Unraveling The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle - by Pepe Escobar

There’s no question Baghdad needs to take back Mosul from ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. It could not do it before. In theory, the time is now.
The real question is the conflicting motivations of the large “who’s who” doing itthe Iraqi Army’s 9thDivision; the Kurdish Peshmerga, under the baton of wily, corrupt opportunist Barzani; Sunni tribal lords; tens of thousands of Shi’ite militias from southern Iraq; operational “support” from US Special Forces; “targeted” bombing by the US Air Force; and lurking in the background, Turkish Special Forces and air power.
Now that’s a certified recipe for trouble.
Much like Aleppo, Mosul is – literally – the stuff of legend. The successor of ancient Nineveh, settled 8000 years ago; former capital of the Assyrian Empire under Sennacherib in the 7th century B.C.; conquered by Babylon in the 6th century B.C.; a thousand years later, annexed to the Muslim empire and ruled by the Umayyads and the Abbasids; the key hub, from the 11th to the 12th century, of the Atabegs medieval state; a key Ottoman hub in a 16th century post-Silk Road spanning the Indian Ocean all the way to the Persian Gulf, the Tigris valley, Aleppo and Tripoli in the Mediterranean.
After WWI, everyone craved Mosul – from Turkey to France. But it was the Brits who managed to dupe France into letting Mosul be annexed to the British Empire’s brand new colony: Iraq. Then came the long Arab nationalist Ba’ath party domination. And afterwards, Shock and Awe and hell; the US invasion and occupation; the tumultuous Shi’ite-majority government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad; and the ISIS/ISIL/Daesh takeover in the summer of 2014.

Mosul’s historic parallels could not but have a special flavor. That 11th/12th century medieval state happened to have roughly the same borders of Daesh’s phony “Caliphate” – incorporating both Aleppo and Mosul. In 2004, Mosul was de facto ruled by disgraced, failed “presidential material” Gen. David Petraeus. Ten years later, after Petraeus’s phony “surge”, Mosul was ruled by a phony Caliphate born in a US prison near the Kuwaiti border.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of residents fled Mosul. The population may be as much as halved compared to the original 2 million. That’s a mighty lot to be properly “liberated”.

Aleppo “falls”

The hegemonic narrative about the ongoing Battle of (East) Aleppo is that an “axis of evil” (as coined by Hillary Clinton) of Russia, Iran and “the Syrian regime” is relentlessly bombing innocent civilians and “moderate rebels” while causing a horrendous humanitarian crisis.
In fact, the absolute majority of these several thousand-strong “moderate rebels” is in fact incorporated and/or affiliated with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (Conquest of Syria Front), which happens to be none other than Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in Syria, alongside a smatter of other jihadi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham (Al-Nusra’s goals – and who supports them – are fully documented here).
Meanwhile, few civilians remain trapped in eastern Aleppo - arguably no more than 30,000 or 40,000 out of an initial population of 300,000.
And that brings us to the crux of the matter explaining the Pentagon sabotage of the Russia-US ceasefire; those fits of rage by Samantha Batshit Crazy Power; the non-stop spin that Russia is committing “war crimes”.
If Damascus controls, apart from the capital, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Latakia, it controls the Syria that matters; 70% of the population and all the important industrial/business centers. It’s practically game over. The rest is a rural, nearly empty back of beyond.
For the headless chicken school of foreign policy currently practiced by the lame duck Obama administration, the ceasefire was a means to buy time and rearm what the Beltway describes as “moderate rebels”. Yet even that was too much for the Pentagon, which faces a determined Syria/Iran/Russia alliance fighting all declinations of demented Salafi-jihadis, whatever their terminology, and committed to keep a unitary Syria.
So reconquering the whole of Aleppo has to be the top priority for Damascus, Tehran and Moscow. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) will never have enough military to reconquer the rural, ultra hardcore Sunni back of beyond. Damascus may also never reconquer the Kurdish northeast, the embryonic Rojava; after all the YPG is directly backed by the Pentagon. Whether an independent Rojava will ever see the light of day is an interminable future issue to be solved.
The SAA, once again, is tremendously overextended. Thus, the method to reconquer East Aleppo is indeed hardcore. There is a humanitarian crisis. There is collateral damage. And this is only the beginning. Because sooner or later the SAA, supported by Hezbollah and Iraqi Shi’ite militias, will have to reconquer East Aleppo with boots on the ground as well – supported by Russian fighter jets.
The heart of the matter is that the former “Free Syrian Army”, absorbed by al-Qaeda in Syria and other Salafi-jihadis, is about to lose East Aleppo. Regime change and/or “Assad must go” – the military way – in Damascus is now impossible. Thus the utter desperation exhibited by the Pentagon’s Ash “Empire of Whining” Carter, neocon cells implanted all across lame duck Team Obama, and their hordes of media shills.
Enter Plan B; the Battle of Mosul.

