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Teens, the Big Con, Let the banks fail, Dmitry Orlov replies to my review (Reinventing Collapse), Red Queen's Race, breakup of U.S., Survival + strategy and and more   (week of July 1, 2008)

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Thank you for this post Alienation Nation (July 2, 2008). It addresses an issue that has been on my mind a lot, lately. I live in Marin and there are over-scheduled kids everywhere. It seems there is this constant corpuscular flow of minivans (made by Mercedes, of course) delivering children to and picking them up from various activities. It all feels terribly unhealthy.

I grew up in San Francisco in the 50s and 60s. My parents were divorced when I was 9 and they both worked, though my mother worked part-time and was usually home by 3:30. My mother couldn't drive so she didn't have a car, though my father did. It didn't really matter - we had buses! I walked to school and I walked home. Sometimes I would play with my friends after school. We'd go all over the place - vacant lots (San Francisco used to have a lot of them) parks, the reservoir. Our parents didn't worry, as long as we were home in time for dinner. There were no cell phones. Sometimes there would be sleepovers at the "Y." And in the summer there was a summer camp hosted by the "Y" in the Santa Cruz mountains which lasted for 2 weeks and was essentially the only formal activity we participated in.

What seemed like boredom then is something I look back on now with fondness - hanging around, talking, dreaming, thinking about the future. In order to have those moments, though, there has to be time that is not already spoken for. When we were teens, most of us didn't devolve into drug addiction, and this was the '60s in San Francisco when drugs were everywhere. Some did, to be sure, most experimented a little and then moved on.

When I was 17 I went to Europe for 4 months. On my own with no particular itinerary. I had a few friends there but most of my time was spent on my own, exploring and discovering, making new friends. I was a different person when I returned - confident, poised and ready for anything.

I am fortunate to live in a place where I can walk to town, to grocery stores and to the houses of friends. My son is 9 and I've tried to recreate for him the same experience I had growing up. He has friends in the neighborhood who are also not on the "structure bandwagon." They skateboard, build tree houses, target practice with rocks, lob water balloons and explore. They can walk down to the store to get something to eat when they feel like it. I don't hover around him (a term I love - "helicopter parents") trying to make him play the way I think he should. He gets to figure it out. And when he's bored, he gets to figure THAT out as well.

It's all about learning self-sufficiency. It worries me that the kids who are over scheduled will never learn how to do for themselves. But maybe that's the point.

Chuck D.

It occurred to me that maybe Hannah Arendt got it right about 40 years ago in the set of of New Yorker essays she wrote and later published in book form as Between Past and Future. Her thesis was that the traditions of Western civilzation we take for granted as common sense were breaking down, but it wasn't yet clear what new traditions would arise to replace them.

If she was correct (and 40 years haven't yet done much to conclusively determine the probablility of whether or not she was), then it wouldn't be surprising that parents feel the world now threatens both them and the children they have to turn loose into it. Without those traditions and common sense to provide stability and guidance, the world becomes are more scary, uncertain and threatening place. The center no longer holds and things seem to be falling apart. It would be pretty normal for parents to react to these circumstances in just the ways you have described in your June 2nd essay. Alienation Nation

Paul T.

I would like to comment on "Dennis'" comments regarding "Let the Banks Fail"

Dennis states re Charles' article:
"You have never been more wrong!" ...
"You keep saying the money has already been lost, or, 75% lost. That is not true"
"What has been lost are 4 different things. Bank earnings, stock prices, house prices, and bond values."


1. Why would bank earnings be impacted if the money has not been lost?
2. Why would bank stock prices be impacted if bank earnings were not impacted? Theoretically stock prices are just the net present value of anticipated earnings.
3. How have the house prices regarding pertaining to the past transactions been impacted? They are what they are. A person promised to pay $895,000 for a 1200 sq ft bungalow. It's in the recorded TD. No changes there.
4. Bonds payments are paid out of bank earnings and I asked in (1) above, why they would be impacted "if the money wasn't lost"?

Seems like its the old saw of "For want of a nail the shoe was lost, and for want of a shoe..."

Bottom line, "the money's lost". We can all commiserate with your sentiment "but this one made me ill" as this whole dollar diarrhea consumption binge has indeed been a sickening experience. I don't agree that the nothing, or little, downers should be able to their houses (moral hazard issues there), but I really don't think that was the thrust of the article. To me the overriding sentiment was.... let's move on! Our society bought a ticket for the 11th horse from the post to win. Now we find out, there are only 10 horses running. No need to stick around for the race. The money's gone.

