Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Literal Gasbag

There's a whole genre of these videos online.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The City's End

In The New York Press is an excerpt from Max Page's book The City’s End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York’s Destruction. This might be the East Coast counterpart to Ecology of Fear.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Kunstler's latest.

September 15, 2008
A Ripe Moment

It turns out the real hurricane blew through Wall Street last week, not Galveston. This morning, Manhattan is strewn chest-deep with the debris of banking and at this hour (seven a.m.) nobody knows how far, deep, and wide the damage will spread. The fear, of course, is that we are witnessing a classic "house-of-cards" or "dominos-in-a-row," situation, and that the death of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch will cascade into a generalized collapse of the entire consensus of value that supports mediums of exchange.

At least one thing ought to be clear: this has happened due to the negligence and misfeasance of the regulating authorities, namely the Republican Party, and that now all the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin can be swept away revealing that group to be what they actually are: the party that wrecked America. I hope one or two Barack Obama campaign officials are reading this blog. You must commence the re-branding of the opposition right now. The Republicans must be clearly identified as, the party that wrecked America.

Many things happening this week will be interesting to see and hear, but just now an outstanding question is how on earth can the Bank of America buy Merrill Lynch for $50 billion after assuming the liabilities of the tarbaby known as Countrywide? But that little detail may be lost in the din as other banks and bank-like organizations start crashing like sequoia trees in a national forest.

I wish I knew whether this extravaganza of ruin might settle the question as to whether America goes into hyperinflation or implacable deflation, but the net effect is that money is leaving the system in big gobs. And if not money per se, then the idea of money as represented in certificates, contracts, counter-party positions, and gentlemen's agreements. This is the day that America finds itself a much poorer nation. The capital we thought was there, is gone.

A lot of it was actually translated over the years into Hamptons villas, Gulfstream jets, and other playthings that will now go up on Ebay or some equivalent as we turn into Yard Sale Nation in a general liquidation of remaining assets. Of course, the trouble in a situation like this, where absolutely everybody is trying to pawn off assets, is that there are very few buyers on the scene, so the prices of all these things go down down down. Everything is for sale and nobody has any money.

This was essentially the state of things in the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the only escape from that turned out to be the mobilization for war. And in the aftermath of that terrible war, we were the only industrial nation that hadn't been bombed to rubble. What's more, we had a very handsome supply of industrial world's primary resource, oil, at our disposal. So we spent the next thirty years making oodles of things and selling them to people in other lands (lending them the money to buy), until these nations were back on their own feet and solvent. And after 1975, the industrial club picked up a bunch of new members and they all began to clean our clock.

So, as our industrial base waned, and our factories got old and brittle, and our labor force was steeply under-bid by cheaper labor forces, we embarked on a quest for "the new economy." This was represented in successive turns as the information economy, the consumer economy, the high-tech economy, et cetera. They were all ruses, aimed at concealing the truth -- which was that we had become a society no longer producing things of value, no longer generating real wealth. The final act of this farce has been the so-called "financial industry."

That "industry" turned out to be most earnestly devoted to the production of complex swindles. They were so finely engineered that it took twenty years for the swindles to stand revealed, and they were cleverly hitched to the primary thing that the American public vested its identity in: house-and-home. Thus, much of the public finds itself in very real danger of becoming homeless and broke.

We generally recognize that some wicked-massive transfer of wealth occurred in the process of the mortgage fiasco, but it remains to be seen whether any residue of this wealth can actually be retained, as represented by currencies, contracts, and supposed securities. The wholesale settling of debt now underway may leave an awful lot of this stuff with no value.

We should be frightened by the political implications of this Great Implosion of presumed wealth. Some group of somebodies will have to clean up this mess. Moving toward a major election, it is hard to imagine the American people giving the clean-up task to the very group that created the mess -- no matter how many cute little faces Sarah Palin can make on TV. Both parties have so far managed to ignore the gathering crisis of banking and money, but they can't ignore the sequoia trees crashing down around their ankles and shaking the earth they stand on.

At issue now will be the question of legitimacy in all its human social dimensions. Is our money legitimate? Is the authority of our elected officials legitimate? Are our values and ideas legitimate? These are the things that will determine what kind of future we find ourselves in.

