Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

A headline and lead of an article I saw online, with the names redacted:

[Young female celebrity] Rocks Skimpy Bikini in Dubai with [another young female celebrity] and [another yfc or socialite I've never heard of]

Oh, to be on this A-list New Year's vacation! [YFC] is currently in Dubai, where's she set to ring in the New Year ...

No thanks. I'm at home watching the free preview of NGN (Nippon Golden Network), which our cable company offers every New Year's. I had some maki sushi and tempura from Kawamoto's. Later, I'll watch more NGN, and maybe the New Year's celebration from Times Square.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Kunstler: The Trigger

Last week's column was a sub-par rant about finance. Today's is a return to form.

Kunstler: The Trigger

The futility of politics in America these days has driven the public into exactly the dream-state of zombie blood-lust depicted in so many popular video fantasies, a nightmare of decay, powerlessness, and degeneracy matching the actual condition of a disintegrating polity that has lost collective consciousness and seeks only to infect the dwindling numbers of the still-sentient. Almost nobody in this country believes we can manage our affairs anymore.

Well, can we? One of the hallmarks of an imploding culture is that people lose a sense of consequence. Things just seem to happen and unhappen, and nobody really cares about chains of decision and event. Anything goes and nothing matters.

One reason this is happening to us is that we allowed reality to be divorced from truth. Karl Rove wasn’t kidding back in the Bush-2 days when he quipped that “we create our own reality.” The part old Karl left out is that there’s a price for doing that. In the short run, it allows you to pretend that you have superpowers and can act in defiance of the way things really are. In the longer run, your view of the world comports so poorly with the facts of the world that things stop working.

The tragedy of Barack Obama is that he continued the basic Karl Rove doctrine only without bragging about it. I don’t know whether Mr. Obama was a hostage, an empty suit, or a fool, but he broadened and deepened the acquiescence to lying about just about everything. Did criminal misconduct run rampant in banking for years? Oh, nevermind. Is the US economy actually contracting instead of recovering? We’ll just make up better numbers. Did US officials act like Nazi war criminals in torturing prisoners? Well, yeah, but so what? Did the State Department and the CIA scuttle the elected Ukrainian government in order to start an unnecessary new conflict with Russia? Maybe so, but who cares? Was the Affordable Care Act a swindle in the service of insurance and pharmaceutical racketeering? Oh, we’ll read the bill after we pass it. Shale oil will make us “energy independent.” (Not.)

Has anyone noticed the way these incongruities percolate into the public attention and then get dismissed, like daydreams, with no resolution. I’ve harped on this one before because it was, to my mind, Obama’s greatest failure: When the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that corporations were entitled to express their political convictions by buying off politicians, why didn’t the President join with his then-Democratic majority congress to propose legislation, or a constitutional amendment, more clearly redefining the difference between corporate “personhood” and the condition of citizenship? How could this constitutional lawyer miss the reality that corporations legally and explicitly do not have obligations, duties, and responsibilities to the public interest but only to their shareholders? How was this not obvious? And why was there not a rush to correct it?

Of course, this only begs the question: where are the opponents to the ethos that anything goes and nothing matters? Where are the political figures who can sustain a complaint long enough, and loudly enough, to keep it in the public consciousness clearly enough to make a difference? The more conspiracy-minded might say that the security apparatus (the NSA and its servelings) or Wall Street actually run the country and somehow suppress opposition. I don’t believe that. I do believe that cultures go through tragic periods when they lose their bearings and the will to be truthful to themselves.

The latest news is that Mr. Jeb Bush is way ahead among his Republican rivals for the presidential nomination, leading to a beautiful setup for the battle of the dynasties: Bush versus Clinton in 2016. I believe that insulting prospect would be the wake-up call that will hit the American people upside the head and wake them out of their zombie rapture. A third party will arise. It may be a good one or a bad one, but it will blow the existing order of things apart, as it should.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Hectic Year

Not without good times but very, very busy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Football Game Over?

As I noted late last year, a small Dallas-based college, Paul Quinn College, ended its football program because it was a drain on its finances. The remarkable thing about this story was that Paul Quinn converted the football field into an organic farm. Paul Quinn would not be the last college to disestablish its football team. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers football team has played its last season. Boosters may kick in enough money to keep the team kicking, but this may be a sign of the slow ebb of college football.
The Paul Quinn farm, called the WE over Me Farm, has a Twitter account.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Elizabeth LOUTen

I found this while checking out Coozledad's blog this morning.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Twenty Years Ago Today

The paper published my first opinion letter, about the lack of "quality films" playing in Hilo theaters.

Sometime soon, I'll look at how things have changed, movie-wise, in Hilo.

On another note, Kunstler goes into full head-spinning mode about Ferguson. I'll post a link soon.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Ferguson Public Library Gets Support

Monday, November 17, 2014

Kunstler: The Instability Express

Kunstler: The Instability Express

The mentally-challenged kibitzers “out there” — in the hills and hollows of the commentary universe, cable news, the blogosphere, and the pathetic vestige of newspaperdom — are all jumping up and down in a rapture over cheap gasoline prices. [There's a lot about gas prices.--P.Z.] Overlay on this picture the fairy tale of coming US energy independence, stir in the approach of winter in the North Dakota shale oil fields, put an early November polar vortex cherry on top, and you have quite a recipe for smashed expectations.

Plummeting oil prices are a symptom of terrible mounting instabilities in the world. After years of stagnation, complacency, and official pretense, the linked matrix of systems we depend on for running our techno-industrial society is shaking itself to pieces. American officials either don’t understand what they’re seeing, or don’t want you to know what they see. The tensions between energy, money, and economy have entered a new phase of destructive unwind.

The global economy has caught the equivalent of financial Ebola: deflation, which is the recognition that debts can’t be repaid, obligations can’t be met, and contracts won’t be honored. Credit evaporates and actual business declines steeply as a result of all those things. Who wants to send a cargo ship of aluminum ore to Guangzhou if nobody shows up at the dock with a certified check to pay for it? Financial Ebola means that the connective tissues of trade start to dissolve, and pretty soon blood starts dribbling out of national economies.

One way this expresses itself is the violent rise and fall of comparative currency values. The Japanese yen and the euro go down, the dollar goes up. It happens in a few months, which is quickly in the world of money. Foolish US cheerleaders suppose that the rising dollar is like the rising score of an NFL football team on any given Sunday. “We’re numbah one!” It’s just not like that. The global economy is not some stupid football contest.

When currencies change value quickly, as has happened since the past summer, big banks get into big trouble. Their revenue streams are pegged to so-called “carry trades” in which big blobs of money are borrowed in one currency and used to place bets in other currencies. When currency values change radically, carry trades blow up. So do so-called “derivatives” such as bets on interest rate differentials. When the sums of money involved are grotesquely large, the parties involved discover that they never had any ability to pay off their losing bet. It was all pretense. In fact, the chance that the bet might go bad never figured into their calculations. The net result of all that foolish irresponsibility is that banks find themselves in a position of being unable to trust each other on virtually any transaction.

When that happens, the flow of credit, a.k.a. “liquidity,” dries up and you have a bona fide financial crisis. Nobody can pay anybody else. Nobody trusts anybody. Fortunes are lost. Elephants stomp around in distress, then keel over and die, and a lot of “little people” get crushed in the dusty ground.

The happy dance about low gasoline pump prices featured on Fox News, combined with the awful instability in currency markets, will cut a swathe of destruction through the shale oil “miracle.” That industry has been relying on high yield “junk” financing to perform its relentless drilling-and-fracking operations — imperative due to the extremely rapid depletion rate of shale oil wells. Across the board, shale oil production has not been a profitable venture since it was ramped up around 2006. Below $80 a barrel, chasing profit only becomes more difficult for those who couldn’t make a profit at $100. A lot of those junk bond “investments” are about to become worthless, and the “investment community” will lose its appetite for any more of it. That will leave the US government as the investor of last resort. Expect that to be the object of the next round of Quantitative Easing. The ultimate destination of these shenanigans will be the sovereign debt crisis of 2015.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Kunstler: The Fate of the Turtle

Kunstler: The Fate of the Turtle.

