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gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Anthony-Freda_web15

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 29, 2016

 


Would fate permit it, the election of Hillary Clinton will be the supreme and perhaps terminal act in an Anything-Goes-And-Nothing-Matters society. Yet, even with the fabulous luck of running against a consummate political oaf, she struggles to get the upper hand, and she may land in the White House with the lowest voter turnout in modern history. And then her reward in office may be to dodge indictment for four years while the nation crumbles around her. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang or a whimper but with a cackle.

Imagine the scene following Hillary’s election. In order to salvage the last shred of its credibility, the Federal Reserve raises its overnight funds rate another quarter percent and crashes the last Potemkin semblance of a “recovering” economy, that is, the levitated stock markets. Tens of millions of retired individuals previously driven into them by zero interest rate policy are wiped out. Even more gravely, pension funds and insurance companies are destroyed, but not before their troubles trigger derivative contracts with big banks which then explode and expose the inability of counterparties to make good on their ends of the bet.

In a blind panic, the Federal Reserve reverses its policy in December, drops the Fed Funds interest rate back to 25 basis points and announces the grandest new round of “quantitative easing” (money printing) ever, while congress is coerced into voting for the greatest bailout of institutions the world has ever seen, along with a “one time” helicopter drop of a cool trillion dollars in the form of combined tax cuts and “shovel-ready infrastructure projects.” The media rejoices. The US Dollar tanks. Absolutely nobody wants US treasury bonds, bills, and notes. The pathetic remnant of the American middle class stares into the abyss. (If it looks hard enough, it sees the US government down there.)

We’re now living in the setup for this, treating the election shenanigans so far as just another sordid television entertainment. It’s more than that. It’s an engraved invitation to the worst crisis since the Civil War. The crisis may even feature events like a civil war with identity groups skirmishing around our already-ruined “flyover” cities just like the factions in Aleppo and Fallujah. Thank the “Progressive” Left for that. Believe me, history will blame them for chucking the idea of a unifying common culture onto the garbage barge.

And yes, for all our tribulations here in America, the rest of the world will be struggling with its own epic disorders. It remains to be seen whether they will lead to war as, say, the Chinese ruling party attempts to evade the crash of its own rickety banking system, and the inflamed millions of ruined “investors,” by starting a brawl with Japan over a few meaningless islands in the Pacific. Could happen. And, oh, is North Korea for real with its right out front nuclear bomb-and-missile program? What does the rest of the world plan to do about that?

You don’t even want to look at the Middle East. The grisly conflicts there of recent decades are just a prelude to what happens when the House of Saud loses its grip on the government. That will happen, and then the big question is whether Aramco can continue to function, or whether the critical parts of it end up damaged beyond repair as competing tribes fight over it. In any case, the world will begin to notice the salient fact of life in that part of the world: namely, that the Arabian desert, and much of the great band of arid territory on either side of it, cannot support the populations that mushroomed in the nutrient bath of the 20th century oil economy. And they won’t all be able to self-export to Europe either.

Speaking of that interesting region, around the same time Hillary sets up for intensive care in the third floor of the White House, the old order will be swept away across Europe. Farewell Merkel and Monsieur Hollandaise. Farewell to the squishy Left all over the place. Enter the hard-asses. You’d think if anything might unite that continent it might be the wish to defend secular freedom under the rule of law, but even that remains to be seen.

Yes, the world following 3Q 2016 is looking like one hot mess. If you remember anything, let it be this: the primary mission of your cohort of the human race is managing contraction. The world is getting wider and poorer again and the outcome everywhere will be determined by the success of people to manage their lives locally. The big things of this world — governments, corporations, institutions — are losing their traction and whatever we manage to rebuild will get done locally. In victory, Hillary may utterly cease to matter.

 


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.

Dark Dynamics

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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ghost in the machine freda

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 22, 2016

 


What the world is witnessing, without actually paying much attention, is the death of our debt-based economy — that is, borrowing the means to thrive in the now from a future that can’t really furnish it anymore. The illusion that the future would always provide was a legacy of the cheap energy era. That era ended in 2005. The basic promise is broken and with it the premise for living as we had been. The energy available today, especially oil, is no longer cheap enough to run the industrial economies designed to run on it. Any way that you look at the dynamic, Modernity loses.

With oil under $50 a barrel, and gasoline under $3 a gallon (back east), the public apparently thinks that the Peak Oil story is dead and gone. But when it costs $75 a barrel to pull the stuff out of the ground, and the stuff only sells for $47 a barrel, the oil companies’ business model doesn’t really work. The shale oil companies especially have been gaming the system by issuing bonds that pay relatively high interest rates in an investment climate where almost nothing else offers enough yield to live on, especially for pension funds and insurance companies. Two little upward bumps this year in the price of oil toward the $50 range prompted a wish that the good old days of high-priced oil were coming back, that the oil business would be profitable again.

The trouble is that high oil prices — say, over $100 a barrel, as it was in 2014 — crush advanced economies, so that demand for oil crashes, and with it productive activity. Without productivity, the debts issued by companies (and even governments) don’t get repaid. There really is no “sweet spot” in this energy cost equation.

A lot of wishful thinkers would like to believe that you can run contemporary life on something beside oil. But the usual “solutions,” solar and wind energy, don’t pencil out, especially when you consider that the hardware for running them — the photovoltaics, charge controllers, batteries, turbines, and blades, can’t be mass-produced and distributed without the very fossil fuels they are supposed to replace.

These matters add up to the essential quandary of our time. It has expressed itself in falling standards of living for what used to be the middle class, most particularly in the USA. European countries have tried to work around this problem with their rigid bureaucracies for keeping those already employed from losing their jobs. In France, Spain, and Italy, this has only made it much harder for people under 30 to get a job. The jobs picture for millennials in the USA is not much better, though there’s no structural job-protection for their elders who are still working here. They live in abject fear of termination by the HR ghouls of the big corporations.

Sooner or later the younger generation will explode in rage at the system and there is no telling what the result will be. We’re already seeing it in the black ghettos, where decades of accrued social dysfunction make the anomie and purposelessness — of young men especially — much worse. The newer loser class of people who once had good jobs and now have poor prospects of ever getting them back gets swept up in the mania for their incoherent champion, Trump, who shows no sign of understanding the essential quandary of our time. The tragedy of Trumpism is that the man so poorly represents a large group of Americans with genuine woes and grievances. And the larger tragedy of our country these days is that events did not prompt better leaders to step forward.

The explanation may be that people who actually understand the dark dynamics spinning out are rather pessimistic about the our ability to carry on under the familiar disposition of things. Hillary represents the forces in our national life that want to pretend that nothing is wrong, that all the splendid rackets of the day — Federal Reserve interventions, corporate debt-fueled stock buybacks, military log-rolling, medical racketeering, the college loan Ponzi, pension fund levitation, primary dealer bank interest rate arbitrage, agribiz Frankenfood proliferation — can just grind along like some old riverboat banger engine keeping the garbage barge of American life afloat. Thus, Hillary is shaping up to be the patsy of the century, likely to preside, if elected, over the biggest blowup of established arrangements that world has ever seen.

The debt problem alone is absolutely certain to express itself in at least three major ways: the crash of equity markets, the collapse of the bond markets, and the loss of faith in the value and meaning of whatever money you’re using. Any of those events would turn the economic life of the linked advanced economies upside down. Any of them could occur during the 2016 US election season.

 


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.

Burning Down the House

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Freda money

                                                                                                                                                          Anthony Freda

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 15, 2016

 


There’s a new feature to the Anything-Goes-and-Nothing-Matters economy: Nothing-Adds-Up. The magicians who pretend to measure the growth of GDP (Gross Domestic Product — the monetary value of all the finished goods and services) came up with a second quarter “adjusted” figure of 1.2 percent. That would have to be construed by anyone acquainted with basic econ stats as perfectly dismal. And yet the Bureau of Labor Statistics put out a sparkly Nonfarm Payroll Report of 255,000 for July, way above the forecast 180,000.

There were so many ways to game the jobs number — between people forced to work more than one shit job and the notorious “birth/death model” used to just make up any old number for political purposes — that no one can take this information seriously. Anyway, the GDP number was instantly forgotten and the jobs number launched the stock markets to previously uncharted record altitude.

It’s that time of the year for the hedge fund boys, with their testosterone flowing, to start burning down their house rentals in the Hamptons. And it’s also the time of year for an ever more stressed financial system to go down in flames. And, of course, it’s a presidential election season. Even for one allergic to conspiracy theories, it’s not farfetched to imagine a coordinated effort by central banks — under government direction — to generate Money-Out-Of-Thin-Air (QE) for the purpose of allowing “liquidity” flows to end up in US equity and bond markets in order to paint a false picture of “recovery” so as to insure the election of Hillary Clinton. I think that is exactly behind the recent money-printing activities by the Japanese and European Central Banks, and the Bank of England.

Why would it end up in US markets? For bonds, because the Euro and Japanese bond sovereign yields are in sub-zero territory and the BOE just cut its prime rate lower than the US Federal Reserve’s prime rate; and for stocks, because the value of the other three currencies is sliding down and the dollar has been rising — so, dump your falling currency for the rising dollar and jam it into rising US stocks. It’ll work until it doesn’t.