Fallujah remixed?

The Pentagon plan is deceptively simple; erase any signs of Damascus and the SAA east of Palmyra. And this is where the Battle of Mosul converges with the recent Pentagon attack on Deir Ezzor. Even if we have an offensive in the next few months against Raqqa – by the YPG Kurds or even by Turkish forces - we still have a “Salafist principality” from eastern Syria to western Iraq all mapped up, exactly as the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was planning (dreaming?) in 2012.
London-based Syrian historian Nizar Nayouf, as well as unnamed diplomatic sources, have confirmed that Washington and Riyadh closed a deal to let thousands of phony Caliphate jihadis escape Mosul from the west, as long as they head straight to Syria. A look at the battle map tells us that Mosul is encircled from all directions, except west.
But what about Sultan Erdogan in all this? He’s been spinning that Turkish Special Forces will enter Mosul just as they entered Jarablus in the Turkish-Syrian border; without firing a shot, when the city will be cleaned of jihadis.
Meanwhile, Ankara is preparing its spectacular entrance in the battlefield, with Erdogan in full regalia shooting at random. For him, “Baghdad” is no more than “an administrator of an army composed of Shi’ites”; and the YPG Kurds “will be removed from the Syrian town of Manbij” after the Mosul operation. Not to mention that Ankara and Washington are actively discussing the offensive against Raqqa, as Erdogan has not abandoned his dream of a “safe zone” of 5,000 km in northern Syria.
In a nutshell; for Erdogan, Mosul is a sideshow. His priorities remain a fractured, fragmented Syria, “safe zone” included; and to smash the YPG Kurds (while working side by side with the Peshmerga in Iraq).
As far as the US Plan B is concerned, Hezbollah’s Sheikh Nasrallah has clearly seen through the whole scheme; “The Americans intend to repeat the Fallujah plot when they opened a way for ISIL to escape towards eastern Syria before the Iraqi warplanes targeted the terrorists’ convoy.” He added that “the Iraqi army and popular forces” must defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Mosul; otherwise, they will have to chase them out across eastern Syria.
It's also no wonder that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also clearly seen The Big Picture: “As far as I know, the city is not fully encircled. I hope it’s because they simply couldn’t do it, not because they wouldn’t do it. But this corridor poses a risk that Islamic State fighters could flee from Mosul and go to Syria.”
It’s clear Moscow won’t sit idly by if that’s the case;“I hope the US-led coalition, which is actively engaged in the operation to take Mosul, will take it into account.”
Of course Mosul – even more than Aleppo – poses a serious humanitarian question.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimates as many as 1 million people may be affected. Lavrov goes straight to the point when he insists “neither Iraq nor its neighbors currently have the capacity to accommodate such a large number of refugees, and this should have been a factor in the planning of the Mosul operation.”
It may not have been. After all, for the “US-led” (from behind?) coalition, the number one priority is to ensure the phony Caliphate survives, somewhere in eastern Syria. Over 15 years after 9/11, the song remains the same, with the war on terra the perennial gift that keeps on giving.


Gerald Celente - "China Import/Export Data Down, GLOBAL RECESSION LOOMS!"

The Real Humanitarian Crisis Is Not Aleppo — Paul Craig Roberts

Jeff Fitchett: This is worth a quick read.  I agree with Dr Roberts' assessment!

