Endgame for the world economy?

Even though it seems we’ve seen the end of $4 gas, the economy is not quite out of the woods. Demand destruction and a severely constricting economy have driven down the price of oil and its distillates. But the resulting economic bounce has resembled a dead cat tossed off a skyscraper.

Cheap oil allowed the creation of suburbia. Cheap oil allowed us to use our houses as ATMs. Cheap oil allowed the banks to borrow money inexpensively and lend it slightly more expensively (but it was still cheap). Cheap oil allowed economic growth.
Those days are behind us.
Although they haven’t connected the dots between cheap oil and economic growth, the Associated Press is coming clean with the news that many more banks will fail in the coming year. I suppose they’ll admit all the banks will fail, but only after loss of power prevents them from running the printing presses.
Across the pond, Germany is attempting to rescue a monster European bank, Ireland and Greece had to rescue all thir banks, and The Netherlands nationalized their oil company. And the party’s over in Iceland. The country formerly atop the economic heap — as well as on top of the world — has seen its currency collapse in a matter of weeks. As a result, the cheap labor force has left the country, unwilling to work for worthless currency. Iceland is a mirror of, and a predictor for, the United States. And, much as Europe has caught a cold because Iceland sneezed, the world economy will fall when the U.S. economy collapses.
So, how are things working out here in the Empire? The $85 billion you and I spent to bail out AIG worked out nicely for AIG, but not for us: $61 billion is gone and AIG hasn’t begun to sell their assets, which is what we gave … er, loaned … them the money to do. California and Massachusetts are looking to the federal government for a similar bailout, but I doubt they get much help: Fascism is a pact between corporations and government, not between the nation and the states.
As the economy falters, Obama picks up support in the polls. Seems four more years of the last eight years is a little too much to fathom, even if it means returning to the original brand of neo-conservatism instead of the more recent, and more draconian, version.
How long can we avoid the Greatest Depression, which is already guaranteed? Nobody knows, but we can be certain the economic picture going to get a lot worse. Given the unprecedented acceleration of economic events, I’d bet on weeks, not months. And certainly not years.

Comments 45

  • Great post. I wanted to add, I saw this post floating around on the web:
    The parallels between what happened then and now are striking (even without the mention of oil). When the 1873 mess is coupled with Peak Oil the depth and scale pf the crisis becomes almost unimaginable.

  • Hey Charlene:Did you by any chance mean “1973” above? Either way you are correct as usual.The Panic of 1873 was the worst financial crisis in US history up to that time.
    I paid you a compliment on the previous article site “Crash Course”.
    By the way you didn’t mention Turboguy in your previous blog,on “Crash Course”.
    Did you think that to be too indelicate? If so don’t blame Frank.I have an evil twin
    brother Igor,who sometimes impersonates me on line.He gets me in all manner of trouble.
    Professor Guy and others might think I’m being crazy,overboard,reckless, or what have you at times.At those instances it is not me ,but Igor pretending to me .I just mention this so that everyone knows that at any time Frank appears to be anything less
    than perfect, it is Igor writing–not Frank.

  • Dear professor Guy:
    You nailed it !!
    And world stock markets are experiencing an apocolyptic collapse..Millions of people have invested Trillions in mutual and hedge funds worldwide. Many of these people are rushing to redeem their investments while they still have something left.This is causing a cascading effect that feeds on itself.Selling begets even more selling.Who rides The Pale Horse?

  • The stock market collapse is very beneficial,because it daily is destroying trillions of dollars in excess capital.Capital has to be invested.It is this investment that is so destructive to our planet.Capital has no conscience–devastating the Amazon rainforests or the Madagascar forests or raping the land in New Guinea to extract minerals–it all makes no difference.Capital must be invested.Now it will end.
    Be happy !!

  • This is one of the little chores I keep forgetting to do — get a good book on the Great Depression of the 1930s and find out what it was REALLY like. Times were hard and there was little growth and great scarcity, but people survived.
    The big difference now is that the earth is grossly overpopulated with humans and the spectre of Peak Oil affects food production and thus carrying capacity of the planet.
    Richard Duncan analyzed per capita energy usage and determined that the life of industrial civilization would be 100 years. His formulate projected peak per capita energy use and then extrapolated that a pulse that measured 30% of peak through peak and back to 30% would occupy the duration from 1930 to 2030. This means that, if his projections are correct, by 2030 we would have per capita energy usage for mankind at about the 1930 level.
    We all know that the 1930 level of per capita energy use was far below what we take for granted today. My guess is that human population of the planet will probably ultimately stabilize at about the 1930 level as well. How we get there depends on the mechanism for the plummet, which could be starvation, attrition, outright war, disease accompanying global climate change, or some combination (or some other factor not named herein).
    The financial crisis we are facing now changes lifestyles, reduces pensions and retirement plans, and also likely will reduce the industrial capacity of drilling for more petroleum in those more expensive, hard to reach areas, like deep sea, Arctic, etc. I think that ultimately means more petroleum will be left in the ground because of the lack of financial wherewithall to exploit it moving forward. That is probably a good thing from the standpoint of climate change.
    But, unlike the 1930-vintage Great Depression, we cannot grow our way out of it because we will not have the cheap energy and we are overextended in every which direction.
    Bottom line means human suffering on an unprecedented scale, in my view.
    When we do reach ecological equilibrium, we will be able to maintain a steady state economy of some sort. But the ride is going to be rough to get to that point. The wealthy will attempt to use their assets to buy protection and deny survival to the unwashed masses. The Blackwaters will be hired to suppress the population.
    The Big Question will be how the Hollywood Film Industry will survive. I hope the small budget gendre will make it through, including Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers. This should include actors like George Clooney, Scarlett Johannsen, John Goodman, and even Brad Pitt.
    I also predict that James Howard Kunstler will write and produce a one-man play about his own survival with a whole act devoted to his own favorite recipe for home-made hazel nut ice cream. Ticket sales will be sparse.
    I am still not convinced that the Presidential election will take place as projected because there is to much at stake. But it will be interesting to watch. I could see a power blackout nationwide on Election Day eve…
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Above all people have to eat.In the last Depression most people knew someone who lived on a farm–not this time.
    This is The Terminal Depression.Want proof:Lehmann Bros.,Bear Stearns,AIG,Merrill Lynch
    all SURVIVED the last Depression.