Why do this for Hillary? Because she represents the continuity of all the current rackets being used to prop up belief in the foundering business model of western civilization. If she doesn’t get into the White House there may be no backstopping of the insolvent banks and bankrupt governments and a TILT message will appear in the sky. That TILT message is likely to appear anyway because, remember,  the authorities are only pretending that they can manage events. In fact, all of their “management” strategies and shenanigans only insure the further distortion of the basic operating system, which is already so far out of whack from twenty years of previous management efforts that nothing in banking and markets really works anymore.

Companies don’t make money, despite rising share prices. No one in his right mind buys bonds with negative yields — that promise to pay back less over time — so governments have to pretend to buy them. (In fact, they don’t so much “buy” them as simply extinguish them by playing three-card-monte with national treasuries.) And, of course, the masses of people in all these nations — including the patsy USA — sink ever deeper into penury every month.

The release of tension is being felt in the ground game of politics where outsider candidates here and abroad are rising on a tide of rage and resentment. The fecklessness and stupidity of the elites has been epic, sacrificing everything to maintain the illusion of normality. Nothing is normal and “the people” are finally onto it. Sadly, it looks as if both politics and finance are veering toward crack-up simultaneously. The daisy-chained Too-Big-To-Fail banks are already choking on the suicide bolus of derivatives. The equity markets are one algo accident away from cratering. The bond markets are a sick joke. And Hillary may win the booby prize of presiding over the smoldering wreckage of it all. When it happens, she will have no idea what to do.

 


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.

ZZZZZZZZZZZ….

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Freda burning money_1280

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 8, 2016

 


Wake the fuck up! Today we turn from the sordid dumbshow of Election 2016 to the parlous mysteries of finance and economics behind our sick politics. Most of the commentary in the mainstream special needs news media is based on the incorrect notion that the current disposition of things is sure to continue and therefore all we have to do is manage the familiar dynamics of the operating system in place. For instance, Grand Vizier Paul Krugman in today’s New York Timespimping for the US to issue ever-greater debt to repair US infrastructure. Does it seem like a sound idea? Borrow tons more money to get American running gear back in order so we can return to a growth economy. (There’s even a Trumpian gloss to it.)

Here’s the catch: the “growth economy” of which they chatter is done. You can stick a fork in it. The techno-industrial fantasia is drawing to a close. We are heading into a long term contraction of activity, productivity, and population and the salient question is how disorderly will the long emergency of the journey be to that new disposition of things?

The wish to keep all our rackets running is understandable. They have provided a lot of comfort, convenience, and luxury. But we are no longer in Alexander Hamilton’s world of cornucopian American abundance, just needing to borrow a little from the future to get at the gargantuan riches of a wilderness empire. We’ve been there and done that, and our present-day techno-narcissistic wish to replace all that spent material abundance with a Pokemon Go virtual reality economy is sure to lead to epochal disenchantment.

Borrowing from the future only works when you have some real prospect of paying the future back. The institutions that govern borrowing have been pretending for some time that our debts can be paid back. The untruth of this can be easily traced to the revocation of FASB (the Financial Accounting Standards Board) Rule 157 in 2009, which said that banks no longer had to report the market value of the loans on their books, but rather could make up any old number that made things appear to pencil out. In other words FASB decided that standards were optional. But that is only one cog in the great wheel of fraud that has rotated mercilessly with the seasons since the Fall of 2008.

What we face is discontinuity, the end of old spent dynamics and the beginning of new dynamics. Monetary deflation has been underway for years because that’s what happens when debts can’t be repaid: money vanishes. Now we will encounter the other dimensions of deflation: the contraction of manufacturing, trade, wages, and all the familiar markers of expansion in the waning techno-industrial era. The many dodges and stratagems tried by the supreme central bankers to work around contraction only produce ever greater distortions in markets, currencies, and the distribution of dwindling capital, leading to a grand battle over the table-scraps of history, i.e. the rise of radical politics world-wide, including Islamic Jihadism, and the western response in Trump, LePen, and the nascent Germanic right-wing. These current manifestations may be mild versions of what’s coming.

Nobody in power can come to grips with the reality of our situation. We have to salvage what we can and get smaller, becoming a more modest presence here, or the planet itself is going to hit the delete button on us. It rubs against the current religion of progress, which has replaced the other old cultic practices. The choice now is between time-out or game over, and the debate over these things is absent from the arena.

The aforesaid distortions in markets, currencies, and capital are spinning out in an ever broader, centrifugal gyre, coinciding, as chance would have it, with the most peculiar election in modern times. The incoherence and deceit on both sides is far beyond even the extravagant American norms of dauntless political bullshit. We literally have no idea what we’re doing in this country, or what we’re actually wishing for. The financial structures of everyday life look more fragile than ever. Gravity always wins.

 


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.

Death to All Zombies!

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Brexit Freda

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  June 27, 2016

 


Wait a minute. They’re already dead. Brexit just reveals that not everybody’s brains have been eaten. A viral contagion now threatens the zombified institutions of daily life, especially the workings of politics and finance. Just as zombies exist only in the collective imagination, so do these two principal activities of society operate mainly on trust, an ephemeral product of the hive-mind.

When things fall apart in stressed complex systems, they tend to fall apart fast. It’s called phase change. Too many things in 21st century life have depended on sheer trust that the people-in-charge know what they are doing. That trust has subsisted on the doling out of money-from-nothing: debt, reckless bond issuance. TARP, QEs, bailouts, bail-ins, Operation Twists, Ponzi schemes… the whole sad-ass armamentarium of banking necromancy. The politicians let it get out of hand. Things that can’t go on don’t, and now they won’t.

The politics of Great Britain are now falling apart landslide-style. Since just about everybody in or near power can be blamed for the national predicament, there’s nobody to turn to, at least not yet. The Labour party just acted out The Caine Mutiny, starring Jeremy Corbyn as Captain Queeg. The Tory Cameron gave three months notice without any plausible replacement in view. Now Cameron’s people are hinting in the media that they can just drag their feet on Brexit, that is, not do anything to enable it from actually happening for a while. Of course, that’s what the monkeyshines of banking and finance have done: postponed the inevitable reckoning with the realities of our time: growing resource scarcity, population overshoot, climate change, ecological holocaust, and the diminishing returns of technology.

Britain illustrates the problem nicely: how to produce “wealth” without producing wealth. It’s called “the City,” their name for the little district of London that is their Wall Street. In the absence of producing real things, the City became the driver of the UK’s economy, a ghastly parasitical organism that functioned as the central transfer station for the world’s swindles and frauds, churning the West’s dwindling residual capital into a slurry of fees, commissions, arbitrages, rigged casino bets, and rip-offs. In the process, it enabled the European Central Bank (ECB) to run the con-job that the European Union (EU) became, with the fatal distortions of credit that have put its members into a ditch and sent the private European banks off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style.

The next stage of this protean global melodrama is what happens when currencies and interest rates become completely unglued from their assigned roles as patsies in financial racketeering. Sooner or later we’ll know what’s going on in the vast shadowy gloaming of “derivatives,” especially the “innovative” arrangements that affect to be “insurance” against losses in currency and interest rate “positions” — bets made on the movements of these things. When currencies rise or fall quickly, these so-called “swaps” are “triggered,” and then some hapless institution is left holding a big bag of dog-shit. A zombie is a terrible thing to behold, but a zombie holding a bag of dog-shit is like unto the end of the world.

Once this contagion starts burning, the people-in-charge won’t be able to quell it the way they did last time: by drowning it in torrents of money-from-nowhere. At least not without inducing real-deal inflation, the kind that leads to epochal ruin and more intense political upheaval: the nation-changing kind. We’re about five minutes away from that in the USA already, with the loathsome duo of Hillary and Trump putting on a Punch and Judy show for a disgusted public. If nothing else, Hillary and Trump represent the withering of political trust in America. The parties that spawned them are also whirling around the drain of credibility. They won’t survive in the form we knew them.

Who knows what comes out of this vacuum, what rough beast slouches towards Washington.

 


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.

Burnt Toast

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160302005451-trump-and-hillary-exlarge-169

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  June 20, 2016

 


At a most troubled moment in history, both major political parties appear set to nominate time-bomb candidates for president with a fair percentage chance of blowing up their own campaigns and the parties themselves.

We’ve been living in the era of anything goes and nothing matters — that is, the era of no consequences — but at some point between now and November 8 someone surely will press FBI chief James Comey as to why his agency issued neither a criminal referral nor an explanatory memorandum in the matter of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and its role in the money-gathering activities of the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State.

Hapless Bernie Sanders blew his chance to call her on that months ago — “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” — but it’s absolutely certain that Trump will jump up and down and shout woo-woo-woo about it during the general election campaign, if he manages to not get dumped at the GOP convention. Or his as-yet-hypothetical replacement will.

The email issue won’t go away because it entails serious issues of racketeering in public office, not just niceties of security procedure. One of the Secretary of State’s duties is to approve weapons sales to foreign countries. During her three years at State, Hillary signed off on $165 billion worth of sales by private commercial arms contractors to Clinton Foundation foreign donors. On top of that was an additional $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that gave to the Clinton Foundation. It also happened that the weapons contractors themselves and companies connected financially to them made substantial donations to the Clinton foundation — and paid whopping speaking fees to Hillary’s husband ex-president Bill, during her years at State.

