Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

The Children (Troma Video, 1980)

3 November update: There's a brief overview of the movie (with a few errors and omissions) in John Kenneth Muir's book Horror Films of the 1980s (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kunstler: Apocalyptoween

Kunstler ponders the implications of Hurricane Sandy, set to make landfall in two hours.

By James Howard Kunstler
on October 29, 2012 9:33 AM

With little to do while waiting for something possibly very bad to happen people tend to get jokey. That was how I felt about the election until Hurricane Sandy came along. For one thing, I happened to travel (by car - how else?) last week from Bennington through Brattleboro, Vermont, and down into a de-industrialized corner of northwestern Massachusetts. There were at least three major highway bridge re-construction projects (and many lesser ones) still underway along the route from last year's Hurricane Irene, which devastated Vermont. There's a fair chance that Vermont will get whacked again, undoing a billion dollars of work along the same mountain river roads. How demoralizing will that be? And where does the local share of the money come from?

I remember, too, being in Wilkes-Barre, in Eastern Pennsylvania just a few years ago and seeing that the city never actually recovered from floods induced by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which coincided with the beginning of the end of the local coal industry. The downtown was functionally dead, with a zombie overlay of social services, wig shops, and street people conversing with themselves. It appears that Hurricane Sandy is going to rip through the same region again, then curl east into my part of upstate New York and finally slog into the same new England states that got bashed last year.

Then, of course, there is the question of what happens to New York City in the next 48 hours, a potential enormity too vast to quantify from here (not to mention Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wilmington, and the toxic waste dump formerly known as New Jersey).

My own main worry, sitting here in comfort, in a well-lighted room, is how widespread the electric power outages might be and how long might they last -- conceivably even through the election. Surely, Mr. Obama is pacing nervously now in some deep underground White House command center, worrying about what might be required if there is no electricity to run the voting machines across the nation's most populous region, or if many hundreds of thousands of voters get stranded at home by broken bridges and washed-out roads, or how many votes his government might lose if the juice stays on but he can't relieve the anticipated misery fast enough... with the idiot Romney kibitzing from the sideline.

I don't know if the US can take that kind of disruption and come out the other side the same way it went in. The systems that keep us going are already in trouble, some of them already teetering, like the airline industry, which can barely keep going with jet fuel clocking at 40 percent of its operating costs due to $90-a-barrel oil. The political system itself is more fragile than we might suppose, despite the seemingly despotic reach of surveillance, the size of the government payroll, and the amazing complacency of the sports-and-fructose-saturated public. Few believe in the two major parties, or what they pretend to stand for, including many officers and foot-soldiers in those parties. If the system finds itself unable to hold an election on the day specified by the constitution, what happens then? Another trip to the Supreme Court. Uh-oh....

Anyway, Hurricane Sandy and all it portends this Monday morning is a nice distraction from all the other things un-winding, tottering, and fracturing in so many advanced nations. Promises of massive (and improbable) bailouts have kept the financial meltdown of Europe a few degrees below critical mass for a couple of months, but the thermometer is inching upward with the ominous Catalan regional election in Spain tipping well toward the secessionists, and Greece whirling around the economic drain, with all of its previous bail-out money merely yo-yoing back to the client banks of the "troika" that arranged the bail-outs, and countries like Italy, Portugal, and Ireland whistling past the graveyard beyond the news media's peripheral vision. And then there is China with its government transition hugger-mugger, its empty make-work cities, its crony banking system unaccountable to anyone, and its extremely modest reserves of its own oil to run the whole hastily constructed shootin' match. They have been working earnestly in plain sight - off the news media's radar screen - to construct a resource extraction empire in Africa, but then they will be stuck with the job of defending 12,000 mile supply lines. Good luck with that.

Finally, there is the nauseating spectacle of the presidential election itself, with two creatures of corporate capture pretending to represent the interests of some hypothetical majority who wish to remain the slaves of WalMart and Goldman Sachs. If Hurricane Sandy causes such massive disruption as to interfere with the election, perhaps that will be a good thing - a sudden, unavoidable re-thinking of our ossified institutional customs, and a thrust into the emergent history of the future.

