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Peak Everything: The ‘Solution’ is Collapse


 
A guest post from our esteemed, super-smart friend, Charles Hugh Smith, publisher of the Of Twos Minds blog and author of the new book, Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change

So the root problem is the system, human nature, blah blah blah. There are no “solutions” that can fix those defaults. Thus the “solution” is collapse.

Policies create incentives and disincentives. Some are intended, some fall into the category of unintended consequences. Regardless of their intention, policies that create windfalls (“easy money”) or open spigots of “free money” (or what is perceived as free money by the recipient) quickly gather the allegiance of everyone reaping the windfall or collecting the free money.

This allegiance is soon tempered into political steel by self-justification: humans excel at rationalizing their self-interest. Thus my share of the swag is soon “absolutely essential.”

Humans don’t need much incentive to pursue windfalls or free money—seeking windfalls in the here and now is our default setting. Taking the pulpit to denounce humanity’s innate greed, avarice and selfishness doesn’t change this, as seeking short-term windfalls has offered enormous selective advantages for hundreds of thousands of years.

That which is painful to those collecting free money will be avoided, and that which is easy will be pursued until it’s painful. Borrowing $1.5 trillion a year from toddlers and the unborn taxpayers of the future is easy and painless, as toddlers have no political power. So we will borrow from the powerless to fund our free money spigots until it becomes painful.

It won’t become painful to borrow from our grandkids for quite some time, and it will probably not become progressively painful, either, because we will suppress the pain with superlow interest rates and other trickery. The pain will more likely be of the sudden, unexpected, “this can’t be happening to me” heart-attack sort: the free-money machine will unexpectedly grind to a halt in some sort of easily predictable but always-in-the-future crisis.

“Solutions” that turn off the free money spigots are non-starters, not just from self-interest but from ideology. Any attempt to tighten the spigots steps on ideological toes, as each spigot is ideologically sacred to one political camp or another.

Liberals don’t want to hear about scamming of their sacred “we must help everyone in need” welfare programs, and conservatives don’t want to hear about cartel looting of their sacred “free enterprise” system.

And so we have gridlock, what I call profound political disunity. Everybody at each trough of free money fights tooth and nail to keep their spigot wide open, and so the “solution” is to borrow 10% of the nation’s output in “free money” every year until the free-money machine breaks down.

Each ideology worships their own version of cargo-cult economics: if we wave the dead chicken over the enchanted rocks while dancing the humba-humba, prosperity and abundance will magically return and we can “grow our way out of debt.”

We’re like a sprawling family bickering over the inheritance: we’ll keep arguing over who deserves what until the inheritance is gone. That will trigger one final outburst of finger-pointing, resentment and betrayal, and then we’ll go do something else to get by.

The “solution” is thus collapse. This model has been very effectively explored in The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization by Thomas Homer-Dixon. The basic idea is that when the carrying costs of the society exceed its output, the whole contraption collapses.

The political adjunct to this systemic implosion is that the productive people just stop supporting the Status Quo because it’s become too burdensome. The calculus of self-interest shifts from supporting the bloated, marginal-return Status Quo to abandoning it.

So the root problem is the system, human nature, blah blah blah. There are no “solutions” that can fix those defaults. The “solution” is collapse, as only collapse will force everyone to go do something more sustainable to get by.

Until then, arguing about “solutions” is a sport to be enjoyed sparingly.

Here’s my latest YouTube presentation with Gordon T. Long on “Peak Everything.” Lots of interesting charts:

 

 
Charles Hugh Smith’s new book is Resistance, Revolution, Liberation: A Model for Positive Change. Read the Introduction and Chapter One here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The rot of Citizen’s United and the grim future of American democracy
06.08.2012
08:35 am

Topics:
Politics

Tags:
Charles P. Pierce
Citizens United


 
I realize that I keep saying this, but it’s true and the best context I can offer: Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce is one of the—I think—top two political writers in America today, the other being Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, who is far better known. Everyone with even a passing interest about what happened with the Walker recall in Wisconsin needs to read Pierce’s spot-on post-mortem on the vote, “The Wisconsin Recall Aftermath: Scott Walker Steps Right Up into the Pocket of Those Who Got Him There.” Seriously, it’s a must-read if ever there was one and so is his blog, which I encourage you to bookmark.

I’ve been noticing with satisfaction in the past few days how some of Pierce’s posts at Esquire’s Politics blog have been zooming up the charts at reddit—and I’m trying to encourage more DM readers to discover Pierce’s writing, too—like this on-target statement about how big money/big corruption is destroying America. Apologies to Charles Pierce for snagging his entire post, but it’s too short—and the sentiments therein far too important—not to pass it on in full here:

The Rot of Citizens United Is Universal. Get Used to It.