  • “I also predict that James Howard Kunstler will write and produce a one-man play about his own survival with a whole act devoted to his own favorite recipe for home-made hazel nut ice cream. Ticket sales will be sparse.”
    “I am still not convinced that the Presidential election will take place as projected because there is to much at stake. But it will be interesting to watch. I could see a power blackout nationwide on Election Day eve…”
    Well, on the bright side, at least the Diebold voting machines won’t be involved this time.
    You know, talk like this almost makes me nostalgic for 2004.

  • Frank:
    Is it possible to have a Freudian omission? I guess I’ll respond: “Good luck with that.”

  • Charlene:
    You are to be commended for your delicacy and decorum !!

  • Nature is the greatest good.Those who are complicit in it’s destruction have commited
    the greatest crime.These are absolute and immutable principals.We are The Committee of
    Public Safety–defenders of nature.It is so pleasing to see Our Stan playing Saint-Just to Professor Guy’s Robespierre.Off with their heads I say.
    But that is an emotional response.Unlike Pol Pot I advocate keeping the criminals alive in REC Centers where they can make amends for their crimes,undoing their damage
    by restoring the Sloburbs back to nature.

  • As a red blood American I am afraid to say that things are going to get worse before they get better. We have seen this train coming down the track for decades but it have be ignored. The gas situation, in the early 80’s when everyone was lined up at the gas pump trying to get gas. We knew then there was a fossil fuel crisis, know we see it.

  • The Myth of American Normalcy and Vain Hope of its Return
    Americans have come to believe in a lot of mythology. Just look at Sarah Palin’s recent comments about her preference to believe in mythical American exceptionalism and good in the world.
    Americans have been living on a fraudulent gravy train for decades. We plundered the world and took the best for ourselves and lived an increasingly decadent lifestyle, thinking we deserved it because we were “better” than everyone else. And now, with the facade just beginning to crumble, Americans, fooled once again by a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” media, yearn for that old, familiar “normalcy”.
    The “American Dream” as we have known it for the past two or three decades will never return because it cannot return. Americans are going to learn that the world imposes limits on things. We had infinite greed in a finite world. We used to be a nation that had a political party whose philosophy was characterized as “tax and spend”, to be replaced by a far worse mantra of “spend and spend”. Taxes and financial conservatism were viewed as somehow unpatriotic. It was considered the ultimate patriotic duty after 9/11/2001 to go shopping!
    Average Americans are headed for a real shock very soon. Shock will be profound, and it will turn to anger and denial and grief and more anger. Anger will explode if truth is exposed, and it could turn in any or many of several directions. The working class will begin to understand that the wealthy and financial elite have been waging class warfare from the top down. The New Poor will be competing for the scraps and for survival itself in a world of increasing profound scarcity.
    Things are about to change. If you walk around my neck of the woods, you would see how physically fat people are. That is going to change in the next decade. It won’t be long before you see fewer and fewer new vehicles on the road, and then fewer vehicles of any kind. In the “Old Days” there was a class of unfortunate ones called “panhandlers” or “beggars”. They will begin to re-emerge soon, and they won’t be scamming people — they will be trying to survive. It will not be a surprise to see martial law or increased law enforcement presence in the urban areas — men in uniform with machine guns.
    Restaurants will fail right and left. People will have less disposable income and all those hair salons and nail salons and coffee shops with premium coffee will begin to go out of business. Airlines will fail. Cities will begin to go bankrupt. City services will be reduced or eliminated or less dependable.
    People will begin to learn to be less trusting of their neighbors. Theft will become more rampant. People will learn that when they work for each other they have to get paid up front and not accept checks for payment, because checks will often prove to be no good.
    There will be anger. There will be stress. There will be hunger. There will be violence.
    As Richard Heinberg wrote, “The Party’s Over.” It seemed like fun while it lasted, but it couldn’t and so it didn’t. What was once normal will become fantasy and distant memory as reality intervenes on a massive scale.
    On the other hand, when I ride the bus in the poorest section of San Francisco, the Mission District, I see happy children who don’t necessarily know that American-style poverty is bad. The coming changes will be difficult, tumultuous and probably dangerous, but life will go on and there will always be good to find in the world. One of my personal secrets is to go find an urban or rural raptor and just watch it for a while. Raptors are stress-busters for me, and everyone can find their own in the face of nature, in the face of a child, in the songs of various cultures, or in the memory or presence of a loved one. We can all ground ourselvs in our internal normalcy as the externalities come and go.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • the role of high technology in the financial collapse
    This is an area in which very little has been said. Maybe it never will because of the vested interests involved. But I will state unequivocally my view that this tsunami of financial misconduct, devastating greed, and stupendous shenanigans could not possibly have transpired without high techology in communications, computing, and processing of transactions.
    Michael Hudson has described in brief the algorithm-driven computer transactions that take place almost at the speed of light that generated mass profits by minute changes in market values. No human or organization of humans could ever begin to produce that mass of small transactions that cumulatively produced billions and even trillions of dollars of impact on the world economy. Without high technology in every portion of the field of financial endeavor, the process would have been hugely slower, more subject to scrutiny and more accessible to timely intervention. Instead, computers crunch data mindlessly, fiberoptics shift information around the world at the speed of light, and without reality checking of any sort. If the software says the houses are worth a million each and are sold for 1.25, and there are 1230 of them, the computer has no way of knowing the value was inflated artificially by collusion between sellers, banks, appraisers and mortgage companies. The transactions flew through the system for years and years and the emphasis from the top was to increase speed and profitability and risk by damned.
    And with all that high technology and infinite greed with deliberate non-supervisory effort, the damn risks multiplied at the speed of light and the results are clear. The complexities of the situation are so huge that they cannot be straightened out by normal evaluation and piecemeal corrections. Ultimately, the whole system will have to be scrapped and rethought by mature persons with a sense of perspective about how a financial system ought to operate. Of course, we learned in the Enron scandal that even accountants can be corrupted by greed, so it is hard to know quite where to start.
    Maybe defining crime in new ways would be a start. Our society has focused on imprisoning people for petty crime and violent crime, and our prisons are full of marijuana smokers, burglars, and traffic violaters. Maybe if we made financial misconduct a crime, with a year in prison for each thousand dollars involved, we could clear up the mess pretty easily. Financial misconduct could be defined pretty loosely, such as “failure to show due dilligence in all aspects of financial and securities transactions of all kinds” and we could perfect our truth-detection technologies and just ask the Chairman of Lehman Brothers and AIG and others “Did you practice due dilligence” under a lie-detection test?” If the answer is no and you acted mischievously to the tune of 37 Billion dollars, then it is 37 million years in prison with parole possible after 50% of the sentence. Next…
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Guy,
    Sarah Palin reminded me about the “mainstream media” last week in the debate. Since she disapproves of them, I also don’t trust them, and will simply assume those scary stories are all fictional and make believe.
    And if that’s not good enough of an argument:
    “The fundamentals of our economy are strong”
    -John McCain 9/15/08
    What I’m truly hoping for is that this monetary crisis turns frees us from the consumer-driven mindset America has been brainwashed into accepting. If we go broke, use less energy, and conserve, this will better prepare us for the realities of the looming energy crisis. But I think that may be too optimistic.

