My grandfather was a painter. He died in 1950 when I was 5. His last painting was for the Capitol Building of Virginia titled "Arrival of the First Permanent English Settlers off Jamestown, Virginia, 13 May 1607". I had never seen the painting until searching through Flickr and came across this picture by Holley St. Germain.
Last year the painting was used in a stamp commemorating the founding of Jamestown, Virginia.
When I was a small boy I remember a small pamphlet with sketches of the painting. I haven't seen it for years and then one showed up on eBay.
Quite a few people believe that if there is a decline in oil production, we can make up much of the difference by increasing our use of electricity--more nuclear, wind, solar voltaic, geothermal or even coal. The problem with this model is that it assumes that our electric grid will be working well enough for this to happen. It seems to me that there is substantial doubt that this will be the case.
From what I have learned in researching this topic, I expect that in the years ahead, we in the United States will have more and more problems with our electric grid. This is likely to result in electrical outages of greater and greater durations.
The primary reason for the likely problems is the fact that in the last few decades, the electric power industry has moved from being a regulated monopoly to an industry following more of a free market, competitive model. With this financing model, electricity is transported over long distances, as electricity is bought and sold by different providers. Furthermore, some of the electricity that is bought and sold is variable in supply, like wind and solar voltaic. A substantial upgrade to the electrical grid is needed to support all of these activities, but our existing financing models make it very difficult to fund such an upgrade.
If frequent electrical outages become common, these problems are likely to spill over into the oil and natural gas sectors. One reason this may happen is because electricity is used to move oil and natural gas through the pipelines. In addition, gas stations use electricity when pumping gasoline, and homeowners often have natural gas water heaters and furnaces with electric ignition. These too are likely to be disrupted by electrical power outages.
Most Americans have a rough idea what the term "military-industrial complex" means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. "Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime," he said, "or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea… We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions… We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications… We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex."
Although Eisenhower's reference to the military-industrial complex is, by now, well-known, his warning against its "unwarranted influence" has, I believe, largely been ignored. Since 1961, there has been too little serious study of, or discussion of, the origins of the military-industrial complex, how it has changed over time, how governmental secrecy has hidden it from oversight by members of Congress or attentive citizens, and how it degrades our Constitutional structure of checks and balances.
From its origins in the early 1940s, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was building up his "arsenal of democracy," down to the present moment, public opinion has usually assumed that it involved more or less equitable relations -- often termed a "partnership" -- between the high command and civilian overlords of the United States military and privately-owned, for-profit manufacturing and service enterprises. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that, from the time they first emerged, these relations were never equitable.
When did American troops become "warfighters" -- members of "Generation Kill" -- instead of citizen-soldiers? And when did we become so proud of declaring our military to be "the world's best"? These are neither frivolous nor rhetorical questions. Open up any national defense publication today and you can't miss the ads from defense contractors, all eagerly touting the ways they "serve" America's "warfighters." Listen to the politicians, and you'll hear the obligatory incantation about our military being "the world's best."
All this is, by now, so often repeated -- so eagerly accepted -- that few of us seem to recall how against the American grain it really is. If anything -- and I saw this in studying German military history -- it's far more in keeping with the bellicose traditions and bumptious rhetoric of Imperial Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II than of an American republic that began its march to independence with patriotic Minutemen in revolt against King George.
So consider this a modest proposal from a retired citizen-airman: A small but meaningful act against the creeping militarism of the Bush years would be to collectively repudiate our "world's best warfighter" rhetoric and re-embrace instead a tradition of reluctant but resolute citizen-soldiers.
Every now and then I am fortunate enough to communicate with someone who has near complete insight into our political process, why things happen and where it seems likely to be headed. Recently I received this analysis from a high powered political consultant whose name is withheld for obvious reasons. He/she has to live and work in the political world and for either party. In any case, I found it breathtaking in its fundamental analysis and its clarity -- clarity being no easy thing to accomplish in the swamp of media-consumerism-politics. Here it is: -- Joe Bageant
By an anonymous political consultant
Much has been written by political pundits in their attempt to explain the unexpected victory of Senator Barack Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton in this year's Democratic Presidential Primary. When looking at the results of this race, none of the conventional political math that would help one handicap the outcome would make one conclude that Senator Obama would win this contest.
