Monday, June 27, 2016

Kunstler: "Death to All Zombies!"

Kunstler: Death to All Zombies!

Wait a minute. They’re already dead. Brexit just reveals that not everybody’s brains have been eaten. A viral contagion now threatens the zombified institutions of daily life, especially the workings of politics and finance. Just as zombies exist only in the collective imagination, so do these two principal activities of society operate mainly on trust, an ephemeral product of the hive-mind.

When things fall apart in stressed complex systems, they tend to fall apart fast. It’s called phase change. Too many things in 21st century life have depended on sheer trust that the people-in-charge know what they are doing. That trust has subsisted on the doling out of money-from-nothing: debt, reckless bond issuance. TARP, QEs, bailouts, bail-ins, Operation Twists, Ponzi schemes… the whole sad-ass armamentarium of banking necromancy. The politicians let it get out of hand. Things that can’t go on don’t, and now they won’t.

The politics of Great Britain are now falling apart landslide-style. Since just about everybody in or near power can be blamed for the national predicament, there’s nobody to turn to, at least not yet. The Labour party just acted out The Caine Mutiny, starring Jeremy Corbyn as Captain Queeg. The Tory Cameron gave three months notice without any plausible replacement in view. Now Cameron’s people are hinting in the media that they can just drag their feet on Brexit, that is, not do anything to enable it from actually happening for a while. Of course, that’s what the monkeyshines of banking and finance have done: postponed the inevitable reckoning with the realities of our time: growing resource scarcity, population overshoot, climate change, ecological holocaust, and the diminishing returns of technology.

Britain illustrates the problem nicely: how to produce “wealth” without producing wealth. It’s called “the City,” their name for the little district of London that is their Wall Street. In the absence of producing real things, the City became the driver of the UK’s economy, a ghastly parasitical organism that functioned as the central transfer station for the world’s swindles and frauds, churning the West’s dwindling residual capital into a slurry of fees, commissions, arbitrages, rigged casino bets, and rip-offs. In the process, it enabled the European Central Bank (ECB) to run the con-job that the European Union (EU) became, with the fatal distortions of credit that have put its members into a ditch and sent the private European banks off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style.

The next stage of this protean global melodrama is what happens when currencies and interest rates become completely unglued from their assigned roles as patsies in financial racketeering. Sooner or later we’ll know what’s going on in the vast shadowy gloaming of “derivatives,” especially the “innovative” arrangements that affect to be “insurance” against losses in currency and interest rate “positions” — bets made on the movements of these things. When currencies rise or fall quickly, these so-called “swaps” are “triggered,” and then some hapless institution is left holding a big bag of dog-shit. A zombie is a terrible thing to behold, but a zombie holding a bag of dog-shit is like unto the end of the world.

Once this contagion starts burning, the people-in-charge won’t be able to quell it the way they did last time: by drowning it in torrents of money-from-nowhere. At least not without inducing real-deal inflation, the kind that leads to epochal ruin and more intense political upheaval: the nation-changing kind. We’re about five minutes away from that in the USA already, with the loathsome duo of Hillary and Trump putting on a Punch and Judy show for a disgusted public. If nothing else, Hillary and Trump represent the withering of political trust in America. The parties that spawned them are also whirling around the drain of credibility. They won’t survive in the form we knew them.

Who knows what comes out of this vacuum, what rough beast slouches towards Washington.

A Movie I Saw Today

Speaking of which, this afternoon I went through the channels and landed on YouToo America. Three Days of the Condor was listed as playing. I've never seen it. I saw a young man enter a building, then he talked to a beefy older man behind a desk in the lobby. It didn't seem like a movie from the '70s. He met another man for a job interview. They arrived at his office, and on the desk was a bottle of hand sanitizer. And that confirmed for me it wasn't Three Days of the Condor. It turned out the young man, a nursing student, was hired as a doorman on Fifth Avenue. Nice movie.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Be Safe, Sacramento.

I hope to post my travelogue of Sacramento one of these days. Not only was it a trip, it was also a meeting of family. But seeing these headlines, I have to respond.

The Los Angeles Times: "At Least Five People Stabbed at Neo-Nazi Event Outside Capitol in Sacramento."

