Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not So Bad

As the decade is written off for its economic and geopolitical turmoil (was it always thus), I choose to remember the good, particularly on the cultural front. No decade is entirely bad which has given us the following: Degrassi: The Next Generation, Drake and Josh, iCarly, Miss Kittin, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Detroit Grand Pubahs, Madonna's Music and American Life albums, Die Another Day (the best Bond movie of the 21st century), Lunar Park, Against the Day, Wikipedia, Slumdog Millionaire, Lagaan, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Cam'Ron's Come Home with Me and Purple Haze, The Emancipation of Mimi, James Howard Kunstler, Zero 7, The Hipster Handbook, American Idol, Metalocalypse, Gordon Ramsay's The F Word, and whatver else comes to mind.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Robert Christgau names this one of the best songs of the decade. He's right.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Horse and Carriage Remix

The screwed version:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kunstler Back in Fine Form

I had some computer problems so I was effectively offline for two weeks. Catching up, I found Kunstler's latest column, one of the best he's written in ages.

The Fate of the Yeast People
By James Howard Kunstler
on November 16, 2009 6:16 AM

Every time I do a Q and A after a college lecture, somebody says (with a fanfare of indignation) - so as to reveal their own brilliance in contrast to my foolishness - "You haven't said anything about overpopulation!"

Right. I usually don't bother. Their complaint, of course, implies that we would do something about overpopulation if only we would recognize it. Which is absurd. What might we do about overpopulation here in the USA? Legislate a one-child policy? Set up an onerous set of bureaucratic protocols forcing citizens to apply for permission to reproduce? Direct the police to shoot all female babies? Use stimulus money to build crematoria outside of Nashville?

It's certainly true that the planet is suffering from human population overshoot. We're way beyond "carrying capacity." Only the remaining supplies of fossil fuels allow us to continue this process, and not for long, anyway. In the meantime, human reproduction rates are also greatly increasing the supply of idiots relative to resources, and that is especially problematic in the USA, where idiots rule the culture and polity.

The cocoon of normality prevents us from appreciating how peculiar and special recent times have been in this country. We suppose, tautologically, that because things have always seemed the way they are, that they always have been the way they seem. The collective human imagination is a treacherous place.

I'm fascinated by the dominion of moron culture in the USA, in everything from the way we inhabit the landscape - the fiasco of suburbia - to the way we feed ourselves - an endless megatonnage of microwaved Velveeta and corn byproducts - along with the popular entertainment offerings of Reality TV, the Nascar ovals, and the gigantic evangelical church shows beloved in the Heartland. To evangelize a bit myself, if such a concept as "an offense in the sight of God" has any meaning, then the way we conduct ourselves in this land is surely the epitome of it - though this is hardly an advertisement for competing religions, who are well-supplied with morons, too.

Moron culture in the USA really got full traction after the Second World War. Our victory over the other industrial powers in that struggle was so total and stupendous that the laboring orders here were raised up to economic levels unknown by any peasantry in human history. People who had been virtual serfs trailing cotton sacks in the sunstroke belt a generation back were suddenly living better than Renaissance dukes, laved in air-conditioning, banqueting on "TV dinners," motoring on a whim to places that would have taken a three-day mule trek in their grandaddy's day. Soon, they were buying Buick dealerships and fried chicken franchises and opening banks and building leisure kingdoms of thrill rides and football. It's hard to overstate the fantastic wealth that a not-very-bright cohort of human beings was able to accumulate in post-war America.

And they were able to express themselves - as the great chronicler of these things, Tom Wolfe, has described so often and well - in exuberant "taste cultures" of material life, of which Las Vegas is probably the final summing-up, and every highway strip, of twenty-thousand strips from Maine to Oregon, is the democratic example. These days, I travel the road up the west shore of Lake George, in Warren County, New York, and see the sad, decomposing relics of that culture and that time in all the "playful" motels and leisure-time attractions, with their cracked plastic signs advertising the very things that they exterminated in the quest for adequate parking - the woodand vistas, the paddling Mohicans, the wolf, the moose, the catamount - and I take a certain serene comfort in the knowledge that it is all over now for this stuff and the class of morons that produced it.

