The past week had a couple of events that got some attention. One was the State of the Union address. The other was the death of 90 year old King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. It’s a little weird to contemplate these two events and consider that one of them is supposed to be all about the United States of America, but manages to be an irrelevant waste of time for Americans, while I suspect quite a few people elsewhere in the world give it attention, mainly wondering what kind of madness is afoot here now, that might cause problems for them. The other event, the death of the head of the House of Saud, should not really mean anything here in the US, but it just might.
Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex. – Frank Zappa
I don’t know how accurate the numbers are, and how they come up with these figures, but after the State of the Union address, I saw estimates of an audience of around 31 million. If this is reasonably accurate, this would mean that approximately 10% of the American population bothered to watch. (Note that this would not include radio listeners and web streaming, of course.) I was not among them, although I did turn on a TV a couple of times, for just a minute or so.
I did what I did last year, which was to later read the text of the speech. At least you can get through that must faster than suffering through the whole show in real time, and even then, it was a waste of time. Even reading the text, to avoid all the wasted time of the event itself, was a vacuous waste of time, a grand emptiness, or worse.
In general, club D reacted with great enthusiasm for the most part, and club R reacted as expected, with this year being a special variation as the contents of the speech were apparently parceled out in advance by the White House. The club R crowd had the usual straw man nonsense about Obama as Big Gummint Socialist coming for their money in taxes and this and that and so on, the usual stuff with little relation to reality, and in a different manner, club D loyalists with their own largely fictional image of Obama as president saw the speech as various kinds of wonderful, including excitement about what they view as big moves. Never mind noticing that Obama’s supposed big bold moves have suddenly appeared only after both chambers of Congress have become controlled by a majority domination of R for the first time in Obama’s presidency, after six years of the Obama administration.
There might be a clue in that.
At least he only said “folks” four times (at least, in the prepared text).
The show included lots of chattering about “the middle-class economy”, as if this is not a notion being slowly beaten to death as much as possible, with Obama playing his role, not like the diversionary nonsensical fictional notion of “socialist” that’s pumped out to confuse things, but as a puppet showpiece faux-leader acting as a functionary of aristocracy, a plutocracy, an oligarchy perhaps.
I’ve avoided as much as I can of the inevitable, completely predictable, and utterly useless noise of pundit chatter that follows the event itself, a regular standard feature of the showbiz faux entertainment offered as “news”. The petrified stagnation of the stuff I’m calling bipolar political disorder these days pretty much rules everything, with “talking points” nonsense laid out as the themes, a great pile of distractions avoiding examining everything as it is, and as it needs to be addressed.
That sometimes includes the specious repetitive theme of the occasional show of something said to be “bipartisan”, because, the idea goes, “bipartisan” must be good, because it’s “bipartisan”.
For that matter, that nudges us toward the problem of the pretense that much of the media infotainment showbiz is actually a functioning free press, in a functioning democratic republic. Writer James Howard Kunstler, a regular reference here as one of the actual useful and honest observers of the circumstances and events around us, has quite a vocabulary, and one favorite of his is the word “sclerotic”. This is a word that fits the general institutions named above, of government and the general media realm that is supposed to serve as news and information sources. Kunstler’s latest Monday blog entry spells out pretty clearly the state of the circus of the annual State of the Union address as an empty show, put on now as a piece of theater that essentially means nothing, a demonstration of “leadership” that is apparently incapable of addressing the actual state of things.
One part of the state of things here, now, is that a portion of the political circus is certain to take a comment like that as a critical condemnation of President Obama, specifically, missing the point that he’s just the featured actor in this instance of the larger show. Yes, the bipolar political disorder kicks in, all the simplistic nonsense that’s now a central feature of the whole realm of American governance and the political games making it all an exercise in absurdity.
I’ll take a quick quote from Kunstler, the beginning of his latest essay, that pretty well sums up the general picture-
The more detached from reality American culture becomes the more strictly ceremonial leadership gets, as illustrated by the raft of bromides Barack Obama floated past the assembled vassalage of government last week in another grand effort to avoid the necessities of the moment.
