In the last note, I was talking about things stemming from reading a note on the Of Two Minds blog of Charles Hugh Smith, proposing a simple resolution for 2014; let’s actually call things what they are. I left it at the end understanding that you can go on and on about the ways people are avoiding such a basic thing, either ignoring things, or something even worse, just pretending they are something else.
Here’s a news flash, or at least what amounts to a news flash in the realm of CNN, presented as “BREAKING NEWS” on the afternoon of January 23, 2014. The “breaking news” was that US Attorney General Holder is reported to be “open to resolution” of the case of Edward Snowden.
As the chatter proceeded, it was reported that the Attorney General was considering was some sort of agreement, stating that if Snowden agreed to plead guilty to charges of espionage, perhaps he might be allowed to return to the United States from his current situation in exile, and maybe not be executed. Maybe this would be some sort of agreement that he could merely live the rest of his life in a federal prison. Presumably this is seen by some parties in the US government as some sort of gesture of generosity and mercy. How this is seen by the people of the United States is another question.
Ever since the revelations of what the NSA has been doing to the people of the United States, thanks to Snowden, there has been a pretty intensive effort by people in the government to label Snowden as a traitor, somebody committing treason and putting the national security of the nation in danger by revealing vital secrets of national security. Various people have been portraying Snowden as a spy for, first, China, when Snowden turned up in Hong Kong, and then switching to suggestions that he was a spy for Russia, after he turned up there and was granted refuge by the Russian government. This is a farce, pure bullshit, and it’s obvious.
As far as I can tell, nobody with a glimmer of sense honestly thinks Edward Snowden is a spy for some other nation with hostile intentions, or, to be absolutely clear, a spy for anybody, except for the people of the United States. Aside from the clarity of the situation that Snowden is on our side, acting in the interest of the American people, not endangering us, or betraying us, it’s obvious that there’s some game in play to appear to offer some kind of “leniency”, in itself an implication of wrongdoing, and, in the process, brand Edward Snowden with labels like “spy” and “traitor“.
Recent news about all this has included reports that a review board, something called the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has ruled the whole mess illegal. That is not exactly a revelation to anybody who has simply read the Bill of Rights of the US constitution, and specifically the first and, more importantly, the fourth amendment.
Just days before this news came out, President Obama gave a big speech to supposedly address “the issues” around the total-surveillance police state program, and essentially just carried on the general position and attitude trying to rationalize and justify the whole thing, with the basic premise being that the actual state of affairs of what’s happening is not the problem, the essential “issue” is supposedly that the need is to merely make the American people feel more comfortable about being under complete surveillance of all electronic media of communications, that the key item and goal is to make us like it more. Oh. So it’s just a PR problem, then? A combination of total surveillance police state and worldwide military empire is for our own good, don’t you know, it’s only happening to protect and defend our freedoms and liberties that make us so great, so exceptional, so much better than the rest of the world that isn’t free like us.
If you turn to the fog of noise and reality distortion from Republican party politicians and Fox News, and everybody following their lead, you can find people referring to this saga claiming it as a prime example of Obama’s ambitions of tryrannical dictatorship, even when it’s obvious that if we currently had a president and a dominant majority in both chambers of Congress from the Republican party, the very same stuff coming to light would be argued by the same people as all being necessary to defend freedom and liberty, keeping us “safe from terror”, part of the absurd misnomer cliché of “The War on Terror“. On the opposite side of political bipolar disorder in American politics, people who desperately want to believe that Obama as president is what they would like to believe he is, try to rationalize it somehow.
In a completely bizarre twist of absurdity, along comes a note online saying that the Republican party is now making it a part of their party platform to portray themselves as the party opposing the NSA spying on everybody at all times. Next up… wolf asks to take charge of henhouse security.
While all that madness clouds everything, a glimpse of what’s considered news now brings more of what has become normal, a vast array of distracting and diverting nonsense. As has become usual for this time of the year, the coming football sporting contest of the Super Bowl brings an endless bombardment of chatter, as if this game is the biggest thing happening in the universe, as if that actually matters.
