Thursday, December 31, 2015

Only in Russia

Another Paper Ends Print Publication.

The McKeesport (PA) Daily News ceases publication today. Despite this, many print papers continue, and some even originate from websites. The local example is The Big Island Chronicle, a monthly from the blog of the same name. (It would be nice if one could find a copy in Hilo.)

Happy New Year!

Auld Lang Syne.

A hectic year draws to a close. But I had a lot of fun nevertheless.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Even when I disagree with him (he disliked Straight Outta Compton; I liked it), Armond White is on the money. Same thing with John Simon.

Various Links

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

Your Hit Parade of Christmas Eve, 1955.

I promised Hattie a few weeks ago I'd check out Your Hit Parade and this seems to be representative.

Various Links on Peak Oil and Urban Planning

Various Links

Another pernicious effect of the Star Wars juggernaut.

Jill Stein, Green presidential candidate, appeared recently on The Young Turks.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Lemmy Dead.

Lemmy dead.

Kunstler: Questions and Answers.

Kunstler: Questions and Answers.

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.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Still Christmas

Busy, busy, busy has been this year. I'm already looking toward the New Year to simplify things. But we're still observing Christmas. We took some belated gifts to friends and neighbors today, and I have a few more gifts and cards to send. Christmas Eve shopping at the Prince Kuhio Plaza is not as crowded as it seems. A large space, part of which was a surfwear shop, will reopen next year as an Old Navy. I went first to Hot Topic, then Hallmark, and finally the pop-up calendar shop toward the women's section of Macy's.

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

Wham!: "Last Christmas."

Christmas Eve Twitter Assemblage

(No thanks, Grinch.)

Kunstlercast 273: Chuck Marohn

Kunstlercast 273: Chatting With Chuck Marohn of

Monday, December 21, 2015

Kunstler: Christmas Present.

Late-breaking news: Trifling presidential candidate and inveterate interventionist Lindsey Graham is giving us a present by dropping out of the race. Expect more of the grade Z GOP contestants to take down their stockings in the next few months. Now, here's Kunstler:

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

"Why Marxists Need Anarchists, and Vice Versa."

Bollywood in Top Ten Box Office

While Star Wars squats like Jabba the Hutt atop the box office chart, two movies opened this weekend at ninth and tenth places:

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

Kuana Torres Kahele: "Hilo For The Holidays."

"The Nineteenth-Century Taming of the Christmas Carol."

Star Wars Was Never My Bag.

On Wednesday afternoon, we saw Creed, which I recommend. It was the last showing, as the theater had to make room for the new Star Wars movie. (Yet it's still running The Good Dinosaur.) As we left, we saw dozens of people in a line stretching from the entrance to Maui Tacos, all waiting for the first Star Wars showing.

Armond White isn't a fan of the new Star Wars nor of the franchise in general.

22 December update:

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

Rod Dreher Watches and Opines on the GOP Debate

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

If Look Who's Talking were made nowadays.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Looking Askance

at this: "Nuclear Power as 'The New Green.'"

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.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Kunstler: Shining a Light.

Kunstler on the state of today's journalism.

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.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

I found this just now: