leo-nard bern-stein

1/26/05

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Anyone with a bit of media savvy or a passing familiarity with Seymour Hersh’s work in The New Yorker will know that he’s not some flaming left-wing wacko; in fact, his reporting and bona fides (he uncovered the My Lai massacre 35 years ago and won the Pulitzer) give him a gravitas that no amount of right-wing shit-shoveling can take away.

Which is why his speech now available on the Democracy Now website is particularly harrowing. If you have 20 minutes free and want your fucking socks scared off, by all means go watch the video or sample a bit of the transcript. This man is not screwing around. Here’s a bit:

It’s going to go very bad, folks. You know, if you have not sold your stocks and bought property in Italy, you better do it quick. Europe is not going to tolerate us much longer. The rage there is enormous. I’m talking about our old-fashioned allies. We could see something there, collective action against us. It’s going to be an awful lot of dancing on our graves as the dollar goes bad and everybody stops buying our bonds, our credit — we’re spending $2 billion a day to float the debt, and one of these days, the Japanese and the Russians, everybody is going to start buying oil in Euros instead of dollars. We’re going to see enormous panic here.

Naturally, the readers of this blog who lean to the right will chime in to say how this is overblown rhetoric, but suppose for a minute Hersh is right. If the last five years have proven anything to us – from the tech crash to 9/11 to anthrax to climate change to power outages to flu vaccines – is that WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, YOU ARE ALONE IN THIS WORLD. Don’t expect a safety net or a superhero to swoop out of the sky and rescue you: if things go south in this country, too fucking bad for you.

As far as I can see, it’s a good season to behave like a survivalist; I don’t mean hoarding cans of Spaghetti-O’s in the larder like my Mormon cousins do, I mean just being aware that you might want to have a few things in place if something terrible happens. If there were a stock market crash in 2005, you can’t run down the street flapping your arms screaming that you weren’t warned.

But what does that really mean? I’ve got a kid on the way, and when we aren’t paying for our lives through writing and other projects, we rely on the occasional dividends from stocks invested in American companies. We could wildly diversify into international stuff, but will that really save our bacon?

And if the infrastructure goes, how the hell will we get around this city? You need electricity to power the gas pumps; even the Prius runs out of fuel eventually. Try leaving the country, but who would take us? In some daymares, I have Tessa and I hauling the kid around in a Baby Bjorn as we walk over the mountains into Canada like the Von Trapp family escaping the Anschluss.

We’re all woefully underprepared even for the most minor emergencies. And why should the neo-cons care? Half of them are too rich to see straight, and the other half believe it’s the End Times anyway. You can hope for one of two things: first, that something amazing happens that rescues us from this administration – or second, that we all live long enough to see this government vilified in textbooks as the worst thing ever to happen to the American experiment.

0 thoughts on “leo-nard bern-stein

  1. Steve Williams

    On the night of the election, in a family email, I linked to Dan Gillmor’s warning of the impending financial collapse:
    “In the next four years, I would not be at all surprised to see:
    – Abortion illegal in most locations.
    – Continuous, low-level terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
    – A ‘Brazil-like financial crisis.’
    http://urlizer.com/00/1783/
    “When money is worth nothing, the cities are considered unsafe, and none of us can get even the marginal jobs we have now, our only choice will be to hole up somewhere and try to live self-sufficiently for a very long time. I’d be happier if Ian’s farmhouse were farther from the road and closer to the top of the hill: It’d be more defensible.”
    I’m no more optimistic now.

    Reply
  2. Kevin

    There is always the “curse of the second term” to hope for . . I mean come on, Nixon was re-elected, and look how that turned out. Maybe a sordid affair between Dubya and Condi will send both this administration and their “moral values” the way of the dodo as the country (especially those wacky christo-facist fundies) wake up from their collective stupor and realize what they’ve done. Of course, the south of France sounds good too. . .

    Reply
  3. oliver

    I watched the video and I don’t think Hersh is talking in his Mi Lai (sp?) voice when he makes that stock market comment you excerpt Ian. He’s not really making a prediction here. Elsewhere he says “nobody can predict the future” and my overall impression of him is he’s a constitutionally cautious guy. His stock market comment was the closer of his performace, which I think he pitched to hit home with his audience of Manhattanites, and I think isn’t really a forecast but something to be read with an implicit qualifier ala “this is the scale of disaster I’m talking about” and/or “I would not be surprised at all if the following were to transpire.”

