The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Pre War Pre Revolution World Page 1 of 2

Plus c’est la même chose


Jeremiads notwithstanding, it appears that Biden’s strategy of appealing to Trump-disgusted suburban voters worked. At the US presidential level, at least, left-populists and Sanders supporters proved to be essentially irrelevant, politically. The Democratic consultant class has had its biases confirmed. What is, haha, left to the left-wing populist is to double down on the jeremiads: to predict that in the future, the inevitable failure of now-successful beige neoliberal centrism to reinstate its heavenly mandate in the USA will result, down the road, in the election of a smart fascist/right-populist Man On Horseback, if we’re luckymerely a Viktor Orbán figure or suchlike for the American context — or worse, possibly much worse.

This reasoning seems very plausible to me. Because it is true that unless the neoliberal establishment has a change of heart, Bidenist/Obamaist US leadership will not be able to turn the ship around from an on-going trajectory of national and global decline. And insofar as that decline is felt in shrinking living standards, and insofar as “beige centrism” manages to suppress left-wing alternatives, the population will likely turn to forceful/violent right-wing populism, and all the inherent divide-and-conquer grifts that right-wing populism brings with it alongside the nationalist emotional highs and the “sugar rush.” As I said, it seems very plausible.

One of the bad habits of neoliberal intellectualism is an excessive reliance on “counter-intuitive” explanations as exemplified by the once-popular book Freakonomics.   We should be rightly suspicious of narratives that tell us that things we view in common-sense terms as bad are actually good. Sometimes counter-intuitive explanations like that are valid, but only sometimes. But we should not fall into the reverse trap and always uncritically accept simpler explanations that happen to match our moral intuitions. A common left-wing moral intuition is what I explained above: A people increasingly deprived of access to the good life and unable to access progressive responses to that deprivation will eventually provide reactionary forces a breakthrough. It has, after all, happened before.

It is the implied determinism that we should view with at least a little bit of suspicion. First of all, although we should heed history’s warning signs, history actually does not truly repeat reliably, and context matters. Trump’s senility and incompetence was, in point of fact, part of the Trump political brand. It was the riposte to a failing elite in a time when elite “competence-signalling” was part of the elite self-image. The specific trajectory to the “competent Trump” is much harder to fathom, when the incompetence was specifically a part of what he was and still is lionized for by his most ardent followers.

If we leave aside the typical and easy materialist determinism that thrives particularly on the more left end of the spectrum and accept a little bit of “counter-intuitive” reasoning, a different picture emerges. One in which the success and failure of Trump was highly dependent on circumstances over and above material discontent, circumstances that are difficult to line up again.  Circumstances in which the very competence of the future feared competent fascistoid is one of the features that prevents his (or her) rise, just to give a possibility. One in which the bad memory of Trump is sufficiently mobilizing for a long enough period of time that the mainstream neoliberal centre is protected from attempts at overcoming it.

In that world, between every election, things just keep getting worse and worse. And yet, the process of coalition building in a complex society given the American political system simply throws up Biden after Biden, Democrat or Republican. Decline centrism, unending. Like Tyler Durden’s vision in Fight Club, with people drying meat on the asphalt of a ruined highway, except they’re still arguing over whether they should choose the chieftain with the red trim or the blue trim as head chieftain, out of fear that one of them might reduce the incentives created by the fear of winter freezing by their proposed “peltfare” program.

Imagine this future: the soft, dirty sole of a comfortable white Reebok runner gently stroking a human cheek — forever.

America Is About to Feel Like a Third World Nation

I spent a good chunk of my childhood in third world countries. Most of that chunk was spent in Bangladesh, which was then arguably the poorest country in the world, but I visited or lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Nepal and India, among others.

There’s a feel to the third world one becomes familiar with: beggars, infrastructure that doesn’t really work, people doing terrible menial jobs. There’s the huge disparity between the wealthy and everyone else, or even those who have managed to attach themselves in a semi-dignified way to the wealthy.