So, to begin this process, and to clarify the situation, I urge readers of this blog to identify the Republican Party by its new brand-name: the party that wrecked America. At least, then, we can reinstate one cardinal value into the juddering structure of what we claim to believe: that actions have consequences, that you can't just swindle and loot a society and walk away with the swag.

Spread the word, change the tone of this campaign, and keep posted. This will be a momentous week.


Incidentally, I'm reading The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Future?

Vacant McHouse on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs, New York. Construction begun, 2006. Completed, 2008. Never occupied. Never put up for sale. Never cared for. Weeds and saplings taking over the McGrounds. Who knows the tale of woe behind this embodiment of the burst housing bubble? Divorce? Insolvency? Bankruptcy? Repossession? Death? Whoever finally does move into this pre-haunted dwelling will be greeted by one king-hell of a heating fuel bill. The northeast has not yet seen the kind of new house desolation now visible in parts of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Florida. But the housing bust has long way to go before the median price of a house is equivalent with the budget of the median income.

Decay and promise in Detroit. The "ghetto palm."

This photo is from Sarah Palin

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leslie-Walker in '08

James Wolcott has aptly called Sarah Palin a "Northern Exposure Karen Walker", but has he or anybody noticed John McCain's resemblance to Beverley Leslie, Karen Walker's sworn enemy?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Salon Parody

Saturday, September 06, 2008

An Actual Drudge Report Headline

Swaziland Leader Criticized For Oppulant Lifestyle, Birthday...

13 September update: I've just found, through the blog of mrschili, a frequent commenter on Two Blue Day.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Kunstler's View of the Convention

The Political Campaign Mini-Blog

Sept 4

The Patriot Game - Wednesday

The odious soap opera in Minneapolis gets worse each night, this one like a Sandra Bullock movie produced and directed by the Devil. I tuned in for Rudolf Giuliani's keynote speech, a hyperthyroid exercise in oratorical thuggery, which led directly to the main event, Sarah Palin's acceptance of the vice-presidential nomination.

She quickly proved to be a confident podium performer, but the content and tenor of her remarks conveyed all the petty viciousness and insecurity of the Republican right-wing. As she spoke, the cameras panned around her rapt audience, affording snapshots of the dumbest white people in America, self-congratulatory in their small-town ignorance and brined in a dangerous jingo-patriotism that must make leaders in other nations cringe in amazement at the rhetorical recklessness being served up. Everything about her speech was small-minded, vindictive, smugly sarcastic, and shot through with falsehood (e.g. that the Republicans will "lead America to energy independence"). You wonder how much kool-aid these people have to drink to believe their own bullshit. In fact, watching Ms. Palin's performance, two notions came to mind and lodged there firmly: 1.) That the Republican Party has itself become a vector of terrorism, and 2.) that these are exactly the people I had in mind when I conceived the term "corn-pone Nazis" to describe the worst outcome of an over-stressed society.

In the aftermath, with the whole Palin family bathed in cheering before a giant televised waving flag, the true ethos of this phony spectacle revealed itself: this is the party of losers, and Sarah is their cheerleader. Deep down, Americans feel like losers. Our economy is cratering in an abyss of greed and foolishness. We're exhausting our resources in imperial military adventures. And we're stuck in a car-dependent living arrangement with no future. This bunch doesn't want to face the reality in any of this. They just want to "drill drill drill" so they can keep snowmobiling and rack up more credit card purchases of Chinese-manufactured salad shooters in the WalMart.

Here's an interesting question: if they win the election, will Sarah Palin and her whole family move to Washington when she takes up her duties? What will her husband do there? Who will take care of her "special needs" baby while the mother is learning how to become commander-in-chief of the armed forces and guardian of a nuclear arsenal (plus presiding over the senate)? Will daughter Bristol stay home in Alaska with her teenage husband and their new baby?

Tonight is the climax of this awful spectacle. John McCain gets to explain why the party that wrecked America deserves another term running things in the in the nation's capital.

