Saturday, December 31, 2016

Billy Joel, "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)."

I've never heard of this song till just now, seeing it mentioned here.

Richard Marx's 1993 cover:

And the movies Cherry 2000 and The Running Man are set in a dystopian 2017.

Although the scenarios put forth here are unlikely to happen, let us all strive for peace in the year ahead.

Two Thousand-Sixteen Was A Year of Manifold Turmoil.

Friday, December 30, 2016

"Aussie Jingle Bells", "My Little Christmas Belle", and "Six White Boomers."

The Congo Dandies

Various Tweets and a Link

To be read in conjunction with the Vanity Fair restaurant review.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Eva O and Eric Clayton, "O Holy Night."

Kurtis Blow, "Christmas Rappin'"

A Very Aussie Christmas.

A Very Aussie Christmas.

Various Tweets

Monday, December 26, 2016

More on George Michael

Kunstler: Exit, Hope and Change

Kunstler's overview of the Obama administration.

Kunstler: Exit, Hope and Change.

Yes, that was a gag.

By now, anyone in this country still of sound mind knows that Barack Obama presided through eight years of remarkable continuity — of changeless conditions that left a great many hopeless. As the days of his tenure dwindle, what do we make of the departing 44th president?

He played the role with cool-headed decorum, but that raises the question: was he just playing a role? From the get-go, he made himself hostage to some of the most sinister puppeteers of the Deep State: Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner on the money side, and the Beltway Neocon war party infestation on the foreign affairs side. I’m convinced that the top dogs of both these gangs worked Obama over woodshed-style sometime after the 2008 election and told him to stick with the program, or else.

What was the program? On the money side, it was to float the banks and the whole groaning daisy chain of their dependents in shadow finance, real estate, and insurance, at all costs. Hence, the extension of Bush Two’s bailout policy with the trillion-dollar “shovel-ready” stimulus, the rescue of the car-makers, and a much greater and surreptitious multi-trillion dollar hand-off from the Federal Reserve to backstop the European banks with counter-party obligations to US banks.

In April of 2009, Obama’s new SEC appointees, strong-armed by bank lobbyists, pushed the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) into suspending their crucial Rule 157, which had required publically-held companies to report their asset holdings based on standard market-based valuation procedures — called “mark-to-market.” After that, companies like Too-Big-Too-Fail banks could just make shit up. This opened the door to the pervasive accounting fraud that allowed the financial sector to pretend it was healthy for the eight years that followed. The net effect of their criminal fakery was to only make the financial sector artificially larger, more dangerously fragile, and more prone to cataclysmic collapse.

Another feature of life on the money-side of the Obama presidency was that nobody paid a personal price for financial misconduct. This established the basic ethos of Obama-era finance: anything goes, and nothing matters. All the regulators looked the other way most of the time. And when forced to act by egregious behavior, they made deals that let banking executives off-the-hook while their companies shelled out fines that amounted to the mere cost of doing business. It happened again and again. The poster boy for this kind of “policy” — or just plain racketeering — was Jon Corzine, the head of the commodities brokerage MF Global, whose company looted “segregated” customer accounts to the tune of nearly a billion dollars in the fall of 2011. Corzine was never prosecuted and remains at large to this day.

Another signal failure in the money realm was Obama’s response to the 2010 Citizen United Supreme Court decision, which declared that the alleged legal “personhood” of corporations entitled them to exercise “free speech” by giving as much money as they wanted to political candidates for election. Big business no longer had to just rent congressmen and senators, they could buy them outright with cash.

A conservative Supreme Court made the call, but Obama could have acted forcefully in the face of it. The former constitutional law professor-turned-politician could have marshaled a response in his Democratic Party-controlled congress to draft legislation, or a constitutional amendment, that would properly redefine the personhood of corporations. It should be obvious, for instance, that corporations, unlike human citizens, do not have duties, obligations, and responsibilities to the public interest; by legal charter they have only to answer to their shareholders and boards of directors. How does this confer the kind of political free speech “rights” that the court allowed them to claim? And how did the Obama and his allies in the legislative branch roll over to allow this disgraceful affront to the constitution to stand? And how is that almost nobody in the mainstream press or academic law even pressed these issues? Thanks to all of them, we’ve set up the primary means for establishing a fascist Deep State: the official marriage of corporate money and politics. Anything goes and nothing matters.

