Not the Monthly Post

A Dangerous Year

‘Tis the season for making predictions about the events lurking in wait for us all in the upcoming year, and I see no reason to demur from that common if risky habit. Those of my readers who’ve been following my blog since the days of The Archdruid Report know that my method in making these predictions is at once simple, effective, and highly unpopular.  Put briefly, I pay attention to what happened when the same conditions occurred in previous historical epochs, and predict that the same consequences are going to follow.

It’s simple because I’ve got five thousand years of history to work with, and since human beings are much less original than they like to think, it’s a safe bet that the events taking place now have occurred many times before, with predictable consequences. It’s effective because, again, human beings are much less original than they like to think, and the more of them get involved in any given event, the more of the Brownian motion brought into being by individual cussedness gets canceled out. Sure, we have lots of shiny new technogimmickry now, but the brains, hearts, and less mentionable organs guiding said technogimmickry haven’t changed noticeably since the end of the last ice age. That’s why the American special forces wasting their time and your money in the northern Euphrates valley right now are enacting a failed strategy that was already old when the legions of the Babylonian Empire were doing the same thing in the same place three thousand-odd years ago.

It’s highly unpopular, finally, because an astonishing number of people in today’s industrial societies labor under the bizarre delusion that when we make the same old mistakes and get the same overfamiliar consequences, we’re actually doing brand new, innovative, unparalleled things that will inevitably succeed in ways nothing has ever succeeded before, and how dare anyone suggest that we might learn something from the lessons of history!  Now of course when somebody proposes a course of action, it’s simple common sense to ask “Well, what happened the last few times somebody tried that?” Try raising that obvious and necessary question in today’s collective conversation, though, and you can count on being shouted down with ringing cries of “But it’s different this time!”

What’s more, when you turn out to be right and they turn out to be wrong—and let’s be fair, that’s nearly always what happens in such cases—you can bet the farm that the next time the question comes up, they’ll be making the same claims. Whether it’s technofetishists insisting that some imaginary mechanical marvel that’s been just ten years in the future since before I was born really is going to happen this year, or purveyors of utopian daydreams insisting that this is the year when their fantasies will become reality, or people who’ve invested in the speculative bubble du jour insisting that said bubble really will keep on levitating forever, or apocalypse fans insisting that modern industrial civilization is going to crash into ruin in a matter of weeks sometime soon, just you watch—well, dear reader, if you’ve been following the collective chatter of our time, you know the words and the music of all these ditties well enough to sing them in your sleep.

When we look back on the steaming remains of 2018 a year from now, in other words, we won’t be thinking of it as the year when fusion power finally became viable, or the year that world peace broke out, or the year that Bitcoin made everyone a godzillionaire, or the year when industrial civilization rolled over, belched, and died. A year from now, what’s more, the dollar and the Euro will still have value, there will still be products on the shelves of your local grocery, petroleum-powered automobiles will still be lurching wastefully down the streets, petroleum-powered airliners will still be rumbling even more wastefully through the skies, and more Americans will be concerned with the outcome of the latest Super Bowl game than with the subjects this blog discusses.

Does this mean that nothing’s going to change? No, quite the contrary.

Some historical epochs are more dangerous than others, and the most dangerous of all are those in which a once-great empire is on the way toward history’s dustbin. Imagine yourself living in such a time. The world you live in—whether that world is a river valley or a planet—is dominated by a nation which could once pound the living bejesus out of anyone who challenged its dominion. Can it still do so? No one knows for sure. The leaders and publicists of the imperial power insist on its invincibility and snarl threats at its rivals; the rivals position themselves for the moment when the illusion of omnipotence cracks once and for all; minor powers push at the boundaries of international order and take risks that would have been unthinkable a few decades before. If this doesn’t sound familiar to you, dear reader, you really do need to get out more.

Several years ago I wrote that the accelerating decline and impending fall of America’s global empire is the single most important fact of contemporary world politics. That’s even more true now. As we move deeper into decline, the gap between what the United States used to be able to do and what it can still do today is widening—but no one knows just how wide it is, much less which possibilities have fallen into the gap and which remain on firm ground. Everyone in the world, from Donald Trump in his gold-plated bathtub to the poorest of the poor in their teeming Third World slums, is scrambling to deal with a situation that with each passing day has more resemblance to a crapshoot at long odds. In all probability, some of the most crucial events in the year ahead will be the product of desperate gambles set in motion at three in the morning in response to fragmentary data about a situation too complex for anybody to understand or control.

My first prediction for the new year, therefore, is that one of the biggest stories of the year will be an event that nobody has predicted. Do I know what it is? I’m not even going to guess. In Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s useful phrase, we can expect at least one Godzilla-sized “black swan” event to dominate headlines and shake what little faith the world still has in rational planning.

That said, even in a time of rising uncertainties, some things can be predicted by paying attention to what’s happening now and comparing it to what happened the last half dozen times the same set of conditions put in an appearance. Let’s start with domestic politics here in the US.

As I write this, the Trump administration has been in office for just under a year, and as usual at this point for an administration with a first-time president, it’s just beginning to hit its stride. The tax bill just passed is a harbinger of things to come.  The giveaways to the rich that got nearly all the media attention are sideshows; the main event is the tax benefits it gave to Trump’s working class supporters,  the elimination of deductions that benefit the largely Democratic middle and upper middle class, the incentives it gave to US-based multinationals to bring overseas dollars home and invest them here, and—above all else—the abolition of the most hated part of Obamacare, the individual mandate that forced people who can’t afford health insurance to buy it anyway at whatever price the insurance industry wanted to charge.

That is to say, Trump did what successful US administrations always do, and handed out pork to his supporters at the expense of his rivals. That’s going to help shore up his base when it comes time for the 2018 elections, and if he manages to hand out more pork to his voter base between now and this coming November, the Democratic dream of a sweeping midterm victory that will leave Trump paralyzed in 2019 and 2020 will almost certainly go whistling down the wind.

That’s all the more likely in that the Democrats have handled their defeat in the 2016 elections very badly. When you lose—especially when you had the advantage going into the contest, and blew it anyway—the first and most essential  rule of survival is to figure out what you did wrong and stop doing it. Not only haven’t the Dems done this, many of them have responded with blind fury to the suggestion that they ought to learn anything from their failure, and insisted that their party has to keep doubling down on all the things that cost Hillary Clinton the White House.

Those aren’t the things Democrats like to blame for Clinton’s loss, by the way. What doomed Clinton’s campaign was her commitment to business as usual at a time when business as usual had become intolerable for a vast number of ordinary Americans. What catapulted Trump into the nomination, and then the White House, was the hope on the part of those same Americans that he might do something different. What happens now that Trump’s team and the Republican leadership in Congress have worked out their differences and started to get legislation passed will determine whether the voters who backed Trump in 2016 will stay with the GOP in 2018 and 2020. Unless the Democrats get a clue in a hurry, that’s likely to happen.

Overall, while there’s still plenty of room for uncertainty at this point, I’m going to call the 2018 Congressional elections as a tossup, with a few seats changing hands and maybe a very slight gain for one side or the other. This is one place to watch for black swans, though.

While you’re watching domestic US politics, by the way, keep an eye out for a massive sea change that’s under way this year, though it probably won’t have an impact for a few years yet: the absurdity of Christians in America supporting a political agenda that directly contradicts the teachings of Christ has begun to sink in, in a big way, among young American Protestants. The devil’s bargain by which the evangelical Protestant churches sold their souls to the Republican Party in exchange for political influence was never destined to have a long shelf life, and it’s starting to stink too strongly for a good many sensitive noses. Donald Trump, interestingly enough, seems to have been the bright orange straw that broke this particular camel’s back; a great many young evangelical Christians, watching their elders turn cheerleader for a man who’s a poster child for every one of the seven deadly sins, have had enough.

The Democratic Party as currently constituted is unlikely to benefit from the resulting defections, but then the Democratic Party as currently constituted is not long for this world. I expect the party to go through tectonic shifts as its current leadership either gets chucked out or ages out, and one of the current crop of outsiders does to it what Jeremy Corbyn’s doing to the Labour Party on the other side of the Atlantic—that is to say, turning it back into something like what it was before it became a pallid clone of its conservative rival. If that happens before 2020, and Trump fumbles badly enough, the new social evangelicals may become a massive force in US politics in the 2020 election; if not, and the Democrats go down to a humiliating defeat in 2020, the rise of the new social evangelicals will come immediately afterwards. One way or another, it’s going to stand a lot of the certainties of American politics on their heads.

Okay, let’s turn to foreign affairs. As already mentioned, the United States is a waning force,  trying to maintain a fingernail grip on the levels of global power while backing away from foreign commitments it can no longer afford. That backpedaling is already moving much faster than I would have predicted a few years back. The Russian intervention in Syria was the critical event here. Having embarrassed the Pentagon with an efficient win, the Russians are now reaping the benefits of victory, building permanent bases in Syria from which they can project power throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

Egypt, formerly a US ally of sorts, has quietly changed sides and leased several air bases to the Russians. Turkey, a member of NATO, seems to be headed the same direction. A decade ago the United States would have moved heaven and earth to stop these things from happening; now it merely blusters. The unrest being fomented in Iran as I write this is a temporary gimmick; a similar US-funded attempt at regime change was crushed easily in 2009, and the Iranian authorities can squash this one readily enough. My working guess is that it’s being done this time to try to bluff Iran into bringing some of its Revolutionary Guards units back from Syria, at least for a while, so the US special forces teams who have been stage-managing the Pentagon’s end of the Syrian rebel scene have time to extract themselves and cover their tracks adequately.

Elsewhere in the world, it’s the same song. The US is trying to carry out that most difficult of military operations, a staged retreat through hostile territory. That could blow up without warning, of course. For what it’s worth, I don’t expect the blow-up to come from America’s principal rivals, Russia, China, and Iran; they’ve displayed admirable patience, and for good reason; they know that they simply have to wait, taking precisely measured actions to shore up weak spots or to press their claims in narrowly defined areas, and they’ll get what they want once the US finishes its trip down history’s greased chute.

No, it’s the minor powers with regional ambitions that might decide to gamble that the US can no longer back up its threats. Faced with a direct attack on US interests, Trump will have to respond with as much force as America still has; what happens next depends on how deep the rot has extended through the US military, and on whether the other side has figured out how to capitalize on the vulnerabilities of a military machine that’s still basically designed to refight World War II. If the US military suffers a serious defeat at the hands of some other nation, all bets are off. (That was the central theme of my one venture into political-military thriller fiction, my 2014 novel Twilight’s Last Gleaming.) Otherwise, expect the US to bluster and threaten in an attempt to win breathing room for its retreat from empire. Black swans?  A constant possibility.

While we’re discussing foreign affairs, by the way, keep an eye on Saudi Arabia. One of the riskiest maneuvers in all of politics is the attempt by an absolute monarchy to modernize the economic system of its nation and still retain power.  That’s what King Louis XVI of France tried to do in the decades before 1789, what Tsar Nicholas of Russia tried to do in the decades before 1917, and what the Shah of Iran tried to do in the decades before 1978; I trust my readers know what happened to the monarchs in question. The current crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, is trying to pull off the same trick right now. Will he and the House of Saud survive the experience?  An interesting question, which could set the Middle East aflame.

Okay, on to economics. Right at the moment it’s impossible to tell whether the cryptocurrency bubble is going to go into permanent slump or reinflate and head for the Moon. One way or another, expect the rise and fall of speculative bubbles to be a constant feature of the business pages all year. Partly that’s because the real economy of nonfinancial goods and services by and large no longer provides the kind of profits investors expect, and so a hallucinatory economy of paper wealth has leapt into being to meet the demand. Partly, though, there’s another factor.

For the last three years, while the US stock market has hit record highs, more money has been withdrawn from US stocks than has been put into them. In theory, that’s impossible. In practice, it shows that the stock market has stopped functioning as a measure of economic health and turned into an instrument of economic propaganda. Back in the day, the US government funded its deficits by selling Treasury bills to other nations, counting on the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency to keep the market brisk; when that stopped working, the Treasury started buying its own debt through intermediaries and stashing the debt in off-book subsidiaries in various corners of the world—yes, that’s the same gimmick that got Enron in trouble. Now it’s pretty clear that the same gimmick, or something very much like it, is also being used to prop up the stock market.

The usual prognosticators are predicting a stock market crash this year, the same one they’ve predicted (inaccurately) for nearly a decade now. It might happen, but the chances are against it, since hallucinations don’t need to obey the laws of gravity. The trend to watch, rather, is the increasing disconnection of the official economy from the actual state of economic affairs in the real world. Many years ago Bertram Gross predicted that economic indicators would turn into “economic vindicators” that said whatever the government wanted them to say. I think he’d be impressed to see just how enthusiastically the federal government has fulfilled his predictions.

What we’re seeing, in other words, is the transformation of the US economy into a Potemkin Village capitalism in which government largesse backed by Ponzi financing props up a thin imitation of prosperity over the top of spreading impoverishment. It’s not accidental that Elon Musk, one of the most highly touted of the new generation of capitalist grandees, runs all his businesses on government subsidies. Meanwhile, outside the narrowing circle of the official economy, the United States is rapidly becoming a Third World nation in which off-book employment and subsistence economics are increasingly the norm. I don’t expect any significant change in that picture this year, just a continuation of vapid cheerleading from the media and increasingly grim conditions in the real world. Black swans? Always a possibility but not, I think, a likely one.

The environment? That’s the big issue, of course, but it’s going to get nothing but lip service. We’re going to see more big storms, more big floods, more big fires, and the streets of Miami Beach and a hundred other low-lying coastal communities will fill a little deeper with salt water every time they get a high tide and an onshore wind, but nothing’s going to be done about it.  Oh, sure, the left will demand with a voice both loud and bold that somebody else, somewhere else, ought to use less carbon; the right will insist that the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle, if that’s what it takes to let them keep on claiming that anthropogenic climate change isn’t happening; and only a few of us out here on the fringes will do the one thing that can actually make a difference, and cut back sharply on our own carbon use in order to lead by example.

I expect to hear any number of predictions of impending environmental doom this year, and they’ll be wasted breath as usual; preachers, sacred and secular alike, have been trying to scare people into being good since long before Jonathan Edwards ranted about “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and—ahem—it doesn’t work:  never has, never will. There are plenty of other ways that people concerned about the environment could help build a movement for change that might actually have an impact, but all of those ways start with activists embracing the changes they expect everyone else to embrace.  Since environmental activists by and large come from the privileged middle and upper middle classes of our society, and since most would sooner fry and eat their own fingers than accept a standard of living they associate with the despised poor, none of these promising options are going to be taken up. Instead, we’ll get more posturing, more loud pronouncements, more empty gestures, as the seas keep rising and the climate gets worse.

One way or another, we’re probably going to be facing a fair amount of rough sledding here in the USA over the year ahead, as our domestic politics remains frozen in gridlock, our foreign policy struggles to deal with the impacts of our accelerating decline, our economy devolves into nothing so straightforward as honest smoke and mirrors, and the environment that sustains us all tips further into sudden-reset territory. It’s going to be a dangerous year—and yes, that faint rhythmic noise you hear in the sky is either the wingbeats of a black swan or the sound of another flock of birds coming home to roost.

**********

In not unrelated news, the fourth volume of the collected Archdruid Report essays, Green Wizardries, is now in print! All the posts from 2010, including several of the most influential posts my former blog featured, are there in all their curmudgeonly glory.  Snap up a copy here.

308 Comments

  1. Interesting as always. What is your source for the idea that more money is leaving the stock market than entering? Of course, share buy-backs muddy the picture. And muddy it more as an expected principal result of the new tax bill.

    Good thought about the “protests” in Iran moving RG troops back home. Makes sense.

  2. Your remarks remind me of the last part of Ian Morris’ “Why the West Rules – For Now” – I’m just on the last few pages, where he talks about what he calls “global weirding”. He seems to think we’re headed either for collapse or for a “singularity” in which weird science-fictional stuff will have to happen. Personally, although a science-fiction fan, I am inclined to prefer the collapse…

  3. JMG, Love the predictions and I agree with most, but you missed predicting the outcome of the Russiagate-Mueller investigative bonanza. Yes this is just a specific part of the Democrats reaction to Hillary’s humiliating lose. But in my circles it is the one everyone places predictive bets on . I have already won a bet with a friend who was convinced Trump would be impeached by August , and have several more going that Trump will serve out his term in office. The main stream media has its followers in such a trance that they really believe the smoking gun that will put Trump away forever is around the next corner.

  4. If you watch a troupe of chimpanzees, some of the males will be violently challenging one another. There will also be one strong male who serenely watches all this violence from the sidelines. He is the alpha male, while the brawlers are a bunch of beta males, who are displacing the agression they feel toward the alpha onto one another. On some level these betas are well aware that they’re no match for the alpha — not yet, and in most cases, not ever.

    Chimpanzees are our closest biological relatives. If we still had any doubts that the Presidency of the United States is now a position for betas within the chimp-troupe of nation-states, Trump’s exchange with Kim about nuclear buttons should settle all doubts. (And once you’ve lost alpha status and become a beta, there’s no coming back — not ever.)

    As for who the alpha might be now, look and see which other powerful heads of state are leaning back and watching the betas scrap. I rather think he is Xi Jinping.

  5. Thank you, JMG. I appreciate your input as the world as we have come to know over the last few decades continues to spiral out of control in some predictable and most definitely unpredictable ways.

    Disclaimer: I am not a liberal nor am I a Democratic Party member.

    I do need to respond to your comments with respect to the doom of the current Democratic Party establishment. Yes the way it is currently and for many decades now has been constituted is most certainly and hurriedly making its way off the cliff of contemporary domestic local, state and national politics. I just don’t understand in your comments about the coming change why you do not give credence or credit where it is due to the work that Senator Bernie Sanders has done to revolutionize the structure and outreach of the Democratic Party; even as an outsider mind you. Why not? He and Corbyn have been working, almost in unison, on the very thing you mention in this week’s post, “…turning it back into something…” “…before it became a pallid clone of its conservative rival.” All the other “crop of outsiders” you mention are simply riding on the wave of change he and other grassroots activists have worked very hard to initiate within Democratic Party politics.

    In fact, in light of last week’s post supporting the need to create systems which suck less, why do you not come out in support of the work that Senator Sanders has done with respect to establishing a framework (through advocacy and actual legislation) for the development of worker owned businesses and cooperatives in the past and during his campaign for POTUS in 2016? I’m not saying you should be campaigning for him; just think he deserves a shout out if you will. This is the very basis of worker ownership of the means of production and a shift toward a democratic syndicalism that you seem to favor most. See link https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/recent-business/worker-owned-businesses-2014. I guess I just don’t understand why you either choose to ignore or dismiss his efforts (among many others) to encourage grassroots decision making and the transition to a worker owned economy.

  6. Thank you very much, as always, for a sober look at trends and likelihoods that are making themselves felt. Here in the hinterlands, far from where Games of Thrones are played by the powerful, the slipping-from-powerful and the aspiring-to-be-powerful, my ambition for 2018, as it was in 2017, is to, first, do no harm, and to walk humbly and with gratitude upon this good earth.

    I have lit a candle tonight for blessings upon all those I know and love, and in thanks for the thoughtful company you yourself, JMG, and all your commenters provide to me all year, I shall be including all those who spend time here in my “blessing” circle.

    May the road rise up to meet ye all in 2018.

  7. Interesting set of prognostications.

    I think you’re missing something with respect to the Democratic Party, Granted, they’re mostly as clueless as you report, but the upset in the recent Alabama senatorial election wasn’t the result of the Democrats getting a clue. It was a combination of a Republican candidate that was so bad the Republicans stayed home in droves or wrote in another candidate, plus a massive grass-roots get-out-the-vote drive in the Black community.

    It’s the latter that needs looking at. It’s part of what’s called the “Resistance,” which is a loosely organized set of local grass-roots organizations that are mostly dedicated to blocking Trump and getting “good” candidates elected. The official Democratic Party organization is baffled by them, which is probably all to the good. In the Alabama election I just mentioned, the national Democratic organization did the intelligent thing: they found the groups that were doing something, sent money and otherwise kept their hands out of it.

    These grass-roots organizations don’t show up on the national radar precisely because they aren’t part of a national organization, and don’t take orders from a non-existent headquarters. The recent tax bill gave them exactly what they need: a cause they can use to get the notoriously lazy left-liberal electorate out to the polls.

  8. JMG, since you did not do it yourself, I will very happily draw the attention of readers to your generally accurate astrological reading for 2017, from last March. In particular:

    Saturn in the tenth house generally is considered a dire omen, predicting crises and misfortunes for the nation. Its precise conjunction with the Moon, though, suggests that the largest share of these troubles will fall on the institutions of government and their supporters among the articulate classes, rather than on the administration or the head of state. … Uranus, finally, stands at the very end of the first house, within orb of the cusp of the second. In the first house it predicts reforms and changes in political life, but also riots, strikes, and general discontent with the political order.

    I will omit your predictions of economic hardship (times are always tough…), because I’m much more interested in this behavior by Saturn. A similar reading was made by Austin Coppock on the Rune Soup podcast. Both of you said that 2017 would be destructive for everyone besides the ruler and his court. Indeed, what we saw in the second half of 2017 was a government and academic world increasingly stripped of its resources and hiring abilities, and a “political life” hammered hard by the Weinstein effect, with women for the first time feeling empowered to speak out about abuses by their colleagues. This effect reverberated throughout the “articulate classes” and began to evolve the liberal public towards an entirely new stage of discourse.

    This brings me to the question of a paradigm shift among the Blue Tribe, something you addressed in this post. I think you are right on the money with your prediction of a new left-wing evangelicalism. I have been seeing slow movements towards that in the Christian world. In the current political climate there are surely Christians who feel a “calling” to a new kind of politics. There is also a visible rise in left-wing economic, environmental, and anti-colonial thought among America’s African and Middle Eastern immigrants.

    The Blue Tribe is diverse and very complex — this is why it must necessarily move away from post-1980s cocktail party liberalism, as that liberalism begins to be exposed as a culturally, racially, and historically specific invention with inherent injustices. If this diverse tribe begins to lose the illusion of unified interest in liberalism, it will seek a new source of coherence, and tribe members under 30 especially are beginning to show some level of “wokeness” about capitalism and income disparity. Up until 2017, all movements towards the true left were being drowned out by the snobbish capitalism of the New York Times and Washington Post, but last year I witnessed a growing distaste for the worldview of those papers.

    While Weimar America is spiraling downwards towards an inevitable conclusion, and no one is expecting a utopia these days, that does not mean that some bleak, grim dystopia is inevitable either. We Americans, of course, are eternal optimists: unlike continental Europeans, who are completely comfortable with a quiet, shared existentialism, Americans need a common hope and dream. You observed “the settling of longstanding grievances” in your astrological chart, and Austin Coppock speaks similarly of a “settling of the books.” All of this points me towards a mass rejection of standard liberalism and the grievances it tries to bury.

    Late last month, Saturn entered Capricorn, where it will remain until 2020. Historically, this has indicated a massive “settling of the books.” The last two times Saturn and Capricorn met were 1929-32 and 1988-91: two short little spans of three years, both of which had a massive impact on millions of people. And if you don’t go in for astrology, maybe I can point you to “The Fourth Turning” (famously enjoyed by Steve Bannon), in which 2018-2020 is the “climax of the crisis”…

  9. JMG,

    Can you recommend a good source to learn about Trump’s tax bill? I’m doing some internet research, but to be honest I’m not completely confident in my ability to sift through the manure.

    Thanks

  10. Much as I’d love to (I go back to Kennedy), I can’t disagree one whit with anything you posit here, dang it.
    Also: well put. EB Salt Lake City

  11. Oh dear, I really have read too much JMG, haven’t I? I went right through your post going, yup, right, check, yep, yeah that’s the way I see it too…

    The only, very minor, differences were whether the Iran thing is about regime change or simply the cover story to get out of Dodge relatively unscathed, as you suggest, and the level to which climate change is going to bare some angry teeth this year. I don’t believe total catastrophe is on the way, but I do think that some natural disasters are going to look particularly bad, maybe starting with the big freeze in the northeast.

    You didn’t mention DPRK, which I can’t see having a happy end, whichever way it goes.

    PS Did I miss Magic Monday?

  12. Hey hey JMG,

    I’m going to take a stab at 2018 predictions this year.

    The House of Saud falls this year. I don’t know if this means the crown prince seeks asylum or internal rioting or the clergy denouncing policies, but I’m pretty sure that the kingdom is toast. It’s conceivable that this becomes apparent in 2018, but doesn’t actually implode until mid 2019 but I think this year is more likely.

    Reason, the House of Saud has been walking a balance beam that is getting narrower and narrower. Being as USA ally and funding fundamentalists clerics at home and exporting terrorist are conflicting objectives and those chickens were eventually bound to come home to roost. Their fall has been in the works for years, but the reforms are mixing the pot at exactly the wrong time.

    A huge political scandal shakes American’s confidence in their government even further. My guess is Imran Awan, but it could just as easily be Republicans in the house and senate or military procurement or all of the above. Addendum, everyone, the elected officials, the appointed officials, the media, they all handle it poorly and American’s confidence in the media declines further.

    Reason, there are certainly scandals going on in the hallowed halls of government at high levels. There almost always are, but it feels like we have a bumper crop at the moment. Whatever it is will probably be leaked, because Washington leaks like a sieve these days. It will be leaked, under reported, denied, covered up, rereported, reinvestigated, refuse to die, and eventually take down some powerful people and demonstrate just how far gone investigative journalism is.

    Trump will bungle a natural disaster worse than Katrina.

    Reason, Natural disasters happen. They seem to be happening more often these days. I just get the feeling that one will hit a big (important) city in 2018. I imagine Trump handling less well then he handled Puerto Rico. People will get really upset.

    Less specific predictions:

    Iran, Russia, and China work more together more closely and develop more alternatives to American systems. Their influence grows.

    The Democratic and Republican parties start to fray at the local level. A small but growing number of local politicians ignore the platform and campaign on issues of substance that used to matter to the parties or run as third parties and make some gains.

    The crappening continues as things get generically worse in fits and starts.

    Thanks,
    Tim

  13. While all the clueless Romans continue to cling to their God of Progress, I am going to take a walk with the Barbarians of LESS. Another new year, and another one of one step forward and three steps back.

    We’re undergoing a big change over on the Green Wizards site the next few months and while its a bit premature to make any sort of announcement here, I do want to to mention a thread on our forum which has gotten a lot of deep discussion over the Holidays.

    “Millennials Are Screwed”

    Its fashionable for my generation (at 60, I’m a Boomer), to stereotype the younger people who make up the Millennials, as a lazy, self absorbed pack of whiners, but those of us following the Circles of Study that is Green Wizardry, know that’s a load of compost.

    If you are of that generation, please stop by and tell us how you are doing. We know its bad, but misery loves company and on our company loves you.

  14. Mr. (Dr.?) Mathieson,
    Excellent analysis! My money is on Mr. Putin as alpha – Mr. Jinping is riding the tiger and it shows signs of stopping.

  15. I offer a completely different, upbeat scenario for 2018, based largely upon the most underappreciated event of 2017: the Bernie Sanders campaign. What this campaign showed was that TINA views of big money controlling politics were not completely accurate, and that genuine political space remains open for a populism of the left to re-emerge in American politics. And there IS something new under the sun IMHO that the vast majority of us–left, right, or off the traditional spectrum–have been relentlessly conditioned to overlook: the fact of fiat money and the extraordinary possibilities it opens ever since Nixon took us off the gold standard of monetary scarcity.

    To fully catch the counter-intuitive drift of my optimism (despite my agreement with much of what JMG has saying for many years) it’s necessary to watch the “Angry Birds” video by Stephanie Kelton easily found at several web sites. Once the basic thrust of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is grasped (and note that Kelton was Bernie’s economic advisor), it does not take a great leap of imagination to envision the possibility of a young, smart, charismatic independent Democratic candidate, a JFK-like Bernie, launching as early as this year an electrifying and ultimately successful crowd-funded presidential campaign centered on using MMT to provide a decent-paying job to every American who wants or needs one–jobs doing precisely what the private sector does not find profitable to do; i.e., meet basic human needs and restore/protect the natural environment.

    Right now, the default position of almost all social commentators of whatever political stripe is cynicism and pessimism. Following JMG’s advice to always be suspicious of group-think and consensus opinion, I choose to embrace 2018 with a wild and crazy prediction that something like “The Age of Aquarius”–a new and better world prematurely anticipated in the 60s–will begin to dawn before our jaded, weary, disbelieving eyes. After living close to 70 years with the dashed hopes and expectations that JMG describes so well in his “After Progress” (a must-read, if you haven’t done so), which have led me only, at worst, to empty despair or, at best, to grim Stoic resignation, I will end my remaining days by betting passionately against all odds on the irrepressible human spirit and MLK’s upward bending arc of history.

    Well I know that this final stand of mine runs counter to virtually everything that everyone else who really thinks, really thinks, including the astute author of this fascinating blog from whom I have greatly benefited. So feel free to have at me, because I may well deserve it…but first please watch the video.

  16. John,
    By black swan do you mean events like 9-11 and the financial melt down of 2008?
    This is the first time you predicted a black swan, why this year?

  17. I notice that this year, you strayed away from the specificity of last year’s predictions (which, as I recall, you made largely in response to critics who insisted that you make more specific predictions). This year, there were definitely events in Saudi Arabia, the tech sphere, and others but they also proved the very points you usually make about the impossibility of directly timing a bubble. Instead this year, you pointed out the potential hotspots for the next year to watch for potential black swan events.

    One area I am a bit surprised you didn’t touch on this year was the powderkeg American social politics have become. Do you expect the year to contain more of what we saw in Charlottesville and others on about that same scale, or do you see similar events with higher body counts or actual organized insurgencies to be another place for potential black swans?

    One other piece of general curiosity in the broader topic of prediction posts: do you plan on doing a follow up on your eclipse post in a few months once the influences have run their course, interpreting what happened during that time?

  18. A couple of folks have commented so far on the Democratic Party and I’d like to toss my two cents in, if John doesn’t consider it going too far afield.

    My issue with the Democrats is that they want to turn everything into a centrally-run, national program, managed and controlled by an ever-more bloated federal bureaucracy. Even Sanders, whose conceptual shift from empire to economic nationalism I supported, suffered from this problem. I agreed with his principles, but generally not with his specific solutions. (For example, rather than making college free, we should make it less necessary in the first place.)

    We need to de-centralize our governance, I’d argue, with more being done at the state level (or groups of states working in concert, such as in forming insurance pools) and the local level. Congress ought to be restricted to the enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8, as amended. I see no evidence that the Democrats comprehend this. My thinking still is, though it may prove wrong, that the Democrats will become the new establishment party as the old Republican coalition falls apart and the Republican establishment seeks a new home (perhaps resulting in something along the lines of the “Dem-Reps” John mentions in _Retrotopia_).

    With regard to the divergence f the rel economy and the financial economy, John, are there specific indicators that you are using as proxies to assess the “real” side of that comparison?

    I think that you are correct about the recklessness being a factor of the lower-tier powers — China and Russia are playing the long game and playing it well. I wonder if Bismark’s comment (appropriately edited) isn’t applicable to the situation we face in 2018: “Probably some d— fool thing in the Balkans.”

  19. “The absurdity of Christians in America supporting a political agenda that directly contradicts the teachings of Christ has begun to sink in” – well put. In my estimation the Calvinist wing of Protestantism made a devil’s bargain when they decided material success was the mark of the elect. This put them in the same vessel as the Jews of Jesus’ time who thought material success was a sign of God’s favor and whom Jesus especially excoriated. It turns out you do have to “walk your talk!”

  20. Hi John
    We in Tower 440 of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association (GWB&PA) are certain that everything is different this time.
    First, we are drilling with hoes, not shovels. Besides, hoes make good staffs for ceremonial magic. We will try to use our hoes to focus the power of the next new moon and beam it to your model of Tower Prime, so the green light can shine forth. Please put on your welding goggles and let us know if anything happens.
    Also, we got a deal on some pine green felt for armbands. The astronomical symbol for Earth seems an obvious choice. Add the sun, moon, and stars for rank or office? Or would “GW” be preferable? Our resident Old English scholar suggests the Futhark runes gebo and wunjo. For space, we could move the runes to our collar points.
    OK – I made all that up. But… Seriously – we have been talking about rites and regalia for Green Wizards… including if or not the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association should be religious, secular, scholastic, monastic, or some combination.
    And (I did not make this up) A bunch of us met at a local indie coffee shop to discuss what we want to do with the GWB&PA and a nervous patron summoned the gendarmes. A mixed age and gender group with a preference for heavy boots and tattered military jackets talking about degrowth is just scary. The gendarmes departed after realizing that we were quite serious about founding an educational group. One might buy a copy of Green Wizardry… (A really cheap paperback version to give away would be nice.)
    Obviously, we need armbands to identify ourselves as the good guys.
    Happy New Year!
    Rusty Retrofit, Ruinman in Residence at Tower 440

  21. Hi JMG – always like your posts! I too am wondering where your review of last years predictions are and would like to see how they fared (I have forgotten what they were now!).
    I’m not sure how big a hit Trumps tax cuts are gong to be with his base – only amounts to something like 60 bucks a month I understand, which will be more than compensated by losses of other benefits and increased health insurance fees. True they can opt out and have no insurance at all now (or poor insurance) but will run people into big problems when they really need it or develop a chronic health condition (as is more and more common these days).

    I also understand that – surprisingly – it was actually college educated middle and upper middle class voters that pushed Trump into power and they won’t like the loss of deductions they are in for – which basically amounts to a tax increase for them. So I am not so sure these are going to endear the voter base more to Trump and the Republican party. Just a thought.

    Also although the Dems are in disarray it appears the Republicans are equally so as the split between “traditional” republicans and the “Trumpian” breed becomes evident. As you point out the younger evangelicals are turning on the party and their elders so this also doesn’t bode well for the Republican party as it has been.

    I like your take on other world events and will be keeping and eye on that!

  22. excellent commentary as usual.Two things however.I dont buy the idea that the tax cuts were mainly for the benefit of the working class.the few bucks more on their checks wont cover the cost of higher gas prices coming latter this year.Its just another republican scam.Also it seems that in nature things do reach tipping points or Senecas cliffs ect. Is that where your black swan comes in?

  23. JMG, Jumping aboard your thesis that the elites can keep a false economy going much longer than anyone might expect I will make a couple of predictions by examining places where it is hard to keep the Ponzi going with printed money and fake statistics. One of the first places that will decline in an obvious way in 2018 is the rents in the big west and east coast bubble cities. Real estate prices can be propped up with low interest rates and other gimmicks, but rent can only be paid with actual wages, add in glut of over-built units coming on the market in Seattle, Portland and elsewhere and Kaboom ( might be for the better though).

    The other place I expect the Piper to be paid is the Sick-care Industrial Complex. Obamacare put the mandate in place to harvest additional revenue from the young and healthy so that the Healthcare Cartel could continue to grow. U.S. Healthcare spending has grown to 22% of GDP in the meantime, and the side effects those who are no longer mandated to buy insurance bailing from the market will put the industry in to a period of declining revenue that it is ill-equiped to handle. The massive growth in this industry over the last 9 years has supplied a large portion of the urban jobs, and its reversal will be hard to mask.

  24. You are a national – no, make that a Gaian – treasure, John Michael.

    Your prophetic New Year posts are always among our favorites, and this one did not disappoint. We especially loved the first few paras.

    Best wishes to you and Sara throughout 2018!

    Together for the future,

    ~ Michael & Connie

  25. @David by the Lake “My issue with the Democrats is that they want to turn everything into a centrally-run, national program, managed and controlled by an ever-more bloated federal bureaucracy.”

    But of course, that is precisely the platform by means of which the Democrats will provide the “pork” for their major constituency – the professional, managerial class, which sekks employment – preferably salaried, and with clout.

    Sadly, I think the constituency they recklessly abandoned under the first Clinton – the waged class – have been losing interest in them, and the professional, managerial class will ultimately prove too small in numbers to win major votes any more.

  26. One prediction–

    Expect the word “hope” to feature prominently in the midterm elections, at least at the beginning.

