Truth and lies

Seems ex-politicians are so much better at telling the truth than current politicians. Peter Orszag, budget director in the Barack Obama/Goldman Sachs administration, finally admitted we came very close to full-scale economic collapse (as if that’s not obvious by now), but he simply can’t resist claiming economic growth is right around the corner.
One out of two ain’t bad, for somebody in the White House. Never mind that’s what he said two months ago, too.

But how about Henry Paulson, former Treasury Secretary (and, before that, CEO of Goldman Sachs)? He testified to the House Oversight Committee about the Bush administration’s unpopular $700 billion bailout of Wall Street, which was triggered by the failure of Lehman Brothers last September. Specifically, Paulson casually mentioned that the Bush administration and Congress discussed the possibility of a breakdown in law and order and the logistics of feeding US citizens. As if anybody who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention didn’t notice that as well.
Kudos to Hank for letting the catabolic collapse out of the bag. But it would have been nice to mention the other side of economic salvation: The bailout passes the buck to future generations of taxpayers. Not that we’ll have many of those, once unemployment reaches totality.
An even better example is provided by Clinton’s Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who presents the economic news in particularly stark terms. In his recent piece in Salon, he asks the question, “When will the recovery begin?” His one-word answer is dead on: “Never.”
He gets it. He actually gets it.
I’ve given up thinking the American people will stage a revolution simply because we’re intent on screwing future generations. We’ve been trading in tomorrow for today for so long we have no other behavioral model. When does the revolution actually begin? When there’s no more fuel, no more food, and no water coming out the taps.
That seems a little late to me.

Comments 25

  • The nightly news said that this has been the deadliest month of the Afghanistan occupation so far. Change, not so much.

  • Guy,
    Nearly 2 years since your famous speech,
    any thoughts, reflections, what about
    the next 2 years? Is the US is the position
    your anticipated or did you expect things
    to be much worse than they are?
    I read those articles you linked a couple
    of days ago, and I thought right I would go
    home and have a serious talk to the wife
    about the future and our (my) plans for
    disaster mitigation. Well…., I listened
    to how her day was, she was pretty happy,
    she caught up with friends for lunch etc.
    Anyway,I put the second season of Larry
    Davids ‘Curb your enthusiam’ on instead.
    She reckons I have a touch of the Larry David
    about me, not exactly complimentary, perhaps
    I have that whining, pessimistic, jewish thing.
    Larry Davids wife speaks like my wife almost
    verbatim, ‘I am tired, would you please just stop talking’.
    She is equally as sunny as Cheryl. Anyway…
    I remember watching ‘Mash’ as a kid, my parents
    enjoyed it. Anyway I have been watching it recently,
    you know what it is pretty good, it has ‘catch 22’
    quality, ie the absurdity of war and the military etc.
    Hawkeye’s diatribes are as relevant now as they were then.
    Anyway, watched you on youtube, just as I imagined you,
    sensible, measured and you spoke with great clarity.
    ‘if you laid all the economists end to end
    you still wouldn’t reach a conclusion.’
    excuse the typos

  • And Howard Davidowitz said we’ll never return to our old standard of living.These guys know what the’re talking about.

  • matt:
    You’re Jewish? How come? Australians are supposed to be dumb and happy,not Jewish.
    Now order the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of The Prisoner on DVD,and forget this nonsense about M*A*S*H.Go back to my entry on the previous Earth Egg,where I had to correct Big Brother James on this same point.This is supposed to be an intellectual,intelligent blog site,where we promote truth–not propagate error.

  • I had to look it up to find out what The Prisoner was all about. I confess I’d never heard of it. Turns out you can watch full episodes on AMC’s website:

  • Matt, thanks for asking about my thoughts two years after my “famous speech” (not the words I’d use, but I’ll take them). And thanks for the complimentary comment about the interview with Phoenix’s PBS station.
    In an op-ed article printed by the Tucson Weekly in April 2006, I predicted “Tucson has no more than five years to become a viable city … to secure our water supply, create a robust system of public transportation based on renewable energy and create a system for growing and distributing our food.” A year later, in the same publication, I correctly called the beginning of the end, economically (actually, the current “recession” began in December 2007, not 2008 as I predicted). Not surprisingly, since everybody at the time thought I was completely insane, Tucson’s going to have a tough time during the post-industrial era.
    In the speech you mention, I indicated the lights would go out in the world’s major metropolitan areas beginning in 2012, and that we’d be back in the post-industrial Stone Age, as induced by very expensive oil, by 2017. I still think those predictions are on track, with a single caveat. I was surprised — and so was just about everybody else I read — by the amazingly dire economic consequences produced by $147 oil last summer. At this point, I would not be at all surprised if it all comes down within the next few weeks, and I would not be surprised if we made it until 2012 (with no Mayan mysticism in mind): As I’ve pointed out on this blog, the industrial age could end just about any day as a result of capitulation in the world’s stock markets.
    So, I think we’re just about on track. I thought we’d hit the $150/barrel price for oil, then bob up and down and hit it again in late 2009 or early 2010. But the consequences of that first big swing in the price of oil might preclude most of us from even knowing the price of oil when it hits $147 the next time.

  • I think it is worthwhile to think about Hank Paulsen’s performance and comments again.
    At the time, he said that the problems were solved, but we know that nothing has been solved and the worst has only been deferred temporarily. The worst consists of civilizational failure, anarchy, etc.
    It has been deferred and the uberwealthy have been given a reprieve to fortify their bunkers, hire their armed guards, buy survival gear, and prepare for anarchy.
    James Howard Kunstler correctly notes this week that the American economy is just about dead.
    The role of the central government now is to control the collapse for as long as possible. Eventually the collapse will be uncontrollable and it will be every man for himself (though communal arrangements for survival are preferable and still possible).
    Every day brings us one day closer to the abyss, but we can find pleasure yet by the moment, by the hour, by the day. When we fall over the abyss, pleasure will be harder to come by…
    Stan Moore

  • Thanks for weighing in, Stan. I couldn’t agree more The phrase used by Paul Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich in One With Ninevah comes to mind, as I think about how the government “rescued” the industrial economy by deferring the collapse: “Capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich.”
    Where’s my bailout? Oh, that’s right … I’m not rich!
    Obama is accused by the Rush Limbaugh/Republican echo chamber of socializing the country’s economy. But they are benefiting immensely from that process, while the sheeple get screwed. And what do “we the sheeple” do? Cheerlead for the Dow. And what does that do? Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor.

  • Round and round the mulberry bush…
    I cannot envy the rich, even though they are getting the bailout money. All they are doing is continuing to support their ability to live in denial and refuse to prepare for the coming collapse of their happy little empires. I’d rather be the ant in this grasshopper-and-ant story.

  • In the land of Aus…
    Our relative stupidity and luck has allowed us to
    avoid a recession, a banking crisis,
    mass mortgage defaults etc,…. for now.
    (a lot of economic optimism at the moment,
    and back slapping). House prices are rising.
    Best placed country in the OECD!
    All the good news gives me cause for concern.
    When I am not thinking too much (which is often),
    I have small ‘revelations’, ie the whole artifice for the
    last 10 years (at least) is built on debt, that is rampant consumption,
    conspicuous housing and even EMPLOYMENT. (I do remember telling the wife this a decade ago – she puts up with a lot).
    Our way of life is a debt inflated illusion. Bio physical limits
    (1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics)
    and climate change will bring the chickens home to roost.
    We are running down soils, water, resources, energy.
    Renewable energy is not renewable as long as we keep
    digging holes to make the ‘renewable’ widgets.
    So called efficiency allows us to chase the ‘slack’.
    Banking encourages/is environmental drawdown.
    We seemed to be running faster and faster towards
    a cliff. Take climate change? Seriously what has changed
    in any of our lives to mitigate this disaster. Nothing
    has changed, it is business as usual. It is all talk and
    bullshit, we (the political collective) are doing nothing about it.
    I have felt no enforced deprivation to help mitigate my
    negative impacts upon the bio sphere.
    A neighbour just came back from Sweden. She was
    there doing a masters on sustainability and leadership.
    She said she wants to be apart of some think tank to
    tackle cultural inertia when comes to climate change and
    peak oil. She was particularly impressed with Sweden and Denmark.
    Although, I believe they have been picking the low hanging fruit
    in terms of energy efficiencies. I don’t believe its just political
    will that is the mitigating factor against ‘massive change’.
    I think we are flawed as a species, we are reactive not proactive.
    (the existence of the growth economy proves this flaw).
    Or maybe it is not a flaw, perhaps we are pre-programmed to overshoot.
    We are merely an animal afterall.
    We (collectively) simply cant imagine/project into the future 10 years plus.
    We are unable to make massive sacrifices to our way of life
    at a societal/political level. Even if we all composted and rode
    bikes it would make little difference. The flaws in the system
    are structural, psychological and political.
    Environmentalism is a reductive delusion. Nature is bigger
    than us and unfortunately we are apart of nature’s ‘rich pageant’.
    Perhaps this our fate, perhaps there is no will.
    We are a captive, a victim of our own biology.
    I know this sounds gloomy, but I still believe it is important to
    live an enviro ‘ethical’ life even if its only at the individual level.
    Maybe we lived relatively sustainable before ag,
    but we have been chasing entropy ever since.
    Aussie stereotype – We don’t suffer fools; we are happy
    to highlight our ignorance; we have very good bullshit
    detectors; healthy disregard for authority and status;
    somewhat anti-intellectual; easy going; tall poppy syndrome;
    mocking and self mocking; very direct and open
    (you realise this when you travel); we don’t do insincerity very well;
    we call a spade a spade; blah blah
    Stereotypes (lazy assumptions) have a grain of truth but
    do not obviously represent the whole
    reality. Plus, I live in Melbourne, the ‘intellectual
    and multicultural capital of Australia.’ ?
    on ya bike!

