Hipsters spend their lives (and trust funds) trying to stage photos like these that come natural to Mother Russia https://t.co/6KOgT0mgN9— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) December 30, 2015
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
An article on Fadumo Dayid, Somalia's first female presidential candidate, who is mounting her campaign from Scandinavia.
An update on Linda Lingle.
A VA clinic opens for transgender veterans.
On how the role of the editor has changed over time.
An article on techno-skepticism.
(Remember that Marco Rubio was part of the first wave of Tea Party politicians (2010) elected to the Senate. Cruz is part of the second wave (2012). And they have different personalities; Cruz loves mixing it up.)
George Pataki drops out of the presidential race. Now there are only eleven major Republican candidates.
31 December update: RedState: George Pataki Fades Away.
He pledged to reduce taxes on manufacturers, cure cancer and Alzheimers (I am not making that up), and a more muscular US foreign policy. He was sort of the big government, socially liberal, technocrat that the Republican parties in the Middle Atlantic states and the Northeast churn our by the thousand.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Jill Stein, Green presidential candidate, appeared recently on The Young Turks.
In the age of Amazon, used bookstores are making an unlikely comeback https://t.co/Ofnn3SSydx— Fine Books Magazine (@finebooks) December 27, 2015
Monday, December 28, 2015
The really big item in last night’s 60-Minutes newsbreak was that the latest Star Wars movie passed the billion dollar profit gate a week after release. That says just about everything you need to know about our floundering society, including the state of the legacy news media.
The cherry on top last week was Elon Musk’s SpaceX company’s feat landing the first spent stage of its Falcon 9 rocket to be (theoretically) recycled and thus hugely lowering the cost of firing things into space. The media spooged all over itself on that one, since behind this feat stands Mr. Musk’s heroic quest to land humans on Mars. This culture has lost a lot in the past 40 years, but among the least recognized is the loss of its critical faculties. We’ve become a nation of six-year-olds.
News flash: we’re not going Mars. Notwithstanding the accolades for Ridley Scott’s neatly-rationalized fantasy, The Martian (based on Andy Weir’s novel), any human journey to the red planet would be a one-way trip. Anyway, all that begs the question: why are we so eager to journey to a dead planet with none of the elements necessary for human life when we can’t seem to manage human life on a planet superbly equipped to support us?
Answer: because we are lost in raptures of techno-narcissism. What do I mean by that? We’re convinced that all the unanticipated consequences of our brief techno-industrial orgy can be solved by… more and better technology! Notice that this narrative is being served up to a society now held hostage to the images on little screens, by skilled people who, more and more, act as though these screens have become the new dwelling place of reality. How psychotic is that?
All of this grandstanding about the glories of space goes on at the expense of paying attention to our troubles on this planet, including the existential question as to how badly we are fucking it up with burning the fossil fuels that power our techno-industrial activities. Personally, I don’t believe that any international accord will work to mitigate that quandary. But what will work, and what I fully expect, is a financial breakdown that will lead to a forced re-set of human endeavor at a lower scale of technological activity.
The additional question really is how much hardship will that transition entail and the answer is that there is plenty within our power to make that journey less harsh. But it would require dedication to clear goals and the hard work of altering all our current arrangements — and giving up these childish fantasy distractions about space and technology
Dreaming about rockets to Mars is easy compared to, say, transitioning our futureless Agri-Biz racket to other methods of agriculture that don’t destroy soils, water tables, ecosystems, and bodies. It’s easier than rearranging our lives on the landscape so we’re not hostage to motoring everywhere for everything. It’s easier than educating people to both think and develop real hands-on skills not dependent on complex machines and electric-powered devices.
But we’re not interested and that is why we’re going to be dragged kicking and screaming into a very different future, not riding rockets to the new mall on Mars. I’m not religious, but maybe there is something like Providence at work foisting all these space fantasies on us at the very end of the year, allowing us to get all this stupid shit out of the way so we can prepare for the banking and political tribulations to come in 2016. Speaking of which, next week I will publish my forecast for the twelve-month roller-coaster ahead. Happy New Year, one and all.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Remembering what the Plaza was and what it is now, I don't feel enticed to roam and shop for hours. This is a mall that once had a Waldenbooks, a Tempo Music, etc. What is your impression of the Plaza then and now?
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Best Supporting Actor 2015: WALTON GOGGINS, The Hateful Eight. pic.twitter.com/1gHPUqOlDX— Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) December 23, 2015
On this day in 1988, Anita Baker began a 4-week run on top of the Billboard album chart with Giving You the Best That I Got. #80s— Old School 80s (@OldSchool80s) December 24, 2015
Study: Women’s Products Priced Higher 42 Percent Of The Time « CBS Philly https://t.co/qlqkzu7ww4— Kate Theimer (@archivesnext) December 23, 2015
Forget a White Christmas, I like a mild grey, rainy, depressing Christmas with mosquitos— JohnMoses (@JohnMoses) December 23, 2015
I've been warning you fucking buffoons about Steve Harvey for years, and you sat back and did nothing! This is your fault America!— JohnMoses (@JohnMoses) December 21, 2015
Christmas in Germany in numbers: (GK) pic.twitter.com/RVXJc8PE15— German Consulate NY (@GermanyNY) December 22, 2015
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Monday, December 21, 2015
Kunstler: Christmas Present.
