Off the keyboard of John Michael Greer
Published on the Archdruid Report on May 15, 2013
Discuss this article at the Favorite Dishes Table inside the Diner
Fantasies of imminent human extinction are one comforting if futile response to this ugly predicament. If you want a justification for living as though there’s no tomorrow, insisting that in fact, there’s no tomorrow is certainly one option. If I’m right, the pleasures of believing in near-term human extinction are likely to appeal to a very large and well-heeled audience in the years immediately ahead, and those of my readers interested in cashing in on the next 2012-style bonanza should probably take note.
Off the keyboards of the Diners
Published on the Doomstead Diner on May 15, 2013
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
The debate inside the Diner on the Turtle Island project has evolved into a discussion of means & method; and whether Eustace Conway is a Visionary and valid example for moving off the Oil Economy, or merely a Media Whore more interested in Self-promotion than in helping others to change lifestyle to a more sustainable and ecologically sound way of life. I will add some of my thoughts on this at the end of this installment of the Blog-a-thon, but first I want to bring up a few anomalies in the story which don’t add up well for me, and after that bring some of today’s debate inside the Diner onto the Blog so readers can get a better idea of how the two sides of this debate have lined up.
My main issue here at the moment is exactly how Eustace put together the money to buy the 1000 Acres in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, beginning it is said at the age of 17 with nothing but the clothes on his back and a few rudimentary Tools made of Metal, a Knife, Axe, perhaps a Camp Saw and nothing else.
Somehow though in his Early Years, Eustace was able to travel down to South America to do some Primitive Living in that environment. Minimum here, you gotta have Plane Ticket money, he didn’t Hike down there through Panama. Then he also came up with a Horse to do his Cross Country FSoA trip. Horses cost money, so does all the Tack, Saddles etc. In his early years, he couldn’t have been enough of a Primitive Living Guru or well enough known to be making THAT much money teaching others, and where was he keeping the Horse while living in a TeePee for the first 17 years of turning himself into a modern day Jeremiah Johnson?
Then Eustace ALSO managed to Graduate with Honors from Appalachian State University with a degree in Anthropology. As we all know, a College Education doesn’t generally come free, though perhaps Eustace was able to get Scholarships. Still, was he commuting in from the back woods on Horseback to class at ASU for 4 years? This seems highly unlikely to me.
The conclusion I reach from all of this is that Eustace in fact did not do this from nothing, at the very least I think he was supported and backed in his chosen life by his parents, who paid for his college education; who paid for his plane ticket to South America; who also bought him the Horse. I can’t see any other way he could have pulled all this off in his early years without Financial Backing of some kind. Remember, the Legend of Eustace also has it that at the age of 12 he went out to live in the Woods for a week by himself. This indicates to me his Dad was likely an avid back woodsman type himself who taught Eustace a lot, and then supported him as he further went down the path of becoming a Primitive Living Expert.
So for at least the first 10 years or so of learning his trade, Eustace could not have been Earning much money as a Primitive Living Skills Guru, in fact he had to be spending money during this time, never holding a “Real Job”. Eustace was 17 when he started and is 51 now, for a total time of 34 years. Subtract the first 10 years, you are left with 24 years. However, Turtle Island was purchased some 20 years ago I believe, which would have only left 4 years for Eustace to earn enough money to buy a 1000 Acre Preserve in the Appalachian Mountains. I don’t know precisely what the cost of an acre in those Mountains was 20 years ago, but it is hard for me to imagine it came much cheaper than say $300/acre, which means he had to put together $300K in 4 years, which is about impossible in that line of work.
Conclusion: The land was purchased on a Mortgage which his Dad co-signed and he then paid off over 20 years, or may be still paying on, who knows. Only other possibility is Dad himself bought the land outright. I do not think Eustace could have got a mortgage himself to buy all that land with no real job, living in a TeePee in the woods. It doesn’t add up.
Does this make Eustace’s Life Adventure less Cinematic? Of course it does. It also indicates any truly BROKE person with no backers who tried to duplicate what he did would not be able to do so. However, while it is a good deal less cinematic when you consider it, it still is quite remarkable that he spent his life this way, learned what he did and is trying to pass the knowledge onto others.
OK, now that we have looked at some of the anomalous aspects of this story, let us go inside the Diner to look at some of today’s debate off the keyboards of the Diners. For a complete reading of all posts made, go inside the Diner to read the whole thread.
From Golden Oxen:
This thread has little to do with Mr. Conway and much to do with oppressive out of control government in my view. We reap what we sow.
When ever a Libertarian minded person, espousing cutting back on big goobermint runs for office, the same old nonsense starts.
The Left starts screaming about the environment and protecting the children as they panic thinking about the government teat being taken from their mouth.
The Right, who are just as bad, start with the he will cut defense, fuck up all the subsidies their industries enjoy, panic over the break up of their monopolies through free markets and minimal local regulation etc.
The limit and cut back goobermint candidate is always projected by the MSM as a kook, a childish dreamer living in the past, a jerk with no chance of winning, why waste your vote on an ass hole?
We have all signed the petition against Eustace and other wonderful people like him, this silly attempt at cleansing our conscience is bull shit.
Enjoy, “We Reap What We Sow”.
I hope my Diner friends in the foxstead, or Sun project, or whatever it is called these days are paying close attention. Go it alone, or forget it. What more do you need than the heartbreaking story of this remarkable man to realize the folly of hiding from the government goons?
No, at least in terms of Admitted Signers, only 16 Diners have copped to making a Silly Attempt at Soul Cleansing here. Membership alone is well over 400, and since the Poll is Open to Guest Readers also, not many are Standing Tall with Silly Attempts here at the moment.
Anyhow, I just finished tomorrow’s entry into the Blog-a-thon, Render Unto Caesar. Besides LD, I am not getting the Hoped For Support from other Collapse Bloggers, so LD & I at the moment have to go it alone.
If I have to write every goddamn article this week, I will. I NEVER QUIT. I won’t roll over here for Da Goobermint Goons until I am well and truly DEAD, or they pack me off to GITMO.
Man, if you accept this shit and won’t FIGHT IT in some way, you well and truly deserve what you will get. NOT ME, NOT RE. I got a KEYBOARD and I got my Bully Pulpit here on the Diner. I will go down SWINGING, or I will WIN. Either way, I go to the Great Beyond fully confident that I have fought the Good Fight and will be Rewarded for doing so in the Kingdom of Heaven.
From Golden Oxen
I had said “Against” in the quote RE, referring to our complicicity in what has happened to our government. You are fighting for Eustace and not against the government that oppresses him, in that sense you have given up.
What good does fighting for one person do when we all sit back and let them take our liberty, our free press, our legal system, our planet and it’s food supply, our water, our freedom of assembly, our freedom of speech, our money, and the principle of limited government our country was based upon?
What war are we being put in next!
What state is going to be placed under martial law next!
What group of protestors clubbed and tear gassed into submission is next!
Your concern for Eustace and offer to help is admirable, but you are making the situation worse by wasting precious resources on a tiny insignificant battle, while the war against all who desire freedom is being waged.
Nah. Just picking battles. Even if I cannot Win this one, I can’t Lose too bad either. It is practical strategy GO. I don’t got the NUMBERS yet I need to take on the Big Boys. Gimmee time here though, I will get there. It is a process.
From Lucid Dreams:
Being naturally pessimistic, I see all of your points Ox, and I’m inclined to agree…but…
For some reason it feels good to at least try to keep Turtle Island open. It’s especially important because of the foxstead, because what Turtle Island is is very important to the future foxstead. If Turtle Island can’t exist than how can the foxstead? Either way there are many lessons to be gleaned from this situation. Namely hiding in plain site. My first thought is that the foxstead definitely needs a front…but I should stop now because this is a public thread…as in open to the public
Sure there are many many battles to be fought in the war to gain our freedom back. Let there be no mistake, we have no freedoms in this country, just the illusion of freedom. When they can take your ass to jail for no reason, label you a terrorist, ship you off to gitmo, and you never heard from again, and all with you having done nothing wrong…and this is all legal…we have no freedom. Your illusion of freedom only goes as far as they allow it to go.
So we get all of the electronic signatures and they allow Eustace to continue operation as he has. Good, we saved one very important man’s life work. It will be one small victory that we can win. Unless they decide they don’t give a shit about the signatures, in which case we did what we could. I’d love to see Turtle Island allowed to continue without the bull shit codes. I’d say Eustace should just comply and get the plumbing and electricity and colonoscopy, but why should he be forced to pay for it? He doesn’t want it. He’s only helping people with his Turtle Island.
What Eustace is and has been doing is very important for our future. How much easier will it be to have been taught these skills rather than having to fumble around trying to figure out how to live without machines and fossil fuels? Hell, just gardening is a bitch to learn on your own. I know, nobody taught me how to do it. I had to read a lot of books and do a lot of research. Most importantly I had to experiment and fail year after year. I still don’t know what I’m doing. It would be nice to have somebody to say, “don’t do that, don’t plant pumpkins next to potatoes” or whatever. To be taught produces results much more quickly. It helps keep us from wasting valuable time.
At any rate, I think what RE is doing is awesome. As pointless as it all may be, and as helpless as we all are, and even without any freedom, at least he’s trying to do something positive. We all need something to hope for. I don’t want to take my Soma shot and resign myself to Two Minutes Hate on account of keeping my family up in the manner they are accustomed. I want to get my job at the Ministry of Health so that I can make the foxstead a reality. Hide in plain sight. And eventually resign entirely from the Matrix so that my son’s can watch it collapse from a safe vantage point off in the distance.
I’m not fighting for me, I’m fighting for the future generations. I don’t care about the Zombies. I don’t care to save the zombies. They are hopeless. I only care to save my family and those who are already aware of the problems we face. It’s a good bet that all of those who belong to the Turtle Island preserve are our brothers and sisters in Doom. They need our help.
Did steve from virginia really just call him Mr. Eustace? Did reanteben just say [paraphrased], that’s what you get, bitch.
I do find it strange, however, that there is no mention of this scenario on the Turtle Island Preserve website. None. I sent an email yesterday asking about it. Their Spring 2013 newsletter download is inoperable, but they are offering 2013 classes. They specifically request, no pop-in visitors. They seem open to teaching classes for a fee, but otherwise closed off. I started a blog post, railing against government, but it sits in stasis until I hear something from them other than the Change.org petition that was offered, last updated Dec 12, with only 1600 of the signatures coming since that update.
Who knows what Ms Palms is about, but if Eustace is feeling persecuted, he might try reaching out more, rather than wigging out. Otherwise, tyranny in the mundane, for sure. Grinding exceedingly fine.
From Golden Oxen:
Hi Lucid, Your noble and good feelings as well as intentions are understood and well founded. They are after all good Christian deeds and are commendable. My problem is not with them; but with our failure to address the real issue, we are tending to a small shrub in the Forest, while forest fires are destroying the entire forest; hundreds of thousand of acres at a time.
Was it Pogo that said ” I Have Seen the Enemy and it is Us?”
Let’s get serious, these bastards have built FEMA camps for us already. Let’s not forget about the billion hollow point bullets either, much too little discussion about that topic as well.
From Lucid Dreams:
Sure, I get it, but my guess is that there ain’t a damn thing we can do about FEMA and those billion rounds of ammo. I agree we ain’t talking about all of that, but what would the result be of talking about it? Turning ourselves into Martyrs? No thank you. Of course the very fact that we are talking about all of this to begin with, on the net, means that Big Brother is already aware of it. Even the PM’s and private boards are no exception. They know. Which is probably the only reason why they haven’t labeled the Diner and all Diners as terrorist already. However, if they felt they needed to, they would. So if you want to talk about the real issues, and what we’re going to do about it…and be honest about it, then you must first address the fact that there is an NSA city in the desert recording every form of digital communication you can participate in.
Otherwise we’re all just having a delusional virtual circle jerk.
William…what is your point with that last link? I went to it…what am I missing? Has this whole thing already blown over and we didn’t get the memo or something? Can you be a bit more specific for me? Sometimes I miss the obvious.
Having read the Render Unto Caesar post, I can say as a former builder, building and remodeling homes 2003-2007, building codes exist as a matter of coercing a particular kind of economic activity, that happens to be grossly wasteful and exploitative, and otherwise obsolete. To advocate for every building to be built to conform to code, is to exercise a certain kind of madness, very much a kind of crime against humanity and the earth. More than any single thing, it is not about rendering unto Caesar, it is about maintaining GDP growth by FIAT. I.E TYRANNY, leading unto ecological, economic oblivion.
Elvis is merely arguing, the thing justifies itself.
From Steve from Virginia:
Given the state of the world, there is probably no more important example of how to get off the Oil Economy and become self-sufficient as Turtle Island.
That’s a bit hyperbolic, his might be one of many … or it might not be at all. Right now there are at least one billion people who are outside the Oil Economy. None of them are giving TED talks or are on YouTube. To exit the oil economy, one only has to be poor. The challenge that matters for the bourgeois is for them — the non poor — to exit the oil economy, or rather, for those non-poor to exit and not be destroyed by the process or for them to not destroy others.
If Eustace’s program was as good as his marketing he would not be in his current mess. Buzzwords are not a program. Sustainability is … or it isn’t, it occurs or it doesn’t. Evidence suggests he needs subsidy which in turn means he does not have anything to offer other than building styles, leisure activities and public relations.
Certainly, Mr. Eustace can live his life undisturbed as long as his endeavors are private. He hasn’t chosen that route, he must navigate his way around predictable difficulties. Anyone who has ever built any sort of building anywhere in the US would be familiar with these difficulties: permits, occupancy, use, fire, water and sewerage, food handling, community standards, etc. Mr. Eustace owns a large parcel he still lives in a crowded country with many competing interests. Mr. Eustace claims a form of moral supremacy however he does not have a monopoly on it and his claims are questionable if not dubious. Others’ claims are just as valid as his. Certainly someone with an identical claim complained to the local government. The solution is for him to get a permit. It’s not hard, they simply cost money. The are for his benefit as well as others’.
As for his buildings, he has a particular design or form in mind. If he cannot make his structures conform he should hire someone who can. It’s not hard, there are engineers and architects practicing in North Carolina. It just costs money. He should hire an attorney. Having an incompetent attorney is the same- or worse than not having one at all. He would be free of current difficulties if he had competent counsel. Any attorney would have told him in the beginning to obtain a building permit. Since he doesn’t have a building permit ipso-facto he does not have representation.
What Eustace has are PR skills, he’s a media hound. These skills don’t work with people who simply read from a rule book. These same people can make him hate his own life. He can do as he pleases and good luck, it’s not my problem if it was, if called me up and asked what to do I’d tell him to get the damned permit and be done with it.
If he cannot pay the life-cycle costs of his project then he shouldn’t bother. That’s why a developer does such an analysis, VAR, capital-on-capital, time costs, etc. Eustace probably can’t pay life cycle costs which is the problem, what he’s trying to do is gain an indirect subsidy. He’s not sustainable, in other words. No wonder the state and locals are jumping up and down on his head.
Eustace cannot have it both ways: he’s a major landowner with operations that involve fee-paying clients. He takes on the manner of a willfully destitute person … and does so in the Wall Street Journal! He seeks to parlay his manner into a dispensation from what are very ordinary community standards. By doing so he seeks a subsidy. That’s why I’m not sympathetic. Eustace is a developer and a fairly clever one, rich but not rich enough. Instead of building a golf course or an equestrian center he proposes a ‘school’ … a project that he puts his own label upon. Here is a prototype:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esalen_Institute Esalen was offered free use of coastal California property + development funds from a Sears executive: rich + rich enough.
Better to make the 1000 acres into a wildlife refuge.
I’ve deliberately avoided commenting on this thread because I know very little about Mr. Conway or his school. But here are a few thoughts concerning some of what I’ve been reading.
As for his buildings, he has a particular design or form in mind. If he cannot make his structures conform he should hire someone who can. It’s not hard, there are engineers and architects practicing in North Carolina. It just costs money
Building codes are and have been an impediment to innovation for the past 40 or more years, and it’s getting worse as our empire matures. It’s all about making certain politically connected groups (like corporate builders, and purveyors of materials) happy.
Many studies show that outmoded building codes that regulate residential construction impede technical progress in the construction industry. Although the stated purpose of these regulations is to protect consumers from unsafe buildings, the regulations prevent the use of new and less expensive materials and construction practices. Various studies conclude that if the 10 most “wasteful practices” required by building codes were eliminated, the average cost saving for a single family house would range from 5 percent to 15 percent.
Why do building codes penalize society in this way? Several explanations have been offered. Oster and Quigley (1977) hypothesize that the probability of an innovation in material, design, or organization being permitted by a local building code depends on the professional background of the chief building official and the perceived level of conflict caused by permitting the proposed change. In turn, the conflict is a function of the actual or potential interference by firms, organized labor, and housing consumers.
These interest groups engage in informational or persuasive activities if their potential benefits exceed their lobbying costs. For example, if nonmetallic sheathed cables for wiring are cheaper and easier to install than metal conduit and can be installed by less-skilled electricians, both manufacturers of metal conduit and electricians (especially highly-skilled, high-wage union electricians) may oppose their use.
Oster and Quigley’s study of four innovations shows that these factors do determine the rate of adoption. For example, if the chief building official has two more years of education (they average 14 years), then the probability of permitting preassembled plumbing and wider placement of studs (both of which reduce the demand for local labor) rises by 5 to 6 percent. The higher the percentage of local workers who are unionized, the less likely that innovations reducing the demand for local labor are adopted. Similarly, as the average size of local construction firms increases (and hence their fixed costs of lobbying decrease), it is less likely that innovations will be permitted.
Oster, Sharon M., and John M. Quigley. 1977. “Regulatory Barriers to the Diffusion of Innovation: Some Evidence from Building Codes.” The Bell Journal of Economics 8:361-77.
In my opinion,there should be exemptions to the International Building Code for buildings constructed primarily to experiment with construction methodologies that don’t fully conform but show promise in reducing
I expect Mr. Conway probably does consider his property to be a wildlife refuge, and he might get tax breaks for setting aside acreage for wildlife. I don’t know how that works in NC, but in Texas you can have a wildlife refuge and a school. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
I don’t watch TV…never seen the shows Mr.Conway allowed to be made..but I know from personal experience that it’s really hard to take a dream of building an intentional, sustainable community and hammer that into reality. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have rich donors to foot the bill, and as the Foxstead group here has discussed at length, that might not even be desirable, depending on the strings attached to the money. There are a fair number of people trying to gear up to build intentional communities these days, and the concept of a school that teaches sustainable agriculture or other food-raising tech is a popular one. Most people who want to do that don’t have a lot of money. They are trying to bootstrap themselves, and they have my admiration and sympathy.
As you can see, when the Diners Get Going, the Whole Kitchen Sink of Problems we face gets pitched into the mix. We’ve got GITMO, FEMA, Martial Law, oncoming War, the WORKS going on here in terms of how we look at this Microcosm of the whole problem. Which it is, it’s just one small facet in one small place in Appalachia, and resolving it one way or the other won’t do a damn thing to resolve World Problems, but for anyone seeking to make some attempt at escape from those problems, there are many lessons to be learned here, and I consider the situation to be one worth examining in its own right. So I am not going to get Highjacked off the topic of Eustace and Turtle Island to discuss the Big Picture of FEMA and Death Camps awaiting Billions.
The main post I will respond to in this essay is the one made by Steve from Virginia, aka Elvis. In his most recent post on the topic, Steve Sez:
To exit the oil economy, one only has to be poor.
This is absurd, poor folks don’t exit the Oil Economy, they just end up in Slums which leach off the Oil Economy, pirating Electricity, scavenging Oil Age materials to build their Shanty Towns & Favelas, eating on Food Aid or Dumpster Diving etc. The Billion or more desperately poor people around the world haven’t exited the Oil Economy at all, they still remain totally dependent on its continuing Functionality.
These folks do not know how to Grow their own Food or even find Wild Edible Plants either. They are 100% dependent on the Oil Economy for continued survival, living generally in Sewers that are the flotsam and jetsam of the Age of Oil.
