Monday, March 29, 2010

Inside lookin out!

Little Jimmy Kunstler is going off on the "right" again in this weeks diatribe...this is not the same Kunstler I was reading just a few short weeks ago!

Our Turn?

Nations go crazy. It's terrifying when it happens, especially to a major nation with the ability to project its craziness outward. We look back on the psychotic break of Germany in 1933 and still wonder how the then-best-educated population in Europe could fall under the sway of a sociopathic political program. We behold the carnage and devastation left in the wake of that episode, and decades later you still can do little more than shake your head in bewilderment.

China had a psychotic break in the 1960s in its "cultural revolution," provoked by the mad neo-emperor Mao. He sent cadres of Chinese baby boomer youths rampaging across the land, turned every institution upside down, and let millions starve. Mao's China lacked the ability then to export this mischief, but enough of his own people suffered.

Cambodia was the next humdinger of a national nervous breakdown when the Paris-educated classic marxist Pol Pot decided to make the world's biggest omelette by cracking a million eggs. He took everybody wearing eyeglasses, everybody who appeared to have a thought in his or her head, and sent them out to the bush to be worked to death, or shot in ditches, or disposed of otherwise. The mounds of skulls remain to tell the tale.

Lately we've had the Hutu-Tutsi genocides in Rwanda, the craziness in former Yugoslavia, the cruelty of Darfur, the international suicide-bomber craze (including today's blasts in Moscow). Surely, I've left a few out... but these are minor episodes compared to what be coming next.

Am I the only one who senses it might be America's turn to go nuts? I don't mean a family squabble, like the Boomer-Hippie-Vietnam uproar that was essentially an adolescent rebellion against bad parenting in the national household. I mean a genuine descent into madness, with the very high probability of persecution, violence, murder, and mayhem -- all more or less sponsored by various authorities and institutions.

The Republican Party is doing a great job in provoking such a dangerous episode by making consensual governance impossible in a time of awful practical problems and challenges. They're in the process, right now, of transforming themselves from the party of "no" to the party of no decency, no common sense, no ideas, no conception of the public interest, and no respect for the traditions that they pretend to stand for, like due process of law. In the days since the passage of health care reform, they've gone as far as inciting mobs to violence against their fellow congressmen and senators -- bricks thrown through windows, death threats made, coffins placed in the yards of their adversaries. One day soon, somebody with a gun or an explosive device, someone with a very sketchy sense-of-self, and perhaps a recent record of personal failure and humiliation, is going to sacrifice himself to become the Tea Party's first martyr by shooting up a shopping mall in some blue district.

Republican leaders' avidity to ally themselves with the followers of hate-monger entertainers like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the Fox News gang is only the beginning of the process that will lead to a political convulsion possibly worse than the one that started at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, 1861. If it comes, it will certainly be a far more incoherent conflict. The guerilla forces of the radical right will not know whether they are fighting for WalMart, or the Financial Services arm of General Electric, or against abortions, or for bigger and better freeways, or the rights of thoracic surgeons to drive families into bankruptcy, or against the idea of climate change, or evolution, or Jews-in-the-media, or their neighbors having something they feel envious about....

In the background, of course, is an economy just barely holding together with political baling wire and duct tape. It has very poor prospects for continuing in the way it was designed to run, on cheap oil and revolving debt. The upshot is an economy now destined for permanent contraction, and nobody has a plan for managing that contraction -- which will include awful failures in food production, in disintegrating water systems, electric grids, roadway systems, schools... really anything that requires ongoing public investment. It includes a financial system that cannot come up with capital deployable for productive purpose, or currencies that can be relied on to hold value, or markets that function without interference.

For its part, the Democratic Party has done a poor job of clearly articulating the realities of these things, and in actions like bailouts they've given the false impression that the nation can somehow engineer a return to the reckless hedonism of the late 20th century. My guess is that the situation is so desperate now that President Obama and his supporters can't risk telling the truth about the comprehensive contraction we face.