Cruelty is routine and unremarked. Indian police officers routinely beat people as punishment (similar to their American counterparts). Servants are treated terribly, and in fact the locals routinely treated the servants far worse than foreigners. This has hardly changed, Vivekenanda, in the 19th century, noted that Americans treated their servants far better than Indians did.

The US is about to make a double digit percentage of its population homeless. Something like 20 to 30 percent — or more — of American small businesses have or are soob to shut down by the end of the pandemic. The jobs won’t all come back and those that do will pay worse and feature worse treatment than the ones before (which were mostly not well-paid and featured routine meanness).

We’re talking about 30 million to 60 million homeless.

These are staggering numbers.

The United States will feel third world. Oh, parts already did, when I landed in Miami airport the first time I immediately thought “third world.” Relatively prosperous third world, but third world.

Those places will be worse–and Florida (as I predicted near the beginning of the crisis) has handled the pandemic noticeably badly.

Of course, for many, little will change. They’ll keep their jobs, they’ll be fine. I recently witnessed a discussion of infosec jobs, talking about how for a person with a degree and a couple certifications, $120,000 was a lowball. There will still be good jobs, and you’ll still be able to lose everything in a few months if you become seriously ill.

But when those people who are hanging on go out in the streets, they’ll see, even more than now, the fate that awaits them if they slip.

So much of American meanness, and the culture is mean in the details of its daily life, comes from this fear. Because it is so easy to slip into the underclass, even if one “does everything right,” Americans are scared, even terrified, all the time. They suppress it with massive amounts of drugs (most of them legal), and most deny it, but the fear drives the cruelty.

In the Great Depression, people became less cruel, not more. They saw that the idea of meritocracy was absolute bullshit: The richest people in society had fucked up, good people wound up in poverty, and merit had nothing to do with who had how much.

I hope this is what will happen in the US this time. I fear, instead, it will lead to even more cruelty. Instead of saying, “We should make sure everyone is taken care of” and instituting universal health care, good wages, and a non-punitive welfare system (whether through a universal income or some other way), Americans will instead become even more cruel out of fear of losing their place.

The US is “undeveloping.” It is moving away from being a developed nation to being an undeveloped nation.

This process has been going on for a loooooong time. At least 40 years (1980), and arguably since about ’68 or so. The frustration, as an analyst, was that the trend was obvious but it took so long. There is, as Keynes said, a lot of ruin in a nation.

Change is slow, very slow, until it is fast. People who live in the slow period, of long decline, don’t really believe in collapse, they assume that things will get worse in a steady line.

But, in fact, there are long periods where everything changes slowly, then periods like earthquakes. 2008 was an earthquake (and collapse nearly inevitable by bailing out the rich). This is also an earthquake. Amercians will FEEL different afterwards, even if Covid goes away 100 percent, which it may not, because Americans refuse to do what is necessary. American media keeps having articles about how Covid will never go away. Well, except for quarantining visitors, it will for many countries. But not for the US, or Brazil, or India. Third world countries all.

Nor should we get too down on third world countries. The US is third world and experiencing the complete corruption of its ruling and governing classes, with the collapse of its administrative ability. When your post office can’t even deliver mail, you’re a failing state; this is such a basic part of being a government that it’s part of the Constitution, written in the 18th century, but because the post office isn’t a kleptocratic institution, the American political class is destroying it.

Most third world nations, indeed, are handling Covid better than The US.

Nonetheless the process is underway. The US is already governed like a third world nation, it just has a lot of legacy infrastructure and institutions to destroy to get the full experience.

So, expect that this is one of the times that matters. Expect that the US will be different after this. Expect that it will feel different. Understand that your personal position has become much more perilous. You must reduce your vulnerability and/or attach yourself to a corrupt money stream in a way which makes you indispensable. Being valuable is not enough, it needs to hurt important people if you you go down. If it doesn’t, the second the numbers say you go, you’re off, and any individual who can be replaced will be if you get on the wrong side of someone more powerful.

