Relativity of the Clue

September 15, 2013

Escher's_ReptilesDark overcast skies this Sunday morning on California’s north coast, and way-quiet in the early light — and  I can’t even hear a sound from the mighty Pacific Ocean, a mile or so away.
Thick shit, the air.

And this morning five years ago, some real-thick shit was launched against a warbling, screaming financial fan when Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy — $600 billion right-a-way gone johnson.

And Humpty-Dumpty crashed into pieces.

(Illustration: M.C.Escher’s ‘Reptiles‘ found here).

Still in pieces, too. In a near-fairy-tale overview: A paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimated that the financial crisis and the recession cost the U.S. economy as much as $14 trillion, or about $120,000 for every household.
The average, walking-around American got totally screwed.
And down in the stomach and bowels, were it really, really hurts:

The number of Americans struggling to buy food is on the rise, and the ranks of the starving may get considerably worse.
Five years after the start of the Great Recession, one in five Americans struggle to afford food, according to a new Gallup poll.
The 20 per cent who struggled to buy food in August come close to numbers seen during the darkest days of the economic downturn.
With funding set to be cut from the food stamp program in November, more people may be unable to buy food.
The recession peak of 20.4 per cent was recorded by Gallup in November 2008, the firm said.
The staggering number of Americans unable to buy food is on the rise despite bold proclamations the recession is over amid improving unemployment numbers now below eight percent.
‘These findings suggest that the economic recovery may be disproportionately benefitting upper-income Americans rather than those who are struggling to fulfill their basic needs,’ said Gallup.
The unemployment rate, now at 7.3 per cent, has widely been criticized as an inaccurate picture of the current jobs crisis since it does not count people who have given up trying to find jobs.
A more accurate number, many would argue, is the Labor Force Participation Rate, which is at a shockingly low 63.2 per cent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest number recorded in the past decade.

And the downturn has been sexist, too — via the Washington Post:

The slowly recovering U.S. job market has helped women rebound faster than men: They’ve now regained all the jobs they lost to the Great Recession. Men are still 2.1 million jobs short.

Lower-wage industries, like retail, education, restaurants and hotels, have been hiring the fastest.
Women are predominant in those areas.
Men, by contrast, dominate sectors like construction and manufacturing, which have yet to recover millions of jobs lost in the recession.

People are carrying a load not of recession, but of depression. The country is sad to tears, and in a goodly part handles it like a cloud over everybody — and the thick-overcast gloom is shadowed by suspicion.
Even as the manager of a liquor store, I still spend more-than-enough time at the counter and have a more-than-passing discourse with customers — the way-vast majority of them support the burden of the clue. Just a clue, not much more, and without any real basis for the feeling, other than life sucks and it ain’t going to get any better.
The thread within the clue is a floating attitude of unruly awfulness with a string whispering of worse to come — and it’s just not the down-and-out guy buying a half-pint of Ancient Age, but the nicely-dressed fellow after the Wall Street Journal.
Broken down into a near-Shakespearean quip: “There’s something truly shitty in Denmark.”
Or in this case, Washington,D.C.

And what brokers this sadness is an understanding the whole shebang is beyond the average person’s ability to manage, or control — the assholes in charge are being assholes.
My customers, and Americans generally, have this small, simple clue that something highly-serious and mind-boggling is quickly approaching all of us, and not just here in the US, but all over the world.
Taken as a whole — climate change with “Biblical” flooding, Syria-like violence all over the place, worldwide obesity, peak oil and the energy blowout, and a host of other nefarious items eating at the fabric of human life, and sanity — there’s an enormous indication the perfect storm of all these crisis-like circumstances are coming together to form a terrible state of affairs.
And don’t forget the real-gut-clincher, close to the vest economic/financial thin-skinned-balloon hanging desperately over all of us.

In that financial boondoggle late of five years ago, however, Americans can see beyond a clue in that one (via Reuters):

The poll of more than 1,400 adults, representing a cross-section of the U.S. population, shows that half of the respondents believe there has not been enough reform to prevent a future crisis.
As many as 44 percent of those polled believe the government should not have bailed out financial institutions, while only 22 percent thought it was the right move.
Fifty-three percent think not enough was done to prosecute bankers; 15 percent were satisfied with the effort.

And at that same link, as if to counter the above, comes this awful horseshit:

Henry Paulson, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary who was the architect of the bailouts in 2008, said he believes the government botched its chance to portray them as a necessity for the financial stability of all Americans.
“I never was able to convince the average American that what we did with these rescues wasn’t for Wall Street but it was for them,” Paulson said in an interview.
“To understand the financial system, it’s a little like plumbing in your house — you don’t know where the pipes are and you just realize it when the pipes get clogged and everything grinds to a halt.”