The health care reform act was a tortured way of dealing with some of this indirectly. It will absolutely lead to a kind of health care "rationing," but rationing is unavoidable in an economy where there is less of everything that people need, and fewer resources to spread around. The difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Republicans would prefer to see the rationing accomplished by money-grubbing health insurance companies denying coverage to policy-holders who get sick, or by the bankrupting of households (i.e. losers who deserve to die anyway), while the Democrats want to at least try to distribute what we can a little more fairly. The larger failure of both factions to emulate better systems running in sister societies like Canada and France is something that history will judge.

I was in favor of the health care reform act for the reason of that basic difference between the Right and the Left. For all its flaws -- and perhaps even the prospect that we are too far gone in national bankruptcy to ever get all its provisions running -- I believe it was necessary for our national morale to pass the bill, to prove that we could do something besides remain stuck in paralysis and bickering indefinitely. And it was necessary to smack down the Party of Cruelty, to inform ourselves that we are not quite ready to go completely crazy.

Whatever his flaws, omissions, and failures, I'm impressed with President Obama's ability to conduct himself like an adult, like a good father, in the face of the most unseemly provocations by his red-faced adversaries John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Michelle Bachman, Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, and all the other apoplectic opportunists trying so desperately to turn the United States into a high-definition Jesus tele-theocracy of Perpetual NASCAR. As economic conditions worsen -- I believe they will -- I hope Mr. Obama can discipline these maniacs. I would like to see him start by instructing his attorney general to look into the connection between Republican officials (including staff members) and the threats of violence and murder that were made last week around the country.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An old pump station in Durant, OK...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lost Ruin...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Graffiti abstract, Durant, OK

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Probable thunderstorms tomorrow PM!...

Night is a world lit by itself...

Monday, March 22, 2010

And then there was snow again!

Great day for a Bar-B-Que don't ya think?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Coming soon to a field or pasture near you!
Spring seems to be about to spring forth!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Where Have We Been;Where Are We Going? by James Howard Kunstler

Where Have We Been; Where Are We Going?
by James Howard Kunstler
on March 15, 2010 6:51 AM

Driving down the broad avenues of Cleveland, Ohio, was like flipping through the pages of a picture book about the rise and fall of our industrial empire. Where demolitions had not removed things -- a lot was gone -- stood the residue of a society so different from ours that you felt momentarily transported to another planet where a different race of beings had gone about their business.

Among the qualities most visible in the recent ruins of that lost society is the secure confidence expressed in its buildings. Even the most modest factory or business establishment built before the 20th century included decorations and motifs devised for no other reason but to be beautiful -- towers, swags, medallions, cartouches -- as if to state we are joined proudly in a great enterprise to make good things happen in this world. This was true not just of Cleveland, of course, but the whole nation, for a while anyway.

Equally arresting are the changes visible in the collective demeanor from the mid-20th century, especially after the Second World War, when the adolescent panache of a rising economy had morphed into the grinding force of a place devoted to the production of anything. The memory of the Great Depression lingered like a metabolic disorder, and the spirit of the place was no longer caught up in the muscular exuberance of self-discovery but the sheer determination to stay powerful and alive. This phase didn't last long.

By the 1970s, signs of a new illness were clear. Production was moving someplace else, incomes and household security with it. An existential pall settled over the city as ominous symptoms of waning vitality showed up in the organs of production. Steel-making and car-making staggered. Even the Cuyahoga river caught on fire, as if fate was a practical joke. Major retail was moving elsewhere -- to the suburban outlands -- where so many of the people who worked in the downtown towers had already fled. The population that remained in the city center was made of recently uprooted agricultural quasi-serfs who had only just come up to the city a generation before to make better livings in the factories that were all of a sudden shutting down. It seemed like a kind of swindle and they were understandably angry about it.

These days, reading what remains of the city by the lake -- like so many other cities on the lakes and big rivers of the USA heartland -- you see a place outfitted for different obsolete pasts with almost no sense of a plausible future. Most of the efforts directed at "economic development" in our industrial cities have been aimed at recapturing those pasts, and it is not surprising that they uniformly fail, because we are not going back there. We could conceivably take ourselves toward futures to be proud of, but they are not likely to be the kind of futures we are so busy projecting in our techno-grandiose fantasies about machine "singularities."