Salon Magazine has also reported that in contradiction of a 1995 directive signed by then-president Bill against arms sales to nations violating human rights, Hillary approved such weapons sales.Salon’s David Sirota writes:

As just one of many examples, in its 2011 Human Rights Report, Clinton’s State Department slammed Algeria’s government for imposing “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association,” tolerating “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption” and a “lack of judicial independence.

That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and the next year Clinton’s State Department approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country. The jump included authorizations for almost 50,000 items classified as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment.” The State Department had not authorized the export of any of such items to Algeria the year before.

There’s no way that the shady doings of the Clinton Foundation will not become a campaign issue whether Trump emerges as the eventual GOP nominee or not, and of course the other noisome matter of exactly what Hillary told Too-Big-To-Fail banks in exchange for many quarter-million dollar “speaking fees” still lurks behind all that. Hillary’s partisans at the The New York Times andThe WashPo have ignored these stories for months, but the telltale stench remains, like a dead body under the floorboards.. In contrast to her beaming victory lap after the California primary, all this stuff promises some serious frowny-face for Mz. It’s-My-Turn in the months ahead.

As for Trump, the hand-wringing and Maalox-gulping among GOP nabobs got a lot more intense since the Orlando Club massacre, and the (as usual) disjointed utterances by the presumptive Republican Party nominee. This guy is not just a loose artillery shell rolling around on the deck — he’s a dirty bomb wrapped in a smallpox blanket threatening to turn the Grand Old Party into a political Flying Dutchman. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan underscored his extremely conditionalendorsement of Trump on the Sunday TV chat forums, hinting that even if Trump got where he is playing by the rules, the rules can be changed at the convention.

That would set the stage for a melee both inside and outside the GOP convention in Cleveland a month from now. The tragedy of a legitimately irate populace vested in such an obviously inept champion will lead to a political explosion when the party poobahs try to maneuver him off-stage. The only worse alternative is if they actually go ahead and nominate the ham-headed sonofabitch. Either way, the Republican Party comes out as burnt toast.

Remember, too, the Black Lives Matter movement and its affiliates promised months ago to bring a disruptive presence to both conventions. Imagine how they will get on with thousands of outraged Trumpsters moiling in the streets. Add a dash of Mexican hot sauce to this farrago and you’ve got a perfect recipe for mayhem.

 


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 Desperate and the Disparate

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SupermanDailyPlanetFlying

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  June 13, 2016

 


As you may know, kunstler.com was under a brutal Denial of Service (DoS) attack for several weeks. My web and server technicians have worked hard to get the website and blog back up. Fist-bump and salutes to them — JHK

As I was leaving Detroit very early Sunday morning to catch a plane, I saw the breaking story about a “shooting incident” in an Orlando nightclub, but the first reports did not detail any fatalities. Only after we landed was the shocking news of 50 dead and as many wounded revealed on the concourse TV screens.

Just in the past six months: December, 137 dead at the Paris Bataclan Theater (and two other sites); March, 35 dead at the Brussels airport; now the massacre at the Orlando Pulse Club. Before that, San Bernardino, The Madrid train bombing, the London Subway bombings… not to mention the videotaped beheadings of sundry Western journalists and other non-combatants… or the foundational outrage of 9/11.  It gets more difficult for the democracies of the West to evade the recognition that a state of war exists between us and Islamic theocracy.

No one knows what to do about it , including, of course, the blowhard Trump. The perp in the Orlando slaughter, Omar Mateen, killed at the scene, was born in New York City, and many of the various European massacre perps were homegrown as well. Good luck trying to deport new wannabes like them. The mood for the moment, as in so many of these tragedies, is the awful combination of rage and impotence.

After many past atrocities, people of the Western nations under attack just sucked it up and moved on with daily life. These recent massacres, though, have stirred up the sleeping demons of Western politics. No sentient observer can fail to notice the extremities of feeling aroused in America’s 2016 election spectacle, which have overtaken dark trends underway for years already around Europe. One can only imagine that the sentiments will only get more extreme, as may the actions that follow

* * *

Jesus_Detroit

I was in Detroit last week for the annual congress of the New Urbanists, who hold their meet-up in a different city each year, more or less to keep up with developments around the country. The org was formed in 1993 to challenge the fiasco of suburban sprawl, which was defacing the national geography like some landscape-eating leprosy. The org has been most successful at changing the DNA of property development in hundreds of cities and towns: the laws and zoning codes that for decades made it illegal to build so much as a popsicle stand in America without supplying ten parking spaces. The New Urbanists are responsible in large part for the urban renaissance — not so evenly distributed around the country.

Detroit, of course, is the most extreme case of civic implosion in the USA. In 1950, it was the seventh-richest city in the world. By the turn of this century, it was left for dead and bankrupt. It’s creeping back now by small increments, which may seem like not quite enough, but is actually exactly the scale required for what is coming. The residue of the city’s skyscraper center still stands on Augustus Woodward’s disorienting semi-circular street grid. There’s a grand wish to bring it all back to life, but personally I think that giant office and apartment towers are not on the menu for The Long Emergency. Practically everyone I talked to about this issue thinks my view of the matter is nuts. But I reiterate: skyscrapers and mega-structures are already obsolete (we just don’t know it yet).

Our cities will come back as cities, just not at the scale of comic book gigantism they achieved at the height of the oil age, when Superman was leaping over The Daily Planet headquarters. And remember that most of our cities occupy very important sites, most particularly Detroit on its stretch of river between Great Lakes, on the border of Canada. It’s coming back now by small entrepreneurial gestures, hipster and hippie business start-ups, the “risk oblivious” art shock troops, a cadre of fearless homegrown architects, and some visionary urban designers. The ballparks and casinos have landed downtown, too, like UFOs from a planet of bygone utopian redevelopment fantasies, all crammed into the same sports ghetto where wild drinking and structured parking overwhelms anything like normal city life a few hours a week.           

The geographically huge city offers plenty of forsaken small-to-medium buildings, some of them very beautiful and built to last for the ages, that can be bought for almost nothing. There’s an awful lot of empty space between them, and for the moment enterprising gardeners are putting it to use while time bides itself waiting to find out where fate wants to take it.

 


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.

Nausea Rising

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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commedia

 

Originally Published on Patreon June 7, 2016

As you may know, http://Kunstler.com is currently under an aggressive Denial of Service (DoS) attack. His web and server technicians are working to get the website and blog back up and live soon (though it's going to cost a pretty penny). In the meantime, here is today's blog. Please share this with any of your CFN friends so they don't miss out.  Thank you for your continued support. — JHK


Considering that the 2016 election looks like a Dark Age puppet show — Pantalone and La Signora smacking each other with dildos — we forget this spectacle is serious. Rather large matters are at stake, such as the continuity of governance, the legitimacy of the two major political parties, the credibility of our financial arrangements, perhaps even the durability of the nation as a united polity.

Most of the deliberate comedy comes from Donald Trump, whose super-long dangling necktie looks like it was designed for laughs by the Commedia dell'Arte prop department, not to mention the hair, which I have maintained for many years is actually a wolverine living on top of Trump’s head. Trump certainly represents a large and valid strain of sentiment in the zeitgeist — the frustration of many ordinary citizens at government-sponsored racketeering that is shoving them into pauperdom. But his utterances against all that are so childish and disordered that he de-legitimates his own mission every time he opens his mouth.

Hillary delivers her laughs mostly deadpan, for instance her Sunday morning ABC interview with the old 1992 Clinton “War Room” hand George Stephanopoulos, who grilled the Flying Reptile rather mercilessly over the recent report from the State Department Inspector General that said she was “not allowed” to use the private email server no, ifs, ands, or buts. As she struggled to deflect the question, the “uh”s started to stipple her vapid evasions like holes punched in a life raft. It was fun watching her sink, uh, uh, uh, gurgle gurgle — though surely that was not the effect she was going for.

Bernie, of course, is not so funny. He’s as serious as a heart attack, which suggests that a pretty sizeable portion of the public is sick of being diverted with slapstick comedy. The old bastard is determined to give the Democratic Party poobahs some schooling in ethical procedure. I admire the heck out of that — also, his record as a demonstrably non-griftable public servant, and his stance against the racketeering-as-usual status quo — though I’m not persuaded he would be an effective president (if such a thing is even theoretically conceivable) given his nanny government disposition. But the bigshots of the DNC still have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do, and it looks like ole Bernie is going to beat it out of them at Philadelphia in July. What I wonder: is he strong enough to hold Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on his lap while he applies the rod.

The people of the United States have real grievances with the way this country is being run. Last Friday’s job’s report was a humdinger: only 38,000 new jobs created in a country of over 300 million, with a whole new crop of job-seeking college grads just churned out of the diploma mills. I guess the national shortage of waiters and bartenders has finally come to an end.

What’s required, of course, is a pretty stout restructuring of the US economy. And that should be understood to be a matter of national survival. We need to step way back on every kind of giantism currently afflicting us: giant agri-biz, giant commerce (Wal Mart etc.), giant banking, giant war-making, and giant government — this last item being so larded with incompetence on top of institutional entropy that it is literally a menace to American society.