Theory du jour: the new Star Wars movie is sucking in whatever meager disposable lucre remains among the economically-flayed mid-to-lower orders of America. In fact, I propose a new index showing an inverse relationship between Star Wars box office receipts and soundness of the financial commonweal. In other words, Star Wars is all that remains of the US economy outside of the obscure workings of Wall Street — and that heretofore magical realm is not looking too rosy either in this season of the Great Rate Hike after puking up 623 points of the DJIA last Thursday and Friday.
Here I confess: for thirty years I have hated those stupid space movies, as much for their badly-written scripts (all mumbo-jumbo exposition of nonsensical story-lines between explosions) as for the degenerate techno-narcissism they promote in a society literally dying from the diminishing returns and unintended consequences of technology.
It adds up to an ominous Yuletide. Turns out that the vehicle the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee was driving in its game of “chicken” with oncoming reality was a hearse. The occupants are ghosts, but don’t know it. A lot of commentators around the web think that the Fed “pulled the trigger” on interest rates to save its credibility. Uh, wrong. They had already lost their credibility. What remains is for these ghosts to helplessly watch over the awesome workout, which has obviously been underway for quite a while in the crash of commodity prices (and whole national economies — e.g. Brazil, Canada, Australia), the janky regions of the bond markets, the related death of the shale oil industry, and the imploding hedge fund scene.
As it were, all credit these days looks shopworn and threadbare, as if the capital markets had by stealth turned into a swap meet of previously-owned optimism. Who believes in anything these days besides the allure of fraud? Capital is supposedly plentiful these days — look how much has rushed into the dollar from the nervous former go-go nations with their wobbling ziggurats of bad loans and surfeit of production capacity — but what actually constitutes that capital? Answer: the dwindling faith anyone will pay you back next Tuesday for a hamburger today.
We now enter the “discovery” phase of financial collapse, where things labeled “capital” and “credit” turn out to be mere holograms. Fed Chair Janet Yellen herself had a sort of hologramatic look last Wednesday when she stepped onto her Delphic platform to reveal the long-heralded interest rate news. Perhaps Mrs. Yellen is a figment conjured by George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic shop (now owned by Disney). What could be more fitting in a smoke-and-mirrors culture? Anyway, the rude discovery that capital is not what it has appeared to be is now underway, with the power to derail political systems and societies.
Is there anyone who thinks the Presidential election campaign is not completely deranged? Well, it is the analog for America’s deranged financial polity. The graceless Mr. Trump necessarily reflects the just grievances of the great public wad, but has anyone noticed that he is incapable of stringing together two coherent thoughts? I suppose one thought at a time — or maybe a percentage of one thought — is enough to satisfy the sputtering masses, faced as they are by the arrant theft of both their patrimony and their future. But it adds up to something like flying blind through a shitstorm with your pilot in the throes of cerebral infarction. I don’t want to be on that plane.
Then there’s the giant flying reptile known simply as Hillary. She will blow up the sad and noisome remains of the Democratic party and then she will preside over the blow-up of the USA as an advanced techno-industrial society. That final outcome may be inevitable one way or another, but the journey there need not be so harsh. America needs a vision of something other than itself as a permanent demolition derby, which, by the way, will not be “solved” by pushing everyone into a Tesla instead of a Ford F-150.
It’s not just the Federal Reserve; everything around us is backed into a corner. Come January, when the dazzle of Star Wars fades away, [The movie will carry on well into the New Year, as Avatar and Titanic did--P.Z.] you will hear instead through the long dark nights a howl of raging animals. Merry Christmas to all.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
9 N Dilwale UTV $1,875,000 - 268 - $6,996 $1,875,000 - 1
10 N Bajirao Mastani Eros $1,660,000 - 304 - $5,461 $1,660,000 - 1
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Armond White isn't a fan of the new Star Wars nor of the franchise in general.
22 December update:
read and discuss https://t.co/z6lj8LQ2xW— armond white (@3xchair) December 21, 2015
John Simon, once one of the country's major movie critics, infamously dissed Star Wars when it was released. New York republished his original review with some new comments of his. (Simon, still living, is retired, but maintains a blog here.)
Here, Simon jousts with Siskel & Ebert on Nightline in 1983, when Return of the Jedi was released.
They all have their points. I do like science fiction, but Star Wars was never my thing. (The Family Guy parodies/tributes are enjoyable, and one can get the gist of Star Wars from them.) I'd much rather see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (currently 14% at RottenTomatoes) than Star Wars (an astounding 95% at RottenTomatoes, where the critics' consensus is headlined "Believe the Hype.")
