Monday, September 8, 2008

The storm has hit. . .

Looks like I bought a house today. Too bad I'll never get a chance to see it.

Watching the financial markets today is more interesting and exciting than watching the NFL.

I'm pretty much going to drop the Commonstrike blog, more info on this later in the day.

So this is where I'm heading: Sensible Simplicity

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July.

A thoughful one, at least for those that think, with oil at 145, unemployment rising rapidly, rumors that neither GM nor Chrysler will survive the year, and Budwiser to be sold overseas.

Worth a read.

As well.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hello Mr, Wolf, won’t you please sit down?

Just a few thoughts.

As we come off the peak of what may well be the greatest period of wealth the world may ever see, it is interesting to see what it is we have gained in terms of standard of living, the hypothetical(if you can afford it)quality of health care, relative(for the moment) security, and a host of marvelous tools, machines, and technological gadgets. Most of these things are good for the most part, and while we can continue to afford them we will enjoy their benefits, no denying.

It is as important as well, to see what we have lost. Many things for sure. Privacy for one, as the same technological gadgets we enjoy aid snoopy meddlesome folk in the extreme. The ecology of the world has all been shot, and the Mother Goose of Nature that laid golden eggs has mostly been slaughtered, to the point where those who are caught up in the Neo-back to the land movement should stop and really consider how viable a vision that is, especially in the face of unpredictable climate disruption. Individual Sovereignty as envisioned by Enlightenment political thinkers has more or less been tossed out, with the State being asserted in most every manner, and with the rising power of Corporate power the individual is more or less powerless in fact to resist even the most mundane of affronts and injustices. Don’t think so? Try to combat an erroneous charge on your bank statement. . .

Still, I think perhaps the most dangerous thing we have lost is a sense of community, and especially community responsibility. That notion perhaps exemplified in the Amish tradition of “Barn raising,” an incontestable display of “take care of your neighbor”--where within the community exists the value that one should be COMPELLED to care for your neighbors, that good neighbors are valuable, and good neighbors in tern will take care of you. Unfortunately, wealth has given many the luxury of independence, and many have never learned the skills of “getting along” in the human community and its many social contracts--even within most families--most relationships and marriages in fact-- the bonds of mutual responsibility are pretty thin. That may feel liberating while things are good and life is easy, but there is quite a skill in people knowing how and that they can rely on each other in hard times that is GREATLY undervalued. Community spirit isn’t so much taking up causes that you value when in your free time--that is simply indulgent dilettante ethics borne of affluence. Community spirit is taking on the causes that are NOT fashionable, nor fun--and taking them on when it’s inconvenient or frankly a hassle.

This may well become a major difficulty here in Hawaii, as there is a fair amount of bad blood and alienation floating around, there are strong racial and economical factions here, there are strong cultural factions as well. We need to get beyond this. The population here is too small, and our location is far too remote from the rest of the world to indulge in the luxury of “not relying on each other.” Self-sufficiency is a myth--and as one who has studied homesteading and frontier lifestyles extensively I will have to say that the single largest cause I can identify with failure is alienation and lack of community support.

As far as I can see we as a world, and as an island face some very very difficult times in the relative near future. We are simply not prepared for resource scarcity and the rising costs that we will be facing in the next 3 - 5 years. Most of the suggestions for short term remedies we see may have been sensible 15 years ago, but today we need real solutions, and those solutions unfortunately are lacking. I don’t believe those solutions exist. Our lifestyles are likely to change radically, and this is going to create a good deal of individual difficulty and outright suffering here--and as one with a lot of skills to share I’d like to be positively proactive in building real meaningful social networks that will allow our area to weather these difficulties in “relative” ease. Hawaii has a lot going for it in many ways, and has a tradition of pretty easy living. So does the grand experiment of Sea-steading. Let’s not let that relative easy lure us into the complacency that may well entrap the rest of the world.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


As I've come to say a lot lately--a pessimist does not plant trees.