Inside a Democratic Party primary there is no demographic or political reason that a male first term African American senator from Illinois with an unorthodox name should come any where close to beating a white female senator, who happens to be the wife of the last Democratic President whose approval ratings are still above 70% with Democratic voters and who also happened to earn the endorsements of the substantial parts of the Democratic Party establishment.
The conventional analysis focused on the poor quality of the campaign run by Senator Clinton, her vote in support of the Iraq war and her advocacy of the cynical center-right triangulation policies of her husband, which soured her campaign to many primary voters and especially to Democratic Party activists. Senator Obama's on the other hand was credited with running an innovative and inspiring campaign that excited primary voters and brought many new and especially younger voters into the electoral process.
There is some truth to this analysis, but as a whole it misses the underlying social change in society that had already laid the groundwork for a possible Obama victory. To get a clearer understanding of the results, we must better understand what this social change is and how its impact is far more significant than the dynamics of the two respective campaigns.
The underlying social change that led to the Obama victory is the unprecedented extent to which the narrative of popular consumer culture, and the media that drives it, has become the dominant influence on how Americans think, formulate their ideas and understand the world around them.
The most important result of this process has been the steady and consistent depoliticization of American society, to an extent that we can make the case that we are living at the dawn of the post political age.
The two primary features of the post political age are a politics completely drained of all its contents and ability or willingness to be used as an agent of change in social or economic policy, and its full integrations into the world of American popular, consumer and entertainment culture. To such an extent that there exists today a seamless web between our political, economic, media and consumer cultures wherein the modes and values of one are completely integrated and compatible with the others.
Everywhere you turn in this nation, you see a society primed for implosion. We seem unaware how extraordinary the American experience has been, especially in the last hundred years. By this, I don't mean that we are a better people than any other society -- these days, ordinary people in the USA make an effort to appear thuggish and act surly, as though we were a nation of convicts -- but for decade-upon-decade, we were very fortunate. Even the Great Depression of the 1930s may seem like a relatively peaceful and gentle "time out" from a frantic era of hypertrophic growth, compared to the storm we're sailing into now.
We were fortunate to inhabit a New World filled with productive land, lots of minerals, and plenty of coal, oil, and gas; and the land itself was insulated physically from the great theaters of 20th century conflict, though we fought in wars "over there." That experience itself, especially our victory over manifest evil in the Second World War, left us with a dangerous mentality of triumphal exceptionalism. Even now, we think we are immune to the epochal hazards of history. The notion that nothing really bad can happen to us is reflected in the blind cluelessness of our current news media and their simple failure to report what is now happening.
The Bush administration will be mailing out another batch of "stimulus" checks in the very near future. There's no way around it. The Fed is in a pickle and can't lower interest rates for fear that food and energy prices will shoot to stratosphere. At the same time, the economy is shrinking faster than anyone thought possible with no sign of a rebound. That leaves stimulus checks as the only way to "prime the pump" and keep consumer spending chugging along. Otherwise business activity will slow to a crawl and the economy will tank. There's no other choice.
The daily barrage of bad news is really starting to get on people's nerves. Most of the TV chatterboxes have already cut-out the cheery stock market predictions and no one is praising the "impressive powers of the free market" anymore. They know things are bad, real bad. A pervasive sense of gloom has crept into the television studios just like it has into the stock exchanges and the luxury penthouses on Manhattan's West End. That same sense of foreboding is creeping like a noxious cloud to every town and city across the country. Everyone is cutting back on non-essentials and trimming the fat from the family budget. The days of extravagant impulse-spending at the mall are over. So are the "big ticket" purchases and the "go-for-broke" trips to Europe. Consumer confidence is at historic lows, disposal income is a thing of the past, and all the credit cards are at their limit. The country is drowning in red ink.
Something has gone terribly wrong with the economy, but no one knows what it is? In the last three months bank credit has shrunk faster than any time since 1948. The banks aren't lending and people aren't borrowing; that's a lethal combo. When credit-creation slows, the economy falters, unemployment rises and the misery index soars. That's why Bush will have to mail out more stimulus checks whether he wants to or not; his back is against the wall. He'll try to make it look like the economy is still breathing on its own and just needs a spell on the respirator before resuming its normal activities. But Bush is wrong; we've reached Peak credit and the blood-transfusions won't work anymore. The vital signs have shut down and rigamortis is already setting in. Our goose is cooked.
