Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Cry"

News of Newt Gingrich's weepiness at least affords me a reason to post Godley and Creme's song "Cry."





Imagine what Beavis and Butt-Head would say if they watched the Iowa caucus coverage.

Janus, Part One: Cockburn Looks Back at 2011

Here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two Choices: Ron and Non-Ron

Statists in the GOP might be able to tolerate some of Ron Paul's economic and limited-government views, but never his views on foreign policy.--Laurence Vance, lewrockwell.com

Why the Establishment is Terrified of Ron Paul"

...That said, sometimes it all comes down to a couple of big issues, and in the unlikely chance that the election next November were to end up being the choice between Barack Obama and Ron Paul (and assuming no emergence of a viable Third Party progressive candidate like Rocky Anderson and his Justice Party), while I might have a hard time pulling the lever for Paul unless he can really make it clear he has no truck with White Supremecists and their ilk, it would be easier than pulling a lever for Obama.

Why? Because with President Obama we would get more war, increased military spending, and at the rate he’s been going stripping away our Constitutional rights, there wouldn’t be any of those after another four years. We would also be electing someone who we now know lies through his teeth, who takes money from some of the biggest corporate thieves in human history, and who has appointed some of those very criminals to most or all of the key economic policy positions in his administration.

With Ron Paul as president, at least we’d be done with all the wars, the people of the rest of the world would be finally free of US military interference, including attacks by US drones. The long-suffering Constitution and its Bill of Rights would mean something again. We might even get a Supreme Court justice or two who actually believed that Congress should declare any future wars before we could fight them, and that citizens who were arrested had an absolute right to a speedy trial by a jury of peers. And we’d be electing someone who appears, especially for a politician, to be that rare thing: an honest man who says what he means and means what he says — and who doesn’t seem to be owned by the banksters.

We’d have a hell of a fight on our hands in a Ron Paul presidency, defending Social Security and Medicare, promoting economic equality, fighting climate change and pollution, defending abortion rights and maybe fighting a resurgence of Jim Crow in some parts of the country, but at least we wouldn’t have to worry about being spied upon, beaten and arrested and then perhaps shipped off to Guantanamo for doing it.

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new Project-Censored Award-winning independent online alternative newspaper. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.

31 December update:
Mike Whitney.

Ron Paul is the only antiwar candidate who has a (microscopic) chance of winning in 2012. He’s also the only candidate who will make an effort to restore the Bill of Rights and reverse Congress’s decision to allow the president to “indefinitely” imprison American citizens without due process. For these reasons alone, Paul should garner the support of leftists, liberals, and progressives. But he won’t, because liberals are convinced that Paul will try to dismantle the social programs upon which the elderly, the infirm, and the vulnerable depend.

Lookalikes

The resemblance lies in the faint and shaven eyebrows, respectively.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Big, Big, Big!

In partial response to Hattie's post "Big, Bigger, Biggest":

Blubberland: The Dangers of Happiness, a book I've heard about a few years ago but haven't yet read.

The anthem of Blubberland:

Autistic Student Stuffed Into Duffel Bag, Left in Hallway

Here.

And, as I find them, I'll provide updates on the Wyoming Republican state legislator who assaulted his mentally disabled son.

And this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Jive

Here.

They get uptight about Saturday Night Live's Tim Tebow skit and Ron Paul's Friday interview with Jay Leno, among other things.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Every Gasbag Springs a Leak

Max Blumenthal helpfully points out an excerpt from his book Republican Gomorrah about Newt Gingrich.

Related.

Kunstler Goes to the Movies

The Fourth Wall
By James Howard Kunstler
on December 19, 2011 9:48 AM


This week, with a nod to the onrushing holiday, and various freight trains of dread barreling down the track at us, I want to take a break from the usual concerns and talk about something else: why Hollywood exemplifies our worst collective blunder of the historical moment: our techno-narcissism.

I went to the cineplex at the mall late yesterday afternoon - also a break, after a month of moving and shlepping to another house - to see the new Martin Scorcese movie, Hugo. The story told is a sort of frame for an homage to one of the pioneers or movie-making, Georges Méliès, a French "illusionist" (magician) who made over 500 films at the turn of the 20th century, most of them now lost. He was an innovator, also, of what we now call FX, special effects, employing stop-motion, puppetry, and many optical tricks borrowed from his stage magic act in order to portray wild, dream-like fantasies on the screen. His best-known surviving movie is the Jules Verne-inspired A Trip To the Moon, in which several Edwardian Age explorers make the journey in a giant artillery shell fired from a colossal cannon. The movies of Méliès possess great child-like charm, consistent with a new art-form in its infancy: exuberant, surprising, and often self-consciously silly.

Scorcese conveys Méliès's story through the frame of another story about a boy, the orphaned son of a watchmaker, who lives in the attic of one of the great Parisian train stations in the 1920s. Hugo goes about his daily business winding the great clocks of the station, pinching croissants and bottles of milk from vendors, and evading the sadistic Station Inspector (Sacha Baron-Cohen, a.k.a. Borat). Hugo's doings also come to involve the owner of a toy shop in the station, who turns out to be the movie-maker Méliès (Ben Kingsley), now completely disillusioned and forgotten. The boy, of course, becomes the agent of Méliès's resurrection to glory and public honor for his pioneering work.

Scorcese, a leading film historian in his own right, chose to tell this story using the latest movie technology of our day: 3-D and CGI, computer-generated imagery, to wow a contemporary audience. Here, things get dodgy. It turns out that there is a curious relationship between movie technology and the art of cinema story-telling, and it can be expressed in terms of diminishing returns. The more clever we get at applying computer magic to the movies, the worse our story-telling abilities. It has gotten to the point where Hollywood is just about incapable now of telling a story because so many technological tricks are cluttering up the screen that the nuances of human behavior are sacrificed to them.

In the case of Hugo, Scorcese's use of 3-D violates one of the cardinal rules of staged dramatic action in its insistence on dragging the viewer through what is called "the fourth wall" in a relentless attempt to induce the illusions of speed and vertigo. The fourth wall refers to an old convention of the proscenium stage, in which the audience is presumed to be viewing the action through an open wall of a sort of magic box. This boundary between "real life" and the life depicted on stage, or on-screen in our time, allows another convention to happen: the willing suspension of disbelief, so that we become emotionally involved in the action beyond the wall. The fourth wall was respected through the glory days of Hollywood and all of the movie classics that Scorcese has paid homage to over the years. Breaking it has impoverished movie-making, a result that was obvious in James Cameron's ponderous hit, Avatar, which reduced human emotion to a level below the average cartoon of the 1930s while it piled on the dazzling computer-generated images. In Hugo, Scorcese's camera, or "camera" in the case of all the whopping 3-D CGI shoves the audience through the fourth wall and into the magic box in order to stimulate (or simulate) a sense of wonder about the proceedings inside it. But it only has the effect of wearing you down psychologically, and making you constantly aware of being manipulated.

One of the ironies of Hugo is that a major sub-plot in the story involves a mechanical automaton - sort of an early robot, animated like a clock with gears and escapements - which Hugo's dead father had been working on before his tragic death in a fire. Automatons were popular devices in the magicians' parlors of the early industrial age. They were wondrous machines for their time, but they really couldn't do much more than deal out a few cards or wave their arms about. The automaton in the movie doesn't really do much, either, but the story of Hugo hinges on the emotional attachments that the automaton inspires in him and the other characters. And it does illustrate, inadvertently I believe, one of the crucial primary relations of the human project to technology in our time: that the virtual is just not an adequate substitute for the authentic. This will be a hard lesson for us to learn.

