Slouched in woe beside the Christmas tree, a lot of Americans missed the point of 2011: Santa Claus had already emptied his goodie sack before the night of wonders and miracles arrived and was back at the North Pole checking the balance sheet to see if he could raise a little cash selling some remaining assets off to the Blackstone Group or maybe work a leveraged buyout deal with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. A few elves would have to join the unemployment line, but they could probably get by on half-rations of food stamps. Or maybe Henry Kravis could feed them reindeer steaks... at a discount, as long as they last.
It's remarkable how the year's great mega-holiday blowout suspends time and circumstance. I didn't see how the European banks were going to make it to December 25, but then, heading into the shopping frenzy home-stretch, swap lines opened up between the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank and around $600-odd billion in ZIRP loans flowed to over 200 Euro banks. Maybe that will cover the next two weeks of aggregate debt rollovers, and then what? They can't even look forward to President's Day over there - unless we rented out the George Washington and Abe Lincoln brands to them.
Who is still not impressed with the ability of these central banks, and their owner-operators, to keep re-circulating immense loads of notional money? Alas, every wash-rinse repeat cycle leaves the certificates a little paler and thinner, and it won't be long before they just appear to be blank paper. But rackets as grand and insolent as these would not be possible, except in a culture so estranged from truth that anything goes over without notice. I wonder about that scene around the American Christmas tree, though - the empty space between the floor and the lowest boughs where the gaily-wrapped presents used to appear.
I reckon it will take a few weeks, perhaps through the whole winter, for a sense of swindle to set in among the rooked. You may notice a pervasive undertone of grumbling in the background - and winter is the right time for that - like the eerie, ominous chords of ice groaning in the darkness on a still night around the frozen lake. But eventually come the tumults and torrents of spring. I suppose what baffles many of us in the ethers of bloggery is the apparent failure of that demographic slice acquainted with thinking to register any objection to the travesties and organized brigandages of these times. At any other time in the life of this republic, such folk with active frontal lobes would have identified arrant criminal activity for what it is. Apparently, the nostrums of Paul Krugman are as powerfully narcotic as the raptures of Nascar.
I'm afraid events are a little too far gone now. There was some hope that Mr. Obama would restore the rule of law, but he has gone even farther in the opposite direction by disabling even the levers of truth - and in so genial a style that nobody noticed that, either. That thinking demographic slice of the public I averred to must have mortgaged their souls the past three years just to keep on keeping on. Hence, when the truly rooked wake from their zombie sleepwalk, there will be hell to pay for sure. Sometimes an intellectual governor on events no longer even avails, as was the case in the French Revolution. When the lawyers, political theorists, and philosophers got into the act, the blood really flowed.
Will that happen here, in the months and years ahead? I do think so. We've grown ourselves a toxic aristocracy of privilege and mega-wealth as cheeky (or worse) than the fops and strumpets of Versailles. I confess, I feel a bit lusty for some Grand Guignol action myself. There are stock figures in The New York Observer's weekly "Shindigger" column who I would enjoy seeing treated after the manner of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, the celebrated "impaler." And what better place for it than Zuccotti Park, a much more intimate venue than the agoraphobia-inducing Place de la Concord. You see what happens: in the absence of the rule of law even prudent men turn to the reptile agencies of mind.
The truly interesting thing about America's romance with our Wild West was that there was always an Unwild East to return to - if you survived adventuring in one piece. Well, first the frontier closed about 100 years ago, and now we wake on Christmas morning to discover that the whole land, from sea to shining sea, has gone feral with rot. Enjoy this nebulous week of suspended animation while it lasts. I'll be back next Monday with the 2012 forecast.