Besides making the occasional video, I will soon be expressing myself in the art of editorial cartoons which is my true passion. I’ve featured some great ones on this blog: David Horsey, Tom Toles, and Matt Wuerker. Editorial cartoons are interesting to me because they can give an entire synopsis in one shot, and if done effectively, they will stick in your mind and make you think about the issue. There’s a reason why despotic governments don’t like articulate cartoonists. Without a doubt, the best editorial cartoonists are some of the most informed people. You have to be knowledgable about world events and issues in order to produce art that will convey meaningful social commentary. So this is something I want to start doing since I do have the artistic skills. Let’s see if I can pull it off.
It reminds me a little of an M. Wuerker cartoon from several years ago concerning the resource-sucking war machine of the American Empire:
Has anyone checked their wallet recently? For most, that Ponzi-scheming, resource-plundering American war machine, aka Military Industrial Complex, has relieved you of some major coinage over the years. For others, it has exterminated their country, if not their life.
Back to the Turkish cartoonist Zaman, here is another of his that struck me:
I interpret this one on several different levels. The first message that came to me was America’s prison industrial complex and the fact that America is number one in locking people up:
…According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports…
I also thought about the fact that America is basically an open-air prison with this country having become a pervasive Security and Surveillance State and all branches of its government usurped by elite monied interests. As the corrupt Boss Tweed said in the movie ‘The Gangs of New York’, “The appearance of law must be upheld, especially when it’s being broken.”
Hello my fellow Earthlings. We think we’re so fucking clever, don’t we. We’ll probably revert to our rodent instincts and burrow underground when the shit really hits the fan. With the eco-apocalypse fast approaching, the best way for the human species to redeem itself would be to voluntarily undergo a cultural and spiritual transformation on a global scale. When I say spiritual, I mean honoring the ground we walk on and not some false deity. Science, not mythology, is the basis for my beliefs. This Earth is all we really have. Start caring for it and respecting it with the same reverence and homage we pay to our electronic toys of mass distraction, i.e. TV, iphones, video games, computers, etc…
Know that this culture of self-worship and materialism is sending our species to the dustbin of failed evolutionary experiments, most certainly by the end of this century if not mid-century. The evidence is all around us if only we care to open our eyes.
Below is a video I put together to illustrate the suffocation of the real world beneath the concrete, steel, and asphalt world humans have superimposed on it. We have worked to replace what is genuine and long-lasting with something that is artificial and unsustainable. And all the science says this world we have created from fossil fuels cannot be maintained in the long run, not even with so-called renewable energy. On top of that mess, we are wrecking the planet’s biosphere and ensuring that our descendants will have no chance to experience nature or a habitable planet. We have quite literally destroyed our only true home, leaving us vulnerable to the vicious elements of the outside world which are growing ever worse in the form of climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation.
I’m afraid that confronting this civilization-ending calamity is not a solo endeavor, but must be a global undertaking. As someone said on this site before, the success of a society, be it an ancient tribe or a technologically advanced people, depends on whether there is cooperation and shared sacrifice. I don’t have to tell you that in today’s world, such traits are in short shrift. Individualism and self-interest dominate over any sort of collectivism and altruism. Self-glorification and the almighty profit motive are not going to solve these problems. The solution for global ecological destruction will not be found in an accounting scheme or any other such capitalist interest.
It’s time to face what we have done to the planet and ourselves. I don’t expect any such great awakening to occur. I’m fairly confident that we will stumble along into total collapse with all the usual mayhem that ensues in such an event – drought, famine, pestilence, and war. We humans had such promise, but we’re throwing it all away. If only we would grow up.
The ability to adapt to various environmental conditions and challenges has enabled our species to spread throughout the globe. But what about mankind’s superior ability to bullshit itself? The myriad of crises facing the human species would certainly demand a sober acceptance and discussion of the civilization-ending situation we find ourselves barreling towards, would it not? But instead we have the profit-seeking merchants of the fossil fuel industry funding ‘climate denial’ groups in order to fabricate an atmosphere of controversy on the subject. We’re fighting a losing battle against mother nature, and New Orleans looks to be the first U.S. city that will soon be permanently underwater. Or take the leader of our faux democracy, Barack Obama, and his bogus proclamation of an “economy on the mend”. The reality is that Obama has allowed and facilitated the further fleecing of the middle class by giving control of the U.S. housing market to the same financial speculators who caused the financial crash in the first place. Another example would be the idea that treating sick people as a source for extracting profit would make a good model for a nation’s healthcare system. The ballooning costs and poor health outcomes paint a different reality. Still another example would be the idea that straddling an entire generation of young people with insurmountable debt to fund their education is beneficial to society, even if there were jobs to be had.
There are endless examples to illustrate the point, but to add just one more to the list we have a report from the Smithsonian concerning the fraudulent labeling of fish on your dinner plate.
The non-profit oceans conservation group Oceana just announced the results of one of the largest seafood fraud investigations to date, revealing just how many seafood sellers around the United States are less than honest about their offerings.
The study compiled data from more than 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retailers in 21 states between 2010 to 2012. DNA testing showed that 33 percent of those samples were mislabeled or posing as fish that they were not. Samples claimed to be tuna and snapper had the highest fail rates, at 59 percent and 87 percent, respectively. Only seven of 120 samples of “red snapper” purchased nationwide actually proved to be red snapper. The rest belonged to any of six different misrepresented species.