Never believe the hype:
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
"Reince Pubis," said Ben Carson, in touch with his inner Beavis.— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) December 16, 2015
Every time Kasich talks, it's like listening to Ike get on his high horse about how he's not going to sell the Baldwin Sisters recipe stuff.— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) December 16, 2015
Trump is right. "It's not like we had victory. It's a mess."— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) December 16, 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen, Rod Dreher has won the Internet tonight https://t.co/2Pml0EuxaJ— Doug Mataconis (@dmataconis) December 16, 2015
The government is supposed to monitor all Facebook posts, ever? Rand Paul should just bitch-slap Cruz and quit the race right now.— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) December 16, 2015
What is the point of Ben Carson? Honestly...— Rod Dreher (@roddreher) December 16, 2015
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Thursday, December 10, 2015
The late Alexander Cockburn, who was a global warming denialist, warned that "the American nuclear regulatory commission has speeded up its process of licensing; there is an imminent wave of nuclear plant building. Many in the nuclear industry see in the story about CO2 causing climate change an opportunity to recover from the adverse publicity of Chernobyl."
Cockburn was also a publisher of the famous CounterPunch, which provided a venue for Harvey Wasserman, author of SOLARTOPIA!, which shows an alternative to both fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Here Wasserman interviews Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia.
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
Monday, December 07, 2015
Kunstler: Shining a Light.
The just-released movie Spotlight is about a Boston Globe investigative reporting team circa 2001-02 that uncovered and documented a vast network of child sex abuse by priests in the Catholic Church that had been on-going for decades. More to the point, Spotlight revealed the institutional rot at the very top of the Boston Catholic Church hierarchy, led by then-Cardinal Bernard Law — which marinated church personnel in a code of secret atrocious behavior enabled by systematic lying and deception. In effect, the church gave permission to its foot-soldiers, the parish priests, to engage in whatever sexual antics they wished to, with a tacit promise to shield them from the reach of the courts. The civil authorities of Boston, heavily Catholic due to Boston’s demographics, assisted the church by throwing up every legal obstacle they could to deter the victims and their advocates in the search for justice — and to put an end to the predation of children by priests.
That was the story that Spotlight told, and it did that very economically, without grandstanding. But the movie had another message for me, as someone who has been involved in the media going back more than forty years when I was an investigative newspaper reporter myself. The message was that the institutional support for great journalism that allowed the Globe’s Spotlight reporting team to do its job is now gone-baby-gone. All the newspapers in the USA, and even the TV and radio news networks, are running these days on skeleton crews. At least that is true of the old flagship organizations such as the Boston Globe and CNN. They just don’t have the reporters out in the field. The front-page or flatscreen interface that the public sees conceals ghost organizations that barely have the reporting resources and the reach to discover what is actually going on in the world.
The dying newspapers — and they really are on life-support at this point, including the Globe and The New York Times — can’t pay teams of reporters like the Spotlight crew to work through years-long investigations. But what the movie also ought to remind us is that the hierarchical competence at such an enterprise, the layers of editors who know what they are doing and understand the boundaries and conventions of their own society, is also disastrously AWOL in the new Wowee-Zowie era of instant cell-phone networking, Facebook, and Instagram. In a word, leadership has been made to seem dispensable.
What gets left out of the story, as usual, are the diminishing returns of technology. In the news business — that is, the business of informing society what is actually going on — that blowback is leaving the public not just uninformed or misinformed, but additionally clueless about what they have lost. The result is a society increasingly shaped by delusion and paralysis. For example, The New York Times has gone from being the “newspaper of record” to being the leading dispenser of wishful thinking by a feminized political Left preoccupied with feelings over truth. (This, by the way, helps to account for the remnant media’s hatred of Vladimir Putin, a leader who doesn’t apologize for acting one like one. And, of course, a man.) The Old Gray Lady is also reduced to overt cheerleading for its avatar (Monday’s lead op-ed: HILLARY CLINTON — How I’d Rein In Wall Street Ha!), and making excuses for our grift-and rackets-based polity (Paul Krugman: The Not-So-Bad Economy Ha Ha Ha!).
At the local level, the news situation is simply pathetic. The surviving local newspapers are little more than bulletin boards for news releases from interested parties. They’ve fired all their reporters. Soon the papers will all be gone and the vaunted wondrous Internet will be little more than a grapevine and a rumor mill. The “cloud” that everybody thinks is so marvelous will look more and more like an epochal fog — and we’ll be lost in it. These are the wages of our techno-narcissism, a society now marinating in cluelessness the way the Catholic church, as depicted in Spotlight, marinates in pederasty and deceit. It is frankly hard to see a way out of the cultural predicament. Two things, at least, are necessary to break out of this hall of mirrors: men acting like honorable men, and hierarchies of leadership with the integrity to actually lead. For now, the USA is not interested in those things.
Sunday, December 06, 2015
Saturday, December 05, 2015
Tuesday, December 01, 2015
Monday, November 30, 2015
1. Write more. If I can blog here more; keep a journal; further freelance writing.
2. Reach out to people more, especially family and friends who I haven't seen in a while.
3. Improve my fitness. Regular exercise and a more healthful diet.
4. Declutter and clean up my house.
These things are all connected in my view.
