Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Cold Wet Mackerel of Reality

To misuse a bit of prose from Charles Dickens, it was neither the best of times nor the worst of times, but I know very few people who will object when, a few hours from now, 2014 gets dragged off to the glue factory.  This has not been a good year for most people in the United States. By all accounts, this year’s holiday season was an economic flop of considerable scale—the US media, which normally treats cheery corporate press releases with the same enforced credulity that Pravda used to give to pronouncements from the Politburo in the Soviet era, has had to admit that Black Friday sales were down hard this year, even counting the internet—and plenty of Americans outside the echo chambers of the media have very good reasons to worry about what 2015 will bring.
Mind you, cheerleading of a distinctly Pravda-esque variety can still be heard from those pundits and politicians who are still convinced that people can be talked into ignoring their own experience if they can only be force-fed enough spin-doctored malarkey. That sort of enthusiasm for the glorious capitalist banker’s paradise has plenty of company just now; I’m thinking in particular of the steady drumbeat of articles and essays in the US mass media wondering aloud why so many Americans haven’t noticed the economic recovery of the last four years, and are still behaving as though there’s a recession on.

Of course there’s an explanation for that awkward fact, which is that the recovery in question never happened—outside, that is, of the abstract otherworld of numerical jugglery and spin doctoring that passes for official economic statistics these days. For most Americans, the last four years have been a bleak era of soaring expenses, shrinking incomes and benefits, rising economic insecurity, and increasingly frequent and bitter struggles with dysfunctional institutions that no longer bother even to pretend to serve the public good. That’s the reality people in the United States face when they get out of bed each morning, but it’s not a reality that’s welcome in the American mass media, so endless ingenuity has been expended in explaining why so many people in the US these days haven’t noticed the alleged economic recovery that’s allegedly burgeoning all around them.

I expect to see a good deal more of this sort of twaddle in the weeks immediately ahead, as those mass media pundits who haven’t yet trotted out their predictions for the new year get around to that annual task. For that matter, it’s doubtless safe to assume that out here on the fringes where archdruids lurk, there will be plenty of predictions of a different kind or, rather, several different kinds. There will be another round of claims that this is the year when the global economy will seize up suddenly and leave us all to starve in the dark; there will be another round of claims that this is the year when this or that or the other hot new technology will come swooping in to save the day and let the middle classes maintain their privileged lifestyles; there will be—well, those of my readers who have been following the blogosphere for any length of time can fill in the blanks themselves.

I’ve noted in previous years just how many of these latter predictions get rehashed every single January in the serene conviction that nobody will notice how often they’ve flopped before. Popular though that habit may be, it seems counterproductive to me, since—at least in theory—predictions of the sort we’re discussing is intended to be something more than light entertainment. With this in mind, I’d like to engage in the annual ritual of glancing back over the predictions I posted here at the beginning of the year now ending, and see how well I did. Here’s what I said:

“My prediction for 2014, in turn, is that we’ll see more of the same:  another year, that is, of uneven but continued downward movement along the same arc of decline and fall, while official statistics here in the United States will be doctored even more extravagantly than before to manufacture a paper image of prosperity. The number of Americans trying to survive without a job will continue to increase, the effective standard of living for most of the population will continue to decline, and what used to count as the framework of ordinary life in this country will go on unraveling a thread at a time. Even so, the dollar, the Euro, the stock market, and the Super Bowl will still be functioning as 2015 begins; there will still be gas in the gas pumps and food on grocery store shelves, though fewer people will be able to afford to buy either one.

“The fracking bubble has more than lived up to last year’s expectations, filling the mass media with vast amounts of meretricious handwaving about the coming era of abundance:  the same talk, for all practical purposes, that surrounded the equally delusional claims made for the housing bubble, the tech bubble, and so on all the way back to the Dutch tulip bubble of 1637. That rhetoric will prove just as dishonest as its predecessors, and the supposed new era of prosperity will come tumbling back down to earth once the bubble pops, taking a good chunk of the American economy with it. Will that happen in 2014? That’s almost impossible to know in advance. Timing the collapse of a bubble is one of the trickiest jobs in economic life; no less a mind than Isaac Newton’s was caught flatfooted by the collapse of the South Sea Bubble in 1720, and the current bubble is far more opaque. My guess is that the collapse will come toward the end of 2014, but it could have another year or so to run first.

“It’s probably a safe bet that weather-related disasters will continue to increase in number and severity. If we get a whopper on the scale of Katrina or Sandy, watch the Federal response; it’s certain to fall short of meeting the needs of the survivors and their communities, but the degree to which it falls short will be a useful measure of just how brittle and weak the national government has become. One of these years—just possibly this year, far more likely later on—that weakness is going to become one of the crucial political facts of our time, and responses to major domestic disasters are among the few good measures we’ll have of how close we are to the inevitable crisis.

“Meanwhile, what won’t happen is at least as important as what will. Despite plenty of enthusiastic pronouncements and no shortage of infomercials disguised as meaningful journalism, there will be no grand breakthroughs on the energy front. Liquid fuels—that is to say, petroleum plus anything else that can be thrown into a gas tank—will keep on being produced at something close to 2013’s rates, though the fraction of the total supply that comes from expensive alternative fuels with lower net energy and higher production costs will continue to rise, tightening a noose around the neck of every other kind of economic activity. Renewables will remain as dependent on government subsidies as they’ve been all along, nuclear power will remain dead in the water, fusion will remain a pipe dream, and more exotic items such as algal biodiesel will continue to soak up their quotas of investment dollars before going belly up in the usual way. Once the fracking bubble starts losing air, expect something else to be scooped up hurriedly by the media and waved around to buttress the claim that peak oil won’t happen, doesn’t matter, and so on; any of my readers who happen to guess correctly what that will be, and manage their investments accordingly, may just make a great deal of money.

“Sudden world-ending catastrophes will also be in short supply in 2014, though talk about them will be anything but...Both the grandiose breakthroughs that never happen and the equally gaudy catastrophes that never happen will thus continue to fill their current role as excuses not to think about, much less do anything about, what’s actually happening around us right now—the long ragged decline and fall of industrial civilization that I’ve called the Long Descent. Given the popularity of both these evasive moves, we can safely assume that one more thing won’t happen in 2014:  any meaningful collective response to the rising spiral of crises that’s shredding our societies and our future. As before, anything useful that’s going to happen will be the work of individuals, families, and community groups, using the resources on hand to cope with local conditions.”

As I write these words, the US media is still parroting the fantasy of a fracking-driven “Saudi America” with a mindless repetitiveness that puts broken records to shame, and so the next shiny distraction disguised as a marvelous new energy breakthrough hasn’t yet been trotted out for the usual round of carefully choreographed oohs and aahs. Other than that, once again, I think it’s fair to say I called it. Continuing economic decline, check; a fracking bubble heading toward a world-class bust, check; climate-related disasters on the rise, with government interventions doing less and less to help those affected, check; and a continuing shortage of game-changing breakthroughs, world-ending catastrophes, and meaningful collective responses to the crisis of our age, check-check-check. If this were a bingo game, I’d be walking up to the front of the room with a big smile on my face.

Now of course a case could be made that I’m cheating. After all, it doesn’t take any particular insight to point out that continuing trends tend to continue, or to choose trends that are pretty clearly ongoing and predict that they’ll keep on going for another year. While this is true, it’s also part of the point I’ve been trying to make here for getting on for nine years now:  in the real world, by and large, history is what happened when you weren’t looking. Under some circumstances, sudden jarring discontinuities can hit societies like a cold wet mackerel across the face, but close attention to the decade or so before things changed routinely shows that the discontinuity itself was the product of long-established trends, and could have been anticipated if anyone was willing to do so.

That’s a particularly relevant issue just now, because the sort of long-established trends that can lead to sudden jarring discontinuities have been more and more evident in the United States in recent years, and one of the things that made 2014 so wretched for everyone outside the narrowing circle of the privileged well-to-do is precisely that several of those trends seem to be moving toward a flashpoint. I’d like to sketch out a couple of examples, because my predictions for 2015 will center on them.

The first and most obvious is the headlong collapse of the fracking bubble, which I discussed at some length in a post earlier this month. For most of the last decade, Wall Street has been using the fracking industry in all the same ways it used the real estate industry in the runup to the 2008 crash, churning out what we still laughably call “securities” on the back of a rapidly inflating speculative bubble. As the slumping price of oil kicks the props out from under the fracking boom, the vast majority of that paper—the junk bonds issued by fracking-industry firms, the securitized loans those same firms used to make up for the fact that they lost money every single quarter, the chopped and packaged shale leases, the volumetric production agreements, and all the rest of it—will revert to its actual value, which in most cases approximates pretty closely to zero.

It’s important in this context to remember that those highly insecure securities haven’t been cooped up in the financial equivalent of the dog pound where they belong; quite the contrary, they’ve gone roaming all over the neighborhood, leaving an assortment of messes behind. Banks, investment firms, pension funds, university endowments, and many other institutions in the US and abroad snapped this stuff up in gargantuan amounts, because it offered something like what used to count as a normal rate of return on investment. As a result, as the fracking boom goes belly up, it’s not just firms in the fracking industry that will be joining it in that undignified position. In the real estate bust, a great many businesses and institutions that seemingly had nothing to do with real estate found themselves in deep financial trouble; in the fracking bust, we can count on the same thing happening—and a great deal of the resulting bankruptcies, defaults, and assorted financial chaos will likely hit in 2015.

Thus one of the entertainments 2015 has in store for us is a thumping economic crisis here in the US, and in every other country that depends on our economy for its bread and butter. The scale of the crash depends on how many people bet how much of their financial future on the fantasy of an endless frack-propelled boom, but my guess is it’ll be somewhere around the scale of the 2008 real estate bust.

It probably has to be said that this doesn’t work out to the kind of fast-crash fantasy that sees the global economy grind to a sudden stop in a matter of weeks, leaving supermarket shelves bare and so on. The events of the 2008 crash proved, if there was ever any doubt on that score, that the governments of the world are willing to do whatever it takes to keep economic activity going, and if bailing out their pals in the big banks is what’s needed, hey, that’s all in a day’s work. Now of course bailing out the big banks won’t stop the bankruptcies, the layoffs, the steep cuts to pensions, the slashing of local and state government services, and the rest of it, any more than the same thing did in the wake of the 2008 crisis, but it does guarantee that the perfect storms and worst case scenarios beloved of a certain category of collapsitarian thinkers will remain imaginative fictions.

Something else that’s baked into the baby new year’s birthday cake at this point is a rising spiral of political unrest here in the United States. The mass protests over the extrajudicial executions of nonwhite Americans by police were pretty much inevitable, as pressures on the American underclass have been building toward an explosion for decades now.  There’s a certain bleak amusement to be had from watching financially comfortable white Americans come up with reasons to insist that this can’t possibly be the case, or for that matter, from hearing them contrive ways to evade the awkward fact that American police seem to have much less difficulty subduing belligerent suspects in nonlethal ways when the skins of the suspects in question are white.

Behind the killings and the protests, though, lies an explosive tangle that nobody on either side of the picket lines seems willing to address. Morale in many police departments across the United States resembles nothing so much as morale among American enlisted men in Vietnam in the last years of US involvement; after decades of budget cuts, grandstanding politicians, bungled reforms, an imploding criminal justice system, and ongoing blowback from misguided economic and social policies, a great many police officers feel that they’re caught between an enemy they can’t defeat and a political leadership that’s more than willing to throw them to the wolves for personal advantage. That the “enemy” they think they’re fighting is indistinguishable from the people they’re supposed to be protecting just adds to the list of troubling parallels.

In Vietnam, collapsing morale led to war crimes, “fragging” of officers by their own men, and worried reports to the Pentagon warning of the possibility of armed mutinies among US troops.  We haven’t yet gotten to the fragging stage this time, though the response of New York police to Mayor De Blasio suggests that we’re closer to that than most people think.  The routine extrajudicial execution of nonwhite suspects—there are scores if not hundreds of such executions a year—is the My Lai of our era, one of the few warnings that gets through the Five O’Clock Follies of the media to let the rest of us know that the guys on the front lines are cracking under the strain.

The final bitter irony here is that the federal government has been busily worsening the situation by encouraging the militarization of police departments across the United States, to the extent of equipping them with armored personnel carriers and other pieces of hardware that don’t have any possible use in ordinary policing. This is one of a good many data points that has me convinced that the US government is frantically gearing up to fight a major domestic insurgency. What’s more, they’re almost certainly going to get one. For decades now, since the post-Soviet “color revolutions,” the US has been funding and directing mass movements and rebellions against governments we don’t like, with Syria and Ukraine the two most recent beneficiaries of that strategy. We’ve made a lot of enemies in the process; it’s a safe bet that some of those enemies are eager to give us a heaping dose of our own medicine, and there are certainly nations with the means, motive, and opportunity to do just that.

Will an American insurgency funded by one or more hostile foreign powers get under way in 2015? I don’t think so, though I’m prepared to be wrong. More likely, I think, is another year of rising tensions, political gridlock, scattered gunfire, and rhetoric heated to the point of incandescence, while the various players in the game get into position for actual conflict:  the sort of thing the United States last saw in the second half of the 1850s, as sectional tensions built toward the bloody opening rounds of the Civil War.  One sign to watch for is the first outbreaks of organized violence—not just the shooting of one individual by another, but paramilitary assaults by armed groups—equivalent, more or less, to the fighting in “bleeding Kansas” that did so much to help make the Civil War inevitable.

Another thing to watch for, along the same lines, are glorifications of revolutionary violence on the part of people who haven’t previously taken that plunge. To some extent, that’s already happening. I’m thinking here especially of a recent essay by Rebecca Solnit, which starts off with lavish praise of the French Revolution: “It’s popular to say that the experiment failed,” she says, “but that’s too narrow an interpretation. France never again regressed to an absolutist monarchy”—a statement that will surprise anyone who’s heard of Napoleon, Louis XVII, or Napoleon III. In holding up the French Revolution as a model for today’s radicals, Ms. Solnit also doesn’t happen to mention the Terror, the tyranny of the Directorate, the Napoleonic wars, or any of the other problematic outcomes of the uprising in question. That sort of selective historical memory is common in times like these, and has played a very large role in setting the stage for some of history’s most brutal tragedies.

Meanwhile, back behind these foreground events, the broader trends this blog has been tracking since its outset are moving relentlessly on their own trajectories. The world’s finite supplies of petroleum, along with most other resources on which industrial civilization depends for survival, are depleting further with each day that passes; the ecological consequences of treating the atmosphere as an aerial sewer for the output of our tailpipes and smokestacks, along with all the other frankly brainless ways our civilization maltreats the biosphere that sustains us all, builds apace; caught between these two jaws of a tightening vise, industrial civilization has entered the rising spiral of crisis about which so many environmental scientists tried to warn the world back in the 1970s, and only a very small minority of people out on the fringes of our collective discourse has shown the least willingness to recognize the mess we’re in and start changing their own lives in response: the foundation, it bears repeating, of any constructive response to the crisis of our era. 

I’ve heard quite a few people insist hopefully that since 2014 was so bad, 2015 has to be better. I’m sorry to say, though, that I don’t see much likelihood of that, at least here in the US. Quite the contrary, I think that when people recall 2015, they may just think of it as the year in which America got slapped across its collective face with the cold wet mackerel of reality. Come New Year’s Day of 2016, I expect to find the dollar, the Euro, the stock market, and the Super Bowl still functioning, gas in the pumps and products for sale on the grocery store shelves—but the nation in which these things exist will have passed through a traumatic and crisis-ridden year, and the chances of avoiding an even more difficult 2016 don’t seem good just now. Still, we’ll see.


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David said...

I am interested to see how the reality of 2015 and the cheer-leading thereof diverge from one another. My sense is that by the 2020s, we will be in a full-blown energy crisis, with the tight-oil and fracking entering into permanent decline, and I am trying to push the local utility where I work to do what it can to mitigate the impact of that future. Slow going, but some progress being made.

On the continuing theme of the establishment's ill treatment of the military, I found another story of note:

The most telling quote for me was:

"The key factor is senior leadership that has not kept faith with its troops. The rest of the force that doesn’t live within the Washington, D.C., beltway feels that it is being ridden hard and put back wet so that the generals and admirals can claim success before civilian leaders in Congress and the White House. They have come to believe that they are expendable."

This does not bode well for our democracy. Disaffected legions have a habit of selecting their own contenders to the purple.

knutty knitter said...

Happy New Year!



Kutamun said...

Gday there ,
Happy Lithium 2015 !

JMG thanks for your ongoing efforts and interest in maintaining this blog , it is a source of education and inspiration for us all

Here are some debt stats for Ozland Dunnunder and Uncle Sam , as i know there are a few of you skippies creeping around TheArchdruidReport suspects that many of the readership might be more " mainstream " and " high profile " than they would care to admit , judging by the number of regurgitated Archdruid memes that seem to pop up all around the place unexpectedly ....
Ragnar Lothbrok for President !

United States
Total GDP - 18 trillion
Govt expenditure - 3 trillion
Govt revenues - 2.4 trillion
( 600 billion deficit this year )
Fed Govt debt 2014 - 18 trillion
( 21.8 trillion by end of 2015

US debt
Federal 19 trillion
State. 1.9 trillion
Local. 1.9 trillion
Total 22.8 trillion
127 % of GDP
Or 380% of Total Govt Spend

U.S Govt is smaller , but is either corrupt or being appallingly managed or both !

U. S total private debt is an additional 25 trillion
U.S state govt debts
1.9 trillion

U.S local government debt
1.9 trillion

United states all Govt
Fed / state / local
6 trillion per annum expenditure

U.S private debt currently around 25 trillion
Total 47 trillion debt in an 18 trillion economy

Australia 2014
Total GDP. - 1.3 trilliion
Fed Govt expenditure - 440 billion
Fed Govt revenues - 400 billion
( Budget Deficit. 2014. - 40 billion )
Total fed Govt debt 2014. - 200 billion

Fed Govt Debt - 200 billion
State Govt Debt - 70 billion
Local Govt Debt - 9 billion
Total 279 billion / 1.3 trillion GDP
21% of GDP
Or 40 % of total govt spend

During the depression and WW2 oz federal debt peaked at 104% of gdp (1946) state and local 132% ( 1932)

Australian Debt

Government Debt -279 billion ( Fed / State /Local )
Private debt - 1.17 trillion
Total 1.46 trillion in a 1.3 trillion economy

Total Govt Expenditures in Oz roughly
650 billion of a 1.3 trillion economy
- 50 % of our economy is Government .
In the U.S , 6 trillion of an 18 trillion economy is government , ie 33% , though one gets the feeling in Oz the money is more likely to reach the target than land as profit in the pocket of an Oligarch privatised infrastructure operator / health - education service provider ..( though moves are afoot to dismantle Oz system to mirror the US )

Seen as a whole , Local governments in Australia have roughly 300 billion of assets and 9 billion of debt total , though a lot of infrastructure is becoming run down , due for renewal.
In general the regional shires run higher debt loads and have less revenue ..
As a percentage of their own locally generated revenues , local govt debt , however , ranges from 10 % debt ( inner metropolitan ) to 30 % rural of revenue ..
Source / Ernst and Young report for department of regional australia .,

Private Debt in Australia dwarfs public debt , peaking at 116% in 2008 before decreasing to around 90% today
This is a whopping 1.17 trillion
Mortgage debt 87% of gdp in 2014 , up from 16% in 1988
Investment debt 29% up from 2.9% in 1988
Personal debt 9% after peaking at 13.7% in 2008

Australian burea of statistics , ernst and young , oz govt websites ... , usa.fov,, wikipedia ,

Odin's Raven said...

Happy New Year!

Enjoy it while you may.Future generations might not regard those who lived at this time with much respect or affection.

It's getting increasingly like the predictions made by the 'man from the future' John Titor, about civil war in America - 2017 to 2020 I think it was. This was quite incredible when I first heard about it, but now it begins to seem possible.

John Titor

'Civil War splinters America into five factions, leaving the new capital based in Omaha. World War III breaks out in 2015, starting with Russia and the U.S. trading nukes and ending with three billion dead.'

Let's hope he was wrong about 2015 and subsequent years.

Jim said...

One fun issue to look for in 2015 will be the presidential bid of Rick Perry, gov of Texas.
Perry has been hoping to ride the coat tails of the fracking bubble since, apparently most of the jobs created during the last two years have been in Texas in the oil industry.
If, as suspected, the fracking bust turns into a nation wide job loss he will again look like the country bumpkin that he is.
President Obama will find himself in the same boat so a draw between the right wing and the center-right wing parties.

John Michael Greer said...

David, many thanks for the link. You're quite right -- that's very troubling, and very stupid on the part of the intra-Beltway crowd.

Viv, and likewise! I wish I had better news to report.

Kutamun, why, yes, the US government is both stunningly corrupt and appallingly managed.

Raven, well, he was wrong about so many up to this point, I'm not too worried.

Jim, watching Perry's career slide down the chute is going to be a definite bright spot. Unfortunately we have no shortage of clueless, corrupt politicians in line to replace him.

Alison said...

I am grateful as always for your cogent analysis of the intersections in the larger world. I was surprised to recently read a PBS economic essay that was also talking about how our current civilisation is itself a bubble. I realise that PBS is still towards one edge of the fringe, but it is closer to the cultural center. I thought you would find it curious, in that the article seemed to be particularly "realistic" in a way that I find might be resonant with your viewpoint.