Anybody truly interested in government, and therefore politics, should be cognizant above all that ours have already entered systemic failure. The management of societal affairs is on an arc to become more inept and ineffectual, no matter how either of the current major parties pretends to control things. Instead of Big Brother, government in our time turns out to be Autistic Brother. It makes weird noises and flaps its appendages, but can barely tie its own shoelaces.

The one thing it does exceedingly well is drain the remaining capital from endeavors that might contribute to the greater good. This includes intellectual capital, by the way, which, under better circumstances, might gird the political will to reform the sub-systems that civilized life depends on. These include: food production (industrial agri-business), commerce (the WalMart model), transportation (Happy Motoring), school (a matrix of rackets), medicine (ditto with the patient as hostage), and banking (a matrix of fraud and swindling).

All of these systems have something in common: they’ve exceeded their fragility threshold and crossed into the frontier of criticality. They have nowhere to go except failure. It would be nice if we could construct leaner and more local systems to replace these monsters, but there is too much vested interest in them. For instance, the voters slapped down virtually every major ballot proposition to invest in light rail and public transit around the country.* The likely explanation is that they’ve bought the story that shale oil will allow them to drive to WalMart forever.

That story is false, by the way. The politicos put it over because they believe the Wall Street fraudsters who are pimping a junk finance racket in shale oil for short-term, high-yield returns. The politicos want desperately to believe the story because the background reality is too difficult to contemplate: an American living arrangement with no future.

The public, of course, is eager to believe the same story for the same reasons, but at some point they’ll flip and blame the story-tellers, and their wrath could truly wreck what remains of this polity. When it is really too late to fix any of these things, they’ll beg someone to tell them what to do, and the job-description for that position is dictator.

It’s certainly remarkable that the years since the troubles of 2008 have been so seemingly placid and uneventful, at least here in the USA — not so much if you live in the Middle East or Ukraine, or in the decaying economies of southern Euroland, or the septic failed states of Africa. The many formerly-middle-class Americans living in economic ruin apparently blame themselves when, for instance, they’re billed tens of thousands of dollars for some routine surgery performed “out of network” by a bureaucratic happenstance. They must be punch-drunk with cable news, or over-medicated. Don’t expect this national mood of paralysis and surrender to last indefinitely.

What troubles me at the moment is that when that mood snaps, it will be for a bad reason in the wrong way. Ferguson, Mo., is still sitting there like an unattended back-pack on the courthouse steps. Before Christmas, some kind of grand jury decision is going to come down. All the reality-based chatter points to the probable exoneration of Darren Wilson, the policeman who shot teenager Michael Brown. I expect the trouble arising out of that to be a lot worse than most people currently suppose, and then we’ll literally be off to the races. If that happens, it will be a huge and tragic diversion from the things that really matter to keep the project of civilized life going. In a way, it will be the true beginning of the end. The end of what? Of pretending that the people in authority know what they are doing.

If you think that President Obama is lonely and bereft now, just wait. Some excuse will be found to try an impeach him and then the nation will spend another two years conducting a three-ring circus while the shale oil “miracle” crashes and burns and the banking system melts away to nothing. It’s been fun watching Mitch McConnell get ready to preside over all of this. History could not have found a less sympathetic patsy.

* See "6 Transportation Ballot Initiatives to Watch Next Tuesday", Streetsblog USA. Also on Streetsblog, a roundup of articles on what happened to some of those initiatives. For example, "Voters Reject Greenlight Pinellas", Tampa Bay Times).--P.Z.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

I came down with a cold on Tuesday. Though I'm still sick I feel much better than I did. I still want to write on my trips to Sacramento and Honolulu. Till then, here are some links to archivists on Twitter.

Soc Amer Archivists (@archivists_org) | Twitter‎CachedSimilar

@archivesnext/Archivists on Twitter on Twitter‎Cached Subscribe to Archivists on Twitter .... Wish more companies when they get rid of
archives programs would donate records to an archives @BASarchivists.

Ask Archivists (@AskArchivists) | Twitter‎CachedSimilar
The latest Tweets from Ask Archivists (@AskArchivists).

Archivists (@Archivists) | Twitter‎CachedSimilar
The latest Tweets from Archivists (@Archivists). This is not SAA's account--follow them at @archivists_org.

Archivists' Toolkit (@ArchToolkit) | Twitter‎CachedSimilar
The Archivists' Toolkit™(AT) is an open-source archives data management system.

Aust Archivists (@ausarchivists) | Twitter‎CachedSimilar
The latest Tweets from Aust Archivists (@ausarchivists). The Australian Society of Archivists.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Another Kunstler Column

Another Kunstler column.

I was offline till Friday the 31st, so I'm belatedly posting Monday's column by Kunstler, which deals with financial shenanigans.

Our Honolulu Trip

We went to Honolulu from Thursday through Monday. In addition to our trip to Sacramento, I'll write soon about our vacation thereto.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Very Busy, But I Hope to Post Soon

Especially on my trip to Sacramento. In the meantime, here's a great link.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ferguson Protests

Kunstler: Must Be the Season of the Witch

6 October 2014

Kunstler: Must Be the Season of the Witch

Must Be the Season of the Witch

As the Governor goblins at the Federal Reserve whistle past the graveyard of dead Quantitative Easing, and the US dollar magically expands like a prickly puffer fish, and Mario Drahgi does what it takes with Euro duct tape to patch all black holes of unpayable debt from Athens to Dublin, and Japan watches its once-wondrous economy congeal in a puddle of Abenomic sludge (with a radioactive cherry on top), and China chokes on its dollar-peg, and Russia waits patiently with its old friend, Winter, covering its back — and notwithstanding the violent chaos, beheadings, and psychopathic struggles across the old Levant, not to mention the doubling of Ebola cases every 20 days, which the World Health Organization did not have the nerve to project beyond 1.2 million in January (does the doubling just stop there?) — there is enough instability around the globe for the gentlemen of Wall Street to make one last fabulous fortune arbitraging the future before the boomerang of consequence circles this suffering planet and finally accomplishes what the Department of Justice under Eric Holder failed to do for six long years.

It’s the season of witch and you should be nervous. Especially if you live in part of the world where money is used. Pretty soon nobody will know what any currency is really worth — at least for a while — or what anything else is worth, for that matter. Perhaps the fishermen of India will start using their worthless gold for sinkers. Jay-Z and Diddy will gaze down on their bling in despair, thinking, perhaps, they should have invested in Betamax players instead. In the time of anything-goes-and-nothing-matters, it’s dangerous to expect anything.

Here’s what I expect: the surge of the dollar is the crest of an historic Great Wave. A Great Wave is an awesome event, and its crest is a majestic sight, but soon the foam spits and hisses and the wave breaks and crashes down on the beach — say, out at the Hamptons — where hedge funders stroll to catch the last dwindling rays of a beautiful season, and all of a sudden they are being swept out to sea in the rip-tide that retracts all that lovely green liquidity, and no one is even left on the beach to weep for them. Indeed their Robert A. M. Stern shingled manor houses up behind the dunes are swept away, too, and the tennis courts, and the potted hydrangeas, and the Teslas, and all the temporal bric-a-brac of their uber-specialness.

And, of course, it being the season of the witch, that’s where the zombies come out for real — the tattooed savages who all this time have been stewing in their own rancid juices awaiting their turn to get jiggy with the nation that left them restlessly undead. I don’t think you can overestimate the depth of ill-feeling that the American public harbors for the cravens who engineered their USA into the biggest booby-trap the world has ever seen. The trouble is, they lost their humanity in the process, so when they have their way with the feckless folks tweaking the dials, you might want to contemplate moving to Finland.