There’s lots of good paying jobs, yes, but almost all of them can be done by someone else. It doesn’t have to be you.

Bear all this in mind as you plan your future in the new third world United States.

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Understanding American Elites Means Understanding Predators

American elites are not incompetent at what matters to them.

People constantly make ridiculous statements like, “The American government has been incompetent in its handling of Covid-19.”

Anyone who makes such a statement reveals that they do not understand how the US operates.

Fact: According the Princeton oligarchy study, almost the only thing that matters in what policies government pursues in the US is what elite factions want.

Fact: Covid-19 has made the rich in the US much, much richer.

US billionaires saw their wealth increase by 20 percent, or $584 billion, roughly since the beginning of the pandemic.

Covid-19 is enabling the consolidation of US industry. Small businesses have to shut down, large businesses keep running. The oncoming tsunami of renters being evicted (depending on state, 25 percent to over 50 percent of renters are in danger of eviction) will wipe out landlords, allowing the richest Americans to buy up rental properties on the cheap, consolidating them. They will then charge, not market clearing rental rates, but profit maximization rents, leaving many people permanently homeless.

If you’ve ever researched how to make money, you know the standard advice virtually always includes one thing: You must have other people work for you or passive income, or both. You must be making money when you, personally, aren’t doing a thing. Your money must make money for you, and so must other people. Any person worth employing makes more money for you than you pay them. You take the difference.

In kinder capitalist epochs, this is kept under control by wealth taxes, inheritance taxes, high progressive taxation, and aggressive anti-trust policy, along with a monetary policy intended to raise wages and prices, not crush them.

But our era is built on three ideological assertions.

  1. There is no such thing as society.
  2. Greed is good.
  3. There is no alternative (TINA).

Whatever makes a profit, according to this assertion, is good. There is no society, and no social goals. There are only competing people and whatever they get is fair. And this is the only way to run society, there is no alternative. Thatcher noted that her victory was not sealed by Conservative party elections, rather it was Tony Blair’s Labour party adopting neoliberalism that meant that TINA went from assertion to fact; no matter who was elected, the same basic policies would be followed, Labour would just try to thinly mitigate the effects of so many rich people and so many poor people.

In the US, the victory of Reagan was when Bill Clinton helped create the “Third Way,” which was an adoption of neoliberal principle. Again, it would not matter if Republicans or Democrats were in power, the rich would get richer and the social state would be defunded.

Our elites are predators. They are taught that they have no obligation to other people. Greed is good, and whatever makes money is good. If someone else has less money, that’s because they deserve less money, and because they create less good.

In their daily lives, the rich become rich through passive income and exploiting other people; paying the lowest wage or price possible (Walmart and Amazon both famously fuck suppliers over, though in different ways), getting as much government money as possible, and making sure that they don’t have to work to make money, and that the stock market always goes up in the long run, along with other asset prices–no matter what’s actually happening in the economy.

Neoliberal elites are predators. This is true in every neoliberal country. It is simply most advanced in the United States. They view ordinary people as prey or useful tools. After the 2007/8 financial crisis, banks set up assembly lines to sign false paperwork so they could seize people’s homes. The Federal government knew, aided them, and later immunized them by making them pay fines far less than the value of what they stole.

You are food or a money-producing asset to elites.

You are not human, you do not have a right to anything. Not due process of the law. Not food. Not housing. Not affordable medicine or health care. Those things are for people with enough money, and if that’s not you, you don’t deserve them.

This is THE most important thing you can understand about society today. You can’t count on US elites to care about you at all. If it is in their best financial interest to impoverish you, kill you or any other thing, they will do so.

This may seem hyperbolic, but it meets the most important test of truth: It predicts their actions with far more accuracy than any other hypothesis.

