Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Suicide of the American Left

Regular readers of this blog know that I generally avoid partisan politics in the essays posted here. There are several reasons for that unpopular habit, but the most important of them is that we don’t actually have partisan politics in today’s America, except in a purely nominal sense. It’s true that politicians by and large group themselves into one of two parties, which make a great show of their rivalry on a narrow range of issues. Get past the handful of culture-war hot buttons that give them their favorite opportunities for grandstanding, though, and you’ll find an ironclad consensus, especially on those issues that have the most to say about the future of the United States and the world.

It’s popular on the disaffected fringes of both parties to insist that the consensus in question comes solely from the other side; dissident Democrats claim that Democratic politicians have basically adopted the GOP platform, while disgruntled Republicans claim that their politicians have capitulated to the Democratic agenda. Neither of these claims, as it happens, are true. Back when the two parties still stood for something, for example, Democrats in Congress could be counted on to back organized labor and family farmers against their corporate adversaries and to fight attempts on the part of bankers to get back into the speculation business, while their opposite numbers in the GOP were ferocious in their opposition to military adventurism overseas and government expansion at home.

Nowadays? The Democrats long ago threw their former core constituencies under the bus and ditched the Depression-era legislation that stopped kleptocratic bankers from running the economy into the ground, while the Republicans decided that they’d never met a foreign entanglement or a government handout they didn’t like—unless, of course, the latter benefited the poor.  An ever more intrusive and metastatic bureaucratic state funneling trillions to corrupt corporate interests, an economic policy made up primarily of dishonest statistics and money-printing operations, and a monomaniacally interventionist foreign policy: that’s the bipartisan political consensus in Washington DC these days, and it’s a consensus that not all that long ago would have been rejected with volcanic fury by both parties if anyone had been so foolish as to suggest it.

The gap between the current Washington consensus and the former ideals of the nation’s political parties, not to mention the wishes of the people on whose sovereign will the whole system is supposed to depend, has attracted an increasing amount of attention in recent years. That’s driven quite a bit of debate, and no shortage of fingerpointing, about the origins and purposes of the policies that are welded into place in US politics these days. On the left, the most popular candidates just now for the position of villainous influence behind it all mostly come from the banking industry; on the right, the field is somewhat more diverse; and there’s no shortage of options from further afield.

Though I know it won’t satisfy those with a taste for conspiracy theory, I’d like to suggest a simpler explanation. The political consensus in Washington DC these days can best be characterized as an increasingly frantic attempt, using increasingly risky means, to maintain business as usual for the political class at a time when “business as usual” in any sense of that phrase is long past its pull date. This, in turn, is largely the product of the increasingly bleak corner into which past policies have backed this country, but it’s also in part the result of a massively important but mostly unrecognized turn of events: by and large, neither the contemporary US political class nor anyone else with a significant presence in American public life seems to be able to imagine a future that differs in any meaningful way from what we’ve got right now.

I’d like to take a moment here to look at that last point from a different angle, with the assistance of that tawdry quadrennial three-ring circus now under way, which will sooner or later select the next inmate for the White House. For anyone who enjoys the spectacle of florid political dysfunction, the 2016 presidential race promises to be the last word in target-rich environments. The Republican party in particular has flung itself with creditable enthusiasm into the task of taking my circus metaphor as literally as possible—what, after all, does the GOP resemble just at the moment, if not one of those little cars that roll out under the big top and fling open the doors, so that one clown after another can come tumbling out into the limelight?

They’ve already graced the electoral big top with a first-rate collection of clowns, too. There’s Donald Trump, whose campaign is shaping up to be the loudest invocation of pure uninhibited führerprinzip since, oh, 1933 or so; there’s Scott Walker, whose attitudes toward working Americans suggest that he’d be quite happy to sign legislation legalizing slavery if his rich friends asked him for it; there’s—well, here again, “target-rich environment” is the phrase that comes forcefully to mind. The only people who have to be sweating just now, other than ordinary Americans trying to imagine any of the current round of GOP candidates as the titular leader of their country, are gag writers for satiric periodicals such as The Onion, who have to go to work each day and face the brutally unforgiving task of coming up with something more absurd than the press releases and public statements of the candidates in question.

Still, I’m going to leave those tempting possibilities alone for the moment, and focus on a much more dreary figure, since she and her campaign offer a useful glimpse at the yawning void beneath what’s left of the American political system. Yes, that would be Hillary Clinton, the officially anointed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that she’ll lose this campaign the way she lost the 2008 race, and for the same reason: neither she nor her handlers seem to have noticed that she’s got to offer the American people some reason to want to vote for her.

In a way, Clinton is the most honest of the current crop of presidential candidates, though this is less a matter of personal integrity than of sheer inattention. I frankly doubt that the other candidates have a single noble motive for seeking office among them, but they have at least realized that they have to go through the motions of having convictions and pursuing policies they think are right. Clinton and her advisers apparently didn’t get that memo, and as a result, she’s not even going through the motions. Her campaign basically consists of posing for the cameras, dodging substantive questions, uttering an assortment of vague sound bites to encourage the rich friends who are backing her, and making plans for her inauguration, as though there wasn’t an election to get through first.

Still, there’s more going on here than the sheer incompetence of a campaign that hasn’t yet noticed that a sense of entitlement isn’t a qualification for office. The deeper issue that will doom the Clinton candidacy can be phrased as a simple question: does anyone actually believe for a moment that electing Hillary Clinton president will change anything that matters?

Those other candidates who are getting less tepid responses from the voters than Clinton are doing so precisely because a significant number of voters think that electing one of them will actually change something. The voters in question are wrong, of course. Barack Obama is the wave of the future here as elsewhere; after his monumentally cynical 2008 campaign, which swept him into office on a torrent of vacuous sound bites about hope and change, he proceeded to carry out exactly the same domestic and foreign policies we’d have gotten had George W. Bush served two more terms. Equally, whoever wins the 2016 election will keep those same policies in place, because those are the policies that have the unanimous support of the political class; it’s just that everybody but Clinton will do their level best to pretend that they’re going to do something else, as Obama did, until the day after the election.

Those policies will be kept in place, in turn, because any other choice would risk pulling the plug on a failing system. I’m not at all sure how many people outside the US have any idea just how frail and brittle the world’s so-called sole hyperpower is just at this moment. To borrow a point made trenchantly some years back by my fellow blogger Dmitry Orlov, the US resembles nothing so much as the Soviet Union in the years just before the Berlin Wall came down: a grandiose international presence, backed by a baroque military arsenal and an increasingly shrill triumphalist ideology, perched uneasily atop a hollow shell of a society that has long since tipped over the brink into economic and cultural freefall.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor any of the other candidates in the running for the 2016 election will change anything that matters, in turn, because any change that isn’t strictly cosmetic risks bringing the entire tumbledown, jerry-rigged structure of American political and economic power crashing down around everyone’s ears. That’s why, to switch examples, Barack Obama a few days ago brought out with maximum fanfare a new energy policy that consists of doing pretty much what his administration has been doing for the last six years already, as though doing what you’ve always done and expecting a different result wasn’t a good functional definition of insanity. Any other approach to energy and climate change, or any of a hundred other issues, risks triggering a crisis that the United States can’t survive in its current form—and the fact that such a crisis is going to happen sooner or later anyway just adds spice to the bubbling pot.

The one thing that can reliably bring a nation through a time of troubles of the sort we’re facing is a vision of a different future, one that appeals to enough people to inspire them to unite their energies with those of the nation’s official leadership, and put up with the difficulties of the transition. That’s what got the United States through its three previous existential crises: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Great Depression. In each case, when an insupportable status quo finally shattered, enough of the nation united around a charismatic leader, and a vision of a future that was different from the present, to pull some semblance of a national community through the chaos.

We don’t have such a vision in American politics now. To an astonishing degree, in fact, American culture has lost the ability to imagine any future that isn’t simply an endless rehash of the present—other, that is, than the perennially popular fantasy of apocalyptic annihilation, with or without the salvation of a privileged minority via Rapture, Singularity, or what have you. That’s a remarkable change for a society that not so long ago was brimming with visionary tomorrows that differed radically from the existing order of things. It’s especially remarkable in that the leftward end of the American political spectrum, the end that’s nominally tasked with the job of coming up with new visions, has spent the last forty years at the forefront of the flight from alternative futures.

I’m thinking here, as one example out of many, of an event I attended a while back, put together by one of the longtime names of the American left, and featuring an all-star cast of equally big names in what passes for environmentalism and political radicalism these days. With very few exceptions, every one of the speakers put their time on the podium into vivid descriptions of the villainy of the designated villains and all the villainous things they were going to do unless they were stopped. It was pretty grueling; at the end of the first full day, going up the stairs to the street level, I watched as a woman turned to a friend and said, “Well, that just about makes me want to go out and throw myself off a bridge”—and neither the friend nor anybody else argued. 

Let’s take a closer look, though, at the strategy behind the event. Was there, at this event, any real discussion of how to stop the villains in question, other than a rehash of proposals that have failed over and over again for the last four decades? Not that I heard. Did anyone offer some prospect other than maintaining the status quo endlessly against the attempts of the designated villains to make things worse? Not only was there nothing of the kind, I heard backchannel from more than one participant that the organizer had a long history of discouraging anybody at his events from offering the least shred of that sort of hope.

Dismal as it was, the event was worth attending, as it conducted an exact if unintentional autopsy of the corpse of the American left, and made the cause of death almost impossible to ignore. At the dawn of the Reagan era, to be specific, most of the movements in this country that used to push for specific goals on the leftward end of things stopped doing so, and redefined themselves in wholly reactive and negative terms: instead of trying to enact their own policies, they refocused entirely on trying to stop the enactment of opposing policies by the other side. By and large, they’re still at it, even though the results have amounted to four decades of nearly unbroken failure, and the few successes—such as the legalization of same-sex marriage—were won by pressure groups unconnected to, and usually  unsupported by, the professional activists of the official left.

There are at least two reasons why a strategy of pure reaction, without any coherent attempt to advance an agenda of its own or even a clear idea of what that agenda might be, has been a fruitful source of humiliation and defeat for the American left. The first is that this approach violates one of the most basic rules of strategy: you win when you seize the initiative and force the other side to respond to your actions, and you lose by passively responding to whatever the other side comes up with. In any contest, without exception, if you surrender the initiative and let the other side set the terms of the conflict, you’re begging to be beaten, and will normally get your wish in short order.

That in itself is bad enough. A movement that defines itself in purely negative terms, though, and attempts solely to prevent someone else’s agenda from being enacted rather than pursuing a concrete agenda of its own, suffers from another massive problem: the best such a movement can hope for is a continuation of the status quo, because the only choice it offers is the one between business as usual and something worse. That’s fine if most people are satisfied with the way things are, and are willing to fling themselves into the struggle for the sake of a set of political, economic, and social arrangements that they consider worth fighting for.

I’m not sure why so many people on the leftward end of American politics haven’t noticed that this is not the case today. One hypothesis that comes to mind is that by and large, the leftward end of the American political landscape is dominated by middle class and upper middle class white people from the comparatively prosperous coastal states. Many of them belong to the upper 20% by income of the American population, and the rest aren’t far below that threshold. The grand bargain of the Reagan years, by which the middle classes bought a guarantee of their wealth and privilege by letting their former allies in the working classes get thrown under the bus, has profited them hugely, and holding onto what they gained by that maneuver doubtless ranks high on their unstated list of motives—much higher, certainly, than pushing for a different future that might put their privileges in jeopardy.

The other major power bloc that supports the American left these days offers an interesting lesson in the power of positive goals. That bloc is made up of certain relatively disadvantaged ethnic groups, above all the African-American community. The Democratic party has been able to hold the loyalty of most African-Americans through decades of equivocation, meaningless gestures, and outright betrayal, precisely because it can offer them a specific vision of a better future: that is, a future in which Americans of African ancestry get treated just like white folk. No doubt it’ll sink in one of these days that the Democratic party has zero interest in actually seeing that future arrive—if that happened, after all, it would lose one of the most reliable of its captive constituencies—but until that day arrives, the loyalty of the African-American community to a party that offers them precious little but promises is a testimony to the power of a positive vision for the future.

That’s something that the Democratic party doesn’t seem to be able to offer anyone else in America, though. Even on paper, what have the last half dozen or so Democratic candidates for president offered? Setting aside crassly manipulative sound bites of the “hope and change” variety, it’s all been attempts to keep things going the way they’ve been going, bracketed with lurid threats about the GOP’s evil plans to make things so much worse. That’s why, for example, the Democratic party has been eager to leap on climate change as a campaign issue, even though their performance in office on that issue is indistinguishable from that of the Republicans they claim to oppose: it’s easy to frame climate change as a conflict between keeping things the way they are and making them much worse, and that’s basically the only tune the American left knows how to play these days.

The difficulty, of course, is that after forty years of repeated and humiliating failure, the Democrats and the other leftward movements in American political life are caught in a brutal vise of their own making. On the one hand, very few people actually believe any more that the left is capable of preventing things from getting worse. There’s good reason for that lack of faith, since a great many things have been getting steadily worse for the majority of Americans since the 1970s, and the assorted technological trinkets and distractions that have become available since then don’t do much to make up for the absence of stable jobs with decent wages, functioning infrastructure, affordable health care, and all the other amenities that have gone gurgling down the nation’s drain since then.

Yet there’s another factor, of course, as hinted above. If the best you can offer the voters is a choice between what they have now and something worse, and what they have now is already pretty wretched, you’re not likely to get much traction. That’s the deeper issue behind the unenthusiastic popular response to Hillary Clinton’s antics, and I’d like to suggest it’s also what’s behind Donald Trump’s success in the polls—no matter how awful a president he’d be, the logic seems to run, at least he’d be different. When a nation reaches that degree of impatience with a status quo no one with access to power is willing to consider changing, an explosion is not far away.


Carolyn said...

For those in the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis/St. Paul), I invite you to join me this Sunday at 3pm for a discussion of the themes covered in The Archdruid Report. The meeting will take place at Open Book on Washington Avenue. Future meetups may be elsewhere; we're trying out a few different locations. Please RSVP at the group's page on Meetup if you can, so I'll know how many to expect.

Jay Meltesen said...

Trump seems to be an echo of Ross Perot, wealthy businessman who ostensibly can fund himself--hence independent. Whether he knocks off Bush III in the primaries or the general, the funding for the Ceasar type would seem to be endemically Republican (though Julias was a populare).

Fabian said...

I remember one of your previous posts where someone used the term “representative kleptocracy”, pointing out that the corruption, malfeasance and general sleaziness of the American political class is merely a reflection of the moral turpitude of the public that elects them to office. Bill and Hillary Clinton are only the most brazen, shameless and spectacularly corrupt members of that political class. They are representative examples of the American socio-political elite as it really is, but they are also reflections of the degenerative rot that has seeped into the American people.

David Goldman made the same point a few months back when he asked the question “Are Americans as corrupt as the Clintons?”

Eric Backos said...

Dear Mr. Greer, Your Grace, &c.
I thought my post last week was a little long. The Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association meeting announcement seemed a bit long last week. It follows in its own post. A number of us will attend the OSU Extension Office / Geauga County Farm Bureau’s “Canning 101” seminar on Saturday at the Geauga County Fairgrounds. Your little green spark has taken alight.

PS I liked the idea of a Malevolent and Destructive Association for Barbarian Hordes. Then I thought about it… From their point of view, they ARE a benevolent and protective society. Perspective isn’t everything… but…

Eric Backos said...

The Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Chapter Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will hold their Stated Meeting: This Thursday at 6:30 PM in Cracker Barrel, Willoughby, Ohio at I-90 & SOM Center Road. 6055 SOM Center Road Willoughby, Ohio, 44094-9153.
Look for the table topper with a green wizard hat printed on it.

Ken Barrows said...

One would think that the Libya debacle while she was Secretary of State would be enough to disqualify her based on incompetence. On the other hand, in the theme of this post, a GOP administration would have done the same.

Liam Jackson said...

Similar but different story in Australia for Labor/the left. Their current leadership also lives by "we're less worse", and most of the young or genuinely radical types abandoned Labor years ago for the Greens. The Greens have had some successes but hamstring themselves by telling voters they can have their unsustainable cake and eat it too. Our Right (there are no conservatives on the Right) is struggling under truly moronic leadership, corruption and startling nuttiness, but they've got xenophobia & militaristic fear mongering down pat, so i'd bet on them getting another go at the front of the clown car.

Steve from Lakewood said...

I suspect that the economy will take a downward turn from bad to worse in the not too distant future. Part of what made politics meaningful in the past was the offering of hope of a better future. You had Teddy Roosevelt trust busting through the New Deal, for instance, all aimed at making the future better for everyone. Since Eisenhower that promise seems to have been less and less sincere until we had the farce of Obama and his message of hope--which was easy for a total unknown on the national stage to make.

I teach college, and have a lot of contact with veterans who left the service after 10 years or more. Those veterans are almost unanimous in their disapproval of our handling of Afghanistan and our invasion and occupation of Iraq. That is why they left the military--the illusion that they would be doing something useful, and which might make the world a better place has faded.

I know that people in general are slowly figuring out the corruption of our present way of choosing elected officials. It comes up more and more in conversation, for instance. I think Trump's chances of getting nominated are probably weak (I read today that the bookies lay odds at 5 to 1), but even if nominated he doesn't have the spare billions to run a campaign, and he is pretty well an enemy of the Koch brothers, etc., the traditional paymasters of recent Republican campaigns. As for Hillary: ask Bradley Manning about mishandling classified information. I suspect that even if her special person status keeps her from being indicted that the powers in the Democratic Party will again see once again that she in not electable and they will go off in search of another relative unknown. In fact keeping their candidate secret until the last moment even be their strategy. I feel so old and cynical.....

And, of course, there is always the Plan C or D of the current oligarchs if things get too uncomfortable for them: find sufficient emergency somewhere to declare an extreme national emergency and send dissidents off to the FEMA camps.

Collapse doesn't always have to be slow and catabolic---sigh! It is hard to think of things to do on a personal level that could create the opportunities for better outcomes for the population at large. There are little things most of us can do, like buying a more efficient car and conserving water, but these are mostly symbolic unless and until such practices catch on. Organic farming is about no new pesticides, not the pesticides that will be in the land and water for centuries to come. Organic also means that the grower uses no GMO seed stocks, but not that there are no GMO genes and their effects present in the crops--commercial organic foods can actually legally have a percentage of GMO genes present. And those GMO genes can spread to other plants--witness the surprisingly large number counties in the US with super-weeds that are Round Up resistant. Even doing the right thing is only putting on the "cleanest dirty shirt" because of the events of the last 40 years perpetrated by the more for me now crowd and their political hirelings.

I weep for our grandchildren.

Ben said...

On the contrary, it seems the writers of the Onion will have a field day, at least with the 'left' half of the 2016 circus.

(I know, its not druid appropriate, but I had to offer it)

Pinku-Sensei said...

"There’s Donald Trump, whose campaign is shaping up to be the loudest invocation of pure uninhibited führerprinzip since, oh, 1933 or so..."

And whose candidacy has been the best thing for a media driven by page views and clicks so far this campaign season. When my wife watched his announcement, she remarked that Trump looked and sounded like The Penguin running for Mayor. Both of them are cartoons of what a working stiff thinks a rich person should be. Then his campaign picked up steam and an article I wrote for about his coming in second in a Michigan poll has been the most read story for the past year. Now that he's in first, the best thing to do about him is to play a drinking game for his campaign appearances and the debates. Time to stock up on booze.

As for Clinton losing, you should take that to the Iowa Electronic Markets when the Democratic Nomination Market opens up. Right now, they just have the generic general election market running. When they do, I expect Clinton would be a heavy favorite, mirroring the conventional wisdom that she'll be the candidate and win the election. The latest polls have her beating Trump badly. Of course, it's early, and Trump might be the "Fred Halliot" you were predicting. In that case, you could make a lot of money with your prediction.

Dave Zoom said...

Talking to a few of th men I used to work with of " african decent "as you put it , Hillary came into the conversation ,it got heated of course, one 25 year old stood up looked around the room and said " what you want to vote for her for shes everything you dont like , OLD, RICH AND WHITE " wich turned the conversation to Donald who they also despise .
Neither party has any vision other than getting elected with nice fat cheques from their sponsor . America is a oligarchy , Greece was an oligarchy untill there was nothing left for anyone to perloin except the bankers with extra governmental help , there must be a word for a country run only by bankers , America still has corporate and banker oligarchy but the bankers are winning the game THEY are the only ones that are too big to fail .millionares and their corporations will swiftly be thrown under a bus when they start cutting into bankers corporate bonuses .

club lowlow said...

I would love for a politician to step up and offer a vision of the future that involved living in urban communities with small, energy efficient apartments and homes with backyard gardens, biking or public transit to work, a scrapping of the disastrous war on drugs, the scrapping of the disastrous food pyramid/low fat diet recommendations the government has made, a scrapping of the world police foreign policy, and many more changes. I'm sure such a candidate would get a small but extremely enthusiastic minority behind them. But would the average American vote for that candidate? Would the average American actually vote for biking uphill in the heat with 10 lbs of produce from the local market, vs. loading up the air conditioned SUV with 80 lbs of high fructose goop from the big box store? Could the average American make that transition, even if they wanted to? At this point I'm afraid not. Any candidate that proposed the vision of the future we actually need would be committing political suicide, Jimmy Carter style. Americans are addicted to the fossil fuel lifestyle, and there's no rehab for that.

Ray Wharton said...

From 'Red Nails' the last Conan work of Robert Howard's life which I am now reading.

""Suppose with their aid we destroy Xotalanc," he said. "What then, Xatmec?"

"Why," returned Xatmec, "we will drive red nails for them all. The captives we will burn and flay and quarter."

"But afterward?" pursued the other. "After we have slain them all? Will it not seem strange to have no foe to fight? All my life I have fought and hated the Xotalancas. With the feud ended, what is left?"

Xatmec shrugged his shoulders. His thoughts had never gone beyond the destruction of their foes. They could not go beyond that."

Having returned to the tail after a detour to this weeks post I cannot help but feel a congruity. The two sides in an eternal war have never stepped outside of their city or their conflict, it means little to most beside the unthinkability of any other patten.

Jason Fligger said...

Wow, you really captured my feelings about the democratic party and Hillary Clinton campaign. I have a friend who is an old "lefty" and he has basically given up. He would challenge your notion that something is going to blow up soon. He has been waiting for the revolution for 50 years and he no longer believes that it is right around the corner. I think we may be surprised at how long this whole thing can be held together with baling wire and chewing gum.

pygmycory said...

I'd noticed Trump's popularity too, and it makes me nervous for much the reasons you suggest. People have to be pretty unhappy with the status quo and other alternatives to seriously consider him for president.

Glad I don't live in the US, not that Canada's much of a prize right now. It looks like the commodities bust and household indebtedness are likely to cause major trouble in the near/immediate future. We're already in technical recession territory.

Speaking of betrayal by those in power, Syriza's capitulation to the European powers-that-be was very unimpressive. Why didn't they have a Plan B they were ready and willing to use? The attitude of those they were trying to negotiate with should have made it obvious that they might need one.

Howard Skillington said...

If I might add a brush stroke to the vivid picture you have painted of the liberal dilemma in America today, it is that the left has permitted the opposition to continually redefine the location of “the center” to the point at which the typical self-professed “liberal” today is well to the right of Richard Nixon. Or, as the extant left in Europe has long observed, “American politics runs the gamut from A to B.”

My liberal friends were shocked seven years ago when I was unmoved by the slogan “Yes we can,” given that the current nominal president offered no suggestion as to what it was that we could still allegedly do. They warn that my unwillingness to participate in enabling such vacuous political theatre will surely lead to an even more reprehensible Supreme Court, but recoil at my description of what a meaningful liberal platform would have to include at this parlous juncture.