Hugo worships at the altar of his father's broken automaton, just as the American public at all levels worships at the alter of technology, and it is sure to disappoint us. So great are the comforts and conveniences of our time that we are terrified by the prospect of losing them and, as the hyper-complexities around us unravel, we Americans are willing to believe any preposterous story that promises to keep the cars moving and the lights on. I call this state of affairs technological narcissism. The leading current expression of it can be seen in the incessant propaganda from politicians and the corporations telling the nation that we have "hundreds of years worth of oil and gas" available in North America and that we can easily become "energy independent" if we only drill-drill-drill. The public will at first be disappointed by these lies, and then they will become murderously enraged. Just watch. How it unfolds will be a story really worth telling generations from now.

For the moment, though, Hollywood has forgotten how to do the one thing that made the American movie industry great: to tell a story. Another irony of the day is that the biggest critical hit of the holiday release season is a silent movie, The Artist, made in France by director Michel Hazanavicius, another homage to Hollywood history, made by outsiders and going back to the basics* - just as American life will have to go back to the basics when reality drags us kicking and screaming out of the box we've crawled into.

[* "It's so old it's new."--Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil--P.Z.]

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm expanding and rewriting my recent post on "Rush Limbaugh, et al. vs. Paul."

Christopher Hitchens Has Died

I first heard the news while browsing on NancyNall.com and reading a comment by Coozledad.

What I'm interested in is Cockburn's reaction, which hasn't yet appeared on CounterPunch. (update: Now it has.) Louis Proyect has a good post today on Hitchens's death and the feud between him and Cockburn.

More later.

I'm trying to find (online) a James Wolcott column in Vanity Fair from 1988, in which The Nation, The New Republic, and National Review are compared. It quotes Hitchens on his friendship with Cockburn.

22 December update: I have a print copy of Wolcott's column but it's somewhere deep in my files. Maybe after Christmas.

CounterPunch has just added this remembrance of Hitchens which is anything but touching.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friday, December 09, 2011

Rush Limbaugh, et al. vs. Ron Paul

Here.

I've tried to do remain giddy and lighthearted, it's Friday, and I've tried to have one day here of just not lackadaisical, but lightheartedness, but let me get serious here for a second. I appreciate a lot of you are suspicious of Trump. What's happening with Ron Paul is something to which I think we need to pay attention. The media is understandably excited, and they are pushing Ron Paul. They're very excited. Ron Paul was just on Megyn Kelly on Fox. But he's all over everywhere and he's being discussed with total credibility, and it's a problem -- and I'll tell you why it's a problem for me. Pure and simple, it is Ron Paul's foreign policy. This is what Ron Paul said recently:
"Think of what happened after 9/11, the minute before there was any assessment, there was glee in the [Bush] administration because now we can invade Iraq, and so the war drums beat."

Ron Paul said this Wednesday night, "before a packed room of a thousand students and supporters," and he said, "That's exactly what [this administration is] doing now with Iran." I know a lot of people like Ron Paul's domestic policy. He's very tough talking on budget cuts and shrinking government and individual liberty, and that's attractive. But, folks, this foreign policy is disastrous -- and to sit there, to attack the country this way, to say that the Bush administration was in "glee," the Bush administration was happy? This is Democrat talk, to say that George W. Bush was happy, that Cheney was happy after 9/11 because, "A-ha, there's our excuse to attack Iraq!"

This is the reason that there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with him. Now, the long knives continue to be out for Newt today all over. It's exactly what I told you yesterday. I hope you were here yesterday. George Will has a column coming on Sunday -- I'm just gonna tell you -- that warns that Ron Paul will probably give Obama the election. [Here.--P.Z.] Ron Paul might go third party. This foreign policy, it's just nutty, folks! The Republican establishment wants no part of Newt for the reasons that I detailed yesterday. ...

RUSH: Yeah, but that's not gonna go anywhere. I mean to advise people to write in "Herman Cain" when he's gonna end up as a commentator on Fox News? I didn't mean to let anything out of the bag. I don't know that. I just know the career trajectory here on failed candidates. I just know where they end up. I don't know anything, folks. "I know nuthink," as Sergeant Schultz once said, "I know nuthink." But no, I mean to write in somebody's name that's pulled out of the race. We don't need a write-in. This third party business, a lot of people are worried Trump's gonna do it. I think Ron Paul would do it, and if Ron Paul does it -- look, we know that anybody after this nomination process is over is ticked off enough that goes third party, that's it. You split the Republican vote, no third party candidate's gonna win, no third-party candidate is gonna win beans in this election.

All the third-party candidate is going to do is secure victory for Obama, and if that happens, if somebody on our side goes third party, as far as I'm concerned, that's what they're trying to make happen, reelect Obama, for whatever reason, anger at the electorate on the Republican side for not nominating them, anger at other people for what happened to 'em, what was said during the campaign, whatever. But I think it's one of the reasons why the GOP is afraid to get tough and tell Ron Paul, "Look, you're not polling anywhere, get out of this debate, you don't belong here." They're not gonna tell him that. They don't want to upset him and have him go third party. That would really upset. What they're doing is boosting his fan base. They think Ron Paul can split the conservative vote. Folks, I'm here to tell you, there is no conservative movement in the Republican Party. By this I mean the establishment, the inside-the-Beltway crowd. The consultants are trying to split the conservative vote in the primaries, not coalesce around it.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT
...

END TRANSCRIPT
==

[Newt is part of the Republican establishment!--P.Z.]

10 December update: From Cockburn's latest:

Meanwhile supporters of Ron Paul eagerly devour reports of his campaign’s diligent grass-roots organizing in Iowa and New Hampshire and scan their crystal balls for omens for a January surprise on the order of Gene McCarthy’ ambush showing against LBJ in New Hampshire in 1968, followed by victories against Bobby Kennedy in Wisconsin and Oregon.

One of the strongest arrows in Paul’s quiver is his anti-imperialism and anti-interventionism and so some were shaken by an interview Paul recently [had] with the right-wing Newsmax:

Newsmax: What then, if anything, should we do for Israel?

Ron Paul: We should share intelligence for mutually agreed-upon goals. We should honor our pledge to refuse any arms sales that would undermine Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

But we should stop interfering with them. We should not announce bargaining positions even before she begins her negotiations. We should not dictate what she can and cannot do. We should stop trying to buy her allegiance. And Israel should stop sacrificing their sovereignty as an independent state to us or anybody else, no matter how well-intentioned.

Sending me this exchange, Jeffrey Blankfort commented: “Maybe the Republican Zionist Coalition will give the old boy another look.” John Walsh, an ardent Paul fan strove to reassure me:

“Of this a friend writes me: ‘It’s a tack he has taken for years: calling for non-intervention in Israel’s disputes by saying it’s bad for Israel. He may be right about that; he may be wrong. I’m just interested in the non-intervention.’

I tend to agree. I think the Jewish Republicans knew exactly what they were doing when they told him he was not welcome to their debate today. That with RP’s call for friendship with Iran and his consistent non-interventionism is about all I can hope for now.”
==
16 December update: Another anti-Paul rant.

M.T. is the mirror image of B.F.

M.T. is a grouch.

Considering the source.