Being an actualist, I'm in favor of getting real about things, and the reality we've entered is one of comprehensive contraction, especially for our cities. One of the reasons places like Cleveland (and Detroit, and Milwaukee, and St Louis, and Kansas City....) continue to fail in their redevelopment efforts is because they are already too big. They became overgrown organisms a while ago, unsuited to the realities of the future -- especially the energy resource realities of the future -- and they have tried everything except consciously contracting into smaller, finer, denser, differently-scaled organisms. In fact, the trend up until the so-called housing bubble of recent years was to just keep on expanding ever outward beyond the suburban frontier, which left our cities in a condition like imploded death-stars -- cold and inert at the center, with debris speeding uselessly outward to an unreachable infinity.

This future we're entering, which I call the long emergency, compels us to imagine our society differently. Our cities and towns exist where they do because they occupy important sites. Cleveland is where a significant river empties into the world's greatest inland sea (which has the additional amazing benefit of being fresh water). Some human settlement will continue to be there, very probably a place of consequence, but it will not be run under the same circumstances that produced, for instance, the civic center of Daniel Burnham with its giant Beaux Arts courthouses, banks, and municipal towers.

This disintegrating nation is woefully distracted by Web 2.0, iPads, Avatar movies, Facebook, and the idiot celebrity spectacles of TV, not to mention the disasters of job loss, foreclosure, medical extortion, bankruptcy, corporate loot-ocracy, and the squandered moments of politics. We know we have to go somewhere. We know that something like history is leaving us behind. We have no idea how to get to a new place. And we're spending most of our mental energy gaping into the rear-view mirror, which is the last place to look for your destination.

The confusion is apt to get a lot worse before it gets better. I'm not saying this to be ornery but because I believe it is true, and it will benefit us to know the odds we're up against. The confusion is going to generate a lot of ideas that are inconsistent with reality -- especially involving the seductive nostrums of technocracy. Our redemption will be found closer to the ground in the things we do by hand. But we don't know that yet, and we're going to try everything except looking there before we find out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Durant area was once claimed by both Spain and France before officially becoming part of the United State after the Louisiana Purchase and Adams-Onis Treaty. During the 1820s and 1830s the area was designated as part of the Choctaw Nation in the southern Indian Territory. During the Indian removals the Choctaws followed the Choctaw Trail of Tears from their ancestral homeland in Mississippi and Alabama into this area. The Choctaw Nation originally extended from the Mexican border in the west (now part of the Texas panhandle) to the Arkansas Territory in the east, from the Red River in the south to the South Canadian River in the north.

Pierre Durant and his four sons, all of French-Choctaw origin, made the journey up the Trail of Tears on the way to the southeastern part of the Choctaw Nation in 1832. The brothers, grown, with families of their own, established homesteads from the Arkansas line to Durant. One son, Fisher, married to a full blood Choctaw, found a beautiful location for a home between Durant's present Eight and Ninth Avenues.

Fisher Durant's son Dixon Durant is recognized as the founder of Durant and is honored as its namesake. As an early day minister, businessman and civic leader, Dixon Durant is credited with pastorates in local Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist churches. He established the first store selling general merchandise and possibly influenced the 1872 creation of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Katy Railroad) siding at Durant, thus producing the initial impetus for establishing the community.

A post office for “Durant Station” was authorized in 1879, evidence that a village of some size had developed during the seven years since the coming of the railroad. A.E. Fulsom was post master. Discontinued in 1881, the post office re-established in 1882 with the address as “Durant, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory.” The word “station” was never again used as part of the official name for the community.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Road Trip to Durant, OK with Brian and his kids...great day!!

Friday, March 12, 2010


Monday, March 08, 2010

Several members of the DPS gathered this weekend for a "road trip" in search of "urban decay"....

We found some cool things to photograph, met some interesting folks, and enjoyed some pretty decent bar-b-que...all in all a successful day!

For those looking for a fun day of shooting you can't beat a trip to East Texas!