Even most of the Inuit up here who still live in places like Barrow and do Subsistence Fishing & Hunting haven’t exited the Oil Economy, they live now in Modular Housing dropped there by Barges and Ferries, they get Electricity from local Diesel Generators and they sure don’t go fishing or whaling in Seal Skin Kayaks anymore, they use Aluminum Boats powered by still more Diesel. When the Diesel stops coming in, I suspect they are not that far removed from the way Grandad lived they won’t be able to return to living that way, but they also will take a hit here to be sure. They will do better than the vast majority of desperately poor people living in Calcutta, Mexico City, Athens, Detroit and Stockton though.
I don’t deny Eustace Conway is something of a Media Whore, and likely a fairly wealthy dilletante also who only was able to accomplish what he has because he had some MONEY backing him somewhere. At the same time however, we NEED Media Whores and Experts who can teach people how to live off the land.
Far as looking for “Subsidies”, I don’t see this as valid at all. Eustace doesn’t want the services of the Fire Department at all, so why should he have to meet fire codes on his property? The people who come there to learn from Eustace don’t want Toilets, and they want to be able to drink Raw Milk and eat the Chickens they Slaughter. I am sure they sign Waivers before Eustace will start teaching them this shit, and this is then THEIR risk. If they get sick from eating the chickens or drinking the raw milk, that is THEIR problem to deal with. Under the Property Ownership Paradigm, this is HIS plot of land, or really that of the Non-Profit Turtle Island Preserve Corporation. He isn’t looking for a Subsidy, he is just looking to disengage from the Matrix, which he cannot do entirely but he still does pay the taxes on the land. So he is Looking for Loopholes, and that is good old fashioned BIZNESS.
In any event, at the moment it appears Eustace is either Winning or he is at least holding even with his battle with the State, using the Media and the Internet to publicize his effort, which is all well and good IMHO. I think he could do a better job of this, for one thing responding to Emails of support would be a decent idea. LOL.
Bottom Line: If there IS to be a sustainable future for Homo Sapiens, the route Eustace Conway took through his life and clearly wishes to teach to others is one of the better paradigms out there, certainly a whole lot better than living in a Slum off Pirated Electricity while Dumpster Diving for Food anyhow. Is he a bit rich but not RICH ENOUGH? Probably so, but it still makes sense to fight the Good Fight here and exert pressure on the Local Goobermint to make exemptions for this, rather than try to meet the costs of bringing all those buildings and roads “up to code”. The school likely does not bring in enough income to make those changes, and neither Eustace or the people who go there to learn from him want these changes on PRIVATE PROPERTY.
For others like the Diner SUN Project and Foxsteaders, it does serve as a Lesson that if you want to make something like this work, confrontation with the State in its current incarnation is not a good methodology, and finding ways to “Hide in Plain Sight” are the better tactic. Regardless of that, IMHO what Eustace is doing to confront the State also must be done, though unless he is really fucking good as a Media Whore he will eventually get squashed here. It does raise awareness generally speaking though, and somebody gotta do this.
Off the keyboard of the Diners
Published on the Doomstead Diner on May 14, 2013
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
Already inside the Diner the discussion regarding the feasibility of Turtle Island in the face of Goobermint Regulation are heating up. Steve from Virginia of Economic Undertow dropped on the following two BOMBS on the regulatory aspect of the Turtle Island Project:
Conway needs tohire a lawyer. Right now he’s trying to operate a business that is open to the public and he has little room to maneuver vis the authorities.He might be more successful operating a private club where interested parties would become members before being allowed entry.Not only does he need sprinklers and a rest room it must be an ADA compliant rest room; a certain number of stalls per planned number of occupants.He’ll also need parking places, fire exits, etc. If he gets an exemption then every business in North Carolina will demand the same exemptions.RE: Jeezus says in the Bible, “Render unto Caesar” what that means if you have some sort of public accommodation you have to play by the rules.I’ve dealt with this sort of thing for 35 years there is no way ’round it. Building rules are there b/c the big manufacturers want them, so do contractors, insurance companies, other businesses … and so does the public. Parents don’t want their pumpkins to be burned up in fires or get poisoned by bad plumbing or have their legs broken by falls. They want TV. There are reasons for the rules, it costs more not to have them.What this means is project owners are compelled to use standardized goods in their buildings. That means toilets, windows, electric lights, roof shingles, siding, ductwork, furnaces with thermostats, etc. It’s Eustace vs. Home Depot, he can’t win. Even if he does he’ll wind up flat broke.It’s better for him to either hire a planner and conform, open a gun club or a commune or sell to a (self-created) business shell that can manage the establishment … in other words, he has to survive. He is clearly in no wilderness, he needs to come up with an appropriate ‘Plan B’.When the time comes there will be little in the way of authority, Home Depot will be busted flat and people will do as they please … and Eustace will be free of the need to earn money by way of instruction. Until then … he must render unto Caesar.
This IS the Common Wisdom, until such time as the Matrix Collapses, you gotta play by DA RULES of the Matrix. You cannot go Off-Grid; you cannot escape the Regulation, NO WAY NO HOW, so get your act together, buy the Hardware from Home Depot to Install Flush Toilets and LIVE WITH IT! This is REALITY! YOU HAVE NO CHOICE!
At the very same time of course, my dear friend and cross posting Blogger Steve from Virgina (who I often refer to as Elvis inside the Diner) blames all of us for succumbing to “Fashion” of Industrialized living, DESPITE the fact he also argues we got NO CHOICE but to accept it! Which is it to be here Elvis? You cannot have it both ways. Either we can make choices to live a more sustainable lifestyle or we cannot because WE do not control the paradigm.
Regulation and Administrative Laws are generally beyond the scope of anyone to”Vote” on. Nobody ever votes on the gobs of regulations about Fire Safety issues, and the Fire Inspectors who traipse around your building are unaccountable to anyone. If they say your building is UNSAFE and CONDEMN it, you got no recourse. They are the “experts” on this, the Courts will back them up not you, so if you do not Cowtow to this set of Administrative Laws you are SOL. LIVE WITH IT!
That is the paradigm Elvis promotes here. You cannot CHANGE this, so you better LAWYER UP and LIVE WITH IT! At the SAME time he bemoans the Carz and Industrialization though and blames everybody for succumbing to FASHION! LOL. Which IS it? Either we have a choice here to change or we do not. Elvis says in one post we HAVE the choice to reject “Fashion”, but in the next one tells us we need to Lawyer Up and meet the Building Codes!!! Which one is it to BE here Elvis? You CANNOT have it both ways!
Fighting this problem is of course extremely difficult, and not a few Diners have succumbed to NEGATIVITY on the possibility for CHANGE. The Obstacles are ENORMOUS, the Power of the State TREMENDOUS.
Further thoughts on the topic came in today from Steve and a few of the Diners as well. Let us review the arguments here:
From Steve from Virginia:
RE: Jeezus says in the Bible, “Render unto Caesar” what that means if you have some sort of public accommodation you have to play by the rules.
I’ve dealt with this sort of thing for 35 years there is no way ’round it. Building rules are there b/c the big manufacturers want them, so do contractors,
insurance companies, other businesses … and so does the public. Parents don’t want their pumpkins to be burned up in fires or get poisoned by bad plumbing or have their legs broken by falls. They want TV. There are reasons for the rules, it costs more not to have them.What this means is project owners are compelled to use standardized goods in their buildings. That means toilets, windows, electric lights, roof shingles, siding, ductwork, furnaceswith thermostats, etc. It’s Eustace vs. Home Depot, he can’t win. Even if he does he’ll wind up flat broke.It’s better for him to either hire a planner and conform, open a gun club or a commune or sell to a (self-created) business shell that can manage the establishment … in other words, he has to survive. He is clearly in no wilderness, he needs to come up with an appropriate ‘Plan B’.When the time comes there will be little in the way of authority, Home Depot will be busted flat and people will do as they please … and Eustace will be free of the need to earn money by way of instruction. Until then … he must render unto Caesar.
If you follow any of the S&M threads here, you should know by now I do not hold a very high Opinion of Jeezus idea of Rendering Unto Caesar OR Turning the Other Cheek. I’m not in the “Can’t Win” Camp. I do agree if Eustace has not already set up an NP for the Turtle Island Preserve, he needs to do that. We of course are discussing a similar idea here with the SUN Project.No Battle is Unwinnable if you bring enough Numbers to Bear on the problem and Good Strategy. Even the Boys in Black Pajamas in Vietnam knew that, and so do the Pashtuns using IEDs in their battle against the Drones. You may lose a few in the battle, but in the end you will win with persistence, and as Uncle Joe Stalin said, “You can’t make an Omellette without Breaking a few Eggs”.
In this case, the IDEA is to bring enough Public Support in this direction through the medium of the Internet to get a Code Variance. If you give up and say “Can’t Win“, of course you can’t. This is a low population zone and with enough people harrassing the Local Officials with E-mails, Faxes etc and making their lives otherwise MISERABLE, you can change a few votes on the local Council. I don’t know what your total readership base is, but we get plenty-o-readers here and Kunstler and Orlov probably get more than that. Jim Quinn on TBP published my article, and a few from that website have already signed the petition.
Anyhow, I refuse to take a Defeatist attitude to this one, and I’ll write on it more even if you won’t. Petition now down to 8029 left to go. Did you sign?
RE: having the right attitude is not being defeatist. Mr. Eustace wants to do something presumably to earn money and to involve the public. He wants to get what he wants: to do so he has to follow the rules.It can be argued that the rules in this case are being applied arbitrarily: those not directly involved don’t have enough information or perspective to come to a conclusion. (highlight by JD Wheeler)That’s why Eustace needs to hire a lawyer, he also needs to get a permit. Millions of others in N. Carolina have gotten permits and built structures, there is no reason why Eustace cannot do it as well.He can lease space nearby as a base of operations probably at very low cost. Then he could operate his land area as a private campground. He could open a shooting range or permit seasonal duck hunting or hire out for any number of other, similar sorts of activities that would provide income and not annoy the county. In any event he would have be insurable. That means a permit.I can’t think of any jurisdiction in the US where someone can operate a public facility without permits or infrastructure … maybe Montana … then again probably not. These counties and local governments are all tangentially liable when something goes wrong. They’re going to cover their asses. It’s not like Eustace is opening an ice cream parlor.
Depending on location, he would need about 10 permits and licenses to sell ice cream or to cut hair, 20- or more for child care facility.
Managing land use is not extraordinary: the public demands more of it not less … otherwise there is nothing to stop Eustace from opening a junkyard or chicken slaughterhouse or a CAFO … or frack for gas, mine for uranium, dump toxic waste, etc. all of these things on his ‘wilderness academies’.
I’m happy to let Eustace fight his own battles that he’s chosen for himself. I doubt he has a lawyer otherwise matters would not have reached the point where he is confronting authorities on his own property. He needs a ‘courthouse lawyer’, an ‘old boy’ who knows and is friends with everyone in city hall, someone who can spread honey on the waters. He needs to spend some money … otherwise he needs to drop back off the radar screen.
Elvis isn’t bothering to do any research here, he’s just making assumptions that Eustace hasn’t lawyered up and that he should just pony up and comply with all the ordinances.There’s a pretty decent chance Eustace doesn’t HAVE the money to make all the changes they could be dropping on as violations. My guess is he used his Life Savings to buy the 1000 Acres, then figured to pay the taxes on it from his earnings teaching primitive living skills. He may not have been bringing in enough money this way, so he hooks up with the Discovery Channel to make some more money.As mentioned he doesn’t HAVE to run this school, he can just go back to living in a TeePee. The point here is demonstrating the ridiculous nature of the regulations being applied to a school specifically designed to teach primitive living. It’s also about not giving in to the persistent encroachement on freedom by an ever expanding set of bureaucracies. It’s the “You can’t fight City Hall” mentality that Elvis is preaching here, but at some point you have to draw a line in the sand and in fact fight City Hall.So, to fight City Hall you have to generate up some Numbers, that is what the Petition is for and I am sure his Lawyer advised him to do that one. My purpose with the Blog-a-thon is to help generate up still more numbers to Fight City Hall, but Elvis here is an old time Bizman who played by the Rules, and he thinks Eustace should to.
The rules are wrong, following them has led us to where we are now, and the time has come to draw a line in the sand. If Elvis doesn’t wanna help here, that is fine, I can write enough for both of us, and then some.
The recommendation here for Eustace is just to Pony Up, Pay the State what it requires, Buy all the Correct Materials from the Approved Corporations and then they will “Leave Him Alone” and he can happily run his Primitive Living School, except about NOTHING is Primitive about it after he makes all these “Upgrades”!
The recommendation also entirely neglects the COST of making said Upgrades, which would run into enormous sums of Money Eustace likely does not have. He likely would have to Raze many if not most of the Buildings he spent 20 years building by Primitive Means for the most part, though I suspect he used Metal Axes and Saws along the way. He’s not doing complete Stone Age here. He’ll never be able to get those buildings up to code.
For 20 some years the State basically Ignored Eustace, he was running a small Under the Radar operation, but then he signed up with Discovery Channel and got a bit more Famous. Probably had to do that because he was short on Revenue just to pay the Property Tax bill. Likely some other Biz Owner in the neighborhood Rat Finks him out because he is pissed off Eustace doesn’t have to meet the Building Codes but he DOES. Except of course, the other Biz Owners aren’t running Primitive Living Schools either!
On one level, it might be possible for a good Lawyer to argue Eustace’s buildings should be Grandfathered, since the Building Code Violations were ignored for so many years before. Another Tactic might be to create a whole new Sub-category for Buildings based specifically for demonstrating Primitive Living methods and get the local Council to pass those regulations. A 3rd tactic might be to try and get the whole Preserve listed on the National Historic Registry as a NATIONAL TREASURE, which it CLEARLY is, and thus make it immune from all Local Regulations. Any of these tactics would of course take some 1st Class Lawyering, and we do not know what the quality of Eustace’s Legal Team is, though we do know he has one.
The Legal Fight of course takes MONEY also, though it is possible you could get Pro-Bono help from various Legal Groups now engaged in fighting for Civil Liberties, this goes from Left to Right on the Political Spectrum from the ACLU to the Libertarians and Tea Baggers.
In any case, I see it as utterly the WRONG idea to succumb to this kind of ATTACK because “You can’t Fight City Hall” and you must “Render Unto Caesar”. I am a bit disappointed so far in not getting any assistance from many other Collapse Bloggers to join in this fight, which I think is Seminal and we should be drawing a line in the sand here as to just how much we will TAKE here before we FIGHT BACK.
The time has come to say, “I’m MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!
Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams
Published on Epiphany Now on May 12, 2013
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
From the Keyboard of Surly1
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 12, 2013
Today I offer this in tribute to my own mother, 83 years old and still going strong, having survived uterine cancer, several cardiac episodes, diabetes and raising me to what passed for adulthood.
I have been privileged to know several people in this life who, without the benefit of formal higher education, managed to be self educated and extremely intelligent. My mother is one such.
She was working as a clerk in Mannesmann’s department store in East Liberty, outside of Pittsburgh, when she met my father via introduction from a mutual friend. (Guess that’s how things were done before the advent of Match.com and smart phones.) My earliest memories consist of her reading to me. I remember the books: a soft cotton children’s book, with buttons, zippers that worked, and textures–they make them even yet–it became one of my closest friends because she read it to me every day. The Mother Goose books. The stories–fairly tales, the brothers Grimm, the Three Pigs, Aladdin, Red riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, countless children’s stories. Although neither of my parents was educated beyond high school, our home had plenty of books. I also remember waiting for my father to come home, and climbing up in his laugh, importuning him to read me the funny pages. I am told, although I don’t remember, that I would point to words and asked my parents, “What’s that word?” “What’s that word?” Neither of my parents were long on patience, but both of them always had enough patience to encourage my reading.
And thus I learned to read an early age, which gave me a leg up on being able to learn. And thence never to be able to shut up.
On Mother’s Day I think about the gift she gave me, six decades down the road, and I am deeply appreciative.
My mother is also a pretty tough nut. Born of an Irish Italian family, she had to be to hold her own with my Italian father, who himself was descended from 2000 years worth of hot tempered construction workers. I grew up thinking my mother was the most stubborn human being I had ever met, yet as an adult I came to see that such was the sort of resilience that she required to be able to hold her own, not only with my father’s family, but with the world at large. And I’m not surprised to learn that I had a great big broad streak of that myself.
(Not surprisingly, I find myself in my dotage attracted to a similarly tough minded, opinionated woman with a broad stubborn streak and strong opinions. Hence the sobriquet, “Contrary.”)
With those thoughts in mind, and as a tribute to tough-minded, stubborn, opinionated women everywhere, I offer Diner readers a wonderful recollection of another tough-minded mother written by Frida Berrigan.
My mom is fearless. No, really, I mean it. When my brother and I were little, we got our bikes stolen a lot. We were easy marks — pudgy, white and well-meaning, living in a tall crowded row house full of white, well-meaning people.
“Hey shorty, lemme hold that bike.” We would “share” and the bike would be gone. We were always afraid to go home without our bikes because it meant getting into the car with mom and searching the neighborhood. We begged her to just buy us new bikes, but it never worked.
No matter how big and intimidating the boys who “held” our bikes were to us, they seemed small and looked like kids as they handed our bikes back to our mom after mutely enduring her tongue scouring. They might have mumbled or glared as she stowed the rusty old third hand bikes in the back of the car, but they did it quietly and behind her back.
It was not just neighborhood toughs-in-training who endured our mom’s fearsome mom-ness. Once, demonstrating against war and nuclear weapons at the White House, mom held on to the end of the banner with her teeth as the police put her in handcuffs.
She is tough, but as kids we also watched her joke with the Pentagon workers and the police a lot. Handing out leaflets, she would address anyone in uniform as “General” or “Admiral.” Even the toughest patriot had to smile at this energetic sprite’s cheerful irreverence. It did not mean they took the densely written anti-militarist tract she was handing out, but sometimes just getting them to smile was more important.
Someone once gave her a sweatshirt that said “Because I’m the Mom, that’s why,” which she wore to shreds when we were little. It fit her fierceness to a tee. Yep, the world knows her as Elizabeth McAlister, Harrisburg co-conspirator, member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, wife of Phil Berrigan, Plowshares activist, retreat leader and so much more. We just call her mom and pretty much try to do what we’re told. Why? Because she is the mom.
I still rely on her fierceness. When I sunk $1,000 into a lemon of a car, she took me to the mechanic and convinced him to give me my money back and keep the car. I was floored that he actually agreed to it and shook by her power. And I was a full on grown-up at the time, ready to walk away from $1,000 the same way I had wanted to walk away from my bike all those times.
She doesn’t keep track of her arrests, doesn’t keep score like some movement-heavies, doesn’t worry about herself at all under arrest or in jail or prison. She did two years for a Plowshares action when my brother and I were in our tweens, and our sister was 3 years old. Those were hard years for her, to be away from us and our dad. But she made it seem like a retreat — she quit smoking, did yoga, went for long walks, worked on the grounds crew and built lasting friendships. All the while, she knew more about our daily activities, triumphs and tribulations from the Alderson Federal Prison Camp than most moms while living under the same roof as their kids.
But now that I am older, I have a better sense of how hard it was for her to be away from us by watching her struggle with my sister’s and brother’s arrests and know that she has struggled with mine as well. We can’t tell her, “Oh, no big deal. It’s just a little arrest.” She knows — better than most — what it takes to cross the line. I happened to be in Baltimore with her when my sister rappelled off the side of the TransAmerica building in Los Angeles to hang a banner for the Rainforest Action Network.
Kate had told my mom when it was going to happen and gave her the number for one of the organizers just in case. I think her name was Hillary. I remember it because we called her a lot, and mom thought about calling her more. She was praying so hard for Kate to be safe. Mom has never liked heights — an occupational hazard of a third career as a housepainter with a fearless housepainter husband. So much for the first line of this piece. I guess I should have said, “My mom is fearless… except for heights!” Still, mom invoked our dad’s ladder-climbing, height-defying spirit while Kate was harnessed in — being buffeted about by the Los Angeles winds.