Actually, part and parcel of the vision I see for the future--with the collapse of affluent human society, climatic destruction, and a tend towards overt neo-feudalism--as part of this process SO many people are going to take such a beating that there is simply NO WAY that the cultural values now in place will survive. That trend is already occurring among the "newly maturing." Those under the age of 20 hold a radically different perspective towards their future than those of my age. They are, to my mind, best described as complacently hopeless, simply willing to take on without resistance the semi-feral future that awaits for them. Of course, this attitude is still an attitude born of relative affluence, as no one who has ever gone hungry is complacent ever again. . .but I certainly signal that as the beginning of what one might call "the revaluation of all values."

This will be uncharted territory, but by a quarter way through this century I'm certain that any semi-conscious semi-informed person alive will be unable to feel anything other than having been royally, thoroughly, ruggedly screwed over. They will feel that they've been lied to at every turn, insulted, manipulated, marketed, fucked over so completely that the sense of distrust towards any and all expert opinions or authority figures will be unprecedented. And of course this attitude will be completely justified. This will be a very dangerous time, as far as I can see, but ultimately Hobbesian ethics will prevail--and to avoid a life that is "nasty, brutish, and short" a sense of community will arise, if for no other reason than it will be impossible to survive without--but I tell you, people will really give the stink-eye to anyone who is remotely sketchy, unclear, or underhanded in their motives.


If there is anything I thoroughly despise about culture as it exists is the utter depraved dishonesty of it. The surest and fastest way to find alienation is to speak the truth: the fastest way to finding acclaim is to fake it. Don't you dare do anything on your own, for real. That makes others look stupid and they won't appreciate it. Be sure you demand nothing of anyone. Virtue has been turned on its head: the latin term "vertus" in its day meant nothing other than explicitly manly values--to speak the truth, to shoot well with arrows. Today, virtue is equated with effete, non-confrontational sentimentalism--good natured but harmless. It will be obvious that this has served no one.

One of the more interesting predictions I've heard so far, from Kunstler: "this will be the year that conspicuous consumption goes underground." I think he's a little bit ahead of the curve, but it's bound to happen at some point, as it's going to be far more likely to bring you a bullet than admiration.

Ah well, a little rave here waiting for the rain to clear so I can buck up a little more timber. The garden here is growing so fast I can actually see it. Thanks you guys for the robust camaraderie. Dennis especially, I enjoy that direct and straightforward unrepentant gun-toting liberalism. I wish we had more of a chance to shoot the shit before I moved out of Bellingham. Maybe October!

Friday, May 2, 2008

This is nuts. . .

Reading the financial news daily, mostly I read the macro finance stuff off of Bloomberg or Mish's link at the bottom of the page. Jesus. . .if you were going to diagnose the "mood of the markets" at this point you could only say that you were dealing with a undedicated manic/depressive paranoid schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder.

The Fed and the Treasury want to "restore investor confidence." You do, eh? Right.

If there is anything that wholly destroys investor confidence it is fucking around with financial policy. Once you start bailing out banks(bear sterns) that simply screwed up and should by rights fold at whatever cost, when congress starts talking about linking foreclosures with jail time, and all sorts of fiddling with the economy--while you screw with and devalue a nation's currency--you create an environment of utter uncertainty in which any informed investor will simply sit on the sidelines. Or invest in whiskey and ammunition. Uncertainty is not risk. Risk involves a calculated chance: with uncertainty you have no means of judging what's coming at you. And any prudent investor or businessman never takes chances with uncertainty. This alone will have a profound impact on the economy as a whole.

For those of us who have lived very prudent financial lives, we especially are very pissed off. Those of us who didn't speculatively borrow during the housing boom, as it was fucking obviously unsustainable, or elsewise, and didn't get ourselves in a hole, thinking perhaps we'll buy in when the bubble bust, as it did, will now look at a situation in which government policy is only interested in protecting bad speculative behavior and devaluing the cash some of us have saved. That isn't funny in the slightest, and it will take a while for most of us to forget it.

The policy is clear. Protect the kleptocratic banking system, and devalue the dollar to shed the vast amount of unrecoverable debt that the US now holds. Those with a lot of money will hide their assets in Dubai and the rest of us can all go to hell. 5 years down the road these guys will come back, and buy up the remaining country for pennies on the dollar.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Accounting.