Edmund Burke called. He wants his robe back from both of you. https://t.co/ow8HbTlRYf— Thaddeus Russell (@ThaddeusRussell) November 30, 2015
How splendid the world was, he read in this letter, when one took the trouble to ramble through it on foot—R. Walser pic.twitter.com/XBzjUPebI7— New Directions (@NewDirections) November 23, 2015
The Blaze: "Black Lives Matter Activists Continue Sit-In Demanding Erasure of ‘Racist’ Woodrow Wilson — and Glenn Beck Says They Are Right."
great example of begging the question | How the American Middle Class Lost Its Taste for Mindless Consumerism https://t.co/mLnq5RSYJG— Josh Zumbrun (@JoshZumbrun) November 30, 2015
Sometimes societies just go crazy. Japan, 1931, Germany, 1933. China, 1966. Spain 1483, France, 1793, Russia, 1917, Cambodia, 1975, Iran, 1979, Rwanda, 1994, Congo, 1996, to name some. By “crazy” I mean a time when anything goes, especially mass killing. The wheels came off the USA in 1861, and though the organized slaughter developed an overlay of romantic historical mythos — especially after Ken Burns converted it into a TV show — the civilized world to that time had hardly ever seen such an epic orgy of death-dealing.
I doubt that I’m I alone in worrying that America today is losing its collective mind. Our official relations with other countries seem perfectly designed to provoke chaos. The universities have melted into toxic sumps beyond even anti-intellectualism to a realm of hallucination. Demented gunmen mow down total strangers weekly in what looks like a growing competition to end their miserable lives with the highest victim score. The financial engineers have done everything possible to pervert and undermine the operations of markets. The political parties are committing suicide by cluelessness and corruption.
There is no narrative for our behavior toward Russia that makes sense anymore. Our campaign to destabilize Ukraine worked out nicely, didn’t it? And then we acted surprised when Russia reclaimed the traditionally Russian territory of Crimea, with its crucial warm-water naval ports. Who woulda thought? Then we attempted to antagonize them further with economic sanctions. The net effect is that Vladimir Putin ended up looking more rational and sane than any leader in the NATO coalition.
Lately, Russia has filled the vacuum of competence in Syria, cleaning up a mess that America left with its two-decade-long crusade to leave a train of broken governments everywhere in the region. A few weeks back, Mr. Putin made the point before the UN General Assembly that wrecking every national institution in sight among weak and unstable nations was probably not a recipe for world peace. President Obama never did formulate a coherent comeback to that. It’s a little terrifying to realize that the leader of our former arch-adversary is the only figure onstage who can come up with a credible story about what needs to happen there. And his restraint this week following what may have been a US-assisted shoot-down of a Russian bomber by idiots in Turkey is really estimable. It all looks like a feckless slide provoked by our side into World War III, and for what? To make the world safe for the Kardashians?
The uproars on campus before Thanksgiving are more a reflection on the astounding cowardice of college presidents than the foolishness of young minds — which, being not fully formed, are easily susceptible to idealist figments. The adults in charge ought to know better. Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber actually entertained the “demand” to erase Woodrow Wilson’s presence on campus for being an arch-segregationist by a black “social justice league” that at the very same time demanded separate (i.e. segregated) social space for blacks only. How did he reconcile these pleadings in his own mind, I wonder.
President Biddy Martin of Amherst pandered to students protesting against free speech, saying:
“Over the course of several days, a significant number of students have spoken eloquently and movingly about their experiences of racism and prejudice on and off campus. The depth and intensity of their pain and exhaustion are evident. That pain is real. Their expressions of loneliness and sense of invisibility are heartrending. No attempt to minimize or trivialize those feelings will be convincing to those of us who have listened. It is good that our students have seized this opportunity to speak, rather than further internalizing the isolation and lack of caring they have described.”
Bottom line: hurt feelings supposedly cancel free speech. No, that’s exactly the opposite of the meaning of the First Amendment. How can a college president fail to understand that and fail to defend the campus against that sort of Jacobin despotism? The answer is they are hostage to dogmas cooked up by race-and-identity careerists who don’t really care to make distinctions between what is true and what is not true — and that is now the official tone of higher education in America. It’s a short hop from there to not knowing the difference between what is real and what is unreal.
The phenomenon of demented lone gunmen killing strangers and innocents will morph into civil insurrection, especially as the major political parties break apart and the loosed factions set out to settle their old scores by whatever means they can. History knows that violence is infectious and that social inhibitions melt away when the conditions are ripe. Groups give themselves permission to act outside the bounds of normal behavior, and all of a sudden atrocity is the order of the day.
Both Trump and Hillary have the mojo to destroy their respective parties and I think the probability is that they will. Unfortunately, we don’t live under a parliamentary system that recognizes smaller factions as legitimate parties, so we are sure to live through an era of political disorder. What emerges from that could be a very severe polity, since it will be based on the wish to restore order at all costs.
It is likely to get the shove it needs from the implosion of the financial system, which is now running on the fumes of dwindling credit. A false capitalism reigns based on false capital — notional wealth where there is really no wealth; value where there is no value. Moments like this in history beat a path straight to currency collapse, and that will open the door to a greater collapse of all our familiar arrangements.
Surely there is some kind of massive unseen sensory organ in societies that receives the signal that systems are failing. And surely it spooks the individuals who make up those societies so badly that they will believe anything and do anything.
