Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011: A Brave New Dystopia

by Chris Hedges


The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.” “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.

The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”

The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”

Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.

Attitudes and temperament have been cleverly engineered by the corporate state, as with Huxley’s pliant characters in “Brave New World.” The book’s protagonist, Bernard Marx, turns in frustration to his girlfriend Lenina:

“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?” he asks.

“I don’t know that you mean. I am free, free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”

He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.

The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.

We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State. Osama bin Laden plays the role assumed by Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984.” Goldstein, in the novel, is the public face of terror. His evil machinations and clandestine acts of violence dominate the nightly news. Goldstein’s image appears each day on Oceania’s television screens as part of the nation’s “Two Minutes of Hate” daily ritual. And without the intervention of the state, Goldstein, like bin Laden, will kill you. All excesses are justified in the titanic fight against evil personified.

The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.

“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in “1984.” “Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.

“Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?” Orwell wrote. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.”

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.”

http://www.truthdig.com/

Wassail. -- C.





Sunday, December 19, 2010

Inexorable... Fate

"Fate is the excuse the weak use for not rolling up their sleeves and shaping their destiny.  What, did you sleep through Philosophy 101?  Fate is the hand you're dealt, bunky.  Destiny is how you play it.  Both are scary, but the former is what you surrender to if you're too bluck-bluck to exercise the latter."  -- Countdown to Mystery #8


Wassail. -- C.

Haiku 6

Ice hones edges on
The hemlock-boles and hill-bones.
Root and twig shudder.

--Me

Haiku 2

Winter winds cover
The land with a chill blanket
And the trees sleep deep.

--Me

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"There Seems to Be an Event Happening"

About the only thing worth remembering about M. Night Shyamalan's failure The Happening is the utterly ridiculous line, "There seems to be an event happening."  (Well, that and the exclamation "Cheese and crackers!", which has become a permanent part of my vocabulary.)  In trying to convey everything, it conveys next to nothing, which appropriately enough defines these days ticking down to the end of year 2010.

To listen to the Main Stream Media (Or, as Sarah Palin likes to call them, the "Lame Stream Media."  One of her few moments of greatness... probably unintentional.), you'd think there's not much going on besides deciding the fate of gays in the military, and Elizabeth Edwards' death, and a trial centering around someone named Elizabeth Smart, whoever she is.  But my heart is filled with something akin to foreboding... trepidation, maybe?  Wrong!  It's the fatalistic acceptance of an upper-deck spectator at the circus known as the Decline and Fall of the American Empire.  But the stands at this show of tired metaphors are not even half-full, or even one-third.  It's a bit lonely up here.  (Hey, Richard!  Wayne!  Come sit by me!)

Yesterday I went into one of our local antique shops, where I sometimes venture for below-spot-price silver coins.  I'd thought it my little secret, as there has always been plenty of silver dollars, halves, and smaller denominations to choose from.  My last visit there, back in the summer, had yielded some great deals on silver halves.  Now, however, it seems my secret is found out.  There were no silver dollars to be had, and only a few halves.  The prices were still below spot, but I left with only a silver half and a couple of silver dimes and some silver wartime nickels (my first purchase ever of the latter -- they used to turn up from time to time in my change, but they are very hard to come by in that manner any more).  The nice lady behind the counter informed me that she'd never seen such demand for their coins. 

The door to silver investment is slowly being closed, at least for me and mine.  With my preferred Ebay dealer selling his common date silver dollars for $27-$28 and up, I am nearly priced out.  I watch the silver market daily, and fret as the price climbs, knowing that I wasted too much time and money by not buying more silver while it was more affordable.  Precious metals are one of the few safe investments for small potatoes investors like me, and with gold near $1400/oz., silver has been my only option.  Now I may be forced to collect copper cents, which have a spot price of .03.  Not exactly a good way to build a retirement fund, there.  Then again, who am I kidding?  I'll never get to retire, not in the sense my parents and grandparents knew it.

Oil prices are wobbling, though the direction they are trending is unmistakeable... 

One other thing the MSM/LSM is talking about is the WikiLeaks saga, though they are talking about the wrong thing.  In their coverage of Assange they show their utter complicity with TPTB (The Powers That Be).  As has been mentioned elsewhere, any respectable journalist should be standing up and shouting in defense of Assange's right to a free press; but there is nary a whisper of such to be had from the likes of CNN, Faux News, and the rest.  Instead they cower like the whimpering worms they are, seemingly afraid of what might happen if they stand up for themselves and their own professional integrity.  They have traded the latter in for career security.

CNBC, of all places, in a rare fit of journalism revealed the depths to which the U.S. military-corporate machine is willing to go to to control the populace in the event of civil unrest, like what we are seeing in London (amid the bitter cold), and in Greece earlier this year.  So, even if Joe Blow is mainly concerned with keeping his wife off his back about getting up the Christmas tree and lights, and how to finance the holiday, the gub-ment is seeing to it that the natives, should they become restless, will naetheless NOT impede Joe's ability to consume, consume, CONSUME.

Speaking of which, the Bush Tax Cuts will continue, and actually be expanded for All Americans.  This is to encourage further Consuming, a way to part the Consumer from his Hard Earned Paper, which will grease the wheels of Commerce and thus please the Holy Economy, which is God.  (Apologies for abusing the capital letters... I get off on that, a little.)  However, as even my diminishing intellect was able to grasp, this is nothing more than further Quantitative Easing, in essence QE2.5, flooding the markets with "liquidity."  Or, as I prefer to call it, "flexing our Weimar muscle" (DISCLAIMER:  the latter is not a reference to any kind of Central European sex act).

My store sales are down, noticeably.  I am worried.  My customers are broke.  Or, to quote the old Bo Diddley tune "Hey Man":   "broke-ass."  Nobody has any money, really, at least not among my clientele, who are, by and large, who you would call regular folks.  And they are, the lot of them, largely clueless as to why they are broke-ass.  I think they may feel an unease in their gut that something's not quite right, though they no doubt attribute the feeling to liberals, Julian Assange, or gas.

Everything and nothing, indeed.  And my beer is warm, dang it. 

How about a pretty picture?  Okay, then.  Here's "History of the D.C. Universe" by the incomparable Alex Ross.


Wassail. -- C.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 12 Boxes of Christmas

Yep, twelve.  Twelve boxes of Christmas stuff that I hauled out of the basement today, including the ginormous old tree, along with enough lights to put the Andromeda Galaxy to shame.  Or at least, a Ford Galaxy.

