Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 4, 2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
I have always thought that in revolutions… madmen, not those so called by courtesy, but genuine madmen, have played a very considerable political part. One thing is certain, that a condition of semi-madness is not unbecoming at such times, and often even leads to success.
― Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859)
In each year’s end, and in a condition of semi-madness, it is the habit of the commercial press to generate various lists of “the year’s top stories.” The top ten this, the top 14 that… Lindsay Lohan’s Top Ten excuses for failing rehab, the Top Five reasons Charles Koch likes slavery as a business model for the 21st century, the Top 77 views of Kim Kardashian’s ass… These lists are legion. And if you’ve read this far, you’ve stepped right in one. For this is my personal whack at the year-end pinata.
With this modest compendium, we will not attempt to tell you what is important; the mainstream media can lie to you about that. What follows here is my highly idiosyncratic take on those news events which have contributed to a sense of impending collapse speeding us along on the road to doom. A word about methodology: not worth considering. I asked for some feedback, then picked what seemed right. That’s it. Basic assumptions are that to the extent that an issue is reported in the MSM, whatever we’ve heard is state propaganda, thus wrong. The rest is my idiosyncratic take; blame no one else, aside from those indicted by hyperlinked citations.
Madness is in the air, whether from the madmen of ISIS or Foggy Bottom, Ferguson or New York City. Readers of “doomer” blogs do so with a shared sense that “something ain’t right.” A pervading sense of unease,once marginal and seen only among survivalists and conspiracy theorists, has gone mainstream. Witness dystopian threads that run through literature and mass media, from World War Z to Doomsday Preppers. Now even the Weather Channel has a series called, “Fat Guys In The Woods.” (It’s just what you think.) It illustrates vividly how far most of us are from knowing how to survive in the wild, let alone transition to a “sustainable” lifestyle. As writer Tom Lewis recently told me, “If my ability to live depended on my skills in sustainable living, I’d be dead.” Like most of us.
This was the year that Paper Mag and Kim Kardashian determined they would “break the Internet.” with a photo spread of naked and near-naked Kim flesh. Not quite. Many men dropped in to see what all the furor was about. (I just read the article.) The reigning queen of social media and Instagram selfies continued being curvily famous, and social media continued to wag the media dog. Zero Hedge published a year-end article about the most important US events according to Twitter:
When it comes to social networks, Instagram is where the world’s best food photographers reside, Facebook is where “cool parents” and ad-clicking robots can be found, while Twitter is where the up to the minute super-informed, sophisticated intelligentsia hides. At least according to Twitter. So what did said sophisticated audience find to be the most important and talked about American events of the year? The top 10 US stories of 2014 were:
As you see, this Twitterlist falls off quickly in terms of doom potential. Let’s pass on the mounting list of war crimes committed by the Zionist Apartheid State against Palestinians, and I have a decidedly minority view when it comes to l’affaire Sterling, about which I could otherwise give less than no f*ck. (Sterling was recorded in secret, and under circumstances in which he might have had an expectation of privacy, had we not willingly surrendered that quaint 18th century expectation along with the right to search our DNA, bodily fluids and credit reports to Corpstate™. This concern was brushed aside in the haste to publicly pillory and shame an egregious racist.) As for the others, don’t care, don’t care, and it’s about damned time.
Ferguson/Police Militarization/”Wartime Policing”
Ferguson has become a metaphor for the militarized state, for open season on black males, with apparent no bag limit for the Boys in Blue. Ferguson is not just about Michael Brown, but also, Kajeimi Powell, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and countless others who have been executed with impunity and no fear of consequence by agents of the militarized state. And now we have the specter of the New York Police Department declaring that they will engage in “wartime policing.” So many words have been expended about this phenomenon, that we will leave analysis in more capable hands. It seems to me that the reaction of the police, and a large segment of law and order-worshiping ordinary citizens, is really about the conflict between the egalitarian impulse and the authoritarian impulse. Every time someone says, “if you would just do what the police tell you to, you would have no problem,” lingering notions of individual autonomy and justice die another death.
What the cops pictured above who turned their back upon the mayor are doing is the moral equivalent of throwing a tantrum. They have traduced legitimate protest and have staged a “work slowdown” to justify the delusional narrative that no cop, anywhere, should ever be at fault for anything. Localities all across the country, including my own, are staging their own “blue lives matter” rallies in support of “victims” that do not exist, except in their own minds. Meanwhile, this.
