Monday, December 31, 2007

Hauoli Makahiki Hou!

James Howard "Janus" Kunstler reviews 2007 and forecasts 2008 as only he can:

Dec 31, 2007
Forecast 2008

For the tiny fraction of people who actually pay attention to real events -- those, for instance, who know the difference between Narnia and Kandahar -- the final hours of 2007 leading into the fog-shrouded abyss of 2008 must induce great racking shudders of nausea. Has there ever been a society so exquisitely rigged for implosion? The whole listing, creaking, reeking edifice stands like one of those obsolete Las Vegas pleasure palaces awaiting a mere pulse of electrons to ignite a thousand explosive charges perfectly placed to blow away the structural supports.

...On the ground out in the heartland, in the anxiety-drenched, over-valued beige subdivisions of California and the ennui-saturated pastel McHousing tracts of Florida (not to mention the pathetic vinyl outlands of Cleveland and Detroit) a mighty keening welled forth as mortgage rates adjusted upward, and loans stopped "performing," and "for sale" signs failed to turn up buyers, and sheriff's deputies showed up with the rolls of yellow foreclosure tape, and actual ownership of the re-poed collateral entered a legal twilight zone somewhere north of the Florida State Teacher's Pension Fund and south of the Norwegian Municipal Councils' investment portfolios. What a mighty goddam mess was left out there by the boyz at the Wall Street genius desks, who engineered a magical system for eliminating risk from the capital markets -- only to see it leak back in from a million holes and seams and collapse the greatest bubble ever blown.

In the background, the US dollar sank to record lows against the euro and the pound sterling, the price of oil jumped 56 percent across the year just grazing the $100-a-barrel mark, drought punished the American southeast and Australia's grain belt, floods ravaged Texas and England, the polar ice shrank dramatically, but the US escaped any major hurricane action for a second year in a row. Except for the murder of Mrs. Bhutto just a few days ago, the international scene was supernaturally quiet. Even Iraq fell into a torpor, variously attributed to utter exhaustion among the warring factions or to the US troop "surge" under general Petreus. Iran got a surprise clean bill-of-health on its nuclear bomb-making activity from America's own investigators, to the consternation of Mr. Bush & Co. The non-human denizens of Planet Earth didn't have such a good year. Honeybees, Yangtze river dolphins, and house sparrows took big hits, and Al Gore went up another suit size (as well as winning part of the Nobel Prize for his Powerpoint show). Which brings us finally to the heart of the matter: what's coming down the pike starting tomorrow, January 1, 2008?

Down and Dirty I shudder to imagine how things will play out now as we turn the corner into 2008. Not to put too fine a point on it, but my little walnut brain can't imagine any scenario in which the US economy doesn't end up on a gurney in history's emergency room. It's not necessary to rehash the particulars of the Greenspan bubble-blowing disaster. The outcome is what concerns us. The web cables have been blazing for months with arguments as to what form the workout will take. There's little disagreement about the fundamentals at the housing end of things.

The housing market is in a death spiral. Eventually, the median price of a house will have to fall back to the median income, and it has a very long way to go, perhaps 50 percent. Until that happens, houses will be generally unsellable. At the same time, of course, an anxious finance sector will be offering fewer mortgages and on much more rigorous terms, so there will be far fewer qualified buyers even for distress sales. And the median income itself may soon not be what it has been. The whole equation has changed. As the painful re-pricing process plays out, many owners/sellers will be upside-down and under water in what they owe on the mortgage in relation to the value of the house they occupy. Quite a few may have lost jobs and incomes along the way. Most of these unfortunates would be better off just mailing in the keys and walking away. But in so far as these awful liabilities are peoples' homes, full of all their stuff and their childrens' stuff, not to mention being the repository of all their previously-imagined wealth, as well as their hopes and dreams, walking away is psychologically more easily said than done.

Surely in this election year, schemes will be advanced to bail out these poor suckers. But the beneficiaries of such a putative bail out would be far outnumbered by the home-owners still making mortgage payments, plus property taxes jacked up during the recent orgy by greedy public officials, and I don't think this majority would stand for the unfairness of seeing their neighbors simply let off the hook on their obligations. Perhaps the one thing that congress could do is change the insane law that treats foreclosures like some kind of bizzaro capital gain and piles additional huge tax demands on people who can no longer afford to buy their kids a frozen burrito. The issue of what to do about the dispossessed will be so politically red-hot that it could upset the election process --but I get a bit ahead of myself.

One thing the public doesn't get about the housing debacle is that it is not just the low point in a regular cycle -- it is the end of the suburban phase of US history. We won't be building anymore of it, and those employed in its development will have to find something else to do. Now, unfortunately the whole point of the housing bubble was not really to put X-million people in so many vinyl and chipboard boxes, but rather to ramp up a suburban sprawl-building industry as a replacement for America's dwindling manufacturing economy. This stratagem ran into the implacable force of Peak Oil, which not only puts the schnitz on America's whole Happy Motoring / suburban nexus, but implies a pervasive trend for contraction in everything from the daily distances we can travel to the the very core idea of regular economic growth per se -- at least in the way we have understood it through the age of industrial capital.

But to return to my point, something like 40 percent of all new jobs after the year 2000 were created in the final burst of suburban expansion -- everything from the excavators to the framers to the sheet-rockers, and then the providers of granite countertops, the sellers of appliances and furnishings, and cars to service the far-out new subdivisions, and so on. This is the end, therefore, not only of the production "home-builders," but perhaps everything from Crate and Barrel to WalMart, too, eventually. By the way, the housing collapse was only one phase of a more generalized real estate debacle, because the commercial side of the business has also begun a nauseating slide into non-performance and equity destruction. In other words, we built way too many strip malls, power centers, and office parks. God knows what will happen to the owners of these white elephants, or the mortgage and lien holders of these things -- but as one wag remarked to me some years ago as we both gazed upon a forlorn abandoned strip mall outside of Tulsa, "...we don't need that many evangelical roller rinks...."

What happens out there on the housing market scene will certainly redound in banking and finance and whatever still constitutes the US economy generally. The fears and uncertainties surrounding all credit-backed tradable securities derive first from the millions of troubled home mortgages dangling slowly in the wind. These fears and uncertainties will multiply as defaults commence in commercial real estate, and desperate individuals next enter a wave of credit card default, all of it, too, securitized and sprinkled all over the world. None of this stuff has yet been priced into the public disclosures of the many troubled banks and bank-like companies holding it. Nor does anyone really know how this is affecting the hedge funds, and their staggering leveraged positions in things that are looking more and more like quicksand. I can't imagine that quite a few major banks will not collapse in the first half of 2008. It is hard to escape the conclusion that many hedge funds will also blow up, given the unsoundness of their counter-parties' positions, not to mention the frailty of the bond reinsurers. But the death of more than a few hedge funds could easily unwind the entire global finance system -- meaning a period of destructive chaos followed by a set of severely different institutional arrangements, with untold loss of imagined capital wealth along the way and big changes in everyday life. The world has never really been in a situation like this before and it is impossible to say what it might lead to. But there is no doubt that the American public has enjoyed an artificially high standard of living in relation to the value of what we actually produce -- fried chicken, hair extensions, and the Flaver Flav Show [Flavor of Love, actually--P.Z.] -- so the conclusion is pretty self-evident.