Update: CNN: "At Least 7 Injured--Some Stabbed--At California Rally, Authorities Say."

We went to the Capitol on a Sunday afternoon. The building itself was closed but we walked around the garden. Everything was lovely. Not today, apparently.

27 June update: KCRA [NBC Sacramento affiliate]: "10 People Injured During Protest Clash at State Capitol (Officials: 2 People Suffered Life-Threatening Stab Wounds)

Nothing so far at the SPLC Hatewatch blog. The SPLC Twitter has a few posts. But this SPLC article from 2013 describes a conflict between white nationalists and anti-fascists that has flared up sporadically for decades.

Sacramento reporter Frances Wang was covering the protest and got in the thick of it:

Blumenthal says this. Who attacked who first is the question.

CBS News: "Police Recordings Show Response to Violent Calif. 'Nazi Mega-Rally.'"

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit Day

Hattie beat me to the punch.

Brexit wins. I can't believe they did this. If I were living in Britain I would be working on figuring out a way to leave. They just destroyed their future. It's clear to see that from the perspective of the U.S. I guess they were so propagandized with nativist resentment that they fell for this. These are a people who spread all over the earth. The sun never set on them. Now they have turned their back on the world.--Hattie's Web, "GB Loses Its Mind."

I've been following the news for about an hour now after coming home from the market. C-SPAN is airing ITV Referendum Vote Coverage, and the other cable news channels also are devoting time to Brexit and its projected victory. This is just the beginning.

Cameron resigns.

Jeremy Corbyn under fire.

26 June update: Brexit and the Energy Equation.

In the conversation about the rising revulsion against further integration, one factor is not being discussed: energy. With oil, natural gas and coal, the world's primary energy sources, all far below their high prices of the last decade, all would seem well on the energy front.

Britain, of course, had been reaping the benefits of oil and natural gas deposits in its sector of the North Sea since the 1970s. However, after 2005 the country ceased to be a net exporter of crude oil and natural gas liquids. Imports of natural gas have risen steeply with 2014 imports reaching 19 times what they were in 2000. Both these trends point to the decline of the North Sea fields and Britain's re-entry into the league of oil and gas importers, a sudden reversal of a previous long-term trend and a net negative for the British economy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rubio Will Run for Senate Again. Of course he will. It's up to Floridians if they want him as Senator.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

As always, so much to do. In some ways I'm ahead of schedule. For now, an interesting tweet:

Monday, June 20, 2016


Kunstler: Burnt Toast.

Kunstler: Burnt Toast.

At a most troubled moment in history, both major political parties appear set to nominate time-bomb candidates for president with a fair percentage chance of blowing up their own campaigns and the parties themselves.

We’ve been living in the era of anything goes and nothing matters — that is, the era of no consequences — but at some point between now and November 8 someone surely will press FBI chief James Comey as to why his agency issued neither a criminal referral nor an explanatory memorandum in the matter of Hillary Clinton’s private email server and its role in the money-gathering activities of the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State.

Hapless Bernie Sanders blew his chance to call her on that months ago — “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” — but it’s absolutely certain that Trump will jump up and down and shout woo-woo-woo about it during the general election campaign, if he manages to not get dumped at the GOP convention. Or his as-yet-hypothetical replacement will.

The email issue won’t go away because it entails serious issues of racketeering in public office, not just niceties of security procedure. One of the Secretary of State’s duties is to approve weapons sales to foreign countries. During her three years at State, Hillary signed off on $165 billion worth of sales by private commercial arms contractors to Clinton Foundation foreign donors. On top of that was an additional $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that gave to the Clinton Foundation. It also happened that the weapons contractors themselves and companies connected financially to them made substantial donations to the Clinton foundation — and paid whopping speaking fees to Hillary’s husband ex-president Bill, during her years at State.

Salon Magazine has also reported that in contradiction of a 1995 directive signed by then-president Bill against arms sales to nations violating human rights, Hillary approved such weapons sales. Salon’s David Sirota writes:

As just one of many examples, in its 2011 Human Rights Report, Clinton’s State Department slammed Algeria’s government for imposing “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association,” tolerating “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption” and a “lack of judicial independence.