Sept 3

Pretend-O-Rama in Minneapolis

What a sordid spectacle it was to watch the Republican dignitaries and delegates strain to pretend that John McCain's impulsive Vice-Presidential pick, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, was a great choice, and that the US economy was strong. But as one member of the club explained it, this election is not so much about issues as about feelings. I'll tell you what feeling is expressed overwhelmingly by the Republican script: insecurity. They know they are absolutely full of crap and that a big portion of the electorate is on to them. Hence, all the jingo-patriotism, including their scurrilous motto, "Country First," as if their Democratic opponents were foreign agents. There were moments last night (Tuesday) when the pretending and outright lying got so strenuous, I thought I was at a Pinocchio look-alike contest. These are the people who are locked into defending the mis-investments of the past, in every sense. They will not adapt to the emerging realities of the future, or even entertain the notion that it is necessary. They will also come to be regarded, as this campaign moves into the heart of autumn, and the banks start crashing, as the party that wrecked America. In fact, speaking of feelings, I have a feeling that the Republican party is so morally bankrupt that it might actually explode in factional war after this election, and maybe even blow up altogether. They are the Whigs of our time.


There's a young lady from up north who acts cute and charming only when it serves her. ...She has a short temper and is easily agitated by others....

Her name is Sarah.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


With her bouffant and spectacles, Sarah Palin is described as a "naughty librarian." But points out her naughty behavior towards librarians:

...People acutely interested in high level politics in the US who also work in libraries may be interested in this Time magazine article about Sarah Palin. I was very interested in this paragraph.

[Former Wasilla mayor] Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. “She asked the library how she could go about banning books,” he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. “The librarian was aghast.” The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving “full support” to the mayor.

Usually I’m just happy to see libraries even mentioned in national level politics, but not like this. Mary Ellen Baker resigned from her library director job in 1999.
This Anchorage Daily News article from February 1997 mentions letters of termination Palin sent to the Wasilla police chief and librarian because of their perceived disloyalty:

City librarian Mary Ellen Emmons will stay, but Police Chief Irl Stambaugh is on his own, Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin announced Friday. The decision came one day after letters signed by Palin were dropped on Stambaugh's and Emmon's desks, telling them their jobs were over as of Feb. 13.

The mayor told them she appreciated their service but felt it was time for a change. ''I do not feel I have your full support in my efforts to govern the city of Wasilla. Therefore I intend to terminate your employment ...'' the letter said.

Palin said Friday she now feels Emmons supports her but does not feel the same about Stambaugh. As to what prompted the change, Palin said she now has Emmons' assurance that she is behind her. She refused to give details about how Stambaugh has not supported her, saying only that ''You know in your heart when someone is supportive of you.''

The three met briefly at Wasilla City Hall Friday afternoon, and Palin called them twice at Stambaugh's home before making the decision.

Palin said she asked Emmons if she would support efforts to merge the library and museum operations. Emmons said she would, according to Palin. ...

The actions have caused a stir in Wasilla, a town of about 4,600. City Councilman Nick Carney, who has been an outspoken critic of Palin, said he received several calls at his home Thursday night and Friday from outraged citizens.

The sudden personnel shift is part of bigger problem of mismanagement in the city, he said, and may prompt a recall petition.

''Before, I told (people) to hold off, but now all bets are off,'' he said. ''I fail to see what good this is doing for Wasilla.''

But Councilwoman Judy Patrick said people voted change when they elected Palin and part of that is changing who is in charge.

Reached at home, Stambaugh said he still doesn't understand why he's been fired. ''There never was an appropriate response,'' he said. ''How did we not support the administration?''

Now he's talking to an attorney. While both Stambaugh and Emmons serve at the mayor's pleasure, Stambaugh said he has a contract that prohibits the city from firing him without cause.

Both Stambaugh and Emmons publicly supported Palin's opponent, long-time mayor John Stein during the campaign last fall. When she was elected, Palin questioned their loyalty and initially asked for their resignations. But Stambaugh said he thought any questions had been resolved....Emmons, who has been the city's library director for seven years, would not comment about the affair.
This is a list of the books Palin tried to ban, according to

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective
Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster Editorial StaffWitches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth

It's probably an apocryphal list.