Christmas day has passed by, and into a new year we go. By the way, it’s good to keep in mind that the whole 12 days of Christmas is actually a real thing. Christmas does not end the evening of December 25.
It is a little unfortunate that many people end up bombarded by the awful kitsch trash that gets poured into their ears as Christmas music. There happens to be a lot of really nice music that has been created over centuries for Christmas. I spent a bit of time to explore and find some various versions of an old Scottish Christmas hymn called Taladh Chriosda (and there is a link to a YouTube “video” with no video of a particularly nice version from the O’Reilly Consort).
The world goes on, and around the world, people have varied stories for Christmas.
Just after Christmas, there were assorted stories around the news that were variations on the same basic thing, involving some herd of obnoxious cretins gathered in a mall somewhere in America and committing mayhem. It didn’t really seem much different than stories about the same general kind of destructive stupid mob behavior surrounding the same kinds of places when the calendar rolls around to the day after Thanksgiving that has been marred with the title “Black Friday”.
A much better story came up about a restaurant that not only stayed open on Christmas, but offered free meals to people who really needed them, and also really needed some human company and general goodwill.
It seems lost in all the noisy lying and lunacy bombarding people that congressional Representative Tulsi Gabbard has introduced a bill into Congress to cease funding the terrorist group mercenaries trying to overthrow the Syrian government, a good sign that there are still good and sane people in government working to represent the people and, well, sanity and human goodwill in general.
I wonder what historians of the future will think about this period of American history, but I think it’s a pretty certain thing that it will be viewed as a time when some sort of mass public insanity broke out. People responded to a complex, difficult, challenging collection of circumstances by going bananas.
That, obviously, or at least it should be obvious, takes us right back into a main theme of the past year, as the year before, of the epidemic of bipolar political disorder. There is some kind of metaphor to be made here, I think, about people marching over a cliff in lockstep with their chosen bunch, and arguing fiercely about which cliff is the correct one. I have been thinking, more and more lately, that if we could somehow take everybody in the United States who adamantly identifies and labels themselves as “Democrat” or “Republican“, “Liberal” or “Conservative“, “Left” or “Right“, and send them off to some isolated quarantine for a while, we might have a decent chance of getting a decent public consensus of understanding of actual reality as things are and get some things worked out.
The political insanity, hand in hand with the intertwined mess of “news” that distorts reality horrifically, dominates everything. It’s like trying to go about daily life and also address bigger-picture stuff while living through an endless hurricane of bullshit.
Maybe that would have been a good title for a note here: “2016- The Endless Hurricane of Bullshit“.
For some years writer James Howard Kunstler has been saying variations of statements that, as the general public consciousness and consensus manages to get more and more detached from a solid grip of things, reality as it is, avoiding difficult subjects, it is likely that one public response to things will be to vote for unbelievably awful characters for public office.
It now seems that we have a large example of that coming true as we await the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, an absolutely surreal state of affairs. If I indulge in a prediction for the new year, always a dodgy proposition and a good way to look silly later on, a good one might be to suggest that people who wanted Trump to be President will be finding themselves extremely disappointed.
The problem with saying anything about that, obviously, is that you push a button in the psyche of all sorts of people who had somehow convinced themselves of the idea that Hillary Clinton would be a good choice to be President, despite being a wretched human being who should be apparent to anybody with any sense at all as somebody who should be kept as far as possible from any kind of position of any sort of power and control of anything. If nothing else, that was revealed by the revelations of some of the communications between Clinton and associates and the Brand D party apparatchiks as well as the dealings of the Clinton Foundation with a variety of parties with questionable intentions and ethics all around, but that was successfully buried by the diversionary campaign of shouting “Russia hacked the election!“.
The “Russia hacked our election!” insanity is a classic witchhunt case of mass psychosis, but even talking about this like a conscious rational human being is likely to lead to accusations of being some sort of Russian agent. You could, for just one example to sort things out, watch a video of a segment broadcast on the RT network, but you can assume with almost complete certainty that the people who would get the most good out of paying attention to that for a few minutes would go apeshit before even watching one second and shriek that you are one of those Russian agents promoting Russian Propaganda dancing on strings under the evil Putin.
