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...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Last Best Place

When, in the course of human events, one finds oneself marooned in a redneck backwater in the early 1980's, one's mind -- assuming it is used from time to time -- begins to wander, and to wonder, V'ger-like:  Is this all that there is?  Is there nothing more?

Now there were certainly worse places to grow up in during that, or any other, time.  (The Democratic Republic of the Congo comes to mind.)  But the grass is always greener, as they say; and whatever you think about they, they are actually sometimes on to something.

In those pre-Internet, pre-cable, 2-network-TV station days, my chief source of information about the outside world was Messrs. Funk and Wagnall's:  the 1970 edition of that serviceable esteemed ubiquitous poor man's encyclopedia, specifically.  My parents got it in installments from the local supermarket, apparently not realizing that I would not begin to really appreciate it until about three presidents after Richard Milhous Nixon, and long after Angola and Mozambique won their independence from Portugal (the latter listed under "W" for "Who gives a shit?").

Luckily, much of the information regarding the individual states of the U.S. was relatively unchanged, at least the parts that interested me.  So, on those long days when it was too hot to roam the woods of Jasper and Wayne Counties, Mis'sippi, or there was nothing on NBC or PBS to watch, or years-old copies of Sports Afield, I'd peruse the row of burgundy spines that began A-Ameri and see what I could find out about the world, circa the year I was born.

One of my favorite subjects was the other states, and trying to ascertain which one I'd want to live in, after I grew up and got the hell out of Mississippi.  Mainly, I wanted somewhere cooler, where there were also mountains, and forests (I always liked those), and fewer -- MUCH fewer -- humans.  I first read about Texas, and Tennessee, and Alabama, and Arkansas, as I'd heard more about them from my family growing up, and had even been to a few of those.

I quickly decided that those sucked, and were all too similar to the Magnolia State, trending to the worse.  So my eye wandered across the overpopulated Northeast, to Maine, which looked most inviting; then westward, to the Great Lakes region, where northern Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park beckoned.  But there were only small mountains in Maine, and still just too many damned people overall.

Westward, and northern California looked nice, trumped by Oregon, trumped in turn by Washington.  But those Pacific states lacked something, a quality I couldn't put my finger on.  (It may have been instead my primal fear of the Sea at work again.  Thank you, Jaws.)  So I moved back inland, to the Rocky Mountains:  New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming.  They felt more right than all the others had, up to that point.  Then, I followed the Rockies north, past Yellowstone National Park, and found it:  the Last Best Place.

So it was that, nearly 30 years ago, I began to decide that Montana was the Place For Me.  It had it all:  mountains, forests, wildlife, great rivers, and very few people.  It also had claim to a part of the northern Plains, which I would come to love years later, when I finally laid eyes on that vastness, what Ivan Doig calls "This House of Sky." 

I even managed to go there twice, in 1995 and 1996:  road trips, both.  None of that mamby-pamby (read:  expensive) flying for me.  I have not been back since. 

In the years since my journeys to Montana, I've found love as a husband, and later as a father.  Marriage and fatherhood are the crowning joys of my life; they are joys of the soul.  But the images from my adventures in Montana are burned into my spirit, and seldom has my spirit known peace since then.

The world will not end, if I never go back.  Indeed, I have hedged my bets, as the saying goes, and have made quite a life for myself where I am.  I would not trade places with anyone.  But it is my not-so-secret hope that one day (sooner, rather that later!) I can return to Montana, and never have to leave it again.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The 'Indespinsable People?'

The Collapse of Western Morality


Yes, I know, as many readers will be quick to inform me, the West never had any morality. Nevertheless things have gotten worse.

In hopes that I will be permitted to make a point, permit me to acknowledge that the US dropped nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, fire-bombed Tokyo, that Great Britain and the US fire-bombed Dresden and a number of other German cities, expending more destructive force, according to some historians, against the civilian German population than against the German armies, that President Grant and his Civil War war criminals, Generals Sherman and Sheridan, committed genocide against the Plains Indians, that the US today enables Israel’s genocidal policies against the Palestinians, policies that one Israeli official has compared to 19th century US genocidal policies against the American Indians, that the US in the new 21st century invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on contrived pretenses, murdering countless numbers of civilians, and that British prime minister Tony Blair lent the British army to his American masters, as did other NATO countries, all of whom find themselves committing war crimes under the Nuremberg standard in lands in which they have no national interests, but for which they receive an American pay check.