The trend on future resources and capital availability is manifestly downward, and the obvious conclusion is the need to make this economy smaller and finer. The finer part of the deal means many more distributed tasks among the population, especially in farming and commerce operations that must be done at a local level. This means more Americans working on smaller farms and more Americans working in reconstructed Main Street business, both wholesale and retail. This would also necessarily lead to a shift out of the suburban clusterfuck and the rebuilding of ten thousand forsaken American towns and smaller cities.

For the moment, many demoralized Americans may feel more comfortable playing video games, eating on SNAP cards, and watching Trump fulminate on TV, but the horizon on that is limited too. Sooner or later they will have to become un-demoralized and do something else with their lives.

The main reason I am so against the Hillary and Trump, and so ambivalent on Bernie is their inability to comprehend the scope of action actually required to avoid sheer cultural collapse.

 


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 Fat Lady Always Sings Twice

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 30, 2016

 


That was the week Hillary began to look like the candidate who fell off a truck wearing a Nixon mask. Email-gate is taking on the odor of Watergate — the main ingredient of which was not the dopey crime itself but the stonewalling around it. The State Department Inspector General’s report saying definitively, no, she was not “allowed” to use a private, unsecured email server validated Donald Trump’s juvenile name-calling of “Crooked Hillary.”

We may never hear the end of that now (if Trump is actually nominated). And, of course, there lurks the Godzilla-sized skeleton in her closet of the still-unreleased Goldman Sachs speech transcripts, the clamor over which is sure to grow. Meanwhile the specter of the California primary looms, a not inconceivable loss to Bernie Sanders. And onto the convention in Philly which I contend will be even more fractious and violent than the 1968 fiasco in Chicago.

I’ll say it again: Hillary is a horse that ain’t gonna finish. The Democrats better be prepared to haul Uncle Joe out of the closet, fluff up his transplanted hair, wax his dentures, give him a few Vitamin B-12 shots, and stick a harpoon in his fist for the autumn run against the White Whale (if Trump is actually nominated).

The Republican convention in Cleveland is apt to be as bloody and violent a spectacle too (if Trump is actually nominated), with Black Lives Matters cadres having already promised to put on a show for global television and their Latino counterparts marching with Mexican Flags and cute signs saying: Trump: Chingate tu madre, perhaps garnished with the sobriquet pendejo. In such a situation, Trump has enormous potential to make things worse with his childish snap-backs. Hubert Humphrey in 1968 at least had the good sense to keep his mouth shut about the moiling multitudes out on Michigan Avenue inveighing against him.

The Vietnam War was a grave debacle, and it especially pissed off the young men subject to being drafted to fight in it, but the woof and warp of American life was otherwise intact. Blue collar workers still pulled in high wages in the Big Three auto plants, and women had not yet declared war on men, and the airwaves weren’t pornified, and there were still people in government with moral authority who loudly opposed official policy. The sobering martyrdoms of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy sanctified the opposition to the status quo. Even Hubert Humphrey himself, a thoughtful man underneath his Rotarian clown mask, began to turn away from Lyndon Johnson’s war hawks.

Nixon won. He surely benefited most not so much from the war issue and the riots in the streets as from the mass defection of Southern states from the long-entrenched domination of the Democratic Party — directly due to Johnson’s dismantling of the old Jim Crow laws. As a personality, Nixon was as much a pendejo as Donald Trump, but no one doubted his ability to run the machinery of government, if not the way they wanted to run it.

One difference today is that the two supposedly leading candidates, Hillary and Trump, are broadly loathed and mocked by people of all ages, not just disaffected youth. Trump appears to actually know so little about the major problems the country faces — energy, trade, the animus of foreigners — that he would be literally helpless in crisis. Hillary would enter the White House more mistrusted than Tricky Dick, and more starkly wired into the parasitical elites draining the body politic of its precious bodily fluids — in the immortal words of Doctor Strangelove.

Though it appears that Trump has consolidated the delegate vote needed for nomination, something tells me that a move is yet afoot to knock the gold ring out of his grubby fingers. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is playing it very cagey and you can imagine that current party stalwarts and office-holders all over the land are wringing their hands over being asked to follow Trump into some dark night of the American soul. Paul Ryan must know that a coup at the convention is still conceivable and that the action inside the hall will be as violent as the street-fighting outside.

 


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.

Lower Away!

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 23, 2016

 


I hope you’re enjoying these horse latitudes of the political year, when the seas suddenly turn glassy and the Berning sun begins to roast all the diverse and inclusive hands on Hillary’s deck, who wait in anxiety for the first sign of a fresh breeze to push them toward landfall. Meanwhile, full fathom five below the dead calm waters the leviathan Trump waits in his comfortable darkness, circling forward, circling back, solitary, malevolent, content in his bulking grievances, patiently awaiting his moment to rise and smash his rival.

Things go eerily quiet and still before the California primaries. At this stage, the two major parties have discredited themselves so thoroughly that a necrotic stink wafts around the election of ’16. Who put that road-kill possum in Hillary’s podium? Why does Donald look every week more and more like a lurching Golem? The parties are rudderless. Their leaders range the decks like wailing revenants. It’s as if the mortal remains of Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan have come from the grave to eat the brains of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus. The rectified essence of every zombie fantasy churned out of Hollywood seeps through the capillaries of the dying political establishment, as it stews and ferments and waits to be loaded on the garbage barge of history.

Hillary threw a “hail Mary” after the Oregon debacle, proposing that husband Bill would become some kind of economic czar in her inevitable “turn” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s when you knew her crusade was doomed. It raised such a snickering in the media that the sick tropes of HBO’s Veep show looked like press releases from Proctor & Gamble’s PR office in comparison. Bill did such a great job at repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, maybe this dynamic duo of lawyers (“two for the price of one!”) can work on eliminating the anti-trust laws, the First Amendment, and the writ of habeas corpus — and then America can become a fullblown banana republic.

Trump has evidently been working on that smile of his: the slitty eyes, the weird horizontal lip stretch under that baleen of head-gear, the perfect expression of his white whale-hood. The crew from the ghostly GOP Pequod still doesn’t know what the heck to do about him. They rock above the depths in their flimsy dinghies, harpoons drooping, waiting for the sea to boil below them and their boats to splinter.

That will precede a more general splintering to come of the republic, first by demographics, then by territory. The most exceptional thing about the US has been the rapidity of its rise and now fall in the roll-call of empires. We barely had time to put together a coherent culture that historians of the future (enjoying ratatouille with fresh rat by firelight) could identify, and now it’s all percolating into a dreadful maelstrom in which one catches glimpses of the Kardashians, PT Barnum, Betsy Ross, Davey Crockett, and Eleanor Roosevelt amid the detritus of broken Tupperware and flapping pages of the Affordable Care Act. What a goddamned mess we’ve left to posterity.

Something is in the air that tells me Hillary will be dumped by the convention in Philadelphia in favor of Uncle Joe Biden, biding his time practically next door in Wilmington. Speaking of turns, isn’t it Delaware’s turn for a president? He’ll be a respectable place-holder, and he might even get elected, though the party will dissolve before he’s done, just in time for Texas to secede from the Union and set the tone for California, Oregon, and Washington State. Before you know it, the political map will look like 1861 again.

Donald Trump will be forgotten before Thanksgiving. He will leave a bizarre mental imprint on the life of the nation-that-was, something like a bad acid trip. And then the people of North America may actually have to start grappling with the problems induced by a failed banking system, population overshoot, climate instability, and the lost boundaries of social behavior.

 


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.

Border Lines

Transgender+Bathroomgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Transgender+Bathroom

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 16, 2016

 


If the Obama Justice Department was really honest about its “guidance” on transgender bathrooms, it would have stated clearly a requirement to provide a new, separate, third category of bathroom or changing room for people identifying themselves as transgender. This would have given such persons a safe, private place to perform their necessary bio-functions without making the other two categories of people, male and female, uncomfortable.

Actually, such a third option already exists in many public places: the handicapped bathroom. These could easily be relabeled “Handicapped and Transgender” — the main feature of them being that they allow for one-person-at-a-time occupancy, obviating any effect on others. And it wouldn’t require expensive renovation of public buildings.

But no, Mr. Obama’s DOJ decided to antagonize large numbers of males and females by coercing them to consort with transgender people, threatening to take away federal school funding if they didn’t allow persons of ambiguous sexuality to use whichever bathroom they felt like.

This reveals the fantastic smug certainty of the political Left in assuming that such matters as the nature of transgender behavior are adequately understood and settled — for instance, that transgender is actually a real sexual category rather than a psychological disturbance, a developmental problem, an extreme fashion statement, or a fantasy. I’m not at all persuaded that this is settled, despite the pervasive wishful thinking of the social justice corps that it were so.

It should be clear after some years of social justice hysteria in this country that coercion is now the method of choice on the Left side of the culture war battlefield: you must believe what we believe, or face punishment. As a Vietnam-era registered Democrat I hugely resent this oppressive political approach. I resent even more the supposed public intellectuals and thought leaders in government, academia, and the media who go along with this despotic conduct — which includes ruining the livelihoods and careers of respectable colleagues among them.

Though I am not generally sympathetic to the extreme political Right, especially its evangelical arm which adopted coercive and punitive tactics well before the Left did, I think the governors of North Carolina and Texas have a case in this new transgender bathroom dispute, though I hope their lawyers argue it on some basis besides scripture and sheer boobish obstinacy.