That more or less says it all.
It’s an item of some curiosity to wonder how much attention this dog and pony show might get from elsewhere in the world. On the surface, it would seem sensible to think that there would be no reason for people in other nations of the world to be interested in an American government ritual. In practical reality, sadly, there are all kinds of reasons for them to be interested, and it’s all mostly negative, a matter of trying to assess “what are those madmen up to now?”, and what kind of damage is being done, or might be coming. The new installment of Dmitry Orlov’s Club Orlov blog is host to a guest piece about Australia and its relationship with the United States of America, and it puts a finger squarely on some thoughts that should be considered by the citizens of that place, a place that, ironically, is about as far away from the USA as you can get without leaving the planet.
The note there is directed to Australians, but the same general thoughts really apply to pretty much all the rest of the people of the world. Our country, here in the United States, is now dominated by lunatics, liars, crooks and madmen of all sorts. It’s interesting, shall we say, to see how leaders of government in other nations deal with the seat of Empire in Washington these days. It’s probably a real struggle in many ways to try to navigate the problems inherent in that, to tiptoe around and try to not attract the ire and rage of the lunatics in Washington, and somehow manage to try to maintain some sense of the interests of their own countries.
In a recent online webcast interview, Dmitry Orlov, by coincidence, spoke about the basic simple truth of “international relations” these days. The neocon lunatic masters of Empire in Washington absolutely, without any doubt, see themselves as masters and rulers of the entire world, with anything not fitting into their plans being an aberration to be stomped into submission immediately.
As Orlov described it, accurately, neatly, and simply-
1. Washington first issues decrees to other governments of the world.
2. If they don’t comply and submit and obey, Washington then declares “sanctions” to coerce them into obedient submission.
3. If they still don’t comply and obey, Washington then starts bombing them (and, predictably, this will be said to be “defending freedom”).
In the vacuous chatter of the State of the Union, Obama spoke about ending the wars (that were never declared as wars) in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though he went right along with that whole adventure for years, the reality is not that the United States government and military forces are no longer involved, in both places, in fact, now we’re into what some call Iraq War 3.0. Meanwhile, there have been the imperial meddling with the countries of Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, with endless piles of bullshit flowing from Washington, including the president himself, about all of it.
This problem raised its ugly head in grotesquely dishonest form as Obama made barely a passing reference to an ongoing saga of gross misbehavior and dishonesty, surrounding the horror show in Ukraine, a series of events and circumstances that have been so incredibly misrepresented to the American public that many people probably swallowed the nonsense in this speech without any glimmer of a clue that it was complete nonsense. The really disturbing thing is, how many people can be even bothered to find this out, even if it’s laid right before them in the simplest and clearest possible terms. That would clash with the notion of “the Good Guys who bring the Freedom and Democracy”, and be very awkward.
Well into the speech, there was this from the president-
…we are demonstrating the power of American strength and diplomacy. We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Putin’s aggression was a masterful display of strategy and strength. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.
That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.
There is so much, so horribly and completely wrong with this, my head spins wondering where to begin.
Just the last sentence of that quote is bad enough, the unquestioned presumption that “America leads” the world, as if the government of our country has any business telling the rest of the world what to do, and, for that matter, there is all kinds of bluster, on pretty much a constant basis. That takes us right into the bit about “upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small”, when being a bigger nation bullying the small is pretty much what Washington does full-time in the world these days. That’s essentially the simplest-form summary of “foreign policy” in Washington these days.
That phrase was immediately followed by the statement that the way Washington was “upholding the principle“ was “by opposing Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies”. In fact, Ukraine had a democracy. When the democratically elected Ukrainian president took another look at a proposed economic agreement with the European Union, pushed by Washington, and changed his mind about signing the agreement when it became apparent that it would be very bad for his country, the wheels of manipulation by Washington kicked into action, and there was a sudden blast of trouble presented by Washington as “the Ukrainian people rising up for freedom and democracy”, the elected president fled the country to save himself, and the government of Ukraine was taken over by a coup that just happened to feature the leadership picked by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, wife of neocon Robert Kagan and former foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney when he was vice president.