I don’t mean these few examples to be exhaustive. I know the list goes on and on. Still, despite the long list of horrors, moral degradation is reaching new lows. The US now routinely tortures prisoners, despite its strict illegality under US and international law, and a recent poll shows that the percentage of Americans who approve of torture is rising. Indeed, it is quite high, though still just below a majority.

And we have what appears to be a new thrill: American soldiers using the cover of war to murder civilians. Recently American troops were arrested for murdering Afghan civilians for fun and collecting trophies such as fingers and skulls.

This revelation came on the heels of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leak of a US Army video of US soldiers in helicopters and their controllers thousands of miles away having fun with joy sticks murdering members of the press and Afghan civilians. Manning is cursed with a moral conscience that has been discarded by his government and his military, and Manning has been arrested for obeying the law and reporting a war crime to the American people.

US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, of course, from Michigan, who is on the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, has called for Manning’s execution. According to US Rep. Rogers it is an act of treason to report an American war crime.

In other words, to obey the law constitutes “treason to America.”

US Rep. Rogers said that America’s wars are being undermined by “a culture of disclosure” and that this “serious and growing problem” could only be stopped by the execution of Manning.

If Rep. Rogers is representative of Michigan, then Michigan is a state that we don’t need.

The US government, a font of imperial hubris, does not believe that any act it commits, no matter how vile, can possibly be a war crime. One million dead Iraqis, a ruined country, and four million displaced Iraqis are all justified, because the “threatened” US Superpower had to protect itself from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction that the US government knew for a fact were not in Iraq and could not have been a threat to the US if they were in Iraq.

When other countries attempt to enforce the international laws that the Americans established in order to execute Germans defeated in World War II, the US government goes to work and blocks the attempt. A year ago on October 8, the Spanish Senate, obeying its American master, limited Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction in order to sink a legitimate war crimes case brought against George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama, Tony Blair,and Gordon Brown.

The West includes Israel, and there the horror stories are 60 years long. Moreover, if you mention any of them you are declared to be an anti-semite. I only mention them in order to prove that I am not anti-American, anti-British, and anti-NATO, but am simply against war crimes. It was the distinguished Zionist Jewish Judge, Goldstone, who produced the UN report indicating that Israel committed war crimes when it attacked the civilian population and civilian infrastructure of Gaza. For his efforts, Israel declared the Zionist Goldstone to be “a self-hating Jew,” and the US Congress, on instruction from the Israel Lobby, voted to disregard the Goldstone Report to the UN.

As the Israeli official said, we are only doing to the Palestinians what the Americans did to the American Indians.

The Israeli army uses female soldiers to sit before video screens and to fire by remote control machine guns from towers to murder Palestinians who come to tend their fields within 1500 meters of the inclosed perimeter of Ghetto Gaza. There is no indication that these Israeli women are bothered by gunning down young children and old people who come to tend to their fields.

If the crimes were limited to war and the theft of lands, perhaps we could say it is a case of jingoism sidetracking traditional morality, otherwise still in effect.

Alas, the collapse of morality is too widespread. Some sports teams now have a win-at-all-cost attitude that involves plans to injure the star players of the opposing teams. To avoid all these controversies, let’s go to Formula One racing where 200 mph speeds are routine.

Prior to 1988, 22 years ago, track deaths were due to driver error, car failure, and poorly designed tracks compromised with safety hazards. World Champion Jackie Stewart did much to improve the safety of tracks, both for drivers and spectators. But in 1988 everything changed. Top driver Ayrton Senna nudged another top driver Alain Prost toward a pit wall at 190 mph. According to AutoWeek (August 30, 2010), nothing like this had been seen before. “Officials did not punish Senna’s move that day in Portugal, and so a significant shift in racing began.” What the great racing driver Stirling Moss called “dirty driving” became the norm.

Nigel Roebuck in AutoWeek reports that in 1996 World Champion Damon Hill said that Senna’s win-at-all-cost tactic “was responsible for fundamental change in the ethics of the sport.” Drivers began using “terrorist tactics on the track.” Damon Hill said that “the views that I’d gleaned from being around my dad [twice world champion Graham Hill] and people like him, I soon had to abandon,” because you realized that no penalty was forthcoming against the guy who tried to kill you in order that he could win.

