Somewhere in the north of Spain, Feb.2, 2012 – Groundhog’s day in the Land of the Big PX.
It’s one of my favorite holidays because it doesn’t mean anything – at least it didn’t till Bill Murray made his now-classic movie.
In any case, I’m now a legal Spanish alien again :-)
After ordering my new passport from the American Embassy in Madrid in October, I had no entry or exit stamps to show that I had ever entered or left Spain.
Trusting to luck and the kindness of strangers, I bought my round-trip flight to Marrakesh, Morocco, made my reservations at Hotel Zahia, fixed a couple of ham-and-cheese sandwiches for my all-night bus ride to Madrid, and set out on the night of the 17th of January.
The trip was uneventful, mercifully. Fatah and Mazid, the two youngish men at the Hotel Zahia both feigned happiness at seeing me again (I suppose feign is a little strong, but seeing scores, maybe hundreds, of tourists pass through their hotel every year, they must be pretty blasé about an old American tourist, uncommon as Americans may be in that part of the globe, passing through their portals again).
Since I lost my camera in Bucharest last summer, I couldn’t take photos to show the coral-colored buildings of Marakesh, or the hotel, or of Fatah and Mazid.
But as I have noted before, Marakesh sits in the middle of the desert, and their building materials are all made from the ubiquitous sand. Something like the mud bricks that the Children of Israel made for the Egyptians. Since wood is very scarce and expensive, there is almost none of it to be seen in the buildings of Marakesh.
Morocco is also the one Arab country that hasn’t seen revolutions during the last year. But the king of Morocco, Muhamed VI, must have developed very strong sphincter muscles by now. He has made some superficial concessions to his people, and the fact that there’s no oil in Morocco has saved him the machinations of placating the Western oil companies.
So now I’m good for another three months before I have to make the trek again.
I finally wised up and am registering as a resident here next week, so that after three more years – assuming I stay that long – I will no longer have to make the obligatory passage to wherever every 90 days to renew my visa.
Although it’s not exorbitantly expensive, it still sets me back about 400 euros – about 500 bucksi – every three months, and I can well use that money for other things – like seeing places in Spain I’ve never been to – the Prado and Queen Sofia museums in Madrid, the Gaudi buildings of Barcelona, and the museums and birthplace of Salvador Dali -- not to mention the wineries of Xerez, or Jerez, where sherry is made, and the romantic cities of Seville, Valencia, and Gibraltar.
I finally heard from Sasha last week. He now says he is coming to live with me in June. I sent him an e-mail saying that I was lonely and had no close friends here since Druzhka went back to Moscow to play husband and father.
If you have changed your mind and are not coming to Spain, I told him – because you have a girlfriend, are making too much money doing whatever you’re doing, or for whatever reason – I am thinking seriously about going back to the States to live, where I at least have friends and family.
Ex-wife and still good friend Elaine has reiterated that I can rent her garage apartment on a lake in Orlando for about $ 500 a month; I would have free access to medical care through the Veterans Administration, and I could travel a lot to see friends and family around the country.
In many respects it would be an ideal existence, and if I am going to live without boyfriends or frequent sex, I might as well do that in the U.S. where I at least have friends.
But Sasha e-mailed me last week to reassure me that he is “absolutely” coming – “in June.”
When I found out that former fantasy and student Max is also coming in June, I e-mailed Sasha: “Another friend, a former student, is also coming to visit June 6-16.
“I have a very small apartment, and there won’t be space for three people. So can you come after the 16th? Besides, I can’t hug you all night long if he’s here :-)”
He wrote back: “Okay, my dear, I will come June 20. But don’t kiss this boy. All your kisses are for me, right?”
Holy shit! This beautiful almost teenager really loves me!
“Excellent, my beloved Sasha,” I replied. “I promise that I won’t kiss him. All my kisses will be for you. I can’t wait.”
And I can’t! I looked at a picture of him half naked on my computer, re-read a couple of chapters about our life and love together in Moscow, and immediately prevented another case of prostate cancer.
Actually, keeping my hands off Max may prove to be a bit of a sacrifice. Max is in his early 20s and still doesn’t have a girlfriend, which means in my book he may be gay. He’s coming all the way to Spain to see me, and we’ll by necessity be sleeping in the same three-quarter-size bed.
I had pretty well made up my mind that I would put the moves on him while he’s here, but he’s not worth sacrificing for Sasha, so I guess I will keep my hands to myself.
In any case, Charlie Brown is kicking the football one more time. I’m staying – at least for now – in Spain.
Speaking of family (we were, weren’t we?), mine just got a little smaller. My older brother died in Florida last week of lung cancer.
The big clock continues to tick.
