Another day, and there’s a lot going on, with all sorts of topics that could get set aside with a phrase I have to use too often; “… but that’s an entire subject of its own”.
One item revolves around an ongoing situation that I have to deal with personally. That’s a matter I’ve mentioned several times here in the past, that has the problematic characteristic that it involves other lives, in the domain of the personal and private. So you don’t read details about it. That ended up being the setting for another chapter of frustrating absurdity that, you guessed it, is really a long story of its own, with the length of the story, and extra layer of complications and problems, being about being unable to get proper attention on matters from either a medical doctor and office staff.
It was, to be short and blunt, a farce.
In simplest form, it was about the problems of supposed professionals who could barely be bothered to give a serious matter more than a bare minimal show of superficial brief attention, and, as a result, really not getting the picture of the matter at hand, never mind addressing it properly. It was a show, and, as is usual in that realm, everything is a very expensive superficial show. In this case, it was in the setting of what passes for “healthcare” here and now.
The thought has crossed my mind that this particular episode probably has more than a little broad similarity to the kind of story I mentioned in a note just days ago. That, you might recall, was about large corporate business operations failing massively and completely to acknowledge and correct their own malfunctions, and, instead, going through endless time wasting ridiculous dog and pony show pretenses, to put on a grand empty show of pretending to deal with problems, under the guise of “customer service”, while effectively doing nothing.
All that can certainly take us on to similar problems of lots of noise and assorted diversions, irrelevance, and avoidance in the realm of governance and politicians putting on a grand show that manages to do nothing necessary, and probably makes things worse.
The results of all this is just a continuation of more and more assorted flotsam and jetsam of scattered noise and confusion. As I thought about what to write today and a title to stick on it, one thought that flickered through was the term “black swan“. It seems to me, and has seemed this way for a while (and I’m not alone in this), that all kinds of complex circumstances are hanging in the air, just waiting for some kind of black swan event to trip things and bring in all sorts of complex effects and repercussions that will come as a hell of a surprise to lots of people.
With that in mind, it was not surprising to read Jim Kunstler’s regular Monday blog note and find that this kind of thing was on his mind. As seems to happen fairly often, this kind of thing is not unusual, whether it happens to be Kunstler’s weekly notes or somebody else, and this isn’t some amazing and strange coincidence. It’s just a sign that at least some people are actually paying attention.
As long as I’m mentioning Kunstler’s note (go read it), it’s worth mentioning a couple things, right now, even if it’s redundant.
One is about thoughts that the new drama of ebola is certainly a potential black swan event, in more way than one.
One possible effect is what the threat of this contagious disease that is almost guaranteed to kill people might do to the whole phenomenon of “globalization” that so many people have come to regard as not just normal, but permanently so.
One item of the ebola story (which, by the way, seems to have largely become the current CNN unofficial “one thing happening in the world”) has been all the posing and proclamation by officialdom, which is a bit of a topic of its own, while one basic glaring fact stares us in the face.
Unless something new has happened in the last few hours, the action of the US government still has not included anything like, perhaps, declaring a travel ban that stops travelers entering the country coming from the west African continent in regions where there is a large ebola outbreak. Instead, we get lot of chatter about “improved screening procedures” at airports, which instantly begs all sorts of questions about how well that will be handled, and how many instances might occur of, well, to be blunt, people fucking up, letting through a dose of the disease to wreak havoc, while simultaneously having people go through all kinds of trouble because they have a slight cold or something.
Sometime in recent days a skim of TV cable news brought a news story about, as shown by the big bold text banner on the bottom of the CNN screen, “U.S. TROOPS FIGHTING EBOLA IN LIBERIA”, which came not long after I had written something in this space about President Obama declaring ebola as “a national security top priority”, with my musing about how long it would be before the government and the infotainment media were chattering about a new “War on Ebola”.
