Why Can’t I

I think that writing does good things for my brain.  But I also have trouble when it seems that no one is paying attention.

It seems as though the process is a cry for attention on my part, mostly a plea to others to pay attention to the crap that is going on around you.  It is important and it will bite you in the ass sooner or later.

Why political correctness fails – Why what we know ‘for sure’ is wrong

Bravo Gail:

Our Finite World

Most of us are familiar with the Politically Correct (PC) World View. William Deresiewicz describes the view, which he calls the “religion of success,” as follows:

There is a right way to think and a right way to talk, and also a right set of things to think and talk about. Secularism is taken for granted. Environmentalism is a sacred cause. Issues of identity—principally the holy trinity of race, gender, and sexuality—occupy the center of concern.

There are other beliefs that go with this religion of success:

  • Wind and solar will save us.
  • Electric cars will make transportation possible indefinitely.
  • Our world leaders are all powerful.
  • Science has all of the answers.

To me, this story is pretty much equivalent to the article, “Earth Is Flat and Infinite, According to Paid Experts,” by Chris Hume in Funny Times. While the story is popular, it is…

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Deal Goes Down

Music to listen to:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju4zkZQQieU

I am a known and well documented Eeyore:  I wear it with pride.

I also recognize that said “Eeyore-ishness” is a function of age and is definitely directly related to my ever increasing dotage.  But let me take this moment of your time (and by doing so, call into question your time management skills) to explain how the process of looking at the world through the lens of cynicism sometimes gives one an advantage.

Star align.  Things happen in cycles.  There are portents out there, they aren’t found by epiphanies.  They are teased out by paying attention to the world around you, looking for clues in mundane things and mass movements.

Most importantly, at the end of the day, the ability to accept that your vision of the future is nothing more than assignment of probabilities to a set of future outcomes.  It also requires the understanding that one’s vision into the future can never, ever reach certainty.

Most everyone in the US today is infected by the false myth of a “Positive Mental Attitude” having an effect on the way the world goes.  This shit is an outgrowth of the hippie bullshit ginned-up by the self-actualization, follow your bliss idiots.  It is a great way to make yourself happy, but it most certainly isn’t a way to take a realistic view of what is coming.

Positive outcomes are only a part of the world.  Bad things happen to good people, Good things happen to bad people.   The PMA people are closing their eyes to a real set of possible outcomes, and by doing so, they are limiting the planning and thought that they can do in advance to ameliorate the negative.

So, in the twisty little back alleys of my stunted prescience gland, I have arbitrarily assigned a 30% chance of bad outcomes as a red-line for concern.  Less than that, things are just operating as normal, more than that, it is time to put some thought into mapping out a set of possible future scenarios and thinking through how to best navigate them.

For the past four or five years, the state of affairs here in the land o’ the free have not bumped over the 30% tripwire.  But I began to notice an upward movement in my “well shit” meter in early-to-mid-2016.   The eventuality of the election of one of two completely unacceptable choices started the push toward the magic 30%.  Well, in a nutshell, in the last week or two, the meter has pushed over the mark.

Look, I reckon that we are about 31% chance of a bad outcome at the national level. Bad outcomes at the national level drift down to make up a bigger shitstorm that I have to navigate.  This in turn makes it harder to live the simple life I so fervently desire, more chances of me having to live in an even smaller footprint than I currently reside (and that is with me consciously doing everything that I can to decrease my footprint).

There are still the usual suspects out there.

  • Energy use his heading downhill.  Now this might seem like a good thing, and it is a good thing in the long run, but for now, energy use and economic activity are intimately entwined.  If this keeps slipping, the economy may continue to slip with it.
  • Maybe it is different this time, but 2017 is looking a lot like 2007.  Real estate and stock market looking decidedly “frothy” and overpriced.
  • Trump is a buffoon, but he was elected fair and square.  It is looking more and more like the folks in Washington might do something stupid.  This might start us down the path of the Romans,  It won’t probably be a revolution like one expects out of a steady diet of Hollywood, but remember, removing the Gracchi started Rome down the path.
  • It looks like the folks in the NeoCon wing have gotten enough mojo together to trick Trump into upping the ante again in the Middle East and in Korea.
  • Politics are seriously poisoned.  We are still under the force of law of the stupid debt limit, the Democratic party is in a shambles, the Republicans are a clown car with no leadership (Thanks Donald), the corporations and the rich are in charge and all else is getting poorer.  There is a decent chance that the guvmint might shut down in the fall.
  • The disparity in wealth is getting worse, I cannot find a time when this ever turned out well.   Jobs are being eaten by offshoring, migrants, and automation. When the AI boom starts getting serious traction, wait until you see what this does to the office crowd.
  • Climate change/global warming/environmental degradation is starting to get traction.  We have known about this since the sixties, just never saw any reason to change what we are doing.  It is just starting to get noticable.  It isn’t going to get better.