Tom Bannister said...

"The economy is recovering, The economy is recovering" bleated the pundits, drowning out any discussion...

"four legs good, two legs bad" bleated the sheep" drowning out any discussion...

Kutamun- thanks for those stats. the situation here in NZ is fairly similar. And of course our banking system is quite heavily tied up with Aus...

Mark Rice said...

I beg to differ. On the surface 2014 has been a fairly good year. My daughter found her very first full time job. She works in a place where the employees are treated well and initiative is encouraged. The brother in law who tends to have a hard time is also doing well. In Silicon Valley the employment picture looks good.

The low price of petrol is also boosting the economy. I realise there is a fair amount of sketchy paper that financed some of our fracked oil and eventually some of this paper will explode. But the new cromnibus bill had provisions to bail out banks doing sketching things with money.

The rig count is dropping like a rock but it will take a while before we see a drop in production sufficient to raise prices. I see oil price instability on the horizon.

Longer term we are fracked but short term we seem to be pushing out the end game. These things always take longer than I expect.

Brian Kaller said...


One more thing you can predict about New Year's Day 2016 with some accuracy: if we are still around, most of us here will be still be reading this blog each week.

My best to you and yours, and thank you.

Repent said...

An on the mark essay as always- Happy New Year !

That the song 'Happy' the best hit of 2014, shows that good things can still happen:

Again, as I mentioned before on a previous comments page, a very profound 'Thank you' for your suggestion a few months ago that I search out enlightenment through certain disciplines. I tried Ayahausca and it has literally changed my life.

Ayahausca, the ancient spiritual psychedelic enema from the Amazon jungle, has led me to personal insights as profound as anything I have ever discovered in adult life.

There is actually a whole movement of people paying $4- $10K to travel to Peru for the Ayahausca experience. People are waking up, and the trend is growing!

Tom Hopkins said...

Bank constriction indeed. Your reply to dio last week concerning saturn being square to neptune got me reserching. 36 year cycle, extreme highs and lows, and the most interesting was the panic of 1907. Thanks for leading us on the path to understanding. a toast to you, to homemade pickles and more of LESS.

martinhensher said...

Happy New Year

Tom Hopkins said...

Also, solnit's piece was a joke. I read that earlier this week. Yet another "enviro" saying we can have it all. i was happy to see Thor destroy her premice in the comment section. I believe ive seen him reply here a time or two if im not mistaken

Nastarana said...

Mr. Greer, why ever would a foreign government want to fund a messy domestic insurgency when it is so much easier and cheaper to simply buy a piece of the government itself? It is pretty much an open secret that the Republicans are being financed in part by the PRC; meanwhile the Democrats are owned by Wall Street/City of London, which for all practical purposes can be considered the same entity.
Israel gets to own most of foreign policy, as well as large swaths of the DOD, and gets veto rights over many other issues which ought to be none of its' business. And so it goes.

Gardener Green said...

"News Media" like the term "Military intelligence" has become an Oxymoron.

Despite the Rah Rah from the media everyone I talk to seems to be of the opinion that this coming year will be worse then the last.

In any event I wish JMG and all the followers of this blog have a fulfilling and personally good New Year.

As of tomorrow I am withdrawing for a month from the world to take stock and attend to inner needs.

Pinku-Sensei said...

"I know very few people who will object when, a few hours from now, 2014 gets dragged off to the glue factory."

The people who will be happy to see 2014 go include scientists and science journalists. It was a year when the failures of science were as publicized as its successes, what with more than the usual false positives, errors, and downright frauds. USA Today went so far as to call 2014 a year in science best forgotten. Even the boosterish Wired admitted it was a roller-coaster year for science. A magazine called The Scientist listed ten very public retractions and ten outright scandals in science. They even documented how less faith in science was resulting in reduced levels of support for research from government. Mother Jones added to the litany of decreased belief in scientific expertise, using a term to describe anti-science sentiment that would prevent my comment from being approved. All in all, you picked a good year to be critical of science as part of your projections about how the decline of faith in the secular religion of progress would result in the abandonment of science as the current civilization's dominant cultural project.

As for "cheerleading of a distinctly Pravda-esque variety" and expecting "to see a good deal more of this sort of twaddle in the weeks immediately ahead," I have a term for that, Clapping for the Progress Fairy. Lots of people aren't ready to give her a pink slip yet, not unless they want to seduce her.

Helix said...

@Jim -- Rick Perry has no chance since he bobbled his 3 points on nationwide TV during the last presidential campaign. Not only because he lost face with Republican voters, but because he came across as a shaky spokesman to potential sponsors.

We long ago abandoned the requirement that a president be able to think on his feet, or even be able to present a logical argument. But he (or she) must be able to sell the party line. The absolute requirement is to be able to read the script and sound convincing. If a candidate can't do that every time -- and Perry showed he can't -- those who decide such things will find someone else who can.

YCS said...

Happy New Year JMG (by the time you posted this it was already new year in half the world).

2015 will be much like 2014 I think. Every year we slide down further in the abyss, sometimes there's a few rocks that make us stumble harder. We could stop if just turned around to face it, but it seems that we just aren't ready yet.

I've made a new blog that will discuss these sorts of topics in relevance to my part of the world and from a young person's perspective. I hope readers here can give their thoughts once I get properly posting:


Cathy McGuire said...

Well, not the most cheery of New Year's greetings, but I believe your comments are right on - we're going to continue to struggle and those with power are not going to be helpful. And local attempts to make changes will be most effective. So I resolve to keep learning and sharing my knowledge this year.

Here's another good example of the "something will save us" hype - well-intentioned optimism that just doesn't do the numbers:

The thing that strikes me the most is that this cheeriness seems to completely ignore the number of people on the planet, so I have to assume the underlying message is, "we, the already privileged, will make sure we get enough resources to keep going; there's enough for us,and that's what counts". I can't see any really good solution to overpopulation; obvious being able to keep births below replacement numbers for a while would be great, but not going to happen. So I read articles like the one linked above and I sigh, knowing other will read it and use it as an excuse not to scale down. :-|

Tony f. whelKs said...

New Year's wishes to one and all.

And, JMG, congratulations on the bingo score - an impressive number of hits (which, of course, is one of the reasons ADR has become a 'must read' for me...) Not sure it's going to be worth redeeming your win, though; the bingo prize is likely to be some piece of useless plastic tat produced in a sweatshop somewhere in the world where meaningful employment is as unlikely as meaningful civic participation.

Some random observations from Airstrip One: 2014 looks set to be the hottest year on record in Britain, with every month except August being the hottest ever recorded, too. Some muted and surprised comment is being made that the FTSE index begins 2015 lower than it began 2014. The ramifications of Scotalnd's independence vote keep on, well, ramifying. And in five months' time, we'll be enjoying or enduring one of the most uncallable general elections for decades. (I'll have a ringside seat working as a poll clerk - partly out of a spirit of civic responsibility, partly because it is ridiculously well-paid work. And as an election worker it will be illegal for me to discuss party politics for the duration, thereby getting me out of many spit-flecked conversations with wild-eyed loons of all stripes. A win-win-win for me, at least ;-) )

Unusually for me, I'm managing to read the ADR with a mere six comments posted. It's 4am on New Year's Day, and I managed to miss the fesitivities by falling asleep at the wrong time, trying to repair my shattered sleep patterns caused by shift work on my usual winter gig as a temporary postal worker. With my mostly collapsed-early lifestyle, each week worked now covers a whole month of bills, and it helps me get through the season without succumbing to the winter blues.

I must confess I had to look up the term 'fragging' before I could fully appreciate your discussion of police morale. Some ominous signs there, and it is looking increasingly fraught in the arena of police-community relations. It strikes me as odd that a law-enforcement establishment which can take alive the likes of Al Capone, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy or Timothy McVeigh cannot apprehend allegedly-unarmed, alleged-shoplifters with darker skins without resorting to lethal force.

There's little wonder at the increasing use of revolutionary rhetoric amongst the commentariat on both sides of the pond. I think it's partly a measure of the sesne of futility in challenging the established order through sanctioned avenues (bought elections, suppressed protest, etc etc), and people are beginning to see some form of revolution as the only effective means of sweeping away the old order. Alas, as you pointed out, they forget the Robespierres, Terrors, Holodomors, Sisis, Cultural Revolutions and increasingly virulent factionalism and sectarianism which tend to follow before things eventually settle down to a new order that ultimately resembles the old. It's interesting to note that many of the Russian volunteer militias operating in Eastern Ukraine paint themselves as 'nationalist, orthodox and monarchist'. I'm not sure how Vladimir Vladimirovitch views that final claim, but he's happy enough to turn a condoningly blind eye to the first two, just as Nuland et al seemed not too concerned about the motivations of the Right Sector and other Ukrainian extremists so long as they waved the correct colour for their 'uprising'.

All in all, an interesting year ahead.

John Michael Greer said...

Alison, I saw that -- fascinating to see such straight talk coming from what is, after all, one more corporation-funded media outlet.

Tom, fortunately, we can walk away from the bleating and have that discussion here.

Mark, by all means differ. A year from now, we'll see who was closest to right.

Brian, you're welcome, thank you, and likewise!

Repent, glad it worked for you.

Tom, consider our glasses virtually clinked together.

Martin, thank you and likewise!

Tom, I'll have to go and look at the comments. Solnit's speaking for a very popular viewpoint, the desperate effort to insist that the American middle class can keep its lifestyles no matter what. Delusional, yes, but no less popular for that...

Nastarana, if for whatever reason the foreign government in question can't get the US to stop trying to overthrow it or make trouble in its backyard using canned insurgencies, feeding the US some of its own medicine has got to have a potent appeal.

Gardener, a fine habit. May the next month bring you peace.

Pinku-sensei, interesting -- I hadn't been following those stories, due to the press of other things happening in a hurry. Thanks for the heads up! As for your comments re the Progress Fairy, I'm reminded of the use of "clapping" in obsolete slang with the meaning of "giving the clap to"...

YCS, glad to hear of the new blog! Congrats and best wishes for the project; it's needed.

Cathy, yes, that's a fine example of the species. (Gah.) I'm probably going to have to devote a few posts in the new year to why all these expressions of the bargaining stage need to be recognized as such, and not taken any more seriously.

Tony, oh, granted. That's one of the reasons that rigged elections are so counterproductive for the elite: if you don't give the people a peaceful way of making their wishes known, sooner or later it's going to be time to decorate lampposts with the elite. That revolutions normally put in governments worse than the ones they overthrow is just one more irony in the fire.

Renaissance Man said...

Umm... Happy New Year?

The rest of the world may be grinding down, but my year was my best ever.

I finally started serious work on a timber-frame workshop, too late in the season to complete, but still pretty far along.

I got copious complements on how well I have trained my horse these past three years. A very useful post-oil skill set.
I finally got to visit Juno Beach and walk around Caen and Bayeux, where there is copious evidence that fossil fuels are not necessary for comfortable living or quality of life or the creating of marvellous works.

The insulation I finally got into my attic kept my energy usage down by 5% despite a significantly colder winter than the previous year.

I've expanded my growing library of how-to books and tools and skills and acquired gumption to make and build things, repair things, and learned how to keep my tools sharp.

So, I continue to follow your excellent advice and prepare for the day when my job melts away, and I will be able to pick up and do something meaningful and useful to put food on my plate. Probably not in 2015, though.

Avery said...

Seeking input from readers across the country... so, about an hour ago I just watched the New Years' celebrations on my local station here in Boston. I had trouble finding live footage of my city, even though I had access to all four local networks and I live here; three of them were offering national coverage featuring Pitbull and clip reels of toilet humor, but I don't want to whine about the state of pop culture. My question is this: I was somewhat troubled to see that there was only one local channel (WBZ) with the resources to show local footage, even though Boston is a fairly large city. And I was further troubled that the quality of this channel had dropped noticeably from the celebrations I remember enjoying last year; there was certainly no lack of thoughtful planning or skill on the part of the program's directors, but in terms of the program's budget, I felt like I was time traveling back to roughly 1980.

So, how was your New Year's programming? Were you able to find something appropriate for your time zone, and how was it? Or did you have to watch Pitbull?

hapibeli said...

I keep wondering how my country of Canada will do over the coming 10-30 years. I may have 10-15 healthy years left, so my children and their children will possibly be more affected than I.
My time is shorter, so they'll get more of it.
Canada likes to pride itself on being more financially sound than the USA, but the same corporate greed has been running amok here for years before I returned in 2008.
There is less of a dogmatic domination response to the ills of society here, but the right wing Harper government is hell bent on following the Americans down that rathole.
My biggest fear is that Americans, (and understand...I lived there from the age of 3 and 1/2 till I retired in 2008and still have family I love down there), the Americans will begin to move up here to escape the stupidity throughout the USA's social structure.
The last thing I want is all of that American exceptionalsim, crazy religiosity, individualist thinking to pervert what is truly Canadian in thought and deed.
Would that we all could throw off the corporatist yoke before we continue the slide.
But hey! How about those Blazers, Cowboys, Cubs, and what was that great HBO series, and which detergent need I buy, and those hot new Toyotas, Chevies, Sony TV's, pizzas, fishing shows, bathroom cleansers..........

Bike Trog said...

Detroit has a giant fist sculpture hanging from a pyramid frame. With wheels and guys pulling ropes it could be a mobile battering ram, for jobs where an ordinary wrecking ball would not be symbolic enough.

The price of E85 is higher than regular gas now.

Donald Hargraves said...

Happy New Year to the group here. Actually got a chance to spend it at home for once (certain driving jobs require New Years Night driving).

I can't say that 2014 was bad for me, but it wasn't necessarily good either. Basically, I floated by, every moment this last year roughly equal to the position of years past. The only thing good was that there wasn't as much pressure on the health side of things – leaving a slight bit of extra cushion on that side of things.

But 2015...ah, every time I think about the year ahead, I get a sense of foreboding. Something's going to happen, even if it's just to me or to my circle of acquaintances.

and an answer to Nastarana: Look to Russia and/or the Middle East to fund the insurrection. London and Wall Street need the US to be stable, China has our debt to them to hold over us, and Israel has only us to hold onto.

Brian Bundy said...

Another year of the super bowl? Is there no place I can turn for good news these days? All joking aside, I had a wonderful 2014, but I recognize that I am an anomaly and I am grateful for that. I also want to share my gratitude for your amazing historical insight. I don't have the inclination to do the research myself as I am busy with other projects, but with a quick weekly visit I can learn so much. You moving to VA was a great loss for the NW. I wish everyone here a happy 2015. If you find you're getting stressed, turn off the computer and go plant a tree....your grand kids will thank you.

Harry J. Lerwill said...

I think there's life in the fracking industry yet, not from any possibility of profitability, but from the subsidies that politically connected sectors can leverage.

When the denial of climate change is no longer feasible, who will pay for the implementation of "greener technologies in the pursuit of Saudi America?" The taxpayer or the industry? Attached to any other greenwashed bill, a huge increase in the subsidies would sail though.

Coupled with a few productive fracking fields getting opened up by the shake-up in state elections, and a spin machine with a proven track record for inflating improbably absurd bubbles, the ride is not yet over.

If the current drop in oil price is being managed, then those not in the know are running for the exits, while the insiders would double down.

One effect of the current instability is that Halliburton executed a hostile takeover of Baker Hughes, increasing their market share in the rent-extracting segment of the fracking boom - they are the ones who collect on every "service process" they can but have little skin in the game.

I suspect those unstable oil and gas sector stocks will have one more "Dead cat bounce" and a lot of insiders will make a killing.

In reality, the turnaround in energy stocks attributed to opening up new areas to fracking will only be profitable with huge subsidies in the form of greenwash grants.

Therefore my prediction is that the bovine fecal matter will get deeper, and more people will do what humans do well, adapt.

Blockhill (NZ) said...

While here in New Zealand we witnessed a 'Record-smashing' Christmas retail spend

Is this a result of US share of global resources declining, leaving more for the rest of us...? Or just that we are behind the US in the race to the bottom...?

dltrammel said...

Speaking of the propaganda that things are improving, I read an article this month (sorry can't find the link) that was titled something like "Economic gains are now coming to the Middle Class too!" which read like a Progress Fairy press release.

The first few paragraphs were all about how the economy was back and strong and look now even the little people are getting some of the pie.

It wasn't until you got further down that the numbers showed up. Our great windfall this past quarter was a 0.4% increase in average wealth.

I was so relieved I went out and did some unnecessary shopping with my new money.

Bogatyr said...

I'll second Tony f.Whelks's comments about the UK. There are some odd things beginning to surface there.

The Scottish referendum has left very large numbers of people utterly disillusioned with the British political establishment, and with the media.

Events in Ukraine led to some very strange discussions, with people (including myself) taking positions which surprised the audience, being in contrast with what we were anticipated to support.

I don't know about the British armed forces, but I know that many police officers, firemen, etc are increasingly mutinous as they see the terms of their pension schemes being unilaterally changed for the worse, for example.

Even in the media, there are odd discontinuities. Traditionally left-wing papers provide consumerist boosterism; traditionally right-wing 'pro-business' papers produce serious analyses of Peak Oil.

As for academia... I interviewed recently for a lecturing post at a British business school. I had to give a presentation for this, and used it to discuss the Sino-Russian relationship, the realignment of the Eurasian economic space, and the effects it will have on global trade. It was met - predictably enough - with (shall we say) polite bemusement. Clearly, they hadn't got beyond "China makes cheap stuff for us, and Russia is evil". Needless to say, I didn't get the job (and I'm not sad).

What's interesting is that all of this makes sense when viewed through the narrative here on TAR. There is a firming up of sides, between those who believe in post-Cold War business as usual, and those who believe that it cannot continue as usual. This is splitting old groups apart. How all of the new fragments unite to form new movements is going to be interesting to watch - from a distance, if possible.

Bogatyr said...

PRIZM - Dalian, eh? I'll be based in Beijing, but I'm told I will be travelling in Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang - as well as places in between - so there's a very good chance that I'll find myself in Dalian at some point.

Thanks for the offer of help. This won't be my first stint in China, though; I first went there in 2004, and spent quite a bit of time there at various points. I haven't been there since 2010, so I'm looking forward to getting back.

I'll drop you a line after I settle in!

Toro Loki said...

Gee, I'm glad that both my little house, my almost half acre and my little Ford Ranger are all paid off.
Just got to start a big garden in the Spring.
Anybody got recipes for Kale?

ed boyle said...

calendar events 2015
uranus square pluto march 15-final of 7 exact squares over couple of years-last time 1932-1934-last of a big series of events going from saturn pluto opposition in aug. 2001, 5 times satur uranus opposition from 2008 to 2010 so maybe we are ok till 2020.

agree with jmg


elections in uk, italy, greece. Things will go toward dissolution of current system, i.e. euro austerity imposed by germany on southern europe. UKcould leave eu. USA lap dog behaviour could end. Merkel could be left high and dry with her servile behaviourtowards washington. Perhaps a palace coup could occur before 2017 election enabling aleft wing coalition, numerically possible, politically inacceptable up till now as left party considered antiwashington consensus. If eu consensus changes?

china collapse continues dragging down commodity exporters, german manufacturers. What would 100 million unemployed do? Is revolution likely? Could the party build military gear instead of useless infrastructure projects as pre ww2 happened?


43% of millenials 18-34 nonwhite, half of newborns nonwhite, 2043 half of total population nonwhite. Of course latinos and asians will just become "white" replacing itaian and jewish and black intermarriage will go upwards of 50% so noone will really care but wasps will be a curiosity.

So the victimizing of blacks by whites is a transition to integration. Blacks fight bck, get respect, are coopted. Like german hordes fought against rome, served in roman legions, became emprerors(obama). So long term trend one usa race. In russia yeltsin had slightlyslanty eyes, due to mongolian invasion.Europe racially very mixed bag after 2000 years wars, hordes from steppes, near east, etc. Expect usa go same way. Short term not peaceful however. Perhaps minorities plus disgruntled military and cops take down local, state or federal govt. if rich wasps maintain grip onpower.

Russia ukraine situation

read saker 31st dec blog post, very good analysis.

middle east

chaos continues contained simmering. Stabilizing congealing in iraq syria iran jordan around future consensus of "humanist islam", i.e. crazies unwelcome,i.e. taliban , al quaea wahabis should get real, purge ranks of psychos or else ww3 middle east style.

Same as above regarding extremists
ebola continues
china, usa jockey for influence.

latin america
pragmatists win against radical left and neoliberals. Local populations win more against white corporate minorities. Mexico getting a grip. USA ending "prohibition" on drugs state by state will help end killing and peoples armies stand up against corrupt security, drug lords.

usa congress
slackers improve golf score, tan.

kill rate improves playing "doom" in yemen, south waziristan but collateral damage high. Maybe not helpful in relations with islam and "great satan"

Oil, gas
read euan mearns


Marcello said...

“It’s popular to say that the experiment failed,” she says, “but that’s too narrow an interpretation. France never again regressed to an absolutist monarchy”—a statement that will surprise anyone who’s heard of Napoleon, Louis XVII, or Napoleon III."