When asked about the ethics of modern Formula One racing, American World Champion Phil Hill said: “Doing that sort of stuff in my day was just unthinkable. For one thing, we believed certain tactics were unacceptable.”

In today’s Western moral climate, driving another talented driver into the wall at 200 mph is just part of winning. Michael Schumacher, born in January 1969, is a seven times World Champion, an unequaled record. On August 1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix, AutoWeek Reports that Schumacher tried to drive his former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello, into the wall at 200 mph speeds.

Confronted with his attempted act of murder, Schumacher said: “This is Formula One. Everyone knows I don’t give presents.”

Neither does the US government, nor state and local governments, nor the UK government, nor the EU.
The deformation of the police, which many Americans, in their untutored existence as naive believers in “law and order,” still think are “on their side,” has taken on new dimensions with the police militarized to fight “terrorists” and “domestic extremists.”

The police have been off the leash since the civilian police boards were nixed by the conservatives. Kids as young as 6 years old have been handcuffed and carted off to jail for school infractions that may or may not have occurred. So have moms with a car full of children (see, for example, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AaSLERx0VM ).

Anyone who googles videos of US police gratuitous brutality will call up tens of thousands of examples, and this is after laws that make filming police brutality a felony. A year or two ago such a search would call up hundreds of thousands of videos.

In one of the most recent of the numerous daily acts of gratuitous police abuse of citizens, an 84-year-old man had his neck broken because he objected to a night time towing of his car. The goon cop body-slammed the 84-year old and broke his neck. The Orlando, Florida, police department says that the old man was a “threat” to the well-armed much younger police goon, because the old man clenched his fist.
Americans will be the first people sent straight to Hell while thinking that they are the salt of the earth. The Americans have even devised a title for themselves to rival that of the Israelis’ self-designation as “God’s Chosen People.” The Americans call themselves “the indispensable people.”

Paul Craig Roberts was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

"It is moral leprosy."

Retribution for a World Lost in Screens 

Posted on Sep 27, 2010

Nemesis was the Greek goddess of retribution. She exacted divine punishment on arrogant mortals who believed they could defy the gods, turn themselves into objects of worship and build ruthless systems of power to control the world around them. The price of such hubris was almost always death.

Nemesis, related to the Greek word némein, means “to give what is due.” Our nemesis fast approaches. We will get what we are due. The staggering myopia of our corrupt political and economic elite, which plunder the nation’s wealth for financial speculation and endless war, the mass retreat of citizens into virtual hallucinations, the collapsing edifices around us, which include the ecosystem that sustains life, are ignored for a giddy self-worship. We stare into electronic screens just as Narcissus, besotted with his own reflection, stared into a pool of water until he wasted away and died.

We believe that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war. We believe that money, rather than manufactured products and goods, is real. We believe in the myth of inevitable human moral and material progress. We believe that no matter how much damage we do to the Earth or our society, science and technology will save us. And as temperatures on the planet steadily rise, as droughts devastate cropland, as the bleaching of coral reefs threatens to wipe out 25 percent of all marine species, as countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh succumb to severe flooding, as we poison our food, air and water, as we refuse to confront our addiction to fossil fuels and coal, as we dismantle our manufacturing base and plunge tens of millions of Americans into a permanent and desperate underclass, we flick on a screen and are entranced.

We confuse the electronic image, a reflection back to us of ourselves, with the divine. We gawk at “reality” television, which of course is contrived reality, reveling in being the viewer and the viewed. True reality is obliterated from our consciousness. It is the electronic image that informs and defines us. It is the image that gives us our identity. It is the image that tells us what is attainable in the vast cult of the self, what we should desire, what we should seek to become and who we are. It is the image that tricks us into thinking we have become powerful—as the popularity of video games built around the themes of violence and war illustrates—while we have become enslaved and impoverished by the corporate state. The electronic image leads us back to the worship of ourselves. It is idolatry. Reality is replaced with electronic mechanisms for preening self-presentation—the core of social networking sites such as Facebook—and the illusion of self-fulfillment and self-empowerment. And in a world unmoored from the real, from human limitations and human potential, we inevitably embrace superstition and magic. This is what the worship of images is about. We retreat into a dark and irrational fear born out of a cavernous ignorance of the real. We enter an age of technological barbarism.