Others have said (and I concur) that 2008 will be the year that the issue of Peak Oil not only takes stage in the forefront of American politics, but pushes global warming aside as the most immediate threat to the "modern" way-of-life. There is every reason to believe that the world has arrived at its all-time oil production peak -- and some statisticians would even pin-point the exact moment as July 2006. Since then a few new and crucial story-lines have emerged to allow us to understand what is happening out there on the world oil scene.

One story-line is that only "demand destruction" among the world's poorest nations has kept the oil markets functioning "normally" among the OECD nations and the rising Asian players. Even so, oil priced in US dollars more than doubled in 2007. It remains to be seen whether demand destruction in a wobbling US economy -- with the suburban builders crippled -- will keep oil prices from jumping into the uncharted territory beyond $100-a-barrel. But two other forces are in operation now. One is the growing oil export problem, soon to be a crisis. It now appears that exports, in nations with surplus oil to sell, are going down at an even steeper rate than production declines. Why? They are using more of their own oil. The population is growing robustly. The Saudi Arabians are building the world’s largest aluminum smelter and many chemical factories. This takes a lot of oil. Russia, another big exporter, saw its car sales jump by 50 percent in 2007. Mexico is depleting so rapidly, and using so much more of its own oil, that it might be out of the export game altogether in three years. That will be bad news for the US, since Mexico is tied with Saudi Arabia as America's number two leading source of oil imports. Remember, the US now imports close to three-quarters of all the oil we use.

The second new factor on the Peak oil scene is "oil nationalism." It is prompting countries like Norway and Russia to husband more of their own resources as the awareness hits that they are past peak and might want to keep their own motors humming further into the future. Oil surplus nations are also trending more toward selling their oil on the basis of long-term contracts with favored customers rather than just auctioning the stuff off on the futures market. This makes oil a much more important element in geopolitical power politics. Note that the US may not enjoy "favored customer" standing among many of these nations.

Matt Simmons, the leading investment banker to the oil industry, predicted at a major conference in October that the US is much closer to encountering a problem with chronic spot shortages of oil (and gasoline, of course) than the public realizes, and Simmons says that this supply problem will be extremely disruptive in every imaginable way -- economically, politically, and socially. Most of the commentators I take seriously see the price of oil oscillating in 2008 between $80 and $160-a-barrel. Simmons says Americans will keep sucking up the price increases, but they will probably freak out over spot shortages. I have no idea how presidential election politics will play out in 2008. It must be obvious that so many nasty pitfalls lie out there in the months ahead that something's got to shake up the current scripted mummery among the contenders. The current batch of candidates will soon find their story-lines and pre-cooked messages out-of-date as the nation faces crises in finance and energy (at least). Given the uneventful geopolitical scene of the past 18 months (since the Hezbollah-Israel War and up to the murder of Mrs. Bhutto in Pakistan), odds are that the US will have more rather than less trouble from the rest of the world in 2008-- especially if our own financial recklessness trips up the global economy. Back in the early days of George W. Bush, even before 9/11, I used to joke with my friends that Bill Clinton would return as the Emperor Bill the First. [Hattie might not like the following.--P.Z.] The joke doesn't seem so funny anymore with Hillary off and running. I never liked the way she muscled her way into a US senate seat -- sending the message, in essence, that there was not one genuine New York resident qualified for the job. But there is so much more about her I dislike now, starting with her presumption of dynastic entitlement to the annoyingly phony way she nods her head (like one of those old "drinky-bird" toys) to put across the idea that she is a fabulous "listener." I write this a few days before the Iowa caucuses and then the New Hampshire primary. New York's Mayor Bloomberg is suddenly making noises again about entering the race as an independent. That might lead to a situation as fractured as the one in 1860 that saw a multi-party scuffle send Lincoln into office (or the election of 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt made a credible run on the independent Bull Moose line). At the moment, I'd like to see both John Edwards and Barack Obama roll on. The mere thought of a president Huckabee gives me the chilblains, and the rest of the Republican pack I would not want to have as my county supervisor. [Too bad he doesn't make an exception for Ron Paul, whose advocacy of withdrwal of American forces worldwide must seem to him prudent.--P.Z.] In any case, whoever ends up in the oval office will preside over one king-hell of a clusterfuck. In the immortal words of TV's erstwhile "Mr. T," I pity da fool who gets elected into this mess. There will be a whole continent full of bankrupt, re-poed, and idle former WalMart shoppers, many of them with half of their skin tattooed and many of that bunch all revved up to "roll heavy and gun up" against the folks who screwed them.

Which leads me to my penultimate observation of the moment: 2008 will be the year that celebrity wealth goes into hiding. [Cf. Paul Fussell's observation that "Showing off used to be the main satisfaction of being very rich in America. Now the rich must skulk and hide. It's a pity."--P.Z.] A land full of people crying into their foreclosure notices will take a dim view of the Donald Trumps and P. Diddys luxuriating out there and may come looking for scalps -- though in the case of Mr. Trump they'll be sorry they woke up the wolverine that lives on his head. Basically, though, I'm not kidding. Conspicuous displays of wealth will be so "out" that Mr. Diddy might take to club-hopping in a 1999 Mazda. Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton may have to double-up living in a minuteman missile silo to keep the angry mobs of fans-turned-vengeful-berserkers away.

Okay, my final comment. After being chastised endlessly about mis-calling the DOW in 2006 (I said 4000), I have learned my lesson about making numerical predictions for the stock markets. So let's just say there is no fucking way that the DOW, the NASDAQ, and the S & P will not end the year 2008 absolutely on their asses. The charade of permanent prosperity based on getting something for nothing is over. That sound you hear out there is reality knocking on the door. It has been standing out in the cold for a long time and it is not happy with us.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Harper's: How Relevant is It?

http://mediamythbusters.com/blog/?p=219

Many comments appended to the above post ponder the relevancy of Harper's. I've subscribed to Harper's on and off through the years. The Readings section is always excellent as are some of the essays and Lapham's columns. It's way overpriced at $6.95 per copy, so one is better off subscribing. All can agree most people have never heard of, let alone read, Harper's. This entry on Harper's from Namebase, though somewhat out-of-date, is still acute:

Harper's was founded in 1850, and in the late 1980s had a circulation of 182,000. It is designed for political liberals who claim some cultural assets, whose inherited wealth can afford the occasional indignation over corruption in high places. Editor Lewis H. Lapham seems to lack focus; he knows America is going to hell, but literate hand-wringing is preferred over investigative reporting. Publisher and president John R. MacArthur actually has some journalism experience... One might take MacArthur at his word but for the fact that unlikely magazines such as Vanity Fair and New Yorker are beginning to publish important investigative pieces, while Harper's just wimps along. ...