Who can feel confident about the tending of things just now? The diminishing returns of the Information Age are about to bite our collective ass like an army of Orcs. The sum of all that digital magic is a nation completely incapable of telling itself the truth or acting honorably. Unemployment is down without employment being up. Candy Crush is making the world safe for democracy. We have the finest health care system in the world. ISIS is trying to compete with our homegrown videogame industry for supremacy in porno-violence (actually, I thought we already won that) but now we will obliterate all the bad guys in the world by remote control from the drone bunkers of Las Vegas, and that will show them. Thank goodness the long holiday season is almost upon us to juice the so-called economy ever-higher.

There has never been a crazier moment in history. The weeks before the outbreak of the First World War seem like a garden party compared to the morbid antics of these darkening days. America, you’ve been wishing fervently for the Zombie Apocalypse. What happens when you discover you can’t just change the channel?

Kunstler: Real Life is Not Spin Art

Kunstler: Real Life is Not Spin Art.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

An Account of My Trip to Sacramento is Forthcoming

It's been very busy so I haven't had a chance to write the detailed post about the trip I'd like to. But soon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kress Cinema Closed Last Night

Kress Cinema closed last night. It will be renovated into a pace for Church on a Sure Foundation, which is in the Prince Kuhio Plaza across from IHOP. However, Pier 1 Imports is taking over that space and the church has to find a new home.

Kress opened in early on 8 December 1995 (5 December, I think, but let me confirm that) as the fanciest theater in town. In context: The Waiakea Kai three-screen theater had been operating since 1981 (again, let me check) and the Prince Kuhio Plaza theater was still a two-screener. The Palace hadn't yet reopened. When the Kress opened, it was a big deal, and for a few years, was the premier theater in Hilo. The Palace reopened to great fanfare in November 1998 as an arthouse, but in late 1999 it was Prince Kuhio theater's renovation and expansion from two to nine screens that turned things upside down. Since its reopening, the Kuhio theater, also known as Prince Kuhio Stadium Cinemas (after its stadium seating inspired by the Palace's own), has enjoyed status as the top cinema in Hilo. Waiakea Kai theater was relegated to bargain showings of second-run movies until it closed in the early 2000s (when exactly, I'm not sure).

That left the Kress: As ticket prices rose over the years, the Kress showed movies for around a dollar. Some of the movies shown were already on video but people went to the Kress to watch films they missed at the Kuhio or to save money. I classified movies to watch as ones to rush out and see, wait till it comes to the Kress, wait till it comes on video, wait till it comes on TV.

The Kress grew shabbier over the years but no one expected it to close.

More later.

Yelp reviews.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Scottish Independence

The struggle for Scottish independence is not over.

I saw one of the Scottish independence spokespeople interviewed on the BBC. A Sikh, he was wearing a powder-blue turban, a blue T-shirt with a Scottish emblem, and a kilt, I think, but it was hard to see.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Kunstler: Barbarism versus Stupidism

Kunstler: Barbarism versus Stupidism.

In my lifetime, the USA has not blundered into a more incoherent, feckless, and unfavorable foreign policy quandary than we see today.

The US-led campaign to tilt Ukraine to Euroland and NATO — and away from the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union — turned an “intelligence” fiasco into a strategic humiliation for the Obama White House. Notice that the story has vamoosed utterly from the American media headlines, even when the Russian Engineers’ Union issued a report last week asserting that the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was most likely shot down by 30mm cannon fire from Ukrainian military aircraft. The USA State Department didn’t deign to refute it because doing so would have drawn attention to the fact that it was the only plausible explanation for what happened.

Likewise, the campaign to paint Vladimir Putin as Stalin-in-a-judo-robe never really reached take-off velocity, since by all appearances he was the most rational and cool-headed actor on the geopolitical stage, following logical and long-established national interests. If the West had just left Ukraine alone, and allowed it to join the Eurasian Customs Union, that basket-case nation would have been Russia’s economic ward. Now the US and the EU have to support it with billions in loans that will never be paid back. Meanwhile, our European allies have been snookered into a set of economic and financial sanctions against Russia that guarantees they’ll be starved for oil and gas supplies in the winter months ahead. Smooth move.

So, the reason that all this has vanished from the news media is that it’s game-over in Ukraine. We busted it up, and can do more with it, and pretty soon the rump Ukraine region run out of Kiev will go crawling back to Russia begging for a little heating fuel.

Does any tattoo-free American adult outside the Kardashian-NFL mass hypnosis matrix feel confident about the trajectory of US policy regarding the so-called Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL)? First, there is the astonishing humiliation that this ragtag band of psychopaths managed to undo ten years, 4,500 US battle deaths, and $1+ trillion worth of nation-building effort in Iraq in a matter of a few weeks this summer. The US public does not seem to have groked the damage to our honor, self-confidence, and international standing in this debacle.

So, now we’re going to just deal “death from above” on the Black Flaggers across that stretch of their captured territory that runs from Iraq into Syria — violating Syria’s sovereignty in the process, of course. My guess is that such an operation will inspire them to bring the action straight to Europe, the USA, and the grand prize, Saudi Arabia. The movement is too broad now, includes too many psychopaths from all over the world (Europe especially) who hold passports that will enable them to travel easily out of the Middle East and export mayhem wherever they want to bring it.

The USA is stuck within so many pathways of systems criticality in this fall of 2014, that is sure to be expressed in our own internal politics very soon. We’re all set up for a classic state of siege with the Pentagon militarizing every Podunk police department in the land, and one can easily imagine a single IS operation aimed at some soft American target shoving us into hysteria.

While all this is happening, of course, Wall Street and its hand-maidens rev up the engines of malinvestment and bid up false values of things that will do nothing to get us safely into the economy of real things that awaits us. That economy of real things I speak of does not include many of the comforts and conveniences we’re used to — mass motoring, national chain retail, air-conditioning for all, 24/7 electric service — but it’s where we’re going. As reality drags us kicking and screaming toward it, the likelihood of a domestic political convulsion increases. We’ll look back on these weirdly placid years after the 2008 train wreck with amazement. These are the rudderless years of no leadership, of cowardly dissimulating midgets. A people can only take so much of that.

Finance is the weakest link in the chain of systems that allows us to run the old economy. It’s the system most abstracted from reality and the most easily manipulated into ever-greater abstraction. Hence it’s the system most easily subject to fatal slippage. And all it takes to set off the slipping is a simple loss of faith.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pictures from the Aftermath of the Scottish Independence Referendum


The Scottish independence movement has inspired and encouraged similar ones worldwide, including in Okinawa.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Kunstler: The Era of Bad Feeling

This time seems like the late thirties, full of international menace, or the late seventies, with all its oddness.

Kunstler: The Era of Bad Feeling.

There are times when events are in charge, not personalities. [Kunstler doesn't mention the lava flow approaching Pahoa, but that's definitely an event in charge. Iselle, and now this, are giving people a taste of the Long Emergency.--P.Z.] The unseen forces that hold the affairs of nations and economies in equilibrium dissolve, particles fly out of the many centers, and things heat up toward criticality.

Glance in the rear-view mirror and say goodbye to the Era of Wishful Thinking. This was the time when the USA was inspired by its Master Wish: to be able to keep driving to Wal-Mart forever. Looked at closely, the contemporary idea of Utopia was always a shabby package. On one side, all the pointless driving. For most Americans it was nothing like the TV advertising fantasy of a lone luxury car plying a coastal highway in low, golden light. More like being stuck near the junction of I-55 and I-90 in Chicago at rush hour in July in an overheating Dodge Grand Caravan with three screaming ADD kids whose smart phone batteries just died — plus your fiercely over-filled bladder and no empty Snapple bottle to resort to.

On the other side, there’s the Wal-Mart part: the unbelievable cornucopia of insanely cheap plastic goodies, like, somewhere in the 1990s America became one giant loading dock for nearly free stuff. Wasn’t that fun? Now, everybody has got the full rig, from the flatscreen to the salad shooter, but we’re tired of seeing Kim Kardashian’s booty, and nobody really liked salad, even when you could shoot the stuff into a bowl. The thrill is gone, and so is the paycheck that was your ticket to the orgy. It’s especially gloomy over in the food department, where the boxes of Lucky Charms are suddenly half the weight and twice the price. And that was going to be the family dinner! Must be Nature’s way of telling you it’s time for a new tattoo.