But people get the government they deserve and blogs like this one, which hope to enlight and raise awareness of the issues are really the answer to helping the people improve their own self government. Power to the people, but let the people be enlightened first. Let's not let this housing crisis drag on. Let's liquidate and move on.


RE: A Good Con, and The Higher Level Con (July 1, 2008):

I know a little something about how media works, and I have developed a saying over the years which I think is the fundamental truth of media, and especially political coverage in America.

"The media doesn't control what you think about the issues, it controls what issues you think about."

Pretty good, eh?

Anyway, that's why we talk about abortion, gun control, and missing white girls in black countries. It's irrelevant to the PTB is you are for or against abortion, they just don't want you discussing economic policy or how 'free markets' aren't free at all.


RE: A Good Con, and The Higher Level Con (July 1, 2008): Great blog. Smart content and presentation. Appreciate the views and the depth you have.

One thing I see throughout the financial blogs on the net is the " Jim Cramer" outrage.

I would say that Cramer is almost harmless when compared to "LARRY KUDLOW"

I give Kudlow the title of "Most Dangerous Man to his Country" with ease.

Perhaps promote the substitution of " KUDLOW " for Cramer every odd blog, Wonder how that slimeball sleeps at night? Terrible load of trash he spews.

Paul T.

RE: A Good Con, and The Higher Level Con (July 1, 2008):

Psychologist Gustave Gilbert had extraordinary access to the Nuremberg defendants during their trial.The passage below is from Gilbert's classic Nuremberg Diary (1947). It refers to a conversation the two had in Goering's cell on 18 April 1946 during a three-day Easter break in the trial. Goering committed suicide the following October 15.

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."


Dmitry Orlov

Thanks for recommending my book, but I dare say you got a few things wrong:

The collapse of the USSR was a political act; the USA is facing a resource-depletion-financial crisis.

The distinction you are drawing is not a valid one. The USSR went through peak oil at a time when internationally oil prices collapsed. The resulting foreign currency shortfall drove it deep into debt, threatening to cut off grain supplies on which its population depended, and making it politically necessary for it to appease international creditors. The political collapse happened because the politicians knew that the economic game could not be played for another round and thought they could still cash in their chips. I think we might see that happening here as well. Gaidar is the required reading here.

You are right that the USSR was less tapped out than the USA in terms of natural resources, oil and natural gas especially. This made the post-collapse shortages that happened rather less severe than they will be here. But the idea that the Soviet collapse was pure politics invalidates much of your discussion. Pure politics must be like absolute vacuum: not observable in nature. You are partially correct that the Soviet system couldn't deliver; nor can the American one. But, if you read Tainter, you'll find that all advanced societies are very good at solving all sorts of problems, and, in absence of other signficant phenomena, "it was a bad system" is no explanation for their collapse.

Another key difference between the USSR and the USA is that if you stood up and confronted the government there, you were taken away; here, you're a hero/heroine.

All the political prisoners were released some time before the USSR collapsed. Plenty of people stood up to confront the government - perhaps more so than here in the US. There are not too many differences here, but there is a big similarity: political action was pointless in the USSR, and it's pointless in the USA.

Thanks again for recommending my book, but, as my friends in the hard sciences like to say in conclusion, "More research is needed."

Harun I.

Perpetual growth, The Red Queen’s Race and Soylent Green

Current energy proposals by everyone, including both presidential candidates, presuppose continued geometric growth of population is possible and desirable.

  • First a proviso: I would like to point out that we have to be careful about confusing correlation and causation. There are countless examples of organisms, plants, trees and even galaxies that exhibit geometric patterns of expansion. Human expansion may follow the same rules. Therefore without exhaustive study on my part of the nature of human expansion I cannot definitively say that cheap, energy dense fuel and medical and industrial technology are causes of human expansion but may only be correlated to it.
  • Meeting ever increasing energy needs may be possible, however, meeting geometrically increasing food and water needs is not sustainable.
  • Medical science and industrial technology has turned off most of nature’s human population controls with the most notable exception being unchecked growth itself.
  • Therefore we are framing the problem incorrectly. The real threat to human existence is geometric population growth. This is may be unpleasant but it is nonetheless true.
  • Food, Energy, Water and the Red Queen’s Race:

  • All attempts to solve the energy crisis from the only the supply side become the Red Queen’s Race – we have to run faster and faster to stay in place. In 2030 it is estimated that the world’s energy needs will have increased by 50%.
  • The problem with more oil is that the time that it takes to be brought into production will be offset by demand and increased demand. Which means the rate of discovery would have to increase by some exponential function just to stay in the same place.
  • Bio-fuels, nuclear power, cold fusion (?), etc. may stabilize the energy equation (technology will save us), however, it then it allows population growth to expand on its current geometric trajectory, which begins the Red Queen’s Race for food and water resources which must be delivered progressively faster at ever larger quantities – which, by the way, takes more energy.
  • Biomass, how much does the earth need to produce an atmosphere inhabitable by human kind? The eventual question that will slap us the face is: How much can we defoliate the earth before such actions create an ecological disaster, a vortex from which human kind cannot escape? More simply, how much of the earth’s greenery can we destroy before the byproducts of the process of photosynthesis (the absorption of CO2 and the release of life supporting oxygen) is so degraded that our atmosphere no longer supports human life? We must face the fact that human expansion has finite limits.
  • Bio-fuels either reduce food production directly (corn to ethanol) or indirectly by reducing arable acreage for food production. But the more food produced the more population will grow and the greater need for greater food production. We are already behind and nature either hasn’t read or doesn’t care about our playbook. We have lost ground and must sprint in order not to lose any more.
  • Soylent Green, maybe not so fictitious after all: Soylent Green is a 1973 dystopian science fiction movie depicting a bleak future in which overpopulation, pollution, and the resulting severe damage to the environment have led to widespread unemployment and poverty. Real fruit, vegetables, and meat are rare, commodities are expensive, and much of the population survives on processed food rations, including Soylent Green.

  • Conceived in 1966 and set in 2022, Soylent Green, based on the book Make Room! Make Room!, gives us a peak at the price of improperly framing the problem, i.e., intellectual and physical resources will be misallocated and inadequate solutions will be implemented leading to disaster. While we probably won’t wind up implementing industrialized cannibalism (processed human wafers), civilization will be overwhelmed to the point that the systems of civilized life will break down and cease to function (a new Dark Age). I am not the first or only person to realize that we have already mismanaged the situation to the point of being relegated to crisis management for the foreseeable future, e.g., Mr. Kunstler’s The Long Emergency. Framing the problem:

  • Overpopulation: around 1900 there were a billion people on the planet; today there are 6 billion. This six fold growth, were it to happen over the next century, and would lead to a population 36 billion people. This will be impossible to reach of course but just a few more billion will be well beyond the earth’s carrying capacity. How do we manage population growth?

  • Problem number two (or perhaps a subset of overpopulation) is industrial development. Now that most industrial systems, including agriculture are energy intensive rather than labor intensive, this allows us to use tomorrow’s resources today. This is enjoyed by only a few countries, most notably the US.

  • Economic policies of perpetual growth lead to consumption of resources at geometric rates. The trick for the US is to keep consuming the majority of the world’s industrial output in return for nothing other than promissory notes with no real value. Without finding ways to increase wages or increase the ability to expand consumer debt this theory runs into predictable limits and problems.

  • In order for industrialized first world nations to maintain their standard of living they must retard or arrest the development of the rest of the world while convincing them to give up their resources (via force or trade (goods in exchange for worthless currencies)). The alternative is for industrialization to go into reverse as first world standards of living revert to the global mean. Central banks cannot undo this.


  • If you believe this hypothesis to be correct I will leave solutions for the reader to decide. I have thought about this and have implemented what I think are appropriate actions for me to do as conscious and compassionate being. It should not take laws to encourage us to do what in our best interests. There are tough decisions to be made. We may not see the disaster in full bloom in our lifetime. But if we open a National Geographic and see the emaciated, bloated stomachs of African children and imagine our great grandchildren and their children facing such a fate we will gladly make the hard choices.

  • Azvitt

    The 'Volt' is a Series Hybrid. It only took GM 30 years (and counting) to figure this out. AN AMAZING 75 MPG HYBRID ELECTRIC CAR (July 1979)

    Unix Ronin

    Your reader, "Don E. in Maine" wrote:

    "my hope, slightly tongue in cheek, is that new hampster, vermont and maine will break off into a new nation with a regional gov't that looks more toward canada than south."