on 29 Dec 2007 at 7:57 am1Lou Minatti
I appreciate your hard work and research on this, Bob. But who the hell reads Harper’s?

on 29 Dec 2007 at 8:15 am2XReader
But who the hell reads Harper’s? I read Harper’s for years. When the Harper’s Foundation ended up as the mainstay for the magazine, the articles went towards the left, and my reading of Harper’s diminished.
...
on 29 Dec 2007 at 8:45 am6WAL
“I appreciate your hard work and research on this, Bob. But who the hell reads Harper’s?”
Second that,
I appreciate it also, but nobody’s read Harper’s since 1900. I genuinely wasn’t sure until pretty recently if the magazine even still existed or not.
...
on 29 Dec 2007 at 1:31 pm11Trevor
Harper’s is the premier socio-political journal in the country and it outsells “The Weekly Standard” and “National Review” combined 10-1. Unlike the fat boys with asthma talking tough neocons- it presents a virile unabridged mirror on the real events as they occur. It’s a magazine favored by Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, John Updike, Cormac McCarthy, Harold Pinter, Stephen Hawking, Philip Roth, Admiral William Fallon head of Centcom and innumerable other international movers and shakers. Of course, Hugh Hewitt reads “The Weekly Standard” and John Podhoretz “The National Review” so I guess it’s even.

on 29 Dec 2007 at 1:46 pm12Mike
Trevor is correct, as are the other posters. Harper’s took a dive to the Left and never looked back. As a magazine that looks to promote it’s “narrative”, more ethical lapses were bound to emerge. Nevertheless, it is still well-read by the intellectual Left. But it is seen as more credible still than Mothoer [sic] Jones or American Prospect.

on 29 Dec 2007 at 2:06 pm13WAL
Harper’s is the premier socio-political journal in the country and it outsells “The Weekly Standard” and “National Review” combined 10-1.
It has a current circulation of 210,000. National Review’s circulation is about 160,000 and has varied between 140 and 200,000 in the past few years. The weekly Standard has a circulation of about 80,000 - so that’s pretty much a statistic you just made up.
More importantly, whatever its circulation is - when’s the last time anybody, on the right or left, ever uttered the sentence “did you see the article in Harper’s?”
I’ll answer that - 1900.
It’s cool to be able to cite a big name, but the author’s you’re listing are well past their prime (Thomas Pynch is what? 70?) and the other two, while being great men, were never known for their engaging writing ability. These men may have been heroes to you at some point, but there came a time when guys who were popular in the ’60s kept doing the same damn thing over and over again and became boring as hell. (I like Tom Wolfe, but even I’ll admit he’s lagged in recent years - you expect me to get excited about John Updike?). For some reason Harper’s insists on publishing those people. Too bad.
Because of its age and it’s former prominence, I’m sure it can still get libraries and other institutions to subscribe to it and inflate those numbers, but - this isn’t even a leftwing vs. conservative thing - I can’t think of anybody on the left or the right who’s ever given a damn within the past couple decades what they publish, because they don’t read it.

on 29 Dec 2007 at 2:08 pm14Thomass
I guess the corollary to who reads Harpers is why don’t people read Harpers. It’s because it is a leftwing partisan rag. A step up over The Nation which is a step up over Mother Jones…. Ergo, I doubt they’ll move on this. Their credibility was never a issue (to them or their readers). Only people who agree with them (regardless) buy their mag anyway… they don’t really care if its made up.
I’d add, the New Republic is better than any of them… and you saw how long it took to get them to move on a retraction… I’m betting Harpers will totally ignore you.

======
Of course, I'll probably update this post soon.

26 March 2008 update: I just found this column by Canadian journalist Heather Mallick, who takes the magazine and its editor to task for a lack of women writers and for a general lack of humour. This is Gawker's reply.

Friday, December 21, 2007

From Kalapana to Kansas: Aloha, Grant Jones

Grant Jones, a.k.a. the Kalapana Pundit, announces he and his wife will move to Kansas in early January. I wish them well. Upon their move to the mainland, I'll move the Dougout from the Hawaii politics section to the general politics section in the list of links.
--
In one of his recent posts, Grant mentions a new Hawaii political site, boldly titled Zero Shibai.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tancredo the Frado Out! Cynthia McKinney In!

LewRockwell.com says Good riddance to Tancredo, who had the nerve to badmouth Ron Paul. More on Tancredo's resignation at Politics1.com, which also notes Cynthia McKinney's announced candidacy as a Green. Her candidacy was a much-discussed possibility for months and now that it's official, voters have an alternative to Clinton and Obama.

Frado explained.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Post #200: Madonna to be Inducted

into the Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame.
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/features/20071214-9999-1c14hall.html

Local Playwright Lisa Matsumoto

[Links provided by me.--P.Z.]

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/2007/Dec/14/br/br4351672089.html

Updated at 3:47 p.m., Friday, December 14, 2007
Hawaii playwright seriously injured in H-1 crash
Advertiser Staff

Lisa Matsumoto was involved in a head-on crash on the H-1 today. Officials said the vehicle may have been driving in the wrong direction. [Courtesy photo]

Noted local playwright Lisa Matsumoto, 43, is in critical condition following a head-on crash in the west-bound lanes of the H-1 Freeway early today, authorities confirmed.
Matsumoto was driving a green Toyota Camry in the wrong direction and collided with a black Toyota Corolla being driven by a 35-year-old woman, who was also injured in the 3:32 a.m. crash.

The younger woman, who swerved to the right to avoid Matsumoto's vehicle, was taken to The Queen's Medical Center in serious condition with head and leg injuries.

It took more than an hour for Honolulu firefighters to free the woman from the wreckage.
A 21-year-old man whose car crashed while trying to avoid the collision was treated at the scene and did not have to be taken to the hospital, said Bryan Cheplic, spokesman for the city Emergency Services Department.

Police blocked off all lanes of H-1 west at the Houghtailing off-ramp while police traffic investigators examined the crash scene.
====
When Lisa's play Once Upon One Time debuted on the Big Island. http://media.bigisland.org/press-releases/106/lisa-matsumotos-once-upon-one-time-makes-its-big-island-debut

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kunstler.com: New and Improved!

If you haven't gone to Kunstler.com recently, you should, if only to check out the great revamp of his website. Below is an excerpt from his latest column:

...The appeal of this program is obvious in the consumer-democracy of recent times. The stupendous aggregate wealth ginned up at the climax of the cheap energy fiesta made everyone an aristocrat. As Tom Wolfe has pointed out, the average American roofer or insurance adjuster of these times has enjoyed a more comfortable life than Louis XIV. They certainly bathe more regularly, in sumptuous vinyl tubs, with motor-drive water jets, and possess refrigerated larders of delicacies from thousands of miles away (not to mention access to colonoscopies and periodontics).