After a long white-knuckle day of prayer, worry and imagining the worst, we heard that Kate was on the ground and under arrest. Mom relaxed a little. Later, she asked Kate if Hillary had to field a lot of phone calls from worried parents while she was doing press work, liaising with the cops and talking to the climbers by walkie-talkie. “No, mom, just from you,” Kate replied. The rest of the young people had not told their parents they were dropping off the side of Los Angeles’ tallest building that day. Mom could not believe that some kids would not share that with their parents. I asked if maybe she’d be more comfortable just knowing it had all gone well after the fact — save her the worry. “No,” she said firmly. “Always tell me, Kate. Always tell me. I want to pray you to the ground safely.”
She is a guide, a shepherd, a midwife, a facilitator. When dad was diagnosed with cancer in fall 2002, she gathered us all in — not just my brother and sister and I, but the whole community, as well as whole other communities. Hundreds of people came to take care of him, of us, of one another — to help him die and help us grieve. And through it all, she made it happen — laughter, tears, meatballs, memories, roses, torches. There was a role for everyone because she shared it.
I have seen her cry only a few times. Once was in complete and total frustration at my brother and me. I remember that like it was yesterday. It was terrifying (and strangely empowering too). She also broke down at my dad’s grave, as he was being lowered into it, with the torches and snow and music evoking some sort of timeless Viking ritual. She broke, and then she began to remake herself. For the last 10 years, she has been continuing — the life of community, of labor, of prayer, of organizing, of resistance, of studying the Bible. And she has been innovating — art has taken up residence as she devotes time and energy to her prodigious gifts. Donkeys and goats and llamas and guinea fowl now quarrel and push one another at feeding time. Five incredible youngsters call her grandma, showering her with sloppy kisses and clumsy drawings and pawing her with sticky hands. She wears her “Grandmothers for Peace” sweatshirt like a banner — fiercely and with great love.
On this Mother’s Day, for mothers here and departed, for young mothers and expectant mothers about to give birth, for those living the grief of a first Mother’s Day without a mother, let us give joy and thanks for the courage that mothers inspire to be better than we really are.
From the Keyboard of Surly1
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 12, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
Plenty of doom and doom-related happenings on the domestic and international front this week, so let’s go right to the videotape:
Across the pond in Greece, where Question Mark and the Austerians are administering the same sort of save-the-rich economic policies that plutocrats like Pete Peterson so dearly wants to bring to the FSA, youth unemployment has reached a staggering 60 per cent.
While the overall unemployment rate rose to 27 percent, according to statistics service data released on Thursday, joblessness among those aged between 15 and 24 jumped to 64.2 percent in February from 59.3 percent in January. Youth unemployment was 54.1 percent in March 2012.
“It is by far the highest youth unemployment rate in the euro zone, highlighting the difficulties young people face in entering the labor market despite government incentives to create jobs,” said economist Nikos Magginas at National Bank.
Athens has lowered the minimum monthly wage for those under 25 years by 32 percent to about 500 euros to entice hiring.
Note that last succulent little datapoint, and keep it in your pocket when the solons in DC look up from Benghazi! BENGHAZI!! BENGHAZI!!!!!!!!! long enough to recommend a lowering of the minimum wage, or pass a bill to eliminate overtime wage payments.
As our friend Joe P. posted earlier in the week, researchers have once again discovered the glaringly obvious, a link between racism and stupidity. Whouda thunk it?
Findings taken from numerous research projects strongly indicate that prejudice, racism and intolerance are more likely to be present in individuals with greater cognitive rigidity, less cognitive flexibility and lower integrative complexity.Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice.
We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology.
A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status.
Original here. This is well known by those in power, who have thoughtfully provided these people their own reality-free 24-hour Cable News Network.
“If voting changed anything they would make it illegal”
Although I am a pretty political creature, I tend to eschew politics on the Diner blog. The reasons for that are that there is a time and place for everything, and secondly, I share the apparent presupposition of most Diners that electoral politics is a sham and dumb show conducted every four years to keep we muppets amused. With that in mind as background, I proudly ginned up the following segue, citing as additional evidence of mass stupidity the reelection of Terry Sanford in South Carolina this week. South Carolina has been the crazy uncle living in the attic of American politics ever since, oh, say 1859. But it never trotted out its stuff more aggressively than it did this week, and elevating the serial philanderer, trespasser, liar, adulterer, and misuser of state funds to noble office. Proof positive that debating cardboard cutouts of Nancy Pelosi in. the absence of having anything to say for yourself is really all you need to be elected in South Carolina. This person says it best, the unvarnished, unpolished, wholly unedited letter from a mad-as-shit South Carolinian:
Dear Fellow South Carolinians of the First District,
What the fuck are you people thinking? Mark Sanford, really? Way to keep us in the running, as the shitass craziest state of the nation. One more fuck-up like this and we’ll surpass even Florida — home of child killers, cannibals and roach eaters! The “Palmetto State”, my ass. I think the “Facepalm State” is becoming increasingly more accurate here.
I have to hand it to you though–go big or go home, right? On the same ballot where you elected Mark Sanford, that two-timing turd, you also voted–by a majority of 65%, no less–to protect the sanctity of marriage from scary gay people. Why shart quietly when you can shit the whole bed, am I right? The irony is intoxicating and it makes me puke.
We all know that South Carolina is a conservative bastion–no Democrat has won here in 30 years. Elizabeth Colbert Busch had the qualifications, ran a strong campaign and was leading Sanford in the polls late into the campaign. Realizing that Sanford couldn’t beat Colbert Busch, one-on-one, he had to invoke the name of that Satanist Minx, Nancy Pelosi as the straw man to gain traction. And with all of the cognitive skills of Pavlov’s dogs, you clownfuckers fell for it.
Where is the outrage of 1998, when the Clinton administration was nearly tanked over a blow job? And who was leading the charge in the furor against Clinton’s infidelity back then? None other than fucking white Grimace, himself, Newt Gingrich–you know, that other adulterous goat diddler that you elected as Republican presidential nominee last year.
So what gives, South Carolina? Is this insanity a cry for help or is it, more likely, a stunt for more attention? Were we paying too much attention to Mississippi again? You’re like the pretty blonde with the dazzling smile that boils the pet rabbit at the first hint of rejection.
And don’t pretend like this recent spate of cray-cray is a fluke, either. We also have you to thank for Joe “You lie!” Wilson, and racist hypocrite Strom Thurmond who fathered a child with his parents’ 16 year old black housekeeper. “There’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches” But you’re totally down with porking them ain’t ya, eh, Strom?
There is much to love about South Carolina: the food, the gentility of its people, the mellifluous accent, and we can certainly appreciate colorful characters. We dig eccentricity! But hypocrisy is unbecoming, and so is stupidity in the face of facts.
Too bad Congressman-elect Sanford won’t be able to luxuriate in the after-glow of his win. He’ll be tied up in court defending the charge of trespassing onto his ex-wife’s property. I wonder if he’ll repay the state of South Carolina the money he used for his Argentinian booty call. Surely he will because he’s all about “family values” and responsible government spending.
I just snorted mint julep through my nose! You know what, First District? All y’all can kiss my motherfucking ass– that’s right, all y’all ignorant motherfuckers!!
A Formerly Proud South Carolinian
A truly well done rant. Wish I had said that.
As the journalists would say, “add stupidity.” We offer up this article on the overreach of law enforcement. Free Lilly-May Allen!!!
A girl aged ten was told by police that she could be arrested for causing criminal damage – over a game of hopscotch.
Lilly-May Allen was playing with a friend on a grid she had chalked on the pavement in front of her home when a marked police van pulled up.
An officer warned the girls that using chalk on the pavement was criminal damage and they could be arrested for it, before driving off.
But the girls did not understand what they had done wrong and Lilly-May is now reluctant to play outside, according to her father.
After Lilly-May told her parents about the incident, they called the police to clarify the law, but officers refused to confirm whether drawing a hopscotch grid in chalk on the pavement was an offence – even though it washes away in the rain.
The girl’s father, Bob Allen, 51, who runs his own karaoke business, said: ‘The policeman said to her that what she had done was criminal damage and she could be arrested. He then drove off.
‘She didn’t come into the house for a while and didn’t tell us straight away because she thought I was going to tell her off for being naughty.
‘She couldn’t even remember what the policeman had told her it was – only criminal something.’
He added: ‘She is only ten and didn’t know what she had done wrong.
‘I rang up the police and asked if chalking up a hopscotch grid was an offence and they wouldn’t say yes or no and said it was a grey area.
‘I’m angry and upset and if it was against the law then the policeman should have knocked on our door and said something.’
Mr Allen, who lives in a three-bedroom semi-detached home in Ramsgate, Kent, said the incident on Monday had knocked his daughter’s confidence about playing outside.
As as long as we’re piling on the gobshites in what is rapidly becoming the “stupidity” edition of The Week That Was in Doom, let us turn to that gift which keeps on giving, Sen. James Imhofe (R-Saturn):
“The Obama Administration’s cover up of Benghazi is the greatest conspiracy of all time, even greater than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which happens to be totally true by the way.”
All this in a week where the Heritage Foundation managed to put out a factually laughable report attributing trillions of dollars to the future costs of immigration. The fact that the report was a tissue of bad assumptions lashed together by a proven bigot seemed to be no impediment.
James DeMint resigned from the Senate (as a representative of South Carolina) some months ago — so he could get a big pay raise to be the head of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
What better place to be rewarded with seven-figures at a think tank, when this is your big thought:
DeMint said if someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom and he holds the same position on an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend — she shouldn’t be in the classroom.
Naturally as head of the Heritage Foundation, DeMint used his first big project — critiquing immigration reform to keep those big “ideas” flowing.
One of the co-authors of the Heritage Study claming immigration reform would add $6.3 trillion to the deficit, Jason Richwine, advocated barring immigrants from entering the United States based on their IQ in 2009.
Really getting their Confederate Dollars’ worth the Heritage Foundation.
Yesterday I posted about how former Senator, freak, and current Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint managed to put out a factually laughable immigrant bashing report put together in large part by a bigot.
But the bigot, Jason Redwine, is so much, so very much more:
The Heritage Foundation’s Jason Richwine, who co-authored the think tank’s study claiming immigration reform will cost trillions of dollars, contributed two articles to a “nationalist” website about Hispanic incarceration rates, Yahoo News reported Thursday. Richwine came under fire after the Washington Post reported Wednesday that his Harvard dissertation argued Hispanics have lower IQs than Caucasians and that the United States should screen immigrants based on their IQ scores.
Meanwhile in reality, which is NOT a whiter shade of pale:
A record seven-in-ten (69%) Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall, two percentage points higher than the rate (67%) among their white counterparts, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Looks like it is time for resign again Jim DeMint.
South Carolina again. Caveat emptor.
In other doom-related news this week, the Center for Food Safety has caught the FDA admitting that chicken meat contains arsenic. Skip the chicken when taking mom to Sunday afternoon dinner for Mother’s Day today.
Attorneys at Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit on behalf of CFS, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and seven other U.S. food safety, agriculture, public health and environmental groups to compel the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to respond to the groups’ three year-old petition which calls for immediate withdrawal of FDA’s approval of arsenic-containing compounds as feed additives for food animals. Filed the same day Consumer Reports released an alarming study on antibiotic resistance in turkey, the lawsuit highlights yet another gaping hole in FDA oversight of animal feed additives.
Arsenic is commonly added to poultry feed for the FDA-approved purposes of inducing faster weight gain on less feed, and creating the perceived appearance of a healthy color in meat from chickens, turkeys and hogs. Yet new studies increasingly link these practices to serious human health problems.
. . .
“FDA leadership is asleep at the switch, if not turning a blind eye to public health,” said David Wallinga, MD, a physician with the IATP. “Seven years ago, IATP blew the whistle on FDA’s indifference to arsenic being needlessly fed to chickens and turkeys. More than a decade ago, we sounded the alarm on how FDA let the routine feeding of drugs to chickens and turkeys help ensure that Americans would eat meat often contaminated with bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics. We are filing suit because nothing much has changed.”
Some years ago I read a biography of Rasputin, who reportedly dosed himself with arsenic every day as a preventative against assassination. Rasputin was astute enough to realize that his proximity to the Czarina placed him in mortal danger from opportunists in the Czar’s court. In the fullness of time, they did indeed assassinate Rasputin, but he shrugged off the initial doses of poison like after dinner brandy. Disposing of Rasputin required the assassins to shoot him multiple times, wrap him in chains and throw his body into the river. I offer this anecdote in the hopes that regular dosings of arsenic will have a similar salutary effect for those of us who dine regularly at the Doomsday Diner. Bon appetit!
Elsewhere, in a thoughtful and detailed look at the excesses of the FSA Security State, Peter Van Buren writing for Tom dispatch describes appalling detail just how deep the Washington rabbit hole really goes with respect to whistleblowers. A truly Kafkaesque tale.
Robert MacLean is a former air marshal fired for an act of whistle-blowing. He has continued to fight over seven long years for what once would have passed as simple justice: getting his job back. His is an all-too-twenty-first-century story of the extraordinary lengths to which the U.S. government is willing to go to thwart whistle-blowers.
First, the government retroactively classified a previously unclassified text message to justify firing MacLean. Then it invoked arcane civil service procedures, including an “interlocutory appeal” to thwart him and, in the process, enjoyed the approval of various courts and bureaucratic boards apparently willing to stamp as “legal” anything the government could make up in its own interest.
And yet here’s the miracle at the heart of this tale: MacLean refused to quit, when ordinary mortals would have thrown in the towel. Now, with a recent semi-victory, he may not only have given himself a shot at getting his old job back, but also create a precedent for future federal whistle-blowers. In the post-9/11 world, people like Robert MacLean show us how deep the Washington rabbit hole really goes.
The Whistle Is Blown
MacLean joined the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) in 2001 after stints with the Air Force and the Border Patrol. In July 2003, all marshals received a briefing about a possible hijacking plot. Soon after, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), which oversees FAMS, sent an unencrypted, open-air text message to the cell phones of the marshals cancelling several months of missions for cost-cutting reasons. MacLean became concerned that cancelling missions during a hijacking alert might create a dangerous situation for the flying public. He complained to his supervisor and to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, but each responded that nothing could be done.
It was then that he decided to blow the whistle, hoping that public pressure might force the TSA to reinstate the marshals’ flights. So MacLean talked to a reporter, who broadcast a story criticizing the TSA’s decision and, after 11 members of Congress joined in the criticism, it reversed itself. At this point, MacLean had not been identified as the source of the leak and so carried on with his job.
A year later, he appeared on TV in disguise, criticizing the TSA dress code and its special boarding policies, which he believed allowed marshals to be easily identified by other passengers. This time, the TSA recognized his voice and began an investigation that revealed he had also released the 2003 text message. He was fired in April 2006. Although the agency had not labeled that message as “sensitive security information” (SSI) when it was sent in 2003, in August 2006, months after MacLean’s firing, it issued a retroactive order stating that the text’s content was indeed SSI.
A Whistleblower’s Catch-22
That disclosing the contents of an unclassified message could get someone fired for disclosing classified information is the sort of topsy-turvy situation which could only exist in the post-9/11 world of the American national security state.
The full story will reward the reader. Suffice it to say that at the same time Guantanamo now holds “86 prisoners who have been carefully vetted by the U.S. military, the FBI, the CIA, and so on, and found to have done nothing for which they could be charged or should be imprisoned and who have been cleared for release– there is no place to release them to, especially since the majority of them are Yemenis and President Obama has imposed a moratorium on transferring any prisoner to Yemen.”
Thus indefinite detention, which is constitutionally prohibited, and which should properly be anathema to the American justice system, is the legal legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren. That relatively few Americans are aware of or care about this should be startling. “No charges, no trials, but never getting out of prison: that would once have been associated with the practices of a totalitarian state.”
“At the same time no one, not George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, or other top officials involved in setting up such a global system of injustice, sweeping up the innocent with the guilty, and subjecting them to horrors without end (including now force-feeding) will ever be brought to justice in an American court, nor will anyone involved in the system of rendition, torture, or abuse.” The Obama legacy will be that of having institutionalized the worst anti-constitutional excesses of the Bush years, and having sold them with a charming, intelligent brown face. Had John McCain as President tried to do the same thing, liberals and fellow travelers would have stopped this country in its tracks. In 2008 people went to the ballot box to elect Obama as a repudiation of the Cheney-Bush regime. Upon leaving offoce Obama will not only have institutionalized the incursions of the Bill of Rights to which we most objected, but also having insured that no accountability will ever be visited upon the neocons who let us into a pointless, illegal, and immoral war.
And then Carl Herman, or whoever posts things up over at the estimable Washington’s Blog, wraps it all up in a ball for us in a post sure to appeal to doomers of all stripes with Why America Fell So Far … So Fast.
All Empires Crash Soon After They Reach Their Peak
Thomas Jefferson said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” And because I love my country, I frequently criticize America’s shortcomings in the hopes of making her better.
But the truth is that the United States is not unusual … it is just like all other empires which have hit their peak and then quickly crashed.
. . .
The indications are always the same:
- The financialization of the economy, moving from manufacturing to speculation;
- Very high levels of debt;
- Extreme economic inequality;
– And costly military overreaching.
. . .
PhD economist MarcFaber states:
How [am I] so sure about this final collapse?
Of all the questions I have about the future, this is the easiest one to answer. Once a society becomes successful it becomes arrogant, righteous, overconfident, corrupt, and decadent … overspends … costly wars … wealth inequity and social tensions increase; and society enters a secular decline.
[Quoting 18th century Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler:] The average life span of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years progressing from “bondage to spiritual faith … to great courage … to liberty … to abundance … to selfishness … to complacency … to apathy … to dependence and … back into bondage”
[Where is America in the cycle?] It is most unlikely that Western societies, and especially the U.S., will be an exception to this typical “society cycle.” … The U.S. is somewhere between the phase where it moves “from complacency to apathy” and “from apathy to dependence.”
In other words, America’s rapid fall is not really that novel after all.
This article also cites Jared Diamond’s excellent book “Collapse”, whose conclusions I will not discuss here, is that will be the subject of another post that I had been planning for quite some time. The article over on Washington’s blog is quite good. Don’t miss it.
Closer to home, Tamerlan Tsarniev has reportedly been interred at a burial site in a Muslim cemetery outside of Richmond Virginia. You might well think the dead are dead, let them rest in peace, whatever their transgressions in this life.
The Virginia woman whose actions led to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev being buried about 30 miles north of her Richmond home said the angry backlash from local officials, some cemetery neighbors and online critics has been unpleasant, but she has no regrets.
“I can’t pretend it’s not difficult to be reviled and maligned,” Martha Mullen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday. “But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that’s what God calls us to do.”
Some of my neighbors think otherwise. A so-called “friend” opened up a thread on his Facebook page in criticism that allowed the butt-picking-finger-sniffing contingent to reveal its howling id. Stunning. As HL Mencken once observed, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” The reflexive hysteria even manifests itself on the local Craigslist site. I found myself yesterday shopping for an old beater truck, which I could use to haul mulch for Contrary. Under the “rants and raves” section I found these offerings from my esteemed fellow citizens:
- That piece of shit deserves to be dug up and tossed in a trash pile like every other man, woman, and child that worships islam
- Now that we know he’s buried so close to here (a 2 hour drive), I know what I will do. I’m gonna eat me a big slab of pork baby back ribs and a laxative. Then I’m gonna drive up there, drop my pants and shit my bowels on his grave.
- people they brought that pig shit that bombed Boston to Virginia and secretly buried him on OUR SOIL!!!!!!!!
I say we start a petition to have him and every other muslim UNBURIED and thrown in the trash dump of any state EXCEPT Virginia
Muslims are pissed cause he wasn’t buried in the place he died in? fuck islam, fuck muslims, I’m pissed cause that pig shit is buried here in Va.
- its our new slogan Welcome to Virginia where we will handle other states garbage
All above (sic).
In closing, I offer you this piece of wisdom: never think it can’t get worse. It can, and will. Your neighbors will insist.