  • Good stuff on the Archdruid Report this morning:
    “In turn, the peak oil movement’s problems finding a hearing in the wider discourse of our time has nothing to do with a shortage of solid facts or compelling reasoning; it has both of these in abundance. Rather, I have come to think, those difficulties are rooted in the movement’s failure, at least so far, to address these deeper, nonrational issues. If the peak oil message is correct, then the Great God Progress is dead; however misguided the faith of his votaries may turn out to be in hindsight, it’s a deeply held faith, and those who rely on it to give their lives meaning and hope can be counted on to cling to it until and unless some convincing alternative comes their way. That their clinging may keep our civilization from finding useful responses to a crisis even more challenging than today’s financial debacle is simply one of the ironies of our present situation. ”
    And I would like to add, with regard to The Great God Progress, the words “…than a door nail.”
    I’m not a neopagan (though I understand the appeal of earth-based, folk religion) but this fellow makes a lot of good sense in a time when it seems sense is a rare quality.
    We are a part of nature; we are subject to limitations. we should be humbled and awed in the face of forces larger than ourselves.
    The whole mess can be summed up in one simple word: arrogance.
    The pastoral minister at RCIA last night mentioned talking to a nun recently who said something along the lines of this: God sent the rains, floods, fires, etc. Now He’s taken their money away and they will have to listen.

  • Marc Faber estimates that the total notational value of all Derivitives world- wide is
    1.25 QUADRILLION DOLLARS.PHD’s in physics and mathematics,were recruited to devise instruments that are so arcane and convoluted that only their inventors understood them.
    Stock markets world- wide are in a downward death spiral. Trillions of dollars of stock must be sold to meet mutual fund and hedge fund redemptions as investors are in panic mode.No one can predict the end of this.Trillions of dollars of capital are being destroyed every day.Fear reigns.We are fortunate in being able to cheer this process.

  • I can’t cheer too loudly. My husband’s company’s stock lost half its value in the last six months…most of which happened in the last day or so.
    I can only cheer insofar as I hated the system to begin with, but thinking of my three kids RIGHT NOW, I don’t know what to say. If they/we survive this, it will be a better world, but that’s looking like a big IF.
    It looks like the world has driven off the cliff. We haven’t felt the full effects yet.
    I guess I’ll just enjoy the wind rushing through my hair for the moment, but I know its going to be messy when we land.

  • Sorry Charlene,
    Can you tell us the name of your husband’s company?

  • I’d rather not–no offense. I can just say that it went from about $5 a share 6 months ago and now it’s under $2 today. I’m poking him to update his resume and be ready. It’s not a huge company. Our fear is that it’ll get cheap and someone will take it over and pitch the old staff like yesterday’s news.
    Man, this reminds me of the tech bust. People went on a hiring freeze and we were scraping by then.