  • matt’s (sic) comments about Aussies seem to be accurate.I spent two days on a large junk on Ha long Bay,Vietnam with about 60 of them.This close proximity plus the bus ride there and back from Hanoi with them gave me a pretty good read on matt’s countrymen.
    I tried to get them to sing the Australian national for me,which they good naturedly declined to do.If you hear it on line you’ll know why.The kindest thing I can say about
    “Advance Australia Fair” is to call it an embarrassment.Sorry matt,but it’s best you hear it from a friend.

  • Guy,
    I live in the the land of the Spokane, the same as your big brother, James. I see you have most of the hot hot-wits feeding the fire here. This is one lively weenie-toaster fire you’re hosting. I have it ( NBL ) in the pole position of my “Favorites” currently. Meanwhile, I don’t look forward to pulling anything out of this toaster till it’s all black. Total Black Toast. Call me sentimental.
    Yes, it’s clear that the main theme of the moment on the national eco-politico stage is to score one last looting of the commonweal by the ruling/money class. The Banksters, Congress, CEOs. They’re taking their last bigg dip before the well dries up.
    What is it about Tucson that makes you such an optimist about its chances of pulling its butt off of its head? It’s always sounded like a pretty good place for a few dozen N.A.s to catch a refill for their water skins, pick a few prickly pears, and grub up some poor aging reptile – and enough twigs to cook it – for a one night stand before moving on to the next day’s pickings. A hundred thousand White Devils camped there, permanent? Seriously? Except for a few rare places on rich coasts and river confluences, our Homo kind hasn’t been able to take up tenure in one spot for more than a few months, ( occasionally years – before disappearing, traceless ) over the course of most of the past 500,000 years. Even sedentary agriculture ( not exactly a Tucson long suit ) has mostly gone precisely the way Derrick Jensen has pegged it -“Forests precede us… and deserts dog our heels” – ever since the pioneering Mesopotamians domesticated the Garden of Eden. Not much to do in Baghdad these days, aside from bombing the odd US Army Fools who’ve strayed out of the Green Zone, while you and your fellow doomed captives wait for the next food trains to bring it in for this week.
    One of these days, I’ll trouble myself to track down your Twainian-spouting BB, and have a word and a beer with him. For now, I’m happy to waste time reading the Whistle Punks who haunt your drag-line.
    Till thermodynamics and my bad attitude finally pull me down — thanks for the booster shots of Nature-Real. I’m just about ready for the one, last, big, sweet glass of Kool-Ade. Maybe – if I was half as tough as the average 7-year-old Afghani girl – I’d be up for the game ahead. But… Naw, easy living has made my skinny fat-ass too tender to handle the rough stuff we all know is written into the script of anyone so brash or naive to have been born in the past 40 years.
    Meanwhile, I’m still here scratching the last of my follicles wondering what Barack the Artful Dodger and His Pals will offer for our amusement tomorrow, if I should wake up in the morning.
    Cheerfully, as ever,

  • Haven’t you noticed that the DOW is up every single day now, and by 50-100 points?
    Surely the worst is past! This is the change we voted for.
    The best thing you can do for our country is to go shopping. Problem solved.
    -I wonder if Barack has any good books about goats?
    And don’t mind the levy, it was built to last.