A very close friend of mine calls them "the yeast people." They were the democratic masses who thrived in the great fermentation vat of the post World War Two economy. They are now meeting the fate that any yeast population faces when the fermentation process is complete. For the moment, they are only ceasing to thrive. They are suffering and worrying horribly from the threat that there might be no further fermentation. The brewers running the vat try to assure them that there's more sugar left in the mix, and more beer can be made from it, and more yeasts can be brought into this world to enjoy the life of the sweet, moist mash. In fact, one of the brewers did happen to dump about a trillion-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar into the vat during 2009, and that has produced an illusion of further fermentation. But we know all too well that this artificial stimulus has limits.

What will happen to the yeast people of the USA? You can be sure that the outcome will not yield to "policies" and "protocols." The economy that produced all that amazing wealth is contracting, and pretty rapidly, too, and the numbers among the yeast will naturally follow the downward arc of the story. Entropy is a harsh mistress. In the immediate offing: a contest for the table scraps of the 20th century. We've barely seen the beginning of this, just a little peevishness embodied by yeast shaman figures such as Sarah Palin and Glen Beck. As hardships mount and hardened emotions rise, we'll see "the usual suspects" come into play: starvation, disease, violence. We may still be driving around in Ford F-150s, but the Pale Rider is just over the horizon beating a path to our parking-lot-of-the-soul.

It's a sad and tragic process and, all lame metaphors aside, there are real human feelings at stake in our prospects for loss of every kind, but especially in the fate of people we love. The human race has known catastrophe before and come through it. There's some credible opinion that "this time it's different" but who really knows? We have our 2012 apocalypse movies. The people of the 14th century, savaged by the Black Death, had their woodcuts of dancing skeletons. Feudalism was wiped out in that earlier calamity but, whaddaya know, less than a century after that the Renaissance emerged in a wholly new culture of cities. Maybe we will emerge from our culture of free parking to a new society of living, by necessity, much more lightly on the planet and for a long time, perhaps long enough to allow the terrain to recover from all the free parking.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Classical Indian Music

Today I attended a performance of classical Indian music at UH-Hilo. Achyut Ram Bhandari played the tabla, Parashuram Bhandari was on the sarangi, and Babette Ackin played the tamboura.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Sun Magazine, etc.

I hear that Kunstler has an interview in the October issue of The Sun magazine, which I plan to check out.

And yesterday I watched Jon Meacham at the National Book Festival on C-SPAN. He described his alma mater, the University of the South, as Brideshead Revisited meets Deliverance. Sounds marvelous! Later, he was asked if Ron Paul was like Andrew Jackson, but he didn't really want to discuss him, and dismissed him as impractical.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patrick Swayze

My post at Life After the Oil Crash pointing out Tiger Warsaw as a flawed but underrated movie.

Monday, August 31, 2009

On Secession


At least 5,000 racial, ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups are lumped together into only 189 nation states. Most of the world's violent conflicts are related to struggles for dominance within or independence from some large, multi-national nation state. A large percentage of the world’s people (especially in populous India, China, Indonesia and Africa) would choose to secede from their respective nation states if given the opportunity.

Not to mention states and provinces themselves splitting up. This is how West Virginia, for instance, formed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I just recently returned to the library a good book on accents by Robert Blumenfeld, titled Accents: A Manual for Actors.

What I found interesting was that accents change over time, and the late-nineteenth-century/early twentieth-century accents used by the American and British upper classes are all but extinct. Two CDs accompanied the book, and there was a sample of such an American accent, in which the speaker pronounced Philippines as Philippins, and abdomen as abDOmen.

I plan to post more later.

One post here mentions the accents of George Plimpton and William F. Buckley.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

In Memoriam

On this date nine years ago my maternal grandmother died.

Monday, August 03, 2009

An excerpt:

Too many disastrous things are lined up in the months ahead to insure that we're entering a new phase of history: The Long Emergency.
Government at every level is worse than broke.
Our currency, the US dollar, is hemmorrhaging legitimacy.
Inability to service old debt at all levels or incur new debt.
Bad (toxic) debt lurking off balance sheets everywhere.
The housing bubble fiasco is far from over.
Unemployment rising implaccably.
So-called "consumers" unable to consume consumables.
Crucial energy import supply lines fragile.
Food supply subject to energy problems and climate abnormalities.
A world full of other societies who would enjoy watching us fail and suffer.

