Category Archives: politics

Slate’s End of America

Slate is doing a series this week on How America Will End.  Having ended our thought experiment and theorizing ten months ago, we’d like to welcome Josh Levin to the party.

Once again, the best way to read NIJOT is from the beginning in chronological order.  It’s a bit of a slow (and in hindsight innaccurate) start, but things heat-up by Halloween.

If you find our little mindgame interesting, I also suggest you check out the NIJOT reading list on GoodReads (sorry, sign-up required).  I’ll be adding to that in the future where this blog remains more static.  Comments are always welcome, but please stay in the ‘story world’ for dated posts.


The NIJOT Reading List — Part 2 — How Did We Get Here?

As I worked on this project, random people stopped me and said “In your blog, that stuff you write, it couldn’t happen like that!”

OK, nobody said that.  I just had that conversation in my own head.  Over and over.

So we tried hard not to wander too far too fast from what we see around us.  Here is a listing of books that talk about the situation we are all in right now.


It Can’t Happen Here!

Aside from being the title of Sinclair Lewis’s fiction from the 1930’s, this is also the primary argument against a coup in the USA.  I hate to tell you, it has already been tried:

The Plot to Seize the White House: The Shocking True Story of the Conspiracy to Overthrow FDR

War is a Racket: The Anti-War Classic by America’s Most Decorated General 


The Bush Administration’s Abuse of Power:

Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror

Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values

Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration

Torture and Democracy

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone

Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice

Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals

Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency

The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America


American Unpreparedness in a Changing World:

The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

Open Target: Where America Is Vulnerable to Attack

The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation

Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters

The Post-American World

Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership 

The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World


Peak Oil:

Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage

Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak 

Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century 


Gloabl Warming, Food Security, and Other Threats:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It

The Great Warming: Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America


Americans in Bubbles and Echo-Chambers – Talking Past Each Other:

Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter

The End of America: A Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot

Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries

The Divided States of America?: What Liberals AND Conservatives are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match!

The Big Sort (a Slate Blog)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I feel like a thief. 

But I’m a mother and I’m happy to shoulder that guilt.

Avery gave it up last night. Apparently we were one of the last kitchens in the city to stay open — everyone else shut down three nights ago. We’ve been so consumed by trying to find Gil — and then finding Gil — that I failed to notice. Avery called me at about 11 o’clock last night. I was still numbly moving around the condo, just moving with no purpose, when I got the call. 

She was shutting the kitchen down and handing out all the food in the warehouse. She wanted to give the folks who had worked there first pick.

Dad and I got in the Passat and loaded up. Mostly rice and beans, about 250 lbs. of flour, a case of dried powdered milk, several boxes of carrots and sweet potatoes and onions. Some of the peach preserves and apple butter and even the pickled beans. Every single scrap of chocolate and sugar I could find. There was a whole pig’s worth of cryo-vacced primals that I strapped to the roof. I also took the pressure cooker, the Hobart mixer, a couple of knives, and every bloody fucking one of those tomatoes that I canned. 

I can’t believe that was only a month ago.

Driving back through the ghostly streets gave me a bone-deep chill. The riots down in Southie were too far away to hear, but I could see the dull red glow of the fires off the low-slung belly of the clouds. I was driving, Dad was riding shotgun — literally. He was crouched in the passenger’s seat with the double barrel cocked and held across his chest. The same man who had stopped me from firing just a few nights ago was ready to shoot. Happily, there wasn’t a soul in sight. 

We’re leaving. 

Paul and I and my folks talked about it until late at night, after I got back with the food. The violence in Southie has stayed contained so far, but with the kitchens shut down, the shooting war in Connecticut and the Berkshires, and the city a target for the US forces, it’s just not safe here. And winter is coming.

It’s 80 degrees today, but the London plane trees are starting to show yellow around the edges and it got down into the 40s a few nights ago. Unless there’s a massive relief effort, the city is going to be a humanitarian disaster this winter — there won’t be heat or food for all these people. We’re very well stocked, thanks to my efforts and last night’s raid on the warehouse. 

But that just makes us a target here. Already we get looks from some of our condo neighbors. We’ve seen evidence of someone trying to jimmy our storage locker open. Two of the chickens have gone missing. And it’s still September. In the cold heart of February, I get the feeling we’d be murdered in our sleep for the food in our kitchen. 