16 December, 11:27 P.M. update: Rush Limbaugh falsely claims Ron Paul had nothing to do with the Tea Party.

19 December update: Rush rants about Ron Paul possibly winning the Iowa caucus.

No Saint Nicholas



Max Blumenthal tweets that Robert Nicholas, a Republican state representative from Cheyenne, Wyoming, was
arrested in Florida
for beating and kicking his mentally disabled son in the ribs.

Nicholas sees his assault as merely the administration of corporal punishment, and so refuses to resign.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Kunstler: Suspended Civilization

Note: I added a link to a recipe for cinghiale ai frutti di bosco, should you want to make it yourself.--P.Z.

Suspended Civilization
By James Howard Kunstler
on December 4, 2011 6:23 PM

Question du jour: why is Jon Corzine still at large? In what fabulous Manhattan restaurants has he been enjoying plates of cockscombs and lobster with sauce hydromel and cinghiale ai frutti di bosco, while less well-connected citizens of this degenerate republic have to order their suppers from the dumpster in the WalMart parking lot where they have been living lately.

Is there still an Attorney General in this country? Will somebody please follow Eric Holder down a hallway and see if he leaves a trail of sawdust on the floor. Or did congress just retract all the fraud statutes by stealth in the same way that the Federal Reserve handed out $7.7 trillion in bailouts back in 2008 (much more than the generally accepted figure of the $800 billion TARP) without anyone finding out until three years later when some Bloomberg reporters rooted the numbers out of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing. And by the way, what is the US Federal Reserve doing handing out billions of dollars to the Royal Bank of Scotland? Was Scotland admitted to the Union by stealth, too? Or did Jamie Dimon just buy it as a birthday present for Barack Obama, who likes golf.

This is what life in the USA is like nowadays: shit happens and shit un-happens, and you find out about it years later. Only a desperate and hopelessly degenerate nation would choose to live this way, in a law-optional society, in which money means everything, and yet nobody even knows what money is (or where it goes, and what it does when it goes there.)

Jon Corzine has not revealed the destination of the loot (somewhere between $600 million and $2.5 billion, estimated) that vanished from the "segregated" accounts of his many clients at MF Global. The rumor is that it went to cover a rude margin call from Jamie Dimon's bank, JP Morgan, after JC took some unfortunate positions in European sovereign bonds in a bad month. Beyond the question of why Mr. Corzine is not in jail (as a flight risk, just like DSK) is how come the Department of Justice has not so much as issued a statement saying that they were looking into the matter, so as to reassure both the victims and the financial markets that this is not a culture that just makes shit up as it goes along - i.e. that we have predictable rules and formal procedures for doing stuff.
The clowns and villains who run America have accomplished something really epic: they have vanquished meaning. Nobody knows what anything means anymore. Anything goes now. All bets are off. It's not reassuring. It leads to bad things happening like blood in the streets. When nothing means anything anymore, some people will actually strive, make an effort, to reestablish meaning in practical economic and political life, because civilized life is impossible without it. So, in those historic moments when civilization is suspended, people will work like hell to restore meaning. Sometimes though, like Germany in the 1930s, you discover that the suspension of civilization is itself intoxicating, and you ride with that for a while.
Things are really flying apart now, and just in time for Santa Claus. The European bond rollovers are about to come in fast and furious during the season of Advent and nobody can make their interest payments. They will be skipped or postponed and promised for "next Tuesday," and yet the bizarro universe of credit default swaps will not be triggered - is there a counter-party on God's green earth who could afford a pay-out? Of course not. It was all a charade. So we'll just learn that there actually is no "insurance" on all this paper. Yesterday's "hair-cut" will be tomorrow's "throat cut" as the middle innings of suspended civilization play out.
There are heroes as-yet-sung-and-unsung in America, people who prefer reality over reality-TV, people with a taste for meaning in life, which often requires the recognition that some things are true and some not so true, and you're better off with what's true. What appears to be true is that the old order is finished and a new disposition of things is coming along. The Long Emergency will beat a path straight to the Great Re-set. Sign up for it. Roll up your sleeves. There is so much to do in this country. If you are young, especially, it's all waiting for you.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Eddie Long

Do you remember "Bishop" Eddie Long? His wife is leaving him. He should leave his weave.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kunstler: "Your New American Dream"

Your New American Dream
By James Howard Kunstler on November 28, 2011 9:52 AM

It's really something to live in a country that doesn't know what it is doing in a world that doesn't know where it is going in a time when anything can happen. I hope you can get comfortable with uncertainty.


If there's one vibe emanating from this shadowy zeitgeist it's a sense of the total exhaustion of culture, in particular the way the world does business. Everything looks tired, played out, and most of all false. Governments can't really pay for what they do. Banks have no real money. Many households surely have no money. The human construct of money itself has become a shape-shifting phantom. Will it vanish into the vortex of unpaid debt until nobody has any? Or will there be plenty of worthless money that people can spend into futility? Either way they will be broke.

The looming fear whose name political leaders dare not speak is global depression, but that is not what we're in for. The term suggests a temporary sidetrack from the smooth operation of integrated advanced economies. We're heading into something quite different, a permanent departure from the standard conception of economic progress, the one in which there is always sure to be more comfort and convenience for everybody, the economy of automatic goodies.

A big part of the automatic economy was the idea of a "job." In its journey to the present moment, the idea became crusted with barnacles of illusion, especially that a "job" was a sort of commodity "produced" by large corporate enterprises or governments and rationally distributed like any other commodity; that it came with a goodie bag filled with guaranteed pensions, medical care to remediate bad living habits, vacations to places of programmed entertainment, a warm, well-lighted dwelling, and a big steel machine to travel around in. Now we witness with helpless despair as these illusions dissolve.

The situation at hand is not a "depression," though it may resemble the experience of the 1930s in the early going. It's the permanent re-set and reorganization of everyday life amidst a desperate scramble for resources. It will go on and on until there are far fewer people competing for things while the ones who endure construct new systems for daily living based on fewer resources used differently.

In North America I believe this re-set will involve the re-establishment of an economy centered on agriculture, with a lot of other activities supporting it, all done on a fine-grained local and regional scale. It must be impossible for many of us to imagine such an outcome - hence the futility of our current politics, with its hollow promises, its laughable battles over sexual behavior, its pitiful religious boasting, its empty statistical blather, all in the service of wishing the disintegrating past back into existence.

This desperation may be why our recently-acquired traditions seem especially automatic this holiday season. Of course the "consumers" line up outside the big box stores the day after the automatic Thanksgiving exercise in gluttony. That is what they're supposed to do this time of year. That is what has been on the cable TV news shows in recent years: see the crowds cheerfully huddled in their sleeping bags outside the Wal Mart... see them trample each other in the moment the doors open!

The biggest news story of a weekend stuporous from leftover turkey and ceremonial football was a $6.6 billion increase in "Black Friday" chain-store sales. All the attention to the numbers was a form of primitive augury to reassure superstitious economists - more than the catatonic public - that the automatic cargo cult would be operating normally at this crucial testing time. The larger objective is to get through the ordeal of Christmas.

I don't see how Europe gets through it financially. The jig is up there. Lovely as Europe has become since the debacles of the last century - all those adorable cities with their treasures of deliberately-created beauty - the system running it all is bankrupt. Europe is on financial death-watch and when the money stops flowing between its major organs, the banks, the whole region must either go dark or combust. Nobody really knows what will happen there, except they know that something will happen - and whatever it is portends disruption and loss for the worlds largest collective economy. The historical record is not reassuring.