    I'm your next door neighbor in New Hampshire, and I too have this view. I don't hope for it to happen, per se, but I do hope that if it comes to that level of SHTF, that the northern New England states go their own way; sooner rather than later.

    If you haven't already read it, "The Nine Nations of North America" by Joel Garreau gives a study of the regional personality traits across the North American continent, and when reading it through the lens of societal upheaval and change; one gets a clear image of six to eleven nation-states forming from the remnants of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. While it was written in 1981 from research done in the mid-1970's, much of the work still holds true today.

    Than H.

    Great articles you continue to do, on both your site and NYC Housing Bubble!

    I just saw this article Suburbs an American Nightmare? noted in a post on, and it resonates with what you have been talking about for sometime.

    I just wish the MSM would pick up on these things and disseminate much faster than they do, so that mainstream Americans can prepare themselves for what may be the inevitable.


    RE: The Remnant, the Pareto Principle and You :

    Thank you for the suburb work you do via your site. I know you have limited time to read your e-mails, so I will be as brief as possible.

    As you know, the top 10% of US households own virtually all financial wealth for all practical purposes, i.e., 85%, and receive ~40% of all US income, whereas the top 20% combined own 93% of wealth and receive ~60% of all income. Put another way, the top 20% of the top 20% (top 4%) own something like 60% (a clear majority) of all wealth and receive approximately one-third of all US income (give or take). I'll return to the Remnant idea after a brief detour to discuss per capita growth prospects.

    From the 15th-16th century to the beginning of the Oil Age in the 1870s, the best estimates of US and UK real per capita (RPC) growth were 0.2-0.5% to 0.6-0.9%/yr. to the 1860s-70s and 1.1-1.5%/yr. from the 1860s to the beginning of the 20th century.

    From 1900 to 1950, RPC GDP grew 1.7% in the US and 0.9% in the UK.

    From 1950 to date, US and UK RPC GDP grew nearly 2.1%/yr.

    US RPC GDP since the 1970s-90s has again decelerated to 1.7%.

    From '00 to date, RPC growth has averaged 1.5%.

    Needless to say, the discovery of cheap, plentiful supplies of oil contributed overwhelmingly to the increase in agricultural yields, urban infrastructure expansion (including vast improvements in drinking water quality and sanitation), population growth, and thus increasing innovation and aggregate output.

    However, Peak Oil and the Baby Boomer demographic drag in advanced economies risk a dramatic deceleration of long-term RPC growth, first to well below the long-term trend of ~1.7-2% since the beginning of the 20th century, and then quite likely to the rate of per capita GDP growth which preceded the Oil Age or well below 1%, i.e., approximately the rate of population replacement at ~0.6-0.7%.

    Given that the population growth in advanced nations is expected to slow to 0.5-0.7% to no growth or even negative growth in the coming decades, the larger implication of replacement growth or less is that GDP will barely grow, if at all, in the long run, suggesting the very real potential for an eventual New Dark Age for the vast majority of human beings, only this time on a scale of human privation and suffering beyond anything the species has dared imagine to this point.

    Returning to the Remnant notion and wealth and income concentration, in the context of a dramatic deceleration of RPC GDP, the prospects for a global die-off, and a New Dark Age, one might argue that the Remnant are already in place in the persons of the top 1-4% of households by wealth and income in the advanced nations of the world. There are ~110M-120M US households, and 4% of those households comprise 4-5M households and ~12M individuals. Shall we hazard a guess as to where the overwhelming majority of the gains will continue to flow should there be any RPC GDP growth in the decades ahead?

    A minority subset of the top 1-4% of US households (top ~0.8%...?) have known about, and anticipated, the emerging global resource constraints and risk of resource wars, widespread famine, climate change, mass population migration, large-scale ethnic/racial violence, etc., for at least 30-35 years (going back to the Club of Rome, "Limits to Growth", and the "Great Leveling"). If one were a member of such a group, and it became clear over time that the world's prospects were to become evermore grim for an increasing share of humanity, would not one be compelled to amass virtually all of the wealth for oneself and progeny, rationalizing that the great bulk of the rest of humanity was doomed to lives increasingly characterized as "nasty, brutish, and (mercifully) short"...?