Originally published at paulcraigroberts.org

Why do we hear only of the “humanitarian crisis in Aleppo” and not of the humanitarian crisis everywhere else in Syria where the evil that rules in Washington has unleashed its ISIL mercenaries to slaughter the Syrian people? Why do we not hear about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen where the US and its Saudi Arabian vassal are slaughtering Yemeni women and children? Why don’t we hear about the humanitarian crisis in Libya where Washington destroyed a country leaving chaos in its place? Why don’t we hear about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, ongoing now for 13 years, or the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan now 15 years old?
The answer is that the crisis in Aleppo is the crisis of Washington losing its ISIL mercenaries to the Syrian army and Russian air force. The jihadists sent by Obama and the killer bitch Hillary (“We came, we saw, he died”) to destroy Syria are being themselves destroyed. The Obama regime and the Western presstitutes are trying to save the jihadists by covering them in the blanket of “humanitarian crisis.”
Such hypocrisy is standard fare for Washington. If the Obama regime gave a hoot about “humanitarian crisis,” the Obama regime would not have orchestrated humanitarian crisis in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen.
We are in the middle of a presidential campaign in the US and no one has asked why the US is determined to overthrow a democratically elected Syrian government that is supported by the Syrian people. 
No one has asked why the White House Fool is empowered to remove the president of Syria by siccing US-supplied jihadists, which the presstitutes misrepresent as “moderate rebels,” on the Syrian people.
Washington, of course, has no acceptable answer to the question, and that is why the question is not asked.
The answer to the question is that Washington’s strategy for destabilizing Iran and then the Muslim provinces of the Russian Federation, former Soviet central Asia, and the Muslim province of China is to replace stable governments with the chaos of jihadism. Iraq, Libya, and Syria had stable secular societies in which the government’s strong hand was used to prevent sectarian strife between Muslim sects. By overthrowing these secular governments and the current effort to overthrow Assad, Washington released the chaos of terrorism.
There was no terrorism in the Middle East until Washington brought it there with invasions, bombings, and torture. 
Jihadists such as those that Washington used to overthrow Gaddafi appeared in Syria when the British Parliament and the Russian government blocked Obama’s planned invasion of Syria. As Washington was prevented from directly attacking Syria, Washington used mercenaries. The prostitutes that pretend to be an American media obliged Washington with the propaganda that the jihadist terrorists are Syrian democrats rebelling against “the Assad dictatorship.” This transparant and blatant lie has been repeated so many times that it now is confused with truth.
Syria has no connection whatsoever to Washington’s original justification for introducing violence into the Middle East. The original justification was 9/11 which was used to invade Afghanistan on the fabrication that the Taliban was shielding Osama bin Laden, the “mastermind,” who at the time was dying of renal failure in a Pakistani hospital. Osama bin Laden was a CIA asset who was used against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He was not the perpetrator of 9/11. And most certainly, neither were the Taliban.
But the Western presstitutes covered up for the Bush regime’s lie, and the public was deceived with the phrase that we must “defeat them abroad before they attack us at home.” 
Of course, Muslims were not going to attack us at home. If Muslims are a threat, why does the US government keep bringing so many of them here as refugees from Washington’s wars against Muslims? 
9/11 was the neoconservatives “new Pearl Harbor” that they wrote they needed in order to launch their wars in the Middle East. George W. Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury said that the topic of Bush’s first cabinet meeting was the invasion of Iraq. This was prior to 9/11. In other words, Washington’s wars in the Middle East were planned prior to 9/11. 
The neoconservatives are zionists. By reducing the Middle East to chaos they achieve both of their goals. They remove organized opposition to Israeli expansion, and they create jihadism that can be used to destabilize countries such as Russia, Iran, and China that are in the way of their exercise of unilateral power, which, they believe, the Soviet collapse bequeathed to the “indispensable nation,” the USA.
Osama bin Laden, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, was dying, not directing a terror war against the US from a cave in Afghanistan. The Taliban were focused on establishing their rule in Afghanistan, not on attacking the West. After blowing up weddings, funerals, and childrens’ soccer games, Washington moved on to Iraq. There was no sign of Iraqi beligerance toward the US. UN weapons inspectors said that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but Washington did not hear. The whores who comprise the American media helped the Bush regime create the image of a nuclear mushroom cloud going up over America if the US did not invade Iraq. 
Iraq had no nuclear weapons and everyone knew it, but facts were irrelevant. There was an agenda at work, an undeclared agenda. To advance its agenda that the government did not dare reveal, the government used fear. “We have to kill them over there before they kill us over here.”
So Iraq, a stable, progressive country was reduced to ruins.
Libya was next. Gaddafi would not join Washington’s Africa Command. Moreover, China was developing the oil fields in eastern Libya. Washington was already troubled by Russia’s presence in the Mediterranean and did not want China there also. So Gaddafi had to go.
Next Assad was set up with faked evidence that he had used chemical weapons against the rebellion that Washington had started. No one believed the transparent Washington lie, not even the British Parliament. Unable to find support to cover an invasion, Killary the Psychopath sent the jihadists Washington used to destroy Libya to overthrow Assad. 
The Russians, who until this point had been so naive and gullible as to trust Washington, finally figured out that the instability that Washington was brewing was directed at them. The Russian government decided that Syria was their red line and, at the request of the Syrian government, intervened against the Washington-supported jihadists.
Washington is outraged and is now threatening to commit yet another criminal violation of the Nuremberg Standard with blatant aggression against Syria. Such an ill-advised step would bring Washington into military conflict with Russia and by implication with China. Before Europeans enable Washington to initiate such a dangerous conflict, they had best consider the warning from Sergey Karaganov, a member of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Foreign Policy and Defense council: “Russia will never again fight on its own territory. If NATO initiates an encroachment against a nuclear power like ourselves, NATO will be punished.”
That the government of the United States is criminally insane should frighten every person on earth. Killary-Hillary is commited to conflict with Russia. Regardless, Obama, the presstitutes, and the Democratic and Republican establishments are doing everything in their power to put into the Oval Office the person who will maximize conflict with Russia.
The life of the planet is in the hands of the criminally insane. This is the real humanitarian crisis.
Note: Lt. General Michael Flynn, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency stated in an interview that the creation of ISIS was “a willful Washington decision.” See, for example:
https://www.rt.com/usa/312050-dia-flynn-islamic-state/ Also:  http://russia-insider.com/en/secret-pentagon-report-reveals-us-created-isis-tool-overthrow-syrias-president-assad/ri7364 
The DIA warned that ISIS would result in a Salafist principality over parts of Iraq and Syria. http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf The warning went unheeded as the neoconservative Obama regime saw ISIS as a strategic asset to be used against Syria.


