations of relentless howling wind, snow, sub-zero temperatures, and frostbite that eventually vanquished the invaders. Through most of modern times Ukraine has been under the explicit “protection” of the Russian Czars or has been an outright province under the former USSR. Hundreds of years before that, Kievan Rus was the center of an emerging Russian culture and kingdom that only later picked up and moved to Moscow.

You get the picture: Ukraine has a long association with Russia, a principal association, not always happy, sometimes tragic, but a fact of life and history that the US and its foolish stooges in the EU bureaucracy now wish to challenge for absolutely no good reason. Does anybody who is not whacked out of his/her head on crack, or focused like a laser beam on the gender schism within the Kardashian Klan, remember when the US ever challenged the Soviets over Ukraine? No. And for the excellent reason that we accepted the relationship for reasons stated above. So, whose idea is it now that we should start World War Three over this remote region where so many other reckless adventurers came to grief? And what, by the way, do our people mean by “defensive weapons?” Are not most modern weapons designed to work both ways? Anyway, I see the list includes “anti-armor missiles” (i.e. tank-killers) and “drones,” the latter presumably guided by comfortable American military gamers effortlessly targeting pixelated “bad guys” between Slurpee gulps and taco bites, not exactly American Sniper style.

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

A Cool Interval

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation January 5, 2015

For the moment, while the racial grievances of 2014 have chilled on the polar vortex, and no unarmed black teens have been shot by cops for a couple of weeks, it might be a good time to continue that honest discussion about race that the media nabobs — such as Charles Blow and Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times and Don Lemon of CNN — demand when some incendiary event goes down and tensions across the country become unbearable. That demand, of course, is a political booby-trap because any discussion not founded on the presumption of white malice is instantly deemed inadmissible and “racist” — which is just cheap demagogic despotism designed to shut down the very discussion they asked for. So that is exactly what I expect in response to this essay.

I bring these matters up because it seems to me that the long, arduous, costly battle for “civil rights” which began in my childhood a half century ago is beginning to look like a lost cause. The movies and TV are full of black / white buddy stories, and commercial images of a shared American experience as if there really was a common culture that blacks and whites felt an equal investment in. These stories and images are largely wishful, though I believe the dream of a common culture that would nurture all types of people in America stood at the heart of civil rights idealism of the sort represented by Martin Luther King and the white public figures who marched in solidarity with him.

Something went terribly wrong in the early going, and I don’t think there has ever been an honest discussion about it by American social thought leaders of any race, though I have raised the point more than once in passing. It was the paradoxical rise of black separatist politics at the exact historical moment of civil rights triumph when the two landmark civil rights bills were passed: the Public Accommodations Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Black separatism had been around since the late 19th century as a counterpoint to the earlier post-slavery idea represented by Booker T. Washington, which proposed that black earnestness would eventually be recognized by white America and rewarded, at least with economic participation. That idea was opposed by less patient, younger figures such as W.E.B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey who promoted what was then called “Pan-Africanism.” But the debate was superseded by the crises of the Great Depression and Second World War. By the early 1960s, black separatism had revived, personified first by Malcolm X (assassinated by rival Black Muslims, 1965), and the disillusioned former Freedom Rider Stokely Carmichael, who coined the slogan “black power,” and then by scores of public players and followers.

What I think happened is that the sudden prospect of true legal equality produced deep anxiety across black America, so that opting out provided a comfortable alternative. I saw it play out at my college in 1970 when the “militant” black students organization demanded a separate black student union. In the face of the civil rights acts passed only a few years earlier, this should have been regarded as a sort of outrage, but pusillanimous college administrators caved in and bought a house for that purpose. And of course the same thing happened all over the country, so that a new form of separate-but-equal was reestablished by popular demand.

That blunder by academic leaders set a tragic tone for the forty years that followed. To rationalize the new separate-but-equal ethos, these people of liberal good intentions constructed an elaborate ideology of “multiculturalism” and “diversity” that had the tragic unintended consequence of obliterating the foundational idea of a common culture that had animated the struggle Dr. King gave his life to, as well the basic notion of what it meant to be an American.

A common culture did exist in America before the 1960s, at least in terms of manners, standards of decent behavior, and even language. It was what allowed people of good will in the 20thcentury to believe in “one nation indivisible.” Hence, the question America needs to ask itself: do we have enough moral focus to revive the idea that a common culture actually matters? If not, expect unending strife.

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

The Trigger

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation December 29, 2014

The futility of politics in America these days has driven the public into exactly the dream-state of zombie blood-lust depicted in so many popular video fantasies, a nightmare of decay, powerlessness, and degeneracy matching the actual condition of a disintegrating polity that has lost collective consciousness and seeks only to infect the dwindling numbers of the still-sentient. Almost nobody in this country believes we can manage our affairs anymore.