Now Hillary proposes to retreat even from Obama’s minimalist campaign strategy to the primordial ur-pitch of middle school student council candidacies: “Vote for me.” It’s no wonder that increasing numbers of voters are being shaken out of their torpor, even by such a clown as The Donald. We’ll be lucky if some truly horrific alternative on the right doesn’t emerge in time to win this horse race.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Wait...there's an election going on? From all the braying and trumpeting I thought for sure the circus had come to town.

In all honesty I'm too busy trying to shore up Wisconsin's defenses to pay much attention to the Feds. The third parties have that traditional vision of America. Did I tell you guys I managed to convince the greens and libs to take up a bi-monthly column in my paper?

Question now is how do I train people to read the news again?



MIckGspot said...

It seems major funding for both the left and right comes from many of the same sources, major power functions not "We The People" cover both sides. This paradigm used to make me furious and frantic in trying to change the beast by fundraising, door knocking whatever I could do. Now I accept it ( corruption of US politics) as an ecologic feature of the political realm rather than an unjust function. Consequently I no longer care which side wins in national elections, for most of the things important to me (effective change to improve long term life support) there is little to no difference between both sides and I am better off working on the problems by myself or with my family, neighbors.
Thank you Arch-druid for your time and energy in framing issues in a cogent unique way.

Esquon said...

This analysis should terrify any citizen who expects a positive future. You have very clearly put into print many rather fuzzy thoughts that have been simmering in my head for a long time. Will the future simply bring more downward chaos or at some point will a political monster ride in and create some really horriffic "change" that many will at first relish and later regret? Both possibilities are grim and I am not optimistic that Americans can bring about a really positive change of course.

k-dog said...

An excellent probing analysis. Major party politicians don't get it. The Democratic party through 'progressives' under the bus and consequently have nothing to offer anyone who wants a better future. That they lost the support of millions is something they don't get. Republicans who get their support from common folk who imagine they might actually get rich some day and be Republican themselves are blatant in their disregard for the same common folk they used to schmooze. They don't get that there is a limit to the amount of abuse people will tolerate. Neither party has anything to offer the non-affluent majority which technically are the very people who could decide things. It is too bad the majority of that majority is out to lunch or there would be an embraceable vision of the future.

This will not end well, which to the readers of the Archdruid Report is no new news at all. What it means is that we have to make plans to go our own way knowing that enlightenment is light years away from the American political status-quo. You said it well:

"In any contest, without exception, if you surrender the initiative and let the other side set the terms of the conflict, you’re begging to be beaten."

Waiting for change is waiting for defeat. Concerning our own futures within the domain over which we have some control we must be proactive. Nothing else will succeed. Their will be no rescue from lack of action.

Josh said...

Spot on, JMG, in my opinion.

With our two party system and particular electoral mechanics, it seems there's no way a third party could compete. But one party (or both of them, I reckon) could have a meltdown and be replaced.

I was just listening to an interview with Sturgill Simpson and he was discussing the mixed feelings he has about so frequently being compared to Waylon Jennings. He wondered if it was "psychosomatic," i.e., that mainstream country music today is so effing terrible people are just longing for some honest-to-God Waylon-like musical phenomenon to happen, and Sturgill is maybe the closest thing to that right now.

Reading your post it's easy for the imagination to wander into a very dark place - where some truly malicious destructive but charismatic force with a plan and the means to enact it could rise up to fill the political vacuum of continued status quo maintained by our two current parties. That's ugly and I don't really want to think about that. But what about the good alternative? What if, like music lovers sick to death of vacuous lame-o commercial Bro Country longing for an authentic Waylon-type to emerge, there is actually a huge constituency of people in the US who would burst out of their malaise for real political leadership and a movement that honestly would called a spade a spade, and had a plan for dealing with our energy-economic-environmental travails?

I mean, what's holding up these two joke parties, anyhow? Does anyone take them seriously? I'm sure the doomer side of the blog-o-shpere would have lots of fun imagining all sorts of nasties taking over the US in the wake of the Ds and/or Rs self-destruction. But can you see any benefit from imagining how a serious, honest, beneficent movement might coalesce to fill the breach, and writing some posts about that? Or are we just too off-the-deep-end culturally and intellectually as a society for that to even be remotely realistic?

Sturgill has a large and growing following now, has released two landmark albums and has been touring relentlessly, despite receiving zero support through any mainstream musical channels. People want honesty and authenticity and quality - in music, and I assume in life and politics in general. Is it crazy to imagine some good thing coming our way, from outside the "usual" channels?

Avery said...

This election is definitely a circus, but if the Republicans are the clowns, the Democrats are the acrobats. Hillary Clinton continues to sweep up the primary votes because of her ability to deftly jump through hoops and make it look like something anyone can do. She continues to command the majority of votes, including minority voters, for that reason, but in fact her maneuvering talents are quite unique. People who vote for Hillary are voting for that promise of normality, but she is still putting on a mere act that has little relationship to what happens when the show comes to an end.

I remember in some earlier posts you called American politics in the 21st century a total sideshow that will not have much influence on anything. But it's hard to keep away from the spectacle. It's so much fun to watch a fortress start to crumble, and it's simply amazing when that fortress is the entire way we talk about ourselves. There's so much going on: the visible formation of elite dynasties, the shift of the role of government away from economic disparity and towards linguistic policing, the total avoidance of the signs of collapse (anyone notice that Army chief of staff saying that the war on ISIS will last 10-20 years? No, me neither).

And, of course, the Trumpmentum. I recommend reading Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian if you want to figure out what role his kind of personality will play as the American empire decays. Or, if you want to know about him personally, you could watch this censored documentary that just came out. The Internet is a great thing.

Bruce Maples said...

Just learned of your site, so will be going back and reading some of your previous posts. On this post, some brief thoughts:
I am a little less cynical than you about the current situation, though moving in your direction. I will note that there have been some changes during the Obama presidency that I don't think would have happened under a Bush one: repeal of DADT, increased EPA regulation of coal and other pollutants, a different approach to chemical weapons in Syria, and some others. I also have a better opinion of some of our candidates, although I agree that they all are trapped by the current system of fund-raising (some a lot, some less).

Thanks for the post. I'll be back and read more.

Repent said...

JMG- You have to realize that many of your readers are non-American's, so the subtlety of American politics can be a little daunting. What is clear to all non-American's reading this blog however is that none of us, none of the people throughout the rest of the non American world have any say whatsoever in choosing or voting for the next defacto emperor of the planet.

If the US is in fact the only global superpower, consideration should be given for letting the rest of the world have some say in voting for the person who is running the whole planet into the ground, and this idea should have some merit.

As a Canadian, I can't vote in US elections. Still, like yourself, I'm stuck living under the iron fist of whoever does end up in power in 2016. It's fascism without representation.

If I could vote in US elections, I'd throw my support behind Jesse Ventura, who is making an independent run at the office with Howard Stern as his running mate. Still the trajectory of peak oil, catastrophic climate change, and the mathematically inevitable financial collapse, will still likely dominate the future no matter which new emperor without clothes arrives into the place of power.

Anthony Romano said...

I"m surprised there was no mention of Bernie Sanders in your post or the subsequent comments. Perhaps being burned by Obama was enough to make people wary of his campaign, but unlike President Obama, Bernie is not an unknown quantity the way Senator Obama was. He has a long track record of voting to judge his statements by.

He seems to be the only candidate of either major party that is talking about making big changes to the current system. I think that is why he has some cross-over appeal and is pulling in people from the middle.

Granted most of his policies are just about re-establishing programs and laws that once benefited people and reigned in banks/corporations, but have since been gutted. However, his stances on student loans and the costs of college is certainly a departure from any other candidate and it might actually do something to help people.

Admittedly, much of his campaign does fit nicely into your point that the left tends be reactionary rather than visionary.

Cherokee Organics said...


I agree, there is very little difference between the two parties in politics down here as well. Even the Greens which have a presence in the Federal Senate down here appear to have lost their colour in recent years. There are some notable exceptions though as there are a few independents in the Federal Senate such as Nick Xenophon who talks a lot of common sense, but as individuals they can be overwhelmed by the system. The system is well setup to tackle threats from within. It is the unexpected that the system cannot get a handle on very well. The simple lesson to take on that is don’t fight the system as it may stomp you!

If you can forgive a quick trip back into the time of the Hyborian age for a moment or two, I noticed an interesting feature of that story. When sorcery becomes involved it is often countered by other sorcery meanwhile the potent force of nature then crashes through the space left over - often in the form of Conan smiting his enemies. It is a blood thirsty tale!

It is a fascinating insight from the author and it can well be applied to the realms of magic. Because to my mind anyway, what magic can create, it cannot hold for long against the real world force of nature. The powers that be, let loose thaumaturgy by the bucket load onto the population these days and people lap it up. Because, by and large, people want to be told what they want to hear – it is an easy sell. But such a strategy doesn't work against the forces of the real world / nature. It doesn't create energy and it certainly doesn't put food on the table.

There is also the trap, that the politicians relying on thaumaturgy as an instrument of policy, get caught in the trap of their own beliefs. The problem is that they will never quite know when the next sorcerer will pop up their head, look about them at the world as it is experienced by the people and then cast another spell more appropriate to that real world experience. And yet, all the while, nature will be waiting in the background waiting for a chance to lunge in and bash some skulls.

One fascinating quote from the book - and sorry, I do digress as I’m really enjoying the book which I haven’t read for a couple of decades - is that civilised men can be impolite to one another whilst the barbarian knows this is unwise because he may get his skull cracked if the other party takes offence!

Ah yes, the poor. Over here the unemployed are a whipping dog in the media. Somehow that same media forgets that welfare to families and the elderly costs 10 times the amount spent on the unemployed.

Conan would agree with your observation about seizing the initiative. Also Sun Tzu would also agree. Interestingly too, I pursue that strategy because it simply works and produces results, although some people - whom I consider to be hopelessly apathetic to their day to day circumstances - have accused me of being a control freak - which is meant to be a derogatory term.

Those rusted on supporters in the middle class that you write about are overly comfortable and as I pointed out in the previous paragraph about welfare, they're on the take. And when a person becomes "on the take" they become fearful of change and have a truly massive conflict of interest.

Yes I agree an explosion is not far away: And its wielding a fracken big sword!



PS: I've got a new blog entry up: The Hen House formerly known as. Lots of fun stuff, cool photos and those pesky real world solar PV statistics during the depths of winter! The statistics make it hard to ignore the realities of renewable energy. Enjoy!

John Michael Greer said...

Carolyn, may it go well!

Jay, I'd be surprised if Jeb Bush gets far, for the same reason that I'm guessing Hillary Clinton will crumple in the early primaries and get left in the dust. There just aren't that many people willing to listen to "vote for me and you'll get more of the same."

Fabian, I think you're overstating the case -- the Clintons, as far as I can see, are pretty much as brazen, shameless and corrupt as the rest of their peers. That is to say, right up there with history's classic bad examples.

Eric, I suppose it depends on the barbarians. I suspect some of them get into wrecking and slaughtering for the sheer joy of carnage.

Ken, good heavens, no. In today's American politics, hopeless incompetence is no barrier to high office. As for Libya, though, of course the GOP would have done exactly the same thing.

Liam, thanks for the data point. I'd gotten that impression but don't follow Australian politics that closely.

Steve, okay, here's your assignment: come up with some things to do that aren't defined by the absence of something bad, but rather involve the presence of something actively good. I know that this isn't easy -- like everyone else, you've been taught for decades to think about politics solely in terms of removing bad things rather than creating good ones -- but that's exactly the challenge we face here and now.

Ben, funny. What did you think of the article on the Obama climate plan?

Pinku-sensei, your wife is quite correct about Trump and the Penguin -- though my wife argues that Burgess Meredith was considerably better looking than Trump. Has anyone ever seen both of them in the same place?

Dave, the fascinating thing to me is that nobody in the banking industry has stopped to think about what happens when their parasitic behavior kills its host.

Club Lowlow, okay, you've named one possible alternative future, which isn't very popular. Is that the only imaginable alternative future?

Patrick J. Leary said...

This is an odd sensation. I agree with most every word and think it clear to see for any with eyes to see. Yet, I am astonished that I'll be the first person, from the Druid to his commenters, in this entire dialogue to utter the name of the one and only candidate who openly agrees to this essay: Bernie Sanders.

Doug Anarino said...

My jaw is on the floor... the media blackout over the Bernie Sanders campaign seems to extend even to The Archdruid Report :-(

What is business as usual about medicare for all? Or a real living wage? Or breaking up the big banks? Or depriving corporations of personhood? Or campaign finance reform? In the current climate, these are pretty radical suggestions that could actually make some difference. Is it really true that any change in direction can only lead to 'pulling the plug'?

Karl said...

coming from a more conservative direction, I would note that:

Many of the major projects of New Deal liberalism were wounded severely by the results of policy in the 1960's and 1970's. The mid 1970's when U.S. oil production peaked and the first embargo happened mark a very clear inflection point on pretty much any chart of economic indicators you pick - wages, debt/GDP, etc.

Did the Reagan era hasten along some of bad response to these trends? Yes, but I'm focused on the progressive side of the ledger, for this post. And it was the Democratic party that, through the operation of the Democratic Leadership Council, bounced the last of the New Deal era positions after Mondale's defeat in order to produce a more electable candidate - Clinton.

Now with most policy choices constrained, and most activists sensing the futility of the conventional political process, some of them have retreated into moralistic pietism. Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton use the term theraputic moralistic deism to describe the religious aspect of it. In either view, asserting one's own righteousness is certainly a human powered activity that is possible in an era of energy decline (although boosted by cheap energy like everything else).

As for the current situation, what I find, being relatively close the belly of the beast, is that most of the politico types in D.C. assumed the chaos in the primary so far is a sideshow and would dissipate once people come to their senses. Doesn't seem likely to happen, for the reasons you laid out.

The best analogy (yes, a mechanical one) I can come up with is that what's going on now is like a pinball game, and you don't know how many balls are left to play. Eventually it will go tilt from all the effort to keep going, because the ground has shifted, and the game won't work anymore.

Dagnarus said...

Just quickly adding a data point.

patriciaormsby said...

I had the temptation earlier today to write a note to Paul Craig Roberts saying basically what you are saying this week. One of Reaganomics' architects, he now laments exactly the things we on the left (at least on the left in the time of Reagan) have been decrying and thus popular among progressives, although they criticize him because he still fails to blame Reagan for it (I stopped blaming Reagan during his second term in office, when I noticed that even he was not really driving the agenda). The poor feller's getting so frustrated that I recently noted him saying that Marx and Lenin were probably right: you need a revolution to dislodge the capitalists! Today he published an article on Op-Ed News offering solutions to the terrible bind we are in, but I am afraid those would fail for the reasons you have noted.

I also think human civilization is prone to eventual power usurpation by psychoopathic elements precisely because psychopaths are able to accomplish the dirty tasks no one with a conscience would be able to do without severe health consequences, but need done so badly in order to promote their own interests that they will turn a blind eye to it all.

Off topic, but in your response to someone last week you described our house with uncanny accuracy, cobbled together with a southern greenhouse and pumpkins climbing the fruit trees, except our compost pile is a plastic bin in a vain effort to discourage rats. Cats seem to fare poorly in our town. Whether that is due to increasingly strong poisons being used to control rats or efforts by the commercial fishing holes in our town to control cats, or both, I don't know. A week ago, I heard several people in our region saying that there were fewer rats in general than a decade or two ago. Abandoning ship?

Jeff Thomas said...

While there is certainly a distressing amount of overlap between the two major parties, I think you owe the Democrats a little more credit than you're giving them - on some select issues, they have managed to adopt (and in the case of health care reform, even enact) some center-right-ish policies that were sure enough Republican-approved in the 1990s, but would be apostasy for any Republican to propose now. And while you're right that the Democrats' defense the of status quo is not particularly inspirational, there are plenty of areas (women's rights, labor policy, taxation, etc.) where Republicans openly favor making things worse as fast as possible, and at the state level of governance are doing so with great vigor (see Kansas for a particularly excellent example).

Rather than saying that the parties are "indistinguishable" I think a more accurate statement is that if the nation were to need a hearty meal, the Democrats would after much deliberation manage to provide a day-old plate of badly overcooked pasta with no sauce, and the Republicans would gleefully serve up a burning bicycle tire. Both options are awful, but not actually the same.

Frank Shannon said...

The Democrats seem pretty rational to me here; uninspiring, definitely even morally detestable, but rational. You say things are bad now but if I understand your reasoning things are going to generally get worse for at least 200 or so years. If the choice is between things getting worse faster or worse slower, I know where my interests lie. Hilary's expectations for the voters may not be reasonable, but voting for the lesser evil is.

Jeff Thomas said...

Also, I'm surprised you didn't take a moment to talk about Bernie Sanders in all of that. I'm sure if your opinions were hugely positive you would have said so, but he seems distinct enough from both Clinton and the parade of Republican horribles to merit a few lines of commentary...

Kyoto Motors said...

I really appreciate your insights, and I try to apply this line of reasoning to the activist leftists I know... But here in Canada I do believe that our left-leaning option not only stands a good chance of winning the election (campaign underway), but they really do represent a much better path forward than the present rule by our tar sands wannabe dictator we've had at the helm for the past decade. But your criticism still holds: The comfortable middle class doesn't seek much real ( necessary) change when it comes to sacrificing any of their established entitlement...

John Michael Greer said...

Ray, thanks for the reminder! Howard would have gotten peak oil, I suspect, as he certainly had figured out peak Xotalanc...

Jason, that's because his revolution is not the one we're going to get, of course.

Pygmycory, Syriza's mistake was in thinking that the EU leadership cared about the consequences of its policies toward Greece. Au contraire; the EU is so deeply stuck in a fantasyland of neoliberal economics that it'll go right ahead and turn Greece into a failed state ravaged by domestic insurgency a la Syria, and never notice.

Howard, true enough. The horrific alternative I worry about, though, is the plausible guy with an armband that occupies the abandoned center and shows the current crop of people who are yelling about fascism what the word actually means.

Varun, make sure it's more interesting than the other media, of course.

Mick, starting with what you can actually affect is a good strategy, no question.

Esquon, they certainly can't until they can envision something different from the present. That's the point I plan on addressing as we proceed.

K-dog, excellent! That last line of yours -- "There will be no rescue from lack of action" -- deserves to be put on the business end of a branding iron and applied to a lot of tender rumps. You get tonight's gold star, with honorary puppy biscuit.

Josh, not at all -- if anything good is going to happen, it's got to come from outside the usual channels.

Avery, oh, granted, this is definitely the sort of thing that makes you want to sit back with a bowl of popcorn.

Bruce, and he also escalated drone strikes way beyond Bush II's already obscene levels, signed off on made-in-USA regime change projects in Syria and Ukraine, and systematically refused to prosecute anybody for the glaring fraud involved in the late and unlamented housing bubble. All in all, I think Obama and Bush II have about the same score.

Repent, give it a few more years, and the president of the US will be of zero interest to anyone outside US borders. I mean that quite seriously.

Anthony, I also didn't mention Martin O'Malley, or Ted Cruz, or any of the other eighteen or so candidates. That's because this post was on the suicide of the American left, not on the election as such. Yes, Sanders' campaign is entirely reactionary; he's shaping up to be the Eugene McCarthy of the 2016 election, but that's about it.

Cherokee, exactly! Magic has hard limits, which is why the guy with the big sword usually comes out on top anyway. Like so much else, it's an ancillary to hard power, not a replacement for it.

John Michael Greer said...

Patrick, if I were writing a book about the election rather than a post about the suicide of the American left, I would have made room for all sorts of long shot candidates, Sanders among them. As it is, I doubt he'd agree with this post -- his campaign is fixated on exactly the sort of "stop the other side" rhetoric I critiqued this week.

Doug, as noted above, I also didn't mention Martin O'Malley, or Ted Cruz, or Jesse Ventura, or any of the other long shot candidates. Sanders is doing a good job of showing by contrast how little enthusiasm Clinton can generate, but that's about it.

Karl, I ain't arguing. Both sides sold their ideals down the river during the Reagan era, and the Democrats' betrayal of their alleged principles was at least as shameful, and as damaging, as the GOP's.

Dagnarus, keep your eyes wide. We're close to insurgency.

Patricia, I recently heard that Seattle has a sudden influx of rats. If they're leaving a sinking Japan...

Jeff, and on other select issues, they're worse than the GOP. It's always possible to cherrypick a party's stances to find a handful with which you agree, but I'm far from sure that's useful.

Frank, if you're voting for the lesser evil, you're still voting for evil.

Jeff, as noted above, I also didn't say anything about the other eighteen candidates for the office, because this wasn't primarily a post about the election.

Kyoto, this is one of the reasons I don't speculate about other country's politics. I don't claim to know much about the Canadian political situation; that's why I specified the US left, not the left more generally.

Ben said...

The last two bits of the article really stood out:

Encourages citizens to choose more environmentally friendly method of suicide than running car in garage

Serves as major legacy-builder for Obama until presidential system is forgotten in catastrophic, drought-ravaged Black Times beginning in 2047

I hate to say this because it makes me sound like a hipster and a possible sociopath, but I've been a huge fan of the Onion since I read an cover page article in 2000 titled "Twelve Gunned Down in Convenience Store Clerks Imagination." Their reporting has only gotten more fact-based since then...

Leo Knight said...

Thanks again for putting this so succinctly. Before the 2012 elections, I had a conversation with friends about the prospects. I remember saying, "There's no good choice here, only different degrees of bad." Personally, I like Bernie Sanders, but I think he has the chance of snowflake in a blast furnace of winning. Also, the hardships brought on by decline and collapse will probably make any positive changes difficult to bring about going forward.

Joe D G said...

Chris Hedges covers this exact topic in more depth and breadth in Death of the Liberal Class. Definitely worth reading.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla said...

As has been noted above we are in a similar situation here in Australia. A recent poll querying people's preferred Prime Minister had two clear front runners: Somebody Else and I Don't Know.

That's not a joke either in case you were wondering, those were the actual published results.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

JMG, it's interesting that you compare Bernie Sanders to Eugene McCarthy. I remember that election very well. Perhaps you will not agree with my analysis of it. Robert Kennedy, ever the opportunist, charged through the hole that McCarthy opened up and would have won the Democratic nomination has he lived. He was forming a coalition between the white working class, people of color, portions of the Left, liberals and moderates, something no one on the Left had succeeded in doing for decades. His charisma mobilized people who had been disengaged from electoral politics. He was a reformer, certainly not a revolutionary, and I think he could have been elected with enough popular support to make reforms possible.

I don't attribute most bad happenings to conspiracy, but in 1968 RFK was a real threat to the status quo, and I don't think his assassination was a fluke. I recall this as being the last moment that the Left had any political power in the USA. No such leader could emerge or get any headway today.

Jeff Thomas said...

@JMG - We just had a mayoral election in my city - and you're absolutely right, the fact that the democratic candidate won won't make a bit of difference to the people suffering under our government's regime of drone strikes around the world, nor to the robber barons of our present gilded age, nor to the folks at the NSA - it probably won't even do organized labor much good.

But it will impact our ability to legally have chickens in our backyards and compost our yard waste. It will impact the resources available to expand our bus system and help ensure that bicycle lanes and paths continue their spread across our city, that our sidewalks and not just our streets are kept in good repair, and that our municipal recycling service will continue its fairly successful campaign of recent years to reduce the amount of waste hitting our county landfill.

Those aren't earth shaking transformational measures, and they're not going to keep our city from joining the rest of modern industrial civilization in its ride down the fossil fuel depletion curve, but they still seem like steps worth taking to me, and reason enough to care about which party's candidate won.

Spanish fly said...