    Thus, the so-called Remnant appear to be already in place, and arguably we ain't them.

    Not to be completely morbid here, but in the context of the scenario above, it is worth noting that the demographic bubble of the 1940s-60s worldwide implies that, over the next 35-40 years or more, death from old age ("natural causes") the world over will reach absolute levels never before witnessed in the human experience as a share of the total population; and the sheer numbers we can expect does not even account for early death from disease, famine/starvation, wars, ethnic/racial violence, natural disasters, etc.

    Death will increasingly dominate the mass-social psyche of humanity, suggesting an increase in "mythomagical thinking", i.e., growing belief in esoteric religions, messiahs, end-times prophets (more so than even today), and a loss of faith in the notion of social and technological "progress" and in social, political, and economic institutions.

    We might also expect death (and "the afterlife") to persist as a dominant theme in literature, film, paintings, etc., as the mass of humanity attempts to come to grips emotionally, psychologically, socially, politically, and economically with the loss of so many lives.

    "Soylent Green" might be among the more benign scenarios.

    Second email:

    I take your point about the need for participation in a supportive community and collective efforts to secure access to FEW; we humans would not be here were we to have not been successful at such efforts.

    As to the foregoing theme, I suspect that we will see a multi-decade, albeit halting and largely forced, trend toward communitarianism and away from the atomistic, hyper-individualized social interaction of the system prevalent during the Oil Age.

    I can envision a future situation in which people have less recreational time as we have or perceive it today, i.e., essentially watching TV commercials 20 mins. or more out of an hour, and are required to spend more time producing and maintaining what is needed in the local economies, i.e., paid less in wages/salaries for more joint ownership in the means of, and returns from, local production; however, we will use less energy and spend less time traveling to jobs which effectively pay us merely to work and borrow from future after-tax wages; the "free time" we will have will be comparatively more valuable to us and thus perhaps yield more quality.

    We will "save" more, not in terms of money in stocks, bonds, and savings vehicles, but in the form of increased local capital formation/deepening and means of production, which in turn permits a kind of community dividend of sustainable investment of human, physical, and financial capital and returns therefrom.


    This piece you wrote was one of the best on the topic: The Art of Survival, Taoism and the Warring States (June 27, 2008)

    I've seen the full range of "survivalists" over the last 20 years and also did a stint myself in Iraq. The overall philosophy you put forward in your piece seems to me what will work best just about anywhere.


    I thought I'd send you my take on eating cheap and healthy. I tend to observe that pretty much all cultures have good, cheap, "peasant" food that most of us can diversify our diets with. Just to satisfy my own peculiar sensibilities, I also try to express my solidarity with whatever country we are currently occupying or bombing or exploiting in some way by eating their traditional dishes as well. During the current resource wars, for instance, I've eaten a lot of Tabouli and hummas. (See

    In general, though, I find that it is useful to not just focus on recipes, but on the infrastructure that lends itself to eating cheaper and healthier and more local. For instance, I bought a chicken on sale for $3.88. Actually, I bought several of them and froze them for future use. I can do that because last year we purchased a freezer that is energy efficient ($3 per month to run) and put it on our porch.

    I roasted a chicken. The first night my husband and I each ate a leg and thigh. The next day, I attended a meeting that required a sack lunch. I made a chicken salad from the previous nights leftover chicken and salad, and wrapped it in a spinach wrap. So, the lunch cost me nothing, essentially, and was good. The next day, I made polenta (a corn grit mush which is really tasty). I made a layer of polenta at the bottom and then put the rest of the chicken breast (diced) on top. Then, diced up a couple of tomatoes, some onions, and a partial can of diced green chilies (added some chili powder & garlic salt & cayenne pepper) to make salsa, and put that over the chicken. Next I opened a can of black beans (seasoned with seasoned salt, red pepper, and spread it over the salsa. Then, grated some Monterey Jack cheese, put it over the top, and baked it until everything was melty and yummy.

    Anyway, the point is not so much the recipe, but the fact that the $3.88 chicken fed us five meals.

    If you figure out what type of foods you like to eat in general, then purchase many of the ingredients ahead of time when they are on sale or buy in bulk, then you only have to add one or two items, maybe, to put it together. Then, you make another meal or two from the leftovers. Roast some lamb. Then use it as a roast, shish-kabobs, and a stew.