If it was just incompetence, like for example, the favorite excuse of liberals, “Never assume malice when incompetence will explain something,” then they wouldn’t keep getting more and more money.

Somehow their “incompetence” just makes them richer. Even the financial crisis made the elites richer overall–the drop was a blip which allowed them to control more of the economy than before.

Neoliberal elites are predators. Their food is ordinary citizens and anything else (animals, plants, the ecosystem which allows human life to exist).

And yes, it’s true, all neoliberal nations are not as far gone. But this is where neoliberalism leads, this is what its internal logic demands.

It’s not an accident that the best Covid-19 performance on the planet was probably in Vietnam, right next to China, with huge trade ties.

Zero deaths.

Anyone who tells you it was hard to avoid Covid-19 deaths is lying. All it required was seeing that a pandemic was underway and doing what the epidemiology textbooks tell you to. The introductory textbooks.

Nor is this all on one person. No one rules alone. Without a huge supporting apparatus, including Congress, Trump could not have done what he did (and didn’t). If his incompetence had been costing elites, you can be sure it would have been brought to an end.

It wasn’t. It was making them richer and furthering their plans. At the end of this, US elites will control a larger percentage of the US economy than before. They will be richer and more powerful. And if that means tens of millions of Americans are homeless and hungry, then that is a price US elites are willing for you to pay.

If you deserved better, you’d be rich. You aren’t, so you don’t.

Your lords and masters kill you for money. That’s their function.

Act on this knowledge, or don’t.

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What Protests in Lebanon, France, Chile, and Ecuador Have in Common

There’s some important events happening today: Another Brexit vote, and the Canadian federal election (whose results are not obvious), but we won’t know how either of those end until later, so let’s discuss some popular protests of massive size.

In France, the protests were sparked by an increase in diesel taxes. The demands included an increase in the minimum wage, a re-introduction of a wealth tax, and lower fuel taxes, along with Macron’s resignation.

Now what’s interesting is what they got, and what they didn’t get:

He (Macron) subsequently promised a minimum wage increase of €100 per month from 2019, cancelled a planned tax increase for low-income pensioners, and made overtime payments as well as end-of-year bonuses tax free. However, Macron refused to reinstate a wealth tax he scrapped upon entering into office

So, crushing the lower classes with regressive taxes, rolled back a bit. But the wealth tax was not re-instated. “We’re willing to give a bit on crushing the peasants into the dirt, but not on ourselves getting richer.”

In Ecuador, the protests were caused by an IMF austerity package which removed fuel subsidies. (Notice a similarity here?) The protests were so large that the government was forced to flee the capital. On at least one occasion (and maybe more), the military actually stopped the police from attacking protestors.

The austerity was rescinded, and Moreno agreed to work together with indigenous and other leaders to figure out how to tackle the debt.

In Chile, the protests were started by an increase in the fare for public transit. (Are you noticing a trend here? Transportation costs, transportation costs, transportation costs = regressive taxes, in effect.) Unfortunately, as often happens, anger led rioters to attack the immediate object of their anger; in this case they burned down metro stations, which was incredibly foolish, because now those stations will be out of commission for months.

As I have noted repeatedly, if you are going to riot, take a bit of time to head into the nice part of the town where the rich live and riot there.

The riots and protests are ongoing, there’s been a curfew imposed, and we’ll see how it plays out. But the transit fare increase has already been cancelled.

In Lebanon , we have a slight alteration in the pattern: The government was going to tax messaging on WhatsApp and other messaging services. But again, this is a regressive tax–ordinary people message and text a lot. A rich person isn’t even going to notice, but such a tax would add up quickly for people who aren’t wealthy.

This protest seems to be the most radical of the bunch. There’s a nationwide general strike called for today (Monday), and…

Ending rampant corruption is a central demand of the protesters, who say the country’s leaders have used their positions to enrich themselves for decades through favourable deals and kickbacks…

…Speaking to Al Jazeera from Beirut, Nizar Hassan, a member of Lihaqqi, an opposition progressive movement, said people want to overthrow the “political class … in peaceful, constitutional means”.

