All Aboard !

There is something about the way James Howard Kunstler (  http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/the-dreamtime/  )  describes realities that inspires me to write .  He lets the anger shine through , without letting it obscure the main point . .  . and has a little fun doing it.  Yeah ! That’s what I wanna do.  Of course , he’s a lot better at at it , but so what ?  This  blog is for my catharsis ,  not his ,  so here’s the latest comment I posted over there .

I don’t think I’m alone in craving a collapse which (since it can’t be averted) would just HAPPEN and be over & done with so that I could get on with whatever comes next (assuming I live through the collapse itself, of course).

Alas, that (like so many other things I wish for in extended periods of weakness) is not to be.

Collapse is not a singular event. It is a long drawn out and extremely complicated process. To mangle an old saying, “Rome did not fall in a day.”

Look around. THAT is collapse . . . a deconstruction in progress. A seemingly neverending “series of unfortunate events” as Mr. Snicket so unctuously put it.

Earthquakes tsunamis and volcanic explosions “happen” and are more or less done with. Societal collapses take a bit more time to play out. Think glaciers , not asteroid strike.

I’m 66 years old. I first noticed that the so-called civilization around me was falling apart around the time that “they” shot Kennedy and several years later it was still totally confused and mysterious just who the hell “they” were ( or even IF “they” were.)

It took another three or four decades to figure out that the reason collapse was behind schedule is that it wasn’t. It was right on time, but in that same sense had to seen like the arrival and departure of a VERY long train . First the engine arrives, then the tender, mail car and passenger coaches, all in their turn , and at speeds determined by numerous and largely unalterable factors like physics, financial practicality and rail road management.

It departs the same way , slowly at first and then gathering speed as it develops a head of steam and gathers momentum

Those lights you see dwindling away in the distance from where you now stand marooned in the increasingly derelict station is the back end of the caboose.

Damn !. Looks like you missed the last call for “All Aboard !”

But don’t worry. There’ll be another (much smaller) one coming along in a century or so .

Democracy As Perpetual Sedition

You would think that after all this time people would have grasped the fact that autocrats don’t much care for democracy . 

There are books , of course , but “Book Learnin’ ” is pretty thin stuff compared to personal life experience ,  especially since so many liars abound ( even among the authors of ancient histories .)

We believe what we have seen with our own two eyes and validated by personal experience .  Beyond that ,  all is hypothetical .

So what have we seen and experienced ?  Why the same damned stuff those old Greeks and Romans saw and experienced and tried to pass on through their books .  As usual , their wisdom was taken with many grains of much salt . . . until it was pretty much too late to do us much good except to explain to ourselves (after the fact) how we screwed it up again.

Take the authors of the founding documents of the United States , for example .  Most of them were both very well read and personally experienced .  But did we actually learn anything from them ?

I would have to say ,  nah ,  not much .  A  generous  estimate would be that 90% of the population think the Declaration of Independence ,  Constitution  and  Bill of Rights are mostly just a lot of high sounding rhetoric that feels nice but doesn’t really  have much to do with our daily lives or how to run a country.

I dare say that not one citizen in a thousand has ever stopped to appreciate that those dudes were a bunch of hard eyed realists , very much engaged in real day-to-day lives , and acutely aware that if the government they designed failed then the Redcoats would come back with adequate force to kill them , in a very deeply personal sense.

There’s nothing rhetorical about getting strung up or shot . The prospect alone makes a person (especially a smart & experienced one) think and re-think the plan very very carefully .

So what does any of that have to with checks & balances between the branches of government, Freedom of the Press , search & seizure , and all that other “high sounding theory” ?

Other than the difference between life and death , maybe nothing .

Here’s what I think.

I think that the fight between government & governed is perpetual . Period.

Some people like to run the show for fun and profit and most people don’t like to be run at all. Power is alluring , but subservience to power is demeaning . Like survival itself , the fight just never ends , and never will end . In fact , by the laws of nature itself , it CAN’T end.

So those very bright boys & girls back in 1776 said to themselves , “Well , alright then, since we can’t change nature , maybe we can better accommodate that nature by designing a form of government that takes nature into account .”

And so they did . What they devised was so breathtakingly brilliant and “outside the box” that I stand in awe.