If people aren’t being distracted by a barrage of “news” about whatever stupid behavior some lame entertainment celebrity is up to, something else will pop up to divert them, maybe another “reality” TV character will chatter their opinions about something and that will be a few days of “controversy”, and on and on it goes.
We have the State of the Union dog and pony show coming up just days away, along with the Super Bowl, and as those two rings of the circus get ready for their big shows. Often I think the endless filling of time with chatter about both become almost indistiguishable from each other, just endless sports bullshit babbling. It’s different facets of the same vacuous meaningless noise, wasting time and attention and creating diversions from important things. As the week comes to an end, we have a pair of situations that bring reality front and center.
A large portion of the United States is bearing the blast of another load of Arctic winter in places where normal winter is usually nowhere near this severe. Among other serious severe problems, one of the stories associated with this is news of a major shortage of propane, which, of course, is a primary fuel for a source of heat for many people. This is probably a bit of a shock to people who have been swallowing all the steady PR propaganda about a big American “energy boom” and “energy independence” in hydrocarbons.
Inevitably, the shocking severity of the cold we’re facing now, which follows another severe blast of Arctic winter just a couple weeks ago, will get somebody cracking sarcastically about something like “yeah, how about that global warming, Al Gore?!”, which now seems obligatory any time we get some very cold winter weather, and perhaps some snow in places that don’t normally see much.
It seems completely lost on people coughing up these kinds of comments that what appears to be happening involves what’s normally a cyclical airflow pattern around the north pole and Arctic circle being disrupted and intensely cold Arctic air leaving its normal pattern of doing laps around the northern extremes of the planet and swooping down into much lower latitudes, and that realistically figuring out why this is happening has to include contemplation of what scientists studying the Earth’s climate and weather have been warning. The repercussions of the greenhouse effect, climate change or global warming, whatever term is in use, involve major and strange disruptions of the weather patterns, ocean currents and airflow and weather system patterns, that we’re accustomed to as normal.
The other item is the interesting lurching of the New York stock markets, a “dive” as some TV pundits are calling it. I’m wondering what will be made of that by the batch of usual suspects Wall Street TV pundit crowd and politicians and any other people lost in the fantasy worlds of Wall Street, who have been awfully excited about the recent record setting high numbers of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other statistical markers. It’s still something of a mystery wondering how long some people will continue to try to maintain the façade of “recovery” and economic growth based on massive amounts of new money debt pumped into a gigantic frenzy of speculative trading transactions swirling around pretending to be wealth and economic growth.
Charles Hugh Smith summed up quite a lot of the reality of current circumstances in a new note on his Of Two Minds blog, hitting the gist of things right off the start in the title of the note, “The Recent “New High” in Stocks Is as Bogus as the Unemployment Rate“. That really nails it, right there; two supposed “key indicators” of economic goodness as things stand today revolve around complete and utter bullshit to paint a picture that has less and less relationship to reality.
Browsing through TV channels surveying the madness a couple of weeks ago, I came across something.
As I came across Fox News (naturally), there was a group babble-fest underway, and as I arrived, the item of the moment was something about some economist, or economists, saying “addressing income inequality would harm economic growth“. As I’ve said before, the serious starter problem here is the use of the word “equality” (or inequality), which fundamentally confuses things, when the right word would be something like “imbalance”.
Substituting a more correct word, if you put forth the notion that “addressing income/economic imbalance would harm economic growth“, this begs for a couple of profound questions to be answered. First, what exactly is your idea and definition of “economic growth” if the circumstances of it require that we have a nation of paupers and peasants, and, if that is the case, if that is your idea of “economic growth“, then the question is, what good is it? At some point, people have to take a good hard look at that kind of nonsense, and start to consider the idea that if that is what needs to be for their idea of “economic growth”, then it isn’t really growth, it’s a pretense, an illusion of economic growth.
