In the unhealed Jewish heart, Arabs became Nazis

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 37 Comments

James Howard Kunstler is an important writer. His blog has a huge following for good reason. As Glenn Condell explained to me:

I have been reading him for about three years; he has (equipped with the work of Nouriel Roubini, Nassim Taleb, peak oil
theorists and others) been extraordinarily prophetic about the meltdown
and much else. His vision of the future is dark, but he has written an
optimistic bestselling novel (World Made By Hand) about how we might
live in the ruins of the industrial economies. 

This background makes it
hard for me to accept that he is a Zionist moonbat. His arrogant, unruffled pose masks a deep fear that
the dislocation he has been predicting for years will have a pronounced
antisemitic hue, but of course mindsets like his invite rather than
repel such an outcome. He prints some of the hate mail he gets, as if
the sharper edges of the discontent somehow disqualify all anti-Zionist
critiques. He excuses Gaza as an Israeli example of the Powell doctrine.

He may not be Jeffrey Goldberg or Alan Dershowitz,
but he is very influential and his blog is an internet hub. His views reveal how Zionism can make sensible people who contribute a lot to our
collective wisdom lose their marbles, and their humanity, when their
tribe is involved.

I've read Kunstler now and then; and I picked up Condell's link. Here is Kunstler on Gaza– equating criticism of Israel (not anti-Zionism) with antisemitism, in his distinct (and enviable) style:

[P]ublic Jew-hating has made a comeback in the USA among two distinct
groups: one is the extreme right-wing crypto-Nazi step-child of the old
John Birch Society bunch, the idiots who believe the world is a web of
conspiracies against wholesome Christian white folks. As a young
newspaper reporter with an interest in political pathology back in the
early 1970s — a heyday for extremism — I used to cover the Birchers'
antics (and study their belief system, if you could call it that).
Their paranoid ideology has survived the decades marvelously intact,
complete with all the colorful leitmotifs including The Protocols of
the Elders of Zion, the Orders of the Illuminati narrative, the
Bilderburgers conspiracy story of world domination, and a Jesus-soaked
crusade against "socialism" that has mutated far beyond the quaint
sepulcher of John Birch into a broad mostly Southern evangelical,
Nascar-tinged, aggressive apocalypticism.
       Lately, another
large cohort on the political Left adopted the Palestinians as their
"pet oppressed minority group du jour." This branch of Jew-haters
emanated out of the humanities departments of the universities, when
the faculty got bored with the Nazi holocaust, or wished to stake out
some new turf in the arena of multiculturalism for the sake of academic
advancement. (It even included some ethnic Jews intoxicated by new
horizons in victimology.) To a certain extent, it was an academic
fashion choice. The drab old Jews from the Hitler documentaries, with
their shabby World War Two suits, gray skirts, boxy shoes with bad
hose, pitiful deal luggage, and black-and-white expressions of horror
on the train-platform-to-hell had exceeded their sell-by date in the
sociology seminars. And since irony and paradox had become the
stock-in-trade of higher ed in the USA, wasn't it perfect to cast the
Israelis as "the new Nazis" with the Palestinians as the new epitome of

I quote this at length because it demonstrates Condell's point. It is completely out of touch with reality. However contemptible the old locus of antisemitism (and I've been to Hayden Lake, Idaho), it has nothing to do with the trends we are seeing now. Post-Iraq realists are one phalanx–the American Conservative/Desch/Mearsheimer crowd. Ahead of them were Jews of conscience like Tony Kushner, Adam Horowitz, and Zachary Lockman. I suppose Kunstler could say he covers them in his cartoons. But it is interesting that wherever he lives, he completely misses other important factions: Arab-Americans, from Abunimah to Ammous; the black urban politicians (Gwen Moore, Maxine Waters, Cynthia McKinney) who have shown some spine here. Then there are church-based activists like Andy Whitmore and Nancy Horn, and the Presbyterian divestment movement. And closer to the realists, the sotto-voce military/State Department/Arabists/realists. I haven't even talked about the dailykos progressives.

All these strands are essential to the grassroots uprising against the Gaza atrocities. An uprising that was not there in '82 or '06. So, journalistically, Kunstler's view is a very thin distortion based on well-thumbed notes from his childhood. My mother also raged against John Birch.