  • Wake Up Call
    Trillions of dollars have quickly been erased from the economy, includiing personal savings, retirement accounts, etc. And that is just the U.S. — the rest of the world is also feeling the pain, as indicated in huge drops in Asian stock markets, European banks, even the little nation of Iceland is almost on its financial knees.
    People are waking up all around the world, but the real pain is yet to hit. Real pain comes, not when your retirement savings have dissipated into thin air, but when your job, your livelihood, your food supply, your community, your local government all go to hell and you wonder how you are going to live at all. This is beginning to happen for many. State governments have bills they can’t pay, to the tune of over a billion dollars in the case of Illinois, according to the National Public Radio news broadcast this evening. Whole industries are on the verge of failure; if the automotive industry tanks, think of the cascading effect that will have in vast areas of the national economy.
    I started reading a new book with a title along the lines of “War Over Wealth” by a German guy who warns that the U.S. is quickly losing ground to Asia and that China and India in particular are ascending to primacy as the U.S. fades. I disagree to a point.
    Yes, the U.S. is fading and will soon be bankrupt and no longer in a position to do much but beg for relief.
    But Peak Oil is here. China and India picked the wrong time in history to emerge. They are like corn plants breaking the surface of the earth in early October. They may ggain a few inches, but they will not mature into strong, vibrant, mature nation-powers because geology and history will not allow them. They will suffer ruthless depopulation in the foreseeable future, in my opinion. Already the Chinese have poisoned much of their own air and water, enslaved much of their population in low wage jobs, built resentment in large number of exploited people, and when Saudi Arabia and Iran and the other producers of oil can’t meet the Chinese demand, an internally explosive situation will develop very quickly. Ditto India. Both nations are atomic powers, too, with direct competition and a history of exploitation by Britain, the U.S. and Europe. The scene could get really ugly really fast, even with the U.S. in the background (though surely trying to influence events in one way or another).
    Richard Heinberg has just stated his opinion that world economic growth is now a thing of the past. I think he is right. But David Brower once said that growth is wholesome only in adolescence. The world is past its adolescent period and needs to get over the obsession with physical growth, financial growth, economic growth. There is nothing wrong with development instead of growth. Instead of bigger cities and bigger infrastructure and bigger population, we can work on better cities and better infrastructure and better populations. We can work on efficiency, generosity, collaboration, communication, honesty, sincerity, maturity, and endurance. We are going to need endurance and we are going to have to learn to do without some things we have become accustomed to.
    We will probably learn to walk more, eat less, work harder, share more, demand less, listen better, share ideas, slow down, consume less, make do, problem solve, think clearly, celebrate small victories, learn to enjoy new challenges, get along, innovate, and get back to nature. We are going to move from the Space Age to the horse and buggy age and live more like our great grandparents. And they did okay. Abraham Lincoln read at night by candle light and he did not have an email account. But he did okay.
    Those who are adaptable and hardy and strong and a bit lucky will make it and others will not.
    I think that ultimately people are going to realize that we are of this earth. We are not alien invaders but we are utterly dependent on the earth for our sustenance and our succor and when we regain our balance and our spirituality we will find the earth will take us in and support us and we will be whole and happy. That is what I intend to try to do.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • something wonderful
    Take a look at the cover of this new book:
    I saw this book in the bookstore today and all day I was hearing on the radio about the turmoil in the stock market. The Northern Hawk Owl in the photo appears not to know or care whether the Dow is up a hundred points or down a thousand. I seem to vaguely recall a scripture in the Bible that talks about lessons of nature in that regard. I know that when I look in the eys of that amazing bird I somehow find comfort and even ecstacy knowing that despite human foibles, frailties and machinations, there is always something wonderful provided for us by nature. If the hawk owl can make it, why can’t I?
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Charlene, I’m not going to go ahead and throw in the towel on everything yet. You’ll probably survive this, it’ll just get a bit tougher. We’ve only really lost forty five percent off the Dow, and as much as I’d like to call this the beginnings of a depression, it’s going to have to get quite a lot lower and worse before we officially get there. We’re still in a recessive economy or a major correction.
    Unlike the Depression, I have yet to see people jumping out of buildings, insane runs on banks, and tent cities full of economic refugees.
    I do fear that there will be stark differences between the depression of the 1920’s and 30’s, and the potentiality of one today though. Back then you had people that were far more self reliant than people are today. Nowadays, for far too many people, especially in the cities, the government’s dime is their entire bread and butter. When that dime isn’t worth spit, or worse, they aren’t getting their government money there will be violence.
    My home is in Minneapolis, the city itself has a population that ranges from between 370,000 and 450,000 people. Of these people, 80,207 are living beneath the poverty line and are receiving a government subsidy. That’s roughly one quarter of our populace. If tomorrow these people’s benefits are reduced or worse yet, totally cut, where are they going to go? What are they going to eat? Most of them are barely scraping by as it stands and it’s still warm outside. If these people aren’t getting their monthly check, the chances of a riot go up exponentially. If a quarter of any city’s population decides to embrace chaos, the city eats itself inside out. The truly sad thing is that if there is a major depression, there will be far more people unemployed and in poverty.
    We’ve got winter there, and most use natural gas to heat their homes. If you can’t heat your home in the South, you might have a few cold nights. An extra blanket and a Coleman heater will see you through. If you can’t heat your home in Minnesota, you could die in a single night! Right now Centerpoint energy (The natural gas company) is cutting people’s gas off for non-payment, that way they don’t have to have to wait until next year to do so. (There’s a law that says they can’t cut your gas off in wintertime) Some of these gas bills have been delinquent for a year or more. When people start freezing or starving because they haven’t the money to pay for gas or keep something in their bellies, you’ll see people resorting to violence to keep themselves alive.
    As it stands now, we’re six steps from chaos. If suddenly people must choose between starving, seeing their children starve, or stealing/robbery, I’m sure we could all guess which choice they’re going to make. If the mess we’re sliding into at a quite alarming rate doesn’t subside or get fixed, then, Charlene, I might agree that my “Probably” is actually your “If.”

  • Darnit! I forgot something!!!
    Also, Minneapolis is *FAR* better off than most other cities. We’d fall well after many others, but we *WOULD* fall.
    I try, but I just can’t imagine the insanities that would unfold were it to get to worst case scenario.

  • Memo to Turboguy:
    I’ve tried to couch your main problem in the desert in the most delicate terms possible,and if I do say so myself, I believe I’ve succeeded !! What say you Turboguy?
    Please tell us the derivation of “Turboguy”.