Finally, in foreign affairs, there is Obama’s mystifying campaign against the Russian Federation. The US had an agreement with Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union that we would not expand NATO if they gave us a quantity of nuclear material that was in danger of falling into questionable hands in the disorder that followed the collapse. Russia complied. What did we do? We expanded NATO to include most of the former eastern European countries (except the remnants of Yugoslavia), and then under Obama, NATO began holding war games on Russia’s border. For what reason? The fictitious notion that Russia wanted to “take back” these nations — as if they needed to adopt a host of dependents that had only recently bankrupted the Soviet state. Any reasonable analysis would call these war games naked aggression by the West.

Then there was the 2014 US State Department-sponsored coup against Ukraine’s elected government and the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych. Why? Because his government wanted to join the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union instead of an association with European Union. We didn’t like that and we decided to oppose it by subverting the Ukrainian government. In the violence and disorder that ensued, Russia took back the Crimea — which had been gifted to the former Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic (a province of Soviet Russia) one drunken night by the Ukraine-born Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. What did we expect after turning Ukraine into another failed state? The Crimean peninsula had been part of Russia for longer than the US had been a country. Its only warm water naval ports were located there. They held a referendum and the Crimean people voted overwhelmingly to return to Russia. So, President Obama decided to punish Russia with economic sanctions.

Then there was Syria, a battleground between the different branches of Islam, their sponsors (Iran and Saudi Arabia), and their proxies, (Hezbollah and the various Salafist jihad armies). The US “solution” was to sponsor the downfall of the legitimate Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad. We apparently still favored foreign relations based on creating failed states — after our experience in Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and Ukraine. President Obama completely muffed his initial attempt at intervention — the “line-in-the-sand” moment — and then decided to send arms and money to the various Salafist jihadi groups fighting Assad, claiming that our bad guys were “moderates.” Meanwhile, Russia stepped in to prop up Assad’s government, apparently based on the idea that the Middle East didn’t need yet another failed state. We castigated Russia for that.

The idiotic behavior of the US toward Russia in these matters led to the most dangerous state of relations between the two since the heart of the Cold War. It culminated in the ridiculous campaign this fall to blame Russia for the defeat of Hillary Clinton. And here we are.

I didn’t vote for Hillary or Donald Trump (I wrote-in David Stockman). I’m not happy to see Donald Trump become president. But I’ve had enough of Mr. Obama. He put up a good front. He seemed congenial and intelligent. But in the end, he appears to be a kind of stooge for the darker forces in America’s overgrown bureaucratic Deep State racketeering operation. Washington truly is a swamp that needs to be drained. Barack Obama was not one of the alligators in it, but he was some kind of bird with elegant plumage that sang a song of greeting at every sunrise to the reptiles who stirred in the mud. And now he is flying away.
[Emphasis mine.--P.Z.]

Next week, I’ll post the 2017 forecast..

Sunday, December 25, 2016

R.I.P. George Michael

At a family Christmas dinner, I found out George Michael died today.

I saw this video in the fall of 1990.

This one came out later in the fall. And the Friday before Christmas, at Rhythm and Reading, I bought the cassette of Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1, along with LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock You Out cassette.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Spanky & Our Gang, "I'd Like to Get to Know You."

I've heard this song countless times, but Jimmy Fallon's latest Tonight Show promo piqued my interest. Now I know the name of the band.

"Nebo i Zemlya."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Saving Gullah Geechee Culture.

I saved this in draft form since early March.

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey is Assassinated.

Kunstler: The Deep State Blues.

Kunstler: The Deep State Blues. (Alternate site at Patreon here.)

Lest you wonder, not only did I not vote for Mr. Trump (or Hillary), but I relished heaping opprobrium on him during the election campaign. Just so you know, I’m not advocating for him, but I’m alarmed that the Deep State (the White House + the Intel Agency gang) now appears to be trying to hack the electoral college vote against him.