    Roast pork loin. The first night, you can serve slices with salad and potatoes or something. The next night, combine it with vegetables in a Chinese stir fry. If you still have some left, you can make it into frajitas.

    Have lots of differing spices, so you can go Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Thai, French, Iranian, or whatever, to give you lots of variety from the same staple ingredient.

    The same with vegetables. Keep in mind that they can be used in so many differing ways: salads, sandwiches, wraps, stir-fry, soups, stews, even breads, and lastly, food for chickens.

    A bread machine, dehydrator, smoker, freezer, and rototiller are indispensable infrastructure items. Additionally, we keep five laying hens in our backyard. So, we get over two dozen eggs per week from them that we both use and gift and trade. For instance, a neighbor who we provide eggs for just called and told me he is bringing me some trout that he just caught. This happens all the time. I make homemade bread and bagels, too. I give these away, and I get back rhubarb, vegetables, venison, elk, and all sorts of things. A chick costs $3 and is very cheap to raise.

    We also grow almost all of our vegetables with a combination of garden and greenhouse, despite living in the high desert of central Oregon. Since May, I have not had to purchase any salad greens. European mesclun mix salad greens come from the greenhouse. Soon they will be joined by green beans, white scallop summer squash, cucumbers (from which I can make pickles) and 5 kinds of tomatoes. Kale, chard, garlic, carrots, beets, peas, onions, and broccoli will come from the garden. Last year we blanched and froze vegetables from the garden that lasted until April. We also make beef and turkey jerky for far less than one can buy it in a store for. It also tastes better and has no chemicals in it.

    All this is organic. We never throw away any organic thing. If we don't eat it, we put it in the compost heap, where the chickens have at it. They eat the leftovers and vegetable parings, then they provide the chicken poop with which we fertilize the garden. We also have friends with horses.

    You get the idea. Nothing goes to waste. We have extra cardboard boxes or trimmed trees, or something that requires burning. After it is burned, we collect the ashes and put them in the garden or compost. Helps to balance our acidic soil.

    Despite the fact that I make no money, and am living on $1,000 a month from my savings (which is running out, but next year I'll be able to get social security - I hope), we've never had it so good, foodwise. And, since we've been anticipating the economic collapse, we have been stocking up on food for years now, and now have about a year's worth ahead. Just as an experiment, we decided to not purchase anything at a store for the month of January 2008. Piece of cake. I only ran out of vanilla extract. This has lead to great peace of mind.

    Anyway, I am not trying to brag, but I am attempting to turn you on to what can be done when money is tight and you don't want to be eating toxic commercial crap. Our efforts at becoming food sustainable have led to unexpected friendships and networking of all sorts. This has been an unanticipated reward.

    This is our alternative working class "retirement." Rather than bitching about being on "a fixed income," playing Bingo, and going to Denny's, we are gardening and talking to the chickens, and having a good time in our own freedom-loving, Monsanto-hating, doomer, survivalist, anarchist way.


    Bravo to you ror your sober and considered praise of Eisenhower as President.

    That being said, it was Eisenhower and no-one else who committed America¹s Original Sin in Vietnam: Eisenhower spent $2 BILLION propping up the French at Dienbienphu, back when $2 Billion was real money. The first US citizen (contractor) combat deaths in Vietnam were in 1954, flying support for DBP.

    Eisenhower then doubled down, the chump¹s gambit, and obstructed the free elections the Geneva Accords had provided for. After that, it was only a question of ³how pregnant² the US was. How bad would a nominally Communist Vietnam been for US security interests? Answer: A lot less threatening than the Communist Cuba that we learned to live with.

    Proof of the pudding (that Eisenhower¹s policy was carried on by Kennedy like a problem pregnancy he inherited) is that Robert F. Kennedy said a lot of things publicly and privately about LBJ, but, RFK never once even suggested that JFK had firmly decided to cut Vietnam loose, and that RFK had informed LBJ of this, and that LBJ had then embarked upon his own frolic and detour. If RFK could have said that with the merest schmeer of factual support, you can bet he would have. JFK liked to keep all his options open and keep people (friend and foe) guessing, and he liked to micromanage, e.g., the coup against Diem.

    So, Eisenhower was for the most part an able steward, but, when he screwed up, it was a Dusie. And JFK lacked the smarts to see what was coming down the road.