This luxurious life is a fragile thing, though. The fragility is actually expressed in the houses themselves, which are uniformly constructed from materials that would not seem to have a glorious destiny: wood-chips, glue, and vinyl. Anyone who visits the Palatine Hill in Rome must be impressed by the way stone blocks and masonry walls melt away over time. Imagine what would happen to a box made of chip-board over fir studs after a few decades of poor maintenance. You can even state categorically that the vinyl cladding was not designed to be maintained, only replaced. And in as much as vinyl siding is made from petroleum byproducts, one can easily foresee future replacement problems. ...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Long Emergency in Hawaii

As much as I find Kunstler relevant and fascinating, his point of view is that of a mainlander. He doesn't say how Hawaii, or other island places, would fare during the Long Emergency, except to say we'll be even more isolated than now. But Juan Wilson predicts in detail what will happen on Kauai (and, by extension, the other islands) over the next few decades as oil becomes scarce.

http://homepage.mac.com/juanwilson/islandbreath/%20Year%202007/03-past&future/Kauai2007-2050/Kauai2007-2050.htm

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Ron Paul Phenomenon

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/11/06/paul/index.html

An excerpt:

Regardless of one's ideology, there is simply no denying certain attributes of Paul's campaign which are highly laudable. There have been few serious campaigns that are more substantive -- just purely focused on analyzing and solving the most vital political issues. There have been few candidates who more steadfastly avoid superficial gimmicks, cynical stunts, and manipulative tactics. There have been few candidates who espouse a more coherent, thoughtful, consistent ideology of politics, grounded in genuine convictions and crystal clear political values. Here is what Jon Stewart said to Paul on The Daily Show:

You appear to have consistent principled integrity. Americans don't usually go for that.

There is never a doubt that Paul actually believes what he is saying, nor is there any doubt that what he believes is the by-product of critical and rational thought grounded in genuine political passion.

Perhaps most importantly, Paul is the only serious candidate aggressively challenging America's addiction to ruling the world through superior military force and acting as an empire -- not by contesting specific policies (such as the Iraq War) but by calling into question the unexamined root premises of these policies, the ideology that is defining our role in the world. By itself, the ability of Paul's campaign to compel a desperately needed debate over the devastation which America's imperial rule wreaks on every level -- economic, moral, security, liberty -- makes his success worth applauding.

Oil Crash Movie

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/nov/04/energy.fossilfuels

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Long Emergency: Year One

Kunstler's column today is an especially good one. He speculates how countries around the world, particularly Japan and the nations of Europe, will endure the Long Emergency as they compete with America for diminishing supplies of oil. (All emphases and links mine.)

October 29, 2007
Assumptions

When historians glance back at 2007 through the haze of their coal-fired stoves, they will mark this year as the onset of the Long Emergency – or whatever they choose to call the unraveling of industrial economies and the complex systems that constituted them. And if they retain any sense of humor– which is very likely since, as wise Sam Beckett once averred, nothing is funnier than unhappiness– they will chuckle at the assumptions that drove the doings and mental operations of those in charge back then (i.e. now).

The price of oil is up 53 percent over a year ago, creeping up now toward the mid-$90-range. The news media is still AWOL on the subject. (The New York Times has nothing about it on today’s front page.) The dollar is losing a penny a week against the Euro. In essence, the American standard of living is dropping like a sash weight. So far, a stunned public is stumbling into impoverishment drunk on Britney Spears video clips. If they ever do sober up, and get to a “…hey, wait a minute…” moment when they recognize the gulf between reality and the story told by leaders in government, business, education, and the media, it is liable to be a very ugly moment in US history.

One of the stupidest assumptions made by the educated salient of adults these days is that we are guaranteed a smooth transition between the cancerous hypertrophy of our current economic environment and the harsher conditions that we are barreling toward. The university profs and the tech sector worker bees are still absolutely confident that some hypothetical “they” will “come up with” magical rescue remedies for running the Happy Motoring system without gasoline. My main message to lecture audiences these days is “…quit putting all your mental energy into propping up car dependency and turn your attention to other tasks such as walkable communities and reviving passenger rail….” Inevitably, someone will then get up and propose that the transition to all-electric cars is nearly upon us, and we should stop worrying. As I said, these are the educated denizens of the colleges. Imagine what the nascar morons believe – that the ghost of Davey Crockett will leave a jug of liquefied “dark matter” under everyone’s Christmas tree this year or next, guaranteed to keep the engines ringing until Elvis ushers in the Rapture.

The educated folks – that is, the ones subject to the grandiose story-lines of techno-triumphalism taught in the universities – are sure that we’ll either invent or organize our way out of the current predicament. A society that put men on the moon in 1969, the story goes, will ramp up another “Apollo Project” to keep things going here. One wonders, of course, what they mean by keeping things going. Even if it were hypothetically possible to keep all the cars running forever, would it be good thing to make suburban-sprawl-building the basis of our economy – because that’s the direct consequence of perpetually cheap energy. Has anyone noticed that the housing bubble and subsequent implosion is following the peak oil line exactly?

It’s a bit harder to discern what the assumptions really are among leaders in the finance sector, since so much of their activity the past ten years has veered into sheer fraud. The story line that everyone is putting out – from the Fed chairman Bernanke to the CEOs of the Big Fundz – is that American finance is a python that has swallowed a few too many pigs, but if we jigger around interest rates a little bit more, and allow some more money to be lent out cheaply, the python will eventually digest the pigs and go slithering happily on its way along the jungle trail with a burp and a fart. From this vantage, one sees a rather different story: more like a gang of human grifters sweating through their Prada suits as it becomes increasingly impossible to conceal massive losses incurred through overt reckless misbehavior. My own guess is that a lot of these boyz will be in line for criminal prosecution before too long. The political assumptions one hears are the most astoundingly naïve and ridiculous, especially the ones that involve other countries and our relations with them. NY Times followers no doubt believe, along with Tom Friedman, that the global economy is now a permanent fixture of the human condition, and that soon it will transform itself into a colossal engine of “green” (i.e. benign) commerce. Friedman and his followers tend to forget the second law of thermodynamics when spinning their fantasies of a world that can harmlessly manufacture and market an endless number of plastic salad shooters from one side of the planet to the other without incurring any losses to the health of said planet.

My own assumptions are somewhat different. I think we’re likely to see a lot of nations scrambling for survival, initially manifesting in a contest for the world’s dwindling supply of oil (and oil-like substances). For instance, when viewing the globe, few people consider that Japan currently imports 95 percent of its fossil fuel. Japan has been a “good boy” among nations since its episode of “acting out” in the mid-20th century and has enjoyed a long industrial prosperity since then. But what happens when there is not enough oil in the world to be allocated rationally by markets among the powerful nations? Will Japan just roll over and die? Will they shutter the Toyota factories and happily turn to placid tea ceremonies. I think Japan will freak out, and it’s hard to predict exactly who will feel its wrath and how.