In a twisted roundabout way, it was good, up to a point, to see that nonsense being put out there in the open, to expose it to fresh air and sunlight, because it actually reveals quite a lot about how many people seem to be thinking. Put another way, it’s just another manifestation of the idea that’s out there in the minds of some people, that basically amounts to the notion of believing that poor people have ruined the American economy.
If we could manage to call things as they are, a lot of babbling about economic growth would shrivel up and blow away, and we could begin to address things in different terms. It has been clear, for quite a long time, that much of what swirls around about “economic growth” is illusory nonsense that actually creates and worsens economic dysfunction.
I’ve talked before about the real economy, actual value, useful things of actual value, useful good work done well, things actually working properly, people having a decent life. It just astounds me endlessly that fundamentally basic ideas should even need to be discussed, but right now, as things stand, they do, and when the subject is raised, it’s as if the people raising the point are some sort of misfit oddballs. Even half a decade past the “financial crisis” of the implosion of scams and frauds and phantasm illusions and incomprehensible contrived financial arrangements designed to virtually be some sort of things unto themselves, the general public level of understanding of all that and consensus about it seems to be virtually nil.
You don’t have to be some kind of visionary genius to look around and see all kinds of signs indicating work that needs to be done, plus work that might not be absolutely necessary, but ought to be done, things of necessity and things that can just make things better, and not getting done. Meanwhile, literally millions of people in the US are finding themselves without paying work, including loads of people who are very capable and able to do very good work, with knowledge and skills and experience, useful people of value, while so much work isn’t getting done, because so many people just want everything, but don’t want to pay anybody for anything. Judge the results of all this yourself.
A few weeks ago in his weekly blog note, writer James Kunstler, who grew up in New York City, with a short period in the fifties in the then new suburbs of Long Island, talked about a recent visit to NYC, and the impressions it made on him. In short, he looked around and realized that, in many different aspects, the city of New York was looking to be in pretty good shape, as good as it had ever been in his memory (Kunstler being an early baby boomer born in the late forties). That might sound great to many people, but he went on to observe that essentially the basis of this grand sense of improvement of the city was that it was largely a result of an ongoing long term phenomenon of the banking and corporate and Wall Street realms that call New York City home being on a mission to extract all possible wealth from everywhere, as much as possible. Consider Kunstler’s observations of the wonder of NYC now, and look around all of the rest of America. Part of the perspective problems, tha lack of consciousness and the embrace of shiny delusions and lies, can be explained by people being immersed and sheltered to some degree inside some insular existence, in some place where everything looks good to them, without the wider perspective and understanding of somebody like Kunstler and many others among us who can see what’s outside those little bubbles.
There are many people who grasp what’s happening economically and honestly addressing it, rather than the overwhelming common phenomenon of maintaining illusions and lies and outright frauds, and among these people, people I try to point out often, there’s an increasing realization that the general current notions of “economic growth” are severely unrealistic. What’s more, the determined maintenance of these notions is severely problematic in getting to grips with getting on with what needs to be done, and having an economy that’s actually healthy and functional. It seems clear to me that an awful lot of what needs to be happening is to get to work repairing damage and addressing the voids hollowed out by determined quests for growth, or illusions of growth, at the cost of everything else that has been abandoned, neglected, ignored and shortcut in the process.
Here we are, still having this problem in the early days of 2014, after years of clues about the problems happening clubbing us over the head. As all the dysfunction of greed and mismanagement stacks up, all that anybody really needs to do is spend some time looking around beyond their immediate day to day circumstances, or for many people, simply look around at their own day to day circumstances, and observe the United States increasingly turning into a plutocratic banana republic, with more and more of the wealth of the nation plundered and hoarded, while more and more falls apart and malfunctions.