  • anti-gravity capitalism:
    A sign on the outside wall of the Ashkenaz nightclub in Berkeley, Califronia used to say: “Tax the rich till there are no more rich.”
    The late Leona Helmsley, maid turned billionaire heiress of a New York real estate baron once said: “I don’t pay taxes. I am rich and taxes are for the poor people”.
    Barack Obama and John McCain both said (in as many words) — We’ve got to bail out the rich bankers and financiers so that their system for preserving the fleecing of the poor and middle class can continue.
    There is not one iota of the possibility of equalizing wealth distribution in America or anywhere else. There is no hint of accountability for misuse of power. There is no penalty for failure or even avarice in the machinations of those who deliberately rigged the system to fail and then profited enormously by their own failure.
    If Enron were failing today, surely it would be bailed out and allowed to continue.
    And the American sheeple are just hoping to preserve what is left of their miniscule portion of the pie. If your name is Rockefellar, you get ten billion shares of the pie. If you are named Paulson, you get half a billion shares. If you are named Obama, you get a million or two. If you are named Smith or Jones, you get a net in the negatives because your mortgage was designed to bust you and leave you in debt and servitude to Rockefeller. You were encouraged to use the falsely escalating value of your house to buy a big expensive SUV, a flat screen TV, a new kitchen remodel with granite countertops and a water skl boat. Now you owe more money than your house is worth, you are about to lose your job, your retirement savings are depleted by half and likely to dwindle to nothing, and you thank God you live in America and not in some socialist country. The only problem is that America is a socialist country, for the wealthy. If you are a taxpayer, your taxes pay for relief for the suffering rich, and your debt is your own problem.
    And your choice is to vote for Obama or McCain, which means you favor either the Rockefellers or the Rothschilds. Happy Democracy, USA! Robin Leach taught you well to marvel at the lifestyles of the rich and famous. They got that way because of your hard work and your taxes, which they siphoned while conning you into thinking you were part of the game. Sucker!
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • I guess I’m a little too dense to catch what you’re throwing Frank.
    My biggest problem here, if I were to rank the list, would be the “Too many chiefs, too few indians” theory. Second would have to be the various arthropods that want to spend quality time snuggled with you in bed, and lastly dust.
    There is dust here the likes of which most can’t even imagine! Not only is it as fine as the finest talc, but it’s all over, and in everything. You walk outside, kick the ground, and *POOF!* After your celebratory fit of coughing, and a hefty swig of “Rayyan Pure Natural Mineral Water” you can get back to your day.
    Did I mention that there’s mice? I’m billeted in a great big tent with about thirty beds. I set three mousetraps in there and every night wake up no less than ten times to extricate dead rodents.
    Bad guys? Only occasionally. Mice and the various other vermin? Every single hour of every day!

  • Stan: America has always been A Brave New World–I think Aldous Huxley said as much a long time ago. His book wasn’t fiction, so much as a blueprint. Hell, there is even a drug you can buy named Soma and no one even bats an eyelash. Check it out at http://www.rxlist.com/soma-drug/article.htm … But, with a largely unread populous, I suppose that isn’t anything to be surprized in the fact that few would find the coincidence highly ironic.
    Frank: Here’s hoping for your “probably” rather than my “if” then. It’s definitely getting rough out there.

  • Hey Turboguy:
    In a much earlier blog you said that your biggest problem was that you were so far from the latrine.In my warped sense of humor,I went with that idea,and was the only
    one here who offered sympathy for your plight.I thought I did so in a delicate and refined manner–go back and read my blogs on the subject,and let me know what you think.
    I’m trying to inject camaraderie and comity into our coterie,along with some humor.

  • Just back from driving to the San Francisco area to give a paper at a scientific meeting, and had a chance to revisit some of the routes I used to travel 20 years ago on the condor program. There seem to be many more enormous gas-station plazas, many more recreational vehicles on the road, more wind turbines, and more highly mechanized agriculture. Between non-stop radio coverage of the market crash, a power outage at the conference hotel and the fire I passed on the 210 freeway (this morning burning out of control) it felt like the future was getting a little too close.

  • how surreal can this get?
    Financial pundits have reassured us that there is plenty of money in the hands of investors just waiting for conditions to improve so they can unleash their financial resources into the economy. The crisis, is not one of money, but of confidence in lending between and among banks and other financial institutions, we are told.
    So, what do the governments of the world do? Do they attempt to repair the root causes of the lack of confidence by re-installing previously discarded or watered down regulations? Do they set in place rules of operation designed to assure transparency, accountability, prudence, and trustworthiness?
    No, they just inject hundreds of billions of dollars into the hands of those who don’t want to play with their own money. The recipients know full well that the U.S. government, and probably other governments as well, are bankrupt and utterly incapable of paying their own debt obligations. The U.S. is in hoc for ten plus trillion dollars, which will never be repaid, and it is hard enough just paying the interest on the national debt, which requires more borrowing from foreign “investors”.
    This is not about confidence. It is a confidence game. It is a hand out, a last spasm of gorging, like an eagle feeding on the putrid carcass of a dead dairy cow and getting so full that it cannot get airborn.
    Sure — the banks and the corporations will take the billions and put them into play. They will pay for multi-million dollar bonuses and “retreats” for strategizing. They will pay for more institutional high risk speculation. What the hell is there to stop it?
    And when “confidence” gets low again, the wheels of commerce will freeze up and the government will wheel out the printing presses and play the game again and again until they run out of trees to produce the paper money or something gets caught in the machinery of corrupt capitalism and brings it to a halt. Chances are high that it will not be an honest politician or collection of them who will bring real reform you can count on. You could never get nominated, much less win an election trying to bring out change that constitutes real reform. The only change that could win an election would be change of personnel from one corrupt administration to another.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Charlene, Soma (Carisoprodol) is a very powerful Central Nervous System depressant and is only given out by prescription as there is a good chance of abuse. If you can buy it, you’re probably going to your local recreational pharmacist, not a legal one… If you or a loved one has it, taking any other CNS depressant (Alcohol) is a very bad idea. I’ve seen some dirtbags getting painkiller prescriptions and then saving a few pills before their refill and making money off it, but never Soma. Occasionally I’ll run across someone that’s got a pill bottle of extra Soma laying around for future use, but I’m at a loss as to why anyone’s going to buy Soma for recreational use when all it does is make you drunk, especially when Jack Daniels is easy enough to get ahold of.
    P.S. Your link does not work.
    I’ve nailed people driving intoxicated, who hadn’t had a drink, but instead had popped a couple of their extra muscle relaxers. I’d go out on a limb and say that each pill is worth just about two and a half stiff drinks. One guy’s Nystagmus was so severe I couldn’t believe he actually found his way to the car door, much less start driving. His PBT test showed no alcohol, so when we went to the hospital for a blood draw the doctor nearly instantly clued me in on what was wrong with that guy.

