Living the Dream. No, Really, You’re Dreaming. Wake Up.

If American consumers would just consume more, the American economy would be all right. Whether you think they are, or are not, doing their part depends on who you read. Amd whether you’re awake or dreaming. (Wikipedia Photo)

If American consumers would just consume more, the American economy would be all right. Whether you think they are, or are not, doing their part depends on who you read. Amd whether you’re awake or dreaming. (Wikipedia Photo)

Fortune Magazine, the journal of the Masters of the Universe, posted the following headline at 11:33 yesterday morning: “U.S. shoppers finally shed funk: Retailers post strong holiday season gains.” At the same time the experts at NASDAQ.com. writing for the same audience of one-percenters, headlined: “Retail Sales Drop .9% as Consumers Pull Back.” Wait, what? Did we Americans shed our funk, as Fortune insisted (“retail sales for November and December rose 4%…the industry’s best showing in three years.”) or pull back, as NASDAQ saw it (“Sales at retailers and restaurants decreased a seasonally adjusted 0.9% in December from a month earlier…the largest monthly decline since January 2014.”)

So to summarize: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Continue reading

Living the American Dream is a Nightmare

plato-cave

In Plato’s little-recognized prediction of the Age of Television, slaves chained to their couches watch reflections of events, while philosophers struggle up to the sunlight to see what’s really going on.

Plato asked us to imagine a group of people chained to a wall in a cave in such a way that they could not see what was going on around them, only reflections cast on the cave wall opposite them by firelight. He invited us to consider how skewed the prisoners’ understanding of the world would become over time, and to value the contributions of philosophers who go out into the sunlight and see things as they really are. It’s easy for us Americans of 2015 to grasp the first part of his allegory, because it’s a perfect description of us watching TV (remarkable that he nailed that prediction 2,000 years ago, don’t you think?). It’s the second part that mystifies: what would a philosopher, stumbling out of the cave of shadows on the wall, make of our realities? Continue reading

The Crash of 2015: Day 9

You have this perfectly good structure, and then you kick out a few of the supporting pillars, and the next thin you know the SEC is on the phone.

You have this perfectly good structure, and then you kick out a few of the supporting pillars, and the next thing you know the SEC is on the phone.

With oil prices at about half what they were six months ago, the most vulnerable players in the oil business, the frackers who brought about the new American Oil Revolution, are imploding. If you think that’s just their end of the boat sinking, no worries here, think again. They are, or were, the last best hope of continuing the oil bonanza, and they’re done. As soon as that fact is so obvious that even Faux News has to admit it (this may take a few months), it will dawn on us all that the very same thing is happening to the deep water drillers, the Arctic drillers and the tar sands wringers.

It would have happened at any oil price. The slump has merely brought it on sooner, and will force us to face — this year! — the reality that we will never again have quite enough cheap oil. That’s the meaning of the Crash of 2015. Now, about the schedule: Here’s what’s happened, what’s happening and what’s about to happen. Continue reading

Attention in the Crowded Theater: Fire!

030328-M-0000X-005

Firefighters try to snuff an oil well fire in Iraq in 2003. What is happening to the oil business today, especially in the United States, is akin to a thousand such fires. (Wikipedia Photo)

The flames of the next financial crash are leaping up everywhere you look (if you look without wearing the rose-colored glasses): in the Bakken fracking fields of North Dakota, the Eagle Ford in Texas, the tar sands of Alberta, the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They are lighting up the night sky in all directions, and in the daytime the smoke is sickening the light and smelling up the air in the skyscraper offices of the Masters of the Universe where they shuffle decks of junk bonds, subprime loans and derivatives. Along with the smoke, you can smell the fear. This is going to be bad. Continue reading

The Worst News Story of 2015

And the (early) award for the worst news story -- not the worst story, the worst news --  goes to......

And the (early) award for the worst news story — not the worst story, the worst news — of 2015 goes to……

What? Too soon? Maybe not.

This story had precursors in 2014, just a few hints about what it could become. In the spring, a courageous BBC journalist smuggled out pictures and reports of a three-year-old uprising where no uprising can be permitted. Shortly afterward the host country sentenced to death two leaders of the uprising (presumably by the country’s favored method of public beheading followed by crucifixion). Whereupon the uprising managed a murderous bombing attack. In the Middle East they have a name for this: Tuesday.