Tevin Campbell: "Alone With You"

Monday, October 22, 2012

Kunstler: Snake Garden

Snake Garden
By James Howard Kunstler
on October 22, 2012 8:54 AM

There's a good reason why nobody is paying attention to the election this year except the people who, one way or another, get paid to be interested: because for all that's at stake there is no coherent discussion about any of it. By 'at stake' I mean what we are going to do when the major systems we depend on for everyday life begin to wobble and fail.

There is zero cognizance even among the paid kibitzers that we are near that point. Rather, a rapture of techno-narcissism holds in thrall even people who ought to know better, and a chatter-stream of infotainment propaganda spreads an hallucinatory fog of national self-esteem-boosting figments ranging from "energy independence" to "green jobs."

The truth of our situation is an implacable contraction of the turbo-corporate economy due to remorseless looming energy scarcity. That is, strange to relate, not altogether bad news (if we were psychologically disposed to process it, which we are not). It doesn't have to mean that everything in American life goes straight to shit -- though it might. It could well mean that some of the most destructive corporate actors go to shit (quickly and unexpectedly), making room for some really beneficial transformation.

For instance, the tensions of excessive scale and lack of resilience could put WalMart and everything like it out of business. It wouldn't take much to fatally compromise the 12,000-mile supply lines and the 'warehouse-on-wheels' that the behemoth retailers depend on. $6 diesel fuel and a few more currency war provocations against China could put the schnitz on the operating system of national chain retail. It would be the end of the unacknowledged "entitlement" called "bargain shopping," but it would also provide the opportunity to rebuild the very local and regional economies that these predatory outfits put to death thirty years ago - and, more importantly, open up a vast range of careers, positions, and roles for Americans to play in truly running their own commercial economies in their own home-towns, in particular young Americans otherwise demoralized by an economy that has left so many of them stranded.

This is the direction that reality is taking us in, and one wonders why the candidates can't begin to articulate it in these ridiculous show-and-tell spectacles that we misunderstand to be "debates." Obviously it has as much to do with the sheer inertia of the status quo than even with the grotesque distortions of politics inspired by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that has allowed the complete corporate capture of elections. And even that nation-wrecking calamity is probably out-weighed by the US public's wish to keep all the familiar machinery of daily life going at all costs.

This last part is surely understandable, but it will certainly lead to a tragic outcome: political and social collapse. No one in any realm of US leadership will face the difficulty and uncertainty of finding our way out of this predicament. Both candidates for president are devoted to sustaining the unsustainable and telling fairy tales about running the WalMart economy on "green" pixie dust.

The systems that we depend on for running everyday life can all be clearly described and understood: commerce (WalMart); farming (agri-biz); transportation (happy motoring + airplanes); medicine (sickness hostage racket); education (babysitting), and so on. All of them are near the end of their existence in their current mode of operation. But the system in greatest danger is finance, which is system that is supposed to manage our accumulated wealth and deploy the surplus for purposes that keep civilization going. Finance is the sickest of all these systems now and the one that is most susceptible to collapse.

The basic problem is that finance and its organs of banking now run entirely on accounting fraud, which is to say the misrepresentation of our accumulated wealth and the subsequent misallocation of what's left of it. Pervasive accounting fraud and control fraud (the criminal abuse of trust in money matters) is joined by the systematic corruption of markets. The stock and commodity markets can no longer perform their primary role of "price discovery" due to the criminal manipulation of indexes, and in particular the computer arbitrage racket known as high frequency trading, not to mention the absence of regulation and rule-of-law more generally. And the money markets can no longer perform their primary tasks of truthfully pricing debt in relation to risk - that is, establishing interest rates -- due to the desperate interventions of central banks.

The result is a money management system that could collapse at any moment into a vacuum of unreality, and the chaos that would ensue is capable of wrecking the current incarnation of advanced industrial civilization. Mitt Romney represents all the forces that seek to pervert truth in banking, markets, trading, and commercial business. He made his fortune in a business of lethal arbitrage, hunting through the underbrush of American business like a poisonous snake, striking his victims in stealth and then consuming them. Barack Obama, lawyer and president, forgot that one of his duties is hunting snakes, and has allowed the garden of America to become overrun with snakes. There is even the pretty good chance that, if he loses this election, Mr. Obama will become one of those snakes himself.

Personally, I have no faith in either of them, and watching them pretend to battle in the trumped-up arena of "debate" makes me sick.