There are all kinds of different themes you could explore in the whole ebola story. The absurdity of “Our Troops fighting ebola” and the whole militaristic madness of empire involved in this kind of mindset is just one. Another part of this has been found in part of the empty chattering that involves people in positions of importance rattling on about how everything is fine, because, you know, America’s healthcare is the finest in the world, so, no worries! Never mind the ongoing story of actual reality, involving not just serious questions about how good it all is, but the overriding matter of this supposedly wonderful advanced healthcare, that, for so many people, is not really so wonderful, since it doesn’t matter so much how good it might all be if actually utilizing it is a real problem because they can’t afford the massive costs.
Even if you shove that pretty serious issue aside for a moment, just the matter of how well anything functions is a serious question. I mentioned an example of something less large-scale earlier, complete with serious problems with even such a basic thing as the matter of maybe possibly getting somebody’s full complete attention for a serious topic for maybe ten fucking minutes.
Beyond that, much of the supposed wonderful “healthcare” has been described well as something more accurately called “sickcare”, where nothing actually happens until somebody has serious problems. Even then, things kick into long running episodes where there isn’t much in actual attention and care, but there is a lot of generation of very large bills, complete with the dispensing of expensive little pills, and an assortment of other costly yet possibly useless medical rituals that revolve around stories that resemble the scene in the Monty Python movie The Meaning of Life featuring “the machine that goes BING!”.
Another item is the subject of what has been happening recently with the crude oil prices, both the American WTI benchmark and the international Brent, slipping downward slightly. Flip on a TV to CNBC or check out other “business news” media, and it’s likely you’ll be hearing or reading about “transports” stock prices and what lower oil prices are doing or are supposed to be doing in the airline business and so on. What you are not likely to hear about, unless you’re really looking, paying attention, and possibly already understand where we are in the petroleum story, is what effect this has in a more fundamental way.
People have been hearing about the supposed miracle and “energy boom” and “oil boom” and hype about “energy independence” regarding tight oil deposits locked in shale, most notably in the Bakken formation (mostly in North Dakota) and the Eagle Ford zone in Texas. As people have been trying to point out, for a start, this stuff is actually old news, not some new discoveries, and are only in the picture now because, in simplest terms, it’s becoming essentially all we have left. It’s not a sign of the end of oil resource concerns or a brave new era of cornucopian plenty. It’s a clear sign of the state of depletion and diminishing returns we have going.
More to the point, it’s the nature of that stuff, the “tight oil” deposits, that it’s harder to get out of the ground, and in much smaller quantities, so that the project of extracting it is more difficult and complicated, therefore more costly, and there is a lot more that goes into the drilling processes to get back relatively very small amounts per well before the well is depleted. It isn’t like the idea people commonly have about drilling a well and then having it pump oil for decades.
The key point in all this right now is that it is more costly, and people who know a lot on the subject and are paying attention seem to have a general consensus that oil prices need to be around maybe $90/barrel or so as a break-even minimum for these extraction enterprises. Now, as crude prices are hanging around the 80 to 90 dollar range, it raises questions about the future of these operations that have some people speaking in wishful thinking dreams about “Saudi America” and so on. Beyond all that, even if the activity continues as is regardless, the reality is that these “boom” resources are likely to be getting into serious depletion within the next few years, and people are going to be seriously disappointed to find that the hype of the last couple of years is just that.
Good luck hearing about that on CNN or Fox News… or CBS, or ABC, or NBC, or PBS, or in the New York Times or Washington Post, and so on.
On to a completely different subject, this past weekend was the first running of the Russian Grand Prix, the first time for Formula 1 there, at a brand new track located among the site of this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. This is something that isn’t of much interest to quite a lot of people, at least here in the US where the silliness of NASCAR reigns in terms of attention as far as motorsports is concerned. It was a very successful event, the track and general facilities are really good, reportedly getting high marks from all involved.
Before the event the TV coverage on NBCSN mentioned that there was some international complication to the general context of the event, although the Formula 1 circus viewed all that as is normal for sporting events of an international basis (like the Olympics, for example), which is to have little interest in any of the political madness that might be flying around.