Similarly, Europe. Americans view Europe as a kind of theme park full of elderly café layabouts swaddled in cashmere as they enjoy demitasse cups in the outdoor cafes of their comfortable art-filled cities (some of them not long ago rebuilt from rubble). Europe has let America do its dirty work for it in the Middle East for the past decade while enjoying tanker-loads of oil coming up through the Suez Canal. Europe has only had to make a few lame gestures in defense of its oil supplies. But the North Sea oil fields, which for twenty years have hedged the leverage of OPEC, are crapping out at a very steep rate. Sooner or later Europe will freak out over oil, and geo-political flat-earthers will be shocked to see that all the nations of café layabouts can mobilize potent military forces. God knows whose side who will be on, exactly, when that happens, and where America will stand – if its own military is not so exhausted that it can even stand up.

Personally, I think the world will be growing a lot larger again, and less flat, and that eventually America will find itself isolated once again between two oceans – though incursions by desperate foreign armies in one way or another, is not out of the question as the great struggle for resource survival gets underway. In time, however, I think the current Great Nations of the world will lose their ability to project power in the ways we’ve been conditioned to think about it. In the meantime, our own nation has become a society incapable of thinking, and the failure at all levels of rank, education, and privilege is impressive. If you listen to the people running for president – many of them overt clowns – you’d think that that all the comfortable furnishings of everyday life can continue with a few tweaks of the dials. They are cowards and it is possible that they perfectly represent a whole nation of cowards who deserve cowardly leadership. The danger, of course, is that when a non-cowardly leader finally does step forward in a desperate America, he will not shrink from pushing around a feckless people, or doing their thinking for them.

Who Would the World Elect.com

http://www.whowouldtheworldelect.com/

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The White Flannel Film and Similar Genres

In 1996, Andrea Shaw wrote Seen That, Now What?: The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Video You Really Want to Watch, a movie guide arranged by genre, mood, and theme, and occasionally by actor and director.

There are eleven main groupings: Action, Comedy, Drama, Documentaries, Foreign Films, Horror, Kids, Musicals, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Thrillers, and Westerns. Each is further subdivided into more specific genres, such as "white flannel," which is highlighted on the back of the book, and almost synonymous with "Merchant-Ivory film". ("White flannel" derives from the white flannel trousers men would wear to teas, garden parties, and so on. See Emily Post: "If some semi-formal occasion comes up, such as a country tea, the time-worn conservative blue coat with white flannel trousers is perennially good.") As Shaw writes, "As in other costume dramas, the period details are celebrations of all that was brilliant and luxurious, with the camera sweeping over British, Indian, or African countryscapes and exquisite turn-of-the-century interiors. But all this lush upholstery doesn't cover up the intelligent, thoughtful stories--usually based on Lawrence, Forster, and Waugh novels--played by stellar British actors" (pp. 218-219). On page 255, Shaw adds, "Messrs. Merchant and Ivory and company continue to crank out these handsome literate films of pre-World War II Britain and her subjects that combine photogenic nostalgia for a gracious way of life now gone, and an often humorous examination of its foibles." Wikipedia describes the typical "Merchant-Ivory film" as "a period piece set in the early 20th century, usually in Edwardian England, featuring lavish sets and top British actors portraying genteel characters who suffer from disillusion and tragic entanglements."



Of course, settings range from the late Victorian era to the late 1930s, and from Africa (Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes) to Boston (The Bostonians). (Remember, as Wikipedia says, " [i]n all art forms, genres are vague categories with no fixed boundaries. Genres are formed by sets of conventions, and many works cross into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions.") James Ivory was the quintessential white flannel director and his comedy of manners A Room With a View (1986) the quintessential white flannel/Merchant-Ivory film.

Similar to white flannel are certain Japanese costume dramas which share its time frame, such as Kon Ichikawa's Makioka Sisters (1983), in which four sisters in Osaka witness the slow decline of their family's fortune. Shaw also notes French versions of Merchant-Ivory: "Marcel Pagnol's novels and memoirs that take place in southern France are often the basis for these nostalgic stories..." (p. 313). Claude Berri's Jean de Florette (1987) and Yves Robert's My Father's Glory (1991) are prime specimens of the genre. Each had a sequel, Manon of the Spring (1987) and My Mother's Castle (1991), respectively.

Hawaii's film industry is far from mature, but as it grows, I would like to see adaptations of what I call the kama`aina style genre: lush, elegiac stories of Hawaii's haole and Hawaiian elites in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. John Dominis Holt is the quintessential author here. (Not only do I intend to read his works but also the article by Sheldon Hershinow, titled, "John Dominis Holt: Hawaiian-American Traditionalist" [MELUS, 7:2, Summer, 1980, pp. 61-72].) To get an idea of what a kama`aina style movie would look like, I recommend Picture Bride.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Selling Out?

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is trying to update its look, but may alienate its core readership in the process.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,507549,00.html

On nineteenth-century newspaper layout design:
http://www.vcdh.virginia.edu/xml_docs/valley_news/html/about/papers.html

From Planes to Trains

October 1, 2007

Two Clues for the Clueless

The first clue came during a routine NPR news broadcast on Friday, which had presidential candidate Mitt Romney retailing the shopworn idea that our nation "is dependent on foreign oil." We've heard this a million times, of course, and we accept it without thinking. But if you venture forward mentally one baby step, you will quickly come to see that, no, this dependence on foreign oil is not itself the problem. The problem is that we have adopted a living arrangement so hopelessly centered around cars and incessant motoring and one of the consequences is an addiction to oil, which we happen to have a declining supply of in our own land.

...The second clue for the clueless came over the weekend when President Bush declared that the chaos reigning in America's airports had reached such an intolerable level that the federal government might have to step in and whip the airlines into shape by regulating routes and apportioning flights. Again, the inability of the public and its leaders to extend a thought one inch beyond the horizon of a given problem is really striking. It's as if the entire nation had suffered a lobotomy -- and perhaps we have, through the agency of excessive TV-watching. Has it occurred to anybody that if we could run choo-choo trains between cities a few hundred miles apart -- say from Cleveland to Columbus Ohio -- we could decongest the airports overnight? That, by so doing, Americans could travel much more pleasurably and affordably between the places they travel to most often? It certainly hasn't occurred to anybody running for president, or any of the editors-in-chief in the news media, or even any executive in what remains of the the railroad industry. But I'll try to boil it down to a digestible sound byte for them: the best way to relieve the current agony of air travel is to get the passenger trains running again. Let the airlines do what they do best: really long-range trips. Let trains do the rest. We will consume less foreign oil. The jobs now hemorrhaging out of the US auto industry could move into the passenger rail and rolling stock sectors. Everybody will be much happier. ...