That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and the next year Clinton’s State Department approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country. The jump included authorizations for almost 50,000 items classified as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment.” The State Department had not authorized the export of any of such items to Algeria the year before.

There’s no way that the shady doings of the Clinton Foundation will not become a campaign issue whether Trump emerges as the eventual GOP nominee or not, and of course the other noisome matter of exactly what Hillary told Too-Big-To-Fail banks in exchange for many quarter-million dollar “speaking fees” still lurks behind all that. Hillary’s partisans at the The New York Times and The WashPo have ignored these stories for months, but the telltale stench remains, like a dead body under the floorboards.. In contrast to her beaming victory lap after the California primary, all this stuff promises some serious frowny-face for Mz. It’s-My-Turn in the months ahead.

As for Trump, the hand-wringing and Maalox-gulping among GOP nabobs got a lot more intense since the Orlando Club massacre, and the (as usual) disjointed utterances by the presumptive Republican Party nominee. This guy is not just a loose artillery shell rolling around on the deck — he’s a dirty bomb wrapped in a smallpox blanket threatening to turn the Grand Old Party into a political Flying Dutchman. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan underscored his extremely conditional endorsement of Trump on the Sunday TV chat forums, hinting that even if Trump got where he is playing by the rules, the rules can be changed at the convention.

That would set the stage for a melee both inside and outside the GOP convention in Cleveland a month from now. The tragedy of a legitimately irate populace vested in such an obviously inept champion will lead to a political explosion when the party poobahs try to maneuver him off-stage. The only worse alternative is if they actually go ahead and nominate the ham-headed sonofabitch. Either way, the Republican Party comes out as burnt toast.

Remember, too, the Black Lives Matter movement and its affiliates promised months ago to bring a disruptive presence to both conventions. Imagine how they will get on with thousands of outraged Trumpsters moiling in the streets. Add a dash of Mexican hot sauce to this farrago and you’ve got a perfect recipe for mayhem.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

Meanwhile, in Venezuela...

From "Peak Oil Review: A Midweek Update", 16 June 2016:

Venezuelan security arrested some 400 people on Wednesday during the latest round of looting and food riots across the country. Washington and Caracas will hold high-level talks to see if a solution can be found to the situation in which mass starvation and societal collapse seems imminent. The Maduro government continues to blame its troubles on the US; but many recognize that the US is the only country capable of quickly providing the necessary humanitarian assistance. Washington is likely to insist that the Maduro government must go.

Christian Science Monitor: "As Food Supplies Dwindle in Venezuela, Children Feel a Sharp Pinch."

PanAm Post: "Food Riots Shut Down Venezuelan City as Police Join Rampage."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Views on Brexit

The Wikipedia article on United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union.

National Public Radio: "Parallels: Brexit Vote Reveals The Generation Gap In The United Kingdom."

The Guardian: "My Instinct is Pro-Brexit (and It’s Nothing to Do With Boris)."

Dissent Magazine: "The Left Case for Brexit."

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Jill Stein: Likely Green Party Presidential Nominee

The Green Party presidential convention will be held 4-7 August in Houston. The nomination will take place on 6 August. Although not a nominee, Jill Stein is the most well-known Green candidate and claims enough delegates to clinch the nomination. She'll contend with the following people:


Willita Bush (Missouri)
Darryl Cherney (California)
Bill Kreml (Illinois)
Kent Mesplay (California)
Robert Milnes (New Jersey)
Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry (California)
Justin Robert Murphy (Indiana)
Rhett Smith (Texas)
Daniel White (Georgia)

Reason magazine: "Green Party Candidate Jill Stein Says Hillary Clinton Could Be Worse Than Donald Trump".

The Nazz: "Hello It's Me."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Kunstler: The Desperate and the Disparate

Why James Howard Kunstler is on Patreon.

The Desperate and the Disparate.

As I was leaving Detroit very early Sunday morning to catch a plane, I saw the breaking story about a “shooting incident” in an Orlando nightclub, but the first reports did not detail any fatalities. Only after we landed was the shocking news of 50 dead and as many wounded revealed on the concourse TV screens.