Since human beings are incurably greedy for power yet rebellious when such power is used against themselves (in other words , since we are seditious by our very nature ) The Founders of the American experiment CODIFIED AND INSTITUTIONALIZED  SEDITION  ITSELF  INTO AN ADAPTABLE FORM OF GOVERNMENT .

They recognized that it is the nature of government . . . all government . . . to exploit the general population for its own greedy ends , conspire to perpetuate itself in power , suppress dissent , arrogate to itself powers and consent that were not freely given , etc. etc. etc.

They also recognized that it is the nature of the populations to resist governmental control by various and not always predictable means , to somehow offset the intrinsically asymmetrical power that Rulers have over the Ruled .

Thus they attempted , deliberately , to hamstring each branch of government by empowering the other branches to either check (as in stop) unbridled power , or at least balance it with comparable power of their own.

They fully expected there to be continual efforts to imbalance this perpetual sedition , and so they attempted to thwart them by empowering their opponents . This is what the Constitution and Bill of Rights are all about . The whole idea is to undermine the predictable “soft Coups D’ Etat” by preventing the branches of power from ever joining forces.

The inefficiency and dead-lock were not accidental . The branches were not meant to co-operate , but merely to co-exist in a constant state of detente.

Why ?

Because experience ( and History) had taught that when Legislative, Judicial, Executive & Military get too cozy and agreeable with each other then the population just doesn’t stand a chance .

The most dependable barometer of how well that’s working is in the loudly contentious area known as  “dissent”  or  “Freedom of the Press” .  When public channels of communication boil with outrage  ( and I damned well include the Internet as a prime example ) ;  when mighty accusation are belligerently hurled , and when incensed demands for justice fill the air . . .  then that’s a good sign .  That’s not bad .  That’s healthy .

It’s when the fight goes quiet & newspapers are full of flag-waving feel-good crap that you better beware .  Silence doesn’t mean everybody is happy , because the losing side is never happy .  Silence means that people are too scared to speak out . Silence is what happens when a mugger has the gun between your eyes .

Silence means the balance has been tipped , and in the next breath Democracy will either revive in a deafening roar . . .  or quietly expire .

Proactively trying to cause silence , such as targeting whistle-blowers , dissenters , and journalists ( and quite aside from being just plumb stupid ) also reveals who is doing the tipping . In this case it is so blatantly obvious that I’m not even going to rehash it .

All that matters at this point is understanding that when institutionalized , codified & limited sedition becomes impossible , then the old fashioned “gloves off” kind of uncontrolled sedition becomes inevitable and completely beyond the ability of any human to prevent .

And nobody wants the last ditch solution those same Founders announced in the Declaration of Independence.

So What’s the Story Here ? . . . World Domination or Ed Snowden ?

The reason Edward Snowden remains the focus of the NSA surveillance story is the human brain .  You are not going to change that biological fact .  As human beings we have  to put a human face on things .  It’s the only way to keep complex issues fixed upon a single topic in a complicated world .  Albert Einstein will always =  the atomic bomb .  Adolph Hitler will always =  WW II .  Mahatma Gandhi will always  =  nonviolent resistance .  There’s no other way for our human brains to function ,  so our only recourse is take advantage of the fact.

Because you can use that fact to great advantage .  Use that “carrier”  image  to  get more people to see your main point than would otherwise even discover the main point even existed.

So what is our main point ?  It is the terrible danger to democracy and personal freedom posed by the NSA’s incredibly illegal and immoral overreach into the private lives of law abiding people everywhere.

The way to get that message across is to utilize the now world famous image that the bad guys have spent billions of dollars creating for you :  Edward Snowden.

Welcome the fact that there is a subject ,  with a now famous face and a name ,  that can carry your message to the front pages of print and lead story of broadcasts, anytime and every time.  It is “newsworthy”.  Be happy about that.  It sure beats the hell out getting buried somewhere in the back pages of Section ‘B’ .

Also be happy that the bad guys are doing more than half of your work for you !  If the Whitehouse wasn’t pumping the Snowden story for all they’re worth then you would not BE headlined at the top of  page 1 .  If they wanna do that ,  then great !  Hop on a surf board and ride their wave !