As it happens, I’ve had an interest in cars and motorsports, certainly including F1, since boyhood. The NBCSN announce team of Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, and Will Buxton are great. It was a little unfortunate, but, unfortunately, understandable, that the brief mention of the international squabbling circumstances generally reflected the standard narratives of what has been happening regarding Ukraine, which, as has been covered before, has some serious reality distortions. One was describing it as “the Ukraine-Russia conflict”, even though the actual conflict has been between the new Ukrainian government after the coup d’etat that overthrew the previous elected government, and the Russian-Ukrainian people in the eastern part of the country who rejected that coup, and were attacked relentlessly. Part of the false narrative got into this in the element of calling those people “the pro-Russian rebels”, when they’re simply fighting for themselves to defend themselves.
As noted before, what was trumpeted incessantly as the Ukrainian Crisis seems to have almost completely disappeared from the popular US news media propaganda machine, since the US backing of a coup in an eastern European nation has not gone well, still another epic of neocon lunacy gone wrong.
That includes the virtual disappearance of the story of the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17, which was immediately announced as a terrible act of “pro-Russian terrorists” and Russia itself, since the problems with those notions, and the appearance of the plausible story, with actual evidence (unlike what we were getting from the US State Department and White House) to support it, that the plane crashed after coming apart from damage caused, not as was suggested by the parties just named, but by a combination of a missile and machine gun fire, pointing at the Ukrainian military under the control of the coup government as the culprit in this mass murder.
When the NBC Sports F1 commentary team spent a minute on the trouble in the background for what should have been purely a fantastic new step forward for the Russians in the world, still struggling out of the damage of seven and a half decades of communism, they showed a map of the region with the “trouble zones” highlighted, with Crimea and large portions of eastern Ukraine highlighted in different color.
It’s still questionable, the matter of how many Americans still might not have any idea about what I found, and have pointed out many times now- that Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, when Ukraine, Crimea, and Russia were all part of the Soviet Union anyway, so it was sort of a moot point and some sort of Soviet politics when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made Crimea part of Ukraine. In all the drama and the propaganda surrounding the “Ukraine Crisis” over this year, the fact that Crimea, when the coup in Kiev happened, was politically an autonomous region within Ukraine, and when the coup happened, the Crimeans overwhelmingly rejected it and chose, by overwhelming democratic self-determination, to borrow from Kerry and Obama and their bunch, to separate from Ukraine and rejoin Russia.
Looking into the story of this whole drama, trying to get what we aren’t being told, one interesting facet was that apparently Khrushchev had roots in the Ukraine region, being born right near present day Ukraine, and the Donbas region that’s the location of the current troubles in eastern Ukraine was part of his life.
When the highlighted areas were shown on the map in the F1 coverage Sunday, it highlighted, without being discussed, areas where the people are largely a Russian culture, a large fundamental part of the situation, and that includes one aspect of this that I’ve already mentioned. The people in the east, the general Donbas region and all that, are regularly referred to as “pro-Russian” rebels, or separatists, often with either an implication or outright accusation of simply acting as Russian agents, when the actual facts become apparent that they’re simply acting for themselves, in defense, and they are not exactly “pro-Russian”, they essentially are Russian, and Ukrainian, both.
That whole subject is something I’ve been giving a lot of attention over the past months, more about concerns about the misconduct and misdirected attention of the government of my own country than anything else. Just to be clear, saying that does not mean that I don’t care about the rest of the world, just that I had not had any particular interest in the area of the world including Ukraine and Russia before starting to hear about trouble happening there with the ugly indicators that my own government was at the heart of starting trouble over there.
Right now, I need to point out that this note is being written in bits and pieces over a few days as I have a chance. As the title suggests, this is about an assortment of topics bouncing around a bit, anyway, and this brings me to this moment. Right now, I’ve just been listening to some midday news on the public radio show Here and Now, and just in the course of this, multiple story segments have stopped me short and turned my attention to these things in little moments of finding yet another case of astonishment.