Have you ever stood on a precipice, quietly, and just contemplated the profundity of the moment? The place itself, with highly resolved definition, its obvious hazards and possibilities, forces a conception of a finely discrete moment in time. . .one MUST be aware.

I am halfway through the last year of my thirties, to the day. I've been in Hawaii for six months, to the week. The world heaves around me, with the first suggestion of a convulsion. It is food for thought for sure. Having walked Kilauea enough now I can surely see the signs.

Someone asked me the other day, taking note of the projects around the place: "Dude, you REALLY think the shit is going to hit the fan, don't you?"

I was a bit taken aback, actually. The shit HAS hit the fan. It's simply a matter now of the spray pattern, where one was lucky or unfortunate enough to be standing, and whether one ducked quick enough.

Are we not paying attention?

Oil is at 120, expert mainstream opinion suggests stability later in the year at 150-180.
In the last 12 months.
Wheat has quadrupled in price.
Corn tripled.
Rice quadrupled and even so, spot shortages occur now.
Copper tripled.
Aluminum doubled.
Molybdenum doubled.

Countrywide went bust.
Bear Sterns went bust.
Citigroup is near bust.
Ambac is near bust.
Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual--are all in dire situations as well.
Aloha Airlines dead in the water.
ATA dead in the water.
Others flounder.

The dollar has slid 30 percent in its buying power around the world.

The Fed has loaned out at giveaway rates 80 percent of all the capital it has available, more or less for the collateral equal in value to a sack of dirty socks.

Real estate values across the country(and Europe) have slid 25 or so percent, experts call for another 20. There's 1.1 trillion dollars of home equity loans out on that crap.

Consumer Confidence Index at record lows. No damn doubt!

Bush has taken up singing and dancing, and seems strangely Nero-esque.

I have:

Made a choice to move to bum-fuck no-where Hawaii to avoid Zombiegeddon.

Planted 100+ koa trees
1 dozen coffee
1 dozen tea
1 dozen papaya
3 cashew
1 allspice
1 nutmeg
a 2000 square foot garden
all the taro I can get a hold of.

Built a producer gas generator(which works) to power in event of gas shortages and rationing.

Invested in a ton of tools.

And basically am training myself to get to hunkerdown living in the most comfortable way possible, which is no small deal.

I would REALLY encourage those people I care about to pull the head out and take a good look around, and be very very careful: make every attempt possible to prepare for what may lay ahead. There is a real possibility, not yet a certainty, of a very dire and disruptive future not far ahead. There IS a certainty of a merely difficult one.

Only while ignorance and denial still holds the popular mind will there remain an ability to act.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Sermon

. . .taking a deep breath, and attempting to avoid a screaming fit.

Within any sensible moral or ethical system there is a hierarchy of importance: which is to say that in order to be able to claim "goodness"--assuming one can't be "perfect"--one is compelled to right the biggest most important wrongs first and move down the line to the trivial. For example, supposing some screwball murdering pedophile wanted to reform and become a good person, it would be important that the first step would be to remedy one's biggest crime--ie, quit killing kids. If our murdering pedophile decided rather that her first step towards righteousness be to work on clearing up her profanity, even if those efforts were successful, any sensible ethical system would declare those efforts more or less pointless--even inherently bad--as all the efforts achieve, really, is simply perpetrate one's major crimes through self-serving evasion.

We live in a world where 3/4 of the worlds population lives on less than 2 dollars a day, and that fully 1/3 of humanity dies of malnutrition and cruddy water. This is a fact. I believe that this issue will only get worse, as we face climate change and resource depletion, and a perpetual trend towards wealth disparity--we may quibble about those issues, barely. Still the FACT remains that the conditions of life of the vast masses of humanity is miserable in the extreme, and to ignore this, and to evade the notion that one might be culpable in some degree for this condition, to my mind is criminally inhumane.

So then, where the hell do we get the right, we fat and lazy privileged folk, getting all worked up about GMO's, invasive species(though useful and edible), and other bourgeois fetish issues, etc.,--in light of the reality that faces the masses of mankind?