When The Long Emergency was published in 2005, I said then that the greatest danger this society faced would be its inclination to gear up a campaign to sustain the unsustainable at all costs -- rather than face the need to make new arrangements for daily life. That appears to be exactly what has happened, and it didn't happen under the rule of some backward-facing, right-wing, Jesus-haunted crypto-fascist, but rather a "progressive" party led by a dynamically affable young man unburdened by deep cultural allegiance to Wall Street. Barack Obama has been sucked in and suckered. "Change you can believe in" has morphed into "a status quo you will bend heaven and earth to hold onto."

Whatever else you might think or feel about Mr. Obama's performance so far, this strategy on the broader question of where we go as a nation pulses with tragedy. What's remarkable to me, to go a step further, is the absence of comprehensive vision -- not just in the president, but in all the supposedly able and intelligent people around him, and even those leaders not in government but in business and education and science and the professions.

History is clearly presenting us with a new set of mandates: get local, get finer, downscale, and get going on it right away. Prepare for it now or nature will whack you upside the head with it not too long from now. Attempting to maintain anything on the gigantic scale will turn out to be a losing proposition, whether it is military control of people in Central Asia, or colossal bureaucracies run in the USA, or huge factory farms, or national chain store retail, or hypertrophied state universities, or global energy supply networks.

And Kunstler acknowledges Kauai blogger Juan Wilson for his post about R. Crumb.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Sequel to World Made by Hand

Kunstler says he's working on the sequel to his post-oil novel World Made by Hand.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cold, etc.

I'm battling a cold, hence the lack of regular postings. The Hilo weather has often been overcast this summer (consistently clear, sunny days are a hallmark of winters here, especially December through February). People have to get serious yet maintain a sense of joy and lightness. reprints an Iranian interview with Kirkpatrick Sale on secession.

And I'll see what ABC's take is on America's addiction to oil.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Empty Boxes

Via Kunstler, who says, "It was obvious years ago that the grotesque spewage of Big Box stores across the landscape would come to this.": "Big Box Closures Leave Big Blight Across U.S."


Curiously, many of these businesses' websites live on long after their namesake companies go defunct.

11 July update: "This is what a dying mall looks like."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sheila Jackson Lee

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Man in the Mirror

Michael Jackson, performing "Man in the Mirror" at the thirtieth annual Grammy Awards ceremony, held on 2 March 1988 at Radio City Music Hall.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Vibe Ends Publication

But Quincy Jones plans to buy it back. Below: The cover of the first Vibe I bought. I believe at the 7-Eleven on Kilauea Avenue.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Link Updates

I've just found (via and added Honolulu Agonizer (under Local and Hawaiian Culture) and Beard Revue (under Fashion and Appearances). Go to All Links in the sidebar.

24 June update: Paleo-Future ("a look into the future that never was") joins the other links in the Uncategorized section. The future is never quite as we predict it.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bret Easton Ellis's Tweets

Oh my.

I've been unconvinced either to join or to follow Twitter, but for him I'll make an exception. Not to say I'll join or become a Twitter follower, but I'll tune in regularly.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Brace Yourselves

says this.


While much of the world will be roasting (he prefers the term "global heating"), there will be a few oases to weather out the storm, he says. Island nations, such as his own Britain as well as New Zealand, Ireland and Hawaii, will do fine thanks to the moderating effects of oceans and their rainstorms. Ditto for currently cold northern areas, including parts of Canada and Siberia, which will gain a more hospitable climate.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Hating on Conan: What's the Point?

James Wolcott says, "Conan O'Brien, who cares." But then he goes on and on: "[I]s there anything worth remembering from O'Brien's multiyear stint on Late Night?" If Triumph isn't memorable, who or what is?

Wolcott's ideal host may be Dick Cavett, but an entire generation watched Letterman (whom he grudgingly accepts), Leno, and Conan. Arsenio, too, but he's largely forgotten today. Twenty years ago, though, Arsenio was the hottest late-night host. (This graph offers more proof of Arsenio's stark rise and fall.) I watched Arsenio all the way through to his last show with James Brown.

Dennis Perrin explains to Conan fans who took offense to his previous post, that he really likes Conan but thinks he's in way over his head as the new Tonight host, and will have to water down his style even more. But he stands by his assertion that Jimmy Fallon's a mediocre host. (No kudos for having The Roots as his band?) As for me, I can't really say. And nobody mentions Carson Daly!

Link Updates

Click on All Links in the sidebar. Among the new links are Professor Zero and Dennis Perrin, whom I've been reading for a while. This is what finally made me decide to add him.