Well, can we? One of the hallmarks of an imploding culture is that people lose a sense of consequence. Things just seem to happen and unhappen, and nobody really cares about chains of decision and event. Anything goes and nothing matters.

One reason this is happening to us is that we allowed reality to be divorced from truth. Karl Rove wasn’t kidding back in the Bush-2 days when he quipped that “we create our own reality.” The part old Karl left out is that there’s a price for doing that. In the short run, it allows you to pretend that you have superpowers and can act in defiance of the way things really are. In the longer run, your view of the world comports so poorly with the facts of the world that things stop working.

The tragedy of Barack Obama is that he continued the basic Karl Rove doctrine only without bragging about it. I don’t know whether Mr. Obama was a hostage, an empty suit, or a fool, but he broadened and deepened the acquiescence to lying about just about everything. Did criminal misconduct run rampant in banking for years? Oh, nevermind. Is the US economy actually contracting instead of recovering? We’ll just make up better numbers. Did US officials act like Nazi war criminals in torturing prisoners? Well, yeah, but so what? Did the State Department and the CIA scuttle the elected Ukrainian government in order to start an unnecessary new conflict with Russia? Maybe so, but who cares? Was the Affordable Care Act a swindle in the service of insurance and pharmaceutical racketeering? Oh, we’ll read the bill after we pass it. Shale oil will make us “energy independent.” (Not.)

Has anyone noticed the way these incongruities percolate into the public attention and then get dismissed, like daydreams, with no resolution. I’ve harped on this one before because it was, to my mind, Obama’s greatest failure: When the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that corporations were entitled to express their political convictions by buying off politicians, why didn’t the President join with his then-Democratic majority congress to propose legislation, or a constitutional amendment, more clearly redefining the difference between corporate “personhood” and the condition of citizenship? How could this constitutional lawyer miss the reality that corporations legally and explicitly do not have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the public interest but only to their shareholders? How was this not obvious? And why was there not a rush to correct it?

Of course, this only begs the question: where are the opponents to the ethos that anything goes and nothing matters? Where are the political figures who can sustain a complaint long enough, and loudly enough, to keep it in the public consciousness clearly enough to make a difference? The more conspiracy-minded might say that the security apparatus (the NSA and its servelings) or Wall Street actually run the country and somehow suppress opposition. I don’t believe that. I do believe that cultures go through tragic periods when they lose their bearings and the will to be truthful to themselves.

The latest news is that Mr. Jeb Bush is way ahead among his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination, leading to a beautiful setup for the battle of the dynasties: Bush versus Clinton in 2016. I believe that insulting prospect would be the wake-up call that will hit the American people upside the head and wake them out of their zombie rapture. A third party will arise. It may be a good one or a bad one, but it will blow the existing order of things apart, as it should.

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Crash-O-Matic Finance

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation December 15, 2014

Oil prices have dropped $50 a barrel. That may not sound like much. But when you take $107 and you take $57, that’s almost a 47 percent decline…!”
–James Puplava, The Financial Sense News Network

May not sound like much? I guess when you hunker down in the lab with the old slide rule and do the math, wow! Those numbers really pop!

This, of course, is the representative thinking out there. But then, these are the very same people who have carried pompoms and megaphones for “the shale revolution” the past couple of years. Being finance professionals they apparently failed to notice the financial side of the business, for instance the fact that so much of the day-to-day shale operation was being run on junk bond financing.

It all seemed to work so well in the eerie matrix of zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) where investors desperate for “yield” — i.e. some return more-than-zilch on their money — ended up in the bond market’s junkyard. These investors, by the way, were the big institutional ones, the pension funds, the insurance companies, the mixed bond smorgasbord funds. They were getting killed on ZIRP. In the good old days of the late 20th century, before Federal Reserve omnipotence, they could depend on a regular annual interest rate churn of between 5 and 10 percent and do what they had do — write pension checks, pay insurance claims, and pay clients, with a little left over for company salaries.

ZIRP ruined all that. In fact, ZIRP destroyed the most fundamental index in the financial universe: the true cost of borrowing money. In doing so, it twerked and torqued the concept of “risk” so badly that risk no longer had any meaning. In “risk-on” financial weather, there was no longer any risk. Imagine that? It also destroyed the entire relationship between borrowed money and the cost-structure of the endeavors it was borrowed for. Take shale oil, for instance.

