A Fretful Holiday

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A Fretful Holiday by James Howard Kunstler

Many threads to tug on at the close of this tumultuous work-week before the supreme holiday of white privilege rolls through, all silver bells and hovering angels. It took hours of rumination and prayer to arrive at a coherent notion about the strange doings in Gen. Mike Flynn’s sentencing hearing, but here goes: Judge Emmet Sullivan sent Gen Flynn to the doghouse for three months to reconsider his guilty plea. The judge may believe that Gen. Flynn needs to contest the charge in open court, where all the Special Prosecutor’s janky evidence will be subject to discovery and review. Mr. Mueller tried to toss a wrecking bar into the proceedings the day before by pressing charges against two of Gen. Flynn’s colleagues in the Turkish lobbying gambit, which was meant to terrify Gen. Flynn as a hint that separate charges would be dumped on him if he doesn’t play ball. A lot can happen in three months, including the arrival of a new Attorney General, and we’ll leave it there for the moment.

The stopgap spending bill before congress — to avert a government shut-down — is based on the comical idea that the money is actually there to spend. Everyone with half a brain knows that it’s not money but “money,” a hypothetical abstraction composed of hopes and wishes. The USA is worse than broke. It’s down to liquidating its rehypothecated hypotheticals. After all, financialization added up to money with its value removed. The global credit markets seem to be sensing this as the tide of borrowings retreats, exposing all the wretched, slimy creatures wheezing in the exposed mudflats who have no idea how to service their old loans or generate credible new ones. But, no matter. We’ll continue pretending until the US$ flies up its own cloacal aperture and vanishes.

Contingent on that exercise is “money” for Mr. Trump’s promised-and-requested border wall. The wall is really a symbol for the nation’s unwillingness to set a firm policy on immigration. Half of the political spectrum refuses to even make a basic distinction between people who came here legally and those who snuck in and broke the law. They’ve super-glued themselves to that position not on any plausible principle, but because they’re desperate to corral Hispanic votes — and notice how eager they are to get non-citizens on the voting rolls. Their mouthpiece, The New York Times, even ran an op-ed today, None of Us Deserve Citizenship, (is that even grammatical?)  arguing that we should let everybody and anybody into the country because of our longstanding wickedness.

The simple resolve to firmly and politely send interlopers back across the border would go a long way to providing border security, but we’ve allowed this process to be litigated into incoherence so that it is increasingly impossible to enforce the existing rules. Mr. Trump’s wall is an acknowledgement of that failure to agree on lawful action to defend the border. It evokes the works of past empires, like the wall built across Britain by the Roman emperor Hadrian to keep out the warlike, filthy, blue-faced Scots, or the Great Wall of China built to block marauding Mongols. Of course, these societies didn’t have closed circuit TV, drones, laser sensors, four-wheel-drive landcruisers, and night-vision goggles. I’m not persuaded that the US really requires Mr. Trump’s wall, but it does require a functioning consensus that national borders mean something, and the president’s argument is a lever to produce that consensus.

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James Howard Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler says he wrote The Geography of Nowhere, “Because I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.” Home From Nowhere was a continuation of that discussion with an emphasis on the remedies. A portion of it appeared as the cover story in the September 1996 Atlantic Monthly. His next book in the series, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, published by Simon & Schuster / Free Press, is a look a wide-ranging look at cities here and abroad, an inquiry into what makes them great (or miserable), and in particular what America is going to do with it’s mutilated cities.