The closest local (i.e., Hawaii) blog to his is Andy Parx's Got Windmills.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Motoring

Traditionally, people drive around on Memorial Day. Kunstler implies that this is the last one for doing that.

Island Chevrolet closed its Hilo and Kona dealerships last week, and I plan to post some photos of the Hilo lot, empty but not yet desolate. For that, there's a gas station on Kamehameha Avenue, closed for several years now. I think it was a Shell.

May 25, 2009
Wishes, Hopes, Fantasies

Something like a week remains before General Motors is reduced to lunch meat on industrial-capital's All-You-Can-Eat buffet spread. The wish is that its deconstructed pieces will re-organize into a "lean, mean machine" for producing "cars that Americans want to buy," and that, by extension, the American Dream of a Happy Motoring economy may be extended a while longer.

This fantasy rests on some assumptions that just don't "pencil out." One is that the broad American car-owning public can continue to buy their cars the usual way, on credit. The biggest emerging new class in America is the "former middle class." Credit kept the remnants of the middle class going for decades after their incomes stopped growing in the 1970s. Now, their incomes have stopped coming in altogether and they are sinking into swamp of entropy already occupied by the tattoo-for-lunch-bunch. Of course, this has plenty of dire sociopolitical implications.

Unfortunately, the big American banks did their biggest volume business in their biggest loans at the very time that that the middle class was on its way to becoming former. Now that the former middle class is arriving at its destination, the banks are so damaged by bad paper that they won't make loans to even the remnant of the remnant of the middle class. In other words, the entire model for financing Happy Motoring is now out-of-order, probably permanently.

Even assuming some Americans can continue buying cars one way or another, I'm not convinced that we can make the kinds we fantasize about. Notice, nobody talks about hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars anymore. Why not? Because the technicalities and logistics could not be overcome at the scale required -- i.e. at the current scale of mass highway motoring and commuting. Sure, you could build a demonstration vehicle and run it around a test track a few times, but could you build a mass production car by the tens of millions that would run for 150,000 miles without a hugely expensive fuel cell change-out? No, at least not within the time-window that the liquid hydrocarbon fuel problem presented. Or could you construct a hydrogen fuel station (and product delivery) network replacing the old gasoline stations? Fuggeddabowdit. Hydrogen, as an element, was just too hard to move and contain. It's teeny-weeny atoms leaked out of valves and gaskets remorselessly and you couldn't pack enough into a tanker truck to make the trip to its destination worthwhile. Schemes to generate hydrogen on-board all ended up in the "perpetual motion" sink.

The current wish is that the dregs of GM and Chrysler will hire low-paid elves with no pension or health benefits and pump out hybrid and/or electric cars. It's conceivable that we could "reverse-engineer" a Prius or an Insight, but considering what a lousy job American car companies did on reverse-engineering everything that Japan or Germany pumped out over the past thirty-five years, the odds are pretty high that these new products will be just lame enough to fail against the established competition. What's more, they also present logistical and technical problems. For the hybrid, gasoline is still an issue (and Jevon's Paradox comes into play: the more efficient you make a means for using a resource, the more of that resource you will use). For both the hybrid and the electric car, the issue of how to get enough lithium for the batteries obtains, at least for now, given the current state-of-the-art battery technology. Most of this rare metal now comes from one place, Bolivia, and everybody wants "a piece" of it. Electric vehicles in large numbers depend on either coal or nuclear powered electric generation, each presenting special hazards. Both hybrids and electric cars would depend on the old installment loan purchase system -- at least to work in the current mode of suburban living, long-range commuting, and interstate highway travel.

Boone Pickens's plan of last year for converting the US car fleet to natural gas was another fantasy with wide appeal. But it depended on the companion fantasy of building massive wind-farm infrastructure on the great plains to shift natural gas use from power plants to vehicles, and the financial crisis has destroyed the capital necessary to even begin planning that project -- it even destroyed a large part of Mr. Pickens own capital reserves. Anyway, I would not be so sanguine about the long-term future of the shale gas plays that this scheme was based on. The depletion rates of these wells is horrendous and the amount of steel needed to keep production up is not consistent with the realities of the available infrastructure.

All the technologies under consideration are not likely to extend the Happy Motoring era. A prayerful reflection on them can only reinforce the specialness of oil and its byproducts -- cheap oil double-specially -- as well as reinforcing the reality that the cheap energy era itself is over. And, of course, in the play of events over the past several years we can see the relationship between cheap energy and easy credit, and how our entire economy has run aground, one way or another, on resource limits.

