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    • The First Great Environmental Crisis Will Be
      Water. As I’ve said for many years. The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 percent by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit. I’ll use the US as an example, though this going to effect almost all countries, some much worse than others, and it wi […]
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Is it absurd to try to weather the storm?

stormIs it beyond our ken to maintain a noble purpose as we guide our battered ships of state through the dark shadows of this mild squall of an economic crisis? Whom of us will risk life and limb to keep the ships afloat? Who will cast away possessions for the same purpose? Who will act to subvert these sacrifices? How will the storm weather us, as we weather the storm?

I ask these question because these darkling foreshadows are pallid compared to those that will attend the forthcoming Category Six typhoon of environmental collapse. How will that storm weather us, if we weather the storm? Given the tendency of people to adopt default positions in crisis situations, how we perform now, should give us some indication of how we’ll perform in much more dire circumstances.

Curiously, given the introduction, the point of this post is not to delve into the ugliness which portends. The point of this post is to ask the question, “How should we behave when faced with the absurdity that the cultural virtues that we cherish undermine the existential preconditions of our culture?” In other words, what does a wine-inspired poet do, when he finds that greater amounts of drink are fueling his muse, but not curing his cirrhosis and, in fact, killing him?

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103 Responses

  1. Wow-this post’s literary style so perfectly matches the painting! The whole movement of the piece seems to match waves in motion.

    And the refs are perfect too (love the Vesuvio bar).

    This has to be your best post yet.

  2. The post had a point, other than “OH NOES!”?

  3. TY. I too like the vesuvio bar ref. 🙂

  4. That’s fantastic. We have a magnificent Indian summer and you are enjoying the Gulf’s fruit of the sea.

    • I just discovered the joy of eating Muscadine grapes …

      • This post and the comments are reminding me that –

        Ever since watching a PBS special on super volcanoes and learning that the one under Yellowstone Park erupts about every 600,000 years, and last erupted 640,000 years ago, I’ve been considering an eat drink and be merry option. http://www.indiatvforums.in/showthread.php?t=48539

        • pf,

          Great link.

          Eat, drink, and be merry is a commonly selected option when people face apparently untenable circumstances. I assume you make the statement within the context of maintaining your moral code.

          For different people, however, e,d, and m means others are prey, and enjoyment means rapine pillage, like during Katrina.

          How do we reconcile such things, especially because this is a future that we are creating?


          • “For different people, however, e,d, and m means others are prey, and enjoyment means rapine pillage, like during Katrina.”

            s, I never heard of that interpretation. Not my idea of being merry. No, when I learned of the super volcanoes and the overdue eruption, I thought, “Perhaps all my angst over the loss of democracy and the general welfare is for naught. We may not be around to to maintain the struggle much less effect change.”

            In regard to your post, the loss of resources and possible starvation due to our inability to change the direction of our institutions and government may lead to pillage. I admit that I’m not prepared morally or otherwise for this contingency.

          • pf,

            How does one prepare for such horrors? Our rights based social codes don’t address significant scarcity-based issues because they think of justice as a matter of distribution when there is enough to go around.

            Thankfully, other codes, such as those informed by the pre-Socratic, Greek tragedians, give us advice on how to reconcile Sophie’s Choices. These involve doing the unavoidable, unpalatable lesser of the evils with the right rectitude.

            Naturally, it is better to avoid creating unpalatable circumstances in the first place, but we seem to have evolved a way of choosing societal leadership (whether it’s the old USSR, UK, PRC, Russia, India, Brazil, Japan, Canada, or the US) that drives us towards the edge.


          • “These involve doing the unavoidable, unpalatable lesser of the evils with the right rectitude.”

            Which sometimes means making a choice rather than making no choice? There is not always a lesser of evils, of course. My struggle with morality is that it not only involves very good reasoning skills, but also courage. I appreciate your deep thinking on these issues.

            I simply cling to the slim hope of election campaign reform and the reversal of the decision to treat corporations as persons.


          • pf,

            Your practise is sensible. No one can do everything, but good things happen if many do small good things.


      • Hey you two. You’re making me hungry. I could go for some of that shrimp right now.

  5. “I can’t get well without muscatel.”

    Lambert, Hendricks, and Bavan at Newport 1963.

  6. OT: Rockefeller says Hell No to Baucus BS, is this more kabuki or bunraku or is it a glimmer of hope?

    Following up on his This Week appearance where he promised to fight on for the public option, Sen. Jay Rockefeller blasted the draft bill produced by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus: “there is no way in its present form that I vote for it unless it changes in the amendment process by vast amounts.”