All this is old news to anybody paying attention, but apparently unknown to most of the American citizenry. I would hope that readers here would already know the story as it has been happening. Obama made this statement about “opposing Russian aggression” where there hasn’t been any such thing. The only involvement of the Russians has been by being dragged into this mess. The ugly drama in Ukraine has been incessantly presented as “Ukraine-Russian war”, that began with “Russian aggression”, a narrative that’s complete fiction.
The Russian military was in Crimea when the coup in Kiev started, where they have had a naval base there on the Black Sea coast as long as there has been a Russian navy, and after the dissolution of the USSR, and Ukraine becoming a separate nation, the Russian military stayed there, in their only Black Sea naval base (Russia having a significant chunk of coastline along the Black Sea), and their only warm water port naval base, by long term agreement with Ukraine. When they had the amazing gall (in the view of the Washington neocons) to not simply pack up and leave their naval base, official Washington suddenly started screaming about “Russian invasion”, and when the people in Crimea, who apparently mostly considered themselves Russian, and not really Ukrainian, anyway, voted in an actual democratic election of “self determination”, by over 90%, to part ways from Ukraine and its new coup government, this screaming from Washington then turned to “Russian seizure of Crimea!”.
The armed conflict we keep being told is a war between Ukraine and Russia, started by Russia, with poor little oppressed underdog Ukraine defending itself and fighting for “freedom and democracy”, is not this at all. In simplest terms, it’s a Ukrainian civil war involving the new junta government in Kiev relentlessly attacking Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country who refused to accept the overthrow of the elected president in a violent coup d’etat. This was especially aggravated by the evident facts that show that the gang who took over in Kiev were not only violently anti-Russian, but included a significant number of characters from western Ukraine who are actual Nazis (literally, not being hyperbolic here), remnants of a culture that supported Nazi Germany during World War II, and who explicitly proclaimed their desire to wipe out the predominantly Russian Ukrainians in the east.
It’s hard to know for sure what involvement the Russians might or might not have in helping the Russian-Ukrainian “separatists” in the east. The Russian government claims to be not involved other than humanitarian support, at least officially. Trying to sort out what’s happening by reading accounting of what’s happening from people not associated with the Washington narratives (which are simply passed along as propaganda by the main “news” media), people who seem in touch with what’s going on in that part of the world say that there is a lot of support in terms of Russians volunteering on their own, not as official Russian military, with loads of support from the Russian people in that region, who often have family and friends in the part of Ukraine involved, and reportedly want the Russian government and military to officially step in and help those people. According to all that, if anything there is some frustration with Russian President Vladimir Putin for not stepping in and simply rolling the Russian military into eastern Ukraine in the trouble zones and putting a stop to the actual aggression from the gang in Kiev.
Anyway, the point is, it has been clear, pretty much from the start of the trouble over there, that what we’re told about it is virtually nothing like what has actually been happening. It was apparent that something odd was happening right from the first news of the recording of a telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, planning the new regime that would take over the Ukrainian government, before the actual coup took place (which got attention for Nuland’s outburst of “fuck the EU!”, because of European government leaders hesitance to go along with the US plans, as a faux pas in manners, while the actual topic of conversation managed to be quietly ignored in news reports of this).
US television news reporters on the scene before and during the Crimean voter referendum reported the revulsion of the people there regarding the coup in Kiev, and the popularity of the idea to separate from it, and rejoin Russia, and yet I can recall reports like this from the scene immediately being followed by the network anchors in the studio, reverting right back to the nonsense telling viewers that the “invading” Russians were coercing people, and that the election was a theatrical sham orchestrated by the Russians to cover their “invasion and aggression” and mission to “seize” Crimea.
And now, this.
Some people would (or will) undoubtedly criticize all this as too long, long-winded, and so on, and I note that even a short general summary leaving out a lot takes a bit of time and space. Working in a word processor program, it’s quick and trivial to check and find that the quick sketch of a partial glimpse of the Ukraine situation and the madness surrounding it takes up over 900 words. (Everybody gasp!) It’s more time than the president gave it, but then neither the president nor anyone else in Washington, it seems, can be bothered to tell the truth about any of it, and if you’re just popping out neat tidbits of lies, I suppose it’s easy to make it brief and simple, since it can be whatever they want it to be.