As Quartz points out, in Chicago, Austin, New York and Washington D.C., every single sushi restaurant sampled sold mislabeled tuna. For example, in 84 percent of samples, “white tuna” turned out to be escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable oily anal leakage.
This graph, from Oceana, gives a sense of the magnitude of the problem:
So while the last Bluefin Tuna is hunted down with sonar-equipped fishing fleets, the sushi bars and fishmongers are selling you laxative inducing seafood. You didn’t think Peak Fish could occur without it affecting the menu, did you? On the other hand, maybe you really don’t want to eat the Tuna after all…
And don’t buy the ‘sustainable seafood’ propaganda…
After the heady days of our fossil fuel burning orgy come to an end, I’m sure that self-delusion and mankind’s consummate ability to bullshit oneself will no longer be traits useful for self-preservation.
The usual suspects of drought, famine, pestilence and war come to mind when one thinks of a future population crash. The ongoing drought in America’s bread basket appears to be just a foretaste of what’s in the climate chaos pipeline.
…Climate change will also lead to changes in global rainfall patterns, intensifying both droughts and floods across the globe. The Clausius-Clapeyron equation dictates that the saturation vapor pressure of water increases nearly exponentially with temperature. Therefore, a warmer atmosphere will allow for more evaporation of water and an intensification of the hydrologic cycle, leading to increases in rainfall in some regions and decreases in others. At the present, rainfall has increased in the mid- and high-latitudes and in the tropics, while it has decreased in the sub-tropics. If global average temperature increases by 2 °C, dry-season precipitation in northern Africa, southern Europe, and western Australia is projected to decrease by ~20%, and that in the southwestern United States, eastern South America, and southern Africa to decrease by ~10%, which will have a profound impact on crop productivity and water resources. For comparison, the American “dust bowl” in the 1930s was the result of a ~10% decrease in rainfall over a decade. A reduction in mountain snow pack and glaciers will also exacerbate stresses on water resources. Climate change is also predicted to increase the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heat waves, heavy precipitation events, and flooding. Additionally, if global average temperature increases by 1.5- 2.5 °C, approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species will be at risk of extinction. As in the case of rising sea level, these consequences of climate change are irreversible on a 1,000-year timescale because temperature increases caused by elevated CO2 are expected to persist for that time period even if carbon emissions are fully curtailed [Solomon et al., 2009; IPCC, 2007]…
Now for the current study(actual report is here) which says that we are only eight years away from a life-altering megadrought:
Beginning in just eight years, we could see permanent climate conditions across the North American Southwest that are comparable to the worst megadrought in 1,000 years. (1)
The latest research from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University published in December 2012 has some truly astounding news. The megadroughts referred to in the paper published in Nature Climate Change happened around about 900 to 1300 AD and are so extreme that they have no modern counterpart for comparison (these megadroughts will be referred to in the following as the “12th century megadrought”). The research was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
We have been warned for decades that we would be facing a megadrought if we did not do something about climate pollution. We did not, and now according to the projections of a new study, that is just what the future may hold. And remember, projected conditions similar to the worst megadrought in 1,000 years would be the baseline conditions. Dry periods, which we normally refer to as drought times today, would be superimposed on top of the megadrought extremeness…
…The results of the new research are critically deserving of an alarmist tone. That we could slip into profound continuous drought so soon is certainly a surprise to most of us, to say the least. The typical consensus opinion of unrestrained climate pollution impacts by the year 2100 only tells us that permanent drought will come to many parts of the world and, basically, that dry areas could become drier. The news that we could be experiencing permanent drought on the scale of megadrought proportions – beginning in only eight years – should be considered a global threat of the highest order…
…This “most severe, but temporary, long-term decrease in flow recorded” is the concept we need to understand. This is the megadrought reference. A 10 percent reduction beginning 2021 to 2040 is extreme enough for these researchers to compare the average conditions projected for the very near future to the 12th Century megadrought. This single message is critical and it was missed by popular reporting. Just to be sure I am clear: this quote “temporary, but long-term decreases in flow” here refers to these 75- to 200 year-long megadroughts, the last one occurring about 1,000 years ago or in the 12th Century. These droughts were temporary, like the droughts of today, but in the near future, conditions comparable to these droughts will be the average climate condition. Dry periods that we know as drought today will be on top of megadrought dryness…
And from a recent talk by Jeff Lukas, the Senior Research Associate of Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado:
On January 17, 2013, Jeff Lukas, the Senior Research Associate of Western Water Assessment at the University of Colorado, gave an hour-long presentation at the most recent Weather and Climate Summit. The take-away from his presentation is this: droughts will be getting worse, no question about it. Cause: climate change. Time-frame: already started. And a potential megadrought, a phenomena that hasn’t reared its ugly head for at least 150 years, poses a real and serious risk that needs to be planned for…
…Megadroughts, are generally considered to be periods of 20 years or longer where continuous, or mostly continuous extreme drought covers a very large area, typically about 1/3 of the lower 48 (US states). And they’re as bad as they sound – maybe worse.