The other reason I quote so much is that Kunstler's writing really takes off and becomes amazing where–when he gets to the Holocaust imagery, the deal suitcases and boxy shoes and bad hose. A breathtaking passage of writing. I love beautiful writing. That's where his real feeling is. And it's thoroughly out of place– when Gaza is being destroyed and children slaughtered.

Unhealed feelings of Jewish persecution pervade the Gaza talk. Jeffrey Goldberg revealed this same attitude 2 years ago when he said that Jimmy Carter was a classic antisemite who "believes that Israelis — in their deviousness — somehow mean to keep Jesus from fulfilling the demands of His ministry" and likened Walt and Mearsheimer to Father Coughlin. Many of the Jews in Max Blumenthal's report from the NY demonstration Sunday talk about a second Holocaust. Benny Morris in the first Times piece on Gaza said that Israelis are doing this because they feel world opinion changing on them– "the doors closing in."

Avraham Burg said, prophetically, in his book on Jewish identity, that the Holocaust is over and we must rise from its ashes. But that is prophecy. In the Jewish heart, it's not over. It's rewinding and replaying. When you slaughter hundreds of children because you feel threatened and aggrieved, you are just perpetuating a cycle of abuse. When you thumb your nose at the world's outrage over the atrocities because the world was silent during the Holocaust, you are not living in history, you're stuck in amber. Often I think that the smartest most Arendtian thing Burg says in his book is that Jews forgave the Germans too quickly (and did so in part for money that built Israel). They took all that feeling and put it on the Arabs. Kunstler does us all a service by making that connection publicly, exposing the terrified emotion behind irrational, and incredibly hurtful, conduct.

37 Responses

  1. D.
    January 13, 2009, 2:20 pm

    I was reading Kunstler's blog during the fall of '06. That was the winter the pumps were going to go dry and we'd all be up in the cabins with our shotguns and beef jerky. He turned out to be wrong, and I don't blame him for that, but what I remember most is how he would never miss a chance to play the Islamophobia card, even when ostensibly talking about the economy.

    Under the skin, just another crude tribalist.

  2. delia
    January 13, 2009, 2:26 pm

    Your analysis makes a lot of sense, Phil. There's a lot of pathological projection going on. The world has let Israel get away with these insane projections–even supported and encouraged them–for so long that it is unlikely that Israel can be made to listen to reason. You cannot support someone's insanity for so long and then expect them to listen to you when you finally grow a backbone and declare them crazy. Wallace Shawn made almost that argument before Christmas in The Nation:

    link to

  3. Richard Witty
    January 13, 2009, 2:27 pm

    I don't think his views are so misplaced.

    I've experienced similarly, and by similar examples, including here.

    He apparently shares my view that Hamas is no angel, and that the left (including Phil) do NOT distinguish their concern for Palestinian civilians, and Hamas' efforts for power and nihilistic version of leadership.

  4. D.
    January 13, 2009, 2:45 pm

    Kunstler has a section of his blog displaying the "Jew-hating e-mails" he received in response to his defense of Israel's Gaza campaign. Here's the first one, complete. You be the judge:

    Israel, right to defend itself?

    I would say no. How can a country that have no right to exist have a right to defend itself?
    You know very well what happened in 1948. Or should know. I refer you to Israeli historian Ilan Pappé.

    The Jews massacred and expelled 800 000 Palestinians, the rightful owners of the country. Therefore Israel has no right to exist. It is built on a crime.

    Of course, ordinary dumbass Yanks don't have a clue about this. How could they? Living inside the Jewish owned American media bubble.
    Oh, so that's a conspiracy theory? With no basis in reality?

  5. Ed
    January 13, 2009, 2:55 pm

    Give me a break. This guys is just another demented Jewish Zionist. He says American “Jew-hating has made a comeback.” The “crypto-Nazi” John Bircher evangelical right-wing is out to get the Jews; left-wing pro-Palestinian academic humanities departments are out to get the Jews “for the sake of academic advancement”; average Americans angry about the Wall Street meltdown are out to get the Jews for scapegoating purposes. Everyone is out to get the Jews for selfish, cynical reasons and none of it has any basis in rationalism whatsoever.

    Meanwhile, all the Palestinians have to do to end their misery is “two things: 1.) to stop lobbing rockets into Israel; and 2.) to come to the peace negotiating table with a position other than the idea that Israel has no right to exist.”
    link to

    This is the standard Jewish-victim narrative: the world is irrational and intractable in its anti-semitism, organized Jewry is honorable, well-intentioned and relentlessly hounded through absolutely no fault of its own. And its culture of greed and murder? Myths orchestrated by anti-Jewish bigots.