    You won’t have seen the new Star Wars movie, and you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s both bad and incredibly boring. You might or might not be surprised to know that the good guys are now called “The Resistance,” and that they’re a representation of the self-image of the Democratic Party. The word “Hope,” meanwhile, is inserted almost at random into the dialog, in the most ham-fisted way possible. It’s as if someone had just read one book on neurolinguistic programming and was trying to make use of it in the most inept way imaginable. Both the ineptitude and the stunning lack of self-awareness (there’s also a long mid-film lecture on economic injustice… from the Walt Disney Corporation. Seriously. It’s like a sermon on racial equality from the Ku Klux Klan) read like a calling card from the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democrats.

  27. My unexpected event for 2018 is that a massive solar flare will wipe out the entire electrical grid. Okay – for various reasons – I really don’t expect this to happen (I also apologize for the poor, unscientific wording.).

    It might be fun (and informative?) to see predictions from the commentariat(sp?) re a big story ‘event that nobody has predicted’…

    JMG – thank you for your insightful predictions.

    JMG – to echo Vicky (January 3, 2018 at 6:23 pm): Where are your evaluations for your 2017 predictions?

    BTW – I received ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’ last week (I had borrowed the book & decided I wanted my own copy). Great book – wonderful storytelling (with a base of solid research brought to ‘life’). Also, as a few years have passed since its release, many of the fictional events in the novel seem poised to become reality – quite eerie. Hopefully the person to whom I loaned the book will enjoy it as much as I did and let others know.

  28. Marku, there were half a dozen articles on it in various corners of the fringe blogosphere; the one I can find right off hand is here. I checked the figures against other stories, for what it’s worth, and they appear to be telling the truth.

    Robert, why is it that so many otherwise smart people default to sudden improbability when that’s not what history says? I’d like to suggest a far more likely outcome: decline. That’s what happens to societies in the real world that mess up the way ours has, you know.

    Vicky, I didn’t make any. I was still dealing with the backlash from my successful prediction of a Trump victory, and getting ready for the move later that year, and so I made a few vague comments on The Archdruid Report and concentrated on wrapping things up.

    Clay, of course Trump isn’t going to get impeached. Democrats just like to fantasize about that, so they can avoid thinking about coming up with a substantive campaign that will convince people to vote for them.

    Robert, an excellent point. Yes, indeed — when the President of the United States feels a need to get into a button-measuring contest with the dictator of North Korea, we’re definitely talking about squabbles among the also-rans.

    DC, I don’t give a shout-out to Sanders because the Democratic Party is far too fond of cults of personality as it is. In 2016 we got to see plenty of otherwise intelligent people insisting at the top of their lungs that a corrupt political hack named Hillary Clinton was the political Messiah; Sanders is certainly a more appealing candidate — and he’d have beaten Trump hands down, of course — but the insistence that everyone has to heap praise on the man smacks of virtue signaling, not to mention shouts of “Hallelujah, praise the Bern!” The Democrats, and this country generally, will see constructive change when people stop waiting for some savior-figure to fix things and get to work fixing them themselves.

    Scotlyn, thank you! Being some distance away from the current Game of (Porcelain) Thrones has got to be pleasant just now. May 2018, for you and yours, be a year that sucks less. 😉

    John, we’ll see. I’m hoping that grassroots Democrats end up taking the party away from the apparatchiks in DC, too, but I don’t expect that until after 2020.

    Avery, I was planning on revisiting that in March, of course, when it’s time for the next annual chart — which is a doozy, and predicts some very unpleasant possibilities.

    Alexander, I don’t know of one. I’ve relied so far on my own reading of the bill, and on comparing the spluttering diatribes from both sides and trying to find the iota of information amid all the splutter.

    Ebbr, thank you.

    Reloaded, wait a little while on the Iran story and see what you think. As for Magic Monday, yikes — I got overloaded with other duties and forgot about it completely. I’ll make a note and be sure to do it on the 8th.

    Tim, fair enough. Now we’ll see…

    David, glad to hear it.

    Newtonfinn, thanks for this. I’d wondered if MMT was going to turn into the basis for a cargo cult, and you’ve confirmed for me that it probably will. As for your predictions, well, no doubt it’s more emotionally palatable in the short term to believe in what feels good. I don’t find that a useful habit, though.

    Jim, because we’ve moved into the kind of historical situation in which small events can very easily spiral out of control and have vast consequences. No, I’m not really thinking of something like 9/11; I’m thinking of something like a Serbian student assassinating an Austrian archduke in 1914, and a few months later all Europe is at war.

    Eric, I don’t think it’s actually a powderkeg. A lot of people on all sides of the cultural landscape like to engage in posturing and handwaving, but compare Charlottesville with serious political rioting anywhere else in the world and it was pretty tame — a protest march with one death doesn’t even make the news in most parts of the world, you know. As for the eclipse, I’ll consider a post on that.

    David, excellent. I don’t know of any good proxies for the real economy, other than paying close attention to your own lived experience; the condition of the infrastructure you see, the ongoing crapification of goods and services, and the like are a good place to start.

    RPC, yep. The Republican evangelicals these days could serve as poster children for the folks Jesus talked about, who say “Lord, Lord!” all the time but don’t follow the explicit teachings of the Gospel concerning taking care of the poor and vulnerable, and the fate he predicted for them was not pleasant…

    Rusty, make it a fraternal society — you can find a basic overview and a lot of colorful images here. That way, instead of armbands, you can do funny hats and ornate sashes, and nobody will think you’re dangerous or call the police. A hoe is a good ritual implement, too!

    Phil, sixty bucks a month would do quite a bit of good for the working class people I know, and they didn’t get any benefits out of Obamacare anyway — remember that the bronze plans, which were all the working class could afford, had a $6000 deductible per person and a 40% co-pay, so weren’t worth the electrons they were printed on in terms of actually paying for health care (and certainly weren’t worth the five-figure per person annual premiums, with double-digit cost increases every single year). Still, you’re welcome to make your predictions, too; we’ll see who turns out to be right.

    Keith, I didn’t say it was mainly for their benefit; I said that lowering taxes on the working class and getting the Obamacare mandate off their backs was a politically important move. As for black swans and tipping points, by all means keep waiting for one of those if you like, but I don’t recommend holding your breath…

    Clay, no question, the medical industrial complex is going to take it in the teeth. That’s not accidental, either — said industry is after all pretty consistently in the Democratic camp, and so they can expect to get thwacked pretty thoroughly by a populist Republican president. The rent bubble is an interesting question. I certainly hope it pops, but we’ll see.

    Michael, thank you.

  29. Steve, that makes perfect sense, since Obama already ran that word into the ground in his profoundly cynical and content-free 2008 campaign. I wonder if they realize the GOP will be taking notes too, and figuring out how to turn that bit of hamfisted propaganda against them…

    Patricia, as I noted to Vicky, I didn’t make any predictions in January of 2017. (Here’s the post, in case you were wondering.) Thus it didn’t seem particularly useful to look back at the predictions I didn’t make! I’m glad you enjoy Twilight’s Last Gleaming. As for a solar flare taking out power grids, nah, that’s been predicted over and over again. Come on, if you’re going to come up with a black swan, make it really unexpected!

  30. Some more predictions

    The Germans will quietly continue their efforts that have been taking place over the past year to gradually integrate Europe’s armed forces as an insurance policy against the impending end of US global dominance. At the same time, ties between the US and Europe will begin to weaken, as they already have, since many Europeans do not see Trump as a reliable ally.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/eu-countries-agree-mega-army-2017-11

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Japan will continue to remilitarize for similar reasons, though be even less public about it.

  31. re the repatriation of foreign earnings. we had a repatriation holiday in 2004, and not much happened. those who did repatriate offshore profits did not “invest” the tax savings, but simply kicked it out to shareholders in dividends and stock buybacks.

    learning from history and all that.

  32. I’m a bit confused how on the one hand the Democrats are not going to have their widely predicted wave because they haven’t learned anything from 2016 while at the same time they are being Corbynized into what they used to be before they became what they were in 2016 (and since about 1990 at least). Doesn’t it have to be one or the other? The current government dysfunction has shown frequent lurchings between the parties (I think Congress is changing hands more frequently than at any time in US history) because neither party has been solving the real problems and this shows that each time that happens, it is because those elections are just referendums on the party in power. The Democrats don’t have to fix much to do well in 2018 because it will be a referendum on Republicans. But they do have to learn those lessons to defeat Trump in 2020. So if Dems don’t learn those lessons, I would predict a good 2018 and a disastrous 2020. If they do learn the lessons well, maybe they do well in 2020 too.

  33. As I’ve watched the events in KSA I keep thinking of those discussions about their giant oil fields we had back in the TOD days. With massive amounts of water injection and the oil retreating ever further to the top of the reservoir, when they fail it may happen quite fast. And if their leadership knew it, then it seems to me the recent behavior would be perfectly logical – an attempt to grab what wealth was left, along with a belated attempt to move away from an oil economy. There’s no chance of that last succeeding of course, as it’s way too late among other issues. That’s purely speculation on my part though, as I’ve seen no data to support it.

    If that were the scenario, once word got out oil prices would climb. While that might prolong the fracking scam for a bit, it would set off a scramble to control the remaining economically viable sources. It seems to me the imperial eye would have to turn away from some of these other potential conflicts, and focus instead on some place with oil. Venezuela would be my bet, as its proximity makes it easier for the US and harder for rivals.

  34. I have looked over MMT, and I find its core claim accurate, but it ignores what happens next. If a country controls the currency it’s debt is issued in, of course it can choose to create more money rather than default. The problem I have with the claims this means there is no limit to how much money a country can issue is that it ignores what we know happens when a market is flooded with new currency, and the results are not pretty.

  35. @JMG and others – Something occurred to me as I was reading your description of an empire in decline. It seems the American mythology is very unsuited to the role of empire, replete as it is with victorious underdogs and buffoonish tyrants. I’m not American myself so I have only a vague idea how the country’s vision was reconciled with its role in recent decades. Does it seem likely that the American psyche will become more hale once she returns to the role of the underdog?

    @Rusty – you joke, but I’ve had the thought that if times require armbands, I should at least take the time to find a green armband. It’s worth noting that in several analyses of the Iraq war, the victorious side was the one able to provide basic shelter and sanitation to the local populace… A useful capability in times bounteous or otherwise! I do hope you’ll keep us appraised on the adventures of the local 440!

    ~Blessings be~

  36. I can think of two ways that money could be flowing out of “equities” even as the market indices go higher. I assume that the way to measure money flowing out of equities is to compute the total capitalization: shares outstanding x price per share. Firstly, the indices do not cover the whole market, so if the stock price of the 30 stocks in the Dow index go up, but the prices of hundreds of less visible companies go down, the aggregate market cap could go down. Secondly, even if we only look at the companies which have shown increases in share price, corporate buy-backs could be reducing the number of outstanding shares such that the product of the two terms increases. For example, if the price goes up 50% (1 -> 1.5), but the number of shares is down 50% (1 -> 0.5), the market cap is 75% of the original value (1.5 * 0.5 = 0.75). (Of course, both effects can be in play.)

    Why do companies buy back their stock? It could be because they have profits that they can’t re-invest in the capital equipment of the company, they can’t imagine raising wages if they have the workers they need, and the stockholders don’t care whether they see dividends or share price appreciation (or can’t persuade management to raise dividends) . Buying back the stock should make the remaining shares more valuable. But the sinister side of it is that corporate officers have compensation plans that are paid in stock. In theory, that motivates them to act on the behalf of all shareholders, but in fact in motivates them to borrow cheap money to have the company buy out the shares granted to the corporate officers. Once they cash-out the shares and retire, repaying the debt is Somebody Else’s Problem… especially if they can’t roll over the debt at the same low interest rate.

    Whether interest rates will rise enough to blow down this house of cards in 2018 or not, I have no idea.

  37. Oilman2 – Just a quick note to say how much I appreciate your post near the end of last week’s comments. Your personal experience is priceless.

  38. Interesting predictions and along the lines of what I expect as well. My one curiosity is the relentless suggestion that a Clinton administration would have been worse than the unfolding train wreck of Trump’s. At the very least she wouldn’t be playing nuclear chicken with N. Korea. And though the Democrats aren’t much when it comes to environmental issues, at least their official Party position isn’t that global warming is a hoax. Nor is “drill baby drill” part of the Democratic response to energy needs. Do I think the Democrats offer the kind of leadership that can make the transition into a post-carbon, post capitalist world easier? No. After all, they are as committed to capitalism as any Republican, and love war and empire just as much.

    Obamacare…it is horrible. My wife and I are on such a policy and faced a cancer scare; one that cost us more than $10,000 in deductibles and put a two year dent in the way we live. (A story for another time.) But it was better than no coverage at all which, given the current administration’s efforts, is where we are likely to end up in the near future. At 62 years old it is possible that the next medical issue I face would be survivable with care, care that I will not be able to afford. Sure it would only buy me another decade or so of life, but that decade or so would likely made it possible for me to welcome a great grandchild or two into the world, give a bit more of a helping hand to the next generation, and maybe add just a little more to my modest store of wisdom. I would really prefer those years rather than helping to finance another American built Aircraft Carrier or an upgraded nuclear arsenal.

    And the new tax law. What I have read of and about the law is that it is a pure give-away to the elites that are so roundly (and rightly) skewered on this blog. Any wage earning Trump supporter who thinks they are “getting a break” has swallowed the blue pill. Even Senator Rubio of my state of FL admits that their tax bill (for which he voted) goes too far in helping corporations. At the very least any tax break a wage earner thinks he or she sees goes away in a few years. The give aways to the corporations are permanent.

    Maybe the idea is, when a train wreck is unavoidable, push the throttle all the way up and get it over with as quickly as possible.

    In which case Trump is, indeed, the right man for the job.

  39. Of course, RPC, you may be right as to who the real alpha is. Time will tell.

    And I do have a certain instinctive and lasting bias in favor of Asia rather than Europe, simply because — despite living on the East Coast for four-fifths of my life — I am at heart a pre-1960 San Francisco Bay-area Californian. That part of California has always had a very large Chinese population. So on a gut level, for me, China is a real country and the Chinese are real people, whereas Europe still feels to me like a curious and distant place, replete with such fantastic folk as Italians, Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards and Russians — somewhat as Middle Earth is replete with Ents, Dwarves, Hobbits, Men and Dragons. (Yes, of course, I do know better on an intellectual level. I’m talking about an irrational bias of mine here.)

    Apart from that, Putin is exceptionally competent compared with other Russian heads of state; that country hasn’t seen his like since the 1700s. I’ll be very surprised if Russia has another head of state so competent any time soon, once Putin has passed from the world stage. Whereas in China, Xi Jinping seems not to be such an isolated exception. (When one is talking about states and their heads, it’s not so much the competence of the individual leader as the overall competence of a succession of leaders that seems to be decisive for alpha status.)

    PS Just “Robert” is fine. If that feels wrong to you, then “Mr.” (I have a Californian’s traditional egalitarian distaste for all titles of status.)

  40. Hi JMG,

    A fine post, and Happy New Year. While I don’t agree with all your views, you get tremendous credit in my book for making your predictions public, delivering an unemotional and realistic assessment, and maintaining an excellent consistency of observation, logic, with a knack for sorting out the underlying root causes and effects. Well done.

    You also get an extra slap on the back for proposing solutions and hope and sanity, and we’re gonna need a WHOLE bunch of that this year. A few comments:

    – Excellent point about the economy – many of the financial sector drones and amatuer investors don’t understand it’s not 1965 any more, and many of the traditional aspects of measuring health are no longer applicable. Won’t they be surprised when it flies apart?

    – I’m amused to see some people that cling to the theory of a difference between the Dems and Repugs. More cynical people like myself are figuring out that both parties and the whole system is well beyond repair, they don’t work for us and do answer to the puppet masters, and only a Constitutional Convention offers hope for a non-violent transition. I would be a little encouraged by more people waking up to this view, except that:

    – Foreign policy – this is your key point, IMHO. There will be no shortage of willing participants of the 7.1B citizens on the planet who are NOT Americans in kicking us in the collective teeth as our Empire crumbles. This factor will eclipse all other areas of strife, manifesting itself with war, some conflict, a little more war, blockades and embargos (where’s the oile gonna come from now, Yankee?), and (did I mention) WAR.

    One last thought. Your timelines of decline are based on 5000 years of history and human nature. I won’t argue with that. I will point out that this time, with the exponential explosion of living standards driven by fossil fuels in the last 300 years the decline could, and probably will, result in a much steeper crash and hangover than normal. Yes, next year the dollar may still have value and people may be taking a weekend jaunt to Vegas via Jackpot Airlines – but one year soon (2023?), that won’t be true….

  41. RE: economic proxies,

    Electric consumption, vehicle miles travelled, total energy consumption, and the Baltic Dry Index are reasonably good proxies for changes in the real economy. Not perfect, but reasonably good especial in the short to medium term. I would say on the scale of a year to five years. Also, the Baltic Dry Index is a global indicator, it can be going up quickly while an individual country is in free fall.

    The data that I’ve found looks flat to slight decline. It’s sometimes hard to get the current data that you want, but here’s what I found:

    Electricity consumption
    http://aceee.org/sites/default/files/image/blogs/elec-consumption.jpg

    Total energy consumption
    http://mazamascience.com/OilExport/

    Vehicle miles, total and per capita
    https://www.ssti.us/2014/02/vmt-drops-ninth-year-dots-taking-notice/

    Vehicle miles, total through October 2017
    https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M12MTVUSM227NFWA

    Baltic Dry Index from 2010 to 2017
    https://www.quandl.com/data/LLOYDS/BDI-Baltic-Dry-Index

    Thanks,
    Tim

  42. JMG – I made four specific predictions last year. I got one 100% right, two half right, and missed totally on one.
    1- Marene LePen wins the French Presidency. Wrong, but only partially, and based on what I’ve read, Macron’s coalition is falling apart. Half a point.
    2- we would see a tipping point event related to climate change, specifically the start of a death spiral for the Greenland ice sheet. Wrong again, but also only partially. With more methane boiling out of the permafrost every year and the winter sea ice constantly receding, it would seem the start of the death spiral can’t be far off. Half a point.
    3- A serious realignment of geopolitics in the Middle East centered around the Moscow-Tehran axis. Slam dunk, home run, hole in one.
    4- Bleeding Kansas 2017. I said this was a long shot I hoped to be wrong about, and so far that has been the case. I thought between events like Charlottesville and the Bundy ranch standoff, some5ing would set off the powder keg that passes for American society, but somehow we have managed. Zero points.

    One specific point about your predict perplexes me; why do you think the tax bill will have the effect of bring jobs back? Based on what I’ve read, all it does is incentivize corporations to bring money back the US by reducing the taxes paid on overseas profits. Why would companies bring that money back and invest in jobs when they still face the same structural problems they faced last year. You’ve even said that tariffs promote wage class job creation, and this bill includes no tariffs that I’ve read about. Wouldn’t the more likely scenario involve them bringing profits back home and doing a whole bunch of stock buy-backs to enrich shareholders?

    Your analysis of the problems facing the Blue Team seems spot on. Without a serious refocus on economic issues (and maybe a full-throated embrace of syndicalism, one hopes), the Blue Team will continue to loose. do You really think the Blue Team is collectively dumb enough to repeat 2016 in 2020? Please note I said collectively, meaning the voters and local organizers, obviously the leadership of team Blue is dumb enough to run a Hillary 2.0 campaign in 2020.

  43. Speaking of black swans….

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/business/computer-flaws.html

    This is less of an issue for people who actually own their hardware, whether that’s your desktop or the servers that support your website or business. The big issue is that this allows people to subscribe to a cloud service like Amazon AWS, and run code on Amazon’s servers that can gain information about the other processes running on the same physical machines like passwords or financial information.

    This is a big deal because it is a hardware flaw and not a software flaw. So there is several times the world’s annual CPU manufacturing capability affected.

  44. “Fly my pretties!!!! Fly my pretties!!! Bring me the ruby slippers of the land of E Pluribus Unum.” – The Wicked Witch…. Let’s face it, if someone dropped a house on your sister and stole her shoes you’d be pretty miffed to.

    I hear the flapping wings on the horizon to… It sounds more like flying monkeys. I feel like the powers that be do a pretty good job at hunting/poaching the black swans; they do so without a license and off season. The dishonesty is necessary because killing a black swan and bringing it home, is still bringing a black swan home. “The bearer of evil tidings when he was half way there, forgot that evil tidings were a dangerous thing to bear.”

    These powers that be, tell us we can take pride that the black swans, the wicked witch, are dead and that we’ve put their stuffed carcasses up on the wall as a trophy. “She’s worse than the other one,” as Glinda said. By killing the black swans and compartmentalizing everything in munchkin land, that seems to imply to me there’s no systemic way left to deal with our lives meaningfully. Thus – I’m not waiting for the black swan. I’m waiting for the event, where some metaphorical flying monkeys fly a meaningful percentage of the American populace to the preverbal wicked witch’s castle, and force them to look into the witch’s crystal ball.

    Or maybe it’s the other way around… Maybe the powers that be haven’t been killing the black swans but rather flying monkeys. It seems much more amusing to imagine all the usual doom predictors pointing out flying monkeys as they go by.

  45. The East Coast is being slammed by a storm I’m seeing called a “winter hurricane.” New England and Canada are expecting blizzard conditions near the coasts. All I can do is shake my head when some folks sneer, “Where’s that global warming now?” Guess they didn’t get the memo that it’s CHANGE, and that more energy in the system will amplify extremes.

    Also, on (what did someone call it, Nice Polite Radio?) NPR today, on Fresh Air, Terry Gross was interviewing someone who’d done an article called “Making China Great Again,” all about how the US is stepping back from international engagement and commitment. The guy seemed to be of the opinion that this was heretical and So Unsatisfactory and SHAME on Trump for making room for China to take over. All I could think of was Britain as its empire contracted. If we can stop hemorrhaging money and soldiers in places where what happens really isn’t any of our beeswax, I’m all for it. Am I reading this wrong?

  46. Building on my last comment – A black swan is graceful. It undoes the world by simply landing. A flying monkey is everything you’d expect to unmake the system. I’m having to much fun with this line of thought.

  47. JMG (replying to DC about recent candidates for the Presidency) wrote:

    “The Democrats, and this country generally, will see constructive change when people stop waiting for some savior-figure to fix things and get to work fixing them themselves.”

    This highlights the other of the two problematic secular faiths that bedevil American politics and keep us from dealing well with the predicaments we are now facing. In addition to the Religion of Progress, there is also the Cult of the President as Heroic Savior of the Nation.

    When the Constitution was framed, Congress held first place among the institutions of government. Its powers and duties held pride of place of the Costitution (Article 1). The President was before all else the chief officer subservient to Congress, whose duty it was to execute faithfully the laws already passed by Congress. Thus the powers and duties of the Presidency were laid out only in second place (Article 2) in the Constitution, after those of Congress.

    This attitude to the Presidency is also reflected in the history of United States coinage. No US coin before the 20th century showed the head of any President, in deliberate and pointed contrast to European coins with the heads of reigning monarchs. With only a few minor exceptions, the front of every US coin depicted either the head or the full figure of a Being — a Classical Goddess — whose name was “Liberty.” (The few real exceptions show heraldic shields or eagles. The so-called “indian heads” on the penny and the nickle were also intended to represent Liberty, as was the “Mercury head” on the dime.)

    During the 20th century the image of Liberty was gradually replaced by the head of this or that President or Founding Father on every US coin in circulation. Lincoln appeared on the penny in 1909, and Washington and Jefferson on the quarter and the nickel in 1932 and 1938. It was after World War 2 that the final steps occurred. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s head was placed on the dime in 1946, John F. Kennedy’s on the half-dollar in 1964 (replacing Benjamin Franklin), and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s on the dollar coin in 1971 — like Lincoln and Washington, each of these men was regarded as a Heroic Savior-President in one or another variant form of the popular political mythology at the time. Of course, the constant use of these coins in daily life — when even a penny was useful money for candy, and cash transactions were the norm — reinforced only served to reinforce the emergent Cult of the Savior President.

    We are now living with the unfortunate political consequences of that development.

  48. Oh JMG, say it isn’t so… I sincerely hope you are wrong about social evangelicals, because they sound like a group that would relish a Handmaid’s Tale style dystopia and would have no problem employing the jackboots, armbands, torture, and executions necessary to achieve their goals. Christianity has always been a religion that both worships and denies death, right down to its sacrificed virgin son-of-a-virgin zombie fish God, and excuses every imaginable act of depraved violence in order to indulge its morbid fetish. I wonder if young people will finally tire of Christianity’s systematic hatred of nature (including human nature) and try a brand of religion that does not involve endlessly freaking out about what other people do in their bedrooms? Isn’t 2000 years of this crap long enough?

    As a regular working person, 2017 felt like the harder I kicked ass, the more cost of living rose to enfeeble my efforts. Obamacare fined my husband and me $8000 for being able to supposedly afford insurance in the year 2016, LOL, in fact, we were just on the phone for 2 hours this morning arranging the payment plan. I didn’t have health insurance in 2017. Nevertheless, it was a good year and I figured out lots of cool stuff. Happy New Year, everyone.

  49. Ezra, I’d be amazed if you were wrong on either count.

    Zach, by “invest” I don’t mean productive investment, of course — it’ll be used for speculation and the like. It may still goose some corners of the consumer economy into a boomlet or two.

    Dean, er, if you’ll take a moment to reread my post, you’ll find that the failure to learn lessons is the current situation and the Corbynization is the consequence of the next messy defeat the failure to learn lessons will bring about. It’s one, then the other. Is that a little clearer?

    Twilight, that’s entirely plausible. The fact that Saudi Arabia has instituted a VAT for the first time ever suggests that you’re right.

    Will, exactly. We know what happens when a country decides to pay its bills by spinning the presses: the value of its currency declines due to an oversupply of money chasing too few goods and services. Do it enthusiastically enough and you end up bringing your pay home in a wheelbarrow and buying milk with a million-Reichsmark bill. In the immortal words of Keith Brand of the HousingPanic blog back during the real estate bubble, “Dear God, this is going to end so badly…”

    Christopher, I think a national nervous breakdown will happen first, but eventually, yes.

    Lathechuck, it might be that. I’ll have to look into how cash flows into and out of the market are being calculated.

    Tim, no, she’d be playing nuclear chicken with Russia. Do you recall how loudly she was calling for a no-fly zone over Syria, in the teeth of an armed Russian presence? Or her antics around Libya? As for Obamacare, I’m delighted to hear that you could cover a $10,000 deductible; most Americans can’t, and since their health care coverage doesn’t cut in until they’ve spent some such sum, Obamacare meant they had effectively no health care coverage, and yet were required by law to pay five figures a year per person for a plan they could never use. Finally, I’m not at all surprised that the only thing mentioned in the sources you read was the giveaways to the rich, which I did mention, you know. Did you read anything but mainstream media on the subject?

    Drhooves, I’m far from convinced it’s going to be a faster decline. I agree that there will come a point when the jetliners aren’t flying any more; it’ll be preceded by a period in which the term “jet set” for the rich will again have meaning, as air travel is rationed by price. In the same way, while the dollar will eventually be replaced by another currency, and eventually by the nonmonetary means of exchange that are standard in dark age conditions, we’v got a ways to go before we get there. But I’ve discussed the reasons for that many times already, and don’t feel like rehashing them again.

    Tim, fair enough. Thank you.

    Ben, er, where did I say that I think the tax bill will bring jobs back? Of course it won’t. That’s part of why, as I explicitly said in my post, the US economy will continue to devolve into under-the-table employment and subsistence economics. By my count, btw, you’re one for four: Le Pen lost the election, the tipping point in the Arctic has not happened yet, and Kansas isn’t bleeding. On the other hand, you were dead right about geopolitics, which puts you head and shoulders ahead of most of the competition.

    And yes, I expect the Dems to attempt a full-on repeat of their 2016 strategy against Trump in 2020, and I expect him to win easily.

    Justin, another good reason not to have anything to do with “the cloud”!

    Austin, hmm and again hmm. Other than the aesthetic dimension, how would you differentiate a winged monkey event from a black swan event?

    Michelle, it was a grievous mistake to call it “global warming.” When you add more energy to a complex heat engine, which is what the atmosphere is, you don’t get steady warming, you get more extremes of all kinds: more hot and more cold, more wet and more dry, and a lot less normal. Unfortunately Florida will probably be under water before the damage done by the phrase “global warming” is over. As for Nice Polite Republicans, yep — I expect to see a lot of people who’ve been denouncing the US empire pulling a 180 and insisting that it’s horrible that it’s going away. After all, the lifestyles of the privileged middle and upper middle classes depend on the imperial tribute economy…

    Robert, exactly. The creeping Caesarism afflicting the presidency is a major source of our country’s woes just now.

    Kimberly, er, your bigotry is showing. I know it’s fashionable in some circles to assign Christianity the role of Evilly Evil Evilness with a double helping of evil sauce on the side, but such fashions are not of interest to me. Does Christianity have its problems? Sure, and so does every other religion, including atheism. (Any belief system that claims to know where our species came from and what happens when we die, as far as I’m concerned, is a religion.) I’d encourage you to reread what I wrote about the new social evangelicals again, because I wasn’t talking about The Handmaid’s Tale; I was talking about Christians remembering that Jesus specifically commanded them to take care of the poor and the distressed, and to stop screeching about the sins of others — the mote in their brother’s eye, in the parable, as compared with the beam in their own. That’s what I see the new social evangelicals beginning to do already, and I expect to see a great deal more of that as the movement finds its feet.

  50. Black Swan= Yellowstone Supervolcano Eruption. Lots of rumbling and tremblings indicating the transit of new magma into the already inflating incredibly enormous chamber. Harmonic tremors are a vulcanologist’s worst nightmare where Yellowstone is concerned and they appear to be occurring. Basically it could go AT ANY TIME. Or it could be another 500 thousand years.

    All in would need would be an earthquake big enough to destabilize the magma chamber and allow a violent enough release of gas pressure and it’s off the races!

  51. My opinion is that Trump is successfully consolidating his power.I predict that will continue..The Mueller”Russia” probe, based on a fake dossier put together with DNC funds, is already rebounding on the Democrats with respect to Uranium One, and will take some of the FBI leadership and Hillary allies down. His enemy Paul Ryan has been forced out, no one knows how, and much of the left, including Soros, seems to be running for cover, especially after Trump’s latest EO on sex trafficking. I predict the Republicans will lose some seats in the House, but gain a couple of seats in the Senate…I predict no new wars, but that may be wishful thinking, since Trump will not win reelection if he gets in a major war.

  52. @ Tim Akey:

    Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be playing nuclear chicken with North Korea right now because she and her neocon cronies would be too busy playing chicken with Russia in the Middle East.

    That’s a much scarier thought, given that not only does Russia have the world’s largest and most modern nuclear arsenal, but extremely capable conventional and unconventional warfare capabilities.

    http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2016/08/a-thousand-balls-of-flame.html?m=1

    I suspect that if she had gotten elected, we would see Twilight’s Last Gleaming playing out in real life over Syria by now…

  53. @Dean Myerson
    Re: Democrats

    One of the interesting things I learned while looking at the recent Alabama senatorial election is that, in the 70 or so special elections in the last year, the democratic candidate has done 10 percentage points better than expected from the prior presidential election. This is obviously an average with a wide variation.

    Note that this has nothing to do with the general cluelessness of the Democratic Party hierarchy, and thinking it does is the kind of category mistake that leads to egg on one’s face.

    The point I was trying to make in that prior comment is that what the Party hierarchy believes is getting less and less relevant, and this applies to both sides of the aisle. The people are beginning to take affairs into their own hands, and to heck with the political elites and the chattering class.

    It isn’t being done by loud-mouthed politicians, it’s being done by ordinary citizens who are focused on getting a job done and not wasting energy on public proclamations. That’s why it’s going under the radar for a lot of people.

    @Justin
    Re: New computer bug.

    While this is serious, it’s also not that likely to affect many people. Why? It’s hard to exploit. There’s a huge difference between a proof of concept and something that’s a practical way for a script kiddie to break into your computer and steal your financial keys.

    There are lots of these “game-changer” problems out there; most of them are of no practical importance unless you’re a high-value target.

  54. Dear Archdruid, you said: “(…) and the environment that sustains us all tips further into sudden-reset territory.”

    What do you mean by sudden-reset?

    Kind regards,

  55. Hi John Michael,

    Respect to the curmudgeon’s of the world! :-)!

    Today, my wife and I walked through a market garden to the north of here. Possibly we weren’t meant to be trundling around looking at the plants, and I did note that the proprietor kept a close watch on us. You know, the strange thing is, I looked around at the size of the market garden and the scale of it, and I noticed an interesting thing: It was only three times the scale of what we do here in relation to vegetables, whilst they were planting basically the same plants (but for sale in their case). And I hadn’t noticed that over the years the production and diversity of plants here had slowly increased to where they are today. They had some good ideas which we will rip off (the best ideas are other peoples after all – for isn’t that what history’s lessons are?). But the slow incremental change over the years has been remarkable.

    I reckon you are spot on though, you have to be the change, because you can’t ask others to do what you yourself won’t do.

    On the other hand, water pumps and water systems drive me bananas. True story! In a few weeks, I’ll attempt another incarnation of that little water pump problem. Anyway, it took six years to sort out reliable off grid solar, so I shouldn’t be at all surprised by the ongoing difficulties… Long term, only a proper old school and properly lined well, will do.

    Oh. Did you noticed that the Russians are getting friendlier with the Indonesians – whom we equally engage with and annoy, all at the same time? It is complex and may have something to do with countering China, but I am just some dude sitting out in the forest…

    And some Federal Politician who was previously apparently a General was recently suggesting that the US may not be not be able to provide us with defence. I really like you guys over in the US, but he is talking some serious sense: Jim Molan, former military chief turned Liberal senator, issues stark warning over defence capabilities. Mind you, hand outs to the already wealthy seem to be easier to get through Parliament than good common sense measures.

    It should be recalled that I believe a US company a few years ago shut down the oil refining capability in New South Wales, with the possible strategy that oil could be imported from the notorious low tax country of Singapore. The only local refinery is maintained not too far from here, and we now import I believe about 90% of our oil products which are derived from crude oil. Well done us down here for letting that one happen! Strategically, I reckon that is a total bummer, but then I also thought the same thing about the recent shut down of the local vehicle manufacturing too for much the same reasons. Maybe I’m a pessimist about such things… Anyway, stuff that, I’m determined to sort out the water dramas because down here, water is everything. Not that anyone notices in this hot dry country of ours… They are too busy dreaming about money.

    Oh, Australian banks appear to have moved against bitcoin investors. Just sayin that to expect the unexpected and I have always mentioned that there are plenty of tools up folks sleeves still. I had wondered whether the banks who possibly control legislators feared that people might cotton on to the “magic” behind money, and I mean that word in the sense that you understand it. Dunno.

    Interesting times…

    Cheers

    Chris

  56. JMG:

    “Since environmental activists by and large come from the privileged middle and upper middle classes of our society, and since most would sooner fry and eat their own fingers than accept a standard of living they associate with the DESPISED poor, none of these promising options are going to be taken up.”

    Bingo!

    As a lifelong participant in the conditions at the border of the States’ American underclass and working class I commend your hyper-accurate identification of what I view as the core reason why many middle-classers will not volunteer to check their gluttony and greed:

    They might get teased for being like the poor if they do.

    This fear is strongest in the middle-class Boomers I observe and to a lesser degree their offspring. (My observations indicate that some children of these middle-class Boomers are of course finding it harder and harder to maintain ruses of prosperity and simply give up their acts despite risks of shaming from their peers.)

    Fear of this ridicule motivates many of these Boomers I observe from my economic shadows to live lifestyles that I can confidently call morbid parodies of lifestyles they saw depicted in television shows and advertisements on air during their emotional and rational formative years in the 1950s.

    And my-oh-my do they semi-consciously expect commensurate participation in their make-believe!

    That, our dear wizard, was indeed some strong sorcery!

    They will get theirs and they are profoundly soothed by thought-stoppers. Yikes! Some of them even cling to dim and paranoid beliefs in a Rapture for a DOUBLE-DOSE of not thinking!

    What can one do but figuratively and/or literally live in a barrel and make friends with dogs? But then again, I’ve never suffered from the illusion of social mobility AND I read Possum Living at just the right time. Thanks Saturn!

    Fan-boy limit reached. lol.

    Full of Ashes and Fuss,

    Saturn’s Pet

    PS: Take care Ecosophians and treasure this oasis in the astral wastelands of Chattering Planet.

