The Worst Reporting on Climate Change. Ever. (So Far.)

boiling frog

If the warming is siow, the frog is happy. (Photo by Purple Sloq/Flickr)

In describing our progress toward a well-educated and -informed citizenry, served by a free and fearless press, seeking a smoothly functioning democratic republic, do you believe in devolution, or are you a destructionist? That is, do you think we are rotting away from within, or is God punishing us? It’s probably too late to have that discussion; when you’re in a sinking scow, you can lament the lack of a luxury cruiser only so long, then you have to shut up and swim.

The low water mark (to twist the metaphor) of our society’s deteriorating journalism, its increasingly muddled grasp of scientific discoveries, and its atrophied ability to speak its own native language — not to mention its suffocating narcissism — was expressed in a single news story recently whose pungency and brevity would have been admirable if the perpetrators had intended it. Continue reading

The Days After Tomorrow: Introduction

Making dinner without a microwave, as they did in Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, 800 years ago (when the city was larger than London)? Maybe. But living without greed? Priceless. Maybe we should ask. (Photo by Cahokia Mounds Museum Society)

Making dinner without a microwave, as they did in Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, 800 years ago (when the city was larger than London)? Maybe. But living without greed? Priceless. Maybe we should ask. (Photo by Cahokia Mounds Museum Society)

Apres Nous le Deluge. And Then What?

Opinion is divided about what la Marquise de Pompadour meant, when she said (perhaps to her lover Louis XV), “Apres nous, le deluge [After us, the crash].” It was either, “You know, we’re making a really big mess of things, and everything is probably going to go to hell after we’re gone.” Or, on the other hand, she may have meant, “So what? We’re going to be gone. Where’s the cake?”

Among people who believe that the Industrial Age has started to come crashing down around our ears, there is a roughly similar divide: between those who see nothing after le deluge but extinction of the human race; and those who think some of us will survive. But then what? Continue reading

The Fall, and Further Fall, of Broadcast Journalism

fortune teller

Get into a dignified line of work, he says. Go into TV journalism, and you’ll never have to be harassed or humiliated like, you know, a hedge fund guy. (Photo by Vito Fun/Flickr)

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, we were young, and journalists. We thought of ourselves as initiates in a brotherhood (which it was, mostly, then, the sisters came later), followers of a calling, and most importantly members of a profession.

A profession, according to the dictionary, is an occupation “that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.” We were never big on the “formal qualification” part — although we had to have an FCC licence to put our hands on the controls of a broadcasting station — but we did train. For many years I spent hours each week being grilled on the word choices in my scripts (Lewis, have you no idea of the difference between continuous and continual?”) and my pronunciation of them (“Lewis, I did not hear any sub-guttural value in that initial G, and where was the labial stop at the end of ‘ship’?”) Continue reading

Feeling the Burnout

Bernie

Like King Arthur in T.H. White’s The Candle in the Wind, Bernie Sanders led a rising against brute force, and lost, yet will be remembered for an historic moral victory. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

We knew (didn’t we?) that Bernie Sanders was never going to save the world, or our country. But wasn’t it grand watching him try, and succeed in doing things that everybody knew were impossible to do? Everybody knew it was impossible to finance a major political campaign without drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid of rich peoples’ money. Bernie did it. Everybody knew you couldn’t be a contender if you didn’t like war — all wars, any war, war all the time. Bernie was a contender. Everybody knew that you could not be competitive in national politics if you ever mentioned the words “climate change” without  a sneer and a snowball. Bernie was competitive, after he identified climate change as the number one threat to the future of the United States.

Seems like everybody doesn’t know very much. Still, as they say, even stopped clocks are correct twice a day. Everybody knew that Bernie couldn’t win, because he’s a Jew, a “socialist,” too old, and for all the reasons mentioned above. Everybody was wrong about all the reasons, but right in the conclusion, as the state of New York confirmed yesterday. Continue reading

O Blogger, Where Art Thou?

Bloodhounds“Mr. Lewis, where art thou?” writes Daniel Reich. “Been reading your blog for years now and it looks as though you have abandoned your post so to speak. Been a fan ever since I read Tribulation  A book that gave me comfort gained from knowing that I wasn’t alone. I think you know what I mean. Please come back, Mr. Lewis. Let us bear witness to the unraveling together.”