    “What remains to be seen, of course, is whether the new spate of All-American red-white-and-blue Jew-hating will ramp up and turn into something I have been predicting for a while: ‘Corn-pone Nazism.’…The basic formula persists, though, despite Hitler, Himmler, Eichman, Hasan Nasrullah, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: when something goes wrong with money, blame the Jews.”

    Yawn. Whatever. We’ve heard it all before, Kunstler. And nobody is falling for the Jew-victim narrative anymore. That must be upsetting to all those Judeofascists out there who thought the Holocaust granted them license to rampage and murder into perpetuity.

  6. cha
    January 13, 2009, 3:12 pm

    We're being persecuted again, for like the TRILLIONTH TIME EVAH!

  7. Todd
    January 13, 2009, 3:16 pm

    "‘Corn-pone Nazism.’"

    I wonder if Kunstler even knows what corn-pone is?

  8. Mohammad
    January 13, 2009, 3:25 pm

    Racism is racism, but categorizing racism against Jews under a different title is another form of racism, as If some form of discrimination is more horrible than other forms of racism.

    We should not prioritize the concern of Jews in our anti racism struggle. I refrain from even using this term. I just use racism, to be specific, I call it anti Jewish racism. No racism is more racist that other forms of racism.

    Also, war itself can be argued to be the worse form of racism. If palestinians were given the choice by IDF to pick between Slander and insult or bombs and missiles, I bet they would have picked insults over bombs. Racism hurts emotionally, at least most of the time, but Bombs kill and destroy.

    I have been very vocal since December 27 every time I hear some one says "Jews" or "Jewish media" or anything similar that implicate Jews or substitute them in the crimes of Israel. At the same time, I refuse to worry more for the anti Jewish racism resulting from this war than I care for the real casualties of bombings.

    Let's stop the killing, then we can address racism, and particularly anti Jewish racism.

  9. D.
    January 13, 2009, 3:32 pm

    Wait a minute there, Mohammad. Are you saying Jewish suffering is not mysterious and beyond explanation?

    Isn't that … antisemitic?

  10. Mint
    January 13, 2009, 3:49 pm

    Kunstler is a formerly brilliant writer (Geography of Nowhere, Home from Nowhere) who has spent the last decade hyping every sort of apocalyptic scenario (Y2K, Peak Oil,climate change,financial collapse) in the expectation that suburbia will disappear and we will all go back to living in the year 1912.

    Kunstler's not prophetic; he's a fact-free nutcase who knows just enough about energy to feed his end-of-the-world fantasies.I'm not interested in his opinions over Israel; I just hope that no-one is taking Kunstler seriously as an energy expert. Go listen to Amory Lovins instead, or the NEI fanboys. At least they're committed to actual science instead of paranoid theories.

  11. Ed
    January 13, 2009, 4:01 pm

    Being victims of "racism" is the pretext that organized Jewry has used to institutionalize its own Jewish supremacist racism in Israel, and its own Jewish-supremacist program/network in America.

    Some Muslims may seek to institutionalize their religion, but organized Jewry comprises the only people in the world who have undertaken a current, serious, earnest, ongoing effort to institutionalize racism and Jewish supremacy (by means of Zionism). That makes their racism distinct, and of a far more dangerous caliber than someone in middle America muttering racial slurs under their breathe.

    The Jewish ideologues of the world (like Kunstler) ignore organized and institutionalized Jewish supremacist racism, and inflate the supposed threat posed by disconnected anti-Jewish mutterings (brought on primarily by organized Jewish supremacy) all in an effort to cover over, explain away and rationalize vicious organized Jewish racism. Those that perpetuate a culture that is innately racist and perpetuate a climate of racism can hardly complain about being victims of racism.

  12. Dan Kelly
    January 13, 2009, 4:02 pm

    A little more than a year ago I sent Kunstler an article written by William Endahl in which he endorses abiotic oil theory. I'll post the email exchange here, and it should tell you all you need to know about Kunstler.

    In a message dated 9/18/2007 12:00:56 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, dan kelly writes:

    I wonder if you've read Bill Endahl's latest article in which he endorses abiotic oil theory.

    I wouldn't even entertain such fucking nonsense.



    Did you read Mr. Endahl's article? Eminent Russian scientists have "entertained" the idea for over fifty years. In fact, they actively use the theory in practice to drill for oil – something they're much better at than their Western counterparts.

