Bill Totten's Weblog

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And to All a Good Night

by James Howard Kunstler

Comment on current events by the author of
The Long Emergency (2005) (December 20 2010)

At this time of year, who can fail to understand the wish to forget all the woes and fiascos of our time, and to retreat into the cozy firelit nooks of Christmas, where a pint or so of grog, or egg-nog, or even seven fingers of Williams 'Lectric Shave in an empty jam jar might avail to wash away the frightening specters of debts, and banks, and, trade imbalances, and countries with economies composed mostly of losses?

For now, America is a rug stretching from Maine to California, under which we've swept the filthy detritus of money matters and governance. It worked most of the year, though the rug has grown as lumpy as a landfill. Nothing is more important for the moment than provoking millions of people with no means for carrying their current obligations to ply the malls in search of Christmas merchandise, so the little ones will not be disappointed on the Great Day. Who could fail to understand this, too, since the sorrows of children only magnify the failures of the adults who love and fear for them.

President Obama's tax deal with the corn-and-pork-fed mental defectives of the Red States has been spun into an historic act of political ju-jitsu - a sharp trade to great advantage for the slick city operator against the avaricious rubes - but to me it was just another act of Santa Claus Theater. You have to love the conceit that all this fuss about money is finally settled. So we can settle back in the raptures of flat screen high-def 3-D TV and imagine that we're like the characters in Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life - which, by the way, in case you never noticed, is a story about a banker who gets into big trouble financing the first larval manifestations of suburban sprawl. If only Frank Capra had lived to see the Federal Reserve's Maiden Lane portfolio, a sack of shit so monumental it would make the fabled swag-bag of Kris Kringle himself look like the descending colon of a pygmy marmoset.

Anyway, both parties are vying for a place in the graveyard of politics, and this is how it should be. Life is tragic, nothing lasts forever, and these two hoary old orgs are so far gone in corruption and cupidity that it would be hazardous to not bury them as fast as possible. If the USA is as resilient and resourceful as it pretends to be, then we can confidently come up with something better. In fact, I hasten to make a positive proposal: calling Howard Dean (former Vermont governor and head of the Democratic National Committee) to take the helm of a new Progressive Party (or whatever you want to call it) in opposition to the morbid histrionics of the Tea Baggers. It's not written on the wind that this country must be governed by morons and sell-outs. Governor Dean is the only character I see out there with more than half a brain who won't bend over for Weepy John Boehner and the minions of Goldman Sachs. I'm sorry that the cable networks juked him back in 2004, with the ridiculous charge that he had somehow lost his mind by raising his voice at his Iowa Caucus victory party.

As I have averred more than once before, this period of US history resembles the 1850s, when the established political parties could not wrap their minds around the salient issue of the day, slavery, and so went out of business. Anyway, when Abraham Lincoln came along rather late in the day, nobody knew, fer gawdsake, that he was going to turn into Abraham Lincoln. We kind of forget that the Civil War, which began almost the instant he took office, was a prolonged fiasco that looked fatal for the nation until very near the end - at which point Lincoln, who had been mocked more harshly than any president to that time, was transformed into a monument by 240 grains of lead.

In this previous historic convulsion the issue was slavery; today the issue is the rule of law - the absence of which from banking is destroying the USA as effectively as a foreign invasion. Poor President Obama looks more like Millard Fillmore reincarnated every day, an empty figurehead servling of less-than-benevolent interests hiding in plain sight. What will become of this Republic when he puts his Santa suit away for the year, nobody knows (and many people dread).

I'll be writing from Paris, France, next week - if the next ice age doesn't close down the airports, and if no trouble-maker manages to get on-board my plane with a Semtex suppository hidden in his vitals. I sincerely wonder if the European banks will implode before the holiday runs its course, but I suppose the folks in charge will be too drunk all week to even play Grand Theft Auto on their cell phones. I've got a sad, nagging feeling that this may be Europe's last year as the world's tourist theme park. They've gone through that before, too, by the way - history does repeat in patterns, if not in exact story-line - in the roughly century-long lull between Waterloo and the Guns of August, 1914. The memory of the Long Peace is why the First World War was so demoralizing to Western Civilization. God knows what mischief awaits when the current game of Bank Back-stop Hot Potato comes to its certain end in Euroland.

All that said, I take a certain consolation in the fact that Julian Assange is at large!

Merry Christmas everyone, and to all a jolly week of schmoozing, boozing, gifting, grifting, and joy to the world! (Oh, and don't rob the house.)


Mr Kunstler's new novella, A Christmas Orphan, is available for purchase through Northshire Bookstore. His biography is at

Bill Totten


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