So, here we are, It’s April, and today is April Fool’s Day. So I’ll lie to you and trick you, and it will be funny.
Har. Har har. Har har har.
Had enough of that yet?
I wish I could remember who said it, and where I encountered it, but one passing item came to mind as I was thinking here. That was hearing some random guest knucklehead running his mouth presented as “news” on TV somewhere recently, mentioning Greece and their severe economic problems (with consequential social and governmental problems), who, I swear to God, referred to Greece as “a third world country”. This was obviously not a joke, I realized, as the forgotten character offering this idiocy rattled on. I would hope that readers here would have the same reaction of shock as I did, but, unfortunately, I suspect that far too many people would not even register a glimmer of recognition of the absurdity of referring to a place as a “third-world country” that is one of the roots of what we think of as western civilization, in other words, about as “first world” as you can get if you organize things using these terms.
That popped into my head while thinking about the endless stream of variety of ways that people are fed confusion, blatant lying, and general nonsense by people regarded as sources of information and people of authority. Every day is April Fools Day.
I can’t quite get away from the recent reminder, prompted by what I mentioned in the last note. There’s so much deceptive and manipulative garbage fed to people that even a bright thinking human can come to conclusions of false nonsense. Like those comments I talked about, with notions that fracking has made the USA into the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, and that Russia invaded Ukraine, and that they thought Putin invaded Ukraine because the United States was about to become a major exporter of natural gas and Putin wanted to rebuild the Soviet empire and control the former Soviet republics and the rest of Europe because he was afraid the vast flood of natural gas from the US is going to take away his natural gas customers. None of which fits well with reality.
It all too evident how somebody would get these ideas in their head. All of it’s hammered into people’s heads daily. Many, many people will latch on to some explanation or narrative about something complex, that’s neat, simple, and wrong.
They can and do buy into loads of fiction, distortions of bits of true actual reality, and simplistic delusions. Way too many Americans now are afflicted with the distortions produced by what I think I might start calling Bipolar Political Disorder, and specious garbage presented as “news”. It piles up so badly, so pervasively, that it becomes a kind of “God, where do I start?” overwhelming mass. In the case of the online comments I mentioned, it becomes a multi-faceted knot to unravel.
The issue with petroleum is not about “are we going to run out of oil”. Fracking has not, and will not, make the United States “the Saudi Arabia of natural gas” (or oil). Russia did not invade Ukraine.
… and so on.
The problem is, we’re talking about neat little bumper sticker slogan sound bite bursts that are neat and simple and easy to absorb and repeat, and sorting out the reality takes much more time and effort. It takes more than one-liners to cover the stuff.
An online acquaintance (a different one from the previous story) made a comment on his Facebook page about the wry sense he had of about half the items he encountered in news seeming like they had to be an April Fools joke. I know exactly what he means, the only thing is that I would say it’s much more than half these days.
One large high profile example of this kind of thing is the running farce of pronouncements of the financial kind, particularly the absurdities involving the Federal Reserve bank. New head honcho Janet Yellen has now been at the helm for a while, and things continue as business as usual, which is, managing the game of how to maintain the delusions and frauds that saturate the world of finance and banking now. A recent public statement just carries right on with the same stuff, which basically revolves around near zero interest loan rates from the Federal Reserve, combined with the “Qualitative Easing” circus.
The latter, as far as I can tell, has been essentially about the Fed creating theoretical money which is just put into some bizarre accounting frauds and tricks to “buy” piles and piles of the assorted paper-wealth contrivances of the “financial derivatives” kind, the Credit Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations and all the garbage trickery of securitized mortgages. In other words, the very stuff that imploded in what people call the Financial Crisis of 2008, that many characters in the public sphere like to pretend is a thing that happened, and is now past, rather than dealing with the reality that it has just rolled right on and gotten worse, because none of that has been sorted out.
Instead of wiping away all that collection of frauds and phantasms, of insanely complex contrivances that nobody seems to really fully understand, including the supposed geniuses who created them, for a half decade now we’ve had this bizarre farce of accounting tricks and shuffling of debt.
The best I can tell is that most of the “QE” programs (now on Round 3) is simply the Federal Reserve “buying” the piles of worthless derivatives arrangements with nonexistent “money” so that the incomprehensible and impossible debts, liabilities, obligations they created are just wiped off the books in the accounting of the entities responsible for creating the whole clusterfuck. Suddenly, like magic, the accounts of those parties look so much better, and, hey, presto, for these people, it’s bonus time! That, plus the near-zero-percent interest rates on money for banks is supposed to be, according to the Federal Reserve party line for a half decade and counting, “stimulus to the economy”, when very clearly all it’s doing is magically cleaning the accounting of the insanity and swindles in banking and finance mentioned above, and providing almost-free money to shovel into more and more of the games in the Wall Street casino.
The latest of the ongoing party line and PR spew is that the effectively zero interest rates are for the purpose of stimulating the economy, based on the bright idea that this will promote borrowing and spending. Borrowing, and then borrowing against the borrowing, and on it goes. It’s perfect timing as an April Fools joke, but it’s a running joke, going for several years now. The running joke, as ever, includes that all this nearly free money that’s supposed to stimulate borrowing and spending will be creating new jobs.
As a bit of an antidote to the surrealistic madness, I’ll point you to a couple of different webcast discussions, aside from the links to reading.
Chris Nelder joins James Howard Kunstler in the latest installment of the now occasional (usually weekly) KunstlerCast, in a good conversation between people grounded in reality about our combined energy and economic circumstances. They have some different thinking about how, exactly, things will proceed in the near future and longer term, but they do both have the same understanding of where we are now, and where things are generally headed as a result of the diminishing returns of hydrocarbon deposits. The common ground, which is obvious to anybody really paying attention, and not lost in fantasies, delusions, and general wishful thinking and snake-oil remedy sales hype, is that we have some serious adjustments, rethinking, and rework to do.
The other audio recording webcast is a discussion with Paul Craig Roberts, which is about as good as you’re going to find as a general truthful summary of what has been happening in the ugly drama in the Ukraine, and the ugly and stupid international political games surrounding it.