Stuff.  'Tis the season for stuff.  The orgy of consumption that begins right after Halloween these days is in full swing.  As a dedicated neo-Luddite and amateur Scrooge, I am bearing up remarkably well, in my opinion, and look forward to the stillness of January with (sweet) relish.  I am hoping for a couple pair of new Carhartt pants and/or overalls, and that's all, though Santa may bring me a bicycle to replace the one that got stolen a couple years ago.  I miss riding bikes with Belle.

The Angle is slipping into Winter with its usual grace.  One of our eight sycamores still has some leaves, but the rest are naked.  A gift of about ten pounds of Spanish moss from my in-laws is well-timed, since I can now drape it over the cypresses and other trees unimpeded.  Work on the garden has slowed, but I hope to put in the topsoil soon, followed in January by the cow manure, and give it a few months to settle before Spring planting season.  The chickens are fat on leftovers... but there have been no eggs, not yet.  One good thing:  the neighbors know about our flock, and are cool with it, even interested.  I'll have to bring them some eggs, if we ever have any.

Ten pages and a real, live, working plot are new fruits of my autumn artistic endeavors.  I hope to finish Chapter 1 this month, and post it to my companion blog.  It's a new story, told with a different voice than I am used to, and it may not become anything, but I am having fun with it; it only feels a little like work.

These days, my thoughts turn to my friends, those I've kept in touch with and those I haven't.  I miss them all the time.  I hope they know I am with them in spirit, even as I withdraw further and further from our society in decline.  We're all getting long in the tooth, and though there are hopefully decades more to come, I need to work to maintain the ties that are still strong, mend those that are fraying, and in some cases, repair those that have (not a few by my own actions) broken altogether.  To those friends reading this:  I sincerely hope you and yours are well.  I hope to still call you friend as the tale of our years goes on and on, down from the point where we began knowing one another. 

Wassail, friends, and have a merry Yuletide season. -- C.C.


Friday, November 19, 2010

The Burden of Knowing

by Charles Hugh Smith

Knowing what lies ahead is a great emotional burden.

The knowledge that the present is unsustainable is, for many of us, a great emotional burden. It troubles our sleep, our minds, and our basic emotional well-being. Knowledge, like memory, cannot be erased at will, and thus it runs in the background of our lives, unseen by others but deeply troubling to the knower.
 
I am not alone in feeling this weight; correspondents and readers write me that they feel it, too.
Yet it is not just the knowledge that all this is based on cheap, abundant oil and a rapidly imploding financial system based on fraud and lies that burdens us; it is the mirror image of reality pressed upon us by the status quo: the Mainstream Media, the corrupt Savior State beholden to Power Elites and crony-capitalist, predatory monopoly-capital cartels and Global Corporate America (which conveniently enough owns the mainstream media).
 
One of the most chilling stories to emerge from China's Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s and early 60s--in which peasants were instructed to "make steel" by melting down their metal farming and cooking tools, leaving them to starve in countless millions--involves the artifices presented to Mao to cover up the grotesque consequences of his policies.
 
Communist party officials fearful of Mao's ire and losing their own perquisites arranged to have a specific route through the countryside planted thickly with rice. Five meters deep on each side of this road, rice was planted so closely that it appeared to be the very acme of abundance; the road was seemingly a thin ribbon of pavement cut through endless green abundance.
 
It was all artifice and lies. While the officials pointed out the phony bounty to Mao, tens of millions of peasants were starving to death. Behind the five meters of contrived abundance lay a barren landscape.
 
The American media and Savior State are busy planting their own five meters of apparent 
abundance and "growth" along every highway in the land. The vast majority of people--even people who should know better but who prefer not to know, and thus they studioudsly avoid peeking through the curtain of sham prosperity--accept that GDP growth means something positive is happening in their own lives, even as the visible evidence points to a mirror-image of this "growth" propaganda.
 
We know that all the contrivances of "modern life" are ultimately the result of one single condition: cheap, abundant oil. Everything--the plays on Broadway, the film industry, the iPods made in China for cheap, the endless Mcmansions in gated exurbs, the grain-fattened, fat-marbled beef, the "cheap" fast-food meals, the Savior State and its Global Empire--is all based on cheap, abundant oil. There is no substitute in the near term.
 
Every "solution" fails to hold up beyond the most cursory examination. Natural gas? Well, yes, but then all those "fracc'ed" wells the industry extols as the "solution" have a nasty habit of depleting rather quickly. There are an an estimated 254.4 million vehicles in the U.S.; would you care to guess the cost of converting them to natural gas?
 
Will "entrepreneurship" re-make the distribution system to enable fueling those tens of millions of vehicles with natural gas? At what cost, and to whom?
 
How about that "new discovery" of a 1 billion-barrel oil field in deep water? Does the MSM or Savior State propaganda ministry mention that 1 billion barrels is less than two months of U.S. consumption, or that it may take 5 years to extract the first drop, or that the costs of such deepwater drilling are so prohibitive that oil extracted will not be cheap?
 
How about that "endless" shale oil? How many MSM stories note that production tops out at 2 million barrels a day, a mere 10% of U.S. consumption--and the Canadians and Chinese have claims on much of that production?
 
Even a cursory read of this site, or others which peek through the thick green screen of State/corporate propaganda, reveals the multiple frauds at the very heart of American finance, governance, real estate and the stock market.
 
Yet most people don't want to know. They adamantly accept the mirror-image of reality presented by the media and State: that the economy is "growing" and fundamentally sound, even though the reality is the opposite; that "reform" will fix the core problems, even though the reforms are simulacra designed to give the appearance of reform; and that sickcare "reform" will lower costs even as the sickcare cartels increase their take of the economy every year.
 
This heavily promoted and contrived mirror-image disconnect between what we are told is true and what is actually true threatens us with a very draining madness. Some readers donate money to this site because they say that it provides some sort of landing in a sea of lies, propaganda, misinformation and misprepresentation--that in reading it they know they are not alone and that they are not crazy.
 
The unease and insecurity is very real. None of us know the future; we only know that the present is vastly unsustainable, and that if we as a nation and species rely on simulacra, artifice, lies, fraud and propaganda instead of reality, then the status quo will end very badly. Any sane person who knows this finds it worrisome.
 
Hence the rational desire to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Yet many readers tell me they meet fierce resistance from those around them. I understand completely; I personally do not know a single person in my circle or neighborhood who has prepared for even a few days without the global supply chain--and I live in "earthquake country" where a massive earthquake is not a possibility, it is a certainty; the only missing bit of knowledge is "when."
 
As one correspondent put it recently, most people have more dog food on hand than they do food for themselves.
 
I don't advertise my own preparations, and I pass them off as "earthquake preparedness" as that strikes people as only slightly mad and paranoid rather than the full-blown madness of knowing the whole system is extremely vulnerable and precarious.
 
Very few people I know well have any savings to speak of either. I have repeatedly suggested that they sell--sell their second home, sell their office condo, sell anything and everything to reduce or eliminate their debt, but they persist in working themselves to death to pay the mortgages on their mini-real estate empire.
They all hope that the bubble will somehow magically reinflate, even though the possibility of that happening with 19 million vacant dwellings, rising interest rates and 5 million foreclosed homes in the pipeline is essentially zero.
 
Readers ask me for investment advice; I cannot offer any, because I am not qualified to do so, nor do I care to do so; the future is unknown to us all. I can only say that I don't trust the stock market or the propaganda, and so cash is King in my eyes, and whatever their drawbacks, gold and silver will not go to zero, while paper assets and even real estate can either go to near-zero or become a capital trap.
 
I don't have a "cure" for this MSM-Savior-State induced madness, or the emotional burdens of knowing it is all interlocking dependencies supported by webs of lies and fraud, and thus is it really is "different this time," but not in the way the shills, carnies and toadies think.
 
It does not have to turn out that badly; we could get by on much less. Half the energy in the nation is squandered, as is half the food produced from the fields. If you visit any orchard in the land post-harvest, ton after ton of fruit lays wasted on the ground, rotting, in row after row, acre after acre, state after state. The dumpsters are weighted down with the food we have thrown away, just as the air conditioners are running when nobody is even in the building. A staggering 5% of our electricity is wasted on zombie electronics on standby. The list of waste is almost endless.
 
I have carried water to a garden in 5-gallon buckets and gotten by on handfuls of beans and corn or brown rice, and been happy doing so. Life does not end when the exurbs no longer make sense and the Savior State checks stop coming. Our sense of reality has become so skewed, so riven with mirror images and marketing, that we have as a culture have lost touch with much more than "mere" reality.
 
It doesn't have to end badly, but it might. Power Elites desperate to maintain their perquisities have always found that fanning the winds of war distracts their citizenry from their own incompetence and greed.
So what is the solution? I don't know; nobody knows. We only know our own limitations, and what we can do, however modest it might be. We can turn off the TV, that is easily done and extremely helpful. We can also limit our time online, as that is just another firehose of information which quickly overloads our sense of identity and proportion.
 
There are feedback loops in every system. I know 2015 will not be like 2010, but I cannot know precisely how it will be different. I know 2020 will be very different from 2010 and 2015, but I don't know exactly how different; nobody else knows, either.
 
All that we can do is to realize the carefully planted screen is only thick and abundant along the specified route, and that we owe it to ourselves to peek through to the barren terrain beyond, and to base our decisions and identity on that reality.
 
We cannot convince our loved ones, friends, family and associates; in the odd moment, we can make a suggestion or leave a book for them to glance through. That is all we can do; the emotional burden we feel only gets heavier if we push too hard and create needless conflict. So all we can do is make our own preparations as responsible individuals, as autonomous beings seeking liberty, and act accordingly.
 
Prudence is a good screen. Having a bit of non-frozen food on hand is after all merely prudent, isn't it? And so are the rest: water filters, propane stoves, and so on. Camping equipment is good to have on hand; gardening is worthy exercise, and a nice hobby. Eliminating fast food and packaged food from one's diet is also merely prudent; why poision ourselves if we have any sort of choice at all?
 
Voting against every incumbent who has supported the bailouts of banking Elites, the fraudulent "reforms" and all the Savior State propaganda is also merely prudent; why reward liars and thieves if there is any other choice available?
 
Having savings is also prudent, as is eliminating debt. Limiting our exposure to the lies, marketing and madness of Corporate-State media is also prudent. So perhaps we can agree to be prudent, and perhaps others will accept it all as mere prudence.

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmay10/burden-of-knowing05-10.html


"Hope for the best... prepare for the worst." 

Wassail.  -- C.

Haiku 5

Grasses cringe.  They wait
upon grey clouds to break the
November silence.

--Me

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Haiku 4

Willow-leaves blaze.  The
embers fade and fall away
as the earth slumbers.

--Me

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Haiku 3

Autumn winds sigh.  I
sit upon a stone and think.
Trees smile to themselves.

--Me

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Haiku 1

Treetrunks rain-dark as
Africans swim upon a
greygreen autumn sea.

--Me

Friday, November 12, 2010

Silverbug.2

Over a year ago, I advised my reader(s) here at the Gable Grey to buy silver, if they were at all concerned about our fiat currency's rush to toilet paper status.  At the time, COMEX silver was around $13-14.  A year later, it has doubled in value, and is currently trading at $27-28/oz.  To toot my own horn:  told ya.

In my opinion, silver is still an incredible investment opportunity, after arable land, livestock, good tools, a well-stocked larder, and good clothes.  But don't take my word for it...

Silver: Still The Investment Of A Lifetime
Giordano Bruno

Silver is the common man's currency. It always has been, and it always will be. While gold holds its place in history as the great stabilizer of economies and the shield against hyperinflation, its shine and its safety should not distract us from its brother, silver, whose uses are numerous and whose value is often more attainable for those seeking a solid investment outside of precarious paper securities.
Gold's unprecedented upsurge in price the past year alone is now becoming the stuff of legend, and it is also something we at Neithercorp have been predicting for a while now:
http://neithercorp.us/npress/?p=184
http://neithercorp.us/npress/?p=579

The mainstream media attacks on precious metals were so extreme last year that they began to border on the bizarre. The "cult of fiat" was relentless in their attempts to slander gold investors and it seemed as though no matter how well the yellow stuff did, or how dismal the dollar's performance was, they would never get tired of the disinformation game. Fast forward a year later, however, and they have been utterly silenced. What a difference twelve short months can make...


As I write this, gold is holding after a spectacular drive at around $1390, which is in line with my prediction of $1350 to $1450 by winter 2010, and on track to meet my prediction of $1500 by the beginning of next year. We'll have to wait and see, but what seemed absolutely out of reach during this summer is now looking rather simple to achieve today. Of course, silver has been a bit harder to put a finger on, and there are many unfortunate reasons for this.