The implications of all this in the sociopolitical and geopolitical realms are pretty daunting. As long as we maintain Happy Motoring as the normal mode of existence in this country, we are going to see an ever-growing class of very resentful citizens pissed off at being foreclosed from it. In my oft-repeated scheme-of-things, this leads very quickly to the trap of political extremism, perhaps even corn-pone Naziism, as the system becomes increasingly difficult to prop up except by force. In geopolitical terms it leads to ever more dangerous international contests over the world's remaining oil reserves.

All this leads to two conclusions.

One is to accept the fact that the Happy Motoring era is over and to devote our remaining resources to re-localization, walkable communities, and public transit. It obviously requires a very drastic revision of our current collective self-image, of what we aspire to and who we are. If the car companies have any future at all, it should be based on making the rolling stock for public transit -- and for now the most intelligent choice for us is to fix the existing passenger railroad lines instead of venturing into grandiose new transit systems requiring stupendous capital outlays. Let the car era wind down gracefully. Triage and prioritize the highway maintenance agenda -- we won't be affluent enough to keep repaving the whole existing system -- and let other nations meet the diminishing demand for cars in the USA. This would be a "best case" scenario. (Other nations may decide to go further up the Happy Motoring road at their own eventual peril.)

My second conclusion is not so appetizing, namely that the bankruptcy of General Motors may set in motion a chain of events that will accelerate the destructive unwind of the bad credit economy, the damage to our bond values, the loss of faith in our currency, and the authority and legitimacy of our leaders. This last dire outcome might be allayed if, say, President Obama directed his policy efforts to the items in the paragraph above, that is, a reality-based agenda for true change in how we live -- but who can feel confident about that happening these days? Maybe it will take a horrifying chain of events to get Mr. Obama there. And then, tragically, he may be overwhelmed by the chain of events itself. I hope not.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Star-Bulletin Back in Hilo

On the way to the supermarket I saw that the nearby Star-Bulletin vending machine was full. I picked up a copy inside the store. It's in a tabloid format, eighty-plus pages. It reminds me of The Village Voice and The New York Post.

25 May update: Only the Sunday paper is available in Hilo. Better than nothing, I guess. It's now two dollars a copy, jumping fifty cents.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The American Conservative Now Monthly

The current (May 18) issue of the magazine contains an important announcement that bears repeating for on-line readers: The American Conservative, endangered though it has been by the economic collapse, will survive. An outpouring of support from readers (and authors) heartened us to continue; that boost, plus some restructuring and an ambitious plan for fundraising, have enabled us to fight on. And after all, we could hardly absent the field while a struggle is underway for the future of the Right.

There will be a few changes: TAC’s print version is going monthly. (Subscribers will, of course, receive the full number of issues that they signed up for, even on the new schedule — and you’ll be getting a thicker magazine, too, since we’ve upped the page count.) There will be a short hiatus — six weeks — between the current issue and our first monthly issue, which goes to press June 18. In the meantime, we’re going to continue building up the website — the addition this week of John Schwenkler’s Upturned Earth blog is just the first step.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Adorno, the Flu, and Other Things

I've been reading Adorno these past few days. Thanks to Google Books, among other sites, I've read parts of Minima Moralia and The Dialectic of Enlightenment, as well as Adorno: A Biography and Adorno in America. He's one of the densest (and I don't mean dumb) people I've read, and very fascinating, too.

Other interesting books include Weimar on the Pacific, from which one learns that Adorno lived at 316 South Kenter Avenue in Brentwood (1941-9), then at 803 Yale Street in Santa Monica (1949). And I found a great New York Times article, "Following Weimar to Sunset Boulevard" and a supplementary letter.

I'll have something soon on the swine flu.

2 June update: What can I say that hasn't been said about it. I notice that hand sanitizers are used far more frequently. That's about it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Where He's Been

I've told you where I've been. Readers of Alan McNarie's blog have probably wondered where he's been. Now they know.

My apologies for the infrequent posts lately. I've been heavily engaged in a little research project. I've been going through the campaign spending reports of local legislators, and making my own annotated versions: figuring out what the acronyms of the various political actions committees stood for, who [sic] the individuals worked for, which of them were lobbyists. The results have been pretty eye-opening.