That's actually debatable. Bonapartism was a different beast from the Ancien régime while the Restoration monarchy was a constitutional one: when Charles X and the Polignac thought they could get away with turning the clock back they swiftly got the boot. Incidentally that that the guy who wrote in 1830 'The legal regime is now interrupted; that of force has begun. In this situation obedience ceases to be a duty' would be the same to end the season of French revolutions in 1870 by executing revolutionaries by the thousands is one of my favorite ironies of history.

That said the current situation is pretty different. The bourgeois élite which ran the revolution had at least semi-feasible ideas about what it wanted in terms of government, economy etc. and eventually got around to implement them even if it took a century to make everything fit together.
In the US that is largely lacking and so is a suitably debauched tyrant people can rally against. For example the political class could easily offer the resignation (to a cushy retirement) of one or more of its disposable members to placate the masses if it came to that. Much more importantly while there is no shortage of angry people the chances of a coherent action are pretty low: the guy stocking up guns waiting for UN troops to invade is unlikely to find much common ground with the ghetto criminal seeking revenge against the police or the clueless leftie intellectual. A jacquerie or a mindless insurgency are certainly possible, perhaps likely just very few years of decline away but a revolution along French lines lacks the raw intellectual material, while the harsh economic realities would make charting a sensible course afterwards near impossible.

Also while foreign countries might like the idea of a coloured revolution in the US that's actually pretty much impossible in the existing climate. Right wing Le Pen in France can pretty much publicy admit to receive russian money without excessive negative consequences. Currently anybody doing the same in the US would be found out (any political threat to the status quo would be spied upon to insane levels) smashed by the state security apparatus and then swept away by a media tsunami with hysterical op-eds beating the war drums against Russia or whatever to eardrum piercing levels.
Some fascist willing to allow the cushy retirement of the political class and offering generous deals to business interests might be accepted in an impasse but he would have to be wrapped in an American flag.

D.M. said...

Happy New Year is about all I really have to say right now. Just have to see what the year brings.

Mister Roboto said...

I pretty much agree. While I don't expect the world as we know it to have a meltdown into some Glenn Beck-esque apocalypse scenario, I do expect some sort of major denouement of the same old Business As Usual either this year or the next. So I offer up this very doomer-friendly ABBA song from 1980 for my fellow TAR readers this New Years. I didn't bother at all with "ringing in the New Year" this year. I went to bed about ten minutes before midnight and only just barely kept my head from hitting the pillow until it became 2015. I wonder if that's some kind of omen? :-)

Toro Loki said...

Your headline actually made me chuckle. smack them in the head with a wet mackerel... Lol That's good . I actually laughed for a change...
Aside from that your blog was even more depressing than usual... Thanks Archdruid. As if its not already depressing enough ..
Oh well.I keep preparing as much as I can
If I get a small income tax refund I will buy myself another 40 Watt solar panel to add to my own Solar System... ( Are we not Gods? We build solar systems, lol...)...
Happy New Year.

Farm-girl Sarah said...

Your predictions are necessary, Mr. Greer. In this month's National Geographic, editors asked "experts and futurists" to predict aspects of the future. One (listed as a tech entrepreneur -- not sure what sort of expert that would be)weighs in on how we will age in the next 20 years. He begins, "Since technology grows exponentially, not in a linear way, we will see dramatic improvements in our way of life in just a few years." He lost me from his premise, but wait, there's more: "Soon we will be able to solve all problems that are fundamentally technical. These problems include disease, poverty, hunger, energy, and scarcity. If you can live a few years more, there's a real chance you will never die, since mortality may be just a technical problem we can solve. All these advances will usher in a new golden age, freed from the scourges that have plagues humanity throughout our history."

The executive director of the Sierra Club seemed almost as delusional in his predictions about energy in the next 50 years. I'm reminded of the character Larry the gambler, in the movie Parenthood: always convinced his day is about to dawn, even when he's being beaten up by gangsters. We are a strange species, surrounded by reality but capable of ignoring it until the end. Thank you for your willingness to look at things as they are. May 2015 bring you satisfaction and purpose.

tubaplayer said...


I am still here in my little tucked away part of the world. You are my No. 1 on a (very) short list of MUST READ bloggers each week.

My own thought, which I will be posting elsewhere as well is that 2015 will be the year that we see clearly beginning at least the Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times"

Boldog új évet kivanok

Greg Belvedere said...

A happy new year to all! Also, a belated Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, and overall happy holidays.

Not sure if you saw these articles from The Guardian about the US preparing for a domestic insurgency. I don't know if I feel encouraged or frightened by their foresight.

I find the terror and obliviousness many white people are showing over recent police violence and the protests they have sparked amusing, though troubling.

I also find the work slowdown the NYPD is conducting rather interesting (66% decrease in arrests). Alhough I find the NYPD PBA a bit bullying and immature, having worked for a public institution I understand the low morale caused by directives coming down from the top. I'm sure many officers (especially those of color) resent enforcing "broken windows" policies that have them at war with the communities they serve. It seems the NYPD is trying to show the city what turning away from that approach will look like. I'm curious how it will play out. From the article below,

"But the police union's phrasing—officers shouldn't make arrests 'unless absolutely necessary'—begs the question: How many unnecessary arrests was the NYPD making before now?"

Autumn Crow said...

I definitely prefer reading predictions by those who are willing to look with a critical eye to their own prior predictions, and it's even better when those predictions are on target!

My ears perked up at the parallel between the low morale of Vietnam soldiers and police in the United States. While I've only had a very minor role in this effort, you're quite right that at least on my side of the picket line (activists working to stop police brutality) that this hasn't been discussed at all. While most of us seem to have learned the lesson from Vietnam about demonizing individuals, the practical impact of the drop in morale and why it is happening isn't really discussed.

There was an article recently on the NYPD's work stoppage that was my personal introduction to this topic. The paralysis of local and state governments with regards to trying to extract enough revenue from wary voters through taxation explains a lot in the development of quotas and other revenue-enhancing policing functions. And it is pretty typical that those burdens come down heaviest on those who can't defend themselves -- people of color and the poor. I doubt anyone who is a police officer signed up to shake people down for money every day. The fact that this is treated as a "fight against crime" when it clearly isn't probably leaves officers feeling used, and the increasing resentment by the public against these policing tactics is probably making the situation worse -- by undermining support for taxes that would provide a more stable revenue stream to support their departments.

Any ideas on ways to change this feedback loop?

Nastarana said...

Mark Rice, I had similar experiences this last year. My daughter was one of the few who did find full time employment with medical benefits in her field after graduation with a BA. She lives in Portland, OR, one of the better places to live in the USA now, and where she has many friends.

There are various ways this can be interpreted. It could be that the business climate has become so difficult that, for the first time in decades, the quality of character counts in hiring decisions. Or, word might have come down from somewhere that the natives are getting restless and it might be a good idea to take on some promising working class kids, just to keep the theme of land of opportunity going a bit longer.

Diana Haugh said...

Went to a farm auction this morning. It made me think collapse already happened without being noticed. Picked up an 80 year old pitchfork. The elegance of the achingly beautiful curved tines, the perfectly balanced shaft which conformed so well to the hand , when compared with the ugly, hard on the back and shabbily made pitchforks I buy( with distressing frequency) proves that high culture and art are already behind us.
As to insurrections fomented elsewhere coming home to roost, Taylor, in Fall of the Dynasties, cites an old Russian saying; People who set fire to their neighbor's roofs shouldn't be surprised when their own catches fire'

Violet Cabra said...

The times are changing. When I went to new years party last night with high school friends from wealthy suburbs, I was able to engage people on the same level I was able to communicate with anarchists 4 years ago.

When asked about the prospects for 2015, I was honest in my assessment: it will probably be worse than 2014, at least on a collective level. People would ask why, and I would go some into the intractable political/economic situation in the states and people got it. No one said "violet quite being a downer," people listened like drinking water.

Also, many of my old friends are really interested in Spengler - I quote from him a lot and people like that. It's hard for me to imagine that a few years back as well.

Looking at the political situation has me a bit anxious. As the United States continues to undergo a crisis of legitimacy mixed with economic contraction it is easy for me to imagine things getting real ugly in the next few years. I say to my friends "imagine you were in Europe before WWI, the say before it started. Would you have guessed what was about to happen?"

I'm trying to practice war-time thinking, imagining how I would survive and support myself if the political situation became the same in New England as, say, Yugoslavia while it was dissolving. I've read accounts of that conflict and took note that the old ladies who knew herb lore became important people that weren't messed with. Since I already have a familiarity with herbal medicine I'm expanding my knowledge, spending hours taking notes, even gathering some roots to tincture before the freeze became too hard a few days ago. I think with some practice and experimentation I could, conceivably, become mostly independent of western medicine within the next few years, on my terms, with herbs I know how to use and with established doses. I'll still go the dentist though as long as there's a competent one I can access at a price less than an arm or a leg.

The narrowing range of options can be viewed impetus towards action. Spengler says that in a declining civilization there eventually comes the choice between doing what needs to be done and doing nothing at all. There is so much that needs to be done, but it beats the alternative of alternative. The first choice looks like taking charge of life and finding purpose and meaning in the actual circumstances we're living with the second looks like a deer in headlights of destiny or drinking oneself to death. Thank you JMG for being such a vocal proponent for the first choice. Many blessings on your new year!!

Stu from New Jersey said...

Happy New Year to you JMG and to all.
@Avery - I live in the NYC area and had not watched anything like that in many years. We turned it on a few minutes before midnight to get the "countdown" and had a hard time finding one. The coverage as so cheesy I had to turn it off fast.
As a public service: the crash in fracking is more serious than you might think. At this web site, ("Flint Hill Resources") you can see the wellhead prices in various regions. Some of the prices in North Dakota have been in the 10's and 20's the past couple of weeks. There will be bankruptcies pretty soon at that rate.
The "price of oil" quoted in the press is *not* what most producers get, especially in the Bakken.

Ice Torch said...

A cold wet mackerel across the face. Were you thinking of this 26-second piece:


Yes, a bad year. ISIS, of course, scribbling all over those nice straight-line borders that we Brits gifted to the Arabs, and also two European nations engaging in hostilities. Not forgetting the wildfires in North America and Siberia yet again. In the latter, methane caused a large piece of the thawing tundra to pop like a cork, leaving behind a massive crater.

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

Happy New Year to all! I was remembering a point made in Ousepensky's work: "eventually, all ideas become their opposite". It would explain why people never see it coming. There are subtle deviations that occur to bring things "full circle", and unless one applies pressure at those right moments, "democracy" eventually stops meaning "local self-government of the responsible" and starts meaning "oligarchy" or "mob rule". Gramsci callis this "revolution within the form". It's a familiar cycle, which Polybius taught on in the ancient world, as a very natural revolutionary process. The art of good government is the ability to indefinitely forestall this.

Andy Brown said...

I was just grading my own predictions for 2014. I agree entirely that the over-arching prediction of limping along upon a crumbling status quo was completely borne out. But I also went out on a limb with some more specific predictions to test my capacity for prescience. With some generous partial credit I come out with 2 for 9.

It’s a useful and humbling exercise that I plan to repeat this year as well.

As soon as I settle upon some predictions . . .

escapefromwisconsin said...

Here's some more delusion from across the pond:

Why 2015 might well be mankind’s happiest new year

What strikes me about articles like these is that the "good news" boosters are more and more confined to reporting *worldwide* statistics; that is, the number of people in poverty in China or infant mortality in Africa. What kind of monster would look askance things like that! This allows them to conveniently ignore the wholesale disintegration of living standards in much of the developed industrial world.

But of course these are mainly the result of extremely cheap things that could have been done fifty years ago. Because Africa is starting from a low level of development, even inexpensive measures like mosquito netting make a huge statistical difference. And vaccinations have been around for decades before managing to get around to a slightly larger number of sick children. The ones who still don't get it are not counted.

The middle classes in China and India are increasing, but that's because of their low starting point. Eventually this will play out, and probably soon - look at Japan for example. And the optimists always point to inequality *between* countries as decreasing, probably as a deliberate distraction from what is happening domestically. This is not surprising - thanks to globalism, the average person around the world can expect to have the income and living standards of a Bangladeshi cab driver. Put that way it seems like less to cheer about.

It seems like there is deliberate obfuscation in these statistics that is easy to see through if you think about it (which most people don't).

Speaking of statistics, in my year end statistics roundup, I noticed this:

The "standard run" predictions of the Limits to Growth study are playing out, and according to that model things start going pear-shaped sometime between 2015 and 2020.

Andy Brown said...

Last year as a complement to gloomy predictions for the long descent, I also made use of a different kind of oracle to reinforce my overlaying optimism about humans’ capacity to cope, muddle, persevere, and craft meaningful lives: a tarot reading for 2014. After all, our predecessors colonized the arctic with nothing but ingenuity and the materials at hand – and there’s no reason to think they were any less happy than we’ve been with our longer, more materially extravagant lives.

Bill Pulliam said...

We made a holiday trip down to the nightmare of metro Atlanta, visiting nephews, nieces, cousins, and such that live in this catastrophe of sprawl. It's always our little experience with how the other 90% live.

Over the past year at home in rural Tennessee, I had become increasingly concerned about the prospects and outlooks of the young adults in this area. Due to the still-prevailing gender segregation of rural America, my interactions have mostly been with young men. I have been deeply concerned that they are worried about exactly the wrong things, and had unrealistic visions of what their future paths might hold.

Well, now, after a week around young men and women in suburban Atlanta, as well as their parents, I am thinking that by comparison our local hillbilly boys are doing pretty well. The suburbs, in contrast, seem to be awash in people who don't even think about *anything,* much less the "wrong" things. Unrealistic visions? Hah! NO visions! No goals, no strategies, no interest in anything but immediate gratification. Those kids seem to be absolutely lost into a world of nothing, with no awareness of or concern for today, tomorrow, or yesterday.

Yes, I know, we old fogies always think the kids these days are lazy and worthless. But I am comparing two groups of "kids these days," not "the kids these days" versus my rose-colored memories of "when we were your age." At least here in the hinterlands, the young guys actually have an idea that their lives do have a trajectory, and they believe that they have some control over that. When presented with hopeless prospects, they move away. Or join the military. Sure, some of them become meth-heads, drunks, and video game addicts. But even many of the pot-smoking drunks are still hustling around for odd jobs, scrap they can salvage and sell, etc. to help pay for their cigarettes and beer. And I am sure some of the suburban kids doubtless have plans, visions, goals, and strategies to achieve them. But it seems the wasteland is significantly more wasted in "the mainstream" than here in the "backwards backwoods."

On a side topic, the niece who hosted us (she's early 40s) works for the CDC. After commiserating about mass-media inspired Ebola hysteria in the U.S., she asked us if we had heard the latest Ebola joke that was going around the CDC offices.

"No," we replied,"what is it?"

"You won't get it."

Thomas Mazanec said...

Civilization will likely collapse fast or slow, returning the Human Race to the condition it spent 99 and 44 hundredths percent of its existence. In this case, I will be dead in a few decades.
Another future vision is that humanity will escape the Earth's constraints and become a Kardeshev Three species filling the Milky Way.
If this happens, you know what? I'll be dead in a few decades as well.
In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the life available to me, while trying to make the world better in the process.
I will also present your arguments to my Toastmasters club, when I finish the speeches I am already scheduled for.

Ed-M said...

Greetings for the New Year Mr Greer!

Here in New Orleans I track the recovery by the automobile traffic (worse than ever), real estate prices (they badly inflated in early 2013 and stabilized ever since) and apartment rentals (1200 a month median rent for a two bedroom apartment, which is 41% of the average median income of 35K a year... and many of them are dumps that are not up to code). To me, New Orleans is still in recovery but is slowing down, because the workers aren't sharing in it.

On the Apocalypse front, Dmitri Orlov in an interview with the host of (link on his blog) is predicting the US will collapse in two days sometime in the near future; notoriously bad prophet John Hogue predicts a GOP takeover of the White House in 2016, leading to a thermonuclear exchange at the end of WWIII that will bring civilization to an end (and possibly make humanity extinct) before 2018.

Personally, I now have new benefactors per the provisions of my mother's will. Of course, they want me to get out of my involuntary collapse and back into the mainstream economy due to their locations in still prosperous areas of the US...

Ed-M said...


With the GOP now in control of both houses of Congress, our rank and file troops and veterans will know what it's like to be fracked by an elephant (ouch!).

@Odin's Raven

Nuclear apocalypse in 2015 and second US civil war in 2017? Both predictions can't be right!

Ed-M said...

@ Nastatana, Donald Hargraves-

Russia funding an insurgency here in the US sounds about right. After all, we've made the decision to put a hostile nation on her front porch (Ukraine).

Mark Rice said...

A quote via the reformed broker :
"Morgan Housel (Motley Fool): unsustainable things can last years, even decades, longer than people think."

thenoteswhichdonotfit said...

My parents are living in one of the comfortable bubbles - San Francisco (they are retired, and my mother owns the house free and clear, though she still has to pay for insurance, property taxes, and maintenance). Our neighbors are all employed or are in a situation like my parents' (if they weren't, they would move out), they see the 'Help Wanted' signs in many local businesses, they read about all of the tech businesses doing well in the newspaper. I keep telling them that the tech bubble is going to burst, and I'm surprised that it's not more obvious to them since they lived through the Dot Com Bubble as well.

What has gotten through to my parents is the drought. Sure, San Francisco's water supply is still reliable (unlike some other parts of California), but they read about the drought in the news, and they voluntarily reduced their water use (for example, showering less frequently). Furthermore, they could see the effect that the drought had on the plants around them. My mother likes to pick roadside fennel. She definitely noticed that there hasn't been much fennel growing during the drought.

buho62 said...

On the subject of domestic insurgency:
Apologies that the report is only available as documentary/video.

The real danger is probably not fringe racist groups, but one can see the seeds of something broader here.

Clay Dennis said...

JMG, Congratulations on your 2014 prediction accuracy, certainly much better than most in the blogosphere.

I don't beleive that your predictions of how fast the dreaded "collapse" is coming are really very much different than many of the other bloggers who take issue with your more leisurely stroll long Senecas cliff. I think mostly it is a difference in perception of what the first main sign of collapse is. To some the loss of their 401K and the closeing down of neighborhood Applebees is Collapse personified. While to one with your long view of history such events are but a baby step down the long staircase. I would propose my own yardstick of the first significant stage of collapse.

My Yardstick is an upside down version of the Pareto principle applied to the automobile. I beleive that when it happens most people would agree that when 80% of Americans can no longer afford to own and operate a personal car collapse will be upon us. I think this is an easy yardstick to measure, and given the all pervasive nature of the automobile in every aspect of American life such a milestone will be lifechanging for most. If we use this as a yardstick I think there will be much more agreement among those who study collapse.

Moshe Braner said...

Interesting that today (New Years day) on the NPR show "OnPoint" they re-broadcast an interview with Russell Brand, who said he wants a 'Revolution'. Granted NPR is off-center in the US, but it's far closer to the center than, e.g., archdruids.

Spanish fly said...

This would be the European versión of the American Pravda style:

" I’m thinking in particular of the steady drumbeat of articles and essays in the ...(Portuguese/Spanish/Italian/Greek) mass media wondering aloud why so many ...(Portuguese/Spaniards/Italians/Greeks) haven’t noticed the economic recovery of the last four years, and are still behaving as though there’s a recession on."

avalterra said...

Happy New Year JMG - to you and yours,

I also see 2015 as another bump in the road but like you I don't think we are looking at any serious insurrections - yet. I've noticed that when a people revolt it is rare that one day everyone wakes up and takes to the streets. There tends to be a number of "false starts". I think the occupy movement was one such false start and I think we will see another in 2015. It will (likely but not guaranteed) be more dramatic and longer lasting then occupy and may even spawn a permanent organization of some type. But it will likely be quickly co-opted (like the Tea Party was by the Republicans). But give it another decade or so and we will see.

By the way anther person who predicted a new American civil war around 2020 was Thomas Chittum ( Although he was certainly coming at things from a completely different angle. said...

Buho62: This is the first thing I thought of after I opened your link and watched the opening -

Andy Brown said...

Inspired by your example, I’ve taken a stab at 9 predictions for 2015. We’ll see if I can improve on last year’s iffy showing.

Tom Bannister said...

Blockhill (NZ)-

Don't think reality will come to bite too hard here just yet. We're still in a kind of ignorant bliss at them moment, and a history of New Zealand will show you we don't tend to respond to crisis until they're slapping us in the face. (She'll be right mate!... oh wait...) For now our govt can keep borrowing like there's no tomorrow, leaving a future administration to deal with the massive govt deficit...

beneaththesurface said...

Question for readers of this blog:

If you were to pick 1 or 2 books and 1 or 2 articles to introduce someone to the general worldview we have (which that someone doesn't already have) what would you choose?

My sister recently asked me that very question. While her partner does not deny the concept of peak oil, he has a more optimistic view of the future than our "pessimistic" (or realistic) one. He is a high school history teacher and has some historical knowledge, and I think is open-minded and intelligent enough of a person to read and consider a different point of view. She wanted to give him a few readings that might allow him to question his current worldview. Which ones might you choose? For those of you who once had a different worldview, what were the books most influential in your change of worldview?

Books that come to mind include: Richard Heinberg's books (though which one would be best?), JMG's The Long Descent. I haven't thought of any articles.

In the last 8 1/2 years I have read so many books and articles related to peak oil, the limits to growth, and industrial decline. It's hard for me to think of which are the very best ones to give someone who isn't among us "converted."