Then All At Once

I was plying the interstate highways of New England this weekend -- there is no sane way to get from Albany, New York, to the vicinity of Middletown, Connecticut, by public transit -- marveling at the vistas of normality all around me: the freeway lanes with their orderly streams of happy motorists, the chain stores floating like islands on the gray undulating landscape, the corporate towers of Springfield, Mass, and then Hartford, gleaming in the persistent pre-spring sunshine, as though they physically represented the wished-for dynamism of economies in recovery. "I see dead people..." said the kid in that horror movie. I see dying ways of life.

There was no denying the spectacular weather for us long-suffering northeasterners. A week ago, it was like living in a banana daiquiri around here. Now, it was sixty-two degrees in East Haddam, CT, along a very beautiful stretch of the Connecticut River somehow miraculously unmarred by the usual mutilations of industry or recreation. On a few hillsides facing south, daffodils were already up with blossom heads ready to pop. The mind could go two ways: into the past, when wooden sailing craft were built in yards along the river; or into the future, when it would be easy to imagine wooden sailing craft being built there again, only twenty miles or so from the great sheltered mini-sea of Long Island Sound.

Whatever else one thinks of how we live these days, it's hard to not see it as temporary, historically anomalous, a peculiar blip in human experience. I've spent my whole life riding around in cars, never questioning whether the makings of tomorrow's supper would be there waiting on the supermarket shelves, never doubting when I entered a room that the lights would go on at the flick of a switch, never worrying about my personal safety. And now hardly a moment goes by when I don't feel tremors of massive change in these things, as though all life's comforts and structural certainties rested on a groaning fault line.

It had been one of those eventless weeks when the world pretended to be a settled place. The collapse of Greece seemed like little more than a passing case of geo-financial heartburn. The 36,000-odd newly-unemployed were spun magically into a feel-good story for public consumption, and the stock markets ratified it by levitating over a hundred points. The news media was preoccupied with the Great Question of whether the first woman film director would win a prize, thus settling all accounts in the age-old gender war, and the health care reform bill lumbered around the congressional offices like a zombie in search of a silver bullet that might send it back to the comforts of the tomb.

All in all, it was the sort of quiescent string of days that makes someone like me nervous. I can't help imagining what it was like in the spring of 1860, for instance, when so many terrible questions of polity hung over the country, and hundreds of thousands of young men still walked behind their plows or stood at their counting desks or turned their wrenches in the exciting new industries -- not knowing that destiny was busy preparing a ditch somewhere to receive their shattered corpses in places as-yet-unknown called Spotsylvania, Shiloh, and Cold Harbor. Or else my mind projects to the spring of 1939, when men dressed in neckties and hats sat in a ballpark watching Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller play "pepper" in the pregame sunshine, and nobody much thought about the coming beaches of Normandy and the canebrakes of the Solomon Islands.

Everything we know about it seems to indicate that human beings happily go along with the program -- whatever the program is -- until all of a sudden they can't, and then they don't. It's like the quote oft-repeated these days (because it's so apt for these times) by surly old Ernest Hemingway about how the man in a story went broke: slowly, and then all at once. In the background of last week's reassuring torpor, one ominous little signal flashed perhaps dimly in all that sunshine: the price of oil broke above $81-a-barrel. Of course in that range it becomes impossible for the staggering monster of our so-called "consumer" economy to enter the much-wished-for nirvana of "recovery" -- where the orgies of spending on houses and cars and electronic entertainment machines will resume like the force of nature it is presumed to be. Over $80-a-barrel and we're in the zone where what's left of this economy cracks and crumbles a little bit more each day, lurching forward to that moment when something life-changing occurs all at once.

I gave a talk down in Connecticut to a roomful of people who are still pretty much preoccupied with such questions as how to fight the landing of the next WalMart UFO, or how best to entice tourists to purchase objets-d'art, or serve up weekend entertainments along with fine dining and accommodations. Meanwhile, I'm thinking: how many of you might be grubbing around the woods six months from now for enough acorns and mushrooms to make something resembling soup...? It's an extreme fantasy, I know, but it dogs me. Elsewhere in this big nation, I imagine a laid-off engineer -- a genial, capable fellow, once valued by his former employer -- tinkering in his Ohio basement with a device designed to blow up the headquarters of the health insurance company that has just denied his wife treatment for cancer of some organ or other. Or my mind ventures into the rank "function room" of a Holiday Inn outside Indianapolis, where Tea Party recruits meet over chicken nuggets to discuss the New World Order, and the Bilderberg conspiracy, and the suspicious numbers of Jews in the bonus-padded upper echelons of the Wall Street banks, and what might be done about that.