---
Rail could also be revived in Hawaii, which had many railways in the early twentieth century. Here is a description of the Hilo Railroad. Though Kunstler doesn't mention them, airships should also be used in cargo and personal transport.

More on airships here. An excellent account of airships being used for passenger travel is this book, The Golden Age of the Passenger Airships: Graf Zeppelin & Hindenburg, by Harold G. Dick with Douglas H. Robinson (Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991) .

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Reed's Island

I have always wondered about the origin of the name of Reed's Island. A 26-acre peninsula in the Wailuku River, Reed's Island is also one of Hilo's old-money neighborhoods. In an article about a bed-and-breakfast there, Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi writes that Reed's Island was "named after entrepreneur William Reed, who purchased it from King Kamehameha IV in 1861. Sculpted by the Wailuku River, it was a playground of Hawaiian monarchs and originally was known as Koloiki (little crawling)."

I'd like to research further the history of this place.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nosferatu vs. Tweety, 2008



But if I were putting money on this thing, I'd bet on Giuliani. God help us, a Rudy-Hillary race

--Rod Dreher, Beliefnet.com




Monday, September 10, 2007

The Disinformation Society

September 10, 2007--The Disinformation Society

... American culture has become self-dis-informing.

As my friend Peter Golden (blogger at Boardside) puts it so well: "When people lie, they know they are doing something wrong. But when they just make things up, there's no consciousness of right or wrong at work. It seems morally okay to live in a fantasy world -- and this is much more pernicious to the public discourse than lying."

My friends, who are mostly ex-hippie, yuppie progressives, have been locked in prayer to exorcise the evil spirit of George W. Bush for six years, but they fail to recognize a more comprehensive failure of leadership in every sector of American life, and especially in the ones where a lot ex-hippies-now-yuppies run things. Our political leadership may be deplorable, but so is our leadership in business, education, the arts, and especially the media.

The poster child for this is The New York Times. In their reporting on the world oil situation, they have consistently and uncritically swallowed the public relations handouts of Daniel Yergin's Cambridge Energy Research Group (CERA), a wholly-owned PR shop serving the oil industry. Laziness doesn't even explain this. It's bad editorial leadership. It's a failure to ask the important questions.

http://www.kunstler.com/mags_diary22.html

Kunstler's blog is an important supplement to his website, mainly for readers' comments.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Spinner the Skinhead

http://kbowser.wordpress.com/2007/09/01/degrassi-new-season-7-promo-johnny-dimarco/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBrl85gUrjM

Mama RV: Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month

My comments in brackets.



Welcome back to the Real World! [Not Road Rules?] Look how excited Little Skippy is to attend the birth of Mama RV's new baby! (We wonder who Mama RV had sex with, though.) [One of the Transformers?] Here you have the supreme fantasy of Nascar Moron Nation: a dream of mobility within mobility. The smiling, clueless adults in the background have no idea how short the horizon is for running this stupid hardware. Nor can they see their own sad destiny: to be machine-gunned on their way to the Grand Canyon in a Tucson convenience store by a meth-crazed unemployed sheet-rocker.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Kunstler's Latest Prophecy

There will be so many assets up for sale across the USA in the months and years ahead that the very sun in the heavens will take on a K-Mart blue-light-special glow. Houses with miles of granite countertops, Maybach automobiles, cabin cruisers that burn thirty gallons of diesel an hour, and much much more. There will be so much slightly used (or barely "pre-owned") stuff for sale that manufacturing another unit of anything (or importing it) will seem like a sick joke. Alas, there may be very few buyers, at least here among the current natives of North America. And so you get "new pricing," and a deadly downward spiral.

Of course, all that creates a problem for the masses of human beings who theoretically support themselves by working to produce new things of value to be bought and sold . But let them watch Nascar! Let's take whatever little remains of our tax revenues (or bonding ability) and build a dozen more speedway ovals around the country, and tweak the stock car engines so those suckers can run on ethanol, and shower the fans with Little Debbie snack cakes as they count the laps. ...Believe me, the public will be so deliriously entranced by the spectacle, they won't notice anything else going on in the background of our nation.

This is how America enters the Long Emergency -- in a Nascar rapture...I apologize for what has been a rather excessive spewage of mixed metaphors this week, but the extreme abnormality of events has just got me going. The bottom line, though, is simple and straightforward: things may appear normal for the moment, but we are heading into a shit-storm as sure as Sam Walton's descendents contracted to buy all the three-ringed loose-leaf binders made west of the international date line. America, you're about to go back to school the hard way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back in School

Eight years after I graduated with a baccalaureate in English I'm enrolled in two classes at the local community college. Both are held Mondays and Wednesdays. One is in the mid-morning, the other in the late afternoon.

In other matters, welcome back, Hattie.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hipster Neighborhoods

On a whim many days ago I took The Hipster Handbook (New York: Anchor Books, 2003) off my bookshelf, and have been reading it off and on ever since. Page 93 lists the "Indigenous Zones of the Hipster in the United States and Canada." The title isn't quite accurate as "indigenous" implies that hipsters always have been living in these neighborhoods. I took the liberty of alphabetizing the cities' names, and providing links and comments. This is the 1997 Utne Reader list of the fifteen hippest neigborhoods in North America, from which the Hipster list is apparently adapted.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Broadsheets Not So Broad

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003621758

7 August update: Ann Althouse opines:

It feels like the first step toward the seemingly inevitable day when there will be no paper version. You know I still feel bad about the downsizing of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. What great fashion magazines these were back in the 1970s when they were huge and you could see what was in the photographs. [And I remember the oversized issues of Interview when I was a subscriber in the early '90s--P.Z.] What's the point of getting fabulous models and clothes and lighting and poses for a Newsweek-sized format?But the effect of shrinking the NYT is almost nothing... until you get to the editorial page. I can't shake the feeling that the editors are encroaching on the letter writers.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bob Grumman and Foetry

This is a link to a collection of Bob Grumman's reviews of poetry zines and websites in Small Press Review. http://www.geocities.com/Comprepoetica/spr-stuff/index.html

29 July update: I just found Foetry is defunct, hence this post's title change.

I'll be going through my previous posts and update what needs updating.

31 July update: Jeffers Studies is devoted to Robinson Jeffers.

Monday, July 16, 2007

On Translation and World Literature

This article in New York on some of the best books yet to be translated into English has piqued my interest in world literature. I haven't heard of any of the eleven authors. Except for a Francophone Egyptian writer, Africa has been entirely overlooked, despite outstanding work from Somalia to Senegal and from Algeria to Zimbabwe. Oceania is totally off the map, and Asia is represented only by South Korea's Jo Kyung-ran and Israel's (technically part of Asia) Gabriela Avigur-Rotem. This list of novelists includes Tayeb Salih (Sudan) and Mario Benedetti (Uruguay) ("He is not well known in the English-speaking world, but in the Spanish-speaking world he is considered one of Latin America's most important living writers."--Wikipedia)


A Guardian blog post about literary translation points out that "Only three per cent of books published in the UK every year are originally written in another language." (Of course, the situation is comparable in America as this chart about comparative literature indicates.) The Guardian goes on to say:


Language is identity. Across the whole world, millions of people live their whole lives in a mental space that only marginally involves English. Yet these people are not intellectual cripples. Far from it. They can often communicate internationally using English, and still have a reserve of their own - their mother tongue.