One more sane mind on the web posted a little Facebook “Photo” meme that said ” ‘Russia hacked the election’ is the 2016 version of ‘Saddam Hussein has WMD!'”, but, as I said earlier, large numbers of people are beyond the reach of such a simple truth, with the idea in their heads something like “but one is Bush, and this is Obama!”.
The main core element of that particular hysteria, the “Russia hacked our election!” frenzy, is that it is a story with a set of complications, but the main essence simplifies down to: people found out what Hillary Clinton and associates have been up to, and it’s pretty ugly. Basically, truth being revealed “influenced our election”, and instead of people simply getting a clearer picture of the truth of Hillary Clinton, interested parties, let’s call them, immediately launched into noisy proclamations of “the Russians did it!“. Russian spies hacked Our Hillary!
Even if we set aside the truth that was revealed, and noting the fact that when it comes to Wikileaks revelations of information, nothing Wikileaks has published has ever been false, it has been said repeatedly by Wikileaks’ Julian Assange that he will not reveal sources, for obvious reasons, but the source of the Clinton email information was not the Russian government, or Russians, or any government, but someone with access to the information, a leak, to be specific, not a result of anybody hacking into computer systems. It is not only Assange, former UK diplomat Craig Murray has publically stated that Assange is correct, and Murray says knows this because he actually met the person who passed along the information to Wikileaks.
To try to help some people to get things into a bit of perspective, not that it’s likely they will read this, recall the set of events triggered by the break-in of Democratic party offices in the Watergate Hotel by characters associated with President Richard Nixon, and imagine if the revelations of everything about that were thrown into confused hysterics by people shouting that the revelations of the truth about what happened was all some Russian plot to take control of the US government and conquer the world.
It could be said that comparing these things shows us something about a difference in different periods of American history regarding the ability and willingness of the American public at large to face facts and deal with some truth.
The seemingly endless long running drama of lunatics perpetually poking the rest of the world with pointed sticks, while doing it all with staggering levels of arrogance, hubris, and an apparently bottomless well of smug self righteousness while doing the wrong things over and over, is likely to come to a surprising turn or sudden halt at some point, and how this happens is tough to predict. Who knows, it could very well be a complex combination of things, that will be no little or no surprise to people paying attention honesty, and a total shock to people suffering from the strange and deep delusions I’ve been talking about, along with others I have not been talking about in this note, but have come up before.
Charles Hugh Smith, in his of two minds blog, took a look at the strange case of the notions foisted on the public about the economy, with the term “gaslighting” apparently being a figure of speech related to an old movie in which somebody essentially plays a series of tricks to bewilder someone in manipulations to shake their confidence in their grip on reality. It probably nails the basic truth of things as well as any metaphor. The strange and bewildering disorder and dysfunction, and general reality warpage in the world of banking and finance and the economy in general is getting to be an old subject, with the extra twists of problems revolving around delusions about what has happened since the crisis of 2008, or, rather, what has not happened. The “gaslighting” metaphor is probably very apt, as people are subjected to all kinds of noisy propaganda in economic matters, with the subtle implication being that if you think all that seems a bit fishy and suspect, or just completely wrong, based on your own personal experience and observation, well, then, there must be something wrong with you, so you would be well advised to just keep your mouth shut about it, consumer, and smile and play along.
President Obama is coming to the end of eight years and two terms of being President, and there was no sign that he ever intended to even try to bring the rule of law and general sanity to Wall Street and the banking and financial world in general, other than the ridiculous theatrical dog and pony show of the Dodd-Frank bill, which was a convoluted practical joke or something. It strains the imagination to see how Trump will do anything to fix these problems. He made a few noises while campaigning that seemed to indicate that he might intend to do something right in that area, but, then, Trump says a lot of things.