This is why they have been calling for a new cabinet that is independent of the ruling forces in the country, he noted.

“We are not settling for small kind of reforms … what we need is taxes on those who have been benefitting from the economic system for the last 30 years,” Hassan said, adding that Lebanon’s economic problems are “very structural”.

Now it’s hard to say how real this is, but the demonstrations are huge, and if the general strike actually comes off it indicates a united citizenry.

In all of these cases, what we have is a revolt against the rich. In all of these cases, we have attempts to raise taxes on the poor and middle class.

All of these protests are economic protests. They are about class, wealth, and income. They are about the fact that all four countries have very rich people, and yet taxes fall harder and harder on the non-rich.

Macron may mouth off about climate change, but what he wanted to do was make the poor pay for a climate change tax AFTER he removed a wealth tax. These people want the poorest to pay for the sins of the richest. 

And the weak and the poor are saying, “No.”

We’ll see how it all plays out. There are still some yellow vest protests in France, but they’ve died down a great deal. Lebanon and Chile are ongoing. Ecuador is in play with new negotiations.

But this is a rise of people smashed flat, finally saying, “Enough.”

I don’t think our lords and masters in most countries are able to listen, honestly. They got where they are by imposing generations of austerity (it didn’t start in 2008, it accelerated then) and it’s all they know. They like being rich and powerful, they’re used to killing people to get their way (their policies have killed plenty of people, don’t pretend otherwise), and they’re not likely to stop unless they’re scared spitless.

But the Lebanese who want them gone have the right idea. People who think this group of leaders can be made to do the right thing are simply wrong. They may give a little on specific issues, but their hearts and intentions will never change.

You need leaders who actually want to do the right thing, and they won’t and can’t come from our current ruling class.

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America: A Failing State

When stuff that should work just gets worse and worse, you know your state is failing.

Then we have the overdose rates…(pdf)

People who are happy and have hope for the future rarely become drug addicts.

Adam Smith wrote that “…there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.”

That amount is not infinite.

The US is not keeping up its infrastructure. It is not building important new infrastructure, as anyone who has seen high-speed trains overseas (or good airline terminals) knows.

The US is losing wars. It is losing in Afghanistan. When it left Iraq it had to pay local militias not to attack as it left. It arguably won in Libya, if you call contributing to a refugee crisis destabilizing its main strategic partner, the EU, winning, which anyone sane wouldn’t.

The US has turned, in large part, against the World Trade Organization, which it created. Even before turning against it, the WTO failed in its latest round of trade negotiation.

The prices of basic medicines in the US are soaring (the price of insulin has tripled) and there is an actual decline in life expectancy–the first since the Spanish Flu.

The US is alienating its most important allies, like the EU. Increasingly, it uses financial sanctions to punish nations, which has led to talk of creating a financial network without the US at its center.

Core manufacturing (for example, of computer chips) has moved offshore, and the US is no longer the key manufacturer of electronic goods, nor are any of its allies (Japan controlling this wouldn’t matter much, China doing so, does). The most advanced 5G technology was created by China. The most important technological city in the world is in China.

China now manufactures more than the US, and in purchasing power parity terms, has a larger economy.

Core nations like Italy (a member of the G7) are beginning to look to Beijing. Italy has signed up for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is, among other things, a rival to the WTO and the US-led trade order. Non-core nations are increasingly turning to China for loans and development, for which China is willing to lend them the money, often at better rates than the IMF and WTO with less demands for internal controls.

The US military is showing signs of being unable to create effective, advanced military equipment: Take for example, the F-35, which basically can’t fly. It is showing signs of intense incompetence, as when it let multiple planes be destroyed on the ground by a hurricane rather than, uh, fly them out or get them under effective cover.