You may have noticed that more and more we live in a society where anything goes and nothing matters. We got there through the incremental eradication of boundaries, especially in social categories and behaviors. Some people find this exhilarating and others find this disturbing. I happen to believe that the elimination of boundaries is not altogether a good thing. We would probably benefit, I think, from more and firmer boundaries than squishier and fewer of them.

Despite the fact that a lot of people I associate with are arty types of what used to be called liberal inclination, I was not in favor of gay marriage, and said so — and was scalded with censorious opprobrium for it . Considering what I know, for instance, about the unintended consequences and diminishing returns of technology, I did not consider it a small thing to meddle with social institutions that are truly older than history. We don’t know what the eventual effects of gay marriage on the social order will be anymore than we knew that the consequences of “Atoms for Peace” would be Chernobyl and Fukushima. Things happen in history because they seem like a good idea at the time. Then time passes and we find out differently.

I was in favor of civil unions for gay couples, since the disposition of chattels and property is not a small matter in a broken partnership, as are medical issues and the care of children entailed in these partnerships, and some method of adjudication was obviously needed. But it was not necessary to call it marriage. Why make the distinction? For the basic reason that not all things and conditions of things are exactly the same. That is exactly the problem with the sort of extreme relativism that reigns on the Left these days. Anything goes.

In fact, I suspected then and still do that the crusade for gay marriage was more a seeking of official state approbation for homosexual behavior as much as a legal issue. In other words, it was about feelings — which has become the basis of argument for practically everything in our politics these days. Anyone disagreeing with those feelings was labeled a “homophobe,” and their ideas on the matter could be simply dismissed as a phobia, a terrible fear, a bad feeling rather than a reasoned position about the workings of society. I was not phobic or fearful about people who identified as gay. But I didn’t then and still don’t believe that we completely understand that behavior, and that it is a settled matter — contrary to the shibboleths of the moment.

The case is similar with transgender. We only pretend to know what it’s about because doing so affords comfortable feelings of superiority — that we are better people for going along with it because the transit of human progress is ever upward, and we are on the cutting edge of that journey to utopia. I don’t happen to buy that story, anymore than I believe that an “installation” of plastic vomit on the floor of the Whitney Museum is as much a work of art as Edouard Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass.

America has a boundary problem and boundary problems are disturbing both to individuals and societies. A common feature of societies in decline is a preoccupation with sexual freakishness, which is on display incessantly in this Republic of Twerking and in the much-valorized “sexual subversion” celebrated in the arts. The Obama government does a huge disservice to this dangerously declining nation by provoking even more dissolution of social boundaries at a time when we have so many other converging problems of polity to contend with.

This is the great contradiction, by the way, of Donald Trump. He has captured the attention of so many voters by invoking the case of our “broken border” with Mexico — a political boundary that is simple enough for most citizens to understand. But Trump himself actually operates by smashing the boundaries erected by his own party for acceptable political conduct. Thus, Trump perfectly personifies the nation’s essential predicament: America has a borderline personality. It is a danger to itself and others.

 


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.

Trumptopia

Branco-Trump-and-Hillarygc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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   Branco  LegalInsurrection.com    

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 9, 2016

 


For years, it was easy to see the political storm clouds gather over Europe with its fractious coalitions and its ancient babble of conflicts. Marine Le Pen’s Daddy, severe old Jean-Marie, was on the scene in France decades before Donald Trump ascended to glory on the noxious clouds of America’s crapified culture, attended by heavenly hosts of Kardashian angels and the cherub Honey BooBoo.

For all the strains in recent American life, the two-party system had seemed as solid as the granite towers of the Brooklyn Bridge. Not even the estimable Teddy Roosevelt could blow up the system when he tried in 1912 — though his Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party carried California, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota, and he far out-polled the incumbent Republican President Taft, who garnered a measly 8 electoral votes (Democrat Woodrow Wilson won). Ross Perot made an impact in 1992 — he certainly had a good point about NAFTA and “the giant sucking sound” of jobs draining out of the USA. But his popinjay manner didn’t go over so well, and at the critical moment in the general election he lost his nerve and withdrew, only to foolishly re-enter weeks later. Then there was the Ralph Nader in 2000, whose egoistic crusade arguably put George W. Bush in the White House.

Since then, the country see-sawed between the long tenures of two Deep State errand boys from each major party, putting both parties in such a bad odor that Trump now rises on their mephitic fumes. Which raises the question, of course: what exactly is this Deep State? Answer: A leviathan of symbiotic rackets producing maximum incompetence affecting adversely the majority of citizens. It’s a blood-sucking beast of a hundred-thousand heads draining the USA of its dwindling vitality, lying about its intentions while it advertises the pietistic certainties of the Left and superstitious shibboleths of the Right, leaving a smoking hole in the middle where the practical problems of everyday life used to be worked out by practical means.

The Deep State is also the sum of unintended consequences and diminishing returns of a late-stage, bureaucratic, techno-industrial economy cannibalizing itself to stay alive. One obvious conclusion is that this economy has got to change before there is nothing left to eat, and no political figure on the scene, including Trump and Bernie Sanders, has a plausible vision of where this takes us. Both really just assume that the engine keeps chugging down the track of ever more material wealth that can be distributed differently. The truth is, there will be a lot less material wealth of the kind we’re used to, and a lot less capital representation in the things we call “money.” In fact, the scene at hand today is just a spectacle of the shrewdest and biggest rodents scarfing up the table-scraps of a 200-year-long banquet.

Hillary Clinton, of course, is the Deep State incarnate, which is the real reason so few citizens trust her. Every poor schnook getting shaken down for a $90,000 appendectomy bill looks at Hillary and knows exactly what she represents. Every 25-year-old jobless, couch-surfing millennial carrying fifty-grand in college debt sees the face of the Deep State in her self-satisfied demi-smile. Mainly, she has gulled the diversity pimps — because they are wards of the Deep State — and women, because it’s Mommy’s “turn” to direct the Deep State. Writer, financier, and Deep State rogue operative Jim Rickards keeps insisting that Uncle Joe Biden will end up as the Democratic nominee. (He said so in a Tweet just the other day). You have to wonder what this guy knows. Don’t suppose that Uncle Joe is the knight on a white horse you’ve been waiting for. After all, he’s vice-president of the Deep State.

Voters seem attracted to Trump because he’s so eager to give the finger to the Deep State. It deserves the finger, but it also needs to be carefully disassembled without blowing up what remains of this country. Trump already has a good start on blowing up the Republican Party. Never before have so many party officials dissociated themselves from the (so far) presumptive nominee. I expect to see more extreme measures against Trump to be yet attempted by the party mandarins in the two months before the convention. I doubt you will hear about them before they happen.

In the face of that, Trump’s behavior only gets more childish. His speech after the Indiana primary was a masterpiece of incoherence. Everything that reflected on the magnificence of his victory was “incredible.” Interestingly, that was exactly the right word. He’s tuned in to the national nervous breakdown underway. From time to time, when he’s not speaking emptily about how much he is loved, Trump voices some legitimate concern of the Deep State’s victims. There are few decent jobs outside the Deep State’s own rackets. We’re not obliged to take in a limitless stream of immigrants. Nation-building by military means has been a dismal failure. The national debt is a problem. The country’s infrastructure is decrepit. Trump says he can negotiate a fix to all this: the art of the deal. Blowing smoke up the Deep State’s ass is not a plan.

The tragedy is that no other serious, grown-up figures stepped forward in this dangerous moment of history. The party that Trump purports to represent lost itself in wilderness of grift, jingoism, and supernatural pettifoggery. The rival Democratic Party is high on the fumes of “diversity and inclusion,” kindergarten politics that only corrode what’s left of our tattered common culture. Hillary’s Deep State couldn’t have found a better diversionary subterfuge. Both parties are close to blowing up altogether. I’m not convinced that they’ll survive their own conventionas this summer. Then what?

 


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.

Send Out the Clowns

 FredaCongress1gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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FredaCongress1

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation May 2, 2016

 


In this decade of maximum peril, a prankish God delivers two maximally detested candidates to lead the faltering nation as events run ahead of all the convenient narratives. For instance: the idea that Republican “insiders” can block Trump’s path to the nomination. The insiders may be phantoms after all. For instance, the loathsome Koch brothers have already made their move onto Hillary’s side of the game-board. Trump won’t miss their campaign contributions for a New York minute (while Hillary might find a way to stuff the cash into some Cayman Islands lock-box of the Clinton Foundation).

Events played right into Trump’s smallish hands last week when protesters outside a Donald rally in Costa Mesa, CA, waved Mexican flags and placards calling for the reestablishment of Aztlán del Norte. Kind of proves his point about illegal immigration, don’t it? Trump also supposedly blundered in saying that Hillary had only “the women’s card” left to play in her donkey trot to the election. I’m not so sure he’s wrong about that — though the indignometer needle danced through the red-line after he said it.

Has it come to this? The women’s party against the men’s party? What kind of idiot psychodrama is this country acting out? Mom and dad mud-wrestling in an election year hog-wallow? A Reality TV show writ large from sea to shining sea? Are there no better ways of understanding the difficulties we face?