It is a capital mistake to study the corrosive effect of the utterly corrupt Citizens United decision only in the context of the presidential contest, or in the context of other highly visible individual races, like the one for a U.S. Senate seat or last night’s Wisconsin recall. The rot in the system is poisonous, general, and spreading. 

(And have I mentioned really how utterly stupid it is to have an elected judiciary, especially in the current cash-soaked political atmosphere? It is the second-worst idea ever behind the Balanced Budget Amendment, aka The Stupidest Fking Idea Of All Time.)

Very soon, there is not going to be a single political campaign, no matter how small, that directly affects anything having to do with America’s corporate power, which is practically everything, that will not be swamped by anonymous cash laundered through bagmen organized under the banner of some nobly monickered political whorehouse. (While considering the names of the front groups, it is always important to remember the blog’s favorite quote from Sam Spade, of the firm of Spade And Archer: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”) As the NYT says:

“...Justice John Paul Stevens predicted that such spending would overwhelm state court races, which would be especially harmful since judges must not only be independent but be seen to be independent as well. North Carolina is proving him right.”

Of course, I’m sure that, sometime later this week, an earnest young scribe from Politico will tell me that everything’s okay because Democrats spend money, too, and, anyway… unions! So, coming soon to your town: the $40 million race for Register of Probate, and won’t that be fun?

You can follow Charles P. Pierce on Twitter. He’ll be an essential voice during this election cycle. If you are on Twitter, you should definately follow him, and bookmark the Esquire Politics blog.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Weedlord Bonerhitler, Breitbart’s Corpse & friends’ epic trolling of dumb Republican PR stunt


 
Earlier today, in a scene straight out of Veep (which is terrifically funny television, btw), the hapless underlings of the National Republican Congressional Committee oh-so-naively invited the entire Internet to sign a petition to repeal Obamacare, which would be webcast on LiveStream as a printer printed out each “signee.” (Who would give a shit about something as bloody boring as watching a PRINTER over the Internet, anyway? Oh, right, Republicans… I get it, I get it. Sorry, it was a brainfart).

The “Watch Your Petition Print” video feed lasted just minutes before frantic GOP staffers pulled the plug on signatories like “Grumpo Prembus,” “Barnacle Jim Long Face,” “Connie Lingus” and “Turd Sniffer.”

Despite their best efforts, the trolling lives on, on a Tumblr blog called The Angry Hand.
 

 

 
Via Wonkette

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Who’s the idiot: Sarah Palin says something that might be true for once
06.06.2012
09:14 am

Topics:
Class War
Politics

Tags:
Sarah Palin
Wisconsin


 
Sarah Palin might be a fucking idiot, but as the saying goes, a stopped clock is right twice a day. Via Politico:

“I think that the Democrats there understand that the president’s no-show represents the fact that Obama’s goose is cooked,” Palin told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News soon after networks called Walker the projected winner of the historic recall. She was referring to President Barack Obama’s decision not to campaign for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

As she denounced Obama’s “hopey changey stuff”, the former Alaska governor continued: “More and more Americans realize that what Wisconsin has just manifested via this vote … is the complete opposite of what president Obama and the White House represents today.”

Palin predicted that the Obama administration will try to downplay Walker’s victory and distance itself from the GOP’s win in Wisconsin.

“Jay Carney — can’t wait to see how he spins all this and ignores it, and President Obama himself,” she said. “They’re going to really try to distance themselves from this despite the fact that they, leading their lapdogs in the leftist media, made this a front page story for how many months? Months and months.”

She’s 100% correct.

Democrats can argue all they want that the WI recall election’s blowout conclusion has nothing to do with Obama’s electoral fortunes in the state—or nationally—but they’re just whistling past the graveyard.

It was fucking ridiculous to watch the deer-in-the-headlights pundits on MSNBC last night try to spin Walker’s victory AS IF it was, in fact, good news for Obama.

By that standard the 2010 election must have been terrific for Democrats also…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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I voted Republican for the very first time in my life today


 
Oh no you dit-ten…

Oh yes I did!
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Democrats vs. Republicans: An idiot’s perspective


 
Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

As seen in Wisconsin today. Photo by Daily Kos’s Jesse LaGreca.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Running on Empty: Jackson Browne speaks his mind about Obama
06.05.2012
12:36 pm

Topics:
Music
Politics

Tags:
Barack Obama
Jackson Browne


Jackson Browne at Occupy DC

Veteran Democratic fundraiser Jackson Browne says that he’ll still vote for Obama in November, but the legendary Laurel Canyon singer/songwriter is not exactly prepared to raise any more money for him as he told Sharon Waxman at The Wrap:

Are you involved in the presidential campaign?
No, I’m not. Actually I sort of turned a corner and decided that one of the problems in our political system is the money. However, I’m involved politically, and I’m very interested in the Occupy (Wall Street) movement.