Works of fiction might also be a good suggestion too. I'm looking forward to the release of After Oil 2 because I see it as a chance for people I know to read a peak oil-related book for the first time. For example, my parents (who while are not necessarily peak oil deniers, haven't grasped the full implications for the future). I've long wished they could read some of the peak oil books I've read, but they lead busy lives and that hasn't happened. But now that my After Oil short story will be published, they are very eager to read the anthology when it comes out. I'm curious to see what sort of discussions will be sparked from that reading.

peacegarden said...

Green blessings to JMG and the amazing community of commenters…may 2015 bring focus and determination to our individual and group projects, much learning and home brewed beer, mead and country wine.

We sat by the fire and counted our blessings as the new year rolled in. The waxing moon glowed in the sky and the air was crisp and bracing. We dreamed of what we might do and become this year, perhaps a few new skills added to the growing body of knowledge we try to share with our family and friends, getting to know our neighbors better, practicing LESS.

Tomorrow morning, we will be harvesting 5 drakes from our flock of Ancona ducks…the meat will be savored and the females will be relieved to have less pressure from too many amorous swains. We are getting an egg a day from each female most days, making for opportunities to gift our neighbors and friends. We are keeping the males with the best markings for breeding some day in the future…when we can help someone else establish their own flock. It is a commitment and a promise of sorts to the future. We will be steadfast.



Phil Harris said...

JMG & All
Thanks to all and best wishes for the next year. I read good reflective comments – the right tone for the week.

This is partly my age group, but a few people I know, mostly a good bit younger, died this year that I did not expect, while more likely candidates exhibit little change. Additionally a surprising number of guys I have known for decades got prostate cancer but nobody died yet and some are doing surprisingly well.

Britain? I can’t say that good governance and careful geopolitical realism have been a steadying influence. I expected bad stuff – gave me the heebie-jeebies back in 2005/06 – but somehow did not expect it as bad as this.

There is a lot of serious cruelty (to women, children, disabled, sick etc) crept back in the system that I had not expected. I had thought we might pull together more like we did back in the war when I was a small child.

The ‘Orwellian’ lies make political propaganda to accompany the continuing routine big-time corruption in the financial and big-business world. Standards – and there are good people doing good stuff – have gone down even further than I had guessed before 2014. We have been here before of course, but this time it could matter more than any of us can guess just now. (Answering somebody’s good point: could the pre-1914 generation have known what was coming? No, it was unimaginable. I keep my fingers crossed for a generation of creative young people whom I come across who increasingly see it like it is, and my fingers-and-toes even more crossed for the others.)

Good luck
Phil H

SLClaire said...

One of my personal yardsticks for how the US winter solstice holiday season is going is the prevalence and gaudiness of light displays. This year, prevalence and gaudiness were both noticeably reduced, at least in the area I know best. Another is the amount of noise as the New Year arrives. It was colder than usual yesterday evening, but that doesn't usually put much of a damper on it. However, this year the intensity of noise and the length of time it lasted were both noticeably reduced. In fact I can't think of a year's start with less noise since we moved to this house almost 13 years ago.

Personally I had a good year, and I think making concrete preparations for decline had a lot to do with that. It isn't just that we now have a wood stove, for instance (though it was lovely to sit in front of the fire and warmth on New Year's Eve). It's also the deep-down satisfaction of seeing things clearly and taking appropriate action. I'm thinking over what to do along that line in 2015. Not all is clear yet but I am working on it, and I'll keep your predictions in mind as I do.

Val said...

I wonder how the entertainment industry will fare this year, and over the next five years or so. I suppose it appears trivial in the big picture, but if you work in that industry, then it isn't. This could affect me personally.

In coastal California we've had some very welcome relief from drought lately; but I have an unpleasant feeling it will be back. Maybe this would be a good time to start getting serious about making some solar desalinators.

Shane Wilson said...

One thing I've noticed a lot more of recently is the kinda of uplifting, inspirational puff pieces that used to be derided as unworthy of good journalism. Someone who fought against all odds to recover from a disease or something, or the "pay it forward" types who do charity, leave a $400 tip. I'm thinking it's a sign how bad things have gotten that such pieces that were not worth reporting now seem to be front and center so much. Status quo cheerleading, I guess.
I'm bullish on Canada, and here's why:
JMG has mentioned that the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes will be the new centers of power in North America, as global warming destroys the coastal cities. The US base of power is on the coasts, while Canada's base of power is on the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence. I can easily see Canada outliving the US, and an Ottawa based "New Canada" composing Ontario, possibly Quebec, and Great Lakes states stretching from New York to Minn. as a future powerful North American country. I could easily see that government/constitution continous with the same Canada founded on Confederation in 1867, meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, same as today.
Canada's founding myths of "Peace, Order, and Good Government", Loyalism (little "c" conservatism/monarchism/resistance to revolutionary change), and unresolved conflicts (Anglophone/Francophone, English/French Canada) are much more conducive to our current situation that the US founding myths.
If fascism does break out in the US, and some equivalent of the American People's Party takes hold and starts to enact a reign of terror a la Hitler, then Canada has many options available to it. it could appeal to China for support on the basis of its not insignificant Chinese Canadian population. I'm sure China would consider Canada a major coup/score the same way the USSR did Cuba during the Cold War. Considering Chinese helpful diplomacy, I'm sure they'd offer support to help Canada resist American fascism. If the American People's Party does, for whatever reason, outdo Hitler and the Nazis, you can bet that the US will be a dirty word among refugees, never to be mentioned in a positive context in polite company, much the same way WWII refugees responded, and Germans responded after the war.
All in all, Canada is well positioned. My guess is that Harper and his cronies would get the boot real quickly in the event of an American collapse, and that Canada would revert more to its traditional form in keeping with its history dating back to the United Empire Loyalists.

Shane Wilson said...

PS--Canada has always impressed me as way more pragmatic and less idealistic than the US, and I think that will serve it well in the future.

Paul K. said...

@hapibeli "The last thing I want is all of that American exceptionalism, crazy religiosity, individualist thinking to pervert what is truly Canadian in thought and deed." Last time I checked Canada had its fill of religiosity and individualist thinking. Your attitude is what I call "Canadian exceptionalism about not being American." The only difference is that Canadians *think* they are different. It's like Democrats who think there are different from Republicans. Same game, different team.

David Webster said...

Happy New Year John. I have just started reading your blog since listening to the podcast you did recently with JHK. I thoroughly enjoy your writing and greatly appreciate the amount of time you devote to these topics. I especially enjoyed your blog on the essential technologies that we should embrace and pass on to others. With that in mind I just completed the purchase of a slide rule complete with case and manual from eBay as I have been both trained in and have a natural ability with mathematics. I look forward to receiving it and getting started on learning its use. I'm also considering the communications technology via ham radio. As a first step I have signed to an online course to learn morse code. My father spent WW2 in northern Alberta picking up enemy transmissions and typing them out for use by the Canadian led code breaking effort. Morse code was a second language for him and learning it now feels right. Baby steps, I know, but after a year of Zerohedge and Ourfiniteworld I'm tired of sitting around In endless bouts of hand wringing. Thanks again for all your efforts.

svealanding said...

I have not seen you comment on the concept of panarcy applied to society as a whole. Thought that it might be a nice idea to look at. Since I do not have your powers of expression I can't write anything stunning from it but it would be nice if it gave you some ideas.

Thank you for your work on the blog, I read it every week as soon as it's out and I'm up (different time zone). Last weeks post in particular was inspiering and I do actually notice people around me contemplate the world and their lives in new ways. :-)

Nastarana said...

Ed-M, Donald Hargraves, With respect to Russia, I take your point.

I think it no exaggeration to say that the vast majority of Americans are heartily sick of foreign military adventures, as we saw when the neo-cons and allies were trying to push the President into war against Syria. I can easily believe that Russia would be happy to help support a massive antiwar movement in the USA. In fact, at this point, one move Mr. Putin might want to consider is appealing to the American public over the heads, as it were, of our increasingly disrespected government.

Shane Wilson said...

I wanted to 2nd your observations regarding your suburbanite relatives. I think it plays into the same thing Violet and I were discussing last week regarding the 2-3% of aware youth vs the rest buried in their electronic devices. One can't help but think that they'll be doomed once the next crisis hits. I can't see them surviving a depression, much less anything worse

John Michael Greer said...

Renaissance, glad to hear it. For what it's worth, I had a very challenging but very successful year in 2014, with every prospect of an even more successful 2015. It's the wider world that concerns me when I consider the future.

Avery, good heavens -- you watch New Years programming? For heaven's sake, why? I had a good time instead.

Hapibeli, Canada has some very hard choices ahead of it. The impact of low oil prices on the tar sands industry may be even more extreme than its impact on the fracking bubble; a lot depends on how Canadians respond to the resulting crunch.

Trog, you know, that may be the first worthwhile use for modern art I've encountered yet.

Donald, yes, 2015 does have that sort of vibe, doesn't it?

Brian, thank you! As it happens, I have quite a bit of tree and shrub planting on the agenda for 2015.

Harry, well, we'll see.

Blockhill, good question. I'm not well informed on NZ conditions, so can't offer an intelligent assessment.

Dltrammel, funny. A whole four-tenths of one percent! I bet if you divided up the "middle class" into ten-percent sectors by income, that, ahem, torrent of wealth would be going entirely to the top tenth, and most of those further down would still be getting screwed.

Bogatyr, fascinating. If I were a competent would-be British demagogue, I'd be salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs at this point.

Toro, sure -- you'll find 'em on the Green Wizards site.

Ed, so noted. Now we'll see what happens.

John Michael Greer said...

Marcello, of course Napoleons I and III were different from the Bourbons -- they were the charismatic dictator variety of absolutist monarch rather than the hereditary duffer kind -- and the Restoration was "constitutional" in a sense that the Holy Alliance found quite tolerable, i.e., still pretty much absolutist. As for comparisons between the French Revolution and today, that's Solnit's metaphor, not mine. My guess is that we'll either get something like Afghanistan -- diffuse terrorist groups using IEDs and sniper rifles to take out police and military units -- or something like the Ukraine coup-d'etat, with surging mobs directed by social media making the country ungovernable. Or, just possibly, we'll get both.

DM, and a happy new year to you and yours.

Mister R., now there's a blast from the past!

Toro, yes, I know. I'll be talking about cheerier things -- well, more or less -- in upcoming posts.

Sarah, thank you. I've seen the equivalent -- the progress-worshipping equivalent of speaking in tongues, in which bits of technobabble get flung together incoherently as though the Holy Spirit of Progress was speaking through them. Bah.

Tubaplayer, thank you. Yes, it may get very, er, interesting.

Greg, yes, I saw those articles -- you're right that they paint a picture most Americans desperately don't want to see. As for the NYPD, they'd better be careful or they'll emulate the last doctor's strike in the US, which happened in California in the 1970s. The death rate dropped by some 15%, as I recall, and once word started leaking out that that was happening, the strike was over very fast.

Crow, there's one straightforward and utterly necessary way to break the feedback loop: talk to the police. Sit down with officers over beers and get them talking about how they see the world; if what they say isn't politically correct, leave the self-righteousness at home and let it pass for the time being. Open up a dialogue with them, not on the overfamiliar basis of who did what to whom, but trying to understand what's going on behind the scenes, and what's driving the violence. Then direct some of your efforts toward responding to their concerns as well as those of the rest of the community. The police are only part of the problem, and they're potentially also part of the solution; treat them as stakeholders who can be included in the process, not as the villains of the piece, and you may get somewhere.

Diana, no argument there. We are already in the process of collapsing, and the steep downward trend in product quality is one sign of that.

Violet, you're welcome and thank you! You've mentioned something that's going to be a central theme in upcoming posts: the one meaningful alternative to despair is getting up off the couch and doing something. More on this as we proceed.

Stu, thanks for the heads up. My assumption all along -- based on previous examples -- is that things in the shale patch will be spinning out of control far more quickly, and far more extremely, than the media is letting on; by the time the first news stories about bankruptcies hit, it'll already all be over but the shouting. Watch this space...

Nathan Donaldson said...

I think that as far as the course of history goes annual predictions go are a fools errand. A four or five year time scale seems more relevant to me. I challenge you to make a prediction of events up to 2020, because it's just too easy to say that things in 2015 will just continue the same downward trajectory. Of course that is probably what will happen, but what do you that might be the next Lehman-like event(s) and what will happen after that? Or should I just buy Twilights Last Gleaming?

latheChuck said...

Toro Loki- Re: Kale, I'm not going to give you a recipe, because you can find them yourself in seconds.

What you need to know, though, is 1> if you protect kale from movement when it's frozen, freezing does not damage the plants; 2> kale is very good at self-seeding, with or without intervention.

With a sturdy row cover, to prevent wind and precipitation from ANY movement of the leaves, my kale has gone through sub-zero temperatures. If the cover gets buried in snow first, so much the better, but even if not, a little protection goes a long way to having plants that take off early in spring, and provide nutritious leaves through the winter. (I'm in Maryland, by the way, where winter nights are often below freezing, but winter afternoons often above.)

If you let some kale go to seed, you can easily collect the seed pods and thresh out seed to be planted at the time and place of your choosing, or you can let the pods scatter seeds in the same general area and grow when they're ready.

John Michael Greer said...

Ice Torch, no, I wasn't -- believe it or not, I'd forgotten that bit! Thank you for the memory.

Matthew, I'd offer one correction: good government is the art of temporarily forestalling the process you sketched out. Nothing forestalls it indefinitely.

Andy, the fact that you're 'fessing up to your failed predictions puts you well out ahead of the pack.

Escape, oh man. That's a classic. Many thanks.

Bill, interesting. I wonder how general that is.

Thomas, I'll be interested to hear what they think of it. (BTW, I gather you've decided to try to post a comment on every one of my previous posts; please reread the text above the comment window.)

Ed-M, Dmitry's always been prone to fast-collapse notions, and the inevitable disappointments never seem to slow him down. It's odd.

Mark, true, but they've already been doing the Wile E. Coyote thing, running in place in midair, for quite a while now. Sooner or later, if something is unsustainable, it won't be sustained any longer.

Notes, it's always interesting to see what it is that gets past the blinders.

Buho, exactly. The Klan involvement is a symptom, not a cause.

Clay, the difference between my view and that of many others in the collapse field is that a lot of them assume that the first wave of crisis will be followed by total collapse, and I argue that it'll be followed by muddling through and partial recovery, then by renewed crisis, and so on. Thus I don't think it's actually that useful to have a single metric for what counts as collapse, because collapse is a process, not an event; the collapse of industrial civilization has been under way for quite some time now, and will still be a going concern for longer than any of us will be alive. That's my take, at least.

John Michael Greer said...

Moshe, well, there you are. I wonder how many people who chatter about revolution have stopped to realize that not all change is improvement.

Spanish Fly, are you getting that in Europe these days?

Avalterra, that seems quite reasonable. That's one of the reasons that I suggested that people watch for some of the preliminary signs.

Andy, good! We'll see.

Beneath, one of the reasons I wrote Star's Reach and solicited stories for the After Oil anthologies is precisely that fiction makes this sort of thing much easier to understand.

Peacegarden, glad to hear it. A happy new year to you and yours!

Phil, no question, it's getting very difficult -- and will be getting worse. Good luck!

SLClaire, I noticed the same thing here. The coming of the New Year was marked by a few distant car horns that sounded weirdly mournful, followed by the sound of fireworks -- those latter reminded me far too much of the noise made by automatic weapons and artillery. All in all, it was chilling.

Val, there I can't help you -- I have as little to do with that industry as I can possibly manage.

Shane, yes, I've seen the same thing. That sort of glurge used to be restricted to the pages of Readers Digest and Yes! Magazine; the fact that it's spreading through the media these days shows how desperate people are for reassurance.

David, thank you -- it's a welcome thing to hear from people who are getting up off the sofa and doing things. Enjoy your slide rule and CW class! Those are valuable steps.

Svealanding, I still haven't decided whether panarchy is a useful analytic tool or just a buzzword. Applying ecological concepts to the rise and fall of civilizations is another matter; I've been doing that all along, and you can find some material on that in the pages of my book The Ecotechnic Future.

Nathan, now go back and read my post, and you'll discover that I didn't say that 2015 will just see a continuation of current trends. If you're going to critique my ideas, or anyone else's, it really does help if you have some notion of what you're criticizing.

August Johnson said...

@David Webster – I obtained my first Ham Radio license back in the mid-1980’s, when the U.S. still required Morse Code. I see Canada still does. I stuck with the Advanced license level, which required 13 wpm code speed for many years. When the speed requirement for all license levels was going to be reduced to 5 wpm, I finally decided to get my Extra license, which required 20 wpm, soon to drop to 5 wpm. I was able to get my speed up to >20 wpm so I could pass the exam before the requirement was changed. Just for my own satisfaction! Unfortunately, my speed has now dropped down to somewhere around 5-7 wpm (from non-use), but I’m working on improving that again. I want to become fairly proficient on CW, lots easier to make receivers and transmitters out of junk for CW.

I’ve also dug out my father’s old slide rules and want to learn how to use them. He did an amazing amount of work with them!

August KG7BZ

Random Man said...

Happy new year everyone.

I'm a physician who recently took a job in the same mid sized town where I went to medical school, because it was all I could find. So for me it represents a decline, but most people would be offended by that.

So this gives me the perspective of coming back after 10 years. And I can report that things are...pretty much the same. A few better eateries, but others closed down. Same working class people who get just enough to go to Wal-mart, and yet there are fancier new developments and you see many well off looking Latin American people. Some neighborhoods and commercial buildings abandoned, yet traffic worse than ever.

In other words, a mixed bag, treading water. A bit surprising to me as I previously envisioned this town to be terminal.

If we start the collapse, though, it very well might be but I may leave before then.

Iuval Clejan said...

JMG, Can you please provide a reference for your claims that the fracking industry is not going to be financially viable for very long? Either because there is not much oil, or because it costs too much to drill (compared to alternatives) or both? I just told my media-hypnotized mom this and she doesn't believed me. Upon reflection I realized that my only source for this belief is YOU! Yikes, you have put me under your spell! I will look it up independently or you can help me...

onething said...

Recipe for Kale

Boil chopped up kale in salty water.
During that, saute minced garlic and chopped walnuts in butter. Not long. Drain kale as best you can, and stir it into the garlic and walnuts.
That's it.

Compound F said...

I'm frankly pleased with this post, but only insofar as it begins converging with my own feelings.

I don't consider myself wise, but I am familiar chaos theory and the sheer unpredictability of bifurcation. I suppose your "long Descent" thesis is correct, but only for my personal general hand-waving purposes. I'm acutely aware that things (especially economical fairy dust based solely on trust in dust) could get much worse, much faster than anyone can know. As for the catabolic collapse thesis, well, that one seems to be in the bag.

Dare I wish everyone a Happy New Year? Sure; as wishful thinking goes, it ain't the worst of the worst.

Andrew H said...


I have been wondering just how poorly we will respond to events in the future. At some point, we will hit the wall in one or other ways but will the general populace ever understand why. I have the impression that we could all be fanning ourselves to keep cool while standing around in the middle of Antarctica in winter and most people would still be proclaiming that ok, maybe there is global warming but it is all natural, nothing to do with us, and it is God punishing us for allowing abortion, letting women have the vote etc. (put in your favorite gripe here).

Punishing users of fossil fuel by burying them alive implies that at least most of the population recognizes global warming, that it is our fault and that it was due to burning fossil fuel. This surely requires some confidence in scientific results, and we seem to be headed full steam in the opposite direction.

The same goes for depletion of resources, drought, flood, famine etc.


heather said...

Farm-girl Sarah- I saw the same predictions in National Geographic and had the same response- sort of a disappointed eye roll. I would have expected better from a magazine I've learned a lot of interesting things from in the past. Funny how different the world can read when wearing one's ADR specs.
--Heather in CA

Bogatyr said...

There have been a number of comments on this post about "a Foreign Power" (to use the delicious term of early 20th-century literature) lending clandestine support to a US "colour revolution". This develops an idea JMG has been suggesting for a while.

In the spirit of dissensus, I disagree. The various revolutions (Orange, Rose, etc) were based in a specifically US vision of "democracy". Perhaps I shouldn't even say "US"; I probably mean "Beltway".

In this vision, there is a natural group of the population who support US-friendly principles. This groups are therefore designated "the People", and are funded to promote US-friendly ideals (and, if possible, to install a new government that will follow US-friendly policies).

This works, because the American Dream still has global resonance - even if what the protestors actually get is corporate control of their supply chains, asset-stripping on a national scale, and other unintended consequences.

None of the Foreign Powers who have been suggested have anything like such a universalist vision to justify and empower any interference. In fact, currently, all of them are basing their policy very specifically on the preservation of national sovereignty against the idea of corporate internationalism.

What they DO share is a philosophy based on letting opponents over-extend themselves. China, for example, produced Sun Zi, and still values his thinking. Russia has repeatedly allowed opponents to stretch their own supply lines to breaking point before closing for the kill (as well as being led by a champion judoka, who thoroughly understands the practice of using the enemy's own force against him).

All this being the case, I can't see a Foreign Power funding a US colour revolution; the raw material isn't there in any kind of organised way, and there isn't the fertile ideological ground that's necessary.