  57. 2018, the Russian roulette.
    My personal prediction: Trump will be keeping on treasoning his stupid voters. “Democrats” will be keeping on the Russian conspirations everywhere.
    Spain will be on troubles with Catalan secessionism…
    EUropean Union will be rotting without pause, but slowly.
    NorthKo leader will launch some missiles more in 2018.

  58. A great set of predictions John. I reckon you hit the nail. Regarding MMT, the flaw in MMT, is not that it supports the role of the state in creating the money supply, but that it relies on the state and the government in power to create the right amount of money supply without overheating the economy and creating inflationary conditions. We all know that politicians will, in the end, make decisions in their own interests rather than the interests of the country. The initial stage of money creation would allow a surge of growth, and the utilisation of spare capacity in the economy in terms of employment and spare natural resources. The temptation will be to continue doing that well after the point where maximum utility has been reached bringing in inflation/overheating. Add in a shrinking amount of natural resources, and the consequences will be inevitable. However, it’s possible it would allow a temporary levelling out, during the long decent.

  59. Two things: with regards to the computer flaw, it’s taken twenty years to discover these flaws, and one of them appears to not have a fix short of buying a new machine without the flaw. Thus, it appears to me that it is reasonable to assume every machine on the internet is potentially compressible. This makes me wonder how long before we get more hacks like the one that hit Equifax.

    Second, my “prediction” for a black swan is a constitutional convention is either called, or reaches the point it’s clear it should be but isn’t going to be called. Since it seems that we’re most of the way there already (http://thehill.com/opinion/finance/366488-the-gop-tax-bill-could-kill-two-birds-with-one-stone), it seems possible that one could happen.

  60. The decline of the US can be understood as the relative decline of it’s economic output vs the rest of the world. That in turn leads us to China. China’s economic rise has been a credit/monetary phenomena and those who watch such things usually think that this year will be the year some kind of wave of debt deflation will occur, but it hasn’t yet.

    Instead China is moving forward with a project to inflate all of Asia, SE, South, Central (the stans), and beyond, driven by massive credit expansion to build infrastructure. Formerly called The New Silk road and now officially the Belt and Road.

    Disagree if you like but I believe looking at economic growth through the lens of credit/monetary expansion, or contraction, is crucial.

    http://static2.businessinsider.com/image/561f9970dd0895f3248b4579-1046-785/debt%20gdp.png

    I will remain agnostic on if this monetary experiment can continue for months, years, decades, or more.

  61. JMG and interested parties

    In the world of American fiction much is possible and very little is bone-real. The mention of the President’s gold plated bath tub brought to mind President Yanukovych’s similarly apocryphal golden toilet bowl. This visionary item punctuated the story (posted by Dimitri Orlov) from a Kiev correspondent shortly before the then President was forced into evacuation by the Clinton-led team (Victoria Nuland, remember her?). So will last year’s ‘treason’ claim the US-best-seller list for another year? How will the Kagans hang out with Trump? So Ukraine, so Europe, so the unreal USA; and then there is China? A realistic people do not build yet more skyscrapers nor create more extreme versions of the highly toxic London smogs that I remember from childhood and youth. Diktat can work (I recently called it acute need for executive government). Victorian Britain got it to work – only at the bare minimum of course – when the nouveau-riche were suffering or threatened almost as much as the poor. So, if ‘do it like Jesus said’ gains traction, the USA might get some real action, which would be interesting. Personally I watch China and am almost totally bemused, as probably they are.

    best
    Phil H

  62. Thanks again for coming through with EXACTLY what I needed to read.

    Now for the business as usual environmental “activism”; I am at a loss. I recently accepted a position on the board of a local environmental group and I’m having a hard time reconciling the hypocrisy I see throughout the activist scene. You should see some of the houses these “environmentalists” live in! I’m also the youngest person by a good 20-30 years, and this leaves me wondering what all these people were doing when I was a kid in the 90’s.

    *sigh* I just keep reading your posts and it helps keep me sane knowing that there is a community of folks who get the big IT. Thank you for sharing your insight and wisdom. Happy New Year.

  63. Dear John Michael,

    I was wondering: do you think that one of the black swans might be, say, a nuclear attack on Washington DC?

  64. Hello JMG-

    Looking back on historical outcomes as a means of intelligently preparing for the future is sound advice. This sentiment needs a comeback for the mere fact that it is the exact opposite of what our current culture professes- the uniqueness of the individual leading humanity into a bright future. Sober reflection on past human efforts and failures doesn’t enter into the calculation. Just another externality to be ignored. Discount the past and steal from future generations- what could possibly go wrong?

    Hubris is the reigning feature of todays world and worthwhile predictions all center around the various instances of nemesis. As you so aptly point out, decline is our current state of affairs. This is confirmed by the actions of both the elite and the lower classes. The elite have doubled/tripple down on a failed ideology and the downtrodden double down in their own way by accepting their lot in life.

    Centering ones life around the ideology of sustainability is the only way to break this impasse. The wheel of life is spinning- birth, rise into the possibility of life, and then the decent into death-this cycle to be repeated endlessly.

    What seems to drive historical events is how sustainability is derived- or from what angle it is approached. The elite try to make their social position sustainable by maintaining and exercising power.
    The subjects of the elite struggle to make their existence sustainable by accepting their lot or finding the courage to break free from servitude. Abject acceptance or the quest for freedom is what ultimately sustains life. Human struggle is the struggle for freedom and liberty, or the lack of it, which is the majority of human existence.

    This courage to seek freedom and liberty is either coopted by the ruling elite by incorporating it into their current ruling structure, or a new synergy is formed from an elite split. Conscience prevails in an elite faction deciding to curb excessive corruption and exploitation. They choose to cooperate with the striving downtrodden, instead of going to war with them. Peace breaks out.

    The current elite power structure needs new worlds/territory to conquer. They need a foe to fight-
    and they will find one. Fighting nature is the default option that gives them both personal and social power. The fact that they will ultimately loose is the irony of all ironies. Fighting both nature and your subjects is a fools errand, and that is where we are today. Fools rush in.

    2018 will provide many opportunities to reexamine the meaning of freedom and liberty. Many choices will have to be made. Corruption and hubris do end- one way or another. Collapse isn’t all bad.

  65. JMG–the term “social evangelical” threw me for a loop. Can you be a shed a bit more light so I can have a more precise understanding of what you mean by that term? I might be wrong, but I think you’re speaking about movements like the Emerging Church of Brian MacLaren, as well as the transpersonal writings of Fr. Richard Rohr? And whether or not that is of what you’re speaking, I’d be very curious to hear what your thoughts are on their viewpoints. And do you think that social evangelicals can make common cause with pagans, Buddhists, Jews, 12-steppers and people of other faiths/walks of life?

    Regarding astrological predictions. you mention March–do you use the Aries Point chart as the basis for your observations? Just curious. And if so, do you set it for say, Washington, DC? Or London? Or…?

  66. In a democracy with wide enfranchisement, is it possible to succeed politically without dishing out some pork? Doubtful.

  67. Great article. I especially love the quote:

    “… the real economy of nonfinancial goods and services by and large no longer provides the kind of profits investors expect, and so a hallucinatory economy of paper wealth has leapt into being to meet the demand.”

    Great quote and dead on target.

    I did my own predictions for this year. One of them was the “black swan” that you mention. Things are changing just too fast, and on too many fronts, for a “black swan” not to happen. Something has to give.

    However, I made one prediction that you didn’t. It has to do with the increasing disconnect between what the people who are running this country (whomever that may be) believe in and what the rest of the country experiences as actually going on. I predict that one or more government agency, educational institution, corporate behemoth (or the like) will announce a policy so disconnected from reality that people will not know what to make of it. It will be like Hilary Clinton’s claim to be “the champion of the middle class” raised to the nth power. Something so bizarre that the average person will be left speechless.

  68. Regarding a Clinton presidency:

    It’s no secret that Hollywood and large parts of the media are extensions of the Democratic party. As someone else pointed out, in the latest exudation of Star Wars movies, the good guys – now branded the #Resistance, match the self-image of the democratic party: Plucky, ethnically diverse Good People with hair dyed interesting colours who are fighting against the incompetent – but also very scary, because they are mean for no reason – army of white men called the First Order (whose flagship is literally called the Supremacy). Seriously – I’ve been dragged along to see all three of the latest Star Wars movies, and so far I’ve seen only one Bad Guy extra whose skin was visible who wasn’t white.

    Given the fact that Clinton likely would have approved an amnesty bill which would have guaranteed her re-election in 2020, and the fact that the Democratic party is rapidly becoming the “people of colour and wealthy white people party” and the Republican party is turning into “the white people party”, it would be likely that Hollywood would continue to produce movies with either explicit or implicit racial incitements.

    I almost believed in conspiracy theories that Trump was a Clinton plant for a long time, because I thought the point was to set up a straw man, so that Clinton’s inevitable failures could be hand-waved away by saying “Well if the other guy had won, we’d be gassing Mexicans and women would be chained to the stove by government mandate”. For what its worth, given the rising and bipartisan Caesarism, having an incompetent, unpopular and scandal-ridden president facing a hostile media is probably a good thing for all concerned.

    The tax bill, which as I understand it, took from the higher income brackets in mostly blue states and gave to middle and lower income brackets in mostly red and purple states might actually benefit the democrats – or perhaps not, maybe the people who are affected negatively are mostly in solid blue states anyway.

  69. Dear Christopher Henningsen, Have you not heard the phrase “Manifest Destiny”? Unfortunately, and I speak as an American who has no memory of any “old country”, my forbears having been here since the early 1700s, there is a strong strain of butinskiness, minding other people’s business, going forth to slay dragons, among us. President Washington’s admonishment against just that tendency is ignored even more often than it is quoted. Our imperialistic fantasies may lack the cynicism of the British “white man’s burden” mission to bring the blessings of high tea to civilizations far older than that of England, but they make up a strong strain in the national character nonetheless. I wonder if the up and coming Evangelicals are willing to give up those fantasies?

  70. WillJ and the Archdruid are right about the effects of infinite spending. Abba Lerner’s article on Functional Finance, the basis for MMT policy prescriptions, explained what had to be done to avoid that.
    Brad Delong gives the management overview here
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2013/04/abba-lerner-1943-functional-finance.html
    and links to Lerner’s article
    http://k.web.umkc.edu/keltons/Papers/501/functional%20finance.pdf

    The idea is for the government to spend to ensure full employment, and to tax to prevent inflation, and no necessary relation between the amount spent and the amount taxed. Where we will find a government that will act like this is the vital question.

  71. Dear Tim Akey, No, Mme. Clinton would not be playing footsie, she would simply be dropping bombs. The woman never met a war she didn’t love. Added to that, Trump, much as I detest him, did win his primary fair and square. I am afraid I am fed up with being expected to support war mongering Democrats because…someone else’s jobs and patronage, nor am I any longer willing to vote for known blatant corruption.

    About health care: I can’t speak to the experience of others, but I am older than you and so far have been able to pay for medical expenses–dental and vision–out of pocket. Where I live, there are so many who have no insurance that Drs. are quite willing to accept cash payments, which, while not cheap, are not outrageous. I can also attest from my own experience that for some minor ailments at least, traditional herbal remedies work very well.

  72. Er, sorry, JMG. I did figure that out, but after I posted, but was unable to edit. If think you’re off by about two years in both cases. The failure to learn was why they lost in 2016 and I think the learning process is going on now. The learning process will only succeed if millions of us do the teaching, and 2018 is as good as any year to do it. It can’t come from anywhere but the bottom. I think 2020 will be too late. I also think that the evidence from the last 30 years shows that a party does not need to have learned to take over Congress. Did the Dems learn for 2006? The Repubs for 2010?

    As to Obamacare, evidence shows that millions who did not have insurance before are actually seeing the doctor, so it is happening somehow. I think it is mostly through expanded medicaid as opposed to the actual obamacare policies. But it is such a hodgepodge. My guess is that history will eventually conclude that the main accomplishment of Obamacare was that people no longer accepted the status quo before it – it is possible to cover everybody and actually pay for it. Dozens of countries do it after all. But that involves not just insurance, but controlling costs – that’s the harder part for our dysfunctional government. Can those who profit from spiraling health care costs be brought down to size?

  73. I gave up on New Years resolutions long ago. Sure, I need to lose a few pounds ect.. My real, daily resolve, that I act on anytime I can is to help the status quo collapse faster. There are all kinds of ways to starve the beast, or stick it to the man, as you prefer. Just use your imagination and you can see all kinds of ways that a little non-compliance with the slaveowners can help to bring down a hateful and corrupt system. By the way, I am not a young, liberal firebrand, but a late middle aged female who has spent her whole adult working life desk jockeying in small business. If I can lose faith in the system, anyone can.

  74. Dear JMG,

    I can happily report that your view of 2018 as the year of danger is supported by established consulting firms as well, at least the Euroasia Group(Ian Bremmer) in this case. Though they do mention examples of potential risks (why else would you pay if not for views, though in fairnewss their ten points are quite valid).

    To those interested in reading the report

    https://www.eurasiagroup.net/issues/top-risks-2018

    ‘ In the 20 years since we started Eurasia Group, the global environment has had its ups and downs. But if we had to pick one year for a big unexpected crisis—the geopolitical equivalent of the 2008 financial meltdown—it feels like 2018. Sorry.

    Last year, we wrote that the world was entering a period of geopolitical recession. After nearly a decade of a slowly destabilizing G-Zero framework, the election of Donald Trump as president in the US has accelerated the descent into a Hobbesian state of international politics. The world is now closer to geopolitical depression than to a reversion to past stability.’

  75. JMG, I thought you’d be interested to know that a Russian military commentator read “Twilight” and was well impressed.
    “There two aspects of this book which I find the most remarkable.

    First, Greer clearly points to a mindset of imperial hubris as the main cause for the eventual collapse of the USA.

    Second, Greer very skillfully illustrates how otherwise powerful and complex weapons systems can be defeated by creative tactics.”…

    “I think that Greer ought to be commended for his courage for pointing out at two sources of US weaknesses which are considered as sacred cows by most US authors: arrogance and technology.”

    A very complimentary review from a very unexpected source. I was reading the Saker for alternative points of view on the Syrian civil war-the WaPo and the NYT being as useless as Pravda was back in the day…

    http://thesaker.is/book-review-twilights-last-gleaming-by-j-m-greer/comment-page-3/

  76. Thanks, that zerohedge article is pretty terrifying. However, the outflow described, about $200billion, is only a small percentage of total market capitalization ($15trllion). About 1.3%, if I haven’t slipped a digit.

    I think share the buy-backs others have mentioned might explain some of market continuing to climb, that, and a bubble mentality.

  77. Hi JMG,

    I can tell I have been reading your work for too long, because when I read your post, I thought, ‘hmmm, that sounds like…business as usual!’ Business in a collapsing empire, that is.

    Thanks to Scotlyn for your blessings! I also have a wish to share. JMG, you said that this is likely to be a dangerous year, and there isn’t much doubt that it will be, with all the craziness going on. But my wish would be for all of us to become a lot more dangerous ourselves! To realize that we’re not just passive observers of a world falling into smoking ruin around us, but creative agents who are capable through our own actions of having an effect on the world, large or small as that may be. We have the power to change our relationship with the spirits, the content of our minds and hearts, and our actions here on this earth. As long as we adhere to the laws and limits inherent in the world, we can shape it and make it look more like the world we would like to see. After all, what is the world but a reflection of our relationships, thoughts, feelings and actions? And it is the world given to us, the world we have the great responsibility of caring for.

    So I’m getting to work on becoming a lot more dangerous!

  78. John, nope — that’s been predicted, over and over again, so it’s not a black swan. A black swan is something nobody has predicted yet.

    Pyrrhus, that seems like a reasonable analysis to me.

    Brigyn, many environmental phenomena (and in fact most whole systems generally) have an interesting response to pressure; they maintain a relative equilibrium for as long as they can, and then suddenly flip into a different state with a different equilibrium. The “sudden reset” I mentioned was shorthand for that. Imagine that, say, over the next ten years temperatures in the Arctic zoom upwards to temperate-zone levels and stay there, the Arctic sea ice melts to blue water, and the Greenland ice sheet begins shedding hundreds of cubic miles of meltwater and tens of thousands of icebergs every year, until it’s gone — that’s the sort of thing I have in mind. (That sort of sudden shift has happened repeatedly in the prehistoric past, which is why I think we could see it in the near future.)

    Chris, I’m delighted that someone in the Australian government realizes that the US is not going to be able to defend Oz much longer! If the Russians are cutting deals with Indonesia — a very smart move on their part, btw — you might consider taking a hint from Canada and cuddling up to the Chinese. While Russia and China are allies now, once the US is toast, their long rivalry will doubtless flare up again; that needn’t take the form of war, but economic and political competition is pretty much a given and Australia will need strong and wealthy friends.

  79. I wish I could have afforded the $10,000 deductible and just gone about my life. The fact is we talked the hospital into accepting a two year payment plan, then I went back to work to make those payments. It may be that I just made my point badly. In my opinion the only option worse than Obamacare is the one being pushed by the Trump/Republican party. A universal health care system that focuses on preventing disease as much as curing it, that works on the presumption of compassion rather than profit, and includes a holistic approach, is utterly impossible under the current administration. They are driving us in the exact opposite direction.

    I would prefer a Clinton stand-off with Putin to: a) a Trump stand-off with Kim Jong-un and/or, b) Tump being a Putin lackey and/or Putin’s favorite money launderer. I guess there is an argument to be made that the China/Russia/Syrian alliance pulled off a master stroke when (if) they played the American political and social structures to see a Trump White House. Even if they had nothing to do with it and Trump is just a natural part of America’s downward spiral into the footnotes of history, it is still a most fortuitous coincidence so far as the growing empires of China, Russia and Syria are concerned. Unfortunately that also suggests that the world is about to replace one empire with another…same song, different verse. Which leads me to this thought…

    I have read through what you, John, and some others have to teach about the reincarnation. For me the whole idea gets muddled when set against a review of human history and the (rather grim) forecasts of what is likely to come next. So far as I can see there is no evidence that we, as a part of the collective whole that is the universe, are progressing in the pursuit of wisdom, or that of becoming a compassionate, understanding, and responsible species in the cosmos. Indeed, our descent into materialism, consumerism, greed, and whole earth embracing violence suggests just the opposite. We are stockpiling the weapons of our own destruction and squeezing the planet dry of the resources needed to survive. There is little indication of wisdom or spirituality among political, religious, or social leadership in our world, including that of the Chinese, the Russian, or the Syrians.

    We appear to be more like a vine choking the life out of the tree (and itself) than we are a flower blooming into life. History would seem to suggest that we are a failing experiment in the evolution of consciousness. In other words a healthy cosmic consciousness will not include much of what is found in human consciousness. Take away our greed, take away our lust and hate and tribalism, take away our love for violence and dominance; how much “human” remains? If I really am an eternal soul evolving into enlightenment, one pass though this human experience would seem more than enough. Shedding much of it appears to be the only path forward (or upward if you prefer that analogy). Repeated dunks in the same polluted bath seems an unlikely path to getting clean.

    By the way, the claims that Trump is just a natural part of America’s downward spiral, and that the Chinese/Russian/Syrian alliance manipulated the American system to put him in power, are not mutually exclusive. I suspect both to be true.

  80. JMG & Robert Mathiesen:

    Both of you are extrapolating and projecting much more out of my comment than should have been.

    At no time did I mention, nor allude to, the need to glorify or rely solely on a “savior-like” president to make all our fantasies come true. Just did not understand why JMG was communicating Jeremy Corbyn’s efforts in the UK in transforming the Labour Party and not the very similar efforts and accomplishments that Bernie Sanders has done here in the US as an outsider within the Democratic Party. Look it up, he has made some strides with a change in structure and primary electoral process.

    Further, since JMG, like myself, supports worker ownership of the means of production, I was hoping he would at least make a gesture of good will or recognize the efforts he (Bernie) has made to lay the political and economic foundation for a worker owned economy. Can you think of any other politician that has even remotely taken up this position on either side of the aisle? Someone, that is actually in national politics? I cannot.

    In fact, if you would listen closely to Bernie’s message, you would know that at no time did he ever make the election, or any of his work for that matter, about himself or any other person as POTUS. He is trying to motivate working class people of all stripes to organize from the grassroots and takeover the political and economic process and climate in the US. From the local level on up based on popular ideas and legitimate needs of working people. Don’t have to scratch the surface very deep to find this out about him. And, for many, of course not all, of the people who supported him for POTUS in 2016 know that change begins within each individual citizen; not a politician.

    Please, instead of trying to caricature myself or others as looking for a “savior-like” figure to solve all of our problems, in the very least, try to get to know the person and people you are choosing to misrepresent before you begin assuming what we want. Many of these folks, including myself, are diverse in our thoughts and actions and are hardened movers and shakers looking for a much more amicable climate to begin to decentralize decision making to the local level and provide for a more inclusive and more open political process. Although the both of you may not have come out directly to say I am looking for a savior, you definitely alluded to it with your response.

  81. I agree with you about the Democratic Party not being long for this world. It seems to be in their collective psychological DNA to pick the lamest, least-recommended candidate they possibly can and just assume that they will win because the Republican opponent is that very bad bad guy. And no matter how many times it just doesn’t work out that way, they simply won’t be disabused of that particular behavior.

    Also, I think that killing the fine that formed the backbone of the Obamacare mandate was probably the most important thing Trump has done so far in his entire misbegotten administration. After all, had it not been for the abysmal unpopularity of Obamacare with the working class, there is no way Trump’s lackluster novelty campaign would have propelled him into the Oval Office!

  82. JMG – speaking about the tax bill you said, “the incentives it gave to US-based multinationals to bring overseas dollars home and invest them here,”
    Maybe I misunderstood what you meant by ‘invest’ but that word typically gets used to mean the building of factories, opening of retail outlets, or hiring of office staff (depending on what said corporation does), which would lead to job creation.
    I don’t think it will have a job creating effect, and I don’t think it will help out wage class voters at all, and I do with it is more trickle-down economics and more BAU. Point being, I doubt this tax bill helps Team Red in the mid terms or in 2020. Team Red does have a gerrymandered advantage that should keep the mid-terms a toss up, so I agree with you on that.

    I gave myself half points for LePen and the Arctic because LePen did much better than the prognosticators thought she would, and the Artic is doing worse than the worst case IPCC scenarios accounted for. Going forward, I still expect a Greenland tipping point and a (probably) National Front victory sooner rather than later, I just jumped the gun on when those things will happen. Let’s say both in the next 5 years?

    As for Team Blue, anti-establishment candidates are running under the banner of Justice Democrats for at least 50 national offices this year, and the DNC leadership can’t stand it. Keep an eye on how well they do as a group for a barometer of how fast the current leadership gets chucked out.

  83. This fits nicely with our recent discussions. From mainstream media no less, the headline:

    Pakistan is ditching the dollar for trade with China — 24 hours after Trump denounced the country.

    The link:

    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/03/pakistan-china-ties-strengthen-after-president-donald-trumps-rant.html

    Quotes from the article:

    A day after the U.S. leader slammed Islamabad for harboring terrorists in a New Year’s Day tweet, Pakistan’s central bank announced that it will be replacing the dollar with the yuan for bilateral trade and investment with Beijing…

    “Pakistan balks far less at reductions in American aid, which, as the former points out, has dwindled in recent years anyway. China, on the other hand, has promised Pakistan $57 billion in investments on infrastructure and energy under its Belt and Road Initiative,” Madiha Afzal, a nonresident fellow at Brookings, said in a recent note. “All this means that America has far less leverage over Pakistan.”

    “The history of Pakistan’s relationships with China and the United States also shows that Pakistan’s policy does not respond to strong-handedness, but to loyalty, and to being treated with dignity,” she continued.

    LarryK

  84. Hello all, and happy New Year-

    Though all kind of folk talk about Trump and the Republicans losing in 2018 and 2020, there still exists massive gerrymandering in the Old Confederacy, Midwest and Mountain States that favor a Republican congress. Even though younger Evangelical Christians may be moving away from “Trumpism” and it’s ilk, those Red State folk are not going to vote for a Dem.
    Please remember, Trump won 30 states to Hilary’s 20. Every state Trump won in, the Republican Senator won in as well. The Dems are defending three times as many Senate seats as the Republicans in 2018. Any wins by Dems will be minimal at best. For those folk who don’t think Trump could win again in 2020, please note the electoral map could repeat itself in favor of Trump. 60% of presidential elections in the 21st century were decided by the Electoral College – this is a sobering statistic for those who think the popular vote counts.

    Chris Edwards

  85. I’d say, metaphorically, a flying Monkey attack is an event where the United States is forced to concede power to other nations it previously had looked down on. When other nations have decided to really bring out the sharpened shells and blatantly scalp away pieces of the US empire.

    No matter what winged creature you fancy…. yea I think eventually something’s coming home to roost.

    *Saturn’s Pet – I think part of the reason many people would rather eat their own fingers rather than accept a lower standard of living is that American Cities don’t make lower standards of living at all possible or appealing. That is the focus of some of James Howard Kunstler’s work. It’s also why JMG is proposing a simpler technological suit, public rail line’s etc.

    *JohnRoth -The Chair of the Massachusetts Ways and Means Committee lives just up the street from me. And the funny part about all the bigwig democrats in my hometown is that half of them are somehow related to the other half…. I find myself feeling like there a little aristocracy going here. There’s a friend of mine, I’m not going to go into details here, who is a member of this family. I remember on the school bus growing up he would always be talking about what his aunt, uncles, were doing on Beacon Hill. Anyway I had a drink with him at a bar here in town about three months ago and even he seems to be getting disenchanted with the Democrats. Of course I was well aware he could have just bene lying through his teeth to me – At one point I did tell him flat out Hillary is going to loose in 2016. He worked on Bernie Sanders’ campaign and doing an internship. It was rather weird having pictures of him and Bernie Sanders going by on my facebook page for a while. After the Bernie campaign was defeated Hillary’s Campaign absorbed him. It was at that point I told him Hillary’s going to loose because she’s an insider, and people not working in government are having a hard time getting by these days. I think this friend of mine has seen the light, but either way the Democratic Party needs a fresh infusion of blood, literally. This acquaintance/friend of mine was a freshman in college and chair of the Democratic Party here in my hometown…. What’s wrong with this picture.

  86. September 11 2018
    The Odin Storm

    It began in late July, storms with gale force winds started circling the arctic. It has been more than 40 days and the storms still have not stopped. It has been difficult to get accurate measurements of the remaining sea ice, but it seems that the only sea ice left is a thin line of sea ice pushed up against the northern shores of Greenland and Canada.

    In the Arctic, 2018 has had similar weather to 2012, early onset of the melt season, a sunny July and a late summer storm that was called the Great Arctic Cyclone. But in 2018 the arctic sea ice started in much worse shape than in 2012, and the storms have a more Mythic name that fits better with the nature of the change we see in the Arctic.

    Some climatologist are now saying the climate in the northern hemisphere has been pushed into a new state and climate change cannot be avoided only adapted to. Other climatologist want to see several years of this pattern before they agree that the climate has been pushed to a new state.

    December 21 2018
    Huginn and Muninn

    The Odin Storm lasted until the fall equinox, and the total sea ice area dropped below a million square kilometers of ice.
    Ice has been retuning to the Arctic sea but it has been slow, it seems like the warm wet arctic sea is sucking warm wet air from the Atlantic up into the arctic every week or so. Warming things up and retarding the ice growth.

    Many people are calling this a black swan (a rare and unexpected event) but I think that is a mistake, look closer and you will see it is not a black swan, it is one of Odin’s ravens and we will be seeing a lot more of them.

  87. Dear Danae, beings as I am a bit intellectually challenged, I would be very interested in your ideas about non-compliance with the slave owners. How do you starve a beast without getting eaten yourself?

  88. @JMG

    As Justin and Steve T said, the last Star Wars “film” (or better the last pamphlet) was full of reference to the etnics and gender references. Apart of the “race-diverse” Resistance, the real protagonist of the “good” side of the Force were mainly women, and two of them gave a real lesson to the only white protagonist, a white fighter pilot (well white, but at least he has dark hair and eyes…), full of testosterone and crazy impulsiveness that want “to bomb everything” to solve all the problems, but finally the much more cold blood and rational women save the people and taught a lesson to the fundamentally wrong macho-cowboy (hispanic?), that changed his mind and in the future fully accept the women’s leadership….Sure
    Everybody know how Hillary conducted the sensible issues like the total destruction of the Lybian state or the no-fly zone in Syria, that she asked so compulsively….It was hard to find a more enthusiastically bombastic and sadistic political leader in the world as in the infamous interview where she said, about the fate of Gaddafi: “we came, we saw, he died” (and everybody know the kind of horrible death Gaddafi suffered)

    Changing the issue, I am not sure if you have read this repport made for the NASA about the collapse of the western civilization, published some years ago:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/03/heres-how-nasa-thinks-society-will-collapse/441375/

    The complete version:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800914000615

    Some interesting phrases:

    “Two important features seem to appear across societies that have collapsed,” reads the study. “The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity and the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses.”…..
    “Collapse is difficult to avoid…. Elites grow and consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society.”….
    “brief overview of collapses demonstrates not only the ubiquity of the phenomenon, but also the extent to which advanced, complex and powerful societies are susceptible to collapse,”…
    “Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at the maximum carrying capacity, if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed equitably,”
    The last paragraph is the key, but seems that no civilization, in fact, had achieved never the “sustainable level” (defined by….?) or the “equitable” distribution of the wealth

    Happy new year for everybody

  89. In my own personal experience, the evangelical vote in the US has largely been a captive Republican Party constituency since Roe v. Wade was decided and the Republicans decided to claim the pro-life side of the issue. I know quite a few good Christians who do extensive volunteer work, donate more than they can afford to charity, reach out to the poor, hopeless, and foreign, and yet feel stuck in a real world “trolley car”-type ethical conundrum on abortion. I feel like if the issue would just go away – if we as a society agreed that abortion was either legal or illegal, and decided not to mention it in Congress for the next fifty years – a great many evangelicals would immediately vote to take better care of the poor and the environment. But while the slight possibility exists of overturning it, they feel like they need to solve this issue and care for all those unborn souls before worrying about people who are alive but miserable.

    It’s an easy position to mock from the other side of the fence, until you realize how much environmentalists are in the same boat on the Democratic side – never really happy with most of what the party is doing, but unable to vote for a Republican party that’s completely committed to ignoring climate change when the Democrats promise a thin sliver of hope of accomplishing something, maybe, useful.

    If the Democratic party could move away from making abortion a core platform issue – Roe v. Wade has been settled law for what, 45 years now? – I feel like they might draw back some of those religious social justice types that used to make up such a large part of the JFK-era party. But the DNC’s actions this last year don’t seem to support this at all; they’ve completely refused to back pro-life candidates who were progressive in every other way. And they feel that they need to because, despite 45 years of legalized abortion, every time there’s an election they shout that Republican X is going to take reproductive rights away.

    In short, my gut feeling is that if the social evangelicals come in to politics in a big way, either the Republican party is going to end up pro-social safety net and pro-life, or the Democratic party is. But whichever party they take over won’t keep its stance on those two issues intact.

  90. In Old Norse poetry, ravens are sometimes called “swans of blood,” as in the verse:
    “The swan of blood [ = the raven ] rushes with its wind-oars [ = wings ] straight to the wound.”

    So … my hunch is still that the coming black swan [ = black raven ] event will be a few days of unexpected battle on the streets of Washington, DC, between the US military and a large group of armed angry civilians, possibly supporters of Trump, resulting in great bloodshed and loss of life. (I already wrote on the Well of Galabes about the raven-omen that impelled me, not quite two years ago, to expect such a thing. See some comments of mine to the post for October, 2016, on divination. Again I say, Absit omen!)

    I haven’t the faintest idea what the egg might be from which this particular black swan will hatch. It will probably be some hot-headed small act of remarkable stupidity and/or paranoia.

  91. Pet, I’ve seen the same thing many more times than I like to think about. The unquiet conscience of the Boomer generation is an important factor here. Many of them at least gave lip service to the anti-materialism of the hippie years, and then chucked that along with most of the other values they claimed to uphold when they sold out to the Man. Thus anything that reminds them of the things they used to say they believed in will get you an extreme reaction. (Before anyone jumps on this, btw, please note that I say this as a late Boomer — I was born in 1962, and after everything I’ve witnessed, I think I’ve earned the right to critique my own generation…)

    Fly, seems plausible to me!

    Averagejoe, in the short term, I’m sure MMT will provide a burst of apparent prosperity. It’s in the middle and long term that something-for-nothing schemes inevitably bring pain.

    Will, and of course it turns out that what caused the flaw is the fixation on speed. As my grandfather used to say, “good, cheap, and fast; pick any two of the three.”

    Rapier, where did I say that monetary theory wasn’t a valuable way of looking at things? I simply chose to use a different lens to make sense of political economy, for a specific purpose, in a specific post.

    Phil H., we’ll see. It certainly promises to be interesting.

    Jenny, yep. That’s the immense burden the environmental movement has to bear just now: it’s dominated by the privileged, who can be counted on to do absolutely anything that doesn’t threaten their own influence, wealth, and comfort — and of course what that means is that they never actually get around to doing anything at all. It’s your generation that will be around to pick up the pieces and make things start happening again.

    Monk, nope. If it’s been predicted, remember, it’s not a black swan.

    Scott, exactly. One of my teachers in college used to say that hubris is the past tense of nemesis.

    Richard, that I know of, it doesn’t yet have any institutional form, which is a good thing. The one label I’ve heard thrown around is “red-letter Christian” — that is, the kind of Christian who thinks the words of Jesus, printed in red letters in old-fashioned Bibles, really do have central importance as a source of guidance for Christians today. I’ve simply met quite a few young evangelical Protestants who are fed up with the hypocrisy of their churches and the older generation of Christians, who aren’t willing to keep supporting policies diametrically opposed to the explicit commandments Jesus gave his followers, and who are looking for something more authentic. I’ve also seen a growing number of references to the same phenomenon. My guess is that it’s going to be huge, but that’s still to be seen.

    Karalan, did I say it was? Pork is inseparable from democracy — real democracy, that is, as distinct from the imaginary sort most people seem to think about when they utter the word.

    Mike, I could definitely see that.

    Justin, that’s about what I expected. If conservatives really want to start making an impact, they need to fund a new movie industry based out of Texas, which turns out lively, funny, interesting movies that break away from the mental monoculture of Hollywood. I’m by no means sure why nobody on the Right has thought of that yet!

    Mel, in theory, no doubt it’s great. In practice? People have been trying something-for-nothing schemes for a very long time, with predictable results. Mind you, I expect to see something of that sort tried in the US, probably around the time our currency loses its global reserve status, and when it gets under way I’ll be sure to transfer all my savings to a currency that will still have some value when the MMT bubble pops.

    Dean, I would like to think that the learning process is going on now, but I’ve seen very little evidence. If it’s happening at the grassroots, that’s great — that’ll be very helpful once the humiliation of a 2020 defeat finally breaks the grip of the Clinton/Obama ancien regime on the partly — but to judge from what’s coming out of Democratic politicians and their tame media, the failure to learn is still solidly in place.

    As for Obamacare, of course a lot of people got health care coverage who didn’t have it before; nearly all of them came from the Democratic Party’s core constituencies among the welfare class, while the GOP’s core constituencies among the working class got reamed. That’s business as usual in American politics. If the two sides of our current cultural divide could remember the word “compromise” again, and (not incidentally) stop treating health care policy as a way to hand out pork to the medical-industrial complex, a system that helps most people might be within reach.

    Danae, it’s precisely because people like you — once the backbone of this country — have lost faith in a failed system that we’ve moved into an era of radical change. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: at this point the further lifespan of the United States as currently constituted is probably measured in decades, not centuries — and not necessarily that many decades, either.

    Herbert, many thanks for this! Obviously I agree… 😉

    Marku, yes, I saw that! I wonder if any of the Saker’s friends and readers knows of a Russian-language publisher (or for that matter, a Chinese publisher) that would be interested in bringing out a translated edition… As for the outflow of money, yes, it’s modest, but what sets stock prices isn’t the total amount of existing investment but its change. It seems very suspicious to me that the stock market is setting all-time records while money flows out of it.

    Stefania, I’m in favor of it!