The US is led by Donald Trump, a reality TV star, who was made to look like an effective billionaire mogul by clever editing. While Trump is not without his competencies (he did spend his life shitting into a gold toilet and screwing models), he’s clearly a few screws loose and a flaming narcissist.

Meanwhile the opposition party, faced with an extremely unpopular president, mutters about “working together” and how they would never impeach a weak President.

The US is a gold-flecked garbage heap slowly rolling towards the ocean. On fire.

There is a lot of ruin in a nation, but for almost 40 years now, US elites have treated the US as something to loot, and assumed that the good times would keep rolling. They were uninterested in actually governing. They were happy to move much of the US’s core manufacturing overseas, to the most likely nation to replace America as a hegemon, because the Chinese were smart enough to make American elites rich.

And so, today, large parts of the US are shitholes, which the residents hate so much they are consuming record amounts of drugs and committing suicide, because who the fuck wants to live in a nation with no hope, shitty bosses, and no hope.

Oh, of course, there are people doing well. There were people doing well in 400AD as the Roman Empire collapsed. There are always some people doing well.

But the number of people doing well keeps getting less and less, and the decline keeps getting worse and worse.

But the top is doing fine, so they see no reason to do anything.

Heck, Trump just gave them another tax cut. Everyone they know is doing great.

And so the decline goes on, because until the elites are made to feel the pain of the majority, they will not change.

And so far, no one is willing or able to make the elites pay.

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The Uncertain Future and the American Election

Globe on FireI want to say something simple about Clinton and Trump as President, and about the future this election cycle presages.

With Clinton, you know pretty much what you’re going to get. She has a track record: She’s a neoliberal, neo-conservative. She’ll throw the left some bones, especially on identity politics issues, but basically she’s the status quo candidate. Slightly to the left of Obama on domestic issues, but well within the neoliberal consensus, significantly to his right on foreign policy issues.

Trump has issues he keeps hitting again and again. Trade and immigration are the big ones. Generally, Trump looks at most issues as profit-loss statements. “Is America winning from this trade deal? Is America spending more on NATO than it is worth?” But Trump’s said a lot of things, and his track record from private business says less about how he’ll run things than one might like, especially as his long term strategy is to “hire the best people,” and who knows who those will be?

Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan, has pointed out that people at the bottom or people who are heading there under the status quo and have little cushion, need volatility. If you’re at the bottom or near, and you can’t stand the status quo (aka, things getting slowly worse for you), then taking a flier on someone like Trump is a rational decision.

On the other hand, if you still have something to lose, or you feel that Trump threatens you directly (because you’re brown and think he’ll be worse than Obama on such issues (remember Obama has deported more people than any President)), well the status quo is preferable to change; to volatility, whose direction you can predict.

It’s not that Trump’s trade policy is insane, or that NATO is wonderful as it stands (it’s made us more likely to get into a nuclear exchange with Russia), it’s that Trump himself seems unpredictable. You don’t know who the “best people” are, and so on

But none of that matters if your life is already unbearable. You need a chance, any chance, and you know you won’t get it from Clinton. You might from Trump. He is more likely to cause substantial changes than Clinton, and thus change the matrix of winners and losers. You might be a loser who wins under Trump.

This is the calculus behind Trump. It will be the calculus behind the next nativist populist if Trump fails or fails to deliver. The more people there are whose lives are trash, or who see themselves in inevitable decline, the more people there are who are willing to take a flier on something–anything–which will upset the current way of doing things.

This is much of why Sanders, a Socialist, did so well. It is why Brexit. It is why Jeremy Corbyn in England. It’s why so many Scots want to leave the UK, or Catalonians, Spain.

People whose lives suck, or whose lives are facing near-to-certain decline, will take a flier on anyone who seems genuinely committed to changing the status quo.