Last week's Kunstler column, Boundary Problems, was a pungent rant about college, free speech, and the Black Lives Matter movement. I was too busy Thanksgiving week to post it last Monday.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Before coming to India in 2013, I covered poverty and inequality, and troop withdrawal from Iraq. Here is my bio: https://t.co/L3Z5j3EUlu— Annie Gowen (@anniegowen) November 29, 2015
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Thanksgiving itself was relatively quiet and low-key. I dozed off mid-afternoon for a few hours, in part because the house was warmed up with the roasting of the turkey.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Monday, November 23, 2015
"Gawker is still Gawker."
Friday, November 20, 2015
Kunstler has never addressed fossil fuel divestment as far as I know. He'd probably say it distracts from the larger issue of preparing society for a post-oil future. More later.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Legend needs a less pretentious title (one that doesn’t interfere with Tom Cruise’s Ridley Scott fantasy) and Hardy needed a genius British director—Ken Russell, Alex Cox, maybe Edgar Wright—who could appreciate his nuances and balance a nation’s authentic fascination and shame.
Portentous movie titles are the thing now. Compare the title Legend with the straightforward The Krays of 1990.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Depending on where you stand, this will thrill or appall you. The Koch intelligence agency.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Monday, November 16, 2015
I ’m not persuaded that world opinion will ever “make sense” of the Paris attacks. The non-linear rules the day. So-called Fourth Generation Warfare works because there are so many small arms loose in the world and any band of maniacs with a few machine guns and a pound of Semtex plastic explosive can create the equivalent of a war zone in a given locality.
As for the French military, the obvious first move was to bomb the ISIS “stronghold” of Raqqa. But haven’t the US and Russian air forces been doing exactly that for some time now? Either they’ve already bombed the place and everything in it to gravel, or air power is not what it’s cracked up to be — and we have plenty of reason to believe the latter after a decade of selectively pounding jihadists from Afgahnistan to Libya with nothing to show for it except a refugee crisis.
One thing seems assured: hard-line governments are coming soon. Politically, the West had boundary problems that go way beyond the question of national borders to the core psychology of modern liberalism. When is enough of anything enough? And then, what are you really willing to do about it? The answer lately among the Western societies is to do little and do it slowly.
The behavior of college administrators and faculties in the USA these days is emblematic of this cowardly dithering. Intellectual despotism reigns on campus and the university presidents roll over like possums. They don’t have the moral strength to defend free speech as the campus witch-hunts ramp up. The result will be first the intellectual death of their institutions (brain death), and then the actual death of college per se as a plausible route to personal socioeconomic development. The financial racketeering that has infected higher education — the engineering of the gargantuan college loan scam in tandem with the multiplication of “diversity” deanships and tuition inflation — pretty much guarantees an implosion of that system.
The cowardice in the college executive suites is mirrored in our national politics, where no persons of real standing will dare step forward to oppose the juggernaut of Hillary-the-Grifter, or take on the clowning Donald Trump on the grounds of his sheer mental unfittedness to lead a government. In case you haven’t noticed, the center not only isn’t holding, it gave way some time ago. The long emergency is showing signs of morphing into something like civil war. The Maoists on campus apparently want to turn it into race war, too.
So many forces are in motion now and they are all tending toward criticality. The European Union may not survive the reestablishment of boundaries, since it was largely based on the elimination of them. Spain and Portugal are back to breaking down politically again. The Paris bloodbath has discredited Angela Merkel’s plea for “tolerance” — of what is proving to be an intolerable alien invasion. The only political figure on the scene who doesn’t appear to be talking out of his ass is Vlad Putin, who correctly stated at the UN that undermining basic institutions around the world was not a good idea.
None of this is good, either, for a global economy constructed around long, hyper-complex, and fragile chains of obligation, the most critical being global finance and global energy lines. You think the Paris attacks were bad? Just wait until a few maniacs lob some explosives at the giant Ras Tanura oil refinery and shipping terminal on Saudi Arabia’s Persian Gulf coast. Imagine if that happens in the middle of winter, when Europe is freezing. Do you suppose the Big Brains in the Pentagon think about that? The West itself, including America, is a circus of soft targets. The softest ones are between our ears.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
A partir de una investigación periodística de varios años apoyada en archivos confidenciales y en más de cien entrevistas, este libro narra sin reservas la vida del mexicano más rico del mundo.
Con incursiones en el reportaje político, social, histórico y policial, así como el testimonio directo de Carlos Slim, Diego Enrique Osorno relata esta excepcional historia
Con prólogo de Jon Lee Anderson.
Hijo de un migrante libanés, Carlos Slim sumó su habilidad matemática a su visión de negocios para crear un emporio global desde un país donde más de 50 millones de personas viven en la pobreza. Más allá de las frías cifras económicas y los clichés del éxito empresarial, Slim. Biografía política del mexicano más rico del mundo resulta un magistral retrato del primer hombre nacido en el "tercer mundo" que alcanzó la cima de Forbes.
