A Fretful Holiday, by James Howard Kunstler

Christmas finds that all is not well in America. From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:

Many threads to tug on at the close of this tumultuous work-week before the supreme holiday of white privilege rolls through, all silver bells and hovering angels. It took hours of rumination and prayer to arrive at a coherent notion about the strange doings in Gen. Mike Flynn’s sentencing hearing, but here goes: Judge Emmet Sullivan sent Gen Flynn to the doghouse for three months to reconsider his guilty plea. The judge may believe that Gen. Flynn needs to contest the charge in open court, where all the Special Prosecutor’s janky evidence will be subject to discovery and review. Mr. Mueller tried to toss a wrecking bar into the proceedings the day before by pressing charges against two of Gen. Flynn’s colleagues in the Turkish lobbying gambit, which was meant to terrify Gen. Flynn as a hint that separate charges would be dumped on him if he doesn’t play ball. A lot can happen in three months, including the arrival of a new Attorney General, and we’ll leave it there for the moment.

The stopgap spending bill before congress — to avert a government shut-down — is based on the comical idea that the money is actually there to spend. Everyone with half a brain knows that it’s not money but “money,” a hypothetical abstraction composed of hopes and wishes. The USA is worse than broke. It’s down to liquidating its rehypothecated hypotheticals. After all, financialization added up to money with its value removed. The global credit markets seem to be sensing this as the tide of borrowings retreats, exposing all the wretched, slimy creatures wheezing in the exposed mudflats who have no idea how to service their old loans or generate credible new ones. But, no matter. We’ll continue pretending until the US$ flies up its own cloacal aperture and vanishes.

Contingent on that exercise is “money” for Mr. Trump’s promised-and-requested border wall. The wall is really a symbol for the nation’s unwillingness to set a firm policy on immigration. Half of the political spectrum refuses to even make a basic distinction between people who came here legally and those who snuck in and broke the law. They’ve super-glued themselves to that position not on any plausible principle, but because they’re desperate to corral Hispanic votes — and notice how eager they are to get non-citizens on the voting rolls. Their mouthpiece, The New York Times, even ran an op-ed today, None of Us Deserve Citizenship, (is that even grammatical?)  arguing that we should let everybody and anybody into the country because of our longstanding wickedness.

The simple resolve to firmly and politely send interlopers back across the border would go a long way to providing border security, but we’ve allowed this process to be litigated into incoherence so that it is increasingly impossible to enforce the existing rules. Mr. Trump’s wall is an acknowledgement of that failure to agree on lawful action to defend the border. It evokes the works of past empires, like the wall built across Britain by the Roman emperor Hadrian to keep out the warlike, filthy, blue-faced Scots, or the Great Wall of China built to block marauding Mongols. Of course, these societies didn’t have closed circuit TV, drones, laser sensors, four-wheel-drive landcruisers, and night-vision goggles. I’m not persuaded that the US really requires Mr. Trump’s wall, but it does require a functioning consensus that national borders mean something, and the president’s argument is a lever to produce that consensus.

In the meantime, the condition of the US economy, which Mr. Trump has boasted is roaring on his account, wobbles badly. It has been based for two decades on a three-card-monte trade set-up in which China sends us amazingly cheap products and we send them IOUs (dollars, i.e. Federal Reserve promissory notes). It was not an arrangement bound to last. And it entailed a lot of mischief around the theft of complex intellectual property. The damage there appears to be already done. China may have enough computer mojo now to make all kinds of trouble in the world. Of course, China will have enough political and economic trouble when its Molto-Ponzi banking system flies apart, so I would not assume that they are capable of attaining the kind of world domination that scenario-gamers in the US Intel-and-Military offices dream up.

To me, these disturbances and machinations suggest the unravelling of the arrangements we’ve called “globalism.” That’s what we face most acutely in 2019, along with the fragile conditions in banking, markets, and currencies that can put the schnitz on supply lines as everybody and his uncle around the world fear that they will never get paid. It all makes for a suspenseful holiday. Bake as many cookies as you can while the fixings are still there and stuff a few in your ammunition box for the fretful days ahed.

 

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