Hellooo everybody. What a lovely day! What a provocative title this week!
Oh, the left and the leftists...American leftism is a joke, maybe USA leftists are deeper in the manure heap than European leftists: Democrats are not the same as socialist and communiss parties here, but, hummm they are in "evolutive convergence".
However, I think after the failure of French May (1968) we are running downhill (yeah, I still see myself as a leftist, nobody is perfect). Here, alternative left favourite hobby is blaming parlamentarian leftists (traitors, argg!!) and supporting them in elections time, of course, against the Right, catholic bishops, corporations...New progressive government, new betrayal...the vicious circle starts again. Stupid business.
Some time ago I read in a libertarian (in European sense) pamphlet: "Leftism is an improved form of right-ism" (have you seen last news about Greek government?)
OK, maybe a piece of anarchist demagogy against "moderate" leftism, but IMHO it has some truth inside...

Marc L Bernstein said...

I more or less agree with

Anthony Romano, Patrick J. Leary, Doug Anarino

and others who have mentioned that Bernie Sanders deserved better than to be ignored in this post. Even if he's "the Eugene McCarthy (or Barry Commoner, or Ralph Nader) of the 2016 election cycle", Sanders has plenty of positive ideas. Maybe they're not earth-shaking but they are a radical departure from what any of the other candidates are suggesting. Even Jesse Ventura deserved a sentence or 2, as Repent said.

Chris Hedges wrote a book a few years ago called "The Death of the Liberal Class" which more or less sums up what has happened to the so-called left in this country. Hedges regards Bernie Sanders as a very decent man who nevertheless has cheapened himself by running as a Democrat. Hedges mentioned that in the end, Sanders will hold his nose and endorse Hillary Clinton, because he already made such a deal in order to run as a Democrat in the 1st place.

There are some things the Democrats, even the seemingly honest and well-intentioned Bernie Sanders, can't say:

We (as a nation in the USA) must largely give up the notion of repairing national infrastructure. We must allow many of the roads and bridges to fall into disrepair. We must downsize our cities, abandon air travel and quickly engage in efforts in the direction of Samuel Alexnder's "voluntary simplicity". (see the Simplicity Institute - easily found by a google search)

Even the most enlightened of the Europeans (Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, etc.) aren't this radical. They all have every intention of continuing their high-energy living, with electrified homes and businesses and liquid fuel as needed.

What is the biggest taboo of all? It is admitting that industrial civilization is headed towards irreversible collapse, and this collapse is already well under way and will accelerate in the not too distant future. This means a collapse of industrialized agriculture, a massive global human die-off, an epidemic of failed states, and the loss of culture in many places throughout the civilized world. A global dark age is not that far away, probably less than a century, and it will be evident in some places much sooner.

How in the world is a politician supposed to get elected, even avoid being pelted with rotten vegetables, for saying such things?

luna said...

Some very interesting things are happening in the British Labour Party at the moment. It seems that the party establishment has been suffering from from a touch of "senility of the elites", and now they don't know what's hit them:

They made the mistake of opening up the voting system (abolishing MP and Union block votes, allowing the public to vote if they register as "supporters", and making the whole thing "one person-one-vote). Their other "mistake" was to allow a maverick candidate in to enliven a very dull contest. The result has been explosive - and quite exiting :-)

Mark Northfield said...

I note you are referring to the American left, and I guess these things could be seen as relative at a push. But I'm not sure it's especially helpful when it seems to render the terms 'left' and 'right' fairly meaningless as descriptors. If a party subscribes to economic neoliberalism, then I'd say it's on the right.

Seen from across the Atlantic therefore, both your two main parties appear to be firmly right-wing. Here in the UK we have experienced a similar alignment in the past 35 years or so with our two main political parties as the Labour party was hollowed out from within to become an economically neoliberal (and shamefully warmongering) party called New Labour, trying to appease a predominantly hostile right-wing press but with a little 'progressive' window dressing to pacify the membership. They dropped the New and went back to being just Labour at the recent general election, but their leader Ed Miliband couldn't communicate well and neither did their economic approach significantly shift. They notably got hammered by the SNP in Scotland (who ran on a much more left-wing platform overall) and their small rise in voteshare was not rewarded by our archaic voting system.

Cue an enormous rumpus in recent weeks with their leadership election as a traditional lefty - Jeremy Corbyn - who had been written off at the start as a marginal figure, now appears to have a good chance of winning. This is mainly because he offers a clear alternative to the passive neoliberal worldview espoused by the other three candidates, and can effectively advocate a positive vision in policy terms rather than simply saying what he opposes. This is much to the confusion and horror of those in the neoliberal wing (aka the Blairites) who are pulling all manner of publicity stunts to try to ensure he doesn't win.

As a Green Party supporter/activist (we quadrupled our votes at the recent general election to over a million and still have only one MP - thanks First Past The Post!), I'm watching with some interest from the sidelines. I think the problems we face with climate/energy/overshoot are terrifyingly huge, and I suspect Corbyn won't go far enough fast enough in tackling them, but I would love to be surprised. He is clearly someone with strong moral convictions and the ability to articulate those convictions, and that is a hopeful sign at least. So no suicide of the left going on over here; on the contrary, it appears to be awakening from its coma.

ed boyle said...

So the question is where is the real action going on? In basketball you keep your eye on where the guy is going with the ball, igore the head fakes. Politics is a head fake by TPTB. Deep state , big money control govt. using security apparatus, politics, finances, etc. Behind what the .1% think is the real world, human world, is the chaotic reaction they can't control of foreign countries, terrorists, rogue weather effects, peak resource, water, topsoil, animals, fish. So in an increasingly chaotic world we concentrate on the irrelevant tip of the iceberg while we crash titanic. The king can be relevant but is mostly a figurehead. The iceberg base is nature. Human world is just below surface of water. Politics influence is like tail wagging the dog.

Phil Harris said...

I just read some guy who says Donald Trump is the President the USA deserves.

DT a few days ago was over here in Scotland where he owns property and golf, and looked like he was in a 1920s post-WWI nostalgia yarn harking back to the Edwardian era. He did a ‘press conference’; really a ‘summit’ about himself – a tycoon amid traditional transatlantic scenery minus it has to be said the original gravitas owed to an Edwardian British Empire just over its apogee; the authentic (sic) Big Hotel dates back; it’s not just TV - while the little women in the background played on amid the sand.

I guess this candidate would also make a fitting inheritor of the aforesaid British Empire. I am sure there must be a Latin tag that somehow catches the flavour of crystal chandeliers and oak panelling and a campaign cap and a world golfing empire.

It seems hard to wish everyone a happy 1916 US election – I feel a bit downbeat this week.

Phil H

Bruce Kingsley said...

To me in the UK it seems your analysis fits the UK scene remarkably well, with not much more than a change of name. I think of Labour's and the Liberal Democrats' poor performance at the last general election, the explosion of support for the SNP in Scotland and now for Jeremy Corbyn (a well known left-winger) in the Labour leadership election.

woshi4ndy said...

I would like to point out that Mr. Greer also creates sort of defeatistic mentality by describing why Left is dead and that everything is heading towards one big collapse, when he at the same time at this article critizes the event of leftist intelectuals, that created the same defeatistic mentality in some participants. I´m not surprised that no-one feels any sort of inner push to change things. News like this usually kills all proactive behavior.

About the politicians...they are always the representatives of ideas that creates the major consensus among population, and they are as simple as major population. Politians with visions gets marginalized. Also the positions of power usually attract psychopaths.

Trying to keep the status quo is elementary psychological pattern in behavior. Why would you change it, if no outside force compels you to. Until their is no biodiversity in our oceans and coastal areas are flooded with millions displaced, there would most likely be no change.

Sorry for my english, wish everyone a good day.

Dmitry Orlov said...

I agree that the USA is in about as fragile a state right now as the USSR was prior to its collapse. The big difference is that in the USSR there was plenty left for the well-placed former Soviet politico and his associates to steal once the collapse occurred: the public sector was gigantic, rich and ripe for the picking. Huge fortunes were amassed over the course of the early 1990s by economic scavengers ravaging the corpse of the USSR.

This is definitely not the case with the USA at the moment, because the same sorts of politically well placed scavengers have been at it for many years now.

The difference this ought to make is this: in the USSR certain members of the political class were rather eager to get the collapse show on the road because there was something in it for them, while in the USA at the moment these same sorts of people don't see much of a bright post-collapse future for themselves, and so will do all they can to run out the clock.

Dan Mollo said...

Trump winning the election is not out of the realm of possibility, especially for a country obsessed with celebrity worship. The "govenator" comes to mind. Perhaps a prelude to corn pone Hitler?

I think I may watch the republican debates tonight with the soundtrack to Benny Hill in the background.

Tony f. whelKs said...

"Repent, give it a few more years, and the president of the US will be of zero interest to anyone outside US borders. I mean that quite seriously. "

That's the next point in this whole process that has any appeal for me.... being one of those living outside the borders of the USA (efforts by our own political class notwithstanding).

As a necessarily less-disinterested observer than I'd like to be, looking at what bit of primary-race craziness makes it into my media input fills me with the usual quadrennial mix of foreboding and disbelief. I know that looking at another country's politics from the outside can be a very distorted perspective (as any perusal of foreigners' takes on politics here in the UK can attest), but all I can conclude this time around is: any nation that can accept a candidate like Donald Trump as a serious contender is in big trouble.

I confess to finding the term 'American left' a bit comical, though, as from this side of the Atlantic it looks like two (slightly) different right-wing parties. Even our Conservative Party is to the left of the Democrats presently... but I guess the distorting lens of the corporate media might have some impact there. Our own left(ish) Labour Party seems to be indulging in another suicide attempt dressed up as a leadership contest. For those not in touch with UK politics, it's hard to describe, but it appears the party grandees have enabled a 'hard-left' candidate to run to give an impression of variety, and he has taken a stonking lead, to everone's amazement and panic. Hordes of new members are joining the party. Various factions are slating this as either pseudo-Trotskyite 'entryism' or right-wing infiltration. The party grandees are in a blind funk. It would seem to me the easy thing to do is ensure only members enrolled prior to the contest should be eligible to vote in it, but perhaps that's just too simple? Whatever happens, it seems the stage is set for a lame duck with contested legitimacy.

However, all of the mainstream parties (in US and UK alike) are totally unaware of the declining arc of our civilisation, and have no way to field the right team or the right strategy to deal with it. It's a bit like a surreal football game - the teams are lined up, the cheerleadres are cheering, the owners are smug as ever and the fans are busy excoriating each other. But no-one seems to have noticed that the pitch is actually a swimming pool....

Odin's Raven said...

Its no longer news that democracy is the public relations of kleptocracy. However, its an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Here's an article about a family in Los Angeles who not only grow their own food, but earn $20,000 p.a. by selling the surplus; all from one tenth of an acre. Tiny Farm
Keen urban market gardeners may do well in the next phase of decline. The rich greedy hypocrites will still be leeching from the public and will be willing to pay well for locally grown, organic, fashionable, food. Even when the current long supply lines are no longer feasible, the rulers will still be able to protect their local suppliers and the restaurants they favour.

Nestorian said...

You criticize the American left for failing to offer a positive vision, but isn't their failure to offer a positive vision an inevitable corollary of one of the main points you have been arguing since the very beginning of the blog? I refer, of course, to your rejection of the hope for progress as a myth.

Well, if progress is a myth (and if I didn't agree then I would not have been following this blog since its inception), then is it not entirely logical for the contemporary left to adopt the entirely realistic perspective that all that can be done politically is to:

a) denounce the scoundrels; and
b) try to ensure that the least bad option prevails in the political arena?

Insofar as the left has adopted this posture, I myself consider them simple realists, who have abandoned the foolish dreams of progress of their youth. Chris Hedges would be an exemplary illustration of the kind of hard-headed, progress-rejecting realism I have in mind.

Putting religious convictions aside, I, too, am such a leftist realist. As such, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Obama won reelection in 2012, even though it was fully clear to me as early as the infamous $700 billion bailout vote in September 2008 that Obama's "hope and change" rhetoric was utterly cynical.

And I will breathe a similar sigh of relief if Hillary Clinton wins in 2016. Yes, her rule would be bad, but under any Republican president things would most probably be significantly worse.

If progress is a myth, then that is all one can hope for anyhow in the political arena.

Chloe said...

What I always wonder is how many of them (the political elite) know they're standing on rotten ice, and how many of them believe that what they're doing is a viable long-term strategy. (Like anybody who uses the phrase "sustainable growth".) It's amazing and utterly baffling that people who were grown adults twenty years ago - and certainly fifty years ago - can't recognise how drastically things have changed in terms of things like the distribution of wealth, the price of oil and the priorities of politicians. People still talk of the "left" and the "right" as though they mean something but here across the pond it's become strikingly apparent in the past few months that there's almost no difference between them. The Democrats may do nothing but react to the Republicans, but the UK Labour Party - the old bastion of the left - has stopped bothering even to do that. The futility and moral bankruptcy of this is obvious to everyone except, it seems, the professional left wing, which has gone into a tizzy over the prospect of Labour electing a leader who actually sounds leftist (and whether or not he would actually make a difference is largely irrelevant - even the *suggestion* of a few old lefty ideas is radical these days) and the party may well schism if he gets the job. The ice is cracking.

Meanwhile, up in Scotland, we've got one of the most peaceful independence movements in human history and I can only hope it stays that way. I get the strong impression it falls into your category of "a vision of a different future" - one that may not turn out to actually be any better, of course, but one that at least involves action and definite change rather than more of the same. I don't know so much about American politics, but I do get the impression you've got further to go before anything similar arises - chaos and disruption, yes, but the required cognitive and emotional shifts needed to set off in a new direction will require a bit more time.

Ah, well. At least, if next year's presidential race follows the current trend, it will be an entertaining spectacle. Who needs bread when you've got a circus?

Juandonjuan said...

For the average voter/citizen, the cultural background noise from the mass media is like air--you have greater difficulty breathing/keeping your head above water, but the slime oozing out of your TV set(courtesy Mr Zappa)is sooo entertaining/distracting/misleading/superficially plausible. Uncovering the underlying reality is hard slogging, separating the wheat from the chaff needs a breeze-a breath of fresh air, if you will. The framework for interpretation of trends is critical, the theory of catabolic collapse you presented nearly a decade ago provided that framework. Occam's(Ockham)'s Razor for the dilemma of diminishing returns.
When seen against that background, my efforts to become less dependent, more
in(inter)dependent have been taking hold. Fortunately I'm not in an architecturally enforced community/subdivision, but I'm still an outlier with the active rainwater collection/compost/woodstove lifestyle. Still hoping not to attract the attention of the Barbarian Horde/Government

Odin's Raven said...

Since the topic of Fascism has come up again, here's an interesting article to supplement your previous discussion of its origins.
Mystery of Fascism

'Fascism began as a revision of Marxism by Marxists, a revision which developed in successive stages, so that these Marxists gradually stopped thinking of themselves as Marxists, and eventually stopped thinking of themselves as socialists. They never stopped thinking of themselves as anti-liberal revolutionaries.'

'These ideas foreshadowed the Third World propaganda of the 1950s and 1960s, in which aspiring elites in economically backward countries represented their own less than scrupulously humane rule as "progressive" because it would accelerate Third World development. From Nkrumah to Castro, Third World dictators would walk in Mussolini's footsteps. (47) Fascism was a full dress rehearsal for post-war Third Worldism.'

Frustrated Leftists are the recruiting base for Fascism. Of course they'll change the name and the aesthetics next time, but the strutting men in armbands who insist that they're being cruel to be kind, may include more than a few of your contacts.

Perhaps those who are cultivating their gardens may avoid the worst of the future craziness.

NowhereMan said...

Great post, as always, JMG! A small nitpick with your pejorative use of the now universally reviled term "conspiracy theory" in paragraph 5, though. Does a small group of political insiders, a political class if you will, who say one thing for public consumption and another thing quite the opposite among their well-connected friends not represent a conspiracy of sorts? I think what's changed about "conspiracies" in general is not that they're more secretive or necessarily pernicious, but that they're carried out much more commonly and openly under the simple guise of Business as Usual - the alignment of like-minded business interests, these days. Worse still, I think most Americans accept that state of affairs openly and see nothing wrong with it, the concept of the mythical "public good" having long since been consigned to the trash can of archaic concepts as well. In summary, I think perhaps you underestimate the level of cynicism inherent in the American character these days, from the working class stiff all the way up to the Fortune 500 CEO, something I personally find that needs to be revised upward quite regularly.

Dagnarus said...

I'm not certain that I agree with this post. The left media which I have been listening to seems to be capable of suggesting positive steps which could be taken, such as a massive federal jobs program, investment in green energy/rail/public transport infrastructure (as part of the jobs program), all paid for by a tax on wall street wealth. I suspect that there program might even work if we hadn't already blown through the oil, and the unpolluted atmosphere. At the very least I think it's more likely to work that whatever trump is pushing.

Personally I think a large part of the problem which the left has is that it's to "rational" (I don't mean this in a good way). The left does not understand the utility which being willing to stay the course in a game of chicken can yield. For example most people who like to play chicken only like to play it with people who will swerve. I believe the progressive left calls this "voting for the lesser of two evils". Obama calls it permission to disregard anything the progressive left thinks and or feels.

Tieing this back to the article I posted previously, I noticed that for the previously article that there was at least one post mocking the idea that assault rifle would be capable of defeating all the high tech ordinance which the US armed forces had available to it. This seems to have a lot of traction with the left, and also seems to blatantly ignore the facts of the last 15 years of US military history. I'm not certain whether the militia movement or something like it has the insane believe in it's own righteousness needed to sustain an insurgency against the US government, but I suspect the inability of the majority of the US left to entertain the possible damage they could cause is a blindness to there own (and if I'm honest my own) lack of moral courage (namely the willingness to actually suffer for ones own believes.)

RPC said...

Bravo (as usual)! In a nutshell:

What would Pete Seeger think of Hilary Clinton?

What would Russell Kirk think of Donald Trump?

dfr2010 said...

@Josh, thanks for the name-drop. I love my old outlaw country, so this Sturgill fellow is right up my alley.

On the post, while Trump adds quite a bit to the entertainment factor of the election cycle circus, I am still voting for either Cthulu or Beelzebub. I am done with settling for a lesser evil here.

Unknown said...

Watching from Downunder I too was surprised not to see Bernie Sanders mentioned in the same 'at least he is different' breath. Reactionary though his message may be, it is obviously resonating with more and more prospective voters as this article published the same day attests
Rather like the meteoric rise of Jeremy Corbyn the old fashioned socialist in the British Labour leadership elections polls, which has the establishment left and right utterly horrified.
Both older, long term conviction politicians with apparently down-home styles and no pretensions seems to be part of the appeal.

donalfagan said...

During the last election I reported on the Green Party convention.
I was on a blog masthead (then), so they gave me press credentials. I was able to ask Dr Jill Stein a question, briefly spoke with her running mate Cheri Honkala, and chatted with a lot of delegates and other press. Despite liking nearly everyone I met, what I took away from the convention was that the Greens believe that their party can govern without working closely with business interests.

I'm no historian, but it is my impression that all but the most absolute monarchs have to satisfy the people that run the businesses that keep the country or nation solvent. While it may appear unseemly, there will always be the making of deals, awarding of contracts and granting of favors. Roman Emperor Claudius discusses that sort of thing at length, and I presume even the divine Pharaohs did it as well.

I think the real problem with the left is that they lost the support of business when times got tougher. When there was plenty of profit to go around, business grudgingly went along with unions, square deals, new deals and even environmental regulations. But that malaise that Jimmy Carter saw was real enough, and Reagan's Morning in America meant jettisoning all that lefty stuff to try to keep the profits coming in.

I moderated, at my old blog, nasty exchanges between staunch, well-to-do Hillary Dems and bitter, struggling Kucinich progressives, so I think you are right on point about some Dems wanting to keep what they have. I don't think it should be a surprise to anyone who follows energy depletion that the left can do little but hope for an increasing pie, while the right cynically hacks larger slices from an obviously shrinking one.

Brian said...

I tend to agree with your overall view of the direction of American society, but I'd add some very significant caveats to what you're saying here.

1) "The Left" and "The Right" are not unitary actors or movements. Nor are they necessarily synonymous with the two main political parties.

2) Focusing on elections and the contest between the Republican and Democratic parties, if your criteria for judging who to vote for (or whether to vote at all) is whether or not they will try to bring massive systemic change comparable to establishing the Constitution of 1789, ending slavery, or the New Deal, then you're probably going to be disappointed. If those events happen they will be in reaction to crisis. None of the examples you yourself used were cases where the charismatic leader in question ran for office on a platform of ending the old order. The constitution was a series of compromises, not a genius scheme of government. Lincoln pledged to leave slavery alone where it existed in 1860, not end it. I imagine committed abolitionists probably said "there's no difference" at the time. When FDR ran against Hoover his main line of attack was that Hoover was letting budget deficits get out of control. Be still my beating leftist heart. Lincoln and FDR were not "Lincoln" and "FDR" when they were first elected.

3) Even if you see the differences between two candidates as marginal, remember that within those margins are decisions that are a matter of life and death for millions. For example: Obamacare is weak tea given the larger dysfunction of the nation's system of health care, but if you're a diabetic who had no insurance before, suddenly being able to afford your insulin is a pretty big improvement in your quality of life. Food stamps may be part of a broken food production and distribution system that is going to go away at some point anyway, but for now, if you're one of the unemployed cast-offs of the brave new global economy, they may be what's keeping you alive to see another day. FDR's advisor Harry Hopkins, in response to the argument that if we did nothing over the long run the economy would fix itself, said "People don't eat over the long run, they eat every day."

4) Candidates in an election are not robots programmed to carry out the platforms of their party. They are human beings whose background, worldview, intelligence (or lack thereof) and emotional stability (or lack thereof) matter, especially in a crisis. To stick with the examples above, what if Hoover had been reelected in 1932, or a different Republican had gained the nomination in 1860? Would they have been able to pull off what Lincoln or FDR did?

For a more recent example, think back to the 2000 election: I knew a lot of Nader voters who expressed the same "there's no difference" view. And if Gore had won, no the US would not have stopped being a capitalist country, broken our fossil fuel addiction, tamed wall street etc. But I highly doubt Gore would have decided to invade Iraq. In avoiding that one decision alone, hundreds of thousands dead would still be alive, millions of other lives would be better, we wouldn't have poured a trillion dollars down the rathole and so on. If, as Nader said, there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between Bush and Gore, not having had the second Iraq War seems to me to have been a pretty big dime.

5) You're focusing on Presidential elections here, but I'd argue at the local level there's often more room to maneuver and make a difference. Maybe you and some of your other readers should consider running for town council or planning board and trying to develop alternatives there if that's an avenue that's open to us.

Anyway, I humbly submit these points for your consideration.

Brian said...

Also since you mentioned the Onion, I'd say they accurately summed up the emotional state of Republican voters here:

And here (from 2012):

troy said...

If the job of the President is to entertain the populace and distract them from the things that matter, then who is better qualified than The Donald? Way more entertaining than that visibly-tired Hillary. He's like Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Could he be the next "Caesar", our "Fred Halliot"? He's a comical figure, sure, but couldn't the same have been said about the original "Fred Halliot" before he killed all those people?

jonathan said...

i still receive fund raising appeals from the southern poverty law center alerting me to the dire threats posed by the klan and the american nazi party. that morrie dees is relying on these two ancient coprolites to fund raise tells us a lot about the american left these days.

i'm not sure the european left is nearly as comatose. in fact the recent slaughter of syriza by the german dominated eu is instructive. it wasn't nearly enough to impose harsh austerity terms on greece. it's leaders had to be publicly humiliated as a warning to others who might challenge the status quo. podemos in spain and the 5 star movement may be up next. they may actually have some ideas that present a real challenge to the neoliberal consensus.

meanwhile brazil awaits the miss bum-bum competition with feverish anticipation.