On the trip back to upstate New York, my eyes couldn't fix on anything in the landscape that seemed even remotely permanent. Even the massiveness of all that steel and concrete deployed in everything from the glass towers to the highway toll booths seemed insubstantial. I could easily envisage the Mass Pike empty of cars with mulleins and sumacs popping through fissures in the pavement, and sheets of aluminum on the vacant Big Box stores flapping rhythmically in the wind, and something entirely new going on in the hills and valleys along the way, where people labored to bring forth new life.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Some of the DPS members went to East Texas today seeking "urban decay"!

More to come...

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Almost time for spring storms...

Debra Medina, new star of America's right, is firing up the race for Texas governor

Debra Medina of the Tea Party movement is making a Sarah Palin-like impact with policies stressing property rights and gun ownership

* Paul Harris in Lytle, Texas
* The Observer, Sunday 28 February 2010

Texas Republican candidate Debra Medina at a press conference in Houston this month. Photograph: Pat Sullivan/AP

Lytle is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of town, one of hundreds that dot the vast flat ranchlands of southern Texas. A smear of houses by the main highway between San Antonio and Laredo. Population: 2,383. The first streets only got paved here in the years after the second world war. A sewage system took a little longer, not being built until the 1960s. In short, Lytle, Texas, has never been big enough to have much impact on the politics of the Lone Star state. And few Texas politicians have ever paid much attention to it.

Until Debra Medina, that is. When Medina breezed into Lytle's community hall the locals found themselves confronted with a Texan version of Sarah Palin. She wore a sharp scarlet skirt suit, librarian-style glasses and a puffed-up hairdo. More than 60 Lytle residents had gathered to meet her, a hefty turnout on a weekday at 11am for a Republican primary election in the race to be Texas governor. Medina has become a political phenomenon in Texas. Emerging as a genuine star of the rightwing populist Tea Party movement, she delivers a fiery message of slashing taxes and the abolition of almost all forms of federal government, and issues dire warnings that President Obama is taking America down a slippery slope to Soviet-style communism.

It's working. Previously unheard of by the vast majority of Texans, Medina has set the race for governor on fire, upsetting the primary contest between the incumbent, Rick Perry, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Those gathered to see Medina in Lytle loved her. Young and old, men and women, Latino and white, listened with rapt attention as she outlined her agenda and asked them to back her in this week's first round of voting. If she can beat Hutchison into second place, she can secure a runoff against Perry. That would raise the possibility – distant but real – of a Tea Party activist capturing the government of the second biggest state in America. The Tea Party movement would have gone from being a bunch of ragtag protesters to heading one of the largest single economies in the world. "If we can change politics as usual in Texas, then we can change politics as usual across America. This is not just about Texas, but about changing the whole country," Medina told the Observer before addressing her supporters in Lytle.

She is not alone in that ambition. Across America other extreme candidates have emerged on the Republican right to challenge familiar party figures with a fiery mix of Tea Party-inspired populism. In Arizona, Senator John McCain is facing a tough re-election fight against a former congressman, JD Hayworth, who has expressed public doubts as to whether Obama was born a legitimate American citizen. In Florida the moderate Republican governor, Charlie Crist, is lagging badly in his own primary election to rightwing challenger Marco Rubio, who has the backing of local Tea Party groups.

On the right of US politics, this is big stuff. Instead of forcing mainstream Republicans to woo them for their votes, the rightwingers are now bidding for power. It is an attempt at revolution that could have huge meaning for America and the world, especially given the disastrous showing of Democrats in recent polls and elections. Medina knows this. After her speech she ended with a plea to her audience. "We can win this race," she said, then held up her hand and squeezed two fingers together. "It is this close."