That’s bad enough. To present it as some sort of noble accomplishment is grotesque.
President Obama gave similar treatment of simplistic and short smiling nonsense to the broad subject of “energy”, which can be quoted in full with no concern for length.
We believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet. And today, America is number one in oil and gas. America is number one in wind power. Every three weeks, we bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008. And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save $750 at the pump.
One thing that’s glaring in the fact that it goes missing, completely ignored, is that now that we’re into 2015, we’re somewhere around a decade past the completion of what’s informally referred to as “the Hirsch report”. The full title of this publication is “PEAKING OF WORLD OIL PRODUCTION: IMPACTS, MITIGATION, & RISK MANAGEMENT”, and it was submitted to the US federal government, commissioned by the government, published in February 2005. It has been mostly ignored, at least in the public realm. It’s impossible for me to say how seriously it has been taken in the domain of government out of public view.
There is some irony that the report appeared in 2005, a study addressing the weighty and vitally important subject of how to address the problem of peaking of oil resource extraction rates, considering that, in hindsight, the rates of oil extraction on a world scale, in terms of what is generally called “conventional oil”, looks to have hit a plateau starting around 2005, even starting to go into diminishing returns decline. This is complicated by the whole complicated story, or set of stories, in “unconventional oil”, and that’s a subject in itself, defining what “conventional” versus “unconventional” oil means.
What these terms mean, and everything that follows on from that in terms of practical matters and repercussions and future implications, is a subject that is covered extensively elsewhere, including my own writing here in many previous notes. Basically, what we’ve known through most of the Oil Age has been “conventional”, the highest quality light sweet crude, in relatively easy and accessible locations and situations, in large deposits (i.e., so one drilled well might pump for years or decades to come), with all this meaning high returns for input of money, energy and work… all simplified, “plentiful cheap oil”, as some people would like to neatly put it. Now, people talk about resources and enterprises like the “tight oil” scattered pockets of crude in shale formations, or tar sands, which is stuff that isn’t even actually oil, as some great wonder miracle boom and road to “energy independence”. I know, I’ve been over this a zillion times, but any realistic assessment of any of the oil and general “energy” situation is not just missing from the 2015 State of the Union speech, but we’re grossly misled about our situation, and the now decade old Hirsch report gathers dust in the halls of American government.
As I’ve described it, as other people have put it, scraping the dregs of remaining hydrocarbon resources in increasingly difficult and expensive diminishing returns is not an “energy boom” or “energy miracle” or “energy independence”, it’s a flashing light, whack over the head, smack in the face indicator of just the opposite of all that.
Since people like “bottom line, cut to the chase, get to the point” simplification, here’s the Hirsch report. Starting to plan and adjust and rethink and arrange for the worldwide peak of oil extraction 20 years before the peak will (would) help make things much better and less difficult. Doing this starting only 10 years ahead will be rough. Starting when the peak happens is a major crisis. Now, and this is a complicated and debatable subject, we might be past the conventional peak by a decade or so, with the problems in the “unconventional” realm being current news (again ignored in the dog and pony show in the House chamber last week), and people are still ignoring this, including the very existence of the report. Among other things, it’s noteworthy to observe what’s missing in terms of observing what the recent dive in crude oil prices does to the expensive “unconventional” realm of tight oil and tar sands, as we are now into the whole complex phenomenon that people in the know predicted when we got into the peak scenario, using terms like “wobbly plateau”, “bumpy plateau” or “undulating plateau”.
There’s so much more that could be said about the 2015 State of the Union speech, if not about the content of the actual speech, but what was not present there. There was something about “transparency” in government, with the perverse twist of talking about that in the context of police state surveillance here in the United States, “land of the free”, a twisted pile of horrific absurdity all by itself.
But at this point, this is about all I can stomach at the moment.