All the Crappy News That Is Fit To Print

Sharon October 30th, 2008

Ok, if you haven’t scrolled down and read my happy thought post (“The one thing…”), do it now.  Now’s a good time to hang on to your own happy thoughts too.  Put the liquor away and hide all the sharp objects.  Because just in case you haven’t noticed, the news kind of sucks.  I wouldn’t do this to you unless I thought it was really important that you know this stuff.

First there’s the stock market.  Isn’t that good news, you ask?  After all, it had a big rise, and as I write this, is up a little bit.  I think you want to take a look a Ilargi’s post from Wednesday over at the Automatic Earth, though. His case is that this isn’t good news at all:

Wherever I look this morning, Asia, Europe, Wall Street, I see journalists and analysts claim that bargain hunters are causing the rising stock prices. They’re not. There is something different going on.Prices these days fall when and because large investors need to sell assets in order to get cash. Prices rise when large investors need to cover their shorts.

The investors involved in both cases are largely identical, though not entirely. It’s important to understand that while, obviously, price drops cause loss of capital, price rises are now the result of the same. Everybody still tries to hide their losses, but it’s getting much harder. That’s what happens in casino’s: there comes a point where you have to show your hand. And when things get bad, sometimes you have to show both.”

Understanding that the rallies are as much a part of the disaster as the crashes is counter-intuitive, but I think it is also important.  In the same sense, my own case is that the bailout money (which is reaching banks this week) is actually bad for us - not just because it is our money and indentures our kids, but more importantly, in a very direct way.

 Then there’s Karl Denninger’s latest piece, which besides some probably intelligent advice, includes something I hadn’t realized - the fact that if you accept a deal to “save” your home by using a refinance, you probably will be signing up for permanent debt-slavery.  I think it is really important that this information get out, since almost no one I’ve talked to realizes this - that you could be on the hook for your house FOREVER - whether you get to live in it or not.    Please pass that information along to all of your friends and neighbors and anyone else who might get hooked from a bank’s “kindness.”

“See, a refinance, which this is, converts your mortgage into a recourse loan. That means if you take their “great deal” and then default later on (e.g. you lose your job in the upcoming Depression) your wages can be garnished forever and, if you earn more than the median income, you can’t even get rid of the debt in bankruptcy.”

Emo Phillips once joked that he was pretty sure the guy hammering on his roof was sending the message that he was a paranoid little weirdo in morse code to him.  Now I realize seeing bad guys everywhere makes you seem nuts, but quite honestly, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it really pretty much does seem to be the case that nearly everything the government or corporations say they will do to help you is just another way of raping and pillaging.  Better be paranoid than be screwed yet another way from Sunday.

Ok, all that is just a little bit bad.  The really bad news of the day isn’t about the economy at all. It is that levels of methane in the atmosphere rose dramatically in 2007 - and no one has any idea.  All the theories are pretty damned horrible though.  If this trend continues, we are in serious trouble - and the more so since the economy threatens to drive climate off the front burner altogether.  Finding out why right quick should be on the front agenda - but is unlikely to get there.

“Methane, the primary component of natural gas, has more than doubled in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times, but stayed largely stable over the last decade or so before rising in 2007, researchers said on Wednesday.

This stability led scientists to believe that the emissions of methane, from natural sources like cows, sheep and wetlands, as well as from human activities like coal and gas production, were balanced by the destruction of methane in the atmosphere.

But that balance was upset starting early last year, releasing millions of metric tonnes more methane into the air, the scientists wrote in the Geophysical Research Letters.”

Ok, all this sucks.  And there’s certainly plenty of lesser bad news out there - like the fact that farmers are having trouble getting credit to plant wheat, or the growth in joblessness.  And in a sense it doesn’t change anything - we still need to start working on our informal economy jobs, on growing food locally, or having a reserve.  We still need to consolidate with family and yell and scream at injustice.  But depressing as it is, knowing what is happening is valuable to - we can’t respond, we can’t even hope to respond, without knowing.  Maybe our response won’t be enough - but we can and must try.

Ok, that said, the pep talk does sound kinda stupid.  So instead of leaving you with hope, I leave you with Monty Python

“Whenever life gets you down, Mrs. Brown/And things seem hard or tough…

And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft/And you feel that you’ve had quite enough… 

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
A sun that is the source of all our power.
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour,
Of the galaxy we call the ‘Milky Way’.
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars.
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side.
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick,
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide.
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point.
We go ’round every two hundred million years,
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe.

