James Howard Kunstler -- World News Trust
Sept. 4, 2017
Happy Labor Day everybody. Forward from here, things get jiggy. The nation faces a pile-up of events as we turn the corner on summer and head into the spook-house of autumn.
This will be the week when the reeking after-effects of Harvey’s journey through Houston become super-vivid. It’s going to be hot-hot-hot there all week, perfect conditions for mold to creep through untold square-footage of soggy sheetrock and plenty of nutriment in the toxic gumbo of lingering standing water for mosquitoes and bacteria to breed like crazy. Bigger surprises will be waiting for some:
HOUSTON (CNN) -- A Texas homeowner returned to his flood-marred home Friday in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to a shocking surprise: a 10-foot gator in his living room. Brian Foster made the discovery while assessing how badly the water had damaged his house near Lake Houston, north of Houston….
The news media are already calling Harvey the costliest storm in U.S. history, with estimates running to $180 billion. But damage assessments are incomplete for highways, surface roads, bridges, railroad tracks, water and sewer systems, public buildings, dams (Addicks and Barker), natural gas terminals, and port facilities, not to mention homes and business structures. Texas is the nation’s number one cotton producer and the storm blew away many temporary cotton bale storage modules following a bumper harvest. Corn, soybeans, and cattle were also affected.
The Colonial Pipeline’s hookups to the refineries west of Lake Charles, Louisiana, won’t reopen fully until Tuesday at the earliest. The pipeline conveys 40 percent of the gasoline consumed from Atlanta to Washington, D.C., and extends up to the New York metro area. By next weekend Hurricane Irma looks like she’ll be slamming into the U.S. Atlantic coast somewhere between Jacksonville and the Carolina Outer Banks as a category 3 or 4 event. There’s even talk today of possible cat 5. Will there be enough gasoline on hand for the folks at risk to evacuate? Stand by on that.
Much of western North America is burning up. British Columbia closed off its rivers to fisherman because 680 wildfires had broken out across the Canadian province this summer and 73 were still listed as “out-of-control” on Sunday. San Francisco set a record high temperature of 106 this past weekend. Down in Los Angeles, the county endured the largest wildfire in its history. The La Tuna Canyon blaze scorched 7,000 acres on the edge of Burbank. This morning it was at 30 percent containment after some Sunday rain showers.
Okay, that’s just the weather. You surely couldn’t fail to miss the weekend’s big news story out of North Korea: an underground hydrogen bomb test that set off a 6.3 magnitude earthquake felt across the border in China. Kim Jung-un was photographed with an alleged missile-ready weapon capable of inflicting an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the USA (though in the photo the device looked sort of like a 1938 washing machine barely capable of laundering a load of dishtowels). In theory, such an EMP could fry every electrical device over a large U.S. region, from George Foreman grills to your car’s ignition system to the whole electric grid. After that, nothing works and would take years to fix and there’s a fair chance that nothing would ever work again. Disturbing, huh?
The Sunday Cable News chat-fests were full of politicians and assorted experts saying there was “no good option” available to deal with the North Korean threat. I’m not so sure about that because why would our military reveal a workable option if they had one? Mr. Trump, our (ahem) president made the point explicitly a dozen times during the election campaign that it would be foolish to reveal our military plans in advance of any action. Perhaps he meant it. You’d also have to suppose that computer jocks in the U.S. military/intel sub-basements of northern Virginia are working around the clock to find some way to turn Kim into a platter of smoldering bulgogi by wireless command -- and we won’t hear about it until after he’s eaten by his former flunkies and lackeys.
Finally, there are the accumulating hazards kludging up the sputtering engine of the U.S. economy. Houston’s travails will take the GDP down a notch to Q1 2018 and Irma might take it negative. The oft-referenced debt-ceiling problem remains unresolved, and now it appears to have entailed the sticky problem of Hurricane damage relief -- and who knows if Houston will ever recover no matter how much money is thrown at it. Dragging out the debt ceiling issue would lead to a chain of government defaults on its obligations, problems for US Treasury paper in the bond markets, and pressure on the dollar.
There are few shelters from the financial storm. In an emergency, the Federal Reserve might take a U-turn back to QE mode. That “liquidity” (money created out of thin air) would rush in to further inflate the over-stuffed stock markets. But without a QE pump, the markets may have already suckered in the last remaining liquidity pools on the buy-side, leaving the sell-side an empty echo-chamber if and when the market mood changes. Gold and silver have already launched into a zoom cycle, finally defeating the years-long efforts by interested parties, shall we say, to squash them in the paper markets. Bitcoin has been zooming all summer. I’m not a fan of the crypto-currencies. They are figments of the server farms, and they’re reproducing wildly like digital yeasts, and in the end they are at the mercy of those computer servers and an electrical grid that is less reliable than even economists might imagine.
There’s always excitement in the quickeningly chill air of fall, back to school, back to work, and back to what passes for reality these in these late days of empire. Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Special Counsel Robert Mueller stepped up with a surprisingly sudden bill of particulars in the quest to pry Mr. Trump out of the just-redecorated oval office. The Deep State longs for that fatal lever, but it would come at a time when so many other perturbations are shaking things loose, the satisfaction might not last long.
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