The silver market was wholly dominated for at least two decades by only a few corporate banks, but primarily through the infamous JP Morgan and the HSBC. Using coordinated naked short selling and massive amounts of capital, they have been able to knock silver down every time its value fell below a certain ratio to gold; usually 60:1. Only recently has that ratio moved slightly closer to the true wealth of silver. The historical average ranges between 16-33 ounces of silver for every ounce of gold.

These banks have also been issuing paper silver securities, usually in the form of ETF's, which have no REAL silver backing them. These securities give investors the illusion that there is too much silver on the market, and not enough buyers. This causes devaluation in the metal.

Gold has suffered from the same manipulation in the past, but the silver market is even more tightly controlled, at least, until this year...

In November of 2009, a metals trader in London by the name of Andrew Maguire contacted the CFTC with inside information that JP Morgan Chase Bank was deliberately interfering with the silver market on an enormous scale. He not only told the CFTC how the bankers were doing it, he PREDICTED when they would do it again! Maguire gave two days advanced warning that JP Morgan would attack silver on Feb 5, 2010. The market played out exactly as he said it would:
http://www.gata.org/node/8466

The bankers were now caught red handed. The market could only go up from there....

Indeed, silver is now holding at around $27 an ounce, up from less than $10 an ounce two years ago, closing in on a 300% gain. If you bought silver in 2008 as I did, then you've made out incredibly well in a very minimal time span. But what about people who were afraid to dive into the market back then, or who just weren't aware of silver as an investment at all? Have they missed out? Is the $30 mark as good as it gets? I believe that silver still has a long way to go before it peaks, and room yet for millions of new buyers who are in need of a safe haven against the imploding dollar but don't have the finances to purchase gold. Here's why...

Bank Fraud Exposure Hitting Mainstream
The Andrew Maguire incident was just the beginning and the event acted as a springboard. Both JP Morgan and HSBC are now under investigation for silver manipulation pending a lawsuit filed in New York. The suit accuses the banks of using their 85% commercial net short position in the silver market to control its value on the COMEX:
http://www.benzinga.com/news/10/11/579017/jp-morgan-chase-hsbc-face-charges-in-manipulating-the-market

CFTC Commissioner Bart Chilton has announced his belief that there is, in fact, manipulation of the silver market. In his statement he said:
"I believe that there have been repeated attempts to influence prices in the silver markets. There have been fraudulent efforts to persuade and deviously control that price. Based on what I have been told by members of the public, and reviewed in publicly available documents, I believe violations to the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) have taken place in silver markets and that any such violation of the law in this regard should be prosecuted."
http://www.cftc.gov/PressRoom/SpeechesTestimony/chiltonstatement102610.html
This is an extremely rare admission by the CFTC, which has for many years ignored all complaints and evidence pointing to bank interference in precious metals.

The Department of Justice has also launched a parallel probe into criminal wrongdoing on the part of JP Morgan (though I doubt much good will come out of the DOJ):
http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/feds_probing_jpmorgan_trades_in_gZzMvWBqOJpB55M7Rh9vwM

The bottom line is that the corruption in silver trade has been brought into the light of day, which means banks will have to, at the very least, back away from their activities to a point, which will allow PM's to grow according to free market fundamentals, instead of global banking whims. This explains why silver has jumped to $27 an ounce so quickly, but it also signals the possibility of even greater gains in the near future, especially in light of QE2 and the weakening dollar.

Silver Supply Declining
Just as with gold, silver availability, from mining to inventories, is in decline. This would not be so much of a catalyst if demand remained at levels similar to a decade ago. That is not the case. Demand is skyrocketing.

In June, the U.S. Mint announced it had run out of silver bullion blanks for the production of coins like the American Eagle:
http://www.zerohedge.com/article/us-mint-runs-out-silver
While COMEX silver inventories continue to decline because of constant customer withdrawals of physical bullion:
http://news.coinupdate.com/comex-silver-inventories-continue-to-decline-0368/
Mining in many areas is also beginning to fall, including in Peru, a major source of metals like copper, gold, and, of course, silver:
http://www.commodityonline.com/news/Copper-gold-silver-production-down-in-Peru-33052-3-1.html
On top of all this, silver is used in the making of many industrial and consumer products, including electronics, photography, batteries, and engine components. This puts an extra strain on silver supplies that is not felt as prominently with gold. Meaning, the ability of silver to outperform gold in terms of demand and investment potential is very high.

Dollar On Its Last Leg
The private Federal Reserve has been injecting fiat into our financial system for quite some time. The acceleration in 2008 heralded a new stage, however, in the devaluation of the dollar. Contrary to popular belief, the bailouts and quantitative easing implemented that year never actually ended. The bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for instance, have continued non-stop every quarter since the mortgage crisis unfolded. Without a full audit of the Fed's accounts, there is no way of telling how much money has been created out of thin air. We do know that it is enough to drive foreign investors and central banks out of the dollar and into gold and silver en masse:
http://www.commodityonline.com/news/Why-Central-Banks-continue-to-buy-gold-32803-2-1.html
The announcement of QE2 has compounded the precious metals issue (not because the Fed is creating more fiat, they were already doing that unhindered). No, it is because the Fed signaled to the world OPENLY that they were about to deliberately devalue the Greenback, instead of just doing it under the radar. They erased any delusions left in the investment world had that they would try to protect the stability of our currency. As a result, the dollar index has dropped like a rock into the recesses of some distant Grand Canyon, while PM's have spiked.


As gold climbs into the $1500 range, the effect on silver will be evident. Gold will be less and less attainable by average people with lower incomes, but these same people will still be exposed to dollar devaluation, and the need for a hedge against inflation; enter silver.

I believe silver will become the single most important investment of our age, filling the void in the wage gap gold leaves behind. As gold shoots into the stratosphere, it will be silver that people turn to most for smaller investment needs, which means much higher demand and much greater returns for those who are smart enough to buy now. $27 an ounce is incredibly affordable, especially when considering that the metal has the potential to reach $75-$100 an ounce in the next two years (and that is a conservative estimate).