In this weird liminal time since the so-called Crash of 2008 leadership has depended on lies and subterfuges to prop up the illusion of resilience. One biggie is the shale oil revolution, kind of a national parlor trick to wow the multitudes for a long enough moment to convince them that their troubles with the national energy supply are over. Even people paid to think were hosed on this one. Wait until they discover that the shale oil producers have never made a buck producing shale oil, only on the sale of leases and real estate to “greater fools” and creaming off the froth of the complex junk financing deals behind their exertions. Expect that mirage to dissipate in the next 24 months, perhaps sooner if the price of oil keeps sinking toward the sub $90-a-barrel level, where there’s no economically rational reason to bother drilling and fracking.

The lies, frauds, and cons run between the axis of Wall Street and Washington had two fatal consequences with still-lagging effects. 1) They destroyed the capacity for markets to establish the real price of anything — rendering markets useless. 2). They disabled capital formation to the degree that we might not have the money to rebuild an economy to replace the “financialized” matrix of rackets that currently pretends to function. A lot of observers like myself have been waiting for the moment when the fog of pretense lifts and exposes all the broken machinery within. We may be so close now that you can smell it.

Change is in the air, literally, as we wake this still-summer morning with the thermometer so low you wish the furnace was prepped and ready to run. Much is in the air, too, where the news of events near and far provoke swirls of transformation in the disposition of people, nations, and affairs. Who would have guessed a few years ago how nervous Scotland would make the whole Western world? The sharpies at the Pentagon, and the White House, and the CIA may be waiting with indigestion and palpitations for the next ISIS decapitation video, but maybe you have to wonder instead which of five thousand shopping malls across this land will be visited by black-flagged desperados armed with automatic rifles and RPG’s.

Finally, there are the people themselves of this sclerotic polity: too dumb and distracted to help themselves, full of inchoate grievance and resentment, tending ever deeper into darkness. Welcome to the season of the witch in the Era of Bad Feeling. Somewhere “out there” there is a light of virtue waiting for us, but we are a long way from finding our way to it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Scottish Independence Referendum">A guide.

(An account of my trip to Sacramento is forthcoming.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ishmael Reed would concur. He's pointed out white pathology for years. Paul Fussell would add that money and class aren't necessarily synonymous. #BADpeople

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kunstler: Down the Memory Hole

The summer's news cycle was spinning rapidly. News came up and disappeared, leaving all sorts of unanswered questions. Where's the follow-up? Where's the analysis? Meanwhile, I have photos from my first trip to the mainland, and I plan to have more about it soon.

Kunstler: Down the Memory Hole.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Kunstler: Busybody Nation

I plan to have some photos and a lot of writing about my trip soon. For now, this is Kunstler's latest column. Happy Labor Day.

Kunstler: Busybody Nation.

I f anyone above a kindergarten pay-grade has figured out America’s vital interest in the Ukraine, it has not been reported — or even leaked from the foundering vessel that is the US State Department. In fact, when you consider the results, it’s hard to understand the rationale behind any recent US foreign policy endeavor. Mr. Putin of Russia summed it up last week, saying, “Anything the US touches turns to Libya or Iraq.” Vlad has a point there, and what he left off the list, of course, was Ukraine, which entered the zone of failing states a few months ago when the US lubricated the overthrow of its previously-elected government.

What complicates things is that Ukraine is right next door to Russia. For many years it was even part of the same nation as Russia. Russia has a lot of hard assets in Ukraine: pipelines, factories, port facilities. Because they were recently part of the same nation, a lot of Russian-speaking people live in the eastern part of Ukraine bordering Russia. The casual observer from Mars might easily discern that Russia has a range of real interests in Ukraine. Especially if the central government of Ukraine can’t control its own economic affairs.

The US claims to have interests in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. These nations are respectively 11,925, 11,129, 10,745, and 10,072, miles away from America — not exactly neighbors of ours. All of them, one way or another, and partly due to our exertions, are checking into the homeless shelter of failed statedom. Afghanistan was, shall we say, a special case, since it was being used thirteen years ago explicitly as a “base” (al Qaeda) for launching attacks on US soil. But that was then. No other war or “war” in US history has lasted as long. And it remains unclear whether our presence there yet today is a “nation-building” project or a mere occupation, in the absence of some better idea of what to do.

President Obama has made noises about pulling US troops out of Afghanistan, but we’re still there. How is the nation-building project working out? With Mr. Osama bin Laden dead and in his watery grave, and the Islamic extremist action moved to other venues, how significant is Afghanistan’s role as a strategic base for Jihad?

How many educated, media-marinated professors in their Ivy League turrets can explain in one paragraph what the necessity of overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi was, exactly? Anyone remember? I suppose, like many actions in history, it just seemed like a good idea at the time. If the idea was to keep the oil and gas flowing to western nations — i.e. the “Carter Doctrine” —well, excuse me while I cough into my sleeve. Production is about one-eighth what it was before Mr. Gaddafi exited the scene. That really worked.

Then, of course, there is ISIS (or the Islamic State or the Caliphate), the most visible outcome of a decade of US foreign policy endeavors in Iraq and Syria. Good show, ladies and gentlemen! You have managed to give the world a political movement arguably more barbaric than even the Nazis. On Sunday, The New York Times stood back in breathless admiration for the accomplishments and skills of that organization in the headline: ISIS Displaying a Deft Command of Varied Media. Like a mad scientist in thrall to his own creation, the Times appears dazzled by the political Frankenstein monster we have loosed upon the world.

Considering all the current mayhem in the Middle East, and the potential for deadly mischief from it spreading even into the US and western Europe, do we really have any business hassling Putin and Russia about its feckless, floundering next-door-neighbor, Ukraine? In fact, is any other nation in a better position to prevent Ukraine from descending into full-blown failure? Why don’t we just shut up and mind our own business?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Links While I Catch Up

I plan to post a detailed account of my trip to California. For now, though, a few links.

If it goes into effect, California's ban on plastic bags would be the first statewide plastic-bag ban in the country. Good thing we went when we did. I plan to use and reuse the few bags we got with our purchases.

On the eve of the 49th Annual MDA marathon, a question: Has the Ice Bucket Challenge Turned Us All In[to] Jerry Lewis?

As lava oozes in Puna, the folks at explain what would happen if the supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park suddenly erupted. It would affect the 48 contiguous states. Lucky we live Hawaii.

There's No Place Like Home

I went to the mainland for the first time last week Thursday and stayed till this Tuesday. Specifically, I went with my father, sister, and a family friend to attend my uncle's funeral. He died earlier this month and, upon getting the news, my family made plans to travel to Sacramento, where my uncle had lived for many years.

This trip was not only my first trip to the mainland, but it was the first off-island one I've taken in the twenty-first century and the first since the TSA was established.

Much more soon.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

So Much to Do

This month has been a quite busy one, and I'm still catching up with work. But I hope to share some big news here soon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Riots Next Door

The Riots Next Door at Queen Mediocretia's Mocklog.

Check it out.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kunstler: Mr. Bad Example

Kunstler takes on the Michael Brown shooting and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri. I don't agree with his view.

Kunstler: Mr. Bad Example

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams: Some Notes

Like everyone else in the world, I know about Robin Williams's death. I found out about it on Monday afternoon on MSNBC. At the peak of his fame (1989-1998) he was everywhere. Hattie points out that he was inspired by Jonathan Winters, but I think he had a style all his own. (Jonathan Winters had a "grandma" character, and I wonder if that led to Mrs. Doubtfire. And Winters appeared on Mork and Mindy as a baby, if I recall.) Much to write about. I remember seeing Dead Poets' Society one Sunday at the movies, and on the way home, as we drove up Ponahawai about to turn onto Komohana, we felt an earthquake.