  7. http://www.noquarterusa.net/blog/2009/09/15/finally-the-skinny-on-how-obamacare-will-be-financed/

    what is your take on this?

    All I can think of is that old song ” you can’t get fooled again”
    then backtrack does something to make a fool of the country.



  8. Oh yuck, Santorum wants to run in 2012

  9. I dare say we will weather the storm , hoping that it is not a tsunami. But, in the end, it may very well be. Will we fight the good fight before the ship capsizes? The people will fight only if they truly realize that the ship is going down.

    • there is populist anger, but it’s being exploited/misdirected by the GOP right now

      • Not “misdirected”, Wonk, but deliberately and carefully wooed in the GOP direction. The failure IMO, belongs to the Dems for creating all of these “bitter small towners”, for continuing to dismiss and demean them, for acting as if they don’t get a place at the table,

        It’s not the shrewdness of the Right that costs Democrats elections, it’s the lack of integrity, the elitism, the failure to reach out to middle America. Bill Clinton understood and he got himself a second term.

        • That is what I meant by exploited/misdirected.

        • What I mean by misdirect… the GOP is directing the anger at “big government” and “government regulation” when it is really the failure of government to adequately regulate in the first place, imho.

          • Well, they regulate the crap out of the little people. Dinky small businesses, car tabs, taxes, fees, hoops to jump thru, but than they deregulate the big guys. I suspect the reason the GOP is so successful with their deregulation rhetoric is because people are identifying with it personally and not really understanding that there are two sets of people in the US. Over regulated citizens and too big to fail corporations.

          • If we want them to believe something different, it would behoove us to communicate that point of view to them, without making fun of them. the elitist attitude of the left has got to go!

          • Listen, popular culture worships Forrest Gump, atheletes, Legally blondes who go to Harvard Law school to get boyfriends back and win cases based on knoweldge of hair products, lloyd and whoever from Dumb and Dumber … please, we don’t make heroes of our brightest … we give people the dumbest in society for their role models, it’s not a matter of looking down your nose at people, it’s a matter of finding a way to help folks realize they can aspire and should aspire to being cultural elitists … like my favorite cultural elitist Thomas Jefferson, as an example.

          • Yeah sure.

          • If we want them to believe something different, it would behoove us to communicate that point of view to them, without making fun of them. the elitist attitude of the left has got to go!

            Ralph B–
            I agree. I think the people currently in charge of the Dem party are doing a horrible job reaching out to people who are frustrated right now. They are laughing at them and labeling them an angry mob while the GOP channels that frustration into 2010.

    • c,

      My sense is that we tend to adopt the role of Sisyphus (like Boxer in Animal Farm), a la Camus, because of the general tendency of good will that makes the social possible.

      I think the Montreal Protocol is a good example of the good fight that can happen when we get on the same page. Notwithstanding, it sure seems difficult to get to that page with of all the pampletereing that is done by the propagandists for the status quo.


      • My hope is that all will become clear before it is too late. It is a wish that all will see the political, government policies for the farce that they are. It’s hard to get on the same page. Maybe the first to see will lead, not just follow what others want them to believe.

        • C,

          The danger is that threshold points are often crossed before people realize they’re at a threshold. I concur that we must act and hope that we arrive before we lose the choice of acting.

          From the ABC article, it’s good that there is now a clear empirical proof of CO2’s connection to global warming. Hopefully, this will diminish the effect of the ex-tobacco, anti-climate change lobbyists.



          • I think another way to decrease the influence of the anti-climate change lobbyists is to talk about climate change as PART of kitchen table issues, to thoroughly integrate environmental concerns with other issues–the economy, jobs, energy independence, national security. Hillary knew how to do this.

          • WtV,



          • SOD–
            Definitely. But, somehow I doubt many of the people who simply oppose the farce that the current Dem leadership is pushing are lobbyists.

          • Wonk,
            The other issue is sorting through those who are “anti-climate” (or HC) and those who merely oppose the solutions this Dem group is offering.

      • “Is it absurd to try to weather the storm?”

        LOL, would you like to suggest another option? I mean, do we have a choice in the matter? What else can we do but weather the storm?

        Sometimes I think there must be an alternative map to Easy Street that somebody forgot to tell me about.

        • y,

          There are other choices. A good, quick overview is linked to “absurdity.”

          Beyond this, what if our actions are brewing the storm?


        • This may be “The Perfect Storm”. They fought hard although they perished in the end. There is no easy way. We have to make it crystal clear to the American public what is coming our way. People generally go to self preservation.