I’m very interested in what people do individually and in groups, and it wouldn’t and shouldn’t be a fucking surprise to anybody that I’m going to vote for Obama—but honestly Obama once again has joined the ranks of the lesser of two evils. The great parade of people that the progressives get to vote for who are the lesser of two evils and who don’t really represent what I believe in any overwhelming balance.

But you’re not gonna—
No, I’m not going to raise money for people who don’t really… Look, Obama told me in a personal conversation that he wasn’t up for any new (nuclear) plants. Obviously, he changed his mind at some point. But what a surprise that one of his main supporters is the energy company, Exelon—which has nuclear plants—and that he would suddenly change his policy.

I don’t know what we would expect. He’s just as a beholden to the people who put him in office as any of the Republicans would be. But what’s a mystery to me is how he installed pretty much the exact same infrastructure in his administration that deals with finances as the administration that we thought we voted out. That’s really a shocker.

It’s a game of chicken. So I’m not going to participate. Every day it’s like a fever. Like, “Oh my God, if we don’t have $27,000 by tonight the DCC won’t think we’re being effective.” I mean I’m sorry, I can’t.

Read the entire interview at The Wrap

Jackson Browne performs acoustic versions of “These Days” and “Running on Empty” on Later with Jools Holland in 2004.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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PARENTAL ADVISORY EXPLICIT CONTENT: Jello Biafra vs Tipper Gore on Oprah, 1990


 
The whole PMRC music censorship flap of the 80s and 90s is a rare—BUT NO LESS DEFINITIVE—example of Democrats being just as bad, if not far worse, than Republicans can be.

The PMRC (“Parent Music Resource Group”) was headed by Al Gore’s then wife, Tipper Gore and Susan Baker, wife of Bush I’s then Treasury Secretary, James Baker, two bored Washington socialite busy-bodies who wanted to “make a difference” and get on tee-vee and stuff. Although the PRMC was nominally non-partisan, I blame the Democrats for supporting it more than I blame the Republicans (they didn’t call those Parental Advisory warnings “Tipper Stickers” for nuthin’).

The whole thing made it impossible for me to vote for Bill Clinton, with Gore as his running mate (both elections) and I didn’t vote for Gore in 2000, either. Clearly at one point in his public career, Al Gore backed censorship and thought crime as a winning political stance—he supported his wife’s efforts all the way—and frankly I didn’t need to know that much more about him. Gore might have rehabilitated himself somewhat with his environmental advocacy in recent years, but I still suspect that underneath he’s a total dickhead, nevertheless…

In 1990, The Oprah Winfrey Show hosted former Dead Kennedy Jello Biafra, Tipper Gore, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, future Fox News pundit, Juan Williams, Ice-T and Nelson George to discuss the PMRC issue.

For those of you too young to have lived through this, here a succinct bit of background from Biafra’s Wikipedia entry that will fill you in:

In April 1986, police officers raided his house in response to complaints by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). In June 1986, L.A. deputy city attorney Michael Guarino, working under City Attorney James Hahn, brought Biafra to trial in Los Angeles for distributing “harmful material to minors” in the Dead Kennedys album Frankenchrist. In actuality, the dispute was about neither the music nor the lyrics from the album, but rather the print of the H. R. Giger poster Landscape XX (Penis Landscape) [NSFW link] included with the album. Biafra believes the trial was politically motivated; it was often reported that the PMRC took Biafra to court as a cost-effective way of sending a message out to other musicians with content considered offensive in their music.

Music author Reebee Garofalo argued that Biafra and Alternative Tentacles may have been targeted because the label was a “small, self-managed and self-supported company that could ill afford a protracted legal battle.” Facing the possible sentence of a year in jail and a $2000 fine, Biafra, Dirk Dirksen, and Suzanne Stefanac founded the No More Censorship Defense Fund, a benefit made up of several punk rock bands, to help pay for his legal fees, which neither he nor his record label could afford. The jury deadlocked 5 to 7 in favor of acquittal, prompting a mistrial; despite a motion to re-try the case, the judge ordered all charges dropped.[citation needed] The Dead Kennedys disbanded during the trial, in December 1986, due to the mounting legal costs; in the wake of their disbandment, Biafra made a career of his spoken word performances. His early spoken word albums focused heavily on the trial (especially in High Priest of Harmful Matter), which made him renowned for his anti-censorship stance.