The Real Presidential Debate

On 23 October, the real presidential debate will be moderated by Larry King. Participating candidates are Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), Rocky Anderson (Justice), and Virgil Goode (Constitution). Visit for details. One can also submit questions to the candidates.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Max Blumenthal's Forthcoming Book on Israel

Max Blumenthal's forthcoming book, with the working title Israel Apocalypse is now titled Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. It will be released next April under the Nation Books imprint of Basic Books. The synopsis reads, in part:

...[A] devastating journey through Israel and an anatomy of the extremist takeover of a nation. What Blumenthal finds is a country overrun by extremists, where the Jewish Right has hijacked constitutional protections for both minorities and those in the majority who dissent. Blumenthal investigates the roots of these cultural and political shifts, as well as the malign American right-wing funders who are bankrolling Israeli extremism.

Thos who follow him on Twitter will probably get a sense of deja vu when they read the book, because most of his tweets concern Israel. It's as if the book is being written bit by bit.

Swinging Mood

For the record, the character was named Sack Lodge.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I just found this blog, DemoMemo, by the former editor of American Demographics.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Week Offline

We had to take in the computer last week Wednesday for routine maintenance and for software updates. Though I was without a computer until this afternoon, I didn't miss it as much as one would think, mainly because I've been busy at home.

But I've been catching up with blogs, especially Hattie's Web. The retail situation in Hilo is something I'd like to think about more, because I've seen countless stores come and go. The enormous Safeway Hattie mentions is the third incarnation of that market in Hilo, the first being the present site of Ben Franklin Crafts.

But a lot more later.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Angela Davis: "Jim Crow and the Palestinians."

Angela Davis,, "Jim Crow and the Palestinians."

I'm Glad I...

don't go to school in Texas.

don't know Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Hulk Hogan, or Honey Boo Boo and her family.

am not represented in Congress by Allen B. West, Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert...

Monday, October 08, 2012

Bob Nicholas Update

Bob Nicholas (R-WY), accused of beating his disabled son, prevailed in the Wyoming Republican primary, and faces Kathleen Petersen.

Empty Pageantry

Empty Pageantry
By James Howard Kunstler
on October 8, 2012 8:06 AM

The press wet its small-clothes over Mitt Romney's ebullience in last Thursday's so-called debate, as these joint interview contests are styled these days. What a jaunty fellow Mitt came off as, compared to poor Mr. Obama, cloaked in presidential gloom, the wearisome woes of high office and all that - or perhaps just some indigestible tidbit served out of Air Force One's galley, an infected cocktail weenie, a shrimp with attitude, or an empanada with the E coli blues, who knows....

To be sure, Mr. Romney's ebullience had a crafted tang to it, like one of those pumpkin-flavored beers made for the season, especially since all that verve was employed in the service of ebullient lying, statistical confabulation, and self-contradiction. At times his sheer manic zest veered in the direction of what used to be called hebephrenia in the old clinical sense of someone euphorically out-of-touch with reality.

Alienation from reality being at the very core of the current zeitgeist, the American public can only admire somebody who displays such a buoyant disregard for what is actually happening in the universe. To me, Mr. Romney just gave off the odor of someone who will do anything to get elected while Mr. Obama evinced the dejection of someone doubting it was worth it.

Of course, the issues this time around are framed with the presumption that all the current rackets of political economy can be kept running - everything from Fannie Mae to Medicare to suburbia to the systematic looting of the future by the Federal Reserve's shell-game operations with every loser bond instrument lately fobbed off on hopelessly rigged markets - which is exactly the opposite of what reality has in store for us. In fact, the salient feature of these times is the remorseless running down of all these rackets to their entropic end points.

The sad part is that everyone from the leadership down to the lowly clientele of food stamps and gamed disability payments is locked into the vast array of rackets that constitute our national life, and the truth of their failure thresholds is too terrifying to entertain. What to many appears to be a "conspiracy of elites" is just our way of life. Evidence of this is the increasingly eerie way that the financial crimes of recent years somehow vanish into the ethers of history without any official notice from either the media or the police powers of society. In a very serious time, we are just not a serious people. Anything goes and nothing matters.