If Europe's banks go down, many of America's will, too, maybe all of them, maybe our whole money system. I'm not sure that we will see a normal election cycle here in 2012. A few bank runs, bank failures... gasoline shortages here and there... the failure of some food deliveries to supermarkets in some region... these are the kinds of things that can bring down a political system drained of once-ironclad legitimacy. All that is left now is the husk of ritual - witness the failure of the senate-house "super-committee." The wash-out was so broadly anticipated that it was greeted with mere yawns of recognition. It would be like pointing at the sky and saying, "air there."

This holiday season spend a little time musing on what the re-set economy will be like in your part of the country. Think of what you do in it as a "role," or a "vocation," or a "trade," or a "calling," or a "way of life," rather than a "job." Imagine that life will surely go on, even civilized life, though it will be organized differently. Add to this the notion that you are part of a larger group, a society, and that societies evolve emergently according to the circumstances that their time and place presents. Let that imagining be your new American Dream.








Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving, Not Thanksgetting

Happy Thanksgiving. And you don't have to rush to the stores at midnight.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil

Here. Original version here. (Robert Rapier is based in Hawaii, which gives a distinct perspective--since the islands have no fossil fuels--on the problem of peak oil and the challenge of developing our own supplies of energy.)


Misconception 1: Peak Oil = Running Out of Oil

This one is surely the most common. Many articles that seek to debunk the notion of peak oil start with that premise, and then respond by highlighting historical instances where someone influential suggested that we could be running out of oil. In fact, anyone concerned about peak oil will readily acknowledge that we are going to be producing oil for a very long time, and when we stop there is still going to be a lot of oil left in the ground.

So what then is the definition of peak oil? In its simplest form, peak oil means that just as oil production in the United States peaked in 1970 and began to decline, so shall global production do the same. Once you get past that basic premise – one in which there is near-universal agreement once people understand that is what you mean when you say “peak oil” – there are many different opinions of exactly how events will unfold. The would-be peak oil debunkers are only addressing their arguments at one of the ways some people think this will play out, and then declaring that they have debunked peak oil.

(More at the above links.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Most Infandous Buggeries"

Kunstler on the Penn State abuse scandal.

17 November update: Browsing through an issue of New York, I found this story, newly relevant.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Kunstler: Winter Occupy's Valley Forge

Critical State
By James Howard Kunstler
on November 7, 2011 8:11 AM

Portents of winter and the toothless chatter of flag-draped traitors vies with a fog of lies spread by Koch Brother messenger boys, Reagan nostalgia hucksters, suck-ups in office, Murdoch empire servlings, Banker PR catamites, and Jesus terrorists to occupy the national mind-space with a narcotic Jell-O of half-formed wish fulfillment scams. The nation is hostage to a confederacy of racketeers. Banking. Big Pharma. The Higher Ed / Loan nexus. GMO agri-biz. Fast food. Mandatory motoring. You name it. What a disgrace we are, and the worst of us are the least to know that.

This winter will be the Occupy Movement's Valley Forge. [This and following links mine--P.Z.] An uneasy quiet may settle across this land blanketed in frozen dishonesty while OWS goes to the ground. Wait until next summer when the Occupiers head for the nominating conventions. Chicago in 1968 was nothing compared to what might go down in Charlotte, NC (Democrats) and Tampa, FLA (Republicans) in 2012. These two giant, useless, political bucket shops need to be put out of business and something else has to take their place. Who will be the new breed of genuine patriots? It would be nice to suppose that something noble and intelligent might emerge from the current miasma, a reality-based third party. But history isn't so reassuring.

I heard some rumors. Lawrence Kotlikoff at Boston University - the only economist in the USA with a coherent plan for banking, healthcare, tax, and entitlement reform - said on a podcast some weeks back that he was advising an un-named national figure who intends to mount a third party campaign. I didn't have a clue who that might be.

Last week in Virginia a professional political back-stager, who had worked for the DNC during the Howard Dean days, told me that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was stealthily hiring Hillary Clinton's old campaign staffers in seeming preparation for... something. Well, Bloomberg wouldn't have to take anybody else's money - and by "anybody" I mean especially the corporations because, you know, corporations are people, with free speech rights (and feelings!). It also happens that Bloomberg is neither a Republican or a Democrat, but a registered independent. Will he go to the ground, too, this winter like OWS, and wait for the public disgust to mount toward criticality? Hey, sometimes your country calls (for help!) and figures arise and they undertake what's necessary, even against type. Abe Lincoln, in 1859, was a railroad lawyer - the horror!

I have no idea who else might be waiting in the background, someone tortured with disgust by the leveraged buy-out of the American common good, someone capable of articulating the terms of the convulsion we face in national life if we don't start doing things differently. Surely in a population of 310 million you can find more than a few resolute personalities who refuse to just sit back and watch the sickening spectacle of inept vacillation.

Of course, the first order of business is to get corporate money out of politics. Are we capable of doing that? Can we legislate a redefinition of corporate "personhood?" After all, corporations have no allegiance whatsoever to the public interest, only to their shareholders and boards of directors. Who was the Supreme Court kidding when they proposed in 2010 that corporations have a personal stake in politics. Corporations are sociopaths. They need to be tasered!

The second order of business is to enforce the existing laws in money matters and bring back laws (e.g. the Glass-Steagall act) that were recklessly thrown away in the systematic bid to loot the working public; then move beyond that to contest the web of rackets that make it impossible for Americans to even take care of themselves.

The third order of business is to shut down the war industry and close hundreds of overseas military bases that are draining scarce public capital.

The fourth order of business is to prepare the US public for the realities of the post-Global economy and the post-cheap-energy way of life. Tell them the truth: we don't have "a hundred years" of natural gas. We can't drill-drill-drill our way to "energy independence." We have to get more local, less complex, finer, and leaner. Give the American people a clear sense of where circumstances are taking us, even if it is a tough assignment.

More likely, nobody will step forward to take on the two major parties. In which case, plan now to occupy the political conventions. Google-map your routes to Tampa and Charlotte (Home of Bank of America!). Stake out the campsites and cheap lodgings. Prepare to shame these organized grifters, and to turn their self-serving jamborees upside-down.

===
Wikipedia's comprehensive template of anti-government protests in the 21st century. As it shows, this is a time of great ferment, not the end of history.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

We Shall See

Todd Palin might file for divorce from Sarah Palin.

The Style Council: 'Sure is Sure', et al.

From their 1989 album Modernism: A New Decade







The Style Council: 'Why I Went Missing' and 'Walls Come Tumbling Down'

From their album Confessions of a Pop Group (Polydor, 1988).



From their 1985 album Our Favourite Shop (Polydor, 1985).


23 September update: It dawned on me that Tears for Fears' lyric (see below) was a reference to Paul Weller's bands The Jam and The Style Council. (He'd dissolved The Jam and founded TSC so he could explore soul and jazz.)

The line "kick out the style, bring back the jam" that's in that and "Seeds of Love" Was that aimed at Mr. Weller?

Curt: Yeah.

I take it you guys were Jam fans and not Style Council fans?