Ursachi Alexandru said...


When referring to the attempted "regime changes" in Syria and Ukraine, and your country's involvement, I have no doubt that you understand the complexity of both situations. Still, I feel the need to state the obvious:

I won't comment on Syria, but in the case of Ukraine, a lot of people were genuinely fed up with their country's leadership, and especially with Russia's dominance over their country. I lived in Moldova for 4 years, and it is a similar situation there. And while I am fully aware of how dysfunctional and undemocratic the EU is these days, especially seeing how they are treating Greece, a lot of people in countries like Moldova and Ukraine genuinely look to the EU as an escape from Russian imperialism and Russian-inspired autocratic government.

Of course, many of them fail to notice that the EU will care about their sovereignty and well being just as much as Russia will. And I have a hard time arguing with them, especially since no one is considering a viable alternative which does not involve bowing down to someone more powerful.

But whenever I see Americans criticizing their government for "regime changes" in one country or another, I get the feeling that they are overestimating their own importance, and ignoring the complex socio-political landscape of said countries. I am sure that you are not one of them, but I am writing this for anyone who might fall into this rhetorical trap.

escapefromwisconsin said...

What’s really hamstringing politicians, I think, is the power of finance capital. Even if a genuinely leftist movements could get in power, the power of big banks and finance can crush it easily. A vivid illustration has just been provided by Syriza in Greece. And that’s not even accounting for the fact that a leftist politician can’t even get in power in the U.S. as campaigns are bankrolled by wealthy donors, of whom the Kochs and Sheldon Adelson are just the most visible representatives. Hilary has many allies on Wall Street.

I’m sure someone so versed in history knows that patronage and clientism are forever the way of democratic politics. Lack of sudden, abrupt change is a feature, not a bug, of democratic politics as envisioned by the founders, which you yourself have pointed out. In normal times, this might be considered a good thing. Also, there is good evidence that parliamentary systems are more responsive, since a single party can form a government, while Presidential systems are more sclerotic and vulnerable to sudden shocks, since you have opposing parties in control of different branches of government who each have a claim on popular legitimacy. Will Durant pointed out that any democracy is ultimately an oligarchy due to inherent asymmetries of wealth and power.

I’d have to quibble with the statement that Obama is pursuing the exact same foreign policy, though. Is there any doubt that were there a Republican administration in power for the last eight years we would be at war with Iran right now? Instead, we have a negotiated settlement viciously pilloried by Republicans. It seems to be an error of binary thinking – either the parties are totally opposed or they are exactly the same. Any party will oversee the U.S. imperial system; that’s a given, but the Democrats, it seems, are the lesser of two evils, although evil, to be sure.

Finally, this excellent essay by Corey Robin makes some good points. He points out that the Left being for the future and the Right being reactionaries longing for the past is not a reliable guide to politics today. Interesting stuff:

"In 1820, 80% of Americans were self-employed; by 1940, 80% worked for someone—or something—else. “The individual has gone,” declared John D. Rockefeller, “never to return.” Driven into the mills and the mines or onto the rails, these refugees from the shop and the farm were injured, maimed, or killed (35,000 per year) by industrial capitalism. They were the lucky ones. Many Americans couldn’t get work at all. In the 1870s, unemployment became a census category for the first time. So desperate were jobless New Yorkers that they got themselves arrested just to enjoy a night off the streets, in jail. They also struck, marched, organized, bombed and killed, launching decades of class warfare, literal and metaphoric, that would haunt the country’s elites for years to come."

“What [Steve] Fraser shows, with vivid set pieces drawn from the nation’s most violent battlefields, is that far from presenting itself as the enemy, the past was viewed by workers and farmers as a resource and an ally. In part because the capitalist right so heartily embraced the rhetoric of progress and the future (no one, it seems, was content with the present). But more than that, historical memory enabled workers and farmers to see beyond the horizon of the capitalist present, to know, in their bones, what Marx was constantly struggling to imprint upon the mind of the left: that capitalism was but one mode of economic life, that its existence was contingent and historical rather than natural and eternal, and that because there was a past in which it did not exist there might be a future when it would cease to exist. Like the nation, capitalism rests upon repeated acts of forgetting; a robust anti-capitalism asks us to remember.”

Mister Roboto said...

During what we thought of at the time as the "dark years" of the Bush the Younger Administration, many of us had liberal Democratic bloggers we followed to chronicle the folly and voice our outrage. There was one such blogger whom I read regularly back then who sustained my faith in being a Democrat. When a small minority of his commenters suggested after a particularly egregious episode of rhetorical "hippie-punching" on Obama's part that maybe the Democrats weren't really worth supporting anymore after all, this blogger on an Internet podcast exhorted said commenters to shoot themselves in their basements. That was the day I realized that the liberal left in this country no longer held the moral high ground and was very unlikely to do so ever again during my lifetime (which will not be prematurely ended by my own hand, thank you very much).

sgage said...

@ Avery:

"Hillary Clinton continues to sweep up the primary votes because of her ability to deftly jump through hoops and make it look like something anyone can do. She continues to command the majority of votes,"

Hillary has swept up exactly zero primary votes - there won't be a primary election for several months. She does seem to command the majority of the $$$, though.

William Church said...

Not sure I agree with all your conclusions but it being politics how likely I would that be? Besides where is the fun in it?

I believe that on many issues that both sides (we agree on this part) suppress discussion of we are seeing some serious pushback by the citizenry. Immigration, trade policy, banking regulation, etc. are verboten and have been for a couple decades now. The mainstream disagrees with and is actively being harmed by the "consensus" of the elite.

We will either have a rational discussion of these issues or, eventually, we will have an irrational discussion of them. I hope for the former but expect the latter. Too much money to be made by harming the majority to expect otherwise.

At least that is my view. I could be wrong.... again! Lol.


Kathleen Quinn said...

Lots of food for thought this week—thanks, JMG and commenters. For a bit of levity, check out this drinking game that Rolling Stone magazine has devised to make tonight’s GOP circus a little less painful for the audience. Should there ever be a Democratic “debate,” I bet we’ll see another version of the same--plenty of material there, too.

Dammerung said...

I think the popularity of Trump represents a huge historical marker - or headstone. Under any other circumstance he'd be nothing more than a carnival barker, good only for a chuckle in the same manner as perennial candidate Vermin Supreme. But the overwhelming revulsion of the American people towards more blue-blooded politics as usual has propelled him to be the actual front runner. I think he's actually got a legitimate chance of winning. The more the media mocks him; the louder he yells obviously dumb things; the more the American people see him as a potential respite from the iron fist of the neo-liberal consensus that's ruled this country for... decades, at least.

Let's just hope his strategy of misrule isn't egomanical autocracy... right?

Martin said...

Re: fuhrerprinzip - the reference brought to mind the incredible resemblance between Trump's and Mussolini's deliveries (yeah, I'm an old, old guy) and sent a chill up my spine....

Nastarana said...

Dear Avery, As a reporter said about the Gingrich campaign of 2012, no one's third wife will ever live in the White House because in the privacy of the voting booth American women won't stand for it. We also don't much like foreign born socialites. I suspect Trumpmania will last just until someone decides to look into the past history of the current Mrs.

Mme. Clinton has not won any votes yet, there not having been any primaries. Pledges which might have been made to her can easily be withdrawn.

I think there are two points of interest about the Sanders campaign. The first is that he apparently is not funded by AIPAC and would seem to be not taking orders from them. The Sanders campaign might represent an attempt by folks like the J Street lobby to get Israel and its lobby in the USA to see sense and stop trying to provoke wars the American public won't support any longer. If so, I fear it may be too little, too late.

The second point of interest is that Sanders would seem to be the only candidate I know of who is an open, high profile GMO opponent. That, I suggest, is what is getting him the large crowds and favorable poll numbers. The entire US establishment, both parties among others, seem to be absolutely clueless about just how angry a large (and increasing daily) segment of public is about the worsening contamination and quality of our food supply.

Varun Bhaskar said...


Easier said than done. I'm covering the Kaizen, not particularly the most interesting thing in the world. I'm gonna try to replace interesting with being right. Hopefully that'll work.

Actually, interesting note about leftists and them failing at their given role in the political process. The same is true for journalism too. Leftist "news" outlets are little better than their right-wing counterparts. The lefty news is reactionary, with very little actually coverage of the things that people can do to make a difference in their local communities. We have four, count them, four indy-news outlets in the city. All of them are mostly op-eds about this or that event, two of them focus more on entertainment than politics (which I'm using in the traditional sense, the business of city) and none of them cover the vast efforts of the localization community. I've had several people try to join VotG and try to turn into their pet project for whatever political (used here in the modern sense, the empty debates of our society) cause they happen to support. I expect that to happen more often as the great crisis picks up speed.

Also, I'm seconding your call on the insurgency. Once is coincidence, you can write off twice, but three times is a patterns.
1) if a people are desperate or angry enough to attack the military (which is normally the most heavily armed force in a territory), then they are likely to attack softer targets.
2) If the incidents happen in two different places, far separated from each-other...well, did you see this one on zero hedge?



Roger said...

I've heard others talk about that very issue, that black people have got royally screwed no matter that a black man occupies the White House. Milton notwithstanding, misery does not love company and so I suppose it's small consolation that ordinary white folk are joining them in destitution.

There's a problem though with lamentations from white guys like me about diminishing prospects. The first problem according to leftist demonology is my race and gender, you know, the worst. As such, anything I say is suspect. And I'm older and therefore my memory, um, what was I saying?

But never mind the business of race and gender and social position. I talk to younger folk who naturally have no knowledge or memory of things as they were. To millennials, the current state of things is "normal". I talk about the mid-20th Century and the life it afforded and I meet blank incomprehension. What of it? Why talk about it? To what end? That's past.

Well, yeah, it IS past. To what end? Just this: to know where you're going it helps to know where you've been. I suppose it's no co-incidence that schools teach history (and everything else for that matter) very sparingly. Why teach the past if it casts a bad light on the present? Why breed discontent?

As you say JMG there's a nominally leftist nomenklatura. In this place the analogous class is clustered in big cities, provincial capitols. They call the shots, they run the civil service, educational systems, universities and judiciary. Also, a lot of employment is found in dealing with lower-class dysfunction. Hmmm, I wonder, are the various 'ologists interested in alleviation or perpetuation? Too cynical? Yeah, I ought to be ashamed.

In any case, no chance in hell they'll rock the boat JMG. Why jeopardize their own well-being? Keep people ignorant, pour scorn on mal-contents, shut the nay-sayers up. Anything past, especially about generally good economic times, goes down the memory-hole.

Middle-class? What is this supposed - cough - "middle-class"? Dad had a job and brought home the bacon and Mom stayed home and took care of everybody? How quaint, how fictional, stop making things up.

Just watch JMG, they'll be re-writing history. So this is how it was, the past was hell, nothing but violent, oppressive patriarchy, racism, homophobia. Were moms happy? Don't be daft, moms were all miserable pill addicts. And dads were economic parasites and merciless abusers. The statistics and studies say so. White picket fences? Hah, didn't happen.

Be happy JMG. Things have never been better dammit.

musingsfromthefringe said...

There is no "left" in the American political environment, nor has there been one for quite some time -- at least outside of the ivory tower of academia, largely removed from any influence over American politics. The group that you refer to in this article as having committed suicide is not the "left," which was traditionally a group of radical elements actively fighting against the rise of corporate power (think coal miners taking up arms against Baldwin-Felts detectives in WV, Homestead steelworkers meeting Pinkerton thugs at the docks with clubs and knives, Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, and the old communist and socialist parties). Rather, what you are talking about here is progressive liberalism, which occupied the center of American politics throughout much of the industrial age, seeking not wholesale change (or revolution), but incremental reform in order to stave off wholesale change (or revolution).

As Chris Hedges has pointed out in his work, specfically The Death of the Liberal Class, the American Left was effectively whacked by a series of events, namely the Red Scare after WWI and the Russian Revolution, manifested most visibly in the Palmer Raids, and finished off by the antics of Tailgunner Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. Political liberals, typified by the Democratic Party, joined with the reactionary right in the post-war massacre of what elements of the left were still around. The only "left" that we have in the US anymore it typified by some fringe activists (like, for instance, the International Socialist Organization and A.N.S.W.E.R.) and academia. These remaining elements are left only for show, to play the role of perennial losers in our ritual political theater. They are prime examples of the statement supposedly uttered by Fredrick the Great in regards to a critic of his: "He can say whatever he wants, so long as he lets me do whatever I want."

The slow suicide of American liberalism was started by this turning on radical elements, because as soon as the left was out of the way, the reactionary right turned their sights on to the liberals as the new enemy. It was hastened along by attempts by rightist Democrats to cozy up to corporate interests, undermining what was left of labor's remaining influence in the process. The reason that the liberal class no longer exhibits any new ideas is that the primary source for their new ideas -- the radical left -- is as dead as Dillinger, and has been for quite some time.

Bob Patterson said...

The curious thing tjhat happened to US politics is gridlock. Absolute and solid as a rock. Nothing to alter the status quo can even be hinted at. The only active politics is ad hoc. Addressing immeadiate problems or threats without considering the future results.

In terms of overall strength, I often wonder if we are as strong as, say France. Our economy is in tatters, 60% of the population is barely hanging on, destructive drug use are rampant, our Army is fairly untested, our weapons untested in war. And the fights we pick are so far away, the supply lines get very long (that is why petrtoleum rich states are preferred). Our foreign policy seems inconsistant and meaningless. Our friends today (Sunni tribes in Iraq) are our paid and equipped friends today and our enemies tomorrow (ISIS). How politicians ran a post war for the sake of domestic politics is absurd,

nrgmiserncaz said...

I watched Jimmy Carter die by political suicide back in the late 1970's and I thought he was a chump and a wimp (I was young). With some experience and hindsight I now see that he was probably one of the few Presidents willing to take a REAL risk - I kind of miss him now.

MIckGspot said...

TY for the heads up on Jesse Ventura running for US President. I worked under 5 governors at the State of Minnesota and he was the best in my opinion (though I did not vote for him).
He was unique in getting out of the Ivory tower from the get go. Right after taking office he visited every major state department building, held a meeting with all staff, laid out his priorities, handed out his card and said to give him a call if needed, then he held a state wide strategic planning session, through together an implementation plan based on a few top items, published it for all to see then followed up to implement. Operationally very low on the glitz an glamour side but high on the commitment to elicit needs from rank and file and management, articulate them into simple actionable items then follow through.
This approach may not work on a national level, he may not even thing this way anymore but I will check him out to see if he is still cut from different cloth than the norm as I believe we need different leadership to handle the major BAU changes ahead.

pygmycory said...

What effect do you think another financial crash and blindingly obvious recession would have on the US election? I'd imagine it would raise the likelihood of a long-shot candidate, possibly with some real change attached, becoming US president. Or of something bizarre happening, like a significant insurgency, a military coup, or a war that isn't by proxy. Because the world economic situation seems to be getting significantly worse this year, with most of the bad stuff still to come.

Scotlyn said...

So, what if this failure:
"We don’t have such a vision in American politics now. To an astonishing degree, in fact, American culture has lost the ability to imagine any future" was, in fact, a self-defeating, but hard-won achievement?
as described by David Graeber:
"It does often seem that, whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former. The combined result is a relentless campaign against the human imagination. Or, to be more precise: imagination, desire, individual creativity, all those things that were to be liberated in the last great world revolution, were to be contained strictly in the domain of consumerism, or perhaps in the virtual realities of the Internet. In all other realms they were to be strictly banished. We are talking about the murdering of dreams, the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future. Yet as a result of putting virtually all their efforts in one political basket, we are left in the bizarre situation of watching the capitalist system crumbling before our very eyes, at just the moment everyone had finally concluded no other system would be possible."

Graeber essay at

streamfortyseven said...

The candidates in 2016, will be Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, and it won't matter which one of them wins, the policy of the US will remain the same as it has been for the past 32 years. Alternative candidates, like Sanders and Trump, will fall by or be shoved to the wayside. That's the case even if Sanders or Trump does like Ron Paul - remember what happened to him? But this is by design, and has been for a long time:

“The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can ‘throw the rascals out’ at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.” Carroll Quigley, Tragedy and Hope, 1965, at p1245.

That's the genius of the constrained choice offered by the two party system - there is heat, and light, and battle, and high drama - but the policy does not and will not change. There's simply too much money riding on this to let there be the possibility of dramatic shifts in policy every four years. As Emma Goldman once said, "If voting could change anything, it would be illegal."

That's pretty much it for this election - and for every single election since Nixon - McGovern in 1972. The American Left pretty much petered out with the end of the draft in 1973, when the New Left of the Port Huron Declaration had blown themselves up, got religion, moved to the country, or got married with children and a mortgage. With the end of the draft, they lost their foot soldiers, there was no longer any reason to march. And 1973 was the first year of the Energy Crisis, incidentally. And things got worse, until 1979, when there was gas rationing and people were running pickup trucks using methane digesters in the back. People were running scared, and when you're running, you're constantly reacting, there's no time to think, to look around - and so, with some little nudges from the powers-that-be, the Left was totally marginalized, pushed back to the universities where it could be easily contained. People naturally desire for things to continue as they are, hence the words in the Declaration of Independence: "all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." - and so you can see the history of the past 42 years or so of decline. Eventually, though, it will come to an end, as it did in the 1770s here, and in the 1980s in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. But change will not come through stage-managed elections, as they are simply a means for manufacturing consent to policies set in stone: Change will come by two means: "in order to break free, citizens must take 2 actions:
1. They must seek out information from ALTERNATIVE MEDIA (media outside the mainstream and usually having a particular point of view)
2. they must move toward change by becoming engaged in community action -- because people can use their ordinary intelligence to make changes in their lives and communities. Grassroots movements begin there."

This happened in the Colonies by means of newspapers such as the Pennsylvania Gazzette, broadsheets, the Sons of Liberty, and the like; and in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe via samizdat and groups such as Solidarnosc in Poland. Now, we have the Internet, but very little in print, and it is easy to disappear things from the internet, and we don't, for the most part, have community, or community action. So that's the puzzle to solve.

Uncannily said...

My submission for After Oil 4: The Future’s Distant Shores

buddhabythelake said...


I see that you have already fielded several comments re Bernie. While I must admit that I will be voting for him in the Democratic primary this election, I acknowledge that, even if he were able to win the nomination and (gasp) win the election, he would be shackled by the same dysfunctional system, no matter what he endeavored to accomplish. As you've noted many times before, it is the system that is the issue, which has been fully captured by a political class which has no intention of upsetting the apple-cart (until the cart gets up-ended by other forces, of course).

What I have to keep reminding myself is that there is no global solution here (in the mathematical sense), no over-arching national program which will solve our problems. What we must face are the difficult choices of adaptation and this will require a myriad of local responses, each suited to the particular local circumstances.

I have been a member of our local community garden for a few years now and I recently sent out an email to the members suggesting that we form a discussion group to talk about (and ultimately act on) issues of local resilience, transition initiatives, other community/co-op projects, etc. I received many more positive responses that I was anticipating and I got a sense that many people know that something needs to be done and want to act, but need a catalyst to prompt that action. Perhaps the conversation this group can foster may act in that capacity. We'll see.

Thanks for the insights, as always!

Rita said...

May I post a tiny pet peeve of misused vocabulary, to wit:

reign-- v. to rule, n. a period of rule by an individual, as in "Elizabeth II reigns over Great Britain; she is its reigning monarch; her reign has seen the end of the Empire."

rein-- v. to use reins to control a horse, n. straps attached to a bridle, used to control a horse, as in "He was unable to rein in his horse after he dropped the reins." May be used metaphorically for control, usually to slow or stop, as in "Teddy Roosevelt reined in the trusts."

Thank you.

More substantive, I hope, commentary on Hilary Clinton is inspired by an article I scanned by Camille Paglia. She was comparing the different handling in the media of Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton in regard to their use of power to obtain sexual advantage and mentioned that during Bill's presidency Hilary had participated in the trashing of the women with whom Bill had been associated. That is what I have always despised about her; she is the type of wife some describe as a "Hera" who viciously attacks the women her husband has extramarital relations with. It is all very well to toe the line (another pet peeve--it is not 'tow the line) on women's issues, but showing some solidarity with actual individual women would be nice too.

Your comment on the way in which the Democrats and Republicans have changed through the years reminds me that when I was a kid my older relatives regarded the Democrats as the party that got us into wars---WW I, WW II, Korea, and the Republicans as the party who tried to keep us out or get us out. Ironic.

Steve in Colorado said...

An interesting direction to these recent posts, thank you JMG

One theory which perhaps explains much of dynamics of the US 2016 campaign as well as recent events in Greece might be worth a few moments of consideration. Much of these actions can be explained if the politicos have surmised (correctly I believe) that the masses will not accept austerity or a further decline in living standards overtly. Even if it is in their best long term interests. That solution, while perhaps the correct one is not viable politically, as Jimmy Carter showed us all too well. As long as you have not promised a decline, you are free to blame it on the opposition when it occurs. Hence we get the continuing rounds of make believe as the can is kicked a bit further down the road each time, along with the expected blame game.

Recent events in Greece would seem to reinforce this theory. If you read the ex finance minister's interviews, they had a Plan B: to default, stick it to the ECB, and start printing their own currency. The finance minister was all for it but the gov't as a whole rejected it. Most everyone agrees it would have been in Greece's long term best interest. The ex-FM does not say why it was rejected, but I strongly suspect it was due to the realization that the short term pain it would have inflicted on the country would have driven the gov't out of power. Not to say that their chosen path will inflict any less pain overall, it just will be spread out and easily blamed on the same ECB villains.

One has to ask what sort of leader today could stand in front of his country, promise a future of lower standards and increased hardship and remain in power. It is not a sales pitch that many will buy (readers of this blog being one of the notable exceptions). However wait until folks are freezing in the winter and starving, then this same pitch gets a lot more traction, especially if you can create an "enemy" who can be blamed for all the suffering.

This political phenomenon is as old as the hills, and sadly still very much in play. The only alternative to it would be for a leader to stumble upon an untapped area of potential growth, and offer that as a solution to the problem. These days however those untapped areas of new wealth and growth are pretty scarce.

rudyspeaks said...

May I offer a conjecture on today's post, premised on a conjecture presented on this blog about a year ago, the one imagining that the American authoritarian Right had become Satanists? It is that all single-issue left-wing campaigns (GMO labeling, single-payer health care, "save the [some endangered species-du-jour]" are being funded by the Koch Bros. As this site observed some time ago, any political action that doesn't threaten the current pols' power is simply tugging on the sleeve of power, begging a favor, with success inversely proportional to the issue's importance. Were I a 1%er, that's how I'd keep the opposition scattered, separated and powerless. It's the Battle of Watling Road, with the left as the 200,000+ Celts slaughtered by 15,000 ORGANIZED Roman soldiers who fought as a unit. If every well-meaning activist could abandon his/her cause long enough to elect a slate of candidates committed to a Platform already understood to have virtually universal support, spelled out and unequivocal (Medicare for all, internet neutrality, end to foreign intervention, End the Drug War etc.)all the money at Bohemian Grove couldn't stop an electoral victory even with Diebold voting machines.

Max Osman said...

JMG: give it a few more years, and the president of the US will be of zero interest to anyone outside US borders
What do you expect to occur in a few years? Like a few years as in a decade?

Renaissance Man said...

