Monday, February 20, 2012

The choices we make

Sometimes James Howard Kunstler says it better than I:

The Choices We Make

By James Howard Kunstler
on February 20, 2012 9:41 AM

The misalignment of politics and reality threatens to scuttle both major parties, but it's especially gratifying to see the Republicans sail off the edge of their own flat earth on the winds of religious idiocy. For forty years it has not been enough for them to just be a conservative party. They had to enlist the worst elements of ignorance and reaction, and they found an endless supply of it in the boom regions of the Sunbelt with its brotherhood of TV evangelist con-artists and a population fretful with suburban angst.

Now, in the last hours of the cheap oil economy, the forty year miracle of the Sunbelt boom dwindles and a fear of approaching darkness grips the people there like a rumor of Satan. The long boom that took them from an agricultural backwater of barefoot peasantry to a miracle world of Sonic Drive-ins, perpetual air-conditioning, WalMarts, and creation museums is turning back in the other direction and they fear losing all that comfort, convenience, and spectacle. Since they don't understand where it came from, they conclude that it was all a God-given endowment conferred upon them for their exceptional specialness as Americans, and so only the forces of evil could conspire to take it all away.

Hence, the rise of a sanctimonious, hyper-patriotic putz such as Rick Santorum and his take-back-the-night appeal to those who sense the gathering twilight. And the awful ordeal of convictionless pander and former front-runner Mitt Romney drowning in his own bullshit as he struggles to extrude one whopper after another just to keep up with the others in this race to the bottom of the political mud-flow.

There is an obvious dither backstage now among those who cynically thought they could manipulate and control these dark impulses of the frightened masses as the candidates all pile into a train wreck of super-PAC obloquy. Won't some level-headed adult like the governors of New Jersey and Indiana step up and volunteer? Is this finally its Whig Moment - the point where the Republican Party has offended history so gravely that it goes up in a vapor of its own absurdity? I hope so. The conservative impulse is hardly all bad. We need it in civilization. But it can't be vested in the sheer and constant repudiation of reality.

The opposing Democrats have their own problem with reality, which is that they don't tell the truth about so many things despite knowing better, and, under Obama, they act contrary to their stated intentions often enough, and in matters of extreme importance, that they deserve to go down in flames, too. Just as there is a place for conservatism in civilized life, there is also a place for the progressive impulse, let's call it - for making bold advance in step with the mandates of reality and an interest in justice for all those along on the journey.

The Democrats under Obama don't want to go to that place. They want to really go to the same place as the fretful Sunbelt fundamentalists, but by a different route - and that place is yesterday, by means of a campaign to sustain the unsustainable. Mr. Obama is pretending that an economic "recovery" is underway when he knows damn well that the banking system is just blowing smoke up the shredded ass of what's left of that economy. He pretends to an interest in the rule of law in money matters but he's done everything possible to prevent the Department of Justice, the SEC, and a dozen other regulatory authorities from functioning the way they were designed. He has never suggested resurrecting the Glass-Steagall act, which kept banking close to being honest for forty years. He never issued a peep of objection about the Citizens United case where the Supreme Court tossed the election process into a crocodile pit of corporate turpitude (he could have proposed a constitutional amendment redefining corporate "personhood."). He declared he'd never permit a super-PAC to be created in his name, and now he's got one. Mr. Obama represents a lot of things to a lot of people. He is mainly Progressivism's bowling trophy, its symbol of its own triumphant wonderfulness in overcoming the age old phantoms of race prejudice. Alas, that's not enough. Where exactly is the boundary between telling "folks" what they want to hear and just flat-out lying?

Neither party can articulate the current reality, which is that we have to reorganize civilization pretty drastically. I've reviewed that agenda many times in this space and it largely amounts to rebuilding local economies at a smaller and finer scale. That is just not on the table for all current leadership, or even in the room. If neither party can frame an agenda consistent with that reality, then we'll have to get there without them, probably after a very rough period when the pretending still lingers in the air like a bad odor and no reality-based consensus is able to form, no agreement about what we should do. That's the period when a lot of things fall apart and people get hurt. These are the choices we're making right now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

There is a tomorrow

I can't sign off on the title, There is no Tomorrow, but this short film provides an accurate assessment of our current condition and the challenges humans face in the future.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Energy usage a better metric for real economic contraction

I recently hijacked a thread started by Scott R with an article suggesting that real economic activity is better measured by energy consumption than phony economic figures.

Yesterday, Charles Hugh Smith released a followup article.

It's Not Just Gasoline Consumption That's Tanking, It's All Energy.

An excerpt:

A number of readers kindly forwarded additional data sources to me as followup on last week's entry describing sharply lower deliveries of gasoline. (Why Is Gasoline Consumption Tanking? February 10, 2012)

The basic thesis here is that petroleum consumption is a key proxy of economic activity. In periods of economic expansion, energy consumption rises. In periods of contraction, consumption levels off or declines.

This common sense correlation calls into question the Status Quo's insistence that the U.S. economy has decoupled from the global ecoomy and is still growing. This growth will create more jobs, the story goes, and expand corporate profits which will power the stock market ever higher.

Courtesy of correspondents Bob C. and Mark W., here are links and charts of petroleum consumption, imports/exports, and electricity consumption. Let's start with a chart of total petroleum products, which includes all products derived from petroleum (distillates, fuels, etc.) provided by Bob C. The chart shows the U.S. consumed about 21 million barrels a day (MBD) at the recent peak of economic activity 2005-07; from that peak, "product supplied" has fallen to 18 MBD. The current decline is very steep and has not bottomed.

This recent drop mirrors the decline registered in 2009 as the wheels fell off the global debt-based bubble. Those arguing that the U.S. economy is growing smartly and sustainably have to explain why petroleum consumption looks like 2009 when the economy tipped into a sharp contraction.

I would add that demand cannont exceed constraints of available supply for long as the cost of scarce products eventually decreases demand.

Demand isn't created by what people want, it's created by what people buy. When the citizenry can't afford to buy, demand falls.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Max Keiser interviews Dmitri Orlov

For those unaware, Dmitri Orlov was born in the Soviet Union, immigrated as a young teen to the United States, and then traveled between Russia and his new home, watching and documenting the collapse of the Soviet state.

Orlov then wrote a book and maintains a web-site drawing comparisons between the Soviet collapse and the ongoing collapse of the United States.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

False flags

It’s been common practice over the last century to stage attacks on populations in order to marshal citizenry to war. Not only to stage attacks, but also to spread rumors and lies: propaganda, for the furtherance of these causes.

Seems we’ve been fed a steady diet of that shit lately.

Best I can tell, it works.

Move toward cashless society

I'll lose some of you with this.

I'm OK with that.

Recently, I was fined by the IRS for paying employee withholding funds with a personal check. Not for refusing to pay, or shorting what I owed, but because I paid with a check.

By law, the IRS requires electronic transfer of funds to make those payments.

I tell people that we're moving toward a cashless society, eventually requiring the implantation of a chip in our bodies. Not only will this chip be required to buy or sell, but also to track our movements.

People roll their eyes, etc.

Well, here's what happened when a man recently tried to pay his mortgage at Bank of America with cash:

On my dollar bills, it says:

This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.

Is it now?