Essay: The Future of the City - by James Howard Kunstler

Jeff Fitchett: This is an excellent essay. When I began my journey down the rabbit hole, many years ago, I quickly realized how interconnected pretty much everything is.  I think a world made by hand is quite probable.  In a world of finite resources infinite growth is impossible.  Think about that for a moment. Jim's essay is worth the time to read.  Too often people learn about what is going on, but do nothing to prepare for the changing times.  Simply buying gold or silver will not insulate a person from the changes that are taking place.  I know it may appear easier to go with the flow and play your role in the daily grind also known as the Matrix.  To step outside of our current model takes guts and determination.  There is a lot of opportunity in the years ahead.  

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The Future of the City
by James Howard Kunstler
One spring day not so long ago, I had a low-grade epiphany walking across New York’s Central Park from my hotel on the West Side to the Metropolitan Museum of Art off Fifth Avenue. First I noticed that the park was in absolutely immaculate condition, in better shape than ever in my lifetime, going back to my 1950s school days. The Sheep’s Meadow was now a lush greensward — compared to the brown hard-pan wasteland it had been back in the day. The Bethesda Terrace beside the lake and the adjoining Great Mall with its once-decrepitating Naumberg bandshell were all fixed up. Vanished original buildings such as the Dairy, designed by Olmsted and Vaux in the 1850s and then lost to decay, had been meticulously reproduced. The epiphany part was when I realized that this miracle was altogether a product of the financialization of the US economy. A Niagara of money had flowed into the tax-deductable mission of the Central Park Conservancy.
It was a short leap from there to realize that over the past quarter-century every formerly skeezy neighborhood in Manhattan had undergone remarkable renovation: the Bowery, Alphabet City, Times Square, the Meatpacking District, even Harlem, not to mention the practically whole new nations of Brooklyn and now Queens. Well, all those hedge funders needed someplace to live, as did those who work in other well-paid but less-exalted professions: show business, fashion, media, and computer tech. Same story: the financialization of the economy, and the resultant widening disparities of income between Wall Street and the rest of the nation, had concentrated immense wealth in Gotham.
When I was a young man in the 1970s, New York was on its ass. Bankrupt. President Gerald Ford told panhandling Mayor Abe Beame to “drop dead.” Nothing was being cared for. The subway cars were so graffiti-splattered you could hardly find the doors or see out the windows. Times Square was like the place where Pinocchio grew donkey ears. Muggers lurked in the shadows of Bonwit Teller on 57th and Fifth. These were the climax years of the post-war (WW II) diaspora to the suburbs. The middle class had been moving out of the city for three decades leaving behind the lame, the halt, the feckless, the clueless, and the obdurate “risk oblivious” cohort of artsy bohemians for whom the blandishments of suburbia were a no-go state-of-mind. New York seemed done for. And meanwhile, of course, other American big cities were likewise whirling around the drain. Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Washington DC…. Horrors. Even San Francisco was a dump in the cold, dark, pre-dawn years of the dot-com age (when I lived there in 1974-5).
On the other hand, sunbelt metroplexes such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Charlotte, and Phoenix were booming back then, but not in a way that made any sense in traditional urban terms. They merely expressed the most exaggerated characteristics of suburban sprawl in new and horrifying ways: downtowns decorated with “signature” office towers that went utterly lifeless after 5 p.m. — because nobody lived there — surrounded by vast asteroid belts of suburban chain store dreck and tract housing monotony, dominated by tangles of freeways. These weird new crypto-urban agglomerations had been hardly more than tank towns before 1945, so even their worst car-dependent features and furnishings were pretty new, that is, not yet subjected to the ravages of time. Which is to say they were typologically different from the older US cities like New York.
In any case, getting back to my stroll across Central Park that spring morning, there was a second part to my low-grade epiphany — which was that I was here witnessing the absolute peak of a cycle in the life of New York; that from this point forward things would start falling apart again, and probably worse than the previous time in the 1970s. I shall elaborate on the shocking particulars of that presently, but first I must describe exactly what the financialization of the economy was about and why it is coming to a bad end.
Contrary to the American religion of endless progress, the techno-industrial age is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and we are closer to the end of that chapter in human history than to the middle of it. By the 1970s, the USA began to feel the bite of competition from other parts of the world that had rebuilt their industrial capacity following the debacle of World War II. Our factories, which had not been bombed during the war, were old and worn out. Environmental consciousness produced stringent new regulation of dirty industries. Third World nations with rising populations offered ultra-cheap labor and lax regulation. So, we “off-shored” US industry, which for a century had been the major source of our economic wealth.
Industrial production was replaced mainly by two activities. First, after being constrained by the oil crises of 1973 and 1979, the suburban sprawl build-out resumed with vengeance in the 1980s. Secondly, and connected with sprawl via the mortgage racket, was the expansion of the financial sector of the economy from five percent to over 40 percent. The suburban sprawl part was easy to understand. It was the preferred template for property development, an emergent process over the decades. The local zoning and building codes had evolved to mandate that outcome by law. The separation of uses became more extreme: housing tracts here, office parks there, shopping somewhere else, connected solely by cars. You couldn’t build a popsicle stand anywhere in the USA without supplying fifteen parking spaces. The new laws for handicapped access had the unintended consequence of heavily discouraging buildings over one story. The tragic part was that suburban sprawl was a living arrangement with no future. The oil crises of the 70s had portended that, but both the zoning codes and the cultural conditioning over-rode that warning. Anyway, Americans simply couldn’t conceive of living any other way.