The headline deployed everywhere last week, “Russia Hacks Election,” was designed by the Deep State players to deviously lead the broadly dim public to think that Russia somehow interfered with the balloting process, which was not possible since voting machines are not hooked up to the internet. And then it was repeated endlessly by the cable news networks and the newspapers, under the number one rule of propaganda: that if you repeat something often enough, the public will swallow it.

This dishonest meme was also designed to distract the public from the substance of the emails disclosed by WikiLeaks — namely, the scamming and trickery of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the influence-peddling of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, which had her flirting with indictment last summer, and only reinforced her already-established public image as an unscrupulous person.

The New York Times especially worked the “Russia Hacks Election” story to a fare-the-well, saying in its Sunday edition:

The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Moscow put its thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump through the release of hacked Democratic emails, which provided fodder for many of the most pernicious false attacks on Mrs. Clinton on social media.

False attacks? What, that Hillary’s cronies put the DNC’s “thumb on the scale” against Bernie Sanders? That Donna Brazille gave Hillary debate questions beforehand? That as Secretary of State Hillary gave more face-time to foreign supplicants based on their contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and expedited arms deals for especially big givers? That she collected millions in speaking fees for sucking up to Too-Big-To-Fail bankers? That The Times and The WashPo and CNN reporters were taking direction from Hillary’s PR operatives?

Consider, too, how the Deep State “Russia Hacks Election” meme was ramped up to top volume coincidentally the week before the electoral college vote, as a last-ditch effort was launched by the old-line media, the diehard Hillary partisans, and a bunch of Hollywood celebrities, to persuade electoral college delegates to switch their votes to deprive Trump of his election victory.

President Obama did his bit to amplify the message by coloring Russian President Vladimir Putin as being behind the so-called hacking because “not much happens in Russia without, you know, Vladimir Putin,” just like not much happened in old Puritan New England without the involvement of Old Scratch. So now we have an up-to-date Devil figure to stir the paranoid imaginations of an already divided and perturbed public.

Hillary and her supporters have vehemently asserted that “seventeen intelligence agencies” agree with the assessment that Russia hacked the election. It might be greater news to the American people to hear that there actually are seventeen such agencies out there. Perhaps Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama might explain exactly what they are beyond the CIA, the FBI, the DIA, the NSA, and DHS. Personally, I feel less secure knowing that there are so many additional surveillance services sifting through everybody’s digital debris trail.

There’s been some chagrin among more prudent observers that neither the various Intel gang chiefs, including James Clapper, overall Director of National Intelligence, nor the White House have provided a shred of evidence that WikiLeaks got the Hillary emails from the Russians. One might even suppose that we discovered the hack by hacking the Russians, perhaps even Mr. Putin’s personal iPhone — but, wait a minute… we don’t intrude on other nations’ business. We don’t use the internet to spy (!) on anybody.

It will be interesting to see how Mr. Trump gets along with the Intel gang when (and if) he actually makes it into the oval office. It’s nice to think that he will fire a bunch of them, and then fire a bunch more, and maybe take a good hard look at these seventeen security and surveillance agencies and maybe shut a few of them down. In the meantime, their activity begins to look like the attempted coup d’état I warned about a few months ago.

Forgive me for changing the subject so briskly, but there was another front page piece in The New York Times on Sunday that kind of said it all about where that Old Gray Lady’s collective head is at these days. Behold this quote from the story What Women Really Think of Men:

As the country prepares to revert to white male rule, our common condition for all but eight of the last 240 years, we should think harder about why we assume so little of men, including ones we may be married to. Too many men don’t prove those expectations wrong, and are rewarded anyway with prizes like the presidency.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

R.I.P. Zsa Zsa Gabor.

I logged in just now and learned Zsa Zsa Gabor has died at age ninety-nine.

She had wanted to return to Hungary and die there.

In 1952 she made her movie debut in the musical Lovely to Look At as--who else?--Zsa Zsa.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Yes, But...

Not that Moniz isn't highly educated and competent. And not that Perry would be in way over his head. But... "Sec. Moniz Bullish on Nuclear to Help Solve Carbon Dilemma."

"Truthout (US): Nuclear Power Is on the Wane, Despite Efforts of High-Profile Boosters."

CounterPunch: "The Real Nuclear Threats."