    Reply
  4. Ehren

    This seems extraordinarily alarmist. The US economy is an enormous juggernaut and the Euro is underperforming as well. Sure, we’ve got a lot of debt, and I wish we had much less, but if the US were to suddenly announce that we were going it alone and go completely isolationist, we would be in better shape than the rest of the world. Every economic model I have seen (like http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/pdf/appa1_a8.pdf) shows that we are not only a bigger economy than all of W. Europe now, but we will be growing faster than them in the future as well. Now, China is going to grow so fast that we will no longer be #1 by 2040 or so, but we’ll still be so far ahead of Europe that it’s just laughable. I think that the current administration is making our country morally bankrupt, but it’s unreasonable to think that they could make us economically bankrupt, no matter how much anecdotal evidence he may have.

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  5. Dave

    Looking at all of this it seems to me that the real worry is OPEC. For any of the financial doomsday scenarios to come to fruition all that needs to happen is for OPEC to start demanding Euros instead of Dollars for oil. At this point that will not happen due to the rather criminal connections between the Bushes and the Saudi Royals. So perhaps we Americans should be happy for the backroom glad-handing the elite class engages in?

    Reply
  6. oliver

    My impression is that a very large share of the wealth in the US economy is held by foreign holders of US stocks and real estate and debt. If so, the economy may be an enormous juggernaut, as Ehren says, but it’s a juggernaut of confidence and fashion, not anything substantial. Streaks end and fashions change. I’m no economist, but the debt and trade deficit seem like a strain on confidence and the perception of a winning streak, and international hatred seems like the kind of thing that could strain fashionability. It seems to me our era of prosperity kicked in when we rescued Europe from Hitler and persisted through a cold war in which through NATO we were Europe’s defense against communist takeover. What makes us so loveable or necessary now? We sure as hell suck at fighting terrorism and global warming, which at the moment seem to be the chief threats to the capitalist system.

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  7. oliver

    “At this point that will not happen due to the rather criminal connections between the Bushes and the Saudi Royals.”
    If you believe the news, the Saudi Royals and control of Mecca are prime targets of the increasingly galvinized Al Qaeda movement, and Saudi citizens are on the boil to see them go. I’d rather not be banking my savings on them.

    Reply
  8. oliver

    I don’t get why the title of this post is “leo-nard bern-stein.” Did I miss the solicitation to send in for a Coastopian decoder ring?

    Reply
  9. Chris

    It’s the end of the world as you know it…
    ..and I feel fine.
    Perhaps Michael Stipe is also a consumer of serotonin uptake inhibitors.

    Reply
  10. mom

    I didn’t get it, and I’m pretty smart. I mean, I taught you everything you know.
    Or at least everything I know.
    But… what am I missing?

    Reply
  11. Bud

    Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom….
    For anyone who still doesn’t get it:
    http://www.remrock.com/remrock/lyrics/albums/document.html?song=its
    (although those are very different from the ones I’ve always tried to sing along with as I gasp for breath.)
    As to what’s going to happen, the range of possibilities seems wide, but one of the worst-case scenarios–and not implausible–would be a disaster beyond even old Irwin Allen’s imagination.
    To start with, you have all the things Hersh brings up, which would make the USA a much-less-nice place to live than it’s been for our lives so far.
    But then two major threats imperil the whole planet, either one of which could cause mass extinction–the end of the world as we know it, without the slightest hint of exaggeration.
    Peak Oil:
    http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/
    http://blog.zmag.org/ttt/archives/000912.html
    and, of course, Global Climate Change:
    http://www.whoi.edu/institutes/occi/currenttopics/ct_abruptclimate.htm
    If the earth keeps heating up, we could have a major food crisis in the next 25-50 years. If the earth abrubtly cools down, the situation will be much more grave.
    If all these things come to pass, then we’re going to be in some very deep brown slush. We could be on the brink of a perfect storm of catastrophes, creating a challenge greater than any humankind has faced for tens of millions of years.
    But then again, weren’t we supposed to have been overrun by swarms of killer bees by now? Didn’t Malthus predict that we’d be so overpopulated by now that we’d have to eat our children to survive?
    Hey! Maybe that’s the solution. There are huge numbers of fat, ill-behaved kids running around this neighborhood. They wouldn’t be hard to catch, and they’d probably cook up nice and tender.
    Yes, I’m kidding. For now. Get back to me after
    the oil hits the thermocline fan.

    Reply
  12. Piglet

    I got the reference. In fact, my first thought was, “Get out of my head”.
    It’s short term. Keep telling yourself it’s short term. Even the great Depression ended, and stocks went higher than before. My invested money is money I don’t plan on drawing for 20 years or more. We could crash twice in that interval, and come out on top.
    And if we’re going the way of the Roman empire, that takes a while. We’ll be long gone by the time the barbarians get here.
    Be strong. American Coastopians will have each other.

    Reply

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