There will be riots in the streets of America, says George Soros, who contends – with me – that the current economic crisis is every bit as as bad as the “Great Depression” into which I was born.
The global economic system may well collapse, he warns.
Soros seems to be predicting the U.S. class war which the Republicans say Occupy Wall Street has already begun.
Occupy Wall Street has created a class war? Hey, I got news for you Rubbishcans. There has been a class war in America for a long time.
And the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t start it. They’re just reacting to it.
When half of Congress has become millionaires after getting elected to that august institution, when U.S. journalistic freedom has fallen to 47th in the world, when the college graduating class of 2011 can’t get jobs because the billionaire U.S. manufacturers have out-sourced all their jobs to overseas sweatshops, when there are more vacant homes in America than there are homeless families to fill them, when there is a direct pipeline from being a poor black dude in America to the U.S. prison system -- the largest by far in the world -- class war is already a fact in America.
Occupy Wall Street is just – finally – protesting it.
Who is George Soros? What right has he to meddle in America’s class war?
In case you don’t know, he’s one of the richest – and savviest – men in the world.
Born a Jew in Hungary in 1930 -- three years before me -- he escaped from Soviet-occupied Hungary in the 1940s, made his way to England, got financial help to study economics there, and made his way into the financial world.
Unlike the billionaires protested by OSW, however, Soros (whose name was Schwartz until the anti-semitism of the Nazi regime prodded him to change it) has a social conscience. Since 1979, Soros has given away over $ 8 billion to human rights, public health, and education causes. He played a significant role in the peaceful transition from communism to capitalism in Hungary (1984–89), and, according to Wikipedia, provided Europe's largest-ever higher education endowment to Central European University in Budapest.
Soros made his billions, Wikipedia also tells us, when he sold $ 10 billion worth of British pounds short on September 16, 1992, “Black Wednesday.” When the UK withdrew from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, devaluing the pound, Soros earned an estimated $ 1.1 billion and the reputation of "the man who broke the Bank of England".
Soros said in 2009 that the world financial system had effectively disintegrated, and that there was no prospect of a near-term resolution to the crisis. "We witnessed the collapse of the financial system. It was placed on life support, and it's still on life support.
“There's no sign that we are anywhere near a bottom," he says today.
Because of his role in creating the “Velvet Revolution” in Georgia that toppled Edward Sheverdnadze, and Putin’s deathly fear that Soros and his ilk will finance a revolution that will also topple him, Russia last year passed a special law prohibiting NGOs from taking money from foreigners. Despite his painstaking efforts to make sure that foreign money doesn’t interfere in Russian politics, Putin continues to blame current protest against his regime on “the interference of foreign money.”
Soros has one draw-back, in my mind. Like the other millionaire-billionaire money men in our culture, he doesn’t seem to realize that the age of capitalism is over. But maybe I’m wrong. He has funded an economic think tank to figure out what’s wrong and how to correct it.
At the same time, Wikipedia says, “his opposition to many aspects of globalization has made him a controversial figure.”
Anyway, that’s who George Soros is, if you didn’t already know. What I like about him is that he gave hundreds of millions trying to defeat George Bush in 2004. He is a strong supporter of Democratic politics, Obama’s re-election efforts, and of OWS -- although he denies funding it.
According to news reports, the 81-year-old said he'd rather survive than stay rich “as the world faces an `evil' period and Europe fights a `descent into chaos and conflict'.”
In a pronouncement to Newsweek that is of interest to me as a resident of Spain right now, which has been hit especially hard by the depression, Soros also declared that “The euro must survive because the alternative -- a breakup -- would cause a meltdown that Europe, the world, can't afford.
“The situation is about as serious and difficult as I've experienced in my career. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world.”
He compared the current world economic crisis to the collapse of the Soviet Union. As was the case among be-numbed Russians then, “People don’t fully understand what is happening.”
In vocally supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement, he warns that the response to potential unrest could be worse than the riots it generates.
As we have seen from other sources, “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order,” he told Newsweek.
So get ready. The U.S. is headed for some deep kim-chi, as its billionaire rulers tap the U.S. police and military forces to protect their billion-dollar investments and their places at the top of the pyramid.
As disappointingly bad and weak as Obama has been, a Republican would be many times worse. So get registered and vote Democratic in the November election.
Again I find myself – as I have for many decades now – advocating voting for the lesser of two evils.
But does it really make any difference? Or is Chris Hedges, an outspoken journalist and severe critic of status-quo America, right?
“Voting will not alter the corporate systems of power,” he reminds.