Trump is far from the buffoon people make him out to be, but he is also a very flawed candidate. If he fails, he will be replaced and the people who compete to replace him (and there will be many), will include amongst their numbers some who are very disciplined and who understand that all the gifts the status quo bankers and hedge-funders and so on can give them are nothing compared to pure power, the adulation of the masses, and the sight of those “lords of the universe” on their bellies crawling to lick the boots of their new master. (The contempt with which Putin treats oligarchs who do not do as he wishes is instructive.)

I believe it is now too late to “self-correct.” We are going to have one of three outcomes in most countries:

  1. An oligarchical, dystopian police state reminiscent of cyberpunk novels, if the status quo wins
  2. A right-wing populist government of some form or another
  3. A left wing populist government of some form or another

This is only the beginning. I am amused by just how worked up people are over Trump, because the sequence of events made inevitable by 40+ years of neoliberal policy is only beginning to unfold.

You can have your cyberpunk dystopia, you can have your right-wing populist, or you can have someone like Corbyn or Sanders.

There aren’t any other options, yet, on the table.

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How Bernie Gives Hope for the Future

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Sanders-021507-18335- 0004

A self-identified socialist won 22 states.

He did FAR, FAR better than any left-wing candidate has in years. Yes, he lost, but he showed very clearly that the country IS changing.

He won super-majorities of young people.

The model under which I have been operating for some time, following Stirling Newberry, is that the US doesn’t have a real chance at change until 20-24, because older cohorts need to die and younger cohorts need to replace them.

I am uninterested in “convincing” most people who voted for Clinton of anything. They are not reachable. To reach them, a candidate like Bernie would have to compromise himself so far that he couldn’t do the right things upon getting into office.

This is not the 2000s or 90s. This is not the age of compromise. The fruits of neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and oligarchy are being reaped; the youngsters have now grown up and never known a good economy. Many barely remember a time when the US wasn’t at war.

Clinton or Trump will have their time. There will be another socialist candidate and another, whether called that or not. Odds are that either fascism or socialism will win the US. The conditions in the US make that most likely.

As for Clinton supporters, they won. That is reasonable. Most Democrats did want Clinton. More Republicans did want Trump–and most Independents (now the most left-leaning group in America) wanted Sanders.

The Democrats are the conservative party right now. They are about the status quo: Keep neo-liberaling, keep bombing and invading brown people’s countries, keep shoveling money to the rich.

Republicans under Trump are the right-wing populist party.

Clinton supporters were not Sanders to win, because Sanders could not be Sanders and win them.

Most of the worst catastrophes are already locked in. Acidification of the oceans, loss of essentially all fish stocks, far worse climate change than the current consensus models, and the rise of fascism, men-on-horseback, and radical leftists.

The time to cut that stuff of was the 2000s. Obama was the last chance, and Obama chose to bail out oligarchs.

So now we play it out. But Bernie has been a hopeful sign, a sign that the youngs have had enough. Whether they will stay that way, we will see. But I think they will, because they have little choice: They are not the children of prosperity like the Boomers–their backs are against the wall. They win, or their lives are garbage. Those are the stakes for them.

So we wait, and we see. But Bernie lost in a genuinely hopeful way, showing that a socialist is now viable in the US and that young people are massively against the status quo.

That matters.

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The End of the Age of Oil

Has the last oil boom ended?

Electric cars will be cheaper to own than conventional cars by 2022, according to a new report.

The plummeting cost of batteries is key in leading to the tipping point, which would kickstart a mass market for electric vehicles, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analysts predict.

This is very good news for the world, and though the technology is certainly not carbon neutral, it is better than oil, the energy used to charge the battery can be kept relatively clean. Once upon a time, that energy was coal and other conventional energy sources, but coal is now more expensive than solar, and the price of solar is continuing to drop.

While this is good for the world, it’s going to be very, very bad for many countries. The oilarchies’ days are numbered. I will state right now that I doubt that Saudi Arabia’s monarchy will survive this.  Countries that are heavily reliant on oil, especially expensive oil, are going to be in trouble. The same is true of natural gas.