If the NYPD runs a slow-motion coup against the freely elected mayor of New York, then it is running a slow-motion coup against all the people of New York. There is no exemption from this fundamental truth about the way this country and its system is supposed to work. The military — and its civilian analogues in Langley and in the precinct houses — always is subordinate to the civil power which, no matter how much it may chafe them, means that they always are subordinate to politicians. If we render our torturers superior to the political institutions of the government, and if we render the police superior to the civil power of elected officials, then we essentially have empowered independent standing armies to conduct our wars and enforce our laws, and self-government descends into bloody farce.
But, alas, in the past few weeks, we have shown ourselves to be relatively at peace with that very thing — as long as the torture is done in the prisons overseas and the judicial killing is done in the streets of the ghetto, and as long as our fear of some omnipotent Other is what drives our politics. In turn, and in its mind, the country has now turned peaceful mass protest into some sort of violent revolution, and it has converted the murderous rage of a criminal lunatic into the ultimate expression of the cries for justice that have been heard in the last month in Ferguson, and Cleveland, and on Staten Island…The last thing to go to the waterboard is the tattered remnant of what we thought ourselves to be.
Both appear to be a manifestation of the undercurrent of authoritarianism in American culture — a deference to authority figures supposed to “protect” us, otherwise at odds with the libertarian impulse currently in ascendant. Likely we never were “the people we thought ourselves to be.” The police slowdown in NYC has given threadbare hack Rudy Giuliani yet another chance to emerge as chief defender of murderer cops, and thus give voice to the authoritarian impulse in American politics. In any event, “wartime policing” underlines an escalating separation along race and class lines. And reminds of financier Jay Gould’s famous dictum, “You can always hire half of the working class to kill the other half.”
It was a year of the Super Typhoons, polar vortexes, continued warming and devastating drought. 2014 recorded the warmest year on record globally, leaving some to wonder whether 2015 may be the year nations finally act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
2015 is the year of the Paris meeting to develop the next international agreement. It promises to be a big year for more talk at a variety of levels. Rising heat has led to changes in weather patterns that are of such overriding importance that Pope Francis plans to urge Earth’s Catholics to take action on global warming via a rare papal encyclical, “urging all Catholics to take action on moral and scientific grounds.”
This is a very big deal:
One is that encyclicals are published on issues of high priority to the Pope, and what’s high priority to him is high priority to the church. There are more than a billion Catholics on the planet, so this could have a profound effect.
Another reason is that, also according to the Guardian article, he is doing this to directly affect the outcome of a very important meeting late in 2015: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet, and their express intent is to create a legally binding global agreement about actions to take on climate change.
GOP outraged. It didn’t take long for the Koch brothers to stand up one of their stooges to warn off the Pope.
Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance, a Religious Right group that specializes in promoting pollution,and which has declared the US environmental movement to be “un-biblical” and a false religion, has been well-paid by the Kochs and other polluters to say things like this: [to believe in climate change] “really is an insult to God … and it will eventually lead to tyranny.”
“The pope should back off,” he said. “The Catholic church is correct on the ethical principles but has been misled on the science. It follows that the policies the Vatican is promoting are incorrect. Our position reflects the views of millions of evangelical Christians in the US.”
2015 was filled with evidences of a changing climate not to the betterment of humankind. It was a year of unparalleled drought, heat, and ice, perhaps a harbinger of a tipping point on climate. From Greenland to Antarctica and glaciers in between, this warmest year on record melted ice to an extent never seen before.
A second potential climate development has to do with the Arctic, where temperatures continue to rise at twice the rate of the rest of the world.
Experts track sea ice, which floats on the ocean, as well as the Greenland ice sheet, which if it completely melted into the ocean would raise sea levels by 20 feet.
As for Greenland, a study earlier this month found that melt predictions are likely too conservative. Advances in ice sheet modeling will soon provide a much better sense of how much sea level rise to expect from melting Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.
“Will we see three-plus feet by the end of this century or less?” [climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck] asks, referring to some model predictions. “Will stabilizing the Earth’s climate at two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial (times) commit us to 20-plus feet of future sea level rise or less?”
And then there was the California drought. You may have heard of it. Recent year end rains were a mere drop in a very dry bucket. The drought threatens not only water tables in California, but top soil for one of the nation’s key agricultural areas. Tree rings reveal the most devastating drought in California in over 1200 years. It is easy to dismiss such proclamations as the hand wringing work of nervous nellies with a liberal bias. Pictures do better; especially when they come from NASA.
According to NASA, the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River basins have been hit the hardest by the water loss, in part because of the increasing volume of groundwater being pumped out for farming. For the last three years, these regions have been losing a total of 4 trillion gallons of water per year.
