Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Some Items

Jeb Bush Has Major Ties to Fossil Fuel Industry. He's not the only one.

Forthcoming: My account of my trip to Sacramento. Better late than never.

Language Videos

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I saw Reducing last night on Turner Classic Movies. It's not only the first time I saw the movie but the first time I've heard of it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Catalonia Moves Toward Independence

but not without resistance.

Kunstler: "Tick Tick Tick."

When Kunstler cusses like Nancy Nall in the very first sentence, you know he's fired up.

Kunstler: Tick Tick Tick.

D id Charlie Rose look like a fucking idiot last night on 60-Minutes, or what, asking Vladimir Putin how he could know for sure that the US was behind the 2014 Ukraine coup against President Viktor Yanukovych? Maybe the idiots are the 60-Minutes producers and fluffers who are supposed to prep Charlie’s questions. Putin seemed startled and amused by this one on Ukraine: how could he know for sure?

Well, gosh, because Ukraine was virtually a province of Russia in one form or another for hundreds of years, and Russia has a potent intelligence service (formerly called the KGB) that had assets and connections threaded through Ukrainian society like the rhizomorphs of the fungus Armillaria solidipes through a conifer forest. Gosh, Charlie, it’s like asking Obama whether the NSA might know what’s going on in Texas.

And so there is Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, having to spell it out for the American clodhopper super-journalist. “We have thousands of contacts with them. We know who and where, and when they met with someone, and who worked with those who ousted Yanukovych, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which country, and who those instructors were. We know everything.”

The only thing Vlad left out of course was the now-world-famous panicked yelp by Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland crying, “Fuck the EU,” when events in Kiev started getting out of hand for US stage-managers. But he probably heard about that, too.

Charlie then voice-overed the following statement: “For the record, the US has denied any involvement in the removal of the Ukrainian leader.” Right. And your call is important us. And your check is in the mail. And they hate us for our freedom.

This bit on Ukraine was only a little more appalling than Charlie’s earlier segment on Syria. Was Putin trying to rescue the Assad government? Charlie asked, in the context of President Obama’s statement years ago that “Assad has to go.”

Putin answered as if he were explaining something that should have been self-evident to a not-very-bright high school freshman: “To remove the legitimate government would create a situation which you can witness in other countries of the region, for instance Libya, where all the state institutions have disintegrated. We see a similar situation in Iraq. There’s no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the government structure.”

I guess Charlie and the 60-Minutes production crew hadn’t noticed what had gone on around the Middle East the past fifteen years with America’s program of toppling dictators into the maw of anarchy. Not such great outcomes.

Charlie persisted though, following his script: Was Putin trying to rescue Assad? Vlad had to lay it out for him as if he were introducing Charlie to the game of Animal Lotto: “What do you think about those who support the terrorist organizations only to oust Assad without thinking about what happens to the country after all the state institutions have been demolished…? Look at those who are in control of 60 percent of the territory of Syria.

Meaning ISIS. Al Nusra (formerly al Qaeda in Syria), i.e., groups internationally recognized as terrorist organizations.

Charlie Rose, 60-Minutes — and perhaps by extension US government agencies with an interest in propagandizing — seem to want to put over the story that Russia has involved itself in Syria only to aggrandize its role on in world affairs.

Forgive me for being so blunt, but what sort of stupid fucking idea is this? And are there any non-lobotomized adults left in the USA who can’t see straight through it? The truth is that American policy in Syria (plus Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Somalia, Afghanistan) is an impressive record of failure in terms of the one basic aim that most rational people might agree upon: stabilizing the region in a way that does not leave Islamic jihadi maniacs in charge.

Okay, so now the Russians will do what they can to try to stabilize Syria. They’ve had their failures, too (famously, Afghanistan). But Russian territory adjoins the Islamic lands and they clearly have stake in containing the virus of Islamic extremism near their borders. Is that not obvious?

Charlie made one other extremely dumb statement — he seems to prefer making assertions to asking straight-up questions — to the effect that Russia was misbehaving by deploying troops on its border with Ukraine.