The fundamental limiting factor for shale oil was that the wells were only good for about two years, and then they were pretty much shot. So, if you were in that business, and held a bunch of leases, you had to constantly drill and re-drill and then drill some more just to keep production up. The drilling cost between $6 and $12-million per well. What happened the past seven years is that the drillers and their playmates on Wall Street hyped the hoo-hah out of the business — it was a shale revolution! In a few short years they drilled to beat the band and the results seemed so impressive that investment money poured into the sector like honey, so they drilled some more. It was going to save the American way of life. We were going to be “energy independent,” the “new Saudi America.” We would be able to drive to Wal-Mart forever!

Be careful what you wish for, the old saw goes. The shale oil “miracle” was an epochal stunt. They goosed so much oil out of the ground in a short period of time that they killed the goose — demand for oil at a price that made it worth drilling for. Now, much of the junk financing will default, and the result of that is no more junk financing for a long, long time, meaning that a lot of planned wells will not be drilled and completed, meaning that the current crop of short-lived wells will crap out in the 24 months ahead, and production will not be replaced by new wells, which will not be there. When and if the riggers get busy again in the Bakken and the Eagle Ford, you can be sure it will be at a much lower level of activity than the glorious year 2014. Of course, it remains to be seen how much financial illness the spoiled junk bond paper will spread through the derivatives markets, not to mention the boring old stock and bond markets and the big banks that traffic there. You can only fool reality so long. Eventually risk-on returns for real and swipes the ground with its mighty tail.

Finance was the lifeblood of the global economy and scam after scam left it riddled with wormholes of fragility. That fragility has been waiting to express itself and the ability of bank wizards to squelch and conceal it may have come to an end. There will be no quick cure for cratering oil prices and the damage it will wreak among the shale drillers. Does that sound like much?

 

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Now Eric Garner

From the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation December 8, 2014

The Beauty Shop had barely stopped smoldering in Ferguson, Missouri, when the Eric Garner grand jury decision came down on Staten Island — no probable cause to indict one particular cop for something — manslaughter? — in his choke-hold take-down of the 300-pound cigarette-seller. For my money, they should have indicted the whole gang of cops who were there that day, including the black female NYPD sergeant on the scene ostensibly “supervising” the action, at least for something like negligent homicide, since the infamous video shows them acting cruelly, stupidly, and indifferently as the poor guy just lay dying on the sidewalk.

Worse, the decision only muddied the public’s view of several events in recent years involving black people, police, and standards of behavior so that now a general opinion prevails that all black people are always treated badly for no reason. That was the same week, by the way, that a white Bosnian immigrant named Zemir Begic was bludgeoned to death by three black teenagers wielding hammers who were out beating on stopped cars on a St Louis street — a crime that was barely covered in the news media, and went unprotested outside the immigrant neighborhood where it occurred. It’s hard to blame the public for being confused about what may or may not be happening across the nation, but history will surely judge this as a tragic time for America.

If we can’t or won’t unpack the separate issues in these matters, the country is going to get into a lot more trouble. One issue is whether police forces in the USA are becoming goon squads. The decision by the federal government to offload tactical military equipment, including armored war wagons, on police departments far and wide was disgracefully stupid since it only gives the impression, when hauled out, that the police are at war with the citizenry. There ought to be public discussion of just flat-out taking all that stuff away from them.

Non-black America is constantly being importuned to “talk honestly” about race and then punished when they actually do. I’ll venture here to summarize what I think has actually happened, and I’m sure a lot of people won’t like it, including plenty of white people. I take a historical view. It is at least an interesting coincidence that the climax of the civil rights campaign produced a black separatist movement that has endured for half a century. It emerged at exactly the moment that the two signal civil rights acts passed congress in 1964-65 (the public accommodations act and the voting rights act).

I think the reason for the sudden rise of black separatism was anxiety among black Americans about the prospect of being formally invited to participate in what was then American common culture. By the late 1960s even colleges were chartering new, separate student unions (at the demand of black students). The sad irony of this has been lost to history. But in effect, by that time a large segment of the black population had opted out either actively or mentally from trying to join the then-dominate culture. The gulf between the two cultures has only grown wider since then, egged on by a foolish white-sponsored “diversity” campaign which had imposed the ridiculous idea that a common culture in one nation is unnecessary.

The result is a permanently oppositional black culture with an elaborate ideology of endless grievance and a guilt-tripped white political culture held hostage by it and pandering endlessly to it — and sandwiched in between those two dispositions is a whole lot of really bad behavior. The least you can say about the four incidents involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice is that they involved some degree of ambiguity about what was actually going on, and in probably all those cases, at least, death was not caused by sheer malice. The same is not true about the case of Zemir Begic, or of the many people victimized during last year’s “knockout” game fad, or indeed the astounding number of people being gunned down regularly on the streets of Chicago.