Off the keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner May 12, 2013
Discuss this article at the Doomsteading Table inside the Diner
Every day on the Internet these days you get treated to something VERY WRONG in our society, but rarely is it possible to do much about it. I am not certain even in this case of complete TRAVESTY and STUPIDITY much can be done to put a stop to it, but in this case it is so ABHORRENT, so RIDICULOUS, and at least for Diners so UTTERLY against all our principles that every means must be undertaken to at least TRY to STOP it. So with this article, I begin a Week Long Blog-a-thon to raise awareness and assist someone who truly has lived a life by principles of living in Harmony with Nature
Out there in the Boonies of North Carolina in the Appalachian Mountains there is a man named Eustace Conway who built a life for himself as a Modern Day Mountain Man, on the Model of Jeremiah Johnson. Jeremiah was a Fictional Character, Eustace Conway is not, he is a VERY REAL Person, and what he built and what he stands for is now under attack by the megalithic State that defines our lives in the Age of Oil.
Pretty much from nothing at the age of 17 Eustace Conway walked out in the Appalachian Mountains and taught himself how to live off the land as a modern day Hunter-Gatherer. That this was even possible at all without running afoul of the Law before this is remarkable in itself, but not only did Eustace survive this way for the last 40 odd years or so, he actually earned a living in the Monetary sense at the same time, as a Teacher of Primitive Living skills.
He didn’t just earn it and spend it either, since he lived mainly off the land, he spent about none of the money he earned, and so some years ago was able to buy a patch of land of 1000 Acres he dubbed “Turtle Island”. On this land he build numerous structures, Barns, Cabins etc and created a School for Primitive Living Skills.
What’s the PROBLEM with this? The problem is said structures are not “Up to Code”, he doesn’t have flushing toilets and so forth and Sprinkler Systems for Fire Prevention aren’t installed, yadda yadda. Anybody who has ever worked in the Building industry or run any kind of Commercial enterprise knows how much money it takes to bring everything “Up to Code”.
So the local Goobermint Apparatchiks wanna shut down Turtle Island. Given the state of the world, there is probably no more important example of how to get off the Oil Economy and become self-sufficient as Turtle Island. Besides that, it is ludicrous to say these buildings are “unsafe”, since prior to around 1900 or so just about everybody lived in such buildings without toilets and sprinkler systems.
Here on the Diner, besides myself we publish the work of numerous Bloggers all concerned in their own ways with the collapsing Oil Economy and Industrial Civilization. On almost every one of our Blogs in the Commentary you will find many MORE people concerned with the problems we face, along with the constant Search for Solutions. Here is a man, Eustace Conway who provides a very REAL and SUCCESSFUL model who now faces seeing his Life’s Work be destroyed by an ever more invasive and omnipresent Fascist Goobermint.
To all my Blogger Friends and Cross Posters here on the Diner, I say we CANNOT LET THIS STAND. We need to use our Bully Pulpit here on the Internet to do the best we can to PUT A STOP to this. So with this article, I am kicking off a Week Long BLOG-A-THON to Raise Awareness and lend support to Eustace Conway and Turtle Island in the best way we can, with what we do as Bloggers. This week I ask all my Blogger friends to contribute an article to support Eustace Conway, to Sign the Petition yourselves as I have done and to ask all your readers to do the same. Together, we all get 100s Thousands of Page Hits/Day. The Petition only needs another 8000 or so Signatures to meet the 25,000 requirement. If we muster up all our readers, I am certain we can meet this number of Signatories.
Below I am publishing the Petition written by Dan Tingen, Chairman of the Turtle Island Community published on Change.org. Please go to that website and sign it, and contribute what you can to keep the Turtle Island Preserve functioning and growing and providing a great example for our Nation and ALL PEOPLE on how to move off the Oil Economy and Reverse Engineer back to a more sustainable way of life more in harmony with the only home we have, Mother Earth.
North Carolina Building Codes Council: Alter NC building codes to exempt structures at Turtle Island Preserve.
Dear Friends of Turtle Island Preserve,
Turtle Island Preserve is in danger. Please read this letter, and, if you feel moved to do so, carefully follow the suggestions for support provided at the end.
Recently, local county government authorities have targeted Turtle Island Preserve, attacking our way of life, and forcing our educational camp to close to visitors.
On the morning of September 19th, eleven county officials (being paid by tax payers) barged into our living room unannounced, uninvited, and unwelcome. A large caravan of county vehicles blocked our private road, miles away from any public area. The men (some armed) presented a search warrant two and half miles into the interior of our private land, a most intimate zone of refuge where we do not even take visitors, and then spent the next half of the day violating our privacy and photographing our buildings and personal homes. The unwanted invasion team came prepared with topographic maps, aerial photographs, GPS equipment to discern coordinates, laptops, pages of highlighted photographs of unknown origins, and even a county 4-wheeler to more easily get around the property. Much time and tax-payer money had clearly been spent preparing for this deployment against our 501c3 non-profit education center.
The primary focus of this action centers on our buildings and construction methods. The American heritage buildings that we keep alive and teach about are “unacceptable” in today’s modern world. The very building techniques and materials that all of our ancestors thrived with are now being deemed unacceptable and targeted as illegal because they don’t fit into the cookie-cutter code status that is so extremely far from what we are about. The buildings and lifestyle of our working farm and education center teach about true American freedom. The invasive attack was a surreal wake-up call to the illusion of the American myth: “Land of the free.”
Those of you who have visited Turtle Island Preserve know that our structures are unique in that they are built with materials harvested here on the farm and adhere to natural and historical methods. Our buildings are unquestionably structurally sound, but do not fit the wording or application of modern building codes, as the methods used to build them predate the conception of modern building codes. The veteran, licensed engineer we hired to assess the structural concerns expressed by the county stated that our buildings are “Better than code.” If modern, cookie-cutter buildings fit our purposes or needs, we would have built them. But they certainly do not.
To comply with current, modern building codes and regulations, with no variance or allowance for natural, traditional, historical, cultural or educational models, is at the very least a compromise to our integrity, our mission, and our value to the community and the world. If we were forced to function like every other public facility, the values, ethics, and practical knowledge we teach would be lost. Trying to force a modern framework around a facility that is specifically designed to be primitive does not make sense. The methods we teach go back tens of thousands of years. The modern building codes go back only 40-50 years.
For the past twenty-six years, Turtle Island Preserve has been a functioning farm and education center for primitive skills, cultural heritage, and traditional/natural living. We are run by volunteer laborers and administrators, good citizens who believe in the worth of volunteering their time to share natural traditional living in hopes of making life for people more meaningful and our impact on the earth a gentler footprint. Our non-profit education center has brought thousands of people from all over the world, of all ages, faiths, and socio-economic backgrounds and enabled them to develop a personal relationship with the natural world. In many cases, these are people (usually children) who would not have the opportunity to gain that experience elsewhere. What they get here, they keep forever.
Eustace Conway, full-time volunteer director of Turtle Island Preserve for the past 26 years, now faces the threat of criminal charges. That’s right, for dedicating his life to celebrating and preserving American cultural heritage, his American government is condemning his interest in exercising what he believes is an inalienable human right to build and live in the traditions of our ancestors. He said, “If this was a joke or something out of a science fiction novel about corrupt government control, maybe I could laugh about it… but it is very, unbelievably, maliciously true… and I can only cry about it, and ask for the voice of friends to support me and citizens that care about the ‘American Dream’ of freedom to speak up for their rights and interests now.”
Our recent studies show us that there may be no variance for any private, state, or federal interpretation sites that exhibit natural/primitive historic structures or practices. The recent attack on our home and lifeways makes us question the confines of our state building and county codes on our most fundamental freedoms of American heritage, Appalachian regional culture, and a three million year precedent of inalienable human rights concerning structures and living.
We are working with legal counsel and structural engineers to present a clear and thorough assessment of our structures, practices, and mission to authorities who are not personally familiar with Turtle Island Preserve. We have drawn up a petition and begun a letter writing campaign, all of which we’ll present to the North Carolina Building Codes Council on December 10, 2012 in the hopes of educating the council about the unique importance of Turtle Island Preserve and securing a variance for our continued operation without sacrificing our integrity and commitment to historic structures and natural lifestyle.
We need your help in raising a voice. This matter will not be resolved positively without your support. Please help support Turtle Island Preserve by taking the following steps:
1. Sign the petition at www.change.org.
2. Join the letter writing campaign! Write your own letter in support of Turtle Island Preserve, or use the attached letter – just print, sign, and send to the Chairman of the North Carolina Building Codes Council. Either way, be sure to send us a copy of your letter, too.
It is impossible to overstate how important your swift support is to the future of Turtle Island Preserve. With the North Carolina Building Codes Council meeting just three weeks away, we need all the voices we can get, and as quickly as possible. Please set aside a few minutes to sign the petition, send a letter, and stand with us as we work to save Turtle Island Preserve.
Keep checking Facebook for updates, and for more information on the Building Codes Council meeting or if you have any questions at all, please email email@example.com or call our office at 828-265-2267.
The Staff and Community Members of Turtle Island Preserve
NC Building Codes Council
Dan Tingen, Chairman
322 Chapanoke Dr.
Raleigh, NC 27603
Turtle Island Preserve
2683 Little Laurel Road
Boone, NC 28607
Off the keyboard of Jim Quinn
Published on The Burning Platform on April 23, 2013
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited
The political class set in motion the eventual obliteration of our economic system with the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. Placing the fate of the American people in the hands of a powerful cabal of unaccountable greedy wealthy elitist bankers was destined to lead to poverty for the many, riches for the connected crony capitalists, debasement of the currency, endless war, and ultimately the decline and fall of an empire. Ernest Hemingway’s quote from The Sun Also Rises captures the path of our country perfectly:
“How did you go bankrupt?”
Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
The 100 year downward spiral began gradually but has picked up steam in the last sixteen years, as the exponential growth model, built upon ever increasing levels of debt and an ever increasing supply of cheap oil, has proven to be unsustainable and unstable. Those in power are frantically using every tool at their disposal to convince Boobus Americanus they have everything under control and the system is operating normally. The psychotic central bankers, “bought and sold” political class, mega-corporation soulless chief executives and corporate controlled media use propaganda techniques, paid “experts”, talking head “personalities”, captured think tanks, and the willful ignorance of the majority to spin an increasingly dire economic descent as if we are recovering and getting back to normal. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is nothing normal about what Ben Bernanke and the Federal government have done over the last five years and continue to do today. Truthfully, nothing has been normal since the mid-1990s when Alan Greenspan spoke the last truthful words of his lifetime:
“Clearly, sustained low inflation implies less uncertainty about the future, and lower risk premiums imply higher prices of stocks and other earning assets. We can see that in the inverse relationship exhibited by price/earnings ratios and the rate of inflation in the past. But how do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values, which then become subject to unexpected and prolonged contractions as they have in Japan over the past decade?”
The Greenspan led Federal Reserve created two epic bubbles in the space of six years which burst and have done irreparable harm to the net worth of the middle class. Rather than learn the lesson of how much damage to the lives of average Americans has been caused by creating cheap easy money out of thin air, our Ivy League self-proclaimed expert on the Great Depression, Ben Bernanke, has ramped up the cheap easy money machine to hyper-speed. There is nothing normal about the path this man has chosen. His strategy has revealed the true nature of the Federal Reserve and their purpose – to protect and enrich the financial elites that manipulate this country for their own purposes.
Despite the mistruths spoken by Bernanke and his cadre of banker coconspirators, he can never reverse what he has done. The country will not return to normalcy in our lifetimes. Bernanke is conducting a mad experiment and we are the rats in his maze. His only hope is to retire before it blows up in his face. Just as Greenspan inflated the housing bubble and exited stage left, Bernanke is inflating a debt bubble, stock bubble, bond bubble and attempting to re-inflate the housing bubble just in time for another Ivy League Keynesian academic, Janet Yellen, to step into the banker’s box. This genius thinks Bernanke has been too tight with monetary policy. It seems inflated egos are common among Ivy League economist central bankers who think they can pull levers and push buttons to control the economy. Results may vary.
The gradual slide towards our national bankruptcy of wealth, spirit, freedom, self-respect, morality, personal responsibility, and common sense began in 1913 with the secretive creation of the Federal Reserve and the imposition of a personal income tax. Pandora’s Box was opened in this fateful year and the horrors of currency debasement and ever increasing taxation were thrust upon the American people by a small but powerful cadre of unscrupulous financial elite and the corrupt politicians that do their bidding in Washington D.C. The powerful men who thrust these evils upon our country set in motion a chain of events and actions that will undoubtedly result in the fall of the great American Empire, just as previous empires have fallen due to the corruption of its leaders and depravity of its people. Creating a private central bank, controlled by the Wall Street cabal, and allowing the government to syphon the earnings of workers through increased taxation has allowed politicians the ability to spend, borrow, and print money at an ever increasing rate in order to get themselves re-elected and benefit the cronies, hucksters and bankers that pay the biggest bribes. None of this benefit the average American, who sees their purchasing power systematically inflated and taxed away. This is not capitalism and it is not a coincidence that war and inflation have been the hallmarks of the last century.
“A system of capitalism presumes sound money, not fiat money manipulated by a central bank. Capitalism cherishes voluntary contracts and interest rates that are determined by savings, not credit creation by a central bank. It is no coincidence that the century of total war coincided with the century of central banking.” – Ron Paul
As you can see, the bankruptcy of our country and our culture began gradually, accelerated after Nixon closed the gold window in 1971, really picked up steam in 1980 when the debt happy Baby Boom generation came of age, and has “suddenly” reached maximum velocity as we approach the true fiscal cliff. There were many checkpoints along the way where fatefully bad choices were made. They include the New Deal, Cold War, Great Society, Morning in America, Dotcom New Paradigm, Housing Wealth Retirement Plan, Obamacare, and present belief that creating more debt will solve a problem created by too much debt. The Federal Reserve allowed interventionist politicians to fight two declared wars (World War I, World War II), fight five undeclared wars (Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq), conduct hundreds of military engagements around the globe, occupy foreign countries, begin a war on poverty that increased poverty, begin a war on drugs that increased the amount of available drugs, and finally start a war on terror that has increased the number of terrorists and pushed us closer to national bankruptcy. The terrorists have already won, as the explosion of stupidity and irrational fear has allowed those in power to acquire more power and dominion over our lives.
“We live surrounded by a systematic appeal to a dream world which all mature, scientific reality would reject. We, quite literally, advertise our commitment to immaturity, mendacity and profound gullibility. It is as the hallmark of the culture. And it is justified as being economically indispensable.” - John Kenneth Galbraith
When I critically scrutinize the economic, political, financial, and social landscape at this point in history, I come to the inescapable conclusion that our country and world are headed into the abyss. This is most certainly a minority viewpoint. The majority of people in this country are oblivious to the disaster that will arrive over the next decade. Some would attribute this willful ignorance to the normalcy bias that infects the psyches of millions of ostrich like iGadget distracted, Facebook addicted, government educated, financially illiterate, mass media manipulated zombies. Normalcy bias refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to inform the populace about the impending disaster. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster hasn’t occurred yet, then it will never occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with the disaster once it occurs. People tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.
The unsustainability of our economic system built upon assumptions of exponential growth, ever expanding debt, increasing consumer spending, unlimited supplies of cheap easy to access oil, impossible to honor entitlement promises, and a dash of mass delusion should be apparent to even the dullest of government public school educated drones inhabiting this country. I don’t attribute this willful ignorance to normalcy bias. I attribute it to abnormalcy bias. In a profoundly abnormal society, adjusting your thinking to fit in appears normal, but is just a symptom of the disease that has infected our culture. There is nothing normal about anything in our society today. If you were magically transported back to 1996 and described to someone the economic, political, financial and social landscape in 2013, they would have you committed to a mental institution and given shock therapy.
Even though we’ve been in a 100 year spiral downwards, things still appeared relatively normal in 1996 when Greenspan uttered his “Irrational Exuberance” faux pas that so upset his Wall Street puppet masters. The ruling class had not yet repealed Glass-Steagall (pre-requisite for pillaging the muppets), created the internet bubble, fashioned the greatest control fraud in world history (housing bubble unrecognized by Ben Bernanke), or taken advantage of mass hysteria over 9/11 to begin the never ending war on terror and expansion of the Orwellian state. The citizens, and I use that term loosely, of this country have allowed those in control of the government and media to convince them the situation confronting us is just a normal cyclical variation that will be alleviated by tweaking existing economic policies and trusting that Ben Bernanke will pull the right monetary levers to get us back on course. The stress inflicted on their brains in the last thirteen years of bubbles and wars has made the average person incapable of distinguishing between normality and abnormality. What they need is slap upside of their head. Is there anything normal about these facts?
- The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet in 1996 consisted of $422 billion, of which 91% were Treasury securities. Today it consists of $3.25 trillion, of which only 56% are Treasury securities, and the rest is toxic home mortgages, toxic commercial mortgages, and whatever other crap the Wall Street banks have dumped on their books. Their balance sheet is leveraged 57 to 1 and Bernanke has promised his Wall Street bosses he will add another $750 billion before the year is out. Is there anything normal about a central bank adding twice as much debt to its balance sheet in less than twelve months than existed on its entire balance sheet in 1996?
- The National Debt at the end of fiscal 1996 was $5.25 trillion. It increased by $250 billion that year. The GDP of the country was $7.8 trillion. Our national debt as a percentage of GDP was only 67% and our annual deficit was only 3% of GDP. At the time, the country was worried about these outrageous levels of debt. Today the National Debt stands at a towering $16.8 trillion. It has increased by a staggering $1.12 trillion in the last twelve months. The GDP of the country today is $15.7 trillion. Our national debt as a percentage GDP has soared to 107%. Our annual deficits now exceed 7% of GDP on a consistent basis. Our budgets are on automatic pilot, with the $20 trillion level to be breached by 2016. Is it a normal state of affairs when the GDP of your country rises by 100% over seventeen years, while your debt rises by 320%?
- Total government spending (Federal, State, Local) in 1996 totaled $2.7 trillion, or 35% of GDP. Today total government spending is $6.3 trillion, or 40% of GDP. In 1979, before the belief in government became a religion, total government spending was only 31.5% of GDP (27% in 1965). Are you receiving twice the service from government than you received in 1996? Are you safer from terrorists due to the massive expansion of the police state? Are your kids getting a much better education than they did in 1996? Have the undeclared wars benefitted you in any way, other than tripling the price of gas? Are the higher wage taxes, real estate taxes, school taxes, sewer fees, utility fees, phone fees, gasoline taxes, permit fees, and myriad of other government charges worth it? Is it normal for government to account for almost half of our economy?
- In 1996 personal consumption expenditures accounted for 67% of GDP, while private domestic investment accounted for 16% of GDP and we ran small trade deficits of 1% of GDP. Today, consumer spending accounts for 71% of GDP (despite the storyline about consumer retrenchment), while domestic investment has contracted to 13% of GDP and our trade deficits have surged to almost 4% of GDP. The Federal government has expanded their piece of the GDP pie by 130% since 1996, with the Department of War accounting for the bulk of the increase. Saving and capital investment is now penalized in this country. Is it normal for a country to borrow, consume and bleed itself to death?
- Consumer credit outstanding totaled $1.2 trillion in 1996, or $4,500 per every man, woman and child in the country. Today, the austere balance is now $2.8 trillion, or $8,800 per every man, woman and child inhabiting our debt saturated paradise. The more than doubling of consumer debt would be acceptable if wages were rising at a similar rate. But that hasn’t been the case, as wages have only advanced from $3.6 trillion in 1996 to $7.0 trillion today. With even the massively understated CPI showing 50% inflation since 1996 and 23% more Americans in the working age population (45 million), real wages have advanced by 30%. Using a true measure of inflation, real wages have fallen. Total credit market debt in 1996 was $19 trillion, or 243% of GDP. Today total credit market debt sits at an all-time high of $56.2 trillion, or 358% of GDP. Is it normal for credit market debt to increase at three times the rate of GDP?
- In 1996, personal income totaled $6.6 trillion, with wages accounting for 55% of the total, interest income on savings accounting for 12% and government entitlement transfers accounting for 14%. Today personal income totals $13.6 trillion, with wages accounting for 51% of the total, interest income on savings plunging to 7% due to Bernanke’s “Screw a Senior Zero Interest Policy”, and Big Brother entitlement transfers skyrocketing to 18%. In what Orwellian dystopian society is taking money from wage earners and redistributing it to non-wage earners considered personal income? Is it normal for a government to punish savers and makers in order to benefit the borrowers and takers?