Mediante la cuidadosa y paciente mirada de un reportero, el lector descubrirá los orígenes del magnate, sus complejos vínculos familiares y sociales, sus peculiares maniobras financieras, sus redes de apoyo y sus pasiones personales, que van desde la lectura de biografías de Gengis Kan o Bernard Baruch, hasta el beisbol o Sophia Loren. Pero este libro explora también los mecanismos del poder y las caras contradictorias de este ingeniero civil que encarna la moral neoliberal de nuestros tiempos: un mecenas muy diferente a Bill Gates y Warren Buffet.
Sin afán de linchamiento, sin afán de glorificación, con un tono transparente y documentado que exige el periodismo narrativo, aquí se cuenta quién es Carlos Slim.
Extracto del prólogo:
"Diego Enrique Osorno tiene agallas. Sus reportajes lo han puesto a la cabeza de su generación y le han valido un amplio reconocimiento. Siempre se mete a fondo, y en carne propia, en lo que está investigando. Así es como examina a este pasha moderno, símbolo vivo del capitalismo del siglo veintiuno y a la vez de México, país de caciques donde Slim es un gigante entre liliputienses." -Jon Lee Anderson-
Friday, November 13, 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015
My working theory is that some wealthy conservative bought Salon and has ordered its staff to publish a caricature of the lefty press.— Fredrik deBoer (@freddiedeboer) November 12, 2015
The economic picture manufactured by the national consensus trance has never been more out of touch with reality in my lifetime. And so the questions as to what anyone might do can hardly be addressed. How can I protect my savings? Who do I vote for? How do I think about where my country is going? Incoherence reigns, especially in the circles ruled by those who guard the status quo, which includes the failing legacy news media.
The Federal Reserve has morphed from being a faceless background institution of the most limited purpose to a claque of necromancers and astrologasters, led by one grand vizier, in full public view pretending to steer a gigantic economic vessel that has, in fact, lost its rudder and is drifting into a maelstrom.
For more than a year, the fate of the nation has hung on whether the Fed might raise their benchmark interest rate one quarter of a percent. They talk about it incessantly, and therefore the mob of financial market observers has to chatter about it incessantly, and the chatter itself has appeared to obviate the need for any actual action on the matter. The Fed gets to influence markets without ever having to do anything. And mostly it has worked to produce the false narrative of an advanced economy that is working splendidly well to the advantage of the common good.
This is all occurring against the background of a larger global network of economic relations that is quite clearly breaking apart. The rising tensions between the US, Russia, China, and the Euro Union grew out of monetary mischief “innovated” by our central bank, especially the shenanigans around debt monetization, which have created dangerous distortions in markets, trade, and perceptions of national interest. Nations are rattling sabers at one another and bluster is in the air. The world is bankrupt after thirty years of borrowing from the future to throw a party in the present, and the authorities can’t acknowledge that.
But they can provide the conditions for disguising it, especially in the statistical hall of mirrors that once-upon-a-time produced meaningful signals for the movement of capital. Instead of reality-based choices and decisions, the task at hand for the people in charge has been the ever more baroque elaboration of a Potemkin economic false-front, behind which lies a landscape of ruin scavenged by desperate racketeers. That this racketeering has moved so seamlessly into the once-sacred precincts of medicine and higher ed ought to inform us how desperate and perilous it has become.
The latest installment of the disinformation game was Friday’s employment release from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was a “blockbuster,” implying blue skies everywhere from Montauk to Malibu. Except that no one with a remaining shred of critical faculty can be expected to believe it. 80 percent of the new jobs numbers were attributed to the mystical birth-death model, a pseudo-scientific fantasy of hypothetical new business starts and associated hypothetical new hires. Demographically, the most new jobs went to the over-55 age cohort — grocery baggers and Walmart greeters — and the fewest to men 25 to 54 (that bracket substantially lost jobs). The official unemployment rate fell to 5.0 rate, with no meaningful discussion of the huge numbers of discouraged people who have dropped out of the workforce.
But the perception of an economy on full throttle chug sent the stock indexes up. The Dow, the S & P and the NASDAQ are the only signaling mechanisms that the legacy media pays attention to, and the politicos take their cues from them, in a feedback loop of false information that begets more delusional positive psychology in those same markets. I suspect the sentiment that reigns now is about nothing more than getting through the holiday season without a financial accident.
But this Fed now finds itself in a trap of its own making. Having so interminably yapped about the interest rate hike, the central bank will have to put up or shut up in December. Only the year-final BLS employment figures might give them an out, if the numbers don’t look so phosphorescent. I think the truth is, this phony baloney economy can’t withstand even a measly quarter-point benchmark interest rate hike. For one thing, it would blow up the operating models of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the buyers of home mortgages who are keeping the construction industry on life support, as well as the parallel rackets in securitized auto and student loans. Imagine all the derivatives bets that would go south. In reality, the Fed knows that it will have to shovel more ZIRP money into the debt-saturated maw of a dying financial leviathan. It can do that, of course, and probably will in the coming winter of 2016, but when that time comes, it will have absolutely no credibility left. And the leviathan will be a little closer to heaving up dead on the beach.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Friday, November 06, 2015
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Monday, November 02, 2015
Kunstler: Good Little Maoists.