With my folks here, we can pile into two cars and bring up as much food as humanly possible to the cabin in the woods. We’ve got food, water, and fuel up there. I planted potatoes back in the spring that should be ready soon, plus there’s a giant wood lot filled with plenty of deer and dead falls, and, most importantly, a scarce population that entirely used to self reliance.

I doubt any fighting will make it to the North Woods. We’ll be able to hunker down for the winter. 

Paul has already gone out to trade some things for enough gas to make it up there. Mom offered up her jewelry but Paul said that our liquor cabinet would be worth more. I insisted on keeping a pair of vodka bottles, but he’s been in and out all morning, taking a bottle of brandy and coming back with a five-gallon can, going out with three litres of wine and coming back with a gerry can. 

Dad’s been doing guy things out in the back with the cars. Mom’s been taking care of April while I gather up heavy blankets, first aid supplies, tools, that sort of thing. She looks white faced and pinched. She’s worried about her dogs. They are huge and eat a lot. We don’t know if we can take them. I know she loves them like her children but if it’s a choice between feeding my mom’s two dogs and feeding my daughter, the matter is simple. 

Dad just came in. He traded the cryo-vacced pig primals for a car trailer to hitch to his SUV. That doubles our carrying capacity. We may be able to take some of the books.

April has been very quiet, very still. She occasionally asks about Paw Paw, sniffles, and then goes and sits in a corner with her stuffed rabbit. Right now she’s asleep in my bedroom so I can pack up her room. Going through her toys to pick out what we’re going to take has been tough — we only have so much room, both in the car and in the cabin. I want to sit and hold her, to croon songs and read to her, to hold her and promise everything will be okay. 

But I feel guilty already for taking a few moments here to rest and get my thoughts together and to tell you all, our friends, that we’re leaving. April will have all winter to heal, in the quiet woods. Right now I need to think about surviving. 

Paul’s back. I gotta go.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A kid from the National Guard came by this afternoon.  They found Gil.  He was in the Convention Center and never had a chance to get out.

I’m sorry about my rant last night.  It wasn’t logical, it served no purpose to scream into the internet.

I’m mostly just numb.


From what we’ve heard, things are getting really strange out west of the city.  A bunch of New Yorkers have seized the bridges over the Hudson all the way up to Albany.  Governor Paterson is apparently saying that he won’t allow his state to serve as a base for government terror.  After 9/11 and the Halloween attacks, New Yorkers have some special moral high ground to preach about bombing civilians in cities.

I don’t know what it will do.  The US units in Connecticut hold pretty much the whole state except places where there aren’t enough people to matter.  Everywhere between here and there is essentially lawless.

Where does a government lawyer fit in here?

I find myself just going over our inventory of food and supplies over and over.  

I’ve gotta go, April’s awake again.  I just pray she doesn’t ask for Paw-Paw again…not sure I can deal.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Does anyone know anything about wha the hell happened?!

Paul and my dad are trying to get downtown right now. I begged them not to go, the whole fucking city looks like it’s on fire. I would have sat on Paul if Dad wasnt’ with him. Dad’s very level headed.

The men in uniforms on the street say it’s just a fire, that they fire department is on it, but no fire eversounded like that, damnit. KABOOM! They are fucking bombing Boston! 

If you know what’s going on, please please call me. If you have heard from Gil, please call. The cells seem to be up, Paul calls every fifteen minutes. We can’t reach Gil, though. 

The news is coming in really garbled. NPR says that they are trying to get a man on the scene, something about Southie being a mad house. Gil’s at the convention center in Southie and I am terrified that Paul is going down there and going to try to get past all those angry old mobsters and those terrible old bridges. 

If you know anything, please CALL!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

As predicted, things have gone from bad to worse. My folks arrived last night with most of their possessions… but not all. Apparently they got charged “tolls” for entering the city and when they didn’t have the cash, the men with the guns took jewelry instead. Mom lost her pearls, her wedding ring, her emerald earrings, and some costume stuff she had in a box that was clearly visible from the street. They also took my dad’s wedding ring.

Her engagment ring, her mother’s pearls, my grandmother’s locket, and several gold chains were all in a pouch in her purse. She kept those. 