          • c,

            Often, the only way to preserve oneself is to work with others, such as in a phalanx that stands its’ ground.


          • Most of us agree on one issue, the banks. Maybe that could be a way to find common ground. Some other issues are just not negotiable. Will it be two armies or one united army. I’m not sure yet.

  10. We, Americans, generally discuss issues one at a time. After we take each of these issues, hopefully we will connect the dots. All these dots will eventually lead home, government and its lack of “people” interest.

    • c,

      I think the one-at-a-time approach is a human social universal. 😉


    • Unfortunately a lotta people let the Glenn Becks, Bill Os, Keith Os, etc. connect the dots for them.

      • Unfortunately people tend to believe what they see in the media. Step one might be for everyone to realize how bad our media really are.

        • So what we want is a SCREW THE MEDIA campaign. That would be an excellent start.

          • c,

            Best wear protection when we do!

            The fourth estate thing is tricky. It’s another how do you watch the watchers question. I suppose teaching media literacy as core curriculum, such as they used to do in Ontario, is a good step. I suppose the citizens simply must let them know what’s acceptable and we must work to provide an education that helps citizens create such standards, given their political philosophies.



  11. House Votes to Rebuke Wilson for Shouting at Obama

    The Sergeant-at-Arms then viciously slapped Wilson’s wrists with a wet noodle.

    • Oh good thing because Congressman Suggests People Will Don ‘White Hoods’ If Wilson Not Rebuked

      Making an obvious reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will be putting on “white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside” if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.

      Have we had enough race baiting from the Democrats yet? I know I’m more than over it.

      • rb,

        It’s like they have not realized that having a hammer does not mean that every problem they face is a nail.


        • Every time they race bait, they are making the hammer less effective at nailing down anything in the long run.

          • True. They’ve diluted it’s force of moral sanction by all of the dishonest accusations they’ve made. Worse, they created cover for real racist agendas because their claims do not deserve serious consideration, based on their record.

    • I’m sure hoping it’s a clip from the Exorcist.

    • I heard that Kuchinich and some other Dems voted against the resolution, and Barney Frank voted “present.” Do you think he was sending a message to Obama?

      • Lol Obama disease is affecting everybody.

        So who will be the Obot Great Male Hope now that Lynchie is out? We need the Bay State’s Most Reactionary to step up, assume the hopenchange mantle and prevent the unthinkable.

        • Lynch is out? I didn’t hear that. But I just heard that Jimmy Carter thinks there has been a racist “tone” in the country since Obama became POTUS.


          • Yep. Rumor is the Kennedys will now, big shocker, endorse Coakley’s opponent.

          • Yea, that story is front page on Yahoo. I have to roll my eyes at that. There are the Tea Party protesters but they are in the minority. It is dangerous to stereotype all of us who are against Obama’s policies or confuse our anger over his incompetence as racist tone. I’m tired of seeing the race card constantly used since Obama ran for president so I see Carter as just another Obama supporter who is trying to divert our attention from Obama’s poor job as president to the few crazies on the right who do not represent the majority of Americans. Carter could have called out specific people he thinks is against Obama because of his race. But it’s wrong to generalize or call out all Republicans as racists simply because they truly believe that Obama is liberal or might be a socialist. Yes, they are in the wrong but it doesn’t make them racists. Americans have every right to be angry and scared during a time when millions are losing their jobs and homes. Obama hasn’t done a good enough job to calm those fears or make the situation any better so Carter should place some place on our POTUS as well.

          • BB,

            I expect the bad will get worse as the economy deteriorates. The tenor is becoming increasingly disconcerting. If things continue as they have been, then it is not unlikely that some loon will plot to take the life of President Obama. I think it is more likely that the loon will be motivated by a perceived anti-Americanism in Obama’s actions, rather than by the POTUS’s ethnicity.


          • There people aren’t complete morons, they know that all Democratic Presidents produce hysteria (see Clinton, Bill) and that billions in corportate bailouts would produce protests regardless of who was in charge. I find it interesting how garden variety it happens to everyone stuff like being called a socialist is now being spun as some unique never seen before phenomenon that only applies to Obama. Obviously they think that branding everyone who disagrees a Nazi will help them, but with who? It’s all been seen a million times before.

          • S,

            The attack machine never sleeps.

            It wouldn’t be sensible to avoid using tried and true methods of attacking a D president?

            I think that the notion that the majority of tea party goers are racist does not bear scrutiny, though I’m not sure that’s what Carter meant.