    In both cases, moral expediency and personal vanity were at the root. Eisenhower was in favor of democratic elections only as long as he knew the result in advance and liked it. JFK OK¹ed a coup that only a Special Education student would not understand would result in Diem¹s death, because Diem was sending negotiation feelers to the North administration was sending negotiation feelers to the Soviets through Poland...

    L. W.

    I agree that beans are a good affordable choice for cheap eats. However, they do require:

    1) A kitchen
    2) Pots, knives & a cutting board (onions don't cut themselves), a refrigerator for leftovers, Tupperware for leftovers, etc.
    3) Time

    What if you are working two jobs to get by? When are you supposed to cook those beans? What if you are living in a hotel room/tent/garage/singlewide trailer/crappy apt where the stove doesn't work and the refrigerator is dorm-size?

    Poverty is alot easier when you already have household basics and have time to plan those nutritious, hearty meals. When you are spending hours on the bus to get to your two jobs, then you get home and your kids are hungry NOW, it's hard to tell them to hold on 'cause the beans will be ready in about 3 hours.

    Now for my favorite survival book, I have two choices. First, my Mom's old cookbook, The American Woman's Cookbook. If you ever need to render fat, cook a terrapin, or plan a formal 12 course dinner, it tells you how. Second, How to Cook a Wolf, written by the great MFK Fisher in the depths of WWII when menus were circumscribed via ration cards. Poverty with style was never described so well.

    William C.

    I have to say that of all the "survival strategies" I have scanned in the last weeks this one rings the truest. Groups have and will always fair better than lone individuals. I have seen this strategy before but never put so simply and elegantly.

    U.K. reader/gardener Ray B. sent in a wonderful thread on exponential gardening-- I requested the URL so you too can read his post:

    Ray B.

    Get your filty hands off my gherkin:

    The site is moving well beyond its original remit (to the consternation of regular posters and possibly one or two of the webmasters) and is my primary source of information about the current global 'condition.'

    D. J.

    I would like to compliment you on your "survival" article. It's easy for me to relate to your youth as I also grew up in similar circumstances. My youth was spent on a reasonably remote alfalfa farm and cattle ranch. As I told my sons, I was a cowboy until I was 18.

    I'm also in the firearms accessory business and make things for hunters, police, and the military. This exposes me to all sorts of "survivalist" folks who in my opinion have some really violent ideas. Most of this is based on fear, and probably most of it is racially based. I do understand perfectly, as I have friends who live outside of OR where racial tension and conflict are very real, and they are often cops who see what really goes on. But I am like you in that I feel that true survival involves community and helping each other. I have an intelligent friend who told me that if things get really bad he can always grow his own food and livestock on the 5 acres he has on the edge of town. My reply to him was can he stay awake 24/7? Regrettably, there is another factor, and that is the government. They of course will penalize foresight and industry by confiscating from the provident.

    Your article was something that very much needs to be read by many more!

    Lee B.

    That was a great essay! As a voluntary hick, or campesino here, I am convinced that cooperation and community are the only guaranteed response to hard times. But both of these strategies require time and commitment. Becoming a stranger in a strange land were times to become chaotic, as a survival plan, seems suicidal on the face of it. I've never been able to watch an entire episode, but from what I've seen of the TV show Survivor, the likelihood of a group of spoiled brat egomaniacs surviving in a strange environment is nearly zero. The most probable outcome would be a rerun of the Donner Party.

    My friend from Taos Pueblo likes to tell about his first meeting with the commune hippies, who were nearly starving while surrounded by native food plants that looked like weeds. I used to help an elderly traditional gardener at the Pueblo. Once while I was helping cultivating the corn, I was earnestly chopping weeds out from between the corn plants, when Grampa Joe saw what I was doing... he hastened over to me and said, "No. no my boy! those plants are for dinner". I was chopping down his lambquarters and wild spinach. Survival or just a way of life in the country is made from a million little details like this. Another example was the early hippies here often were known as dirty hippies the real reason was less about the desire to stay clean and more to do with lack of the skills required to keep reasonably clean lacking running water, much less warm water.

    The urban survivalists need to get your information so they can fine tune their bunker strategies. Maybe landmines in the front yard?

    Thank you, readers, for such thoughtful contributions.

    For more on this subject and a wide array of other topics, please visit my weblog.


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