They arrived to find me hauling my self out to the kitchen for another night with The Shotgun Brigade. (That’s what the three of us with guns have started calling ourselves. Gallows humor.) My dad — he used to be a Ranger a very long time ago — heard what I was doing, reached into the trunk of his car, and pulled out his hunting rifle and then insisted on joining me. 

There was a very long line outside of the kitchen warehouse when we got there and people screamed some awful things at me for “cutting the line.” When I waved my gun and tried to explain that I worked there, they just got angrier. 

There were several attempts to rob the place and one partially succeeded. A large group of angry men rushed us at about midnight. I was angry enough and tired enough that I swear I think I was about to fire. My dad stopped me. He’s a rock.

They got away with several boxes of food. Mostly cereal and some canned veggies. 

If they were starving, if they were hungry people trying to feed their families, I wouldn’t be so livid. But they are just stupidly frightened (or maybe frightened stupid) and scrabbling food to hoarde. They probably have plenty of food still at home, but it’s like those bank runs this time last year — once people start to lose faith, it all comes down like a house of cards. 

And the thing is, I really feel like they raided us just to be doing something. They feel everything going to hell and instead of just hunkering down, they feel like they need to DO something. So they steal food. Which causes this whole cascade of mistrust. 

Dad and I arrived home just an hour ago. We’re going to sack out now that the rest of the folks are up and about. Good thing, too. There weren’t enough beds for all of us to sleep at once. Gil’s off to the convention — Paul says he’s frothing at the mouth about everything, about the betrayal of the people. We’re frankly a little worried about his heart. Or a stroke. 

I’m going to bed.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The house is quiet, the streets are desserted, there are no lights in the city. 

Over the summer, with clear skies and warm nights, the darkness didn’t seem so odd. I was raised in the country with no streetlights — I’m used to that absolute black. But fall blew in on a storm two days ago that knocked out all the electricity and had us all pulling out the wool sweaters. Between the heavy cloud cover and the fact that no one wants to put a light in the window, and the fact that dawn doesn’t come until 6:30….

I feel like it’s all coming apart at the seams.

I was awake to see the early morning dark because I got tapped to guard the kitchen warehouse last night. Apparently, I’m one of three people in the whold staff who can use a gun without blowing my foot off. With the General gone, things have gone from got to bad to HOLY FUCK pretty damned quick. We’ve got people from the outlying ‘burbs pouring into the cities on the rumour that it’s better here. We’ve got people from the city leaving for… I don’t know where. In the day time, it’s confusing but still normal. New-normal, but it was safe on the streets. The rumours were flying fast — the General’s daughter being held at Gitmo, troops on the Mass./R.I. border, spaceships at MIT (which really wasn’t the most ridiculous thing we’d heard, believe it or not) — and people we gathering at any public space to talk, natter, worry, debate, argue. 

Once the sun went down last night though, with no electricity, it got bad. There were roving gangs of looters and roving gangs of “neighborhood watch” types trying to defend their little chunck of city, and roving squads of military types who are trying to protect everyone but don’t have a command structure right now. 

I know all of this because I spent the night sitting at the warehouse with a loaded shotgun, some emergency flares, a bullhorn, and an extra-strong cup of the last coffee in the city. Happily, in Cabridge at least, guns are pretty damned rare among the general population and the Neighborhood Watch types and the looters were mostly unarmed. And there’s really nothing quite as frightening in the dark as the sound of a double-barreled shotgun being ratched. Most folks would give up. Things died out about midnight, happily.

We did let one group of armed types with uniforms take some food. Not a lot, but we weren’t sure that they weren’t actually the military types. I miss the General.

Today is going to be tough. Tonight is going to be tougher. If I wasn’t so wired and tired, I’d be panicking.

My folks called on the cell last night. They and their dogs are on their way up today. They are putting as much food in the car as my dad can manage. I asked them to bring dad’s hunting rifles, too. And I told them to come in the daylight only and on backroads only. It’s going to be a tight fit with them and Gil. Not that we’ve seen Gil in three days, what with the “convention” going into overdrive. 

Avery was a little white around the eyes this morning as she took over guard duties, talkinga bout her relatives in Kansas. She’s sort of the driving force that holds this little kitchen together and if she bugs out… 

I’m so tired.