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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Rough Beast II - (January 1st, 2013)

The year is over, and the collective statement of most people I know is a heavy sigh, followed by muttered commentary. “Glad that’s over!”, and “Well, that’s behind us!” are common statements from people who, in the main, are now living the end-stage results of a nation gone off the rails.

While Republicans railed against All Things Obama and Democrats urged us all to double-down on the Guy They Got Elected in 2008, there were a few of us who pointed out some unpleasant truths. I’ll recap these before getting to the Main Event:

#1 – The Status Quo Won’t Effect Any Real Change – My apologies to the Democrats who frequent this modest piece of cyberrealestate, but you were sold out. As Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and one of the world’s most forthright, truthful and honest environmental authors, “I’d like to get the guy back who I voted for in 2008.” Obama made a lot of promises, all of which have disappeared into the rear-view mirror of history. Gone is the guy who promised to fix the mortgage crisis; tax the 1%; begin the heavy-lifting of fixing the environment; march with dispossessed union workers – in his place, we got a guy who remembered his promises to the people who funded his election, and acted accordingly. He remembered that America is now an Empire; that an Empire needs an Emperor, and that an Emperor doesn’t remain in power unless his imperium is underwritten by money and guns. Sic semper imbecilis; folks – or, if you prefer the words of the Guy in the Wheelchair in “The Big Lebowski”: “Condolences! Your revolution is over! The bums lost!”

#2 – Your Civil Liberties are Gone – Get Over It – This past January saw the final dismantling of the Bill of Rights in any real sense, when Barack Obama signed the then-latest iteration of the NDAA. In it, in case you were under a rock or living in an igloo near the polar cap, was Section 1021, which allows for the indefinite detention, without trial, of any American deemed an ‘enemy combatant’ by Congress and/or the President. Author and journalist Chris Hedges, along with several other activists, filed a lawsuit against Barack Obama and the Justice Department challenging this provision – but in spite of an early victory, the Government has aggressively challenged the suit and will in all likelihood win. As Hedges pointed out recently, the only reason the Government has fought so hard to retain Section 1021 is that they’re likely already using this provision, most probably involving Americans with dual-citizenship.

#3 – The Banks Won - In the end, it was inevitable, really. They have the money, and unlimited access to more, thanks to the Federal Reserve. We don’t. Back in 1913, when the Reserve was founded, the idea was that it would keep the banking system in check and prevent any more problems like the banking collapses of the 1870’s and 1890’s. Regulations were put in place, culminating with the body of law after the Great Depression. We had put Capitalism on a leash, and it served us well as long as we kept it under control. The banks were persistent, and beginning in the late ‘70’s they convinced (read: ‘bought’) enough lawmakers to begin dismantling the rules which prevented them from running the asylum as they saw fit. Beginning in the late ‘90’s, they did what bankers do when left to their own devices – create ‘bubbles’ out of which they can make obscene profits. With the collusion of the Fed, they’ve now implemented QE3 – bailing themselves out of the mortgage bubble. In the end, they’ll get it all, and America will cease being a nation of homeowners; the banks and their minions will own America’s housing-stock, and will have executed a splendid end-run around all of us, looting the Treasury in the process.

#4 – Elections Are A Joke – I've said it before, and at the risk of repeating myself, I'll say it again - the nation is ungovernable in any real sense. If you honestly believe that you had a voice this past fall, the most I can work up for you is a stupefied incredulity. You do not have my sympathies. I’ll say this again, also, as plainly as I know how: There isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties in any sense worth considering. If you’ve bought-into the ‘no one else has a chance’ nonsense, then you’re getting what you deserve.

#5 – Religion Is Not Only Useless, It’s Counterproductive – We Americans spend more money on religion than we do on anything else other than the military. While my position on the uselessness of this institution is already well-documented, it’s worth considering that we’ve allowed ourselves to be dragged into a collective sociopolitical snake-pit by the most vocal elements of the clergy, diluting our national discourse by way of strawmen like gay marriage and abortion. With over half of the nation’s voting populace convinced that a book written by a group of Bronze-Age goat-herders is not only true, but relevant, we’re just that much further from real solutions.

________________

2012, if anything, taught us that truths are, if anything, absolute – that’s why we call ‘em “truths”. Ignoring/denying the facts that the polar cap has shrunk enough to allow a permanent Northwest Passage and that the Greenland icecap has begun a wholesale meltoff doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t underway – it just means that the deniers are morons. Denying that your civil liberties are gone won’t change that fact, either. We’re past the point of peak oil, and denying that, along with saying that the economies of the world are going to get better, Real Soon Now, is equally stupid.