There is little doubt that the dollar plunge will continue to drive people towards PM's. While Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner have both made claims pre-G20 that QE2 is not a move to devalue, the rest of the world is unconvinced. Reuters recently called the meeting in Seoul, Korea "G19 plus 1", as foreign nations become infuriated with the Federal Reserve's actions:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A62BC20101107
Even Alan Greenspan has come out in opposition to QE2, saying it is a dangerous act of devaluation:
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AA00320101111
Now, why is Greenspan of all people suddenly coming out against blasting the financial system with fiat? It's hard to say. We have written here often at Neithercorp about the deliberate destabilization of the American economy in order to remove the dollar as the world reserve currency and replace it with the IMF's Special Drawing Rights (the SDR). We have also written about the possibility that the IMF will attempt to insinuate itself into the U.S. system as a "savior", implementing supranational control over our fiscal infrastructure, just as it is trying to do in Ireland today:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-12/shadow-of-imf-spooks-irish-taking-pay-cuts-to-avoid-greece-style-bailout.html
It is perhaps possible that the Fed itself (the institution, not the people who run it) may one day be offered up to Americans as a sacrificial proxy to be torn down as the lone culprit of global collapse, only to then be replaced with the IMF (which is worse, because they don't even live in this country). In any case, the dollar is going for a ride into the backwaters of historical infamy, and it will take us all with it if we do not protect ourselves from its demise. Gold, and most especially silver, give us the power to do this.

The Return Of Real Money
While many people in the Liberty Movement are preparing diligently for the inevitable dollar plunge, some have still not delved into the world of PM's, either because they are afraid it will be too complicated, or because they feel it is unnecessary. Obviously, survival goods are absolutely imperative, along with a solid plan for keeping one's self and his family safe. However, the need for an alternative economic outlet to take the place of the failing dollar should not be overlooked, even by the average prepper. A system of barter is a tremendous starting point for such an alternative, but eventually, expanded trade also requires some form of currency. Preferably, one based on a tangible commodity that can't be recreated to infinity. Precious metals have fulfilled this role for thousands of years, outliving every fiat currency ever printed. Of these metals, silver was always the one most commonly used.

Beans and bullets aside, Americans need a way to protect their savings from what is coming, as well as a way to support a replacement market outside of elitist control. There is a reason why central banks across the globe are stocking up on PM's; because they know full well that the dollar's days are numbered, and they plan to capitalize on its death. If the banks are allowed to dominate the supply of PM's, simply because only a few people had the good sense to stock them while they were readily available, then our options for a free economy grow that much slimmer.

There will always be dips, corrections, and fluctuations in metals, and this should not deter us psychologically from their ultimate benefits. Every citizen of this country can and should purchase at least some insurance against hyperinflation and monetary catastrophe, and the most affordable insurance with the greatest potential today is physical silver, bar none.
You can contact Giordano Bruno at: giordano@neithercorp.us


I am no expert, but if anyone has questions about getting started in silver, I will be glad to answer, free of charge.  I urge anyone concerned with building and/or preserving true wealth to consider beginning an investment in silver today, before silver breaks out again, and heads toward $50 and beyond.  You can't eat silver, but it may ease your transition to the post-collapse world.

Wassail.  -- C.

EDIT:  Silver and other commodities are down across the board at the moment, dragged on by the other indecies, and as folks do some profit-taking.  BUY ON THE DIPS! -- C.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

Pre-Trick 'r' Treat Inventory.  Note apparent lack of enthusiasm.

Witchy stockings:  check.

Equipment check complete.  Ready for departure.

Wait long enough to take a picture in our house, and there will invariably be a cat in it, somewhere.

Any lingering doubts that her father will have no trouble in the coming years can now be summarily dismissed.

Witch and Witch-wrangler #1.

Witch:  "You're embarrassing me, Mommy."
Witch-wrangler:  "Smile or I'm gonna beat you over the head with that broom."

Witch and strange, friendly alien.  (Footwear is not per Starfleet regulations.)


Alien would not leave, possibly being stuck in temporal causality loop.

Huffy witch.

Witch and witch-wrangler in action.  Witch's apparent fearlessness up to that point evaporated quickly.

Alien wandering aimlessly among the immature Earthlings.

Soon afterward, I was accosted by what appeared to be a large walking mound of moss, which informed me, "You know the red shirt always gets killed first, right?", and somewhat later by a hipster dufus (who was probably named TeeEye or TeeBee) who kept saying "Computer!  Computer!"

What a world, what a world.

Yep, time to head back to base.

Hope everyone had a happy Halloween.  Wassail.  -- C.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rioting for Austerity

A Buddhist vision of life beyond consumerism

by Craig K. Comstock
 
Are there alternatives to consumerism? Other than a dreary alternative such as loss of a job, a prolonged economic downturn or the stealth tax of inflation?

What is it, this consumerism? It's the assiduous promotion of cravings which our economic system, at least until recently, has somewhat satisfied: "Your neighbor has it. You will be happy when you get it. You can have it now on easy credit." The amping up of desire for stuff is so normal here that it's hard to imagine another approach to life.

Recently, I came across an old box with photos of my maternal grandfather and some clippings from his youth. There were already ads when he was young, but they seem so naive, displaying an object for its own sake, not associating it with sexy women, power, speed or species that vehicles are named after.
My grandfather had much less materially than my parents, but as I know from taking long walks with him, telling stories, playing games, helping him build a boat, he was happy. How was that?

I thought of him when reading the new book by Stephen Batchelor, author of the wildly popular Buddhism Without Beliefs. Buddhist practice teaches that life is full of suffering and suffering comes from cravings. The trouble with cravings is that they often can't be satisfied and, when they are, the objects may vanish or degrade. And, in any case, they usually don't "make us happy," or, if so, not for long.

In this view, a system of implanting cravings by sellers who hope to profit by them, of exacerbating desire, would be crazy. The question is, why would you do that? Of course, people need the basics such as shelter, clean air and water, food, clothing, education, health care, the ability to work. But as Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin asked in their classic, Your Money Or Your Life, to what extent does it serve you to mortgage your life to get more and then more?

The service offered by Batchelor is to get to what he regards as the core of Buddhist practice, free of "accretions" imposed by various Asian traditions. Of course, some westerners are attracted to Buddhism in part by the rich Baroque trappings of the Tibetans, the subtle Theravada traditions of southeast Asia or the spare paradoxes in Zen cultures. But other westerners want a practice they feel is more suitable for a scientific and democratic society.