Far more effective would be to use the US's weaknesses against it. A few fake ISIS operatives sabotage irreplaceable substations in the electrical grid, perhaps; what would happen in Ferguson, I wonder, after a few weeks without power? No need to organize anyone - just provide the right conditions for opposition to emerge spontaneously... Or perhaps just wait for the real ISIS to do it on their own - they've certainly threatened it...

Gwaiharad said...

I read Solnit's piece, and I don't think it's as bad as it's being painted. Sure, she places a lot of faith in renewables, and in the possibility of change from within the clearly-broken system; certainly more than most readers here think is justifiable. But she's expressing hope and a call to action, while maintaining some level of realism, which I think is admirable.

I'm not answering that call, though. 2015 will probably just be another year of school. Here's hoping the coming fracking bust doesn't destroy the university's finances to the point where they quit honoring my scholarship. Students have made some half-hearted noise about divesting from fossil fuels, but nobody expects it to happen, seeing as there are university-owned gas wells right next to the stadium.

In related news, I have a front-row seat on the Denton, TX fracking ban. It's been interesting. I suspect that the bottom will fall out of the industry before the legal battles reach any conclusion, rendering the whole thing rather moot, but we'll have to see.

Spanish fly said...

-'Spanish Fly, are you getting that in Europe these days? '

Yeah. I'm living in Spain now and...
The new king Felipe gave his first chistmas speech and said (what a surprise!) that spanish and European Union were in full (machroeconomic) recovery...

Marc L Bernstein said...

I have an inkling that the US federal government has been preparing for massive civil unrest, and it just dawned on me how this civil unrest may start - with an enormous bailout one more time of some big banks following a major stock market correction and a general economic collapse.

If such an economic collapse takes place, while at the same time the oligarchs protect themselves, there will be an awful lot of people with homicidal fantasies and nothing better to do than to go to the streets and create mayhem.

Donald Mackay said...

I thought I was the only one who wasn't seeing the real estate bubble reinflating. A short walk to the end of my street shows four vacant houses, the last one abandoned last weekend. Several others are in need of some major rehab. Prosperous folks don't let this happen to what they believe is a major investment. Think refinancing or a reverse mortgage might help? Get yourself an appraisal before you sign on to anything. There's a world of difference between what your local tax assessor says your place is worth and what the rest of the world will pay you for it.

Kutamun said...

Historian Dr Edwyn Bevan , in a letter to Arnold Toynbee "A Study of History", (80 odd years ago at least )
" I do not think the danger before us is anarchy , but despotism , the loss of spiritual freedom , the totalitarian state . As a consequence of strife between nations of classes there might be local and temporary anarchy ,a passing phase . Anarchy is essentially weak and in an anarchic world any firmly organised group with rational organisation and scientific knowledge could spread its dominion over the rest . And as an alternative to anarchy , the World would welcome the despotic state .Then the world might enter upon a period of spiritual "petrifaction" , a terrible order which for the higher activities of the human spirit would be death . The petrifaction of the Roman Empire and the petrifaction of China would appear less rigid because ( in our case ) the ruling group would have much greater scientific means of power .( Do you know Lord MacAulays essay on "History"? . He argues that the barbarian invasions were a blessing in the long run because they broke up the petrifaction ."it cost Europe a thousand years of barbarism to escape the fate of China " . There would be no barbarian races to break up the future totalitarian state .)
" it seems to me possible that in such a totalitarian state , while philosophy and poetry would languish , scientific research might go on with continuous fresh discoveries . Greek science did not find the Ptolemaic realm an uncongenial environment , and i think , generally speaking , natural science may flourish under a despotism . It is to the interest of the ruling group to encourage what may increase their means of power . That , not anarchy , is for me the night,are ahead , if we do not dind a way of ending our present fratricidal strife . But there is the Christian Church there , a factor to be reckoned with . It may have to underfo martyrdom in the future world- state , but as it compelled the Roman world state in the end to make formal submission to Christ , it might again , by the way of martyrdom , conquer the scientific rationalist world state of the future "

Phil Harris said...

@ Mister Roboto
Yes, we dived under the covers an hour early this year. Were surprised however not to be woken at midnight by the dog - no fireworks for miles!

Phil H

Nathan Donaldson said...

I'm sorry, I'm just really interested in what you think will happen in the intermediate future. I recently read the 4th Turning, because of your reference to it, and it has changed my thinking a great deal about the course of history. So although annual predictions are the norm, and yours are as good as any, I think a somewhat longer period of reference would be more meaningful.

Don't the Chinese plan for five years ahead instead of one....

Leo Knight said...

Happy New Year to all!

Your remarks about police morale triggered a memory. Recently, I overheard a retired Baltimore City policeman talk to a few of my co-workers. I tried not to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help but hear as he poured out his tale of woe. He and his wife had several run-ins with the law themselves, courtesy of their troubled son and daughter-in-law. He seemed to feel the law was both too strict when aimed at himself and people he liked, and too lenient with people he didn't like. He finished his lament with two statements I found chilling.

First, in reference to the Ferguson protests, et al, he said, "They got the police they wanted. They protested about 'police brutality' (you could hear the air quotes) and now they have people running wild in the streets. Police have targets on their backs." Apparently, he believes that police have been too lenient, and need to crack down more. Bustin' heads, and all that.

Second, in a low, intense voice he said, "There's a revolution coming."

I live in a relatively conservative area of Maryland. I hear tis sort of "rhetoric heated to the point of incandescence," all the time. I know a few firearm enthusiasts who have stockpiled weapons and ammunition, anticipating (hoping for?) trouble. As someone who has diffculty keeping my mouth shut, I sometimes wonder if I might end up like Hypatia. I feel a need to learn more discretion.

Lyle W. Van Outer said...

I wonder what the stats are for other ethnicities, including whites, who have been killed by, or suffered under the brutality of, the police?

Eric S. said...

This was a weird New Year. Usually the 31st of January at least pretends to be festive. This year, there were solemn midnight toasts to the people who died, and in the morning the sound of quiet chewing as people ate their black-eyed peas, nursed their wounds, and braced themselves for another year. I do have hopes for myself this year. Doors are opening, goals are nearing completion, and I’m learning how to look for opportunities in the midst of hardship. There may be some berries hidden among the bramble as this year’s crops spring up.

I’m disappointed with the Rebecca Solnit news. Her “Field Guide to Getting Lost” is one of my most cherished books and rarely strays too far from my pocket. It’s helped me through some dark times and helped me to learn how to see beauty and meaning in decline and decay. I saw another article from her floating around the message boards of one of the transition communities I used to be involved in about how personal lifestyle changes weren’t going to make a difference and only top down systemic transformation could make a difference. It doesn’t devalue her other writing for me, but it is sad to see someone I once admired and respected saying things that are so completely out of line with the very ideas that drew me to her writing in the first place. Of course, most of the transition towners I know have been taking a similar path. It’s been years since any of them mentioned reskilling or community building, and when they haven’t dropped out altogether they spend time passing petitions.

One thing I’ve been watching with interest this month has been a shanty town growing up under a bridge on my route to work. It started with a single homeless person getting a citation from an officer. A few days later the same guy was there with a tent, getting another citation. A few days later there were two tents. Now, 3 weeks later there are 8 tents, a few boxes, and some loose blankets on the ground. The cops don’t even bother to come there anymore. People are setting in for the long haul it seems.

Ed-M said...

JMG, especially so since it took 22 years for the Soviet Union to collapse. You'd think he'd learn from his own experience.

Well I suppose he's got an angle in the doomer porn market, and so his wallet requires that he *not* learn from experience.

Ed-M said...


I think New England would be a part of the New Canada as well. With Boston, Providence and New Haven devastated by rising seas, a Canadian re-orientation would only be natural.

But with an American People's Party following along the path forged by the NSDAP, such a re-orientation by NE would only occur quicker because they're fairly liberal up there and tend to blaze trails for evolutionary change.

Varun Bhaskar said...


I wish I could say I look forward to verifying your predictions, but really I just want to crawl into a hole somewhere. I'll keep an eye on those brewing insurgencies, but we won't have to worry about external powers actively funding until 2016-17.


Why don't you take some of those young folk under-wing and train them?



Andy Brown said...

What I've found interesting about people concluding that 2014 was a lousy year is the fact that it really wasn't significantly different from years that preceded it. It really wasn't true there was any more bad news than usual. I think what bothered people more was the dearth of good news.

I suspect that one reason for Christianity's durability (and to some extent its attractiveness to the powers that be) was its ability to paper over a lot of intractable suffering by deferring the good stuff to Heaven.

So too, globalization wrought a lot of havoc in people's lives, but also deferred whatever good stuff was lacking to the coming Bright Future.

Without faith in THAT people begin to wonder why they are working so hard for so little and cooperating with institutions that don't have their interests at heart. Cold mackerel indeed.

donalfagan said...

Just a few thoughts from reading comments: 1. I'd say the drop in oil prices surprised nearly everyone, but isn't at all a good sign. 2. Eating some kale is good, but beware of hyperkalemia. 3. A relative was contesting a speeding ticket. Instead of a judge she had a police sergeant as arbitrator. She said she thought the local police were crooked. He said I'm not going to disagree with you, but don't quote me or I'll deny it. He was retiring soon. 4. My feeling is that there are three groups of Americans. The recession had very little impact on the top group, and some refuse to even take notice of the effects. The recession has had a great impact on the bottom group, and many of them are in tough straits. Aside from the Occupy protesters, the middle group has been keeping their heads down and trying hard to stay out of the bottom group. 5. Auto sales were one of the few categories that went up over the holidays. I suspect people in the middle group finally exhaled and replaced their ten-year-old clunkers, but many bought pickup trucks.

Karl said...

Relevant to an earlier post of yours:

Newsweek: CIA Behind UFO Sightings in 1950s and 1960s

latheChuck said...

Re: police corruption: One of my sons grew up wanting to be a police officer. He studied criminal justice in college, and did well. He's applied for many police positions, and does very well on exams and interviews... but no job offers. We've begun to suspect that he's perceived as "too honest" to be a good team player, but no one would ever admit that.

Leo Knight- I'm in College Park, MD. In case we have a reason to "act locally", feel free to contact me at lathechuck at gmail.

Nastarana said...

Shane Wilson,

About Canada: I have thought for some time that the new world powers would be a loose coalition of Canada, Australia and possibly Japan. I confess to some skepticism for the future of the present Russian/Chinese alliance; wait until Chinese settlers begin flooding into Siberia.

Be aware that the infamous Koch family are attempting to set up what would amount to their personal satrapy over the upper Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes. I think all of the Koch installed republican governors preside over lakeside states.

The lakes represent about 20% of the world's most precious resource, so there are likely to be a number of claimants in future decades.

jcummings said...

Happy new year every one! Thanks for great posts in 2014 jmg.

I strongly encourage anyone reading this far down the thread to go back and read jmgs posts from the beginning. You will be stunned by his prescience. I usually agree with his posts, but I now put a great deal of stock in his prognostications.

And jmg, I admire your patience and wisdom. It must have been hard to come back week after week with intelligent, well researched insight when your audience wsd in the single digits. Now that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, I hope to see your steady hand go unwavering forth in the face of admiring throngs. All the best in the new year!

John Michael Greer said...

Random, my guess is that at least some of the places that are fairly far down the curve will do tolerably well, or at least not lose much ground. It's the ones at the top of the food chain just now that have the furthest to fall.

Iuval, try some of the links here.

Compound F, the Long Descent thesis includes the likelihood of sudden discontinuities -- local, regional, national, or global -- on the way down. Remember, it's like falling down a stair, not like sliding down a ramp!

Andrew, history doesn't bear that out. I should probably do a post one of these days on the ways that Greek mythology came to embody ecological warnings derived from the Mycenean collapse.

Bogatyr, I take it you haven't seen the remarkable amount of fawning around Putin's feet among a range of American pundits in the alternative scene. Putin's Russia is doing a fairly good job of positioning itself to stand for something just as global as the late lamented American dream: a vision of order and traditional values immensely appealing to many people in a time of social disintegration and decadence. Don't underestimate the power of that vision in the US and elsewhere; a glance at European history will show just how much raw political force it can wield.

Gwaiharad, I didn't criticize the post in its entirety; I simply pointed out that it finesses the brutal violence and unpleasant consequences of the French Revolution, and noted that this is a sign to watch for.

Spanish Fly, I'm sorry to hear that. I wonder when anybody will wake up to the fact that promising good times and then not delivering on the promise is a recipe for disaster and an invitation to demagogues.

Marc, that's certainly one possibility.

Donald, the abandoned house next to ours has been torn down, and there are plenty of other empty houses in town waiting for the same fate. No, the bubble's not reinflating, except in a handful of areas.

Kutamun, those were common fears at that time; the only difficulty was that they assumed that progress was a one-way street, and that there could be no more barbarians. Nowadays neither of those claims are justifiable.

Nathan, then go read a different blog. I write about what I want to write about; if you're looking for something else, there's no shortage of other places to go look for it.

Leo, fascinating. Thanks for the information.

Lyle, heck of a good question. Those stats are remarkably hard to find these days.

Eric, there will certainly be berries among the brambles! As long as you're willing to put on gloves and go get them, instead of waiting for a decaying industrial system to get them for you, you should be fine.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed-M, to give him credit, the US has been in a decline of its own for a while now. Still, my guess is that we're a ways yet from the final crisis here.

Varun, my guess is that they're actively funding things right now. Have you noticed the astonishing spread and volume of antigovernment propaganda in the US these days? Somebody's got some funds...

Donal, well, yes. Hyper-kale-emia?

Karl, yep. I do call it sometimes...

Jcummings, thank you. When I started this project, I figured single digits was all I was going to get, but that was better than talking to an empty room at night.

Ed-M said...


True, that; but having a few decades of only gradual, even almost imperceptible, decline and then a sudden DROP where, at the bottom, everyone's fighting each other like starving rats sounds far-fetched.

Ed-M said...

Additional for JMG,

And when the Soviet Union finally did collapse, only the multinational government itself collapsed, leaving the politically-drawn republics to continue as nation-states. And economically, the troubles continued, yet a floor was found. A far cry from all Five Stages of Collapse, at once, in two days.

Ed-M said...

Eric S,

What city is this shantytown in? Here in New Orleans, the homeless encampments don't seem to last very long due to homeless people nearby defecating in the open.

Paulo said...

@ Paul K

Your comments are not even close to fact. I was born in the States but grew up in Canada as a Canadian. 1/2 my relatives are American, the other 1/2 is Canadian. My sister is American, another brother is French, and my closest brother has just renounced his US citizenship and turned in his passport. It cost him $2300 to do so as well as the same for his wife who was a US army vet (major).

Religion: We have absolutely no idea what religion our leaders have followed and couldn't care less. In the US, someone who is not religious and did not go to the 'right church' would not be elected. Here, it is meaningless. No one cares.

Education: Canada has more leveled implementation and better outcomes.

Health Care: Universal single payer, no deductibles. Some Provinces charge premiums and some do not. outcomes much better at far less cost.

Energy: We are in fact, energy independent and export at least the same amount we use. Our energy is taxed at a higher rate to fund infrastructure, etc.

Exceptionalism: True, we do take pride in not being American and also tend to resent obese US tourists travelling in their hulking motorhomes. US obesity rates are at least 10% higher than Canadian rates, despite our eating poutine!!

Firearms (handguns): A very restricted weapon and impossible to obtain a handgun carry license anywhere in Canada. Automatic weapons restricted/banned. Long rifle registry attempted and failed. It has since been rescinded. We have gun control. Gun crimes are 3X higher in US than Canada.

As for independent bloody mindedness, it depends on where you live...rural vrs urban. Where I live we tend to make our own rules and resent outside interference. For example, we have no local building code, resent health dept intrusions, etc. If I want to shoot a rifle in my yard then so be it.

Until Harper came along we did not send soldiers to maintain empire after WW2. We used to be considered UN peacekeepers. Now, not so much.

Hockey is a religion, other sports not followed too much. We all sing 'Oh Canada', but leave the patriotic heart covering pledges to others.

Hey, we had Rob Ford...our crack smoking drunk mayor of Toronto. I guess you had those Chicago and Wash DC Crooked mayors. Aren't they both in jail?

Speaking of which, our prison system is public and not 'for profit private' as in the USA. We don't incarcerate as many people per capita 140/100,000 vrs 716/100,000. We also have no capital punishment, nor do Provinces have the right to implement such as compared to states.

These are just a few differences. To be honest, if my sister didn't live there I would never return, ever.


Avery said...

Donald + JMG: I usually don't get vibes but I've also been feeling an odd sense of foreboding about 2015, and I've been telling my friends about it... maybe if we write about it enough on the Internet, then nothing bad will happen. :)

On a rather lighter note, I've found and summarized a scientific projection of the next two decades of oil production, which makes the next 5 years out to be a time of limited crisis and great possibilities for people willing to take initiative. Hope this year will be a good one for everyone willing to take chances.

Kutamun said...

Gday JMG ,
Yeah , agreed , there is no shortage of barbarian groups emerging , internally and externally , though the vision of what constitutes a barbarian perhaps may be broadened to include anyone who disagrees with the present state of events . As far as the science goes , with things like genetically modifying our food supply in an attempt to control it , this is not a progressive improvement by any stretch , but rather " a great leap forward" perhaps . I also disagree that christianity could be our saving grace , though the dude that runs it now seems to have his eyes open , how long he will last is anyones guess ..

Speaking of barbarians , there is a rather excellent history channel show at the moment called "Vikings " depicting the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrook and the Incursions into England starting with the raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne around 800 AD . It shows that these " barbarians" were anything but primitive , and the scenes of the pagan celebrations at Uppsala where every nine years ,nine warriors are sacrificed and hung upside down from trees to bleed out are unlike anything i have wver witnessed . Perhaps the modern equivalent for the U.S Empire is sacrificing various of her client states , turning them upside down , shaking all the loot out and letting them bleed white ??...a lot of the actors are Scandinavian , so they may not be acting .

The show has many other fascinating aspects of Viking social , sexual , and spiritual life which i will try to bring up at Well Of Galabes ...Ragnar himself is a powerful image of how individuals and societies acquire and handle or mishandle power , and the price of losing ones intuitive uniqueness and creativity , instead allowing their paths to be dictated by certain images ..

Just watched a youtube video of Russian economist Mikhail Khaivin ( linked from pablo escobars article on zero hedge ) where he states that Vlad Putin left the Brisbane G20 summit early because he felt that he was talking to wheel hamsters who were part of a " show " or apparatus rather than real leaders who embody any authenticity , and that speaking to such people was " pointless " ...Vlad you naughty Barbarian !

Sorry if i have strayed off oracular topic here ....please feel free to bin me if i am too far off the reservation

Philip Hamilton said...

Howdy JMG,

I dig your blog, and I am halfway through your book, 'Twilight's Last Gleaming'. It is a ripping yarn.

I just wanted to bring this brilliant piece by R.E. to your attention if I may?
I think Steve Ludlum's Economic Undertow blog is quite brilliant as well.

Reading David Holmgren's writings has help me in my energy literacy. And Holmgren says that American ecologist, Howard Thomas Odum's work, has shaped a lot of his thinking on energy.

Anyway, lots of others, along with yourself doing great work on 'energy literacy', I just think R.E.'s piece is a beauty.

Phil Hamilton.

Shane Wilson said...

@Bill, Violet
I think what you've both noticed among the conventional, privileged suburban kids is just the terminal late stage of a trend dating back to the postwar era. A trend of increasing decadence, consumption, waste. What you're seeing is just the grotesque culmination of a trend going back 50 years that's well past it's pull date. I see the same thing in the conventional suburban youth I interact with, and it's frightening--to me, they seem downright soulless, already dead, if you will.
Please reread JMG'S posts regarding fascism, where he discusses fascism as "totalitarianism of the center". I don't think that the North, or the "progressive" parts of the country are any more immune to fascism than the rest, if anything, they're probably more prone to it. Like JMG, I think that the flinty South and Mountain West will probably be hotbeds of resistance to any centralized fascism. When I envisioned an Ottawa based eastern Canada that includes part of the Great Lakes U.S., that would be well after any fascism had fizzled and burned, and the area could be easily conquered or consolidated. In the near term, I figure any unrest/fascism in the U.S. would shock the Canadians into appealing to China or India on behalf of the danger posed to Canada's significant Chinese and Indian Canadian community.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Thanks, David Webster, for comments on Morse code.

One of my close relatives, XY, was on the other side of Morse WW2 cryptography. XY avoided the fate of many in Reich-occupied Estonia by taking, and passing, the Fooey's radio exam. He thereby had the happy fate of serving in a radio monitoring station rather than shooting at people. The exam required a speed of 24 w.p.m. or thereabouts. In the field, XY's task proved simple enough: Fooey's adversary at the Eastern Front, namely a bunch of (dim?) guys in Uncle Joe's "Red Army", was communicating in a code consisting entirely of numerals. XY had to write down what he was hearing and then pass the transcript to a bunch of specialists in the decrypt room (a room which was, admittedly, off limits to the Estonians: Estonians and Germans have traditionally not been pals). I suspect from XY's narrative that Uncle Joe's codes were weak. The decryption, I am thinking, was a matter of mere pencil-and-paper work, unlike Bletchley Park's decrypts of the Fooey's Enigma and Colossus traffic.