Putin again seemed astonished by this credulous idiocy. The US had troops and nuclear weapons all over Europe, he answered. Did Charlie think that meant the US was attempting to occupy the nations of Europe now? Was it “a crime” for Russia to defend its own border with a neighboring state (formerly a province) that, he implied, the US had deliberately destabilized?

The Putin segment was followed by a sickening session with Donald Trump, a man who now — after a month or so of public exposure — proves incapable of uttering a coherent idea. I wonder what Vladimir Putin makes of this incomparable buffoon. Perhaps that America has gotten what it deserves.

Haysi Fantayzee: "Shiny Shiny."

Tonight is when I first heard of this group.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Whatever Happened to Peak Oil?"

"Whatever Happened to Peak Oil?"

Whatever happened to “peak oil” – the assertion that the rate at which oil is extracted from the Earth is nearing a maximum or peak level? With falling oil and gasoline prices and a boom of new oil development in the United States and elsewhere, concern about global oil supplies have faded from public view.

But have concerns about peak oil really disappeared? What key factors have changed in the oil industry, and what challenges remain? Are we entering a new era of “abundance” or are the risks of the world’s dependence on oil rising?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Various Tweets

Perfume, "Monochrome Effect."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kunstler: Fed Cred Dead

The column below shows why I post Kunstler's column every week.

Kunstler: Fed Cred Dead.

T he economy is a two-headed monster. One head is the trade in real goods and real services. The other head is the financialized traffic in swindles and frauds that surrounds banking. There is some deception and overlap about which is which. For instance so-called health care might be perceived as a real service. In fact, it’s a hostage racket, designed to victimize “patients” at their weakest, with a “protection” premium that easily runs to $12,000-a-year for a married couple, even when they aren’t sick, and vulnerable. Just see what happens if you go to an emergency room with an injury that requires six stitches. Next stop: re-po land.

Most of the remaining on-the-ground economy consists of people merely driving their cars absurd distances, burning gasoline, between exquisitely-tuned giant warehouse store operations that were designed to destroy local Main Street trade — and accomplished that, by the way, to the applause of the local citizens whose towns were destroyed (“We want bargain shopping!”).

Now, of course, even WalMart is looking over its shoulder at the collapse of the complex arrangements that allowed it to metastasize across North America like some cancerous fungus. Globalism is winding down as the gargantuan matrix of Ponzi schemes based on owed money dissolves debt by debt. It isn’t long before nobody is a credit-worthy borrower, and no transaction in real goods can be risked unless cash hits the barrelhead — which turns out to be a very awkward way of doing business.

It’s especially like this these days in the so-called “emerging markets” — e.g. places in the world with large populations of willing factory slaves. The traffic in shipping-out containers full of flat screen TVs (or shipping-in the raw materials to make them) won’t work very well without letters-of-credit, which are promises between banks to make sure that the stuff on the receiving end gets paid for. That becomes difficult when national currencies drop 3.5 percent in value one day and then 4 percent another day, and so on. An eight-year-old can figure out how that math works.

My new theory of history applies well to the macro situation: people do what they do because it seems like a good idea at the time.

For instance, a few decades ago, the suburban / “consumer” arrangement of daily life seemed like a good idea. You buy cheap land twenty-seven miles outside what used to be a functioning (now obsolete) city. Build lots and lots of houses out of cheap, shitty materials such as strand-board and vinyl, pave a lot of new roads, line many of them with even shittier strip-mall buildings and Big Box “power centers,” and there you have a wonderful basis for an economy. That was more or less the Ronald Reagan Utopia.

Now it’s all aging badly, fraying, too costly to fix and, increasingly, not worth scraping off the land and replacing with a new cheap, shitty building. The younger generation doesn’t even want to live in that suburban dystopia. They run shrieking from it to Brooklyn, or even downtown Troy, New York, up the Hudson River Valley. Alas, this younger generation has also been broadly victimized by the college loan racket — reinforced by the revised bankruptcy laws that make it impossible to ever write-off this sort of debt. When will they get political about it? Their debt loads will disfigure their lives as surely as a tour of duty in Vietnam would have forty years ago. Perhaps Siri has not informed them about this.