With James Imhofe as incoming chair of the science committee in the House, it’s odds-on that NASA will get its climate science funding radically slashed for producing evidence like this.
“We’re seeing it happening all over the world. It’s happening in most of the major aquifers in the arid and semi-arid parts of the world where we rely on those aquifers. But we’re able to see now the impact we’re having on this over exploitation,” Famiglietti told Science Magazine.
Peak Water: The Water Problem. The problem of drought is certainly not confined to California– in northeastern Brazil drought has wrought havoc, severe drought conditions are also plaguing Australia and Ethiopia, threatening to cause food shortages in some of the poorest nations on earth and higher prices across the world. Consider the implications:
There are two types of aquifers: those that are replenishable through rainfall (the majority), and those that consist of water laid down eons ago, and thus do not recharge. The latter, known as fossil aquifers, include two strategically important ones, the deep aquifer under the North China Plain and the Ogallala aquifer under the US Great Plains.
Tapping underground water resources helped expand world food production, but as the demand for grain continued climbing, so too did the amount of water pumped… overpumping creates a water-based food bubble, one that will burst when the aquifer is depleted and the rate of pumping is necessarily reduced to the rate of recharge.
Today some 18 countries, containing half the world’s people, are overpumping their aquifers. Among these are the big three grain producers – China, India and the US.
Peak water? Peak grain? Saudi Arabia is curtailing irrigation based grain production, and Syria and Yemen are depleting their aquifers as well. Elsewhere in the Middle East, both Syria and Iraq are also suffering from a reduced flow in the Tigris and Euphrates as Turkey claims more water for its own. What could possibly go wrong?
The Arab Middle East is seeing the collision between population growth and water supply at the regional level. For the first time in history, grain production is dropping in a geographic region with nothing in sight to arrest the decline.
Hungry and thirsty people will inevitably go somewhere. Should current drought trends continue, 2015 could see the world’s first climate refugees, with significant numbers leaving California’s Central Valley, and possibly parts of Arizona, Texas and Nevada, as well as Sao Paulo, Brazil and parts of China and India. In China, the Gobi desert increases nearly 1400 square miles per year. And drought is simply one vector for creation of climate refugees. Low-lying areas such as the Maldives, and Venice are clearly threatened by sea level rise, as are Norfolk, VA and New Orleans, closer to home. Water, food, grazing lands, habitat – all resources for which we compete. Climate change will only exacerbate this competition, with conflict almost inevitable.
Rise of ISIS//ISIL/The Islamic State/Daesh/The Caliphate
We are expected to believe that the rise of ISIS/ISIL/The Islamic State, fully armed and spoiling for a fight, came as a complete surprise to our vaunted foreign policy establishment, those same worthies who can play back years of your phone conversations, predict your actions and movements through data collection and analysis, and even analyze the contents of your diet and health through sifting through your shit, were taken unawares by this armed juggernaut?
Opposite this block of text is a letter to the editor which articulates a critique of “our” foreign policy, and which makes the case for its illogic far more succinctly than anything I can add.
In a recent article, Dmitry Orlov argues that Anglo-imperialists are finally being forced out of Eurasia, as part of the Big Picture of understanding geopolitics. By Anglo-imperialist he means that combination of Britain and the FSA that has set the tone for global policy for two and a half centuries. America essentially inherited Empire from the bankrupt British, and is now in decline… with no new up-and-coming Anglo-imperialists to take over the family business.
Orlov makes a compelling case, buttressed by historical events, for the scorched-earth policies of oppressors amounting to a policy of, “if we can’t have it, no one can,” otherwise known as “poison every well.” He makes the point that [Britain and America’s] common playbook has remained the same for many decades– a phony neoliberal crony capitalism for well-wired insiders coupled with domination by the big-ass military, coupled with a strong dose of economic exploitation for everyone else involved, otherwise known as “cockroaches” to the elites. Orlov discerns a pattern to the Anglo-imperialist “playbook ” that has always called for a specific exit plan to be executed whenever plans to dominate and exploit a given country eventually fail.
On their way out, they do what they can to compromise and weaken the entity they leave behind, by inflicting a permanently oozing and festering political wound. “Poison all the wells” is the last thing on their pre-departure checklist.
• When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War.
• When the British got tossed out of Ireland, they set up Belfast as a sort of anti-Ireland, with much blood shed as a result.
• When the British got tossed out of the Middle East, they set up the State of Israel, then the US made it into its own protectorate, and it has been poisoning regional politics ever since.
• When the British got tossed out of India, they set up Pakistan, as a sort of anti-India, precipitating a nasty hot war, followed by a frozen conflict over Kashmir.