Irwin Edman : "It is a myth, not a mandate, a fable not a logic, and symbol rather than a reason by which men are moved."
Western civilization is not sufficiently enticed by any alternate story to compel our collective imagination and spur us to action.
There are several alternative stories, but they are not enticing, not to a general population raised on the story of a sleek, airstreamed, luxurious techno-utopia. Sadly, that vision has turned into a torrid pile of toxic junk rusting in the dust, lit an night with bright LED screens of vapid distraction and all we have are competing claims from the talking heads on those screens that this would improve if we just tilted our heads one way or another, wished really, really hard, clicked our heels together, and bought the latest googaget or i-thingy. The saddest part is ever-larger numbers of people decided to reject voting entirely but then just petulantly sat down in the dirt to sulk, thinking this to be a viable protest against the degrading conditions, because they still absolutely believe in that Hugo Gernsback fiction world and will accept no substitute.
You said it before: it's not just the elites who are bound and determined to stay in this fantasy, but the whole proletariat down to the meanest beggar refuses to contemplate any other possible world.
Nor will they allow anyone else to. At least not within the existing political system.
In the current Canadian federal election, there is more diversity of options, our 'left' definitely differs on many immediately substantive issues like wages and access to health care, but even so they are firmly within the 19th century paradigm of eternal economic expansion and cannot conceive of contraction as anything other than an unfortunate temporary situation.
Even the Greens dare not suggest that the luxuriant middle-class lifestyle is anything other than a birthright that must be maintained by wind and water and solar PV (and dilithium crystals and magic) lest they lose the paltry few votes they do get, and even so they are ridiculed and dismissed by the other parties that cannot conceive of even that small economic shift. Still, they sit closest to reality, at least publicly discussing the twin predicaments of climate disruption and peak energy, so I'll continue to support them for what it's worth (at least a tax deduction).
I have been fantasizing aloud about an alternative: perhaps a demonstration farm complex using only the energy available in the 18th century, but with the benefits of 700 years of technical knowledge to use water and wind-powered machines to relieve the hard drudge-work and provide material goods and wealth. That entices me, but when I describe this, others percieve, apparently like Churchill, I have only blood, sweat, toil, and tears to offer; unlike him, without any eventual respite. I may be mentally prepared to go forth and do by hand and with ever-less, but no one else I know of who is not on this message board likes or even accepts that concept.
Well, no matter. I'm going to continue to tool away at the posts & beams for my new workshop at the bottom of the garden. It's a long task, and involves sweat, but definitely worth it to learn how to build a timber-frame building by hand because I might actually need to know that before my time is up.

Ed-M said...

Allô, mon Archdruide Barbarien!

Well now that you've stopped laughing at my idiosyncratic French ;^), I am looking at Donald Trump very closely. For a lot of people, this guy is Fred G. Halliot. To me, he's more like a Bladolf Nitler: a narcissistic, authoritarian blowhard of a nitwit who won't shut up his mouth and doesn't think before he talks!

Now I don't know why you're so down on Bernie Sanders: at least he's not actively striving to be more neo-con than the neocons. On the international front, it looks like he just wants to wrap up Iraq, Afghanistan and Daesh, try to solve the Israel-Palestine problem, and that's it. No position on Ukraine.

Personally, I'd prefer Sanders. I'd prefer Trump not get in, but Walker getting in would be even worse! Oh, and I have a surprise for you all: the Thirteenth Amendment didn't exactly abolish slavery: it reads, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction". Which means there's a big loophole you can drive a tar sand oil tank car train through.

the Heretick said...

We do not have two distinct political parties in this country, we have two wings of the corporate party. Considering the revolving door between Washington, Wall Street, and the MIC, it makes perfect sense for a billionaire to run for POTUS.

This being said, we face problems engendered by a variety of factors and players. Of course we have the purely Marxist criticism of the inequalities created by industrial capitalism, all of which is undeniable to anyone with more than a tenuous grasp of reality..............

But solving the class struggle would still leave us with a materialistic outlook, and would leave in place the very infrastructure which is destroying our habitat, it might in fact make it worse. Once billions and billions of proles and subsistence scavengers had the wherewithal to buy, buy, buy, demand for soul killing and planet killing products just might skyrocket.

The brutal suppression and oppression of the majority of the planets inhabitants may very well be the very thing that is not pushing us over the edge.

Of course the elephant in the room is the artificial entities, the legal fictions known as corporations. These Colossus's bestride the globe, trading other fictitious creations such as futures, shares, stocks, currencies, all using proprietary algorithms and communicating over fiber optics available to only the select few. It never occurs to anyone but the very few that humanity exists in a symbiotic relationship with an exoskeleton of AI directed machines which we may not be able to shuck off.

Even here we beg the question of GMO, including our very own selves.

No, the political realm is theater, the important questions of humanities future are not even on the table, stuck as we are in reaction mode. We have lost our sense of self, drifted too far from Mother Earth and Father Sky, we prefer the synthetic environment and the false Zen.

Fabian said...

Looks like the long-awaited insurgency here in the USA might be might be getting underway

Solomon, who has been following this issue since Jade Helm became news, has been pointing out there are an awful lot of people who hate and fear the federal government, especially in the South and Mountain West and Jade Helm has greatly increased the level of animosity and paranoia. Jade Helm and the Obama administration's penchant for using the military as a tool for left-wing social engineering has also had the effect of alienating many conservatives from the military, and this was the demographic that traditionally considered itself to be very patriotic and pro-military.

I know a lot of my conservative friends are very angry and concerned about Jade Helm. Why do the feds need to carry out large scale counterinsurgency exercises in civilian areas when every major American military base already has urban combat training facilities, "Combat Towns", as they're called? Particularly when these exercises are in areas when there is a lot of animosity towards the feds and the exercise planners openly labeled the most conservative areas of the country as enemy territory for purposes of their training exercise. I wonder if may the feds got word that something was about to happen and planned this exercise in order to intimidate and overawe potential insurgents. If so, they may have miscalculated badly.

It’s beginning to look like this counterinsurgency drill might end up backfiring disastrously and turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ray Wharton said...

I crave for something greater, and great movement to believe in. Study has taught me skepticism. Even Bernie, who inspires many I trust, inspires me not. Does he seem better than the others discussed in politics? Sure, so does a gorilla on PCP; if it came down to wet gorilla vs. Bernie I would be quite stumped. I don't vote regardless in such matters. Though not voting, I fear, is voting for disruption. The cynicism of study is right, but the idealists candidates are all that is left when the current consensus breaks.

The craving for something to believe in is strong, I hope something of some value attaches to it, even if much that is terrible is also likely to be there, avoiding the horrors of 'anywhere but here' may not be possible, but finding some boons to incorporate may still be possible. Something good could be saved.

I look around me and see the remains of many positive visions for the world that I have tried to enact. The one thing that remains in the bitter lose of many visions and ambitions is an understanding that the human being does not die of mere failure. I am a failure, and I think it is the most powerful thing in my life, so much has failed, and yet I endure. I can glean from fields what I need, and hide from what weathers threaten. Companionship is the only want that hurts, hunger and discomfort are petty. My life becomes empty of purpose, but this in an great freedom, I have room for a positive vision, even though at the moment the visions that have tried to fill that space have died. The fear of failure is the greatest violence done by our education system. May failure make space for positive vision and positive action, for now unborn failures, false starts, and pipe dreams fill the soil where a positive vision might grow.

Seeds of positive vision are good now. Look, little is needed to be happy, little to thrive. Bankruptcy cannot take the structures, and humans survive with out utilities. Food is important, but it is simple to learn, and our suburban system can become garden space as quickly as there is motivation. My garden veggies rot, they are too much bother to harvest when all others want to eat at restaurants, if food were rare or valued many times more food could be grown over course of a couple seasons. Positive visions are needed to make humans harmonious, too much now the madness of unborn failures obscure space for this. We need healthy, vital, abundant seeds for how and why to work together. Seeds of discord are many fold and will always grow where better seeds do not germinate and shade them.

I feel so lost, because my seeds of hope keep dying, and I am sad. But, I know to keep planting and playing, still I am worried because in my blood I can feel the urge for change, and knowing how study tames my blood is by comparison I can conceive how hot the blood of those around me might be getting. Nastiness is getting close it feels like, I have hedged my position as best I can, I await nature's judgment.

Fabian said...

Speaking of Dmitri Orlov, have any of you seen his latest blog post ? It seems to cover some of the same ground as this weeks Archdruid Report. I think its pretty clear the wheels are coming off and the gig is almost up for the USA as we know it...

SOF said...

JMG: So who are you going to vote for if not Bernie?

onething said...

Well, folks, I've got a sort of litmus test for these guys, and that test is Palestine. Bernie failed it.

John Michael Greer said...

Ben, yes, I was thinking about those last two points, too.

Leo, and if Sanders does win, he'll have to make compromises in order to win that will erase every bit of his platform that conflicts with business as usual. One more round of Hope and Change, to go...

Joe, thanks for the recommendation.

Lucius, my vote would be for None of the Above, if he were running!

Deborah, I was six years old when that election took place, so I'll take your word for it.

Jeff, did I say that local elections weren't worth participating in? Of course not.

Spanish Fly, it's the same on this side of the water; the left spends three years out of every four denouncing the Democrats, then falls meekly in line behind the Dem candidate because the scary Republicans are so much worse. As long as that keeps up, the left won't accomplish a thing.

Marc, if I'd spared a sentence or two for every single candidate, I'd have had no space left for the substantive part of the post. It fascinates me that so many Sanders fans can't bear to have him not be mentioned, even in a post like this that uses a few candidates purely for illustrative purposes.

Luna and Mark, fascinating. It must be quite a shock to have someone in Labour who actually talks like a Labourite...

Ed, exactly. The real action is going on in the depths of Greenland's glaciers, in thousands of porous rocks slowly giving up the last of their crude oil, etc.

Phil, Trump's candidacy is to my mind a test. We get the president we deserve, no question -- the question is whether we've slid so far that we deserve that.

Bruce, the thing that fascinates me is that the SNP got as far as they did. I wonder if it's occurred to them to start fielding candidates in the northern half of Britain; if they play their cards right, when Scotland becomes independent, its southern border might turn out to run in a straight line from Bristol to the fen country!

Woshi4ndy, it's not defeatism to say "this strategy has failed," though people who are too deeply invested in a single strategy tend to think so.

Dmitry, I ain't arguing. If not for frantic efforts on the part of defenders of the US status quo, we'd probably have crashed a decade ago.

Ben said...

Do you ever wonder if maybe we are looking in the wrong place? We tend to hear the voices of dissent, as feckless and impotent as they might be today, while missing the steady stream of people exiting the system. And I don't mean those 'failing first' ahead of the rush. Is it possible the solution will look unlike anything we're imagining? That certain problems, like our political system, may be transcended or made irrelevant or outgrown (to use a somewhat loaded phrase, though I mean it figuratively)?

It might be easy to dismiss voices like this or this as simply the deluded hopes of those still married to the cult of technology, but it seems to me that there's a significant amount of thought behind them in terms of the way the process of finding solutions is changing and while it might just look like a bunch of people tinkering with software and developing useless iPhone 'apps', I think if we label it as such, perhaps we miss the much more significant philosophy and trends that are driving them. I think people like these would also agree that "the center cannot hold," but their response is much different.

While I am inclined to agree that their is a certain cyclical pulse to history, do you think that the increasingly networked nature of our current world changes any of the assumptions that might lead one to conclude that the decline of America is analogous to the decline of the Roman Empire?

I do not have an uncritical faith in technology but I do wonder if there's more to do be done than "weeping for our grandchildren" as one commenter said. While I think one owes it to themselves to take a realistic and critical view of the world, when I look I do see localized areas of real vitality even as the foundation of the status quo seems quite unstable. I see it even, and maybe especially, in America. Even as the dysfunction of Washington takes center stage, perhaps the real center of America has shifted or is shifting. I guess all I'm saying is that individuals should be encouraged to try lots of things, embracing change and uncertainty, and failing frequently. Some of the probably involves new technology, and I don't think that's a bad thing.

latheChuck said...

"Yes We Can" is not just an echo of a failed and meaningless political slogan, but is the inscription my wife put on my copy of the Ball Food Preservation Handbook. We can, we dehydrate, and we just stack the butternut squash in an out-of-the-way corner of the basement, where it keeps for months. I gathered the first 20 lbs of squash yesterday, from a bed about 8'x4', shared with some hot peppers and kale. This is an experiment: as the oldest squash vines die away, they expose the pepper plants and room to transplant kale into the space between the squash hills.

About that "Tiny Farm" in LA... where do they get their WATER? And the lumber for their raised beds? Also, it's one thing to produce massive cash crops of fast-growing premium organic salad greens, but man does not live by greens alone (even with home-grown tomatoes on the side). Self-sufficiency will require things which produce more stored calories: oils and protein, such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, wheat, oats, beans, etc.

John Michael Greer said...

Dan, good. That sounds far more entertaining than listening to the candidates themselves.

Tony, that's a fine metaphor. Nor, of course, has anyone noticed that the pool has sharks in it!

Raven, one way or another, those who know how to grow food will do better than those who don't, whoever they end up feeding.

Nestorian, you're assuming that without faith in progress, it's impossible to conceive of anything ever getting better in any way. Not so; faith in progress consists of a belief that (a) improvement is inevitable and (b) that improvement consists of continuing to go along the same course we're already on. It's perfectly possible to reject the myth of progress and still say, "Here's a situation that can be made better, given commitment and hard work." I'll address that in more detail as we proceed.

Chloe, good. What gives the SNP their advantage is that they're saying "Things will be different" -- at this point they don't even have to show that things will be better, just that something will finally change. The more people become desperate enough to embrace that sort of thinking, the closer we get to the inevitable explosion.

Juan, and that's a valid strategy, of course.

Raven, I wouldn't be surprised by that latter at all.

Nowhere, there needs to be a term for the frantic hunt for scapegoats to blame for the consequences of collective mistakes in which the great majority of Americans have enthusiastically participated. The term "conspiracy theory" is the commonly used term for that, and I use it in that sense.

Dagnarus, I don't know that "rational" is the word I'd use for the American left, but I get your point; they're not willing to risk a crash, so when it comes down to each successive game of "chicken," they lose. As for assault rifles, exactly; we have every condition in place just now for a devastating domestic insurgency, and yet the left Just. Does. Not. Get. It.

RPC, precisely. Precisely.

Unknown, except that he's not different; he's just got a different line of rhetoric. How many times do we need to see this same charade enacted?

Donal, I'd noticed that. I wonder to what extent it's a side effect of th fact that the Green Party doesn't actually believe that it can win, and so hasn't bothered to make any of the necessary preparations to govern.

John Michael Greer said...

Brian, it's easy to make such claims, since we don't know which countries would have been invaded by US troops under a Gore presidenc. Obamacare, similarly, improved access to medical care for some Americans and worsened it for many others. I agree, as repeatedly noted in this blog, that local elections are well worth voting in, since there it's sometimes possible for citizens to have some influence on political decisions, but cherrypicking recent history to obscure the basic identity between both party's actual policies simply helps feed the problem I'm trying to address.

Troy, true enough. I don't know if Trump will be our Halliot, but those who dismiss him as a clown forget that the same label was applied to Hitler, Mussolini, et al.

Jonathan, well, that's why I specified the American left, of course.

Ursachi, granted. One of the things about regime change is that it falls flat when there aren't genuine grievances to exploit -- which is again, one of the reasons why I expect a serious attempt at regime change, with Russian and/or Chinese funding, in the US in the not too distant future.

Escape, my take is that the only reason the Republicans are pillorying the agreement with Iran is that it's Obama's agreement -- just as the Dems pilloried Dubya for drone strikes and then fell completely silent when it was Obama's turn to vaporize wedding parties. If the US went to war against Iran, we'd end up with carriers at the bottom of the Persian Gulf, and the prompt implosion of US power globally would follow in short order.

Mister R., no argument there.

William, my bet's on an irrational discussion, probably carried out using bullets and roadside bombs. That's not the outcome I'd prefer, but it's the one to which all sides seem to be hurrying as fast as they can.

Kathleen, I hope so. Rolling Stone has been pretty much a party-line Democrat rag for a long time.

Dammerung, exactly -- and the more the media mocks him, the more Americans will support him. I don't think the current political class has figured that out.

Martin, thank you -- I hadn't even thought of that, but of course you're right.

Varun, the line I heard from Nam vets I know is "once is chance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action." We may be getting very close to the inevitable flashpoint.

Roger, I've spoken before of the cultural senility affecting the US these days; that's a good example.

Musings, if you want to quibble over labels, by all means.

John Michael Greer said...

Bob, exactly. The US is extraordinarily brittle right now, and one hard shove in the wrong place could cause things to fall apart in a way that I don't think most Americans can imagine yet. That's fairly common -- how many people in prerevolutionary France or Russia had the least idea that so apparently entrenched a system could come crashing down in a matter of weeks?

nrgmiserncaz, I rather liked him at the time, too.

Mick, you're most welcome!

Pygmycory, good -- you're paying attention. Yes, a really serious economic crisis is one of the potential crunch points that could cause things to start unraveling in a hurry, and we could get one very soon.

Scotlyn, seems like a reasonable supposition to me.

Stream, I hope you won't mind if I quote you in October or November of 2016, by which time I expect neither Hillary Clinton nor Jeb Bush to be anywhere on the ballot.

Uncannily, got it. Please put through a comment labeled "do not post" with your email address so I can contact you if your story gets selected. (Anyone else who's submitted a story and hasn't gotten me their email addresses should do the same thing, btw.)

Buddha, that's very promising. I hope the group goes well!

Rita, so noted. I thought Paglia's article was pretty good, for whatever that's worth.

Steve, that's a possibility, but I'm far from sure the political classes are thinking that clearly. My take is that they're so deeply engaged in day to day crisis management to the extent that the big picture escapes them completely.

Rudy, that's entirely plausible, too.

Max, I expect a domestic insurgency in the US, a la Iraq or Syria, which will cripple the US economy and make it impossible for the national goverment to exert power anywhere outside its borders. We're very close to that right now, especially in the deep South and mountain West.

Renaissance, good. For what it's worth, I'm going to be proposing an alternative vision in a bit; it'll be interesting to see what kind of squabbles it generates.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed-M, it continues to fascinate me that so many people think I must be down on Sanders because I didn't happen to give him free publicity on my blog.

Heretick, of course we have two parties. They have their own separate office buildings, etc. Do they have the same ideology and pursue the same policies? Of course, but that's a different question. ;-)

Fabian, if not this time, sometime soon. I wonder if anyone in this country is ready for the consequences.

Ray, good. That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

Fabian, Dmitry's no fool.

SOF, is that any business of yours?

Ben, yes, it's easy to dismiss such things as the deluded hopes of those still married to the cult of technology, and you know what? I think it's also correct to dismiss them in those terms. We're near the end of a second tech stock bubble, just like the one that popped in 2000, and as happened then, too, there are all kinds of grandiose claims about the marvelous new world about to arrive that are going to look very stupid once the crash comes and the rubble stops bouncing. I'm all for people trying new and innovative things -- here as elsewhere, dissensus is the best strategy -- but I'm far from sure that anything related to computer technology is actually new and innovative at this point; certainly, given the immense dependence of the internet and computer technologies on worldwide supply chains and vast energy inputs, the likelihood that those will contribute measurably to the responses we need seems very small to me.

LatheChuck, a good solid practical response. Thank you.

streamfortyseven said...

"Stream, I hope you won't mind if I quote you in October or November of 2016, by which time I expect neither Hillary Clinton nor Jeb Bush to be anywhere on the ballot."

Sure, go ahead. In fact, I'll bet $100 that they're the ones on the ballot, to an autographed copy of one of your books - your choice - if they're not.

The thing that most Americans don't know about American political parties is that the two-party system we have now is not a fair system, and it never has been, because the Democratic and Republican parties are private associations. There's actually Supreme Court jurisprudence on this exact issue: 530 US 567 (2000) [] This means, simply, that they may change the rules, refuse to seat delegates or entire delegations, replace delegates, and so on and so forth, to arrive at the candidates who have been chosen by the people who *really* control the parties. A friend, who had reason to know, told me that George Bush and Dick Cheney would be the Republican nominees in the 2000 election - in 1997. Bush's people had bought the nomination and that was that. The same goes with Jeb and Hillary.

If Sanders tries to make a fight of it - or if his supporters do - he or they will get the Ron Paul treatment. But I figure he'll fold his campaign in April 2016, in time to spoil any third party run, as he's done in Vermont in the past. Trump, and the rest of the Klown Kar Krew, will fold their campaigns just like Sanders, except that Trump may run as an independent, in a Ross Perot-style move, for the same reason that Perot ran against Jeb's father - to split the vote and deny him the Presidency.

As far as preserving the status quo goes, Clinton is the best candidate; there won't be the massive demonstrations and hellraising by the Left and "Progressives" as existed up until 2008, which ended abruptly with the election of Obama. And it won't be troops that fight against any budding insurgency, it'll be police and sheriffs. who'll do that job.

Cherokee Organics said...


Does anyone ever describe the political class in the US as either aristocracy or nobility? I ask out of interest as that description may change peoples perceptions? Dunno what do you reckon?

Also the other thing that springs to mind is that in my previous comment a person could easily swap magic for fossil fuels in that context and get the same outcome. In an era of decline the future battles will be won on the basis of the power that can deploy the lowest cost per kill basis (think drones versus IEDs). Am I reading too much Conan Chronicles recently? My goodness, but I am enjoying that tale and wow, does the author know his strategy or what?

Just on another completely different issue - and that it is how life goes sometimes with a bit of timely digression (!) - I've always had this kooky half formed idea that there is only so much finite life energy on the planet and as humans multiply a strange sort of balance sets in and other life forms get displaced. Anyway, as other life forms get displaced, the available finite energy gets reduced (it is not a fixed point, by any means). Anyway, it is all a bit kooky and half formed ideas, but I started thinking about that recently again because there has been a surprising increase in the number of shark attacks.

Now in and of of itself, shark attacks are not unusual, but the sheer increase makes me wonder whether there are greater changes going on in the food supply in the worlds oceans? Dunno, but certainly it does mean something and sharks are massively adaptable and have been around for a whole lot longer than us (we're food to them). That thinking in terms of systems is hard for people that want to think in terms of stability - the world from my perspective is a very dynamic place and subject to change. Dunno.

My gut feeling says that people will eventually vote for jackboots and arm bands because they've become lazy and expectational and that makes them susceptible. Perhaps that is what they need to experience?



Odin's Raven said...

Not all the enthusiasm to have Corbyn as Labour leader comes from dedicated leftists. Some Tories are enthusiastically spending £3 to join the Labour party to vote for him, in the fervent hope of keeping the party on the scrap heap of history.

How Lefty would Corbyn really be? Sellout?

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Karl,

What do you exactly mean by the terminology "progressive side of the ledger"?

Have you ever asked where exactly are "they" progressing to? If "they" could answer that question then perhaps "they" would not be so lost! I'd argue that "they" have no idea whatsoever where "they" actually are today. Just sayin...

Stuff for you to ponder.



Odin's Raven said...

@lathechuck. About the Tiny Farm. I also wondered a bit about water, until two things came to mind. First was a blog by a scientific type who lives in California. He mentioned that in the middle of a drought they've had flash flooding, and that the actual variation in recent annual rainfall is within the usual limits; so I expect there will be enough water to sustain enough market gardening to tickle the palettes of the jaded rich, to sustain a few intensive cultivators for another generation at least.Secondly, serving the needs of the rich and powerful is a good survival strategy, at least for those who can manage it; far better than sitting on a heap of baked beans and shooting at government agents, or joining a mob howling empty slogans.As long as there's enough water to sustain a population that supports a ruling class, the rulers will ensure that priority in allocation of resources goes to those who serve their safety and comfort.

Regarding lumber and other things not home made. I hope the Archdruid can confirm that a complete collapse of society is not to be expected imminently. Division of labour and a market economy can be expected to continue, particularly around those who have wealth and power. I understand that there is a substantial timber industry just to the north of California, so it is reasonable to suppose that its products will continue to be available there. Similarly, other items not produced locally will be traded, probably in less variety, perhaps for vegetables. Division of labour, comparative advantage and the invisible hand of the market will continue to operate, as in Adam Smith's time, below the level of financial, bureaucratic and political scams. It won't be necessary to go Neolithic in order to survive, (and even then they had trade and specialisation.)