Keep your eyeballs peeled for the lowdown on such funzanoons as Clift Tsuji.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Global Economy Sloughing Away in Big, Horrid Gobs!

The flu takes a lot out of one, hence my absence.

This is Kunstler's latest.

April 6, 2009
Strange Days

Even while a wave of reflex nausea washed over America last week, and the unemployment rolls swelled by much more than another half million, the greatest stock market suckers' rally in seventy years pulled in the last of the credulous. These are strange days. The earth is heaving and the buds swelling again -- at least north of the equator, where most of the action is -- and the global economy, which was supposed to be a permanent new add-on to the human condition, is sloughing away in big horrid gobs. But no one in charge of anything can believe it. The banking fiasco has introduced so much noise into the system that world leadership can't think straight.

What they're missing is real simple: peak oil means no more ability to service debt at all levels, personal, corporate, and government. End of story. All the other exertions being performed in opposition to this basic fact-of-life amount to a spastic soft-shoe performed before a smokescreen concealing a world of hurt. If the "quantitative easing" (money creation) and fiscal legerdemain (TARPs, TARFs, et cetera) happen to jack up the "velocity" of the new funny-money, and the world resumes its previous level of oil use, the price of oil would rise again -- this time astronomically because the previous crash of oil prices crushed the development of new oil projects to offset depletion -- and the global economy will crash again. Only the next phase of the disease is liable to move beyond the financial and into the social and political realms. Disorder of various kinds will rule -- toppled governments, civil unrest, international tension and conflict.

The US is doing everything possible to avoid these awful realities, but probably the worst self-deception is the idea that everything would be okay if we could just "re-start lending." That's just not going to happen. There is no more capacity to service the debt we've already piled on. Americans borrowed too much, and the bankers who made obscene fortunes in fees and bonuses in fraudulent lending managed to leverage this unpayable debt into the greatest collective swindle the world has ever known. The swindle has sent poison into every cell of the macro socio-economic organism, and further swindles are unlikely to revive it.

The rally in stocks, the financials in particular, could go on for another month or two. In the meantime, banks are striving desperately to avoid calling in more bad loans -- especially in commercial real estate, malls, strip malls, Big Box power centers -- because they don't want any more losses on their balance sheets. That can only go on for so long, too. Sooner or later the daisy chain of credibility in the fundamental transactions of business lose legitimacy and something's got to give.

My guess is it will first take the form, sometime after Memorial Day (but maybe sooner) of wholesale liquidations of everything under the North American sun: companies, households, chattels, US Treasury paper of all kinds, and, of course, the S & P 500. We'll soon find out whether an organism the size of the United States can run an economy based on one family selling the contents of its garage to the family next door. My guess is that this type of economy won't support the standards of living previously enjoyed in places like Dallas and Minneapolis.

The socio-political fallout from the inherent anger and disappointment in all this is liable to be severe. The public is already warming up for it, with cheerleaders such as Glen Beck on Fox TV News calling for the formation of militias, and gun sales moving out-of-sight. One mistake that the banking elite and their lawyer paladins made the past decade was their show of conspicuous acquisition -- of houses especially -- in easy-to-get-to places where anyone can see them, for instance an angry mob in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or Easthampton, New York. [Cf. Paul Fussell, whose Top-Out-of-Sights learned long ago to have their estates in the deep country or on islands--P.Z.] Unlike the beleaguered elites of South Africa (where I visited recently), who live behind layers of fortification, the executives of Citibank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and a long list of hedge funds, will be found cringing in their wine-lockers behind a measly layer of privet hedge when the tattooed minions of Glen Beck come a'calling.

This could perhaps be avoided if someone in authority like US Attorney General Eric Holder took an aggressive interest in the multiple swindles of the decade past, and commenced some prosecutions. But the window of opportunity for this sort of meliorating action may close sooner than the government and the mainstream media believe. Social phase-change, as in the formations of mobs, is nothing to screw around with. Once the first window is broken, all bets are off for social stability. My guess is that the various bail-out gifts to the bankers are long past having gone too far in the eyes of this increasingly flammable public.

We have no previous experience with this type of social unrest. The violence of the Vietnam era will look very limited and reasonable in comparison -- in the sense that it was an uprising on the grounds of principle, not survival. And the Civil War was a wholly regimented affair between two rival factions. This time, people with little interest in principle beyond some dim idea of economic fairness, will be hoisting the flaming brands out of sheer grievance and malice. By the time Lloyd Blankfein sees the torches flickering through his privet, it will be too late to defend the honor of his cappuccino machine.