Having been a monk in two of three Asian traditions (Tibetan and Korean), Batchelor sought what he regards as Buddha's basic realization. In his writing, he even set aside such crucial elements of traditional Buddhism as rebirth and karma, not denying that the founder taught these doctrines, but attributing them to the Hindu world in which he'd grown up and arguing that they aren't necessary to Buddha's genius as expressed in the "four noble truths."

Within Buddhism, Bachelor's heresy is not to do without the concept of divinity (the founder was agnostic about metaphysics), but rather to set aside any realm other than our life on earth and to accept the possibility of death as oblivion. This is a delicate point because the prestige of Tibetan religious leaders, starting with the Dalai Lama, depends in part on the claim to be reincarnations and because the finality of death is almost unimaginable to most of us.

What a waste to obtain the necessities of life, guard against danger, form attachments to other humans and accumulate knowledge, and then poof, it's all gone like photo albums when a house burns down. This would be almost as unthinkable as a process of evolution. What human would design so slow, wasteful and unfair a process? Batchelor's point here would be that the gist of Buddhist dharma practice is being aware of what's here, now, rather than placing hope, without evidence, in a happier life after death.

Insofar as we can see the situation of Gautama, he had been living the life of a prince. His house was not in foreclosure, he was not forced into the life of a wandering ascetic. The "middle way" that he eventually found was not forced on him by the global peak of oil production, by global warming or by economic breakdown. He felt his realization or awakening was superior to the affluent life of his time.

In the phrase of the brilliant British journalist George Monbiot, "nobody ever rioted for austerity." Monbiot acknowledges this political fact in a book called Heat, about a painstaking and ambitious plan for reducing carbon emissions enough to avoid the worst ravages of global warming. A masterpiece of understatement, his phrase conjures the unlikelihood of a parade with placards calling for less affluence; it fails to mention the widespread phenomenon of denial.

I don't know whether the Buddha ever rioted for austerity, but he certainly counseled against arousing rampant desire, especially as a way of life. But what can we do instead? Change comes eventually less from just a critique of a prevailing system than from the building of a new system, of something that doubters can jump to and help in the next stage of building.

In his new book, Batchelor tells his personal story, reaffirms his understanding of dharma practice and offers speculation about challenges that Buddha faced in creating a new way of thinking and acting. This last task is especially tricky, because the writings called the Pali Canon are roughly as far in time from the founder as we from Shakespeare. (Imagine if we had the plays only through an oral tradition.) But Batchelor asks himself, given what we do know, how would a man with Buddha's basic awakening proceed in the world of his time? We'll never know for sure, but a coherent account at least provides an armature on which to build.
To return to the original question: Is there an alternative to consumerism? If the future will be less affluent than the past, for whatever reasons -- we don't know -- will we cling to a system that is failing, or will we have adopted new basic premises? If the latter, what are values that don't depend on having a growing amount of stuff?
Editorial Notes
Sharon Astyk actually has rioted for austerity.
Read more about Steven Batchelor's book Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist here.-KS
Original article available here

http://www.energybulletin.com/

Wassail. -- C.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Give to Petraeus what is Petraeus'... and f%*k-all to the rest."

Surprise! I’m your new President-for-Life: The post-peak military coup & beyond

by Dan Allen
 
“Hey, hey, hey, the end is near / On a good day, you can see the end from here.” – Joanna Newsom
 
“The main conclusion from Rick [Munroe]'s [ASPO] presentation was that peak oil is being examined closely and taken seriously by military analysts but not civilian authorities. What few plans that do exist on the civilian side are decades old. The implications of this are that North America ‘remains highly vulnerable to a liquid fuel emergency disruption’ and, since because there are only a few dusty plans lying around, there will be greater chaos than necessary.” – Chris Martenson (http://www.chrismartenson.com/blog/future-chaos-there-no-plan-b/46331)

“Can’t get no food to eat. Can’t get no money to spend.” – Burning Spear

“There is no one what will take care of you.” – Will Oldham

“As of now, I am in control here in the White House.” – General Alexander Haig

SUMMARY: Our military appears to be taking the risks of imminent peak oil shocks seriously. Our ‘civilian’ government, deep in the thrall of corporate short-term profiteers, appears incapable of processing such risks. When the shocks come like a kick to our collective American gut, I suspect that only one of these entities may survive. Guess which one? All hail President-General-for-Life Petraeus! …But then what?

HEY, HEY, HEY, THE END IS NEAR

I’m starting to get that feeling in my gut again – that tightness. It’s the same one I had in the Fall of 2008 when the industrial economy started writhing on the floor in it’s most recent fit of cheap-energy-withdrawal convulsions.

It’s a feeling that colors even simple everyday things I see with a dusky haze of foreboding: “Oh, look at that – they’re laying a cement foundation that’ll be a vernal pond in ten years.” Or, “I wonder what that nice, shiny office building’s gonna look like with a big, puffy Virginia-creeper sweater?” Or, “Will that devoted lawn-enthusiast, in a cackling fit of collapse-fever, burn his last gallon of gas to give it just one final mow?” Or, “So you’re spending $120,000 for your kid to go to college (i.e. parties), and then come home to raise a post-carbon family in your den?”

It’s like Jim Kunstler has crawled into my head and is giving me a running commentary on everything I see: “Some profound seismic infarction…now propels deadly tsunamis toward the land masses where money dwells. And when they break over the shorelines…” Shhh, Jim, I can’t hear what this person is saying to me.
And as the time-window for the expected oil shocks comes alarmingly into focus, and as the ‘Here-Comes-An-Oil-Crunch’ reports start to emanate from more and more mainstream sources, it’s hard to escape a feeling of dread for the coming craziness – whatever forms it may take.

Reports from the recent ASPO conference come off like a reading of a terminal diagnosis for a dying civilization: “I’m sorry Mr. BAU, but the tests indicate that you have maybe two years to live – four at the most.”

Of course, right now, Mr. BAU, doing his best impression of a petulant 5-year-old, is obstinately pretending not to hear the good doctor. But in short order, I imagine we’ll be seeing him take a somewhat different tack: “But…but wait! Please! I’m not ready! Please, just give me a little more time! I’ll change! I promise!” Then, as Dr. ASPO momentarily turns her back, we see that incorrigible BAU pop open and dribble down another 500-million barrels. Burp. Not enough! Cue food riots. Cue hurricane.

And as the sky darkens and the wind picks up, the angelic crooning of Joanna Newsome floats through an open window: “Hey, hey, hey, the end is near.”