Other movies of his that I liked: The World According to Garp, The Fisher King.

More later.

Angela Bofill, "I Try"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kunstler: Global Nausea

Kunstler is incredulous that the United States is going back to Iraq.

Any American influence left in Iraq should focus on rebuilding the credibility of national institutions.

– Editorial, The New York Times

Gosh, isn’t that what we spent eight years, 4,500 lives, and $1.7 trillion doing? And how did that work out? The Iraq war is just like the US financial system. The people in charge can’t imagine writing off their losses. Which, from the policy standpoint, leaves the USA pounding sand down so many rat holes that there may be no ground left to stand on anywhere. We’ll be lucky if our national life doesn’t soon resemble The Revenge of the Mole People.

The arc of this story points to at least one likely conclusion: the dreadful day that ISIS (shorthand for whatever they call themselves) overruns the US Green Zone in Baghdad. Won’t that be a nauseating spectacle? Perhaps just in time for the 2014 US elections. And what do you suppose the policy meeting will be like in the White House war room the day after?

Will anyone argue that the USA just take a break from further operations in the entire Middle East / North Africa region? My recommendation would be to stand back, do nothing, and see what happens — since everything we’ve done so far just leaves things and lives shattered. Let’s even say that ISIS ends up consolidating power in Iraq, Syria, and some other places. The whole region will get a very colorful demonstration of what it is like to live under an 11th century style psychopathic despotism, and then the people left after the orgy of beheading and crucifixion can decide if they like it. The experience might be clarifying.

In any case, what we’re witnessing in the Middle East — apparently unbeknownst to the newspapers and the cable news orgs — is what happens in extreme population overshoot: chaos, murder, economic collapse. The human population in this desolate corner of the world has expanded on the artificial nutriment of oil profits, which have allowed governments to keep feeding their people, and maintaining an artificial middle class to work in meaningless bureaucratic offices where, at best, they do nothing and, at worst, hassle their fellow citizens for bribes and payoffs.

There is not a nation on earth that is preparing intelligently for the end of oil — and by that I mean 1) the end of cheap, affordable oil, [Emphasis mine.--P.Z.] and 2) the permanent destabilization of existing oil supply lines. Both of these conditions should be visible now in the evolving geopolitical dynamic, but nobody is paying attention, for instance, in the hubbub over Ukraine. That feckless, unfortunate, and tragic would-be nation, prompted by EU and US puppeteers, just replied to the latest trade sanction salvo from Russia by declaring it would block the delivery of Russian gas to Europe through pipelines on its territory. I hope everybody west of Dnepropetrovsk is getting ready to burn the furniture come November. But that just shows how completely irrational the situation has become… and I stray from my point.

Which is that in the worst case that ISIS succeeds in establishing a sprawling caliphate, they will never be able to govern it successfully, only preside over an awesome episode of bloodletting and social collapse. This is especially true in what is now called Saudi Arabia, with its sclerotic ruling elite clinging to power. If and when the ISIS maniacs come rolling in on a cavalcade of You-Tube beheading videos, what are the chances that the technicians running the oil infrastructure there will stick around on the job? And could ISIS run all that machinery themselves? I wouldn’t count on it. And I wouldn’t count on global oil supply lines continuing to function in the way the world requires them to. If you’re looking for the near-future spark of World War Three, start there.

By the way, the US is no less idiotic than Ukraine. We’ve sold ourselves the story that shale oil will insulate us from all the woes and conflicts breaking out elsewhere in the world over the dissolving oil economy paradigm. The shale oil story is false. By my reckoning we have about a year left of the drive-to-Walmart-economy before the public broadly gets what trouble we’re in. The amazing thing is that the public might get to that realization even before its political leadership does. That dynamic leads straight to the previously unthinkable (not for 150 years, anyway) breakup of the United States.

Later, I might post something about the damage in Puna from T.S. Iselle. In particular, the lack of electricity. This is a taste of the Long Emergency.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Natural Gas is the Fuel of the Future

according to an article from 1885 quoted here.

I just found this link today. deals with reviews of journalism, and I might add this to my list of links.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Election Called for Ige

Not all the results are in but there is such a wide percentage gulf between David Ige and Neil Abercrombie (67%-32%) that HawaiiNewsNow has called the election for Ige. If this holds and Ige wins the Democratic primary, it will make Abercrombie the first incumbent governor in Hawaii to lose re-election.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Alyson Williams, "She's Not Your Fool" (Embedding disabled by request.)

Iselle comes today. Stay safe.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

"America's Press Needs to Stop Fawning Over Big Donors

"America's Press Needs to Stop Fawning Over Big Donors." Yes they do.

In other news, a hurricane watch has been declared. Yet the sky is still blue.

Puna Politics

The County Council district five race is one of the ugliest I've seen.

Monday, August 04, 2014

George Michael: "Too Funky"

5 August update: The video's director, the French-German designer Thierry Mugler, originally had a racier version, unreleased till early 2013.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Get On Up

Armond White's review of Get On Up.

It looks much better than Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lucy, or Guardians of the Galaxy.

Will the movie include this?

3-D Printing, How to Classify Books on

How to classify books on 3-D printing.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Take Back The Times

I've just found this blog,TakeBackTheTimes, about The Los Angeles Times. The blog is no longer updated and its author, a former writer for The Times, has died, but it is still online.

Big Island Weekly Closes

On Wednesday I noticed the new issue of Big Island Weekly was out. Its headline read "Bye Bye, Big Island." At first I thought it was a cover story on people leaving the Big Island. As I picked it up I saw the subheadline: Your Alternative Weekly is Pau.

A Big Island Chronicle commentary on the closing of Big Island Weekly.

More later.

Kunstler on Gaza and the World at Large

This is a belated posting of Kunstler's two columns on the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict. Kunstler takes an extremely harsh view of Palestinians, one I disavow. But if you're interested in a very contrary, and frankly, wrongheaded, perspective, here it is. Take it with a grain lump of salt.

Kunstler: Excuse Me for Living

Kunstler: War Zones

And this is today's column,
"All Hell,"
where Kunstler says everything is to going to Hades in a handbasket.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Yma Sumac, "Tumpa"

I've heard of her but never heard her sing--till today.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sam & Cat: The Series Finale

The series finale of Sam & Cat aired today (Thursday) at 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time. The episode, "#GettinWiggy", went like this:

Dice (Cameron Ocasio), the neighbor boy renowned for his "amazing hair", has a shot at making the cover of a magazine and thus boosting his hair-modeling career. The gig is in Phoenix. Because he's only twelve, Dice needs a chaperone. His mother and aunt are ill with coyote fever so Cat (Ariana Grande) agrees to take him there. Sam (Jennette McCurdy) plans on going with them, but her criminal record precludes her from entering Arizona, as well as Utah, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. So it seems she'll be all by her lonesome for the weekend.

Meanwhile, Nona (Maree Cheatham), Cat's grandmother, had to vacate her apartment in a retirement home called Elderly Acres while it was being fumigated for pests. She asks if she may stay at her former apartment, which she shared with Cat (in the pilot episode, Sam encouraged Nona to move to Elderly Acres). Cat enthusiastically agrees, to Sam's dismay.

Cat and Dice arrive at the photo shoot, where Dice finds he has to contend not only with several other hair models, but the top hair model in the world, a teenage boy with a long, silky blond coif. The high-strung photographer fawns over the blond guy's hair, and Cat just knows it must be a wig. She pretends to look for a dropped contact lens and has Dice turn on a giant fan (to give models that windblown look) in hopes of blowing off the kid's wig. It only succeeds in giving him an artfully disheveled look that the photographer adores.