Lately Hillary has been boasting of her ability to bring Wall Street to heel, theoretically after Wall Street installs her in the White House. Voters (especially women) might want to pay attention to Hillary’s lavish praise for President Obama’s handling of the banking turpitudes still unresolved seven years after the crack-up of 2008. What did the Dodd-Frank Act (signed by “O” in 2010) accomplish except to provide more lucrative work-arounds, by Too-Complex-To-Comprehend legalese, for Too-Big-To-Fail banks. It was written by bank lobbyists and lawyers and was about 2,270 pages longer than the old Glass Steagall Act that Bill Clinton vaporized in 1999. Do you suppose that Bill and Hill might have talked about the repeal of Glass Steagall back then? Do you wonder what she thought about it at the time… being a lawyer and all?

This week attention is fixed on the Indiana primary where Devil Bat Ted Cruz desperately makes his last stand against the Trump juggernaut. It seems that former House Speaker John Boehner actually succeeded in driving a wooden stake through Cruz’s hypothetical heart by casually remarking that he was “the most miserable sonofabitch I ever worked with.” Kind of hard to explain that one away, though Ted tried by sending out his new attack dog Carly Fiorina and claiming that he never worked with the Speaker of the House — a risible claim for a national legislator in the same party.

All of this would be amusing if the USA wasn’t sliding into the twilight of what many people call “modernity” — which is code for the techno-industrial hyper-complexity we’ve been enjoying lately as a species. We have yet to comprehend the diminishing returns of heaping more complexity on what is already too complex. Exhibit A for most of the common folk must be the Affordable Care Act (also signed by “O” in 2010). Whereas the shrewd stylings of Dodd-Frank surely mystify the public, most full-functioning adults understand what it means when their health insurance premiums go up by 20 percent and the new deductible makes it unthinkable to even consider going to the emergency room.

The sad truth may be that rackets of this kind are unreformable, and that we can’t begin to do things differently until they collapse. It should be obvious, for instance, that American health care needs to move in the opposite direction from where it has been going — from giantism, as epitomized by colossal merged mega-hospital corporations, back to some kind of local clinic care in which doctors and their subalterns are not burdened by an oppressive matrix of Charge-Master grift. There may be less razzle-dazzle technology in that future model, but much more hands-on care, plus an end to the kind of financial pillage that bankrupts households for relatively routine illnesses (the $90,000 appendectomy).

Likewise in virtually all other areas of American life, the real trend as yet un-discussed in this election campaign, will be unwinding and downscaling of the onerous, toxic hyper-complexity of the age now passing and finding our way to a workable re-set of what used to be known as political-economy.

In the meantime: a clown show.

 


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 Awful Lull

Toad-Lady-of-Lily-Pond-Portrait--125816gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 25, 2016

 


Spring unfolds at last in all its loveliness and Hillary sits back in repose like the matriarch of toads with a clear path to her toadstool throne, having swallowed the mouse-king Sanders. (She forgets that there are millions more mice under the thatched grass, including new mouse-kings awaiting.) And Trump with his bullfrog smile now casts his baleful eye on the two remaining gnats circling his lily pad. Yes, this magical week when the world bursts into leaf and flower, the life of our nation seems like a fairy tale.

Weeks from now when we’re used to the mild air and the greened world, going coatless and care-free, is when the storms of summer strike and the life of the nation turns from fairy tale to horror comic. Both Clinton and Trump are perfect representatives of the nascent forces moving towards some kind of civil war in comic book America.

Clinton perfectly embodies the fortress of the status quo, including especially her praetorian guard of black ghetto grandmothers, giving Hillary the false appearance of some sort of righteousness when, really, she has nothing to offer the greater crisis of black manhood, boxed into prison by the ancient crippling rules of federal welfare policy with its extreme penalties on active fathering. Otherwise, the stone wall of her status quo fortress conceals her privy council of Wall Street necromancers, and the fortune they have helped her lay up in the vaults of the Clinton Foundation.

All of which is to say that Hillary represents the forces that want to keep things just as a they are: rackets rampant. What can crush her triumph of fakery is the sudden manifestation of rackets collapsing under their own weight — a set of awful probabilities waiting to happen, ranging from riots at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia to an accident in financial markets jerry-rigged to mis-price everything for the purpose of funneling carry-trade gains into East Hampton. Look how she croaks about the triumph of the Affordable Care Act, as though it’s a great thing that Americans can shell out $10,000 a year for medical coverage that only kicks in after you rack up the first $6,000 in charges. (Forgetting for a moment that the costs are an hallucination of the “ChargeMaster” system designed to lavish six-figure salaries plus bonuses on the maestros in the hospital executive suites.) What a demonic fraud this woman is.

In terms of sheer persona on persona, Trump is not much better, a walking hood ornament on the faltering beater car that America has become. But at least he recognizes that the beater beneath him needs a complete overhaul, even if he can barely cobble up a coherent list of particulars, or name the mechanics who might be able to fix the damn thing. And, of course, a broad swathe of Americans whose lives have also come to resemble beater cars are very sympathetic to the impulses Trump radiates.

For example, I happen to agree that the nation needs to act on immigration, both on the problem of illegal immigrants and on limiting the quotas of legally admitted newcomers. The Left, sunk in its sentimental sob stories of “dreamers,” and its nostalgia for the Ellis Island romance of 1904, can’t conceive of any reason why the nation might benefit from, at least, a time-out on invitations. The idea undermines their world-saving fantasies. In my little corner of America, the computer chip factory run by Global Foundries (owned by the Emirate of Dubai) has just laid off the majority of its homegrown American technical labor force and replaced them with foreign technicians on H1B visas, thus creating x-number of new Trump voters among the laid-off, and rightfully so, I think.

Really, who says we have to invite every striver from other parts of the world where striving is more difficult? Let them improve the strive-osity of their own nations. Do the citizens already here not have any right to halt the influx and take stock of the nation’s circumstances for a period of time? If only Trump could speak clearly about these issues instead of simply issuing crude and rather dumb threats.

Enjoy this end-of-April lull in the action. Use the moment to gird your loins and perhaps get the hell out of the financial markets while the getting is good. I think you will see things liven up a lot as the heat rises and the seventeen-year locusts emerge from their long sleep underground in frightening storms.

 


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 Elephant Cometh

media manufactured consentgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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media manufactured consent

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 18, 2016

 


The elephant’s not even in the room, which is why the 2016 election campaign is such a soap opera. The elephant outside the room is named Discontinuity. That’s perhaps an intimidating word, but it is exactly what the USA is in for. It means that a lot of familiar things come to an end, stop, don’t work the way they are supposed to — beginning, manifestly, with the election process now underway in all its unprecedented bizarreness.

One reason it’s difficult to comprehend discontinuity is because so many operations and institutions of daily life in America have insidiously become rackets, meaning that they are kept going only by dishonest means. If we didn’t lie to ourselves about them, they couldn’t continue.

For instance the automobile racket. Without a solid, solvent middle-class, you can’t sell cars. Americans are used to paying for cars on installment loans. If the middle class is so crippled by prior debt and the disappearance of good-paying jobs that they can’t qualify for car loans, well, the answer is to give them loans anyway, on terms that don’t really pencil out — such as 7-year loans at 0 percent interest for used cars (that will be worth next to nothing long before the loan expires).

This will go on until it can’t, which is what discontinuity is all about. The car companies and the banks (with help from government regulators and political cheerleaders) have created this work-around by treating “sub-prime” car loans the same way they treated sub-prime mortgages: they bundle them into larger packages of bonds called collateralized loan obligations. These, in turn, are sold mainly to big pension fund and insurance companies desperate for “yield” (higher interest) on “safe” investments that ostensibly preserve their principal. The “collateral” amounts to the revenue streams of payments that are sure to stop because the payers are by definition not credit-worthy, meaning it was baked in the cake that they would quit making payments — especially when they go “under water” owing ever more money for junkers that have lost all value.

It’s easy to see how that ends in tears for all concerned parties, but we “buy into it” because there seems to be no other way to a) boost the so-called “consumer” economy and b) keep the matrix of car-dependant suburban sprawl in operation. We took what used to be a fairly sound idea during a now-bygone phase of history, and perverted it to avoid making any difficult but necessary changes in a new phase of history.

Health care is now such a blatant, odious, and ruinous racket that it is a little hard to believe that it hasn’t ignited an outright revolution or, at least, a workplace massacre in some insurance company C-suite. It is a well-known fact that most Americans don’t even have $500 to pay for a car repair. How are they supposed to cope with a $5,000 deductible health insurance incident? Answer: they can’t. Their mental health is destroyed in the process of attempting to fix their physical health. Not uncommonly, they have to declare bankruptcy after a routine appendectomy or a visit to the emergency room to set a broken arm. Sometimes, they don’t even bother to go to the doctor, seeing clearly how this plays out. The pharmaceutical industry has, of course, been allowed to convert itself into a simple extortion racket. Got an unusual kind of cancer? We have something that might help. Oh, it costs $43,000 a month….

What kind of a polity allows this cruel and indecent grift to go on? Why, the Obama administration, which allowed the health insurance company lobbyists and their colleagues in Big Pharma to “craft” the Affordable Care Act — the name of which must be the biggest public lie ever floated.