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, at the speed of light, you know,
Twelve million miles a minute, and that’s the fastest speed there is.
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure,
How amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space,
‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.  - Monty Python, the Galaxy Song

There.  I’m sure you feel all better now.


21 Responses to “All the Crappy News That Is Fit To Print”

  1. Grey says:

    Problem is, throughout history, people respond with too little, too late. With this upcoming election, I’m sure that the environment is the least of anyone’s concerns save the little people like us who are “nuts.”

  2. Kati says:

    *snort* The last two lines of that poem sum it all up, it seems.

  3. Andrea says:

    Re: the environment….do you think the rise in methane levels could be due to all the smoke the Powers That Be have been trying to blow up our collective arses??? Hmmmm……

  4. Paula says:

    Umm . . . can’t shake this crappy feeling myself. I’m looking out the window right now, watching pieces of corn stalk leaves blow past my window. The neighbor’s corn isn’t harvested yet. Well, the longer he waits the better. Maybe he won’t have to buy LP gas to dry the stuff. Commodity prices have tanked since the financial meltdown and all these farmers who thought they would get $5-6 dollars a bushel are shit out of luck. Too bad they paid so much more in inputs this year due to petroleum hikes. Yikes. What will next year be like?

    I have gotten hooked on Denninger’s website now, Sharon. I have to get out my anger button when I read his blogs. I’m really happy about the probability that my grandkids will be paying for all the Wall Street swindling and bailing out of people who should’ve never gotten mortgages in the first place.

    I’m going outside to plant garlic now.

  5. Greenpa says:

    I have a good friend (female) who thinks Monty Python is “mostly stupid” - at which I just boggle, since I think they are extraordinarily intelligent, and razor acute observers. And often kinder than they would have to be. In their own warped way.

    I’ve always loved that song- I can sing it, and see it, easy, easy. And it’s good proof of how smart they are.

    Of course- it’s good to remember the rest of the skit. “Makes me feel rather insignificant.” “Yeh. Yeh… So, can we have your liver, then?” “oh, yeh, alright.”

  6. homebrewlibrarian says:

    And here I thought you were going to use Always look at the Bright Side of Life:

    Some things in life are bad/They can really make you mad
    Other things just make you swear and curse.
    When you’re chewing on life’s gristle/Don’t grumble, give a whistle
    And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    If life seems jolly rotten/There’s something you’ve forgotten
    And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
    When you’re feeling in the dumps/Don’t be silly chumps
    Just purse your lips and whistle - that’s the thing.

    And…always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the light side of life…

    For life is quite absurd/And death’s the final word
    You must always face the curtain with a bow.
    Forget about your sin/give the audience a grin
    Enjoy it - it’s your last chance anyhow.

    So always look on the bright side of death
    Just before you draw your terminal breath

    Life’s a piece of shit/When you look at it
    Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true.
    You’ll see it’s all a show/Keep ‘em laughing as you go
    Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

    And always look on the bright side of life…
    Always look on the right side of life..

    Kerri in AK who is resisting the urge to hibernate - for the next ten years

  7. To-do: panic! « Suburban Entwife says:

    [...] in case anyone wasn’t paying attention, the economy and the planet both appear to be about to burn down, fall over, and then sink into the swamp.  However, other people are panicking far more eloquently than I am, so I am going to stick to [...]

  8. Vegan says:


    Really enjoyed reading your article published in the Nov./Dec. 2008 issue of Orion Magazine.

    Yes, there is no place like home! :)

    Here it is:

    “The Most Radical Thing You Can Do: Staying home as a necessity and a right”

  9. Vegan says:

    Ooops! … My apologies. I misread Carolyn Baker’s submission. She said, “echoing Sharon Astyk…” I just returned to the article and noticed it was authored by someone else.

    I guess I’m too stressed out from realizing the depth of problems we’ll be facing in the coming years.

  10. Gracie says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could hibernate for 10 years? But I wonder what kind of world we would wake up to? Kind of a scary idea.

    The news gets me down. But I can’t change that, I can only work on my little corner of the world and try to make as much individual difference as I can.

    The stock market is a scary place these days. I feel for those who have lost so much of their life savings, and retirements (don’t get me wrong, I feel for everyone else too, those, like Sharon, and so many others, our children included, who have small children especially). But those older folks. They don’t have any years left to rebuild. If they lose what they have it is just gone. I know, I hear all of the voices yelling “but they should have known better”. Yes, I agree, but they didn’t know better and it makes it all the harder on them.