To those entranced by images, the world is a vast stage on which they are called to enact their dreams. It is a world of constant action, stimulation and personal advancement. It is a world of thrills and momentary ecstasy. It is a world of ceaseless movement. It makes a fetish of competition. It is a world where commercial products and electronic images serve as a pseudo-therapy that caters to feelings of alienation, inadequacy and powerlessness. We may be locked in dead-end jobs, have no meaningful relationships and be confused about our identities, but we can blast our way to power holding a little control panel while looking for hours at a screen. We can ridicule the poor, the ignorant and the weak all day long on trash-talk shows and reality television shows. We are skillfully made to feel that we have a personal relationship, a false communion, with the famous—look at the outpouring of grief at the death of Princess Diana or Michael Jackson. We have never met those we adore. We know only their manufactured image. They appear to us on screens. They are not, at least to us, real people. And yet we worship and seek to emulate them.
In this state of cultural illusion any description of actual reality, because it does not consist of the happy talk that pollutes the airwaves from National Public Radio to Oprah, is dismissed as “negative” or “pessimistic.” The beleaguered Jeremiahs who momentarily stumble into our consciousness and in a desperate frenzy seek to warn us of our impending self-destruction are derided because they do not lay out easy formulas that permit us to drift back into fantasy. We tell ourselves they are overreacting. If reality is a bummer, and if there are no easy solutions, we don’t want to hear about it. The facts of economic and environmental collapse, now incontrovertible, cannot be discussed unless they are turned into joking banter or come accompanied with a neat, pleasing solution, the kind we are fed at the conclusion of the movies, electronic games, talk shows and sitcoms, the kind that dulls our minds into passive and empty receptacles. We have been conditioned by electronic hallucinations to expect happy talk. We demand it.

We confuse this happy talk with hope. But hope is not about a belief in progress. Hope is about protecting simple human decency and demanding justice. Hope is the belief, not necessarily grounded in the tangible, that those whose greed, stupidity and complacency have allowed us to be driven over a cliff shall one day be brought down. Hope is about existing in a perpetual state of rebellion, a constant antagonism to all centers of power. The great moral voices, George Orwell and Albert Camus being perhaps two of the finest examples, describe in moving detail the human suffering we ignore or excuse. They understand that the greatest instrument for moral good is the imagination. The ability to perceive the pain and suffering of another, to feel, as King Lear says, what wretches feel, is a more powerful social corrective than the shelves of turgid religious and philosophical treatises on human will. Those who change the world for the better, who offer us hope, have the capacity to make us step outside of ourselves and feel empathy.

A print-based culture, as writer Neil Postman pointed out, demands rationality. The sequential, propositional character of the written word fosters what Walter Ong calls the “analytic management of knowledge.” But our brave new world of images dispenses with these attributes because the images do not require them to be understood. Communication in the image-based culture is not about knowledge. It is about the corporate manipulation of emotions, something logic, order, nuance and context protect us against. Thinking, in short, is forbidden. Entertainment and spectacle have become the aim of all human endeavors, including politics, which is how Stephen Colbert, playing his television character, can be permitted to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Campaigns are built around the manufactured personal narratives of candidates, who function as political celebrities, rather than policies or ideas. News reports have become soap operas and mini-dramas revolving around the latest celebrity scandal.

Colleges and universities, which view students as customers and suck obscene tuition payments and loans out of them with the tantalizing promise of high-paying corporate jobs, have transformed themselves into resorts and theme parks. In this new system of education almost no one fails. Students become “brothers” or “sisters” in the atavistic, tribal embrace of eating clubs, fraternities or sororities. School spirit and school branding is paramount. Campus security keeps these isolated enclaves of privilege secure. And 90,000-seat football stadiums, along with their millionaire coaches, dominate the campus. It is moral leprosy.

The role of knowledge and art, as the ancient Greeks understood, is to create ekstasis, which means standing outside one’s self to give our individual life and struggle meaning and perspective. The role of art and scholarship is to transform us as individuals, not entertain us as a group. It is to nurture this capacity for understanding and empathy. Art and scholarship allow us to see the underlying structures and assumptions used to manipulate and control us. And this is why art, like intellectual endeavor, is feared by the corporate elite as subversive. This is why corporations have used their money to deform universities into vocational schools that spit out blinkered and illiterate systems managers. This is why the humanities are withering away.

The vast stage of entertainment that envelops our culture is intended to impart the opposite of ekstasis. Mass entertainment plays to the basest and crudest instincts of the crowd. It conditions us to have the same aspirations and desires. It forces us to speak in the same dead clichés and slogans. It homogenizes human experience. It wallows in a cloying nostalgia and sentimentalism that foster historical amnesia. It turns the Other into a cartoon or a stereotype. It prohibits empathy because it prohibits understanding. It denies human singularity and uniqueness. It assures us that we all have within us the ability, talent or luck to become famous and rich. It forms us into a lowing and compliant herd. We have been conditioned to believe—defying all the great moral and philosophical writers from Socrates to Orwell—that the aim of life is not to understand but to be entertained. If we do not shake ourselves awake from our electronic hallucinations and defy the elites who are ruining the country and trashing the planet we will experience the awful and deadly retribution of the gods.

Monday, September 27, 2010

And Now, Some Words from the Red Book

     "So they passed into the northern marches of that land that Men once called Ithilien, a fair country of climbing woods and swift-falling streams.  The night became fine under star and round moon, and it seemed to the hobbits that the fragrance of the air grew as they went forward; and from the blowing and muttering of Gollum it seemed that he noticed it too, and did not relish it.  At the first signs of day they halted again.  They had come to the end of a long cutting, deep, and sheer-sided in the middle, by which the road clove its way through a stony ridge.  Now they climbed up the westward bank and looked abroad.
     "Day was opening in the sky, and they saw that the mountains were now much further off, receding eastward in a long curve that was lost in the distance.  Before them, as they turned west, gentle slopes ran down into dim hazes far below.  All about them were small woods of resinous trees, fir and cedar and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire, with wide glades among them; and everywhere there was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs.  The long journey from Rivendell had brought them far south of their own land, but not until now in this more sheltered region had the hobbits felt the change of clime.  Here Spring was already busy about them:  fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers were opening in the turf, birds were singing.  Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.
     "South and west it looked towards the warm lower vales of Anduin, shielded from the east by the Ephel Duath and yet not under the mountain-shadow, protected from the north by the Emyn Muil, open to the southern airs and the moist winds from the Sea far away.  Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams and new-sprouting parsleys, and many herbs of forms and scents beyond the garden-lore of Sam.  The grots and rocky walls were already starred with saxifrages and stonecrops.  Primeroles and anemones were awake in the filbert-brakes; and asphodel and many lily-flowers nodded their half-opened heads in the grass:  deep green grass beside the pools, where falling streams halted in cool hollows on their journey down to Anduin."

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King, Book Four, Part IV:  'Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Balloon Seeks Pin

by Guy McPherson
Nature Bats Last

I speak openly about myriad ongoing collapses, regardless how others respond. Among the costs: Rumors of my insanity have spread beyond the institution I departed and throughout the nation’s hallowed halls. Apparently I’ve contracted a rare disease, which explains the insanity. I can only hope (i.e., wish) it’s not fatal. Further evidence I’ve lost my mind, according to former colleagues: My wife, refusing to live with a crazy man — and you’d have to be crazy to leave a tenured gig as full professor at the age of 49 — chooses to stay in Tucson.

A line from Hunter S Thompson comes to mind: “I wouldn’t recommend sex, drugs or insanity for everyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

The single best word I can come up with to describe the response to my actions: sad. That the self-proclaimed intellectual elite in this country find simply unfathomable the decision to pursue morality over money is as sad as the wise ape finding itself in the midst of two dire fossil-fuel predicaments.
The moral imperative associated with abandoning imperial pursuits hasn’t caught on yet among my ivory-tower colleagues. Although this makes me sad, it comes as no surprise to me: In my experience, university administrators reward unethical behavior and punish people for acting ethically. Reflecting culture, universities are structured to generate financial wealth for those at the top of the pyramid.

Indeed, this propensity for the easy and hence immoral life, underlain by evolution, likely is the primary contributor to both fossil-fuel predicaments. We have trapped ourselves in civilization, thus in the cities. The results likely will be catastrophic for industrial humans, as they have been and continue to be for non-industrial humans and non-human species. After all, you know the line about the root of all evil, and you also know how Ponzi schemes turn out.

On the topic of Ponzi schemes, consider two seemingly disparate examples. A chain letter is illegal because early adopters steal from future participants under false premises. When this same phenomenon occurs at the level of a nation, it’s not called a Ponzi scheme. In that case, the relevant term is “good monetary policy.”
Let’s ignore for a moment the collapse of my ego and contemplate the other collapses, with my usual focus on the environment and the industrial economy. As I’ve suggested previously, if you think the latter is more important than the former, try holding your breath while counting your money.