  • institutional amnesia
    A headline from yesterday helped confirm what never doubted — they just do not get it and will not ever get it. The headline was to the effect that efforts to roll back climate change will have to give way to efforts to boost the economy. This is exactly why several years ago I proposed to the Wildlife Society that for our civilization to survive universal ecological education would have to be a prerequisite for a business licence, a business degree, or a high-profile job in business or finance. In fact, I would go on the record today as saying that any executive job in any Fortune 500 company or government or non-governmental agency (such as Dept. of the Treasury or Chairman of the Federal Reserve or any of the Federal Reserve banks) should have on their resume at minimum a Masters Degree in Business AND a PhD in Ecology or Ecological Economics.
    What we are seeing is the all-out effort to preserve human institutions, such as banks and corporations, whose reason for existence is out of whack with human sustainability on the planet. The financial system exists to enhance wealth and profit and usually at the expense of natural “institutions”, such as ecosystems, species, and even whole planetary realms, such as the global climate. We think nothing of putting the polar bear at risk, but go all out to save Wachovia. We depauperize the Amazon and bail out AIG.
    I heard Derrick Jensen on a radio interview recently as he discussed human impacts on the world over thousands of years. This hugely predates the industrial age. Specifically, Jensen mentioned the vast forests of Northern Africa and Iraq and Lebanon that were desertified by an unsustainable pastoral lifestyle and deforestation programs to enhance militarism and commerce in the days when wood and timber were the equivalents of petroleum and steel today. The famous “Cedars of Lebanon” exist only on the Lebanese flag nowadays. Early explorers of Arizona noted grama grass up to the bridles of their horses, rivers with loads of beaver and muskrat and waterfowl galore, and just a few decades later Aldo Leopole wrote his famous essay “Pioneers and Gullies” about how quickly pristine paradise could be undone and in many cases could recover only in geological time frames.
    The Government and the Treasury STILL think it is about economic growth and facilitating the liquidation of natural capital (forests, minerals, watersheds, etc.). The accounting sheets are completely flawed and account for destruction as if it were progress, and so we are steadily progressing towards ruination as if it were a prize instead of a disaster. We’re so lucky now to have satellite gps programs that can lead our fishing fleets back to locations of prior overharvest so we can take the few fish that were left over after our nets and freezers got full from the prior voyage of exploitation.
    We want the institutions that faciliate all of this to thrive, while we stand by and watch the oceans die, the climate warm, the pika climb to the last peak to fry and die.
    We seem mesmerized by the spectacle of it all as if we are cognitively disassociating ourselves from our own world and our own actions. It is as if we have taken one of those illegal drugs that dims pain and started testing its effectiveness by stabbing ourselves with sublethal wounds to demonstrate our numbness, while knowing that too many sublethal wounds make for a lethal injury.
    This is the point in human history that I feel is truly the tipping point for us. We have plenty of knowledge as to what should be done to correct our mistakes. Our institutions are failing us in their initial goal, which already failed us. We are at the perfect time to re-negotiate our contracts with the planet and with the people. We are at the perfect time to rebuild and reprioritize and reflect on what could make us sustainable and happy. We could, for a change, look out several generations and think of them. if we really cared for our unborn.
    Or, we can prop up the efficient killing machine that has done so much damage and let it finish its job.
    Would anyone like to loan me a billion bucks so I can make my bet?
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • our fate is sealed; the only question is timing
    It is clear to me that America is in for an enormous collapse. The collapse will send the U.S. into Third World status for generations to come and will grievously harm the worldwide economy. My gut feeling is that the other nations of the world, particularly those with major economies and those who are trading partners of the U.S. are colluding and collaborating on how to best sever their ties with the U.S. Dollar and the U.S. economy so as to minimize damage to themselves. Other nations have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury notes, and they will lose the value of those investments once they switch from using the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency. So, careful calculations are being made as how to accomplish this inevitable historic transfer, which will instantly bring on hyper-inflation to America, ruin its international trade, throw corporations and businesses into free fall, and likely provoke panic and possibly war. The U.S. economy will no longer be able to support its warmongering ways for long, and the choice for America’s leadership will be to use what military might is left, including the nuclear arsenal, or lose it. I would put the odds at 50/50 that America will use violence to wreak its distaste over its own inevitable collapse.
    Right now we are in the calm before that storm. America’s future has been sold down the river by the fat cats while the working class partied in a binge of excess and self-laudatory delusion.
    My guess is that collapse is weeks or months away as opposed to years away. It will be survival time soon, not party time.
    Strangely, neither Obama or McCain is willing to face these stark realities. They have no solutions nor do they have the cajones to tell it like it is.
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Yes Stan:
    This is The Terminal Depression.

  • I just found the name ironic, but I don’t think it has the widespread usage of the fictional version. You’re quite correct: we have alcohol for that ;) Same thing, though. The fatter and happier we stay, the less likely we are to complain about the things we ought to complain about.
    That’s why we can have a democracy where only 13% of the people actually vote.
    Sorry about the link, I left the parenthesis and period in with the address.
    Lately, I’ve been trying to look on the bright side and enjoy business as usual a moment before things change. I can’t stop the train headed for me, so I’ve decided to smell the daisies growing up through the tracks in the meantime.
    Cheers :)

  • Hey Guy
    long time since my last post,
    still reading all the blog responses,
    great reading by the way, particularly
    by Stan, albeit gloomy. The more you
    read Jensen and Heinberg etc, the more
    it seems to be real, I was overseas for
    3 weeks and read nothing on the EB.
    You know what, all the peak oil drama/worry faded
    from view, not to say that peak oil is not
    a reality. At times doomerism can seem like it is almost
    a pyschological state or way of viewing the world.
    Not withstanding the realities of the limits to growth etc.
    Anyway, conclusions drawn from the financial
    mess, it will not be the end of civ
    anytime soon, capitalism/growth economy is much too slippery for that
    having said that capitalism has been
    described as an ‘elaborate suicide machine’
    Matt C, Australia
    looking forward to your next woe saga,
    Stan, plants some vegies and get a bike
    you feel better