Later that night, at a firemen's association hall in the much larger city of San Antonio, Medina's face stared down from a huge screen as she delivered a long policy monologue. To her audience she was the very antithesis of establishment power: a heroic revolutionary, out to destroy government and bring power to the people. "She is not a career politician. Everything she is saying will make Texas better than what it is," said Sergeant Shawn Mendoza, 30, a veteran of three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. A few minutes later the flesh-and-blood version of Medina entered the hall. She got a standing ovation before she had said a word.
She began her stump speech again, still wearing the outfit she had in Lytle. But when it comes to speeches Medina is no Sarah Palin. She has no need to write on her hand to remember her talking points. Instead her speech was a complex walk through her extreme anti-government philosophy, citing sources as varied as the Austrian school of economics, St Augustine and modern French philosophers. She said she wanted to get rid of property taxes and allow Texans to do whatever they wanted with anything they owned, whether that was dig for oil or build an extension. There was, she said, no constitutional basis for a federal Department of Education or an Environmental Protection Agency or the Federal Reserve. Texas should assert its rights almost as a nation-state, controlling over its own National Guard units. The disdain for government was visceral. The American way, she said, was simple. "There are two rights essential to freedom: private property and gun ownership."

Such thoughts find fertile ground in Texas. This state has always had a swaggering, independent streak and a dislike for too many laws. Medina was born on a farm near the small town of Beeville in south Texas. She speaks with a homely Texas accent and worked as a nurse before entering politics at county level in the 1990s. Her bid for governor was largely ignored by the media as she crisscrossed the state for 13 months, visiting small town after small town. Gradually she crept up in the polls and forced her way into the televised debates, where she performed strongly. Campaign money began to pour in. One poll puts her as high as 24%, just behind Hutchison and within reach of catching her and forcing Perry into a runoff.

Medina believes she is not really in third place, citing the fact that the polls only telephone previous Republican primary voters, whereas she is bringing in thousands of new supporters. "I feel fantastic. I think we can win this," she said in Lytle.

Only once has Medina slipped up – in an interview she gave to the conservative radio host Glenn Beck. On his show Medina was asked if she thought the US government might have had a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She replied: "I don't." She then went on to expand disastrously upon that answer. "I don't have all the evidence there… I think some very good questions have been raised in that regard. There are some very good arguments and I think the American people have not seen all the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that," she said.

Those comments provided ample ammunition for her political rivals. Her march forward in the polls was halted and some of her advances chipped away. The only time Medina appeared unnerved in Lytle or San Antonio was when a woman in the audience mentioned the Beck interview and asked her if she was a "Truther", in reference to the conspiracy theory that the government planted bombs to blow up the World Trade Centre. Medina looked flustered and started to answer before saying suddenly: "No! No!" and moving on to a new question.

But such areas are the home ground of the Tea Party movement. At almost any Tea Party event it is easy to meet Truthers or Birthers or those who believe Obama is a closet Stalinist or a Nazi or a Muslim fundamentalist or indeed all three together, no matter how blindingly contradictory such beliefs are. In San Antonio one member of the audience wore an Oath Keepers T-shirt. Oath Keepers are a group of veterans, soldiers or police officers who fear their own government is about to attack the American people or round up conservatives into concentration camps. The oath they have sworn to keep is to refuse to obey such orders. That sort of thing remains a fundamental problem for the politicians from the Tea Party seeking high office.

Calvin Jillson, a political scientist at Dallas's Southern Methodist University, believes the Tea Party can be understood as the latest in a long line of explosions of political rage in America. They include the Populist party that won elections in several states during the 1890s recession and the millions who voted for Ross Perot's presidential candidacy in the 1980s. "These things happen but they burn out like a prairie fire. We are in the middle of it right now but when the economy picks up it will fade away," Jillson said.

Yet the crowd in Lytle could not see any sign of economic recovery. Their rage did not feel like it would fade away. "I'm so mad, it's like chewing nails," said Lytle businesswoman Priscilla Squires, 60. She saw this week's primary as the start of fundamental change in America, while the experts say Medina's Tea Party will crash against the barricades of the ballot box. They are probably right. Yet Texas has always been a little different. "I don't think a Medina win is likely," said Jillson "But nothing is impossible. This is Texas after all."