    I'm surprised at your response to me. I don't like oil anymore than you do, but William Endahl has been studying this stuff for over thirty years, and his is a pretty prominent voice to now be endorsing abitoic theory. And your saying "I wouldn't even entertain such fucking nonsense" effectively amounts to a dismissal of the whole of Russian science.

    I think, if we are to look towards a better future, we must seriously consider the possibility that oil may not run out as quickly as we initially thought, if at all. This way we will be better prepared to work towards serious hydrocarbon reductions (or ideally elimination) in our way of life – rather than just pinning our hopes on the possibility that it's soon going to run out, when that may not be the case.

    Yours truly,

    Dan Kelly

    [email protected] wrote:

    The earth doesn't have a creamy nougat center.
    End of story.
    Go have a party with the 9/11 conspiracy nuts.


    Thanks for your quick responses, James. I understand what you are all about now.


  13. LeaNder
    January 13, 2009, 4:47 pm

    Sorry, Phil. I can't help, but I find this description revolting. That's a Nazi view. He takes the dignity from them once more.

    The drab old Jews from the Hitler documentaries, with their shabby World War Two suits, gray skirts, [these films are black & white!] boxy shoes with bad hose, pitiful deal luggage, and black-and-white expressions of horror on the train-platform-to-hell had exceeded their sell-by date in the sociology seminars.

    You would never, ever write something like this. Neither would Glenn.

  14. MRW.
    January 13, 2009, 5:39 pm


    D here:
    Under the skin, just another crude tribalist.
    Posted by: D. | January 13, 2009 at 02:20 PM

    and here:
    Posted by: D. | January 13, 2009 at 02:45 PM

    And Todd:
    I wonder if Kunstler even knows what corn-pone is?
    Posted by: Todd | January 13, 2009 at 03:16 PM

    And Ed:
    Yawn. Whatever. We’ve heard it all before, Kunstler. And nobody is falling for the Jew-victim narrative anymore.
    Posted by: Ed | January 13, 2009 at 02:55 PM

    And Mohammed:
    We should not prioritize the concern of Jews in our anti racism struggle. . . I refuse to worry more for the anti Jewish racism resulting from this war than I care for the real casualties of bombings.

    And Mint:
    Kunstler's not prophetic; he's a fact-free nutcase who knows just enough about energy to feed his end-of-the-world fantasies.
    Posted by: Mint | January 13, 2009 at 03:49 PM

    And Dan Kelly who IMHO is completely right about F. Williams Engdahl (I come from an oil family). Kunstler doesn’t know what the fuck he is talking about. He thinks oil exists in finite pockets underground like blackheads and are therefore countable and verifiable.
    Posted by: Dan Kelly | January 13, 2009 at 04:02 PM

    And LeaNder
    Posted by: LeaNder | January 13, 2009 at 04:47 PM

    And Cha, thanks for comic relief!

    BTW, unimpressed with Kunstler.

  15. MRW.
    January 13, 2009, 6:00 pm


    Anyone who attempts to backhand me off the table these days with a trite 'conspiracy theorist' swipe, which is Kunstler's argumentative tool, loses me completely. Mark Fabiani's 1995 political label weapon has outrun its usefulness, and was introduced in the days (1995) when the cognoscenti of DC were sneering over their Chablis at the ignorance of web users.

    At the risk of braggadocio, appearing too full of myself, or just being obnoxious, I read and research more in a single day than most academics do in a year. It's merely a factor of my circumstances more than anything. I have a 110+ GB library of articles and reports, one-half of which have been wiped from the web. It will take years to catalogue it properly.

    When I read someone like Kunstler, I see how he can craft his arguments, but I have source material — should I feel like wasting the time — that can blow his assertions out of the water.

    What it comes down to is the grandeur of his thinking and his ability to assimilate facts generated by a strength of character to include that which does not comport with his world view, and he doesn't have those chops.

  16. MRW.
    January 13, 2009, 6:08 pm

    Phil, you wrote:

    In the Jewish heart, it's not over. It's rewinding and replaying.

    And will for the next 1000 years. Israel Shahak is correct. But does that mean the universe I live in, the global community I am apart of is to be defined by it? When does it end? When is it compartmentalized as a moment in history?

  17. Johnny Rico
    January 13, 2009, 6:14 pm

    Since when is Engdahl THE authority on oil?