It’s interesting to see how a parallel fraud is playing out in higher ed. I submit the reason that college presidents are not pushing back against the Maoist coercions of the undergraduate social justice warriors is because the marvelous theater of the gender, race, and “privilege” melodrama is a potent distraction from the sad fact that college has turned into a grotesquely top-heavy and high-paying administrative racket offering boutique courses in fake fields (Dartmouth College: WGSS 65.06 Radical Sexuality: Of Color, Wildness, and Fabulosity… Harvard University: WOMGEN 1424:  American Fetish) in order to pander to their young customers (students) conditioned to tragic “oppression” sob stories. All in the service of paying huge salaries + perqs to the dynamic executives running these places.

Then there is banking, a.k.a. the financial system, certainly the greatest racket of rackets, since the fumes it’s running on — combinations of ZIRP, QE, and “forward guidance” (happy talk) — is all that there is to maintain the illusion that “money” remains a reliable gauge of value. Finance is the racket that will go down first and hardest, and when it does, all the other rackets currently running will go up in a vapor. That elephant will storm into the room before the political conventions, and when it does, it will usher in the recognition that nothing can go on as before.

 


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 Mystery Revealed

smoke and mirrors freda gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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                                                                     Anthony Freda                        

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 11, 2016

 


The mystery is at last revealed: why does the field of candidates for president score so uniformly low in trust, credibility, likeability? Why are there no candidates of real substance, principle, and especially of real charm in this scrim of political basilisks? (Surely there are many people of substance and principle elsewhere in America — they just don’t dare seek the job at the symbolic tippy-top of this clusterfuck of faltering rackets.) The reason is that the problems are unfixable, at least not within the acceptable terms of the zeitgeist, namely: the secret wish to keep all the rackets going at all costs.

This is true, by the way, of all parties concerned from the 0.001 percent billionaire grifter class to the deluded sophomores crying for “safe spaces” in their womb-like “student life centers” to the sports-and-porn addled suburban multitudes stuck with impossible mortgage, car, and college loan debts (and, suddenly, no paying job) to the deluded Black Lives Matter mobs who have failed to notice that black lives matter least to the black people slaughtering each other over sneakers and personal slights. None of these groups really want to change anything. They actually wish to preserve their prerogatives.

The interests of the 0.001 percent are obvious: maintain those streams of unearned, rentier, notional wealth as long as possible and convert them as fast as possible into hard assets (Caribbean islands, Cézanne landscapes, gold bars) that will theoretically insulate them from the wrath of history when the center no longer holds. The poor (and ever-poorer) formerly middle class suburban debt serfs, for all their travails, can’t imagine living any other way or putting less of their dwindling capital into the Happy Motoring matrix. The Maoist Social Justice Warrior students are enjoying the surprising power and thrills of coercion, especially as directed against their simpering professors and cringing college presidents anxious to sustain the illusion that something like learning takes place in the money laundering operations of higher ed. The Black Lives Matter crowd just wants to be excused from their failure to follow standards of decent behavior and to keep mau-mauing the other ethnic groups of America for material and political tribute.

It must be obvious that the next occupant of the White House will preside over the implosion of all these arrangements since, in the immortal words of economist Herb Stein, if something can’t go on forever, it will stop. So the only individuals left seeking the position are 1) An inarticulate reality TV buffoon; 2) a war-happy evangelical maniac; 3) a narcissistic monster of entitlement whose “turn” it is to hold the country’s highest office; and 4) a valiant but quixotic self-proclaimed socialist altacocker who might have walked off the set of Welcome Back Kotter, 40th Reunion Special. These are the ones left standing halfway to the conventions. Nobody else in his, her, it, xe, or they right mind wants to be handed this schwag-bag of doom.

On Saturday, the unstoppable Democratic shoo-in Hillary lost her 7th straight contest to the only theoretically electable Vermont Don Quixote, Bernie Sanders. This was a week after it was reported in The Huff-Po that her campaign crew literally bought-and-paid for the entire 50-state smorgasbord of super-delegates who will supposedly compensate for Hillary’s inability to otherwise win votes the old-fashioned way, by ballots cast. Wonder why that didn’t make nary a ripple in the media afterward? Because this is the land where anything goes and nothing matters, and that’s really all you need to know about how things work in the USA these days.

The Republican mandarins are apparently delirious over loose cannon Donald Trump’s flagging poll numbers in the remaining primary states. Should Trump fall on his face, do you think they’ll just hand Ted Cruz the Ronald Reagan Crown-and-Scepter set? (They’d rather lock Ted in the back of a Chevy cargo van with five Mexican narcos and a chain saw.) The GOP establishment insiders are already lighting cigars in preparation for the biggest smoke-filled room in US political history, Cleveland, July 20. But what poor shmo will they have to drag to the podium to get this odious thing done? Who wants to be the guy in the Oval Office when Janet Yellen comes in some muggy DC morning and says, “Uh, sir (ma’am)… that sucker you heard was gonna go down…? Well, uh, it just did.”

As for the Dems: they are about to anoint the most unpopular candidate of our lifetimes. The BLM mobs have promised to deliver mayhem to the streets of the party conventions and don’t think they will spare Hillary in Philary, no matter how many chitlins she scarfed down last month in Carolina. The action in Philly will unleash and reveal all the deadly power of President Obama’s NSA goon squads when the militarized police put down the riots, and Hillary will be tagged guilty by association.

And that is how Kim Kardashian gets elected president.


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.

An Unfiltered Mind

trump gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation April 4, 2016


“He says what he really thinks.” That is the standard explanation for the astounding political rise of Donald J. Trump. Somehow the news media have missed the meaning of this: that the rest of political America refuses to say what it really thinks. Why is that and how can it be?

The simple answer: they’re afraid of how it will play on television. One error of the mouth and you’re politically crucified. You’re done. Taken out with the trash. Trump’s secret is that every error of his unfiltered mouth — and the hypothetical mind connected to it — emphasizes and celebrates his liberation from that fear. Trump is like the fabled Honey Badger of YouTube fame: he doesn’t give a shit. He just forges ahead through all the biting, stinging, snapping, yapping, odious, poisonous opposition in his dogged journey to the prize. As Trump might say: they love him and he loves them (for that).

The less simple answer is that America has become a matrix of rackets based on fraud, swindling, and extortion that can only support itself on lies, which form the armature that enables all the racketeering. That explains one of the central mysteries of Mr. Obama’s double term in the White House: why his Department of Justice never prosecuted (possibly never even dared to investigate) criminal misconduct in banking after the 2008 mortgage bond debacle. The Holy Trinity of Bank Fraud: Rubin, Geithner, and Summers paid him a call after election day and said, “Look here, fucker: one false move out of you in the direction of our friends doing ‘God’s work,’ and this whole house of cards comes fluttering down.” Hence, Obama appointed the trio to positions of authority and counsel, and the racketeering resumed without hindrance — to the greater affliction upon the common weal.

The issues at stake were apparently too abstruse for the public to grasp, so they just rolled with it clear to the statute of limitations and beyond. Of course, the trouble with operations based on lies is that sooner or later reality intrudes with all its implacable wrath and you get a mighty correction impossible to ignore. That is likely to be fate’s parting gift to Barack Obama. He will go out the way he came in: amidst financial maelstrom.

As only one example of the collateral damage to all this filtering of what’s real, note a consequence of zero interest rates (a swindle designed to prop up Too Big To Fail banks): ordinary people past their working years can’t earn any income from all the traditionally safe ways of doing this: savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and bonds. Due to my advanced age, I get vast and constant rafts of mailings from an outfit called AARP pretending to be the American Association of Retired Persons. (I don’t pretend to have any intention of retiring, by the way.) Not one of these incessant messages mentions the harm being done by zero interest rates to people of modest means beyond their earning years desperate to get by. If they happen to have, say, thirty-eight thousand dollars of savings, they can’t generate enough income off it to pay for their yearly ration of ibuprofen. That’s because AARP doesn’t represent the stakes of this group. AARP is an insurance racket. AARP is a charade designed for asset-stripping the hapless.

It’s most ironic, of course, that the perceived antidote to the pandemic of lying in America is this arguably crooked real estate developer and gambling casino tycoon Trump. The grand entrance of Trump, with his unfiltered mouth, into the political arena becomes a preliminary argument for sweeping away the accumulated sclerotic political baggage of four generations lucky enough to have lived in a world that briefly allowed fantasy to override the laws of physics and human nature. What we really ought to worry about is what follows in the foul wake of Trump, both in awful circumstance and the as-yet-unknown cast of characters who will have to grapple with it.

 


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 Great Nausea

Big Bother gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Big Bother

Anthony Freda                       

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation March 28, 2016


Historians of the future, roasting rat kabobs over their campfires, will look back at the year 2016 and marvel at the death throes of the zombie republic that died eating its own brains. This grotesque Deep State lumbers from one misadventure of governance to the next consuming its prospects for a plausible future in a fugue of autophagy, inducing the great nausea that now settles over the land.

President Trump — really? We would be lucky if it only resulted in a revolt of the generals, and there goes 200-plus years of institutional heritage. Yet it cannot be denied that the Deep State needs to be kicked to the curb, stomped, water-boarded, and hung out to dry. The sad part is that the job might have been done by men of character, but incredibly the long-vaunted baby boomer generation did not manage to produce any, nor the so-called Gen-X now coming into its own power. And if such hypothetical figures do exist, why are they hiding in the thickets of public life?