If such a drought happens, the Colorado River’s flow will drop drastically. The Bureau of Reclamation, which estimates that 25% of the US food supply is grown using Colorado River water, has already done a study to simulate a megadrought; results: Glen Canyon Dam hydro plant would have to stop generating power for about 20 years (two separate stretches of 10 years during the simulation). Both lake Mead and Lake Powell would see water levels drop by about 100 feet…
Jeff Lukas explained in his talk that there have been times in the past 1,000+ years when drought was so bad that the Colorado River (which supplies both Lake Mead and Powell) flowed at 25% below its current flow rate. And that very low level of flow was sustained for decades. Lukas says that such a scenario is definitely possible today. In fact, he says it is such a high risk that it needs to be planned for.
…For those that don’t know, the Colorado River is already maxed out. The Southwest has seen some of the highest US population growth over recent decades, and coupled with farming demands, the river water is nearly all spoken for…
…He concludes that drought is seriously underestimated as a severe threat – even if a megadrought doesn’t develop in the near-future. Because of warming he says there will be more drought than we’ve ever seen before. And the droughts that would otherwise be moderate will now be severe – intensity will ratchet upwards with temperature. He also says that trends of the past several years are worrying when compared to the record that dates back to the year 750…
If a megadrought does unfold, past episodes may be a guide to the future. Lukas outlines a few of the effects that have been uncovered regarding past megadroughts: sand dunes forming in western Nebraska (i.e. no plants, just sand), more frequent wildfire, and rapidly dropping lake levels. One consequence that Lukas didn’t talk about was how drought-killed plants stop pulling CO2 out of the air.
…Right now, the dams and reservoirs along the Colorado can capture and store runoff, even from severe rainfall events, but only up to their maximum storage capacity, which is around 60 million acre feet, or about 4 years worth of water demand. Groundwater can be pumped up (i.e. wells) in many places, but that resource is already in sharp decline.
Are we going to wage an all-out war on reality while the natural world crumbles beneath our feet? By all available evidence – yes. The corrosive and corrupting effect of capital is working its Voodoo magic behind the scenes to ensure that industrial civilization will not go away quietly in the night, but will hang on to the bitter end. In response to anyone challenging the primacy of fossil fuels, Big Oil says “From my cold, dead hands!’.
According to a new report by geoscientist J. David Hughes, the cost of tar sands appears to outweigh any imagined benefits:
An EROEI of less than 3:1 for 80% of tar sands and the U.S. is counting on that for a large percentage of its oil ‘needs’, currently 24%? And the fossil fuel industry/government sock-puppet PR machine is touting this as a viable source of energy to prop up our vacuous, corporate manufactured, McDonaldized culture.
With all the cataclysmic problems bearing down on mankind and his industrial civilization, one recurrent thought I have is, “Will humans ever get their act together?” I live in one of the more backward states of the union, so it comes as no surprise that we are at the forefront of the McDonaldization of society and the rejection of science. What a surprise for a state which ranks near the bottom of the nation’s education ranking. The latest evidence of this escapism from reality is AZ bill SB1213:
I’ve been told that during hard times like Depressions, or the current unravelling of industrial civilization, a lucrative job to have is fortune-telling, psychic reading, and similar hocus-pocus shenanigans which cater to peoples’ mental breakdown and flight into fantasy. So as the masses consult with palm readers in this time of slow-motion destruction, the sharks on Wall Street and our corporate overlords will continue to grab and pickpocket every last shred of wealth and revenue stream remaining on Main street. The Thieves in High Places will never go to jail because they’ve bought off all the branches of government and corporate personhood provides legal cover for their crimes.
While the thought police are outlawing the reality of human-induced climate change, the ‘right to bear weapons of war’ crowd are doing the same.
According the head of the NRA, limiting the number of bullets a citizen can spray into the air is a threat to the well-being of society:
…Semi-automatic technology has been around for a hundred years. If you limit the American public’s access to semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive…”
~ Wayne LaPierre
You can expect more and more of the above craziness to manifest itself in the coming years as reality, in the form of resource constraints and the ravages of unfettered capitalism, kicks into high gear and imposes itself on industrial civilization. I don’t mean to pick solely on the U.S. because this craziness is happening on a global scale wherever fossil fuel dependency has taken root and the Western way-of-life has been adopted. Nevertheless, America is the leader of this mass delusion. We’re even losing our sense of humor as we begin the great unwinding. How are we supposed to lampoon our leaders if they outlaw photoshopping?:
A war on satire cannot be a good omen for an Empire in decline.
Don’t you feel reassured of man’s ability to deftly navigate peak everything and climate chaos? If the human species doesn’t like something, it just legislates it out of sight and out of mind.
Jim Jarmusch’s 1986 masterpiece “Down by Law” with its rolling panorama of bleak pre-Katrina Louisiana, and distant, blank character stares suggesting inchoate malaise, effectively captured the unarticulated angst of the ascendant Reagan generation.
Like canaries in a coal mine, Jarmusch and other artists of the era anticipated the contemporary assault on class consciousness with pinpoint precision-decades in advance of the more cognitive punditry in evidence today.