At the London Book Fair we were treated to soothing words that told us that it was quite normal that only three per cent of books published in Britain are translations. At the Leipzig Book Fair a few days later, a Ukrainian intellectual spoke about the state of his culture. Yuri Andrukhovych has written one of the few Ukrainian postmodernist novels to have been translated into English - Perverzion, translated by Michael Naydan - but he is also a blunt purveyor of home truths when it comes
to central and eastern Europe. At Leipzig, Andrukhovych suggested that Ukrainians should be afforded visa-free travel to western Europe. But are they being afforded such travel into the minds of British readers?

We do, in Britain, have a number of publishers, such as Serpents' Tail, Harvill-Secker, Arc, Peter Owen, Hesperus, [not to be confused with the music group--P.Z.] Portobello and several others that promote translations of literature. But as British
television does not have a high-prestige books programme, such as the German Literarisches Quartett with the colourful Marcel Reich-Ranicki or the French Apostrophes with Bernard Pivot, British readers never get to know that there are more than a very few non-English books worth reading.

Britain is lagging behind. I fear that the fog may not be so much in the Channel, cutting off the continentals from Britain, but in the minds of those British publishers, editors and journalists that continue to take an introverted view of "world" literature, where only that written in English counts as "real".
-------
17 July update: Brave New Words is a blog on translation, Words Without Borders concerns world literature, and Parnassus: Poetry in Review marked its thirtieth anniversary in March with a 600-page International Poetries Issue.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On the Fourth of July

"There is one day of the year when America should receive nothing but praise. That's July Fourth. On all other occasions, those who wish the United States well will vigorously distinguish the good from the bad, and especially from the BAD."

--Paul Fussell, BAD: Or, the Dumbing of America (New York: Summit Books, 1991)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Upcoming Works by Kunstler

Grove's Morgan Entrekin has signed The Geography of Nowhere author James Howard Kunstler to two more books, including a follow-up to his bestselling The Long Emergency and an eco-novel titled The World Made by Hand. The world rights deal was brokered by Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans....

http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6304910.html

The Daily Grunt (if I have anything to say)
July 2, 2007

Announcing my next book: World Made By Hand. A novel of the Long Emergency set in upstate New York in the not distant future.To be published by The Atlantic Monthly Press March 2008 .

"Thuggo and Sluggo"

Like many of Kunstler's posts, this is worth reproducing in full. To supplement this column, I'll add links, comments, and pictures.


July 2, 2007


Thuggo and Sluggo


As someone who spends a fair amount of time in airports, I marvel at the way my fellow citizens present themselves in public. I see middle-aged women who appear to have left home in their pajamas. But it's the costume and demeanor of American young men especially that raises interesting questions about who we have become.

The fashion and body language of male youth in 2007 comes from three sources: prison, the nursery, and the pimpmobile. It's an old story now that many conventions of gangster fashion come out of the jail experience, where they take away your belt and shoelaces so you won't hang yourself. Apparently, at some point in US history, they stopped giving the belts and shoelaces back on release, and it became stylish to wear your trousers falling down below the top of your underpants (or butt crack as the case may be). Jail being a kind of accreditation device these days, the message may be: I passed the entrance exam.

Less obvious is the contribution of the nursery. Pants that are ambiguously neither long or short, worn with XX-large T shirts, tend to make grown men look like babies. Babies have short legs and large torsos compared to grown men. They also make big awkward gestures and touch their sex organs a lot. Add a sideways hat [at left, from Beauty Tips for Ministers, an interesting blog I've just found--P.Z.] and unlaced sneakers and you have the complete kindergarten rig. Why a 20-year-old male would want to look five years old is another interesting question, but it may have a lot to do with the developmental failures of boys raised in households without fathers. They simply don't know how to be men. They only know how to behave like five year old boys. They even give themselves nursery school nicknames. But they are men, and what could be more menacing than the paradox of a child bent on homicide.


Tattoos used to be pretty much the sole fashion statement of merchant seamen or people who have served in the armed forces (or people who live in jungles). Now they are common among career girls. The tattooed guys I see down at the gym are ordinary young men who work in cubicles. Tattoos on sailors used to celebrate places they had been or people they had loved. The tattoos I see now are meant to convey fierce and barbaric statements of superhuman power: look at me, I'm a Power Ranger! It's understandable that someone who spends most of his waking hours in a cubicle wearing a telephone headset in order to swindle old people out of their savings might fantasize about rising above all that. But the tragic thing, of course, is that getting tattooed is not quite the same as accomplishing something with your life. In the end, you're just another loser with a grandiose and ridiculous tattoo.

The pimp connection is too obvious to belabor -- meant to mock normal executive attire while signifying an existence of total leisure and the enjoyment of unearned riches. The trouble is that the worship of unearned riches -- based on the belief that it truly is possible to get something for nothing -- has now become normal at all levels in American life. Everybody from the lowest whoremonger on Hollywood Boulevard to the Wall Street hedge fund managers believes in unearned riches plucked from "suckers." The catch is that men who live by this code almost always come to a bad end. They get their throats cut with razors, or go to prison, or manage to lose all their unearned riches (and the investments of many strangers, too).


The portrait of the young American male in 2007, therefore, is of an impotent, infantalized being lost in grandiose fantasies of power and importance. It's a picture of men without real confidence, and no idea how to achieve it, who wish to project a transcendently ferocious image complete with odds-and-ends of manner taken from comic books and movies based on comic books, in order to be taken seriously.

The rest of the world must tremble to contemplate the picture we present. The Nazi soldiers of 1944 were glamour boys compared to the riff-raff that American young men have become. As for those who actually do make it into the army, you wonder how they appear to the locals overseas -- they're probably taken seriously as exactly what the present themselves to be: manifestly evil beings who really need to be blown up. Back home, I look around at the thugs and sluggos at my gym, and I'm ashamed to be a citizen of the same country they live in.
---------

This is known as "a pimp cup." This goblet, or "gobleet," as it's (mis)spelled in the photo's URL, has a retail price of $45. IcedOutGear's price is $19.99.

Heed this caveat: "These cups are made of plastic and you should not drink out of them."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Big Island Chronicle

Hunter Bishop reports that Tiffany Edwards, formerly of West Hawaii Today, now has her own website, Big Island Chronicle.