Its nice to see useful ideas escape from what the general public may regard as a Hippie Reservation. As in the Parable of the Sower, they,like windblown seeds , may be productive in unexpected places.

Martin B said...

As a non-American, I'm a little surprised there hasn't been a military coup in the US. They seem to have lost so much ground geo-strategically, the Joint Chiefs must be asking, "So tell us again, what were we fighting and dying for?"

NowhereMan said...

I don't attribute most bad happenings to conspiracy, but in 1968 RFK was a real threat to the status quo, and I don't think his assassination was a fluke.

Unknown, this is a perfect example of why I say that in writing things off to "conspiracy theory," people are basically writing off whole areas of public discourse due to the successful vilification of a single word, something the conservative right (in particular) has been doing successfully for years (think "liberal", "socialist", "welfare mom", "draft dodger", etc.). In this case, of course JFK was murdered by an isolated, secretive group with a political agenda, as were JFK and MLK before him as well. For all the reasons you listed, he and they were all genuine threats to the entire American political system, and killing them was given only a little more thought than assassination of foreign leaders and revolutionaries like Che Guevara, which had been (and is still) routinely carried out without a second thought. Bring any of this up to any otherwise smart and articulate American citizen and just wait for the two word utterance signifying the end of their rational thinking process. Oh, you're a conspiracy theorist, eh?

The rehabilitation of that word in mainstream discourse - as unlikely as that seems to ever happen - would signal, to my mind at least, the willingness of Americans to truly consider the many currently "unthinkable" abominations that have been and continue to be carried out in their name. Until then, rational discourse will be limited to fringe internet comment boards like this and a handful of others. Or, as the old saying goes, "it's not paranoia if they're actually out to get you." And "they" are, "they" being the trans-generational "old money" oligarchy that actually runs things.

Daergi said...

As I was driving to work this morning I noticed the personalized license plate, "I'm Red2". I quickly dismissed the notion that the owner of the vehicle was proudly proclaiming their communist leanings to the western world as the vehicle the plate was attached to was a quite pricey BMW SUV. I suppose the BMW driver in question was reaching out to other similarly oppressed, conservative Republicans in the area. The plate could have been referring to something else, I guess (redhead, rosacea sufferer), but I had to chuckle at it as I had just finished reading this blogpost on the political landscape a little beforehand.

At work, I have many conservative customers from both sides of the aisle and these days, to a person, they all believe that they are part of a beleaguered minority. Their way of life, "The Culture of Contentment" entitled, is under assault and while both sides would never agree with each other about quite literally anything, they are identical in their beliefs of being betrayed and persecuted by what's unfolding in the world around them. They wouldn't express it this way because they all see a malevolent hand in their decreasing circumstances. None of them see their own part of privilege and consumption in the unfolding tragedy, and not one of them understands that the inputs to keep endless expansion going, to prop up their retirement portfolios, are just not there. The message that the world needs right now from its leaders is not a message that can be sold to these people.

Did the left abandon its constituency or did they just realize that no one would follow? Living small is a loss in status to someone to whom status matters. Living with less than you can afford while the other side gorges, going back to the land to manually toil are tough ideas to sell. Nothing that can be put in a soundbite, except maybe, "Collapse Now and Avoid the Rush!" But that would only appeal to a certain, limited number of alternative thinkers;) I don't see us, as a nation, doing the right thing here. But I guess you've been saying that all along.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Interesting analysis.

Right now, I feel that potentially more dangerous than either political party is the Koch brothers own political machine, tentacles everywhere, furthering their own kleptocratic, planet wrecking agenda. (Of course joined in this by others.) I almost feel, without succumbing to full blown conspiracy paranoia, that "the circus" of Republican candidates is a distraction from what is happening elsewhere. "The circus" is literally that, a show.

Though both parties are to blame for the mess we're in, and the Democrats have their own oligarchs, the Republican party seems hollowed out, a shell for the Koch brothers and their organizations to exploit for their own purposes. When talking about the Republican base, you are talking about a Koch-brother funded Tea Party and Heritage Action Center among other organizations that push Republican candidates and legislators from the right. The Republicans pay them to use their data collection organization, so much more sophisticated than the Republicans' own. Republican candidates must pass muster with them. They, and their various non-profits and think tanks are past masters at disinformation (Google Koch brothers, the Heartland Institute and climate change denial) and promote legislation and politicians who are in favor of what they call "freedom," which is actually freedom for them to make profits, no matter the effect on people or planet.

Now they are starting to court the media more overtly and claim they are standing up for the rights of poor people (while storing toxic petcoke in poor neighborhoods such as the Calumet area of Chicago). All of this is right out in plain sight, a matter of public record. Anyone thinking about fascism should pay very close attention. The Kochs appear to be positioning themselves as the heads of a "savior party" when/if the Republican party crumbles or some kind of catastrophe occurs.

That's the one interesting thing about Trump's otherwise rather silly candidacy: he publicly refuses to jump to their whistle. He doesn't need them. And he's hired away some of their staffers. Perhaps that is one reason why he is more popular in the polls. To your point, JMG, a symptom of the US public's general fed-upness.

wagelaborer said...

Yes, the left was smashed by the Palmer raids, then resurrected in the Great Depression, then smashed again in the ongoing inquisition and purges from 1945-1960, commonly called the ''McCarthy years", although those were but a small part.
Why no resurrection? I think that the invention of TV, and the suburban sprawl, both after WW2, plays a big role. How does a left party reach the masses? No one goes out to parks, so soapbox speeches are out. Going door to door is difficult, when the doors are so far apart. TV not only supplies endless entertainment and propaganda, but makes lectures and organizing unappealing. Why go out and listen to someone drone on about a better society, when you can watch explosions on TV? And TV is the easiest way for ruling class propaganda, nicely sugar coated, to be spread.
Years ago, I read a Reader's Digest funny about two neighbor dogs, who spent their days running up and down their dividing fence, barking at each other. One day, there was a hole in the fence. The dogs ran up to it and stopped, looked at each other, and then resumed their running and barking.
I ran for Congress as a Green. I was at a debate, and most of the audience were Democrats and Republicans, divided in the auditorium, and loudly cheering their own candidate and booing the other. One of the dividing points was Obamacare, mentioned a couple of times on this blog as a good thing.
I stood there, staring at the sections, thinking about pointing out the obvious, but then thinking that I would lose votes from both sides if I did. Then I thought, screw it! And I pointed out that the ACA was originally a Republican idea, and that the Democrats were against it. And now the Democrats were cheering the Republican idea and the Republicans were booing it, just because the labels had changed.
For a minute, there was silence. Everyone stared at me.
Then, they went right back to barking, excuse me, cheering and booing at each other.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

Tangential, but related:

Because we are working towards, not against, as you so wisely think we all should be doing, my husband and I continue to work on increasing the energy efficiency and usefulness of our 100-year-old house. We have finished making the kitchen more suitable for people who cook from scratch and also process and preserve food (good, naturally-lit work area, no gimmicks or extra appliances). We are now literally downsizing the house by removing an unusable sunporch that leaks heat all winter long. We'll then insulate before adding siding to the new exterior wall. This should make a huge difference, energy-wise.

To the point: We've lived in the house almost thirty years and, as people do, deposited stuff in the sunporch--which now must be assessed and disposed of. Among the stuff were two boxes of books unopened since the late 1980's. In one was a collection of science fiction and fantasy paperbacks I'd read in my teens and early twenties, which I'm looking forward to going through (William Morris, Ursula LeGuin and Thomas Disch on the top layer).

The other was full of my old college books, including Toward a Steady State Economy, edited by Herman Daly. I looked inside, and there were so many iconic essays--by Paul Erlich, Kenneth Boulding, Garrett Hardin, E.F. Schumacher, Donella Meadows and others. It was published in 1973. I read it in the late Seventies; it was a large influence on my wordlview and thus, the way I've lived my life.

Tears sprang to my eyes. So much time wasted, so much of the ongoing general civilizational/environmental emergency that could have been at least partially mitigated in the thirty-something years since. However, one doesn't have much time for coulda, shoulda these days. There is productive work to be done! My observation is that there are plenty of people doing it, too, just not in obnoxious, circus-y, media-hyped fashion--but in daily life, among groups that meet, talk, do. The media is not the territory.

changeling said...

" I'm guessing Hillary Clinton will crumple in the early primaries and get left in the dust."

I am actually bet on sort of Mitt Romney effect - order of magnitude more cash than opponents and unequivocal support of party' establishment will carry her through primaries despite unlikability and unmasked sense of entitlement.

N Montesano said...

Interesting discussion. Lately, I've been too busy gardening, canning, cooking and visiting new baby relatives to follow comments (or politics); am thinking that may be the best course of action in any case, because I certainly don't have anything to offer on a larger scale. Except at work, where I am writing a series of articles about the water problems we're facing.
Yes, we can! Ha! I am definitely writing that on my Ball Blue Book!
Awhile back, you mentioned that there will be a series of people offering to save us all, and that we should keep chanting "there is no brighter future" to keep from falling for it. Comes to mind, as the comments in defense of Bernie Sanders keep rolling in. What little I've read about him made me want to believe in him, too, but then, I also fell for hope and change. I still really, really want to believe.
Recently attended a very timely demonstration on dryland farming, that was excellent, and will change how I garden in the future; that will be going in one of the articles, too. One frustration is that I had to drive more than 100 miles (round-trip) to attend it; couldn't find anyone else going to carpool with. The gardening and relative-visiting also require driving, and I can't find a way around that; the Pacific NW is very car-centric, outside large cities. Ah, well. Onward.

pygmycory said...

The first of the Canadian leader's debates was last night. I'm not terribly familiar with Bernie Sanders, but he sounds a bit like Tom Mulcair, the NDP party leader who is currently front running in the polls. Judging from what he was saying last night, he sounds mildly socialist. There was one weird thing though: NO references to the working class by name, or lower class, or the unemployed. Lots of references made to the middle class by absolutely everybody.

The only reference made to just how bad inequality is getting and lower income Canadians was one sentence by the green party leader, who the other leaders seemed to prefer to ignore. I was highly unimpressed with this.

This is what you're talking about when you speak about people as being invisible or political nonentities, isn't it?

You'd think someone would realize there's a lot of potential votes there if someone could galvanize people into voting. A lot of those nearer the bottom don't vote, perhaps because no one seems to care about us or our issues.

Bob Patterson said...

Troy - I was not aware that Mr. Trump had sprouted another head as Zaphjod Beebelebrox did.
LOL ( and do not forget the derisive comment "Zaphod Beebelebrox is a telephone sanitizer!".

I think it is important not to dismiss Mr.Trump's candidacy. Tricky Dick was able to win based on the simple platform - "I have a plan". A cowering, fearful populace listens to the man with all the answers.

Bob Patterson said...

Av review of two major factors in US Presidential politics. The first is that the campaign is a two phase operation. First phase is gathering funding and courting the "Party regulars" that will be the delegates to the convention and elect the nominee. This culminates in getting nominated. Considering the political favors performed for these "Party regulars" by the Clintons, they have an advantage. Phase two is the general election, where the relatively extreme statements made to rouse the "regulars" is moderated to pander to the electorate. By the way, any threat of a third party run is absurd. The election laws are written in such a way as the make it impossible (just ask Anderson)

The second major factor is a money equation of present US politics - generous campaign contributions > financial deregulation and favorable legislation > generous campaign contributions (and you can add in the "revolving door").

Bob Patterson said...

I have often considered the design of a solar canner (boiling type). You take one of those oblong brass cauldrons (with a lid, usually from India) or a large stainless steel pot and put it in a wooden box with lots of fiberglas insulation. You weld/braze hose connections at 1 inch from the bottom and 2 inches from the top of the proposed water level. High temp hoses lead to a simple simple solar collector. Most canning is done in august, so the solar intensity will be sufficient to maintain boiling. All materials used in contact with the water must be non-toxic. You would use dummy canning jars full of water to make up a full complement of jars to boil to maintain water level.

streamfortyseven said...

@Cherokee Organics - "Does anyone ever describe the political class in the US as either aristocracy or nobility?" Yes: and

streamfortyseven said...

@Martin B: "As a non-American, I'm a little surprised there hasn't been a military coup in the US." Actually, there was, in 1963, although it wasn't seen as such by the great majority -

Aron Blue said...

So many of my friends love love love Bernie Sanders. I just nod and smile. Why should I ruin their day? Don't stop believin. Hold on to that feelin. I hear the opening chords to that Journey song every time someone opens their mouth about how this time a presidential election is going to Make a Difference. The smell of wine and cheap perfume.

Lou Nelms said...

On the big picture stuff, the Republicans and the Democrats are two sides of the same coin. Both first of all adhere to the imperative of growth as an all purpose cure for all maladies. The Democrats will insist growth does not conflict with the environment. You can bet this is one question that will not be seriously debated in this campaign. Neither will population. Climate change will be but mainly how we can apply technology to it. Globalization will continue to looked upon as the tide to raise all boats. Capitalism, the same. Technological advancements will help us to plug renewables into the infrastructure coal and oil built. And natural gas will continue to be cited as the bridge fuel.

But, no where or no how, will either party offer us a vision of exactly what a sustainable future would actually look like other than a slightly modified facsimile of what we already have. Or how we could divert scarce resources sufficiently away from our need to keep the wheels on this unsustainable leviathan to build a real sustainable infrastructure and economic system. Or how we could feed a growing world population and sustain it on the down slope of peak oil with an industrial mode of agriculture, food processing, and distribution growing more dependent on finite resources each day. Or how a ponzi system of capitalism -- you too can become rich by humping in the hierarchy for the rich -- can maintain faith among its followers who may grow to realize that their efforts are not only not making them rich but are doing so at great ecological and environmental harm to the planet and future generations.

So, it comes down to this -- our political system has become a technopoly. Our choices, our decisions are being handed to us by default, by what the machine needs to keep its wheels on and to keep the economy that makes the machine healthy. And by all the glitter and shine that cyberspace can encompass globally to maintain the faith in the technology and the manufacture of a human face of happy unity in it. All of the alternatives are cast out as being far too radical, a bridge way too far to cross. That the machine and not the earth is our salvation. So, we get CAFE standards and not a serious consideration that we might really need to re wild half the planet. You get the idea which might be gathering some traction, but by only a tiny fraction.

So, I watch this campaign as just another huge distraction away from real earth realization and revelation. Our Mars mission is under our feet. If we were really trying to make this a hot rock we could not succeed any better.

The other Tom said...

I think the Suicide of the American Left is further exacerbated by the lack of leisure time for wage earners. Cobbling together a living from various part time jobs, always looking for jobs, always worrying about right now does not leave time to read, reflect, to get a big picture of the world. I run into people all the time who are very aware of what's happening to them but cannot connect the dots to the trajectory we are on and keep thinking if they just work a little harder everything will be OK. They cannot see the futility of working harder in a purely exploitative economy. Being crushed by the system does not always spawn revolt, in this case it makes people politicaly stupid. The lack of outrage by people who work for a living, or at least muted outrage, to the TPP, a plan for the removal of every last obstacle to exploiting everything and everyone, is an example.
Today, with all the electronic distractions, once people have become economically disenfranchised the process seems to perpetuate itself.
The very concept of "middle class" is amorphous. It used to mean working one job, 40 hours a week, and living well, not with endless extravagance but with essential needs secure. Now "middle class" includes households where everyone permanently works multiple jobs and live on the edge of financial disaster. In the same way the concept of "left" and "right" have both shifted to promote corporate hegemony, the concept of middle class has shifted to include what we used to consider poor. Of course, there is a certain embarrassment to being poor in a country where the mythology says anyone can make it, so it makes sense for people to think of themselves as middle class.
I've been reading "Savage Continent," about the chaos in Europe in the years immediately after WW 2. I was struck by the terrible, calculated way that the Germans and Soviets each treated their POWs. Of course, hatred and retribution were involved, but it was also very practical. Starved, exhausted, dehydrated and sick prisoners were too beaten down to be much trouble to anyone. I know it would be extreme hyperbole to compare this horror to the plight of our working class, but the principle is the same: beat them down into numb obedience and they won't be any trouble to the ruling class.

Daergi said...

Cherokee Organics, on shark attacks, factoids gleaned from the interweb: As of this year West Coast anchovy population has declined by 90%. As this is a little fish that big fish eat expect big fish population collapse to follow. Different time frames I've read for total collapse of ocean fisheries are between 2030-2050. One article last month said that the 2015 seal pup litter along the west coast had a 90% mortality. They eat anchovies. Albatross eat them too and their young are dying off. Baby albatross have been exhibiting never before seen aggressive behavior. One possible explanation researchers have offered is that they are starving.

I once read that sharks don't prefer the taste of humans, but if their normal source of food is disappearing...

Phil Harris said...

What's going on in the oceans?
Good question.
Phil H

Lou Nelms said...

Hey All Here

Suppose the democrats, Hillary Inc. too, decided to kick off their talk by returning all their super pac funds. Walking the talk. Not succumbing to the racket king makers. Campaign on less money and more integrity.
Think this would get me through the pearly gate with the campaign money men?

But all here to Hillary: return your super pac money and we'll consider supporting you. More integrity more meaning, more meaning more integrity. Less money, more democracy, less hypocrisy. Symbolic yet powerful in the money freak show the machine throws our way in the name of democracy.

Hillary may not win with more. But with less she can't lose. Hillary got the steel to lose the money game but win the people?

Hey All Here. I mean, we might as well get some play out of this ridiculous situation. Just some more coal carbon to air out as the cost. My fail. My hypocrisy. Forgive my fall.

Remember this: if you start to get paranoid that you are on "their List" just remember this -- they are on "our list". Like they got guns but we got rocks! Integrity rocks.

So, to all you Hillary insiders, please deliver my free advise to Hillary. Eye of the needle to thee. Do you have a vision of living on earth? Machine light? Biodiversity heavy? Earth your central organizing principle? Drone missiles to bio shares? Fossil shares to sun shares. Dare you share your dream of living on earth. Not what you must say to the masters of the empire of more. And to the faithful of more. The followers of more. How do you steer to the promise of less? Less of man. More of earth. Banish me to hell for saying. Banish me to the heaven on earth I have found. Meek reward.

Hey All.

Greg Belvedere said...

A very amusing critique of Clinton's candidacy. Or perhaps it was just a very apt description and her campaign is just funny.

As much as I favor Sanders, his platform is mostly reactionary. To the extent that it is not it is not a very new vision and it will be interesting how much of it can remain unchanged if he gets the nomination.

btidwell said...


I completely agree with everything you said this week, including ignoring Sanders (because even IF he won, nothing he is proposing would ever get through congress). I'm curious, though, what alternative you think the left should be offering that mainstream people would actually buy into? I saw through Obama in his first campaign, but he rallied the people by offering Hope. There is nothing "hopeful" about telling people to ride a bike ten miles each way in the rain to work, even though it wont even make a difference in the end.

An anecdote that I think is revealing...Last week I was invited to a Neopagan Lamas ritual (First Harvest) hosted by the pagan circle of a local Unitarian Universalist church. So, a very progressive group of people. The subject of gardening came up and, out of eight or ten people four of us have vegetable gardens. I don't have one this year because I fumbled my chance to plant seeds indoors and couldn't afford potted plants from the garden store. One of women confessed her guilt over not planting a garden this year because she realized she hates gardening. Another woman said "the truth is I plant a garden because my family has had one since I was a girl and I like the vegetables but I really don't like gardening, either." My procrastination last Spring might spring from the same ambivalence. Even among those disposed to embrace a sustainable lifestyle, the truth is that it is *not* always (or even usually) pleasant. Unless one's commitment to philosophy is like so many vegans who don't care how bad food tastes as long as it is "healthy." Seems to me it is utterly impossible to pry people away from their air conditioned TV room when they aren't even ambivalent about their distaste for the subject. Honestly, was there ever a time when that wasn't true? The Hippie communes in the 70s didn't fail by accident.

Changing the subject, since you didn't mention it you may not know...The Clinton's have become quite good friends with the Bushes. To the extent that George called Bill his "brother from another mother" and they have become a popular double act on the feedbag lecture circuit that pays has-been politicians ridiculous amounts of money to show up. That just adds a whole other disturbing depth to the interchangeability of Hillary and Jeb. Interestingly, so far Jeb is the one distancing himself from that (not so) odd couple relationship but it's going to bite Hillary sooner or later.

John Michael Greer said...

Stream, you're on. I certainly wouldn't claim that the US electoral system is fair in any sense; vote fraud and other means of rigging elections are as American as apple pie, to say nothing of the broader nexus of corruption and institutional power that frames the whole process. My point is simply that the system is set up to pick, from among the available stooges, one who has (or can fake) enough popular support to be a viable figurehead -- and neither Clinton nor Bush can do that. My working guess is that Clinton's campaign will peak this year and go down in the early primaries, possibly due to Sanders, and that Bush will never get past also-ran status. Who will take the nominations? Hard to say at this point; Biden or O'Malley could easily pick up the frontrunner spot once Clinton implodes, while the GOP field is much more wide open; Trump, Rubio, or Kasich are likely, but the GOP could go for someone from the Tea Party fringe if they decide that losing the election is a better fundraising move than winning it.

Cherokee, the US political class gets described as an aristocracy from time to time, but it's purely rhetorical -- our political class is a collection of cheap whores, not a nobility in any imaginable sense. As for Conan, there is no such thing as reading too many Conan stories!

Raven, I wonder how much of that is being spread by Corbyn's rivals...

Martin, the military in the US is fully integrated into the structure of political and economic power in this country -- look at the way that US military officials have been defending the F-35 fighter program in the teeth of all the evidence that it's a useless dog of a plane. If a coup took place they'd be among those up against the wall, and they know it.

Daergi, that's a useful data point -- that "both sides of the aisle" now see themselves as a beleaguered minority. They're right, too -- and that means that we're just waiting for the first demagogue who has the wits to figure out how to appeal to the majority.

Adrian, exactly. Trump is demonstrating that there's life outside the suffocating narrowness of the current political system, and people are flocking to him. Whether it's him, or some more talented and ruthless demagogue, somebody's going to do an end run around the failed consensus, and away we go.

Wagelaborer, no, Obamacare hasn't been mentioned on this blog as a good thing. It's one more lavish and hopelessly corrupt subsidy for the medical, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries pretending to be a health care program, and I've said so since it was first proposed.

Adrian, I know the feeling. I have a shelf of those books near the desk where I write my weekly posts. Which William Morris novel, btw? That's an almost unheard-of taste these days.

Changeling, well, we'll see.

N Montesano, no question, those are a better use of your time. This blog is mostly for those who haven't gotten there yet.

Pygmycory, that means that Canada's gotten to the point the US reached around 1980, when it finally sank in to the middle class that the only way they could secure their privileges was to throw the poor and the working class under the bus,and the politicians are responding accordingly.

John Michael Greer said...

Bob, I'd definitely encourage you to go ahead with the canner!

Aron, nice. And of course we're going to get a jumbo helping of that sort of messianic fantasy projected onto whoever the Dems nominate, no matter how dubious the resemblance might be to an unsympathetic observer!

Lou, well, yes -- this is basically what I was saying, you know.

Other Tom, ah, but look at it in the long view. Yes, that sort of process yields a downtrodden peon class -- and then the political class has to try to defend itself against a galaxy of rising threats when the great majority of the population literally doesn't care at all who happens to be their overlords this week. That's one of the reliable ways that elites end up hacked to gobbets or the like.

Lou, you might want to lay off the weed a bit before commenting! ;-)

Greg, the hilarity is due to Hillary, not to me -- again, "target-rich environment" is the phrase that comes forcefully to mind.