Curt: Absolutely. But again, it was just meant to be funny. But people hear it and go, "Oh, that's very cutting." But it wasn't, it just sounded good and it also happened to mean something. That's funny, definitely a product of when you grew up. I love the Style Council and didn't "discover" the Jam until years later. I think the Style Council is awesome, but when I talk to a Jam fan they're like,"No that's crap!" Yeah, don't like the Style Council at all. Of course I can remember Vince Clark when he was in Depeche Mode and I liked him better then.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11

Tweets Favorites Following Followers Lists
» BretEastonEllis Bret Easton Ellis
Remember that September after dinner in Tribeca walking past the barricades at midnight and standing there thinking how small it all looked.
10 hours ago
==
"May It Stay Fiction"
==
As appropriate for the occasion as I could think of. Each evokes a certain mood of the event and its aftermath.





Monday, September 05, 2011

Beyoncé: "Love on Top"

Kunstler: Perestroika

Perestroika
By James Howard Kunstler
on September 5, 2011 9:05 AM

There's a difference, of course, between what this country thinks it needs and what it's going to get. The world has a way of dragging you, kicking and screaming, to where it wants to take you.

We think we need more American oil so we can "end our dependence on foreign oil." Despite the PR bullshit you see on CNBC, the oil is not really there in a form that will flow sufficiently to support our completely insane mode of living in cars. I get letters from crazy people every week who tell me that shale oil from the Bakken Formation in Dakota will keep this racket going. Forget about it. Marcellus shale gas? Similar story. These are phantom energy reserves. And we don't have enough capital to throw at it.

The world wants to take us to the place where you don't have to use a car eleven times a day, a different arrangement of things on the landscape than what we're currently stuck with in most of the United States. The American people are not disposed to taking this idea seriously, but we'll get to that place eventually. The first kickings and screamings are exactly what's coming out of the Tea Party. These are people who don't want to change the sacrosanct American Way of Life, but they don't want to have to pay for it either, so the contradiction produces a sound and fury. [Emphasis mine--P.Z.]

This week, President Obama is on the spot to deliver a Santa Claus sack of "job initiatives." What a sad assignment. We're leaving behind that kind of economy, with secure salaried plug-in positions provided by giant corporations and governments. We're headed into a world not of "jobs" but of vocations, trades, crafts, situations, and a lot of casual labor, largely self-guided by those with who possess a functioning internal compass. Obama can pretend to keep the old way going, but that pretense will be along the same lines as keeping insolvent banks going. The Federal Government can pay people to work repairing highways and bridges but the road system is too big now for even an additional "jobs" crew to stay ahead on maintenance, plus why are we putting these capital and labor resources into gold-plating a car-and-truck system that is going to be functionally obsolete in a few years?

Gorbachev called it right. His aim was true. Perestroika... restructuring. The Soviet Union was thoroughly corrupt, incompetent, and insolvent. I suppose Gorby thought he could guide his country through a transition, but the system he headed was so astonishingly flimsy that it just fell apart in a few months, and even left him behind. Still, I regard it as one of the major miracles of history that Russia did not trip into a bloody civil war. Maybe Russia had enough blood-spilling with Stalin and World War Two. Otherwise, it was a kind of magic moment in 1990 when the whole rotten edifice crumbled neatly into its own grave.

What followed there was an impromptu and extremely half-assed melding of organized crime, unorganized crime, gestures to the rule of law, and a lot of leftover habits, paranoia, lethargy, and sheer will to live - with an overlay of mystical oriental intrigue. Russia staggers on with its oil and mineral reserves propping up what remains of modernity there. Their future will arrive on sleds.

We should be so lucky here. Given the situation, it's not unthinkable that self-styled Texas secessionist Rick Perry could be the next president. On top of that, the guy is a Christian Dominionist nut. This outfit wants to capture all politics, culture, and media in what is now the USA and turn them into a sci-fi nightmare of correct thinking. You have no idea how dangerous and determined this group is. The Left ignores them at the peril of everyone. They are the corn-pone Nazis I've been warning you about.

That is not the kind of restructuring that is going to help this country. At the moment we're trapped in our own gigantism and the "jobs" pitch is surely going to be just another page out of that. I'd like to hear Mr. Obama tell this country that Job Number One for us is getting more Americans into agriculture at the small, local scale. Translation: dismantle agri-business. Otherwise, we're going to have a lot of starving people across this land. That might seem like a strange destination for America, but I suppose that's why there's all the kicking and screaming.


Post-script: While everybody's eating burgers today, or cleaning the mud out of their kitchen, or playing Resident Evil 5, Europe is on the brink of its own decisive moment. Nobody there can decide what to do about the debt-bomb and the fuse is sparking away. There are no solutions to the problem of the Euro Club, but the idea of no Euro Club is making a lot of Euro people kick and scream. Whatever happens there will affect us hugely, you may be sure.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

CounterCurrents Article on Peak Oil

Here.

In a future post I'll detail what I think peak oil is, especially as the peak concept has been expanded to everything from coal to timber. Simply put, peak should apply only to non-renewable resources: oil and other fossil fuels, but not timber or grain. Again, I'll have more later.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kunstler: "Katrina in Vermont"

Katrina in Vermont
By James Howard Kunstler
on August 29, 2011 8:34 AM

Note to readers: I'll run an update at the bottom of this blog over the next few days.

* * *

The same creeping nausea that followed the CNN 'all clear' sign in New Orleans six years ago happened again yesterday. Anderson Cooper seemed a little peeved that the lights didn't go out in Manhattan, but then the remnants of Hurricane Irene stomped up the Hudson Valley and stalled a while and commenced to rip apart the Catskills, the eastern Adirondacks, the Mohawk and upper Hudson valleys, and then almost all of Vermont, not to mention New Hampshire and western Massachusetts, and I can't even tell you much about whatever's going on in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland this morning. Connecticut, Long Island, and Rhode Island are in there somewhere, and surely there's more than a few things out of place in North Carolina.

This is nowhere near Katrina's death toll of over 1800 souls, but the damage to scores of towns, businesses, houses, and basic civic armature is going to be very impressive as the news filters in later this week and the disaster is still very much ongoing Monday, even with the sun shining bright. Towns all over Vermont and New Hampshire are still drowning. The Hudson River is still on the rise. The Mohawk River is at a 500-year flood stage and is about to wipe the old city center of Schenectady, New York, off the map. Bridges, dams, and roads are gone over a region at least as big as the Gulf Coast splatter-trail of Katrina.

That story is still developing. A lot of people will not be able to get around for a long, long time, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire, where the rugged terrain only allows for a few major roads that go anywhere. Even the bridges that were not entirely washed away may have to be inspected before people are allowed to drive over them, and some of these bridges may be structurally shot even if they look superficially okay. There are a lot of them. If you live in a flat state, you may have no idea.

The next story is going to be the realization that there's no money to put it all back together the way it was. The states don't have the money. The federal government is obviously broke, and an awful lot of the individual households and businesses will turn out to not have any insurance coverage for this kind of disaster where it was water, not wind, that destroyed the property. I don't know what the score is insurance-wise along the mid-Atlantic beachfront towns - but remember, insurance companies were among the biggest dupes of the Big Bank mortgage-backed securities racket, and when the new claims are toted up they may find themselves in a bail-out line.