Yes, I heard.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Kunstler: Trumpxuberance… Until It’s Not

Note: Kunstler's main site is under a distributed-denial-of-service attack. Today's column is posted at his Patreon page.

“Markets shrugged off the Brexit vote in a couple of days. They shrugged off Donald Trump’s election in a single day. They shrugged off the Italian referendum result in a couple of hours. Heck, in this mood they would shrug off an alien invasion of planet Earth.”
— Albert Edwards, Société Générale

At this time of year, only the hardest, coldest heart can fail to show good will to fellow man. That said, the silvery orb of Donald Trump’s post-election honeymoon may set sooner than expected as Ms. Yellin prepares to hoist her interest rate petard this week. Even a modest up-bump in the Fed Funds Rate is liable to prang the orgy of corporate share buybacks fueling the eight-year bull market that many formerly sane observers think is a permanent feature of the human condition. The bond market bull also seemed to last a lifetime and that’s gone south now, too.

Poor Trump’s mammoth ego has led him by the snout into a deadfall trap. The Trumpublican voters and cheerleaders expect another Morning in America miracle. Sorry, been there, done that, that was then, this is now. Conditions were quite different in 1981. For one thing, a brutal decade after the 1970 all-time US oil production peak, the Alaska North Slope fields came into full flow, along with the North Sea and Siberian fields.

The Alaska bonanza did not boost US production back to 1970 levels, but it did take the leverage away from OPEC, and it stuffed the elevated price-per-barrel back down to levels that an industrial economy could tolerate. The rest of the Reagan miracle was accomplished with debt. The case was similar for Mrs. Thatcher over in the UK. She was not an economic magician, just the beneficiary of a brief oil boom that made Britain a net energy exporter for two decades, providing an illusion of permanent prosperity and cover for the financialization of the economy. Now, with the North Sea oil playing out, all that’s left is the banking necromancy in Threadneedle Street.

Reagan also came in at the height of Fed Chair Paul Volker’s war on inflation, when the interest rate on the ten-year US treasury bond topped at 15 percent in September of 1981. Imagine paying 18 percent interest rates on your mortgage! How was that a good thing? Well, it wasn’t, not at all, it was a very bad thing for a while — but for Lucky Ronnie Reagan it meant interest rates had nowhere to go but down. And because bond prices correlate opposite to rates, the value of bonds had nowhere to go but up, which they did for 30-odd years until right now. And all that time, the world bond market couldn’t get enough of them — also till now, when big holders like China and Saudi Arabia are puking them back out.

When Reagan stepped in the national debt was only (only!) about half a trillion dollars. It will be over $20 trillion when Trump hangs his golden logo on the White House portico. Oh, by the way, consider that a trillion dollars is a thousand billion dollars and a billion dollars is a thousand million dollars. Just so you know. Reagan had room for plenty of government finance monkey business. Trump has no room. Bush One, Clinton, Bush Two and Obama dug the deadfall debt trap for poor Donald and the election shoved him right into it. He thinks he’s on an upper floor of his enchanted tower; he’s actually down in a pit.

Trump thinks he’s going to rebuild highways and bridges for another century of Happy Motoring — to make America like it was in 1962 forever. Fuggeddabowdit. The bond market is poised for collapse as I write, and Trump’s money people (that is, the Goldman Sachs gang he has assembled) are talking about issuing fifty and 100 year “Build America” bonds. Their nostrils must be rimed with the frost of Medellin.

They're certainly not going to accomplish this trick by raising taxes. On who? Corporations? Ha! The One Percent? Double-Ha! Everyone else? Pitchforks and torches!

American oil companies can no longer make a buck doing their thing. Exxon-Mobil's U.S. production business lost $477 million in the third quarter, the seventh straight quarter in the red. Why? Because it costs a lot more to get the stuff out of the ground than it did ten years ago, and that high cost is bankrupting oil companies and industrial economies. That is the stealth action of Peak Oil that so many people pretend is not happening. It will ultimately destroy the banking system.