No, the current realities are these – we are a planet full of people with widely differing values – and for some of which, the ‘believers’ of same are perfectly willing to die, and take ‘unbelievers’ with them in carload-lots. Some of these beliefs (the right to breed indiscriminately, for example, and that every fetus is ‘sacred’, No Matter What) are running seriously counter to some seventh-grade math (the fact, for example, that we’re running out of every major resource, and rapidly). The world’s economic structures are based on a continuance of these resources, when every thinking person with credentials are telling us that we’ll need 1.5 ‘earths’ to supply the current needs of the population. This means that some people are going to live well, and others are going to Eat Shit and Die. Again; the seventh-grade math doesn’t accord any other potential.

America’s economists are telling us that good times are right around the corner. In one camp are the Responsibles, who are telling us that we can achieve a decent lifestyle for our population if we work smart, hard, fast, and make some necessary compromises – the Irresponsibles are telling us to double-down on what we’re already doing, and that by some magic alchemy we’ll achieve full employment and a country akin to what we thought the 1950’s were like, when every working-schmoe could earn a living on a par with a college-educated professional if he only worked hard enough.

The media has done a great job with this –we’ve been treated to a virtual smorgasbord of happy horseshit, telling us that the economy is fine; that the variant machinations of government and banking will lead to full employment, the end of the housing crisis and $1.25 gasoline.

They’ve ignored the warning signs of climate change and European ‘austerity’ (the system which lets the 1% continue with a tax-dodging lifestyle while the rest live on dog-food); as I write this, the polarized Congress has a fiscal-cliff bill in front of it, but likely won’t act until it’s too late. Around 2,000,000 people will lose unemployment benefits; homelessness will take another huge spike and the country will in all likelihood slide into another recession. Stay tuned.

Last year proved that the government, if anything, is ready for dissent – the FBI worked very well with local law-enforcement to quash the nascent Occupy movement; more proof that the 1% really do run the country, and that the Government really does know who got them elected, after all.

We’ll eventually be told that those people who got two Taser prongs shoved in their hide and their writhing carcasses handed a one-way ticket to one of the Empire’s shiny new Gulags had it coming, after all – that only the Bad People need to worry; that those overhead drones are nothing to fear, if we’ve nothing to hide.

I know better.

I Stayed Awake in Class.

The future? It won’t arrive with a bang. It’ll be a whimper. As long as the variant criminals in charge of things continue to promise us bread and circuses and good times right around the corner, I’ll bet that the majority of Americans will stay in line. They don’t know any better, and they’ve had at least two generations of believing the talking-heads of mainstream newscorps to do any differently.

The Fed will continue to print money under one of several schemes, giving it to insolvent banks which will turn around and stuff the economy with more bad paper. This will go on until some entity or another which is sufficiently large enough to bring the whole thing down finally can’t pay their bills.

It may be a state, as I mentioned in a piece about a year ago (a counterfactual in which the State of California defaulted); it could be a king-hell economic meltdown in China (which is more like a computerized, double-entry bookkeeping version of the Wild West, at least where financial law is concerned); it could be something else entirely (Europe and the Middle East are both huge wildcards in this high-stakes game). Regardless, we’ve handed the keys of the asylum to the inmates, both financial and political; we shouldn’t be surprised to see the whole damn thing unravel, and soon.

The underlying opus of the thing is (ironically), faith – faith that, in the end, these markets, this stuff called ‘money’, and their variant underpinnings –actually have value.

Meantime, the truths continue to be true. There are too many of us (I still believe that’s the root-cause of so much violence in the world, whether it’s a school shooting with a 30-person headcount or the same headcount every day, courtesy of the Empire’s predator-drones); there are too few resources; there is too little time left to sort out the first one before running out of the second.

It’s a safe bet that climate change will continue. Want some investment advice? Dig a well. A good, deep one. Start growing your own food. Do you live in flyover-country? Consider moving, unless you have a source of water that doesn’t depend on either the Canadian Shield, the Oglalla Aquifer, or some other underground source which can have the hell-and-gone fracked out of it by a greedy oil company. While your neighbors are wrestling with the idea of bread at $10/loaf and milk at $10/gallon when they can get it, you’ll at least be fed and clean. That’s something.

It’s an equally safe bet that the Fed is going to have to cease its ‘quantitative easing’ program in 2013, because printing money and stuffing the banks with it is eventually going to cause our trading partners to pause and reflect on the value of the dollar. Some many even cease to accept them. This would be very, very bad news indeed.

It’s a final bet that we’ll all look back and see 2012 as The Year Things Finally Started to Unravel.

Plan accordingly.
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