The news of the last days – no, not those Last Days – contain a veritable gold-mine of Cassandra notes, the currency of prognostications, almost always pessimistic, at least for those nostalgic for some imagined golden past. Beyond the tawdry UK scandals surrounding The News of the World and Mr. Murdoch and friends – a truly sordid if not perfectly expectable affair of criminality, phone hacking, extortion and other such pleasantries swirling around politicians caught in their own tripe – there are other signals portending a future of serial calamities.
For example, in the US the Kabuki theatrics of our impending August 2nd raise-the-debt-ceiling crisis, prompted by the ridiculed Tea Party in league with the now mindless Republican Party, colludes to conveniently hide many things. Such as that Mr Obama, the ostensible Democratic President, once again swirls the walnut shells, and comes out “the winner” in so far as thwarting (or not) the Right-wing budget tantrum, he is able for some to maintain the illusion that he is not a Republican. Giving 3/4’s of their demands up-front, he pretends that not quite giving in 100%, he has won instead of lost. And certainly in his own mind and world, he has won again: the good Harvard grad, University of Chicago Professor on Constitutional Law, golden boy of the 2004 Democratic Convention has once again done the shimmy-sham, and played Uncle Tom yet again, with his PC paralyzed base snookered once again. Perhaps. It seems a large swathe of his once-supporters have wised-up to the con, and would prefer the whole house of cards collapsed now rather than carry on with the pretense that we have anything but an oligarchic near-police state anymore.
Harvard Man Does Minstrel Show Reversal, Black Skin/White Show
Glancing to the fiscal figures of recent days, the stock market does its customary yo-yo around the number DJ 2,500 figure, swooning a bit at the report that, say, Italy might join the PIGS (new name I-PIGS? PIGSI?) in the trembling at default, thus smashing the Euro-zone to bits. Domestically the bobble-heads talk shrilly about an impending US Government default, Moody’s ratings firm issues ominous warnings of down-grading US bonds from the AAA status (the same status Lehman Bros had a few days before it collapsed…), and all manner of blather is slung left and right. In the midst of it all one huge factor is scarcely ever mentioned (except from we “radical left-wingers”):
Education, housing, transportation, healthcare are all under the guillotine – the apt cutting device of this particular Bastille Day – of “fiscal prudence” in the eyes of the Right, near and far. On the other hand we hear scarcely a murmur regarding Uncle Sam’s biggest by far expenditure, that great red pie slice up there signifying our glorious military and all its adjuncts. Nor from our Republican friends do we hear a whisper of the actual gritty down-home effects of two misguided wars launched under their tutelage, along with a massive tax-cut at the same time, the first time our government has sought to balance the cost of warring on the backs of the unborn for whom Iraq and Afghanistan will be ancient history if there’s any American history left for them to ponder, rather than by taxation on those doing the warring.
Sandstorm over Phoenix, July 7Wallow Fire, AZ, June 11Driving into the future
Accompanying the five year long drought across the southern tier of the USA are numerous other global warming signs – aside from the simple one that cumulatively the global temperature is indeed hotter – fitting rather precisely the predictions of computer models of what should happen if the “theory” is correct: more volatile weather as harsher shifts between cold and hot, moist and dry, drive the usual weather-making machinery of nature onto steroids. The past winter saw record snow in the Sierras, Cascades and Rockies, which fits correctly (if not intuitively to most minds) the theory: warmer air carries more water, hence the warmer ocean air picks up more moisture and dumps it at high altitudes as snow. At lower altitudes this moisture takes on monsoon rain qualities – hence the swollen Missouri and Mississippi and its many tributaries having record floods this spring. The same snow-pack, usually desirable as a slow-motion reservoir of water becomes a danger when it is confronted with quick summer warming and melts beyond the capacity of run-off systems – streams, rivers, and natural lakes and man-made dammed reservoirs. Coupled with other warming phenomenon – pine-bark beetle infestations moving northward throughout the west, making for dead, tinder-dry forests – we can anticipate more forest fires, the erosion of mountain soils in consequence, less holding capacity for moisture, increased flooding, and a vast litany of cause-and-effect follow on effects, which, no surprise, makes the Phoenix sand-storm perfectly natural: there will be many more, and in due time as with the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 30’s, there will be another mass migration.
The Phoenix metropolitan area composes about 4 and a half million people, and growing, in a place which lacks a meaningful natural water supply aside from its ground water, the deposit of millions of years (in an area where many insist the world is 6,000 years old). Urban residents average 150 gallons per day of water use; agriculture is a heavier user. In plain and simple language, the aquifer is dropping rapidly as it is used far more quickly than it is replenished, despite a project to renew the supply via the Colorado River, which under an early regional water agreement allocating the amount of Colorado River water to each area, is brought by canals reaching far from the Colorado. At present the Colorado is a virtual trickle as it enters the Gulf of Baja or simply doesn’t arrive there. Other users of the Colorado include Tuscon, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles. California is the major user of this Rocky Mountain resource – to supply the arid desert realm of Southern California.