President Obama will have to starkly change his current game plan if this outcome is to be avoided. I think he's capable of turning off the mob -- of preventing the grasshoppers from turning into ravening locusts -- but it may take an extraordinary exercise in authority to do it, such as the true (not pretend) nationalization of the big banks, engineering the exit of Ben Bernanke from the Federal Reserve, sucking up the ignominy of having to replace failed regulator Tim Geithner in the Treasury Department, and calling out the dogs on the swindlers who had the gall to play their country for a sucker.

As I've averred more than a few times in this space before, the standard of living in America has got to come way down. We mortgaged our future and the future has now begun. Tough noogies for us. But the broad public won't accept the reality of this as long as the grandees of finance and their myrmidons appear to still enjoy the high life. They've got to be brought down hard, perhaps even disgraced and humiliated in the courts, and certainly parted from some of their fortunes -- if only in lawyer's fees. Mr. Obama pretty much served notice to this effect last week, telling a delegation of bankers in the White House that he was the only thing standing between them and "the pitchforks." It's possible he understands the situation.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Restaurants in Hilo

Domino's Pizza in Hilo recently reopened under new ownership, soon after the Kona branch reopened. And according to the sign pictured below, Bueno Burrito is soon to open in the Keawe Street space that housed Subway, which moved down the street.

Morgan's Deli, across the street from The Lyman Museum, has apparently closed.

20 March update: Bueno Burrito (969-9955) opened just this morning. It's open Mondays through Saturdays, 9 A.M. to 9 P.M.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Congratulations, Slumdog Millionaire!

Don't overlook the little guy.

5 March update:

I found this comment on Philip Weiss's blog:

This is not a political film. It's a romance about destiny. And the dignity it has lent the poor of Mumbai is an achievement that compares with Dickens's treatment of the London slums or Van Gogh's and Millet's paintings of country people, which were considered inappropriate subjects at the time.

As for those who dismiss Slumdog as "poverty porn", I assume none of them are actually from the slums.
20 March update: I looked at the 12 October issue of USA Weekend, which briefly reviewed the major movies to be released in late 2008. Slumdog Millionaire was not mentioned at all, despite its limited release date of 12 November and its wide release date of 25 December.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

More Link Updates

I've removed some defunct links to sites in the Politics of Hawaii category in The Ever-Evolving List of Links. They are:, AlohaPolitics, 808AlohaState, HaolesforHawaiians,, and MauiTalk.

I have to look at a few links; apparently, one,, has turned Japanese! Since I don't know Japanese, I can't tell if it's still about Hawaii politics.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Link Updates

I've added two new sites to The Ever-Evolving list of Links. Under the Fiction and Literature heading, Three Percent and under Culture, General, I first found out today about Three Percent from this video interview of Chad Post, director of Open Letter Press, devoted to publishing literature in translation. For some reason, I thought I already had included PopMatters, a natural for the General Culture Category. A quick check revealed otherwise, so I promptly added PM.

Click on All Links in the sidebar to see the latest changes.
1 February 2009 update: I've added Get Kempt to the Fashion and Appearance section, and added a Peak Oil section.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Poverty Statistics

Anup Shah, Poverty Facts and Stats,, Last updated: Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cf. Global Rich List

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

I thought I'd share this poem by Kingsley Amis, which John Derbyshire posted a couple years back. Although the poem addresses newly-minted quinquagenarians--today I turn thirty-three, not fifty--"Ode to Me" speaks to anyone older than thirty.

Ode to Me

by Kingsley Amis

Fifty today, old lad?
Well, that's not doing so bad:
All those years without
Being really buggered about.
The next fifty won't be so good,
True, but for now—touch wood—
You can eat and booze and the rest of it,
Still get a lot of the best of it,
While the shags with fifty or so
Actual years to go
Will find most of them tougher,
The going a good bit rougher
Within the Soviet sphere—
Which means when the bastards are here,
Making it perfectly clear
That all that double-think
(Both systems on the blink,
East and West the same,
And war just the name of a game)
Is the ballocks it always was.
But will it be clear? Because
After a whole generation
Of phasing out education,
Throwing the past away,
Letting the language decay,
And expanding the general mind
Till it bursts, we might well find
That it wouldn't make much odds
To the poor semi-sentient sods
Shuffling round England then
That they've lost what made them men.
So bloody good luck to you, mate,
That you weren't born too late
For at least a chance of happiness,
Before unchangeable crappiness
Spreads over all the land.
Be glad you're fifty—and
That you got there while things were nice,
In a world worth looking at twice.
So here's wishing you many more years,
But not all that many. Cheers!