This is a warning to America that the converging catastrophes of climate change, energy scarcities, and failures of capital formation add up to more than the sum of their parts in their power to drive a complex society into a ditch - no matter what a moron like Rick Perry might say. But, of course, political ramifications will follow. There will be a lot of pissed-off people in the Northeast USA. Maybe they'll even start giving the grievance-bloated folk of Dixieland some competition in the politics of the bitter harvest. Oddly, the Siamese twin states of Vermont and New Hampshire are political polar opposites. Vermont, the land of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and other squooshy culture tropes from the attic of Hippiedom, is about as Left-progressive as it gets. New Hampshire's license plate says, "Live Free or Die," and that same draconian mood defines the state's politics: hard Right. It's like a few counties of Georgia shook loose and drifted north somehow. My guess is that the political rage will be about equal on both fronts, as folks are left stranded, or homeless, or without a going business they thought they had only a day or so ago. And my further guess is that their mood will afford some insight into the extreme impotence, incompetence, and mendacity of both major political parties. As I've said before in this space, think of these times as not unlike the convulsive 1850s, preceding the worst crisis of our history.

Apart from the fact that the hurricane season is just gearing up, and that a procession of tropical storm blobs has commenced to pour out of West Africa, there is that other alternate universe of storms, brushfires, and fiascos called the fnancial system, which everybody sort of forgot about over the weekend. Well, it's ba-a-a-ck this morning, too, and the financial weather was deteriorating sharply last time I looked. You can stick a fork in the Euro Zone. Bank of America is panhandling for spare change like a dying wino as it whirls around the drain. Nobody knows what the shadow bets on all this action is, but you can bet on one thing for sure: the counterparties can't pay.

Oh, by the way, anybody remember that we had an earthquake here in the Northeast a few days before Irene rumbled in? Probably not, unless part of your building fell off. God's wrath, some might say, as we beat our path to a world made by hand.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

CounterPunch's Revamped Design

Our Re-Design

Yes, as you know, we launched our new look last Tuesday and have been in teething pains ever since as our server struggles to adjust to the new data base. (Hint: emptying your cache on a regular basis may help.) Cheers and curses fill our editorial inbox.

When it comes to re-designs people mostly hate change. I do. So does Jeffrey St Clair. On my shelves I keep ancient copies of publications, just to remind me of the way they used to be: the old London Times, on beautiful old stock, with classifieds on the front page; the Italian Espresso of the 60s, with its vast rotogravure photos. Jeffrey and I liked the way the CounterPunch site looked. But technologically it was getting progressively harder to deal with, with many of you shouting for features it couldn’t accommodate, like a print-friendly feature, RSS feeds, ease of linking, a data base archive and so forth.

You’ve got them now, and boy, are some of you mad! When emotions cool we hope outraged CounterPunchers will see that under our mandate designer Tiffany Wardle stayed pretty close to the old design. We’ve kept changes to a minimum – no video, no ads, the same three-column lay-out.

Here’s a bouquet of reactions, starting with Sam Chandler’s rock through the editorial transom, about an hour after the resdesign went up.

“I do not appreciate the new look. It is horrible. It is not respective of the academic look CounterPunch has cultivated over the last few years. It is jarringly eye-wrenching shit. It is corporate capitalism without style. Sam Chandler.”

Jeffrey, who evolved our old layout piecemeal across the years, winces at the cruel phrase “academic look.” I’d say the typographical heritage here with the new site goes back to German lay-outs of the 1920s, not to mention the Constructivist heritage, but maybe that’s me being sentimental.

“It’s about time! Love the new layout. Pete Stanislaw”

“I thought I had the wrong web page for a second. Nice new streamlined look! Great work from my favorite source for news of what is happening. Congratulations, Glenn Ierley.”

“Just my 2 cents.. I much preferred your previous page layout to the new look changes you made in the last day or 2. FWIW, I’m a subscriber and will be renewing. Regards, Ron Bianco”

“As a person who has found your site to be an invaluable trove of alternative voices and views, I’m greatly distressed to see the new graphics of the site. The colors are harsh and distracting, the fonts are unattractive, and in general there seems to be a very aggressive look to it, one I would associate more with the sites of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity (I have seen them) — the only thing that seems to be missing is an American flag. Teresa Schiano”

“I like the new layout of the website. Very fresh.

Be well, Vijay Prashad”

“I’m a faithful reader who believes in you and depends on you for my daily dose of hopelessness. I just don’t like that it was redesigned at all. All New! has gotten so passe. Our news sources should be staid and steady. Walter Cronkite never got a facelift or even shaved off his moustache, and we trusted him, whether or not we should have. I still hate the redesigned Wall St Journal, for instance: it’s so generic now. Likewise my hometown daily paper, the Keene (NH) Sentinel.

“We want news sources to be about content, not style. In a world where even the light switches are designed, the un-botoxed gets more and more beautiful. Wabi-sabi, the Japanese called it, beautiful decreptitude. Boo to urban renewal of websites. Let the words speak. Stacia Tolman”

“I love the easy-to-read new look, particularly the print option (I’ve probably sent a half dozen emails requesting such a change over the past decade). Thank you. Bob Siver”

“Sir,

I like the revised format; the change is greatly appreciated. Respectfully, Dave Fargher.

Impressive website redesign – addition of RSS feed is very welcome.Cheers!

Will Astle.”

“Drudge has stayed the same and is still one of the most popular sites. There’s something gratifying and attractive about remaining low-tech – don’t let well-meaning bumblers tell you otherwise. In two words, it is repulsive and UGLY!! (Add a third word: Unreadable).

–Elizabeth”

Let’s see how you all feel in a month or two. Meanwhile, it’s a work in progress. We appreciate the plaudits, ponder the advice and dodge the brickbats.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two-Dollar Gallons of Gas

cannot be promised.

Allen West: Real-Life Mr. Butts

With his ash-gray fade Congressman Allen West resembles no one so much as Doonesbury's Mr. Butts, an anthropomorphic walking cigarette.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Hold Your Applause

History is Not Your Therapist
By James Howard Kunstler
on August 22, 2011 8:36 AM

I suppose we'll know in a few hours whether Colonel Muammar Gaddafi gets hung out to dry, Mussolini-style, from a lamp-post, or is mercifully handed a one way ticket to Palookaville, a.k.a. The Hague, where old despots go to eat French fries with mayonnaise and be judged. The rebels celebrating in Tripoli's main square looked a tad ticked off about all the trouble it took to pry the old rascal off his throne. Over in Syria, Bashar al-Assad, the ophthalmologist who rules the place, must be following developments with a keen interest. (Perhaps he will hastily decide to re-open his medical practice in, say, Iraq.) Despite the bubbling of CNN news-readers, I suggest that we Westerners hold our applause until the world gets a clue as to who or what will govern Libya (or Syria, in the event).

Besides, we have a sort of Man-Who-Would-Be-Gaddafi fresh out of the woodwork right here in the USA. I speak of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Bush-Without-a-Brain clone who pulled off a kind of "hat-trick" of cretinism last week by 1.) announcing his disbelief in climate change science; 2.) announcing his disbelief in evolution science; and 3.) more or less threatening to lynch Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. The nation has not seen such a puffed up rogue take the stage since the days of Huey Long, but the rural idiocy that saturated Louisiana in the 1930s has finally seeped all over the country so that even people in once-literate Minnesota are represented by reality-averse evangelical maniacs. Candidates like Perry and Bachmann make a plain vanilla narcissist like Sarah Palin look at least capable of running a student council. What a low moment in America's history. Don't lose sight of the fact that there's room for the bar to go further down.