  • Below is a posting I made to the listserver of the Ecological Society of America in April of last year. I focused on the writings of Professor William Catton; particularly on his magnum opus book “Overshoot”, which described a quarter of a century ago the unraveling we are witnessing right now. Everything we see around us right now has been predictable and predicted — even the financial crisis with derivatives and paper money was described a century ago in the discussion of late stage capitalism by Vlad. Lenin. So, no, this is nothing to feel bad about — this is reality. The planetary return to equilibrium is something to rejoice about, and I do. The downside is the enormous human suffering involved, but that is self-imposed and unavoidable. My speculation is that a lot of dilettantes and uninformed sheeple will go to their graves never knowing what went wrong…
    Date: Sun, 8 Apr 2007 13:56:19 +0000
    Reply-To: stan moore
    Sender: “Ecological Society of America: grants, jobs, news”
    From: stan moore
    Subject: Overshoot, Homo colossus, detrivore ecosystem, etc…
    Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed
    Folks —
    Professor William Catton is Professor Emeritus in Sociology and Human
    Ecology at Washington State University. In 1982 (isn’t it hard to believe
    that was 1/4 century ago!) Professor Catton wrote “Overshoot: The
    Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change”, which some people have said is
    among the most important books ever written. Anyone can download and read a
    significant excerpt from this book at a website owned by Minnesotans for
    Sustainability at:
    In this book, Professor Catton describes Homo sapiens as transitioning
    through a high energy lifestyle into Homo colossus, a detrivore living on
    the accumulated detritus of ancient planetary history, and destined to crash
    after blooming like a wine yeast in a vat full of grape detritus. He
    describes our “Age of Exhuberance”, which is over. It is not a pretty
    picture, and should not be made to appear so. Here is an example of the
    ugliness of our predicament according to this document:
    “It was thus becoming apparent that nature must, in the not far distant
    future, institute bankruptcy proceedings against industrial civilization,
    and perhaps against the standing crop of human flesh, just as nature has
    done many times to other detritus-consuming species following their
    exhuberant expansion in response to the savings deposits their ecosystems
    had accumulated before they got the opportunity to begin the drawdown.”
    In variious other writings, Professor Catton discussed the denial of humans
    of their self-inflicted predicament.
    Man as a detrivore in a bloom and crash scenario is a novel way to look at
    it. I think ecologists would find his discussion of “phantom carrying
    capacity” and other concepts of interest. Just yesterday I heard on the
    radio mention of the quandary the Chinese will have moving forward, holding
    20% of the world’s population with well under 10% of the world’s arable
    land, and losing arable land relentlessly due to human-induced land
    degradation as well as global climate change.
    Sounds like a formula for a crash, even though their standard of living is
    miniscule (still) compared to ours.
    Maybe denial is the way to stay sane until the very end. Catton describes
    our predicament as unintentional and related to our normal desire for
    prosperity as follows:
    “No group of leaders conspired knowingly to turn us into detrivores. Using
    the ecological paradigm to think about human history, we can see instead
    that the end of exhuberance was the summary result of all our separate and
    innocent decisions to have a baby, to trade a horse for a tractor, to avoid
    illness by getting vaccinated, to move from a farm to a city, to live in a
    heated home, to buy a family automobile and not depend on public transit, to
    specialize, exchange and thereby prosper.”
    submitted by Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • Hey
    great post Stan,
    I having been reading enviro woe for at least a decade,
    undertsanding the ‘limits to growth’ is a lonely road,
    I chose a profession that would give me a sense of right
    livelihood, I design wetlands, essentially to treat
    stormwater runoff from roads etc,
    I work with civil engineers who believe that enviromentalism
    is a left wing conspiracy! And these people are intelligent,
    and one happens to be my manager!
    So, denial? no, I have two children and one has to get up in the
    morning. Fortunately I ride the bike to work in the morning,
    the endorphins can keep me going all day, not to make light
    of the discussion, but, what is one to do? We all know that
    exponential growth is a mathematical impossibility, we are
    essentially eating our future. And peak oil will only
    accelarate the environmental destruction. Growth at all
    costs, biomass will replace cheap fuel etc.
    from here, your upcoming election
    will be interesting
    Matt, Melbourne

  • Hi Matt —
    Since Australia is just over the horizon from California, I think I can catch your reflection in the high clouds as you trek to work this morning. :)
    I think the wrong question is being asked when any of us asks what one can do. The better question is: “what SHOULD one do?”
    Each must answer the question for himself/herself. But I think it helps to know that, while none of us acting alone or in isolation can make a difference, it is a historic fact that individuals collaborating and colluding and conspiring and acting with another and another and others and yet others can generate change. Revolutions are usually inspired and activated by a minority who often did not become the majority until the revolution had been won.
    I saw a DVD on how Fidel Castro overcame the heavily-armed Bautista government of Cuba with a very small, but determined band of revolutionaries. The numbers of men in his initial brigade were so small as to be almost comical. “Common sense” would have told Castro to play it safe and wait for discontent to fester and to build his support and his logistics before initiating that revolution. But revolutionaries do not act that way and revolutions do not work that way.
    I don’t know that a revolution amongst our civilization could save the civilization at this point. Obviously we are unsustainable at current levels of consumption and of population. Obviously we have a society that does not want sustainability and is brainwashed into pursuit of destructive consumption for its own sake.
    So, it may be that some of us agitate just to explore how it can be done. We may do it to feel better about our own lives and to feel some sense of separation from the system that has failed, even if we cannot ultimately budge the levers of power. Some of us are just contrarians by nature. Maybe some have a vague sense of nobility.
    I watched another DVD on the evolution of the “Free Speech Movement” at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s. It was amazing how that collection of mostly priviliged white students attained a sense of being oppressed when trying to excercise their inherent rights to free speech and protest when most of them were, in fact, far more privileged in their own lives than the minorities and foreign nations whose harm they were protesting. And some of their rhetoric was utterly inspiring, though, it appears that the rights they fought for have been put at risk by the same forces that opposed them at that time. It was amazing to see Governor Ronald Reagan in those days taking a strong stand against democracy and free speech by member of the political left.
    The current U.S. election is fascinating, but to me in a perverse way. I am still not cconvinced that Obama will actually be sworn in as president, because the machinations at work are very powerful, and could trump the will of the people once again. I would not be surprised in a court decision determines just prior to the U.S. election that Obama was not born in Hawaii but in Indonesia and thus is unqualified to hold the office of president, and maybe not even the office of Senator. I would not be surprised if the counting of votes is fraudulent due to well-known voter suppression tactics by the Republican Party. NOTHING would surprise me in the weeks ahead.
    But in the end, even if Obama wins, he will not be the “Messiah” his true believers are aching for, and their sense of ultimate disappointment will be profound, in my opinion.
    Here is a bold hint — I can’t wait to read the next commentary/essay by our Guy in the Mud Hut, whatever it may say…
    Stan Moore
    Petaluma, CA