    These are interesting times that we live in.


  11. sweet marjoram says:

    Yet more gloomy news. I’ve been trying hard to cultivate my EQ (emotional quotient) during these troubled and dark-looking times. Reading history, and telling myself that this too will pass. The methane issue is frightening but I’m refusing to worry about it. I can’t do a thing to correct that problem that I’m not already doing: trying to live responsibly, recycling everything I can, voting carefully, educating my kids, and so on.

    Today we have no recourse but to take a sharp knife to a defenseless pumpkin and then scrape its guts out and bake the seeds.

    That seems to help me today, when I need to cheer the &*%$ up and keep the Dementors at bay.

    Small things can go a long way toward keeping a positive frame of mind, lighting a jack-o-lantern instead of cursing the darkness.

  12. knutty knitter says:

    All that winter stuff and here am I off to plant my lettuces and some tomatoes.

    Haven’t a clue what will happen round here climate wise in the long term. All I can do is hope my veges grow and that somehow we will continue to have an income. Hubby’s job ends next week. Then we’re back to contract work.

    It’s noticeable that our shop is making about a third of what it did last year. I hope we can sell at least the stuff we already have as it is paid for and will make only profit. Fortunately we have very little overhead - just my time which has about a zilch value anyhow. (The workforce doesn’t look kindly on those who have suffered several bouts of occupational overuse syndrome.)

    I think I’ll look into giving classes for knitting, spinning, patchwork again.

    viv in nz

  13. jerah says:

    I don’t understand why people don’t know where the “extra” methane is coming from. There’s methane bubbling out of the ocean and tundra as the permafrost melts more and more. Should be kinda obvious that’s where it’s coming from.

    This is the article that set off my doom alarm a few weeks ago:

    I’m going to go drink some more hot cider.

  14. BoysMom says:

    In the happy news department, my librarian handed me your book today when we went into the library. I love the smell of new books.

  15. Gracie says:

    Wow, cool that you already have the book in your library. Our library doesn’t get any books in that are newer than about four months. Sometimes I can get them on intralibrary loan, but not often.


  16. ccpo says:

    More on methane:

    Methane Burps and “Chimneys” From Quickly Warming Arctic

    Large Methane Release Could Cause Abrupt Climate Change As Happened 635 Million Years Ago

    Methane - The Forgotten Gas (Or, Methane Meltdown)

    A more scholarly discussion of methane’s role:
    Clathrates: little known components of the global carbon cycle

  17. Rebecca says:

    I look at all the news and the implications of it (i.e., that a lot of people are going to starve if harvests go down) realize that there is nothing that I, personally, can do about very much of it, and then I get very, very upset. I can only handle so much and these days I feel constantly like the entire world has gone mad and we are standing at the edge of the Void looking in and about to jump.
    Yes, it’s my day to whine. ;-)

    Happy Halloween/Hallowmas/Samhain to all.

  18. shoshana says:

    @ Greenpa,
    thanks for reminding me of the perfect ending to the Monty Python bit. I totally agree with you about both their clever and acute observations as well as their kindness. I think I’ll make theirs my reality today then. -Shosh

  19. Hummingbird says:

    Yes, I’m with Rebecca. Blessed Samhain and thanks to the earth for this year’s harvest.

  20. Verde says:

    I find it’s hard to wrap my head around all of this. My kids are so set on college. After all I carefully programed that into their heads when they were very young, and I am quite proud of them. However, it’s hard to then turn around and say to them that I don’t think that’s the way to go. They just look at me as if I don’t want to foot the bill. All the things I do just look like eccentricity to them.

    It’s hard for me, who has been looking at the economic and ecology for at least a while, to really wrap my head around some of this.

    It’s easier to think about straining the grape juice and cooking down tomatoes and picking dried corn for the chickens.

  21. Sharon Astyk’s Happy-Fun-Sunshine Blog « Strictly Free Thoughts says:

    [...] Sharon Astyk’s Happy-Fun-Sunshine Blog Ok, let me just preface this by saying that I love Sharon Astyk’s blog, Casaubon’s Book. In fact, I love it so much that I’d like to actually buy some of her books. However, every time I read her blog I start seriously considering stockpiling water, canned goods, and guns. Check out this post. Go on, check it out, I’ll wait. [...]

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