Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of Year Recap: The Cows Came Home

2008 was tumultuous. It was the year that the global debt bubble imploded, beginning with the crashing real estate market, and spreading through the massive $600 trillion derivatives market, leading to the destruction of (at least) $60 trillion in stocks, bonds, real estate, and other assets. World trade tottered, then collapsed. Early on, as US financial institutions wobbled and eventually sank, those in government and the MSM assured everyone that things were contained, that the economy was sound, and other rubbish. (You may note that some of these speakers are ostensibly in charge of the US Treasury and Federal Reserve, added to that the ridiculous cheerleaders on CNBC). These are the same people who are now exclaiming that "no one could have foreseen" the looming credit crunch and real estate implosion. The US Empire and the world got a first taste of reality, but are now poised to enter a global depression, perhaps lasting for many years. Perhaps the trigger this year for the implosion was the skyrocketing price of oil, which shot up to $146.00 US per barrel, engendering the usual stupidities, the more so since a ridiculous presidential campaign was in full swing. In the end, fecklessness carried the day, as both parties pandered furiously by embracing the "drill here, drill now" mantra, never mind the pure mendacity of it all. Thirty years of energy illiteracy and ignorance were not to be shoved aside for an electorate with the maturity of six year olds. At any rate, the price of oil soon subsided, then collapsed along with all other commodities, as global demand cratered, revealing the sheer unsustainability of the endless growth and consumption of ever-scarcer resources paradigm (well, it revealed it to some discerning readers, at any rate). After the first deluge, things were looking grim. Even the savior of the US economy, the monstrous orgy of consumerism known as the holiday season, could not salvage the wreckage, leading to early bankruptcies of several major retailers. The domestic automakers, vulnerable to begin with, were perfectly ill-positioned to take a broadside of weakening demand. Already reeling from the rejection of their ridiculous monster trucks and oversized SUVs caused by the price of $4.00 gasoline, softening demand and frozen credit proved to be the last straw. All three went hat in hand, to beg for "free" federal money. At this writing, Your Federal Reserve has figured out a way to use taxpayer money to lend to people with terrible credit to purchase these vehicles, the better to juice up the economy. As a symbol of the cluelessness regarding the economy exhibited by those in power, this is beyond peer. 2008 also saw the demise of the dinosaur SUVs, which, though still produced in limited quantities, will never again roam the planet in such numbers as years past. Again, as symbols, these silly vehicles had no equal, so we here at the Edge will miss them. As actual transportation vehicles, they were completely absurd, catering to the reptilian portion of the brain, which seems to be the dominant decision-maker in the case of the US public.

Top Stories of the Year:

1. Price of oil delivers yet another wake up call to US public; no one wakes up. SUV and monster truck sales turn upwards in December. Gas tax? What?

2. Real estate bubble pops completely, taking down the markets. The use of refinancing to go shopping is gone forever.

3. Paris Hilton produces a more coherent energy policy than the two presidential candidates.

4. Corn ethanol is revealed to be the total scam and boondoggle that it is, yet somehow can't be touched. Ethanol producers line up (along with everbody else) for a government bailout.

5. Endless mindless shopping comes to an end, not because anybody became enlightened enough to voluntarily stop it, but because everyone ran out of (borrowed) money.

6. The US is revealed to be bankrupt, deeply in debt, and has no prospects for growth for a long time. Nonetheless, all those in the MSM (Hi Paul Krugman!) and government officials advocate spending vast sums of future earnings to sustain the endless spending spree.

7. Credit started to disappear. Those used to financing their lifestyles with plastic were out of luck, now and forever.

8. A person who appears to have a brain was elected leader of the US, and was handed a poisoned chalice by the incumbent.