Monday, January 05, 2009

But I Do!

"Why You Should Know Who Michael Shannon Is"--New York

22 January update: Michael Shannon is a Best Supporting Actor nominee. To explain this post's title, I knew of him from his roles in 8 Mile, Kangaroo Jack, and Bad Boys II. In these movies his characters were all louts but each was distinct: Greg Buehl was the boyfriend of B-Rabbit's mother, Frankie "The Vermin" Lombardo, a mob henchman, and Floyd Poteet, a scuzzy Klansman. Until now, these were his most famous characters.

Kunstler on the Bush Years

Kunstler doesn't hold back.

January 5, 2009
Farewell GWB

I never believed that GWB actually tricked the nation on the "weapons of mass destruction" rationale for invading Iraq. Rather, the nation fooled itself into thinking that the war, in the first place, was anything but an act of vengeance for the gross injury of 9/11. After a couple of years, the public adopted the stupid narrative that they were "lied to," rather than recognizing the difficult truth that 9/11 had to be answered with lethal force, that international hostilities are far from wholly rational, and that Saddam Hussein got whacked because he was the Arab head-of-state who was the best candidate for getting whacked. A nation in thrall to psychotherapy, and self-esteem building programs, and the "win-win" bullshit of business Babbitry, couldn't imagine a tragic dilemma when one was staring them in the face.

GWB won reelection in 2004 -- running against the weak John Kerry, "a haircut in search of a brain," as Kevin Phillips put it so memorably, who was not smart enough to pander successfully (though he tried) to the dominant, Jesus-soaked Nascar fans who inhabit the Moron Crescent that runs from West Virginia south through Dixie and then west into Idaho. GWB was still riding pretty high when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the swamps and beaches east of Lake Ponchartrain, and the president failed to direct anybody to so much as air-drop bottled drinking water for survivors dying on rooftops and highway overpasses in New Orleans. The Left, once again, adopted an idiotic narrative to explain the event -- that Bush acted to punish African-Americans -- when plain incompetence combined with grandiose expectations for a televised happy ending to instead produce tragedy.

The fiasco in New Orleans was matched by the apparent failure to police Iraq back to stability, making the whole project appear feckless and futile, and GWB began his long swoon into discredit. But two other conditions were intensifying in the background, one the consequence of the other: peak oil and peak credit. As the primary resource of industrial capitalism reached its all-time production peak in 2005, the managers of the US economy allowed borrowing-from-the-future to replace productive activity as the basis for everyday life.

GWB barely acknowledged this compound problem. He asserted that America was addicted to oil, but he failed to take the idea a step further and say that our vaunted "way-of-life" could no longer be taken for granted. If anything, he endorsed the popular idea that a suburban lifestyle and WalMart consumerism was a Jesus-driven entitlement, and his circle in governance did everything possible to replace the industrial economy with an economy based on suburban land development and credit card spending -- which was enabled by fantastic experiments in finance that proved to be nothing more than an impenetrable web of swindles.

Those swindles began to unwind in 2007 and they now threaten to sink the USA as a viable enterprise. Their exact extent and nature still remain obscure, like the algorithms used to engineer the "alphabet soup" of fraudulent securities and recondite derivatives. In this stupendous failure, GWB is joined by his cohorts and minions in Republican polity, whose flamboyant misfeasance continues to make the credit blow-up worse by the minute. He leaves his successor, Mr. Obama, a predicament so dismal that the secession crisis of 1860 begins to look like a mere procedural quarrel in comparison. And despite the temporary crash of oil prices, the peak oil problem still looms very large in the background and has barely begun to work its hoodoo on what's left of the US economy.


To me, GWB will remain the perfect representative of his time, place, and culture. During his years in Washington, America became a nation of clowns posturing in cowboy hats, bethinking ourselves righteous agents of Jesus in a Las Vegas of the spirit, where wishing was enough to get something for nothing, where "mistakes were made," but everybody was excused from the consequences of bad choices. The break from that mentality will be very severe, and we may look back in twelve months and wonder how we ever fell for the whole package. The answering of that question will occupy historians for ages to come.