Phil Gramm, the senator-banker who until recently advised John McCain's campaign, did get it right about a "nation of whiners," but he misidentified the faint-hearted. It's not the people or even the politicians. It is Wall Street--the financial titans and big-money bankers, the most important investors and worldwide creditors who are scared witless by events. These folks are in full-flight panic and screaming for mercy from Washington, Their cries were answered by the massive federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, the endangered mortgage companies.
When the monied interests whined, they made themselves heard by dumping the stocks of these two quasi-public private corporations, threatening to collapse the two financial firms like the investor "run" that wiped out Bear Stearns in March. The real distress of the banks and brokerages and major investors is that they cannot unload the rotten mortgage securities packaged by Fannie Mae and banks sold worldwide. Wall Street's preferred solution: dump the bad paper on the rest of us, the unwitting American taxpayers.
The Bush crowd, always so reluctant to support federal aid for mere people, stepped up to the challenge and did as it was told. Treasury Secretary Paulson (ex-Goldman Sachs) and his sidekick, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, announced their bailout plan on Sunday to prevent another disastrous selloff on Monday when markets opened. Like the first-stage rescue of Wall Street's largest investment firms in March, this bold stroke was said to benefit all of us. The whole kingdom of American high finance would tumble down if government failed to act or made the financial guys pay for their own reckless delusions. Instead, dump the losses on the people.
The announcement by US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson together with Federal Reserve chief Bernanke, that the US Government will bailout the two largest guarantors of housing mortgage debt—the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—far from calming financial markets, has confirmed what we have said repeatedly in this space: The Financial Tsunami which began in August 2007 in the relatively small “sub-prime” high risk US mortgage securitization market, far from being over, is only gathering momentum. As with the Tsunami which devastated Asia in wave after terrifying wave in December 2004, the financial Tsunami we are witnessing is a low-amplitude, long-wave phenomenon of trillions of dollars of financial securities being unwound, defaulted on, dumped on the market. But the scale of the latest wave to hit, the collapse of confidence in the two Government-Sponsored Entities, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, is a harbinger of worse to come in what will be the most devastating financial and economic catastrophe in United States history. The impact will be felt globally.
The collection of ne'er do wells, clueless dolts, political hacks, and oh, let's just be blunt and call them what they are -- total Idiots -- expands into an ever larger circle.
While the Republic burns due to the unsavory combination of incompetence, ideological rigidity, and crony capitalism, the fools and assclowns seem ever more determined to avoid any personal responsibility for the damages they have wrought. Instead, they flail about blindly, blaming everything and everyone -- except their own horrific negligence.
This is financial incompetence writ on a scale far grander than anything seen for centuries.
It's been a roller coaster week. Last Wednesday my 88 year-old mom ended back up in the hospital with pneumonia for the third time in 3 months. One lung was full of fluid. They drained the fluid and when we saw her Saturday she was doing much better. She has a keen wit and it was out in force. The doctor came in and let us know what he knew. They still had test results to come back so he couldn't say what was causing this. (They sure are making doctors younger and younger!) When the doctor left my mom looked knowingly over at Zoe, wiggled her eyebrows up and down, and said "He sure is cute!" Definitely feeling better. After seeing my mom, in Auburn, we continued south to Tacoma and visited Zoe's mom at Western State Hospital. I couldn't see a change but Zoe thinks her Alzheimer's is continuing to get worse. Physically she was doing worse. Her knees were bothering her and she was having a very painful time walking. We had a good visit. Sunday my brother Terry called and said they found out what was causing my mom's pneumonia and that she would be going back to the nursing home on Monday. Later my other brother Roger called. He had seen Mom and she was doing worse. They had moved her to another room and made Roger and family wear masks because what Mom had was contagious. He couldn't remember what it was. Since Zoe and I had kissed Mom on leaving her and then went to see Gerry and kissed her we were concerned. I called the hospital and they were reluctant to tell me anything but when they found out that we were exposed and that Gerry was exposed they told me it was respiratory MRSA. Nasty stuff. At least they seem to think they have the tools to deal with it. We warned Western State Hospital. It turns out they are used to dealing with various forms of MRSA. Mom went back to here nursing home on Monday as scheduled. The moms aren't doing well.