Last week was the watershed for central banking and for the illusion that the current disposition of things has a future. The Federal Reserve blinked on its long-touted Fed funds interest rate hike and chairperson Janet Yellen was left standing naked in the hot glare of her own carbonizing credibility, a pitiful larval creature, still maundering about “the data,” and “the median growth projection,” and other previously-owned figments spun out of the great PhD wonk machine in the Eccles Building.

The Federal Reserve itself is the victim du jour of its own grandiose fatuous fecklessness, in particular the idea that it could play a national economy like a three-button flugelhorn. What seemed like a good idea at the time when Alan Greenspan and then Ben Bernanke stepped into the pilot house now just looks like the fraud of frauds: enabling corporations to borrow ever more money from the future to pretend that their balance sheets are sound. That scam is has nowhere left to go, except into the black hole that has been waiting for it. All the Fed really has left is to destroy the value of the dollar (to save it! Just like Vietnam!).

This ought to be an interesting week in the financial markets as the players have had a long, anxious weekend to absorb the death of Fed cred. And October, too. Expect dramatic re-pricing. Sometime a few months down the line, financial markets will present a “relief rally.” Don’t get suckered on that one.

Meanwhile, what remains on the other head of this two-headed economy besides driving to-and-from the Walmart? Pornography? The tattoo industry? Meth and narcotics? Prostitution? Professional sports on the flat screen? Kim and Kanye? Grand theft auto? Do you really think Donald Trump can fix this?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"The Last Honest Film Critic in America."

Alexander Cockburn, Thou Shouldst Be Alive at This Hour...

What would Alexander Cockburn have made of the 2016 presidential race--especially the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders-- or the Charleston church shooting? We have a good idea but his commentary is missed.

A warts-and-all review of A Colossal Wreck by Paul Berman.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Phylls Hyman: "Be Careful How You Treat My Love."

Just about everything Phyllis Hyman sang is wonderful. She's one of my favorite singers.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Kunstler: The Parties Crawl Off to Die.

Soon I'll have a post about why I post Kunstler's column, given his misanthropy. For now, he pronounces a pox on both parties.

Kunstler: The Parties Crawl Off to Die.

The Parties Crawl Off to Die

I‘ve alluded to being a registered Democrat now and again, a disclosure that makes some readers go feral with wrath. For years I could only justify it as formal opposition to the cretinous brand of Republicanism that washed over the country like a septic wave with the reign of that sainted pompadour-in-search-of-a-brain, Ronald Reagan, whose “morning in America” bromide was among the biggest whoppers of my lifetime. With Reagan, we got the officially-sanctioned marriage of right wing politics and the most moronic strains of Southland evangelical religiosity. (Ronnie stated more than once his belief that Biblical “end times” were close at hand, which should have raised the question of his actual concern for the nation’s future — did he think it had one? — but nobody ever asked him about it.) George H. W. Bush expressed a similar view, perhaps merely pandering to the dolts of Dixie.

So, who in his right mind could have subscribed to that load of bullshit?

Meanwhile, the youthful and magnetic Clintons came on in 1992. They put on a good show of national stewardship in the early going. Bill could speak English fluently, unlike his two predecessors. Hillary’s committee to tackle health care reform came to grief, but the effort at least implied a recognition that medicine was turning into a shameless racket (now fully metastasized). Bill managed to shove through a species of welfare reform — remarkable for a Democrat — that has since deliquesced back into a swamp of disability fraud. But the Clinton turning point was the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which opened the door to an orgy of financial mischief so arrant and awful, and to a plague of corruption so broad and deep, that American life is now pitching into a long emergency.