OH NO, DEAR CITIZEN, NOT THAT TYPE OF CHANGE

It’s becoming painfully clear that the federal government, having been swallowed whole by the corporate-financial sector, and is incapable of even a shred of preparation for the impending economic/oil shocks. The myopic short-term-profit prime directive of the corporations is now being defended wholly and at all costs by both Democrats and Republicans alike – to the exclusion of even the most basic protections for the bemused and hapless citizenry.

Prudent, risk-based peak-oil preparations -- or even the vaguest scent that something profound and systemic might be terribly wrong with our civilization -- is just bad for the short-term bottom line. It’s a no-go. Obama doesn’t do THAT sort of change. You silly goose -- you thought he did? No, no, no. We can’t let reality be the enemy of the profitable. A suitable epitaph?

So, alas, there will be no strategic open-pollinated seed reserves; no extended electrical outage emergency plans; no equitable petroleum shortage rationing plans; no appropriate technology dissemination plans; no national community-gardening & local food-shed programs; no basic emergency survival skills programs; no permaculture-skills education programs; no emergency water-shortage plans; no community resiliency action plans; no conventional-rail refurbishing initiatives; no draft-animal breeding programs; no push to ramp up development of perennial polyculture; no push to re-establish local manufacturing of basic necessities. No nothing. Zippo.

There will apparently be nothing that smacks of ‘preparations for impending trouble’ coming down from our increasingly bizarre leaders. (“I am not a witch.” Huh?! “It is not entirely clear that something called ‘the climate’ even actually exists.”) As far as one can tell from public pronouncements, the federal and state governments will be doing about as much peak-oil preparation as the guy down the street with the tinted-glass Hummer, grilling a hearty slab of feedlot beef on his shiny new Climatemaster-5000 grill.

But surely there must be a good bit of secret, behind-the-scenes planning going on over there in Washington, right? Even if they can’t publicize it for economic reasons, they must be doing something to prepare for the coming energy shocks, huh?

I suppose one chilling sequence drawn from recent history may suffice here: a dark, fetid New Orleans Superdome, chaotically packed with thousands of forgotten refugees; food and water supplies dwindling; Our well-rested Commander-in-Chief decides it might be a good time to “fly to Washington to begin work…with a task force that will coordinate the work of 14 federal agencies involved in the relief effort.”; a two-year old sleeps in puddle of urine on concrete Superdome floor. (Re-live all the adventures of Brownie & Co. at http://thinkprogress.org/katrina-timeline)

So are you still with us Brownie? ‘Cause we’ll need ya like crazy. And pretty soon! How many FEMA trailers – I mean full FEMA strategic oil reserves -- ya got lined up down there? And are all the various sports stadiums set to accept the hordes of post-peak refugees? Good, good! And Dr. Chu – are you standing by with your Nobel-Prize-brand, energy-miracle wand? Get ready to deploy. And you, Santa Clause, …etc.

THERE IS NO ONE (BUT THE MILITARY) WHAT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU

So, disturbing cheekiness aside, all past and present indicators suggest that neither the Federal nor the State governments will be of much help when we lurch down the next (possibly significant) stair-step towards our uber-challenging post-carbon future. And any hope we might still have for the government enacting some last-minute preparatory measures – however small – will likely vanish completely as the new election-cycle ushers in a deeply-disturbed crop of tea-partiers bent on completely eviscerating all government programs.
So where does that leave us when the imploding debt-energy crisis hits the fan and we find ourselves very suddenly in a no-credit, lower-energy reality? It very likely leaves us in a world of frenzied pain – and with a pretty significant power-vacuum all around us.

There will be a whole lot of people in places that are not their homes. A lot of people with a lot less stuff than they’re used to. A lot of people with less stuff than they need to get by. A lot of people with suddenly nothing to do. A lot of troubled youngsters with a newly-learned command of assault rifles. And a lot of people convinced that such-and-such a group is responsible for their sudden run of bad luck. And all that will tend to make for a lot of cranky people prone to unsavory behavior. (Insert favorite Kunstler rant about rampaging over-fed clowns here.)

I find it hard to believe that the neutered versions of the state and federal governments will do anything but shout meaningless slogans beseeching us to ‘stay calm!’ from their corporate box-seats, high above the frenzied mélange of sudden want and anger.

But wait! There does seem to be one sector of the reigning US leadership who ARE tuned-in to the impending energy catastrophe – THE MILITARY! Yes, our boys in green have crunched the freely-available energy numbers and determined that, yes, we seem to have a problem, Houston. See Rick Munroe’s recent ASPO presentation, as well as his excellent collection of peak-related documents – many from the military. (http://www.energybulletin.net/authors/Rick+Munroe)

And while I haven’t had the opportunity to comb through their internal files, it would be more than reasonable to presume that the military also have a whole lot of post-carbon action plans, programs, and initiatives all sketched out and ready to be implemented on a relatively short time-scale. Or do you think they’ll just neatly fold up their fatigues and walk away to take their places in the bread lines when confronted with a power vacuum of monumental proportions? Ha!

Moreover, military budgets are almost certainly NOT being eviscerated – nor WILL they be, even as we approach the precipice of BAU’s doom. Regardless of how many troops and hardware are muddling about overseas at any given time, is there any doubt that massive ‘securing of basic necessities’ and ‘domestic pacification’ programs could be initiated almost immediately by the military? Good God! Look at their budgets over the past 30 years. Were they spending it all on sensitivity-training seminars?

But what about the energy shortage? Won’t that hamper the military as well? Ha! In the event of the inevitable domestic fuel shortages, who do you think gets priority at the pump -- that forlorn Ford Escort stranded in your driveway, or the local M1 Abrams pacifying your neighborhood? Indeed, export-land-model be damned once the squeeze is really felt! If there is a drop of petroleum to be squeezed out of any riser or tar-pit in North America once TSHTF, who do you think will be there to greet it? Hoo rah! And you think those Mounties are gonna stop ‘em?

So let me summarize here: the US military almost certainly has (1) reams of clear-headed plans about what to do with all our soon-to-be-very-cranky citizens, (2) the organizational skills to carry out those plans, and (3) the physical & energetic means to get ‘er done. The Federal and State governments seemingly have little or none of any of these.

So goodbye sad, sad President Obama. And fare thee well to you too, tragically-befuddled President Palin. Let all red-blooded American citizens now raise up glasses in these troubled times to their protector-in-chief, their brave benefactor -- President-General-for-Life Petraeus!