- Prior to the financial collapse and during the mid-1990s prudent risk-averse savers could get a 4% to 5% return on money market accounts. Since the Wall Street created worldwide financial collapse, Ben Bernanke, at the behest of these very same Wall Street banks, has reduced short term interest rates to 0%. The result has been to transfer $400 billion per year from the pockets of savers and senior citizens into the grubby hands of bankers that have destroyed our economy. The prudent are left earning .02% on their savings, while the profligate bankers can borrow for 0% and earn billions by re-depositing those funds at the Federal Reserve. In what bizarro world this be a normal state of affairs?
- Total mortgage debt outstanding in 1996, before the epic Wall Street produced housing bubble, was $4.7 billion. Today, even after the transfer of almost $1 trillion of bad debt to the balance sheet of the American taxpayer, the amount of mortgage debt is an astounding $13.1 trillion. Despite home values rising since 1996, there are 20% of all households still in a negative equity position. Total household real estate equity was 60% in 1996, plunged below 40% in 2009, and has only slightly rebounded to 47% today because Wall Street dumped the bad mortgages on the backs of the American taxpayer. Is it normal for mortgage debt to triple and home equity to plunge in a rationally functioning world? Is it normal when 25% of all existing home sales are distressed sales and another 30% are sales to Wall Street hedge funds like Blackrock?
- In 1996 there were 200 million working age Americans, with 134 million (67%) in the labor force, 127 million (63.5%) employed, and 66 million (33%) not in the labor force. Today there are 245 million working age Americans, with 155 million (63%) in the labor force, 143 million (58%) employed, and 90 million (37%) supposedly not in the labor force. The number of working age Americans has increased by 22.5%, while the number of those employed has advanced by only 12.5%. The population to employment ratio has reached a three decade low as millions have given up, been lured into college by cheap plentiful government debt, or developed a mysterious ailment that has gotten them into the SSDI program. Is it normal for millions of Americans to leave the labor force when the economy is supposedly recovering?
- In 1996 there were 25.5 million Americans on food stamps, or 9.6% of the population, costing $24 billion per year. Today there are 47.8 million Americans on food stamps, or 15% of the population, costing $75 billion per year. Historically, the number of people in this program would rise during recessions and recede when the economy recovered, just as a safety net program should function. According to our government keepers the economy has been in recovery since late 2009. The number of people entering the food stamp program has gone up by 7 million since the recession officially ended. This is not normal. Either the government is lying about the recession or they are screwing the taxpayer by encouraging constituents to enter the program in an effort to gain votes. Which is it?
- The price of oil averaged $20 per barrel in 1996 and it cost you $1.20 per gallon to fill your tank. Oil averaged $85 per barrel in 2012 and currently hovers around $90 per barrel. Most Americans are now paying between $3.50 and $4.00 per gallon to fill their tanks. This result seems abnormal considering the propaganda machine is proclaiming we are on the verge of energy independence. After two Middle East wars, 6,700 dead American soldiers, 50,000 wounded American soldiers, and $1.5 trillion of national wealth wasted, this is all we get – a tripling in gas prices and creation of thousands of new terrorists?
You have to have a really bad case of normalcy bias to be able to convince yourself that everything that has happened since 1996 is normal. Every fact supports the reality that we’ve entered a period of extreme abnormality and our response as a nation thus far has insured that a disaster of even far greater magnitude is just over the horizon. Anyone with an ounce of common sense realizes the social mood is deteriorating rapidly. We are in the midst of a Crisis period that will result in earth shattering change, but the masses want things to go back to normal and don’t want to face the facts. The cognitive dissonance created by reality versus their wishes will resolve itself when the next financial collapse makes 2008 look like a walk in the park. But, until then most will just stick their heads in the sand and hope for the best.
Loving Your Servitude
“Liberty is lost through complacency and a subservient mindset. When we accept or even welcome automobile checkpoints, random searches, mandatory identification cards, and paramilitary police in our streets, we have lost a vital part of our American heritage. America was born of protest, revolution, and mistrust of government. Subservient societies neither maintain nor deserve freedom for long.” – Ron Paul
The most disgraceful example of abnormality that has infected our culture has been the cowardice and docile acquiescence of the citizenry in allowing an ever expanding police state to shred the U.S. Constitution, strip us of our freedoms, and restrict our liberties. Our keepers have not let any crisis go to waste in the last seventeen years. They have also taken advantage of the willful ignorance, childish immaturity, extreme gullibility, historical cluelessness, financial illiteracy and techno-narcissism of the populace to reverse practical legislation and prey upon irrational fears to strip the people of their constitutionally guaranteed liberties and freedoms. If you had told someone in 1996 the security measures, laws, and police agencies that would exist in 2013, they would have laughed you out of the room. Every crisis, whether government created or just convenient to their agenda, has been utilized by the oligarchs to expand the police state and benefit the crony capitalists that profit from its expansion. The character of the American people has been found wanting as they obediently cower and beg for protection from unseen evil doers. The propagandist corporate media reinforces their fears and instructs them to submissively tremble and implore the government to do more. The cosmic obliviousness and limitless sense of complacency of the general population with regards to a blatantly obvious coup by a small cadre of sociopathic financial elite and their army of bureaucrats, lackeys and jackboots is a wonder to behold.
The 1929 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression was primarily the result of excessively loose Federal Reserve monetary policy during the Roaring 20’s and the unrestrained fraud perpetrated by the Wall Street banks. The 1933 Glass-Steagall Act was a practical 38 page law which kept Wall Street from ravenously raping its customers and the American people for almost seven decades. The Wall Street elite and their bought off political hacks in both parties repealed this law in 1999, while simultaneously squashing any effort to regulate the financial derivatives market. The day trading American public didn’t even look up from their computer screens. Over the next nine years Wall Street went on a fraudulent feeding frenzy rampage which brought the country to its knees and then held the American taxpayer at gunpoint to bail them out. The Federal Reserve arranged rescue of LTCM in 1998 gave the all clear to Wall Street that any risk was acceptable, since the Fed would always bail them out. Just as they did in the 1920’s, the Federal Reserve set the table for financial disaster with excessively low interest rates and non-existent regulatory oversight.
The downward spiral of our empire towards an Orwellian/Huxley merged dystopian nightmare accelerated after the 9/11 attacks. Within one month those looking to exert hegemony over all domestic malcontents had passed the 366 page, 58,000 words Patriot Act. Did the terrified masses ask how such a comprehensive destruction of our liberties could be written in under one month? It is apparent to anyone with critical thinking skills that the enemy within had this bill written, waiting for the ideal opportunity to implement this unprecedented expansion of federal police power. Electronic surveillance of our emails, phone calls and voice mails, along with warrantless wiretaps, and general loss of civil liberties was passed without question under the guise of protecting us. Next was the invasion of a foreign country based upon lies, propaganda and misinformation without a declaration of war, as required by the Constitution. Our government began torturing suspects in secret foreign prisons. The shallow, self-centered, narcissistic, Facebook fanatic populace has barely looked up from texting on their iPhones to notice that we have been at war in the Middle East for eleven years, because it hasn’t interfered with their weekly viewing of Honey Boo Boo, Dancing With the Stars, or Jersey Shore. They occasionally leave their homes to wave a flag and chant “USA, USA, USA”, as directed by the media, when a terrorist like Bin Laden or Boston bomber is offed by our security services, but for the most part they can live their superficial vacuous lives of triviality unscathed by war.
The creation of the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security ushered in a further encroachment of our everyday freedoms. They attempted to keep the masses frightened through a ridiculous color coded fear index. Little old ladies, people in wheelchairs and little children are subject to molestation by lowlife TSA perverts. Military units conduct “training exercises” in cities across the country to desensitize the sheep-like masses, who fail to acknowledge that the U.S. military cannot constitutionally be used domestically. DHS considers military veterans, Ron Paul supporters, and Christians as potential enemies of the state. The use of predator drones to murder suspected adversaries in foreign countries, while killing innocent men, women and children (also known as collateral damage), has just been a prelude to the domestic surveillance and eventually extermination of dissidents and nonconformists here in the U.S. We are already becoming a 1984 CCTV controlled nation. DHS has been rapidly militarizing local police forces in cities and towns to supplement their jackbooted thugs. Obama’s executive orders have given him the ability to take control of industry. He can imprison citizens without charges for as long as he deems necessary. Attempts to control gun ownership and shutdown the internet is a prologue to further government domination and supremacy over our lives when the wheels come off this unsustainable bus.
The last week has provided a multitude of revelations about our government and the people of this country. The billions “invested” in our police state, along with warnings from a foreign government, and suspicious travel patterns were not enough for our beloved protectors to stop the Boston Marathon bombing. After stumbling upon these amateur terrorists by accident, the 2nd responders, with their Iraq war level firepower, managed to slaughter one of the perpetrators, but somehow allowed a wounded teenager to escape on foot and elude 10,000 donut eaters for almost 24 hours. The horde of heavily armed, testosterone fueled thugs proceeded to bully and intimidate the citizens of Watertown by illegal searches of homes and treating innocent people like criminals. The government completely shut down the 10th largest metropolitan area in the country for an entire day looking for a wounded 19 year old. The people of Boston obeyed their zoo keepers and obediently cowered in their cages.
The entire episode was an epic fail. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight needed an old man to find the bomber in his backyard boat. The people of Boston exhibited the passivity and subservience demanded by their government. Since the capture of the remaining terrorist, the shallow exhibitions of national pride at athletic events and smarmy displays of honoring the police state apparatchiks who screwed up – allowing the attack to occur and looking like the keystone cops during the pursuit of the suspects, has revealed a fatal defect in our civil character. We are living in a profoundly abnormal society, with millions of medicated mindless zombies controlled by a vast propaganda machine, who seemingly enjoy having their liberties taken away. Most have willingly learned to love their servitude. For those who haven’t learned, the boot of our vast security state will just stomp on their face forever. We’re realizing the worst dystopian nightmares of Orwell and Huxley simultaneously. This abnormalcy bias will dissipate over the next ten to fifteen years in torrent of financial collapse, war, bloodshed, and retribution. Sticking your head in the sand will not make reality go away. The existing social, political, and financial order will be swept away. What it is replaced by is up to us. Will this be the final chapter or new chapter in the history of this nation? The choice is ours.
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
- George Orwell
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution” -Aldous Huxley, 1961
Off the keyboard of John Michael Greer
Published on the Archdruid Report on May 8, 2013
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If you always do what you’ve always done, a popular saying nowadays has it, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. Most people accept that readily enough in the abstract. It’s when they attempt to apply this logic to their own lives and thinking that they get tripped up, because self-defeating patterns very often arise from a mismatch between basic presuppositions about the world and the world as it’s actually experienced, and confronting that mismatch is not an easy thing. It’s usually much simpler to insist that it’s different this time, and repeat the same failed strategy yet again.
The logic of speculative bubbles is a case in point. The next time you read some online pundit insisting that a new era has dawned, that the old rules of economics have been stood on their head, and that some asset class or other that’s been rising steadily for a while now is certain to keep on zooming upwards for the foreseeable future, he’s wrong. It really is that simple. Any of my readers who haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last fifteen years or so saw that same rhetoric deployed to promote the tech stock bubble, the housing bubble, and an assortment of commodity bubbles, not least the recent and now rapidly deflating bubble in gold; those who know their way around economic history can find the same rhetoric being waved around every bubble since the Dutch tulip mania of the 17th century.
If human beings were in fact rational actors, as one of the more popular schools of economics these days likes to insist, investors would react to the next appearance of that well-worn rhetoric by pulling out every dollar they can’t afford to lose. In the real world, of course, things don’t work that way. When the Federal Reserve’s current orgy of quantitative easing finally does what it’s supposed to do and kicks off a gargantuan speculative bubble—yes, that’s what it’s supposed to do; Greenspan’s easy-money policy a decade ago succeeded in blowing a bubble big enough to cushion the downside of the tech-stock crash, and Bernanke’s pretty clearly working off the same playbook—it’s a safe bet that investors will stampede into the bubble, “it’s different this time” will once again become the mantra du jour, and the same cycle of boom and bust will repeat itself with mathematical precision.
Grasp the hidden logic behind bubble economics and you can see the mistaken presuppositions that drive that cycle. It’s an article of faith in today’s industrial economies, buoyed by three centuries of economic growth driven by fossil fuels, that money ought to make money, and that having a certain amount of money invested ought therefore to guarantee a stable income. It so happens that this isn’t always true. In 1929, for example, overinvestment and overproduction during the boom years of the 1920s left very few sectors in the US economy able to pay accustomed rates of return on investment, but investors weren’t willing to come to terms with this unwelcome reality. The result was a huge pool of funds seeking any investment that would promise a return heftier than the economy would support; modest increases in stock values started pulling that pool into the stock market, kicking off a feedback loop that ended with Black Friday and the Great Depression.
That same pattern on a vaster scale is what’s driving the latest round of bubbles. In the United States and most of the other established industrial nations, the returns on investing in the production of goods and services are too small to support investors in the style to which past decades accustomed them; the result is a pool of funds almost immeasurably larger than the one that created the 1929 boom and bust, sloshing through the global economy in search of any investment that will yield a bigger than average return. Because the real economy of goods and services is dependent on such awkward necessities as energy and raw materials, which are in turn subject to accelerating depletion curves, the problem’s only going to get worse, but those who hope to make a living or a fortune from their investments aren’t exactly eager to learn this. Thus the increasingly frantic efforts to inflate the global economy by means of speculative excess; the alternative is to accept the fact that an entire way of life based on money making money has passed its pull date.
That’s the kind of awkwardness that tends to pop up when the world shifts, and a pattern of behavior that used to be adaptive stops working. To get past the misguided but seductive insistence that “it’s different this time,” in turn, the habit of morphological thinking discussed in an earlier post is essential. 1920s-era investment trusts are not the same thing as tech-stock mutual funds, mortgage-backed securities, or whatever boondoggle will be at the center of the next big speculative bubble, any more than a porpoise is the same thing as a bat; put them side by side, though, and the common features will teach you things that you can’t learn any other way.
All this is by way of introduction to another bit of comparative morphology, one that many of my readers may find even more upsetting than the ones I’ve covered already. I’m sorry to say that can’t be helped. Last week we talked about the shape of time, the various abstract notions of history’s direction that every human culture uses to make sense of the world its members experience; such notions are exactly the sort of basic presupposition about the world that I discussed earlier in this post, and when the course of events begins to move in directions that a culture’s notion of the shape of time can’t explain, the result is quite commonly the sort of self-defeating cycle discussed earlier. That’s the situation we’re in here and now, and what makes it worse is that the shapes of time that define history for most people nowadays have very different origins and functions than most of us think.
To unravel the resulting tangle, in turn, it’s necessary to glance back to two thinkers whose relevance to modern thought is rarely recognized. To meet the first of them, we’ll need to go back exactly sixteen centuries to the year 413 CE. The place is the city of Hippo, in what was then the province of Numidia and is now the nation of Algeria; more precisely, it’s the residence of the Bishop of Hippo, a man named Augustine, who was just then in the process of giving the Western world what would be, for the next millennium or so, its definitive shape of time.
Here as elsewhere, historical context matters. By Augustine’s time, the Roman Empire’s control of the Mediterranean world had been established for so long that most of its citizens assumed that it would be around forever. Troubles at the periphery were common enough, but the thought that something could disrupt the whole imperial system was all but unthinkable. The distinctive shape of time accepted by nearly everyone in the late Roman world contributed mightily to that habit of thought. To most of the people of the Empire in that age, history was the process by which an original state of chaos was reduced to stable order under the rule of a benevolent despot. What Jupiter had done to the Titans or, in terms of the new Christian faith, God had done to Satan and his minions, Rome had done to the nations, and peripheral troubles were no more a threat to Rome than to her divine equivalents.
The problem with this confident civil faith was that history stopped cooperating. In 410, after a long series of increasingly desperate struggles against Germanic invaders, the legions crumpled, and the Visigoth king Alaric and his army swept into Italy and sacked Rome. Only Alaric’s willingness to be bought off kept the city from remaining in his hands for the long haul. The psychological and cultural impact of the defeat was immense, but of equal if not greater concern to the Bishop of Hippo was the uncomfortable fact that the empire’s remaining Pagans were pointing out that the beginning of Rome’s troubles coincided, with an awkward degree of exactness, with the prohibition of the old Pagan cults. Since Rome had abandoned the gods, they suggested, the gods were returning the favor.
Augustine’s response is contained in The City of God, one of the masterpieces of late Latin prose and the book that more than any other defined the shape of medieval European thought. The notion that divine power guarantees the success or survival of earthly kingdoms, Augustine argued, is a complete misunderstanding of the relationship between humanity and God. The inscrutable providence of God brings disasters down on the good as well as the wicked, and neither cities nor empires are exempt from the same incomprehensible law. Ordinary history thus has no moral order or meaning.
The place of moral order and meaning in time is found instead in sacred history, which has a distinctive linear shape of its own. That shape begins in perfection, in the Garden of Eden; disaster intervenes, in the form of original sin, and humanity tumbles down into the fallen world. From that point on, there are two histories of the world, one sacred and one secular. The secular history is the long and pointless tale of stupidity, violence and suffering that fills the history books; the sacred history is the story of God’s dealings with a small minority of human beings—the patriarchs, the Jewish people, the apostles, the Christian church—who are assigned certain roles in a preexisting narrative. Eventually the fallen world will be obliterated, most of its inhabitants will be condemned to a divine boot in the face forever, and those few who happen to be on the right side will be restored to Eden’s perfection, at which point the story ends.
Those of my readers who are familiar with the main currents of European and American Christianity already know that story, of course. 1600 years after Augustine’s time, his vision of time remains official in most Christian churches. What’s more, it can be found in a great many places that would angrily reject any claim of intellectual influence from Christianity. Goodness at the beginning; a catastrophic fall brought about by a misguided human choice; a plunge into the history we know, which has no redeeming features whatsoever; a righteous remnant set apart from history who serve as an example of the blessed alternative; a redeeming doctrine that brings the promise of future joy to those few who embrace it; and sometime soon, the final cataclysm that will sweep away the fallen world and all its evils, so that the redeemed few can be restored to the goodness of the beginning: where else have we heard this story?
Pick up any neoprimitivist book by Daniel Quinn, John Zerzan, Derrick Jensen, or their peers, to cite one example out of many, and you’ll find that the names have been changed but the story hasn’t. Eden is called the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the Fall is the invention of agriculture, the righteous remnant consists of surviving hunter-gatherer peoples, the redeeming doctrine is set forth in the book you’re reading, and Armageddon is the imminent collapse of industrial civilization, after which humanity will be restored to the hunter-gatherer paradise forever: it’s the same narrative, point for point. Look elsewhere in contemporary popular culture and you’ll find scores if not hundreds of ideologies that follow the same pattern; from radical feminists whose Eden consists of Goddess-worshipping Neolithic matriarchies straight through to Tea Party supporters whose Eden consists of pre-1960s America seen through intensely rose-colored glasses, the song remains the same.
This is where morphological thinking becomes as necessary as it is difficult. Most people can quickly learn to spot the standard elements of Augustine’s narrative in any belief system they themselves don’t accept; add a six-pack or two of good beer and it can turn into a lively party game, in which characters, situations, and events out of The City of God can be spotted hiding in a dizzying assortment of contemporary ideologies. The fun stops abruptly, though, when one or more of the players realize that his or her own beliefs follow the same script. One of the things that sets the Augustinian shape of time apart from most other shapes of time is that it assumes its own uniqueness; while it might be possible to imagine a version in which there are several different Edens, Falls, righteous remnants, sacred histories, redeeming revelations, final cataclysms, and New Jerusalems descending from the skies, in practice this never seems to happen. Each such narrative presents itself, and is accepted by its believers, as uniquely true and unrelated to any other version of the same narrative.