Noteworthy among the various contemporary Web offerings for students of Morse are and The former I have used only a tiny bit. The latter I used to use a lot.

The aid I use most is the MFJ-418 "Pocket Morse Code Tutor" (just used it tonite). My current drill involves random pseudo-words on this machine, assembled from the 44 FCC-examinable characters, at 22 w.p.m. If you are seeking an MFJ-418, you might be able to pick one up for around 100 USD.

I also see from case notes that there are some good YouTube vids, from Uncle Sam, either at the time of WW2 or from a couple of decades later, showing among other things how a good wrist at the key is so steady that a coin lodged on the wrist upper surface does not drop off.

One might want to consider whether to use the Koch or, alternatively, the Farnsworth strategy for learning Morse (cf One or other of these two strategies is probably advisable, since otherwise one risks getting into the dreaded "speed trap", wherein one is forever stuck at 5 w.p.m., with the speed refusing to go up because a 5 w.p.m. aural habit has become ingrained.

We may well find Morse prominent in the upcoming Dark Age, I imagine at 15 w.p.m. or so.

Thanks very much also, August Johnson, for chiming in on the discussion of Morse, and referring to your dad. I glanced a moment ago at the nice, short, Wikipedia writeup of your dad's most celebrated work, at


Tom = Toomas Karmo

on northern outskirts of Toronto

www dot metascientia dot com

Toomas dot Karmo at gmail dot com


backyardfeast said...

@donalfagan: I've wondered about those autosales numbers over the last year. I don't know about where you are, but here those sales seem mostly to be of the illusory variety, based on $0 down, low interest rates and *7* year financing deals. These sorts of numbers seem to correlate closely with the beyond-belief pendulum swings of our (Canadian) news: either "GDP/auto sales/the economy hits record highs!" (good) and "Canadian household debt hits new record highs!" (bad). No connection between the two is ever made, of course.

Susan Higgins said...

As for fragging your higher ups-it already happened, well, was attempted, in our local PD, which is already fraught with problems.

Gwyneth Olwyn said...

As a Canadian I'd like to chime in on the country's future. We are approximately 30+ million immigrants with 1.1 million indigenous people. Our national future will be entirely in the hands of the neighbour to the south with 10X our population and/or whatever further flung nations might wish to usurp the U.S. claim to our resources. While the comment about our exceptionalism stung, there was a reason that one of the most popular advertisements in our country of all time was a beer commercial (I am Canadian) that classified our identity primarily as it relates to not being American.

Also, the doctor's strikes (depending on how many partake) around the world do involve flat or lowering death rates. The lowering death rates are largely presumed to be attributable to the removal of elective surgery during strikes:

Bogatyr said...

JMG, I'm going to differ with you very strongly here! You wrote:

"Bogatyr, I take it you haven't seen the remarkable amount of fawning around Putin's feet among a range of American pundits in the alternative scene. Putin's Russia is doing a fairly good job of positioning itself to stand for something just as global as the late lamented American dream: a vision of order and traditional values immensely appealing to many people in a time of social disintegration and decadence. Don't underestimate the power of that vision in the US and elsewhere; a glance at European history will show just how much raw political force it can wield."

I see this as -shall we say -verging on alarmist, and I'm uncomfortable with the emotive position you're taking. You don't use the words, but what you wrote seems rather too close to the "Putin is Hitler" meme being spread by the MSM.

If you're on the 'alternative' scene there are some genuinely good reasons to cheer Putin on.

One particular example might be that Russia is actively resisting the corporate domination that has long since been accomplished in the US, and to which the EU is currently yielding. In Russia there are, and will be, no GMO foods, for example. Frankly, this pleases me, and I'd like to see my own political leaders show some of the same backbone.

But: this is being done purely within Russia, for Russia. Is is an example to be emulated? I could wish so. Is it a conscious positioning for international leadership? No, in no way.

As for social attitudes in Russia... well, you often say that you don't write about the world outside the US because you don't know it and, if I may say so, this is one of the times when it shows.

Most of the Russians I know and work with are open-minded and tolerant people.

In Russia generally, I would say that it's certainly no worse than - say - 1980s Britain, which I remember well and was a misogynistic, not very liberal, and certainly not gay-friendly time.

The liberalism of the contemporary West is a VERY recent thing, made possible by the very flow of oil wealth that we spend so much time discussing here - 20 years of it. The Russians, in contrast, spent the same period trying not to starve, not to freeze, and not to get shot in a social and economic collapse engineered by Harvard economists. Of course, as a result, it's a more socially conservative society than the West. Putin's entire career has been about building the country back up from that. In fact, he's been incredibly successful. BUT, again, this has been in Russia, for Russia, using purely Russian material. There's no ideology ready for export, no expansionism. Given a decade or two of prosperity, Russia would certainly catch up with the West in social attitudes. The fact that it's going the other way now is a response to NATO's aggressive stance, unfortunately.

So, I really don't think it's necessary to call up the ghosts of the 1930s; that's not what's happening here.

Cherokee Organics said...


Well done with the hits for the 2014 predictions! I respect the fact that you are happy to review your predictions against reality. Only the strong as they say.

I haven't been able to comment here for a few days as the weather has been a bit nerve wracking in that it has been just so hot. There isn't much unusual about that at this time of year here, but it is the human factor of arson that is the wild card.

Fortunately, the cool change has just arrived with a little bit of rain and the birds are happily singing to each other: "Let's get it on..." Whatever that means... Anyway, they sound pretty happy.

Speaking of which, this year with the shrub layer being better established many smaller birds are hanging around all day bouncing in and out of the foliage eating who knows what. Last year they departed for cooler parts of the forest, so I'm treating this as the incremental win that it certainly is.

I thought that it might also be worth mentioning that last year - now that it has been completed - was the second hottest year on record here: 2014 Australian weather in review. Well done everyone, keep up the good work.

It would be easy to sink into despair about such things or hide in a shopping mall, or cinema - but I chose instead to adapt to the conditions – there is no air conditioner here although the power system could easily run one - and have instead been out making some more concrete steps on the farm. I had a vision the other day for a proper potato patch and how it would all integrate into the rest of the farms systems, it unfortunately just required a whole lot of hard work under a brutal sun... Those stoics set the bar high for standards of behaviour. Unfortunately I had to move some plants at this time of year to achieve that vision and there has been a survival rate of about 10% because of the extreme heat. Ooops.

Hope you are all enjoying your summer / winter and please feel free to send some cooler weather and rain here.



PS: There is a new blog entry up talking about foxes, zombies, dreaming, more shed gear, hidden talents of the boss dog, local tomato equivalents, my mates shed (it is awesome), chippers, dandelions, and berries. Plus it is finished off with a love story. Truly, it is good stuff, if I don't say so myself: The hills have eyes

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Blockhill and Tom B,

I reckon that NZ like us have become a client state of China - we just don't acknowledge it openly yet. All those US dollars that they have, have to end up somewhere, so it might as well be here. I believe we just signed a free trade agreement with them too - those agreements have worked out so well for us in the past with other countries. Honestly there was even talk very recently of signing alternative banking arrangements so that we can trade in the yuan in a local SE Asian block. A lot of other neighbouring SE Asian countries have I believe signed up to this. My understanding is that our treasurer was very excited about signing up for this arrangement but we were advised against signing this by other interested parties. Unfortunately I don't know enough about international financing arrangements to understand it better or even know how it turned out. No disrespect to the Chinese, as I'd do exactly the same if I were in their position and maybe, they may be cheaper?

Hi Sarah,

Respect for the classic 80's film reference. Top work what a great film!

Hi Diana,

Quality tools can still be purchased, it's just that they're really, really, expensive as they reflect the true cost of those items. Incidentally I pick up antique tools where ever I find them as the steel is much higher quality and longer lasting. I had a mass produced rake here which lasted 6 months before it's untimely demise and that is just wrong. It was the final straw for me.

Hi Violet,

All good options. Did you know that the ancient Aboriginals used to use charcoal to clean their teeth? Very clever as it works on so many different layers. Without all of the sugar and acidity of modern diets too think of what impact that would have on dental hygiene? Remember too that more plant matter = a less acidic diet. Just sayin...

Hi Phil,

I hear you man. It is evil. I've been rubbishing on for a while now about how the government here is failing to crack down on transfer pricing - which is the tricky process of sending local profits off shore to low tax havens through all sorts of techniques such as inter-company loan interest, management fees etc. Yeah, much of the big end of town is apparently not paying much in the way of company tax: A taxing tale of two peak bodies. Who’d have thunk it? I must say I'm very impressed with using Christmas time to announce this too. It is an ugly look and can only possibly lead to their (all of them) own demise as they are acting counter to their own long term interests. All for a few dollars more.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Leo,

If you don't wish to be a target, don't look like one. I once saw a documentary of a psycopath actively picking out victims out of a crowd. It was chilling.

Hi Varun,

They're not hungry enough yet, eventually they'll get there.



irishwildeye said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jean-vivien said...

how long till Green Wizardry makes it to that list ?
Your call, Archdruids !

Kylie said...

I met up for a New Year's celebration with a group of friends. We ate a good quantity of fruit, breads, cheeses and preserved meat. I looked over the table to determine what I could make, what could be grown and what could be baked or preserved. Quite a lot of it could be done locally with a bit of skill. The company was quite good too: I was given herbs and milk for making cheese before I left. We are quite rich in company and skills here.

A group of tomato plants have popped up in a completely unexpected corner of the yard, probably spread there by the chickens. It's time for me to listen to what the plants are trying to tell me about the soil conditions, I think.

Goals for the year: get out of debt, get better at brewing and cheesemaking, strengthen ties with friends and family.

Phil Knight said...

Personally, I've long suspected the Putin/Russia boosting in the peak oil scene is far from spontaneous or accidental. People who accept the case for peak oil tend to be well educated and intelligent, and if there's one thing that the Soviets learned during the Cold War, it is that it was the more educated and intelligent Westerner who was particularly susceptible to their propaganda.

I think it's quite amusing how Libertarian/Austrian types like Max Keiser et al. have allowed their ideological anti-fiat currency dollar-phobia to overwhelm them so much that they've thrown their lot in with the Kremlin, largely on the faith that a new gold-backed international currency will be introduced at some unspecified date in the future.

It would really be tragic for these people if that didn't actually happen.....

trippticket said...

Congrats on your shining record for seeing what's there to be seen if you look carefully. And a hearty thank you for fostering that developing skill in a lot of us as well! (No worries, though; I don't yet foresee a time when I decide I can do this without your insight!)

New Year's customs still holding, my wife and I discussed potential resolutions Thursday morning, and for the first time in our lives came up with a "keep doing what we're doing" strategy!

I mean, our very modest (and still paid for) little home is significantly less modest than it was this time last year, even with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Our children are much bigger, stronger, and healthier than they were this time last year, as are we (the end of 2013 was really rough for us). Sales of our little herbal company's products have been stronger, and run later in the season than ever before. Our social life has improved locally by leaps and bounds, and our circle of friends has at least doubled. Our fruit trees, berries, herbs, garlic, small stock and mushroom crops have all had a stellar year.

And not because the general trends are moving in those directions either! Im not trying to be Sister Mary Sunshine here. It's come from paying attention to people like JMG, Heinberg, David Holmgren, EF Schumacher, and other clear thinkers, and taking their analysis seriously.

But it is amazing how many people out there still wonder what the heck we're doing and why we're doing it! So, since I have no resolutions to make, my wish for 2015 is for a gentle but unmistakable nudge to move a lot more people in the direction of constructive action this year. And, luckily?, it seems like we're well positioned for a little extra nudging this year...

Christophe said...

JMG said "the abandoned house next to ours has been torn down"

Does Cumberland have a side-yard program allowing you to purchase the lot? Will you be expanding your vegetable/herb garden into that conveniently cleared space in the near future?

Ed-M said...

David, JMG,

Well in my neighborhood, nearly every vacant lot is growing a new house or two, and nearly every blighted, abandoned house is being gut-rehabilitated. Owners of vacant warehouses and office buildings are getting into the act, too.

Ed-M said...


Another reason why Russia is becoming more socially conservative is because of sexual hysteria imported by US NGOs known as the American Family Association and the Family Research Council who helped write a "homosexual propaganda" bill at the request of Russia's parliament, the State Duma. Seems to me that Washington assented to their going to Moscow because they had a war plan (Ukraine) at the ready and needed an excuse. Otherwise the law would not have been so broadly written.

But you are right: leave the alone to prosper, and their social attitudes would catch up with the West's.

Ed-M said...


I grew up in New England and go back there to visit from time to time. Outside of Boston and the further north you go, it gets quite flinty and fiercely independent. Even progressive Vermont.

"Live Free or Die" isn't New Hampshire's state motto for nothing!

Merle Langlois said...

Paulo, I'd just like to add one more ultra-relevant comment about Canada that you forgot to leave out: just like the U.S., perhaps even more-so, Canada's urban development for the last fifty years has been of the extremely sprawling, useless for a post-automobile, suburban type. So picture all those advantages of Canada, and remember that after autos, people in suburbs surrounded by suburbs (that used to be on middling-good farmland) will be walking around with buckets of water and bags of grain like in Africa. In such a situation they might have wished that we hadn't wasted so much productive land and burdened ourselves with such long trips on foot, just to feed our lazy narcissism for a mere fifty years or less.

James Fauxnom said...

Ha, Canadians like to brand themselves as such like it means something. Its a vast country; the needs of the people differ heavily from one area to another. Coming from the prairie, Ottawa might as well be a foreign country. We've got no shortage of problems on the way as America's issues largely become our issues. said...

Good call on 2014 JMG. You may be correct for 2015 too. However, in talking about all the bursting bubbles, don't overlook the possibility of the largest bubble in history popping, that of the US dollar, which would entail overnight catastrophic global turmoil.

It seems that private demand for physical gold, especially from Asia, outstrips global supply 2 fold. That gold has to be coming from central bank vaults and when it runs out gold price will spike. This will mark the end of the US dollar, which will have some implications...

- the US trade deficit will end, which means all its imported oil will end. Expect oil price to spike. Also, all the imported electronic crap from Asia will end.

- the entire financial system will end. The dollar will be inflated many fold, and if we're lucky the freefall will be stopped with a peg to a new hard currency, and we'll only have a 10 fold devaluation. If not, expect hyperinflation. Interest rates will shoot up, destroying all this housing and consumption and fracking bubble. Expect unemployment to rise from today's 25% to around 90% as all the financial workers, and those working in service industries selling imported gadgets from China, and those working in the fracking oil patch, all lose their jobs, as well as all the associated lawyers and construction workers and engineers etc etc down the line. And I can't imagine what any of these people are going to do for jobs in the future either unless cheap manufacturing can be lured back over like China did to the US. That will take decades however and I wonder if there will still be a country left by then.

- what will be the implications of overnight 90% unemployment and soaring inflation? Total chaos. I only hope the military has plans to distribute food to cities out the backs of trucks, or else... And I can't see how this outcome can possibly be avoided. And it all rests on the gold suppression scheme continuing, which as I said, is inflating the greatest bubble in history which is enabling gross economic distortions of a global scale to continue. This is a bubble and like all bubbles, when it ends, it will not unravel slowly.

Paul K. said...


Thank you for so eloquently demonstrating Canadian exceptionalism for all to see. You've hit several popular verses in the beloved Canadian song, "Canada is better than the States." Here are the lyrics:

What kills me is that I like a lot of things about Canada, and I want to think that Canadians would know better than to swallow such exceptionalism whole and without question. But then the "but, but, we're so different! and better!" comes along and it sounds just like the Canadian version of "USA! USA! USA!" The odor is similar.

Having lived for several decades in both countries, I look at things like:

* the Canadian tar sands
* Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol
* Canada's participation in US military actions. here's a refresher which, surprise!, pre-dates Harper:

and the story of Canadian exceptionalism looks less...exceptional. Is the US any better? Heck no!

I am not the only Canadian to think this way. Google "Canadian exceptionalism" and there are some pretty interesting articles in the first two pages of results.

Why do I bother pointing this out? Because I hold Canadians to their own self-proclaimed higher standard. Think about it.

daelach said...

Happy New Year! I've tried to fend off 2015 in the night before New Year's Eve, and at first, things went fine. But then, the New Year seemed to have used the bubbles of the sparkling wine to send through some infiltration troops. They built up a bridgehead and provided covering fire, and before I was able to take effective counter measures, the whole January had marched in. Well, I could stop things at that point and succeeded in repelling at least the February. (:

@ Bogatyr: And what if a considerable number of US citizens (mainly from the middle class) should realise that it is their own government that keeps the very "American Dream" from them? The US government (as well as any other Western one) gives any support it can to let the super-rich just become super-duper-rich, at the expense of the overwhelming majority.

Voting isn't a mean to do anything about that because no matter what you vote, you may get different faces, but no different politics. Democracy, however, isn't about "elections"; the whole point is that the government shall make its decisions for the good of the vast majority, which isn't the case in any Western "democracy" anymore, and elections have failed to force the "democratic" governments to do so.

As soon as enough citizens understand that they have already been robbed of democracy by their own elites, getting rid of said class without (useless) elections might seem a more attractive idea.

Remember that the Ukrainian government that the canned US insurgency brought to fall HAD been elected. So why not bringing the US administration to fall? Because it had been elected? HAHAHA. As if the US government had been caring about such questions.

The only question is whether there is enough malcontent in the population on which to draw. For the US? Sure. The one big question that a vast majority of the voters (democrats and republicans and others alike!) can agree on is that they deeply mistrust the US federal government. The powder is there, the US government has taken great care to put it there; it's just a question of who will put a spark to it, and when.

Of course Russia would NOT foster some US insurgency along the lines of "Russian Dream in the US", that would be stupid (what "Russian Dream", anyway?!). It would be far more convincing to launch the whole thing the other way round - selling the "American Dream" to the USA!

Like "Priviet dear average US Americans, Russia doesn't have anything against you, you are fine. It's just your government that makes trouble to Russia AND to you. That's why Russia, and also China, will help the US citizens to restore their democracy. We are in the same boat!" They would not try to invade the US. Why would they - the chaos alone that would result in the US would suit their goals perfectly well. If the US were occupied with themselves, the US government couldn't make trouble elsewhere.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

I was a little upset with Bogatyr's suggestion that the current state of freedom in Russia is comparable with the state of freedom in 1980s Britain. My primary reason for being upset is that I have it on the strength of a quasi-insider (not a real-life diplomat or real-life security analyst, sorry) that the current acquittal rate in Russian courts is negligible, and that more generally the legal system over there, with police bribery and other abuses, bears scant resemblance to the systems of Canada or Britain.

My curiosity piqued, I quickly checked a couple of international-rankings sites.

(a)> puts Russia into the category of "non-free" states, along with Algeria, Zimbabwe, and various others. This is two steps down from the contemporary UK, which is in the "free" bin. One step down from the UK are "semi-free" jurisdictions, such as Turkey.

(b) puts Russian governance into the same unhappy bin, called "Low", as the less happy parts of Africa (though Egypt, for one, is still worse, at "Very Low"). A step up from this is "Medium" (Turkey, e.g.) Next comes "High", which includes Spain and Italy and (I note to my chagrin, having hoped for better) Estonia. The contemporary UK is in the "Very High" bin, and this is one notch below the "Top Ten" bin (Finland, and other Scandinavia; and Germany - and New Zealand).

(c) The International Human Rights Rank Indicator at puts contemporary Britain into the Top 15 (giving it a rank of 12; first place goes to Sweden). Canada is 10th (this is nice, since here I live), Estonia 39th (this is not good), and Russia 46th.

That is all I have the patience for at the moment. But perhaps someone else has the patience to uncover more stats. Comparative incarceration rates, and actual concrete comparative figures on acquittal rates, might help this discussion.

I feel particularly moved because I lived in the UK for four years, in the 1970s, and found the British attachment to law and due process to be one of the more remarkable strengths of that remarkably positive society.


Toomas (Tom) Karmo

on northern fringe of Toronto

www dot metascientia dot com

Toomas dot Karmo at gmail dot com

Violet Cabra said...

Bogatyr wrote:
In Russia generally, I would say that it's certainly no worse than - say - 1980s Britain, which I remember well and was a misogynistic, not very liberal, and certainly not gay-friendly time.
Given a decade or two of prosperity, Russia would certainly catch up with the West in social attitudes.

I'm not at all sure that liberal attitudes towards queerness is a sign of prosperity. Saudi Arabia is, in my understanding, pretty loaded but has put people to death for homosexuality (

Conversely Colombia began to liberalize its laws regarding homosexuality and transgenderism in the late 1990's, which was a time of fairly intense economic contraction.

Furthermore, I'd also say that prosperity in the United States is declining but, as a queer person, I've seen the attitudes shift towards greater and greater acceptance even in the growing reality of increasing economic contraction.

I don't see a direct causation between prosperity between level of prosperity and attitudes towards queerness. I'm open to the argument that there is a positive correlation between a nations GNP and it's tolerance of homosexuality, but I'm far from convinced that this possible tendency would be present in non-western cultures.

Russian culture, according to Spengler, isn't really western although it has been forced into a western mold. Russian culture, and the Orthodox Christianity that helps to define it shares much more of its inner structure with Islam than Protestantism.