Whenever the bad guys test some new idiotic idea trying to get “traction” against Snowden  (buzz words and phrases like “traitor” ,  “narcissist” ,  “29 year old hacker” ,  “misled and used by Julian Assange “ ,   etc  etc )   just tack your  valid message to their bull shit message ,  using their bull shit as the starting point.

For example:  they write “Is Edward Snowden a Whistleblower, or a Traitor to This Great Country ?”

You answer ,  “ By revealing that the NSA is committing & covering up enormous Constitutionally forbidden crimes , Edward Snowden has sacrificed his life for his country in the finest example of American Patriotism that we have seen in a generation.  Regardless of what secret courts using secret directives may decide behind closed doors ,  warrantless searches and seizures carried out against law abiding citizens is expressly forbidden by the most senior laws of our Constitutional democracy.  Yet that is precisely what the NSA has done ,  and is doing ,  and wants to do even more of .  This must be investigated to the very foundations of our legal and security system .  Those responsible must be found and prosecuted .  Safeguards against any possible recurrence must be put in place and enforced in such a way that it never happens again . “

You get the point.

They provide the front page platform. You stand on it and deliver your message.

It’s an art and takes a little practice ,  but hell ,  guys ,  you are the smart ones ,  not them.

They’re so stupid that they shout the indictment of their own crimes from their own “bully pulpit” .  They have climbed themselves right up onto the gallows and are waving the rope !

The least you can do is help them adjust the knot .

“They” are a Buncha W.I.M.P. s

This will be a short essay , but not because the subject is small .  It isn’t .

I’m keeping it brief  ( really ,  I  am  trying )   because I want to introduce a new acronym into the lexicon of the liberati ,  as though there weren’t enough already ,  and give it time to sink in.

A bunch of wimps are bullying the world ,  with a spotty results at best ,  and it’s about time we gave them a name that both describes what they are doing ,  and identifies who they are .  Ideally the moniker would be short ,  accurate ,  memorable , and disrespectful enough to annoy them .

Let’s call them WIMPs .  They are the network of interlocking interests that depend on W ar ,  Intelligence ,  M oney and P olice  to build empire and enslave entire populations en masse .  Hopefully you saw the connectedness of those four corrupt enterprises the moment you read them all grouped together in one sentence .  WIMP’s .  Don’t leave Rome without  ’em.  But don’t  let the comparison get so zeroed in on one historical example of  Empire that  it looks like a special case .  It isn’t .

All  Empires are built with and dependent on  War ,  Intelligence  ( espionage in any of its guises) ,   Money  ( lots  of it )  and Police .  In fact ,  the inter-dependencies of those four zones of control are so complete that if any one of them is lacking or breaks then the Empire collapses or can’t get properly formed up in the first place .

And of course all Empires that do manage to coagulate do also collapse ,  as covered in great detail elsewhere .  My favorite is  The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988)  by Joseph Tainter ,   but older generations have typically preferred  The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1781)  by Edward Gibbon .  Interesting thing about Gibbon  ( and what makes his book so palatable to old folks ) is that he was an unrepentant apologist for the then hegemonic British Empire at its zenith .  It was a nifty trick to explain Rome’s fall without suggesting that England was on the same trajectory .  Kudos.

But I’m not addressing the same issues as Tainter and Gibbon ,  at least not directly .  The WIMP hypothesis takes  more of a Blue Collar , “evidence laying right there in plain sight” ,  sort of take on what those government bastards are up to and how their low-down ways are going to lay them low . .  .  and soon ,  hopefully .

Basically ,  they are wimps ,  or WIMPs as the case may be ,  and as such are driven to do what they do by the twin motivations of fear and greed .  Greed  turns them into thieves ,  and  fear  makes them do bad things to the folks they’re stealing from .  The two vices feed each other in a mutually reinforcing  “positive feedback loop”  that spirals upward geometrically until it exceeds physical and psychological limits .  .  .  and we all know what happens then.

Greed seeks to acquire more than is fairly deserved ,  which means taking other people’s stuff by force ( war )  or subterfuge  ( Money and Intelligence )  and then managing to keep it when the victims protest ( Police ) .   You can’t keep ill gotten gains for very long without also controlling  the other parts of the 4-part system ,   but as wealth and power expands from all that stealing the job gets easier ,  and easier .  At some point the centralized power of cooperating military,  cops,  bankers and spies is virtually unchallengeable .