Hoo rah!

KICKIN’ IT MARTIAL LAW -- TRANSITION TOWN STYLE

Now, I’m certainly not claiming that all this is the ONLY way everything could possibly play out. Obviously the whole situation is so complex that many futures are still possible at this point. Who knows? Santa might come to the rescue. But…it’s looking to me, more & more every day, that this ‘military ascendancy’ is one of the more probable futures beginning to coalesce out of the haze. I have to think that some version of extended martial law, explicitly stated or not, will greet us down the road at some point here.

So where does that leave you and me? What should we do – both now and into the future? Do we start preparing to rise up against our possible future military oppressors? Do we cache ammo to protect our homesteads against possible occupation? Or do we maybe join them to better secure our rightful share of the dwindling resource pie?

My recommendation, in the face of an increasingly-onerous future, is a lot less exciting, I’m afraid. It’s actually the same advice we need to follow if we wish to shake our current corporate oppressors. And it’s the same advice we’d need even if the corporate government was actually able to limp along through the coming shit storms. And, hey, it’s the same advice we’d need to follow even if NOBODY stepped-in to fill the coming power vacuum -- if we are to be left all on our own when the industrial ship inevitably goes down.

The advice is this: As we move into the post-carbon era, let’s try to construct our lives – at the individual and community levels – in such a way that we won’t NEED ‘them’ – their handouts and refugee camps; that it doesn’t MATTER who’s offering us assistance once the troubles come – or if nobody offers assistance -- because we just won’t NEED it. Let’s make our local communities as self-sufficient and resilient as possible, so that we can tell them, “No thank you. We’re fine. Not great, but fine. Hail Petraeus, and all. But thank you, no.” And then we ignore them.

Give to Petraeus what is Petraeus’, and f%*k-all to the rest. We don’t need it.

…But of course, that is all very easy to say but much trickier to actually accomplish. We have much work to do and little time to do it. Many physical preparations are needed. Much learning to be done. Countless community bonds to be connected. Spirits to be strengthened.

Check out http://www.postpeakliving.com/, http://www.chrismartenson.com/, www.transitionus.org/, www.carolynbaker.net/, http://www.johnnyseeds.com/, and http://www.fedcoseeds.com/. Read a book on permaculture, seed saving, root-cellaring, etc. Try those things at home. Plant an orchard. Throw a neighborhood party. Etc. etc. etc.

So is that too much? For these are truly monumental tasks that confront us now. The disconnect between where we are and where we need to be is so great, that it’s easy to get down and just want to give up. But we can’t. That’s not an option. And as Chris Martenson says, even a little preparation is far, far better than none at all.

So we'll do what we can, while we can.

Let’s get movin’.



Wassail. -- C.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dishevelled Dryad Loveliness: Autumn 2010

Been a very dry autumn so far here at the Gable Grey.  No rain since sometime in August, and it's showing.

Spider lily, also called "hurricane lily," cropping up amidst turkey fig.  Our three turkey figs are doing well, though they will probably not produce a fall crop due to the drought.  The spider lilies are appearing with their usual regularity, a happy sign that another scorching summer is behind us and cool weather is at hand.  Their narrow green leaves, which resemble monkey grass, will not appear until after the flowers wilt and are gone; there is a Japanese myth associated with the phenomenon, something about transformed lovers doomed never to meet...


More spider lilies, here among daylilies.  Spider lilies were among my grandmother's favorite flowers.  She lived here in Mississippi for many years. 


Wild aster, normally a spectacular show in early autumn, now looking poorly in the dryness.  This clump returns each year, so I take care not to cut it when the green shoots first begin appearing in the early summer. 

My woodland restoration project.  This corner was just completed last month.  A layer of cardboard to kill the invasive ornamental grass and prevent nuisance privet hedge, poison ivy, and virginia creeper from taking hold too easily; then a couple of inches of mulch from the mower.  Very time consuming, but it will only require a quick go-through with a pair of gloves once a year, during the fall.  The Spanish moss on the bald cypress trees was a gift from my in-laws, who live in Gautier, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  (Note the water oak leaning at a 45 degree angle, along our property line.  A victim of Katrina, it is wedged in a low fork of the huge poplar tree near the center of the picture.  Both trees are still living.)

A less intensive woodland restoration project, on the other side of our (currently dry) creek bed, on the property line.  Here I maintain a clear path, cut back or remove privet hedge, bamboo, saw briar, and chinaberry saplings, leaving a nursery for young trees like beech, water oak, pine, maple, and this nice little holly tree here.  Three giant longleaf pine trees stand guard; their brothers and sisters across the property line were cut down the year after Katrina, to my dismay.  Now there is only a nearly impassable tangle of mimosa, bamboo, and numerous other invasive ornamental species.

 
Sycamore sapling, obtained from the Extension Service in the spring.  Sycamores are some of my favorite trees. 

More spider lilies, among the chrysanthemums I set out a month ago.  I've had to water the 'mums at least once a week, sometimes twice, to keep them alive until the rains come.  I fear they will come with a vengeance this winter.

One of our three Japanese red maples.  They each added over a foot of growth this year.  None have put on their fall colors yet.


Garden expansion, my winter project.  Adding 128 square feet to our 64 sq. ft. bed; the latter will become a permanent strawberry bed.  The tangle of green in the upper corner is what is left of our two cucumber vines, which grew with a vengeance and provided a welcome supplement to our late summer suppers.  We were also able to give away many of them to family and friends.  What we could not eat or give away, we gave to the chickens, which they eagerly devoured.

Juan(ita) and Co., in their coop for the winter.  Juan has become very tame, and will allow himself to be held with little argument.  No eggs from the girls yet, as they are only about 3 months old.  Their waste has been and will be valuable fertilizer for next year's garden.

Fay Wray, our tortoiseshell, another important source of nutrients for the garden.  While I do not use cat feces as fertilizer (though it is better than nearly any other kind, I've read), their litter is otherwise very useful to that end:  we use only organic pine pellets, which absorb their urine and then turn to something like sawdust.  Very easy to handle, dries quickly, and a great addition to the garden mulch.  This will be Fay's first winter.


Titus Andronicus, yet another source of garden fertilizer, and unofficial Best.Cat.Evar.


Il est magnifique.


Finally, Misha, our Evenstar, who of all of us here at the Gable Grey will most enjoy the next six months.

Wassail, friends.
Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"