    If you think abiotic oil holds merit you are batshit crazy.

    You "come from an oil family"? Oh, well excuse me, that must mean you know something. Does that come with a special decoder ring?

  18. MRW.
    January 13, 2009, 6:22 pm

    Johnny Rico:

    And your credentials are? And you've read why Engdahl came to that position? Name three places in the world where oil is not a field?

  19. Caryl Johnston
    January 13, 2009, 6:30 pm

    I am very sad at the decline of Jim Kunstler into Zionist apologetics – although I am not surprised. I've met him and count him as something of a friend. It is really up to the Jews to speak out against this madness in Gaza and to redefine their tradition. What an incredible opportunity was given to Jim Kunstler to assert real leadership – Jews for Logos, for international law, for being able to ask for forgiveness and show tolerance and mercy and the ability to live in a multi-ethnic society. It was an opportunity lost for Jim. I am sorry for him.

  20. MRW.
    January 13, 2009, 6:34 pm

    Caryl: I agree.

  21. citizen
    January 13, 2009, 6:37 pm

    The drab old Jews from the Hitler documentaries, with their shabby World War Two suits, gray skirts, boxy shoes with bad hose, pitiful deal luggage, and black-and-white expressions of horror on the train-platform-to-hell had exceeded their sell-by date in the sociology seminars, but they'd been sold to Joe The unlicensed plumber, the tax defaulter, the American Kraut, the last of that breed dying in America, and now make way for the more colorful new, dead on arrival in PR land, the the Pals with their cheap K-Mart polyester gym suits, raggedy sneakers, pitiful rags of home left, their chintzy expressions of horror–they've exceeded their sell-by date which never existed in the sociology seminars Joe The Plumber never attended. Let's tax more Americans and Germans, they are the guilty ones, the passive and active devils for all time.

  22. Johnny Rico
    January 13, 2009, 7:01 pm

    My credentials are I come from an oil family and I've read the "source material." Whatever. Who the hell cares? If I told you I was King Abdullah would it make a difference?

    "came to that position?"

    Came to "what" position? That oil is magically produced in some yet-to-be-discovered region of the earth's core in some yet-to-be-proven or yet-to-be-known way?

    It is a theory and we are supposed to believe it because they are "Russian" scientists as opposed to the regular kind. Ooooooh! Sounds fascinating doesn't it.

    Look, we may not know exactly how much oil there is, but from discovery rates and years of actual data and drilling we know that there are maybe 1-2 trillion barrels existing in what can be crammed into the definition of "conventional" oil. I won't quibble over numbers, but it looks like 1.2 or 1.3 Trillion is a good estimate.

    We currently use approximately 30 Billion per year. Do the math.

    Even if the earth is somehow producing oil through some mysterious chemical reaction, it isn't doing it fast enough to keep up with our rate of consumption. Not even close.

    Here's a website with some stuff on abiotic oil. Hit the introduction link if it doesn't take you directly there. Knock yourself out.

    link to

    The Michael Lynch papers on the same site are actually worth reading.

  23. Glenn Condell
    January 13, 2009, 7:57 pm

    'Unhealed feelings of Jewish persecution pervade the Gaza talk.'

    And underlie the irrational, murderous rage toward Palestinians, just as unhealed German humiliation from WW1 fed the irrational, murderous Holocaust. It is an entirely understandable human reaction; as is the violent Palestinian reaction to their brutalisation. But it is one thing to empathise with a pathology, another entirely to approve of and support the ugly outcomes it produces.

    I must admit all sorts of other injustices across the globe do not galvanise me nearly so much. But they don't physically endanger the lives of my family and my community into the future as this one does. My government actually reponds morally to most of these other outrages, because it is politically safe to do. It remains silent on Gaza (and Lebanon before it, et al) because of Zionist power.

    Which points to another reason I get involved in this issue, and not say African or Asian oppressions and occupations. The partisans of these conflicts don't threaten the civil and political institutions of my country, indeed my civilisation, as this one does. The democracy I grew up with has been perverted by Israel and it's partisans and it worries (and yes, angers) me. The atrocities are bad enough, but the fact that we officially stand four square behind them, inviting retributory blowback (despite evidence of majority popular opposition) is what turns the flame into a fire.