Still, this is only half the story. Those of my readers who know their way around the history of ideas, or have tried the aforementioned party game themselves, will have noticed that a significant number of popular ideas about history don’t fit the narrative of fall and redemption Augustine set out. This is where the second of our two thinkers comes into the tale. His name was Joachim of Flores, and he was an Italian mystic of the twelfth century CE. Like Augustine of Hippo, he was a writer, though his prose was as murky as Augustine’s was brilliant, and nobody other than historians of medieval thought reads his books nowadays. Even so, he had an impact on the future as significant as Augustine’s: he’s the person who kicked down the barrier between sacred and secular history that Augustine put so much effort into building, and created the shape of time that the cultural mainstream occupies to this day.
To Joachim, sacred history was not limited to a paradise before time, a paradise after it, and the thread of the righteous remnant and the redeeming doctrine linking the two. He saw sacred history unfolding all around him in the events of his own time. His vision divided all of history into three great ages, governed by the three persons of the Christian trinity: the Age of Law governed by the Father, which ran from the Fall to the crucifixion of Jesus; the Age of Love governed by the Son, which ran from the crucifixion to the year 1260; and the Age of Liberty governed by the Holy Spirit, which would run from 1260 to the end of the world.
What made Joachim’s vision different from any of the visionary histories that came before it—and there were plenty of those in the Middle Ages—was that it was a story of progress. The Age of Love, as Joachim envisioned it, was a great improvement on the Age of Law, and the approaching Age of Liberty would be an improvement on the Age of Love; in the third age, he taught, the Church would wither away, and people would live together in perfect peace and harmony, with no need for political or religious institutions. To the church authorities of Joachim’s time, steeped in the Augustinian vision, all this was heresy; to the radicals of the age, it was manna from heaven, and nearly every revolutionary ideology in Europe from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries drew heavily on Joachimist ideas.
That guaranteed that Joachim’s narrative would percolate out just as enthusiastically as Augustine’s did, influencing at least as many apparently secular ideologies. Pick up a copy of Hegel’s Philosophy of History, for example, a hugely influential work in 19th-century European thought; if you can get past the man’s famously unreadable prose, you’ll find a version of history that copies Joachim’s plot exactly but changes the names of all the characters. Hegel’s version of history begins in Asia and ends in Germany; there are three ages, Oriental, Classical, and German, and the improvement that plops a One Way sign on history is the increase of freedom, which is the way that the absolute Spirit reveals its essential Idea in history. “The East knew and to the present day knows only that one is free; the Greek and Roman world, that some are free; the German world knows that all are free,” Hegel wrote. “The first political form therefore which we observe in history, is despotism; the second democracy and aristocracy, the third monarchy.” (If this last point seems a bit odd to my readers, this may be because they aren’t ambitious professors angling for patronage from the royal house of Prussia.)
More generally, look at all the sets of three more or less ascending ages to be found in modern thinking about time. The division of prehistory into the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age is as much a reflection of this habit as the division of history into Ancient, Medieval, and Modern periods. No matter how many scholars point out the complete irrelevance of these schemes, they remain stuck in place in popular culture and education, because they bolster the contemporary belief that our own time is the culmination of all previous history, the point from which the future will leap forward along its predestined track toward the future we like to think we deserve.
Put two compelling visions of the shape of time in a culture, and you can count on any number of fusions and confusions between them. Marxism, interestingly enough, is among the best examples of this. Karl Marx himself was a thoughtful student of Hegel’s philosophy, and the theory he presents in his own writings is correspondingly Joachimist: history is a progressive series of ages—feudal, mercantile, capitalist, socialist, communist—in which each age represents an improvement on the ones before it, while falling painfully short of the ones still to come. Friedrich Engels, who finished the second and third volumes of Capital after Marx’s death, was heavily influenced by his Lutheran childhood and brought in the standard hardware of the Augustinian vision, with primitive Communism as Eden and so forth. The result is a rich ambiguity that allows committed Marxists to find adaptive responses to most of the curveballs history might throw their way.
For the great difference between the Augustinian and Joachimist visions is precisely the kind of historical events to which they tend to be adaptive. Augustine’s vision was crafted in a civilization in decline, and it turned out to be extremely well suited to that context: from within Augustine’s shape of time, the messy disintegration of the Roman world was just another meaningless blip on the screen of secular history, of no real importance to those who knew that the history that mattered was the struggle between Christ and Satan for each human soul. That way of thinking about time made it possible for believers to keep going through times of unrelenting bleakness and horror.
Joachim of Flores, by contrast, lived during the zenith of the Middle Ages, before the onset of the 14th-century subsistence crisis that reached its culmination with the arrival of the Black Death. His was an age that could look back on several centuries of successful expansion, and thought it could expect more of the same in the years immediately ahead. His way of thinking about time was thus as well suited to ages of relative improvement as Augustine’s was to ages of relative decline.
Improvement and decline, though, are value judgments, and what counts as improvement to one observer may look like decline to another. That’s the key to understanding the roles that Augustinian and Joachimist visions of time play in contemporary industrial society—with implications that we’ll explore in detail next week.
Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia
Published on Economic Undertow on May 6, 2013
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There is a point in your life when you wake up in the morning and realize you have become a cliché …
‘The End is Near’, David Sipress (The Phoenix) … when you realize it is impossible for anyone to take you seriously. You are beating your head against the wall, others laugh at you or they hate you because you are exposed and an easy ‘hate target’. You cannot accomplish anything, you are a boat beating against the current … borne back ceaselessly into ridicule, you are spitting into the wind, up a creek without a paddle, betting the wrong horse. Think of the others who have been pounding that same wall for decades … Nothing changes … the speculators always win, you are a muppet.
Dow Reaches 15,000 as Jobs Growth Exceeds Forecasts!Inyoung Hwang – Lu Wang – May 3, 2013 (Bloomberg)!U.S. stocks rose, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 15,000 for the first time, as employment picked up more than forecast in April and the jobless rate unexpectedly declined to a four-year low!!!!!!
So much for any crash, Happy Days are Here Again! White is the ‘New Black’: unemployment decreases because citizens stop looking for work. Ex-workers are removed from the unemployment relief rolls … they are then deemed to have ‘left the labor force’ or have retired. Being unemployed in this fashion is counted the same as being employed … That this is a fraud doesn’t matter: the unemployment number goes down for whatever reason, the stock market number goes up. This latter is the only number in America that matters. Indeed, we all live for the right number: Tigers 7, Astros 3 … Yay, Tigers! Because Americans live vicarious, derivative lives, the victory of the Tigers is our victory. When the Tigers lose we all die a little inside.
We should feel good about ourselves because some house flippers in California, Florida and Arizona have been brought back from the dead like vampires. This is courtesy of trillion$ in Federal government subsidies, central bank- crammed down interest rates and easy to obtain low-doc and no-doc guaranteed mortgages. Even beaten-down Detroiters have been able to garner a (small) piece of the house-flipping action. Clearly the animal spirit of unearned success and boundless avarice has refused to flicker out in the Motor City: (from Realtytrac).
It doesn’t matter that college graduates are unable to find work in their chosen fields or that 48 million of our countrymen require government assistance in order to afford to eat … it is the success of gamblers in different finance casinos, to whom everything- and everyone else is sacrificed.
Figure 1: US gasoline sales volume declines to levels not seen ten years ago. National Public Radio says the reason is because we are buying expensive new cars, instead of being too broke to buy gas.
Howard Gruenspecht, the EIA’s acting administrator says there are many reasons for the declining demand for gasoline. They include government mandates for the use of biofuels, like ethanol; and some demographic changes -— for instance, the graying of America (older people tend to drive less). The main factor, though, is the increasing efficiency of new cars and trucks.Rebecca Lindland, director of research for IHS Automotive, says 27 percent of the new vehicles sold in 2011 were smaller, lighter, car-based versions of the SUV, called “crossovers.”“Those tend to get significantly better fuel economy than our traditional truck-based SUVs that used to account for 20 percent of all the vehicles we bought,” she says.
How the addition of a fewer than ten million new vehicles with slightly better than mediocre gas mileage within a three-year period can effect the overall consumption of a 255 million vehicle fleet is not explained by NPR or the EIA. Keep in mind that the vehicles the new crossovers replace are not the ‘traditional truck-based SUVs’ … these remain in service as used cars with new owners. Rather, crossovers replace the much older vehicles that are wrecked or retired from service. A percentage of these retirees were very small cars that happened to get much better mileage than do any of the newer vehicles. Of course, this does not matter … what is important is (blind) faith in progress working properly and (unjustified) business confidence.
Selling out is so easy: ex-hippie Stewart Brand pimps ‘squatter cities’ along with nuclear reactors: prosperity is on the march, resistance is futile! It is a far, far better thing to ask, “Where’s mine?” than to criticize. The critic becomes nothing more than another brick in the Wall of Worry that the hard-nosed American Business Man must climb over in order to ‘innovate’ (MIT-Sloan).
As the expression goes, stocks are climbing a wall of worry. And by our estimates, despite economic malaise, the stock market hasn’t peaked, and we’re still on the way up. Here are some reasons why:– The market largely reacts early in the cycle (and just remember: We are largely no higher than we were at the 2000 peak);– We’re stimulating the market fiscally with low interest rates for some time to come;– Businesses have cleaned up their balance sheets after the financial crisis and are now liquid (in fact many are sitting on huge cash reserves); and– Companies are finding ways to achieve higher earnings despite a difficult political and regulatory environment.
Don’t fight the Fed. Dow 46,000! It’s never too late to jump in! Interestingly, MIT-Sloan does not mention slums as a means to prosperity, nor do they mention reactors, they must have made a spreadsheet error.
The world’s ‘Progress Economies’ have so far swallowed management outrages such as the depositor theft in Cyprus and the repeated bailouts of the Giant Banks by pensioners and others. Consequences have so far been iffy. There have been no market crashes or runs out of the banks, no additional reactor meltdowns or cities drowned by climate change, no bubbles are reverting to mean, no insurrections or violent government overthrows. The children have vanished into their parents’ basements and X-boxes. Occupy and similar social movements have enjoyed their fifteen-seconds of fame and have retreated into well-deserved obscurity; there are no replacements lurking over the horizon. The liberalizing impulses that once flared across the Middle East and North Africa have faded into power-politics-as-usual in places where open warfare has not broken out. Without consequences more outrages are certain to come. This state of affairs will remain in force as long as the promise of material plenty tomorrow remains more credible than the promise of it all unraveling.
“Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society, without which nations and communities could not exist in a state of civilization. It is the lot of man — it is the source of wealth since without poverty there would be no labour, and without labour there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth — inasmuch as without a large proportion of poverty surplus labour could never be rendered productive in procuring either the conveniences or luxuries of life.”… from Patrick Colquhoun; ‘A Treatise On Indigence:
Exhibiting a general view of the national resources for productive labour; with propositions for ameliorating the condition of the poor, and improving the moral habits and increasing the comforts of the labouring people … (1806)
A single person gains from the losses and efforts of the multitude; modernity offers the Invisible Thumb permanently on the balance of human affairs … as well as a collection of ‘seriously good reasons’ why this should always remain so.
” — Historian Niall Ferguson says he was “doubly stupid” for suggesting British economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about the future because he was gay.Ferguson — Laurence Tisch professor of history at Harvard University and author of a number of historical works, including a history of money — made the remark in response to a question at an Altegris Strategic Investment Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., The Boston Globe reported.He had been asked about one of Keynes’ most famous remarks talking about long-run investment strategies: “In the long run, we are all dead.”Ferguson responded that Keynes, presumed to be a homosexual, did not have children and was therefore presumably not interested in the “long run” effects of the economic policies he advocated.
What comes after cliché? The Void: there is little incentive for the establishment to buy from the cliché what can be had for free everywhere else. Clichés are not dangerous. First they ignore you, then they fight you … then they go back to ignoring you some more! The establishment doesn’t have to out-perform clichés, it has only to frame every element in every discussion in terms that serve its own — extremely short term — interests: clichés are part of the frame.
The only alternative the establishment offers to individuals at this moment is to be a victim — that is, to be ‘surplus labour’ or a market fool. Far better to cliché oneself out of the line of fire … the system is too gigantic, reflexive and insensitive. It is too committed to the status quo to accept- or even understand directions that do not continually reinforce the same status quo. Resistance is futile, indeed!
Opting out is not just an expedient to avoid pesky non-linearities, it is a sea-change, a fundamental and voluntary realignment of interests away from the cannibalistic regime. By doing so the individual short-sells the status quo, at the same time he- or she fleshes out a marketplace where such short sales become meaningful … where a marketplace currently exists only in outline.
Keep in mind, the establishment itself is nothing more than an abstract idea, it is not a concrete ‘thing’. It is not formidable even though it puffs itself up in order to appear to be so … our business- and management enterprises are suicidal, they devour themselves and do so faster whenever the chance appears. Carried along with the idea are all the mechanical wind-up ‘things’ that the idea brings into being … however, every element or increment is dependent upon all of the other elements functioning predictably and providing necessary subsidies. The establishment is a very long chain masquerading as a four-dimensional lattice. This chain has no substance, only shared prejudices and fantasies. The concrete ‘things’ are fetishes, they cannot pay for themselves. As has been seen throughout our period of crisis, individuals are the unwitting bankers to the never-finished enterprises that once-upon-a-time made up modernity and that now make up its demise. Without the deluded citizen eagerly and greedily playing along there is nothing but a shell; what remains are empty promises, junk and circus tricks.
Even if the industrialists are able to make good on some of their fantasies such as pocket-sized nuclear reactors, by opting out, you will escape becoming the subsidy-of-last-resort for them. Let those who offer fantasies as ‘goods’ pay for them out of their own pockets, not borrow then demand for others to retire the resulting debts.
– Get simple. The establishment is complexity made material: the system’s response to complexity’s shortcomings is to add to it. Becoming independent from- or less dependent upon interconnected engineered systems is a way to avoid others’ costs.
– Get Small! Ditch the growth idea starting at home. Size = vulnerability, giant size = collapse. Steve’s First Law of Economics: The costs of managing any surplus increase with it to the point where costs ultimately exceed the worth of the thing itself.
– Get Free. Pay off debts and flee from the Giant Banks! Stay out of the casino(s): hold onto your money and starve the tycoons: holding increases money’s worth at the same time the rich are denied access to it. They are unable to repay their own monstrous debts and are thereby ruined.
– Get close to food! Grow some yourself, patronize farmers’ markets or start one. Most communities in the United States are nowhere near able to feed themselves … even in rural areas! Industrial mono-agriculture produces ‘crops’ which are not human food. At the fringes, growing human food is making a comeback with real invention and perseverance on the part of a growing percentage of farmers. The ‘wild card’? Climate change …
– Get real! Disconnect from the mediastream: throw away the television, cancel the NetFlix subscription, use a real telephone and ditch the smartphone and its endless ‘connectivity’. What comes your way is advertising.
– Get creative. The establishment is a naked emperor. Make fun of it, tweak it, laugh at it, annoy it, make it bleed money defending its precious ‘prestige’. The use of screen-printing is encouraged.
– Get rid of the car. If you have two, sell one of them. If you have a big one, get a smaller one. If you can, become car free and enjoy life.
– Learn a skill or trade even if it seems silly. For example, learning how to sew or make hats — and buying the necessary tools — appears dumb where clothing can be had for a few dollars at a store. Learning a practical skill is an investment in yourself. The market for such things is always there, perhaps bubbling under the surface. Everyone on Planet Earth wears clothing. The current regime of cheap goods from China and elsewhere is not guaranteed over the longer term.
– Find a place to live where you are comfortable: that is, a place that has friendly people and is appealing; that is not overly expensive, dangerous, contaminated, decrepit or badly managed.
– Learn how to entertain yourself … and others. Draw, write, paint, fiddle, sing, act … garden, volunteer, carpenter, become a fire fighter, feed the hungry and destitute, become politically active … once removed from the mediastream the time must be filled with something else. Make hooked rugs.
– Be flexible. Non-linear = unpredictable. Learn to avoid rigid, doctrinaire approaches … to everything.
– Think toward nature’s parsimonious ‘economy of needs’. These are simple: food and water, clothing, shelter along with delight – love, sex and a stimulating and beautiful environment. Compare this to the industrial regime of robots and furnaces; capital consumption, waste, and profits … of material excess alongside the artificial scarcity of abstract ‘money’; of toxic contamination, greed and violence and their tyranny over all things and the extinguishing of life itself.
Over the course of hundreds of millions of years … nature has learned how to provide sustenance to our planet’s inhabitants within the boundaries of what is freely available in the form of material resources along with energy from the sun and from within the Earth. We refuse to learn, we insist there are better, more expedient ways conceived over the past fifteen-minutes, ways that ignore everything that has gone before. The river does not borrow money in order to flow. The tree does not need a permit or plan to grow; the bird flies as it will when it feels the urge to do so.
Nature builds without furnaces or plans, without debts or money, without pointless destruction. To change, we must become more like nature and less like our precious selves. Time to do so is running short: the End is Near.
Off the keyboard of A. G. Gelbert
Published inside the Diner on May 7, 2013
Discuss this article at the Newz Desk inside the Diner
You have to wonder how it got to this. I don’t think most people are naturally greedy. It’s all fear based, scarcity consciousness taken to the extreme end of the spectrum. We need to rediscover that we can create abundance….real abundance, not the kind we erroneously perceive based on media input.
We need less stuff and more time to breathe the outside air. Less driving and more time spent at family meals. Less advertising and more art. Less TV watching and more meditation. It’s simple really, but far from easy.
That’s the Diner Quote of the day, IMO.
Eddie and Surly,
Well and truly said.
As to how it got this way and how the greed meme took hold when most people are naturally not greedy, let me take a stab at answering that.
Machiavelli, the author of an early version of today’s Wall Street game theory religion, taught that palace intrigue, double crossing your oponent, competitor or friend, murder, mayhem, slavery, boundless greed and a ruthless grip on power were REQUIRED to be a successful leader with one very important caveat.
Why? Because, with the aid of the propaganda machine under the guidance of Freud’s nephew Bernays, the MASSES became convinced that greed is good. Yes, I know the goal was to increase consumption for business profits but it couldn’t be done without the societal poison pill called worship of the self. This set off the inevitable severely antisocial dynamic of people turning their backs on community while becoming mesmerized with what they saw in the mirror.
The elite, breaking Machiavelli’s rule of maintaining a guise of piety and Noblesse Oblige, began to flaunt openly their celebration of greed. They made the mistake of believing their own psychological claptrap.
And now that a critical mass of the people believe greed is good, society is coming apart at the seams.
The century of self has brought only serfdom and a lower quality of life.
The solution is NOT for the elite to get back into the piety closet; it’s for all of us to accept the CFS that altruism is the lubricant that makes societies run smoothly, greed is bad and prudent behavior geared towards self preservation with a community orientated focus, not to be confused with greed, is the only viable alternative for mankind.
Freud and Bernays must be condemned, along with all their egotistical flights of fancy, to infamy. It would be fitting revenge for all the mindfuck those two psychos got into print that twisted so many minds to feel justified in cheating the poor if the books were used to power furnaces in the third world.
Off the keyboard of Steve Lendman
Published on the Steve Lendman Blog on May 3, 2013
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
- a fake shoe bomber;
- fake underwear bomber;
- fake Times Square bomber;
- an earlier one there;
- fake shampoo bombers;
- fake Al Qaeda woman planning fake mass casualty attacks on New York landmarks;
- fake Oregon bomber;
- fake armed forces recruiting station bomber;
- fake synagogue bombers;
- fake Chicago Sears Tower bombers;
- fake FBI and other building bombers;
- fake National Guard, Fort Dix and Quantico marine base attackers;
- fake 9/11 bombers;
- fake Boston bombers; and
- numerous others.
Off the keyboard of Lucid Dreams
Published on Epiphany Now on May 5, 2013
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
From the Keyboard of Surly1
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 5, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
Given the various vectors of Doom for which we at the diner keep track, and the relative noise made in each one of those vectors, it occured to me to stand up a semi-regular summary called “This Week In Doom,” in which we survey the big breaking issues in the Wide World of Doom. Think of it as “The Wide World of Sports” for doom; certainly not all inclusive, and invested with a particularly Surly point of view.
First on the docket is Fukushima, the gift that keeps on giving. Even Charlie Pierce, Esquire’s redoubtable political blogger, felt obliged to weigh in on the subject.