Well, there is Bernie, after all. Credit must be given to this lone crusader for at least opposing the avatar of the Deep State, she whose “turn” must not be denied in the rotating management of rackets-and-grift that our politics have sunk to. He thrashed her roundly in the three primary contests over the weekend — so badly in the vote count that she may be suffering an existential hangover as I write. The fabled Democratic Party super-delegates may also be going through a dark night of the soul as they study the intractable anti-charisma of Hillary. Much as I admire Bernie’s chutzpah, his particular Old Left theories of wealth redistribution do not convince me — though the management of our dwindling capital surely lies at the heart of our problems. His nomination would go down in the Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not annals of the world’s greatest improbabilities.

Otherwise, the latest meme spreading across the web wires is how deeply the voters divide by sex: men flocking around Trump (or Machine Gun Ted Cruz), and the ladies standing at each mighty column of Hillary’s azure pant-suit. Yes, a national war of the sexes. Just what we need with all our shit falling apart. This sorry diversion results not from the triumph of feminism, as widely believed, but actually from the failure of American manhood. Proof of that, of course, is the ascendance of Trump, this punch-line of a political leader with all the gravitas of a hood ornament. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce — thank you, Karl Marx, O peevish mischief-maker squirming upon your fabled boils!

Finally, what will take the Deep State down is not some lance-wielding armored savior on a white horse but the awful undertow of financial implosion that awaits as the seasons of 2016 turn. When faith in our money and the instruments represented in it goes, look out below. There are so many rifts in the international banking system that the vista begins to look like the spring ice break-up on the Lake of Nations. When the grifters can’t cash their checks — or move their pixels into the accounts receivable column — they will be immobilized. Of course, if that happens, so will everything else, including your ability to buy any more frozen pizzas.

Trump, Cruz, Hillary, and Bernie are signs that this poor paralyzed country needs to go through a convulsion to flush out all the toxic idiocy of this historical moment. Trigger warning: it may be the messiest revolution in history when it finally comes, there is so much dross to clear out of the system. Trump and Hillary are like two giant fistulas obstructing the national bowel. Of course, a lot of sentient Americans do not want their nation dying on the toilet like Elvis. The indignity of it! In the name of the founding fathers, please, someone, fetch the enema bag.

Events still lie hidden like bear traps on the path to “Decision 2016” as they like to say on the cable networks. Somewhere in London, Singapore, Shanghai, or New York, a 25-year-old coked-out Forex trader is going to tap the untoward keystroke that brings down a derivatives avalanche… or two brothers of Allah in some Berlin row-house will go forth one bright morning in vests of Semtex… and finally enough will be enough.


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 Uses of Disorder

freda ballot boxgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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freda ballot box

                                                                                                                                                                    Anthony Freda               

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation March 21, 2016


Many thoughtful and patriotic citizens entering the Kubler-Ross free-fire zone of desperate bargaining with reality are at work attempting to chart an orderly course around the Godzilla-like figure of Trump looming outside the desecrated once-shining city of American democracy. I doubt there is such an orderly way through this political bad weather. When storms hit, things break up.

It can be argued endlessly whether times produce the man or vice versa, but except in the most schematic and wishful sense, is there any question that Donald Trump is unfit for the office he’s seeking? Personally, I am tortured by the question: why him? Why this vulgarian who can’t string together two sequentially coherent thoughts? Are there in this land of 320 million-plus people no other men or women with comfortable fortunes and better minds bold enough to take on the matrix of mafias running our affairs into the ground? Apparently not.

Then there is the question — only nascently theoretical at this point — of where such an orderly course of decision and action might lead this country. For Trump, it seems to be a restoration of the 1950s, when armies of “breadwinner” factory workers churned out cornucopias of Maytag washers and Zenith black-and-white televisions, and the less numerous Wogs of the outside world busied themselves with basket-weaving, and Atoms For Peace would make electric power “too cheap to meter,” and popular entertainment came in the chaste form of Dinah Shore urging the upward-aspiring masses to “see the USA in your Chevrolet!”

That was, of course, the time of Trump’s childhood (and my own), and if there is anything more certain than night following day, it is that America is not going back to that sunny moment. Trump and I are way past done growing up as human organisms and America is done growing as a techno-industrial political economy. People decline and die and are replaced by new people, and political economies wither and morph into sets of new activities and relations.

The forces of history want to take us to this new disposition of things, and just about everything on the American scene these days is a manifestation of resistance to that journey. The destination is a much re-scaled and down-scaled edition of daily life in a de-globalized economy, with far fewer luxuries and a greater demand for earnestness, purposeful work, generosity-of-spirit, and plain dealing. These are not qualities exhibited by Trump, who represents only the poorly-articulated and grandiose wish to “make America great again.”

The institutional collapse of the Republican Party is in full swing now thanks to Trump. By the way, it could easily be matched by an equally brutal collapse of the Democratic Party if the head of the FBI makes any criminal referrals in the matter of the Clinton Foundation’s entanglements in official State Department business via an email slime trail. It would be an awesome and wondrous event if the nation landed on November 8 with both parties in complete disarray and more than a couple of rump factions posting candidates with dubious legitimate credentials to stand for election. In over two hundred years we have not seen a national election postponed, or canceled.

I’ll repeat my assertion that professional observers on the political scene appear oblivious to the financial shit-storm gathering out-of-sight of land, and how it might affect electoral events at landfall. There’s a fair chance that six months from now, the USA may be in some kind economic emergency, with the banks either disabled or shuttered, and businesses unable to transact with one another, and the just-in-time supply lines to America’s Big Box merchandise depots badly interrupted, with the shelves bare. Americans at large, lost in the their cell phone app raptures and Kardashian masturbation fantasies have no idea how fragile the systems they depend on are.

America is going to learn something about the uses of disorder before this year is out. One of these is to compel the construction of a coherent consensus as to what is actually happening in the world, apart from our wishes and fantasies. That is, if we are not torn apart in the process of getting to that.

 


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.

Bull Run

War on Trump gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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War on Trump

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  March 13, 2016


The Twitter-incited mob that shut down last week’s Donald Trump rally at the University of Illinois’ Chicago pavilion was the first skirmish in what is shaping up to be a civil war between a political Left that has lost its mind and a political Right that has lost its mind and its soul. The tensions between these two camps are so contorted and dishonest that even trying to unpack the issues puts the un-packer in jeopardy of being branded as one kind of thought-criminal or another.

The Left has lost its mind in a climax of zealotry over the new religion of social justice, with its sacred “victims” (blacks, LBGTQs, etc), its sacred tenets (“diversity,” “inclusion”), and its endless charges of blasphemy (renamed “micro-aggressions”) against heretics (“racists,” “homophobes”) who object to absolutist thought policing. This was nicely described by Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University in a recent podcast with author Sam Harris. (Skip to 1 hour 30 minutes in the long discussion.)

The religion got started on the campuses, where social science careerists ginned up an elaborate doctrine to justify the self-importance of their new departments in so-called race, gender, and privilege studies — the main point of which was to create new categories of sacred victims suffering spiritual torments (“traumas”) that could never be healed. These crypto-religious “studies” led to a multiplication of demons that had to be exorcized by an equal multiplication of diversity deans and committees aimed at punishing blasphemies — such as arguing against affirmative action (“racist”), or wearing a Mexican sombrero at a tequila party (“cultural appropriation” + “racist”), which happened recently at posh Bowdoin College.

The hysteria incited by the academic diversity corps spread readily and easily into Democratic Party politics, where badly-needed minority votes could be harvested to shore up the dwindling votes of traditional supporters such as labor unions, and make up for (you might say cover up) the Party’s complete surrender to both Wall Street and the war industry.

The religion of the social justice warriors, got a huge boost with the deaths, and subsequent canonization of the new mega-saints, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and other black youths who were killed under circumstances that were, at least, ambiguous, and, at most, due to their own poor judgment and misbehavior. (Pause for cries of “racist” to subside). The Michael Brown / Ferguson, Mo. incident and subsequent riots led to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, with its now secular (“the street”) and campus branches, and its vote-garnering panders (Hillary) in politics.

Possibly the worst blasphemy — which I will now state — is the idea that the new religion of social justice exists to disguise the vast disappointment over the failure of the civil rights movement to uplift — that is, raise out of poverty, illiteracy, and crime — a substantial part of the black population. In fact, much of the official policy of the civil rights era only made matters worse, especially the well-known failures of the welfare system with all its disincentives to economic striving. So, the well-intentioned people of the Left — a dying breed — are left in dismay and embarrassment, fighting demons, while black America chooses more and more remain an oppositional culture, apart, antagonistic, and increasingly bent on vengeance.

Enter Trump, perhaps the worst figure possible to call bullshit on this vast matrix of dishonesty, with his ugly cohort of “poorly-educated” white yahoo supporters. Why? Because the well-educated non-yahoos of both parties are too cowardly and too corrupt — too busy making money off the war racketeers and the medical racketeers, and the Wall Street racketeers, and the campus racketeers — to take on some of the central lies of our times, which Trump manages to do in the crudest possible ways.

What the politicians and the media and the cringing, pandering intellectuals of this country aren’t figuring is what happens when the political crisis of the moment is amped up by the financial and economic train wreck that is certain to come before the fall elections. The nation has already gone mad with the internal contradictions of its own beliefs. The next step will be when it literally goes to war with itself.

 


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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