And to counter the counter, people do have a memory: Lindsay Owens, a Stanford University doctoral student who has tracked American attitudes toward Wall Street, said animosity toward the financial sector reached its highest level in 40 years in 2010. When it declined slightly in 2012, the level was still higher than it had been in that period before the crisis, she said.

American are directing animosity at proven bullshit. In the recent cliffhanger on Syria and President Obama’s seemingly overwhelming desire to “pinprick” the situation, the American public remembers — they’re pretty-much flat-lined on all this assessment to asshole-stupidity. Key point via a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, which “…found that Obama’s speech to the nation on Tuesday had virtually no effect on Americans’ reluctance to engage in Syria’s civil war after a decade of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And from there, a sense of agreement with another survey — via Politico:

Less than half of Americans trust the government to handle problems, a all-time low, according to a new poll.
Just 49 percent of Americans said they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the federal government to handle international problems, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.
The previous low was 51 percent in 2007.
The public’s trust is even lower when it comes to domestic issues.
Just 42 percent of Americans answered with a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the government to handle issues at home, one point below the previous low from 2011.
”Americans’ trust and confidence in the federal government’s ability to solve problems internationally as well as domestically has fallen to historic lows this year,” Gallup said.
“There are a number of possible explanations for this loss of confidence: controversy surrounding potential U.S. action in Syria, an enduring low assessment of the state of the economy, or low levels of confidence in Congress.”

Or freakin’ all of it — sick of all the bullshit.
And an example of calling bullshit on the ‘trust and confidence‘ question came from a post last week at Wired  on just the NSA “whopper” bullshit:

“… NSA takes significant care to prevent any abuses and that there is a substantial oversight system in place,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), said August 23.
The statement was clearly contradicted Tuesday by James Clapper, director of national intelligence.
Clapper said that the reason why the NSA illegally accessed phone call metadata on thousands of targets was because the NSA was unable to conduct any oversight of itself.
“The compliance incidents discussed in these documents stemmed in large part from the complexity of the technology employed in connection with the bulk telephony metadata collection program, interaction of that technology with other NSA systems, and a lack of a shared understanding among various NSA components about how certain aspects of the complex architecture supporting the program functioned,” Clapper said in a blog post.
NSA chief Keith Alexander was either speaking untruths or was delusional when he gave a June 25 speech to his spy network:
“The ongoing national dialogue is not about your performance.
The NSA/CSS work force has executed its national security responsibilities with equal and full respect for civil liberties and privacy.”

President Barack Obama, too, has said everything was hunky-dory and that the spy powers were “not abused.”
“Now part of the reason they’re not abused is because they’re — these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC,” the president said August 9.

All the while, in a 2011 FISC opinion the government declassified August 21, the court said the NSA misrepresented the reach of its “upstream” internet surveillance, where it has tapped into the internet to vacuum up electronic communications as they travel through the internet’s backbone.
“Indeed, the record before this court establishes that NSA’s acquisition of internet transactions likely results in NSA acquiring annually tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications, and tens of thousands of non-target communications of persons who have little or no relationship to the target but who are protected under the Fourth Amendment,” according to the 2011 opinion. (.pdf)

And on and on for a bit.
Apprehensively, the clue carries the overwhelming threat of cosmic disaster — a coming boom-boom.
American novelist Jonathan Franzen, author of ‘The Corrections,’ touched a lot on this clue in a lengthy essay Friday in the UK’s Guardian on just how fuck-up is this planet. Franzen’s pulls his cue of a clue from a long-long obsession with the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus, a supposedly clever guy.
Franzen’s theme to the clue:

But apocalypse isn’t necessarily the physical end of the world.
Indeed, the word more directly implies an element of final cosmic judgment.
In Kraus’s chronicling of crimes against truth and language in The Last Days of Mankind, he’s referring not merely to physical destruction.
In fact, the title of his play would be better rendered in English as The Last Days of Humanity: “dehumanised” doesn’t mean “depopulated”, and if the first world war spelled the end of humanity in Austria, it wasn’t because there were no longer any people there.
Kraus was appalled by the carnage, but he saw it as the result, not the cause, of a loss of humanity by people who were still living.
Living but damned, cosmically damned.

Clues are relative to their surroundings — a clue to reality.

(Illustration out front: M.C. Escher’s ‘Eye‘ found here).

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