On the topic of environmental devastation — the one that really matters, if we’re to avoid our own extinction — we have the federal government is hindering investigations in the Gulf of Mexico, even going so far as to crack down on science and scientists under the guise of homeland security and intimidate scientists who might reveal the truth. We wouldn’t want American citizens to know about massive fish kills. I suppose that’s better than ordering the assassination of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, as the Obama administration now claims as a right of the executive branch. Consistent with governmental lies willingly ignored by the media, the feds refuse to investigate the events of 11 September 2001, the so-called date of infamy characterized by the mother of all coincidences.

The federal government’s response to citizen outrage is to quell the outrage and continue rewarding the companies driving it. Consider, for example, the Orwellian U.S. Department of Homeland Security tracking people who protest energy companies, then sending the data to the energy companies. Apparently my tax dollars are being put to good use: spying on fellow citizens to benefit Big Oil.

Bread and circuses aside, we’re on the verge of an international food crisis. In other cultures, food and water are free. In this culture, the financially wealthy are further enriched because we place our food and water under lock and key, and the key is given to the rich. Coincident with locking up the food, we’re also on the verge of an unprecedented dose of austerity plunging the planet into new financial, monetary, economic and social chaos.

Global climate change stands as a fine example of environmental collapse. On that front, climate scientists continue to equivocate, giving Glenn Beck and his ilk every opportunity further confuse a country filled with environmentally illiterate citizens consumers. It doesn’t help that the all-star of the climate-change “movement” is Bill McKibben, who believes real reform lies in solar panels and wishing Barack Obama will take meaningful political action. But Obama know we’re running out of the lifeblood of civilization, so he’ll use any means necessary to secure black gold. Without cheap oil, as I’ve pointed out innumerable times, we cannot experience economic growth. Even Shell Oil admits we’re headed for an oil shock, although they put the timing far enough into the future than nobody will actually care. And please remember the Khazzoom–Brookes postulate: Energy efficiency and conservation cannot be used to solve this particular predicament
Further into the subject of environmental destruction, with a tad of human brutality thrown in, the Toronto Sun reveals what any sentient person already know about Afghanistan: It’s a worsening imperial disaster that threatens to take America into the abyss. Iraq might do the trick first, even without “combat” troops there (the non-combat troops look a lot like combat troops, though). Sandwiched between those two countries, Iran is beating the drums of war.

In short, the U.S. has lost control of its own destiny. That’s what the undulating plateau of oil extraction will do for a country wholly dependent on ready access to cheap oil. Even data provided by BP acknowledge we’ve passed the world oil peak, with no appreciable extraction since 1998. Small wonder the industrial economy has suffered a lost decade, and is headed for Dow 2000 and the biggest bear market in three centuries.

Meanwhile, as if there remained any doubt, neoclassical economists have proven themselves uniformly worthless. Needless to say, American politicians, media outlets, and citizens continue to worship them, which is completely consistent with our inability to process reality.

After all, the recession is over. According to the economists, it ended in June 2009. I’m sure the boys at the unemployment office will be pleased to hear it. Lest you think it’s time to buy stocks, that particular market is stunningly overpriced, which helps explain why insiders are selling at 290 times the rate they are buying. According to Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s sidekick at Berkshire Hathaway, all you un- and under-employed losers need to suck it in. Yes, this is the same ultra-wealthy Munger who last week assured us there’d be more economic pain to come (though undoubtedly not for him) and seven months ago told us, with respect to the industrial economy, basically, it’s over.

Nietzsche’s maxim comes to mind: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” For me, here and now, it’s a race for my physical body, with the outcome seriously in doubt. For the living planet, the race is vastly more important, and the stakes couldn’t be higher: Can we pop the balloon called the industrial economy before it kills the remainder of living planet? How much longer will we trade food for fuel, imperial luxury today for starvation tomorrow, economic growth for a an overheated planet, and life for death?