Just in the past six months: December, 137 dead at the Paris Bataclan Theater (and two other sites); March, 35 dead at the Brussels airport; now the massacre at the Orlando Pulse Club. Before that, San Bernardino, The Madrid train bombing, the London Subway bombings… not to mention the videotaped beheadings of sundry Western journalists and other non-combatants… or the foundational outrage of 9/11. It gets more difficult for the democracies of the West to evade the recognition that a state of war exists between us and Islamic theocracy.

No one knows what to do about it , including, of course, the blowhard Trump. The perp in the Orlando slaughter, Omar Mateen, killed at the scene, was born in New York City, and many of the various European massacre perps were homegrown as well. Good luck trying to deport new wannabes like them. The mood for the moment, as in so many of these tragedies, is the awful combination of rage and impotence.

After many past atrocities, people of the Western nations under attack just sucked it up and moved on with daily life. These recent massacres, though, have stirred up the sleeping demons of Western politics. No sentient observer can fail to notice the extremities of feeling aroused in America’s 2016 election spectacle, which have overtaken dark trends underway for years already around Europe. One can only imagine that the sentiments will only get more extreme, as may the actions that follow.

I was in Detroit last week for the annual congress of the New Urbanists, who hold their meet-up in a different city each year, more or less to keep up with developments around the country. The org was formed in 1993 to challenge the fiasco of suburban sprawl, which was defacing the national geography like some landscape-eating leprosy. The org has been most successful at changing the DNA of property development in hundreds of cities and towns: the laws and zoning codes that for decades made it illegal to build so much as a popsicle stand in America without supplying ten parking spaces. The New Urbanists are responsible in large part for the urban renaissance — not so evenly distributed around the country.

Detroit, of course, is the most extreme case of civic implosion in the USA. In 1950, it was the seventh-richest city in the world. By the turn of this century, it was left for dead and bankrupt. It’s creeping back now by small increments, which may seem like not quite enough, but is actually exactly the scale required for what is coming. The residue of the city’s skyscraper center still stands on Augustus Woodward’s disorienting semi-circular street grid. There’s a grand wish to bring it all back to life, but personally I think that giant office and apartment towers are not on the menu for The Long Emergency. Practically everyone I talked to about this issue thinks my view of the matter is nuts. But I reiterate: skyscrapers and mega-structures are already obsolete (we just don’t know it yet).

Our cities will come back as cities, just not at the scale of comic book gigantism they achieved at the height of the oil age, when Superman was leaping over The Daily Planet headquarters. And remember that most of our cities occupy very important sites, most particularly Detroit on its stretch of river between Great Lakes, on the border of Canada. It’s coming back now by small entrepreneurial gestures, hipster and hippie business start-ups, the “risk oblivious” art shock troops, a cadre of fearless homegrown architects, and some visionary urban designers. The ballparks and casinos have landed downtown, too, like UFOs from a planet of bygone utopian redevelopment fantasies, all crammed into the same sports ghetto where wild drinking and structured parking overwhelms anything like normal city life a few hours a week.

The geographically huge city offers plenty of forsaken small-to-medium buildings, some of them very beautiful and built to last for the ages, that can be bought for almost nothing. There’s an awful lot of empty space between them, and for the moment enterprising gardeners are putting it to use while time bides itself waiting to find out where fate wants to take it. [More here.
* * *

Sunday, June 12, 2016


"Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine."--Obama, 1 October 2015

See also Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene I, lines 265-269.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

My Politics Post is Forthcoming, But Here Are Some Links in the Meantime

Still busy, and I'll have a lot more to do this week. But my big post, an overview of politics locally, nationally, and internationally, is forthcoming. Here are some links in the meantime:

Monday, June 06, 2016

Kunstler: Nausea Rising.

Kunstler: Nausea Rising.

Dear Patron,

As you may know, is currently under an aggressive Denial of Service (DoS) attack. My web and server technicians are working to get the website and blog back up and live soon (though it's going to cost a pretty penny). In the meantime, here is today's blog. Please share this with any of your CFN friends so they don't miss out. Thank you for your continued support. -- JHK

Nausea Rising

Considering that the 2016 election looks like a Dark Age puppet show — Pantalone and La Signora smacking each other with dildos — we forget this spectacle is serious. Rather large matters are at stake, such as the continuity of governance, the legitimacy of the two major political parties, the credibility of our financial arrangements, perhaps even the durability of the nation as a united polity.

Most of the deliberate comedy comes from Donald Trump, whose super-long dangling necktie looks like it was designed for laughs by the Commedia dell'Arte prop department, not to mention the hair, which I have maintained for many years is actually a wolverine living on top of Trump’s head. Trump certainly represents a large and valid strain of sentiment in the zeitgeist — the frustration of many ordinary citizens at government-sponsored racketeering that is shoving them into pauperdom. But his utterances against all that are so childish and disordered that he de-legitimates his own mission every time he opens his mouth.

Hillary delivers her laughs mostly deadpan, for instance her Sunday morning ABC interview with the old 1992 Clinton “War Room” hand George Stephanopoulos, who grilled the Flying Reptile rather mercilessly over the recent report from the State Department Inspector General that said she was “not allowed” to use the private email server no, ifs, ands, or buts. As she struggled to deflect the question, the “uh”s started to stipple her vapid evasions like holes punched in a life raft. It was fun watching her sink, uh, uh, uh, gurgle gurgle — though surely that was not the effect she was going for.

Bernie, of course, is not so funny. He’s as serious as a heart attack, which suggests that a pretty sizeable portion of the public is sick of being diverted with slapstick comedy. The old bastard is determined to give the Democratic Party poobahs some schooling in ethical procedure. I admire the heck out of that — also, his record as a demonstrably non-griftable public servant, and his stance against the racketeering-as-usual status quo — though I’m not persuaded he would be an effective president (if such a thing is even theoretically conceivable) given his nanny government disposition. But the bigshots of the DNC still have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do, and it looks like ole Bernie is going to beat it out of them at Philadelphia in July. What I wonder: is he strong enough to hold Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on his lap while he applies the rod.

The people of the United States have real grievances with the way this country is being run. Last Friday’s job’s report was a humdinger: only 38,000 new jobs created in a country of over 300 million, with a whole new crop of job-seeking college grads just churned out of the diploma mills. I guess the national shortage of waiters and bartenders has finally come to an end.

What’s required, of course, is a pretty stout restructuring of the US economy. And that should be understood to be a matter of national survival. We need to step way back on every kind of giantism currently afflicting us: giant agri-biz, giant commerce (Wal Mart etc.), giant banking, giant war-making, and giant government — this last item being so larded with incompetence on top of institutional entropy that it is literally a menace to American society.

The trend on future resources and capital availability is manifestly downward, and the obvious conclusion is the need to make this economy smaller and finer. The finer part of the deal means many more distributed tasks among the population, especially in farming and commerce operations that must be done at a local level. This means more Americans working on smaller farms and more Americans working in reconstructed Main Street business, both wholesale and retail. This would also necessarily lead to a shift out of the suburban clusterfuck and the rebuilding of ten thousand forsaken American towns and smaller cities.

For the moment, many demoralized Americans may feel more comfortable playing video games, eating on SNAP cards, and watching Trump fulminate on TV, but the horizon on that is limited too. Sooner or later they will have to become un-demoralized and do something else with their lives.

The main reason I am so against the Hillary and Trump, and so ambivalent on Bernie is their inability to comprehend the scope of action actually required to avoid sheer cultural collapse.

Peak Oil Review of 6 June Peak Oil Review: June 6, 2016.

Excerpts: The Scottish Parliament voted to ban fracking countrywide on Wednesday, making a moratorium on the controversial technique a permanent affair. The narrow vote (32-29) came after the legislative body temporarily outlawed fracking in January 2015 while it conducted a public health impact assessment and consulted environmental experts. (6/3)


Exelon Corp. said Thursday that it will retire two money-losing nuclear plants in Illinois during the next two years after state lawmakers declined to pass legislation that would have helped keep them running. The plants lost $800 million in the past seven years. (6/3)

Nuclear angle: as the Paris agreement on climate change has put pressure on the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some state and federal officials have deemed nuclear energy part of the solution. They are now scrambling to save existing plants that can no longer compete economically in a market flooded with cheap natural gas. (6/1)

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Saturday, June 04, 2016

A Book to Check Out Sometime

Wednesday, June 01, 2016