Btidwell, er, that's the sort of thing I've encountered every time I've attended anything involving the Unitarian Universalists: very progressive, in any way that doesn't require noticeable discomfort or a step down off the ladder of privilege. For a different perspective, you might want to try a Lammas or Lughnasadh ritual somewhere else next year.

jean-vivien said...

@ N Montesano :
"Recently attended a very timely demonstration on dryland farming, that was excellent, and will change how I garden in the future; that will be going in one of the articles, too."
Do you have a web page or blog where you will publish those articles ?
The illusion of derivation, part 1

Maybe the failure to imagine a different vision of the future is due to the subordination of political discourse to numbers. Since data is widely available - the next (!) economic revolution is even called Big Data - it is easy for one to drown in numbers, and forget to interpret them... at least, forget the inconvenient bits, or manipulate the numbers. The reliance on numbers instead of litteral discourse might suffer from what I'd call "the illusion of derivation".

The mathematical tool of derivation, and all of calculus, that is, quantify and calculate not just the measurements you have at hand but also their rate of change, has made physics into the discipline it is today, and is the bread and butter of mathematicians as much as of staticians.
But when statisticians deal too much with derivated metrics, they can easily lose track of the base metric itself.
For example, having zero-growth is labelled with such deprecative expletives as "stagnation, marasm" while it actually means that businesses are working as much as usual, instead of collapsing. Is it not good enough to have no particular disaster to deal with ? of course not, since it means that the derivation of GDP is then quantified as zero, nil, nada... and nothing IS bad. Even if we had constant economic growth, it could be bad, since the derivation of growth (itself the derivation of GDP) is zero ! This is what happened this spring, when everyone was worrying about China because its rate of economic growth was decreasing... but hey, its economy was still growing by 7 percent !

Maybe a possible answer as to why derivating metrics has taken such importance to nowadays' economic discourse is, metrics that derivate into positive numbers are good to fuel speculation and economic bubbles. And speculation along with its offshoot, bubbles, are a convenient way to concentrate actual wealth into a few hands at the expense of everybody else, using abstract (imaginary ?) wealth (using labelled "financial").
But eventually this illusion of derivation loses track of the value of the base metric you started with.

jean-vivien said...

The illusion of derivation, part 2

Take the current US job data... go to this page,, and you will read headlines such as these :
Solid U.S. jobs report bolsters case for Fed rate hike
WASHINGTON - U.S. employment rose at a solid clip in July and wages rebounded after a surprise stall in the prior month, signs of an improving economy that opened the door wider to a Federal Reserve interest rate increase in September.

Most of the optimistic headlines about the US economy nowadays revolve around the fact that, well, there are a bit less unemployed people this month than last month. Does that mean the US employment rate is anywhere near a stisfying level (zero) ? Erm...
Notice that the illusion of derivation plays out of the mathematical tool itself. Since derivation is, by definition, the rate of change at a given moment, you can use it at any moment you like when that rate happens to have taken a value that fits you. This is where a drawing is worth a thousand words, and curves can show you the actual history of US unemployment numbers :
View it from 1948 to 2015, and you will see that the unemployment rates have only lowered now to their lowest level between 1984 and 1990 (after the last Oil Shock, before the Reagan era). But they are still higher than in 2000, and in 2008. In terms of unemployment, the USA never quite recovered from the dot-com bubble 15 years ago, whereas it took less than 10 years to recover from either the 2nd and the 3rd oil shocks. It never quite recovered from the first oil shock too...
When the derivation of a metrics does not suit you, you can always pick up another metric that conveys the opposite message. This is why the fantasy of perpetual growth is still seen as the norm, because in spite of so many other indicators derivating inappropriately, economics has been able to juxtaposate to them an indicator crafted to have an always positive derivated quantity (GDP, and its derivated quantity, growth).

In this respect, the 2008 recession was the hallmark of all crises since the last World War, because annual GDP was no longer able to derivate into a honest, positive value, and even had the bad taste of going negative for two years in a row, which hadn't happened for the last 30 years. Between 1980 and 2008, so 29 years in total, annual GDP growth was negative on only 4 years (out of 29), and for absolute values of less than 2 percent. 2009 marked a break from that convenient habit...

And now, if someone could explain to me why I keep spotting red numbers lately, and the following style of headline :
"Wall St. drops as jobs report augurs for September rate hike"
because the way I understand it, is : okay, the job data is encouraging, so the Fed might increase their interest rate on US treasury bonds, and that will be bad for financial speculation, so it is very bad for us...
In other words, having Main Street ease a little would cause Wall Street to unease a lot ? If the Fed increases interest rates, will that be bad for Wall Street or for Main Street ? Either way, it will spell trouble on your side of the pond, and on mine as well. Go buy those pitchforks while the store still has them for cheap...
Ecnarf should have delivered those Mistral to Russia after all, and its Left or its Right wings of politicians are about as disenfranchised from its people as in the USA.

nuku said...

Re sharks and humans as food:
Do you know why sharks don’t eat lawyers....?
Professional curtesy

sgage said...

@ Daergi,

"I once read that sharks don't prefer the taste of humans, but if their normal source of food is disappearing... "

Most shark attacks occur where there has been an _increase_ in sharks' natural prey in areas where humans also like to play in the ocean. It is simply not a matter of their natural prey disappearing so that they turn to humans out of need.

pygmycory said...

I think we're a bit further along than 1980-it's been like this for at least a couple of election cycles, it just struck me very forcefully for some reason today. Maybe because it wasn't 'few references' but 'none', and I was paying closer attention.

And I've more fully accepted that I am not middle class, no matter what my parents are or think I ought to be.

Jo said...

@ Archdruid - "that means that Canada's gotten to the point the US reached around 1980, when it finally sank in to the middle class that the only way they could secure their privileges was to throw the poor and the working class under the bus,and the politicians are responding accordingly."

This is exactly where Australia is at right now too. We may be slow down here, but we are catching on fast.

Several commenters have mentioned being disillusioned and looking in vain for a cause to believe in. Growing older and reading The Archdruid Report has shown me that this is a fool's game. We can't wait for someone to save us. But we can't let despair overwhelm us either. All of us here know what we have to do. To live with integrity we must begin to divest our lives of all the excess which is causing us to live way beyond our global means. Then we have the enormous job of learning how to live well with LESS, and sharing that with whoever is interested. So far I have found this job to be the most fascinating thing I have ever done..

No saviour required, just a lot of quiet determination.

Ben said...


Thank you for your response. It was less brutal than I was anticipating. I vacillate between a deep cynicism and a guarded optimism. I suppose my slight sense of optimism lies not so much in particular technological solutions or even technology itself but my and others ability to change directions quickly, to seek creative solutions, and see opportunity in uncertain situations. Intense curiosity is technology agnostic. And while a lot of that curiosity gets directed toward software today, I can imagine that as the environment changes that the objects of that curiosity will change as well.

Certainly many elites lose their lives during revolution, but many were also able to cash in their long positions in the declining order for privileged starting positions in the next. You don't even need to be a Rothschild or a Rockefeller either. Who did well during the French revolution?

I see many possible solutions for individual prosperity. One may be to hunker down individually or with small networks of others to weather the storm and another may be to cultivate a quality of nimbleness and agility, to be the reed that bends, and to find niches where they can provide value. I don't think so much that you simply advocate the former but rather that I see those latter qualities in other segments of the population as well--in serial entrepreneurs, in open source developers, hackers and makers. It's not the particular business they go into or the object they tinker with, but the personality of the people that drives people to do those things.

I get depressed sometimes when I read your blog. This is not a criticism. Your writing is a great resource. But I must temper it with the understanding that I cannot predict the future, that the world will change and change and change, and that I can and will change with it. This is neither good nor bad. But in disorder, there is opportunity.

Gloucon X said...

JMG said: that means that we're just waiting for the first demagogue who has the wits to figure out how to appeal to the majority.

Interesting. So, what do you think the majority wants?

doomerdoc said...

We aren't yet at the Hitler stage, but we'll get there.
The history is clear. First, an unforeseen violent upheaval and collapse in the old order. Then a period of confusion. Then the strong man appears on the scene to restore greatness, but the moment is already gone, and greatness passes to a newer system led by different powers.

Neil Furby said...

Masterful writing. Its happened here in the UK also, where we have nothing left of what might be termed the left! In its place we have a government totally in thrall to the military/ industrial thought benders, and nothing much else, other than perhaps television? Currently of course our latest distraction is building big wire fences in France to keep those pesky immigrants the other side of the "English" channel. Always good to have an enemy waiting in the wings, keeps the masses distracted so wonderfully well.

Thank-you for your brave and provocative insights, even if they do make me feel just a bit more gloomy about where our so called civilisation is headed.

das monde said...

The left surely forgot their transformational roots and became the biggest status quo comfort suckers. But if the future is not going to be better, how would you sell a courageous transformation to worse but still (more or less) best possible future? The Greeks could not make the move away from EU and settle for some Russian living standards, for example.

In politics and economics, simplest explanations are often a trap, an indirect propaganda. The elections around the world have little to do with what voters would really prefer; it is mostly electorate education for new standards of political dysfunction and circus. I have seen this process in several countries in various flavors. And surely, the 2016 US is breaking new grounds for dumb posturing. The circus with Trump, Hillary, another Bush (and a bunch of clowns that would had been laughed off even by Foxnews 15 years ago) might have been a fat dream of the same Fox-ish friends that same time ago.

An association to the post of July 8 comes up. Even if seemingly not guaranteed by evolutionary processes, human capabilities for "disciplined" rationalization are reliable enough for manipulation and evolving exploitation. For example, no wonder that nerds are so easy to misguide socially.

Lou Nelms said...

John, thanks for posting my comments, "out there" as they may be. And for your replies and wry grin.

A more basic question: does the concept of left and right for describing the spectrum of political, economic and social leanings have any relevancy to shaping a vision that might get man on to a sustainable course? When all of it is based upon the supremacy of man? A supremacy based upon the handing down of a civilization ordered by a supreme being? With man above all? Destined to fall.

Something much more fundamental is awry. While we look for some meaning on what left or right may have in store for solutions to our civilizational failings, these meanings fail us because they trap us into the same old thought patterns that got our teats in the wringer to begin with.

So, how can we escape ourselves and the cosmic prison of human history and culture? To shape a new vision that sees outside of our failed concepts of left and right or the perversions that have absconded with such labels?

I think the vision has to come from earth. For man to place himself second. To change the paradigm from big man/small earth to big earth/small man. Does man have it in him to humble himself before earth's spirits? To seek a covenant that gets man beyond and outside of himself? Down here. Equal to all?

We need a basic course in Earth 1.0. Numero uno. Earth first, not as a leftist radical cry, but as the working principle for living on earth. But, of course, such calls get me pilloried and quartered by the forward stampede, labeled as inconsequentially too far left. A danger to progress. Out there. Voice in the wilderness. Unthinkable. And of course it is. A burden to bare as an outcast, knowing of our fall. Skunk thrower at the party.

Just coffee inspired. heheheh

donalfagan said...

BTW, there was an interesting PBS show about Easter Island last night. Two archaeologists were trying to see if a team with ropes could "walk" an average-sized Moai down a dirt path. Diamond, and others, have asserted that the Rapa Nui islanders cut down their palm trees to get lumber to transport the Moai on wooden sledges. This experiment showed it could be done without all that much lumber.

As asides, they discussed competing theories for the decline of the Rapa Nui. One was that Asian rats were introduced, bred quickly with no natural enemies, and devoured the seeds and seedlings of the palms. Another was that the Rapa Nui killed the birds whose feces nourished the palms. Another was that Europeans introduced diseases like cholera - as they did elsewhere. Another was that Europeans - who referred to all non-Christians as cannibals - took away Rapa Nui as slaves.

I'm thinking the Rapa Nui had a leader with a bad hairpiece, built moai with topknots to honor him and it all went downhill from there.

Daergi said...

"Most shark attacks occur where there has been an _increase_ in sharks' natural prey in areas where humans also like to play in the ocean."

True, but... don't all predators congregate where their prey congregate? And in the past when sharks, their prey and humans happened to be in the same place at the same time there would be some increase in attacks, but nothing on the scale of today. But now, if sharks, their prey at only 10% of their pre-collapse numbers and humans happen to be in the same place at the same time...

Nastarana said...

The grand prize is not which puppet gets to occupy the White House, but who gets to seize the remaining physical resources of the North American continent. The infamous Koch brothers appear to be trying to establish their personal satrapy in the upper Mississippi Valley; notice how Koch funded governors seem to cluster around the Great Lakes--which contain some 20% of the world's fresh water supply.

The question we should perhaps all be asking ourselves is under which regime might we get a little breathing space to acquire the last few tools we need, get some fruit trees planted, get title to our land (for those who own property) nailed down and establish cordial relations with the sheriff/local gang leader?

N Montesano said...

@Jean-vivien, Yes, but it requires a subscription, though inexpensive, and it is focused on our immediate location. We are a county newspaper. The series was supposed to start next week, but I'm a little behind.
If after all that, you're still interested, send an e-mail for the web address; Sorry for the hassle, but I try to avoid linking my name and work with personal politics. So instead, I'll just broadcast my e-mail address! rolls eyes.
Here is a link to the organization doing the demonstration:
@Jo, lol, the phrase "save us all" was meant to be ironic. Failed, evidently. But yes, to your comments.
Though - I AM sad about our president. He said so much of what I wanted to hear. For a brief, shining moment ... oops, wait, that's a line from the musical Camelot - the general silliness of which is a useful antidote.
@JMG, I hope I didn't sound as though the blog isn't useful and thought-provoking; it is very much, and so are the comments; both are always challenging me to think harder. Just hard to find the time to keep up with, especially in summer.

Roger said...

JMG, you say you can't claim to know much about Canadian politics. It's not complicated. We have nominally "right" plus nominally "progressive" parties. But, no matter the party, politics here is done with baseball bats.

The self-righteous rhetorical preening is all a show. I'm telling you JMG, it's farcical. Proudly "progressive" Torontonians scorn the red-neck West. For their part, rock-ribbed, traditionalist, Western settlers disdain those leaky eastern degenerates.

It's ALL bunk JMG. All of it. Break out the umbrella because this place rains B.S.

The reality is that our parties generally represent competing regional interests with "progressives" speaking for economic interests mostly in the East and "conservatives" mostly for those in the West. It's all about money.

And it won't surprise you to know that two former Liberal Prime Ministers held positions in a very large eastern-based company.

Oh yeah, who could forget Quebec. So there's the linguistic aspect: English vs French.

And sometimes it gets down into bombings, murder and martial law. Yeah, even in boring old Canada, tribal drums get loud. So far we've stopped short of partition and civil war. Give it time.

Like U.S. politicians, ours are hideous, our election campaigns wretched, the debates unwatchable. Hypocrisy here is a high art, nobody does it better. That's pretty much what you need to know.

william fairchild said...


An excellent analysis. My fear, and strong suspicion, is that when the explosion comes, it will tend toward Fascism, not the Left.

I would say that we haven't had a real Left since the 20s or 30s, definately since the 50s. The left has been systematically purged from the conversation. Eugene Debs was tossed into the joint under the Espionage Act, FDR saved capitalism from itself with the New Deal (and of course the massive Keynsian pump priming of WWII) and of course McCarthy was the nail in the coffin of any Social Democratic movement. Even the language of the Left was purged from the schols. Unionism or collective ownership of the means of production are not mentioned in our curriculum. Neoliberal economics is the default.

Now the Dems are a centrist party, the Repulicans hard right. There is no choice but the lesser of two evios, and this is no way to build a more perfect union. A really relevant book on the subject is "Th e Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell. His critique the the Left is biting. He decries their prigishness, a point we on the Left would do wel to take to heart.

william fairchild said...

Also, sir, you are right on target with your criticsm of left coast leberals. Generally, they wil support a program, as long as it doesn't reach into their pocket or affect their ability to get a daily Starbuks. But they will be right in line to criticize a blue collar person for driving a large truck, never mind they may need it for work and to fit the family in. You never see these folks associating with WalMart employees or HVAC techs with neck tatoos. As Orwell puts it, "the lower classes smell."

Ed-M said...

@JMG, "it continues to fascinate me that so many people think I must be down on Sanders because I didn't happen to give him free publicity on my blog."

Well I thought I'd get the foreign affairs info from the horse's mouth. If that means free publicity, so be it.

BTW, how did you like my free publicity for The Donald? Granted, I sounded like a left-liberal version of Rush Limbaugh, but it seems to me he has this emotional need to be every bit of what I said of him. Last night at the debates he had to answer for some uncalled-for remarks he said about women... and got himself into more hot water. Other than that he apparently sucked all the oxygen out of the room.

And last night a pseudo-conservative group called RedState disinvited him from one of their confabs they had invited him to.

Disclaimer: no, I didn't watch the debates themselves. I got the info this morning from a TV in a coffee shop that was tuned to CNN and remarks of other people in the immediate vicinity. The remarks of the other people were telling: they were evaluating the candidates the way actors are evaluated in an audition.

jean-vivien said...

@ Gloucon X :
as we say in France, the majority wants the butter, the money from the butter, and the bottoms of the cream makress :-)
maybe nowadays people would secretly prefer less tech gadgets and more job stability, a less stressful life, more green spaces, local quality food products, and a simpler, better life in general. But since it is still cheaper to drowse into the stream of mass media, those aspirations have yet to turn into political aspirations.
Here comes Fred with the Celtic cross armbands...

sgage said...

@ Daergi,

"And in the past when sharks, their prey and humans happened to be in the same place at the same time there would be some increase in attacks, but nothing on the scale of today."

I think you are vastly overstating the 'scale of today'. It gets a lot of media attention, but if you look into actual statistics it's not that big a deal. Unless, of course, you are the one on the menu.

What has happened is a huge increase in seals and such (primary prey for sharks that also attack humans) since the Marine Mammal Protection Act, along with more and more people going in the ocean.

It is thought that many/most attacks are not predation, but territorial aggression. I just don't think it's as pat as 'we killed all the fish and now the sharks are coming after us'.

But who knows - it's a big ocean.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Several brief observations on American politics.

First, a strawberry lollipop (since I'm not authorized to give out stars) to Adrian Ayres Fisher for identifying that the Koch brothers are hollowing out the Republican party with the intent of destroying it and replacing it with a new party that they control. It's not a "conspiracy theory" because the Kochs are doing it in broad daylight.

Second, to doomerdoc, unless the next war the US loses is as devastating to our nation as WWI was to Germany, I think our rising fascist leader is more likely to resemble Mussolini than Hitler. Mussolini seized power and ruled by promising to restore the glories of the Roman Empire. Hitler rose and ruled by blaming the Jews for everything. Mussolini gets no attention in American war movies or other popular culture, so we don't think much about him, but we did get a reminder from Martin.

Third to das monde, I would describe the Republican primary field in the last Presidential election as a bunch of clowns, but the current field as a bunch of demagogues. More than half of them have had or currently have serious political careers as Senators or governors of medium sized states. Since we trying to be nonpartisan, I'll call the Democratic field a bunch of hacks.

Kudos to Martin for pointing out that Lincoln and FDR violated their first term campaign promises.

I agree with the analyses of wagelaborer and some others about reasons why the American Left has not recovered its ability to organize the masses. I also agree with JMG that the Left's fundamental problem is the absence of any vision of the future to work toward, since dictatorship of the proletariat and bigger slices of an expanding pie are off the table.

Finally, I agree with JMG and others that being active in local communities where politics is retail is not a waste of time. If something resembling representational government continues in our fair nation, it's also the best place to acquire skills and allies for larger scale politics. If it doesn't, being politically active will either mark one out for liquidation or as someone to be courted as a supporter of the new regime.

rapier said...

resident Carter delivered an economic speech in response to an OPEC lead oil shortage and price spike. He suggested the way forward was to accept limits. To stop worshiping self indulgence and consumption and in the context of the speech to conserve energy It was called his malaise speech and right after the speech his approval rating rose. Then came the opeds and the media din that soon turned most everyone against everything he had said. Carter was actually a conservative and an evangelical Christian and yet he was and is despised by conservatives. Soon we elected Reagan who doubled down on every possible thing that would break the culture of consumption and American exceptionalism.

Point being there is no possible winning political message that deviates from the norm. Note that I said his approval rating rose right after the speech, then the bottom dropped out. That was because all the vested interests who run big media lead people by the nose away from any stinking limits. It isn't that a good plurality of people at least are ready for change. It's that none is possible because of the over weaning propoganda they live under.

Otherwise this field has been plowed by a few others. In particular Chris Hedges, the only full time radical intellectual working full time in America. (not that I think radical politics can work. Not against something that transcends politics or policy)

Caryn said...

Thank You for tackling this JGM: Not a pleasant topic, really.

Hard to focus on the suicide of the left this week with the Republican circus going on. Faux-Newz created a monster and got themselves into a bind promoting The Donald freak-show, (ratings GOOOOOLD!) when he turned out to be completely uncontrollable, and thumbing his nose at them. What to do? What to do? Continue to feature the freak show for those precious ratings? or follow the overlords' script in pushing the next puppet of choice, (Just-Jeb-exclamation point). I guess in the end, the overlords won as they tend to do. He's ousted from the next round of debates. Freak show over. Who can bother to watch the next ones. The rest of the clowns are dull as dishwater and so obviously flip-flopping and dissembling. Puppets indeed.

I think you're spot on about Hillary, and sadly about the left abandoning their post. Again, I'm reminded of Adam Clayton's "Century Of The Self", the Mad Men-ish no-holds-barred advertising genie infiltrating the political arena. First with Reagan on the right, then later with Clinton on the left. The soft-coup of the electoral process.

For what it's worth, my money would be with Streamfortyseven. I don't think just any old body the plebeians pick can get on either ballot these days without being vetted and anointed by the powers that be, the men behind the curtain. (full conspiracy theory - with tin-foil hat set firmly on my head: My suspicion is that vetting process is exactly what the Bohemian Grove is all about, if it's about anything). That's one reason the Trump circus was so entertaining to watch. Horrible as he is, (and oh, he IS!) he's far from approved by that inner circle and just seemed to be having a blast flipping them off and upsetting their apple cart.

I so appreciate this blog because I think you hit the nail on the head; you articulate the truths that I find just on the periphery of my abilities, like something I kinda already knew, but was not able to understand. Maybe that's a terrible reason to read something, but it also gives me the "you're not crazy" comfort. Yeah, we (plebes) are on our own facing this. Our 'Leaders' can't and won't help with this inevitable scary fractal collapse, but through this blog and Green Wizards, I'm also finding the journey can still be a great one. Worthwhile and even fun.

jean-vivien said...

@ Ray Wharton @ Lou Nelms
A vision does not have to be all-or-nothing about some issue. I find both of your comments very powerful. I agree with you, that people would be very appealed to by a vision which would honour failure, while not necessarily enacting it constantly, and honestly acknowledge our place on Earth, while not centering itself only on that. Especially appealed to, after taking in a few failures related to ecological problems...

jean-vivien said...

@ Ray : even if we don't do much, we need to find a fair middle ground and recognize that it is already a lot. Threading a fine line between utter despair and blind self-satisfaction... That's where wisdom comes in handy.

Violet Cabra said...

JMG, you mention in your Dec. 2012 posts about democracy that part of the reason that the politics in the United States has declined so much from, say the Lincoln-Douglas debates to now, because Americans haven't learned to think, that is differentiate between feelings and thoughts, to the point of being able to reason coherently. While on a national level the senility of the elites may be past the point of no return, on the local level that isn't necessarily the case. Since democracy is a resource that we all directly benefit from in many ways, and many of us (including the entire commentariat of this blog) have well-developed thinking skills, it seems incumbent upon us to help foster thinking skills in others in our local communities. What do you think is the best method for this? Modelling behaviour? Starting book clubs? Leading classes? Gently pointing out logical fallacies? All of the above? This blog strikes me as an excellent example of a forum which encourages the nuts and bolts of thinking and I offer a heartfelt thanks for the efforts you've put in.