• When the US lost China to the Communists, they evacuated the Nationalists to Taiwan, and set it up as a sort of anti-China, and even gave it China’s seat at the United Nations.
The goal is always the same: if they can’t have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve.
The Sykes-Picot agreement that redrew the map of the Middle East is quite dead, leading directly to the rise of these al-Qa’ida-affiliated Sunni fighters to whom the artificial borders of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan are the meaningless artifacts of a world long passed by. At the end of WWI, the British and French wanted Mosul for its oil. With the rise of the Caliphate, Mosul’s oil is Sunni oil, and the Saudis are happy.
Much speculation abounds that the Monsters of Mosul and Beheaders of Baghdad are funded by unspecified “rich patrons.” Mmm-hmm. . And some of them will have offices at Langley, others in Riyadh… Meanwhile, ISIS will continue to serve its propaganda purposes and as a convenient vehicle for the purposes of the neocons who infest the American foreign-policy/war establishment to accomplish their aims within Syria. Plenty of madmen to go around.
Ukraine/Missing plane/NATO train
The same strategy of leaving a poisoned and permanently weakened state behind is being deployed as effectively in Ukraine as it is in the Levant. Again, Orlov:
The goal is always the same: if they can’t have the run of the place, they make sure that nobody else can either, by setting up a conflict scenario that nobody there can ever hope to resolve. And so if you see Anglo-imperialists going out of their way and spending lots of money to poison the political well somewhere in the world, you can be sure that they are on their way out.
Fast-forward to 2014, and what we saw was the Anglo-imperialist attempt to set up Ukraine as a sort of anti-Russia. They took a Slavic, mostly Russian-speaking country and spent billions corrupting its politics to make the Ukrainians hate the Russians… The result was what we saw this year: a bloody coup, and a civil war marked by numerous atrocities. Ukraine is in the midst of economic collapse with power plants out of coal and lights going off everywhere, while at the same time the Ukrainians are being drafted into the army and indoctrinated to want to go fight against “the Muscovites.”
To counter, Russia made a nice play of self-determination in Crimea: if self-determination worked for Kosovo, why can’t it work for Crimea? International norms, yes? Oh, the Anglo-imperialist establishment doesn’t approve? At which point Putin responded that the West should go suck a bag of dicks. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan for the Masters of the Universe.
By the end of 2015 the FSA plans to station nearly 150 tanks and armored vehicles in countries on Russia’s borders, according to Reuters. The evil Russians have moved their country closer to these weapons, so to protect them, we need to double down with more ABM systems, troops, weapons and bases, the better to justify profits for war profiteers and protect the interests of the Corporate State. Our madmen light matches in a loaded armory?
The failure of the neocons to start WWIII started through proxies in the Levant and Ukraine, coupled with the little noted recent “cromnibus” appropriations to fund oil and gas infrastructure in the Ukraine, ties all the loose and desperate “ends” that indicate Orlov’s analysis is correct. Even Henry F*king Kissinger blames the West. And a nervous world watches the Sino-Russian led response of the BRICS nations against the dollar.
Smedley Butler observed the true uses of the military a century ago and today the FSA uses bloated and constantly growing military forces to leverage control of a vast commercial empire. And if we can’t buy it, we break it.
If the U.S. shut down the more than a thousand military bases on foreign soil and the various command&control centers, it would not be able to threaten non-compliant nations with regime change. If the Federal Government made a massive shift from military spending to infrastructure and other domestic spending concerns, the U.S. would no longer be able to offload its debts onto its trading partners. Thus the problem goes deeper than the “nuclear mafia” of weapons contractors, lobbyists and other former government officials siphoning off more and more federal tax dollars.
Regime changes in Libya, Iraq, attempted in Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Ukraine and now – Russia, are thus due to the simple fact that these are non-compliant nations, and do not take orders from the IMF with the expected alacrity.
Have an aircraft, any aircraft…
In order to ramp up public opinion against Putin and in favor of whatever mischief NATO intended to gin up, a couple of Malaysian aircraft went missing, MH-370 famously leading CNN’s Don Lemon to speculate on intervention “beyond our understanding” occurring, that “something” being perhaps supernatural?
“Especially today, on a day when we deal with the supernatural,” Lemon said. “We go to church, the supernatural power of God…people are saying to me, why aren’t you talking about the possibility — and I’m just putting it out there — that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding?”
Uhh– because it’s supposed to be the f*king news? I’m sure they are readying a pedestal for the bust of Don Lemon to be erected in the Newseum some time soon.