Add to that now the signal failures of Barack Obama: 1) no prosecution or attempted regulation of widespread financial misdeeds 2) no effort to counter the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to buy elections; 3) no end to dubious military operations in distant lands, and 4) healthcare “reform” that only fortified the existing rackets — take all that together and you can only recoil from whatever it means to be a Democrat.

And now the return of Hillary, gliding above the election arena like Rodan the Flying Reptile — caw! caw! Get me outa here! It’s not just her, of course. It’s the whole disgusting circus parade of identity politics, and PC witch-hunting, and trans-sex drum-beating, and girl-lugging-a-mattress-around-campus idiocy, and blame-it-all-on-Whitey whinging, and drone-strike-du-jour warfare, and out-of-control NSA surveillance monkey business, plus throw in the outrageous scams of “civil forfeiture” under a president who was supposedly a professor of constitutional law — the list of Democratic-sponsored absurdities and turpitudes gives me the vapors.

The New York Times ran a front-page story Sunday saying that the Republican nomination-chasers were sounding too ominous, too dark, about the state of the nation, at least for the purpose of getting elected. As if the Times has an interest in them succeeding. I guess they were “just sayin’.” For my money, you can’t paint a dark enough picture to fully capture the decadence and depravity in the current zeitgeist. This, after all, is the basic appeal of Trump — though a panoramic shot of his supporters in one of those stadium love-fests suggests that their very demeanor is a big part of the problem: crowds of overfed tattooed clowns in nursery togs clamoring for a return to 1956. Good luck with that.

More than once I’ve referred to the earlier period in US history, the 1850s, when the political compass points shook loose and parties died. The Whigs disappeared altogether (and fast!) and the Democrats became a rump party of southern slavers. Well, the two major parties of our time are now perfectly poised to enter the Temple Grandin cattle chute of death. But history doesn’t repeat, of course, it only rhymes, and this time there are no other political parties standing by to take their place, no credible institutions, certainly no one like Lincoln. There are only Bernie Sanders and the execrable Trump.

Sanders functions nicely as a foil to the flying reptile. But the self-labeled socialist has a big problem. The public may be simmering with grievance, but my guess is that they are not especially hot for more redistribution of the national wealth — that is, whatever little remains in the hands of a sore beset former middle class. The absence of any other reputible figure on the Democratic “bench” belies a party now more hollow than a supermarket Easter egg.

What we see gathering is a political storm as perfect as the typhoon that has formed in banking. Surely the financial storm will strike first and it will leave the public stupefied with loss. I would not even bet against the possibility of the 2016 selection being canceled in some manner. Imagine, for instance, what the Pentagon brass thinks of Trump. And what they are planning for him. Just sayin’.

"Political Critiques of the Anthropocene."

"Political Critiques of the Anthropocene" (Telos 172, Fall 2015).

Friday, September 11, 2015

Late Summer

It's still summer, with hot, humid weather. The presidential race is the most tumultuous one in memory. And the movies at the theater tend to be the studios' dregs.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

It's the second day of the landscaping crew cutting down the albizia across the road. They cut off and hauled away the branches yesterday. Now they're working on the trunks. Stepping outside, I noticed it's brighter.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The New York Times: National Geographic and Fox are forming a commercial media company.

A landscaping crew is cutting down a tall albizia tree on the property across the road.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Much to Consider About...

*charter schools

*the higher education system

*the refugee crisis in Europe

Monday, September 07, 2015

On Migrants and Refugees

For a different take on migration from Kunstler's: "Migrants and Refugees."

In other words, it is possible to read the current social and political dynamic about migrants as a short term response to the peak of population growth and the economic squeeze on the majority of people in richer economies caused by neoliberalism. It’s ugly while it lasts, but it’s possible that it’s close to its height right now. On this version. the narrative about economic gains will start to reassert itself as the demographic issues start to be felt. A decline in levels of inequality would also help.

Kunstler: There Goes Europe.

Kunstler: There Goes Europe.