    Tim, you’re certainly entitled to your opinions about politics, of course. As for reincarnation, though, you seem to have missed a core point: humanity as a whole does not progress. It represents a stage through which souls need to pass, and so it remains what it’s always been, in Alexander Pope’s words:

    “Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
    A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
    With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
    With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
    He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
    In doubt to deem himself a god or beast;
    In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
    Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
    Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
    Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
    Chaos of thought and passion, all confus’d;
    Still by himself abus’d, or disabus’d;
    Created half to rise, and half to fall;
    Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
    Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d:
    The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!”

    When each of us learns the lessons and develops the capacities appropriate to that stage of being, we move on to another mode of being, and other souls moving up from simpler modes of being take our places.

  92. I predict a continued thickening of skin. Tragedies which would have been generation defining a few decades ago, today would hardly define a year. I still remember where I was and how the day was transformed when I heard about Columbine, a little vague about what was going on when I heard about the shooting in Vegas. A tightening of belts; last year I had good economic luck personally, but my family and community less so, and averaging them out, well the pantry is thin picking.

    I think the weather issue is growing in importance, right now, in the southern rocky mountains apple trees are putting out leaves. I have had no precipitation since September. So I am going to predict, not a black swan, but a singed goose, that the Rocky Mountains will have a fire season in 2018 comparable to California’s 2017.

    Generally it will be lean times. Right now the Green Rush is under threat again as the Feds are threatening to start enforcing refer laws. I think it is more than half saber rattling, and frankly I wouldn’t miss being the “highest state in the union”… attracts the wrong types, rich people. They won’t shut down weed generally, but the pressure will ruin a lot of business plans as the squeamish hoping to ride the rush who finally started getting into weed, back out under pressure. Basically 2018 will be the crest of the Green Rush in Colorado, may god have mercy on its soul. Tourism is another major economic driver for Colorado, and I expect it to have a puke year, even more so than 2017. The middle class travelers that supports most of the state, out side of the Aspen Veil core for the wealthy, won’t show up, and who does make the trip will be on a tighter budget. Referring back to agriculture, again a rough year to get a crop, so high prices, which many won’t be able to afford to support.

  93. DC, I wasn’t responding to you at all, only to JMG, and I merely referenced you to make it more clear which of JMG’s comments I was responding to. You and your concerns were hardly on my radar at all when I wrote. Rather, I was focused on the Cult of the President as Heroic Savior. That Cult has been a very real thing in American politics at least since FDR ran for his third term as President, and its roots may well be much older. It seems to have been to be a toxic element in American politics for most of the 20th century.

    However, in reply to you, I will now insist that Bernie’s political views and ideas, or the political views and ideas of any of the other candidates in this or any other recent election, have very little to do with the actual outcome of any election. My own personal observations and experience of elections reach back to the election that gave General Eisenhower his first term as President. So far as I could ever see, no national election then or now has ever really been a contest between the political views and programs of the various candidates, or of the various parties. What matters far more to most voters I have known well is (1) how this or that candidate made the voter feel, and (2) which candidate that voter could most closely identify with. In my opinion, you have mistaken an election for a contest between competing political ideas and programs, and have mistaken voters for people driven primarily by careful, intelligent attention to their own self-interests or the best interests of the nation. Voters of that sort seem always to have been very few in number, even among the most higly educated sectors of the population; they have never been numerous enough to influence the outcome of any election during my own lifetime. Aristotle once characterized humankind as the rational animal (zōon logikon); rather, we humans seem to me better defined as rationalizing animals. (Nor do I exempt myself from this harsh judgement. I can rationalize with the best of them, and I often do.) Bernie presented himself as a kind, compassionate and thoughtful candidate at a time when a significant fraction of voters were going to be moved by resentment and rage, and were motivated by those feelings to get out and vote for the most violent and dangerous candidate among those offered on the ballot. Alas! But totally predictable.

  94. DC, you’re assuming that I haven’t paid close attention to Sanders since he entered the 2016 race, and in fact, that’s a mistaken assumption. It’s precisely this repeated insistence of yours that only a lack of knowledge can justify a difference of opinion that convinces me that the worship of the Bern is yet another Democratic cult of personality. The Democrats will begin to win elections again when they stop talking about personalities and start talking about policies, with nobody’s name attached to them!

    Mister N., exactly. Trump’s election should have sent every Democratic politician and strategist into a long dark night of soul-searching, in which they asked themselves, “How could we have offered so little to the American people that they elected this clown instead?” — and paid close attention to the many, many answers. Instead, they’re spinning fantasies about Boris Badenov and Natasha rigging the election. Unless they pull their heads out of some biologically improbable orifices very soon, they’re just going to keep on losing.

    Ben, well, we’ll see. Did you notice the number of large companies that gave their work forces a bonus when the tax bill passed? I think it’s beginning to sink in at some levels that you really do have to hand out some pork from time to time. As for Le Pen and the Arctic, we’ll see; neither one is as predictable as it might seem, since both are subject to highly complex feedback loops. The Justice Democrats — yes, I’m watching them. That’s the kind of movement I expect to seize control of the party after the approaching debacle.

    Larry, yep. Notice also that Pakistan received a lot of US foreign aid, and so part of this is a deliberate decision on the part of the US to cut down its foreign expenditures — another step back from empire.

    Chris, those are among the reasons I expect the 2018 election to be more or less a tossup, and for the Democrats to suffer another humiliating defeat in 2020.

    Austin, fair enough! I’ll keep the term handy for future events that fit it.

    Jim, a real possibility, but as anyone knows who’s read Norse mythology, there’s only one being who knows what Odin’s going to do, and that’s Odin…

    DFC, yes, I did, and I thought the study made some very good points.

    Dave, the new social evangelicals I know are against abortion but most don’t think outlawing it is a useful approach. Most of them have the same attitude toward traditional morality generally — you lead people prayerfully toward it, you don’t force them to do it under penalty of law. Nearly all of them treat taking care of the poor and distressed as a much higher priority than trying to force other people to follow a rigid set of moral rules. As that spreads, I expect to see a lot of current party alignments disintegrate completely, and it’s by no means certain that both of the current parties will survive.

    Robert, I hope you’re wrong, but given the recent US-funded and -encouraged shenanigans in Iran, I think it’s extremely likely that something of the sort will be arranged as payback.

    Ray, all those seem entirely plausible.

  95. Re social evangelicals

    For those who are struggling with this term, I immediately thought of Ched Myers (https://www.chedmyers.org) as an example of the “Christian Left”. His talks and writings on the social gospel and economic applications of Jesus’ teaching are blunt and unapologetic.

  96. As a (learning) astrologer, the entry of Saturn in Capricorn is rather disconcerting, especially for countries with a strong Capricorn, or Cancer dominance (I live in Australia, and the chart I go by gives it a Sun conjunct Saturn in Capricorn, so it’s a Saturn return too!).

    This is nowhere as unnerving as the fact Saturn will be joining Pluto in the not too distant future. This may just mean an entrenchment/solidification of existing hierarchies, corporations and the like. But it could also go the other way – my knowledge of history is not good enough to allow me a meaningful comparison, but it just gives me a rather uneasy feeling…, you know, the Lord of Karma and the Lord of Death together has a rather intense feeling about it, no?

    The next couple of years shall be very “interesting” (even more so than the last couple, I think).

    As for us, we are continuing to live frugally, planted a few more fruit trees and general maintenance/ upgrades to our small 5 acre property, mainly around water security and vegetable gardens. I’m not one for stockpiling food, though I can’t help but wondering maybe having a back up of a couple of long shelf-life staples such as rice might not be a bad idea.

    Thank you for your thoughtful writing,
    Monica

  97. Nastarana – don’t charge stuff & pay interest- don’t take on consumer debt on non producing “assets” – pay off debts ASAP to deprive bankers of interest – don’t buy things that your “local taxing authorities” can send you a personal property tax bill for every year – SIMPLIFY – make it yourself- fix it yourself- BUY USED – pay cash – trade labor with a friend – they will probably help you in return, if they are a friend,- grow your own. The old timers never threw useful items away, nuts, bolts, screws, fabric, lumber, canning jars, ect… DON’T WASTE FOOD! Creative Leftover Casserole is the busy working womans best friend! You don’t have to eat out every Friday nite & put it on Visa because you work hard & gosh darn it, you DESERVE it, that is the path to debtors hell. I know plenty of middle aged people who have bankrupted themselves by pretending that they and their grown children were still middle class. Get over it.

  98. Archdruid,

    Here are my predictions from 2017. Lets see how I did…

    India:

    1) Will continue to muddle along, not really making much progress in any particular direction.

    2) The pro-BJP news will continue to support the Modi economic agenda, while opposition papers will continue to call him a fascist dictator.

    3) the damage done by demonetization will have a deep impact on the coming elections and the BJP will use a number of seats, however because of opposition’s disarray the number of seats won’t be as high as expected.

    4) the BJP brand will not recover from demonetization and the last national party will continue to fade as the 80 yr crisis approaches.

    5) The monsoon rains will continue to be deficit, but the met will continue to revise numbers to make everything seem normal.

    6) soil, ground water, and surface water degradation will continue unabated.

    7) local level organization will also continue creating a balance to disorder that pervades.

    8) Gandhian living will slowly become more popular.

    10) sea level rise will continue to eat away at the coasts.

    11) Pakistan will resume its attacks on the border once the winter ends.

    USA:

    1) Trump will engage in battle with the neoliberals in his own party, targeting specifically the Wisconsin faction for their underhanded tactics.

    2) Trump will push for a pay raise for both federal military and national guard, because he is a smart demagogue and wants to retain the loyalty of the armed forces.

    3) The democratic party, and left-wing generally, will double down on its identity politics agenda, further isolating them.

    4) Bernie Sander’s faction will continue to make ground among the left activist base.

    5) We will take another step closer to an urban insurgency and the national guard will be called out to police a major city.

    6) The drought on the west coast will continue unabated.

    7) The number of economically and environmentally displaced persons will continue to climb, regardless of Trump’s actions, and the number of homeless encampments will continue to flourish.

    8) We here on the report will notice some of the crisis cults appearing on the fringes.

    9) Drug abuse, suicide rates, and general self destructive behavior will continue to climb and become impossible to ignore by the mainstream.

    10) More people in the salary class will dope, with the help of their psychs, themselves to avoid dealing with reality.

    India – I got everything except 3, 4 and 8 correct. The BJP has done pretty well for itself even in state elections, but not quite as well as expected. 7 out of 10, not bad.

    USA – I got everything except 1, 2, 5, 6, and 8 correct. 5 out of 5. I need to brush up on my knowledge about the US.

    Regards,

    Varun

  99. “If you don’t think about the future, you can’t have one.”

    A line from an old ADR in the latest print volume? No, it was the fortune I got in my Chinese takeout on New Year’s Day.

    Sheesh. It seems even the fortune cookie writers are uneasy.

  100. Archdruid,

    Okay, so that was last year now what about this year? Honest answer, I haven’t a clue. Things are so weird right now and I’ve continued to unplug from current events that I have no way of knowing what’s going on. However, I want to comment about the black swan. A black swan isn’t an event that no one has predicted, it’s an event that someone predicted but no one excepted to actually happen. There were a few people who saw the ’08 crisis coming and found a way to cash in on it. Economist Nouriel Roubini predicted it and made his career on his successful prediction.

    Let’s have an archdruid contest! Everyone throws in their predictions for the where they think the black swan will roost, in which quarter, which part of the quarter, and why…

    I predict that the black swan will land in the latter part of the 3rd quarter on the house of Kubera. The house of Kubera is the house of wealth, dealing specifically with the wealth of the earth (he’s a Yaksha, or earth spirit guardian of the hidden treasures of the world). I believe we will have a shortage of some mineral, the first of a series of bottle necks that will grind some industry to a halt and send shock waves through the geopolitical scene as there is a scramble to secure the remaining sources. I think Kubera because that’s the name that first popped into my head when I was thinking about our black swan. It won’t be lithium (that would be too easy), no it will be something seemingly minor, which will none the less cause people to over react.

    Regards,

    Varun

  101. JMG, do your comments about the downscaling of America’s foreign military presence indicate that you think Trump or someone in his administration has recognized the necessity of backing down gracefully from our imperial overstretch? I seem to remember you listing that as one a couple of possible things that, if accomplished, would qualify Trump as the best president in recent memory. Or perhaps it’s Pentagon officials, less constrained by this administration than previous ones?

    On a mostly-unrelated note, Ray Wharton’s comments re Columbine and Vegas reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to ask. Are outbreaks of seemingly purposeless violence among the citizenry another feature common to declining civilizations? (I say purposeless to distinguish them from things like food riots, political insurgencies, and other things more directly traceable to declining material conditions) The mass shooting phenomenon has baffled me for a while, I’ve been unable to comprehend the roots of this epidemic and why it’s seemingly so specific to contemporary America.

  102. Well, if the House of Saud falls, that will go a long way towards curtailing Wahhabist terrorism. They’re the money behind it. Also, am curious, since you mentioned the Russians and the Chinese planning to replace the US$ as reserve currency why that didn’t factor into your New Year’s Prediction? Do you not assume that the US$ will be replaced as reserve currency this year, and, if so, you don’t think it will have any effects on the real or fictive economy?

  103. I have to agree w/your take on younger evangelicals, though i wonder as rapidly as the US is becoming post-Christian, I wonder how much effect they’ll have on the US as a whole–we are in a secular phase of your well documented cycle of fundamentalism and secularism.

  104. I was just trying to be funny with the flying monkey/Wizard of Oz reference. Because the land of Oz is supposed to be a metaphor for the United States. And the book Wicked paints Oz in somewhat of a dimmer light and tells it from the Wicked Witches point of view – Where Oz screwed her over for power, wealth, etc.

  105. JMG, I just want to say that the “massive sea change” you allude to among the younger evangelicals, is making me very thoughtful. Hopeful, even. I am not an evangelical, but I am of evangelicals. They are my people, and the early shapers of my heart, mind and soul.

    This *would have* described me late in the 1970’s: “I’ve simply met quite a few young evangelical Protestants who are fed up with the hypocrisy of their churches and the older generation of Christians, who aren’t willing to keep supporting policies diametrically opposed to the explicit commandments Jesus gave his followers, and who are looking for something more authentic” (before I stopped looking). I would welcome this generation.

    I have begun taking soundings from the different age groups in my family to see what there is to see. No sound “data” as yet, but I do suspect you are onto something. And I am very glad of it.

  106. @ John Roth – After years or being involved in third parties and viewing the Democratic (and Republican) parties from the outside, what I saw and the general observation you hear a lot is that they really are not genuine political parties based on traditional definitions. If you compare them with political parties in better functioning democracies, you will see the differences, but most Americans have no idea how parties and elections are structured elsewhere, so they don’t see it. The legacy party structures have influence but not control like they once did. In 1968 Herbert Humphrey won the nomination without winning a single primary. In 2016 Clinton only edged Sanders despite so many internal advantages. Both parties are decrepit and while Trump already took over one of them, the other one is sitting on a wall, ready to play Humpty Dumpty. People who watch the news hear about what goes on at the top mostly, but what I see at the ground level is lots of new and young energy. And now we see so many people who were never involved in politics running for office too. I’m not going to guess on the odds, but I think this may be our last and best chance to change directions in a real way. Of course winning elections is only the first step, so much reform and restructuring is needed.

  107. @JMG – I basically agree with you regarding Sanders. To me he represents the possibilities. He started at 2% and almost won the nomination, showing how weak the establishment has become when faced with somebody with principles. 50 years ago, he would have shot up from 2% to 4%. Overall I really don’t want to talk about 2020 or who should be the nominee. 2018 is the front and central focus for me now. I kind of hope that the 2020 nominee ends up being somebody I haven’t even heard of yet. I also very strongly agree with what you said previously about how much better we would all be if we stopped thinking that a great President is going to fix everything. If people thought their city council election was as important as the presidential election, we would be doing much better right now. Trump is such a media hog, but if only we could all focus on our town and state in 2018.

  108. In the 1960s, the Reader’s Digest published a story about the collapse of the US after a sneak nuclear attack. The attack came from Red China, and the delivery method was crates of fish. Today 16,000 shipping containers enter the US every day. Is it too much to suppose that Kim Jong-un couldn’t send us a dozen nukes with deadman switches inside a dozen of those containers? When we rattle his cage too much, one goes off in a Amazon distribution center out in the middle of nowhere, with the promise of more to come. It’s not a black swan, since I’ve been imagining it for some time, but it sure as hell would get our attention.

  109. This is off-topic, but, since you, Mr. Greer, mentioned “When each of us learns the lessons and develops the capacities appropriate to that stage of being, we move on to another mode of being, and other souls moving up from simpler modes of being take our places.”…
    I couldn’t help but be reminded of something I was thinking for a while. You also said before that humans reincarnating in other lifeforms is a thing that normally doesn’t happen, because it would be exceedingly traumatic — and I assume, not a natural path — but this doesn’t apply when their numbers go down during civilization collapses. If these souls reincarnate, there are no longer enough humans for them to reincarnate; in this case they necessarily will do so in other parts of the physical biosphere.
    I also seem to remember comments, perhaps from readers or from you, about many “new humans” that were not so, because they would be filling the extra numbers temporarily provided by the use of fossil fuels. And you saying, about being human, something like “use your human abilities or lose them.” Would this be because when population bottoms out in some centuries, most people alive today will no longer be humans, and go back to being what they were before the industrial revolution started to increase the human population?

  110. IF the KSA gets roiled by internal politics or revolution, then there will be an oil price spike, and a HUGE one if there is a revolution.

    Possible results of a doubling of the oil price? Well, shipping of everything doubles in cost. As the US military is the #1 user of oil on the planet, the military budget will have to be expanded or contracted – expanded means budget increase in the face of the one we just had while contracted means ramping up the disentangling overseas; both are disruptive to the BAU bunch.

    Electric cars will be pushed, resulting in lithium and other elements becoming pricier, increasing the strain on our already crappy electrical grid. Food prices will soar due to both shipping and fertilizer costs. The short story? Inflation will be unrestrainable, regardless of what the pundits pontificate across the MSM. This is likely to unmask the Fed buying it’s own debt, trigger revaluation in the commodity markets, etc.

    High oil prices destroy globalism, as it eats away the margin dollars for the multi-nationals. The world is no longer setup to work regionally, so things begin to thunk and spit and kerfuffle in global supply chains.

    It isn’t exactly a black swan, but it sure as hell is a gray one with the possibility of spawning numerous black cygnets!

  111. David, thanks for this. Yes, that’s the sort of thing I’m hearing more generally.

    Monica, I’m more concerned with the Saturn placement relative to national foundation charts than I am about Pluto, which I see as a waning influence these days — in the same condition that Ceres (another former planet) was between 1850 and around 1880. I should probably do a post on that one of these days. But no question, if you’ve got a Sun conjunct Saturn in your national foundation chart, and Saturn’s returning to that position, you’re in line for a major reset of national priorities. Do you do ingress charts for Canberra for the Aries ingress each spring? If so, might be interesting to see if anything else aspects the Sun/Saturn conjunction to trigger it.

    Varun, that’s pretty good. Even with the US, you got five out of ten more than most of the popular pundits!

    Walt, funny!

    Varun, I don’t consider the 2008 crash any kind of black swan — I was one of literally thousands of people who saw it coming and said so in print. The only people who missed it were economists and those who take them seriously. That said, I’m perfectly open to a Black Swan contest, and yours is a very plausible entry. If we do such a contest, though, one rule: none of the usual boring proposals. No stock market crashes, nuclear wars, volcanic eruptions, comets, et blah cetera. All entries must by *original.*

    Fred, I think some people in the Pentagon have a clue. As for outbreaks of random violence, we’ve spent how many decades saturating our minds with media and video games that are all about blowing people away, it’s amazing we don’t have more random shootings here in the US!

    Shane, because I don’t expect the dollar collapse to happen this year, of course. We’ve got a while still to go. As for the new social evangelicals, they’re part of the adaptation to Christianity becoming a minority religion; they won’t have immense power in and of themselves, but combined with other groups with similar agendas, they’ll have quite an impact.

    Austin, it’s still a good image!

    Scotlyn, keep me posted! The evangelical movement is a foreign culture to me, and so I’m doing my best without any kind of insider’s understanding.

    Dean, if the 2020 Democratic nominee is somebody we haven’t heard of yet, and it’s somebody (a) younger than the baby boom and (b) not in bed with the current DNC consensus, then there’s a chance the Democrats could scoop the pot: the White House, Congress, you name it, But we’ll see.

    Peter, the question to ask yourself is this: what would Kim Jong-un have to gain from such a move? It’s fashionable to call him crazy, but he’s actually done a very rational job of dealing with the very plausible risk that the US might target North Korea for regime change. His goal is very clearly maintaining his own power and the independence of the country he rules. If he sets off a nuke in the US, the US president — any US president — would quite literally have no choice but to wipe North Korea off the map; it’s that or make the possession of a nuclear deterrent meaningless. I can’t think of anything Kim would gain from a container nuke that would be worth having 500 warheads or so instantly reducing the entire land area of North Korea to incandescent ash.

    Packshaud, no, you’ve misunderstood me. It’s quite common for human beings to be reborn in animal forms if they’ve failed to make use of their human capacities; back in the day, there was a particular kind of second sight common in Wales, where you’d see the animal form somebody was going to be reborn as, the cydfil, as a shadowy shape alongside them. (George Macdonald made use of that in one of his children’s fantasies.)

    In the last century or so there’s been a drastic reduction in the numbers of most species of large intelligent animals, and a corresponding growth in the human population. From the perspective of reincarnation, it seems likely that a lot of souls are having their first time in human bodies, which may explain why the higher human capacities such as rational thinking are so scarce these days. Down the road a bit, when the human population drops back to more ordinary numbers and animal populations expand accordingly, that’ll straighten itself out.

    Oilman, I could definitely se that — but we’ll see.

  112. Umm, my health care coverage is a 6+ hr. trip to Windsor, Ontario. It’s cheaper to pay out of pocket in a country with price controls than to use the racket that is health insurance in this country.

  113. @Oilman

    One point I was thinking of moving to was how fracking jobs and the like are one of the few major cash sources out west. Kinder Morgan pays most of the tax bill for my county, for example. I was wondering, if global supply were to tighten, could that prop up an extra fracking boomlet? Or are we just too over stretched to do it while dealing with the associated belt tightening?

    Shoot, I might better dig up an extra rood of garden, let the family eat squash next fall.

  114. Maybe already posted, but the stock market rising while people are selling is not really a mystery. The link provided by JMG shows data only from mutual funds and ETFs (similar to mutual funds for those that are not up to date on investment alternatives, they are funds that buy stocks and other assets on behalf of individual investors), not all market participants.

    So individuals are selling their stocks via mutual funds and ETFs, but there are buyers in other institutions like university endowments, hedge funds and companies buying their own shares.

    I’m not saying that there is no direct intervention in the stock market by central banks, but it is not a foregone conclusion by any means based on that data.

  115. Fred,

    ” The mass shooting phenomenon has baffled me for a while, I’ve been unable to comprehend the roots of this epidemic and why it’s seemingly so specific to contemporary America.”

    Well, I think it is a war, but that is just my opinion.

  116. More a speculation than a prediction for 2018….

    If Trump follows through on his threat to cut funding to Palestine and Pakistan, what odds we could see Russia filling the vacuum in Palestine and maybe China in Pakistan?

    Such a realignment might even constitute a black swan event. I would argue Russia’s successful intervention in Syria was a black swan event for the US and its allies.

  117. “at this point the further lifespan of the United States as currently constituted is probably measured in decades, not centuries — and not necessarily that many decades, either.”
    Aargh, say it isn’t so, JMG, that is way TOO long. C’mon, ten years, max–even your Retrotopia timeline means we gotta get a move on w/the post-American era. Surely, we must be 1980s Soviet Union, and our 1991 can’t be that far away…

  118. JMG,

    Did you ever happen to read an essay called “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” by Michael Spencer? It was in the Christian Science Monitor about a decade ago, as I recall. He was predicting that evangelical Christianity in America would be halved as the boomers began to die off. Spencer passed away a few years ago, but my guess is that he would have upped that prediction to a much greater decline had he lived to see Trumpism. As you point out, he’s the orange straw breaking the camel’s back…

    I grew up completely and utterly immersed in the evangelical world and didn’t leave until I was interning at a church right after college. I’ve been gone a decade now but I still watch that world closely and I still have so many friends, family members, and acquaintances in that world. My read of the situation is that the rise of the “red letter” Christian has been greatly overstated… Yes indeed, evangelicals my age (early thirties) and younger are done with their elders. Yes indeed, that demographic is swinging wildly to the left. But, if you took ten of my childhood or college friends at random who are affected by this phenomenon that you’re describing, probably 2 of them are “red letter” or social evangelicals (or trying to be), 1 of them is trying to integrate him- or herself into a liberal mainline protestant denomination, and 7 of them are at varying stages of just being done with Christianity altogether…

    If my anecdotal evidence happens to be representative of greater trends, that might very well have the same end result for upcoming elections that you’re talking about, ie still fewer net votes for the GOP. But I don’t see “social evangelicals” being a rising star on the religious horizon here in America. It was attempted in the mid-2000’s with things like the “emergent church” movement, and they were so thoroughly beaten down and harassed and harangued by anyone and everyone with an evangelical pulpit that the movement quickly died and most of those folks are simply no longer Christian at all…

  119. The anticipated “Big One” earthquake on the West coast of USA? That could be very disastrous, lets say if its magnitude over 8 and affects multiple major cities.
    Or, a volcanic eruption sufficiently large, lets say Tambora or Krakatoa size? That could decrease food production worldwide for a couple of years, causing rising food prices, and ultimately contributing to further destabilization of many regions that are already restless and poor.

    A question off topic for you JMG, have you been to some speaking event held in Canada or planning to do so in the future?

  120. In regard to Packshaud’s comment – I thought that when a spirit was in limbo between lives, it could chose to reincarnate or not, that it wasn’t predetermined what form it was going to be reborn into.

    If you do decide to do a post on education in America. I’d like to hear your input on how rational thinking and reincarnation might be intertwined. Like if the purpose of school is to teach rational thinking, then shouldn’t it advance a spirit on its trip to Gwynfyd, not slow it down?

  121. Mr. Greer,

    Regarding young evangelicals you speak truth–at least to my lived experience. There is an evangelical reformed seminary near where I live, the students of which have found affordable housing in my neighborhood. Over the years I have gotten to know, and worked secular jobs with, and over a pint or two had many debates, both tepid and heated–though ultimately cordial–with the seminarians and their wives. Some have become close friends. Though some of their beliefs, mainly regarding the age of the earth and the cosmos, strike me as bizarre I nonetheless witness their cogency of belief and action daily. Indeed, unlike many of the trust fund hipsters that also dwell in the neighborhood, these individuals start, and patronize, local co-ops, agitate for basic human decency, and serve the poor which are Sisyphean tasks in this city plagued by riots. Moreover, since half of the married couples choose not to work there are plenty of play groups and general adult supervision in the neighborhoods and nearby parks. You can detect the difference. Some, I suppose, would find that division of labor annoying, but nobody seems to be held hostage. Ultimately, I am impressed by their intellectual seriousness and fundamental kindness– totally at odds with the typical picture of evangelical willful stupidity and dour hypocrisy.

    As for the New Year I am not yet wise enough to feel comfortable predicting anything–let alone a black swan event. That said, Mr. Manafort, and associates, might want to steer well clear of the tips of umbrellas in the coming months.

    Happy New Year to you and Sara. Hope you have plenty of ale and firewood to get you through “the Bomb”.

  122. Danae, thank you for your response. I already do most of what you suggested, and have been for many years. I am beginning to loose confidence that such forbearance, while good in itself, has any effect on the oligarchy.

    A few observations: (Very) slight improvements in quality are beginning to be apparent in consumer goods. Christmas ephemera this year were not ugly, for example. Mass market clothing is still poorly made but is at least more functional than the idiocies of the past few decades.

    Only about half or less of the population votes. That half is people who own property of various kinds and people with advanced degrees and professional qualifications. The former tend to vote for Republicans whom they hope will protect their wealth and the latter tend to prefer Democrats whose projects and programs provide lots of employment for degree holders. Each party then tries to get out its “base” voters, that is the voters who are either terrified of the other side or can be persuaded that the other side is the minions of Beelzebub.

    I am convinced that the vote for Trump was mostly an anti-war vote, and I venture to suggest that the Democrats cannot win without a robust anti-war message. I believe that Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) is running for the 2020 nomination, He has been quietly making himself available throughout the country, in Alabama for example during the recent off year election. He has some obvious advantages, all kinds of upscale credentials, not visibly connected to the Clintons, not married which makes him pretty much immune to Trump’s ploy of rattling opponents by getting personal, and with enough sense to keep his private life private. He is a creature of Wall Street of course; I never said I liked him, but he could well be the nominee. If he picked a qualified white woman for the VP slot–Sen Klobuchar perhaps–it could be quite entertaining to watch the alt right having a collective gran mal seizure.

    The Democratic coalition is splintering badly. A lot of previously loyal Democrats, black, brown and white, are beginning to notice that special favors for this or that designated victim group are not doing the rest of us any good at all. However, the Democratic apparatchiks are motivated as much by a very seductive ideology as by self interest. That ideology is their cherished multiculturalist internationalism, an ideology which allows and encourages its adherents to believe themselves superior to all the rest of humanity in general, and us great unwashed in particular. This group, who mostly don’t read anything more demanding that what appears on the NYT best seller list, regard themselves as the true and direct heirs of Socrates, Shakespeare and a host of other Great Names while serving as servants to the oligarchy.

    For Black Swan events, I am going to suggest a major agricultural poisoning event which might be a superbug infection coming from Confined Animal Feeding Operations or a repeat of the killing of 50,000 honeybees from a few years ago because of careless use of spray, or perhaps a major salmonella outbreak once the Republicans cut back on inspecting processing plants.

  123. Speaking of nukes, I was wondering about this recently… would atomic bombs have a particular effect on human souls if they get caught in the explosion? There used to be a belief that burning a body would also burn the soul to nothing. I very much doubt the latter belief is true, but an atomic blast is a way more extreme event…

  124. Great to read your thoughts on 2018 John.
    I am mostly persuaded of the cyclical view of history that you present in your books and articles, although sometimes I wonder about the effects of others who are both in positions of great power and appear to be committed to the idea that ‘this time it is different’.

    And on that I wonder, do you see much -or any, future significance in Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel (together with the fallout at the UN that has followed)- that and the re-emergence of Neocon figures on the scene ?

    I am terrible at making predictions, but I thought I might throw in that there are many people who suspect another general election here in the UK in late spring of 2018.
    Any chance of Corbyn’s success at the ballot (or whatever might come after it), would almost entirely depend on a huge groundswell of grass-roots support. So far only tentative steps have been taken to reform his party into any kind of member-led democratic organisation.

    Interestingly, the Labour Party’s split is most clearly de-marked by the issue of Israel and Palestine.

  125. Hello JMG

    Just to clarify – you regard the US foreign policy as a deliberate staged retreat, backing away from now-unaffordable foreign commitments, correct? That means you regard Trump and other high level politicians as being aware of and having accepted America’s decline, correct?

    Also, yes please to a black swan contest!

    SMJ

  126. Just a couple of quick “black swan” concepts:
    1. Elon Musk’s empire implodes. Maybe he dies in some freak accident, or something else irreversibly cracks his myth, and without his “magic”, people’s faith in the whole enterprise just vanishes. And that prompts more sober reviews of other modern companies, and the great financial reset commences.

    2. Recreational marijuana begins to serve the role of vodka in the late-stage Soviet Union, and as one invisibly-essential blue-collar worker after another fails to perform as usual, Things Fall Apart.

    3. There are many parts of rural America where the county hospital is the “fountain of wealth”: money (whether from conventional medical insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid) is pumped in from outside, and flows gradually out, supporting a large fraction of the population (some directly, but most indirectly). Anything which disrupts this flow for more than, say, a month, will be seismic.

  127. Varun’s idea of a black swan contest appeals to me. This one is hard since it requires original thought with the high probability of failure! Let me put on my fantasist’s hat and begin:

    * We begin to see a new form of youthful rebellion get press; rejecting digital technology. At least some kids get back at Mom and Dad by not using cell-phones or the internet and instead reading books and going on adventures (ironically like their parents did). This will be edgy and fun. While I am certain that this is already happening I imagine this to be the beginning of something of a Gandhian resistance. First there will be a tone of incredulous mockery, then fighting, violence etc, finally these people will, if they stick it through, win in making this sensible lifestyle option mainstream. This year, if I am correct, we can look forward to the incredulous mockery.

    * Relatedly, a new word or concept is introduced to the vernacular that describes the sort of zombie-like way people use screen technology while indicating that it is a mental disorder. This term will be accessible, catchy and gain traction and wind up in a dictionary down the pike.

    * With youtube in shambles, we see some talented, charismatic figure from the Alt-Light break from fringe to center in a surprising way. Not primarily as a pundit; rather as a musician, artist or story teller who uses the Alt-Light perspective but doesn’t speak only of politics.

    * The political Balkanization we see results in some organized method of targeting of folks IRL. Marks on the door or windows, etc. More targeted political violence.

    * The assassination of several “Twitter personalities”.

    * The creation of an edgy “anything goes and nothing matters” video sharing website, where disturbing videos of performative murder and suicide go viral.

    * The advent of a “Suicide Game” in the age group 7-18 that gains traction resulting in few deaths, but the opening acts of a new mass-hysteria that deals squarely in fears of memetic contamination.

    * Some psychiatric medication that has been prescribed recklessly for years is recalled, to public scandal, for creating progressive worsening of mental symptoms; either dementia or some form of pernicious madness.

    * There is a public book burning of a yet to be released book that will shape the mythic contents of the next two decades (think of the furor around Harry Potter).

    * Similarly, the Death of Harry Potter. Not the character, but its mythic hold on the collective narrative. The whole deriding of “Special Snowflakes” is in part a reaction against the Harry Potter myth of inherent, easy, specialness and lots of free stuff. “Harry Potter” the mythic structure, will be symbolically vanquished by something that distills The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones into something more symbolically rich and mythic. Explicitly, part of the myth will be the vanquishing of Harry Potter & Co.

    I look forward to analyzing how many hits there are here, if any, in 2019.

  128. Danae- I’m glad you expanded on the practices of your personal rebellion. Rather than “sticking it to the man”, I’d say that you’re just “opting out” of the financial world, and “opting in” to a more sustainable way of living. Your original post sounded, to me, to be bitterly reactive, but the details are project an air of confident self-reliance.

    As we’ve all agreed so many time before, we have to “live the collapse we expect to see”. There’s no need to throw sand in the gears, though. They’ll grind to a halt soon enough as it is. We will miss them.

  129. JMG: “Since environmental activists by and large come from the privileged middle and upper middle classes of our society, and since most would sooner fry and eat their own fingers than accept a standard of living they associate with the despised poor, none of these promising options are going to be taken up”

    I’m even more bothered by the privileged middle and upper middle classes who don’t even pay lip service to ecological concerns although they enjoy living in a (formerly) rural setting and taking holidays in places of natural beauty.

  130. John–

    Two questions/comments.

    First, re the imperial withdrawal, you seem to be suggesting that the US is conducting that kind of pull-back, but (apparently) in a blustery, look-over-there-while-we-slip-away-over-here, semi-face-saving kind of way. I’ve been advocating for imperial withdrawal as a needed and necessary thing for some time now, but I’ve always seen it as an overt, planned pivot to a domestic focus. Am I understanding your interpretation of current events correctly? That we are indeed pulling back (albeit out of inability to maintain rather than from a coherent policy shift)?

    Second, re religious attitudes. I still participate on one political forum (PoliticalWire), doing what I can to induce a change in consciousness through an act of will by calmly (or as calmly as I can) repeating my mantras and injecting the ideas that I’d like to see take root out into the conversation-space (e.g., federalism, a constitutional convention, purposeful withdrawal from empire). One of these ideas is the notion of providing a space for people of sincere religious faith to live according to their beliefs, even though one may not agree with those beliefs. It is merely anecdotal, but I can say that in the two-ish years I’ve been engaged on this particular forum, I’ve witnessed a disturbing number of disparaging comments and outright insults towards conservative religious faith. I’d go so far to say that the attitudes toward any meaningful religious faith (by which I mean a faith that posits the actual existence of actual beings who actually interact with their followers) are demonstrably hostile. Perhaps this is only a vocal subset of forum participants, but it is certainly noticeable. Is this a broader trend in your view, or just an artifact of the sample I happen to be observing?