    And it's not as if the other side is doing the same thing; they simply can't. Which points to the third rail of my engagement – the imbalance of power Israel enjoys and, disgracefully, is happy to lever into a slow genocide. It's 900-13 or whatever, and every addition to their count makes them wonder if it's worth it, but every multiple addition to the Arab count draws more to the spectator's hill, where Israelis can watch Gaza burn, unaware that they are seing the start of a fire that will one day consume them too.

    That giant, American-fed advantage is being used to target ambulances, schools, women waving white flags… often with white phosphorus for pity's sake. But we are told they hate us 'for our freedoms.' The natives are getting restless about all this and I believe Mr Kunstler is right to be concerned, but his reaction doesn't bode well for his prognosis.

  24. Joachim Martillo
    January 13, 2009, 8:03 pm

    Burg does not understand the origin of Jewish violence and viciousness, which was growing rapidly long before the Holocaust. See Backgrounder on Pale of Settlement.

  25. Mike Bendzela
    January 13, 2009, 8:14 pm

    It is awful when Hamas shoots rockets at Israeli citizens.

    It is awful when the Israelis bomb Palestinian children.

    Instead of a human response of shock and grief, Kunstler offers us Zionist Nazism.

    Like his hateful rants against "white trash" and "NASCAR morons," Kunstler fails to see the humanity of those who are suffering in this war. He definitely has a screw loose.

    I refuse to even go to his blog anymore. I'm so disappointment it makes me sick.

    Thank you for writing this.

  26. Glenn Condell
    January 13, 2009, 8:16 pm

    'When you slaughter hundreds of children because you feel threatened and aggrieved, you are just perpetuating a cycle of abuse.'

    You can't prevent war crimes by committing them. More specifically, you can't prevent future war crimes against yourself by committing pre-emptive war crimes in the present against those you fear. You redouble their efforts. History is replete, etc.

    Why can't intelligent people like Mr K, Richard or Euro, indeed the whole galaxy of Zionism, see this obvious fact? Why can't their obvious cleverness take the next step into wisdom? It's proof positive of any strong ideology's power to warp thought and feeling.

    That's what a holocaust will do to you I guess. Can we expect the next generation of Arabs and Muslims to follow suit? What shape will their pathology take?

    Years ago Irving Kristol opined that statesmanship consisted of 'knowing one's enemies', which sounds all hard-headed and macho, but is really the opposite of true statesmanship, which surely means trying to make even enemies friends, or at the very least, neutral enough not to pose a threat. One other component of statesmanship is the capacity to take a step back, even to admit that you were wrong.

    I don't see either quality at present in the leadership of Israel. It has been AWOL for the last 8 years in Washington too, but many of us are clinging to the thin reed of Obama's promise. More like the audacity of hope than change we can believe in, but it beats the alternative hands down.

  27. Marco Ross
    January 13, 2009, 9:25 pm

    Kuntsler is not remotely interesting. Another NY Jew who was brought up to worship
    Why is that interesting.
    Maybe if he was a Catholic.
    Just another New Yorker who buys into the tribal bullshit.
    Bad writer too.

  28. American
    January 13, 2009, 9:28 pm

    "In the Jewish heart, it's not over. It's rewinding and replaying."

    Who cares? Jeffery Dalmier,the serial killer, kept replaying his insanity over and over again too.

    Enough of the bullshit excuses.

  29. Glenn Condell
    January 13, 2009, 9:32 pm

    Thanks by the way for the post Phil, hits the nail. In a crowded field, you must be the busiest man in New York.

    At the risk of further drift away from Gaza to peak oil…

    'I have a 110+ GB library of articles and reports, one-half of which have been wiped from the web. It will take years to catalogue it properly.'

    Mr W – if you ever get around to that, I would love to browse the results.

    I have to say though that I am with Johnny Rico on peak oil, which is like climate change in that, yes, lots of scientists disagree with the conclusion of the consensus of experts that we are in trouble, but the cost of ignoring the consensus warnings (because they might be wrong) in the event that they are true, dwarfs the cost of heeding them, even if they turn out to be flat wrong.

    What's worse – a global project to limit emissions, costing trillions and impacting it's true some communities far more than others – or the actuality of the worst-case scenarios most respected experts now say are possible if the models are largely correct? It is no contest. It's the stakes that matter, and if both outcomes are possible, we have to choose the lesser of two evils – this is simply prudence.

