Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Majority Not Only Believe in 'Guardian Angels'...

They think they've been helped by them...Chaos wishes that more eloquence would ensue on the subject of a delusional people believing in ridiculous fantasies, but, alas, none is forthcoming. If you have any "faith" in the US public, Chaos advises you to discard it forthwith.

A New Locale For Consideration

The country of Ecuador has just this day come to Chaos' attention, having passed an amendment to its constitution that allows civil rights to....Nature. Chaos can see that this particular country, having been exploited for years by rapacious oil companies, might rightly consider the environment a precious resource. Those who are geographically flexible may want to reconsider their list of candidates, after contemplating what such an action might say about the local culture.

Alternatives to Throwing $$ Down the Rat Hole (With Apologies to Rats)

"Ripley: You know, Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage."
--Aliens, 1986.

If you, like Chaos, have been viewing recent economic events with alarm, (perhaps you may have even contacted your "elected" representatives with your views) here's some alternatives to consider, simply because it's easy to engage in "either-or" thinking about this stuff, when government officials engage in the same business as usual chicanery, seeking maximum resources and unaccountable power by wielding weapons of mass panic. First, here's five not very compelling actions the US might take to stave off what looks to be a massive dose of deflation and frozen credit markets. Here's one that sounds a little better (ignore the somewhat hysterical tone). There are more out there; very thoughtful people, apparently, are not included in the political debate. What's clear is that this is an unprecedented situation, and that no one, NO ONE, really knows what will happen, and what to do about it. Indiscriminate throwing of taxpayer dollars is unlikely to make a difference. (Witness the fact that the $700 billion figure was apparently pulled out of someones butt...). One more axiom, and then Chaos will cease: the people who got the US into this mess (or stood idly by, or encouraged it) are unlikely to be the ones to get us out. Oh, and here's a nice video of at least one Congressperson who gets it...

Another Fine Synopsis of Where We Are

Directed at Montana residents in particular, but quite finely written and blunt, this piece makes for compelling reading about the energy predicament humans find themselves in at this very moment.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Presidential Debate Scored (If You Think The Election Matters, Part II)

If you don't peruse Mish's Global Economic Analysis on a daily basis, Chaos thinks you're missing out. Since the burning question after a Presidential debate is "who won?" (and since Chaos was not about to watch it, under any circumstances), we turn to that astute gentleman for this analysis. (Hint: you lost). Enjoy, readers.

Bicycle Issue

A couple of interesting pieces for those who are interested in being able to get around on two wheels. First, from the nation's capital, comes an astute analysis of how far behind the US is in encouraging bicycles. One might assume that, because it is not done here, that it would not be possible; a look abroad disabuses us of this kind of thinking. Second, here's a guide to "safe" biking. (However, Chaos would have to add that here in the World Capital of Ignorance, taking the whole lane as the guide recommends would cause even more resentment and is considered hazardous behavior, in a population which views bicyclists as obstructions in the roadway).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Nice Summary

Here's a pretty fair approximation of where we (the humans on this planet) are at the present moment, and why our "business as usual" approach will not avail us. By the sometime Oil Drum contributor Paul Chefurka, of Canada.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Lifeboat...

Chaos bets you've never considered the implications of having a boat, as a way of responding to the peaking of global oil supplies, but someone has, and here it is, in an interesting article sponsored by our friend Dmitry Orlov (Chaos regrets that time has not permitted the perusing of his latest, Reinventing Collapse). A good one to expand your mind, and your alternatives.

Monday, September 01, 2008

If You Think Elections Matter...

This piece, from an "unnamed political consultant" quoted on our friend Joe Bageant's site, encapsulates better than anything Chaos has read recently (or in memory, for that matter) why elections in the Empire have ceased to signify anything but the most superficial choices between like-minded elites. For full effect, it must be quoted in its entirety:

"Over the last many weeks we have all been subjected to endless news stories about Senator Obama's campaign "Move to the Center". Leaving aside the political illiteracy which underlines this phrase, the use of it reveals important clues about the rhetoric of electoral campaigns, whom they target and what they are trying to communicate.

Put simply, what "Moving to the Center," means is: moving towards power and money.

"Moving to the Center" is not a move to where the center of public opinion is, but it is a move to the center of where elite consensus is. Once the boundaries of that elite consensus are understood, then we can comprehend the limits of our public choices and more importantly what will be allowed within the confines of our electoral system.

It is important to understand that elite consensus itself is not static and can shift in moderate degrees, but it has definitive boundaries of which you can not cross and still be a viable player within the electoral system. These boundaries exist to the left and right within that consensus, but the institutional bias of the system is much harsher towards any moves to the left. This is because in its essence elite opinion is anti-populist and primarily concerned with protecting the fundamentals of the established economic order.

Every national campaign is in fact a dual conversation, one targeting voters while the other is directed towards the political, media, and economic elites. The purpose of the message targeting the first group is to win votes. The messages to the latter group is designed to form elite consensus, first for it not to correlate against you and secondly to have it help you win and eventually govern.

Surviving the contradictions of these dual dialogues is the primary element that makes a successful national campaign.