  131. New poster here, so be gentle, but I have a few comments regarding the tax plan and Obamacare. First, I think there’s a lot of confusion about what people will get from the tax cuts. I think this source:
    http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/distributional-analysis-conference-agreement-tax-cuts-and-jobs-act/full (sorry, don’t know how to post a direct link)
    is as definitive as you will find. TPC has been accused of being left-leaning, but I can get pretty close to their numbers with a simple spreadsheet, so I don’t think they’re far off. Anyway, one poster said that people might get $60 per month but, for the lowest 2 quintiles (working class?) it’s more like $60-300 per year. Not much and I question whether such a thing by itself would sway voters, especially considering the lop-sided benefits to the upper quintile. Republicans could easily have given more of their pork to the voting base if they wanted to, maybe with a new refundable tax credit targeted to lower income, but, instead, I think they gave the bulk of the pork to their donor base (not saying that might not be a smart thing to do). My personal opinion is that they should have just done the corporate tax relief and left the rest alone, though maybe that wouldn’t have benefited some small businesses. I agree that the corporate tax relief could be the big show if companies find it in their hearts to give some of their tax benefits to their employees, as some companies have already done. I’m not holding my breath though.

    In regards to Obamacare, please don’t construe my following comments as evidence that I think Obamacare or the individual mandate is great (I don’t), but I think again there may be some misinformation out there. First, JMG, you state that people are forced to buy 5 figure policies that they can’t use. I don’t think that is entirely the case. First, my understanding is that you do not have to pay the individual mandate penalty if the cheapest policy you can get is more than 8% of your income. So, if your cheapest policy is $10k, you’d have to be making $130k before you’d pay an individual mandate penalty. I am also not taking into account that at the lower income levels these policies are (or at least used to be) subsidized. Also, if you got such a policy, you are still getting benefit from the policy even while paying the deductible because you get the negotiated or group rates for services, procedures and prescription drugs (I have seen that to be a 30-70% discount with my policy). As an individual without insurance you are taking your chances as to what you will be charged. I have heard that sometimes cash prices can be close to or lower than group rates, but I think that is still the exception rather than the rule, and I wouldn’t want to be negotiating while having a health care emergency. My point being that with the elimination of the individual mandate, people will still need to make a very careful decision as to whether they get insurance or not and probably lots of people are already getting insurance even though they might not have had to pay a penalty if they didn’t. Unfortunately, if you believe some analyses, the elimination of the mandate will drive up prices and/or cause insurance companies to drop out of the market, so things may be worse for everybody. The truth is that, aside from it being unpopular, the real reason they wanted to repeal it was because they claim it saves the government money (all those people who now won’t buy subsidized insurance since they don’t have to pay the penalty) and helps them get under their $1.5T bogey. It remains to be seen whether that will work out because I believe the average person wants insurance if they can possibly afford it (they just don’t want to be forced to buy it).

  132. JMG could you please replace my first message by this one since I hadn’t realized when I wrote it that you were yourself a contributor to the Ecological Citizen magazine.

    JMG, you write: “There are plenty of other ways that people concerned about the environment could help build a movement for change that might actually have an impact”.

    I found Erik Assadourian has an interesting proposal which is to borrow the tried and tested method of the missionary movements. He takes for example the Pentecostal, Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, YMCA, Salvation Army, Quaker, and other religious schools working in the biggest slum of Africa to charitably provide the basic service of education while adding members to their philosophical communities.
    Assadourian proposes that the ecological movement could propagate their message in a similar way. As far as I can see the only thing missing for an eco-missionary movement is a sacred text. This could be composed of a compilation of already existing religious literature expressing this philosophy.
    http://erikassadourian.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/SOW2013-27-EnvironmentalMovement.pdf

    Also on the debate about better ways to propagate the ecological message is the interesting new internet magazine The Ecological Citizen of which you are a contributor http://www.ecologicalcitizen.net/issue.php?i=Vol+1+No+2&submit=Read+the+new+issue+now

  133. Thanks so much for your feedback about social evangelicals, JMG. I have to learn not to get excited or indulge my tendencies towards bigotry. Just because I have fallen out personally with a few Christians does not mean they will be coming for me with pitchforks or a Martha outfit for me to wear; I get that now.

  134. First time poster, long time follower.
    Tip of my hat for your always informed prognostications.
    I remember reading about this ‘discovery’ of a finite-time singularity in the dynamics of the world population, economic and financial indices back in 2000 – any thoughts?
    https://arxiv.org/abs/cond-mat/0002075

  135. I predict that some of us will have another excellent year of great opportunity. So many choices. Even when correct, your predictions tend to be so negative, especially with the yardsticks for success that you adopt; and yet I am finding more and more “woke” people in the young generation – including those neo- social gospel evangelicals that you mention, and the insurgent peace student activists on campuses across the country. We observe the coming changes and decline with a spirit of amusement (the absurdity of it all!) and enjoyment (unique opportunities for creating new pan- global community alliances and agreements, as never before). I suspect that lone wolf types and isolationists are going to have a harder time in the years to come. For some of us who live to support collective social development, including artists, teachers, healers, and naturalists, the “worse” it gets the better it is. I thank you for your predictions though, I know you work hard on this blog, and there are many other predictions out there to read right now. Happy new year.

  136. JMG,

    Just a few comments, I hope not too far off topic:

    1. I enjoyed the posts on nature spirits and political economy. I appreciate all the clarity you bring to these issues.

    2. A couple of weeks ago, a commenter (Alnus) wrote, “I honestly prefer the old style of The Archdruid Report, when you each week wrote about exactly what you wanted to write about, perhaps steered indirectly by the conversation that occurred in the comments.”

    To which you replied, “I’d be curious if other people have an opinion about this.”

    For the most part, I agree with Alnus and generally prefer the old style meatier posts, including any full posts on philosophy/occult/spirituality. The Q&A and Book Club a bit less.

    3. In your post on the eclipse, you indicated that there would be an explosive scandal involving a fairly new and controversial religion. I’m thinking that the religion in question is likely Sigh-en-tah-lo-gee. It immediately came to mind as I read that post. Lots of celebrities involved. A series of exposés (hosted and coordinated by a former celebrity member and a former high level manager) have been aired on TV over the last year revealing the many abuses of the “religion’s” system and its upper management. The TV series has drawn blood, but nothing lethal yet. Momentum is building though and more episodes are in the works. This may come to a head over the next few months.

    4. In a few comments over the years, you have characterized a situation or an action under discussion as evil. For some reason, I found this rather unusual and unexpected. Thus, it caught my attention and has set up camp in the back of my mind. As a leftover from my Solstice wish list, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind a post or two on the discernment of evil and good (or maybe a 5th Wednesday post?). Anyway, I would be most grateful. Whichever direction Ecosophia goes, I’m sure will be most interesting.

    Everyone, please remember our host’s TIP JAR.

  137. Archdruid,

    Sounds like we have the makings of a contest. I like the condition of originality too, I’m getting fair sick of the rehash of the common dooms.

    Everyone else,

    Guess we have a contest on our hands? Get out your divination cards, contact your spirit guides, and let’s name that black swan!

    Regards,

    Varun

  138. For more on the social evangelicals, readers should check out Shane Claiborne and the New Monastics.

    Someone above mentioned Ched Myers: he and Elaine Enns are doing very interesting theological work tracing the thread of resistance to empire throughout the Bible.

    Finally, the movement already has an institutional framework which is quite lively and self-aware; it’s the network of Catholic Worker houses and farms spread across the country. While their Protestant equivalents are less cohesive as a national organization, they’ll get there.

    In the meantime the Catholic/Protestant divide is not much of a hindrance to left-leaning evangelicals. Currently the interest in Catholic Workers and similarly-spirited organizations in the US is such that there are more than enough young volunteers travelling from house to house across the country, learning and working, that established centres can be choosy about who they invest in as longer-term members. This is a very good sign for the movement’s growth and resilience.

  139. Since you say Black Swans can’t be predicted, it stands to reason that one can only recognize Black Swans in retrospect. So: Would you say one of the Black Swans of the past year has been the sudden exposure and removal of a whole group of entertainment and political leaders for sexual abuse charges? From Harvey Weinstein to Garrison Keillor to Roy Moore, a repugnant pattern of behavior which was hushed up, tolerated and quietly joked about for decades was suddenly shoveled out into the open with strong effect on these men’s (and others who were accused of the same – or similar – acts by multiple women or men) lengthy careers, usually ending them full stop (and, in the case of Garrison Keillor, disappearing him completely).

  140. @JMG – the conditions you describe are essentially what I’m trying to make happen. I hear some people talk about having progressives take over the DNC. I say no, make it irrelevant by creating the structures we need at the grassroots. If you take it over, they will just take it back sooner or later, and probably sooner. We need more resilient structures, which I also think means less centralized (in most cases).

    Also, I’m resistant to terminology like “Clinton/Obama ancien regime” because it places to much emphasis on the individuals. The system is far bigger than the Clintons or Obama. My guess is that maybe you see it that way too and it’s just a convenient terminology. But I’m trying to emphasize that the problems are systemic. Even if Democrats do learn and take over everything, we absolutely need some real constitutional reform to really make the needed changes. The US Constitution had some creative and useful features for 230 years ago, as well as some horrid compromises. But it is woefully inadequate to the challenges we face now. Maybe that will come up in some future post.

  141. In the same vein as my original comment, I made an observation when I read an “everybody hates Trump” propaganda piece today. The article points out that eleven million more people in 2016 voted “not Trump” instead of “for Trump”, three million of those for Hillary Clinton and eight million for “none of the above”. The unexplored but painfully obvious truth in this factoid is if a mere one quarter of the “none of the above” votes went for Clinton instead in a few populous states where the vote for Trump was close (for instance, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), Hillary Clinton would now be the President of the United States. If the political class is bound and determined to do nothing differently, such truths shed quite a bit light on why their “solution” is the temper-tantrum to end all temper-tantrums!

  142. Mr. Nobody.. anyone who has followed the election rigging since 2001 (even the 1988 Vermont election that a computer scientist, Sununu, ‘won’) knows that the closer the election,the easier it is to ‘change’. Check out ‘Brad Blog’, ‘Greg Palast’, etc. websites for the facts. It is a very dirty history. Numerous university IT departments have demonstrated how easy it is to change electronic voting machines, and….LEAVE NO TRACE. !!! Democracy is long gone.

    I twice stood up in my Dem Rep’s ‘town hall meeting’, and loudly as asked why the Dem leadership does nothing about the obvious rigging (and why any party worker should continue volunteering, when they don’t seem to care). I got a mumble jumble answer about how they’re ‘working on it’, and if people know it’s rigged, they will not continue voting. That’s the answer I got when registering voters… the younger folks said it’s rigged, so why bother. I think only an authentic candidate, taking no PAC $, like Bernie, stands a chance of getting enough votes (i.e., way beyond close) to win.

  143. Dylan, I’d also suggest interested folks read John Dear and John Dominic Crossan, among others. And listen to this song…. I think it will be the young who walk away from the Lies, when they realize Jesus said practically nothing about sex, but endlessly condemned Mammon/wealth. I typically give ‘Christians’ I meet.. ;Acts 4:32’… because I can remember it 🙂

  144. Black swan – contagious psychological disorder that makes one prone to ridiculous fantasies, fallacies of logic, belief in the just in time fairy, and militant clubs and cults. Pretty much everything goes exactly wrong.

  145. @ Dylan

    Re social evangelicals

    I was the one who mentioned Ched Myers. Yes, Shane Claiborne, whose work I’ve also read, is another excellent example! I’m glad you mentioned him. Ched and Shane were very much representative of the road of spiritual inquiry I was on in my quest for a direct, authentic experience with the untamed desert god YHWH before I ended up having a direct, authentic encounter with an untamed earth goddess instead.

  146. @ Mister Nobody

    Re the Democrats’ temper tantrum

    Part of that, I feel, is due to a recognition, however unspoken, of their own-goal. I’ve pointed out in a number of (ill-received) conversations, the Republicans weren’t the ones who slept through high school civics…

  147. Dominique Krayenbuhl:
    “I’m even more bothered by the privileged middle and upper middle classes who don’t even pay lip service to ecological concerns although they enjoy living in a (formerly) rural setting and taking holidays in places of natural beauty.”

    This is evident here in Vermont, where well-to-do urban types from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut come to retire in our natural beauty or to buy second homes, particularly near resorts. They are able to build (or buy) spectacular homes, which ends up raising the cost of real estate for ordinary Vermonters. In addition, they are generally more politically liberal than the craggy, rural, natives and have little genuine understanding of rural issues. Most seem pleasant enough, but it always surprises me how few actual, useful, skills they possess. I guess they figure money can always buy them whatever they need. For the most part I try to avoid them; it’s pretty easy, because they stand out by the way they dress, the way they act, and especially by the way they treat the locals. That said, the husband and I are not native Vermonters (nor are we well-to-do), but we have carefully watched and listened so that we will conform to local norms, not the other way around – it’s called being respectful. It helps that we’ve lived most of our lives in rural areas, though. The locals seem surprised to find out we came from ‘away’.

  148. I think Mister Nobody is right on the money. To put it in my own words, the Democrats (I’m referring to those who weild power, and may run for election, not voters) know very well why HRC lost the election – She was the poster girl for stasis when the voters were willing to try anyone promising change. The Dems don’t wan’t to actually change because they are too wedded to big $ donors, the military-industrial complex, neocon foreign policy, and neoliberal economics. If the Dems can cast Trump as incompetent and get people riled about racism, or sexism, or global warming, or – well any particular issue that the Republicans can’t claim as their own, they stand at least a small chance of winning w/o actually changing their spots. It’s not that Democrats have not learned the lesson from Hillary’s loss, it’s that they don’t want to acknowledge the real reasons. Hence, we get tin foil hat conspiracy theories – Boris and Natasha, fb, deplorables, hacked voting machines, etc. The Dems want to win, but only if change can remain nothiing more than a sound bite.

  149. Hi JMG

    Some of my predictions for 2018

    USA:

    + Trump will not start any big infraestructure project, may be some irrelevant ones (not even in Puerto Rico)

    + Trump will not impose tariffs to China or Mexico targeting the US corporations

    + Trump will not make Apple build their “damned computers and things” in the US

    + Trump will not build a “big wall paid by Mexico” in the south border

    + Trump will not de-escalate tension in the Middle East (Palestine,Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Irak, Afganistan, Pakistan etc…), nor in Asia (NK, South China Sea, THAAD, etc…), nor in Europe (Ukraine, Baltics countries, Poland, THAAD, etc…), nor in the new nuclear race with Russia & China

    + Trump will not start to drain the swamp, he only will throw some new sharks and crocodiles to swim with the old ones

    Middle East:

    + Huge unrests in Saudi Arabia due to the resistance to the “modernization process” of MBS (2030 vision), bloody crushed with the foreign aid (intel & weapons & mercenaries) and applauded by the “free world”, Russia and Iran blamed and threatened of “major consequences”. Some bombs exploded in the oil pipes and terminals of the Shia zone of the KSA. Oil barrel at 150$ some months, after that never below 100$

    + New US surge in Afganistan, to threat the “New Silk Road” iniciative that is a danger for the petro-dollar dominance, but with muche less help by Pakistan and Iran, the taliban resist in much better shape, China silently is helping the defeat of the americans, waiting the moment to send their own forces (it will be his new very valuable hinterland)

    + China start to buy the oil and gas from Russia, Qatar and Iran in gold-based “international-yuan”, some years later almost of the oil and gas bought by China is not in $. The wealth pump start to splutter

    Europe:

    + Independentism growing in the UE, the problems of Catalonia spread to Corsica, Padania, Flanders, Scotland, Bavaria, with uneven force but trend to de-stabilize the “Union”

    + Regional independentism (separatism), inmigration, globalization and lack of oportunities for blue collar people gives more and move popularity to the nationalist or even pseudo-fascist parties. More cracks in the UE structure

    + The cost of maintaining economic and military tensions with Russia start to weight in the mind of the elites and the populace, that do not understand the reasons of this dangerous situation. The UE goverments, led by Germany, start the thaw of relations with Russia, angering the american Big Brother. Some cracks in the Nato structure

    Black-swans (pick one):

    a) Solar storm similar to the Carrington Event (1859) obliterates the electrical transformers and HV lines of half of the world; 15 core meltdown of nuclear power plants follow in different countries (1 in USA). The economy and society will never fully recovery of this change of phase….

    b) Massive cyberattack take down the main internet servers for one week. The growing Luddite movement is blamed. Chaos in the worldwide supply chains, aviation, banks, e-commerce; FANG shares plunged by 80%…..

    c) Some people playing with the new DIY sets for genetic engineering (CRISPR) liberate in the ambient some plasmid that at the end pass to the flu virus DNA that acquires with the same letallity of the 1918 flu pandemics. Alternativelly, due to climate change, the thaw in the siberian tundra liberate some dead rats bodies with strains of the old 1348 black plague that infect some people….

    Cheers

  150. IDK if this is a black swan, but I predict that the US has some kind of crisis of legitimacy that propels the passage of the Calexit proposition, and while the mainstream media goes hysterical w/Civil War analogies, the rest of the country calmly accepts the outcome and is more than willing to let California go it’s own way. The first step in cracking the whole post-Civil War view of the Union is taken.

  151. Isn’t the point of a black swan is that it is something your conceptual framework actually prevents you from predicting? If so, President Trump was, for perhaps millions of people, a black swan. In the same way swans were, by definition, white before the discovery of Cygnus atratus, the office of the president was by their mental definition not to be held by Donald J. Trump. (Many are still trying to come to grips with the reality.)

    In other words, a black swan for me may not be for thee– see the financial crisis. None of us were shocked. Economists generally take bubbles bursting as “black swans” regardless of how obvious the handwriting on the wall might be to everyone else. Different conceptual frameworks, you see.

    Which makes a ‘black swan contest’ rather perverse. Trying to see your own blindspots! I suspect I’m perhaps being rather stricter on the definition of ‘black swan’ than everyone else. In any case, a very useful idea, as it might help point to our own blindspots.

    Here’s a low-probabilty prediction for you:

    Human-engineered pandemic. (Not my original thought.)
    Now that fancy high schools are getting genetic engineering kits (complete with CRISPR, etc) it’s only a matter of time before some godawful plague is released into the wild. School shooting? So last century. Try a school pandemic instead! Sci-fi author John Ringo has been warning about this for years; see his essay “The Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse” : http://johnringo.net/TheLibrary/BlackTideRising/UnderaGraveyardSky/TheInevitableZombieApocalypse.aspx

    Me, I figure some nutbar group like Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLM are not, in general, nutbars, but the Toronto chapter seems to have a fruitcake surplus. They may or may not be aware of what country they’re in, and have called for the extinction of the white race) starts a race bio-war they can’t win (because a) one can, and b), missegregation is a thing) and we end up knee deep in bodies. So, black-swan event: multifaceted race-based biowar. Honestly, I’d rather the Zombies.

    Was that in anybody’s blindspot? (Honestly, I do think this is a good idea: if Harry Potter gets supplanted in the collective unconcious, I’d have been totally blindsided if it weren’t for Violet’s comment.)

  152. Black Swan contest? Okay, this may not be a disaster (depending on your point of view), but it would be utterly unexpected: Tesla irons out the bugs on the Model 3 assembly line and the thing starts selling like hotcakes, propelling Tesla into profitability.

  153. JMG, regarding those bubbles bursting spectacularly in the upcoming year, will they be allowed to burst naturally, or will we see all the shenanigans of the Fed via quantitative easing, etc. propping up the industries affected by the bursting bubbles?

  154. JMG – I read about those bonuses and from what I read they are all one-time payouts.. Forgive my skepticism, but I think we will have to wait and see if the oligarchs really are getting a clue about pork, or just tossing off table scraps while they slink home with the thanksgiving turkey.
    Yes both LePen and the Arctic are susceptible to feedbacks that will be hard to predict so I may be jumping the gun. Are you considering another Stormwatch post any time soon?

  155. There are so very many opportunities for Black Swan events, even from Trump alone. His recent annoounced Federal crackdown on recreational Marijuana use will probably help further de-legitimize the Federal Gov in California, Colorado and Washington State. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see some of them secede over it, if the Feds handle this stupidly enough…

  156. I also feel that 2018 is the year when something unexpected will happen, something which makes the entire system unravel. Maybe Trump gets kidnapped by Roswell aliens…?

    On the more expected side, there are many possibilities: shooting wars, major terrorist attacks, all the usual things! Of course, it´s also possible that these “normal” events will be the tipping point, say an ISIS attack on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a Saudi-Iran war which the Saudi loses, Russian invasion in the Ukraine, etc.

    Personally, I would be surprised if China suddenly collapses, North Korea actually launches a nuclear weapon against the US, the Dems win bigly in 2018-2020, or Sweden finally gets its act together (LOL), so at least to me those would be “black swan” events. (Every single one has been predicted by somebody, somewhere, though.)

    The general feeling I have is one of unpredictability. Something will happen, but nobody knows what and how it will affect us.

    Interesting that we are in a Pluto-Saturn-Capricorn situation. And right now the Sun is in Capricorn, too! And after that it´s one month in the wacko sign of Aquarius. Wouldn´t be surprised if strange things will be upon us very shortly…

  157. JMG:

    “Since environmental activists by and large come from the privileged middle and upper middle classes of our society, and since most would sooner fry and eat their own fingers than accept a standard of living they associate with the DESPISED poor, none of these promising options are going to be taken up.”

    Several have applauded that comment, but I say it is wrong. One can find many people who patronizingly claim to have environmental concerns, but my experience is there is a small minority of people of any class who are willing to make any sacrifice whatsoever for the environment. More importantly, it is virtually impossible to actually live outside the consumer paradigm that describes American lives. Any American who claims to be an environmentalist is a hypocrite by definition. There is virtually no public transportation, plastic packaging is unavoidably ubiquitous, chemicals and pollutants permeate the air, water, and soil, and the rest of the family could not care less. No, it is not a case of environmentalists who are unwilling to sacrifice — the truth is they are unable to sacrifice. It is not allowed. Even the poor must join in the pollution and there are many poor Americans whose apartments, homes, and yards might qualify as superfund sites.

    I think we fail to appreciate the extent of the mental constructions of our culture and ruling class propaganda. Try finding something you are not looking for. It does happen occasionally, or were you really looking for that item and just forgot until you found it.

    I also think the quote suggests how difficult, if not impossible, it is to escape the mental constructs of American society. So, despite all our collective realizations that we must change, individually we each are mere eddies in the great rushing current.

  158. Well, the tech industry just got hit with what could turn out to be a black swan event: two new security vulnerabilities, Meltdown and Spectre, just got revealed recently. They can be used to leak information (e.g. passwords) from one program to another.

    What’s unique about these two is that they’re not vulnerabilities in particular pieces of software; they’re vulnerabilities in the hardware itself. Meltdown affects every Intel processor (and probably AMD processors) made since 1995; that’s the vast majority of desktops, laptops, and servers. Spectre affects more or less all modern processors, including embedded systems and smartphones.

    There’s a software patch for Meltdown, but it requires a significant performance penalty (supposedly up to 30%), since you’re basically disabling a major performance feature on the processor. Long-term, the processors will have to be replaced, as they generally will be anyway.

    Spectre is much more insidious: it attacks through a processor technique called branch prediction, which allows a processor to guess which way a conditional instruction (“if X then do Y otherwise do Z”) is going to go and start processing the instructions that will follow. That can’t be disabled in existing processors, getting rid of it would bring performance to its knees, and there doesn’t seem to be a good general solution to the problem. Even the name is a nod to how serious this is: it’s called Spectre because it “will haunt us for quite some time.”

    Fortunately, it’s very hard to pull off; if anyone finds a practical way to exploit this, it seems to me that this could very well turn into a genuine black swan event.

    Link: https://meltdownattack.com

  159. Hmm. Has Bio-tech gotten to the point where Black Tide Rising is a reasonable Black Swan? (It’s a novel-the premise is that someone hacked a virus to zombiefy people.)

    Another guess: the efforts to disconnect law enforcement from the communities they serve, the fear-mongering, and a couple ill-placed-and-timed SWATtings trigger a coalition between gamers and Black Lives Matters style protesters (not sure if the original group has enough coherency any more) led by a couple young male black/mixed race gamers, that is big enough to cause physical disruptions by blocking traffic and tech savvy enough to disrupt technological infrastructure.

    (I’m seeing-through the lense of my own teen son-a rather disturbing willingness to trash things for fun–trolling, basically, but off-line–as reported by him among his peers. They’re also unabashed Pres. Trump fans, largely because of his trolling the media and the political establishment, and a number of them will be voting in the next presidential election.)

    One result of this alliance is going to be a transportation snafu that leads to at least one major urban area not getting necessary supplies from outside, resulting in deaths. Possibly technological-hacked transport databases and hacked vehicles-possibly physically damaged infrastructure-roads and tracks–but I’ll go for both. There will be a lot of carrying on about these awful inner city teen thugs from the usual suspects, but they will be horrified into the vapors when it turns out the ringleaders are upper-middle-class, ‘good’ kids, with educated professionals for parents. At least one key player on the tech side will be active in the US from outside the US, as well as underage, leading to diplomatic shouting over extradition of a non-American (Japanese or Russian, maybe Australian) minor child to America for trial.

  160. Shane, you’re not the only person I know who does that.

    Tim, that’s quite plausible.

    Jed1571, interesting. I’ll look further into it.

    Darren, I’d agree that the Russian intervention in Syria was a black swan, and Russia (or, I suspect more likely, Chinese) engagement with Pakistan would certainly be a curve ball.

    Shane, history moves at its own pace. I stand by my prediction!

    Ryan, interesting. Many thanks for the data from the trenches. We’ll see…

    Simo, those would certainly be colorful! As for Canada, I’ve done two speaking gigs in Canada, but they were quite some time ago. I basically don’t do speaking gigs these days unless somebody else makes the arrangements and pays my expenses plus something — it’s a lot of hassle, especially when a national border is involved.

    Austin, you have to be very far along in the development of self-awareness before you have any choice when it comes to reincarnation. Before then it’s much more like a reflex — your state of consciousness resonates with an appropriate body, and there you are. As for education, hmm! I’ll consider that.

    Anonymous, thank you for the data points, and also for the good wishes! We had zero trouble with the storm — there was plenty of wind and snow outside, but we stayed comfortably at home and put on a couple of spare sweaters.

    Spice, nope. The fate of the body has essentially no impact on the fate of the soul; the complete destruction of the body, if anything, is a benefit, since that decreases the risk that you might have difficulties getting through the Second Death (the shedding of the etheric body). That’s why a lot of Druids favor cremation, followed by burying the ashes under the roots of a newly planted seedling tree.

    Mog, everyone thinks “it’s different each time,” and that’s why it’s never different this time. If we got a bunch of people into power who recognized that they were repeating the same mistakes over again, then things might change! The Jerusalem thing, to my mind, is grandstanding — Trump is giving the Israelis something cheap and meaningless that they want, to distract them from the ongoing withdrawal of the US from its erstwhile empire.

    SMJ, I think it’s a little subtler than that. I think Trump and the other leaders of his faction recognize that the US is going broke playing global policeman, and needs to pull back to the defense of its core interests. That this amounts to the first stage of serious imperial decline is probably not something that has occurred to them in their darkest dreams; they just think of it as pursuing more realistic priorities, or the like.

    Lathechuck, good. All three of those are plausible.

    Violet, oh, I hope so. The death of Harry Potter the Special Snowflake in particular is long overdue. These days when I pick up a novel and the main character is young and misunderstood and plucky and omnicompetent, I put it down, or possibly throw it against the nearest wall if it’s bad enough. Talented characters are fine, but please, let us remember that in the real world a talent for one thing is inevitably balanced by shortfalls in other things.

    (This is much on my mind just now because the main character of the novel I’m writing just now is young and talented. She’s also gawky, shy, easily flustered, and tends to respond to stress by huddling in a corner. That is to say, I’ve tried to make her a fair facsimile of an actual young person with a single noticeable talent, not a Mary Sue wish-fulfillment fantasy! Hrumpf. You Mary Sues, get off my lawn…)

    Phil K., thanks for this.

    Dominique, granted, but we were talking about problems with the environmental movement, not with the privileged in general.

    David, dead on target. The US withdrawal from empire’s not so much a planned pivot as an attempt to back away from a gaping pit, As for the contempt for religion, of course — and that’s what’s going to make religion popular among young people, who are always looking for something that will shock Mom.

    Larry, first, the lowest two quintiles aren’t the working class, they’re the poverty class, and more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. It’s the next two up that are the core swing voters who went for Obama in ’08 and Trump in ’16, and those are the people Trump wants on his side in ’18 and ’20. As for Obamacare, getting medical coverage for myself and my wife — two middle-aged people, one with chronic health problems — would have cost us over $9000 a year, with a $6000 deductible, which we’d have to pay out of our own pocket before any coverage at all cuts in; above that figure the coverage would only have paid 60% of the bill, leaving the other 40% on me. That means that as an insured person, I’d still be taking my chances with whatever the medical-industrial complex happens to want to charge, and if it’s more than a fairly modest bill I’d still be left destitute and have to declare bankruptcy — so what exactly is the benefit of forking over all that money to the insurance company?

    Subsidies would have covered some of the $9k, but it’s remarkably hard to find out exactly how much, and I know a fair number of people who were promised one level of subsidy and ended up getting much less. (Funny how it’s never the other way around.) Furthermore, as I trust you realize, the price of coverage in most states has gone up every single year by anything from 30% to more than 100%. Yes, I would get a discount on (hugely overpriced) prescriptions, assuming I can afford to pay for the doctor’s visits to get them prescribed (again, there’s that $6000 deductible), but leaving the $9000 in my bank account would cover a lot of pills, you know. All in all, I think you need to look a little more closely at what all those glossy promises actually mean in practice, and not simply quote canned talking points.

    Dominique, if people in the environmental movement were committed enough to it to do the kind of thing that religious people do as missionaries, we wouldn’t be facing the problems we’re facing today.

    Kimberly, thank you! I apologize if my comments were too harshly worded. I get having trouble with individual Christians; I’ve been screamed at more than a few times by people who insisted that Jesus died on the cross to give them the right to tell the rest of the world what to do, and I’ve also had my faith denounced in profoundly dishonest terms by a good many Christians who apparently don’t know that one of the Ten Commandments prohibits bearing false witness against your neighbor. The thing is, every religion has its problems, and its fair share of jerks. They’re not the whole religion.

    Jason, it’s an interesting bit of analysis, though its conclusions are disappointingly simplistic — the usual choice between (a) everyone dies and (b) a wonderful new world of blah blah blah. If they’d extended their analysis to consider what’s happened in the past when other civilizations have made the same mistakes, they might have been able to see past that set of presuppositions and grasp the shape of the decline ahead.

    Y. Chireau, yes, my predictions are generally negative. They’re also right, far more often than not. In an age like the present, clueless optimism detached from the realities of our situation is not a useful habit.

    Will, I’ll certainly consider it. I don’t use the word “evil” lightly, not least because it’s so mindlessly overused these days!

  161. Hmmm so it seems the pin the tail on the black swan contest is on – A truly original creative black swan? I’ll put my 2 cents in, on the condition I’m not trying to be prophetic just putting out a plausible scenario that could happen. 🙂

    Here is my prediction:

    Part I

    The federal reserves budget sheet is hacked/leaked. And the utter stupidity/fraud of our financial planners comes to light. After the leak several stocks/companies who have been receiving handouts from the federal reserve drop markedly. This triggers the 700 pt circuit breaker in the stock market suspending trading for the day. It happens again the following day. It dawns on the Auditors of Reality (See Terry Pratchett) that they can’t open the markets at all without suffering a ginormous drop in the value of everything, especially bonds.

    The Russiagate story is briefly replaced with “Fraud at the Fed”

    The Auditors of Reality get together to assess the situation… Which is this. Stock/bonds valued at $10,000 are really only worth $1,500. Everyone can see that this means an 85% drop in everything is going to happen unless the value can be kept at their current bubbly high levels. And as in Terry Pratchett they decide to fire Death/The Grim Reaper. (Which was unfortunate in Disk World because the Grim Reaper provides a necessary public service/fills in for Santa Clause from time to time.)

    So the stock/bond market can’t die – So what do you do? Suspend trading or insert a moderator that makes sure the desired result is achieved. So just bring what is going on behind closed doors into the public light only with “transparency.” This ends up being the straw that shows the rest of the world how messed up the US is and gives incentive to countries in Africa to start resisting the un-payable debts forced in them/us corporate interests.

    Part II And as a result

    Massive uptake of violence against US companies abroad. China/Russia alternatives go from the germination stage to seedlings.

  162. Hi John Michael,

    It is a dangerous year. My money is on the Chinese as we have had very long relations with them. And to be honest, down here historically we have always looked for friends with muscle. Our push-pull relations with Indonesia have a lot to do with oil and refugees. There are articles in the newspapers decrying how much we are paying in tribute (oh sorry, I meant military spending) and how little we are getting for our bucks.

    Mate, I have had a rubbish day. I took one of the farm dogs to the vet this morning to have him put down. He had been suffering from very painful seizures, but he had not suffered long and was not going to get better. On the way to the vet, I was thinking about your observation about the quantity and diversity of life on this planet, and I can’t argue with you. For some reason, I have always known that there is only so much life energy on this planet and our use of fossil fuels skews that in our favour for now, but for only for so long until a new equilibrium returns. All policies are subject to diminishing returns, because that reflects the world as it is and not as we want it to be.

    I buried my little friend up above the courtyard and his spirit has a great position overlooking the far distant country. I hope he hangs around for a bit to keep a watch on us all here? And over his grave I planted a kumquat tree which I had to shade given that today the temperature (in the shade) reached 106’F. Citrus apparently has the ability to live for 800+ years given the right circumstances and well, I dunno, maybe it is a bit selfish planting such a long lived tree, but I now miss my little mate and wish him well on his new journey. He learned a thing or two here, as I have done so communicating with you over the many years. I am no longer the same person I was way back in 2008.

    Vale, my little Mr Poopy the Swedish Lapphund matey.

    Today was a very dangerous day here due to the combination of the high temperatures and steady north westerly wind, with a late south westerly cool change. At almost 8pm I’ve thrown open the doors and windows of the house as it is 86’F outside, but the air smells quite fragrantly of smoke from nearby fires.

    As an outside prediction for your black swan, I predict a large rural insurance firm going bust and the ramifications extending out from that point. If memory serves me correctly, the Great Depression began in the rural areas firstly.

    Chris

  163. Hello,

    I have some questions I would like to ask.
    I live in France, where the 3 years have been already quite eventful. There have been extreme flooding, heatwaves, this year 3 or 4 storms in the span of hardly more than a week… On the last weekend the headlines were that 100 000 households has been cut power in the aftermath of one of those.
    Our world here has changed drastically after 2015, where only a handful of people close to a famous satirical newspaper could have expected a deadly terror attack to hit it. While it is true that it had been the object of intimidation attacks, I am pretty sure nobody expected a terror attack to strike and kill at gunpoint some of the defining leftwing figures of the cultural life in the country throughout the 30 glorious era.
    Now you get to see militaries in a lot of places, your bags are checked in a lot of places too.
    The Socialist Party, basically the center of the leftwing electorate for the last decades, has been obliged to sell its headquarters in the aftermath of our last Presidential elections.

    So I’d say that if mostly-unexpected-but-maybe-remotely-expectable-dramatic-events-that-change-everything were needed, we have had enough of those. But I feel that it only happened on a social level, and somehow our societies (yours like mine) seem to place its faith not in social affairs but more on the economical affairs.
    And from what I have seen in my life so far, it seems pretty obvious that the current arrangements in the rich world have no future but it seems that it should still never stop.
    I am sitting on my butt, like a 1788 peasant who has gone through material hardships, has heard of the financial developments linked to the colonisation of the Americas, and somehow knows that the Ancient Regime does not make much sense any more… but otherwise has no idea how her/his world could ever change.

    As I was writing above, I consider that we have had plenty of black swans on a social and political level, but those have not really upheaved our worldview, since we place our collective identity in the economical sphere, with concepts such as consumer society, unemployment, capitalism, growth…
    Is my analysis correct, or is it just that we just need some disasters of the same nature but way more severe in order to make us change ?
    Even if such an event as would be called ‘Black Swan’ is by nature completely unexpected, should we at least expect something happening on the economical level because the social level is not in itself a big enough levy ?
    I hope it won’t be the environment at least… I don’t consider to be constructive changes the hassling of people who need to drive a car in the city centers while promoting the development of peripheric big retail shopping areas, or electing a former TV presenter as Ministry of the Environment. Given how little we have changed even after all the disasters this year, it would have to happen on a truly cataclysmic scale.