Back when finance was a mere five percent of the economy, banking was boring and didn’t even pay so well. It was based on the 3-6-3 formula: borrow money at 3 percent, lend it out at 6 percent, and be on the golf course at 3 o’clock. In the 1960s, bank presidents and stock brokers might have a color TV instead of a black-and-white, and they might drive a Cadillac instead of a Chevrolet, but they didn’t live on another planet of ultra-wealth. The role of banking in the economy was straightforward: to manage society’s accumulated wealth (capital), and re-deploy it for productive purposes that would produce yet more wealth.
The computer revolution of the 1990s helped take finance to a whole other level of hyper-complexity with astonishing speed and, because the diminishing returns of technology always bite, this venture produced some ferocious blowback — namely, that many of the new “innovative” financial instruments created by computer magic enabled swindling and fraud on a scale never seen before. This was especially true in the securitization of mortgage debt into fantastically complex mutant bonds, many of which were notoriously designed to blow up and reward their issuers with bond “insurance” payouts. That bit of mischief led to the crash of 2008. The systemic damage of that event was never resolved but simply papered over by taxpayer bailouts and massive Federal Reserve “interventions” that continue to the present.
This chain of events entailed an unprecedented growth of debt at all levels of society (household, corporate, government) such that the obligations eventually outstripped any plausible prospect of repayment. Something very sinister and largely unacknowledged lay behind it. This was the fact that real economic growth in the old developed nations had sputtered (and was soon to sputter in the “emerging” economies, too). And behind that was the fact that the world had run out of affordable petroleum. There was still a lot of oil left in the ground, but it cost too much to get out — whatever its “market” price ended up being once it was gotten out. Without ever-increasing supplies of oil that was cheap to produce, you couldn’t get economic growth, and without that growth, you couldn’t pay back the interest on the ever-increasing debt that was needed to get the oil out of the ground (and to run industrial societies generally).
Quite a quandary, totally unacknowledged in the public discourse. If anything, the authorities — business leaders, the media, politicians — had gotten the story all wrong with their blather about “energy independence” and “Saudi America.”
The “peak oil” story had worked out rather differently than even close observers had imagined ten years ago. It could be boiled down to a simple equation: oil above $75 a barrel crushed industrial economies; oil below $75 a barrel destroyed oil companies. The Ponzi scheme known as the “shale oil miracle” only extended the damage in the bond markets and postponed the energy reckoning by a few years. The shale oil companies weren’t making money when the stuff sold for $100 a barrel in 2014, but the high price succeeded in crushing the economy. Then, when demand cratered and the price of oil fell to under $40 a barrel, the shale oil companies started to go bankrupt, because it still cost them $75 to pull it out of the ground, and they had to keep pumping it out to maintain cash flow to service their junk bond financing.
I elaborate on these arcane matters because it is fundamental to understand that the root cause for the sputtering of economic growth is that the primary resource needed for creating it (oil) has exceeded our ability to pay for it — and despite all the wishful thinking, there is no alt-energy rescue remedy to replace it. Hence, we’ve been borrowing from the future (piling up debt) to keep the vast complex systems of advanced civilization running. And now we’ve run out of our ability to pile on anymore debt. The result will be a collapse of our complex systems and a re-set of human activity to a lower and simpler level. How disorderly the process gets remains to be seen, and where it stops is as yet unknown. But it will have everything to do with how human life organizes itself on-the-ground, and therefore with the future of our cities.
One can state categorically that the colossal metroplex cities of today are going to have to contract, probably substantially. They have attained a scale that no plausible disposition of economy looking ahead can sustain. This is contrary, by the way, to most of the reigning utopian (or even dystopian) fantasies which, any way you cut them, only presume An ever-greater scale of everything. The great renovation of New York City circa 1990-2015 was enabled by Wall Street’s management role in the supernatural debt growth of the period combined with the creaming off of fees, commissions, and bonuses by bankers in the context of absent regulation abetted by pervasive accounting fraud in both private business and government. This is what brought us all the renovated neighborhoods, the scores of new residential skyscrapers, the multiplication of museums and cultural venues, and the buffing up of Central Park. It will be followed by a steep and harrowing descent into disinvestment.
Apart from that unnerving prospect, it must be said that the recent rediscovery of city life in America, per se, was a positive thing, given the decades-long experiment with automobile suburbia. It’s hardly surprising that generations raised in that vapid, soul-killing milieu desperately sought something better, denser, and more active. Notice, though, that the revival of cosmopolitan life mainly took place in those cities connected by some degree to the financialized economy: New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco. Cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, St Louis, Kansas City, and many more “flyovers” continued to sink even as the new starchitect condo towers rose up over lower Manhattan. It was also unfortunate that few small cities and towns benefited from the re-urbanization movement.
Most cities are located where they are because they occupy important geographical sites. New York has its excellent deep water harbor and the Hudson River estuary. These outstanding amenities were enhanced later with canal connections to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. San Francisco and Boston, ditto great harbors. Detroit stands on a strategic river between two Great lakes. And so on. There are sure to be some kind of human settlements in these places as long as people are around, though they may be very different in scale and character from what we have known them to be. Detroit will probably never again be the colossus it was in 1950 but something will occupy that stretch of river.
On the other hand, the techno-industrial economy allowed cities to develop rapidly in places in that lacked outstanding natural features. Denver and Atlanta grew up around railroad depots, provisional human constructs that may or may not have value going forward, given America’s extreme neglect of its once-excellent rail system. Places like Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, and much of Southern California may become uninhabitable without cheap air-conditioning-for-all, a viable automobile-based transport system, and the ability to produce food locally. Cities in the “wet sunbelt” such as Miami, and Houston, may succumb to rising sea levels. Orlando may decline out of sheer irrelevance when its theme park economy withers.