Let's examine the primary public policy issues and areas of discussion, and examine what the boundaries of elite opinion are on how they contradict or mirror public opinion.

Economics Trade and Globalization

The elite consensus on these issues is solidly to the right of public opinion. This is especially the case on the issues of trade and globalization. Support for supposed free markets, free trade and globalization are almost universal and unquestioned within elite circles.

This is the establishment issue, all else can be argued and debated but to question the system of privatized profit and socialized cost is the fastest road to political oblivion for any candidate for national office.

Within the confines of elite consensus no cost is ever too exorbitant in "reassuring" Wall Street and "calming the financial markets". No better example of this than the prompt and generous response of the Federal Reserve and the Congress to the recent financial crisis in the housing markets. With hardly any opposition the United States Government nationalized the losses which resulted from the bursting of the housing bubble. There where no calls of prosecution, lectures on personal responsibility, fears of creeping socialism or demands for conditional structural adjustments from bankers and investment houses. The scandal in fact is not the crime in this case, which is to be expected, but in the silence of the public and the political class to this public thievery.

It is precisely because of the iron grip of this consensus, that even if we have a new Democratic President and an enhanced Democratic majorities in the Congress, there will be no legislation signed into law to make it easier to organize workers, provide universal health care or deal with our ever widening class and income divide in the United States.

Social Issues

Elite consensus on the issues of race, sex and role of faith in public life are to the left of public opinion, the only area in which this is the case. Elite opinion is overwhelmingly secular, pro-choice, supportive of gay rights and hostile to overt displays of racism.

Tolerance and liberalism on this front is a very useful tool, since it buys political space to be more conservative on the more important money issues. It also enjoys the advantage of making the right enemies, after all who wants to be on Pat Robertson's side during weekend dinner parties at the Hamptons.

When social conservative complain about the "Liberal Media" they are not wrong, but only in regard to their issues. The contempt of the American elite for the religious right is quite real. What social conservatives misunderstand is that the hostility against them is not because the threat their ideas represent but only a display of the traditional contempt that the merciless strong have for people they consider to be the feeble minded weak.

The significance of the religious right in our politics is only in the wonderful diversions their issues create. Issues that feed a war between urban educated middle classes against the more numerous, the ever more frustrated lower income fundamentalists on issues that are unsolvable in nature.

Foreign Policy

Elite consensus on this issue is center to right, discussion are allowed on the mechanics of running the empire and the management of the military industrial complex, but never regarding the reality of its existence, its necessity or usefulness to most Americans.

Within this narrow context there are always code words and phrases used to differentiate one candidate from another. Words and phrases like "all options are on the table", "realism", "toughness" and "experience" are simply a sliding scale on the willingness to kill in order to defend the interests of our ownership and governing class. This is an especially critical issue for Senator Obama, considering that most victims of our killing are non-whites. His vulnerability to the charges of dual loyalty on this issue, almost certainly means no end to wars, expansions of foreign military bases and occupations of third world countries under his watch.

The made up charges of having a radical minister, or being a Muslim, a Palestinian sympathizer or being married to a black nationalist was meant to limit his room to maneuver on these issues even if there was never any indication he was ever serious about moving in a bold progressive direction.

With his "weakness" defined as his associations with progressive movements, ideas or individuals, he can do nothing but run to the other direction for the next four years if he ascends to the office of President. This is the genius of McCarthyism at work, fifty years after its namesake split hell wide open.

The politics of Personal Responsibility

Personal responsibility is a legitimate issue when discussed in the context of family and personal lives. When dragged into the political arena it is an issue that is entirely an elite construct. The actual positions of the elite are not particularly relevant. What is important is that the issues get discussed not what results from that discussion. The relevance of this issue is not in what it illuminates but in what it hides.

The recent enthusiastic embrace of Senator Obama of the call for "responsibility" from inner city black fathers is a prime example of this issue. What he is really saying is, "I will never blame the owners of the country for the social problems caused by their economic policies." Senator Obama knows better than anyone that you can eliminate most of the problems of inner city fathers in a generation with a decent educational system and living wage jobs.

But all systems of power need a convincing and unlikable enemy, which can bury the contradictions of the system. In our case incoherent, undereducated black urban males fit the bill perfectly. They are being attacked not because they are a threat to the power structure, but precisely because they are not.

What voters are expected to believe is that after a 30-year class war against the bottom 90% of income earners, the source of their troubles are black rappers and inner city fathers and not criminality on Wall Street or a corrupt political system. The road to the White House over the past 30 years has been paved by pretending to believe the absurdity that the individuals who pull the levers of power over people's lives are named Willie Horton, Sister Souljah and Ludicrous, and not Robert Rubin, Phil Gramm and Hank Paulson.

If as a society we are prepared to believe this, then we have lost the stuff that makes free men."

Chaos has nothing to add here...

A Look Back (Or Forward)

This astounding article from The Onion offers a review of the last eight years of the Emperor's presidency. What will amaze you, however, is the date of the article: January 17, 2001. Concocting a satiric article by imagining the worst possible outcomes actually produces something very close to the truth.