This brings us to an interesting development in today’s post crash histrionics, which provides a conveniently compact diorama on display for all to view and interpret. We begin with what is intuitively obvious to any who care to observe, and that is the dynamic change in the character of the residential real estate market in most parts of the country, but especially evident in those areas hardest hit by the bursting bubble of speculative real estate.
This can be nicely cataloged by examining the infill areas of Southern California know as the “Inland Empire”.
Pre-2008 crash, these areas offered semi-affordable buying opportunities for homeowners priced out of the highly desirable coastal California markets, as well as respite for inner city residents looking to escape gang violence. Properties could be had for 1/3-1/2 of the price of a comparable dwelling in the more desirable areas near the coast and employment centers, but in return a 30-50 mile one way commute was extracted as compensation. In the era of $2/gal gas, this was deemed acceptable, especially as around the water cooler scuttlebutt yielded the notion that such a property could be bought and sold at a 50% profit 3 years later, with the proceeds used to buy a house closer to the employment centers thereby rendering the commute temporary.
This became a de rigueur business plan of many lower middle class workers, who one must acknowledge otherwise had a 1 in 10,000 chance in aggregating enough savings to achieve even a modicum of survivability in retirement.
I would make the case that the motivations were at the very least in line with the conventional bourgeoisie wisdom of bootstrapping one self’s upward in the social mobility chain by taking on some risk and making investments to better one’s life standing.
This explanation of course runs afoul of the current bourgeoisie narrative, which seeks to demonize those that participated in such shenanigans as irresponsible slobs and layabouts, lying on loan applications in a blatant attempt to defraud the salt of the earth folks in the financial industry of their hard earned capital. Because to concede that these people were simply following the time tried examples set forth by their more well endowed peers would be to point out structural cracks in a system that is perennially corrupt and unworkable.
So it goes something like this, if I do it and succeed, I shall be valorized, if you do the same thing and fail, it’s because you’re a dishonest layabout gaming the system.
OK, so now here is where it gets interesting.
The combination of rising gasoline prices, massive job losses and a real estate market in free fall meant that the “Inland Empire” was to become a major epicenter in residential foreclosures. To add insult to injury, the daily commutes to employment centers had become traffic nightmares, with a typical 40 mile commute taking 2 hours each way, so naturally private companies put in toll roads and toll lanes on state owned freeways and charged substantial toll fees to avoid this congestion.
As is well documented today, when 15 homes in a tract of 40 homes goes into foreclosure, no one else can sell their home either.
So guess what happens? Groups of institutionalized investors swoop in to buy these properties for pennies on the dollar, paying for them in cash as no realistic mechanism for property appraisal exists when such a large percentage of homes are in foreclosure.
All this anguish comes in pursuit of a modest home in the exurb of San Bernardino County, the epicenter of the Southern California housing crash. Plummeting values here sparked a vicious wave of foreclosures.
But it’s precisely because prices fell so far here that Sepe can’t buy a house now. In a sharp irony, many would-be homeowners in hard-hit markets can’t compete with a flood of all-cash offers from investors, some backed by Wall Street war chests.
So they’re missing out on the only upside of the real estate crash: historically low prices and interest rates.
The repeated rejections come despite Sepe’s solid qualifications: a stable job as a cell tower technician and a pre-approved home loan. He watches as houses hit the market, then get scooped up within an hour. He offered a battle metaphor to describe his plight.
“I am this little country,” he said. “And it’s like this huge country is coming and attacking my country, and I can’t win.”
No one thinks to consider this effect in terms of class consciousness, as the investors are of course valorized and the free market is commended for saving the real estate world in general, and those hapless former homeowners in particular. It is important to realize what is happening here, before our very eyes, and that is a.) the erasing and transference of an entire generation of home owners into permanent renters, and b.) the beginning of capital consolidation into the rentier class, effective displacing mom and pop rental property owners by big investment conglomerates like Blackstone Group and Oaktree Capital Management.
San Bernardino County, as well as two of its largest cities, Ontario and Fontana, stirred a national controversy when it recently considered — then shelved — a plan to use eminent domain to seize and restructure underwater mortgages. In a testament to the lasting effects of the crash, about 40% of borrowers in the region still owe more on their properties than they’re worth, according to mortgage tracking firm CoreLogic.
But a turnaround is well underway, thanks in part to deep-pocketed investors snapping up bargains with cash. The housing supply is now so tight that it’s common for home shoppers to put in 20 or 30 offers before securing a house, real estate agents say.
Aware of the destructive dynamic and further slide down the slope of income inequality, the county (with support from the State under Jerry Brown) put forth a proposal to seize the blighted properties under eminent domain laws, and then once owned by the county, to issue a county bond to provide funds at below market rates to loan back to the foreclosed homeowners allowing them to keep their homes.
Note the issue here is not so much below market loan rates, but availability of a lender (the county) to fill in for private mortgages, who will not loan under any circumstances into these blighted neighborhoods.
But of course this well meaning effort was drowned in the bathtub by the small gubymint crowd, you can well imagine the hew and cry of the conservative bourgeoisie when faced with such an obvious interference in the “free market”. Imagine the perceived travesty of a government entity intervening to prohibit free market evangelists from extracting their pound of flesh and smashing down an entire generation of the middle class back to the stone age and, I hope it goes without saying, perpetually converting these hapless suckers into a permanent revenue stream while they pay rent.