That here in Hawaii we would arbitrarily ban all GMO's, technologies that have the potential to feed the starving--because we somehow have the notion, completely unsupported by any evidence, and GMO's are all bad and unhealthy. I'm certain that one out of 3 people in this world, if you gave them a glow in the dark, semi-poisonous lab grown utterly synthetic blob would eat it eagerly and thank you for it. GMO's? If you could show me one case where you could factually document that any GMO's kills more people than organic peanut butter. . .well, then we have a place to start. Otherwise this is kneejerk fopist ethics.

That here in Hawaii we would get completely bent out of shape about invasive species, unquestionably the most powerful and viable plants on this island, that in many ways act as Gaian scar tissue healing the damage of the sugarcane fields, clear cuts, road cuts, cattle damage and the rest--what would is island look like if these plants were never introduced? I'm in no way arguing for the further introduction of such things--but am simply calling attention to the fact that we ecological progressives have vastly more important things for us to spend our time worrying about. There is a fair chance, that if moderate climate change forecasts are accurate, that the invasive plants will be the ONLY plants on this island that are viable and adaptive enough to survive the next 500 years.

I expect I need to lay off the coffee, but am not done yet.

The difficulties that face us as a world are so massive, and so dire, and the human cost, and the cost to life in general, is going to be so vast--that anybody not pulling to remedy those basic issues is pulling in the opposite direction. To remedy these basic issues is going to require basic sacrifices--large sacrifices--in our current standard of living. Outside of a few radicals, I see next to no meaningful efforts towards constructive change. In fact, I see an entire industry being created, as evil and insincere as any ever created, that generates "products" and "activities" marketed to mostly well meaning informed people, that are designed wholly to satisfy the urges of "good" people to "do something" but actually accomplish nothing whatsoever, and demand no personal sacrifice. As if compact fluorescent bulbs are going to feed anyone. . .

Something, I hope, to think about. Are some of our busy efforts well meaning? Misguided? Insincerely self-indulgent? I think it's important we ask these questions of ourselves, and for many, that in a very sophomoric manner fancy themselves as the vanguard of "change"--I think the answers will be uncomfortable.

Monday, March 24, 2008

AADD Nation

As for diatribes: this will be a diatribe.

First, taxes. It's 10 in the morning, and I'm drunk. I alway get drunk to do taxes, as it's the only way it's sensible and keeps me from having screaming fits. As one who would claim to be a humanitarian, ecologically minded progressive, it fires me in the extreme to be compelled by law to "tithe" to the church of corrupt materialism, and it's certain that my tax dollars I pay go to, solely, undo any good I try to work in the world. It is absolutely measurable to show that of any dollar I pay in taxes, x amount goes to a corrupt kleptocratic banking system, to Haliburton, to bombing people for oil. . .and on down the line. It is pointless for me to protest, ineffectually, that I "don't support the war", when a very factual way I do. This has bothered me enough that for years I lived in a minimalist enough fashion that I paid no taxes--but I got tired of not getting laid so I changed my ways. Even the hippy chicks expect you to keep them fat in organic food(expensive) and weed. Ah well. I sold out and was back in the saddle in about a week.

It's official. I don't call myself an environmentalist anymore--I call myself a survivalist.

Just how fucking stupid are the American people? Seriously, I ask this non-rhetorically. I'm well aware that the vast majority of the US is profoundly screwed up and deliberately capital "F" dumb--like they believe the world is 10000 years old and angels walk the isles of Walmart. . .or that homeopathy is a science. . .but let's ignore that crowd and move towards people who have actually done a bit of education--perhaps we'll look at big buck fund managers--9 out of 10 which, in spite of their high dollar degrees, cannot out perform the indexes, or a team of moneys flicking shit at a wall, and where it sticks BUY. This is no hyperbole, mind you, this is a fact. As well it is a fact, that in spite out how I bitch, I seem incapable of overestimating the tremendous inertial effect of ignorance. In the great greater fools game we call the American Economy, I had begun to believe we are out of fools. Well, we haven't hit "peak fool" yet apparently. Last week, consensus: the financial world is ending. The Fed waves it's magic wand. Monday--all is saved! Seriously, who the hell believes anything has changed? As for myself, any crisis great enough that the central bank feels compelled to more or less give away a HALF TRILLION DOLLARS should scare any sensible person into the hills. But it hasn't. And that should scare you even the more.