    'Kunstler's not prophetic'

    Mint, that is (a) a little early, don't you think? and (b) a prophecy itself. The point is even abiotic oil will run out too, won't it? The earth and it's resources are finite aren't they? Oil takes millions of years for geological processes to refine it down to the sweet crude we enjoy, or even the tar sands that cost us the earth to enjoy. It's a bit like global warming; some of the science may be dodgy, but a large majority of experts in relevant fields agree it is at least possible, if not probable, that it's happening. Is it sensible, as a conscious species, to gamble that the naysayers are correct, because there's less short and medium term pain involved in their scenarios?

    That kind of thinking invites the Black Swans Nassim Taleb has made famous; rare and unexpected events, the magnitude of which can destroy any human construct. The meltdown, despite clear warnings from at least a dozen people I know of (including both Engdahl and Kunstler by the way) was a Black Swan, because too many people pooh-poohed possibilities that their strenuous probability studies (of the past of course, the only data available) did not equip them for the inherently unstable future.

    You mention Amory Lovins but it's my understanding that he and the RMI accept oil depletion as a given, but argue 'soft energy' can replace it. They wrote a book called 'Winning the Oil Endgame' after all, so it's misleading to suggest they think peak oil a crock. Many experts disagree that their replacement technologies and soft energy strategies are sufficient, and Kunstler sides with them. I can't say for sure, but I again go back to the stakes – what if the doomsayers are correct vs what if they are off the mark? Again, it's no contest.

    What gets lost in all this is that science is by it's nature about disagreement, even argument. Feynman said that doubt is the engine of science, no scientist can afford certainty – it turns into dogma fast, and after all, every scientific proof is subject to doubt. The sun may not rise in the morning if a black hole opens up nearby. Nothing is certain.

    Whereas doubt is death in politics. He who hesitates is lost, while the scientist must test, wait, entertain opposing conclusions. The pollie who expresses doubt can start planning for retirement.

    Most science doesn't need to face the public – fruit flies, better textiles, pure physics etc – not even the back pages. But peak oil and climate change have come into every living room because they are potential civilisational threats. They have therefore entered the political realm, where the differences of expert opinion are artificially polarised in the interests of arriving at a certainty that can be successfuly marketed to the electorate. Inevitably something of the detail and nuance of both sides goes missing, and the targets end up being compromises that please no-one.

    But that's politics, well, democratic politics anyway, and we have to expect that the political establishment (and the constituent establishments it represents) will have little patience for scientific to-ing and fro-ing; they will pick the side their constituencies force upon them and will not evince much doubt about it.

    It's not perfect but it's all we have, and all I ask is that if they err, they do so on the side of caution. It seems to me this is what is happening, but wearing my science hat, I agree that (a) they may have chosen the wrong horse, or (b) they have left their run too late.

  30. MM
    January 13, 2009, 9:56 pm

    Kunstler's eloquence on the suburban dystopia unfortunately does nothing to change the fact that he's just another hysterical Zionist shitting in his pants over the 'Arab Oil Weapon' and 'Iranian Nukes'.

    Someone should ask Kunstler if he could eliminate EITHER strip malls OR Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which one would it be. It might tear him in half.

  31. Glenn Condell
    January 13, 2009, 10:00 pm

    I am using up my bandwidth allocation in one go, but here's Kunstler in March 06 (he was earlier but I haven't time to trawl):

    'This week's Sunday Time Magazine devoted itself to the idea that housing bubble is (in Martha Stewart's words) a good thing. In fact, Martha herself is getting into the racket, lending her name to a 650-unit (they're just units) suburban subdivision outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. If she was shrewd about the deal (could it be otherwise?) than Martha will get paid whether the project tanks or not.

    Really, the whole issue of the Mag was just an opportunity for the financially-strapped Times to sell a shitload of advertising to the real estate investment trusts, the luxury condo hucksters, and the home furnishing industry. It will probably go down in history, along with Yale economist Irving Fisher's 1929 proclamation that the US had achieved "permanent prosperity," as one of the seminal documents of societal cluelessness in the face of obvious calamity.'

    Prophetic enough for you, Mint? And here is Engdahl as far back as July 2004:

    'Given the scale of the money-printing by the Fed and the US Treasury since 2001, it is pre-programmed that the „correction“ of the latest Greenspan credit binge will impact the entire global financial and economic system. Some economists fear a new Great Depression like the 1930‘s. The world today depends on cheap US dollar credit. When US interest rates are finally forced higher, dramatic shocks will hit Europe, Asia and the entire global economy, unlike any seen since the 1930‘s. Debts that now appear manageable will suddenly become un-payable. Defaults and bankruptcies will spread as they did in the wake of the 1931 Creditanstalt collapse…

    The rise in home prices has been driven by cheap interest rates and banks rushing to lend with abandon. Because two semi-government agencies, the Federal National Mortgage Association, known as FannieMae, and the Government National Mortgage Association, or GinnieMae buy up the bank‘s mortgage contracts, taking the risk from the local banks, so the local lending bank has less pressure to guarantee that he lends to low-risk credit-worthy families likely to repay the loan.'