Private equity groups, including Oaktree Capital Management and Blackstone Group, have formed or partnered with companies dedicated to buying single-family homes. Unlike the flippers made famous by the housing boom, these institutional investors are in it for the long haul. They’re buying homes in bulk, then renting and holding them to reap long-term price appreciation.
Some of these private equity giants and Wall Street firms have employed former homebuilding pros and partnered with big apartment managers. Their plan is to transform the single-family home rental business, once a largely mom-and-pop affair, into a full-scale industry.
The Santa Monica real estate investment firm Colony Capital, founded by Tom Barrack, last year won an auction by the federal government to purchase 970 foreclosed homes in California, Arizona and Nevada from mortgage titan Fannie Mae for $176 million. Most of the California properties were in the Inland Empire.
Carrington Mortgage Holdings, based in Aliso Viejo, has partnered with Oaktree to buy and rent out single-family homes. Carrington spokesman Rick Sharga acknowledged that cash buyers have an advantage. But he said competition has helped revive a depressed market.
As promised, this neatly packaged diorama shows the full circle of exploitation and alienation of a full blown class war, in one easy to grasp trajectory:
– Financial capital consolidates and exploits the residential home mortgage market, securitizing these lousy loans for huge profits.
– When the boom goes bust, the same actors campaign aggressively to prohibit any mortgage relief, forcing widespread bankruptcies and foreclosures.
– The marketing arm of the financial capitalist spends tens of millions of dollars socializing the idea that these homeowners were and are morally deficient, and deserve no recourse. They are to be punished for their transgressions.
– These same financial capitalists with prey now firmly trapped then look for ways to further exploit their captives, and find examples in privatizing freeway systems to extract more revenue from commuters trapped in gridlock.
– The conservative and tea party fanatics interrupt their sheet-less Klan party long enough to advance the popular notion that further deregulation is needed, and demonize any government participation that might circumvent capital’s relentless desire to crush all but the few. In their capable hands, it becomes fashionable to decry government of any kind with a full throated call of Statism, and a groundswell is created to “restore liberty” and allow unfettered capitalism to thrive.
– Having discouraged any state intervention by conflating ideological association to diminished freedom, the mark is ready for the takedown. Large groups of investors swoop in with pennies-on-the-dollar all cash purchases of distressed properties en masse, displacing large segments of the population, and sometimes even renting the properties back to the original homeowner.
The upshot of this large scale displacement by capital effectively unwinds 70 years of New Deal and post WWII governance. State encouragement of home ownership was thought to be a useful means to ensure “skin in the game” for the working class, as in encouraging home ownership, labor strikes were thought to be less likely to occur with heady financial commitments hanging overhead, as well as community ties, might discourage labor activism.
They were right.
So this leaves a vulnerability and an internal contradiction, as large groups of former homeowners become permanent renters, they are disinclined to invest in the community, local economic spending goes way down (what renter will invest in the property?) impacting local business, and property crimes go way up as alienation and other side effects of visible and blatant exploitation percolate to the surface for the working class. Ironically, the size and magnitude of police state intervention will rise significantly as compared to the aborted eminent domain intervention, as now the upper middle class and general bourgeoisie will demand increased police (State) action to knock down property crimes and lawless behavior. Think police checkpoints and constant aerial drone surveillance of these communities.
The other effect as mentioned is the consolidation of the rentier class, wherein these large investment groups begin to “brand” the single family residence as part of a larger portfolio of related revenue streams, e.g. grouping big box stores nearby corporate owned rental developments in backdoor revenue sharing arrangements, eventually degrading to a truck system to more efficiently extract any remaining surplus from the working class. This large scale consolidation will bring the capitalist death spiral to small scale rentiers who own only a few rental properties, they will face exclusionary tactics wherein associated mercantilist outlets will give discounts to large company renters, but not to renters of the small independently owned properties. Further, the coercive laws of competition will be brought to bear on the independents, wherein access to community pools and other trinkets will be offered free or nearly free by the large corporate rent factories, and marketed as “lifestyle” destinations with corporate parties for renters only extending into the domain of social reproduction.
The demise of the independent rentier, or more aptly, the petite bourgeoisie, will follow almost as quickly as the former homeowner himself.
After eating dinner at Arizona’s historic La Posada hotel in Winslow, I walked around the building and discovered a large section of the second floor filled with paintings by artist Tina Mion. I wondered why such interesting and subversive paintings would be featured in a touristy establishment. Ah, she owns the place with her husband. One particular painting struck me as emblematic of the eco-apocalyptic times we are living in. Of course if you simply watched the mainstream news and listened to their talking heads, then you really have no idea what I’m writing about. For you, the most earth-shattering news as of late is the Armageddon of the Carnival cruise ship, the Triumph, and its horror of “no working toilets, limited power and scarce food.” Ironically, this scenario is what the human race will have to look forward to in the larger context of modern man’s ecological overshoot; the Earth’s life-support systems continue to degrade and collapse from the weight of industrial civilization’s ravenous over-exploitation and consumption. Meanwhile, the masses are shocked and dismayed at the breakdown of a luxury liner. Nevermind that such cruise ships, packed with party-going consumers, sail across dying oceans that have been trawled clean of most fish species. Such is the ‘selective awareness’ of industrial capitalist carbon man.