            I think that the economic situation is going to get a good deal worse than it is right now and 8 years of Bush have already lowered the economic position of most citizens. I think these things in combination with two variations on Vietnam make a bad brew.s


          • This racist stuff is a perfect storm and it’s being fed. People are getting resentful of the constant accusations, they’re starting to draw lines in the sand. It’s human nature when you’re under attack to get tribal about it, to circle the wagons. We’re creating divisions where none existed before.

            People who are on the bottom struggling, get angry when some elite Harvard professor or some wealthy rap star or the president of the US starts accusing them of oppression. How do you oppress the guy with his own private jet flying over you when you’re working two jobs for minimum wage?

          • There is a conversation going on about this issue over at TalkLeft

          • Trying this again. Sorry if this posts twice.

            There is a conversation about this issue over at TalkLeft


          • I’m in moderation. You only have to post my first comment with the TL link.

          • DEV,

            Sorry, but I don’t have moderator’s privileges so I can’t get you out.



          • It’s okay. Anyway, just wanted to point out that a similar conversation on the race issue is being discussed at TalkLeft in the Tuesday Night Open Thread post.

          • Yes. It is very possible that racism is rising, but instead of a serious discussion of the ways in which criticism is being racialized, tptb always go for the political cheapshot.

  12. http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/09/obama-backs-expiring-patriot-act-spy-provisions/

    Tell me again how backtrack is not bush 3.



  13. http://www.tmz.com/2009/09/15/obama-calls-kanye-a-jackass/

    The MOST important story of the week. It is so nice to know that the msm has nothing else to ask or report.



    • I’ve yet to encounter anyone who disagrees with Obama’s judgment on this issue.

    • Actually, this may be one of the few times that I agree with Obama.

    • I agree West is an ass. But to have the press corp make that the first question to a president is just plain wrong.

      The last thing this country needs is a bunch of silly frat boys that call themselves journalists to be in a position where serious questions should be asked.
      They are overpaid idiots.



  14. The thing to do, fairly clearly, is make all sail and run before the storm if we can.

    The question is how to do that, with a political and information-distribution system (for want of a better phrase; we pretty much are down to the level of Twinkies, here) that only reacts to the market, which in turn is driven by an apparently never-ending appetite for empty calories and oversweet goo. There’s going to have to be a demand that our insitutions tell us the truth. And following that, there’s going to have to be the willingness to act in concert and to throw overboard anything that reduces our chances of outsailing the storm. And that includes politicos who insist that we’ll be fine if we just rearrange the deck chairs and don’t disturb the band rehearsals.

  15. With appreciation for the painting and your prose, I believe that “this too shall pass” and we will be the stronger for it.

    God bless.:)

  16. Is it absurd to try to weather the storm? I don’t know. What other option IS there? There are no jobs here. I can’t leave because I am tied down with family responsibilities. Eat, drink, and be merry? Can’t afford it. March on Washington? Can’t afford to go there, either. Escape to the grocery store? All I do there is worry about how much stuff costs while at the same time feeling blessed because I don’t have to go to the food pantry like one of my BFFs.

    So yeah, I’m trying to weather the storm.

  17. JtM,

    I empathize and appreciate your lack of quit.


  18. Sadly I tend to take the view of Nightfall by Asimov where society is really a fragile facade to our more basic nature and the slightest disruption of the made up, imagined, held together with the thinnest of threads, social structures and norms causes us to quickly spiral down to chaos.

    But then the optimist in me says we tend to snap back pretty quickly and rebuild. So my feeling is when we really hit rock bottom, it’s going to be pretty damn rough for a while, but we’ll get back on the saddle.

    • DT,

      I’m a Brown, which means I think it’s likely that it’s too late to stop the collapse, but I’m not willing to stop trying and I’m not willing to go nihilistic and scr*w others over.

      Asimov rocks. Is Obama related to the diplomat whose visit was recorded in the Foundation Trilogy?



      • I’m of a like mind. I think it’s too late, and I will try my best to stay true to myself in such times.

        Ah, I loved the FT. But sadly it’s been so long since I read the original trilogy that I’ve forgotten such details. Now I’m going to have to read it again. I may skip the later (was it two) parts where it merged with the robot series. I read them, but it just wasn’t the same. You can indeed have too much of a good thing.

  19. OT: Colbert just had a great “the word” segment on personhood for corporations as being decided in the courts now. He sarcastically took the side of corporations being full people hoping for the logical end result of skipping the middle man and just electing a corporation as president. Then, he said, we would finally have a government of the people by the people and for the people.

  20. DT,

    Too fun.

    I’m to bed. Classes start at 7:15 a.m.


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