Otherwise, the weekend was notable for the complete and utter retreat from public view of European leaders charged with figuring out some way around the EU's banking woes. The dirty secret is that there isn't any way around these Alp-size heaps of broken promises, worthless certificates, overdrawn accounts, shiftless governments, and booby-trapped counter-party contracts. The people in charge are trying like hell to make it through the vacation season before the entire continent tips over, but then what? I'll tell you: the chain-lightning of ruin will crackle across the Sargasso Sea and strike deep in the heart of JP Morgan, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citi, and all the other citadels of grift until blood runs out the bronze nostrils of George Washington's statue on the portico of Federal Hall. I don't begrudge poor Barack Obama's attempt to eat a few ice cream cones at the seashore with his wife and two girls. Some presidents are just one-termers. History is cruel that way. But it also rhymes. Rick Perry may be as dumb as Ronald Reagan.

Nobody can believe what's happening. Nobody knows what to do. Well, here's some straight dope: do you want to have an economy? Then prepare to cut your losses and move on. There's so much to do "out there" in America, but the catch is it's not the same as what we've been doing. Do you want to eat a few years from now? Get serious about reorganizing agriculture on a smaller, finer, more local scale. Believe me, there will be plenty of jobs. Only they won't be like sitting in a cubicle writing a marketing plan for a video-game about the slaughter of gym rats from another planet. Do you want to be able to travel around this big country in a few years? Start working on the nearest reconstructable railroad line - and get over your techno-grandiose fantasies about running all the cars on algae, corn, or the plug in the wall. Do you want have some household goods in the future without sending an order halfway around the world? Figure out a way to make stuff in some North American place where there is running water for electric power.

There isn't a politician out there, including the Paul duo, who can really articulate the direction in which history is propelling us. This "recession-depression" narrative doesn't even adequately capture it. This is the end of a certain way of doing things - the industrial growth-spurt fiesta. We're in permanent contraction now. There are no technological rescue remedies that will restore the old economic regime. The banks are not working anymore because we can't create more real wealth, and the wealth we pretended to create for thirty-odd years in the form of IOUs can't be paid back into existence. We can't fund any more senior golfing careers and a lot of people will have to just stop eating fried pork rinds, guzzling Pepsi Cola, and then waddling into the emergency room for consolation.

Does this sound a little harsh? Surprise: history is not your therapist. This is the New Age you never expected. Crybabies need not apply.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I added ClubOrlov and SharonAstyk to the Peak Oil section of my list of links, which can be accessed by clicking on "All Links" in the sidebar.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kunstler: "High Corn"

High Corn
By James Howard Kunstler
on August 15, 2011 9:47 AM

Looking every inch the Assistant Manager of a J.C. Penny, Rick Perry of Texas stepped on-board the touring evangelical freak show that the Republican pre-primary parade has turned into. I like to think of him as George W. Bush without all the encumbering intellect. I give it three months before media snoops catch him in bed with Michele Bachmann. The two of them will claim it was all right because Jesus was there as chaperone and anyway, "...alls we did was watch the Vikings-Cowboy game...."

Oh these sons and daughters of the high corn! Make no mistake (to borrow a favorite war cry from the presidential cheat sheet), both of these heartland bozos are dumb enough to lead America straight into the graveyard of failed states. Imagine a summit between Rick Perry and whoever succeeds Hu Jintao - the incredulous side-glances of the Chinese leader and his interpreter when Mr. Perry presents the official gift from our nation: a miniature Bible made by the inmates at Stringfellow State Prison and "prayed over by qualified preachers twenty-four hours a day!" Or how about Michele Bachmann and Vlad Putin. I'd sooner watch a gerbil in a terrarium with a King Cobra.

Meanwhile, the other day poor Mitt Romney tried to explain to a crowd of Iowa hot-heads that "corporations are people!" Wasn't that just the right thing to say to folks whose employment opportunities have dwindled down to eviscerating chickens on an assembly line or humping boxes on the WalMart loading dock for $8 an hour. He was heckled mercilessly. I don't see how a candidate recovers from that kind of caught-on-camera mockery - but then again, in a culture that has no shame, just about anything goes.

One thing I'd really like to know about the Republican party, though: if they're so all-fired up about fiscal rectitude and the honest disposition of money, and stuff like that, then how come not a single one of these dissembling ninnies has suggested the investigation and prosecution of the entire Wall Street matrix of swindling grifters - including the officials who rotate between the too-big-to-fail banks and the regulatory agencies like the SEC and the CFTC and all the other utterly failed official watchdogs who stood by whistling Dixie while the future of this country was blatantly sold down the river?

Of course, nobody on the Democratic side asks anything similar of President Obama as he hops from fundraiser to fundraiser. I'd like to know why the fuck the president is even out campaigning more than a year before the election. And hasn't the mainstream news media noticed that there's something a little peculiar about a cycle of perpetual election with no governing in between? I suppose everything is show business now, though I don't expect this aberrant and very dangerous behavior to persist, because virtually all the major operations of the supposedly civilized, "developed" world are veering into a state of obvious failure.

The global financial system is wobbling on its pyramid-tip of debt. Europe is trapped. The members of the currency union can't make good on what they owe and neither can they surrender their independence to some jerry-rigged extra-national authority. At stake is the European banking system and the post-World War Two amity that allowed the region to become the lovely tourist theme park we lately know it as. They are running out of tricks for pretending that debts can revolve forever, and as this occurs the fear rises that the whole lovely thing will bust apart in mob violence, revolution, and maybe even armed conflict between people who don't hold their forks the same way. England is not even in the Euro currency club but five decades of rather feckless immigration policy have resolved into something that looks an awful lot like race war. God knows what the French are thinking, with their own massive immigrant slum population ringing Paris.

Anyway, whatever happens around Europe in the months to come, trouble with its banks is sure to blow back into the American ones, which are hopelessly entangled in Europe's obligations, not to mention skeins of supposed "insurance" swaps contracts primed for ignition at the slightest flap of a black swan's wing that could propel the likes of Lloyd Blankfein's cappuccino machine from an upper floor at 200 West Street, NYC, through the roof, clear to planet Uranus. At least we'd have a space program again.

Surely a lot of European and American officials just want to escape to the seashore for the last two weeks of this punishing month and soak their heads in the surf - perhaps a few will decide to not come back up for air. President Obama will enjoy the briny vapors out on Martha's Vineyard, and maybe even splash around in the wimpy waves there. I'll enjoy the thought of him tying into a clam roll. And now to check how the markets are doing this opening day of the week....

Friday, August 12, 2011

Paul vs. Santorum

Ron Paul vs. Rick Santorum on Iran

Cole refers to the possible sixth war, or the sixth country in which the U.S. military is involved.

The other five:
Iraq
Afghanistan
Pakistan
Yemen
Libya

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Lady of Rage

I doubt if Michele Bachmann is "The Queen of Rage." (Hers is a different kind of madness.) Anyway, I'd rather listen to The Lady of Rage.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Kunstler's Latest: On S&P, Etc.

Change You Don't Have to Believe In
By James Howard Kunstler
on August 8, 2011 8:00 AM


A waterfall of woe broke over all the realms of money last week - including especially the realm where we determine just what money is supposed to mean - and a lot of folks barely made it to a rooftop, or a floating log, or some scrap of high ground, where they sit wet and shivering, expecting to get slammed again. The torrent of events is still flowing and there are countless dangerous objects bobbing in it. Remember what that in-rushing ocean was like in the Fukushima tsunami? A wall of miso soup strewn with Toyotas and houses instead of squid rings and fish balls. Try swimming in that. (Try swimming in your Cuisinart on the guacamole setting.)