Getting back to Tina Minion’s painting which I took a picture of because I think it’s so symbolic of the present day:
What are the latest headlines which have grabbed my attention?…
Warming is particularly problematic for moose in northern Minnesota. The moose population in the northwestern part of the state plummeted from about 4,000 animals in the mid-1980s to less than 100 animals by the mid-2000s.
Biologists attribute most of this decline to increasing temperatures: when it gets too warm moose typically seek shelter rather than foraging for nutritious foods needed to keep them healthy. They become more vulnerable to tick infestations, which have proliferated as the region has warmed.
Ticks leave moose weakened from blood loss and with hairless patches where they tried to rub off the ticks. Without protective hair, these animals can die from cold exposure in the winter. Individual moose infested with 50,000 to 70,000 ticks — ten to twenty times more than normal — have been documented…
As you might expect, moose are also in trouble in the few other portions of the U.S. where any are left at all, including some areas where moose were essentially gone until fairly recent, still tenuous recoveries. NWF’s Wildlife Promise blog offered this observation yesterday:
Moose were once found as far south as Pennsylvania before over-hunting and habitat destruction wiped them out from much of the eastern United States. Populations in places like Massachusetts are still re-establishing a foothold.
But in New Hampshire, the impact of warmer temperatures on moose are clear and dire. Researchers say New Hampshire moose are literally being eaten alive by ticks. Moose there have to deal with 30,000 ticks at a time in a normal year, but in recent warm years, moose carry as many as 150,000 ticks.
The moose die of anemia, a lack of healthy red blood cells. After the unseasonably warm winter in 2011, they think that it’s likely that all calves born the previous year were killed along with 40 percent of adults.
Being the apex predator won’t save us from the same fate of other large mammals that our currently dropping like flies all around us in what one reader has called “The First Mass Murder of Life on the Planet”. Seeing how extensively we have disassociated ourselves from the natural world, i.e. the foundation for our existence, I would wager that man is probably the only living creature on the face of the earth that cannot innately sense that its time is up. Elaborate and contorted twisting of reality is a special talent of the human species.
…It turns out that aspens generally use shallow soil moisture, which evaporated quickly with increased temperatures during the summer drought of 2002. They then looked at climate data finding that these high temperatures were part of a long-term increasing trend, likely linked with climate change, a unique feature of this drought that separates it from earlier less damaging droughts.
“Forests store about 45 percent of the carbon found on land,” remarked William. “Widespread tree death can radically transform ecosystems, affecting biodiversity, posing fire risks, and even harming local economies. Rapid shifts in ecosystems, particularly through vegetation die-offs could be among the most striking impacts of increased drought and climate change around the globe.”…
…This study pinpoints the trigger of this loss — summer temperature was the most important climate variable for explaining aspen death by drying out surface soil and stressing the trees’ water-transport system. Joe Berry, a co-author and Carnegie staff scientist, noted that understanding how and where the trees get their water was key to unraveling cause and effect in this study. “Since there is a very strong upward trend in Colorado summer temperatures, they could link tree death to climate change,” said Chris Field, director of the Carnegie department. This study is a milestone in linking plant-level physiology measurements with large-scale climate to predict vulnerability to climate change in these forests.
Interestingly, this type of climate-change hot summer drought actually occurred again in 2012, which could indicate more tree die-offs are in the pipeline for the near future.
No, we won’t survive the global die-off of forests. Fake plastic trees and monoculture forests won’t help.
And about that methane clathrate gun:
Thawing permafrost is emitting more climate-heating carbon faster than previously realised. Scientists have now learned that when the ancient carbon locked in the ice thaws and is exposed to sunlight, it turns into carbon dioxide 40 percent faster.
“This really changes the trajectory of the debate” over when and how much carbon will be released as permafrost thaws due to ever warmer temperatures in the Arctic, says researcher Rose Cory of the University of North Carolina…
…“All the evidence, in my opinion, suggests we’re on our way to a three to five degree C world,” Watson told participants at the symposium.
When Watson was chair of the IPCC from 1997 to 2002, optimism was high there’d be a global agreement to limit emissions. “We were hopeful that emissions would not go up at the tremendous rate they are rising now,” he told the Climate News Network, a UK journalism news service.
“(Now) all the promises in the world, which we’re not likely to realise anyway, will not give us a world with only a two degree C rise.
Well, at least we’ll be able to feed ourselves, or maybe not…
To make the future even more brutish and short for any survivors, pathogens once thought to be conquered are building resistance to all antibiotics:
A successful book in the genre of science fiction or horror is said to have effectively created the “suspension of disbelief” in the reader. I say that industrial civilization uses this same tactic to make you, one of its countless minions, believe that all is well under the dominant socio-economic system, that human progress will continue, that nature is an intrinsically worthless entity unless it’s dominated and rapaciously exploited by man, and that the accumulation of material wealth is the end-all and be-all of life. If you reject these precepts of our current social paradigm, then you quickly realize how empty and doomed the system is that we currently live and toil under. Paradoxically, my stress level has been reduced after I came to the conclusion that most everything valued and sought after in the proverbial “Rat Race” of global capitalism is an absolute fraud and joke. Once you realize we’re being lead to a smoking pile of ruin, most things you thought were important suddenly lose all value and significance.