Remember Fukushima? That was our Environmental Tipping Point two years ago, when a tsunami caused a catastrophic event at a Japanese nuclear power plant, a triple meltdown that resulted in, among other things, all kinds of noxious debris continuing to wash up in Alaska, in Hawaii and, just the other day, in California, Perhaps to celebrate the arrival of this dubious flotsam to the continental 48, we discover that the Fukushima disaster is not yet done poisoning things.
Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools. But even they are not enough to handle the tons of strontium-laced water at the plant – a reflection of the scale of the 2011 disaster and, in critics’ view, ad hoc decision making by the company that runs the plant and the regulators who oversee it. In a sign of the sheer size of the problem, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, plans to chop down a small forest on its southern edge to make room for hundreds more tanks, a task that became more urgent when underground pits built to handle the overflow sprang leaks in recent weeks.
Surely in the wake of such an accident, people the world over would clamor for a time out and a fundamental rethink of nuclear 60 year old reactor designs at the very least, let alone the viability of nuclear as a fuel source, yes? That Big Think that we were supposed to have either hasn’t occurred, or has been sotto voce:
WASHINGTON — All 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday. Shutting them all down at once is not practical, he said, but he supports phasing them out rather than trying to extend their lives.
The position of the former chairman, Gregory B. Jaczko, is not unusual in that various anti-nuclear groups take the same stance. But it is highly unusual for a former head of the nuclear commission to so bluntly criticize an industry whose safety he was previously in charge of ensuring.
Asked why he did not make these points when he was chairman, Dr. Jaczko said in an interview after his remarks, “I didn’t really come to it until recently.”
Perhaps that was after the checks quit clearing. Charlie Pierce brings the point home:
How anyone, even the most profit-hungry plutocrat on the planet, can look at what is still happening at Fukushima two years later and determine that financial concerns remain in any way relevant to the discussion of what has to be done about a steadily spiraling catastrophe — I mean, chopping down a forest to build more storage tanks is Plan A? Really? Where do they build the next hundred tanks? Downtown Osaka?
Deeply reassuring to know we have our best investigative minds on the subject.
Speaking of our best minds, and closer to home, those in charge of ferreting out answer to the Boston Bombing have extended their investigation to corral three more seriously judgment-impaired college students. Pierce again:
Three college friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are under arrest, suspected of removing items from his dorm room after the April 15 attack, sources said Wednesday. Two of the pals were detained April 20 on immigration charges and a third has now been taken into custody, sources said. They are expected to face obstruction of justice charges, the sources said.
Even by the standards of college buddies, this is remarkably stupid behavior, and my opinion of it will remain that until I see some evidence as to why we should now not expand our list of shorthand references to the people involved in this awful crime from Murderous Dipshits 1 and 2, to Murderous Dipshits 1 and 2 Plus Accessorial Dipshit 3 through 5.
NPR did a pretty spirited report read by Corey Flintoff that purports to investigate the Boston Bombing… in Southern Russia.
The search for the motivations of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers stretches from New England to Central Asia, but a lot of attention has been focused on Dagestan.
The mostly Muslim republic is located in the southernmost part of Russia, and it’s been the battleground in a low-level insurgency that takes lives nearly every day.
One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, traveled to Dagestan twice in recent years, and investigators want to know whether that experience led him toward a radical and violent form of Islam.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s parents and other relatives lived in the republic’s capital, Makhachkala, a city of nearly 600,000 that sprawls along the Caspian Sea. The city backs up against the North Caucasus, the blue-green mountains that have made places like Dagestan and neighboring Chechnya havens for bandits and rebels for centuries…
Which you are free to read at your leisure. My response when listening was that, like CNN, Howard Kurtz, et al, NPR will dutifully keep “catapulting the propaganda” that there is an Islamic connection, the better to help fuel the next neocon cry for the next useless neocon war, as always fought with the blood of the children of the working class. They are working overtime to affix an Islamist motivation to this crime; wherein you probably have Dylan Klebold in a ballcap and without the long coat.
Also rapidly disappearing down the Tsarniev memory hole is the allegation that Tamerlan became sour on the US after the Golden Gloves Changed elegibility rules on him.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, right, lost at the Golden Gloves championships in 2009. A year later, a new citizenship rule blocked him from competing again for a title.
The cocksure fighter, a flamboyant dresser partial to white fur and snakeskin, had been looking forward to redeeming the loss he suffered the previous year in the first round, when the judges awarded his opponent the decision, drawing boos from spectators who considered Mr. Tsarnaev dominant.
From one year to the next, though, the tournament rules had changed, disqualifying legal permanent residents — not only Mr. Tsarnaev, who was Soviet-born of Chechen and Dagestani heritage, but several other New England contenders, too. His aspirations frustrated, he dropped out of boxing competition entirely, and his life veered in a completely different direction.
Mr. Tsarnaev portrayed his quitting as a reflection of the sport’s incompatibility with his growing devotion to Islam. But as dozens of interviews with friends, acquaintances and relatives from Cambridge, Mass., to Dagestan showed, that devotion, and the suspected radicalization that accompanied it, was a path he followed most avidly only after his more secular dreams were dashed in 2010 and he was left adrift.
As it happened, Golden Gloves of America was just then changing its policy. It used to permit legal immigrants to compete in its national tournament three out of every four years, barring them only during Olympic qualifying years, James Beasley, the executive director, said. But it decided in 2010 that the policy was confusing and moved to end all participation by noncitizens in the Tournament of Champions.
So Mr. Tsarnaev, New England heavyweight champion for the second year in a row, was stymied. The immigrant champions in three other weight classes in New England were blocked from advancing, too, Mr. Russo said.
Mr. Tsarnaev was devastated. He was not getting any younger. And he was more than a year away from being even eligible to apply for American citizenship.
Neighbors and some close to the brothers doubt that they were “radicalized” in Dagestan. It could be that Tamerlan, at least, was radicalized by that most American of institutions: a change in the rules of the game.
And closer to home—much closer, for me, we have some archaeological “proof” that Jamestown settlers turned to cannibalism during the difficult “Starving Time” endured by the first wave of Jamestown colonists.
Newly discovered human bones prove the first permanent English settlers in North America turned to cannibalism over the cruel winter of 1609-10, US researchers have said.
Scientists found unusual cuts consistent with butchering for meat on human bones dumped in a rubbish pit.
The four-century-old skull and tibia of a teenage girl in James Fort, Virginia, were excavated from the dump last year.
James Fort, founded in 1607, was the earliest part of the Jamestown colony.
The Starving Time was one of the most horrific periods of early colonial history. The James Fort settlers were under siege from the indigenous Indian population and had insufficient food to last the winter.
First they ate their horses, then dogs, cats, rats, mice and snakes. Some, to satisfy their cruel hunger, ate the leather of their shoes.
Which goes to show nothing so much as what human beings will resort to do when sheer survival is at stake. It is reasonable to assume that the cultural prohibition against consuming human flesh was as strong among 17th century British colonist as it is among us today. Another cautionary tale for those of us who have watched and read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and/or seen the film, when considering the near-term implications of what Full Doom might look like for those of us not ensconced in some Federally constructed and provisioned underground bunker.
In an article posted by JoeP in the forum and reposted on my news channel, biologist Paul Ehrlich
Believe(s) that we are on a straightforward course to a collapse of our civilization.” He cited signs, such as diminishing returns from natural resources, that he said were recognizable from studying the collapse of other civilizations throughout history.
Reasons for that are baked into our DNA, says Ehrlich:
“We’re a small-group animal, both genetically and culturally. We have evolved to relate to groups of somewhere between 50 and 150 people,” he said. “And now suddenly we’re trying to live in a group not of 150 or 100 people, but of seven billion people, somewhat over seven billion people at the moment, and that is presenting us with a whole array of problems.”
Those problems include an inability to recognize gradual, large-scale changes in our environment as dangerous.
“Another thing that’s related to that, that’s presenting us with a whole array of problems, is that most of our evolution going on now is cultural evolution,” Ehrlich went on. “And the problem is cultural evolution has not gone on at the same rate in every area of human endeavor. Where has it gone on most rapidly? It’s gone on most rapidly in the area of technology.”
He cited signs, such as diminishing returns from natural resources, that he said were recognizable from studying the collapse of other civilizations throughout history.
It will come as no surprise to readers of the Diner Blog and forum that technology has outstripped our capacity for judgment and our moral dimension. As discussed elsewhere in the Forum, the nominal group size of a viable community is about 150. Something to consider as we track the various vectors of doom.
Off the keyboard of Roamer
Published on the Doomstead Diner on May 3, 2013
Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner
So I am waiting out the bizarre Midwest snow storm before I engage in corn planting. As someone keen on small scale low tech pasture based farms and desirous of a grain free paleo diet it’s a pretty odd situation I am. In a week or so I’ll sit in a tractor a couple days on end and plant in automated comfort the same land 10’s of family farms used to derive a living from. Its not all that unlike modern warfare, GPS based guidance systems, chemical sprays, high tech cockpits all to launch a chemical blitz on the land in the name of “progress”.
Today I am pondering though the nature of this progress, why have markets come to favor this system of food production, is it really more efficient than what it replaced? What follows are some order of magnitude calculations to put things into perspective on a calorie to calorie basis.
Typical conversion factors for cows to produce milk on grass are most strongly correlated with dry matter, assuming access to necessary minerals and water and healthy living conditions cows should be able to average a conversion of 1.4 lbs of milk per pound of dry matter (DM). Annual dry matter yields per acre are much more variable, in favorable ample moisture midwest ground I am working on DM yields should range between 3- up to 8 tons/acre/year.
Corn Based Gross Caloric Yield
Average corn yields on the same chunk of ground come in around 140 bushels per acre. Straightforward caloric analysis shows that this system produces around 5 times more calories per acre than the best case pasture scenario.Corn gross caloric yield=139,000cal/bushel*140bushels/acre=19,460,000 Cal/acre ~5:1 gross caloric outyield on dairy system So surely that means the Monsanto and all other “green revolution” shills are right, we’d starve if it weren’t for their grain techs and chemicals.
Far from it….
The graph at the right breaks down where the 2011 corn crop went.
As is evident only ~10% of corn is used for direct consumption in the USA (of dubious nutriative value), 39% is used for ethanol, and 37% used for beef. Assuming a 10% corn to meat conversion efficiency, US human caloric production per acre of corn is 2.63 x10^6 Cal/acre, which is actually right with the lower case gross caloric yield for grass based scenario.
This is to say nothing at all of the terrible nutriatitive quality of corn calories. The high fructose corn syrup may as well be a net negative when long term health problems associated with it are weighed in.
It is also omitting the net inputs that we must put into the corn operation, the nitrogen, the herbicides, the processing ect. It is also omitting the top soil degradation of both organic matter and erosion that occur over time with corn. The loss of biodiversisty, the destruction of aquifiers were also ignored.
In the end corn to me looks like the perfect leverage point for banksters to centralize and mine the land, at the expense of the health of the land and the people. The arguments of superior efficiency and productivity are not sound. Look at the end use of corn, it is really pretty poor as a food, it was NEVER about feeding anybody except the wallets of those vested in maximizing returns at the expense of the agricultural system and the land.
If though pasture based farming can produce equivalent amounts of calories at higher nutritive value, why have we adopted corn? I believe the answer is all about labor maximization through the leverage of fossil fuels. Automation and mechanization has lowered labor costs /bushel. Pasture based agriculture though does not allow for centralization beyond perhaps a herd of a few hundred. Somebody still has to move the cows, bring them in, milk them and care for them, put up hay ect. There is no way for outside benefactors (Cargill, adm, Monsanto, John Deere Ect) to manipulate and squeeze profit out of the system, where grain based systems allow for precisely that. Pasture based has inherent decentralized limits built in by natural protocol, grain based with the adoption of mechanization has no such limits (until peak oil and declining EROEI are seriously upon us).
Pasture based systems also suffer by not being able to consistently access markets, despite the vast superiority of the food the produce. ADM, Cargill and the like all figured corned grain markets, and because of its longer term stability they were able to centralize and in effect control the ag land of the US. People for progress call pasture based aged inability to be centralized a problem, I call it a solution, and a cry to relocate and redistribute people closer to small town America.
You get what you pay for and you are what you eat…..
There is nothing really redeeming to be said of this system of corn agriculture. It is I suspect more at the heart of our societal collapse than many consider. No system in the history of the world has disconnected people from the land and natural cycles of life to the degree of this unholy mass mechanized chemicalized system has. Its largely responsible for our failing health as a nation, our failing rural communities, our deep disconnect with land and our food, topsoil depletion, and aquifer pollution. We fall for it though, we see the linear math and the raw calories and assume its a necessary evil to “feed the world”.
It started I believe when we as a people bought en large the notion that low price food was the end all. This favored labor centralization and grain production. Quality of food and land followed. There is not likely any way we can have sustainable agricultural systems without having a little higher costs to cover the larger degree of labor input that is needed. This does not mean that these systems do not produce enough to feed the world, sustainable system can produce the gross calories needed at far higher qualities, its just that the dollars need to go to empower the labor needed to maintain lower chemical and energy input systems.
Its a bad cycle though we get trapped in, tight margins and we are tempted to skimp on food. Its made all the more worse by the multitude of confusing hippy dippy or corporate “organic” options designed to lure the concerned consumer into feeling good about his/her purchase. It is though something we vote for every trip to the grocery store, and whatever way we vote I think we really need to stay educated on where our food is coming from and its effects on the environment and our bodies. Its likely a bigger deal than any of us might tend to consider.
Off the keyboard of Steve Lendman
Published on the Steven Lendman Blog on May 1, 2013
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
Big Brother no longer is fiction. It hasn’t been for some time. It’s official US policy. According to ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program director Barry Steinhardt:
“Given the capabilities of today’s technology, the only thing protecting us from a full-fledged surveillance society are the legal and political institutions we have inherited as Americans.”
“Unfortunately, the September 11 attacks have led some to embrace the fallacy that weakening the Constitution will strengthen America.”
Manufactured national security threats matter more than fundamental freedoms. Domestic spying is institutionalized.
Anyone can be monitored for any reason or none at all. Privacy rights are lost. Patriot Act legislation authorized unchecked government surveillance powers.
Financial, medical and other personal information can be accessed freely. So-called “sneak and peak” searches may be conducted through “delayed notice” warrants, roving wiretaps, email tracking, and Internet and cell phone use.
The FBI, CIA, NSA, and Pentagon spy domestically. So do state and local agencies. Spies “R” us defines US policy. America is a total surveillance society. It’s unsafe to live in. Everyone is suspect unless proved otherwise.
The 2012 FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act renewed warrantless spying. It passed with little debate. On Sunday, December 30, 2012 Obama signed it into law. Doing so largely went unnoticed.
These type disturbing measures usually slip below the radar. Weekends and holiday period enactments conceal blows to freedom. Warrantless spying became law for another five years.
Phone calls, emails, and other communications may be monitored secretly without court authorization. Probable cause isn’t needed. So-called “foreign intelligence information” is sought. Virtually anything qualifies. Vague language is all-embracing.
Months after 9/11, Bush secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans lawlessly. Sweeping surveillance followed without court-approved warrants.
Doing so violates core constitutional protections. Major US telecommunications companies are involved. They have been since 9/11. Things now are worse than then.
It headlined “Panel seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders,” saying:
“A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Facebook and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former US officials familiar with the effort.”
At issue is alleged FBI concerns about “Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals.”
FBI spying is longstanding. So are other lawless practices. Throughout its history, the agency operated within and outside the law.
J. Edgar Hoover ran it from 1924 – 1972. He waged war on communists, anti-war, human and civil rights activists, the American Indian Movement, Black Panther Party, and other groups challenging rogue state policies.
He ordered agents to infiltrate, disrupt, sabotage, and destroy them. Anyone advocating ethnic justice and racial emancipation, as well as economic, social, and political equality across gender and color lines became vulnerable.
Post-9/11, FBI abuses escalated. Intrusive surveillance tools now target ordinary Americans. Unchecked authority and other abusive practices are widespread. America’s war on terror matters most.
Disturbing tactics include greater physical surveillance, commercial database data retrieval, paid informants infiltrating groups (or targeting individuals) on false pretenses, and letting covert unidentified agents conduct “pretext” interviews for information.
Muslims are America’s target of choice. So are anti-war and social justice activists. A gloves off, no-holds barred approach is followed. Virtually anything is fair game. Innocent people are vulnerable.
The Patriot Act authorized so-called National Security Letters (NSLs). FBI agents take full advantage. They do so by demanding personal customer records from ISPs, financial institutions, credit companies, and other sources without prior court approval.
The FBI wants more. According to the Washington Post, it wants companies failing to heed wiretap orders penalized.
In February 2011, then FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni told House Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee members about a “Going Dark” problem.
She explained the agency’s inability to access comprehensive “communications and related data.” She claimed a “public safety” threat when critical information is missed.
In March 2013, current FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann addressed an American Bar Association discussion. He did so on legal challenges new technologies pose, saying:
“We don’t have the ability to go to court and say, ‘We need a court order to effectuate the intercept.’ Other countries have that. Most people assume that’s what you’re getting when you go to a court.”
Under current law, Internet communications companies can refuse to comply with court-ordered wiretaps. They can claim no practical way to do so.
Proposed legislation would change things. It would force companies to rebuild their capability to allow government monitoring.
Weissmann calls doing so a “top priority.” Proposed legislation is being drafted. It’s an extension of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).
It grants federal authorities sweeping surveillance powers. Doing so lets them spy on Americans more intrusively.
CALEA originally applied only to digital telephone networks. It forced telephone companies to redesign their network architectures to make wiretapping easier.
In 2005, online communications were added. Broadband providers had to rebuild their networks accordingly.
At issue was permitting access to Internet “phone calls” through VOIP applications, as well as online “conversations” by instant messaging programs.
Law enforcement wiretapping is longstanding. Existing laws permit tapping phone or online communications regardless of what programs or protocols are used.
Industry largely cooperates. Digital age surveillance is easier than authorities claim. They want greater ease than currently permitted. Expanding CALEA is overkill. Doing so enhances police state powers.
The FBI cites its “tappability principle.” It does so to justify its demands. It claims whatever is legally searchable sometimes should be physically searchable all times.
Applied to phone and Internet communications, it would require designing phones and computers with built-in bugs. Doing so would elevate surveillance powers. Everyone could be spied on at all times. Private communications no longer would exist.
Expanding CALEA is the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps software companies are next. Enhanced legislative authority may force them to create surveillance-ready programs. Doing so may compromise innovation.
Applying phone system rules to software development and online communications assures trouble. What’s longstanding policy for one compromises innovation for the others. It also more greatly undermines freedom.
Police state powers are enhanced. Companies are forced to comply. Under draft legislation, courts could levy fines. Judicial inquiries could impose additional ones. After 90 days, unpaid amounts would double daily.
According to Center for Democracy and Technology senior counsel Greg Nojeim:
“This proposal is a non-starter that would drive innovators overseas and cost American jobs. They might as well call it the Cyber Insecurity and Anti-Employment Act.”
Former federal prosecutor Michael Sussman added:
“Today, if you’re a tech company that’s created a new and popular way to communicate, it’s only a matter of time before the FBI shows up with a court order to read or hear some conversation.”
“If the data can help solve crimes, the government will be interested.”
In 2010, after its networks were hacked, Google began emails and text messages end-to-end encryption. Facebook followed suit.
Doing so compromises FBI monitoring. Agency officials want enhanced CALEA authorization permitting it.
They claim doing so only extends current law to new technologies. It requires phone and online companies to allow wiretapping.
It’s much more than that. It elevates mass surveillance to a dangerously higher level. It’s another step toward full-blown tyranny.
On April 29, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) headlined “Feds Push for Backdoor Wiretap Capabilities.”
According to CDT Senior Staff Technologist Joe Hall:
“A wiretapping mandate is a vulnerability mandate. The unintended consequences of this proposal are profound.”
“At the very time when the nation is concerned about cybersecurity, the FBI proposal has the potential to make our communications less secure.”