Monday, March 01, 2010

Road Trip...
"Day Of Reckoning: Congress Cuts Off Federal Unemployment Benefits For Millions Of Unemployed Americans"

Starting on Monday, the unemployed in the U.S. will no longer be able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy. This means that millions of Americans that have been unemployed for a long period of time may suddenly find themselves without an unemployment check and without any health coverage. You see, normally state-funded unemployment benefits last for about 26 weeks. After that, federal unemployment benefits kick in. During this recent economic crisis, the U.S. Congress has approved up to an additional 73 weeks of unemployment benefits for unemployed Americans. But now the U.S. Senate has not approved an extension, and so now millions of unemployed Americans that are relying on federal unemployment benefits will stop getting checks once their current federal benefits run out. Millions more will not be able to apply for federal unemployment benefits.

So what could this mean?

It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon be forced into bankruptcy.

It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon lose their homes.

It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon be devastated by medical bills they simply cannot pay.

It could mean that large numbers of Americans may soon be forced to live in the streets.

But should we expect the federal government to pay long-term unemployment benefits for all unemployed Americans indefinitely?

That gets really expensive very quickly. Considering the fact that the U.S. national debt is growing exponentially, the U.S. government cannot really afford to be throwing around cash as if it was water.

But with millions upon millions of Americans completely broke and unable to find jobs, what else can you do?

The reality is that it is extremely likely that the U.S. Congress will find a way to come to an agreement to extend these benefits at some point in the coming days.

So total catastrophe is likely to be avoided.

At least for now.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve's $1.25 trillion program to push down mortgage rates is scheduled to expire on March 31st.

So what is that going to mean?

It is going to mean that mortgage rates are going to start to rise.

That will mean that less people will be able to afford to buy homes and it will mean that there are going to be even more foreclosures.

That is not good news for the housing market.

Even now, sales of previously owned homes plunged in January to their lowest level since last summer.

So what is going to happen when mortgage rates start to rise?

The reality is that the U.S. housing market is simply not going to recover to previous levels. In fact, all signs point to another major housing market disaster in the years ahead.

Home loan standards are tightening.

Mortgage rates are rising.

The big banks are hoarding cash and have reduced lending.

Another massive wave of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset between 2010 and 2012 which will force another gigantic pile of foreclosures on to the market.

So where in the world is the "housing recovery" going to come from?

There are going to be many more houses for sale and many fewer qualified buyers.

It does not take an economic genius to figure out what that is going to do to housing prices.

Hopefully the U.S. government and the financial powers that be can figure out a way to stabilize things for a while.

But there is no getting around the fact that the U.S. is headed for an economic collapse.

By borrowing gigantic piles of cash the U.S. government can put the pain off for a little while, but by doing so they make the eventual collapse much worse.

Winter Mind Games

Does anyone know exactly how the Winter Olympics got hijacked by the Canadian Hotel Housekeeping Employees Union? Every time I turned the damn thing on, there were these ladies uniformed in manual labor casuals shoving teakettles across the floor while other ladies madly polished the forward path of said sliding kettles with Swiffer© sweepers. At least this was the first Olympiad to be dominated by Proctor & Gamble instead of some obnoxious Great Power nation with a political agenda. The NBC execs must have loved this weird new sport, because it was practically all they put on the air.

My own interest in tea kettle shoving waned over the days, and a good thing too, because along came President Obama's Health Care Reform Summit Meeting on Thursday to engage the whole nation in a rousing Olympiad of mind games, including a round-robin version of The Spanish Prisoner, a mixed set of the Republican Pigeon Drop, and variations on the Nigerian Lottery scam, with touches of the Madoff Ponzi Gambit here and there. After a few hours of that, one longed for the simple mindless bliss of tea kettle shoving, if only to relieve the headache.

I wish I could fetch up something like the glowing false authority of Paul Krugman to pronounce on the fantastic bundle of conundrums, riddles, and fathomless mysteries that is health care reform but I was left far more confused about it after the summit. All I can offer, really, are observations: for example, that Congressman John Boehner (R -Ohio) needs a set of steel ball bearings to roll around in his hand to perfect his otherwise dead-on impersonation of Captain Queeg, the paranoid villain of that 1950s movie The Caine Mutiny. I kept wishing that President Obama would reach under the table for a fungo bat every time the miserable Mr. Boehner opened his Midwestern pie-hole to drone out a new lie, and split his fucking head open like a Crenshaw melon -- but perhaps my fantasies are excessively baroque.