My experience with leading plant walks indicates to me that many people are hungry for hands on knowledge. I'm not sure how much this enthusiasm extends into the more esoteric realms you outline in your 2012 democracy posts and I struggle to imagine the most effective form this education would take. Do you have any suggestions for people who want to encourage thoughtfulness in their communities in order to strengthen democracy? How do we as lone individuals and families pick up the slack of the public educational system, and teach citizens the inner skills vital to democracy?

Robert Eastman said...

Somehow, when attempting to preview what I wrote just a moment ago, it got deleted, so I'll try again, even though my first attempt was spontaneous and very eloquent (you'll have to trust me).
Anyway, I just learned about you today, and it proves that the internet is a good thing (unless Martha Stewart has a copyright on that).
I see that you take donations and that you have several books in publication. Because I don't have a lot of money and can't do it both ways, I'll buy some of your books. That way, we still both benefit.
I don't consider myself an intellectual, but pretty smart and somewhat educated, and because I am 'retired' but, so far, have survived having the world collapse on me, I have nothing better to do than learn.
Robert Eastman

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Streamfortyseven,

Thanks for the link. That website link is like a rabbit hole and I'm unsure that I want to go down that particular hole. I have a very small (in fact tiny) footprint on the web and don't like visiting many websites and ones that force you to keep on clicking to go deeper sound very loud and slightly peeling warning bells to me.



Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Daergi,

Oh, that's not good at all.

Hi Phil,

Many thanks for the link. How are you going over in the UK? Did you end up getting the worm farm or composting toilet set up running? I hope that it performed better than you expected. The work very well here and I'm more than happy with it.

Isn't it funny that Rolling Stone magazine can write articles like that one and they're not carried in the main stream media? The story about the salmon matches the trout here in that the water temperatures are becoming too high for that species to survive the summers. Also the Indian Ocean to the NW of this continent is heating up and producing higher rainfall at weird times and in some very weird places on the continent down under. It is a shame that no one seems to notice.



Nastarana said...

Btidwell, 4 gardeners supplying produce to 4or 5 neighbors sounds about right. Maybe the 4 or 5 of your U/U group who don't care to have permanently dirt stained hands might have something of value to trade? Legal representation when the municipality tries to shut down the gardens? Dental care, which is NOT covered under medicare? Keep someone's truck tuned and running? Access to an unused empty field if one of the 4 wants to expand?

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

If JMG permits, I'll post something relevant to the theme of societal collapse but not related to this week's post. People have been offering reports of systems breaking down and services that formerly worked well falling to pieces. I would like to report on systems that seem to be working about as well as they used to under stress. My intent is just to share the information, not to imply that it disproves anything. If we only post about stuff that isn't working right, it may lead to confirmation bias.

Every summer and fall, large sections of California forests and grasslands go up in flames. Some years are worse than others. It barely rains from June to November. The native bunch grasses which are adapted to summer dry spells have been largely overrun by European annual grasses which dry out as soon as the spring rain stops. The indigenous inhabitants of California set small fires to keep the woodland understory open and provide browse for deer, but the white man suppresses the smaller fires and fuel builds up; any lightning strike or human spark can set it off.

For decades fire season has brought containment campaigns of near military proportions. A big one currently underway is at the Rocky fire in Lake County, which is northern California hill country. It's going pretty well. Standing mutual aid agreements have drawn equipment and personnel from suburban and rural fire districts all over the northern half of the state. They are working together and the fire is 62 percent contained. One fire fighter was killed.

The local population, which includes a lot of retired people and summer visitors, received evacuation orders far enough in advance that they were able to evacuate not only themselves but most of their animals. It appears they all had private transportation. Many have stayed with family or friends or in Red Cross temporary shelters. One town of more than four hundred people evacuated en masse to a Moose Lodge.

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle sent a reporter to the Moose Lodge for a feature story. The parking lot was full of RVs and tents. The inside of the lodge was full of cots. An unnamed donor was providing three meals a day. The atmosphere was convivial. One ninety year old WWII vet was enjoying telling his war stories to people who hadn't heard them yet. Several people interviewed expressed gratitude for escaping with their lives and resignation about what they might find when they went home. The evacuation orders have just been lifted, so now they know.

The same section of the paper had a story quoting someone in the state Department of Forestry who provided the bigger picture. He said that the fire season is a month longer than it was in the 1970s and the fires more frequent. Fire control used to be less than half of the department's budget. Now it's eating up more than half. Year after year, less money is available to spend on conservation, fuel reduction and other activities that reduce fire danger. He wants the Legislature to appropriate more money for those programs.

Martin Larner said...


You might be aware of the highly orchestrated smear campaign being conducted against Labour Party leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn here in the UK.

Corbyn's crime is the temerity to suggest that not only is there an alternative to the current kleptocratic state of the UK economy, but that such alternate policies would benefit the economy and the public as a whole better than the current drives towards greater austerity, privatisation and endless war over resources.

Naturally, these suggestions are beyond the pale to the politico and media class, all steeped as they are in the same ideology as the Business as Usual crowd currently running things and hence Corbyn has been subjected to the kind of "loony lefty" ridicule and derision establishment proponents foam at the mouth with whenever someone comes along whose election might threaten their unearned privileges.

This is not to say that Corbyn's policies recognise all of the predicaments we are facing, but they are nevertheless pretty common sense objectives for the failing junior partner of a collapsing empire to adopt if it wishes to get through the next few years reasonably intact.

Despite this media smear campaign, Corbyn is drawing large crowds at his campaign speeches while his bland and unimaginative opponents who like Hilary Clinton only offer more of the same, have to fabricate an audience.

It's pretty guaranteed that a Corbyn victory, if that cannot be prevented, will result in some intervention by the establishment, rather like Harold Wilson's government was undermined decades ago by the media and "security services".

The public however are not so naive this time around so it will be interesting to see the outcome.

Phil Harris said...

Hi Chris @ Cherokee
Yes, 'Rolling Stone' interviewed a good number of key scientists ... 'the ocean changes everything', to coin a phrase. It sure looks as if it is all going very much faster than earlier simulations predicted.

Thanks for your thoughts - worms are fine here at relatively small scale on domestic food preparation trimmings and similar - nothing vegetable is collected by local services for burial. The worms make a great seedling compost, so it all goes back into the vegetables. Our worms need careful protection from the rats! Our garden trimmings go to ordinary compost - nothing leaves here.

The compost toilet project is still in the queue (sad) but I am still collecting urine - which is majority of minerals - and that helps break down the fibrous stuff in compost or goes to feed the grass directly, (most of soil nutrients go round the circle ok though some is lost in the process) and we have not needed to import farmyard manure for several years - just a little lime. We burn deadwood and large tree trimmings in the winter when they are dry and the ash goes back under the soft and top fruit - the potassium has made a terrific difference to the gooseberries. We still need to build more soil of course!

Our garden birds have had a good year, but I am going out to pick cherries again while they have still left us a share.

Went to a local 'show' on Saturday - farm and garden and craft stuff. Some people near here are breeding the heavy horse Clydesdales, and they brought the big fellow along. He was just walked round but at home still does some ploughing in between his main activities. And an Alpaca with a 3-week old kid was a new one for me - beautiful beasts and that amazing wool coat.

The fell-runners turned out to lead the 3.5 mile scamper round the hill and I tagged on the end, but it was a bit steep for me. Watched some kids (human variety) later doing 3-legged and 'wheelbarrow' races (remember those?). A wee girl who was one of the wheel barrows won it from the boys no trouble. The world smiled for a while.

Phil H

jcummings said...


I wrote a story in response to your most recent challenge. Thanks!



Phil Harris said...

Martin is right, the smear campaign here in UK against Corbyn's candidature for Labour Party leadership is truly nasty. We begin to see Guardian reporting - not just the so-called right wing press - appear in its true colours. I am counting the words put in Corbyn's mouth. Education in the nature of these manipulative 'magical' techniques here on the ADR over the years helps considerably in spotting such blatant stuff, and I speak as a longtime Guardian Reader.

Similarly, the Guardian's anti-Putin campaign has managed to re-write the history leading up to the civil war in Ukraine and I have had to pinch myself cometimes over the last 18 months and go back over the sequence of events to keep some kind of grip on reality. One does not have to believe another side's propaganda in order to see just how organised and opportunistic is the propaganda from so-called 'our side'.

One of Corbyn's strong points is that he never believed the tosh dished out by Blair in the lead up to the Iraq war, nor the blatant lies from America.

Phil H

onething said...

Well, I don't s'pose folks here get over to Fox News much, but I found this snippet and hmm, maybe this is why people are liking him:

Last night's FOX News GOP Presidential Debate Extravaganza featured the most riveting two minute political exchange ever heard on national television. During a brief colloquy between Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and Fox moderator Brett Baier, the pugnacious casino magnate revealed the appalling truth about the American political system, that the big money guys like Trump own the whole crooked contraption lock, stock, and barrel, and that, the nation's fake political leaders do whatever they're told to do. Without question, it was the most illuminating commentary to ever cross the airwaves. Here's the entire exchange direct from the transcript:

FOX News Brett Baier (talking to Trump): Now, 15 years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care. You were for a single-payer system, a Canadian-style system. Why were you for that then and why aren't you for it now?

TRUMP: As far as single payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you're talking about here.

What I'd like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state. I have a big company with thousands and thousands of employees. And if I'm negotiating in New York or in New Jersey or in California, I have like one bidder. Nobody can bid.

You know why?

Because the insurance companies are making a fortune because they have control of the politicians, of course, with the exception of the politicians on this stage. (uneasy laughter) But they have total control of the politicians. They're making a fortune.

Get rid of the artificial lines and you will have...yourself great plans...

BAIER: Mr. Trump, it's not just your past support for single-payer health care. You've also supported a host of other liberal policies....You've also donated to several Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton included, and Nancy Pelosi. You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related favors. And you said recently, quote, "When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do."

TRUMP: You'd better believe it.

BAIER: — they do?

TRUMP: If I ask them, if I need them, you know, most of the people on this stage I've given to, just so you understand, a lot of money.

TRUMP: I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me. And that's a broken system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you get from Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi?

TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what, with Hillary Clinton, I said be at my wedding and she came to my wedding. You know why?

She didn't have a choice because I gave. I gave to a foundation that, frankly, that foundation is supposed to do good. I didn't know her money would be used on private jets going all over the world. It was.

BAIER: Hold on.....We're going to — we're going to move on."

Andropos Nebulus said...

I would like to chime in with support for what Nestorian said, as I had similar thoughts on this week's post.

First the biggest division in the Left is between the progressives who basically see the problem as one of lifting *all* the people into participation in the privileges of the modern wealthy nation-state, and then the radicals who view the whole system as completely corrupt and see no alternative but its general overthrown and replacement (with what? nobody states that clearly anymore, post 1917).

While these groups are not the same, there is no clear line of demarcation between them, which has allowed the right to more-or-less successfully lump them all into the category of destructive revolutionary ideologues.

Both forms of leftism are clearly represented in the responses this week.

In support of Nestorian's comments, I must maintain confusion at the more mainstream varieties of leftism expressed here, and in the post itself. Hasn't this leftism always focused on social projects? Lifting all boats, not just the rich? Universal healthcare? Universal affordable education? Large and secure social safety nets? Protection for the old and the poor?

From the point of view of decline, these seem to be (at best!) ways of making life as pain-free as possible while we coast toward the slow-motion crash and burn of our systems. And at worst, these large-scale wealth-expenditures, in consuming needed resources, hasten and deepen our near-future long period of suffering.

Put simply, in an era of general contraction, large-scale social projects are doomed to fail, and attempting them, however well-intentioned, will sink needed resources and make our situation worse.

We here on the Archdruid's comment stream think that the whole extravagant system, with its mammoth structures (even highly valued ones like Britain's NHS) are going to be gone no matter *what* we do. And not in 500 years, but in 50 years.

If we really believe this, how can support for any form of fiscal/government progressivism survive? How can anyone advocate for welfare or universal healthcare, when any such "advances" are for the moment only? When a more comfortable present will only make a hard future harder?

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@Unknown (Debra Bender),

Hello from Illinois, where all of California's water seems to have come this summer (a rainy one for the records).

Thanks for the strawberry lollipop, and confirmation that my hat is not made of tinfoil!

Rant: I do wish more people would practice the skills of pattern recognition and systems thinking more broadly and, importantly, pay attention to observable facts when doing so. That is a very general statement, but I believe it holds. I also think that many people and organizations that wield destructive power in our society are those that have these skills and are able to exploit various systems for their own gain. Thus it behooves others of us with less money and ability to manipulate and exploit to become as sophisticated in our thinking as possible so as to spot what they are doing and to create alternative ways of thinking and doing to at least carry forward into the future.

Adrian Skilling said...

As several commentators have mentioned, the (far) left Jeremy Corbyn campaign to lead the UK labour party is extremely interesting and relevant here. He is being heaving smeared, as a populist, a disaster for the economy etc.. He has suggested re-nationalising railways and energy companies, QE for the people, rising Corporation tax, private rent controls, clamping down on tax avoidance.

Conservatives have set the terms of debate for too long, all about reducing the deficit. Corbyn is a breath of fresh air, and real opening up the stale politics we've had in the UK.

The message from the old Labourites is that they lost the last election by being too far left. In fact their policies were almost identical to the Conservatives - they offered nothing new and your analysis shows that just trying to copy the other guys doesn't work, when surely the other guys can implement their own policies better than you can. I think the old Labourites are wrong and there is quite an appetite for more left-wing policies in the UK.

Adrian Ayres Fisher said...

@Violet Cabra, (and JMG and others reading this)

Dear Violet,

You asked JMG, Do you have any suggestions for people who want to encourage thoughtfulness in their communities in order to strengthen democracy?

If I may, while not an archdruid or particularly wise, I have been trying to help answer that question for many years, and have come up with various answers or approaches.

In my own life, after some years of feeling completely alone, I found a group --actually several overlapping groups--of like-minded, thinking people working together on various projects. Not that I've had a huge effect, but at various times I've been a classroom teacher explicitly teaching thinking skills, an advocate, and a liaison between various groups, carrying energy, as it were. And then there's blogging, writing, speaking, and leading workshops, along with hands-on ecosystem work. All, I must emphasize, on a hyper-local level. (For example, I do workshops for my local Quaker Meeting--a few months ago about soil, at the end of this month about climate change, the pope's encyclical and Quaker responses.) A group I'm associated with (though I'm not at all one of the founders or leaders) organizes educational events such as edible garden tours so people can share their knowledge and skills.

I also have taken part in local government: whenever my municipality announces the need for citizen input on some aspect of planning, I'm there. You'd be surprised at how few citizens show up to these kinds of things, but this is democracy in action. A small group of us have been able to get involved and advocate for better transit planning, adding sustainability and climate-change considerations to our town's comprehensive plan, getting the town to purchase green energy, and other things.

Through my experiences I have come to believe that the butterfly effect manifests in each person's life and that there's no best way to help solve problems such as nurturing thinking skills or democracy. What you do sends ripples everywhere. It seems that if one can pay attention to and achieve clarity on what one should be doing oneself, openings for further action will occur in the areas one is drawn to and has talent for. Thus, you mention leading plant walks. Keep doing that! Keep studying plants (one of my own favorite areas of study) and get to know other people with similar interests. You never know where that might lead.

I believe your Jewish tradition has much to offer on the subject of discernment and life work. for me, there is a strong spiritual component in all of this; my spiritual life is infused with love of the living earth and thus my morality, ethics, and the discernment of a right course of action.

I hope I am not coming off as one of those busy-body, advice-giving, annoying aunts, but your questions strike a resonant chord.

In the light (as we Quakers say),


Adrian Ayres Fisher said...


You asked what William Morris books I found in my long unopened box. These were The Sundering Flood, Parts I and II, and The Well at the World's End. I remember also reading News from Nowhere.

At the time and subsequently I was also reading for pleasure and self instruction, besides the science fiction, C.S. Lewis' works for adults, Chretien de Troyes, John Ruskin (oh those sentences billowing like ocean swells across the page!), Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, More's Utopia and so forth. I recently revisited the Blake, and probably should take a look at these others again, too.

Never did read any of the Conan stories, though as a child I encountered the character in my brothers' comic books.

Tidlösa said...

I second "Onething" above.

The Republican debate was very revealing. It shows what a bunch of nasty, pathological liars many of those politicians are. Rand Paul blurts out "you´re buying politicians", at which Trump goes in for the kill, pointing out that - surprise - Paul himself took money from The Donald! Later, Paul and some others *still* attack Trump for "buying politicians", Trump responding that almost everyone on stage (except Scott Walker, I think) has taken money from him...

Of course politicians lie and cheat, but this must be one of the first times their lies are so obviously exposed! The fascinating thing is how Rand Paul and the rest doesn´t seem to have any sense of "damage control" (or propriety) - they lie brazenly in front of millions of viewers, despite Trump (who can expose them easily) being literally in the same room?! Sociopathic behavior? Or just sheer desperation? Or do they actually expect Republican voters to continue supporting them?

Now, *that* would be scary...

I don´t think Trump is better than the others (I mean, he *admits* buying politicians!), but at least his appearence (and perhaps his future disappearence) will create some much needed commotion, a bit like when Ross Perot´s difficulties inadvertently exposed the undemocratic character of many U.S. elections, Perot (a billionaire!) having serious problems getting on the ballot in many key states.

Hopefully, this might make some people think.

Violet Cabra said...

Adrian, thank you for your beautiful response. the core concepts you wrote about are things I've been getting a lot of recently, from other people as well, and I'm going to need to meditate on them a bit.

best wishes,

Caryn said...

Andropos Nebulus:

I'm sure other folks on this thread can answer your question more eloquently than I, but it seems I got here first. I'll give it a go.

Why bother fighting for social justice programs in the twilight of decline?

1) Barring some sudden unforeseen catastrophe, like the Yellowstone Caldera blowing up and destroying most of North America... like tomorrow: We're in the midst of a slower decline, say another 100 years? Many of us will still be struggling down the slope for the rest of our lifetimes. The fabric of our civilization will still mean a lot to our collective lifestyles and abilities to cope or not as we descend, and (again, barring some sudden, sweeping collapse) during and after societal collapse. Rome fell, yet Rome is still a populated city today. It's not like it doesn't matter, because we'll ALL be gone and dead shortly. There will be people left who will carry some of our civilization with them.

Does it make sense then to throw in the towel now, on the most vulnerable in society? Not to mention the moral implications of such a course of action/inaction.

2) Again, as a lay-person and an artist, not an economist, I'm hardly the best person to articulate this, but: From all of the economic readings I've seen, organizing a more even playing field, social safety nets, etc… would probably have the opposite effect to the one you are describing. No one is advocating a McMansion and luxuriant middle-class lifestyle for all, just affordable healthcare and 'food security', equal treatment under the law.
Allowing the continuation and growth of the rapacious oligarchy; income inequality, civil rights inequality, and the unchecked financial casino to keep spinning will drive the nails into the coffin of the environmental destruction and societal collapse much faster. The more inequality= the more riots, clashes, destruction.

Without a doubt, most 1st-worlders will have to learn to live with less than they have and expect now whether or not the politicians talk about it or not, whether or not there is any policy for sane decline to a sustainable level, (there won't be). A lot of us are doing it anyway, more and more are personally, individually 'collapsing' to LESS regardless of what society at large does, regardless of whether or not we chose it or were forced into it. Those folks at the bottom of the heap are capable of living with less and have economic survival skills that those living with more don't have.
No doubt there will be clashes, riots, death. In this fractal collapse, some 'chunks' of the populace will fall, (a.k.a. die) tragically. Why exacerbate it?

Kind of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater because the baby would only grow up and die eventually anyway.

latheChuck said...

On the topic of "local action", a tale: I live in a neighborhood of single-family homes, near Washington DC ("inside the Beltway"). The nearest grocery store to my house is about a mile "as the crow flies", but by car it's more like three. By bicycle, I notice some substantial hills. The entire neighborhood of several hundred homes is accessible through just one road, which now includes a full-time surveillance camera. I can avoid the worst of the hills by taking my bike through a wooded lot on a sometimes-muddy trail of less than 100 yards, which connects to other trails and almost to a grocery store. Some of my neighbors have been agitating for years to have a paved trail bypass The Big Hill, so the local government studied the problem, and has recently acquired rights to the land. So, now it's just a matter of building it, right?

Well, no. One of my neighbors claims that a "criminal element" is just waiting for this hike/bike trail to be built so they can infiltrate the neighborhood. He is so desperately fearful of this that he has taken a petition door-to-door, claiming support from those of us who oppose him (and other bogus arguments), gathering signatures to "Stop the Bike Path!"

So, now the planning board needs to figure out whether it's the vocal minority that wants it, or that wants it stopped. How do we find evidence that "bicycle access does NOT increase crime"? It's like asking for proof that "eating vegetables does NOT cause baldness". Who would have ever considered the possibility of something so absurd?

Caryn said...

I also wanted to thank those of you, above, who referenced Chris Hedges. I've been sneaking in several youtube interviews of his in the past few days and yes, his analysis very much echo's our Archdruid's. It's always helpful to hear something, such as collapse, with breadth and complexity iterated in a couple of different ways to understand more fully.

Wow, so many books to get now!

Phil Knight said...

This might have already been posted, but I think it could be classed as a "data point".

MIckGspot said...

latheChuck asked " How do we find evidence that "bicycle access does NOT increase crime"?

I would talk to the local cops on that one. See if they can generate reports of the top crime areas then compare to roads with and without bike lanes nearby.

My guess is that the criminal majority is not lurking on their ten speed human powered machines waiting for easy prey but then I don't live in DC. The criminal element in my neighborhood (there is a load of them here) normally drive cars. I bike all over the place and have never encountered gangstas on human powered wheels yet.

Ceworthe said...

I agree with your assessment of Trump as fitting the embodiment of führerprinzip from having watched him on the Apprentice (Yes, I watched it-Ceworthe hangs head in shame :-( ) However he is fascinating as a character, as he seems to veer wildly from one opinion to the other, depending on mood,his word is law and "speaks his mind" with absolutely no regard as to what others think at all. As far as someone speaking one's mind as a criteria to be president, it depends on whether what flies out of one's mind and mouth is worth anything at all. The wild and totally unthinking loyalty his followers have is scary, and sets off red warning lights in my brain.
His son Donald, Jr. seems at times to listen to his dad and have a WTF look on his face as if he can't believe what his dad just said, and sometimes has a rather frightened look. Ivanka, his daughter, seems to try to veer his wild rantings into something more rational and practical. His son Eric reminds me of Rolf in The Sound of Music (nodding his head in agreement unconditionally). And Melania impresses me as someone who would have enjoyed giving the "thumbs down to some poor slob in the Roman Coliseum. I shudder to think of what international relations would be like if Trump should happen to win the presidency

larrykulesza said...

News from the front:

I live in NE Washington, in a small town called Kettle Falls. Been here since 1988. Been in the area since 1973 when we went "back to the land". We're 80 miles north of Spokane and about 20 miles form the Canadian border. At the moment there are multiple wildfires burning out of control in my 5 minutes away, one 20 get the picture. The governor has declared our county a disaster area...except that there are no firefighting resources that can be they are sending the National Guard. You can't volunteer to help because you aren't "trained". These are big fires destroying homes and there are not enough resources to combat them. This is what the future looks like. We will accept prayers, good wishes and whatever magic can be sent our way. If you are curious, go on Facebook and search "Tri County Fire Danger News". Keeping faith for close to 50 years. Thanking JMG for a forum for our voices from the wilderness...