And so as the effects of global warming move relentlessly on, our politicians dither about whose neck to slit in the name of propping up the vast illusion which is our economy. In the name of globalization we have decimated our industrial base, with government incentives to corporations to off-shore operations to low-cost labor, low-regulation countries to be victimized in the name of profit, the center-piece of the “free market economy” altar. It is already far too late to forestall far more profound impacts of our messing with the planet’s ecosystem and its self-adjusting balancing mechanisms. We have thrown it off kilter, and our kamikazi politicians in league with their corporate owners, blinded by the immense profits they have thus accrued, are unable to see it regardless of what in-your-face evidence life provides them, or what scientific studies and researches point to. Their religion, like that of fundamentalists of all kinds, cannot be challenged as it leaves the believer naked and defenseless.
Worthless Weimar Marks
Money, in theory is meant to be a social lubricant, to ease the process of making an exchange of something: this thing for that labor; this thing for that thing. As such it is in effect a contract, requiring a shared trust/faith in its meaning and value. In reality, like Mr Bush’s Constitution, it is just a “damned piece of paper.” Money, like most everyday things, is so omnipresent, that we seldom question or challenge it or its supposed meaning. Just as most residents of Phoenix likely give very little thought to water (or electricity or their food etc.) and how it gets to them, and how very valuable it is: you can’t live without it – even the most highly evolved desert creature capable of surviving a thousand times less than a human, needs just a little, somehow. The same occurs with money – we work to earn it, we save it, we spend it. We seldom think that what it represents is a broad social agreement that a given number of these pieces of paper is worth an hour of my time, or a cup of coffee, or a car or house. We just blindly accept it, and the economists speak in a distant mumbo-jumbo, and Wall Street bankers in a still more distant one. They are, after all, priests, and they do the dirty work behind a screen of ritual and religious genuflection.
Deutsche Markes being swept up on the street
Once upon a time, in a sophisticated European country, and not very long ago, following a nasty war, and other social upheavals, a government printed up money, and it was trusted. Until it wasn’t. Lacking social cohesion and trust, the money became Mr. Bush’s “damned piece of paper”, and no one would trade it for a loaf of bread. We like to imagine that the wise men of our society – men like Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner and all the rest have figured out how to make this no longer happen. Well, Ben and Timothy are not wise men, they are bag-men for Wall Street, which being the vortex of the money-worshiping cargo-cult belief of “the market” is the place most desperately worried about retaining the “value” of their pieces-of-paper commodity. Hence the quasi-religious groupings and gatherings of the Bilderberg people, the conclaves in Davos, Switzerland, the pontificatory annuncios of their spokespersons. As in 2008, when they announced the sky would fall if Uncle Sam did not print up 800 billion dollars to be forked over instantly, no questions asked or to be asked, or otherwise the world as we know it would collapse. The money was promptly forked over by then by President Bush on the advice of Secretary of the Treasury Paulson, (who formerly worked at Goldman Sachs) and the world was, it seemed, made whole again, if rather tattered. This was, behind the glitzy personages in attendance, a pure massive world-record heist. Millions were quickly unemployed and millions lost their mortgages, but the CEO’s of Wall Street shortly picked up very fat bonuses. It goes on today, the names changed (if not the professional backgrounds listed in the resumes), and we are hearing the same things.
Giulio Tremonti and Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi
As tremors run through Europe in the face of the imminent default (can’t pay the bills, in this case the interest on the bills) of Greece, suddenly the rumor was next in line was Italy, which, like Greece and Ireland and Portugal and Spain, is deeply in debt and the bankers were about to pull the plug. Berlusconi, seen above in his botoxed plastic-surgery stretched hair-implant cyborg pre-death-embalmed form, is Italy’s richest man, and if measured another way, its hands-down biggest crook. He, and others like him, stand to lose the most if suddenly the currency du jour no longer has value. Hence their desperate scramble to keep the edifice of the Euro standing, which, as it just so happens, is intimately linked to the good old greenback: on getting their 800 billion bucks from the Fed in 2008, rather than investing in America, the Wall Street banks loaned “cheap” money to European banks to loan for high interest rates, “expensive money”, to Greece and the other little piggies. And now it is all going sour yet again, and the tottering house of wobbly cards called international finance is once again threatening to collapse.
So our governments lie about the unemployment figures; they lie about what money really is, and what markets really are. Lies are Us should be their motto. Instead it is, in some mode or another, “In God We Trust.” Perhaps because at bottom they are fully aware that we certainly should not trust in them.
And so, in Europe as in America, governments are hastening to listen to the bond markets, and other such disembodied forces, introducing austerity measures as demanded: cuts in pensions, cuts in government services and employees, privatization of public properties and services. Basically whatever the Bilderberg boys club demands to keep the illusion of money going. So, if you paid into your nation’s version of Social Security for 40 years, on the contractual deal that when it was time to retire you’d get X, you’re just getting stiffed. Ditto for all the other slashes going on. So, in effect, you got taken for a ride, and now you are supposed to sit back and take it like, well, a sap.
There are, historically, other modes of slashing which have happened here and there, even quite recently – say, in Romania not so long ago. So here, on Bastille day, is a reminder. It has something to with going to hell in a basket.
Happy Bastille Day!