The disappointment issuing from this dire set of circumstances is apt to be epic as Trump flounders and the furious tweets of futility waft out of the hole he’s trapped in. Christmas will be over, and with it the hopes of a retail reprieve. Gasoline may remain cheap, but the little people won’t be able to buy the cars to run it in. Or buy much of anything else. Not even tattoos. We’ll soon discover the temperamental difference between Donald J. Trump and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Fifteen American Things Europeans Find Weird

On Sunday, I began cleaning up the living room to make room for the Christmas tree. Apparently, I stirred up a lot of dust because I was sneezing all day yesterday.

Grammy nominations out.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Kunstler: The Deepening Deep State.

Kunstler: The Deepening Deep State.

One amusing angle on the news media broadside about Russia “hacking” the US election is the failure to mention — or even imagine! — that the US incessantly and continually runs propaganda psy-ops against every other country in the world. And I’m not even including the venerable, old, out-in-the-open propaganda organs like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe (reminder: the Iron Curtain came down a quarter century ago). Do you suppose that nobody at Langley, or the Pentagon, or the NSA’s sprawling 1.5 million square foot Utah Data Center is laboring night and day to sow confusion among other societies to push our various agendas?

The main offensive started with The Washington Post’s publication on Nov 26 of “The List,” a story calling out dozens of blogs and web news-sites as purveyors of “fake news” fronting for Russian disinformation forces. The list included Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, and David Stockman’s blog. There were several whack-job sites mixed in the list for seasoning — The Daily Stormer (Nazis), (Evangelical apocalyptic), GalacticConnection (UFO shit). The rest range between tabloid-silly and genuine, valuable news commentary. What else would you expect in a society with an Internet AND a completely incoherent consensus about reality?

Pretty obviously, the struggle between mainstream news and Web news climaxed over the election, with the mainstream overwhelmingly pimping for Hillary, and then having a nervous breakdown when she lost. Desperate to explain the loss, the two leading old-line newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post, ran with the Russia-Hacks-Election story — because only Satanic intervention could explain the fall of Ms. It’s-My-Turn / I’m-With-Her. Thus, the story went, Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), gave the hacked emails to Wikileaks, and sabotaged not only Hillary herself but the livelihoods of every myrmidon in the American Deep State termite mound, an unforgivable act.

Also interestingly, these newspapers and their handmaidens on TV, were far less concerned as to whether the leaked information was true or not — e.g. the Clinton Foundation donors’ influence-peddling around arms deals made in the State Department; the DNC’s campaign to undermine Bernie Sanders in the primaries; DNC temporary chair (and CNN employee) Donna Brazille conveying debate questions to HRC; the content of HRC’s quarter-million-dollar speeches to Wall Street banks. All of that turned out to be true, of course.

Then, a few weeks after the election, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 6393, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. Blogger Ronald Thomas West reports:

Section 501 calls for the government to “counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence … carried out in coordination with, or at the behest of, political leaders or the security services of the Russian Federation and the role of the Russian Federation has been hidden or not acknowledged publicly.”

The measure has not been passed by the Senate or signed into law yet, and the holiday recess may prevent that. But it is easy to see how it would empower the Deep State to shut down whichever websites they happened to not like. My reference to the Deep State might even imply to some readers that I’m infected by the paranoia virus. But I’m simply talking about the massive “security” and surveillance matrix that has unquestionably expanded since the 9/11 airplane attacks, creating a gigantic NSA superstructure above and beyond the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense’s DIA, and the hoary old FBI.

A little paranoia about the growing fascist behavior of the US government is a useful corrective to trends that citizens ought to be concerned about — for instance, the militarization of police; the outrageous “civil forfeiture” scam that allows police to steal citizens cash and property without any due process of law; the preferential application of law as seen in the handling of the Clinton Foundation activities and the misconduct of banking executives; the attempt to impose a “cashless society” that would herd all citizens into a financial surveillance hub and eliminate their economic liberty.

These matters are especially crucial as the nation stumbles into the next financial crisis and the Deep State becomes desperate to harvest every nickel it can to rescue itself plus the cast of “systemically important” (Too-Big-To-Fail) banks and related institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are about to once again be left holding colossal bags of worthless non-performing mortgages, not to mention the pension funds and insurance companies that will also founder in the Great Unwind that is likely to commence as Trump hangs his golden logo over the White House portico.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Various Tweets

 "Herman Cain Dropping Syndication in 2017, Staying on WSB, Four Other Cox Media Group Stations."