Something that appears to be completely off the radar of most of America is the subject of oil in realistic terms. Richard Heinberg just wrote a very good essay about the possibility and probability of Donald Trump becoming the President of the United States who finds themselves being the first to really encounter a worldwide peak and all that goes with it. As Heinberg and many others have pointed out over the last few years, the general consensus among the public and an assortment of articles and media reports in the past few years or so has become a strange case of people thinking that the term “peak oil” is some sort of obsolete lingo, that was either always nonsense of some form or another, or maybe in some people’s minds, something that somehow became passé and irrelevant because of what has been hailed as some sort of oil supply miracle, in the form of tight oil “shale oil” deposits being accessed by fracking and “new oil technologies” in general. The reality is that the “peak oil” saga is not over, it’s just in the beginning stages.
This could be interesting, especially given what I already mentioned before not long ago, the likely appointment by President Trump of the CEO of Exxon-Mobil to be Secretary of State. That would at least mean Trump having someone in the cabinet who I could not possibly imagine not having a decent grasp of the real state of affairs in the matter of oil supply.
The odd twist in that, of course, is that he would be Secretary of State, while, at this point, as far as I know the Trump plan is still to have former Texas governor Rick Perry as Secretary of the Department of Energy, which is just incomprehensibly silly.
Attempting to knock down this note to nice and neat and short and a fine example of brevity and economy of words (the crowd shouts “well, that didn’t do it, did it?”) keeps running into “oh yeah, there’s also this…” and “this just in!”. In the “just in” department comes a story about the proposed Secretary of State oil company tycoon Rex Tillerson and, in a towering monument to irony, his objection to operations to get set to do some hydraulic fracturing in his neighborhood, a classic “NIMBY” tale. There’s a real facepalm moment for you.
The twists and turns and complications and staggering convolutions keep stacking up, don’t they? I’m sorry to be redundant, but, again, even though I literally just said this, I will toss in the reminder that Rex Tillerson is not the Secretary of Energy in waiting, but Secretary of State, and then that has its own twists of triggering all sorts of things if you crack open the thought “well, that has nothing to do with oil, right?”.
Turning to the thought “so what will Secretary of Energy Perry have to say about this?” is enough to trigger serious depression or hysterical giggling.
Adding in more items like this just keeps taking us back to the way we have a complex pile of stuff to sort out in the public realm, while we have the added complications of a combination of misdirected public attention and an alleged “free press” that has serious issues, with the extra added complication of many people having some serious confusion going on the matter of what those issues are.
Turning back to the “gaslight economy” commentary of Charles Hugh Smith, it might need to be mentioned that he is not alone in his observations. Quite a few informed and thinking observers have been around and out there doing what they can to sort out economic and financial reality from the endless pile of reality distortions. Once again, that runs into problems, between the bombardment of reality distortions being pumped out as “news” and the bipolar political disorder that has so many people running any incoming information and analysis of any subject and event through a sieve of being for or against “their side”.
One of the items that caught my attention over the past few weeks was a piece on the Wired magazine website about a White House “economic report” that tells us that the big economic issue of our time facing us is that robots and automation will take away everyone’s jobs in everything, and the solution to this (a variation on the meme using phrasing like “jobs for the New Economy” and such) is… more education!
That should raise a batch of questions, but, as always now, I have to wonder if any of the right discussions will happen, and what kind of ridiculous diversions and confusion might throw any attempt into a storm of silliness and noisy chaos.
It occurs to me that for one thing, in the kind of stupid binary switch flip that takes over anything, digging into this will get somebody saying something stupid and simplistic like “well, are you for education or against education?”, like that is the issue.
I thought it was kind of a sign of how things go when I read some online comments following a link to that article, that included what turned into a whole series of comments replying to replies, where some people got into a whole “debate” (a word I use very loosely here) on a general idea that went something like that people can get “job retraining” and they will all just have new jobs maintaining and repairing and servicing the robots and automation.
It was extra ironic in that the “discussion” appeared to be among some fairly intelligent people, while having an exchange where it looked like some of the people offering opinions and suggestions had not even thought about things for even a few seconds, and had no clue of what the hell they were talking about.
It had a very similar aroma to another online exchange of the same general form and setting where another “economic discussion” saw some character saying, apparently in complete earnest seriousness, something like “what will the employment situation be when energy becomes unlimited?“.