At that point  things tend to really get out of hand .  The networked WIMP team can win any game it chooses to ,  and so it does .  It wants whatever it wants to ,  and it wins ,  every time ,  because it can .  Spell  H-U-B-R-I-S .  Spell  A-R-R-O-G-A-N-C-E  .  Spell  A-M-E-R-I-C-A .

That’s where we stand at the moment .  Blinded by hubris and arrogance the current WIMP empire that straddles the globe pounding its fist into the faces of victims everywhere ,  is simply trying to maintain the unsustainable .

The Ponzi scheme ( that is ,  the so-called World Economy )  dreamed up to finance the Wars and Police State ,  has run out of fresh suckers and is deflating as we speak .  The lucrative war-fighting branch can’t keep expanding without money from the same Ponzi scheme that its military industrial complex is a key part of .  The secret Intelligence services can ,  perhaps ,  watch  every soul on the planet ,  but without an incalculable budget increase cannot hope to actually do  anything to all of these new  “terrorists”  that fill its radar in burgeoning numbers by the day .

And keep in mind that the WIMPs are ,  well ,  wimpy .  They can hire  brave minions ,  but are themselves cowards of the most extreme and cravenly sort .  And ,  brother ,  they are scared.  In fact ,  that’s just about the only thing about them that still makes any rational sense .

World War What ? ! . . . ( not to even mention who , when or where )

There are all sorts of metaphors being tossed around the Internet about where the whole mess is headed over the next few years .  There are “explosion” similes ,  comparisons to various types of “collapse” ,  coyotes  (or sheep)  plunging off of cliffs ,  and so on .  Lot’s of attempts to create a simple memorable image of something visually familiar to which we can compare our current environment  (which is definitely not  simple or easily visualized at all.)  What they all have in common is that it’s headed nowhere very good .  What they all lack in common is a time frame that’s any better than a complete wild assed guess (called a “WAG”) ,  and what they would all benefit from in common is a little more science . . . in which case you would have a Scientific  Wild Assed Guess ( a SWAG ).

That is not going to happen ,  of course ,  for the simplest of reasons .  Funding .  The only money bucket big enough to pay for such a Herculean undertaking is firmly  (shall we say ‘death gripped’)  in the hands of folks who really ,  really ,  really  aren’t going to loosen that grip for any reason short of death itself .  The only science they are interested in funding is science that might hopefully ensure their continued possession of the bucket .  But that’s another story .

The issue is :  where are we actually headed , and why ,  and when might we reasonably expect to impact ground zero ?

Barring the application of real Science ,  or the slightly more probable intervention of God ,  that leaves only one positive alternative :  go to some really smart people and ask them .

The best example I’ve seen of anything like that  (possibly not since Gandhi negotiated peace with the British Viceroy of India)  was when Julian Assange met with a delegation headed up by none other than Eric Schmidt  ( once CEO of Google , now cyber spy master billionaire )  last year while under house arrest in England ,  and answered their questions for about 5 hours .

In this Post-Snowden era it is now pretty obvious why Schmidt wanted to question Assange ,  but why Assange gave that pack of spies 5 hours of his time is a mystery .  I can only speculate.  Maybe he was bored and lonely & just wanted to talk with anyone .  Or maybe it was for the same reason  that Zorro always carved a “Z’ on the shirt front of an adversary  (demonstration of disproportionate superiority) .  It doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that the conversation is perhaps the closest we’re ever going to get to a scientific  wild assed guess about the end-state , agency and timing of our near future .  I’m not even going to try summarizing or even recapping the whole conversation . To read it , go here  [ http://wikileaks.org/Transcript-Meeting-Assange-Schmidt.html ] .  As for my own input ,  after one very brief digression I’m going to skip straight to the punchline .

So first of all  (note: this is the digression) ,  let me say this ,  because it’s just burning a hole in my forebrain.  Eric Schmidt is the epitome of the enemy .  He is only slightly less brilliant than Julian Assange , unquestioningly dedicated to his own amoral agenda , and not about to give anything less than his 100% best effort to win it. Think greedy Mao, not psycho Hitler.

So ,  now ,  here is the punchline ,   the answers to  Who ,  What  and  When  that you’ve all been waiting for .

First of all , “Who”.