Back home, Sam is talking to someone on her cell phone as she enters the house, resigned to having for lunch a half-eaten bag of potato chips she found on the road. Then she looks at the counter. A veritable feast is presented by Nona: fried chicken, ribs, macaroni with (four kinds of) cheese, and ice cream with all kinds of toppings, including strawberry gravy. Overcome with joy, Sam hopes that if she's dreaming she never wants to wake up. Later, Sam remembers she has to get up early to babysit the Franklin twins, but Nona offers to take over so Sam can sleep in. Nona even did Sam's laundry. Picking up a piece of clothing, Sam marvels that she "got the stink out."

In Phoenix, the blond guy is chosen for the magazine cover, which angers Cat, convinced as she is that he's an impostor. She jumps atop him and tries to pull off his wig, which is his natural hair. As Cat plucks out lock after lock before the horrified onlookers, the police move in.

Nona has managed to get the Franklin twins asleep, thanks to warm milk and turkey juice. The fumigation at Elderly Acres was successful and the residents can all return, so Nona is preparing to go home. Sam's phone rings. A frantic Dice tells her first the good news: he made the magazine cover (with blond guy practically scalped by Cat, Dice, the runner-up, now has his big break); Sam couldn't care less. Then the bad news: Cat is being arrested, and blond guy, shown moaning on a stretcher, is going to a "scalp hospital." Cat could stay in jail for two weeks, and Dice is likely stranded for the duration of Cat's imprisonment. He asks Sam to have Nona come to Phoenix to bail out Cat and bring them home.

Sam pauses to think. She tells Nona that Cat and Dice will be in Arizona for two more weeks and Cat thinks it would be nice if Nona stuck around for a while. Then Sam plops on the sofa.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sam & Cat

Some of you reading this may never have heard of Sam & Cat, or iCarly or Victorious, let alone watched them. You may have been engrossed in Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, or other prestige shows of that ilk. Learning of the show's cancellation, you wonder, Where did it all go wrong?

Calling Dan Schneider the Norman Lear of children's TV is a stretch, but both are adept at creating suites of programs connected by characters, with distinct styles and worldviews.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kunstler: Struggle to the Death

In which Kunstler assesses the conflict between Israel and Palestine. (Have he and Max Blumenthal ever met? What would a debate between them be like?)

Kunstler: Struggle to the Death.

For public consumption, the fatuous haircut-in-search-of-a-brain, a.k.a. Secretary of State John Kerry, hauled out the dog-eared playbook for “negotiating a ceasefire” between the Palestinian Hamas leadership and Israel. Neither side takes him seriously, of course. In this historic moment of Islamic uproar across the entire region, Hamas is just following the larger script: act up and act out.

They would like to catch the momentum of rampaging ISIS next door, but Hamas is not a mobile force of mostly young male psychopaths. They’re stuck in Gaza embedded among their women and children doing what they can to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. For the moment that means lobbing rockets from launch sites planted among the homes and institutions of daily life in the densely urbanized Gaza strip.

So far in the current offensive, they’ve launched over 700 missiles at Israel. Some of the rockets, purchased through the world’s arms bazaar from China, are powerful enough to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But they are poorly-targeted and Israel’s “iron dome” anti-missile system can intercept some of them before they land on anything.

Unlike previous offensives, when Hamas rocketeers could set up mobile Qassam missiles in alleyways or rooftops, and beat it a few minutes after firing, the new larger rockets require sturdier installations. Thus they can be systematically discovered and targeted. Hamas is quite willing to sacrifice the women and children who eat and sleep around their rocket installations for the propaganda value of pretending that they were not deliberately put in harm’s way.

Israel has accepted the reality that Hamas deliberately uses its own people as human shields and has opted to destroy the missile-launch sites in any case, because the alternative is to give Hamas free reign in bombarding Israel. One would think that world opinion would understand this equation. But there is little sympathy for Israel’s predicament, and little appreciation for Hamas’s calculated ruthlessness vis-à-vis its own people.

The birth-rate in Gaza is among the highest in the world. If it is a deliberate result of social policy, it is a cruel bargain for the Palestinians, who are apparently regarded as expendable by the Hamas leadership. In a culture that glorifies suicide bombings, routine human sacrifice must be normal, though to a Western sensibility it seems tragic.

It shapes up as a struggle to the death that will not be impeded by reason, the good intentions of others, or sentimentality. What Israel remembers is that nobody was on the side of its people in 1939 and they’ll be damned to make the same mistake of not fighting back again. This certainly sets up a situation of extreme political danger in the region, but no more now than the ISIS juggernaut, or the larger beef between the two basic branches of Islam, or the fate of the fragile Saud monarchy.

This is not a region of the world than can support large populations of human beings of any religious persuasion, and in the new age of extreme resource limits blind circumstance itself, more than personalities or doctrines, will determine who gets to inhabit what rockpile.

What’s changed is the perception that the USA has any role to play any longer even in the diplomatic theatrics. The Middle East is disintegrating faster than any polity in historical memory. It appears that, if anything, the USA has only succeeded in accelerating the process wherever we turn our attentions. Since the 1970s, we haven’t felt the ultimate consequence of trouble in that part of the world, which would be an interruption in the oil supply coming out of there.

Back then, there might have been something we could do about it. Now there is nothing we can do but stand on the sidelines and wait. In the meantime, wouldn’t it be a good idea to attend to our own problems, especially the critical need to prepare for American life in a post-oil world?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Malaika Adero

C-Span 2 was covering the Harlem Book Fair today. Malaika Adero, a writer and publishing executive, spoke about the state of black publishing.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Kunstler: We Are All Ninja Turtles Now

(Kunstler may or may not know of the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie.) I'll add photos and links to illustrate this essay. By his own admission, Kunstler doesn't understand women, and how women were, are, and will be affected by this "great unraveling." It's a story affecting men and women, and some women (especially politicians and executives) are at its center. Let women and men tell their stories.

(Here's a good overview of the fashions of the 2010s.)

Kunstler: We Are All Ninja Turtles Now

With lakes, swimming holes, rivers, and pools beckoning, I went to a sporting goods chain store at the mall — where else? — seeking a new bathing suit (pardon the quaint locution). The store was curiously named Dick’s. All they had were clown trunks. By this I mean a garment designed to hang somewhere around mid-calf, instantly transforming a normally-proportioned adult male into a stock slapstick character: the oafish man-child.

This being a commodious warehouse-style store, there was rack upon rack of different brands of bathing suits, all cut in the same clown style. I chanced by one of the sparsely-deployed employees and inquired if they had any swimming togs in a shorter cut.

“What you see is alls we got,” he said.

Even the Speedo brand had gone clown — except for the bikini brief, which I wore back during 30 years of lap-swimming, but which I deemed not quite okay for an elderly gentleman on the casual summer swim scene. So I left Dick’s without a new suit, but not before having a completely unsatisfying conversation with one of the managers.

“In the old days,” I explained, “bathing suits were designed to minimize the amount of cloth one dragged around in the water. These clown trunks you sell not only make a person look ridiculous, but they must be an awful drag in the water.”

“That’s what they send us,” he said. “It’s alls we got.”

The Fourth of July rolled in just in time to celebrate the disintegration of Iraq following our eight-year, three trillion dollar campaign to turn it into a suburb of Las Vegas. Me and my girl went over to the local fireworks show, held on the ballfield of a fraternal order lodge on the edge of town. The fire department had hung up a gigantic American Flag — like, fifty feet long! — off the erect ladder of their biggest truck, in case anybody forgot what country they were in. Personally, I was wondering what planet I was on. It was a big crowd, and every male in it was dressed in a clown rig.

The complete outfit, which has (oddly) not changed in quite a few years (suggesting the tragic trajectory we’re on), includes the ambiguous long-short pants, giant droopy T- shirt (four-year-olds have proportionately short legs and long torsos), “Sluggo” style stubble hair, sideways hat (or worn “cholo” style to the front ), and boat-like shoes, garments preferably all black, decorated with death-metal band logos [or, more likely, energy-drink logos; see previous link.--P.Z.]. You can see, perhaps, how it works against everything that might suggest the phrase: “competent adult here.” Add a riot of aggressive-looking tattoos in ninja blade and screaming skull motifs and you get an additional message: “sociopathic menace, at your service.” Finally, there is the question: just how much self-medication is this individual on at the moment? I give you: America’s young manhood. [And it seems the baggy look has been out of fashion for a few years now.--P.Z.]