Friday, September 17, 2010

And Now, Some Words from the Red Book

     "So they passed into Eregion, and at last a fair morning dawned, shimmering above gleaming mists; and looking from their camp on a low hill the travellers saw away in the east the Sun catching three peaks that thrust up into the sky through floating clouds:  Caradhras, Celebdil, and Fanuidhol.  They were near to the Gates of Moria.
     "Here now for seven days they tarried, for the time was at hand for another parting which they were loth to make.  Soon Celeborn and Galadriel and their folk would turn eastward, and so pass by the Redhorn Gate and down the Dimrill Stair to the Silverlode and to their own country.  They had journeyed thus far by the west-ways, for they had much to speak of with Elrond and with Gandalf, and here they lingered still in converse with their friends.  Often long after the hobbits were wrapped in sleep they would sit together under the stars, recalling the ages that were gone and all their joys and labours in the world, or holding council, concerning the days to come.  If any wanderer had chanced to pass, little would he have seen or heard, and it would have seemed to him only that he saw grey figures, carved in stone, memorials of forgotten things now lost in unpeopled lands.  For they did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind; and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro.
     "But at length all was said, and they parted again for a while, until it was time for the Three Rings to pass away.  Quickly fading into the stones and the shadows the grey-cloaked people of Lorien rode towards the mountains; and those who were going to Rivendell sat on the hill and watched, until there came out of the gathering mist a flash; and then they saw no more.  Frodo knew that Galadriel had held aloft her ring in token of farewell." 

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter VI:  "Many Partings"

Thursday, September 9, 2010

State(s) of Decay

Been a lot of buzz this week about something called a 'recovery' regarding the U.S./world economy.  There are apparently fewer jobless claims.  There is supposedly a bump in home prices.  Stocks gained in 6 out of the last 7 trading sessions.

Interestingly, gold and silver are scratching their respective ceilings as we head into the final two weeks of summer.  (In this I was only partially right in my previous post, where I called for the gold bubble to pop... it has not, but silver continues to do very well, as I held.  Honestly, even at $20/oz., it's still a tremendous bargain.)  Crude oil is remaining constant... although prices at the pump went up about 9 cents in my neck of the woods.  Inflation?  Maybe.

Speaking of price increases, bought any groceries lately?  I have.  I actually buy a good chunk of groceries for my family every Friday morning.  I'm lucky to get out of the store for less than $50... and that's without getting any meats, which I leave to the wife to do, as she's better at picking them out than I am.  Inflation?  Probably.


Then there's my job.  I get at least 2-3 inquiries a day about job openings at my store.  (There are none.)  I had a young girl actually break down and start crying one day last week, after I gently told her we were not currently looking to do any hiring.

But hey, the stock market's rallying!  Also, Obama's proposing to spend billions (pulled out of Ben Bernanke's ass) on projects to build miles of new roads and airport runways, in order to provide jobs.  Apparently he's not worried about trivial matters like Peak Oil, which the world apparently (obliviously) passed sometime around aught-five.  That it may be prohibitively expensive to drive anywhere by then is, apparently, a moot point.  What's important is the short term, the Here and Now, and that means Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, plenty and often.

You know, I watch the stock market pretty regulalry, and am regularly pretty incredulous.  No amount of bad news can slow down the apparently boundless optimism of the American Investor for long.  (That, plus there's a sucker born every minute, as the saying goes.)  A little bad news causes a slight flutter, but not for long.  Talk of a Double-Dip Recession (sounds like a dessert at Baskin Robbins) is fading fast... it's been at least a couple of weeks since I heard Maria Bartiromo's (of CNBC) utterance of the D-word (Depression) and the chorus of economists' shrill assurances that we are in No Such Thing, evident in the fresh goat innards laid out on the glass table there in the bureau's Manhattan office.

I, of course, believe that we are all seriously fucked.  Some more than others, of course, but we're all fucked, naetheless.  Luckily, most of the stupefied citizenry are paying rapt attention to matters of mosques and imams, and the dog-and-pony show known as the mid-term elections.  Otherwise, there'd be chaos in the streets, if they all knew how fucked we really are.  Such distractions allow the rest of us more time to prepare -- I for one have a garden to expand over the next few months, among other things.

The leaves on the dogwood and beech trees in my Angle are already turning and falling, possible signs of an especially long, cold Winter.  It is getting late in the season, but there is still opportunity to prepare for the hard times ahead.

Make haste.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

S.O.S., New Blog

That's Same Old Shit.  I've created a companion blog to the Gable Grey, unimaginatively titled Leaves from the Gable Grey.  It will house what passes for my fiction these days, or at least what I venture to throw out there.


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"