Many people have been taking notice of the ongoing and still unfolding tragedy of one of America’s great cities, with the story getting even more attention this past year, as the city government of Detroit entered bankruptcy proceedings. I’ve said a few things about it before, and you can find many sources of various looks at the state of the city of Detroit, its astonishing ruins and decay, the vast areas of what was dense urban territory in a major city that now look like a rural area with occasional scattered houses. I won’t take time to examine all that here.
What matters in this context is the way that people seem to avoid really getting to grips with what has happened and how it has all come to be. Raise the subject of Detroit and its deterioration and troubles, and you will find no shortage of people with explanations of what and how and why about this tragic episode of history. I won’t rehash any of that, either, especially since while that kind of thing might occasionally raise a valid point or two, they almost invariably miss the bottom line, what some people like to call a root cause.
The deterioration and decline of the city of Detroit can really be traced back to a general phenomenon that appears to have basically gotten going after the end of World War II, and something that I’ve said before. Back in the postwar period, what began in earnest was a movement of people, and business, heading outward from the city into the surrounding suburban areas springing up, as the idea took hold in postwar America that the suburbs were the place to be. It’s pretty reasonable to argue, I think, that Detroit, embracing its image as “The Motor City”, embraced that idea even more than other places in America, happily grabbing ahold of the idea of a newly prosperous post-war and post-depression America buying lots of shiny new cars, with the assumption that America had some endless bounty of cheap petroleum to fuel them. So, the idea went, given all that, spreading out into shiny new suburbs around the actual city of Detroit was a great idea, and everybody could simply hop in their cars and drive, to commute to work and back, to go shopping, everything. Add enthusiastic projects to pave the area with vast multilane highways for fast shuffles in and out of town, and that was set in place.
Part of the reality of that was that in the process, of course, one thing that happened was that vast areas of the city were bulldozed to provide paths for the highways, wiping out and killing off a lot of the city, with the extra effect being that the nature of limited access highways meant that neighborhoods and districts that were not bulldozed out of existence were split up and separated by the new highways.
That, on top of the primary effects of so many people and so much activity leaving for the suburbs, began the destruction of Detroit, which has worsened over decades, as the further deterioration of the actual city of Detroit caused more people and business to bail out, in a downward spiral feedback loop.
But, in all the bullshit you might read and hear about “what happened to Detroit”, very few people acknowledge all that and recognize the basic core problem. More likely is that they’ll hammer on the plight of Detroit as a featured item for some scapegoat or another that’s got them on the warpath quite apart from Detroit. I bring it up here, not only as an example of avoiding recognizing things as they are, and working forward from that, but as an example of a kind of long running example of misallocation of wealth and resources, and, moving on from there, an example of what I was saying about having a lot of work ahead of us, to not keep going with the ideas of “growth” and expansion the way Americans have assumed as normal, but to do a lot of repair and remedial work, “filling in” a lot of voids created by these ideas gone too far. Detroit is not a unique case, it’s just probably the most notable because it’s arguably the most extreme and stark example of how drastically and dramatically a place can change badly over just a few decades. Detroit is a tale that can teach us something, if we don’t do as most people seem to do and attribute Detroit’s problems to things that are side issues, or actually consequences and repercussions of the primary problem. It’s a story of diverting resources and care and money elsewhere, abandoning and neglecting something (in this case, a great city), and then acting baffled and bewildered about how it could deteriorate so badly.
One major manifestation of reality coming to knock us on the head to wake us up is a continuing story of American retail commerce going downhill. This is a different form of what I just said, really. In this case, it’s a tale of how people thinking “growth” comes from what corporate speak would call “cost cutting intiatives”, which in plain language means “let’s figure out how to not pay anybody properly for anything”, whether it’s paying for things or paying people to work, and then, as the population is gradually and steadily reduced to being peasants, wondering why retail sales at the corporate chain stores are down, and down some more. This seems to be a puzzling mystery to some, wondering why, regardless of how continually people are bombarded with being told to think of themselves as “consumers”, they just refuse to go out and buy more and more shit they don’t need.
What we need is to get back to work making things work.
That starts with calling things what they are.