My feelings toward the rest of the Republicans ran along similar lines. Even that ole Teddy bear Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) managed to put over a line of insolently mendacious bullshit in the Republican effort to support the status quo at all costs. It brought to mind that curious incident from 1856 -- another era of inflamed passions -- when Congressman Preston Brooks (D - SC) stepped into the Senate chamber and flogged Senator Charles Sumner within an inch of his life with a gold-headed gutta-percha cane. Brooks had originally entertained the idea of a duel with Sumner, but was persuaded by friends that duels were correct only between social equals, and that Sumner was more deserving of treatments more usually prescribed for drunkards in the gutter. A horsewhip probably would have sufficed, but Brooks himself was a cripple from an earlier duel who happened to walk with a cane. Sumner was never quite same afterward, perhaps to the nation's ultimate benefit. Anyway, I would have enjoyed seeing the entire Republican side of the Health care Reform summit table swarmed and beset upon by cane-wielding crazies -- and all those golf-obsessed, grift-fattened, hypocritical gentlemen from those backwater districts in the Heartland begging for mercy as they cringed on the floor. Perhaps a bloody spectacle like that is yet to come. Based on how we seem to be doing things in this Republic, I wouldn't count it out.

Of President Obama's performance, I confess I came away disappointed. His speech throughout the long day seemed halting, wan, lacking in conviction, as though he had been assigned some thankless interlocutor's role in an embarrassing and hopeless political minstrel show that history had cruelly mandated to demean him. (Or maybe he just needed a cigarette.) Of all people, the rascally Charles Rangel (D -NY) far outshone the President both in stylish verve and substance in laying out his version of what was at stake late in the day. And though I am generally not a Pelosi fan, House Speaker Nancy (D - Cal) rather effectively called out the opposition as a claque of lying motherfuckers in her concluding remarks.

We are left, finally, with a so-called health care system so cruel and unjust that the Devil himself in consultation with the most demonic lobbyists, and perhaps a little input from historical politicians such as Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, Heinrich Himmler, and Pol Pot could not construct a worse way of deploying the fruits of modern science. It has gotten to the point for most of us where we dread a visit to the doctor more for the bureaucratic consequences than the health issues themselves. Your gall bladder may have to come out, but it's much harder to face the booby-trap clause in your health insurance that will result in you getting stuck with a $123,000 bill for surgery and attendant procedures (including the $500 tylenols). Three months later, of course, the re-po man is towing your car and the mortgage "servicer" has foreclosed on your house, and your life (even without that pesky gall bladder) has become a permanent camping trip next to a drainage ditch.

I am personally not confident that we will do anything to address the failures and inequities of so-called Health Care. As a general thing, I have to say that this recent exercise only seems to prove the now permanent impotence and impairment of the federal government. In The Long Emergency we have entered, real governance is likely to devolve downward to the community level, and it may be unrealistic to expect any real action from on high. Things have just gone too far at this point. We have blown past the thresholds of hyper-complexity so that further hyper-complexity only make things worse. At more than 2,000 pages, the current Health Care Reform bill is surely an exercise in the diminishing returns of grotesque additional hyper-complexity.

I am confident in the "emergent," self-organizing capablities of human societies. We are now faced with the task of emergently re-organizing medicine downward to the community clinic level -- and sooner or later probably toward a simple, straightforward pay-as-you-go in cash basis with doctors you know, with all the bureaucratic barnacles scraped away. Like a lot of other things in the years ahead -- education, retail trade, transport, even banking -- medicine is likely to be much less dazzling than the way it is practiced today. But when all is said and done we'll still possess the germ theory of illness and the recipe for lidocaine and a few other things that will make existence tolerable.

Oh, one least thing. What I said about John Boehner also applies to that miserable dissembling pinch-faced prick Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky). Someone, please, take a cricket bat to him.