No one has posted Biafra’s amazing 45-minute long “Tales from the Trial” rant on YouTube, but I’m sure it’s pretty easy to track down.

Below, highlights of Jello Biafra absolutely eviscerating Tipper Gore’s pro-censorship arguments. This is an amazing piece of history, it really is:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Former Fox News/CNN reporter doubles down: Scott Walker IS the target of federal crime probe


 
Although the wild rumors of Scott Walker leaving behind his love-child from a college-age tryst seemed just a bit far-fetched (a sex scandal seems so unlikely for a guy with a face like Walker’s, don’t you think?) and truly “too good to be true,” the same can’t be said when an Emmy award-winning journalist who has worked for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, a former Attorney General and a former District Attorney all say that Walker IS the target of the so-called “John Doe” investigation… on a federal level.

It would kind of make sense, um, considering that THIRTEEN of Walker’s subordinates have been granted immunity and five people close to him have already been indicted.

Just musing aloud here…

Ruth Conniff writes at The Isthmus:

With the recall election less than two days away, federal prosecutors are closing in on Governor Scott Walker, according to veteran political reporter David Shuster, former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, and former district attorney Bob Jambois.

In a conference call organized by state Democrats on Saturday evening, June 2, Shuster, Lautenschlager, and Jambois laid out evidence that Walker is a target of a federal investigation.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Communications Director Graeme Zielinski added that there is evidence of wrongdoing after Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive, and that the investigation includes criminal activity during his time as governor.

Based on conversations with a lawyer who has knowledge of the investigation, “We believe that Scott Walker set up a secret computer network in the governor’s office and Department of Administration offices, and that the John Doe investigation is seeking evidence of crimes he committed in Madison,” Zielinski said.

Walker denied the allegations. At a campaign event on Saturday, Walker answered “absolutely not” to reporters’ questions—raised by David Shuster’s reporting for Take Action News—about whether he had been informed, either formally or informally, that he might be a target of federal prosecution. “I’ve never heard a single thing about that, other than spin from the left,” Walker said. He described the allegations as “just more of the liberal scare tactics out there desperately trying to get the campaign off target.”

“I stand by my reporting 100 percent,” Shuster said in the conference call. “It’s clear to me that he is, in fact, a target in a federal investigation.”

Despite copious reporting, especially in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, about the Milwaukee County district attorney’s probe of alleged violations when Walker was county executive—including a secret email network maintained by his staff for the purpose of conducting illegal campaign activity on county time, the theft of funds intended for the widows and orphans of Iraq War veterans, and possible favorable treatment of campaign donors seeking public contracts, not much has been written about the FBI probe.

“The Wisconsin press has only reported about the John Doe—the state component,” said Zielinski. “They have not reported on the federal component of this.”

“I’ve been reporting on federal grand juries for twenty years”—including Justice Department probes of former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, Monica Lewinsky, Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, and Jack Abramoff—said David Shuster, a former reporter for Fox News and anchor for MSNBC, who now works with Take Action News and as a host on Current TV.

In his reporting on FBI involvement in the current probe of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Shuster said he consulted with Justice Department attorneys in the public integrity section and “I got independent confirmation that he’s a target.”

Shuster said that he had learned Scott Walker’s attorneys had been seeking to have their client publicly cleared of wrongdoing for the last five or six weeks, in the run-up to the recall election. Prosecutors could not clear him, Shuster said, because Walker is a target.

The ongoing John Doe investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney has led to criminal charges against three of Walker’s former aides, an appointee, and a major donor. Thirteen of Walker’s associates have been granted immunity—including Walker’s spokesman, Cullen Werwie.

Recent campaign finance filings show that Walker has transferred a total of $160,000 into a criminal defense fund— the only criminal defense fund maintained by a governor of any state in the nation.

Of course Walker denies all of this. He would, wound’t he?

This is going to be fucking fascinating to watch unfold.

Read more:
Legal cloud gathers over Scott Walker as recall election approaches (The Isthmus)

Below, Journalist David Shuster and Wisconsin Democratic Party Communications Director Graeme Zielinski discuss the situation on Current TV:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘The Queen Is Dead’: Derek Jarman’s film for The Smiths, from 1986

Jarman_Smiths_Queen_Dead
 
As Britain prepares for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty, here is The Queen is Dead - Derek Jarman’s Super 8 film triptych (made in collaboration John Maybury, Richard Heslop and Chis Hughes) for 3 classic tracks by The Smiths: “The Queen is Dead,” “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “Panic.”

Inner city angst, urban decay, alienation, cute hairstyles, and lots of hand held camera work, well it was the eighties.
 

 
With thanks to Neil McDonald
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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