  164. Partly by my line of work, and partly by nature, I am interested on how information is processed throughout society.

    On one of the big movie theaters in Paris, they no longer have paper sheets listing the movies (story, projection times), just a big screen with poor calibration so that the list of the movies is truncated midway. You have to go to the website on your cellphone to know all of that, all the while being actually in front of the theater. I would hardly call this ‘progress’, just resignation.

    So, even if the dark-winged river bird has to be unexpected by nature, should we at least expect some of its consequences ?
    – Information is best transmitted through paper or any other non-electronical means of transmission
    – Human labour becomes cheaper than automation, even for the processing of information for businesses or for administrative processes…
    – Specialization in careers over several years of studies becomes a bad thing, it is better to hire people who are able to quickly learn the job on the spot and have enough experience over many diverse kinds of professions in order to be wary and adaptable enough to work reliably and safely.
    – Some of the topmost asked-for positions become:
    – security guard (since video cameras no longer work)
    – declamator (for shouting out news throughout the city)

    Now THAT would be completely unexpected, at least in the next 10 years.

  165. I draw inspiration in particular from Violet’s intriguing fantasy and Varun’s enthusiasm: “Guess we have a contest on our hands? Get out your divination cards, contact your spirit guides, and let’s name that black swan!” Well, here is my Black Swan. The fancies are my own but I owe too much to Violet to enter a contest.
    Somewhere, possibly in the USA but more likely elsewhere a secret society will be founded whose continuing characteristic will be that it is not to be found and is not traceable via the internet. Persons will recognize that they have become members – though the name will be uncertain. Often, membership will be recognized person-to-person, although sometimes by first finding some badge of recognition that obviously has lineage and a potential for continuity, sometimes indicating a far future. Face-to-face the experience is one of finding and being found: confirming a fairly mundane sense of worth but characterized by a moment of lighting-up. Who knows, there may be a gift. Society meetings will usually be brief, perhaps an instant, and often one-to-one, extending perhaps to only a few contacts. But the ‘exchange’ will carry on ‘in absentia’ and among an unknown greater number. Persons will often sense the society is open to and receives spiritual guidance, but again that will remain uncertain. The experience of recognition will be a significant aid to finding one’s way– a nomadic sense. A more overt framework of bringing blessings, a sense of recurrence, a belonging, and finding many true ways, might emerge but this is a Black Swan and I cannot guess more. The outcomes might be certain but the means are unknown. The event can only be inferred. We will never know.

    very best for the whole year

    Phil

  166. JMG, I’ve just spent Saturday morning – when I ought to have been getting stuff done – reading your unputdownable blog. Congratulations to you and your contributors.

    The topic of reincarnation has come up – can you give me some indication of why you believe in it? It’s something I want to believe in and so I suspect myself of wishful thinking whenever I think of arguments in its favour.

    I like reading predictions because I’m so useless at them myself. I thought Carter would win in 1980, Bush in 1992, Clinton in 2016. And while delivering leaflets for the Leave campaign in 2016 I nevertheless assumed that the Remainers would win the EU referendum. My thought-processes may be significant: I assumed that because the great British public had been stupid and unpatriotic enough to support EU-quisling parties for the past 45 years, why should it suddenly become enamoured of self-government in 2016? Added to this, the moral mix-up whereby the very idea of patriotism often repels the good guys… I thought the whole thing hopeless.

    Significant error! I had omitted to consider the possibility that unease is cumulative, and that when things get bad enough, reality tends to impinge.

    Could that apply to the establishment elsewhere? Maybe the current set-up is not doomed if, for the sake of their own survival, the stupid cease to be stupid at the eleventh hour.

    Of course, if a whole system is unsustainable, then… er, it can’t be sustained. But what I’m wondering is, suppose people weren’t stupid – might that not make a decisive difference? Might we find it surprising what can be sustained, given intelligence?

    Being partially stupid myself, I’m struggling with this question…

  167. @ Nastarana

    I firmly believe that a Con Con is our best chance to hold the country together. That is because it is the only effective route by which amendments which roll-back and constrain federal power can be proposed and sent to the states for consideration. Whenever I bring up a convention, folks on the left raise the spectre of the right turning the US into a theocracy or abolishing free speech or something similar. It takes 38 states’ ratification for an amendment to be adopted, and that would be after a proposed amendment was passed by the convention itself. Is someone going to propose something crazy I don’t like? Quite possibly. But the process sets high enough requirements that I’d be willing to run the risk in order to try to save the Union or at least prevent a future civil war.

  168. @ John

    Re retreat from empire

    I’m just curious, John. Is the retreat (or backing away from the pit), in your assessment, something Trump is proactively doing or more driven by circumstances? That is, had HRC been elected instead, is this something we’d be doing anyway (albeit in a different manner) or is this an actual policy choice of this particular administration that an HRC administration would have been able to not pursue? In your opinion, of course.

  169. John, thanks for that poem. My working, everyday world view has its foundation in Stoic philosophy, giving me a hand hold on Pope’s words. It is certainly as good a description of the human condition as any. I fully admit to not understanding much about reincarnation. Brought up as an evangelical Christian, it was a subject “taboo” in all regards. From my more stoic point of view reincarnation is mostly a curiosity. I would hope to live a life based on the pursuit of wisdom and compassion regardless. To journey after wisdom and compassion mainly to accumulate some kind of reward points for the next life seems shallow, though not nearly as shallow as the Christian being good mostly out of a fear of hell and in hope of a reward in heaven. Wisdom and compassion are intrinsically valuable. Treating them as some kind of “coin of the realm” to be traded for a better future life robs them of any value at all.

    But I suspect you know that at least as well as I do. Any ideology/philosophy/religion that has anything useful to teach holds something akin to that truth somewhere deep in its heart.

    The idea that it takes many passes through the human experience to learn all that must be learned sounds reasonable. Unfortunately it also provokes a feeling similar to one I remember having often while attending school, locked up in a place, thrown in with a bunch of people I didn’t particularly enjoy, often didn’t understand, and wishing only that it would end.

  170. David, by the lake says:
    January 6, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    @ Nastarana

    I firmly believe that a Con Con is our best chance to hold the country together.

    ****Just so long as it doesn’t turn into ComicCon, David! Pat.******

  171. @ Ray Wharton –

    Traditionally, when the oilfield is doing well, the rest of the economy isn’t – because higher oil prices figure into everything you do not make yourself. For the most part, the fracking fields are established, and the ‘sweet spots’ already depleted or rapidly depleting. When the fracking craze ends, the wells will basically be similar to stripper wells – the small pump jacks you see scattered from Ohio to Louisiana to Cali that produce less than 50 BBL/day.

    Boomlet? Well, that depends entirely on the cost of money. This fracking boom cannot survive with interest rates above 4-5% – cheap money looking for a ROI was the entire reason for this boom. Like all booms, a few people made a killing, many made good bank and the rest got by. Like all booms, the oilfield overbuilt and oversupplied and the surrounding towns overbuilt. With fracking, the low interest rates all round made many towns overbuild and over-leverage, especially ND.

    I think when fracking goes bust, replete with bankruptcies obvious to all, then sanity may return. Perhaps then people will see the lie of ‘energy independence’ for what it is, but I am not going to take any bets on people suddenly realizing we are in a pickle. Like boiling frogs, most will be unaware until gas prices suddenly spike or there is a shortage of fuel.

    I think we have all discussed the reasons for ostrich-like behavior of a lot of our brothers and sisters…

    It is NEVER a bad idea to make a bit more garden, as having too much is a very easy fix compared to not having enough!

    @ JMG & Lathechuck –

    There was a large hospital in our county seat, now closed and vacant. There were 3 outlying EM centers with diagnostic clinics and 3-5 practices associated in smaller towns in adjacent counties – now also closed and vacant. The nearest hospital in 35 miles away now, and the nearest big hospital is 1.5 hours away. The small clinics associated with these facilities have mostly left for larger cities to join with various large hospital corporations or clinics.

    The current model for ALL hospital services adheres to the line that human illness is a commodity – and by reducing service costs and centralizing, better economies of scale and associated profits ensue. I think you will see contraction of hospital services and medical services in general, to where if the local population is around 100,000 – then there will be a medical center. Less than that, and there will be nothing unless there is a rogue doctor with a private practice. Dentistry is headed the same way.

    The results of this migration to improve profits will be very un-good for rural people. Used to be we could medicate ourselves by going to the veterinary supply. Now that options has been eliminated by forcing animal prescriptions to be written, even for the simplest medications. Concurrent with that, veterinarians charge $75/100 to see a pet – which is actually higher than doctors charge to see a human patient.

    I view this as very fertile ground for the appearance of herbalists, holistics and ‘wise-women’ much sooner than many expect here in the technological paradise of the USA. There are already LPN’s doing routes across rural AR as midwives, solely due to the dearth of hospital and medical doctors in rural areas. I think there will be bootleg antibiotics in rural America in the near future – because the medical community is not leaving us with any option other than to move to a big city – which we will not do.

    If I were a doctor leaving med school today, rural practice would be hugely attractive if I were smart enough to see it, and wise enough to know that money isn’t the only reason for choosing to practice medicine. Until medicine returns to a profession designed to serve people and alleviate illness – this migration will continue.

    Makes me happy I eschewed medical school to go into the oilfield, looking around today. I also know many more unhappy doctors than content ones – perhaps when their discontent gets unsettling enough, they will return to serving people rather than corporations.

  172. @ philsharris…

    What you describe is beginning in rural areas in the US already, WRT many materials and substances which the government is making illegal or denying to people via red tape of permits, licenses, and the associated bloated costs.

    I have been involved in this for some time already, and can assure you that many spontaneous ‘networks’ are springing up.

    One example is a single individual buying a movie online, recording it and passing it on to the local network. This is a PEOPLE network, not a digital one – albeit the digital network may be used for transmission occasionally.

    Seeds and cuttings of plants are also under regulatory pressure – and there are numerous ‘farmboy’ networks that deal with heirloom seeds and plants. There is also a network of ‘farmboy’ hackers of tractor ECU’s active on the darknet. The darknet is dark because there is a lot of illegality present – but if you look at the laws we operate under today, it doesn’t take long to see how arbitrary these laws are. For many things, I prefer anarchy, because people will self-organize if left to their own devices.

    I think perhaps the best thing rural people can do is begin to set up mesh networks in rural areas. This is entirely doable using local wi-fi and shortwave radio. Downloading usable documents and technology and storing on a local server attached to the mesh works really well for people trying to conserve their cash.

  173. JMG, you might consider border hopping for healthcare, too. I think you are closer to the Canadian border than I am, and I believe the trains still run to Montreal–you can follow the same path well-worn by drinkers during Prohibition for healthcare instead. “Good-bye, Broadway, Hello Montreal!” as the jazz age song went!

  174. Re: Reincarnation

    There are a lot of different models of how reincarnation works. JMG seems to be working from one that is pretty standard in the Western occult tradition. The one I am working from is quite different, and gives different answers to some questions.

    From my viewpoint, the next lifetime doesn’t “just happen.” You always have a choice for the next incarnation, which you participate in designing to get the maximum learning. If you screwed up big time, will you have to pay? Pay is not the right concept, but sooner or later you will have to learn whatever it was that you didn’t understand the first time.

    Which one (if either) is right? We’ll find out after we die, I suppose.

  175. Not all black swans need start unhappily. Deep in the recent gargantuan tax bill could there be an unfortunate comma, a misplaced dash, or a missing “Not” — that makes it as profitable for big banks and brokerages to cannibalize their bastard child, the “Hedge Fund”, as it was (for them, at least) to set them up? Imagine all those newly unemployed executives with Wile E Coyote Syndrome.

    Perhaps S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is hiring?

  176. @ Tim Akey re: reincarnation, taboo, etc.

    I was raised evangelical, but an addiction to scifi injected far too many unanswered questions. I second major in geology all but killed off much of my former belief. I view reincarnation, afterlife, etc. as something we will all discover sooner or later.

    What I see in every religion is exhortation to be better, to be compassionate, to care for the land and sea, to help those around you – so very many commonalities around all the core differences. The reason for this, IMO, is that it is very difficult not to have a God that isn’t anthropomorphic in some way, shape or form in modern religions, simply because we are what we are.

    It was far easier before there were massive religions for humans to revere coyote, wolf, bear and other spirits; to look at the sun or the moon and imagine them imbued with something greater than ourselves, sitting in the heavens gazing down on us.

    What makes me hopeful is that regardless of the religion, these commonalities of striving to be better, to help, to revere and care for our spaceship Earth and our fellow man are taught. And in many more cases than people realize, they are practiced. I remember a bible quote, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This is true, as is the converse.

    I don’t think it is the destination that is implied as the focus in any of these religions.

    The focus, the exhortations, the parables, the stories – they are all about the JOURNEY.

    It’s only during the journey that we get the chance to practice these things, and my feeling is that we all should do just that.

  177. Kind Sir

    Some thoughts on black swans.
    I haven’t read Taleb and I am not planning to. I find him quite overrated as a thinker.
    So I don’t know his definition.

    I see a black swan as a relative concept. A limitation of inductive logic.
    Somebody observes that all swans he sees are white. In a sound, empirical scientific manner, this is used to create the theory that swans are white.
    A good theory, if you are in the northern hemisphere.
    For us here down under it is not. Our swans are black.
    My point is that a black swan is the pin that burst your theory. It is not a thing in its own right.
    So here’s a field guide to black swan spotting:
    1. Identify an assumption that is basic to your world view.
    2. Make a prediction based on that assumption
    3. The opposite of the predicted outcome is your black swan.
    Keep in mind that it is your own personal black swan.
    The crash in 2008 really was a black swan for neoclassical economorons.
    Also keep in mind that most black swans you will spot are also flying pigs.
    Meaning just because you identify a black swan, does not mean it will happen or even could happen.
    Another thing to keep in mind is that it is usually easier to spot other people’s black swans, but it is probably better to keep those observations to yourself.

    Happy spotting

  178. Dear David, by the lake, You are breaking my heart. You are one of the good guys and even you don’t have enough basic respect for our founding document to spell out the word. The very fact that a catchy two word, two syllable slogan has been invented to designate what ought to be regarded as a solemn undertaking is enough to tell me Scam Alert!!! No, I don’t fear RW theocracy; we already have one of those, otherwise known as the State of Utah. What I do fear is foreign interests and companies slicing off pieces of the USA, and I don’t mean distant islands. Give some “global company” a piece of Nebraska or Idaho, as was proposed some years back, and who gets water rights? Who gets first access to what water there is?

    The Left, for want of a better word, is still so traumatized by the failure of the ERA that it won’t or won’t entertain the notion of bringing up needed amendments in Congress, yet one more reason why the Left appears to stand for nothing other than more privileges for my particular tribe and our clients. If you feel amendments are needed, propose them. Contact your Congress person. Get up a local petition and then contact your Congress person.

    Senator Sanders has already I think proposed an amendment to reverse the billionaires get to buy candidates decision of the Supreme Court. Mind, I don’t think the good Senator is any kind of Messiah, but this particular proposed amendment is much needed.

  179. @Michael Higson:

    Guessing you’ve seen a map like this? Or similar?

    https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states

    Fracking near the sleeping Yellowstone supervolcano, as this map seems to show with gobsmacking clarity, seems to me like a new level of mental retardation, even for Americans. Fracking doesn’t cause earthquakes does it? Does it, Oklahoma? A double helping of hubris anyone?

    Nothing bad could possibly come out of this…Could it? Like your black swan candidate!

  180. Tim Akey,

    I’ve mourned over the way the much of Christian theology stabs itself in the foot. It had the potential to be a very uplifting religion, a path of learning unconditional love and compassion. And indeed, the scriptural support for that is vast, such as Matthew 25, the parable of the sheep and goats. Those who go to heaven were not the ones who calculated how to please God but those whose compassion was real.

    The extreme emphasis on heaven and hell, even the belief in hell and eternal placement after one lifetime, causes one to take one’s eye off the ball and focus instead on the hideous threat. It’s hard not to see that as a ploy by the clergy to control people through fear. And the Reformation did not reform it.

    There is no such thing as being good out of some other motivation. And to teach that God does not care about the real, and that God has a dismal, unimaginative and shallow eternal plan does not evoke true awe or love. Fool a man’s mind but not his heart.

    Yours is the plea of a maturing soul brought up among childish souls. You see the need for spiritual sincerity, which is key. And your impatience at the thought of reincarnating here I think is also a sign of a healthy frustration with this place that can spur you on.

    People who have been frightened out of their wits want some sort of assurance. Thus the silly teachings about how to get to heaven via contract with a legalistic and shallow God.

    The real path is indeed one of learning wisdom and compassion, but the task is quite simply to learn them as an acquired taste as it were, learning to get pleasure from the good and to be unable to take pleasure in the bad; it is a matter of becoming that which you aspire to. One is close to God because of who one is, the attributes of one’s soul, being God’s kindred spirit and no one can ever frighten you about God again.

    I would google Dawkins map of the scale of consciousness, find one chart, and really think about the implications.

  181. Varun, “Uncommon Dooms” would make a good band name.

    Dylan, I’m glad to see the Catholic Worker system getting a shout-out, but the new social evangelicals will also need to craft their own institutional frameworks if they’re going to fulfill their potential as a social movement.

    Godozo, yep. That one certainly took me by surprise.

    Dean, excellent. That’s exactly what needs to happen, because it’s the withering of the old grassroots structures of the party that made it vulnerable to takeover from the top.

    Mister N., yes, exactly.

    Tim, er, I don’t think it counts as a black swan if it’s already here. “Belief in progress” is the name I give to that disorder…

    Nastarana, okay, that’s one opinion. Obviously there are others.

    Christopher, exactly. That’s why I expect Trump to clean their clocks in 2020.

    DFC, so noted! Some of those, I think, are very probable.

    Shane, likewise. Are you sure, though, that that’s a black swan, not an expression of a wish-fulfillment fantasy? 😉

    Dusk Shine, exactly. An exercise in seeing one’s own blind spots is worth doing.

    RPC, it would certainly be unexpected; I’d rate it about as likely as the appearance of the Great Pumpkin, but we’ll see.

    Shane, of course they’ll be propped up. Expect to see Herculean efforts to maintain a facade of business as usual at all costs.

    Ben, of course they’re one-time payouts. I admit to wondering who twisted what arm to get them to happen in the first place.

    E. Goldstein, or they might start putting serious pressure on Congress to put marijuana regulation back into the hands of the states, where it belongs. I could very easily see a bill to that effect getting bipartisan support.

    Tidlosa, no question, strange days are coming!

    Kev4321, no, that won’t wash. Nobody’s asking environmentalists to live in caves and produce all their goods by hand. I’m talking about the self-proclaimed environmentalists who drive SUVs, alone, to events where they talk soulfully about the good life in the future when we’ll all bicycle to work. I’m talking about people whose supposed commitment to the environment somehow doesn’t keep them from vacationing overseas every single summer. These aren’t rare occurrences. They’re standard, and they’ve played a massive role in convincing most Americans that the entire environmental movement is simply one more set of excuses that privileged people use to keep the poor in their places.

    Environmental activism isn’t evenly distributed across class lines, you know. It’s principally an interest, or an affectation, of the privileged middle and upper middle classes. (Pick up any glossy environmental magazine and pay attention to the ads sometime.) Until the people who claim to be concerned about the environment demonstrate that concern by walking their talk, using significantly less carbon than they have to, and sharply decreasing the impact their lifestyles have on the planet — things that quite a few people did back in the 1970s, before the environmental movement was stuffed and mounted in a corporate boardroom, and that, ahem, some of us never stopped doing — environmentalism is going to continue to have a negligible impact on the fate of the planet. You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem!

  182. JMG, a bit off topic, but I just want to say thank you. Even though there’s a cold snap freezing the whole northeast US right now, the bedrooms upstairs are nice and toasty. The reason is the quilted window coverings I installed. And the reason for that is when I moved into this house, I bought a copy of Green Wizardry and followed your good advice. I’ve still got some more insulation projects to complete, but I’m already reaping the benefits!

    Thanks for a comfortable past several days. I predict that if I complete a few more projects this year, next winter will be even more comfortable!

  183. JMG, what do you think of david brin imploring democrats to NOT impeach trump so that mike pence cannot take his place?

  184. @ Nastarana & David BTL…

    As things stand today, we have the best government that money can buy. Unfortunately, the price for getting a law passed is millions or more, therefore we do not have a participatory democracy at this point for us plebes.

    Considering that corporate and special interest lobbyists draft the bills, get congress critters behind them and then watch the nearly unanimous passage of selfsame bill, a ConCon would completely eliminate the US as a functioning country, because the lobbyists would ensure that we turned into the exact USA enshrined in the movie “Idiocracy”.

    So much would be up for grabs, and politicians by inclination are selfish sociopaths in large majority, if not dancing narcissists. Throwing open this old document for ‘revision’ would result in some type of monstrous, amorphic mutation of what we have today. With so many corrupt boomer politicians and lobbyists, why in the world would anyone want to open Pandora’s Box in their presence, much less allow them access to the codec?

    I tend to agree with JMG in that government produces little that isn’t the worst or least functional in nature. Changing the Constitution in the age of SJW’s? In the age of multiple gender identities? In an age where socialism and fascism are used interchangeably without anyone knowing the difference? Look around you and think about what COULD happen, because with government we are guaranteed the worst possible outcome. Don’t take my word for it – history backs me up…

  185. Perhaps I missed this in the comments –

    Black Swan prediction: “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” makes number one on the best seller list. Getting some unwanted attention…

  186. @ Nastarana

    I meant no disrespect to the Framers, of course. I find the shorthand useful.

    No Congress is going to propose amendments curtailing its own power. The history of the nation has been that of continuing centralization of power, particularly as our march to empire picked up steam. A return to limited federal government is only going to come from the states acting collectively to push back, which means a convention. That is the tool provided in the Constitution for the states to bypass the federal government and to revise the federal charter directly. It is past time for that tool to be put to use.

    I have a list of proposed amendments, eight at this point, ready to go if/when a convention happens — from proportional representation within state delegations to the House to a legal path for secession. None of these would get through Congress by the required 2/3rds supermajority. Are they all good ideas? I think so, but others may disagree. I’d like to have that debate on the convention floor.

  187. Jesus’s teachings are the perfect prescription for the ailments of our modern predicament, however, when I attempt to divine the general state of Christians, they appear to have lost all connection with his message. I live in a poorer suburb and commute to a far wealthier one, and the Christians on both sides would rather eat a gun than embrace voluntary simplicity and poverty to help others.

    That said, I know a fantastic Christian. He’s a friend of the family. He’s a quiet, helpful, decent, good man. He is poor and would give it all away if he was rich. There aren’t very many like him.

    Instead, they are like my ex-friend, a bourgeois office worker who turned to local, boxy megachurch when her husband was discovered to be sterile. She convinced herself praying to Jesus would give her a perfect baby by age 32 and pretty much bit my head off when I posed the question, “What if God doesn’t intend for you to have a child?”

    Or my cousin, who at age 20 made our sweet grandmother cry when he told her she was going to hell because she didn’t go to church on Sundays. He has lived in a series of McMansions since then and his daughters are so spoiled, my aunt and uncle gave up on giving them anything except money at Christmas, because there wasn’t anything they didn’t already possess. What I find offensive is how both of them approach their god as if he is Santa, giving out goodies to the virtuous squeaky wheels.

    Joel Osteen (whom my ex-friend quoted at me before I finally just stopped answering her calls) is a rich man because many Christians think they can game an an imaginary meritocracy by giving money to a smiling mountebank. It’s their treatment of this existence as a prefabricated moral video game that irritates me. Like certain Muslims, certain high-caste Hindus, and most atheists, they go forward with the rigid notion that there isn’t a religious mystery that hasn’t already been solved by THEIR guy. Even when I was an atheist, I never thought of myself as smart enough to know exactly how the Universe was created & organized! My question is how any pragmatic social movement can grow from people who sit happily at a conjunction of greed and privilege? The two aforementioned are people who believe they have earned their good fortune in every way and because “everything happens for a reason.”

    OK, it’s back to work for me! Thanks for letting me vent.

  188. Trying to think of a Black Swan I realize the issue of seeing one in the night of the Internet. News and reality have become so fake news that a truly important, tangible, event disrupting the status quo may be imperceptible, especially if its effects on day to day life are inescapable.

    So the Black Swan I am predicting is for some reliably left wing celebrity to become the scandal of the week after defending Trump on some weekly tempest in a teapot; lets say Tom Hanks just to make it fun. The whole situation then plays out as a macabre reenactment of the communism black balling issue, tearing through tons of celebrities with incriminations and innuendos of political heterodoxy; all the while the accusers try to wear the mantel of continuing the legacy of the sexual harassment scandals of 2017. The whole event produces fairly good ratings, and through a series of unlikely connections ends in the bankruptcy of a major studio, which is then bought for pennys on the dollar by a small veteran owned film company in Dallas, renamed Studio Freedom; they proceed to cast Mr. Hanks for a bio-pic based on the tragic life of the following SNL character.

  189. (a repeat of my previous post which obeys the rules of the blog)

    Boysmom, I’m nearly 30 and was raised by upper middle class liberals, and yet I still get a shale-eating grin whenever Trump undoes his zipper and waves his covfefe at the media. Even though I was an adolescent at a different time than your son, the desire to troll people never really went away for me, because I never really saw most authority figures as legitimate. I AM an authority figure now, being an Urban Professional with a solid five years of experience in a respected field, but I still can’t take it seriously.

  190. Re black swan contest

    I don’t know if this fits the definition of the term for the contest, but to continue the theme of the other thread of discussion, I’ll toss my candidate into the ring: that some bungled federal handling of an event, perhaps the destruction of a state-legal pot crop by the DEA during a raid, produces sufficient outrage at federal overreach to bring the number of states calling for a constitutional convention to 36.

  191. James, yes, that’s turning out to be fascinating. It seems to me that if you don’t mind taking your time a bit, it’s not a problem… 😉

    BoysMom, I could definitely see it.

    Austin, another very plausible one. This is getting very entertaining!

    Chris, please accept my condolences! Losing a dog isn’t a small thing. May he go on to good times in his next incarnation.

    Jean-Vivien, you may well be in exactly the same position as a peasant in 1788. There were lots of shocks and sudden upsets and scandals in France in the decades before 1789, as I’m sure you’re well aware, but next to nobody expected the entire Bourbon monarchy to come crashing down because some deputies to the Etats-Generaux got together in an indoor tennis court and made some speeches. That’s the kind of thing we can expect in the years ahead: not just a sudden event, but a sudden event that spins out of control and causes a permanent change on the grand scale. As for a replacement of technology by human beings, I hope you’re right!

    Phil H, that reminds me powerfully of Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian

    Robert, you might find my post on reincarnation useful as a reference — I talk about some of the reasons for taking it seriously there. As for being partly stupid, all of us are partly stupid and partly, well, less stupid. That’s why history isn’t wholly predictable. That said, bailing industrial society out at this point would require a couple of billion people to be less stupid all at once, and stay that way for a while, so the odds are definitely against it!

    David, my assessment is that if Hillary Clinton had won, she’d have taken us straight into a war to try to hold on to our empire; her comments on Syria and her behavior toward Libya and the Ukraine, among other places, makes that seem likely. Trump is dealing with the same situation by blustering and backing down, which involves a lot fewer corpses. Either way, it’s still reactive rather than proactive, but there’s a choice of reactions available.

    Tim, I get that. The one advantage reincarnation has over public schooling is that you’re not stuck here for a fixed period of time; summer vacation can come at any moment, and how soon you graduate is entirely up to you.

    Oilman, the medical-industrial complex in the US today is perhaps the most corrupt of the many corrupt sectors of today’s economy. It’s reached the point that very few physicians are willing to cure an illness, since it’s much more profitable to manage it instead — that is to say, keep you sick but functioning, so you have to keep taking pills and using their services. That’s why more and more people are already turning to alternative health care, which can quite effectively cure most minor conditions and some major ones; mainstream methods could do better than that in theory, but as practiced today, they don’t. Thus what’s happening in rural America is likely to decrease the amount of sickness and suffering there, as the herbalists et al. are already hard at work there and elsewhere.

    Shane, nah, I’ve been using alternative health care with very good results for my entire adult life, and when I get something it can’t treat — well, we’re all going to die soon enough anyway, you know, so why worry about it?

    John, a very sensible attitude! Yes, exactly; one major difference between traditional occultism and the teachings of most of the recent crop of channeled entities (“recent” meaning 20th century until now) is that the latter assign all human souls a degree of influence over their destiny that, in the older traditions, you only get after doing a lot of hard spiritual work. Me, I consider the older teachings far more plausible, but you’re right, we’ll all get to find out who’s right in due time.

    Jon, a being can dream!

    Dropbear, funny. Thank you!

    Blue Sun, you’re welcome! I’m delighted to hear it. I hope any of my readers who are shivering in the cold are listening…

    J.L.Mc12, Brin’s a smart man. He realizes that Trump picked Pence as impeachment insurance, and worries that the Democrats may lose track of this…

    PatriciaT, I’d be happy with that swan!

    Kimberly, yep. I can see you and raise you a self-righteous pseudo-Christian or two. As a Druid, in particular, I get to see just how many people who claim to be Christians think that “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” somehow doesn’t count when your neighbor doesn’t belong to their religion. That said, we could have a long talk about the failings of other religions, including mine; there are plenty of people out there who call themselves Druids who make me want to tear my hair out by the handful. Human beings — they’re a really mixed bag.

    Ray, I’m liking this contest more and more. Thank you!

    David, I could see that, too. Keep ’em coming…

  192. My prediction is a pretty simple one: religion will remain on the rise. Not quite in the sense of explicit traditional religiosity—mainstream media are quite averse to such—but in the sense of dogmatic devotion to everything but traditional religion. The myth of progress, political parties/figures, celebrities, lifestyles, dietary habits, sexual identities, pet preferences—you name it.

    Of course, every action induces an equal, opposite reaction. All this unbridled faith in what is ultimately a false shroud put up by opportunistic forces will, in a search for perceived authenticity, draw a lot of people to old and new religious movements.

    In this climate, a special event I can see happening—not sure I’d call it a black swan—is that a religious movement that’s accrued a lot of wealth and influence starts effectively and openly fulfilling/staging (potayto-potahto) specific Messianic Age-type prophecies of one or more major religions and actually achieves World Peace this way—if only for a short time. (I know I know, the achieving world peace part is way far out, but one can hope.)

  193. 1. This blog is always fascinating, even more so than the Archdruid Report. I especially like reading about the countries Ecosophia readers live in, their gardens, and experiences with spirits/the occult.

    2. The US could do far worse than a group of dedicated socialists devoted to helping the poor and being like Jesus.

    3. Humans are a salvage yard from which you’ve got to pick the best stuff and leave the rest behind.

  194. This week’s comments are great! Definitely a lot of fun for the new year.

    As for reincarnation, I have met plenty of people who seem barely human. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was their first time in a human incarnation. I get frustrated with some of these people because they do dumb things that ruin their own lives, and worse, their children’s lives. Since I’ve been thinking about reincarnation though, I’m coming to realize that maybe some people can’t help doing that kind of stuff. They’re going to have miserable lives, and they can’t change that – not because of society, or oppression, or poverty, or whatever, but because they just haven’t been through enough human lives.

    Maybe it’s like with toddlers though. You don’t let them do whatever they want just because they can’t understand or remember how they’re supposed to behave. You keep stopping them from misbehaving and reminding them what they’re supposed to do, and gradually they learn. Some children learn quicker, others take more time, but they all need someone to teach them. I’d guess maybe societal expectations function as that for people who are on their first few go-rounds as human beings. Plus, just plain old natural consequences ought to teach quite a few lessons.

  195. JMG- I can’t begin to speculate on the bonuses. My guess is the oligarchs throw a few hundred million at the plebs because they will get a few hundred billion back in tax breaks. No need for much arm twisting.

    Still curious when the next storm-watch post will show up here on ecosophia?

  196. Dear JMG, thank you for your predictions! In response to your comments to others above about alternative health care, would you ever consider doing a post or a series of posts on that topic?

  197. @ David the lake & JMG

    Re: Retreat from empire

    I am engineer so sometimes I made numbers about ROI and amortization of equipment

    Some people estimate that the US$, as reserve currency, and the wealth pump associate with it, add around 1/3 to the US GDP, currently at around 18 trillions$/year; so the benefits of having this status-quo is around 6 trillions $/year. But this status-quo is based on the credible use of force all around the world, as the Mafia, what the US give their provinces in exchange is “protecion” or naked “threat”, the two side of the same coin (provinces = pro-vincae in latin = for the vanquished)

    The Pentagon cost round 0,6 trillions$/year so the ROI is around 10x, then it is in fact a very profitable “machine” that will never give up his status withow a nasty fight (that is a very very dangerous situation for the future) unless you have an internal dissolution (à la USSR or worse). They know they are the custodians of the US prospertity

    Now as in Rome, Optimates (Reps) and Populares (Dems), Marius and Sulla, Caesar and Crassus, all of them agree that the empire is the right path to their (own) glory and roman prosperity (to Make Rome Great Again and Again), as it was unthinkable for any roman emperor to refuse the taxes from the Gallia or Hispania; because it will be killed immediately by the Praetorian Guard (CIA) and/or the roman plebs

    What Trump is trying to do is increase the ROI of the MIC, trying the provinces to pay Rome more for their “protection”, at the same time Rome (US) increase the tensions to justify it; and them may be Trump will use an small part of this money for the plebeians in the form of “panem et circenses” not in any meaningful way that could hurt the interest of the Optimates (could be The Trumpian Southern Wall the same distraction that The Flavian Colosseum?)

    Cheers

  198. @JMG
    RE: Channeled beings and spiritual work

    Yeah, I find most channeled teachings to be … pitiful. I got talked into watching a video that was supposed to be great. The channel (and I’m not sure she was actually doing anything besides sitting there with her eyes closed and babbling) said “my dear ones” about every sixth phrase, to the point where I wasn’t entirely sure she wasn’t talking to one of Bambi’s relatives.

    One of the reasons I like Michael is that they lay out the road map pretty well from first incarnation to last incarnation, and point out that the spiritual lessons appropriate to where someone is on the road will appear. The key is appropriate: early on, it’s a hard spiritual lesson to assimilate that getting to work on time, well rested and sober, is needed to keep a job and food on the table.

    You cannot avoid the hard, spiritual work. The mistake people make is to assume that the lessons they’re facing are the same lessons that other people should be facing and, since they’re quite obviously not, then they’re slacking off.

    As far as a Black Swan goes, I’m expecting one sometime in 2020. It’s one that everyone with their head screwed on tightly would dismiss as impossible, so I’m not going to talk about it. Although I will say it has nothing to do with the 2020 election, and it’s not going to be space aliens.

  199. JMG
    Perhaps a little OT this week but I am glad this bit of history has been recorded. !959! Goodness me, I did not know that! We might start collecting Real History to go forward for our descendants. An entry for the first deliberate ‘Dark Age’ book on long life paper?

    Oilman might like to comment?

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/jan/01/on-its-hundredth-birthday-in-1959-edward-teller-warned-the-oil-industry-about-global-warming?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Gmail

    best
    Phil H

  200. @ JMG re: medical industrial complex

    A tremendous number of people have been made deathly afraid of treating themselves. This has occurred during the boomer period, which also is the period and congress critters that foisted “health care” on us all.

    When I was a kid, I cut myself badly with a butcher knife. My grandmother (born in 1899) promptly washed the wound out (while I screamed and cried – LOL), then numbed it with some concoction she had for the cows. Then she stitched me up, put some ointment on it, bandaged my hand and sent me on my way telling me to keep it dry. She used popsicle sticks in the bandage, so I could not use the affected fingers.

    Young parents reading things like this are appalled – and that is very much a problem. Many truly believe that only a “properly qualified and educated” doctor should perform such repairs. Unsurprisingly, they feel the same way about their pets – only a vet can diagnose or repair their animal friends.