Friday, June 22, 2007

You Make the Call



But it's the lacrosse players who look like Gregory Peck.
--Human Events columnist


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nomadic Furniture

Building your own furniture is the next DIY craze, proclaims New York magazine in its 21 May 2007 Home Design issue. A copy of this book is featured on page 83, just below a picture of a papier-mache ("the next taxidermy") antelope head by Farfelus Farfadets.

See also Swapatorium and Micasas.

Inside the Nixon Archives

Here

Plain cardboard boxes with odds and ends from the Nixon White House, including gifts given to the president — both priceless and worthless. "The gemstones in here are pink sapphires, which are very rare," Drews, a museum specialist, told CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger. On the other hand, "this is just an ordinary beach rock that a donor found on the beach and they thought it looked like Richard Nixon." Congress ordered all this stuff held here while all sorts of legal issues were settled. More than 30 years later, almost all of it will find a permanent home at the Nixon Library.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TV Tripe

http://www.lewrockwell.com/reese/reese367.html

The problem with television is that when the people on it are telling you one thing, they are not telling you a lot of other things.

Television is what I call a linear medium. It streams information at you one batch at a time. In contrast, a newspaper is a horizontal medium. It presents you with a variety of information in its daily package, spread out so you can pick and choose what you wish to read.

Last week, when television cable news was obsessing over the Paris Hilton non-story, it was, of course, depriving viewers of news about much more important topics, such as the goings-on in Congress, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the economy, the environment and the energy crisis. It's hard to think of anything that is not more important than a silly heiress doing her time for violating the terms of her probation. [See Project Censored--P.Z.]

Then, to compound their sin of shallow-minded celebrity worship, some of the cable news people tried to blame it on Miss Hilton. That is obscenely stupid. The young woman goes places, but she has no power over the media, no way to manipulate them, no way to set their agenda. No celebrity commands the thundering herd of paparazzi and certainly does not make assignments for cable news shows.

I once got so disgusted with the pseudo-news on the cable channels than I canceled the service. Alas, I missed the old movies and the baseball games, so I've had it reconnected. Cable news is now worse than it ever was. The amount of factual information you can glean from watching cable news 24 hours a day wouldn't fill a 3-by-5 card.

Most of what passes for cable news is really television talk shows. Some of them interview print journalists, a dead giveaway to the fact that they do virtually no original reporting on their own. They don't seem to have many reporters. They have on-camera talent, people who stand in front of the camera and tell you in 30 seconds something the government has said. They are mouthpieces for the government.

Watch, for example, something that happens in the morning and note how little the announcers know about it. Then watch that evening and note how little they still know about it. In other words, they do virtually no reporting.

The other sin they commit is mixing trivia with the thin gruel they serve as news. If they get video of a police chase, a random murder, a flash flood, a warehouse fire or a monkey that sleeps with a dog, it goes on the air. Clearly they believe their only duty is to amuse you. [See Neil Postman--P.Z.]

The trouble is, self-government doesn't work if the people are idiots. It doesn't work if you don't know what you need to know while your brain is cluttered up with trivia, tripe and non-sense. Unless you are a parent or a friend of a celebrity, there is zero need to know anything about the person.

Americans desperately need to read more, and to watch and listen less. The Founding Fathers played a dirty trick on people when they gave them a free society. You can coast in a dictatorship, but in a free society you have to work hard to stay informed so that you can make the right decisions at election time.

Newspapers have their faults, but if they vanish in the sea of functional illiteracy, it won't be long before the last semblance of a free society disappears along with them.

June 19, 2007
----
As for myself, I don't bother daily with The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and Colmes, Countdown, Glenn Beck, and all the rest. I'll be posting on my media diet and how it's changed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

World Without Oil?

asks this article from The Independent.

Scientists have criticised a major review of the world's remaining oil reserves, warning that the end of oil is coming sooner than governments and oil companies are prepared to admit.
BP's Statistical Review of World Energy, published yesterday, appears to show that the world still has enough "proven" reserves to provide 40 years of consumption at current rates. The assessment, based on officially reported figures, has once again pushed back the estimate of when the world will run dry.

However, scientists led by the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, say that global production of oil is set to peak in the next four years before entering a steepening decline which will have massive consequences for the world economy and the way that we live our lives.
According to "peak oil" theory our consumption of oil will catch, then outstrip our discovery of new reserves and we will begin to deplete known reserves.

Colin Campbell, the head of the depletion centre, said: "It's quite a simple theory and one that any beer drinker understands. The glass starts full and ends empty and the faster you drink it the quicker it's gone."

Dr Campbell, is a former chief geologist and vice-president at a string of oil majors including BP, Shell, Fina, Exxon and ChevronTexaco. He explains that the peak of regular oil - the cheap and easy to extract stuff - has already come and gone in 2005. Even when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011, he says. ...

And I just found this peak-oil blog: http://www.longemergency.blogspot.com/

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Great Music Videos

        (An asterisk indicates songs without formal music videos.)

        Tuesday, June 05, 2007

        "Fact: Stacy Higa Supports Continued Marijuana Eradication!"

        "Language most shows a man; speak that I may see thee," said Jonson. With that in mind, I reproduce in full Stacy Higa's letter to the editor in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (5 June 2007, p. A4) on how he really is for marijuana eradication:

        Higa takes exception

        I felt that I would wait for your newspaper to print the "correct facts" regarding the marijuana eradication grant funds. As usual, your newspaper doesn't accurately report the news.

        Your Sunday headline states, "Green Harvest funds cut." WRONG. Fact: My vote was to remove these funds from the budget process, which we did. Green Harvest funds for county budget year 2006-07 is still in the police budget, and they will have enough money to continue their operation till the grant ends in September or October of this year. Fact: When the police department applies for next year's grant, (which should be around September), they will have to appear before the council and request that we accept or deny these funds by resolution. Fact: During this resolution process before the council, marijuana advocates will have the opportunity to present their testimony again, and so will the police.

        During my three years on the council, I have been privileged to hear the testimony from the pro-marijuana people, but I have not heard the police side of how they conduct their operations. My vote is for the "process," and I want the police to explain to the council and the public all the facts on how the operation is handled. Educating the public and informing all of us on what is taking place in and around our neighborhoods are very important.

        Fact: Stacy Higa supports continued marijuana eradication! I have heard some of the horror stories about helicopters hovering intrusively above homes, and stories of the police supposedly traumatizing children and family members. These claims have come from marijuana advocates, but I have never heard the police side of these allegations. The public needs to hear BOTH sides of what is happening.

        To my constituents and supporters who have asked the question, "Why did Stacy Higa vote against marijuana eradication?" the answer is ---that was never the question. Stacy Higa voted to change the process of how the county accepts the federal grant money.

        I think it is very sad that I have to write a letter to the editor to correct the misinformation that the newspaper prints in its headlines. Don't believe everything you read in the headlines or the newspapers, without verifying the facts.

        Councilor Stacy K. Higa
        District 4-Hilo