waiting for the fog to clear

Recent events have shown me more examples of something that’s nothing new. We’re surrounded most of the time by people who only want to hear what they want to hear. Given observations and thoughts about some element of reality, they object, and not because the observations and thoughts are wrong. It might go something like “oh, no, I don’t like that. Tell me something different. In fact, I’m offended and indignant about that, and I will now complain about how indignant and offended I am by this until I get the answer I want!”.

Examples seem boundless.

A new story appears before me in the news, in what has become a pretty consistent and regular theme, about professional economists (and other types of humans) appearing baffled and perplexed by the current economics in terms of “declining unemployment rate”, and failing to grasp the obvious. It starts right off badly:

Something in Friday’s employment data won’t add up.

It rolls along getting worse in sheer clueless bumbling.

But over the past six months, the U.S. unemployment rate has surprised economists by rapidly falling to 8.3 percent from 9.1 percent even as the economy has yet to get back up to pre-recession speed. According to the textbooks, that’s not supposed to happen.

The unexplained drop has touched off a debate among dismal scientists, who have gone back to their chalkboards to try to figure out what is happening.

As it proceeds, this article displays a perfect example of supposedly serious professional expert people type humans being oblivious to clues bouncing right off of their collective faces:

The sharp drop in the employment rate also comes as many would-be job seekers have given up looking for work, which tends to lower the total percentage of those who are officially defined as unemployed.

Just to make it worse, that bit I just quoted is immediately followed by this tiny gem of utter incompetence in writing:

The labor participation rate been fallen steadily since the recession began in 2007 and has continued to fall since the economy began recovering in 2009.

Read that sentence carefully, if, by some chance, you managed to skim through it without either cringing, or breaking up laughing, at the gross ineptitude of the writing, never mind what they were trying to communicate.

How many people even proofread anymore?

 

One big basic and fundamental clue in this whole thing, found all over the place lately, not just in this particular article, stares people right in the face, and the clue is found there in the text I just quoted. It’s found in this repeating theme of “the unemployed who have given up looking for work”.

I honestly don’t know how it can be possible that people can be this fucking stupid. The detachment from reality relating to all this is widespread enough to regard it as ubiquitous among some groups of people. Other people know it’s bullshit, because they’re up to their eyeballs in the actual reality.

People who apparently expect to be taken seriously either ignore, or really truly can’t grasp, the obvious about this. There are people who have simply been unemployed so long that they have completely exhausted all available unemployment insurance benefits, federal extended period and all. When that happens, and they are no longer able to file a weekly claim begging for unemployment insurance benefits, they are now, magically, no longer counted as “unemployed” in statistics. They have officially and statistically ceased to exist.

All kinds of specious nonsense flies around about people “giving up in their job search”, or “leaving the labor pool”, or “workforce participation”, or, as in the above article “the labor participation rate”. The reality is not any of those contrived fictional explanations, but simply because somebody who no longer has any help available from unemployment insurance is no longer checking some form item declaring themselves as “seeking work”. Presto. Gone. According to the people whose minds are off in the kind of oblivion reflected in the above article, those people are no longer unemployed, and are no longer trying to find employment, just because they are not counted anymore. Masses of people, now officially unknown as far as labor and unemployment statistics are concerned, have simply been added to the unknown void of The Disappeared.

Then, some bunch of people write and chatter about the supposed deep puzzling mystery of how the statistics of unemployment counts don’t match up with accepted principles and models of economic theory.

Somewhere around this point, somebody out there in the world will reflexively react by launching into something about how this sort of thing is just another example of how awful and wrong President Barack Obama is in playing some sort of deceptive game to make things look better in economic terms while he has been President. That’s fair enough, while neglecting what is beyond any doubt in my mind, which is that if the 2008 election had been different, and we now were early in the fourth year of the administration of President John McCain, we would have the exact same economic circumstances, including unemployment, with the very same statistical games in action.

For that matter, as long as I’m on the subject of political bullshit and games, the reappearance of past nonsense is back in play regarding what so many people insist on calling “Obamacare”, the federal law changing medical insurance that actually differs in substantial ways from what Senator Obama was proposing as presidential candidate.