And then there was MH-17, shot down over eastern Ukraine by Vlad himself/by Russian air defense batteries/by a rebel held Buk surface-to-air missile system/by a Ukrainian air-to air missile/by a Ukrainian fighter’s 50 caliber machine gun. The US wasted no time in accusing Putin; and then dummied up. The MSM worked overtime to vilify Putin. The multinational investigation (Ukraine, Australia, Belgium, and Netherlands, of whom all four are U.S. allies, and, one of which is a suspect) has worked for months and has not yet released, or even leaked, a report. Meanwhile, a pilot’s first person account says that MH-17 “was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and that a Ukrainian fighter returned from its air mission without its loaded complement of air to air missiles. From the interview with the informant:
– Airplanes flew regularly. All day since the morning. In the afternoon, about an hour before the downing of the “Boeing”, three attack fighters were raised into the air. I don’t remember the exact time. One of the airplanes was equipped with such missiles. It was a Su-25.
– Have you personally seen it?
– Where was your vantage point?
– On site. Cannot tell you exactly.
– Did you have an opportunity to see specifically what the pylons of the aircraft where fitted with? Could you confuse “air-to-air” and “air-to-ground” missiles?
– No, I couldn’t confuse it. They vary in size, plumage, coloration. With a guidance head. Very easy to recognize. Anyway, after a short time, only one airplane returned, two were shot down. Somewhere in the East of Ukraine, I was told. The airplane that came back, was the one with those suspended missiles.
– It returned without the missiles?
– Without the missiles. That pilot was very scared.
And it would appear that TPTB have again overestimated their ability: the narrative that “Putin did it” has blown up, so they’ve buried the report, and thus the story, thinking that people will forget over time. In the country which Gore Vidal once famously described as “the United States of Amnesia”, they are probably correct; worldwide, not so much.
The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes tribunal has exercised “universal jurisdiction” to try in absentia Western leaders for crimes against humanity: in November 2011, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, for crimes against peace because of the unlawful invasion of Iraq. In May 2012, after hearing testimony from torture victims at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the tribunal unanimously convicted Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, former Deputy Assistant AGs John Yoo and Jay Bybee of conspiracy to commit war crimes, specifically torture. The tribunal referred their findings to the chief prosecutor at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. In November 2013, the tribunal convicted the Zionist Apartheid State as guilty of genocide in Palestine. Any connection between the missing Malaysian planes and the above described events is the province of conspiracy theorists, and thus wholly coincidental.
Since this overheated screed is now reaching epic proportions, and has taken on a length such that even my wife won’t read it, here’s a list of other top stories of 2014 with significant “doom” potential which will here go further unremarked:
The rise of protest parties (left and right) in Europe.
Oil Price Collapse/Currency Wars and devaluation.
Peak Grid/ Detroit/ Rotting Infrastructure. Tom Lewis gets credit for elucidating this. Grid failures in Detroit brought this into sharp relief, if flagging attention, for a brief moment this year. Every physical system in America, from the grid to highways and bridges to public sanitation systems to dams, ports and airports has seriously exceeded design life with no provision for replacement. At a time when corporate taxation is at its lowest point in a century, we seem unable to summon the will to rebuild our flagging infrastructure. After all, this would benefit working people and give a boost into the economy, so why exactly would we do that? The response of the flat-earthers who drive the latter-day American political agenda is to privatize everything, “privatization” referring to theft of public resources. It is impossible to predict when any one of our critical systems will fail, yet fail they must. And the “solution” the yahoo caucus will offer is more privatization. Write it down in ink.
Junk Bond Market Yield Explosion.
Federal Deficit reaches $18 Trillion.
Ebola promised to be the prefect existential threat to mankind: a game of “Plague” writ large. You’ll recall that the growth of infection rates was exponential in the early days of summer; many were simply waiting for the disease to board a plane in Liberia and then present itself in every airport in the known world. FOX “News” discovered the “President Ebola” meme and pounded it relentlessly into the fear centers of elderly white Americans right up through the midterm elections, whereupon, Ebola was miraculously cured, never to be discussed again.
Continued rising Economic inequality.
That’s the view from Mount Nerd. Madmen and psychopaths are in charge of every single sphere of human effort. As the new electees of the Klown Kar Kaukus assume the reigns of power in 2015, rest assured that Tocqueville’s “genuine madmen, will played a very considerable political part.”
And if, like me, you like to look at the magician’s off hand, the better to know where the misdirection is coming from, here is a bonus: Project Censored’s Top 25 censored stories for 2014. And another: the worst cable news reports of 2014. No, don’t thank me. Pour a double skepticism, have one for me and toast 2015!
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be briefly active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful each day with her, and that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.