There are more. but I think that this listing will provide you with a basic idea of the reasons that the chances of shit going wrong are high.  All of these phenomenon are in process now.  It appears to me that they are all inter-related and they are starting to feed off of each other.

Now, I am trying to take a look at what may cause movement in the opposite direction.  Truth be told, I don’t see much.  The plans that people have seem to be patches to keep the party going the way that it is going, rather than the changes required to move to something that works better.

But there is hope among the youth.  I think that, for the most part, they see that the way that the deal is going down is not going to be helping them.

Most of the fixes to the macro-structures that dominate the human ecology that is the political-economic realm are really not serious about making the changes needed to move to a mature society.  They tend toward the flim-flam and the promoter who tells people that they can have what they want rather than working out the ways to downshift to a system that is less energy dependent.

So, when I note that things are kinda going to hell right now, there are several big caveats that must be addressed:

  1.   The “going to hell” process is indeterminate.    No one is exactly sure where Hell starts and the road to it ends.  All I note is that we are on the path and I am trying to find a sign which tells me how far it is until we get there.
  2. What I really most about is those things I haven’t thought about.  It is those thing that you don’e expect that need the most looking for.  I have a truly bad feeling that the thing that sucker punches us will be something that will leave me saying:  “Didn’t see that one coming”.

 

 

How Should We Live?

“Of all the changes that the twentieth century has brought, none goes deeper
than the disappearance of that unquestioning faith in the future and the absolute value of our civilization which was the dominant note of the nineteenth century
Dawson, Christopher (1956). The Dynamics of World History, Sheed and Ward, New York

In a sense, this post came out of a perusal of the comments over at John Michael Greer’s latest article at his new site (If you need to track it down, here is the link).

The upshot of this is it seems that my polytheistic-leaning guru of tree-and-twig (It isn’t healthy to be all that respectful toward a spiritual guide) has moved to nice little apartment in Providence.

Now, in my mind, there is nothing wrong with this, truth be told, it is a smart choice. But I find it an interesting choice for a writer whose past works center on the decline and breakdown of industrial society (I concur!).  You see, most folks who subscribe to this train of thought this eventuality usually go off in the other direction.  The usual response is one I refer to as the demi-hippie where land is purchased as far away from the mōbile as one can afford and then try to create a simulacrum of what they left behind.

When your standard “end of industrial civilization” type heads out to the wilderness to live away from the industrial civilization, they spend a whole bunch of their time and money making certain that the retreat is well upholstered with all the accouterments of industrial civilization.

So, John Michael and I appear to agree, if everything that you do when you move away to escape drags all the crap of what you are trying to escape along, why not just figure out how to live within the society while not partaking of what is poisoning the system.

The system we inhabit, this artificial ecology of man, has always been fragile.  it has been hiccuping along for millennia now, usually not doing all that well, marked by high fevers and the not-all-that infrequent local collapse.  But the bulk of the people usually get through it, skinnier and tougher than what they started with.

So why not stay put?

Look, what one needs to live can be found in some pretty damn bad places.  Joy and fulfillment and self-worth can be had in a system in decline as easy as in a rising system if one has a certain frame of mind regarding what constitutes happiness and fulfillment.  So when in a decline from a excessive and frivolous “top”, it is important to figure out the relationship between “less” and happiness (I’ll give you a hint here, it is approximately the same as the relationship between “more” and happiness).

So, living small in a city will always be an option.  Farm products will always find their way to population centers.  Police aren’t always just looking to oppress.  Help and medical care are there.  Access to limited common resources are there.

Most importantly, people are there.

I have come to the conclusion, that for the most part, the folks who move off to the hinterlands are the “my cake and eat it too” crowd.  The society that they grew up is changing and is beginning the painful task of downsizing, so they are picking up their shit and getting out, leaving everyone else to suck it.

But all the shit that they take with them is an umbilical to that which they are trying so desperately to escape.  Want all the stuff: just join Amazon Prime and have the world shipped to your door.   High speed internet beamed to your house so you can watch the revolution on television.