In the election campaign, he specifically argued against the idea of requiring people by law to buy health insurance if they did not have it, the “insurance mandate” that Republican politicians and Fox News Channel and the rest of the usual suspects in that political faction like to rant about as Big Gummint over reach and left wing radical socialist “government takeover of healthcare”. That, despite the fact that, not only is there nothing in that law about health insurance that takes over any healthcare practice anywhere, but the very characteristics of the law that are targets of all this noise are aspects that were originally proposed by Republican politicians, especially the “insurance mandate”.

Speaking of health care and medicine in America, without getting into details of private matters, I’ve had my own recent experiences involving medical problems in my family. In this matter, all kinds of different people have been involved in problems of a member of my family, with all sorts of chaos and confusion because, evidently, many of them can’t communicate with each other properly. Others end up going to great trouble trying to take up the slack and sort gnarled and confused messes.

On to the ongoing subject of finite hydrocarbon fuel resources, the stories roll on endlessly. A few things here from the past week or two, just randomly catching things on television.

Turning to Hardball with Chris Mathews, there was a segment with Mathews having a typical kind of discussion with people located elsewhere, all staring into their own cameras, with a pair of congressional representatives, Jo Ann Emerson and Ed Markey, in a segment about US gasoline prices. Both of them danced around in the usual team A versus team B political games, with neither of them getting to the truth of anything substantial. To touch on just one example of how this went, at some point Emerson (interrupting, naturally) said something about current US oil production being only half of the production rate of the eighties. Markey responded saying that this is just not true. Around it went.

In fact, current US crude oil production rates are much lower than the rates of the eighties. To say that the current rate is only half of what it was in the eighties is wrong, it’s more than that, but it is much less than it was in the decade of the eighties, and that in itself ignores the complexity of the actual reality of the historical data in that there was a substantial variation over the eighties. Factors included the combination of the US having passed the all time peak of 1970 and gone into decline on the downside of Hubbert’s peak, while the crude coming from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska rose, peaked, and went into decline all over the span of a decade or so, with that timespan being mostly in the eighties. In shortest form, neither of them knew what they were talking about, or they did and were both being grossly evasive and dishonest according to what sort of political game points they wanted to score.

I tuned into the middle of proceedings of a hearing of the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, featuring star witness oil company propaganda spokesman Daniel Yergin, whose role in life recently has been to make regular appearances misleading and confusing people while being treated as an “oil expert” authority, along with the acting administrator of the US Energy Information Administration, and a couple of other guys. That was annoying and discouraging, as everybody involved tap danced around getting to the fundamentals of the petroleum situation. A few actual real true facts came up, yet everybody avoided reality in astonishing form.

I forget the details, but at some point, somebody made some statement about the fact that US oil consumption has decreased a bit in the last few years. This is true, as we have varied between high of around 21 million barrels of crude consumed per day to a low of around 18 million, as the US economy has careened through disaster. What was astounding, if that’s the right word, was that they then said something to the effect that US oil consumption has decreased recently, so, as they put it, “this isn’t a demand problem”. Consider that lined up with current US oil production being around the range of 5 to 6 million barrels per day over the same period, and you start to get a clear glimpse of the absurdity.

Coming across the confused wasteland of Fox News, I found myself observing some “special edition” of the Hannity show, with Sean Hannity hosting a program with the theme of “energy policy” and the economy and President Barack Obama being all wrong and destroying America if we don’t get rid of him. That featured elements of high farce such as a segment with pizza chain founder turned incompetent politician Herman Cain as an “energy expert” along with somebody from Fortune magazine. True to usual form of anything involving Hannity, this farce was such a tangled pile of bullshit and delusion it’s not even worth the time it would take to try to unravel the mess.

All that is added to the existing accumulating mass of avoidance and confused misinformation about the general subject of “energy”, including episodes such as the recent chapter of an array of different people completely and thoroughly confused about statistics showing that in 2011, the United States exported more refined products from petroleum than it imported refined products of petroleum, and then declaring that suddenly the US is an “oil exporter”.

As a very unusual winter has finished up, with temperatures up above 80F in the last week of winter here, in a place where winter effectively usually lasts about five or six months, we head into early spring with plenty to think about in terms of clues that something odd is happening with the climate, with bursts of tornados very early in the year to smack people in the head with less than subtle hints. As extraordinary warm weather covered the Great Lakes region and other northern latitude portions of the US at a time when winter is usually still kicking, with people out enjoying what was essentially like late spring or early summer weather, at a time when snow would be normal, out in Arizona, portions of the state were shut down by snowstorms.