“Voting is an act of political theater. Voting in the United States is as futile and sterile as in the elections I covered as a reporter in dictatorships like Syria, Iran and Iraq. There were always opposition candidates offered up by these dictatorships. Give the people the illusion of choice. Throw up the pretense of debate. Let the power elite hold public celebrations to exalt the triumph of popular will.
“We can vote for Romney or Obama, but Goldman Sachs and ExxonMobil and Bank of America and the defense contractors always win.
“There is little difference between our electoral charade and the ones endured by the Syrians and Iranians.
“Do we really believe that Obama has, or ever had, any intention to change the culture in Washington?”
We are a hopeful lot, and we really want to believe that a Democrat in the White House can make a difference. But after Obama signed the Defense Authorization Act in January enabling the imprisonment of American “terrorists” without trial and without recourse, what’s to keep him from declaring Occupy Wall Street a terrorist organization, and throwing them all in limbo for an endless period of time?
Nothing. And it may happen – if not Obama, then a future president. Things are certainly moving in that direction.
Another dude, a Russian, who not only predicted the collapse of the Communist regime, but predicted in that a former German KGB spy would come to power in Russia, has now predicted that that same Russian spy, Vladimir Putin, won’t last two years after he is elected next month, and he may not even be elected!
Puin has shot his wad, says Vladimir Voinovich from his Moscow apartment in an interview with Sergei L. Loiko of the Los Angeles Times.
After the anti-Putin demonstrations of the last few months made possible by the Internet and social networks like Facebook, “Putin’s big problem is that now he absolutely needs to win a fair election to be legitimate, but he simply can’t have a fair election” because of the rules and the rulers he himself has put in place.
He now finds himself “hopelessly outdated as a leader, like a typewriter in the era of computers.”
The 2007 parliamentary elections were as stacked as last December’s, but in 2007 people were sitting in their kitchens grumbling to themselves….But now the Internet and social networks like Facebook succeeded in uniting all these individual kitchens in one huge common kitchen, and people saw they were not alone in their frustration and anger.”
It doesn’t really matter if Putin does an about face and really becomes a liberal. “People won’t listen. They don’t love him anymore. It’s all over for him….”
“If Putin chooses to stay and respond to the growing popular resistance with violence, it will be very bad for the country, but it will be even worse for Putin.
“I know the mood in the army and the mood in the police. In a real crisis they won't defend Putin. And Putin's rich friends will be in no hurry to come to his rescue, I am sure.
“In 1991 during the August coup [against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev] I said … that the putschists wouldn't last a month. They lasted three days. Now my prediction is that Putin won't last two years as Russia's ruler, at best. But I won't rule it out that he will not get elected at all.”
There are a lot of people I’ve never heard of, and one this week came to my attention. Some dude named George Celeste, who it turns out is founder and director of Trends Research Institute, which is often referred to as “today’s most trusted name in trends.”
Like Voinovich, he is credited with predicting the fall of the Soviet Union as well as the last two economic recessions, the dot-com meltdown, the 1997 Asian currency crisis, the 1987 world stock market crash, increased terrorism against America, and the quagmire in Iraq.
“The West is headed to dictatorship,” Celeste warns. And democracy is a thing of the past.
“It's already happening. The merger of state and corporate power is by definition called fascism.
“Before you had [the Defense Authorization Act, which Obama signed last month] you had the abrogation of the Constitution under Bush, with the Patriot Act, which Obama reinstated and made even tougher by signing this bill.
“When I say the merger of state and corporate powers, look at the $ 16.1 trillion that the Federal Reserve has funneled into businesses around the world. Whatever happened to that thing called capitalism? This is not capitalism; it's fascism!
“The more societies break down and the bigger the screw-ups at the top, the harder they clamp down on the bottom. You see it going on around the world; they call it austerity measures. How about calling it enslavement?
“…We don't have capitalism anymore. It's bloomin' fascism. Liberty is toast….”
There’s lots of evidence that we peaked out in world oil production in 2005.
In the meantime, many people have posed the question, “what’s post-oil peak going to be like?”
Someone on the EnergyResources network noted this week that “…this is what peak oil looks like.
“Get past the fantasies of sudden collapse on the one hand, and the fantasies of limitless progress on the other, and what you get is what we're getting: a long ragged slope of rising energy prices, economic contraction, and political failure, punctuated with a crisis here, a local or regional catastrophe there, a war somewhere else -- all against a backdrop of disintegrating infrastructure, declining living standards, decreasing access to health care and similar services, and the like.”
And to that, you can add the demise of capitalism.
See also related pages:
Chapt. #324 - Waiting for Sasha – and others
Chapt. #322 - OWS offers the promise of some justice in a dying world
This day years ago:
2007-2-5: Chapt. #234 - Luzhkov again vows to ban “satanic” gay parades