    Prophetic too, and earlier even than Roubini. Point being, both the accused antisemite Engdahl (who once called George Soros a 'court Jew') and conformed Zionist Kunstler, who may also disagree about oil, saw the crash coming and were ignored. How much better off would we all be had Engdahl been invited to consult with the Fed or Treasury back in 04?

    In the early days of climate change theory, it was the worriers who were the outliers – we may perhaps regret not listening to them earlier – but they have convinced enough of their fellows to have coalesced into a strong majority, most of them now of the opinion that the climate Black Swan is just around the corner. If we continue to ignore them, after the lessons of the crash, we may as well be lemmings.

    Taleb once said: My classical metaphor – A Turkey is fed for a 1000 days. Every day confirms to its statistical department that the human race cares about its welfare "with increased statistical significance". On the 1001st day, the turkey has a surprise.

    Taleb has applied this logic to climate change and I guess would do so with peak oil too. I think it applies also to Israel – every outrage so far has resulted in some foreign clucking, but the Zionist beast keeps growing fatter, so it keeps on eating the neighbour's children, until one day, it has a surprise.

  32. D.
    January 13, 2009, 10:30 pm

    "Someone should ask Kunstler if he could eliminate EITHER strip malls OR Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which one would it be. It might tear him in half."

    LOL :)

    Where else but Mondoweiss do you get this stuff?

  33. Chris
    January 14, 2009, 12:45 am

    I stopped taking that Kunstler blog entry seriously as soon as I saw the words "Jew-Hating".

  34. MRW.
    January 14, 2009, 1:11 am

    Glenn and D: great stuff.

  35. Johnny Rico
    January 14, 2009, 2:23 am

    "I stopped taking that Kunstler blog entry seriously…"

    Wow! Heavy stuff. The shot heard round the world.

    I don't even know the name of the blog I am writing on right now. Weiss-something.

    And you are… Chris something…

    and the Big Guy here is MRW. – who likes to ask people on the internetz their credentials?

    Are you guys for real? Do you even know your Alexa rating?

    I'm no fan of JHK's, but it seems from the initial sentences on this thread that the Kuntman gets about 10 times the traffic as here.

    Keep on truckin'

    I'll be coming back. I like Glenn. He seems to know something about oil and be cool in general.

  36. Richard Witty
    January 14, 2009, 5:23 am

    There is a flip side to Phil's comment about unhealed Jewish heart, referring to Avram Burg's thesis.

    That is that there is a great unhealed Islamic and Palestinian heart that also internalizes similarly, and similarly among diaspora.

    Maybe that is the more important psychological message, of the guilt of diaspora.

    And, that then refers to a complex associated with all nationalism as a construction, not on Israel particularly.

    Both the birth of Israel and the birth of Palestine are births, painful, traumatic.

    Burg's comments are meant hopefully to stimulate healing, not to stimulate blaming.

  37. Tom White
    January 14, 2009, 6:48 pm

    RE Kunstler:
    A favorite of mine. He's not deep, but is very clever. Has been a little knocked off his true stance by the accusation of pro-ZIonism, etc. From start to finish of this little trip "into Kunstler" no one seems to understand the radical importance of usury, yes, that old, gone-by thing. The Catholic Church tried to get the Jews to cut it out for 1,000 years, but pretty much gave up when they lost northern Europe to the Prots. So for 500 years the "Jews have been rising." What does that mean? It means getting rich in unmatched ways. (Not including Bernie Madoff!) With wealth comes envy. Nobody ever seems to take the Christ seriously and oppose envy in themselves.Or violence, or greed, or anything else the Christ stood against. I'm going back to my cave shortly, but insist that our trouble is a vast cloud of un-payable debt and a hideously false money system (yes, run by Jews pretty largely, as is obvious, but with plenty of help from blond boys and girls from the busy schools of America, as Kunstler notes). When will we ever get a frank discussion of this? It would seem never, and so we will never get a resolution, no? Tom White

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