The folks out there will have less, just like the folks in town will have less.  But what they won’t have is the respect of the folks that they left behind.  Because ultimately the move to the country without leaving behind the complexities and luxuries of the city is a lame attempt to become the landed aristocracy of the latifundia.

But the erstwhile aristocrats currently parasite from the complexity and the structure of the current system, I genuinely think that once the system no longer can provide the routes for linkage to the city that the modern latifundia so cherish.  They will probably die there on the vine, their fragile links to humanity taken away one by one being taken from them.  Imagine the sorrow and the gnashing of teeth that will be engendered when the FEDEX truck starts asking for the actual cost of delivery.

I will abide here with all of the mess.  I am going to try to try to flatten the curve and slow things down.

 

Hey La, Hey La, my ….Well, anyway, John Michael is Back

During the last three months, while on hiatus from blogging, I’ve looked back over the eleven-year run of The Archdruid Report. As my regular readers know, the point of that prolonged experiment in online prose was my attempt to explore the primary historical fact of our time—the accelerating decline and impending fall of industrial civilization—from every angle I could think of, including some I never imagined addressing at all when I started blogging back in 2006.

So…Head on over and read the rest
 http://www.ecosophia.net/the-twilight-of-anthropolatry/

Trying to find my way home

I am trying to get a grip on the huge mass of data that constitutes my world view.

Current working model doesn’t look that good.

We are heading into a rough bit coming up.  I am impressed beyond all measure that they have managed to hold the thing together for this long.

I was depressed that, for a while, the Laird of CKM3, came to his senses and ended his string of fruitful leads.  But wives and boredom are mighty foes, and he retreated from his well deserved rest.

You are probably wondering about this digression from my original thought, but in a sense him leaving made me thing about my decision to “blow it off” a couple years ago.   I can understand the Laird’s desire, but then I started to think about it harder.

As the Laird knows, we have moved well past the point where we can retrace easily.  I am hoping that the break point comes after the completion of the Boyo’s getting their feet under them.  But the truth of the matter is, there is a reasonable chance that might happen in spite of my possibly misplaced hope.

If we are going to navigate the next five-ten years, I really can’t think that hard about retirement.  Like it or not, if this is to work, I get to keep my nose to the grindstone for a bit.  Oh yes, I could blow it off, but that would start becoming a cost that may tip the balances the wrong way.

There might damn well be a whole bunch of pain coming soon.  Might as well keep things as stable as I possibly can for the time being.  Might be the only way that the lot of us get through this.

For you listening pleasure.

 

The Invisible Thief

Josephus is one of my friends and he still out there, trying to nail down his first billion.  I support him completely in this endeavor and wish him the best.  Mostly is this is because he has put him money where his mouth is and went out, started a company, worked his butt off, and stands to lose if the deal doesn’t go down.  He is in the first stage of clinical trials after stellar performances in animal and toxicology studies, I have my fingers crossed and keep him in my prayers.

He had some fine news about his business recently, and after I had called him to congratulate him, I got to thinking about what it is we call “Investment” here in the good old USA.  Ponzi scheme keeps coming to mind.  But it is a diffuse sort of Ponzi, not run like the good Mr. Madoff ran his, nope it is a Ponzi scheme where the early-adopters cream the benefits and the firm just is there to provide the press releases essential to the pump and dump operation that we call Wall Street.

In this pump and dump scheme, the actual company gets a very limited amount of the money involved.  They get the share price off of the initial IPO to build the firm and to make the ideas happen in the real world.  Once a share has passed the IPO stage, the stock price increases accrue solely to the person(s) who bought the shares in the IPO.  The firm gets nothing.  This is good and fair and the way that it should be.  It is what happens after that is what is wrong.

Now that the share has been sold post IPO, it is a piece of paper that accrues nothing to the firm.  Now I realize that the firm will retain additional shares and sell them at need, so the rise in stock price will provide value to the firm, but really, the money made after the IPO from the passing back and forth of these initial shares is gambling by others.  The current state of the American economy reflects this penchant  for gambling.  Nothing is really built, the wealth of the past is traded back and forth between people trying to make a little money selling to greater and lesser fools.  No productivity is enhanced, not new ideas are built.  Just a big casino where people live and die at the roll of the die.

The management of the firm is playing another game entirely.  The give themselves compensation in shares for the job that they are being paid to do.  The shares that they are given are a time honored way of looting a company that you work for.  The management gets coin that doesn’t show directly in the W2 and they don’t pay taxes at the “Income” rate, they pay taxes at the “capital gains” rate, which is a pretty big savings.