All resource booms end. Eventually resources are replaced. Once there was a huge rubber boom in Brazil: Then we learned how to make synthetic rubber.

We might get one more oil boom, but that’s it.

So: Alberta oil sands oil? Done. The Alberta-dominated Conservatives damaged terribly the Canadian manufacturing sector during the last oil boom by refusing to acknowledge that the high Canadian dollar affected manufacturing sales, but the good days won’t be coming back to Alberta.  It’s possible that Alberta has a key resource which will boom in the future of which I’m not aware (entirely possible), but if it doesn’t, Alberta’s high-flying days are done.

Go down your list of major oil exporters and look at the prices they need per barrel to make a profit. A lot of them are going to have to reduce production of the most expensive wells. This process will continue for years. Saudi oil production costs per barrel are under $10, but the price they require to keep their society running is much higher.

Cheap energy is an economically good thing. But the effects of dislocation will be immense.

Unfortunately, while this is great news for the environment, it is all too late to stop runaway climate change. Methane locked into land and ocean will be released now. It is too late, we have passed the point at which the process of global warming became self-reinforcing. It is now a vicious cycle and cannot be stopped by simply reducing carbon emissions.


We knew this would be the case, and we decided not to do anything about it. Let no one tell you otherwise.

A large amount of the world is going to become essentially uninhabitable due to heat. Climate change will change rainfall patterns and many areas will experience a decrease in agricultural productivity. Combined with aquifer depletion, conventional agriculture will take a huge hit.

This is a fixable problem. We can grow ten times as much food as standard agriculture in small, intensely cultivated plots, even indoors. We will have cheap energy. The remaining oil can be used for fertilizer until we have better solutions.

The next problem is water. Large parts of the world will not have enough fresh water. Water reclamation, desalinization, and other technologies around water are key here.

Geopolitically, there will be water wars. Watch nations where major rivers cross borders, and the up-river nations will want to take “more.” Canada, which has most of the world’s lakes, is in great danger from America, who will want that water in amounts and at prices for which we should not settle. Meanwhile, the US may drain the Great Lakes faster than they are replenished.

The mass migrations of this period will make the current “immigration crisis” look tame. It will be worse even than it is for the countries taking the biggest groups now (none of which are European).

Sea stocks are collapsed already, and will collapse past commercial fishing viability. Essentially, all the fish you eat will be “farmed.” Ocean acidification has killed the Great Barrier Reef, but the greater risk is that the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon may effectively end.

Combined with our continued deforestation, the lack of carbon fixing capacity, along with these various vicious cycles, could lead to a runaway climate change worse than virtually all the models I’ve seen are predicting.

If we had sense, we would be transitioning from conventional to intensive agriculture NOW (well, ok, 15 years ago minimum). We have spare workers–we do not have a spare Amazon. If we had sense, we would pay Brazilians and other mass deforestors more to stop what they’re doing than they get from continuing. We must mass-reforest, and re-wild land, and do so NOW.

This is also to avoid collapse of the biosphere, an event which is within the realm of possibility. If such a collapse occurs, humanity will go with it.

Our continuing reliance on very non-competitive markets to create what we need in time may wind up dooming our race. Markets are great and useful in this situation, but market support (such as was used for decades to create the computer industry) can jumpstart industries, cutting years to decades off the time it takes for prices and costs to drop sufficiently for mass adoption.

However, in general, the way we do Capitalism is going to have to change. Capitalism may need to be replaced with something better, but even if it continues the vast waste must end. The doctrine of planned obsolesence, for example, must go.

A world where we aren’t constantly producing crap we either never needed in the first place or wouldn’t need if we allowed engineers to design products to last will be a much nicer place to live, anyway. Yes, there’s a lot of work to be done to mitigate the coming disasters, but there is so much work going on which shouldn’t be done at all that we would most likely wind up working less and living better.

Those who survive, anyway.

The Age of Oil is coming to end. Did it last 20 years too long? Is the Age of Humanity also to end?

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