So then, my freinds call me and tell me they are worried about their credit rating. I, am with rabid intent perfecting my wood gas generator and learning everything about this lost technology I can. It hasn't been simple. There are loads of information out, and on the net, for free, and all too often you get your money's worth. Yet progress is made, and the system runs, but woe to anyone who tries to undertake this project once the crunch finally hits. Er, you'll run that welder on what? Still, I've learned a bunch, and that's worth while, but gadzooks, what a hassle.

We have no idea what the value of fossil fuels really is. We take that utterly for granted. We seem incapable to relate to a world of unmechanized work, as we've never seen it--but again, the rule of thumb is that if you've got a gallon of gasoline at your disposal, you can get more work done in a day than you can in a month without. At that point, if work needs to be done, there is really no price at which fuel doesn't pay--a hundred dollars a gallon would still be cheap. Unfortunately, much of the "ecological progressive" community works in a world of academics and service, and has no connect whatsoever to reality. If they did, they'd be much more thoughtful. Even of the wilderness community, of those who have spent some time backpacking and understand the natural world to some degree--woodcraft--ie, primitivism and skills, is much lacking. Synthetic tents, clothes, and fossil fuel based cook stoves preparing vacuum packed freeze dehydrated meals. Getting back to nature, eh? Damn--it would be well that a dose of reality would be dumped on everyone. . .but I'd rather it would happen before the game was for keeps.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Drunkenly searching for good news. . .

Well, I'm fucked.

Prophecy. The fed drops rates next week .50. Gold goes to 1015, oil to 116, and the dollar loses two percent against the euro and the yen. Does anybody else read the news?

And by the way, a Holtzman gas generator doesn't work worth a damn on wet wood.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Emerging from the jungle

Here I am in my new little cabin in Hawaii, typing away at a much overdue update. . .

Gosh, have got a lot done in the last few months. I've got a small house, fruit trees, a koi pond, coffee growing in the yard and a bit of time to sit and think. It is interesting, having been removed from the screaming media mostly for most of 4 months, the shift in attitudes towards many issues that may seem incremental to many--but if you take a vacation from the noise it doesn't' seem so.

It's interesting how notions of peak oil, global warming, and the collapse of the US banking system have become mainstream ideas at this point. Talk about boiling frogs! The most alarming thing I find in these issues is exactly that--the more or less total lack of alarm. I'm scared shitless, and better prepared than many to weather this gathering group of storms. Even among those who are relatively educated, informed, and progressive--there is a complete disconnect between their views of the future and their actions. Just as the nice couple the other day who was quizzing me about my small homestead, and how to build--we discussed these issues all in depth. And then, they ask--well, how do you finance your homestead? Uh, of course, you DON'T. You pay for it out of pocket. And you especially pay for it out of pocket in a world with failing banks. And you certainly don't expose yourself to the threat of loosing your little home by lost jobs and missing a payment. You're better off to live in your car, if you are secure there--then take the risk in the forthcoming environment. But the question was telling--they ape the words, they enjoy the culture of apocalypse--but they don't fucking get it. We're talking about the real deal here, where knowledgeable intelligent experts are talking about the end of human civilization--not a recession.

Being counterculture so often is really just being component of the the culture, and the modern green ecologist is certainly THAT. It's Patagonia rather than Bebe, its Land Cruisers rather than Range Rovers--it's flying to Bali rather than Cancun, but it's all the same bullshit American consumerism. It's all about big dogs and babies too, frogs laying eggs in boiling water. Hell, I've got to say that at this point it's all but obvious that GW BUSH is probably the greatest president of all time, as he most accurately and broadly reflects the values of the American people; ie., ignorance, entitlement, and smug self satisfaction. But give it a couple of more months. . .