I don’t think we’re capable of making these distinctions anymore, and surely not of doing anything constructive about them. Instead, we just appear to be careening toward a new and different kind of civil war.

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Buy the All Time High

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  November 24, 2014

Wall Street is only one of several financial roach motels in what has become a giant slum of a global economy. Notional “money” scuttles in for safety and nourishment, but may never get out alive. Tom Friedman of The New York Times really put one over on the soft-headed American public when he declared in a string of books that the global economy was a permanent installation in the human condition. What we’re seeing “out there” these days is the basic operating system of that economy trying to shake itself to pieces.

The reason it has to try so hard is that the various players in the global economy game have constructed an armature of falsehood to hold it in place — for instance the pipeline of central bank “liquidity” creation that pretends to be capital propping up markets. It would be most accurate to call it fake wealth. It is not liquid at all but rather gaseous, and that is why it tends to blow “bubbles” in the places to which it flows. When the bubbles pop, the gas will tend to escape quickly and dramatically, and the ground will be littered with the pathetic broken balloons of so many hopes and dreams.

All of this mighty, tragic effort to prop up a matrix of lies might have gone into a set of activities aimed at preserving the project of remaining civilized. But that would have required the dismantling of rackets such as agri-business, big-box commerce, the medical-hostage game, the Happy Motoring channel-stuffing scam, the suburban sprawl “industry,” and the higher ed loan swindle. All of these evil systems have to go and must be replaced by more straightforward and honest endeavors aimed at growing food, doing trade, healing people, traveling, building places worth living in, and learning useful things.

All of those endeavors have to become smaller, less complex, more local, and reality-based — rather than based, as now, on overgrown and sinister intermediaries creaming off layers of value, leaving nothing behind but a thin entropic gruel of waste. All of this inescapable reform is being held up by the intransigence of a banking system that can’t admit that it has entered the stage of criticality. It sustains itself on its sheer faith in perpetual levitation. It is reasonable to believe that upsetting that faith might lead to war. After all, a number of places organized as nation-states will be full of angry, distressed citizens clamoring for sustenance and easy answers — and quite a bit of their remaining real capital is stored in the form of things that blow up.

There is an awful lot that President Barack Obama has to answer for after all this time. But there is almost no public chatter (let alone true debate) about his failure to discipline the banking system. He should have commenced to restructure the biggest banks in January of 2009. He should have proposed through his congressional proxies the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall act. Almost nobody besides Bill Black has remarked on the remarkable record of the SEC under Obama in making no criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, not to mention the stupendous dereliction of Attorney General Eric Holder.

Of course, Barack Obama is not the only eminent office holder in the land. The behavior of all the others the past decade represents such a titanic failure of nerve and action that the younger generation must think that only revolution can avail. I believe they’ll get their chance. Everything on the horizon — most particularly the idiotic chorus of financial “bulls” — points to an ever more harrowing outcome of the orchestrated pretense that governs money matters in this moment of history.

More of the moment is the anxious decision of the Ferguson, Missouri, grand jury in the matter of Michael Brown’s death. The race hustlers so prominently showcased on CNN want to put over the story that there is only one possible just decision. If it doesn’t work out the way they like, this will be a bloody holiday and perhaps the beginning of something much bigger.

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

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To fight climate change, you need to get the world off of fossil fuels. And to do that, you need to [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Top Commentariats

  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Interesting! Intelligent life elsewhere is quite possibly just a myth we have created. [...]

Lots of people write about oil, because it is energy dense and easily transportable. But cheap is ju [...]

One of the complaints is that small babies are injected with several of these immunizations, practic [...]

I think that experienced elders, local religions, local customs, and "sticking with what has wo [...]

There has been a recurrent myth that a low energy economy is possible going forward. The big issue i [...]

Hi Steve. I recently found what I believe is a little gem, and I'm quite confident you'd a [...]

The Federal Reserve is thinking about capping yields? I don't know how long TPTB can keep this [...]

As some one who has spent years trying to figure out what the limits to growth are. let me say that [...]

Peak oil definitely happened for gods sake. Just because it isn't mad max right now is no indic [...]

@Volvo - KMO says he made some life choices he regrets. Not sure what they were. And I don't th [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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Collapse Fiction

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Technical Journals

The creation of realistic gridded precipitation fields improves our understanding of the observed cl [...]

A recent article reviewed data on Great Salt Lake (Utah) and concluded falsely that climate changes, [...]

Stretching along the border of North Dakota and Minnesota, The Red River Valley (RRV) of the North h [...]

The idea of compact cities is attracting enthusiasts, and some have proposed sustainable options for [...]