  • Frank/Double D ;)
    I agree with you about the anthem,
    ‘…our land is girt by sea…’ WTF!
    Advance Australia Fair – what does that mean?
    It is horrible, whats the alternative
    ‘god save the queen’?
    You are not the first to notice.
    We do have that debate here occassionaly
    about its questionable merit .
    The other unfortunate Aussie characteristic
    is irreverance and playing the fool,
    ie larikin type behaviour.
    There is a cultural cringe when it comes
    to acknowledging the Aussie stereotype.
    However, as I said Melbournians are far more cultured
    than our warmer climate interstate bogans.

  • Dan, I have absolutely no hope for the city “leaders” in Tucson ever demonstrating any leadership. There’s a huge reason I no longer live in that city of one million (yes, that’s correct, 1,000,000) people: I suspect the human carrying capacity in the Tucson basin, in the absence of fossil fuels, is approximately zero.

  • however, (contrary to my earlier comment)
    the role of philosophy, ethics, religion
    and the ‘examined life’ is to create
    a way of thinking that can perhaps transcend our
    baser animal instincts.
    Perhaps this is too big an ask – we are still eating the future.

  • Not too big an ask at all! -The “founding fathers” took much of what modern Americans cherish most about their leadership from the Iroquois Confederacy. They of course left behind what their British sensibilities saw no use for, and called the ideas unique. (Sort of like announcing that the Australian continent was uninhabited upon their arrival there.)
    While only men were elected as leaders of the united tribes, who had earlier “buried the hatchet” and agreed to make decisions based upon the principle of the Seventh Generation, women could hold a meeting and demote them at any point! Essentially: Actions (extractions) were only acceptable when conducted with certainty that the seventh generation from that point could also ensure their seventh generation would have the same benefits.
    George Washington, in good form, made sure to be violent against them and earned the name “Town Destroyer.” (But in the words of Levar Burton, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”)

  • Maybe I am having a Frank moment? -Even better than Levar’s advise:

  • Malformed video ID? -Way to ruin a well-timed joke YouTube. Oh, for the love of books:

  • Dan, you and I don’t know each other, but I was there when you got into it with the local constables during the Alberto Gonzales appearance here. Based on that (and on what you do for a living), I think you’re underestimating your ability to survive. You’ll do better than most of us, I suspect, even if almost none of us measure up to Afghan youngsters.
    And yes, we should have that beer sometime–though in my case nowadays it’s the non-alcoholic version. That doesn’t keep me from enjoying the environment of a good pub now and then–esp. if no one there is singing national anthems, Australian or otherwise. I’m not adverse to joining in on a chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” however.
    And speaking of music, Frank, that’s one of the many good things about M*A*S*H. How can you not love a show with the theme song, “Suicide is Painless”?

  • I’m particularly fond of the Manic Street Preacher’s version of Suicide is Painless. And I love MASH. I watched the reruns late at night with my aunt and uncle all the time, sitting on their oranage shag carpet in front of their old console TV…
    Sorry, Frank.
    The world could always end tomorrow. That’s what makes today so important.
    On that cheery note, we will all die a lot sooner than we tend to be expect. I hate to be ambivalent about TEOTWAWKI, but I can’t seem to help it. It doesn’t change my plans much, as my plans revolve around helping others and caring for family. Something I suspect I’ll be doing until I go join the choir invisible (whether that’s today, tomorrow or 20 years hence). The methods and means may change, but not my general plan.

  • Charlene:
    Welcome back.Have you seen The Prisoner?
    You won’t believe all the abuse I’ve endured,ever since I made the mistake of telling this group that I had a DD.It’s all right–I understand that the good must suffer for their virtue.

  • No, Frank, but I have heard there is a reboot coming to AMC/ITV:
    Do I get any brownie points for that? ;)

  • Charlene:
    Yes indeed !!
    But watch the original 17 episodes.Wendy said you can do that on-line,or get the 40th Anniversary Collectors Edition on DVD,which I recommend,because it has a wealth of information on the series you won’t get elsewhere.
    Do you think that it a sign of the decay,depravity,and debauchery of our society that a doctorate degree in any field except religion is an honor?
    Please advise for the benefit of our bloggers.

  • Codeine extraction.

    Withdrawal symptoms from codeine. Acetaminophen-codeine 3. Codeine.