Europe is telling itself one cockamamie story after another. We've got a rescue fund! Only it has no money! But we will bail out Italy nonetheless! But Italy is too big to bail out - and we tried stuffing it under the carpet, but there's no more room with Greece, Ireland, and Portugal already suffocating in there. The whole G-20 is yakking on the phone as I write, hatching fresh cockamamie stories. Oh, now it looks like the European Central Bank will ride to the rescue with a dispatch satchel full of good intentions. They said the same thing last time, a month or so ago, when a caryatid fell on Greece's head. They are not so sure what money is either. Is a bond like money? Maybe not so much anymore. A stock portfolio? Feh! A Euro? The damned thing is starting to look like a ball-and-chain custom-crafted to weigh down Germans. (And, let's face it: they never did pay any of us for World War Two, really, except what they had to fork over to get the communist side of their own country out of hock. Their guilt-o-meter is still buzzing, I'm sure.) All I know is I hope the whole gang printed up some fresh lira, francs, marks, drachma, pesetas, punts, and whatnot. It would be nice to go back to one of these cute places some day at a discount.

Did you admire Standard and Poor's sly, Friday night downgrade of the United States Treasury bond rating? I was probably the only one in the whole country besides Anderson Cooper not out eating something bigger than my own head at Applebees, or watching the "Footwear Clearance" show over on the Shopping Network. However, I'm not the only one in America asking where do these S and P punks get off downgrading US bonds when three years ago they wore out their Triple-A rubber stamps on the cartloads of stinking offal that Angelo Mozillo and other mortgage rustlers were pawning off as bond-fodder on every Frankenstein "investment opportunity" pumped out of the Wall Street CDO mills. Government officials were righteously seething over S and P's chutzpah, but I suppose when they tried to ring-up Eric Holder over at the DOJ they got connected to some call center in Uttar Pradesh where a friendly fellow named "Dale" picked up. China's government-run newspaper virtually spanked the US: "Learn (thwack) to live (thwack) within (thwack) your (thwack) means!"

I'm not convinced that the US bond rating will even matter that much because nobody knows what anything is worth anymore - especially when governments teeter and the folks in the public square (or the parking lot in America's case), start yelling for blood. Merkel, Sarkozy, Berlusconi, Zapatero, will soon be swept away by that selfsame rolling torrent of dreck-strewn woe - in their case a bouillabaisse - while poor Obama looks like one of those hapless, floating creatures in the second-to-last scene of O Brother, Where Art Thou. Even the gold bugs are scared the price will collapse in a debt deflation, or that the federal government will slap a giant extra-special punitive capital gains tax on precious metal sales, or will try to confiscate it from the public altogether like Franklin Roosevelt did - though, given the vast arsenals of private firearms across this land, and the martial spirit lingering in many pissed-off factions of the Tea Party ilk, nothing would invite a revolution, or civil war, or civic upheaval as surely as trying to snatch folks' gold. As a capital preservation refuge, I'm sympathetic to gold, of course, though not so much to buggery.

Everybody is broke now: national treasuries, giant banks, pension funds, insurance companies. The wonder so far is that credit default swaps have not yet been triggered by interest rate changes or some other silly shit, but when that comes to pass there is no way the counterparties can settle their contracts. Ruin will thunder through the financial system like winged death. Everybody is broke and there's a lot less real "money" (whatever it is) out there. Everybody's quailing at the prospect of QE 3, in all its cosmic futility. The United States has already half killed itself at the Golden Corral steam-table of deep-fried debt. I guess we could go all the way and shoot what remains of the dollar in its pitiful, lolling head.

There is a welling recognition that the dice have been cast and the world has rolled snake eyes. The casino is on fire and a flash flood is boiling down the strip. It's no fun running to the exits only to find the revolving doors already eyeball deep in dirty water. America gibbers to itself but nobody has a clue. I'll try to help: this is a compressive financial and economic contraction (one is money, the other is activity). Late-summer storm that it is, it looks to be intensifying. Everything that's super-big is going down sooner or later. The exact sequence of failures is unpredictable. But you can be sure Nature is telling you to get local, get smaller, get finer, downscale, solidify your friendships, and drop your stupid grandiose fantasies about running WalMart on algae. This is change you don't have to believe in, because it is about to jump up and bite you on the lips.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Cockburn Asks:


"Get Ready to Vote for Mitt Romney?"

Start with Obama. Of course he blew it. Whether by artful design or by sheer timidity is immaterial. He blew it. Two days before the United States was officially set to default on its debts on August 2, Barack Obama had the Republicans where he wanted them: All he had to do was announce that he’d trudged the last half mile towards a deal but that there’s no pleasing fanatics who reject all possibilities of compromise, who are ready and eager to shut down the government, to see seniors starve and vets denied their benefits. So, Obama could proclaim, he was invoking the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution which states that the "validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Anders Breivik


looks like a cross between Julian Assange and Heath Ledger.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I.F. Stone

Thanks to a comment at Ilind.net, I found out about the website of I.F. Stone, which contains all his writings, including pdfs of the entire run of I.F. Stone Weekly. I'll likely add it to the list of links.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Honolulu Weekly at Twenty

Honolulu Weekly turns twenty.

Far From the Best




If this guy isn't a dildo, I don't know who is. Considering he lives in a state shaped like America's phallus, perhaps it's not all that surprising.

25 July update: More
29 July update: AW faces a primary challenge--from the Tea Party.

AW: Tea Party Statist

AW threatens to leave Congressional Black Caucus. The article reminds us that during his 2010 campaign, AW claimed to have a higher security clearance than the President!

Has Militarist Right Found Its Warlord?

(12 September update: It's just sad when one unwittingly desecrates the flag.)

The Flag Code

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kunstler: "The Amazing Dissolving Nation"

in which he lays out the different paths European countries will take.

Europe has run the money string to its bitter end and now it just remains to be seen how each country blows up and where the dust settles. Greece and Portugal may just shrug and retire on an economy based on goat-cheese and olives. Ireland will get drunk and pass out for at least a century. Spain sinks back into an age-old catatonic daze, having gone broke spectacularly once before. Italy strings up Mr. Berlusconi on a lamp-post and breaks up into 112 warring city-states. France elects DSK, whose first act is to declare war on the City of New York. Religious wars leave England in embers. And Germany becomes the world's first "green" police state.

It's conceivable to me that Barack Obama may be the last president - for a while. He was a decent fellow but, in the end, ineffectual, and of course he got no help from the legislative branch, including especially colleagues in his own party, a most remarkable class of maundering chickenshits and grifters. Our money problems will not go away and after a while this land will not be governable by familiar means. In case you haven't noticed, the rule of law is already AWOL in many sectors of our national life, most particularly money matters, but before long on every street-corner, every highway strip, plus every GMO cornfield, and brownfield. The two parties are unreformable and the Tea Party is the stooge of one of the two parties, and there is no other party of earnest, decisive, and sane individuals anywhere near the horizon. So some kind of convulsion is in the cards and it will be the unfortunate duty of some dutiful officer to step in and set an agenda based on something other than bluster, fakery, and pocket pool.

While there's a good chance the US debt ceiling will be extended, it seems to me that meanwhile we have crossed an invisible line into a place where untoward things happen.