Somehow I just don’t think anyone will be selling T-shirts that say, “I survived climate change and the eco-apocalypse.”
We got the white line fever Become a grave compulsion We got a taste of evil A cannibal addiction We got the rictus cheekbones We got the death row moves Stuck in a retro nightmare We do the speed freak groove
We got cocaine hysteria Tripping the light fantastic We are the sex war children We got amphetamine logic We got the warp drive headf*ck The sonic defecation Implant the bio-electrodes Into the funeral nation
To add to the usual calamities of rampant unbridled capitalism, environmental destruction, and resource depletion, we have the recent news that the US Supreme Court has rejected the 2 decade-long crusade by the Catholic Church to suppress some 77,000 pages of transcripts regarding men ‘o the cloth, as they disclosed their child molesting ways to therapists and church officials.
Of course, we’ve always known in a general sense the sordid overview of their perverted transgressions, mainly from lawsuits and allegations filed by the victims numbering in the thousands. This particular series of events in the last week or two is specific to the largest Catholic Diocese in the US, that of Los Angeles, CA.
I find these events not only shocking, but instructive in a way that gives some insight into what has been called by James Kunstler as the Master Meme, or in other words the baffling tendency for all to heel to the notion that all is well, in the face of pure rottenness.
In considering this multi-decade atrocity, it is helpful to consider the full breadth of the Church, in terms of size and impact in the theological landscape. Roughly 100mm Americans have been baptized Catholic, or about 1/3 of the entire population. The Catholic Church is a corporation, although listed as a non profit. The size of this global multi-national is truly staggering, its spending is estimated at $170 Bn annual, roughly on par with General Electric. It employs an estimated 1mm people worldwide.
So this is no group of fringe cultists, it is a substantial part of the fabric of American life, as well as most other developed countries.
Now given the size and monetary (as well as mutli-national) status of the Church, it is tempting to fit this into the anti-Capitalist narrative, and indeed this might make an interesting post but as a thought exercise I decided to suspend any suspicion that there are “free market forces” at work and simply take the events of the last two weeks at face value, a Rawlsian veil of ignorance so to speak.
I found the results of this viewpoint to be fascinating, in effect an exposed Petri dish of Conservatism and Communitarianism gone bad, with the release of the carefully shrouded documents, we can see the transparent machinations of an institution obsessed with carefully preserving itself in spite of clear damage to the host organism.
And it is this same strain of conservative and communitarian thinking that is infecting the story of the environment, the story of resource depletion, and the story of capitalism. With this Church debacle revealed, we can see how it all plays out in a soup to nuts danse macabre.
To set this up, let’s briefly examine some of the key tenets in Communitarianism, and have a look at a brief history of the Church and its role as keeper of the kingdom for more than 1000 years before the Enlightenment. Firstly, let it be said that the mere premise of acting as a centralized repository of human knowledge for century after century has to be taken seriously. These guys were no dummies, and any serious research into the history of the Church reveals many nuggets of significant learning, for example, the likes of Thomas Aquinas and his theory of Just Price were intellectual milestones in the constructive framework of Mercantilism, while Arnold Toynbee provided much of the intellectual consolidation of these early efforts into a modern (19th century) interpretation.
These are but two of the more interesting examples of how Church thinking presaged modern ethics, economics, and morality. This was of course, precisely what the Church was supposed to be doing (at least in between Crusades). I think it fair to say that given the technology available of the day, these guys had a fairly advanced understanding if not of the scientific subject matter (Ptolemaic thinking comes to mind) but certainly with regard to morality, and the intersection of morals with a variety of subjects in the human condition.
In the context of Communitarianism, this philosophy recognizes the tremendous value of the 1000+ year knowledge base of humanity that has been collected by the Church, or any other community of significant duration. It also introduces the notion (real or imagined) that this knowledge base is simply too large for any given person to itemize and rationalize in a single lifetime. It’s just too much data to deeply investigate each and every topic- so we need trusted advisers, mentors, what have you, who have domain expertise in these areas of morality to advise our reflexive behavior.
Now, within this framework we have a key conceptual underpinning, and that is the history of the community standards as the defacto rule of law. The standard of community is perceived as correct as it is the beneficiary of centuries of human proof. You can think of it as making value decisions based on the 200 day (or 200 years for Church matters) moving average of the stock market, it (Communitarianism) tracks long term trends, and does not reflect day to day volatility. This speaks to the wisdom of human learning and history, and defaults to long term community standards as arbiter of right and wrong. The advantage to this approach is that in moral and ethical matters, the community is to ignore day to day noise and other pop culture sensibilities that in hindsight prove to be poorly formed, and thereby avoiding the whipsawing of an entire culture until cooler heads prevail. In this fashion, the moving average gradually allows adaptation of a culture in a time proven manner.
Conservatism (in the Burkean sense) is quite similar, but is more ideological, property based, and does not necessarily contain the moving average mechanism of Communitarianism that allows incremental advancement of community standards.
For the record, I find some elements of both Burkean conservatism and Communitarianism quite useful, I do not however, consider any of the current crop of self identified small government “conservatives” and free market evangelists to be credible in any way shape or form- they are certainly not Conservatives in the Burkean sense.