I happen to know a bit about industrial robotics and automation from direct involvement. The kind of notions I mentioned about everybody just transitioning (to keep with fashions in lingo here) to new jobs repairing and servicing the robots and automation is, shall we say, not based in anything like reality. That serves as a perfect example of a far too common problem, of people, often seemingly intelligent and educated people, offering up ideas and “solutions” that appear to be no more than a brief burst of brain noise, based on little to no real information and understanding of the subject at hand and about three seconds of “thought”.
Some of the online exchange on hand there revolved around a sequence of comments among people where the issue, they seemed to think, was all about the mental capabilities of what they might call the displaced factory worker class to learn the technical knowledge and skills for these projected jobs servicing the robots and automation, as if this is the essential issue here.
To spell this out clearly just so there is no misunderstanding, first, to state the ridiculously obvious, everybody who might be working some factory line job is not going to be servicing the robots and automation, because there is simply nothing like that need, and of course, another factor is what some people did manage to understand, that random people whose job might have been to pick up a part here, and move it to there, in a repeated cycle 5000 times a day, are not all going to be capable of learning and doing all this imagined robot servicing. Again, though, to repeat, that latter factor is not really the point.
It should be said that the whole matter of automation, in the context of all this, including the White House blurb that brought this up, is not all about industrial manufacturing operations.
A variation on the meme floating around is that automation as a general concept will be taking over every sort of work, not just industrial factory work with robots and automated machinery. I would think that people would be getting some clues from actual everyday experience with situations like trying to get to communicate with a functioning competent human being about some problem and encountering some frustrating episode of insanity wasting a chunk of their life with some idiotic labyrinth of an automated robo-phone system. I’ll save time and space here, I have my own stories in that department, and I suspect any readers will have a batch of their own. This kind of system taking over what is still almost euphemistically called “customer service”. It puzzles me, wondering how people can deal with things like that, and not sit back and reflect on suggestions about automated everything replacing humans doing jobs with some serious reservations.
The subject of education, on its own, is another matter of widespread silliness, and of course with the current political farces, that begs some attention on things like the matter of incoming President Trump and his choice for another cabinet position, where he wishes to have somebody as Secretary of the Department of Education who, evidently, is not very supportive of the concept of even having public schools.
Flip the bipolar political switch, and you get into a whole quagmire of people with assorted shallow fashion ideas and superficial platitudes about things like “job retraining for The Jobs of The New Economy” or a whole array of topics of study that might tend to be almost comical. That, of course, gets us right back into things like people having vague notions that all the factory worker humans will just shift to robot service.
There is a lot to be said about general perspective in the broad subject of technology, and that might be a note topic here sometime soon. For a start, there is something that keeps nagging at me, which is this running fashion trend sort of thing of people having it in their heads that “technology” means some sort of digital electronics gizmos and systems, and that’s it, more or less. There is quite a lot of what seems more like some kind of weird fetish in this. This is not just referring to the truly strange social phenomenon of people walking around with their entire consciousness wrapped up in a chronic focus on their little pocket digital wonderslab mobile phone, although that is certainly part of this.
Somebody posted an article online about a review of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), and a startling array of what they found there that would probably be best summarized as “dumb shit”. That one might be as good as anything as a concise little snapshot of something that has been on my mind for years as reasons pop up now and then to reconsider it again, which is the strange long running phenomenon of people taking development of amazing and fantastic engineering capabilities and then taking all that and doing things that range from questionable to fully idiotic.
Just to get this in here… on this front, I recently saw a little online item that simply clarified one of the questionable “tech” oddities, the notion of “cloud computing” that said “there is no ‘cloud’, it’s just somebody else’s computer“.
I was a little stunned by an item I saw a couple of days ago that I might return to soon, as I need to wrap this up. This came from one of the most respected and highest level educational institutions in the United States, and the world, for that matter, MIT, listing what somebody regarded as subjects of essential knowledge for people in the 21st century.
To say this was a tad silly and misguided would be a massive understatement.