The current scale of our “metroplex” cities is inconsistent with the resource and capital realities of the future. Just about everything in our world is going to have to get smaller, finer, and also more local. The failure of suburbia is pretty plain to see, and its trajectory is not hard to understand. But do not assume that there will necessarily be a great demographic rush into the big cities as suburbia fails. The big cities will have enormous trouble with their aging infrastructure — the 100-year-old water and sewer systems, the stupendous hierarchies of paved roads, the bridges, and tunnels, etc. The American electric grid is decrepit and the estimate for fixing it alone runs greater than a trillion dollars. The cities will also have problems with the debt-based promises of support for public employees and dependent underclass populations. These places will have to contract around their old centers and their waterfronts, if they have them. The process will entail the loss of vast amounts of notional wealth represented in buildings and real estate. It may provoke ethnic battles between groups fighting over who gets to occupy the districts that retain value.
New York City and Chicago face an additional problem: an extreme overburden of skyscrapers. Our society does not know it yet, but the skyscraper is already an obsolete building form, and for a reason generally unrecognized: they will not renovated. They have no capacity for adaptive re-use. The capital will not be there to renovate things at the giant scale at which they were originally built. There’s also a good chance that many manufactured modular building materials will not be available, either, for instance, gypsum board (“sheetrock”). It might seem to be a humble material, but it actually requires very long and sophisticated mining and manufacturing chains, and it may be assuming too much that these supply chains will continue to operate in the years ahead. The same can be said of steel beams and trusses, aluminum sashes, metallic and enamel claddings, plate glass, concrete block, cement, plastic or metal pipe, silicon gaskets, plywood, etc. In short, these enormous buildings, now considered assets will quickly turn into liabilities.
This outcome is unrecognized largely because under current conditions the professionals involved — developers and architects — cannot resist the temptation to maximize the floor-to-area ratio of any given urban building lot. Why stop at six stories when the zoning law allows sixty? Why make only $10 million on any given parcel of land when you can make $100 million in sales and commissions. They simply can’t imagine behaving differently for now. But in the future, a new consensus may eventually form that the scale and height of new buildings must be a lot more modest. (By the way, central Paris is still mostly composed of buildings under seven stories, without detracting from its cosmopolitan verve). In the future, we may decide that the maximum building height is keyed to the number of stories you can ask people to walk up comfortably.
A related issue, however, is also not generally recognized: the potential failure of the condominium model of property ownership. Also known as deconstructing the rights of real estate, this experimental system, in which ownership is portioned out among individual apartment dwellers, and managed under a corporate property-owners association, has only been tried on a mass basis since the 1970s. That is to say, we’ve only experienced it on our way up a colossal mountain of debt accumulation; we have no idea what happens during the period of debt default we have entered. It takes only partial failure of a condominium building — apartment owners defaulting on their mortgages and failing to pay association dues — for the property association to fail, meaning that afterward there will be little maintenance and repair of the building. Do not assume that our current financial arrangements have resilience. Like other elements of this story, they seemed like a good idea at the time. And then times change.
I would introduce the perhaps jarring idea that the locus of settlement in the USA is headed for an even more striking change, namely that the action is going to shift to the small cities and the small towns, especially places that exist in a meaningful relationship to food production. These places are currently the most derelict and disinvested in the nation. I would argue that they are about to regain importance. For one thing, the global economy is unwinding. It never was a permanent installation in the human condition, contrary to what Tom Friedman said in his books and newspaper columns. That global economy was the product of special circumstances, namely a hundred years of super-cheap energy, and about seventy years of relative peace between the major powers of the world. Those conditions are now ending, and the transient globalized economic relations that flourished under them — the chain of products moving from the factories of Asia to the Wal Marts of America — are coming to a close.
The economy of North America will be much more internally-focused in the years ahead. We will have to rely much more on what we can produce closer to home, and that production is sure to be at lower level than what we are used to. Among other things, it will lead to the resurrection of America’s inland waterway system, including the towns and cities along it. Places like Cincinnati, Louisville, and Memphis will regain importance, though probably not gigantic scale. Do not assume that the trucking industry will continue to function, or that we will make the necessary reinvestment in our existing rail lines. Do not assume that any models of our current commercial system will continue as we know them, including national chain shopping, the supermarket method of food distribution, or contemporary banking.
Suspend all your assumptions about our ability to continue the familiar arrangements of the present day. We are passing through a difficult transition and I don’t think it will lead to the techno-nirvana that many are expecting. In fact, I think we are likely to lose many of the technological advances that we have come to take for granted, starting with the ubiquity of the Internet — which depends, after all, on a completely reliable electric grid. We are heading into a contraction of techno-industrial activity and probably an eventual contraction of population. We have to make things smaller, more local, and finer.
If you could go back in time to the year 1950, to Cadillac Square in the center of downtown Detroit, and interview a proverbial “man-on-the-street” there about the future, he might have had a hard time grokking what actually happened to the place after 1970 — the astounding devastation that occurred without a war taking place. Likewise, I think the American public fails to see the probable arc of the current story. We are expecting nothing except more technological magic, and that is sure to leave a lot of people disappointed.