So what say we just get rid of the capital gains tax altogether.  Now, I can imagine you all squealing out there….read on.  Lets start looking at capital gains as only the money that accrues directly to the firm in the case of an IPO or sale of the stock from the firm to the public.  If the money from the sale is from the first iteration of stock sales, that it, the money that allows the firm the capital base to expand it operations, the profit from the sale of these shares should be tax-free.  Once the shares have been sold by the initial owner, all proceeds would be taxed at full income tax rates. 

The profits made by any compensation to an individual in terms of shares would be taxed at income taxes.   All stock issued as compensation would be entered as income at the share price of the day of award and taxes paid upon the the value of the shares.  All profits made from the sale of the stock in subsequent years would be subject to income tax.

Now there are going to be a bunch of people who will give any number of good reasons why this shouldn’t be done.  One of the big ones is that the share prices themselves will come crashing down.   I will even allow this as a truth.  The prices of shares, if they are treated as a means for firms to accrue money for the development of capital would be significantly less than the amount of money that they fetch as casino chips.  So the IPO share price would decrease and the amount of money available for capital projects would be decreased.  As a response to this I merely smirk and point to the recent IPO of facebook to make my point.

The other reason people will throw out is that people will be effected by the loss of their savings in the stock market if this plan is put into place.  Well, it is the stock market, people lose their shorts all the time.   The loss would be hellish at first, but it looks like we are heading that way anyway, maybe some folks smarter than me could create a system to cushion an inevitable fall.

No Real Problems

So, Judge Roberts just had his Earl Warren moment.  When he gave the finger to the far right and did something that wasn’t conservative dogma.  It both surprised and pleased me to no end.

So, the Affordable Health Care Act is still standing.  I have no particular love for this duct tape and bailing wire contraption, but it is least an attempt to deal with the lack of health care for a major portion of the populace.  Mostly I just loved seeing the right wing wackos go into gibbering fits at the “socialized medicine” aspects of the plan.  I would have paid huge money to watch some of their faces when Roberts himself voted to retain the ramshackle affair.

So, maybe now we can move on and begin improving the system.  A couple of additional tweaks and changes and improvements and it might start looking like a good program. 

What I do hope is that the Obama campaign will take the time and effort to make sure and personally  compliment Mitt Romney profusely and publicly for all the hard work and inspiration that Governor gave to the program.  After all, the plan was modeled from the  Massachusetts plan that Mr. Romney gave as a present to Boston.

This will serve two purposes.  Show a mature appreciation for a job well done, and send the earlier mentioned right wing wackos into a fresh set of gibbering fits when they realize that they poster boy is a commie too.  That vision itself may well be worth the price of admission.  Might even piss off the foaming rabid right into kicking off a third party in order to bleed votes from the mittster.

Versus the Long Term

Ramesseum, the mortuary temple for Ramses the Great

I am sitting down this morning with a cup of coffee looking out on a rainy day.  It’s true summer and it is still raining, which is beginning to piss me off just a little.  But it will be summer again soon and my little-bitty garden likes the moisture.

Today is a lesson in perceptions and consequences.  It is also a primer of why, unless some remarkably cruel policies are put in place soon, we will fail in staying a first world power and will go the way of Greece.  There isn’t any moralizing here.  What a democracy spends its money on is its own damn business.  The taxpayer who whines about government largess usually just whines about government largess that he doesn’t receive.

Neither is this going to be a defense of the idea that the sad set of rituals and symbols that pass for the American Dream are worthy of any spirited defense.   This quote from a recent posting on The Automatic Earth says quite a bit about the current state of affairs.

Some of us chase dreams of wealth, while others simply dream of happiness. But we – almost – all have cars and TV sets and computers and many other possessions that are so ubiquitous in our societies that we don’t even ask anymore why we have them, or what we would do without. We unquestioningly assume they contribute to what we perceive as happiness.

Nope, this is merely a discussion of what I see as the most likely future.  It isn’t a polemic about how, should we choose, we could change the trajectory of a failing country.  It is a simple set of observations about how the change will come to us unbidden and out of our control.