It is entirely possible that Russia could become more prosperous and more restrictive towards lifestyle choices, intellectualism and westernism. History doesn't point in one direction leading towards Western values as some sort of inevitable outcome.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Phil Knight wrote:

"...if there's one thing that the Soviets learned during the Cold War, it is that it was the more educated and intelligent Westerner who was particularly susceptible to their propaganda."

It's not just Westerners, and it's not just the Soviets who know that. Every competent con-artist knows that the more highly educated the potential mark, the easier it is to con him (or her, of course). Highly educated people think they're too smart to fall for a con, so they're not sufficiently wary. The hardest mark of them all to con may be the street-savvy kid who never finished high school.

Cathy McGuire said...

@Cherokee: I hope the brushfires are nowhere near you! Bummer that it's too hot for spuds there - half the time here I have to worry about too cold/too wet! ;-} Any chance of digging them in near a streambed or something that will keep the roots cool? And/or in shade under some tree? I'd hate to be without taters!

@Jean-Vivian: given the sites that are on that list now, I can't see GW showing up there soon! :-} High-tech hooligans all... ;-)

@Toro Loki: Anybody got recipes for Kale?
I just sautee it with garlic and olive oil - yum!
And hey - your list of positives is just like mine! :-) Except for the solar panels.
@Ice Torch - yes, that was what I thought of immediately, too! ;-)

I just wanted to mention to all that I've posted the third chapter of Lifeline on my blog: Hope you can take a look.

thecrowandsheep said...

Say what you will about Putin but he is no democrat (the traditional definition, not the feckless member of a feckless political party that is as feckless as that other feckless party). This is perhaps tolerable while he remains competent. Eventually he'll become incompetent and/or be replaced, with high probability, by someone equally undemocratic and less competent and possibly more ambitious. In which case Russia becomes just another bullying world power stomping on both Russian and non-Russian citizens alike with little chance of the former being able to do anything about it, peacefully. Such things need no extra cheerleading.

Steve Morgan said...

"Stu, thanks for the heads up. My assumption all along -- based on previous examples -- is that things in the shale patch will be spinning out of control far more quickly, and far more extremely, than the media is letting on; by the time the first news stories about bankruptcies hit, it'll already all be over but the shouting. Watch this space..."

A news item popped up a few days ago that really caught my eye. One of the marginal Bakken drillers just suspended all drilling operations "until the price of oil recovers."

The company cashed in its hedges to fund its last two frack jobs, and its share price has dropped to penny stock levels from $12 14 months ago. It may not be the first to go, but it doesn't look too far back in line.

One upshot of this mess: according to High Country News, up to 30% of office space in Denver is leased to O&G firms.

Doctor Westchester said...


"Obama Sanctions North Korea For Sony Hack Which Was Perpetrated By Disgruntled Former Employee"

One never knows, but it doesn't look like the American Empire will make it to 2025.

Heck, will it make it to January 2017? I'm a bit racist on this regard. I really want the loss of the empire to happen on the watch of a pasty face Caucasian Republican, preferably one with a heart condition.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed-M, oh, granted. You'll recall my criticism of that same concept, I imagine, in past posts here.

Avery, I've been hearing a lot of people talk about uncomfortable feelings about what this will bring. Well, we'll see...

Kutamun, today's drug gangs are tomorrow's Vikings. All it takes is a bit more travel down the arc of decline and fall.

Philip, thanks for the link -- I'll put it on the to-read list.

Susan, thanks for the heads up! Yes, that's about what I expect.

Gwyneth, thank you for using the word "presumed." If it were true that merely postponing elective surgeries dropped the total death rate by 15%, then elective surgeries would be among the most lethally dangerous procedures in our society -- how many other causes account for so large a fraction of total deaths? I'd love to see hard numbers on death rates before, during, and after doctor's strikes, broken down by cause of death -- but I suspect those numbers will not be forthcoming.

Bogatyr, er, as I'm sure you're aware, the phrase "European history" covers a span of years rather larger than the period from 1933 to 1945. No, I wasn't thinking of Herr Schicklgruber in this context -- quite the contrary; the attitudes for whom Putin has become an international symbol have more in common with the people who tried to vaporize the Fuehrer with an assortment of bombs. That's a rising current these days, in Europe and North America alike; a lot of people are sick of the way things have gone in recent decades, and see a lot of promise in returning to the values of an earlier era. The American pundits who have a schoolgirl crush on Putin are paralleled by figures such as Marine Le Pen in France, who pretty clearly sees Putin as a role model.

I should probably stress here that none of this is a criticism of Putin. It's Russia's very good fortune that in this crisis of her history, she's got a talented despot at the helm, just as it's America's misfortune -- a predictable misfortune, given the normal trajectory of empire, but a misfortune nonetheless -- to have a crew of feckless drones in charge of its destiny. Meanwhile, the ghost of Oswald Spengler is watching all this unfold with a thin Teutonic smile; not quite a century ago, he talked about the coming conflict between plutocracy disguised as democracy and charismatic Caesarism, which the former would eventually lose.

Cherokee, no question the Stoics set the bar high, but any lower doesn't do the job. As for cooler weather, here in the Appalachians, at least, we haven't actually had that much of that; it's raining here today, not snowing. If we get some, I'll see if I can package it for shipping. ;-)

Irishwildeye, I learned small group politics in an assortment of fraternal lodges, and the same rules apply everywhere: if you want to accomplish anything, you need to figure out how to get everyone else on board, and that means finding out what their wants, needs, hopes, and fears are, and offering them something they want in exchange for their support. It's the loss of that simple insight that has turned politics here in the US into a permanent car wreck. More on this in an upcoming post!

Jean-Vivien, I expect to see that promptly on the Greek kalends following the twelfth of Never, or just possibly on Friday the first of Summerfilth. LinkedIn will go out of business long before green wizardry becomes a popular profession.

Cathy McGuire said...

@Andy Brown - I enjoyed reading your predictions and your review of past predictions - but your blog wouldn't let me post a comment with either Firefox or Explorer, so I'll mention it here. I see others can comment, so I dont' know what's wrong... Anyway - I'm enjoying reading your blog.

Brother Kornhoer said...

I moved to Calgary from north Florida a year and a half ago for employment reasons, so I'm in a position to comment on the pro/con Canada debate. Some totally biased and personal observations:

* There's a staggering level of immigration here. Part of it seems to be motivated by the same intent as in the US - to keep the working class on the ropes. The other part seems to be motivated by a belief that a bigger population would be better.
* There's no concern about importing large numbers of people from different cultures. The stated assumption is that they'll all assimilate to Canadian values. The unstated assumption among upper-class whites is that they'll remain on top.
* The roots of culture seem stronger in the South. There is a Canadian culture, but it's harder to find.
* There's less gun violence, and the police are definitely less corrupt here in Canada than where I was in Florida. On the other hand, there's some remarkably lenient attitudes towards crimes here. The place is awash with drugs, as well. The frequency with which I smell marijuana from passing cars is far higher in Canada.
* The elementary and secondary educational system was as good or better in my Florida college town than here.
* There's a lot more smokers here than in Florida, from what I can tell.
* The single-payer healthcare is easier to deal with, but the low fees result in the doctors trying to see you in about 2 minutes per visit, and trying to split your various issues into separate office visits so they can charge the Province for each one. In Florida, I got more personalized care and longer visits, but I had to then chase & corner the insurance company to pay my doctor.
* Authority figures still command a deference in Canada not found in the U.S., an attitude that seems to be a remnant of the class system.
* I don't see how Canada can survive in it's current built form without massive use of fossil fuels. You can live without air conditioning in Florida, but if you can't heat your house in Canada, you can't even have indoor plumbing, and you'll freeze to death. Plus, all the food (in Calgary, at least) is imported except grains and beef. So, while they HAVE a lot of fossil fuels, they seem totally unprepared to do without.
* Alberta seems is run by a one-party dictatorship of marginal and fading competency. Florida is run by a bunch of whackjobs and real-estate developer hacks who only get elected through extreme gerrymandering and the patheticness of their Democratic opponents.
* Southern girls are prettier :-).

Brother Kornhoer said...

JMG: "That's one of the reasons that rigged elections are so counterproductive for the elite: if you don't give the people a peaceful way of making their wishes known, sooner or later it's going to be time to decorate lampposts with the elite. That revolutions normally put in governments worse than the ones they overthrow is just one more irony in the fire."

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from JFK: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable."

Bogatyr said...

Toom Karmo said: "I was a little upset with Bogatyr's suggestion that the current state of freedom in Russia is comparable with the state of freedom in 1980s Britain".

Happily for your blood pressure, that isn't actually what I said. I said *social attitudes* in Russia today, at worst, remind me of 80s Britain - which was indeed a racist, misogynistic and homophobic time. St Petersburg, where I live, is more liberal than that.

Violet Cabra:

I said that in the UK, social attitudes became much more liberal on a wave of prosperity. And that's it. I didn't make any claim to universalism. As for Russia, I'm a straight male, so I don't go to any of the gay clubs which do exist here, but I do frequent a perfectly ordinary workers' canteen where, in the back room, lesbians are often openly necking without any particular comment from any of the other patrons.

"It is entirely possible that Russia could become more prosperous and more restrictive towards lifestyle choices, intellectualism and westernism. History doesn't point in one direction leading towards Western values as some sort of inevitable outcome".

History can look after itself. My comments are based on living in Russia, talking to Russians, and observing what I see around me. In other words, the Russia of reality, not the Russia of the US media.

Gwyneth Olwyn said...


In the review I referenced above (doctor's striking), the researchers had the following data on the LA doctor's strike (I'm quoting from a review published by Drs. Raj Persaud & Peter Bruggen on the topic):

"It looks like a surprising amount of mortality occurs following this kind of procedure [elective surgeries] which disappears when elective surgery ceases due to doctors withdrawing their labour. Mortality declined steadily from week one (21 deaths/100,000 population) to weeks six (13 deaths) and seven (14 deaths), when mortality rates were lower than the averages of the previous five years.

However, as soon as elective surgery resumed, there was a rise in deaths.

There were 90 more deaths associated with surgery for the two weeks following the strike in 1976 (i.e. when doctors went back to work) than there had been during the same period in 1975...

50% of the doctors participated in the LA 1976 strike."

In the longer running Israeli strike in Jerusalem from 2 March to 26 June 1983, mortality remained flat and did not increase when elective surgery resumed immediately after the strike.

There are about 225,000 iatrogenic deaths per year in the U.S. But even that number may be off by as much as 40% due to under-reporting.

Review of surgical adverse events Colorado & Utah 1992 suggests that while adverse events were no more or less likely with surgical vs. non-surgical treatment (hospital setting), nonetheless 66% of all adverse events were surgical in origin.

Two alternate theories (beyond elective surgery cessation) for the flattened or dropping mortality rates during doctor strikes were also suggested by Drs. Raj Persaud and Peter Bruggen in their review:

1) the public, and perhaps doctors themselves, overestimate the ability of medicine to stave off or have an impact on mortality.


2) patients live longer when doctors go on strike, [because] the profession finally shakes off the shackles of its employer's restrictive practices, and returns, albeit temporarily, to practicing medicine freely, as it would really like to.

In no doctor strike are all medical services removed and in the LA strike, doctors opened up aid stations to prevent mobbing of the hospitals.

My own bias would be that hospitalization involves high risk of lethal adverse events (nosocomial infection, surgical complication, adverse drug interactions). The intensity of intervention (whether warranted or not) is higher in hospital than what is offered out in the community and therefore would carry more risk.

While the national data suggest 106,000 of the 225,000 deaths are due to non-error drug effect, there is no breakdown of those drug effect deaths that occurred in hospital vs. those in the community. The remaining 120,000 deaths all occur in hospital settings (infection, other error, unnecessary surgery, and medication error).

However in-community adverse drug events (non-lethal) are another story. A study in Canada suggests about 95% of these events goes unreported to various tracking agencies [BC Carleton, MA Smith, Drug safety: Side effects and mistakes or adverse reactions and deadly errors? BCMJ, Vol. 48, No. 7, September 2006, page(s) 329-333].

In other words, iatrogenic mortality likely rests within the hospital, but iatrogenic harm is probably higher outside the hospital.

That's all I got.

KL Cooke said...

Andy Brown

I don't know about your 2015 predictions, but your Street Scene Denver Colorado is a prize winner.

KL Cooke said...


"I confess to some skepticism for the future of the present Russian/Chinese alliance; wait until Chinese settlers begin flooding into Siberia."

I have a similar skepticism about a Chinese/Canadian love fest.

trippticket said...

@Stu, Steve, et al, re: Rockin' the Bakken,

Yes, that's what the embroidered logo on my friend's fancy jacket said, "Rockin' the Bakken."

One of my best buds is a bishop in the church of Progress, co-owns an innovative construction company that does work all over the world, and has recently been spending a lot of time in North Dakota planning pop-up villages for tight oil personnel.

When I found this out a few months ago I basically told him that I thought he should make his money as quickly as possible and get out of there. He laughed of course at my overly conservative, obviously Luddite perspective, and continued on with his starry-eyed daydream.

Well, he was over for a pre-New Year's Eve party party at my place the evening of the 30th, and I asked him how his project in the Bakken was moving.

"Um...I basically advised a 'do not invest' strategy to my partners on that one." He said.

I have no idea how much they lose when they pull out of a project like that at the last minute, but I bet it isn't insignificant! Too bad the Progressive faithful can't manage to suspend their disbelief long enough to see the undercurrents moving here. It would save them a lot of energy, and the rest of us a lot of head-shaking!

Shane Wilson said...

I'm kinda baffled at your suggestion that Russia's international diplomacy and politics are strictly focused on the domestic well being of Russia. Certainly, I don't think Russia is as delusional as the US projecting itself of the world stage, but I don't think it's plausible at all to say that Russia has no world ambitions. Russia views itself as a global player, and acts on the world stage. Of course, Putin's primary interest is the Russian people, but that's certainly the case with the US and its empire, too.

Ursachi Alexandru said...

thecrowandsheep, JMG

Let's not overestimate Putin's competence, nor his country's ability to pull through an extended crisis. I've argued before, as JMG has with his take on the demographic future of Siberia, that Russia is a faltering empire which is enjoying just a temporary period of recovery.

It depends on how long it will last. The specter of internal conflict fueled from the outside is just as great (if not greater) in Russia as you claim it is in the US. From JMG's comments I think he considers a longer period of Russian resurgence before the inevitable slide back into decline, made all the more dramatic by US decline which would favor Russia. But let's not dismiss the possibility of Russia taking the greater plunge first.

Bill Pulliam said...

Varun -- you touch on another interesting aspect of this. When I talk to the hillbilly boys, they actually listen to some extent so long as I am careful to avoid any hot button words. Perhaps it's part of the patriarchal traditions of the rural South, but young men pay a lot of attention to older men. Probably also why many are well-suited to the military life. Conversely, with the suburban kids, just my impression but... you can't cultivate something without a seed and some soil to plant it in. I didn't sense much of either.

Kyoto Motors said...

Thanks again Mr. Greer for your insights. I enjoyed your discussion with JHK on his"kunstlercast" recently too. Good stuff. As for "recovery" propaganda, one of Canada's five major banks, Scotiabank, has been marketing under the slogan "you're richer than you think". I'm wondering when it will dawn on them just how insulting that sounds to the struggling class, and at what point it could backfire. I guess it's antithetical to the tenets of marketing, but the slogan should maybe read "oh dear, we're poorer than we thought"
Oh well. There are fortunately other riches in this world than those measured by banks. ;-)
Happy New Year!

Shane Wilson said...

Sigh, JMG spent a whole series of posts laboriously and carefully explaining the history of fascism in Europe, explaining why it was "totalitarianism of the center" and still people are associating fascism with right wing conservatism.

Ed-M said...

And I've seen a few; going through your previous posts all the way from the beginning through March 2000, plus your 2013 ROP posts and your 2012 American Empire posts.

Guess I'm just a parrot! *'Awwwk!*

Ed-M said...

Violet, re: your latest to Bogatyr:

True, it's not inevitable; but, prior to the passage of the "homosexual propaganda" bill the year before last, Rissian attitudes toward LGBTs were liberalizing and a majority of Russians were in favor of equal rights for gays. Since the passage of that law, the Russians did a volte-face on the issue, fueled by propaganda and hysteria imported by two US NGOs, the American Family Organization and the Family Research Council.

And you know what the worst is? While the Russian State Duma was picking these NGOs' representatives' brains for advice, they LOCKED the Russian LGBTs and their local organizations out of the proceedings! The ones locked out had to stand outside on the sidewalk, and protest, and get arrested for protesting.

Ed-M said...

Dr Westchester,

Oh it will make it to 2017. And 2025, too, I think, if Hilary gets the DNC nod in 2026 and La. Governor Bobby Jindal gets the GOP nod. The Republicans will lose so bad, it ain't gonna be funny! Why? Simply look up "1988 US Presidential Election" and "Michael Stanley Dukakis."

Of course there are other scenarios in which the US Empire makes it to 2025. I just don't think any of them include "President Bobby Jindal." Here in Louisiana, the very idea of him sitting behind the President's desk in the Oval Office is simply ridiculous.

help said...

I am trying to contact the but my emails bounce back as undeliverable. so I am trying here does anyone have a good email for this org besides.

thank you

Crow Hill said...

Happy New Year and thank you once again, Mr Greer, for your excellent blog and thanks to your commentators. One of my resolutions for 2015 will be to read one of your books which has been recommended as an introduction to economics—a subject I find most uninspiring.
Had a look at Toomas Karmo’s link, where I discovered that the two countries where I have spent most of my life and of which I’m a national, happen to be respectively near the top and bottom rank.

From my personal experience and that of friends with similar circumstances, I can say that this ranking doesn’t take into consideration a number of factors which are important for the quality of life of an individual. Some of the liberties available in the low ranking (and pretty civilised) country are not available in the top ranking country.

Of course it would be nice to have democracy everywhere, but as an Eastern European friend was saying, it may well be a luxury reserved to rich and powerful countries.

I think the worse impingement on human rights is restrictions on travelling abroad for ordinary citizens as was the case in the former Warsaw Pact countries (but not in my beloved low ranking country!).

Cherokee Organics said...


No doubt that you are correct. I reckon that "strive" is the correct word in that context. It is interesting that that particular word also refers to the process of simple maintenance - It is my gut feeling that our culture has forgotten that point.

I read a charming tale once about a young English lady and her sister whom moved into a northern Italian village a few years prior to Italy's incorporation into the EU. What became abundantly clear was that any advantage that she personally gained on her property in that context came at the expense or loss of someone else in the village and whilst she gained many friends, in the process she really annoyed some of her close neighbours without much effort on her part. Engagement is crucial in such a context.

Oooo! That's my excitement noise! You're going to really like this one. Seriously, it is really funny. I read your reply to Irishwildeye and honestly you couldn't get a better example of that particular car wreck than this one: PM Tony Abbott cops some tough questions.

It is so funny that it brings a quiet chuckle to me every time I think about it. I can imagine him going: "This is just so not fair!". Plus add in perhaps a good dose of foot stomping and some sulking his socks off in the corner for good measure. Honestly, if I were 12 years old I'd say: "Too bad, so sad!"... hehe!

What is really amusing about the whole situation was that Mr Abbott trained as a Catholic priest for a while. Admittedly given recent revelations at the Royal Commission into Child Abuse in institutions, that lot really have a bit of trouble with the whole: Do unto others - golden rule. Just sayin...



Andy Brown said...

@ Cathy, thanks for the feedback on this year's predictions. Sorry, you couldn't leave a comment. I've never been able to figure out why it doesn't work for some people. I'll look into it again.

@ KL, those two street scene photos were taken from the car as I was driving past. I wish I'd stopped to take a closer look!

Shane Wilson said...

"Given a decade or two of prosperity, Russia would certainly catch up with the West in social attitudes."

"Violet Cabra:

I said that in the UK, social attitudes became much more liberal on a wave of prosperity. And that's it. I didn't make any claim to universalism."
I think you're contradicting yourself. In the paragraph which included the 1st quoted sentence, Violet could certainly be forgiven for believing you were suggesting tolerance was a universal result of prosperity. I reread the earlier post, and it was certainly my impression, as well, that you were suggesting that tolerance was a universal result of prosperity.

Violet Cabra said...

Bogatyr, if you're living in Russia as your last comment indicates, I'll defer to your judgement of the situation there as I've never been.

Ed-M, thank you for the context! I was ignorant of that.

John Michael Greer said...

Kylie, sounds like a plan.

Phil, well, that makes two of us.

Tripp, excellent. It sounds as though you've collapsed well ahead of the rush, and landed firmly on your own two feet.

Christophe, depends on finances. We haven't yet heard from the city what it would cost for us to buy the lot.

Ed-M, not surprising. In the last years of the Roman world, while towns and cities were being abandoned, here and there other cities were having new housing built as infill -- I'm remembering a town in France where the early medieval population relocated into the space inside the colosseum, built little crowded houses in there, and turned the outer wall of the colosseum itself into a defensive wall. Such things are far from rare.

Markbc, that's one of those claims of imminent collapse that gets recycled year after weary year, even though the event it predicts never happens. Tell you what -- why don't you sink your entire net worth into gold, and mortgage yourself up to the eyeballs to buy more; if you're right, after all, you'll be sitting pretty by year's end. Then come back this time next year and we'll compare notes.

Daelach, very good. Yes, that's certainly one option.