Does it seem crotchety to dwell on appearances? Sorry. The public is definitely sending itself a message disporting itself as it does in the raiment of clowning. Here in one of the “fly-over” zones of America — 200 miles north of New York City — the financial economy is mythical realm like Shangri-La and the real economy is somewhere between the toilet and a rat hole. Under the tyranny of chain stores, there really is no true local commercial economy. The few jobs here are menial and nearly superfluous to the automatic workings of the giant companies.

I don’t have the statistics but I suspect a lot of the males around here are on federal disability payments, and probably in the psychological categories including “depression,” “learning disabilities,” “ADHD, and so on.” In such a situation, wouldn’t a person benefit from presenting himself as child-like, with a dash of menace? And wouldn’t it be advantageous to look that way all of the time, in case one was unexpectedly visited by a government employee?

Down in Brooklyn, a world away, the young men go about in their hipster uniforms: Pee Wee Herman cut casuals. They’re still role-playing “the smart kid in the class” even though they’ve been out of class for a decade. Their computer dreams of IPO glory are formulated with the tunnel-vision of science fair projects. Left out are the realities of the greater unraveling.

Women are not at the center of this story. Theirs is another story. Let some woman tell it before I get to it. {Emphasis mine.--P.Z.]

Never has a society entered an epochal transition with such unpreparedness.

Never has a society appeared so childishly decadent.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Oy, Bay!

Sci-fi movies not doing well, including the tremendously overrated Edge of Tomorrow.

Snowpiercer doesn't interest me either, but I'm intrigued by the gulf between its domestic and foreign box office receipts ($162,100 vs. $80,220,079!).

And compare the slate of movies atop this weekend's box office with those of thirty years ago. (I'll take Ghostbusters or even Ghostbusters 2 (1989) over Transformers 4 anytime.)

Video Rentals

Blockbuster opened in Hilo in July 1991 and closed almost 22 years later. It was displaced by Redbox and Netflix, but for a while it was the place to go for movies. It's being renovated into a branch of First Hawaiian Bank, which will open this fall. And the last movie-rental place in Hilo, Private Moments, though it offers mainstream movies, is slanted heavily towards "erotica."

The public library rents out DVDs, a dollar per item for seven days, and another dollar for another seven days. I'm watching a Filipino movie, Volta. I've seen it a few years ago and it still holds up.

Top of the Pops

Peter Jacques Band: "Mighty Fine"

The 1910 Fruitgum Company: "Simon Says"

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Possible Hydrox Revival

According to the Wikipedia page on Hydrox cookies, the biscuits (which preceded Oreos) might return to stores by the end of the year.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Iggy Azalea: "Fancy"

Currently the top song in the country.

Yesterday's Rachel Maddow Show

Watching The Rachel Maddow Show, one is certain to learn something, even if it's tangential to the matter being discussed. In her discussion of anti-abortion protests and violence, she mentioned courthouse shootings, one of which happened in 1918 in San Francisco, at the trial of eight Indian nationalists. I've never heard of this. More soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bookoff Hawaii

I just learned of this place while browsing on Yelp. It's another reason to go to Shirokiya the next time I'm in Honolulu.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kunstler: Hard Choices

In today's column, Kunstler takes a very steely look at immigration, especially emigration from Latin America. In The Long Emergency, he predicted that the Southwest, "[a] region built on the conquest of vast distances by the automobile, the conquest of unbelievable heat by air conditioning, and the conquest of thirst by heroic water diversion projects will find itself hot, thirsty, and stranded. ...Deeper into the twenty-first century, [it] will revert to being a barely habitable arid scrubland. ...Whether the region is nominally under the jurisdiction of the Mexican government or the United States may not matter very much. All but the last stragglers will have left, just as the Aztecs did around A.D. 1100."

This slideshow gives an idea of what the depopulating Southwest would look like. This is worth a look, too.

In short, few people, immigrant or native-born, will live there. If he'd pointed that out in today's column, Kunstler would have made a stronger argument.

Kunstler is wrong about the motives of the Immigration Act of 1924. Meant to preserve a common American culture with northern European origins (especially British ones), the law was "aimed at further restricting immigration of Southern Europeans, Eastern Europeans, and Jews, in addition to prohibiting the immigration of Arabs, East Asians, and Indians." Outright population control wasn't the goal.

Kunstler: Hard Choices

The New York Times editors seem to think that if they tell enough sob stories about illegal immigrants in their ongoing sentimental series “The Way North,” that the national debate will turn into a giant pity party and the nirvana of a human peaceable kingdom will come true, with no consequences — except for more interesting cuisine in states that formerly subsisted on Salisbury steak and pie.

The New York Times, like just about every other institution in the progressive orbit, has surrendered its collective brain to a morass of feelings, longings, and promptings that leads ever deeper into a wasteland of dishonesty. As a long-time registered Democrat who started voting in the year of Watergate, I resent being taken for a ride to the place where anything goes and nothing matters. And especially where nothing matters less than clear thinking and straight talk.

We could start with the practice — especially popular on National Public Radio — by which illegal immigrants are called “undocumented,” as if some unjust bureaucratic mistake was made in their journey across the border and to blame them for it amounts to persecution. It is really too obvious to belabor, except to say that the cumulative effect of such programmatic lying, day after day, will eventually discredit the basic principles of social justice, if it hasn’t already.

The popular story is that America was built by immigrants and that therefore everything about immigration is good and leads to a more successful society. This narrative is so devoid of historical context that it should embarrass anyone beyond a second-grade education. In fact, the surplus populations of industrializing European countries were off-loaded onto a more sparsely-populated New World that also happened to be in the throes of rapid industrialization (including industrial farming), offered a lot of cheap land under plain terms, and held a bonanza of untapped resource wealth in everything from timber to iron ore.

A few things that progressives leave out of the story these days: immigration was rigorously controlled at its ports of entry, and particularly at the height of immigration between the 1880s and the 1920s. A lot of people may have been pouring in from foreign lands, but they were carefully scrutinized on the way in, and not a few were sent back. Secondarily, these immigrants were required to assimilate into a recognizable common culture. There was no handwringing over the question of whether children from Italy or Lithuania should have to learn how to read, write, and speak in the English language. A strong consensus required it of them, and it must be fair to say that most of them were eager to enter that new common culture. We also conveniently forget that immigration quotas were severely restricted in 1924, not out of meanness, as the sentimentalists would suppose, but because the public and its representatives correctly apprehended that the situation had changed in some of its obvious particulars, requiring a consensus about limits.

In the 21st century, The USA is no longer sparsely populated, except in the regions that are typically hostile to settlement anywhere else in the world — places where there is no water, or too hot, or too cold, or too swampy. North America is a settled continent at a moment in history when virtually every nation including the USA can be fairly considered over-populated. It is also too obvious to belabor the point that fossil fuels have produced an algae bloom of human reproduction and that, whether we like it or not, the decline of fossil fuel is certain to lead to a decrease in human population. The question is how disorderly and cruel that journey might be if we don’t make the management of contraction a supreme political priority. And managing the movement of people into this country is a necessary part of that.

Currently, progressive America is pretending that the conditions of the 19th century still prevail here — boundless material resources and land for the taking — and that we can happily accommodate the overflow from our equally overpopulated neighbors, Mexico and the countries of Central America, any way they can manage to get here. The sentimental approach as represented by The New York Times, is exactly what will prevent the kind of hard choices that national leadership is faced with. Both established political parties could founder on this issue.

It’s rather funny that the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016 titled her current book Hard Choices, because that is the chief pretense of the party she represents. The last thing Hillary wants to do is take a stand on anything, other than her entitlement to live in the White House.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I've been quite busy this week, but I managed to check out my usual websites. Louis Proyect posted a link to this discussion at the Left Forum about fracking.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Also available here:

Kunstler: "Heads: You Lose"

Kunstler speculates on the economic and geopolitical results of the ISIS insurgency in Iraq.