I think he's digging himself a big hole here.
"Anyway, it was not a coincidence that in the mid 1960s a new wave of black separatist avatars arose around the time of the civil rights legislative victories. Malcolm X, Stokely Charmichael [sic], the Black Panthers, to name a few. That was the moment when much of the black population slid into what has become essentially an oppositional culture, determined to remain separate. Language is part of that picture."--Kunstler
The Black Panthers:
"The writings of the Black Panthers are also in impeccable standard English, but in their speeches there are occasional occurrences of Black English for stylistic effect, to mark group solidarity. ..."
Sociolinguistic Perspectives on Bilingual Education, edited by Christina Bratt Paulston.
(The book looks interesting.)
"Described by some as a "black ogre of choice" and by others as "cool and very hip," Stokely Carmichael was a man of varied rhetorical talents. From an early age, his charismatic style made him a favorite among his fellow Civil Rights activists and a national leader in the Civil Rights Movement. When he first talked about Black Power in Mississippi in 1966, he did so with the fiery passion of a Southern demagogue--a type of speaker he loved to hate. With just a few words, he was able to rally the crowd that came out to see him in Greenwood, Mississippi into a chorus of voices shouting, "Black Power! Black Power! Black Power!" His ability to tailor his speeches to different audiences was one of his greatest talents, as Carmichael himself boasted in his autobiography:
I had a standard-English speech reserved for the merely affluent and curious. Many times these people would say or write that they had expected an "antiwhite diatribe" or a "raving militant rap." Only to be so pleasantly surprised to get a reasoned argument that--even if they didn't agree with it--was "thought provoking." . . . Then too I had a harder, more analytic, and ideological argument for more serious political and intellectual forums. . . . Then there was a down-home, nitty-gritty idiom in a style I mostly borrowed from the Harlem street corner nationalists and the Southern black preachers. This I saved for the brothers and sisters on the block. But the political message stayed the same, whatever the audience, language, or occasion. Only the style changed.
"While Carmichael himself claimed never to use obscenities or vulgarities, rhetorical critic Pat Jefferson notes that his speeches were often laden with risqué sexual innuendos and four-letter words. Whatever the case, Carmichael was always careful to adapt his language to his audience. A speech at Boston's Episcopal Theological School was fashioned very differently from one before a group of young, black street kids or Civil Rights activists."
See also Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English, esp. pp. 224-228.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Friday, October 30, 2015
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Monday, October 26, 2015
Ben Bernanke’s memoir is out and the chatter about it inevitably turns to the sickening moments in September 2008 when “the world economy came very close to collapse.” Easy to say, but how many people know what that means? It’s every bit as opaque as the operations of the Federal Reserve itself.
There were many ugly facets to the problem but they all boiled down to global insolvency — too many promises to pay that could not be met. The promises, of course, were quite hollow. They accumulated over the decades-long process, largely self-organized and emergent, of the so-called global economy arranging itself. All the financial arrangements depended on trust and good faith, especially of the authorities who managed the world’s “reserve currency,” the US dollar.
By the fall of 2008, it was clear that these authorities, in particular the US Federal Reserve, had failed spectacularly in regulating the operations of capital markets. With events such as the collapse of Lehman and the rescue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it also became clear that much of the collateral ostensibly backing up the US banking system was worthless, especially instruments based on mortgages. Hence, the trust and good faith vested in the issuer of the world’s reserve currency was revealed as worthless.
The great triumph of Ben Bernanke was to engineer a fix that rendered trust and good faith irrelevant. That was largely accomplished, in concert with the executive branch of the government, by failing to prosecute banking crime, in particular the issuance of fraudulent securities built out of worthless mortgages. In effect, Mr. Bernanke (and Barack Obama’s Department of Justice), decided that the rule of law was no longer needed for the system to operate. In fact, the rule of law only hampered it.
Mr. Bernanke now says he “regrets” that nobody went to jail. That’s interesting. More to the point perhaps he might explain why the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission did not make any criminal referrals to the US Attorney General in such cases as, for instance, Goldman Sachs (and others) peddling bonds deliberately constructed to fail, on which they had placed bets favoring that very failure.
There were a great many such cases, explicated in full by people and organizations outside the regulating community. For instance, the Pro Publica news organization did enough investigative reporting on the racket of collateralized debt obligations to send many banking executives to jail. But the authorities turned a blind eye to it, and to the reporting of others, mostly on the web, since the legacy news media just didn’t want to press too hard.
In effect, the rule of law was replaced with a patch of official accounting fraud, starting with the April 2009 move by the Financial Accounting Standards Board involving their Rule 157, which had required banks to report the verifiable mark-to-market value of the collateral they held. It was essentially nullified, allowing the banks to value their collateral at whatever they felt like saying.
Accounting fraud remains at the heart of the fix instituted by Ben Bernanke and the ploy has been copied by authorities throughout the global financial system, including the central banks of China, Japan, and the European Community. That it seemed to work for the past seven years in propping up global finance has given too many people the dangerous conviction that reality is optional in economic relations. The recovery of equity markets from the disturbances of August has apparently convinced the market players that stocks are invincible. Complacency reigns at epic levels. Few are ready for what is coming.