Not too many surprises here ,  but maybe one or two worth mentioning .

The big surprise is that for the first time in history this is not primarily  a battle between Rich & Poor ,  Haves & Have Nots .  The Rich may think it is ,  but they never were the sharpest tacks in the box ,  so once again they are just plain wrong .

Their core beliefs  ( that wealth conquers all , and that wealth can always hire half the poor people to kill the other half )  are outdated and superceded by a new fact :  their money and all that it buys is only a keystroke away from abject poverty.

The battle this time is between the Knows & the Know Nots ,  the weapons are computers and the ammo is information .

One Army looks like an unassailable bastion of Espionage Masters ,  with legions of spooks and spies and the wealth of Midas .  The other Army looks like a rag tag of starving students ,  oddballs , and hackers hard pressed to pay for the pizza and cokes they are rumored to subsist on.

Nice simple image ,  and quite colorful ,  but wrong.

The primary combatants are computer literati .  On one side (Rich Spy Masters)  sit those who are (or work for those who are) in control of the digital networks that create & dole out fake money , and identify/neutralize threats to that process .  The entirety of humankind’s support structures depend  on money ,  and modern money (i.e. fake money)  utterly depends on computer networks .  No computer networks = no fake money = no control = game over .  On the other side ( the Rebels) is a largely anonymous and loosely knit assemblage of computer savvy (mostly young)  people who increasingly come to understand that although the system depends on their skills that same system is designed from the ground up to treat them the same as it treats the rest of the hired help  . . .  which is to say ,  quite badly .  As for the rest of us ,  well there is no nice way to say it .  We are ,  as we have historically always been , chattel and canon fodder .  Sorry.

Secondly, the “What”.

Lots of people have had a crack at this one ,  with the predictions ranging from extinction to Utopia  (not too many in the Utopia camp lately) .  Some envision gated enclaves of wealthy, surrounded by marauding hoards of psychopathic road warriors . Some forecast a dystopic ,  but stable ,  Police State along the lines of “1984” .  You name it ,  someone has turned it into a book and movie .

Entertaining fiction ,  but totally worthless as predictions go .

The future is the present . . . extended . . . for as far as practicable  . . .  and beyond which prediction is not even a WAG. So ,  how far is “practicable.”  Why , it’s as far as the money will take us ,  and remember that money depends on computer network control which depends on  . . .  computer literati  (if you insist on calling them geeks ,  then smile when you say it.)  And what is the present ?  I can’t help you much with that one .  All I can say is , “Well, look around !  What do you see ?” Are there any curtains hiding any secrets ?  If there are ,  then the curtains ,  and the secrets ,  are simply part of your present .  It’s all profoundly shaded by your personal world view ,  values , ignorance , knowledge and curiosity .  Changing how you look changes what you see .  Little of what I say is going to change any of those factors by much .  You’ll change when you want to ,  or have to ,  and not one moment sooner .

As Assange explained to Schmidt  (and  which , being a sociopath, Schmidt could not fully internalize)  human nature does not change .  It can be considered as a constant .  But the information humans use to direct their own behavior can  change .  And by changing that in the direction of receiving better information , faster , then the progression of change is toward even more of the same , and faster yet .  This is what the Internet does , and since the young Technorati trend toward getting their information and values from their peers on the Net ( and not from the media controlled by the bad old guys )  the trend is now irreversible .

In support of Julian’s conclusion just look around for evidence in plain sight.  lots of people are changing their minds about the present, aren’t they ? And in what direction are these changes trending ?  Right . So there’s your present , and a large clue about your future .

And now for the “When ” :

The current crop of geeks , even those highly paid in the IT & Security industry like NSA and their cyber security contractors, are visibly chaffing , and the numbers are swinging ever more in that direction . One day soon they will realize that they don’t need the likes of Eric Schmidt or Keith Alexander telling them what they are worth. On that day , the system will reset, and they will run the show. How soon ? Some time between right now and “retirement” of the old guard represented by the likes of the two reptiles just mentioned. So , what’s that , 5 years?  Maybe 10,  give or take .

In terms of day to day life 5 or 10 years may feel rather gradual .  Historically it’s one sweep of the EKG needle .  For all practical purposes it is right now .  In other words ,  the end is not near it’s here .

This is what the end feels like .

War ,  until further notice.