These ideologies are most useful in stable, change resistant societies that do not undergo rapid technological advancement. Rapid technological advancement places matters with important ethical repercussions into a time scale that cannot be effectively dealt with on a slow, moving average basis.
Ok, so with those words as preamble, we can have a brief chronology of events which started with the release of the Church’s records of child molestation on Jan 31st, as it turned out contained damning evidence that Cardinal Mahony had willfully and aggressively worked to conceal these acts for many years. This was followed Thursday with Archbishop Gomez’s repudiation of Mahony’s status in the Church (he has been retired for two years).
And on Friday, apparently chagrined in the outing by his successor, Mahony responded with an open letter to the Diocese. Here is one of the more shocking comments Mahony has made:
“Nothing in my own background or education equipped me to deal with this grave problem,” he wrote. “In two years [1962—1964] spent in graduate school earning a master’s degree in social work, no textbook and no lecture ever referred to the sexual abuse of children. While there was some information dealing with child neglect, sexual abuse was never discussed.”
Wow. So with all that 1000+ years of Church knowledge base in human history, with all those advanced degrees, with decades of personal experience in canonical law as well as the detailed study of theology and the human condition, we have that statement? Keep in mind pedophilia has been recognized and universally condemned since the 7th century.
A reply from Ann Landers would have more actionable common sense on the subject of child abuse than this knucklehead can bring to bear.
Also caught up and (deservedly) thrown under the bus was Bishop Thomas Curry, the human relations handyman responsible for managing the sex crimes case load for the Church. This guy was old school Irish brought over from the old country to head up this debacle under Mahony. Notably, he is also an expert scholar in constitutional law, specifically 1st Amendment rights. He stepped down Thursday from his Santa Barbara parish in disgrace. Here is one of his quotes which gives insight into his deflectionary role in Church proceedings:
“The targeting of the Church (particularly in California), the overreaching of district attorneys and prosecutors, and the lack of due process and fairness for the Church has been tyrannical,” he once wrote on a personal blog.
In another online missive, he criticized a San Diego federal judge who had upheld a California law allowing victims to sue for decades-old abuse: “Americans assume that the days of Henry VIII, when rulers declared themselves authorities in religious matters, are long gone in America. For Catholics, unfortunately, that is far from the reality.”
In an email to The Times on Saturday, Curry said he wrote the blog posts to make the point that the Catholic Church was being unfairly blamed for a “society-wide issue.”
“I do believe that it is a mistake for society to treat this as a ‘Catholic Church’ problem,” he said.
You can change a few words around and easily mistake this as from some Tea Party nitwit bloviating from the corporate helm of a multi-national. Or maybe an NRA spokesman.
But heads have rolled right, justice has been served, and now we are all the better for it right? Maybe not, as apparently Mahony was so incensed by the dismissal from Archbishop Gomez, the following retraction was published late Friday:
Gomez issued another statement Friday afternoon: It read: “Questions from the faithful and some members of the news media indicate that it would be helpful for me to clarify the status of Cardinal Roger Mahony and Bishop Thomas Curry.
Cardinal Mahony, as Archbishop Emeritus, and Bishop Curry, as Auxiliary Bishop, remain bishops in good standing in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, with full rights to celebrate the Holy Sacraments of the Church and to minister to the faithful without restriction.”
Before Gomez’s announcement, Mahony had weathered three grand jury investigations and numerous calls for his resignation. He stayed in office until the Vatican’s mandatory retirement age of 75. No criminal charges have been filed against Mahony or anyone in the church hierarchy.
And so the blueprint of deflection and obfuscation is laid forth.
Alien 1: “Lets zip over to Galactic Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha where exists that one habitable planet overrun by its egomaniacal, carbon-burning organisms.”
Alien 2: “You mean the ones that call themselves ‘wise’, but which have completely disassociated themselves from their planet’s life-giving qualities. They have a very bad habit of wielding their technology in a half-hazard and suicidal manner.”
Alien 1: “Yeah that’s the one. I’m surprised they’ve made it this far with all those mushrooming obliteration devices they have stockpiled.”
Aliens 1,2, & 3: “HA! HA!” Look at that! They’re cooking themselves with those carbon-burners… all to support a fleeting lifestyle of high energy and resource consumption.”
Alien 2: “Don’t they know it’ll all be gone very soon and they’ll be left with a moonscaped planet that has the temperature of Venus?”
Alien 1: “Some of them do, but most appear to be prisoners of their own self-indulgent delusions. They refuse to listen no matter how much the sentient minority jump up and down to try to get their attention.
It seems that this earthling species spends most of its time attempting to accumulate more and more of these paper and metal tokens by converting all of their planet’s resources into these fictitious symbols of wealth.”
Alien 3: “The situation looks to be rather grim down there. They don’t seem to have any sort of self-constraint. I believe one of their own even called their species a plague on the planet.”
Alien 2: “Did anyone listen to him?”
Alien 1: “No, the few who heard him mostly just got offended and went back to the business of obsessing over economic growth and accumulating evermore of those paper tokens.”
Alien 2: “Really? Well, what if we install some emergency buttons at strategic locations around the planet to limit their activities? I’m sure the self-aware among them would consider activating such devices.”