This is getting old and stale. It’s beyond old and stale, and into rancid and decrepit, really. It’s getting tedious writing about it all, realizing how few people are conscious of it, or even interested in waking up.

I’m sorry, am I boring anyone? Am I not saying what somebody wants to hear? Am I buggin’ you, man?

It seems like any subject you examine, there’s a whole batch of assorted confusion, deception, and sheer delusion, with all of that propagated and perpetuated by hordes of people who just want to cling to something other than a clear look at reality, for whatever reasons that seem convenient.

Just looking at the realm of government, and, with that, how things are paid, is an endless trip through some fog of twisted surrealism. I’ve already talked about some of this.

People squawk about Social Security as some sort of financial problem that needs to be attacked, but then looking at this, it turns out that as of a couple of years ago, around 2.5 trillion dollars was owed to the Social Security Administration. People seem to forget (or never knew) that Social Security was supposed to have its own fund kept separate from the rest of the finances of the federal government.

Apparently, in place of its cash, the Social Security fund has around 2.5 trillion dollars worth of US Treasury bonds sitting in storage as a large scale IOU from the Treasury Department, euphemistically “borrowed” by the general fund of the government. For the people who say Social Security has financial problems, well, how about if they were not missing that “borrowed” 2.5 trillion dollars replaced by IOU Treasury bonds? Who took that money, and what did they do with it? For the people who sound alarms about the debt of the US federal government, and/or claim that Social Security is some sort of unsustainable burden on the finances of the US federal government, well, about 2.5 trillion dollars of the current debt is money that is debt owed to the Social Security fund by the federal government general accounts because it was taken from the SSA. So who took that money, and what did they do with it?

I can’t recall, in all the crazed political noise around us, if somebody has already said the following, but I can easily see something like this coming from somebody, most probably some John Birch Society tea party Republican. Somebody will raise something about this 2.5 trillion dollar debt, and somehow turn it, through some twisted form of vague confusion and insinuation, portray it as some multi-trillion dollar “bailout of Social Security” complete with implications that this is clearly a sign of some sort of ineptitude, corruption, mismanagement, or fundamental general inherent wrongness of the Social Security program, rather than a debt owed back to Social Security funds for money that was essentially stolen from the people’s Social Security accounts and spent on God knows what. Most probably by congressmen finding a devious and obscure way to pay for something else, while serving their own public image, by making themselves look good by not appearing to “raise taxes” for their pet item.

I’ve already written about the outlays of money by the United States for the offical budget of the Department and Defense, plus everything else thrown under the heading of “national security”, adding up to about a trillion dollars a year. How much less would this be if sanity ruled and this was all only about actually maintaining a defense of the United States of America, and not trying to control the entire planet as a military empire?

Recent news gave us a perfect example of something, when President Barack Obama met with Russian President Medvedev, and the following events. If you pay any attention to the news, you know about this. In the course of some brief bit of personal but not exactly private conversation, while sitting on a stage, Obama made comments to Medvedev that referred to the fact that there is an extended election campaign in process, with all the madness that goes with that these days, and if he’s re-elected President, he will have a bit more flexibility in discussions with the Russians about military weapons systems matters where some mutual understanding and agreement would be a good thing for everybody.

It’s easy enough to understand this, it’s pretty much into the realm of ridiculously obvious, really. In the circus of absurdity and bullshit that is American national politics in this era, anybody being reasonable, realistic, thoughtful, and operating with goodwill will end up inevitably bombarded by simplistic chattering bullshit from people just going batshit crazy and going for cheap applause political points with nonsense. Obama said something to the Russian president addressing this unfortunate reality, which he clearly understood.

The immediate and extended batch of results, after this short snippet of conversation was released into the world, clearly proved the point about as well as it could possibly be demonstrated.