Kunstler: "Heads: You Lose"

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I don't know about that, but back then Justin Bieber was blessedly unknown, kids didn't have their thumbs asplay texting, and Gourmet published regularly.
The Rise and Fall of Justin Bieber

Monday, June 09, 2014

East Buffalo: A Follow-Up

East Buffalo: Buffalo News article on Yemeni entrepreneurs opening stores.

Kunstler: That Was Then, This is Now

June 9, 2014
That Was Then, This is Now

I was in Buffalo, New York, over the weekend at the annual conclave of New Urbanists — a movement started in the 1990s to rescue American towns and cities. The scale of desolation of that city is not as spectacular or vast as Detroit’s, but the visible symptoms of the illness are the same. One of the events was a bicycle tour of Buffalo’s neglected East Side, [Link added by me.--P.Z.] where maybe 80 percent of the houses are gone and the few that remain stand amid spring wildflower meadows and the human density per acre appears too low even for successful drug-selling.

The old economy is gone and is replaced now by a “social services economy,” meaning government checks, SNAP cards, and purposelessness. There were zero signs of commerce there block after block, not even a place to buy potato chips. So, as it works out, the few remaining denizens of this place must spend half their waking hours journeying to a food store. How they make that journey is hard to tell. There were almost no cars anywhere nor buses to be seen. Before long surely the people will all be gone, too, ending a chapter in American urban history.

At one edge of the East Side neighborhood stood the hulking, gigantic remnants of the Larkin soap company, a haunted brick behemoth plangent with silence, ailanthus trees sprouting from the parapets and birds nesting in the gigantic, rusted ventilation fans. The administration building of this deeply paternalistic company was famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, completed in 1906, and demolished in 1950 — a blink of an eye. It is considered the architect’s lost masterpiece. The site became a parking lot and now is just an empty asphalt pad with mulleins and sumacs spiking up in the pavement.

At its height of success a hundred years ago, the Larkin Company provided a stupendous bounty of social support services for its 4,500 employees: a dental office at nominal prices, dedicated rooms at local hospitals, an on-premises branch of the city library, subsidized night school classes, gyms, lounges, sports clubs, a credit union, insurance plans, and more. The people could ride streetcars all over the “Electric City,” as Buffalo styled itself because of its fortunate proximity to the bonanza of hydro power from Niagara Falls.

A hundred years ago, Buffalo was widely regarded as the city of the future. The boon of electrification made it the Silicon Valley of its day. It was among the top ten US cities in population and wealth. Its steel industry was second to Pittsburgh and for a while it was second to Detroit in cars. Now, nobody seems to know what Buffalo might become, if anything. It will be especially interesting when the suburban matrix around it enters its own inevitable cycle of abandonment.

I’m convinced that the Great Lakes region will be at the center of an internally-focused North American economy when the hallucination of oil-powered globalism dissolves. Places like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit will have a new life, but not at the scale of the twentieth century. On this bike tour the other day, I rode awhile beside a woman who spends all her spare time photographing industrial ruins. She was serenely adamant that the world will never see anything like that era and its artifacts again. I tend to agree. We cannot grok the stupendous specialness of the past century, and certainly not the fact that it is bygone for good.

When people use the term “post-industrial” these days, they don’t really mean it, and, more mysteriously, they don’t know that they don’t mean it. They expect complex, organized, high-powered industry to still be here, only in a new form. They almost always seem to imply (or so I infer) that we can remain “modern” by moving beyond the old smoke and clanking machinery into a nirvana of computer-printed reality. I doubt that we can maintain the complex supply chains of our dwindling material resources and run all those computer operations — even if we can still manage to get some electricity from Niagara Falls.

In my forthcoming novel A History of the Future (third installment of the World Made By Hand series), two of my characters journey to Buffalo a couple of decades from now. They find a town with its back turned to abandoned monuments of the industrial age. All the action is on the Lake Erie waterfront where trade is conducted by sailing ships at the scale of Sixteenth century, but with an identifiable American gloss. I’d be surprised if one in a thousand educated people in this country (including the New Urbanists) can take that vision seriously. But do you suppose that the executives of an enterprise like the Larkin Company in 1915 would have ever imagined the desolation of Buffalo a mere 99 years later?

Monday, June 02, 2014

Kunstler: Coasting Toward Zero

DISCLAIMER: Toward the end of an otherwise typical column on the decline of the American economy, Kunstler veers into a rant about transgenderism, which he calls "sexual confusion." I don't expect nuance on gender from Kunstler, and one can easily disregard that part of the column (second-to-last paragraph).

Coasting Toward Zero.

I n just about any realm of activity this nation does not know how to act. We don’t know what to do about our mounting crises of economy. We don’t know what to do about our relations with other nations in a strained global economy. We don’t know what to do about our own culture and its traditions, the useful and the outworn. We surely don’t know what to do about relations between men and women. And we’re baffled to the point of paralysis about our relations with the planetary ecosystem.

To allay these vexations, we just coast along on the momentum generated by the engines in place — the turbo-industrial flow of products to customers without the means to buy things; the gigantic infrastructures of transport subject to remorseless decay; the dishonest operations of central banks undermining all the world’s pricing and cost structures; the political ideologies based on fallacies such as growth without limits; the cultural transgressions of thought-policing and institutional ass-covering.

This is a society in deep danger that doesn’t want to know it. The nostrum of an expanding GDP is just statistical legerdemain performed to satisfy stupid news editors, gull loose money into reckless positions, and bamboozle the voters. If we knew how to act we would bend every effort to prepare for the end of mass motoring, but instead we indulge in fairy tales about the “shale oil miracle” because it offers the comforting false promise that we can drive to WalMart forever (in self-driving cars!). Has it occurred to anyone that we no longer have the capital to repair the vast network of roads, streets, highways, and bridges that all these cars are supposed to run on? Or that the capital will not be there for the installment loans Americans are accustomed to buy their cars with?

The global economy is withering quickly because it was just a manifestation of late-stage cheap oil. Now we’re in early-stage of expensive oil and a lot of things that seemed to work wonderfully well before, don’t work so well now. The conveyer belt of cheap manufactured goods from China to the WalMarts and Target stores doesn’t work so well when the American customers lose their incomes, and have to spend their government stipends on gasoline because they were born into a world where driving everywhere for everything is mandatory, and because central bank meddling adds to the horrendous inflation of food prices.

Now there’s great fanfare over a “manufacturing renaissance” in the United States, based on the idea that the work will be done by robots. What kind of foolish Popular Mechanicsporn fantasy is this? If human beings have only a minor administrative role in this set-up, what do two hundred million American adults do for a livelihood? And who exactly are the intended customers of these products? You can be sure that the people of China, Brazil, and Korea will have enough factories of their own, making every product imaginable. Are they going to buy our stuff now? Are they going to completely roboticize their own factories and impoverish millions of their own factory workers?

The lack of thought behind this dynamic is staggering, especially because it doesn’t account for the obvious political consequence — which is to say the potential for uprising, revolution, civic disorder, cruelty, mayhem, and death, along with the kind of experiments in psychopathic governance that the 20th century was a laboratory for. Desperate populations turn to maniacs. You can be sure that scarcity beats a fast path to mass homicide.

What preoccupies the USA now, in June of 2014? According to the current cover story Time Magazine, the triumph of “transgender.” Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate sexual confusion as the latest and greatest achievement of this culture? No wonder the Russians think we’re out of our minds and want to dissociate from the West. I’ve got news for the editors of Time Magazine: the raptures of sexual confusion are not going to carry American civilization forward into the heart of this new century.

In fact, just the opposite. We don’t need confusion of any kind. We need clarity and an appreciation of boundaries in every conceivable sphere of action and thought. We don’t need more crybabies, or excuses, or wishful thinking, or the majestic ass-covering that colors the main stream of our national life.