    A large part of why we are where we are is that we limp-wristedly gave away the right to repair ourselves, feed ourselves, repair and feed our animals, etc. There is little magical about medical care, and with a very little effort, the internet can educate you with what you need to make the repairs and decisions.

    The breakdown comes in acquiring the drugs and materials and x-ray services you might need to fix yourself. Those are tightly controlled by government regs and licensing, etc.

    It doesn’t take a genius to look at an x-ray of a broken bone, reset it, and then x-ray the repair before setting it in a cast. It does take knocking out the patient in many cases to manipulate the break – and here again, the drugs to do that are restricted and controlled “to prevent abuse”.

    The reasons I much prefer zero drug regulations are easy to see in my previous statements. I also happen to know, based on several personal experiences, that getting an addict off of drugs requires the addict to want to help themselves. Until they want to change, efforts to change them from the outside always fail.

    In the realm of medical and drug supply, I much prefer anarchy – because in spite of their best efforts, people self-organize and find the right way forward without government intervention.

    I am not suggesting that abdominal surgery, open-heart surgery, etc. should be performed at home. But the things we spend enormous dollars on are the small things like ER suturing, broken bones, pulled muscles, etc. which can very often be done by people that are not “properly qualified” – because they are common sense.

    Maybe I answered my own question, in that common sense has become all too uncommon these days?

  201. Hmm… are ‘black swans’ always unpleasant? (due to their color)? Or just incredible, due to their unconventionality? Might this qualify? ” …couple of billion people to be less stupid all at once, and stay that way for a while .. ?

  202. Dear David, by the lake,

    Whatever makes you think a Constitutional Convention would be any less corrupt than our current Congress? I doubt it would even represent American interests.

    Do you really think you, or any well meaning intelligent and thoughtful person of integrity, would be permitted to be a delegate? Have you been offered such a position?

    Why not have your debate right now? Political fora are quite lively at the present time. The Democratic Party is not long for this world, and the Republicans only appear unified because of Democratic weakness and billionaire money. Right now would seem to me to be a really good time to get good ideas into circulation.

    For every good idea you might have, the Kochs have a few of their own designed to give them their private satrapy in the upper Midwest Valley. Various foreign interests, from KSA to the People’s Republic are looking to establish their beachheads in North America, as a prelude to transferring their surplus populations. What is at stake here is not only or mostly good governance. What is at stake is access to and control of the remaining resources of the North American continent, including water and farmland. I doubt anyone intends that what is left of indigenous populations should benefit.

    It was said, over and over, that Trump could never be elected, but he was, mostly fair and square. It was said that an old ex-radical from Vermont could never be more than a vanity candidate, but Clinton and the DNC had to resort to blatant theft to prevent him from being nominated. Nor has the public mood been mollified. I think it very likely we will see many more resignations and I suspect quite a few of the present multi-term members of congress are quite vulnerable. Octogenarian Feinstein seems to have attracted a serious primary challenger, for example.

  203. JMG: “Until the people who claim to be concerned about the environment demonstrate that concern by walking their talk, using significantly less carbon than they have to, and sharply decreasing the impact their lifestyles have on the planet . . . environmentalism is going to continue to have a negligible impact on the fate of the planet. You can’t be part of the solution if your lifestyle is part of the problem!”

    Sorry to stay on this, but I did not get my point across. My point is the fossil fuel motor vehicle transportation monopoly, pervasive consumerism, and economic/debt constraints make it too difficult for people in any class to have lifestyles that are not part of the problem. Resources (like public transportation and agricultural/product recycling systems) are necessary and resources are consistently denied to anyone who does not play the game. IMHO, lifestyle options are generally a top-down phenomena and the “lower” classes will always be more concerned with their day-to-day needs (for the system in which they are contained) than the “elite” classes. The “environmentalists” we are shown in the media are indeed hypocritical and unconvincing as they fly around to their various global warming conferences, but that aside, you cannot convince people of something when they do not want to be convinced. Media propaganda is effective on many levels. My opinion is the entire ruling class and economic hierarchy will collapse when society takes environmentalism seriously, which implies that environmentalism will never be taken seriously.

    So, I will add a 2018 black swan prediction: Hurricane Harvey II will occur along the Gulf coast and ruin enough fossil fuel infrastructure that a bailout will be needed (and environmentalism will still not be taken seriously).

    Thanks

  204. Hi JMG,

    Fascinating as always, though I do have a few bones to pick about Trump supposedly rewarding his supporters in the tax bill. The only income group Trump won in the election was people making $50K-$200K, the upper middle class (and lower upper class, I guess). Why wouldn’t he reward them? I think the working class would be easier to sway given government’s refusal to do almost anything to help them. But a tax break for them only follows your patronage hypothesis if you accept the mainstream media narrative that Trump is a hero to the white working class. You ignored how his protectionist rhetoric has largely proved to be hot air. I doubt the GOP can hold onto Congress if they’re throwing the one income group Trump carried under the bus, even if the working class gets a 2-year tax break. Don’t forget: The Republicans have their sights set on “entitlement reform” for this year. Do you really think the working class is going to be happy about that?

    Thanx,
    Mick

  205. Hi all,

    With regards to a constitutional convention, I thought I’d see how many states Congress counts as having applied. The answer, by my count, is 38 according to the house of representatives. Here’s the link: http://clerk.house.gov/legislative/memorials.aspx. This leads to a black swan idea: a state sues Congress to force them to call the convention, and wins. The supreme court orders that Congress calls a convention. After much debate and confusion the house passes a bill to do that, but it is then filibustered in the senate. The senate can’t get enough votes to end the filibuster, and an attempt to use the “nuclear option” to end it fails, with several senators and many representatives arguing that the election should happen first, so that the people have their say on the convention.

    As a result, the major debate during the 2018 elections is what should happen with the convention, with one party (likely democrats) declaring that it shouldn’t happen.

    This is not the only scenario I can think of. I fully expect things to get messy if someone decides to act on this fact.

  206. It frustrates me a lot how little people know how our system actually works. The national political parties (national committees actually, there is no such thing legally as a national party, despite the lingo) have virtually no control over anything outside of the presidential election. The only influence the DNC or other such things have on a midterm election is giving away money, and DNC fundraising is pathetic this year because progressives are giving their money elsewhere. Sanders proved that mass giving of small donations works, and many progressive organizations this year are asking for $1 or $3 because they know how many people are out there who will do that, rather than trying to get vast sums from a few wealthy people. In fact, virtually all political activity, legally speaking, is driven by state parties in the United States, and Sanders supporters have already taken over some Dem state parties. Even presidential elections are technically 51 separate elections (including DC). They control the ballot lines for their party and even can refuse to put the national candidate on the ballot in most states. Of course for 2020, their control of the convention, the debates (a particularly pernicious thing), etc, is very important. But this all means that these midterms are really the main opportunity for the grassroots to become dominant and displace the elites. If progressives can elect governors and state legislators in great numbers, then they can more or less control the national stuff going into 2020, because most delegates come from the state party structures. But if you just want to wait and see what happens, you are playing into the hands of the elites. The 2018 elections are actually much more important than 2020, especially for those who see Trump as more a symptom than a root cause of our problems.

  207. Regarding a constitutional convention, neither here nor there. All it does is bypass the Congressional proposal process. The results still need to be ratified by the same 3/4 of states as amendments coming out of Congress. So I’m neither afraid of nor hopeful for it. Once state legislatures are controlled by more grassroots politics which would allow needed reforms to get ratified, we can see how Congress looks and whether a convention makes sense.

  208. JMG, regarding healthcare, it wasn’t so much yours, as Sara’s. I remember in your post about moving saying that Sara’s heath had declined to the point to where it wasn’t feasible to stay in Cumberland (paraphrasing), and you had better access to healthcare in East Providence (for her)

  209. @Pat Matthews,
    I firmly believe that a Con Con is our best hope for peacefully breaking apart the country (see Twilight’s Last Gleaming)

  210. More on black swans —

    I noticed, for myself, I could imagine a number of awful things being developed from modern biotech that speak to SJW concerns. I could imagine radical man-haters weponizing the genes for androgen insensitivity to lower the number of ‘males’ ; probably an order of magnitude more difficult, I could see engineering a virus to produce truly functional hermaphrodites in the next generation (one sex means we’re all equal; only effecting the germ plasm except as perhaps cold/flu symptoms to spread means it can spread very widely before being noticed). I notice, though, I’m looking LEFT.

    So, a ‘black swan’ for ME would be from the RIGHT. I need to turn around.

    What do bad men on the right not like? Jews? OK, they could launch a race-plague-war, but that’s basically the same prediction I made before. Seems to me the big bugaboo is ‘degeneracy’ — indeed, antisemites these days hate because they think that ‘the Jew’ (whoever THAT is) is aiding and abetting the degeneration of European culture. What would stop THAT? Sexual morality, near as I can tell, is driven by risk-of-infection. Research shows the sexual revolution was caused by penicillin, as much as or more than The Pill. So my Black Swan prediction here is a new or modified STD . Retoroviral resistant AIDS would be hard, I think; antibiotic-resistant syphilis would be trivial. No genetic engineering even needed: just growth medium, antibiotics, and time. (Of course, syphillis is already evolving that way, but it could be helped along)

    I’m too focused on human genetic engineering for this, though.

    I really liked whoever came up with “Tesla turns a profit” — that would have hit me as a black swan! Thanks.

  211. JMG,

    My stab at a black swan:

    Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi, passing each other in the halls of Congress, are suddenly and simultaneously smitten with each other. Trump loves Pelosi’s life-like surgically-created “mask;” Pelosi loves Trump’s life-like tonsorial “helmet.” After exchanging a few playful e-mails, Trump proposes that they have a love-child together. Pelosi agrees.

    Since there are some things that even Pelosi and Trump just won’t do, they decide to go the “test-tube” route. Sarah Huckabee Sanders agrees to act as surrogate mother.

    During the pregnancy, the left lobbies hard for the baby to be aborted. Planned Parenthood offers its services, for free. The right resists, asserting that every life is sacred–even if it’s a descendant of Nancy Pelosi. Sanders puts her foot down, insisting that the child will be brought to term no matter what.

    The delivery is broadcast live on national TV, with CNN excluded at Trump’s insistence. The child, a girl, dubbed Valentina Tereshkova Pelosi-Trump, is healthy and happy. CNN reports, surprisingly, that the baby is a stillborn male, for which error a CNN assistant producer is suspended for six hours.

    Still no deal on the wall, though.

    – Disregarded Prophet

  212. Archdruid,

    Here’s a second prediction. Sometime around the end of summer a major attack on internet infrastructure from one of our enemies (pick one) will disrupt access across the country. Considerable damage to the economy, along with some deaths will be the result. This attack combined with the fast lane, slow lane system implemented by service providers will encourage more people to reduce their dependency on the internet. Business as usual will resume shortly there after with far fewer people using the internet. The reduced dependency on the net will cause more off line social groups to from, and those groups will become the foundation for future social disruptions.

    Regards,

    Varun

  213. Spice, fair enough.

    Kimberly, I won’t argue with any of those!

    Housewife, that’s one of the things that makes reincarnation plausible to me. Some people come out of earliest infancy with capacities that show every sign of having had a lot of practice — they pick up this or that skill, or show this or that ability, as though they did it for years and just have to be reintroduced to it — and then there are people, lots of them, for whom anything but basic animal reactions is foreign territory that has to be mastered one awkward step at a time. Once you admit the possibility that some people have been reincarnating as humans a lot longer than others, that’s easy to understand.

    Ben. I’m not sure. I really do play these things by ear.

    Jbucks, I did a post on it back on one of the old blogs — admittedly just on one aspect of it, but there’s only so much that can be packed into a single weekly post. I’ll certainly consider doing others.

  214. To Dean Myerson – oh, you bet progressive organizations are asking for small donations – several times a day! Every good cause and political advocacy group is bombarding me with emails, all of which are going straight to the spam box, along with every other “Give!” “Buy!” “Demand of…!” “Outrage!” and those all-time favorites “We are $x,xxx.xx short of out goal!” and “This is your last chance! (day, week, 24 hours to…!”

    As a friend of mine put it,”incessant signals come across as noise.”

    Is anybody listening?

    Pat

  215. I’m pretty much onboard with what Kev4321 is saying. True environmentalism is really an impossibility in the USA. Sure, you can reduce your ecological footprint, but that solves very little since it will still mean the continuing degradation of the environment, just at a slower pace. For example, public transportation is “greener” but buses, trains, and asphalt are still an assault on nature.

    A true green lifestyle means that your life contributes to the biosphere and does not degrade it. If you tried to live that way in the USA you would be arrested. Or put on a reservation and “re-educated”.

    So what would a real environmental movement look like? It would look a lot more like Derrick Jensen and Deep Green Resistance than the Sierra Club. It would be against capitalism and industrialism and would be diametrically opposed to almost everything that almost everybody in the USA thinks is important (eg. techno-fetishism, consumerism, the war machine, power, wealth, etc.) Anything less will be (and has been) co-opted.

    The genius of the System* (cue ominous music) is that it can turn everything into just another cog in the machine. Yoga, simple living, environmentalism, religion… Watch every good idea turn into just another way for someone to make a buck or two.

    * By System, I mean the culture combined with the institutions of finance and government.

  216. about some people asking about a stormwatch post; as you are currently doing a ‘magic monday’, why not ‘wacky wednesday’, ‘tacky thursday’ or ‘fracky friday’?

    clarence

  217. Nastarana, it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that you are seeking an everlasting answer to the Chinese problem. Good luck.

  218. With regards to the environmental movement: why is perfection the only acceptable outcome? It’s the ideal, but since it’s not possible, why do people insist there’s no point for environmental action? Is there an actual reason or is it the one drop fallacy?

    The the thing I want to address is this: there’s a difference between public transit and driving an SUV. The thing is, so many “environmentalists” choose the later, while complaining the former isn’t viable, all the while opposing the changes needed to make it viable.

    Or, is it too much to ask environmentalists to cut down on their air travel? For many, yes, and those people are the ones who have convinced most people in the US that the environmental movement is just an excuse to keep the poor poor.

  219. @ Nastarana et alia

    Re a constitutional convention

    The advantage of a convention is that it bypasses Congress. As was pointed out above, any proposed amendments coming out of the convention still require 38 states (3/4ths) ratification to be adopted. Given that kinda of amendments needed involve the paring back of federal (and specifically, congressional) power, this bypass is very much a necessity. A convention allows the states, which are the fundamental unit of our nation (a fact made clear by a plain reading of the Constitutional text), to take matters into their own hands. The states formed the federal government; they can re-form it as they see fit — with the sole exception that equal representation in the Senate cannot be altered. I see no reason to wait for the federal government to reform itself, as we will be waiting for a very long time (about as long as waiting for the Democrats to get a clue). The states have the constitutional right to take matters into their own hands. I say they should do it and let’s have that debate about what this nation should look like. If we can break the mental stranglehold that DC must run everything, then perhaps the changes that need to be made can get made. Are state politicians inherently more saintly than their federal counterparts? Of course not. But they are more in tune with their regional needs and interests, and they are closer to the people. We need a program of decentralization and the states are the best vehicles available for that program to be enacted. Affecting change involves risk, I agree. To me, this is a risk worth taking given the cost of the status quo.

  220. My apologies once again for my poor proofreading.

    Read “Given that the kind of amendments needed” in place of the garbled text at the beginning of the third sentence.

  221. Hi John Michael,

    Many thanks. I feel a bit gutted at the moment, but time will address those feelings. Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts about how long will his spirit hang around before moving on?

    Hi Kev4321 and Thor,

    Friends. I have heard that story before. The question you have to ask yourselves is this: When did you last produce something?

    Cheers

    Chris

  222. DFC, that’s an important part of it. The other part is that the main profit mechanism — the dollar’s place as a reserve currency — is crumbling fast as rival nations move trading into other currencies. Trump, or rather the temporary alliance of power centers for whom Trump is the spokesperson and sock puppet, is responding to that shift in the only way possible short of war, by shedding client states that cost more than they’re worth and getting as much wealth as possible back into the US.

    John, oh, I get that. I know people who seem to get a lot of spiritual sustenance from one or another of the Bambi-channelers, though — so it may be that here again, it’s a matter of what’s appropriate for any given person.

    Phil, yep. We’ve had plenty of warning.

    Oilman, no argument there. I’d get professional help for a broken bone, but anything much less than that? I know what to do and have quite adequate (and, since they’re dismissed as quackery by the medical-industrial complex, cheap and legal) treatments on hand to do it with. Given the extent that the current medical industry focuses on “managing” illnesses — that is, keeping patients sick rather than helping them get well — I think I’m getting the better of the deal.

    Nancy, I think that would be an entire flock of black swans!

    Kev4321, history says you’re wrong. Back in the 1970s, the environmental movement won victory after victory — the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and many more pieces of landmark legislation. What was different then? Environmentalists walked their talk. In Gandhi’s words, they became the change they wanted to see in the world, and as a direct result, people took them seriously and they got results. The reason nobody takes them seriously now is that they demand that the whole world make changes that they aren’t willing to make in their own lives.

    Nor is it anything like as hard to change your lifestyle as you want to claim. I’ll use myself as an example here. I’ve spent my own adult life without ever owning or driving a car. Has it been easy? Not always; having that huge expense off my hands made it possible for me to make a career as a writer, and there have been other solid paybacks, but I’ve had to make certain sacrifices and accept certain limits as a result — but that’s what you have to do if you want to make a difference. More than half the reason I get taken seriously as a writer and speaker on environmental issues is the fact that I walk my talk, and use a lot less carbon than your average environmentalist. When I talk about not having a car, a lot of people say, “Wow,” and start considering what energy-wasting toys they could do without. Care to guess who doesn’t do that? You got it, environmental activists; they bristle and insist loudly that lifestyle options are a top-down phenomenon and it won’t help and people wouldn’t follow their lead if they did change, blah blah blah. The real reason they won’t change is that their kind of environmentalism has become an affectation of the privileged, and they care more about their status markers than about the fate of the earth.

    Mickey, sure, if you cut and dice income groups the right way you can get that figure. As I noted, the Democrats are doing a first-rate job trying not to learn any of the lessons of their defeat…

    Will, that would certainly usher in a crisis!

    Dean, excellent! That kind of thinking is what leads to systemic change. I hope you’re up to your eyeballs in political activity!

    Shane, well, we’ll see. Alternative health care is also a lot more available here.

    Dusk Shine and Prophet, thank you.

    Varun, thank you also. We’re getting quite a flock of black swans here.

    Thor, you know, there’s nothing more pitiful in the world than hearing a would-be radical insisting that change is impossible — especially when the subtext amounts to “how dare you ask me to give up my energy-wasting toys!” See my response to Kev4321 above for a rebuttal.

    Clarence, I’ll think about that. Probably not a Wednesday, because that’s the day this blog goes up.

  223. Will, exactly. The reason that environmentalists won’t use public transit is, ahem, because public transit is for poor people. Me, I take the bus all the time, but then I’m not a snob.

    Chris, it depends. The average period before the “second death” — the point at which the etheric body drops away — is around forty days for human beings, so it’s probably around the same for most large intelligent vertebrates. That’s an average, though, and it can vary from just a few days to centuries (the latter being the case with trapped souls of the sort that produce some ghost phenomena).

  224. A Polemic Against Environmental Hypocrisy.

    One whose opinion I disagree with, but who acts faithfully to their ideology I can still see as one of good will. Conversely one whose opinion seems correct, but who then actively refuses to take that opinion into account in their daily judgment I can only estimate is wounded deeper than their mere wits.

    A paster might observe that all are prone to sinful thoughts, and from that deduce correctly that no mortal being is perfect; but the paster would be a failure in his vocation if he went on to conclude, or heaven help us preach, that it is a wretched and embarrassing waste to attempt to think, speak, and behave less sinfully to the apex of our potential. Instead, acknowledging that we are all flawed, struggling, or tragic in our own ways a great pastor might work to develop an artistry in drawing forth the best from the perish and diminishing, as much as limits permits, the worst. Such a paster would do well to follow the Christian maxim to remove first the log from his own eye, that is to say to repent of his most egregiously problematic habits, before attempting to guide others. This being a frustratingly difficult standard for a human to attain has done much to disparage the reputation of priests over the millennial.

    Environmentalism has found itself in a tricky double role, a great wealth of its wisdom is born out of the scientific tradition, and yet the implications are of a clearly moral character. This creates a natural disconnect, because the scientific sphere and the moral sphere of human life do not have a well settled relationship in our culture, and their relationship is a regular spring of confusion and strife.

    We more or less know the consequences of industrialization over the next few generations, and can estimate that the Earths carrying capacity for mega-fauna, including apes like ourselves, is likely to be reduced to a considerably smaller capacity than it has been during written history. We know that the actions of individuals are a necessary linkage in the causal chain leading to this result, including our own personal actions. Also we know that the current human population and mode of living are not possible with out support from unsustainable forms of industrialism.

    But what matters knowing ten thousand things if they do not give form to our lives, or any single thing if it cannot refine the shape of our lives? Knowledge disconnected from life is virtueless.

    Within the spheres well sintered to science there is the option of finding technical solutions, and a fair bounty of technical assistance has been discovered and offered up to appease the problem. However, the fundamental values of contemporary American life are a truer root to the problem than the technical problems of the individual technologies brought into the matter. So the Environmentalist, if they would have worth for their knowledge, is called to venture beyond the scientific topics into the wilds of religion and morality, venturing closer to the already discusses pastor.

    No more can the Environmentalist be harmless to natural patterns than the average pastor can be the messiah. As luck would have it absolute harmlessness is no more a prerequisite for meaningful improvement in our relationship to the Environment than sinlessness is a prerequisite for a preacher to pray.

    The fact that we cannot attain a goal of absolute environmental purity is granted, gladly, and not a loss to my point. But we can look at how we live and choose to live better. As a matter of fact living considerably better, as in using a third less resources than effortless floating on the river of convention, is nearly trivial if you are simply willing to make it a priority; almost no skill, and only the most basic of resources is needed. Would all of humanity changing by that degree make industrialism sustainable? No, but it could easily extend the time line available to adaption by considerably. Also, it is absolutely possible to go far beyond the one third standard with skillfulness. I think that for an American of standard personal capacity and resources a goal of 90% is possible with a few years of committed effort.

    One might object that such changes from an individual don’t add up to much, and viewed in the willful blinders of reductionism it seems so. But, the slightest glance at human behavior shatters this point. Vast numbers of people sincerely desire to live more respectfully to the Earth, but are ignorant of what change of life in meaningful and what change in symbolic, or they are actively deceived. One person changing and stating the reasoning behind their changes matters more than a million well cited reports. If you have wits enough to recognize a difference that makes any difference at all you have the power to make a big difference.

    I think that the obsession with tiny motes of impurity is almost universally caused by the pain of a jagged log in the eye of the obsessed. Thus is the way of my most distinctive obsessions at least. So the Environmentalists who insist that they wait for another to save them are view with a dissecting gaze by me. The dogmatic insistence of powerlessness is more likely caused by a lack of courage than power.

    There are good reasons to not change, it can be really lonely, and awkward, and embarrassing. Also, it might mean abandoning some of the things we are told to value. It is hard and not for everyone, and if an individual doesn’t want to lead in change, that’s their road. However, if they then feel shame, let them not construct sophistry arguing that the road is unwalkable. To do such moves from a lack of capacity to an act of captivity.

  225. Thor, I think you’re indulging in all-or-nothing thinking. You’re saying that upper middle-class environmentalists have no choice but to live lavish lifestyles of consumption because the only truly “green” option is to live like cavemen, which our society won’t allow. There are points between those two extremes.

    Why can’t environmentalists bike to work, live in small houses, plant fruit and nut trees and a veggie garden, go without the latest name brand clothes, go without the latest tech gadgets, hand wash and line dry their clothing, cook their own food from basic (non-exotic!) ingredients, and skip air travel? That’s the least they could do before stridently preaching at the rest of us, and it wouldn’t be as much of a burden to the planet as their current lifestyles are.

  226. @Thor and Kev

    You could be poor.

    That’s a strategy my wife and I decided to embrace several years ago when we got fed up with the federal gov spending our tax money on endless optional oil wars. We were solidly middle class DINKS with all the expected accoutrements, mass-forwarded every email from every bleeding heart.org that whined in our direction, wrote our congresspeople regularly, attended demonstrations, read Mother Jones, and generally made a nuisance of ourselves.

    Did it accomplish anything? Nope.

    Then we decided to actually LIVE our ethics. Nine years in, I just put the last log on the fire and kissed the kids goodnight. When I wake up my house will be chilly, somewhere not-quite-comfortably south of 60. I will fire up the woodstove again, make tea on it, fry eggs from my chickens, take my wife to work at the library for a stupid low wage (but she loves it), come back for a little homeschool time and lunch, go work on a new goat paddock for a neighbor, and go to sleep again tomorrow night knowing that I didn’t contribute to our country’s imperial ambitions today.

    Does THAT accomplish anything? You bet it does. Today people listen to us. Even though we’re not trying to get their attention anymore. Today people ask me to give talks at the library. Today my example kicks people in the teeth and makes them wonder what more they could be doing.

    And you know what? It really is more fun to live it than it is to whine about it. Even in the U.S…

  227. @ Thor & Kev4321 RE: environmentalism

    I agree with JMG on this one. You either take steps to align your own life with what you espouse, or just toss in the towel. I remember back in the 70’s we had beach cleanups, stream cleanups, you name it there was some kind of cleanup going on nearly every weekend. People from every social class pulling together to clean up places they enjoyed. That has vanished for the most part, other than along beachfronts. The streams and rivers are going to hell in a hand basket.

    I just spent an entire day digging a truck out of a creek I share with 2 neighbors. I asked them to help and they simply said, “When?” The result is we got it dug and winched out in one day, and now that eyesore is gone to the scrapper, and we got paid $50 for the steel. And thus we have BBQ money for a weekend get together in the spring.

    If everyone would just stop using plastic bags and ask for paper, there would be marked improvement in the US litter scene. Paper degrades – plastic does not – end of the story. Yet people still opt for plastic simply because they allow retailers to force the issue – I don’t, and will not. I have walked out and left groceries and articles at checkout when told they did not offer paper sacks or boxes.

    The same holds true for many little things we encounter daily, far too many to list.

    People are swayed by marketing, by ‘keeping-up-with-the-Jones”, by laziness and by hopeless attitudes.

    Want to be a rebel? Want to push the envelope?

    Then vote with your wallet and your feet, and exercise your right to speak freely. This latter may not be here that much longer anyway, so vocalize. It isn’t hopeless, and if you make a move and ask, you will be surprised to find others want the same type of clean environment, but have rationalized away doing anything about it personally. Asking them to help you out in doing one small thing is something they can latch on to. Most people want to do the right thing, but the task is so daunting they think they cannot make a difference!

    Leading from the rear is just cowardly, after all…LOL

  228. Loremaster,
    I just finished reading the chapter “The Butlerian Carnival” from your new book. Related to it well, loved it all…except for one thing. You didn’t explain the Butlerian jihad. You countered it brilliantly with the carnival concept, which I totally get, but there was no mention of the foil.

    Am I missing something? Is this idea supposed to be self-evident? For my sake, can you fill in the missing page?

    Cheers.

  229. JMG, that’s interesting. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, they offer prayers for forty days after a person dies. Chris, I’m sorry to hear about your dog. Since dogs are smaller and have much shorter lives, I wonder if dogs reincarnate sooner? Possibly you will meet him again sooner than you think.

  230. Relating to your Butlerian Carnival, if I may…

    I used to work in casinos, dealing Texas Hold ‘Em poker, and I have long held a similar image of the Butlerian Carnival. I have this image of a big no-limit hold em table – similar to the World Series of Poker – representing American capitalism, and the cult of Progress more generally. The number of players gets smaller and smaller, the stakes get larger and larger, until finally one guy jumps up from his chair with his fists raised triumphantly, all the towering, tottering stacks of chips in front of him, expecting everyone else to rush in and congratulate him on winning it all. To treat him like a superstar.

    Except no one else is in the room. He is confused and wanders over to the window to see where everyone has gotten to. There he sees that no one else cares anymore. They are all out there, outside, swimming in the lake, playing volleyball, feasting on…whatever poor people feast on.. Smiling, laughing, having a ball. And not one of them gives a sh…ale that he won it all.

  231. Hello JMG,

    I’ll play the black swan game!

    One or more species of social insects begin consolidating colonies to form super-colonies. These super-colonies relate to one another in exactly the same way that individual insects within their own colony relate to that colony. Super-colonies may be made up of billions of colonies linked by their cooperative queens. They become self-aware and begin to explore new (to them) territories and experiment with utilizing new (to them) resources.

  232. Regarding environmentalism and lifestyle change:

    As a non-American, I can never get used to how large American homes and cars are. What would a family of four need the SUV or McMansion for?!

    I own a small hatchback, which gets about 8,000km/year of use. My wife and I are expecting our second child. A recent dinner-table conversation (with an affluent, “Americanised” relative) went as follows:

    Relative: So, are you guys in the market for a bigger car?
    Wife: No.
    Relative: Why not?
    Me: We don’t need it.
    Relative: How so? There will be more of you soon.
    Me: When I was a kid my dad owned a . He used it to carry the family around and even hauled construction materials and fixtures when our house was being built. My car is cheap to run and insure, and I cheat all the SUV drivers when parking is tight.
    Relative: Won’t you need it, eventually?
    Me: I have two households from whom I can borrow a larger car from if the need arises every now and then.

    I really don’t understand why everything needs to be had in the biggest, flashiest version. I owned a cheap candybar cell phone until 2013; I currently own a $80 Android smartphone with a barebones data plan. I don’t have a TV – I used to have an 8-year-old one that I inherited, when the TV failed I simply didn’t replace it. Tossing out the TV was actually a net benefit since I found an additional 30-40 minutes of time every evening to catch up to household chores, allowing me to go to bed a little earlier.

    Yeah, I know, the economy is structurally wired for mass consumerism, the game is rigged, you can’t really be an environmentalist, blah blah blah. Or, you can take the not-very-radical step of trading in the SUV for an econobox and watch your costs and carbon footprint drop 40% with no change in your daily routine or lifestyle whatsoever.

    We can all cut down in many ways and in various degrees, with “the system” that we have, excuses be darned.

  233. Dusk Shine,

    I found your idea of a race war coming from the right a bit confused. There is currently some very serious race baiting going on and it is coming from the left. Open your eyes.

    Shane –
    Is it really that easy to go to Canada for medical care? Have you done it? What about making and waiting for an appointment?

  234. Blue Sun,

    I’m interested in what sort of window quilts you purchased or made. I started looking online. They look either quite expensive or inadequate if affordable.

  235. Well, if we’re predicting black swans, I can’t resist – I predict that intersectionalism will give rise to its own version of Jordan Peterson: someone who can put the ideas of this philosophy into simple terms and lead skeptical people to an appreciation of the ideas behind it. I suspect the ideas of intersectionalism are similar to your description of medieval thought in the secret of the temple (that reducing an effect to a single cause is inadequate for most important things). So my prediction for a black swan is that someone articulates medieval thought for the people of today, and there are wide-ranging effects in how we approach complex systems like governing or healthcare.

    Dear Nastaria, I’ve heard the term of course, but I thought it meant a destiny that was apparent to everyone, not a destiny that had already happened (wouldn’t that be a “manifested destiny”?). A destiny seems to me like something that’s only good if it’s in the future, unlessthe subject is completely content. And of course it’s an outsider’s perspective, but to us outside the US contentment doesn’t really seem compatible with the Yankee ethic…

  236. Have you read Total War 2006 by Simon Pearson? It’s in the ‘America gets its a** handed to it’ genre and I was reminded of it while reading Twilight’s Last Gleaming.

    There is a book on surviving financial disasters: https://johntreed.com/collections/john-t-reed-s-book-on-hyperinflation-and-depression/products/how-to-protect-your-life-savings-from-hyperinflation-and-depression

    Anyone who believes in primate-based sociobiology may be interested in this: http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/how-to-fix-society-one-baboon-group-at-a-time

    Black swan prediction: an Islamist takeover in the aftermath a natural disaster. It came to me in a dream.

  237. Regarding secession and breaking the USA into smaller sections. I think the most likely way this would happen, peacefully or otherwise, is continued minority government. Prior to the “first” civil war, the south pretty much dominated the national government, despite being a decided minority of population. This was mostly due to the 3/5 rule which gave the south extra seats in the House and thus the electoral college for non-voting slaves. This also let them control the Supreme Court. That led to the Dred Scott decision which some saw as potentially leading to the forceful allowing of slavery in free states. And when the population in the north grew enough to elect Lincoln anyway, that was that. The south was not willing to stay a part of the US as a minority power.

    What if Trump were to lose the 2020 vote by 10 million to a stronger opponent but still narrowly pull off an electoral college win? What if Dems do well in the Midterms this year but not well enough to overturn the Republican gerrymander (many Dem states have instituted non-partisan redistricting, so while Dems have gerrymandered in the past, they could not do so as strongly now if they win). The issue here is not what you think of Trump or the Democrats. Continued minority rule would make the country even more ungovernable. Something would have to give.

    Last time the north did not let them secede. This time, a constitutional amendment could be adopted defining a process for secession. Both blue and red states think they subsidize the other, so maybe both would go for it. Maybe some kind of free trade association could be formed, maybe even a currency union. But at some level, partisan gridlock in DC would be the driving force. The blue states could then easily adopt a single payer health care system while red states let poor people die in the gutter, and be free of regulations. We would need a big beautiful wall though. 😉

    and to @Patricia Mathews – the delete key is our friend. Fundraising habits have changed, but they have not gone away.

  238. John, I salute your lifestyle choices but don’t really agree overall. People don’t need to be perfect to change the world. They can change themselves while changing the world. Most of them cannot work at home and may live somewhere without decent public transit. That doesn’t mean there aren’t hypocrites out there, of course there are. Do you think those environmentalists in the 1970s all did without cars? Some did, and I know of some who do now. Where I live, my electricity is all hydro, my home heating is all hydro. My car is my only carbon consumption. The changes that you have described that hit starting around 1980 are why I think the kinds of things achieved then are not possible now. I used to work a bit with Ralph Nader and he talked a lot about how the political environment in DC changed, with members of both parties.

    As to being up to my eyeballs in political activity, at the moment maybe it is my chin right now, but it is early January and things are ramping up. My challenge is that at heart I’m a nature boy who wants to be out hiking and camping (or paying the piano when at home) and I’m going to have to give up a fair amount of that this year, and somehow still keep my sanity and my health. The last time I dug in real deep to politics, it did a number on my health. So I’ve got to figure that out. But I know how to listen to the signals from my body, so hopefully it will all work out.

  239. John–

    If I may ask, how do you manage your spiritual energy when dealing with the “world”? I realize that I am a raw novice, but even with cautious engagement with others (not on this forum, but elsewhere) in discussing the trajectory of the world and needed changes and the like, I find my energy sapped by folks who cannot and will not see and who, in turn, accuse me of not being able or refusing to see. How does one put ideas out into the world without encountering this drain? I mean, I understand that my particular suggested solutions may or may not work, but I am fairly confident of the general trajectory we are on (both the US specifically and industrial civilization generally) and when one cannot even agree that the US is an empire…

    I can stop engaging, of course, but then how am I doing any good? How can I evoke change in the world if I say nothing and simply let things fall apart out of ignorance? This begs the question, I suppose, of whether or not my saying anything will make a bit of difference anyway — I acknowledge that. But it feels so futile and selfish, just living my own life while everything collapses around me. How do you thread that needle in your own work?

  240. This is an excellent article in The Guardian on depression, but the reason I am linking to it is this bit about how depression has increased in part due to meaningless and hated work and how the solution was syndicalism:

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections

    I found the beginnings of an answer to the epidemic of meaningless work – in Baltimore. Meredith Mitchell used to wake up every morning with her heart racing with anxiety. She dreaded her office job. So she took a bold step – one that lots of people thought was crazy. Her husband, Josh, and their friends had worked for years in a bike store, where they were ordered around and constantly felt insecure, Most of them were depressed. One day, they decided to set up their own bike store, but they wanted to run it differently. Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. This meant they would make decisions collectively, they would share out the best and worst jobs and they would all, together, be the boss. It would be like a busy democratic tribe. When I went to their store – Baltimore Bicycle Works – the staff explained how, in this different environment, their persistent depression and anxiety had largely lifted.