It basically started off with the general tabloid-news aroma of this short chat being reported in the style of something like “scandal! scandal! Obama’s secret plan revealed!“. From there, people from random knuckleheads in reader comment sections of news web pages to Republican politicians chimed in with assorted corrosive idiocy right up to and including what might have been the topper of them all, comments from Republican presidential candidate Willard Romney, including the cherry of the cake of a comment about Russia as “America’s Number One enemy”, as if he was lost in some alternate reality delusion where it’s 1960 and he’s trying to score points to get himself in political power by shouting “the commies are coming! vote for me, I’ll save you!“.

I really have a hard time believing that old Willard is truly that dim. I could believe it was real coming from people like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, or other characters who I could easily believe to be genuinely and sincerely that fucking clueless and stupid. But for all his very real and serious problems, I have a hard time believing Romney is honestly that ignorant about this topic. If he is, that’s truly horrifying. So, then, if he really is not that completely clueless, then the question becomes, what is this character doing?

That’s kind of the overall question fitting the overall theme here.

A while back, after I had posted a couple of links on Facebook pointing to articles on the web that straightened out some batches of nonsense from characters like Sarah Palin, et al, I found myself reading a comment from somebody arguing about it all. The comment was something like “whether you would admit it, you consistently support Democratic positions”, which, among other things, was interesting, considering that I had not taken any kind of political position. I was pointing to items addressing matters of fact, especially focusing on how far away from actual true facts of reality some people were getting, and dragging large chunks of the American public with them.

Frankly, I think the present day Democratic party is just about worthless. The thing is, the Republicans are way worse, and getting far worse, steadily, as that group as steadily corroded by the John Birch Society types, swindlers and grifters, and general lunatics and halfwits.

We might do well to scrap the both of them, and I’m not the first person to say that both of these organizations have become so detached from a grasp of reality and general rational goodwill that they’re irrelevant. Just watch them in action. The rare signs of functional sanity tend to come from people who are willing to think, speak, and act without worrying what the official line is from their party. Here’s a concept. Here’s a matter. What are the facts of the matter? Next, what do you think about them; you?

It’s hard to unravel the madness in that department, just like it’s hard to unravel a similar kind of madness in the realms of economics, and the state of the planet, including how we’re devouring the natural resources of the Earth as if there is no limit to anything, and no repercussions, all the things I write about repeatedly.

I look around and can’t help thinking that we’re all living in a time and place where the majority of people are showing more and more evidence of living as a sort of cargo cult. I think that getting back to the subject of the idea of cargo cults is probably a thing to do here later, as it really does pretty well describe a lot of the psychology of things happening.

In the meantime, in the intersection of commerce and politics, Matt Taibbi carries on doing actual good work of shining some light on reality, with a short article about recent news in national politics regarding the questionably named “JOBS act“.

Complex confusion is piled on complex confusion in the public sphere, often by people whose whole mission in life seems to be to confuse people, relentlessly, until we have people all around who seriously believe the insanely absurd bullshit like the ongoing incessant chant of the theme that Barack Obama is some form of “leftist radical socialist communist”, even as virtually everything he does pretty much places him as what would have been a kind of middle moderate average Republican, if you turned back the clock to some time before the Republican party just charged full speed ahead into lunacy.

Switching back to things like that “Hannity special edition” alternate reality televised spectacle I referred to earlier, discussion of “the economy” in Fox News world continues to be locked into some surreal determination to refuse, or be unable, to differentiate between assorted swindlers and perveyors of shell game carnie acts, and people doing business by doing good work in useful work in fair exchanges of value for value.

Turning to a different domain, a new installment on the web of short snippets by Thom Hartmann reflects another topic of foggy confusion, on the running topic of “job retraining”. That’s an entire large topic of its own. It has been a long running topic, especially over the last five years or so as all the assorted mad financial games and unsustainable paths have finally gone over an inevitable ledge, and it’s maddening and frustrating beyond belief.

It’s almost guaranteed, turn to the subject of people doing work in exchange for payment in employment, or more specifically to the state of being of unemployment, and inevitably people will start spewing all variety of platitudes and cliches about “job retraining”. Not making a living doing actual paid work? Why, you need job retraining! Hey, presto, you’re ready for the new careers of the 21st century! Then somebody might point you toward some pointless bullshit like going through some community college non-degree “jobs retraining” exercise in “creating business marketing presentations in PowerPoint” or whatever the hell it might be.