Well, there you have it, readers. 2008 proved to be a most interesting time to be alive and paying attention; Chaos hopes you were. Predictions and prospects for 2009 will be covered in tomorrow's post.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fallout From the Economic Debacle: Jury Duty

This article is a fine example of the coming global depression and how it will impact local and state governments. In brief, some states are cutting judicial funding and taking months off from having jury trials (so far mostly applicable to "less important" civil cases). Look for all agencies of government to be affected in the coming months. Tomorrow: recap of 2008 and predictions for 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Predatory US Culture

This article in today's paper of record is an excellent snapshot of the overentitled, delusional, financially illiterate and bankrupt US public, preyed upon for years by institutions that have grown ever more corrupt and carnivorous, with the silent acquiescence of its victims. From the unemployed gent who drifts off into a "fantasy" where in his "real" life, he's a millionaire (wonder where he got that one?), to the woman who ran up tens of thousands in student loans for a bogus "medical assistant" career (which now offers the commanding salary of $7.50/ hour) to the inevitable health problems postponed or ignored because of no insurance coverage, to the available jobs consisting of telephone collections of medical bills, this is an outstanding example of the descent of the country to Third World Nation status, mostly because of its own profligacy.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Annual Xmas Atheist Rant: Totalitarian Xmas

As is now traditional (or, as "traditional" as anything is these days...hey, let's just make up some!), one of our favorite atheists and bombthrowers, Christopher Hitchens, has come up with his usual outrageous diatribe against the religiousness of the holiday. Note Chaos' complete agreement, with the caveat that Hitchens loses a bit of entertainment value to the angry tone, but fine reading nonetheless.

As for another tradition, please listen to SOMAfm's (now two) Xmas-themed stations, and consider a donation for these underpaid and wildly creative internet people.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Deflation Explained

Since those of us who still reside in the Empire of Sorrows have this to look forward to, it's valuable to have a cogent, if not complete, explanation of how this deflation thingie is going to work (or, not actually work, but still...). Try this piece from a fellow blogger, who was apparently buying the silly inflation argument to begin with, before being convinced that the massive destruction of the trillions of fantasy assets will lead to reduced employment, consumption, growth, and suffering everywhere. For sentient beings who, like Chaos, still inhabit places where the local economy has not even begun to suffer, this new way of living is going to look very different indeed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Super Doomer Porn II: Predictions

The great and growing disparity between those who consider the torrent of economic bad news merely another manifestation of business as usual, and a "temporary downturn," and those who have been sounding an alarm for quite some time, is the subject of today's post. On the one hand, we have the financial columnist Scott Burns, who has in the past been quite prescient in predicting deficit spending and totaling up the coming entitlements of Social Security and Medicare for the Greediest Generation. Alas, the current situation seems to have induced the gentleman to sink into a comatose state. Today's advice column has Scott recommending that buying stocks right now is a good idea, because, well, Warren Buffet's doing it (or, he says he is). Hmmm....

On the other hand, we have esteemed future forecaster Gerald Celente, of Trends Research Institute, whose track record of predictions is...impressive (google it, if you care). This gentleman, at least, predicted the current global economic meltdown. Here's what he's saying about the next couple of years: 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.

"We're going to see the end of the retail Christmas....we're going to see a fundamental shift take place....putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree," said Celente, adding that the situation would be "worse than the great depression".

Well, there you have it: buy stocks now, or get ready for food riots and tent cities (wait, we already have some of those...). Happy holidays, readers, and have fun trying to figure out who's right (longtime readers will not have any trouble divining where Chaos stands...).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Surviving in a Collapsing Economy: The Buffet

Here's a fine and funny piece on how to master the ubiquitous all-American all-you-can-eat buffet. An increasingly desperate population, beset by an impending economic collapse, looks to cheap bad food to sustain itself, while an increasingly desperate restaurant industry looks to maintain its unsustainable growth in a declining economic environment, with more voluminous promotions. American values are perfectly reflected in this piece.

Super Doomer Porn: The Coming Anarchy

Here's a great read for those who take interest in humanity's merry drive off the cliff: overpopulation, resource, species and habitat destruction, disease, famine, and just in general, all the aspects of industrial civilization that cause writers like Derrick Jensen to conclude that it all must come to an end. As an added bonus, the piece was composed in 1994 (it has since become a book) and is entertaining to contemplate how the world has changed (for the worse, naturally) since the projections were made. Those who are familiar with Mike Davis' Planet of Slums will find this old hat, but new initiates may find some insight.