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.