Gerald Celente - "Brookings Inst. Agrees With Celente: GLOBAL RECESSION"

Jeff Fitchett: This is worth a quick viewing.  Gerald touches on many topics.  I agree with everything he said!


The Lid Is Off - by Charles Eisenstein

It is getting harder to keep a secret these days. The collective shadow of our society, once safely relegated to the dark basement of the unmentionable, is now exposed to daylight, forcing us to face our contradictions. I'll offer three examples: Donald Trump's leaked recordings, Hillary Clinton's emails and Wall Street speeches, and the endless procession of videos of police brutality.

Once upon a time, "locker room talk" like Donald Trump's lewd and degrading remarks leaked to the media would have stayed safely sequestered from public view. Misogynistic locker room banter existed, as it were, in an alternate universe. What was said on the golf course or the barroom didn't register as part of a man's public reputation; in those places, men were free to say things that would be unforgivable in public. The coexistence of these two realms was seldom questioned. As a high school and college athlete, I remember hearing the kinds of things Trump has said, and they were quite unremarkable in that context. A boy could say the most brutish, repellant things in the locker room without damage to his reputation outside it. Respectable society would never find out. Likewise, when reporters and politicians mingled outside the public performances of their roles, an unwritten understanding kept their conversations safely off the record. I imagine Donald Trump feeling a sense of betrayal at the revelation of his remarks, as if a boy reported to another boy's girlfriend what he said about her in the locker room.

I think this division into two realms extended to internal, psychological divisions in the individuals making the degrading boasts and comments about women. In polite company, they became people who did not harbor such thoughts. The locker room alter-ego was safely contained in a different psychic compartment. I can imagine a Donald Trump being sincerely - sincerely! - scandalized to hear in polite company the very things he himself said in the safety of the mens'-only field of misogyny. I can imagine him condemning what was said in all earnestness, without zero awareness of hypocrisy.

So it is that rape culture is allowed to persist. It needs a shadow zone. The locker room conversations that objectify and degrade women and contribute to rape culture need a "locker room" in which to happen, a wall of separation between it and the larger realm of general social acceptability.

This wall of separation is breaking down, thanks in large part to the ubiquity of recording technology and the impossibility of stopping the distribution of the recordings on the Internet. Contradictions, whether personal or social, that could once remain hidden are coming unstoppably to light. It is getting harder to uphold a divided self.

As with sex, so with money. Hillary Clinton is having a hard time maintaining a wall of separation between her public posture of economic populism and her decades-long ministration to the needs of Wall Street. In former times a politician's speeches to elite insiders would exist in an inviolably separate realm from his or her public image. In inside circles of power, the politician would be free to express himself directly. No concealment of his allegiances was necessary, because no one outside the political and corporate elite was listening. So of course, Hillary Clinton was loathe to release the transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street banks. Those speeches were the equivalent of locker room talk, which is supposed to stay in the locker room. Here, though, the context is financial domination rather than sexual domination.