Loads of this fatuous nonsense abounds, making all sorts of assumptions and neglecting the simple fact that many, many people who find themselves in a position of being lost in discarded limbo are actually good, useful, people of value who already have actual real live knowledge and skills in doing good and useful work that needs to be done.

There is an endless assortment of specious nonsense in this whole realm, among a range of people filling space with worthless bullshit, anything from some brain fart writing about “top 20 careers of the future” to silliness about how everything will be rosy if you just adapt to the latest fashion trends in resume composition and presentation.

There are just too many ways too many people are locked into something other than having a sensible grip on things as they are, understanding what has been, and thinking realistically about living in the future. Too many people have some deluded idea that current problems will be solved and neatly addressed if we just do some imagined magical reset to some state of things in the past when they believe that everything was just peachy, even if much of the conditions and practices were on the road leading us right to where we are now in a complex shitstorm of major problems. Others, who might see themselves as being in just fine and comfortable shape, right now, as things are, are determined to hold some idea, wish, or demand that everything stay just like it is right now. A slightly different kind of madness can be found now in new cable TV network shows about “doomsday preparation”, like that’s a practical and realistic plan for ongoing human life.

A glance back at the political derangement prompts a pointer to someone else’s commentary about some of the pointless posturing about “American exceptionalism“, which is a whole topic of its own that gets pretty absurd. That’s a whole essay on its own.

One little glimpse of something very destructive came in the course of some discussion panel I stumbled upon on C-Span, which I might have mentioned before. It was not something unique that had never appeared before. This is something that’s kind of a long running attitude, and it has led us into truly deep shit. It goes like this.

Mention Europe. Talk about how life there mostly revolves around cities that are centuries old, often largely preserved in their long existing general form and layout, even if many of the buildings have changed, which is still another topic in itself. We’re talking about cities that existed and functioned long before the arrival of petroleum fueled vehicles. Even in the Oil Age, they still can function in similar ways, including being able to live and work and trade and do other things that make life worth living by getting around by actually walking. Given further distances, they still can have things in integrated functional cities where distances are not so great, and still do it by various means; bicycle, public transit, without major mass consumption of petroleum. Even getting between cities, between countries, they have good functioning train systems. Many people live without having cars at all.

Raise that here, and somebody, for sure, will say something like what I heard on this televised discussion about “transportation infrastructure”, which is “oh, well, that’s Europe, that’s those people, we’re America, we don’t do that, that just doesn’t work that way here, we’re different!”, as if this is a virtue, and avoiding the obvious when it comes to a batch of problems about how we arrange life, and transportation, and consumption of finite fuel resources, and pollution, and so on. That’s the fundamental problem.

I almost half expect to soon come across some television political “debate” on a theme like “reality- does it apply to us Americans, or are we too special for that?”. So much as suggest that in some places and you’ll find some enraged mob of knuckleheads chanting “U! S! A!…U! S! A!” as a response.

Again, somebody addressed some of what needs to be said on this general topic.

We have real general problems with this, and this is all part of the overall theme of today’s installment.

In other commentary in blog world, here is an item about the present moment in the sort of surreal world of the outer reaches of suburban sprawl that some people are now calling “exurbia”. These could be argued to be the zones of early 21st century America where the detachment from reality is most profound (I would bet that it includes a fairly large portion of the “tea party Republican” humans).

Wrapping this up, it dawns on me, once again, that in writing all of this sort of thing, somewhere out there somebody will react badly to it, missing the points, and basically say “oh, sure, so you think you know it all, huh?… got it all figured out, do ya?…”.

No. I’m not omniscient, and I certainly don’t have it all figured out. I know that. This is kind of the point.

What I find as I try to pay attention to what’s happening around me and out in the wider world is how awfully common it is for people to not grasp how little they know, in the larger picture of the universe, and how little they understand. That’s the issue here.

It’s not quite a matter of a society that can’t figure out how to solve its problems. It’s a matter of a society in a time and place in history that can’t even figure out and define the problems right.

 

 

 

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One Response to waiting for the fog to clear

  1. David Sass says:

    Great post ! You nailed it ! I couldn’t agree more.

    Stopped by your website because of a post you left over at Our Finite World.

    Look forward to coming back and reading more

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