The central reality broadly ignored is the unavoidable contraction of industrial economies all over the world. The action is especially brutal in the USA, which actually gave up on the nuts-and-bolts of industrial production beginning in the 1970s, but managed to cream off other nation's exertions by reserve currency hocus-pocus, pervasive executive control fraud, and a reckless spewage of glitzy "consumer" service infrastructure over the landscape, which gave the appearance of vitality in the absence of value creation - the exact specialty, by the way, of predatory private equity squads like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital. All of this was enabled by the last gasps of cheap oil, and without it our whole way of life craps out, including the creaming off of leftovers. And this illness of advanced economies is now spreading all over the world.

You would think that the question of what we will do about all this might be at issue in the current election - how we might deliberately face the tasks of reorganizing farming, commerce, transportation, banking, schooling, and all the other practical matters of existence. There is an awful lot to talk about, and much to be done, but nobody is interested. Instead, we've mounted a foolish campaign to keep all the old rackets running, and there is no fundamental difference between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama on that. The empty pageantry of these debates dresses this dangerous madness in the raiment of clowning.

All of this has consequences, of course, but in a society that has ditched all sense of consequence nobody can pay attention to that either. The poet W.H. Auden called his time "a low, dishonest decade." Bad as the 1930s were, the stakes are even higher now, and our clownish inattention conceals darker falsities that could make that terrible era seem quaint. [END]

A good book on tbe importance of manufacturing.

* Fingleton, Eamonn. In Praise of Hard Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Kunstler Discusses His New Book on Techno-Optimism

An interview with James Howard Kunstler at about his new book on techno-optimism, Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation

Books, Nooks, and Crannies has apparently closed last Friday. It is unknown whether or not the bookshop will continue under new ownership. In any case, I'll try to get Kunstler's book and review it.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Welcome Back, Hattie,

from your trip to Peru. Though modern communications and transportation seemingly bridge vast distances ("the world growing smaller" effect), the world is still an immense and strange place. Peru will never be like Peoria.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Kunstler: "The Emptiest Election Contest in Memory"

In Full Flight
By James Howard Kunstler
on September 30, 2012 7:15 PM

Flying at higher platitudes in the thin upper air of his own mind last week, Republican candidate Mitt Romney remarked apropos of airplane travel: "[T]he windows don't open. I don't know why they don't do that. It's a real problem. So it's very dangerous."

It turned out that Mitt meant the remark as a gag. But it sheds some light on the hazard of trying to be funny by saying the opposite of what you mean, and also on the essential character of Mr. Romney who, to put it as plainly and directly as possible, is the sort of person commonly described as "an asshole." Hence, the thought that must be flashing through many people's minds these days when Romney's off-kilter, square-jawed, grinning visage floats over the nearest flat-screen: Who would vote for that asshole...? Being given to more baroque taxonomy, myself, I would be satisfied in calling Mr. Romney an empty vessel in a vacant room in an abandoned property in a forsaken land, and leave it at that....

And so it goes on the backstretch of the emptiest election contest in memory. The nation simply can't contend with the existential problems it faces and doesn't want to hear about them. As far as I can tell, nobody is paying attention to the campaigns, not even the reporters, certainly not the bloggers, who have their eyes on the riots and other kinetic unravelings related to the money crisis in Europe. Here, where anything goes and nothing matters, everybody just goes through the motions of electoral politics. It all has the odor of a ritual that nobody remembers the original purpose of - namely, to govern, i.e. to manage society's collective affairs. These days, nobody believes that our affairs are manageable, and their perception is probably correct, especially when it comes to paying for it all, since accounting fraud is now the basis of all financial operations.

But I don't mean to just deplore the situation. It is what it is, and we are at a certain juncture of history because of the choices we have made, and we'll have to see how the consequences roll out. Here's how I see some of them.

The Romney election fiasco will destroy the Republican Party, just as the Whig party fell apart in the last days of Millard Fillmore. The religious nuts and Dixieland ignoranti will demand the expulsion of all non-extremists and Karl Rove will be left at the Nascar track with Honey Boo Boo on his lap and a dwindling "base" of shrieking microcephalics awaiting the second coming of Adolf Hitler in a green satin Mountain Dew race-day jumpsuit. Respectable conservatives (they exist) will have to take their pleadings elsewhere, the venue or party yet-to-be determined, perhaps off-shore somewhere where the downtrodden sew blue jeans and counterfeit Louis Vuitton handbags.

More here.

Jean Carne ~ " My Love Don't Come Easy "... by StrictlyMuzik