“Once you build a wiretap capability into products and services, the bad guys will find a way to use it.”
CDT President Leslie Harris added:
“What the FBI is proposing sounds benign, but it comes with such onerous penalties that it would force developers to seek pre-approval from the FBI.”
“No one is going to want to face fines that double every day, so they will go to the FBI and work it out in advance, diverting resources, slowing innovation, and resulting in less secure products.”
“The sad irony,” said Hall, “is that this is likely to be ineffective. Building a communications tool today is a homework project for undergraduates.”
“So much is based on open source and can be readily customized. Criminals and other bad actors will simply use homemade communication services based offshore, making them even harder to monitor.”
Media scholar/critic/activist Robert McChesney told Progressive Radio News Hour listeners how Internet freedom has been compromised.
His important new book “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy” explains what should concern everyone.
“The corporate media sector (did) everything in its immense power to limit (its) openness and egalitarianism…., he said.”
“….corporate and state surreptitious monitoring of Internet users” compromises fundamental freedoms.
Doing so is “inimical to much of the democratic potential of digital communication.”
Internet freedom depends on “arrest(ing) the forces that promote inequality, monopoly, hypercommercialism, corruption, depoliticization, and stagnation.”
It requires ending mass surveillance powers. It’s about restoring lost democratic principles. America’s heading the wrong way. It’s perilously close to ending freedom altogether.
Off the keyboard of Gail Tverberg
Published on Our Finite World on April 30, 2013
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Table inside the Diner
I have written in recent posts that oil limits are more complex than what many have imagined. They aren’t just a lack of a liquid fuel; they are inability to compete in a global economy that is based on use of cheaper fuel (coal) and a lower standard of living. Oil prices that are too low for oil exporting nations are a problem, just as oil prices that are too high are a problem for oil importing nations.
Debt limits are also closely tied to oil supply limits. It is actually debt limits, such as those we seem to be reaching right now, that may bring the whole system to a screeching stop. (See my posts How Resource Limits Lead to Financial Collapse, How Oil Exporters Reach Financial Collapse, Peak Oil Demand is Already a Huge Problem, and Low Oil Prices Lead to Economic Peak Oil.)
We have many Main Street Media (MSM) paradigms that mischaracterize our current predicament. But we also have what I would call Green paradigms, that aren’t really right either, because they don’t recognize the true state of our predicament. What we need now is new set of paradigms. Let’s look at a few common beliefs.
Inadequate Oil Supply Paradigm
As I stated above, indications that oil supply is a problem are confusing. MSM seems to believe, “If the US can be oil independent, our oil supply problems are solved.” If a person believes the goofy models our economists have put together, this is perhaps true, but this is not true in the real world.
Without a huge, huge increase in US oil production (far more than is being proposed), being “oil independent” simply means that we are unable to compete in the world market for buying oil exports. US oil consumption ends up dropping, and we end up on the edge of recession, or actually in recession. Oil exports instead go to the countries that have lower manufacturing costs (that is, use oil more sparingly). See Figure 1 below. In fact, even some of the oil products that are created by US refineries end up going to users in other countries, because it is businesses in other countries that are making many of today’s goods, and it is these businesses and the workers they hire who can afford to buy products like gasoline for their cars or diesel for their irrigation pumps.
Figure 1. Oil consumption by part of the world, based on EIA data. 2012 world consumption data estimated based on world “all liquids” production amounts.
The Green version of this paradigm seems to be, “If world oil supply is rising, everything is fine.” This is related to the idea that our problem is “peak oil” production caused by geological depletion, and if we haven’t hit peak oil production, everything is more or less OK. In fact, the limit we are reaching is an economic limit, that comes far before world oil supply begins to decline for geological reasons. See my post, Low Oil Prices Lead to Economic Peak Oil.
The real paradigm is, “Limited oil supply leads to financial collapse.” This is true for both oil exporters and for oil importer. For oil importers, the problem occurs because they cannot import enough oil, and oil is needed for critical parts of the economy. The belief by economists that substitution will take place is not happening in the quantity and at the price level (very low) that it needs to happen at, to keep the economy expanding as it has in the past.
Limited oil supply first leads to high oil prices, as it did in the 2004 to 2008 period; then it leads to government financial distress, as governments try to deal with less employment and lower tax revenue. By the time oil prices start falling because of the poor condition of oil importers, we are well on our way down the slippery slope to financial collapse.
The MSM version of this paradigm is, “Growth can be expected to continue forever.” A corollary to this is, “The economy can be expected to return to robust growth, soon.”
In a finite world, this paradigm is obviously untrue. At some point, we start reaching limits of various kinds, such as fresh water limits and the inability to extract an adequate supply of oil cheaply.
Economists base their models on the assumption that the economy only needs labor and capital; it doesn’t need specific resources such as fresh water and energy of the proper type. Unfortunately, substitutability among resources is not very good, and price is all-important. In the real world, growth slows as resources become more expensive to extract.
The Green version of the growth paradigm seems to be, “We can have a steady state economy forever.” Unfortunately, this is just as untrue as the “Growth can be expected to continue to forever.” Even to maintain a steady state economy requires far more cheap-to-extract oil resources than the earth really has. (US shale oil resources, which are the new hope for oil growth, can only grow if oil prices are sufficiently high.)
We are very dependent on fossil fuels for making our food supply possible and for our ability to make metals in reasonable quantity. Fossil fuels are also necessary for making concrete and glass in reasonable quantities, and for making modern renewable energy, such as hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, and PV panels. We cannot keep 7 billion people alive without fossil fuels. Perhaps the quantity of fossil fuels consumed can be temporarily reduced from current levels, but with continued population growth, any savings will be quickly offset by additional mouths to feed and by the desire of the poorest segment of the population to have the living standards of the richest.
Unfortunately, the correct version of the paradigm seems to be, “Overshoot and collapse is to be expected.” This is what happens in nature, whenever any species discovers a way to way to increase its energy (food) supply. Yeast, when added to grape juice will multiply, until the yeast have consumed the available sugars and turned them to alcohol. They then die.
The same pattern has happened over and over with historical civilizations. They learned to use a new approach that allowed them to increase food supply (such as clearing land of trees and farming the land, or adding irrigation to an area), but eventually population caught up. Research shows that before collapse, they reached financial limits much as we are reaching now. The symptoms, both then and now, were increasingly great wage disparity between the rich and the working class, and governments that needed ever-higher taxes to fund their operations.
Eventually a Crisis period hit these historical civilizations, typically lasting 20 to 50 years. Workers rebelled against the higher taxes, and more government changes took place. Governments fought wars to get more resources, with many killed in battle. Epidemics became more of a problem, because of the weakened condition of workers who could no longer afford an adequate diet. Eventually the population was greatly reduced, sometimes to zero. A new civilization did not rise again for many years.
Figure 2. One possible future path of future real (that is, inflation-adjusted) GDP, under an overshoot and collapse scenario.
It seems to me that unfortunately overshoot and collapse is the model to expect. It is not a model anyone would like to have happen, so there is great opposition when the idea is suggested. Overshoot and collapse is very similar to the model described in the 1972 book Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows and others.
Role of Economics, Science, and Technology Paradigm
The MSM paradigm seems to be, “Economics and the businesses that make up the economy can solve all problems.” Growth will continue. New technology will solve all problems. We don’t need religion any more, because we now understand what makes people happy: More stuff! As long as the economy can give people more stuff, people will be satisfied and happy. Economics even can allow us to find “green” solutions that will solve environmental problems with win-win solutions (assuming you believe MSM).
The Green version of the paradigm seems to be, “Science and technology can solve all problems, and can properly alert us to future problems.” Again, we don’t need religion, because here we can put our faith in science to solve all of our problems.
I am not sure the Green version of the paradigm is any more accurate than the MSM media version. Science is not good at figuring out turning points. It is very easy to miss interactions that are outside the realm of science, and more in the realm of economics–for example, the fact high-priced oil is not an adequate substitute for cheap-to-extract oil, and it is the lack of cheap oil that is causing a major portion of today’s problem.
It is also very easy to put together climate change models that are based on far too high assumptions of the amount of fossil fuels that will be burned in the future, because economic interactions are missed. If debt collapse brings down the economy, it will bring down all fossil fuels at once, meaning that the vast majority of what we think of as reserves today will stay in the ground forever. A debt collapse will also affect renewables, by cutting off production of new renewables, and by making maintenance of existing systems more difficult.
The real paradigm should be, “Neither science and technology, nor economics can solve the problems of humans. We have instincts similar to those of other species to reproduce in far greater numbers than needed for survival, and to utilize all resources available to us. This leads us toward overshoot and collapse scenarios, even though we have great knowledge.“
Because of our propensity toward overshoot and collapse scenarios, humans have a real need for a “moral compass” to tell us what is right and wrong. If there is no longer enough food to go around, how do we decide which family members should get it? Is it OK to start a civil war, if there are not enough resources to go around? There is also a need to deal with our many personal disappointments, such as finding that the advanced degrees we worked so hard on will have little use in the future, and that life expectancies are much lower. Perhaps there is still a need for religion, even though many have abandoned the idea. The “story line” of religions may not sound exactly reasonable, but if a particular religion can provide reasonable guidance on how to handle today’s problems, it may still be helpful.
Climate Change Paradigm
The MSM view of climate change seems to vary with the country. In the US, the view seems to be that it is not too important, and that it can be adapted to. Perhaps the models are not right. In Europe, there is more belief that the models are right, and that local cutbacks in fossil fuel consumption will reduce world CO2 production.
The Green view of climate change seems to be, “Of course climate change models are 100% right. We should rationally be able to solve the problem.” There is only the minor detail that humans (like other species) have a basic instinct to use energy resources at their disposal to allow more of their offspring to live and to allow themselves personally to live longer.
Unfortunately, a more realistic view is that climate change may indeed be happening, and may indeed by caused by human actions, but (1) we are already on the edge of collapse. Moving collapse ahead by a few months will not solve the climate change problem, and (2) collapse itself is an even worse problem than climate change to deal with. By the time rising ocean levels become a problem, population is likely to be low enough that the remaining population can move to higher ground, and agriculture can move to where the climate is more hospitable.
Climate change may indeed cause population to drop even more than it would if our only problem were overshoot and collapse. But because the cause is related to human instincts (having more offspring than needed to replace oneself and the drive to use energy supplies that are available), changing the underlying behavior is extremely difficult.
Over the eons, the earth has been cycling from one climate state to another, with one species after another being the dominant species. Perhaps natural balances are such that the time has now come that humans’ turn as the dominant species is over. The earth is now ready to cycle to a state where some other species is dominant, perhaps a type of plant that can use high carbon dioxide levels. If this is the case, this is another disappointment that we will need to deal with.
Nature of Our Problem Paradigm
The MSM’s paradigm seems to be, “Our problem is getting the economy back to growth.” Or, perhaps, “Our problem is preventing climate change.“
In a way, the MSM paradigm of “Our problem is getting the economy back to growth,” has some truth to it. We are slipping into financial collapse, and in a sense, getting the economy back to growth would be a solution to the problem.
The underlying problem, however, is that oil supply is getting more and more expensive to extract. This means that an increasing share of resources must be devoted to oil extraction, and to other necessary activities (such as desalinating water because we are reaching fresh water limits as well). As a result, the rest of the world’s economy is getting squeezed back. See my post Our Investment Sinkhole Problem. Squeezing the world’s economy creates great problems for all of the debt outstanding. The likely outcome is widespread debt defaults, and collapse of the world economy as we know it.
The Green paradigm seems to be, “We have a liquid fuel supply problem.“ If we can solve this with other liquid fuels, or with electricity, we will be fine. Many Greens also emphasize the climate change problem, so their big issue is finding electric solutions for the liquid fuel supply problems. There is also an emphasis on local food production, especially with respect to perishable foods.
Unfortunately, the real problem seems to be, “We are facing a financial collapse scenario that is likely to wreak havoc on all energy sources at once.” Using less oil products may be helpful for a while, but in the long term, we are dealing with an issue of major system collapses. Using less of a particular product “works” as long as the supply chain for that product is still intact, including the existence of all of the factories needed to make the product, and the existence of trained workers to operate the factories. Banks also need to remain open. World trade needs to continue as well, if we are to keep our supply chains operating. The real danger is that supply chains for many essential services, including fresh water, sewage disposal, medicines, grain production, road repair, and electricity transmission repair will be interrupted. As a result, we will need to find local solutions for all of them.
The situation we are facing is not at all good. While we can do a little, it will be very challenging to build a new system that does not use fossil fuels. In the past, when the world did not use fossil fuels, the population was much lower than today–one billion or less.
Also, in the past, we started simple, and gradually added complexity to solve the problems that arose. This time around, we need to do the reverse. We already have very complex systems, that are too difficult to maintain for the long term. What we need instead is simpler systems that can be maintained with local materials. This is not a direction in which science and technology is used to working.
Creating new systems that require only local resources (and a few other resources, if transport can be arranged) will be a real challenge. Areas of the world that have never adopted modern technology would seem to have the bast chance of making such a change.
Importance of Tomorrow Paradigm
MSM seems to assume that we can save and plan for tomorrow. Greens have a similar view.
Perhaps, given the changes that are happening, we need to change our focus more toward to day, and less toward tomorrow. How can we make today the best day possible? What are the good things we can appreciate about today? Are there simple things we can enjoy today, like sunshine, and fresh air, and our children?
We have come to believe that we can and will fix all of the problems of tomorrow. Perhaps we can; but perhaps we cannot. Maybe we need to simply take each day as it comes, and solve that day’s problems as best as we can. That may be all we can reasonably accomplish.
Off the keyboard of Jason Heppenstall
Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on April 29, 2013
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I have just returned from Spain, where we had to go at short notice to give a farewell kiss to our stranded asset. Yes, our farmhouse, which had been the focus of all my dreams and efforts a few years back, was finally released from legal limbo land and the keys handed over to the happy new owners. We got back around half of what it cost us to buy it and do it up, but speaking with other people in the same situation we know that we are among the lucky ones.
What a strange place Spain is! This truly is a country where dreams go to die. To the casual visitor it looks like an earthly paradise. The entire region was bursting forth with a trillion wildflowers on our visit, the air was scented with jasmine and orange blossom and the boughs of the lemon trees still hung heavy with fruit. A bumper wet winter had left the Sierra Nevada mountains with a deep snow pack – meaning happy times for farmers in the year ahead – and the local people were just as courteous, graceful, witty and family-oriented as they ever were.
These were among the reasons why, almost ten years ago, we had chosen to go and live there. The ruined house on the side of a fertile hillside had been converted into a small organic farm. Our kids were happy to sit in the shade of an almond tree with a rock and bash open almonds while I either worked on the land or went into the office where I was running a small ecologically-conscious newspaper that I had set up. Life was good.
Or at least it would have been if we hadn’t taken out a loan to renovate the property. In time that loan became an unbearable burden and our dreams slowly dissolved before our eyes as we found ourselves forced to return to work in Copenhagen and live in a government subsidised flat for five whole years. That wasn’t part of the plan.
And we were the lucky ones. Those who steadfastly refused to leave are now stranded. Most foreigners have left the area. Those who stubbornly refuse to lower the asking price of their houses are hit the worst because they can’t cut their losses and move on. Instead they exist in a shadowy half-world of penury, trying desperately to earn a euro here or there and doing anything they can to keep the wolf – or in this case the bank – from the door. The last thing they need is escapees like me parachuting in and pointing out how lovely the smell of orange blossom is in the spring air.
Those with families to support face an unpleasant decision. With all work having dried up many are finding that the only way to feed their families is by doing illegal things. ‘Such as?’ I asked my friend, who is still desperately clinging on in a legal way. ‘All sorts,’ she replied. Dope grows remarkably well in Andalucia.
Only those who can draw money from the currently still-functioning pension systems of northern Europe are faring better. Yet even that may not be a shortcut to safety as healthcare costs are climbing just as they themselves go into decline. The Spanish have a word for foreigners like that. They call them ‘soloistas’ or some such word – loners. People without family who rely on their money from other countries, their healthcare from far away and a cheap and functional system of airlines to take them wherever they need to access these services. Many of them sit in their jerry-built concrete shells by their swimming pools, drink in hand, and convince themselves that they are still living the good life – even though sterling has depreciated, food costs have rocketed and all of their friends have either been evicted or hot-tailed it back to the country they had said they despised before things started to go wrong. Just one more glass of sangria and everything will be okay again …
Spain is a strange place. It has been in a state of free fall collapse for several centuries. One of my favourite writers, Jan Morris, described the country’s fortunes as (paraphrased) ‘like a rock bouncing, bouncing, bouncing down a steep mountain, its descent every now and again arrested by a small outcrop.’ Here was a country that had a vast empire that was able to liquidate – quite literally – the wealth of an entire continent and bring it home. Five centuries later it was one of the most backward regions of the western world and an embarrassment to the EU. And then the money began to pour in.
The money was used to modernise the country in a kind of Spanish Great Leap Forward. It was all about catching up. Building. Building roads and airports and millions and millions homes that nobody really wanted. You want ten thousand euros? – I’ll lend you fifty! Peasant farmers who owned dry and dusty parcels of land in Almeria – land that would have been literally worthless, almost a curse on the family – suddenly found they could borrow thousands from the bank to buy boring equipment, pumps, plastic greenhouses and fertiliser. All of a sudden they were rich on selling tomatoes and lettuces – and all kinds of other tasteless pseudo foods – to the moneyed northern Europeans, and could afford to employ migrant Africans in bonded slave-like conditions. New pickup trucks and a house by a golf course were suddenly the order of the day. It was a boom alright.
I’m happy that the place where we had chosen to live – La Alpujarra – was considered too backward even for this kind of boom. The roads were too bendy. The people were too simple. The land was too steep and the streets of the local town were full of the dirtiest and most bedraggled kind of New Agers. Sophisticated people from Granada would come and visit in their thousands every weekend and bring with them loud music, iPhones and shiny fast cars. The locals secretly called them ‘aliens’ and kept their mouths shut as they were serving them in their restaurants and guest houses. I’m happy to say I was never called an alien. At least, not to my face.
But what of these urban sophisticates now? They are among the ones we see on the news reports, living on food handouts and protesting against the government. With their safety blanket pulled out, unemployment rocketing (said to have reached 6 million last week) and the country’s political (and royal) classes being steadily exposed as crooks and liars, things suddenly don’t look so rosy. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Not so for my erstwhile neighbours who, by and large, are getting along just fine with their fields and their small houses and appropriately sized vehicles. Fertlizer and pesticides had always been too expensive, so not that many people had got into the habit of using much of them. These folks had always said things were terrible even at the best of times. The country people of Andalucia haven’t forgotten that the region is prone to famines, genocide and an unstable climate. Listen to some proper flamenco and ask yourself if this comes from a land of happy upbeat people.
Driving back down the coastal highway on the way back to the airport it was impossible not to notice how empty it was. This was a Saturday mid-morning and a few years ago one would have expected it to be moderately busy. Now, we saw a car only every few minutes. It felt like the whole road was ours – and this was the widely ballyhooed mega motorway that was supposed to be a ‘ring of tarmac’ encircling the whole of Spain. Sadly uncompleted, like a broken necklace.
In the news today I read that a Spanish woman dowsed herself in petrol and walked into a bank. The bank had taken her house and her savings and everything else she owned. ‘You have taken everything from me!’ were the words she shouted before igniting the fuel. Such stories are increasingly common.
What next for such a country? There is a growing chorus calling for the debt to be abandoned – for the country to walk away from its obligations to the monolithic banks and finance organisations and to set themselves free again. There is, if the truth be told, no other option. Whether it goes smoothly or is done with explosives is the only question worth asking. Alas, Spain’s history, if it can be used as a guide, doesn’t bode well. I’d love for someone to tell me that I’m wrong on this, but I’m not sure I’d believe them.
But I hope that in this case the past is going to prove to be no guide to the future. Spain held out for so long against the Anglo model of capitalism. Petty local corruption, ironically, kept development at bay and ensured the system as a whole remained resilient. It was only the surging tidal wave of EU reforms that swept away the small scale municipal corruption and replaced it with respectable-looking TBTF corruption.
Bounce, bounce down that mountain.