I posted this video back in February 2013.
But not this version:
And speaking of what-a-difference-two-and-two-thirds-years make, remember this?
Well, check this out:
This year, as Rubio runs for president, he has cast the Senate — the very place that cemented him as a national politician — as a place he’s given up on, after less than one term. It’s too slow. Too rule-bound. So Rubio, 44, has decided not to run for his seat again. It’s the White House or bust.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Dinner with a filmmaker/cinephile last night and we both agreed: 2015 is the worst year EVER for American film. An infection has arrived...— Bret Easton Ellis (@BretEastonEllis) October 22, 2015
I don't think so. Not with Straight Outta Compton, The Intern, Minions, et al. But stinkers like Mad Max: Fury Road, American Ultra, and Hitman: Agent 47 do cause worry about the state of the movies.
26 October update:
The Wall Steet Journal: "Huge Flops Hit the Box Office."
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The legacy mainstream media has a collective brain like dog’s — it exists in an eternal present, so that whatever’s happening right now is all there is. Thus, Hillary’s performance in the first Democratic debate, being as bad but not worse than her competitors’, means she has a lock on the nomination for president. The better part of a year lies between now and the convention, and time would be on the side of whatever force or figure rises to oppose the woman whose “turn” in power rides a myth of inevitability.
What perhaps ought to be more alarming is the way that the two major parties are lining up to be a men’s party and a woman’s party, a perfect acting-out of psychological archetypes in a society churning out millions of lost souls year-by-year. The American people apparently want a Daddy to fix all the broken systems and they want a Mommy to reassure them that everything will be all right. Hillary, of course, wants to be both, but her problem is that a lot of voters won’t accept her as either.
Her record doesn’t suggest she’s much good at fixing anything. That’s why the Benghazi affair is such a good stick to beat on her with. That was a moment when America needed a Daddy with a toilet plunger or a screw gun and all they got were cables from the home office saying everything was going to be all right. Mommy couldn’t save the Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans slaughtered there. The big pretense, of course, is the idea that congress holds hearings “so something like this will never happen again.”
It’s an interesting neurosis we’ve developed since the heyday of the assassinations in the late 1960s, this continuing promise to abolish the unforeseeable. Of course new atrocities happen all the time despite these ritual committee inquiries — these days, the mass murder of strangers is more in fashion than targeted political slayings — and there’s always another incident, and it ought to be obvious by now that we’re not so good at making sure that bad things don’t happen.
But that’s the Republican-controlled Benghazi Committee’s mission: to demonstrate that Mommy can’t fix stuff. It will be easily left to Hillary herself to prove that she’s not much good in the Mommy role either — reassuring the multitudes that everything’s going to be all right. Instead, Hillary falls back on an obsessive-compulsive pander tic, kind of an incessant hash-tag jabber of promises to the familiar cast of supplicants. Give it twelve months and see how sick of it the voters will get.
To see how much the Democrats have become the woman’s party, just consider the men candidates up on the debate stage: all pitiful archetypes. Bernie Sanders plays the meshugganah grandpa role reserved, on the screen, for Larry David [Larry David played Sanders on Saturday Night Live last week.--P.Z.] or Alan Arkin. He’s always worked up about something that nobody else can really get worked up about, always raising his voice and stabbing his finger in the air in imitation of Yahweh. There’s Jim Webb, a bobblehead rattling off long legalistic disquisitions that never get to whether he can fix something or not. [He's more substantial than Kunstler realizes, but Webb has just left the primary.--P.Z.] There’s Martin O’Malley, known primarily for his “six-pack” and “guns,” but with the persona of a frightened seven-year-old who doesn’t want to rile the teacher. And Lincoln Chaffee, a dizzy neighbor like Kramer in Seinfeld, butting in with cockamamie schemes that demonstrate he can’t fix anything.
Is it not amazing that the Democratic Party could not grudge up one figure really worth taking seriously? To me, this is truly symptomatic of how bereft of significance the party is? I’m not so sure the party will survive this election cycle. But the disorder across the gradient is equally impressive. The large Republican field of professional politician candidates is held in such bad odor as far as being able to fix anything, that the sinister clown Trump is able to put over his idiotic act of being a Daddy who can fix everything and anything, just by blustering. I suspect he’ll wear out his welcome — but if he doesn’t the Grand Old Party is showing serious signs of a serious crack-up.
Whoever get elected inn 2016 is going to face a crisis every bit as terrible as the crisis of 1860, only this time when the country blows it could come from a dozen different directions and be a lot harder to fix than the secession of Dixieland.
Monday, October 19, 2015
Saturday, October 17, 2015
Still consider Hawaii my home, which is why this makes me so sad. "Ulupono" upright, righteous path...nauseating. https://t.co/JYku25kY5p— Lori Jablonski (@Lori_Jablonski) October 17, 2015
It's actually Tsargrad TV
Beautiful autumn colours on the Technical Site at Bicester Heritage today. pic.twitter.com/hK5HuyhMYe— Bicester Heritage (@BicesterH) October 14, 2015