    It’s not that their individual tasks had changed much. They fixed bikes before; they fix bikes now. But they had dealt with the unmet psychological needs that were making them feel so bad – by giving themselves autonomy and control over their work. Josh had seen for himself that depressions are very often, as he put it, “rational reactions to the situation, not some kind of biological break”. He told me there is no need to run businesses anywhere in the old humiliating, depressing way – we could move together, as a culture, to workers controlling their own workplaces.

  241. John–

    As a brief follow-up to my previous comment, during my mid-day meditation I did a quick, one figure geomantic reading. And you might have guessed the outcome — Carcer. Entirely appropriate, as I am prisoner to my own thoughts and mental patterns on this issue. The question is, of course, where did I put the key to the door?

  242. @Dean Meyerson

    Great analysis.

    @JMG and Ken4321

    This is a place where the 80-year cycle sheds some light on the situation.

    The mid-60s and the 70s were an Awakening period in the US. Awakening periods include a 10 to 15 year period where major changes occur and where major new movements start. This is why that time span had major environmental and civil rights legislation. It was the start of 2nd wave feminism and the New Age religions.

    Awakening periods also try to delegitimize the power structure that is trying to keep the disasters of the prior Crisis from reoccurring – the Depression in this case. That leads directly into the next phase, the Unraveling, which began with Ronald Regan’s election.

    The Boomers, who led the Awakening, got replaced by the next generation, Generation X in this case. The difference between the two generations could not be more stark, and their priorities could not be more different.

    I find this analysis much more useful than blaming a whole generation for abandoning the good fight. There are always remnants that keep the flame burning, but when the times shift, they shift.

    @JMG
    Re: Public transit

    People don’t take public transit because it takes too long. Experience in New York City when Uber and Lyft took over the taxi business show this very clearly: ridership on public transit is way down. People go for convenience. This is one of the habits that has to change to get any meaningful change.

  243. Dear Saturn’s Pet:
    I believe you have seriously under-estimated the power of what you call “teasing” by one’s peers. It is not teasing that we who are Boomers fear: it is the loss of our perceived worth in the ever-tightening marketplace. In a world where your personal connections are the only lifeline to the next temporary or underpaid contract job, your ‘teasing’ means being shut out of all consideration because you have “gone hippie” or because not having any debt makes you suspect in the eyes of government employers who see wild-eyed radicals under every leaf of cabbage you have homegrown. You, perhaps, think that ‘teasing’ is an ego threat. I am here to tell you that dissing and sneers are existential threats–the sounds one hears just before becoming homeless, foodless, and friendless in a contracting job market. I do not appreciate your shallower point of view because, as a non-driver who is ten years unemployed, I am one savings account away from slow death. As one of the many chronically underpaid females, my lifelong social ‘security’ benefit just about covers my rent. For food, heating, and all other expenses, I am entirely on my own. The 2008 Wall St. thieves used the short-selling technique that had been forbidden since the crash of 1929 to scoop up every penny of the mutual fund I was planning to use for my retirement. I had invested in a fund designed to be environmentally sound. My brokers ignored my concerns when I learned of the short-selling technique being re-legalized in July of 2007. So now, the reward my society has given me for being socially aware and environmentally responsible to the best of my ability is the prospect of an early death in dire poverty. That is what being a non-driver and an environmentalist has done for me. THAT is what Boomers with spouses and children are afraid of. Justly so. It is not a pleasant prospect. I can neither find work nor count on any human being to help me when my savings run out. Your own attitude is not especially comforting for me to contemplate.

  244. I want to second David by the Lake’s comment regarding feeling drained by the sheer cussed blindness of…well, it seems to be just about everyone else, really.

    A buddy of mine just returned from a 6 month bicycling trip from Georgia to NYC to California. Used to develop and test electronics for Tesla, before deciding that there didn’t seem to be a lot of value in that livelihood. I figured, this guy’s ready to talk about some big topics! So I tried…

    And I got the same tired “the next 30 years is going to be a really exciting time for self-driving vehicles and energy alternatives” reply, and blah, blah, blah.

    I had a conversation with my younger brother last summer who has his pilot’s license and owns 1/3 of a Piper airlane. You know, to save travel time. Brought up the idea that what makes a good airplane makes a terrible car, and vice versa. He totally agreed. And then without missing a beat said, “but we will have flying cars as soon as they get an operational self-driving electric platform on the market.”

    In both cases I was just left speechless. I dropped both of the conversations like hot potatoes, and said something obviously flabbergasted like “well, how ’bout them Dawgs?” (Meaning the Georgia Bulldogs.)

    Like David, I find these conversations really draining and hopeless. Would also love some advice. Thanks for giving us all so much of your time and energy.
    Tripp

  245. JMG – how far afield might the spirit of Chris’s dog travel before being reborn? I ask because I have a litter of puppies due here in 12-ish days – working dogs from working lines, a planned litter, in case anyone’s curious. I’m in your region – probably quite close to Austin from Ozmerst, being IN Ozmerst….

  246. I guess I am just broken hearted at what happened to the environmental movement. Back when Earth First! existed, it seemed like there were people that were really trying to protect wild places. Now the environmental movement is all but dead. All I hear now is that we need more solar panels. 360.org thinks we just need to divest from oil company stock. Well, I don’t have any investments and I’m pretty sure that all the colleges that divest find plenty of willing buyers for the stock, effectively changing nothing at all.

    Yes, the environmental movement made great strides in the early 70s – with a Republican president (Nixon) at the helm, no less. But again, where are they now? Will it really help if a few of us live simpler lives while everyone else has the pedal to the metal? Is it really enough to protect wild places in the First World only to export pollution to the Third? For the record, I have an incredibly tiny carbon footprint. Partly on purpose, partly due to circumstances.

    Just because I am cynical and bitter does not mean I am doing nothing at all. Nor does it mean that I think you should do nothing. I just don’t see much happening and see very little to be hopeful about. Please prove me wrong by starting an environmental movement in the USA that walks the talk and actually turns the tide.

  247. Regarding transportation issues…

    I sense a worrying trend here in San Francisco. I commute by bicycle and have been a long time member of a very successful organization, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, that has made great strides in improving infrastructure for cyclists in the city. However, lately it appears that fewer people are biking and instead are using ride sharing services like Uber. The bike lanes are effectively turning in to pickup and drop-off lanes for Uber and Lyft. I have no data to support this observation, but that’s what it looks like to me as I ride through the city.

    I also see Cruise self-driving cars everywhere. Again, excuse me for my cynicism, but things just seem to keep turning the wrong direction. I guess all you hopeful, sunny optimists are not living in an urban area like I am. It’s hard to feel positive when everyone around you is lost in rapture over a little tiny screen in their hands that they can never put down for even a moment. I see couples strolling through the city, not looking at this beautiful city or each other, but at their iPhones instead. What do these people care about nature other than as a backdrop for selfie shots to put on Facebook?

  248. Last time I lived in a big city that had bus service (about 10 years ago), lots of middle class people I knew used the bus and or metro, but mostly the bus, because it served many more areas. Most of the political activists I knew, and I knew a lot because I worked with them, did not own a car, and this will vary by city. Like I said, there are always hypocrites, and public transit is not practical for all people, even in a city. But I think making blanket statements about people these days vs 50 years ago is not fair or accurate.

    @ John Roth – very good points. I also think the environmental movement early on had easy pickings, the low hanging fruit. Getting rivers cleaned up when they are catching fire is a lot easier than dealing with emissions that don’t smell or have any obvious impact to the individual here and now. Also, the polluters had time to counter attack, and they did so very successfully.

    Another key problem is that many environmentalists do not culturally identify well with the worst victims of pollution. This makes divide and conquer a very successful strategy for polluters. Many environmental groups have tried to deal with this, but it isn’t easy. Sometimes they are snobs, but rural people aren’t free of their own prejudices. Coalition building among the 99% is always a difficult challenge. People need to get past expecting everybody to think and act and look like they do if they ever expect to win. It just isn’t possible. They need to meet you half way and you need to meet them half way. But the hardest coalitions are the most valuable ones.

  249. @ Dean Myerson…

    What planet do you live on where people only die in the gutter in republican states? I did see the wink, but then again, I am not sure exactly what the wink referenced, hence my question…

    I disagree on the premise that it will be the old north/south divide. Things are more complex than that in terms of wealth distribution (where the left and right coasts seem to have quite the abundance of millionaires), in terms of possibilities (who can feed themselves amongst our states or groups of states), the power grid (who can generate their own power), very much in terms of natural resources (where the west has most) and in petroleum refining (where the Gulf States have a near-monopoly).

    While it may seem to be something entirely socially or politically oriented, when it comes down to the brass tacks of which states can actually AFFORD to secede, those items critical to maintaining civilization we are comfortable within will come to bear a helluva a lot more significance than our political or social differences. Those are items that will need to be changed or sacrificed to form the new entity.

    And then there is the entire debt issue – who gets to leave the national debt behind when they secede? Because if the new entity has to carry their share of that burden, then things get really problematic. I am quite sure that alone would take the OMB and congress years to decide…

    And what happens to US military bases in the face of secession? There are quite a few across the country…

    The list of things that must be considered is long when the rubber approaches the road of secession.

    So, outside of social and political issues, have you thought much about the mechanics of forming a new country from within an older one? And USSR is not the best model to follow here…

    @ JMG & John Roth…

    Public transit needs a massive overhaul. Here in Houston, they built a single rail transit line. It goes from the Medical Center to downtown. There is very little purpose for this route, as the people actually making that commute are minimal compared to the suburban commuters. Many call it the ‘transit from not here to nowhere’. I am sure there are other places with similar wastes, and subway lines that run 24/7 mostly empty as well.

    I don’t think there will be any move in any state to develop mass transit that works until the price of gasoline becomes unaffordable. Things will just muddle along as they are, since most state and municipal governments are facing pension funding issues across the country, my state being one of them. Again, a reinstatement of the 55 MPH speed limit will be the indicator that change has to happen. And I do not believe it will happen until there is a crisis – that’s the way gangs of humans operate.

    We built this country for trucks and cars, tearing down rather than improving our rail system. We are stuck with that unless there are trillions of dollars and the will to change it once again. Or….everything falls apart and we decide to do it better in 100 years, when economies are not contracting relentlessly.

  250. Oilman 2:

    May 5, 2018 will be the 48th annual “Green Up” day in Vermont, perhaps a legacy of the state’s 1970’s hippie culture. Every town, city, and village in the state coordinates the local citizenry to clean up. Our village has a few hundred residents and only a small percentage choose to participate, but the village coordinator has the whole place mapped out and assigns volunteers to clean up each part. Not only do we pick up trash from roadsides and public areas, but we clear out all the dead plants and leaves from the garden and woods by the town hall. It’s actually a pleasant event, a great way to meet and check in on neighbors after a cold winter, and afterwards we have a pot luck lunch at our town hall. I don’t see why other states or localities couldn’t organize something similar if the interest is there.

    I agree with your criticism of the plastic grocery store bags. Not only are they difficult to recycle, but they are now made so cheaply that only with luck can you manage to get anything out of the store before they tear. We bring our own cardboard cartons along when we need to shop; not only can we avoid the bags, but the boxes are easier to lift and carry and require fewer trips to bring things into the house.

  251. Onething – the cheapest way to get window quilts is to buy a set of clip-on curtain rod rings and some quilted fabric . Cut fabric to the window size plus a bit, edge with binding tape or else hem it, clip on rings. If the window isn’t rigged for common curtains, but a set of brackets and either a rod that fits those brackets, or a dowel from a home improvement store that fits into those brackets, plus stoppers for the ends of the rod – like the things on the ends of canes. Or just wind a bunch of duct tape around the ends of the rods.

    If we get a big freeze this winter, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll need to get someone to put up the brackets and rods on three of the windows, because neither my balance nor my hand strength is good.

    Hope this helps,

    Pat

  252. @ Saturns Pet…

    Fear of being teased? Bust my head off and call me fatso, but it seems like wherever it is you live, you are surrounded by some very rare types. The boomers that are in your vision are NOT middle class.

    The boomers you must be viewing are on TV, because most of us are rapidly selling our assets off to survive and been dialing our lifestyles waay back for over a decade. The reason for this is in GKB’s post above, and we are NOT happy about having our pensions pillaged. Not only because of what it does to us, but it also disallows us to pass on any generational wealth to our kids. The current situation is likely to be the biggest transfer of wealth ever seen, when analyzed in 50 years. A direct transfer from pension participants to central banking institutions!

    We are also looking at our SS checks being insufficient to live on, even with a paid for home, and we have paid in far more than the previous generation. A home may be paid for, but property taxes never go away or even go down – only up. I know many who lost their homes due to taxes, and thus they do not get to leave even that small boon to their kids.

    If you go have a look at who is living in RV parks, you will find the majority of them are boomers or gen x’ers – because they cannot afford much of anything working low paying jobs – most of what is offered to those over 50 these days. Fifty is far from elderly these days, but we are nonetheless being squeezed out of jobs by various HR policies and algos, all quite legal of course.

    “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” – Hubert Humphrey

    Being closer to the exit than you, I can attest that you reap what you sow – thus it might behoove you to think about what you wrote and the assumptions you have made.

  253. I do see quite a few Evangelical Protestant Christians moving to the left. Catholics are doing the same, though many of them have been on the left for quite some time. It does seem, however, that these moves to the political left are often accompanied by the rejection of traditional Christian orthodoxy. I don’t think this is inevitable for everyone, but several of my friends and acquaintances have done this. Are these people moving to the left because they are Christians or because they are slowly leaving their Christian faith behind?

    This reminds me of your Death of God post from September. People lose their belief that God is really there, and they stop getting their morals and political beliefs from alleged divine revelation. Instead, social norms and their own reason hold more sway.

  254. @Chris,
    my canine friends have meant as much to me as human, and not all of them were ones I “owned”. When two souls connect, species differences are trifling…

  255. From the side of the Atlantic, it looks like climate change means the Arctic is moving to somewhere near north america eastern coast…or is it normal to have such winter weather twice in three years?
    I suspect you predictions will prove to be quite accurate, one year from now, but I will be very surprised if your military would be challenged in the next five years (North Korea doesn’t count, a crazy terrified country is very dangerous, but no much for you).
    Happy new year for all!

  256. Dear onething, When I moved from CA to NY, the movers left behind some of their furniture pads, which I did not find till several years later, after I had thrown away my receipts and forgotten the name of the company. So I now have furniture blankets, which I am cutting down to make window coverings. An exacto knife or razor blade works just fine so there is no need to ruin one’s sewing scissors. There is a technique for folding decorative fabrics around pieces of cardboard and stapling. Those could maybe be fitted into window frames. “Fabric tiles”, as they are called, are patented by the same folks who now own the patent on fortuny pleating, so one wouldn’t want to try to sell them.

    Dear Christopher Henningson, ‘Manifest Destiny’ was a slogan used to, among other things, sell and justify the Mexican-American War. I recall that in the months before the attack on Iraq, a friend of mine, a devout Catholic Christian and in most respects a lovely and kind person, was all for Bush’s war. “What about those poor people?”, she said. Those poor people had been getting along just fine during the 20 or so years of Hussein’s rule. I thought that if they wanted him removed, they could do so themselves.

    Convince folks that it is their duty to go rescue suffering humanity from vile oppressors on the other side of the globe, and off they go. I wish I knew how this could be ended. Try to argue, you are an unpatriotic leftist so and so. Try to point out that interventions never end well, that they attract a swarm of predators of all kinds, that they leave devastation behind and you might as well be talking to the proverbial wall, you smarty pants stuck up elitist you. Us ordinary folks, they will say, we know our duty and by gum if you don’t know yours, at least get out of the way of your betters.

  257. @Dean, I remember reading somewhere that if Jefferson Davis had called for a Constitutional Convention to discuss the orderly departure of the South, he would have had a very good chance of splitting off the Confederate States at that time.
    A Constitutional Convention can be called at any time with the proper number of states agreeing to it, and it does not require the participation of any branch of the US Federal Government. In fact, we may be very close to getting one. Here’s a link;

    https://www.newsmax.com/US/constitutional-convention-Boehner-balanced-budget/2014/04/11/id/565155/

    Once the Convention is called, everything is on the table and no rules apply. The States can decide to split or disband the USA, rewrite the constitution entirely, sell New England to Canada and give California and Texas back to Mexico, if they want. So the mechanism for doing all the things you discussed is already in place. It would just be extremely unpredictable.

    A Constitutional Convention would be a REAL Black Swan!

  258. @ Tripp

    At least you have the good sense to drop the conversations. Me? I’m more of one those stubborn folks who believes that if they slam their head against that brick wall one more time and just a bit harder that they’ll finally break through. Because logic.

  259. So here’s a possible Black Swan, building on E. Goldstein’s recent comment.

    Suppose a sufficient number of states call for a constitutional convention, settle when and where to hold it, and choose delegates to it. The Comvention meets and, after all due deliberation, actually does dissolve the United States. The Federal Government and the entire Civil Service then ignore the Convention’s action completely, as if it were merely the play of fanciful children in a sandbox. The Executive Branch continues to collect taxes, maintain the armed forces and enforce Federal laws, declaring martial law where needed to do this. Congress continues to meet and occasionally to act. Federal courts continue to try violations of Federal law and enforce their sentences on the convicted. And so forth. Who among us would have seen that coming, or prepared for it?

  260. @Ray Wharton: Thank you. There is wisdom and ideas to follow up on in your comment “A Polemic Against Environmental Hypocrisy”.

    @Beekeeper in Vermont It’s nice that you have this cooperative cleanup effort in your community. One word of caution though: “but we clear out all the dead plants and leaves from the garden and woods by the town hall.” Dead plants and leaves have a role in the life cycle of a forest or a wood as a habitat for creatures, unlike the human-engendered waste stream of plastic materials and synthetic products that simply smother and poison Nature.

  261. @Robert,
    that scenario would never happen b/c the “little people” tasked w/enforcing the elite, would never do it. Read JMG’s Twilight. The power the elite have is b/c the grunts tasked w/enforcing the system say “how high?” when the elite says “jump!”, once the little people say “frack you!”, things unravel in a hurry (see East Germany, Soviet Union, British in the Sinai, etc.)

  262. @ Robert Mathieson

    That isn’t how it would work — the convention can’t do anything but propose amendments to the states for consideration. It would take 38 states’ ratification to enact any proposed amendment. In the face of that kind of support, it would be deadly for a federal government’s legitimacy to ignore the law. And a convention needn’t propose dissolving the country to do good; just rolling back federal power and/or enabling legal secession would be sufficient.

  263. @ All

    re secession

    There was a comment above pointing out some of the issues that would have to be addressed when providing a pathway for secession — national debt, US property, etc. I agree. Here is my proposed framework:

    Proposed Amendment #7 (Secession)

    Article 1. A State may elect to secede from the Union established by this Constitution.

    Article 2. A State shall affect its secession by a resolution of a two-thirds majority of its legislature, subsequently ratified by a two-thirds majority of a State referendum.

    Article 3. A seceding State shall assume its proportion of the national debt as of the date of the ratifying referendum, that proportion being equal to that State’s proportion of the national population as calculated by the most recent decadal census.

    Article 4. Any property of the United States within the territory of a seceding State as of the date of the ratifying referendum shall become the property of the seceding State.

    Article 5. Any former State, upon seceding, that desires to reinstate its membership in this Union must request admission as a State by Congress.

  264. Violet wrote;
    “Some psychiatric medication that has been prescribed recklessly for years is recalled, to public scandal, for creating progressive worsening of mental symptoms; either dementia or some form of pernicious madness.”

    Hi Violet–Sadly this one has already come to pass. The class of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI’s–Nexium, Pantoprazole, Omeprazole, etc) is associated with increased risk of dementia and chronic kidney disease in the elderly, as well as bone thinning when used for more than 6 months. Here’s a link;

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/heartburn-drugs-ppi-prilosec-nexium-prevacid-risk-of-dementia/

    The official indication for all of these is short-term use, but many seniors in the US and Canada have been on Rxs for these for many years.

  265. Tripp and David,

    First. If you really want to change people’s minds you need to remember that their arguments are all based on two specific emotional legs – hope and fear. Your arguments also stand on those legs. To undermine their fear you give them your hope, to undermine their hope you give them your hope. You can’t give them give them fear, only hope.

    Second. Stop acting like treating logic like hammers. Your logic is like water, it must wear away at the mountain slowly, one grain at the time. Each time you find a crack remember it for the next time.

    Third. None of this will work on the internet.

    Regards,

    Varun

  266. I think this counts as a black swan sighting, subspecies resource depletion: running out of sand suitable for making concrete.

    “The amount of concrete used by China in the last four years is equal to the quantity used by the USA in 100 years,” Peduzzi said.

    https://sptnkne.ws/gxCG

    Bonus: it links to another article claiming the US Navy has a shortage of ships.
    https://sptnkne.ws/ggek

  267. Hi John, Emile here (youngest son of Guenn Eona Nimue). She passed away recently. Interesting blog you have here…. I’ll follow it.

  268. JMG, I know you do have the next few posts planned, but may you consider making at some point a set of predictions in the format of

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/01/06/predictions-for-2017/ and
    http://www.unz.com/akarlin/new-year-predictions-for-2017/ , which were later rated in

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/02/2017-predictions-calibration-results/ and
    http://www.unz.com/akarlin/prediction-calibration-results-2017/

    ? I find the format useful, and beating those guys might earn you some more attention (sure … next year 😛 ).

    Sorry for the enormously late reply elsewhere.

  269. For all the mainstream media hysteria about Trump, I think his presidency has been pretty uneventful so far. Once you get past the hype, very little has happened…

  270. @Oilman,
    the 55 MPH speed limit was the most violated law since prohibition, and accomplished very little. Actual fuel savings was less than 1%, and something like over 90% of all gasoline is burnt on roads w/speed limits that are already 55 or lower, so its effects are muted, even if people are willing to obey it, which they clearly are not. The way to get people to burn less gas is thru a high sin tax on gasoline that is reinvested into less wasteful means of transportation, like rail and public transit, etc.–the way Europe does it. Europe burns way less gasoline and has way more transit options, even though its speed limits are equal to or higher than the US (nonexistent on parts of the German autobahn), but Europeans pay way more for gas than Americans…

  271. @Robert,
    part of the reason why Trump will never be impeached or otherwise removed from office, and stands a good chance of being reelected absent a transformation of the Democratic party, is because he enjoys the overwhelming support of the rank-and-file of law enforcement and the military, and his red state supporters are so well armed. This is why the elite, particularly in the Republican party, will never impeach or remove him.

  272. Dominique Krayenbuhl:

    Not to worry! The gardens around the town hall are rather small, just foundation plantings. We cut back the previous year’s dead perennials’ stalks so that the plants have room to bloom again this year. The husband and I usually take the clippings home to compost – we’ve developed something of a reputation locally 😉 As for the ‘woods’, I should have been clearer: the part that is cleaned up is just the line of trees along the road so that the area looks neat and there aren’t any hidden tripping hazards for the kids that play there. Around our village there are acres and acres of forest per capita – it’s really rural – and nobody touches any of that. At our farm, we have also left all of the hedgerows and colonial-era stone walls intact and there is an amazing variety of creatures who live in there.

    Patricia Matthews:

    When we were renters and had to be careful about how many holes we put in the walls, I made my quilted window covers a few inches longer than necessary, sewed casings on the top and bottom, then used the inexpensive tension rods that one can find at nearly any of the big box stores. Instead of hanging in front of the windows, they hung inside the window molding. Simple to install, simple to remove and we did not have to put in hardware to damage the woodwork – no heavy construction necessary. Something like this might be easier for you to manage, too.

  273. @oilman2 – I think the issue regarding “dying in the gutter” is not just where it is happening, but where there is a genuine effort to prevent it.

    @oilman2 and @e goldstein – And I did refer to an amendment to define secession. I am sure it would be difficult, but at least the complexities could be addressed. But I don’t really see a convention as that big of a black swan under the current circumstances, because no matter how crazy or radical or innovative the results are, it still needs 38 states to ratify it. The only things that could get ratified now would be common sense and non-threatening. Maybe we could get something to prevent gerrymandering, maybe something to reform senate nomination approvals.

    Since most of the amendment process treats states equally, not proportional by population, and conservatives dominate state count (and I ain’t no conservative), I don’t have a lot of hope for constitutional amendments. But at least there are enough lefty states to prevent things I think are crazy.

  274. Black swan event for North America: Plague of Locusts (although infrequent, probably not a black swan event elsewhere in the world)

    The destruction caused by these pests, as described in ‘With the Turks in Palestine’ is mind-boggling:
    “…Not only was every green leaf devoured, but the very bark was peeled from the trees, which stood out white and lifeless, like skeletons. The fields were stripped to the ground…..”; “…Nothing was spared. The insects, in their fierce hunger, tried to engulf everything in their way. I have seen Arab babies, left by their mothers in the shade of some tree, whose faces had been devoured by the oncoming swarms of locusts before their screams had been heard. I have seen the carcasses of animals hidden from sight by the undulating, rustling blanket of insects…”. (see reference 1, below).

    Now, according to Wikipedia (reference 2 below) a locust plague simply can’t happen in North America since there are no longer any swarming locusts therein. And of course, locusts from elsewhere couldn’t possibly have been accidently introduced…

    1 – Re: Locust plague during WWI, described in chapter 7. Available through Project Gutenberg.
    NOTE – NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT. Okay, downright offensive in parts; nevertheless, an interesting account from the times.
    Title: With the Turks in Palestine Author: Alexander Aaronsohn
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10338/10338-h/10338-h.htm#CH7

    2 – “North America is currently the only continent besides Antarctica without a native locust species. The Rocky Mountain locust was formerly one of the most significant insect pests there, but it became extinct in 1902. In the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl, a second species of North American locust, the High Plains locust (Dissosteira longipennis) reached plague proportions in the American Midwest. Today, the High Plains locust is a rare species and no longer swarms, leaving North America with no swarming locusts.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locust

    Mother Earth is very angry.

  275. Beekeeper – thanks! Three of my windows are small enough that nobody makes tension rods that small, but perhaps wrapping fabric around a windshield sunscreen? Cardboard ones are truly cheap.

    Pat

  276. Another reason the 55 National Speed Limit’s effects were so limited is because people drastically cut back discretionary, long distance travel (long road trips) when gas prices spike–so travel on high speed, long distance roadways like the Interstates is cut way back, regardless of posted speed limit.

  277. @David, by the lake: Yes, I know; I was simplifying the process a lot to make my post as brief as I could. What I was imagining as a Black Swan was a full-blown, properly implemented, fully legal dissolution of the Federal Government that was simply ignored by the hordes of faceless bureaucrats who make up the Civil Service, all the way up in the Federal Government almost as high as the members of the President’s Cabinet. Thus presupposes that the Top Brass of the US military goes along with that and keeps the money flowing to pay the salaries of said bureaucrats — whether under martial law, or simply by brute force.

    @Shane W: I’ve read JMG’s _Twilight’s Last Gleaming_ a couple of times. It’s a novel, not holy writ. (I’ve also given copies of it to about a half-dozen friends who I suppose would find it instructive or thought-provoking. Most of them are imigrants from Eastern Europe, or well-informed children of such immigrants, so they’ve found it familiar ground.)

    Anyway, a true Black Swan event has to have seemed unthinkable or next-to-impossible until it happens. Otherwise it’s not a true Black Swan event. Hence my suggested Back Swan.

  278. My (rather late) submission for the black swan contest is the possibility of large protests in Mexico spiralling out of control due to a mishandling of them by the Mexican government. The protests in question might be sparked either by electoral fraud (or worse) in this year’s presidential race against the populist, anti-establishment, left-leaning candidate who is currently leading in the polls, or by a drastic rise in oil prices. A 20% increase in gas prices around this time last year due to the government cutting subsidies was met with nationwide protests, so I imagine an even bigger increase, possibly caused by some other black swan event in the middle east, might spark something bigger.

  279. Dean Myerson, you said, “I think the issue regarding “dying in the gutter” is not just where it is happening, but where there is a genuine effort to prevent it.”

    In other words, you prefer the places where your tribe, liberals/progressives, talk an awful lot about how they (oh, the wonderful them!) are so compassionate towards the poor and homeless and do so much to help them, unlike those evil, bigoted red-staters! They then promptly go and enact policies that worsen wealth inequality and increase poverty and homelessness, to the point where some very liberal cities are now spraying their streets with bleach, in an attempt to contain a hepatitis outbreak caused by vast numbers of the homeless crapping in the streets for lack of access to proper facilities.

    That doesn’t happen where I live. Here, people are a lot less likely to be homeless because our cost of living is more reasonable. If someone does happen to become homeless, their family and community will help them. We don’t outsource our compassion to government bureaucrats who don’t care.

  280. OK, here’s my Black Swan, one of them–

    Prez Trump is aggravated by the progress of de facto marijuana legalization. He orders his Atty General to make an example of someone in California. The AG passes the order down to Federal Agents in California, but when they attempt to coordinate efforts with local Cali law enforcement, they are told that California will not cooperate.
    While most of the upper level Feds are communicating this back to Wash DC, one agent heads over to one of the new recreational pot stores. There is a huge line of calm people waiting in line to buy pot. The agent goes to the front of the line, grabs a 54 year old woman by the arm as she is purchasing some pot, shows his badge and loudly proclaims, “You are under arrest for violating Federal Marijuana Laws.” However,

    1) She is a well-known pillar of the community.
    2) She has a state license to buy marijuana to treat the nausea and pain from her cancer.

    The crowd will not let the agent leave. He pulls a gun, there is a struggle where, fortunately for him, no one gets shot and the only result is that the agent is beaten by the crowd until his arrest by California Police.

    3) The Feds insist that the MJ arrest must still take place and demand charges against the crowd.
    4) California charges the Agent, and declares that there will be no charge against any crowd member.
    5) Trump declares all Federal funding suspended to California.
    6) California declares it illegal for Cali residents to pay Federal Taxes, seizing them for its own use.
    7) Trump freezes bank accounts of Cali residents.
    8) California suspends all food shipments to elsewhere in the United States. Deals made with China.
    9) After additional arrogant stupidity, in less than a year, California secedes from the Union joined by Washington State, Colorado, Oregon, and Idaho. Texas secedes too, but as a separate entity.
    10) China and Russia recognize the new “Bear Star Republic” and exchange ambassadors, with California agreeing to use the new “Gold Renminbi” currency internally and for international trade.
    11) Food becomes very, very expensive in the Eastern US, what with the new tariffs and US Dollar collapse, and all. Getting Lettuce on your Big Mac doubles the price.
    12) The remaining US states vote for a Constitutional Convention….

    …And there you have it. Black Swan accomplished, and with a much smaller degree of stupidity than we have already seen from our politicians.

  281. @ Shane W…

    Politicians are NOT creative or pro-active. They are, for the most part, unrepentant plagiarists and reactive. Those qualities are a large part of why we find ourselves in this current state of affairs.

    Therefore, they will very likely REVIVE the 55 MPH limit because it is NOT something new, and can therefore be sold with less effort. As I lived during this period, it was enforced because the local police made big money enforcing it. As with any law, enforcement can only be haphazard due to limited LEO numbers. Witness the “war on drugs” as prima facie evidence for that, or your own example, Prohibition.

    @ Dean Myerson…

    I will not take the time to search for articles, but there are more than enough of them regarding homeless deaths in blue states to make your point that it is primarily in red states invalid. That it happens at all is quite a testament to how far removed our government is from serving those in need. Over-reliance on government solutions, which are rarely efficient or equally applied, is not the answer – the present being sufficient witness.

    Looking at the divisions of red and blue as they exist today (I am neither), a ConCon is unlikely to produce anything at all. It is, however, a HUGE opportunity for the monied interests to change some key nouns or phrases of our governing documents. The courts will do the rest in interpreting these tiny changes. American politicians are the best money can buy – overseas and corporate interests have been buying them for generations, after all.

    Further, having a ConCon is primarily to fix what people perceive as wrong, not to sort out a way for states to depart the union. Bringing up secession is unlikely to evoke much in the way of changes to ease any state leaving the rest of the country.

  282. E. Goldstein, your black swan event is a quite nice one! However, the problem with black swans generally is that they deal with events which nobody predicts. Since the black swans offered here are thus necessarily already out in the open as theoretical possibilities, there are in reality no true black swans, until something which nobody predicted or talked about has already happened. The black swans offered here would thus in realty be gray swans.

  283. J.L.Mc12 posted an article about independent city-states forming within Mexico. Interesting article, but did anyone else who read it get the feeling that this paragraph was inserted, in neon colors, by an outside propagandist attempting to undermine the idea of secession?

    “But beneath the calm is a town under tightfisted control, enforced by militias accountable only to their paymasters. Drug addiction and suicide are soaring, locals say, as the social contract strains.”

    The rest of the article was about kicking out the government and THE DRUG CARTELS, and taking their tight-knit farming community back.

    Thank you, New York Times, for always playing your role of official propagandist – sorry, I meant paper of record – so faithfully.

  284. Patricia Matthews:

    Glad to help! Actually, we reduced the size of several tension rods by taking them apart – there aren’t that many parts and these rods are not of complicated construction – then trimming the rod parts down to the size we needed before reassembling them. That might have been more difficult in the past when things were manufactured to be sturdy, but sturdiness is not an issue when you buy stuff at big box stores anymore. The first one did not look pretty, but we got the hang of it and the others have been in use for years. Your idea of cardboard should work, too, as long as you cut it so that it will fit snugly inside the window frame without falling out all the time; at our house we always have to make things cat resistant, because the little darlings are more devious than toddlers.

  285. @booklover–If you foresaw it then it wasnt a Black Swan– Ah yes! But that’s most of the fun of a Black Swan contest!😉

  286. @oilman2, @Saturns Pet:

    Remember, part of the issue of collapse is that any and all ways to protect yourself from the future’s negative effects can fail badly. So:

    • A person saving for the future ends up losing their savings to neglect, thievery and the simple inability of a trusted other to invest a suddenly-needed distrust in markets.
    • A rural organic farmer who works his land properly and makes friends with the locals loses his crops and land because a nearby farmer sprays his land with Monsanto’s “newest” herbicide – an old formula that makes Roundup look safe and organic in comparison.
    • A husband and wife have ten successful children – and none of them come to help in their hour of need, leaving them to RV across the country for Amazon jobs to make it to next month.

    One can prepare, but sometimes doo-doo happens, and while there’s always something that can be found in one’s actions to blame sometimes fate just takes over to the point where we’re not even allowed to react – and we’re coming HARD upon such a time.

  287. Ah, the Black Swan that can be spoken of is not a Black Swan! (Apologies to Lao Tsu). As soon as you say it, write about it, or even think about it, it is no longer unforeseen! Therefore, a ‘potential Black Swan’ enumerating exercise is a non-starter! 😉

  288. @ Godozo…

    For those of us having collapsed already, the times you speak of are here. It comes down to selecting the lest awful or least painful way to carry on. Those living in RV parks have already crashed on a rocky shoal and are trying to get on. There are many ways these shoals destroy the past ways of being. Fortunately, there are ever growing numbers surviving the shoals, and thus helping hands.

  289. Onething,

    I bought them from Window Quilt of Brattleboro, VT. windowquilt.com They were expensive, yes, but were within the budget we set out. I consider it a long term investment.

    A few considerations in the decision were that I intend to have them for many years (hopefully decades). Also I got room darkening, which was something needed anyway. Most important perhaps was they came with built in vapor barrier. Making my own is beyond my capabilities at this time, especially with a built in vapor barrier. (I am still working in the corporate world, so I am longer on money and shorter on time.) The craftsmanship is solid in my opinion.

    I ordered the basic panel quilt, which is the least expensive. It’s possible to put decorative curtains over this kind if you’re a bit clever about it, although I find the basic panel quilt to be handsome in a plain way. Hope this helps.

  290. @sgage, it’s more of a Zen thang–
    It came to me as I meditated on the sound of one Black Swan’s Wing flapping….

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  292. Sir, the basic disconnect from historical information is that the velocity of information in our current times has increased significantly while the ability to understand the abstract patterns has decreased significantly. Therefore when people don’t immediately understand a pattern relationship, they arbitrarily dismiss the concepts that have been presented. This is further complicated by an over abundance of information, and a global society that lacks training or inclination to do anything more than engage in bias conformation. Or to put it rather crudely: there is so much crap information that has hit the internet rotary air mover that most people are fixated on the splattered manure on the walls and reading the patterns like tea leaves, and seeing images of Elvis.

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Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss . Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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