Crowandsheep, of course Putin's no democrat. The ambitious despots who climb to the top in an age of Caesarism never are. By the time they appear, the mechanisms of democracy are so thorougly subverted by corruption on the part of the very rich that incompetent leadership in democratic societies is no longer subject to replacement with someone who has a clue, while the Darwinian process by which despots seize and hold power does tend to filter out the incompetent -- thus the usual end of the story. I'm not cheering that, simply noting that that's what happens.

Steve, thanks for the heads up! My guess is that this is just the first of many.

Doctor W, well, yes, I suppose I'm an optimist, aren't I?

Brother K, got it in one. I wonder if it would be possible to brutally burn those words into the backsides of the current US elite with a branding iron...

Gwyneth, thanks for the data. On that basis, I think it would be entirely justifiable to push for an immediate, permanent ban on all elective surgeries -- after all, when some kind of alternative medicine is implicated in a single death, the medical industry goes ape, yelling that all alternative medicine should be banned because it kills people. What's sauce for the goose...

John Michael Greer said...

Ursachi, I'm quite sure that within a century or two, Russia will extend no further east than the valley of the Yenisei, with the rest of Siberia absorbed into a Greater China. In the meantime, though, Russia's in considerably better shape than the US, precisely because they've been forced to abandon their empire, and we're still clinging to ours.

Kyoto, and a happy new year to you and yours! I wonder how long it'll be before ScotiaBank gets to eat those words.

Shane, well, of course -- did you expect this blog to prevail over a lifetime of indoctrination?

Ed-M, oh, it's natural. See my comment to Shane immediately above.

Help, you might want to visit the AODA website and go to the contact page, where you'll find an alternate email address prominently displayed.

Crow Hill, I'm always suspicious of democracy rankings and the like -- there's always the sound of grinding axes somewhere in the background.

Cherokee, good heavens. You've shaken my certainty that US politicians are hands down the most feckless on the planet. Mr. Abbott can definitely compete in the same league with our prize specimens. Please don't send him here, though; we've got an ample supply already.

Larz said...

Talking about anecdotal comparisons. As someone with an avid interest in graphics and web stuff {taught myself XHTML, graphic user interface (GUI), user experience (UX), and such}, in 2010 I created a folder containing details of my top fifty <50> websites, along with archived pages, screenshots, and pdfs. My criteria for the top 50 was prettiness, usefulness, and ease of use. The websites represented all sorts of organizations from volunteer cat rescue groups to Disney UK.

Yesterday I revisited those websites. The result: one-quarter (25%) are just plain gone, poofky, pssst, nada, defunct, disappeared — meaning the company or organization went belly-up since 2010. Nobody gets rid of a website unless they have to. Another quarter (25%) either downsized their website or had truly horrible websites (likely meaning they fired their professional website people, and those in charge are incompetent). Disney UK's website, for example, as it stands today, is nowhere near as flamboyant as it was in 2010; its current website is restrained and boring.

Roughly half the websites are the same as five years ago. One of the websites that is the same is San Francisco Zen Center ( (SFZC). No surprise there. The people at SFZC have been economical and sensible yet professional throughout. My conclusion: people practicing Zen meditation have staying power.

I was shocked at the difference those five years made.

donalfagan said...

@auto sales: Yes, incentives have increased and loan periods have gotten absurd. I also read that in addition to payday loans, people are now borrowing against their auto titles.

@lampposting the wealthy:

Ursachi Alexandru said...

Well that's where I disagree with you JMG, on the notion that Russia has "given up" its empire. From propping up pro-Moscow separatist republics even before the formal dissolution of the USSR (Transnistria and Găgăuzia in Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia), to the current involvement in Ukraine, not to mention the total annihilation of Chechen separatism, Russia does not look like it has ever abandoned its imperial ambitions.

Furthermore, its current actions would rather indicate the intention of rebuilding at least part of was lost because of the Soviet collapse. And I would hardly look at Russia as a country which could sustain such an expansion. I think Russia is caught in the same type of obsession with keeping and expanding its empire as the US is, just on a more regional scale. And I think it will have as much "positive" effects on Russia as it will on the US. But of course, we'll see.

Roger said...

Well, here's some consolation for what it's worth JMG. I know, misery doesn't love company. But the ills you see in the US you also see here north of the border.

Economic Underclass - check, police harassment of blacks - check, regional animosities - check, linguistic divisions - check, an utterly messed up immigration system - check

We have an affliction which parallels one in the US. It's the wealthy, preening, self congratulating, small L liberal elite. Here they belong to different political parties, but no matter the political label they give themselves, they all drink from the same well. Such world class impostors they are.

They call the shots: they offshored local industries, eviscerating the economy and people's livelihoods. But, all along, they hid behind this word-fog thing they call "globalization". See, it's "globalization" that gutted the country's manufacturing base, this tectonic force that all are powerless against. As if.

Underclass? Sure, given the foregoing, festering here too.

Stop and frisk? Here we call it "carding". It's how we annoy black people.

Can you imagine? The same elite that's so upright and proud about upholding human rights and condemning abuses, allows this outrage. Those lousy hypocrites.

Oh, but you see, we're doing studies and consultations. Studies and consultations my bloomin' arse, in the span of three years the number of cardings of young black men exceeded the number of young black men living here. Evidently, some forms of discrimination pass muster. What did Orwell say in Animal Farm, all animals are equal but ...

Astoundingly, members of that same elite sneeringly dismiss concerns about crime. Tough on crime? You're an idiot. End of discussion. So, what on earth then is the justification for "carding"?

Stay here long enough and something occurs to you. It's not that the increasingly impoverished 'burbs hate downtown elites. No, it's the other way around, an exuberant flowering of contempt from those with power and money.

Tye said...

Mr Greer, I enjoy your books and blog immensely. Your prediction of a rising environment for insurgency struck a chord with me, because on New Year's Eve, at midnight, I went outside to listen to the fireworks. Only this year there was a distinct difference: Semi-automatic gunfire was all around--near and far. It seemed like a statement somehow.

Helix said...

@beneaththesurface - The books I would recommend may not necessarily be commentary on the contemporary scene, but the were serious eye-openers in my case. To my way of thinking, books are influential to the degree to which they expand our world view.

There are several books that could vie for the top spots on another day, but my Monday selections are:

The Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche. I had tried mightily to be a born-again Christian before reading this little tract, which can be easily digested in a single evening. Nietzsche's argument was so compelling that I immediately and permanently come to a much deeper understanding of ethics and morality and their relationship to society. It is still among the most mind-expanding books I have ever read. Get the Walter Kaufmann translation. Others have been colored by edits made by his daughter. If you already have a wider world-view than I did as a 19-year-old, this book might not do as much for you as it did for me.

The Parable of the Tribes by Andrew Bard Schmookler. This is an exposition on the power structure of societies. His argument is convincing and he takes time to follow the implications through several important aspects of society. It's tough reading due to the density of his discourse. You can get the main point in the first 30 pages.

As I mentioned above, different entries could appear on different days: This website or the Peak Prosperity Crash Course could appear on, say, Tuesdays...

Cherokee Organics said...


I genuinely believe that they have been taking lessons from the US. Unfortunately, those lessons don't quite translate here because 96% of the eligible population votes here, come general elections. The population is more or less forced to through fear of fines and penalties. I worked as a vote counter in the previous election and it was scrupulously honest and there were very few if any donkey (invalid) votes.

The politicians miss the point that whilst they are driven to pursue their pet ideologies, provide a financial return to their masters (err, sorry I meant donors - dance and sing for us Mr Abbott!!!), they also have to take a more or less middle road and take into account the very real fact that they have to apply for the jobs 3 years into the future from a portion of the population that they may have seriously annoyed or alienated.

Interestingly too, the business council of Australia appears to be launching an attack on penalty rates for some of the poorest working members of society. Work till 11pm on a Sunday night during a public holiday for minimum wages, no problems! How they can justify throwing them under the bus for a few dollars more is a travesty.



PS: I've got a new blog entry up discussing: waste and stuff; hot weather; accidentally falling over; concrete steps; rocks (how good are rocks?); wombat photos; wetlands; and squeaks! All good stuff: Everything including the squeak

Ed-M said...

JMG, Tye,

Come to think of it, we had the same kind of fireworks here in New Orleans! Before they sounded like Chinese New Year's fireworks.

Varun Bhaskar said...

Chris and Bill,

Hope you guys are ready to start training.

The suburban kids are in deep trouble. They do not have access to the fully DIY life-style of the rural, nor the do with less life-style of the cities. They also belong to the management class, which is getting eaten away every day. Most of the suburban kids I know spend their time smoking pot and playing video games. Two spells that cannot be broken easily. I've spent the last year working on my group of friends and cannot pry them away from those two.



Kaitain said...

John Michael,

Speaking of Putin and his admirers, Pat Buchanan has a good blog post out about the resurgence of Caesarism around the world from Japan and China to Egypt and Turkey and how much it is being driven by a palpable sense of revulsion towards the excesses and failings of the American model. I think your assessment of the popular appeal of traditional values and social order during times of great upheaval is right on target. Too bad democracy generally ends up becoming one of the major casualties as this process plays itself out once again...

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Economic data from San Francisco and Marin County, California:

1. Two well established small businesses in my neighborhood are selling up and closing at the end of the month. I have been a customer of both, so I asked the staff why the stores were closing. The gift store had a very good holiday sales season, but the owner had already decided to retire and close the store; apparently not related to economic trends. OTOH, several gift and high end housewares stores that used to be within a few blocks of this one have relocated or gone out of business in recent years. A couple remain.

The plant nursery is going out of business because it could not last out a recession followed by three years of drought. I put off buying new plants last year because I was afraid we would have mandatory water rationing this summer (and we might).

Just before the Great Recession, a spec builder began constructing a large retail building on undeveloped land near downtown. During the recession financing ran out and all work ceased. A while ago, they resumed building and For Lease signs have been in the windows for a couple of months. No occupants.

Other retail space of all sizes remains vacant in existing buildings within blocks of this one. I've also seen examples of one business moving out and the space being promptly leased again. Many restaurants and stores have Help Wanted signs. Unemployment rates in this county are low.

Toward the official ending of the recession, a local magnate who owned an entire block of commercial buildings next to City Hall evicted his remaining tenants (the anchor store and a restaurant had gone out of business), demolished the building and donated the land to a nonprofit created for the purpose of turning it into a little public park, which now exists. (Imagination Park).

2. Silicon Valley weathered the recession fairly well. Many people in computer-related services prefer living in San Francisco to living in the Peninsula/San Jose area. Companies and many young workers are relocating northward. The San Francisco real estate bubble has reinflated. Builders are frantically throwing up condominium blocks in favored southern neighborhoods; other neighborhoods are gentrifying.

Marin County housing prices dropped by about one third during the recession and there were many foreclosures. Most of the foreclosures were bought up for cash by investors. We don't have a large problem with derelict vacant houses here. Prices have partially recovered. The median price for a single family dwelling rose above one million dollars in December. Inventory for sale is low; common wisdom is that owners are holding out for higher prices.

Very mixed economic indications in my corner of California.

Doctor Westchester said...

Ed-M and JMG

Ed-M - I really hope that you are right about that.

JMG - I consider you one of the most realistic people I've ever communicated with. Any excess optimism that you might possibly have is for centuries in the future.

Despite my comment regarding the Zero Hedge article talking about the Alice in Wonderland nature of our foreign policy, I also think that there is a very low, though not zero, chance of losing our empire in the next two years.

The current occupant in the Oval Office certainly embodies your comment that "the mechanisms of democracy are so thoroughly subverted by corruption...". For blacks in America it seems that the corrupt manipulations that brought him to power are resulting in one more undeserved slap across their collective faces with something far more disgusting than a dead mackerel.

These thoughts have been on my mind of late, since the holiday season invited conversations with beloved, but distant, relatives about current events. The memories of these conversations certainly stood out when I read in your post about how financially comfortable white Americans desperately try to view these events.

pyrrhus said...

@Andy Brown--Regarding your 2014 tarot reading, I normal read the 9 of pentacles as the "kept woman" card, which would change the reading to reflect that we are living off the kindness of strangers.

Kaitain said...

Sorry, the link to the Pat Buchanan essay I was referring to doesn't seem to have uploaded with the rest of my comment. Here it is:

John Michael Greer said...

Larz, that's fascinating. I wonder how many other signs of contraction are quietly going on without anyone quite noticing.

Ursachi, I probably should have been more precise about my phrasing. Of course Russia still wants to dominate the nations on its immediate borders -- strong nations always do. That said, you don't see Russia propping up puppet regimes in Latin America and Africa any more; that's the empire I had in mind, and it's the equivalent of the empire that's dragging the US down.

Roger, that does sound pretty much like what we've got here, including the contempt from on high.

Tye, I heard the same thing. It was unnerving.

Cherokee, well, that's some consolation. I still hope that when Abbott loses his job, nobody decides to ship him here.

Kaitain, and you'll doubtless have noticed that Buchanan is by no means unsympathetic to what he calls Putinism and Spengler called Caesarism. There are a lot of Americans in his camp these days.

Unknown Deborah, that's about what I would expect from an area that's heavily subsidized by the financial economy. It'll be interesting to see how the coming downturn affects things.

Doctor W, it's not completely impossible that our empire may come apart suddenly -- that does happen, historically speaking. In the next two years? I'd agree -- a nonzero chance, but low.

Thomas Prentice said...

A somber, sobering economic, social, civilizational and indeed, revolutionary analysis, indeed.
One caution offered: that of placing undue reliance on the presumed, continued ***linearity*** of decline – the continuing, gentle and even “uneven but continued downward movement along the same arc of decline and fall…”.
Left out is the prospect that “continued downward movement” would/will meet a point of critical mass resulting in a phase transition to ***non-linearity***. While I am not a catastrophist expecting an economic seizure suddenly leaving us starving in the dark, I DO see so many unraveling threads and clumps of threads from my worm’s eye view of things and in every direction, with increasing velocities. Thus it seems clear that “the center may well not be able to hold” and that “push might come to shove” and that “all that is solid will melt into air” and “catastrophe is just around the corner” and “sooner rather than later” to coin a phrase EVEN in our rather puny human frame of reference of time.
While not wishing to engage Dr. Donald Rumsfeld in his theoretical non-linearities of “known unknowns” and so forth, it is clear that the nostrum of linearity that “everything is a matter of degree” is flat wrong. Such a notion places everything from, say, a black cat firecracker to a hydrogen bomb on a linear scale like a thermometer with “everything” being only a “mere matter of degree.” The reality is that “everything” on the black cat/hydrogen bomb continuum is exponential like the red shift, that is geometric non-linearity: the difference between 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 or even worse, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 256, 65,536 …
The nonlinear dynamics of the atmosphere with respect to gravity waves in the troposphere is another example from science that comes to mind. Without going into a whole lot of meteorological detail, there comes a point where the vibrations in an air mass as it moves to higher altitudes cause nonlinear effects in the gravity waves. These nonlinear effects forces the previously linear and stable speed of the air mass to change and to do so rather spectacularly when ordinarily, the speed would remain unaffected. (2 B continued in next post)

Thomas Prentice said...

Three recent additional examples of nonlinearities from Nature: Antarctic ice melt went from linear -- “a matter of degree” -- last year to sudden and unexpected “non-linearity” and apparently right under the nose of the scientists. Methane emissions in the Arctic went from metre-wide plumes first spotted by Russian scientists a decade ago to kilometre-wide plumes spotted last year and methane release has been discovered along the coast of Labrador, Canada where none had been seen before, along the eastern seaboard of the US near Cape Hatteras and off the coast of Washington State. And the Panamanian golden frogs have gone extinct -- in JUST the past ten years and amphibians everywhere on the planet aren’t feeling so good either. Species extinctions are well beyond the background extinction rate and some heading into nonlinear territories. (On species extinctions generally, See “Call of Life”

I am not certain how to transfer these scientific and mathematical examples to human systems like economics and empire or the all-night-Tupperware-parties let alone what might constitute “heat” in human systems or the “heat exchange” required for phase transitions and achieving critical mass and going to non-linear warp speed toward collapse. Is it the “point of diminishing returns” in – international “industrial” finance? Failure of band aids for the Euro? The legalization in the last fortnight of the same sort of dodgy dealings by banks that led to the 2007-08 crisis? Confiscated tax refunds due to Obomneycare and still NO health insurance for the working class and poor let alone deductible ranging from $1500 to $6000 per head under the aforementioned Obomneycare? Financial collapse of the US-based Kiev regime? Victory of Syrizia in Greece and the stonewalling of the “troika”? An economic point of diminishing returns in the papier Mache world of industrial finance? Final collapse of oceanic fisheries due to industrial fishing? A state visit by Fidel Castro to Washington (lol). A sudden drop in the Dow due to oil going below $50 bbl? Some point at which killing young black and Latino men or stop-and-frisk actually foments revolt, rebellion and revolution? All of the above? Something’s else? But I do accept that there is some point in human systems – as in Antarctic melting -- where linearity can suddenly become nonlinear and with rapid but unpredictable effects.
I agree: No sudden seizure and collapse to be sure like dropping dead from a massive heart attack or stroke but cascading nonlinear effects seem to be virtually certain at some point.

J.D. Smith said...

As for intervention in U.S. American affairs, it seems worth noting that in DC the cable network Russia Today ( has been aggressively advertising, first with unauthorized posted bills and now with with purchased space.

As for the cold wet mackerel of reality, one can only hope that it contains a fair amount of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

Ursachi Alexandru said...

Ok, fair enough. "Propping up puppet regimes in Latin America and Africa", now that's something that will surely get left wingers angry. I mean, only the US did that, of course...

Bogatyr said...

I know that our host here isn't particularly a fan, but Robert D. Kaplan's writing has been a big influence on my thinking over the past year. In terms of the present conversation, I'd direct anyone interested to his essay Was Democracy Just A Moment?, first published in December 1997.

In the book of collected essays which i have in front of me, the subtitle is "As we attempt to plant our version of democracy abroad, in places where it can't succeed, it is slipping away from us at home , too. Why democracy will destabilize the world much as early Christianity did".

Even reading that may give you the shivers. The essay is, naturally, rather dated in its examples. The first half tends to deal with American and Western overseas adventures in the 1990s; the second half is more concerned with the decline of democracy in the US - as evidenced in the 1990s. Read it now, and you'll see how accurate his insights were,

Cherokee Organics said...


Pah! It would be a good trade, although I'm seriously unsure what we'd want in return - perhaps nothing. It is a good trade, you can't lose. Oh, a no return policy applies in this particular case. Anyway, how much trouble could he cause over in the US? Oh yeah, please refrain from looking too close at the goods as they may be slightly soiled. hehe!

Joking aside: It looks as though the heavens may open here over the next week. Who'd have thought that a tropical monsoon could work its way down here from the tropics right through and across the desert regions. The predictions are that it will dump a significant amount of rain here. Honestly 2 inches of rain and I'll be smiling! We'll see how it goes though.

Hi Cathy,

No worries, potatoes do really well here with very little care or attention - they're tough survivors with no watering over summer usually. They're like weeds. Actually what I meant was that I dreamed up a proper potato bed above the cantina area, but it requires a bit of supporting infrastructure.

Hi Varun,

This may be harsh, but a simple response is to cut off the funds. If it is their funds which they've earned, then in such situations there is always an enabler. I apologise for my harshness but I have lost some friends to both dope and the multiplayer online video games so I have no sympathy or tolerance for such things.



Mark_BC said...

JMG, you said regarding the US dollar, "that's one of those claims of imminent collapse that gets recycled year after weary year, even though the event it predicts never happens...

"... Then come back this time next year and we'll compare notes."

Yes, because it always is ready to crash -- it's been ready to crash for 30 years now. That's what ponzi schemes are. The fact that it has gone on this long only means the collapse will be even more catastrophic when it happens due to the tremendous economic imbalances it has created and reinforced over the decades -- which then makes it even more essential that the authorities, year after year, keep inflating it further.

The fundamentals point to this as the greatest bubble in the history of the world, yet strangely many who discuss economic bubbles do not see it.

Pop it will. Should we revisit at the end of the year? Sure, but I'm not saying it will collapse this year, since it is very difficult to predict the timing of a ponzi collapse, although every year that passes the chances increase since the desperate acts the US military and Fed have to go to to maintain US hegemony around the world, which is all that's propping this thing up, becomes more and more desperate and out of control. It could pop the day after we revisit. History clearly shows that when currency devaluations happen, they happen quickly, and in the case of pegging to gold, usually overnight. The authorities can manipulate markets but they cannot turn lead into gold and when it runs out there will be nothing left for them to do.

BTW, your suggestions? I have...

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

I think when a lot of people say "democracy", they are thinking about local self government and determination, as well as a certain amount of heterogeneity that promotes ability to move from place to place, if necessary. However, the latter was exaggerated and then extended under the power of growing Empire (eg., the "South" had to be reconstructed so Yankees could move to Galveston and places like it after the war, and make that big money) to the point that the former was obliterated by micromanagement. "All ideas (without necessary intervention at key points) become their opposites". Democracies are largely democracy-free zones today.

Laylah said...

@Deborah Bender as a counterpart to Silicon Valley weathering the recession "fairly well," people who can't afford the million-dollar homes are doing without:

That article is dated now; the camp's been bulldozed. But the underlying problems that led to its creation don't seem to have gone anywhere....

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