Something similar applies to Clinton's infamous deleted emails. There is nothing new about the contrast between the public presentation of governance and its ugly inner workings. The exercise of political power has never been pretty. The backroom deals, the threats and coercion, the buying of favors... all the nastiness that the email scandal hints at is characteristic of politics as we know it. The difference today is that it can no longer be confined to the back room. In other words, it is getting harder to maintain the appearance of democracy in a reality of oligopoly.

It is perhaps necessary that Clinton and Trump are both such extreme expressions of the suppressed shadow of our culture, presenting itself in unambiguous form for clearing. Liberal pundits have repeatedly observed that the bigoted sentiments Donald Trump expresses are merely the undisguised version of what Republicans have been saying in code for a long time. The hidden erupts into view. Clinton, meanwhile, is no ordinary establishment politician; she is the very epitome of the establishment, embodying its insincerity, lack of imagination, normalized corruption, and narrow technocratic commitment to preserving the status quo.

This is not meant as a personal criticism. My purpose here is not to condemn Hillary or the Donald; it is to illuminate the dissolving of the insulating compartments that allow contradictions and hypocrisy to exist. Probably in person, each of them is a complex individual like you and me, a mixture of beauty and pain, playing the roles laid out for them. I imagine that in their most private moments neither fully identifies with those roles nor believes in the game into which they have been thrust, any more than you or I believe in it. The elites usually precede the people into cynicism. In any event, our current moment of social evolution is calling each of them, in their public roles, to be an avatar of a cultural shadow archetype, presented to us in extreme form so that it cannot be ignored.

Clinton and Trump are a product of their conditions, playing the "game of thrones" according to the secret rules of the insiders, in a system that has long allowed, encouraged, and in some ways nearly required hypocrisy. That system is coming to an end. We are entering by fits and starts an era of transparency in which, we may someday hope, secret rules and hypocrisy will have no purchase.

Another arena with a longstanding division between sanitized public presentation and gritty reality is law enforcement. As with misogyny and political corruption, there is nothing new about police brutality and nothing new about its disproportionate application to brown-skinned people. For a long time though, it was sequestered in the realm of the unmentionable, relegated to the left-wing margins of political discourse or the statistics of academic papers. No longer. The advent of ubiquitous cell phone video cameras and other video surveillance has lifted the lid off the dark political unconscious and exposed its contents to light.

Here again, this exposure is making the two contradictory functions of the police - serving and protecting, and bullying and abusing - impossible to maintain simultaneously. It is only possible if the latter function is well hidden in the shadows.

I could go on to make similar points about drone strikes, refugee camps, clearcuts, and all the other injury and injustice that technology and social media are bringing into view. For a long time, propriety and ideology have buffered normalcy from the ugly inner workings of its maintenance. For example, the ideology of development has buffered us from the horrors of Third World sweatshops, strip mines, dispossession of land, and so forth. Lurid caricatures of violent criminals hides the grinding injustice of the legal system. The triumphal narrative of exploration and progress obscures the genocide of indigenous cultures. These various buffers, which allow contradictions to stand, have been necessary to operate a civilization built on exploitation and ecocide. Open up any social institution - politics, finance, business, education, medicine, academia, and even philanthropy - and you will find within it the same ugly machinations of power.

Today these buffers are disintegrating, despite the best efforts of established power to maintain secrecy, prosecute whistle-blowers, and control information. We might thank technology for bringing the dark underbelly of our system to light, but I think something larger is afoot. The trend toward transparency that is happening on the systems level is also happening in our personal relationships and within ourselves. Invisible inconsistencies, hiding, pretense, and self-deception show themselves as the light of attention turns inward. The tools of self-examination are proliferating on every level, from the personal to the collective. Herein is a link between the political developments I've described and the world of self-help, spirituality, or consciousness. At its best, these comprise ways of shedding light onto our internal contradictions and blockages in order to create a kind of inner transparency. On the interpersonal level too, a lot of work around partnership and community also aims for transparency, for example to expose hidden resentments, repressed desires, and unconscious conflicts. Illuminating the contradictions between the story and the actuality of a relationship brings the possibility of healing.

When previously hidden contradictions rise to consciousness and collide, the result is first denial and rage, followed by cognitive dissonance and the breakdown of normalcy. We see that happening today in the public sphere. That process can be disorienting, even paralyzing, as familiar orienting certitudes turn false. Who are we as a people? What is reliable? What is possible? What is real? We aren't what we thought we were, and it isn't what we thought it was. This confusion is a good thing. It is a sign of liberation from the old story that confined us. The exposure and clearing of hidden contradictions brings us to a higher degree of integrity, and frees up prodigious amounts of energy that had been consumed in the maintenance of illusions. What will our society be capable of, when we are no longer wallowing in pretense?