These events did not take on the gravitas of portents because they took place in the Middle East, but because they took place in Saudi Arabia. There they posed a threat not merely to another brutal Arab dictatorship, but to the entire industrial world, which cannot function without Saudi oil. Continue reading

The Enhanced Interrogation of The Daily Impact

Surly (right), RE (center), and Monsta (in turban) discuss the philosophy of TEOTWAKI with editor Tom Lewis of the Daily Impact (aloft).

Surly (right), RE (center), and Monsta (in turban) of The Doomstead Diner discuss the philosophy of TEOTWAWKI with editor Tom Lewis of the Daily Impact (aloft). Fortunately it was audio only.

The wait staff at the Doomstead Diner (Surly, RE and Monsta) spent nearly two hours (!) the other day interrogating Tom Lewis, the chief typist here at The Daily Impact, to learn the secret of his stunning lack of success. The first half of the interview, covering Lewis’s role in setting the Cuyahoga River on fire and ghostwriting Silent Spring, can be heard here. Even more to come. [Spoiler alert: in the end, he confesses to knowing how to save the world, but claims he forgot.]

 

Holiday Repost: Farewell to 2014

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)

For what we are about to lose, Dear Lord, we thank You. (Photo by Terren in Virginia/Flickr)

 

[The Daily Impact is on hiatus for the holiday season. For your consideration, I leave you with a repost of a meditation on “The Last Good Year,” and a reminder that in 2015 it would be well to Brace for Impact.]

Thanksgiving is coming, and Christmas and Kwanzaa and Hanukkah and New Year’s, and we should make the best of them. These are the good old days, and we should celebrate them well, because we are probably not going to see their like again. Gas is cheaper than it was, and we should go to see the relatives this year, because next year will be different. Food is a little more expensive than it was, yet we should eat hearty nevertheless, because next year will be different. Continue reading

CNN: “Russia Headed for Crash.”

Russia, known for its long, hard winters, may be entering a very long, very hard one. (Photo by Elen Schurova)

Russia, known for its long, hard winters, may be entering a very long, very hard one. (Photo by Elen Schurova)

In the headlong rush toward the edge of the cliff at the end of the industrial age, Russia has suddenly pulled ahead by a nose(dive). The headline “Russia Headed for Crash” has appeared on the CNN Money website, although the news mavens in the Situation Room see no reason to go wall-to-wall with coverage when there are Cosby accusers to flush and another Bush is thinking about (!) running for president(!) in 20016! The lamestream media are trapped deep in the spurious narrative of the steely-eyed Putin resuming the Cold War as if it were 1950 and he were the Soviet Union, while Chinese tentacles slither across the globe projecting the power of the world’s largest (!) and weakest (!) and quite likely stupidest (!) economy. Continue reading

Conn’s Game: Subprime Loans, Subhuman Lenders

One of the stores built by a Conn’s game, based on junk bonds and subprime loans, in Houston Texas.  (Photo by Mather Rutledge/Flickr)

One of the stores built by a Conn’s game, based on junk bonds and subprime loans, in Houston Texas. (Photo by Mather Rutledge/Flickr)

After some rant or another about the combined greed and stupidity of the industrial Masters of the Universe, I frequently get this response: “Look, they couldn’t be that stupid or they wouldn’t be in charge. They know what they’re doing, and we just don’t understand it.” Seriously. I get that. If a quick refresher on the Enron Bubble and the Dot-com Bubble and the Housing Bubble are not enough to put this turkey of an argument into the deep fryer for once and for all, then consider the true story of Conn’s, a Texas-based 90-store retailer who came up with the Business Plan to End All Business Plans. And it did. Continue reading

The Oil Crash is Under Way [UPDATED 12/13]

When big trees come down, they start slow and end with a crunch. (Photo by geograph.org.uk)

When big trees come down, they start slow and end with a crunch. (Photo by geograph.org.uk)

When you are felling a really big tree, the first signs that it is coming down are subtle; a crack here and there, a twitching of the crown. By the time these clues register on you, the tree is on its way down. The cracks and twitches from the U.S. oil industry are coming almost hourly now, and although it is a really big tree, and won’t actually hit the ground until next year, its fate is pretty well sealed. Here are this week’s signs and portents: Continue reading