Bill Totten's Weblog

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Abyss Stares Back

Clusterfuck Nation

by Jim Kunstler

Comment on current events by the author of
The Long Emergency (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005) (August 25 2008)

As the political conventions descend like the soggy forces of nature they have become - the tropical depressions of politics - the Republican party will be seen, with growing clarity, as the party that wrecked America. So many shoes are about to drop, and so many dominoes lined up to fall 'out there' on the financial landscape that the thump and clatter of crashing institutions will sound like the percussion section of the renowned USC marching band as the nation tramps toward the general election.

In a classic calm-before-the-storm moment, last week's momentous Jackson Hole monetary conference played out like Sherlock Holmes's "dog that didn't bark in the night". The poobahs of global banking turned out in the Grand Tetons to compare Gulfstream jets and show off their concho belts, and that was about it. For all the massive turmoil in the banking system, almost no real news leaked out of the conference, and one was inclined to come to the unsettling conclusion that nothing came out because absolutely nothing happened there - because absolutely nothing can be done about the gathering calamity of capital.

At the moment, two of the biggest elephants in the room, so to speak, are going tits-up with X's where their eyes used to be. These would be the "affordable housing" enablers Fannie and Freddie, who managed during the past decade to make housing virtually unaffordable for any normal, responsible person unwilling to game the system - with the additional consequence that not only the housing market but the general credit-and-lending apparatus of the US has entered a state of morbid failure. These two corporations are now dead, incurring a legacy of obligation that will add five trillion dollars to the national debt at one stroke. Nobody knows what the exact results of this debacle may be - and the current silence about it is deafening - but odds are the effect will range somewhere between destroying the currency and bankrupting the United States altogether.

Meanwhile, the list of giant banks on life support runs to at least ten, with an unknown number of less giant banks that will be squashed when the big ones go down. The sound you hear in the background - even beyond the sound of John McCain's carping, snotty campaign commercials - is the whoosh of capital leaving the system. By capital I mean assumed accumulated wealth ready to be put-to-work by this society. We won't have any. The president-elect will wake up November 5th as leader of a poor nation, and all the grand plans laid out during the campaign will have to take a back seat to a severe revision of hopes and expectations.

Now the Democratic party has assembled in Denver to anoint its candidate. The big question for me is whether this will occur in a dignified manner, or whether Hillary Clinton's supporters will turn this into yet another fiasco-du-jour. Forgive me as I begin to wonder what's up. Mr Obama has graciously yielded to the Florida and Michigan delegations that their morally-compromised primary votes be allowed to count. And Obama has yielded to the ceremony of placing Mrs Clinton's name in nomination. And a flock of disgruntled harpies has landed in Denver to advance Mrs Clinton's claims at all costs - and, well, I fear that there may be some room for mischief here, like an arrant hijacking of the convention by the forces of Hillary.

This would be an almost unbelievable debacle, and yet we are in a season of debacles so anything can happen, really. I am generally allergic to paranoia, but Hillary's recent going-through-the-motions lip service to the Obama campaign does not convince me that she is truly on-board. Rather, I think she is egotistical enough - in the Greek tragedy sense - to just kick back now in her Denver hotel suite and see whether her troops can seize the arithmetic of the convention and jam her down the party's throat. I know this sounds like a paranoid fantasy, and I offer it up as little more than that, but, there you have it, like so much brisket on the butcher block ...

Meanwhile, reports coming out of Denver that Hillary's Harpies say they would rather vote for John McCain than Barack Obama simply boggle the mind. How fucking crazy are these women? And what have they made of their movement to advance political equality - a mere campaign of revenge? Is that what their country needs right now?

Speaking of John McCain, my friends, we can return to the general theme of this essay, which is that his party will come to be regarded as the party that wrecked America, and therefore, despite the poll numbers zinging around the news-o-sphere lately, he really doesn't have snowball's chance in hell of winning this election - assuming it will go ahead as a contest between himself and Obama. Returning also to the theme of impotence among the leaders in the finance sector - Mr Bernanke, Mr Paulson, et al, as displayed in Jackson Hole - I'm rather convinced that the carnage on the money scene will be so extreme this fall that the nation will seem to have been transformed from a superpower to a basketcase before November 4th, and that the blame for this state of affairs will be blindingly obvious: the people in charge for the past eight years looted the treasury, destroyed the currency, and left the machinery of capital a smoking wreckage.

And so, with the fucking nonsense of the Beijing olympics being over, let the real games begin.


My new novel of the post-oil future, World Made By Hand, is available at all booksellers.

Bill Totten


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