First let me offer an apology to you, Mr. Reich, and to all the other regular readers of The Daily Impact. All seven of you. It is not polite to cut off an ongoing conversation without explanation, and I should have handled my absence with more respect for you. I shall try to explain.

Remember the old joke that asks, “How do you immobilize a centipede?” and answers, “By asking him which foot he leads with.”  A similar thing applies to writers. How do you block them completely? Ask them “What is the point of writing this?” Whether administered by a malevolent onlooker or by the unwitting writer himself, the immediate effect of the question is paralysis.

That’s what I did to myself earlier this year, more or less in mid-sentence. And, not to quibble, Daniel, but I did not abandon my post. I have been sitting right here, watching my cursor blink, for two months, trying to answer the question. Continue reading

One Nation, Under Water, with Penury and Indigence for All (*)

debt(* that is, the 99 per cent.)

I was there when a furniture-store owner I’ll call Chuck introduced, to a certain British-ruled, sub-tropical, behind-the-times island, the concept of hire-purchase — or, in American, rent-to-own. He started selling furniture on credit, for a small down payment and a contract to repay the balance at an astronomical interest rate. His policy scandalized everyone on the island who was rich enough not to need credit for such purposes; and was insanely popular with everyone else. Continue reading

Fires Rage, Words Fail

You can watch the fires break out and spread only for so long before you, too, are involved.

You can watch the fires break out and spread only for so long before you, too, are involved.

The Daily Impact has been a quiet place lately, and I will tell you why: words fail me. The scale of the global crash now enveloping us, and the fecklessness of the leaders pretending to protect and defend us, exceed the vocabulary of this wretched scribe. If one manages, however briefly, to comprehend the enormity of the multiple disasters bearing down on us, then one accidentally sees part of a presidential-candidate debate and has to pick up  pieces of one’s skull all over the room again. Continue reading

What’s Next for Oil: Whiplash

roller coaster

This is the closest we could come to a chart showing what is next for ojl and gas prices, and how it’s going to feel. (Photo by Patrick McGarvey)

A savvy investor once told me that if you read something in the news, it is no longer true, if it ever was. I keep this in mind as I read over and over that the world is awash in 3 billion barrels of surplus oil. This glut — always and everywhere specified as 3 billion barrels — is present, the conventional wisdom (oxymoron alert) goes, because the crafty Saudis refused to cut production when the price of oil tanked (metaphor alert). They did this, it is said, to run the pesky American oil frackers out of business before they took over the world. This reminds me of the engraved plaque found in many Irish bars: “The Lord invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.” An endearing sentiment, but probably not true. Continue reading

World Trade is Coming to a Halt [UPDATED]

ship scrapyard

This is where more and more of the world’s cargo fleet are headed — the scrapyard, like this one in Bangladesh. (Photo by Christoph Hein)

On Friday, for the first time in recorded history (according to MarineTraffic.com), there may not have been a single cargo ship in transit across the North Atlantic between Europe and North America. If true, this would have roughly the same implications for the industrial world as does a flatline on a heart monitor, for a patient in ICU. Somebody had better call a Code Blue.

Since Friday, the stock market — after the worst beginning of a year since the last Ice Age — has been creeping upward. Guess they didn’t get the memo about the Code Blue. Continue reading

The Scariest News Story of 2016

Arab Spring Yemen

This is what the Arab Spring looked like in Yemen, four years ago, when its people lost all hope. This is what Saudi Arabia, with diminishing prospects of success, is trying desperately to avoid. (Wikipedia Photo)

Correct. The scariest news story of 2016 is already in. Saudi Arabia is starting to come apart, and when its unscheduled rapid disassembly is a little farther along, the Industrial Age will come to an end.

[TROLL: “Don’t you ever get tired of making predictions that never come true? You said exactly the same thing a year ago. And the year before that.” Actually, dear trolls, what you find here are not exactly predictions, rather they are analyses of trends and the likely outcomes of those trends. But even if you insist they are predictions, the fact is that virtually all of them are in the process of “coming true” — it’s just that people who have the historical horizons of a fruit fly assume that anything that doesn’t happen while they’re looking at it is never going to happen, and never happened before. In medicine that’s called amnesia.]

But back to Saudi Arabia, where the forces of disassembly have been in play for decades.   Continue reading