The most recent item first. There’s some breaking story about fresh trouble in Ukraine, in the capital city of Kiev, reporting that there is some ugly scene of disorder outside the Ukrainian parliament. The report is that there are protests, how ugly and even violent that might be still unclear, from people who are objecting furiously to news that the parliament had voted down some resolution to recognize and honor a group that was very vaguely described in the story. It is clear from the vague report that the group in question was a bunch involved in World War II in being both fighting for “Ukrainian independence”, when Ukraine was part of the USSR, which means fighting the Russians, and simultaneously supporting and directly helping Nazi Germany. In other words, this is about the Nazis (or “nazis”) of the western parts of Ukraine who are at the core (albeit later generations) of the trouble in Ukraine now, the very people who have formed assorted militias at the core of the Ukrainian coup and, following that, attacking the Russian-Ukrainians in the east.
The ironic coincidence was that I had paused after the paragraphs above about the Ukrainian trouble, with the intention of picking that up again to mention the neo-nazi fascist characters at the core of the trouble, and, presto, there they were in the news. Of course, part of the subject I’ve been talking about for months is not just that bunch, but the way that the ugly reality of those characters, and the support of them by our own government here in the United States, is carefully avoided by most news media.
And there they are again. It will be interesting, as ugly as it is, to see how this might develop. One element of the whole story in Ukraine over this past year has been the careful avoidance, or flat out lying, among US government officials and the US news about the involvement of this ugly batch of neo-nazi characters in the violence in Kiev, that became a coup d’etat, and bits of news sneaking through from elsewhere raising the question of whether this faction would cause further trouble to the new coup government because they were not satisfied that the new government was sufficiently fascist and getting on with exterminating, or driving into exile, the Russian-Ukrainian population.
There was more, as I said.
That item was in the brief headline summary segment in the middle of the hour program. Earlier, there had been a longer story segment, talking about the dip in crude oil prices. A guest and the host chattered about that, and, to make a long story short, it was an extended demonstration of being truly and profoundly clueless and confused about virtually everything concerning our present and growing oil predicaments. It is, definitely, yet another case of being a whole subject of its own.
One bit of awful irony was that one severe bit of confusion and wishful thinking showed its ugly head, directly addressed here in this very note earlier. In the course of the chatter, as the people on air yapped about oil prices dropping related to international oil production, and how it affects US extraction rates versus, say, OPEC/the Saudis, there was a comment saying that what’s viewed as the US “oil boom” has an advantage in the situation by, they say, being “more efficient”, because of those wonder “new technologies”, as opposed to that, shall we say, “old school” oil drilling of them there furriners overseas. As I already explained, this is completely wrong, pretty much the exact opposite, and this whole thing exemplifies the combination of wishful thinking, confusion, and flat out lying and delusion that infects any public grasp of our oil situation.
This little note on an assortment of topics, written over a few days, has grown to being not so little. But, there’s one more item, the last of the radio news stories.
That was a segment about some poll of “Millennials”, with conclusions that the generational age rage now referred to as the Millennials are “less patriotic” than older generations, and less likely “to think that the U.S. is the best country in the world”. There was extended chattering about this, and it begs the question of what people think is “patriotism”, especially given the amount of chatter about the notion of “American Exceptionalism”. That, alone, is a huge subject, another large subject all its own. It’s arguably a subject that could be viewed as potentially tragic, or already tragic, in terms of the problem of the differences between patriotism and a kind of warped and perverted notion of “patriotism” that’s about some ugly combination of narcissism, hubris, and delusions of grandeur.
We have had, in the not so distant past, some cautionary-tale lessons from the history of the 20th century, about a nation responding to difficult times by sinking into the mass insanity of a perverted notion of “patriotism”. That would be, if you had not already guessed, what happened to Germany from roughly 1920 to 1945.
Right now, this notion of “American Exceptionalism” that gets tossed around way too much is not some sort of positive and uplifting thing some people seem to like to believe. It’s a sure route into serious trouble. It should not even need explanation, but people seem to forget or never learn any lessons from past human history, that a mass of people who start believing that they’re the exceptional people, the special people, the inherently superior people of the earth, are headed into all kinds of problems, and are virtually guaranteed, as long as this attitude keeps its hold on them, to lead people into doing all kinds of damage, even while they convince themselves they’re following some righteous path.