Consider for a moment, this little gem:

United States Population Pyramid for 2010
Age and sex distribution for the year 2010:
Thanks to http://www.nationmaster.com

We have a 300-odd million total population.  Take 80 million off the top as being under 19yo and not really in the work force.  The 19-24 group is sitting on a 20% unemployment rate.  The main body of the employables is at the 24 to 60 range which gives us around 150 million folks in the truly productive workforce.  Sixty-three million folks are above sixty.

Doing a little unauthorized math here, and considering a 63% labor participation rate, for the main body of the labor force (24-60) I am figuring that only 94 million folks are out there working in a serious way (please, don’t bring me to task with some lame anecdote about how some person is really still fabulously productive while celebrating his 99th birthday, I am unconcerned with statistical outliers which make you feel better about getting old).

OK, so the real magic number is ninety-four million supporting two-hundred and fourteen million, or one productive worker supporting 2.27 non-productives human who has a set of desires similar to those who are working along with a fully formed set of rights to vote and petition government.

Now let us look at the levels below the >60 crowd on the histogram.  It is here that I am going to concentrate my arguments.  If there is an age group where long-term thinking is possible that is the age cohort of 25-50.  Simply put, this group has sufficient time remaining in their productive years to plan and execute difficult tasks with a project horizon greater than ten years.  The folks below this age group aren’t truly fully formed yet (but they are pretty damn close).  The folks above them are scrambling like maniacs on the supremely difficult task of getting ready for old age, a task which is becoming increasingly dicey.

There are right around 100 million folks in the 25 to 50 age group.  I am going to arbitrarily assign them a higher workforce participation (70%) than the average and make them a group of around 70 million souls in full productive mode, or twenty-two percent of the population.   It is my belief that this is not an adequate number to support a population the size of the US.  This doesn’t even take into account the number of folks who aren’t working full time or who are not really productive but who are pulling down a salary anyway (probably a distressingly large number).

These seventy million souls would, if allowed the access to resources, could theoretically put together a long-term project that could allow the successful transition to a lower-energy society.  The project would necessarily be quite expensive and have a high possibility of failure, but it could be done, allowing access to the necessary resources and allowing for a “what’s in it for me” to the persons executing the project.

But right now our resource base is steadily dwindling.  Our country’s wealth is questionable and we may potentially be technically insolvent at this point.  The limited resources will be allocated per democratic whim to the 78% of the population with no real desire to lose access to the resources that gives their lives comfort and continuity.  Not to mention the truly astounding amount of fraud that has sucked a major portion of the wealth of the country into the bottomless pit of the rentier class and out of the means of productivity.  I won’t even begin to discuss the truly amazing amount of debt that is hanging over our heads.

I don’t see a way out of the decline and fall of the Imperial United States in the next ten years.  I am hoping for a deus ex machina, but I think that I will be sorely disappointed.  The resources needed to execute a difficult long-term strategy are being sucked dry by an overlarge assembly of needy and low-productivity youngsters and oldsters with a set of manufactured needs incapable of being met.

Now, if I were a nicer person, I would probably have phrased the last statement differently.  It by no means is the “fault” of these folks.  But the cruel reality of economics is that one has to put in more than one takes out to make the equation balance.  We have too many people who by dint of age, ability, education, an intelligence cannot meet this goal.  There is a tendency to demonize these folks.  Parasite, welfare queen, greedy pensioner, shiftless, etc., etc., etc.  None of these appellations are valid, they just stem from the anger of folks who cannot access resources to attempt something to help the problem or who themselves want more than what they already have and aspire to the rentier class.

So the many will take away from the whole the means necessary to slow and control the transition to a low-energy future.  The few that will be sucked dry in the process and the collapsed system itself will serve as a rich compost for the next system to grow from.  DOn’t think for a moment that I see this as the preferred option, it just appears to be the most likely.

All these things have always been true.  They raised their heads in the time of Sargon and Augustus.  Louis Quatorze knew it in his soul and Queen Victoria laid her dainty head on a pillow of these simple truths.  The collapse of the American empire is not the end of the world or the end of America.  It will be what the next phase of America will grow from.  Things will not be worse.  They will be different.

The new America will not spring into being fully formed as did Minerva, but will be a series of missteps and contradictions.  Might be a theocracy in there.  Might have a touch of a military dictatorship.  Might have a new republic, the whole place may split into a set of warring states.  Hell, we may well even manage to keep hold of the current constitution and make adequate changes to allow it to survive.

But all of these futures will be from a smaller and more constrained set of economic ideas.  The idea that all can live as owners of richesse and comfort on an ever increasing scale will be finally put to rest.

Parthian Shot

A Different Path