Thursday, March 20, 2014

Oh, the insanity of it all

Guy Noir, Garrison Keillor's fictional private eye, claims to spend time pondering life's persistent questions.  Well, I don't...usually.  I like to spend my thinking on questions that probably have satisfyingly repeatable answers.  But there is one question that gnaws on me, How did my country get stuck on stupid?  The country I grew up in had cured diseases that had threatened humanity for most of recorded history.  We had figured out communication devices that included pictures.  We figured out how to grow so much food that we were literally drowning in plenty.  We sent men to the moon mostly to prove it could be done.  I spent my childhood gobbling up publications like Scientific American that promised a cornucopia to any society willing to do its homework.  Friends of our family built parts for moon rockets, helped build an air transport system that made flying routine, and developed methods for finding oil deep in the earth.

Today, I would find it difficult to name ten people I know who even respect science and its methods for discovering further useful facts.  Want to see that please-call-on-someone-else look of panic just ask someone to explain how full-color high definition pictures arrive on the big screen TV in their den.  Ask where the gasoline that runs their car comes from.  Ask how airplanes fly.  And these are the easy questions—the sort of thing any reasonably curious child could answer even in the days before the Internet.  With the Internet, ignorance truly is a choice and useful information can be found in fractions of seconds (I DO love my Google!)  And yet, most people I meet think and act as if the Enlightenment never happened.  How is this even possible?

But the easiest way to bring out the cavemen in everyone is move the questions to topics of international cooperation.  Would someone please explain to me why there is even a conflict in the Ukraine?  Even IF this is about oil and the failure to update the technologies that support our lives, how does anyone think that provoking fights will solve THAT dilemma.  Even worse, the fights aren't even original—google Crimea and you will find that humanity has fought over this chunk of land before and the outcome was damn ugly.  See Charge of the Light Brigade.

Which is why I really liked this piece by Kunstler.  He is not especially troubled by how USA came to a foreign policy that is absurd.  Rather, he finds it a reason for ridicule and man, is he funny!  I guess the reason we got stuck on stupid is the most obvious one—it's easier than doing the homework necessary to get to a higher ground.

Deep State Blues

James Kunstler March 17, 2014

Those of you too caught up in Lady Gaga’s latest cutting edge art project — she arranged for another woman to vomit on her while seated at the keyboard to show, well, I guess to demonstrate that not even vomit can stop the power of pop music — may have missed the latest moves in our nation’s foreign policy quest to remain Hall Monitor of the World. It appears that the Crimean peninsula has voted rather persuasively to become part of adjoining Russia, a nation that they were functionally a province of longer than the USA has been the independent and exceptional beacon of liberty that we became. Now, all that’s left are some procedural formalities, and then our side has promised to do some very bad things to punish Russia for this dastardly outcome.

Have the Lady Gaga fans forgotten that our country set this whole fiasco in motion by promoting a tug-o-war between a proposed Russian free trade zone (the Customs Union) and the European Union (another trade zone) with Ukraine as the rope? Alas, the rope broke in the early going, leaving the Russians to try to splice it back together in some way that aligns with the ethnic composition of the territory and their treaty perquisites regarding port facilities on the Black Sea. This “crisis” has got Secretary of State Kerry pulling his hair out, perhaps in his own personal quest to achieve mature male hair equality with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Mr. Kerry has more work to do before the world will stop calling him “a haircut in search of a brain.”

Notice that for ten years the Russians have not been jumping up and down as the USA hops from one Central Asian state to the next blowing things up and arranging affairs so that hundreds of thousands of people get killed — quite a few by our cunning model airplanes controlled by military video gamesters, who blow away “folks” on morning watch before repairing to the nearest Taco Bell for an order of Doritos Locos (and a chance to watch Lady Gaga get vomit-tagged on their iPhones). I wonder how the USA would feel if the Russian foreign ministry ginned up an operation to persuade Texas to secede from the Union (again).

What will be the next step of the menswear model in the oval office? Is he coordinating with the EU to make sure that Russia can’t sell its products to anyone, say, the EU, which really has nowhere else to buy a great deal of the methane gas it uses every winter to keep the pipes from freezing? Of course our country has made promises that it will export liquefied natural gas to Europe from the depleting shale plays of Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas — but, wait a minute (or maybe five years) because we have to build new pipelines, gas export terminals, and a fleet of compressed gas tanker ships before that’ll work. But maybe Europe will have five exceptionally mild winters until then. Note to Mr. Obama: increase National Prayer Breakfasts to once-a-month.

Then there is the question of what Russia may offer to do to the USA in return. Perhaps nothing, because America is doing such a good job of imploding under its own fecklessness and inertia. If I were Mr. Putin — not saying I want to be, you understand, but in the spirit of conjecture — I would just kick back and tune in on the Web to watch this nation of overfed clowns and tattooed savages vomit over each other, since that is apparently now embroidered into the zeitgeist. Mr. Putin could also (in the spirit of the game of chess, which he is reputed to be good at) add some frisson to the situation by stealthily unloading quantities of Russian-held US Treasury paper, not to crash the market but just enough to turn the ten-year bond above the 3.00 percent line — a point at which the US government’s bankruptcy (that is, inability to service our debt) creeps above the horizon like a bad moon rising.

State Department chess players are gloating at the moment that the Russian ruble has lost ten percent of its value this year. No doubt a few functionaries in the Kremlin are going boo-hoo over this. But remember: they are a nation who lost about 8.6 million soldiers to overcome Hitler. Do you think a little austerity will persuade them to cede Ukraine to the Walt Disney Company? Has anyone in the pay of America’s Deep State asked themselves whether it really matters to us who runs Ukraine? Did it matter to us before and then after the Soviet regime collapsed? What was so terrible about Ukraine joining the Russian free trade zone that we felt compelled to go in and vomit all over it? more

1 comment:

  1. I once came across an EPA figure citing that 20% of US children had mercury levels high enough to impair their brain development. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what that means, and there are plenty of other environmental toxins washing around which would have similar effects. I suspect that our present level of collective intelligence is likely a byproduct of the very technological achievements that you cite, or more specifically a byproduct of the coal burning that enabled them.