The desperate wish in what is loosely called the West to at least appear morally correct is unfortunately over-matched by the desperation of people fleeing unstable, overpopulated places outside the West, and it is a fiasco beyond even the events of the moment.

The refugee / immigrant crisis around the Mediterranean is a preview of a horror show to which there is no end in sight, and is certain to escalate. So anyone who indulges in fantasies about organizing an orderly, rational distribution of displaced persons for the current wave, is badly missing the point. Wave beyond wave awaits after the this one. And then what will the well-intentioned sentimentalists say? We wanted to do the right thing… we meant well… we cried when we saw the little boy dead on the beach….

Yes, the tragic intrusions of the US military in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and elsewhere have been reckless and stupid. But that is not the whole story. The desert nations of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have populations abnormally swollen by a century of oil-and-gas-based agriculture, really by the benefits of Modernity in general. Now that the oil age is chugging to an unruly crack-up, and Modernity with it, and the earth’s climate is doing wonky things, and the rich nations to the north have faked their finances to the point of bankruptcy, well, circumstances have changed.

In the years ahead, populations will be fleeing and shifting from many more unfavorable corners of the world. The pressures are mounting all over. Alas, the richer nations in which the fleeing poor aspire to gain a foothold, will also be contending with the disabling effects of a universal economic contraction — the winding down of the techno-industrial system and the global economy with it. That process has the potential to shatter political unions, overthrow established social orders, and provoke wars between the demoralized countries who still possess dangerous military hardware. At the least, it will produce economic conditions in Europe and North America probably worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

So, the idea that the nations currently bethinking themselves “rich” can take in, shelter, and employ the masses fleeing MENA (and elsewhere) is absurd. Somehow the people in charge, plus the intellectual classes who shape opinion and consensus, are going to have to arrive at some clear notion of limits and boundaries. It is actually happening in parts of Europe right now, extempore, where the immediate crisis is worst, for the moment in Italy, Greece, and Hungary — which first interned the refugees and then let them loose on the road to Vienna, probably only a way-station to Germany. Soon all nations across Europe will be agonizing, shucking, jiving, or improvising some sort of desperate response.

Among other confusions of policy and intention, the public “debate” so far does not make any distinction between true political refugees fleeing for their lives or economic migrants seeking to improve their prospects elsewhere. It is surely easy to empathize with both categories of persons, but that doesn’t mean you give up the control of your borders just to make yourself feel better. That is pretty much what has happened in the USA, where the Left, for political expediency, has deemed it indecent to call “illegal” immigrants what they are, and the Right has just been pusillanimous and hypocritical about it. Hence the unfiltered persona of Trump who, for all his titanic shortcomings, has at least managed to make his rivals look like the craven midgets they are.

Likewise, the rise of Marine LePen in France, Geert Wilders in Holland, and other parties seeking limits to immigration, perhaps even deportations. Personally, I reject the idea that it’s “racist” to want to preserve one’s national culture and character (especially in language), or to favor bona fide citizens for gainful employment. Europe has the additional obvious problem of an immigrant Islamic population overtly hostile to European culture and tradition. Why is it morally imperative for Europeans to countenance what amounts to low-grade warfare?

The situation that smoldered for decades is now exploding. Don’t expect to see any end to desperation and instability in MENA, but do expect new demographic crises out of other regions: Indonesia, Ukraine, Pakistan, West Africa, and Brazil, with its cratering economy. It’s not inconceivable that China might bust apart politically, with centrifugal consequences. The global economy is contracting. We have indeed attained the limits to growth. Cheap oil is bygone and the capital infrastructure we have won’t run on expensive oil — including the oil industry itself. New technology or further central bank legerdemain is not going to fix that. We’re in population overshoot and a scramble is underway to bail on the places that just can’t support the people who live there. National boundaries will be defended. Sentimentalists will have to step aside. History is not a bedtime story about bunnies and kittens.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


I found this article through Longreads, an account from Art & Antiques about the restoration/forgery of the Marienkirche mural.