  • While you’re waiting ,hows your scalp?
    We also need to know how Professor Guy is coming with his well pump.
    Hey Turboguy: Don’t Frank get no respect for being the only one here to offer compassion
    for your plight in the desert?
    We haven’t heard from Big Brother James in a while,how is he doing?
    Anyone else care to comment?

  • Random musings from the grim reaper:
    Here’s proof of how extremely fragile the world’s financial system is;we bailed out Bear Stearnes,bailed out AIG,bailed out Fannie and Freddie.Finally Ben and Hank,after taking a huge amount of flak,finally decide to just once, just one time, to show they had backbones,by just once,to let just one ,fail–Lehmann Bros.Look what happenened,the world’s financial system froze up.Better to have let the whole house of cards collapse, from the beginning–get the damn thing over with so we can concentrate on trying to heal nature.
    These Bear Market relief rallies are so pathetic.Good to see the stock market selling off on poor earnings,and even more ominous,bad estimates for the future.
    I think I look splendid after my haircut,but I don’t want to say so for fear of seeming to be immodest.

  • Hey
    you are right, what should one do?
    besides practice thrift – you know frugality used to be
    virtue, this has been lost in the last few decades.
    At an individual level you can do many things,
    for example I have built bikes from hard waste (dumpster)
    and ridden to Melb Uni(85km round trip) to sit and read
    Cristopher Alexanders ‘The Nature of Order’ for
    several hours – I know very eccentric. I feel very
    distanced from my architectural profession –
    ‘architecture is waste’, architecture is constantly
    trying to repress entropy, as is civ for that matter.
    The building industry is very wasteful. But I digress,
    at a community level what should one do? Lobby your
    local government for more bicycle lanes? This is no
    small task, and particularly trivial in light of the
    aforementioned enviro woe that has been discussed.
    Hasnt Thomas Friedman recently argued for a green
    revolution? George Monbiot (a journo for The Independent)
    has similarly expressed concerns about the problems
    of business as usual. Perhaps some journalists are realising
    their responsibilities and asking some hard questions.
    The New Scientis mag has recently published articles
    questioning the sacred cow of economic growth.
    Perhaps, there is a momentum out there, where the
    articulate and the influential may foster ‘massive change’.
    That is the (watered down) revolution that Jensen calls for.
    Having said the above, I am afraid that the current growth
    model we have will leave the planet ruinous and it will
    be the case of last man standing. The powers that be can not
    imagine another future other than a growth model despite
    its inherent flaw.
    Perhaps this blog and others is as good as the revolution gets.
    Seriously, all the general population cares about is the size
    of their flat screen TV and their super fund (pension fund).
    This is probably all bit off topic, but hey its my 2 cents worth.
    kind regards to all
    Matt, Oz

  • Ya Matt:
    Economic growth is powered by vanity and greed only.Entropy is their enemy.I’m pleased to see world stock markets collapse,as this is the quickest way to destroy pernicious capital.

  • Financial stability depends upon financial system and how government decides financially. Moreover, business investments have also an impact to this. Americans are struggling with the current economic crisis that has been brought on by careless mortgage lending. However, America is not the only country that is negatively affected by this economic calamity. The International Herald Tribune tells its readers that the credit crunch is being felt in Europe, too. Small businesses like Dominique Boudier’s printing company, outside of Paris, rely on credit with their suppliers to operate. Boudier’s creditors are reducing their offerings by half. This cut has been mandated by the suppliers’ credit insurance companies. Considering the 60-day lag time in which clients pay, Boudier’s business needs additional cash flow to compensate for this major shortfall. Because Boudier’s bank has its hands tied as well, Boudier fears the worst. Boudier’s bank, like many others throughout Europe, started to put its money to sleep with the European Central Bank instead of investing it in other banks and the economy as a whole. When banks began to fail and liquidity was disrupted, credit began to dry up. Similar to America’s Federal Reserve Bank, the European Central Bank uses a mechanism based on the ability to produce as much fiat money as necessary. Fiat-money currency, which is essentially credit money, loses worth as soon as the government declines to further guarantee its value. Inflation is on the rise. Many people believe that stronger private banking systems that make responsible decisions will eventually solve this problem. In the meantime, payday advance loans will be easier to get for those that need short-term assistance and can’t afford to wait for the faltering central banking system.
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  • Some of us get mad when our integrity is being criticized and misinterpreted in whatever form of communication and presentation.
    Just like the controversies surrounding both the Democrat and Republican camps that continue to surface. News sources are eager to report that the Republican National Committee spent upwards of $150,000 on Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin’s campaign trail wardrobe. Although this story has created a flood of negative publicity, anti-Republican attacks, and the like, I am not falling for it. In fact, both Palin and Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama have spent large sums of money on clothing, and it doesn’t affect my voting decision. After all, we live in a material society where appearance and possessions, more than anything else, are the main things by which we judge people. If you had one candidate blazing the campaign trail in well-selected designer apparel, and the other candidate fully clad in Wal-Mart clothes, the latter would be taken less seriously. Plus, look at all the attention Sarah Palin has received from her pricey wardrobe.
    Maybe it’s not such a bad political move. Ultimately, I hope that Americans will look past the clothes and form their opinions based on the issues. We need to vote for the candidate that supports our freedom for personal financial responsibility and the continued access to NO FAX PAYDAY LOANS.
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