Friday, December 01, 2017

World AIDS Day

On this World AIDS Day, let us remember those who lost their parents, especially their mothers, to AIDS:

Resources for AIDS orphans.

The Huffington Post: "Yes, America Has AIDS Orphans--Lots."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The History of Techno

Wendi Mak, "Aba Dama."

Parliament, "Aqua Boogie."

Wall Street Week, 16 October 1987

DMX, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

Senate Bean Soup

Yutaka Yokokura, "This Christmas."



From the album A GRP Christmas Collection.

Chicago, "Look Away."

Earth, Wind & Fire, "System of Survival."

Blue Mercedes, "I Want to Be Your Property."

Tom Tom Club, "Wordy Rappinghood."

Robbie Dupree, "Brooklyn Girls"

Kenny Nolan, "I Like Dreamin'."

Neil Diamond, "Thank the Lord for the Night Time."

The Quests, "Come On Down to My Boat."

Jason Derulo feat. Ty Dolla $ign and Nicki Minaj, "Swalla."

The Guess Who, "Laughing"

"사랑인가요 Perhaps Love" by Eric Nam & Cheeze

Court Tennis

Azoto, "Exalt Exalt"

Snoop Doggy Dogg, "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto."

Danny Boy, "Christmas Song."

Black, "Wonderful Life"

Ladies' Code, "Bad Girl."

KC Flightt, "Planet E" (House Mix)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tahkhana

It's good to know Shock Cinema is still around.

Gumnaam

Phir Wahi Raat

Pink Lady - Wanted (Shimei Tehai)

Atop the Oricon Singles Chart this date in 1977.

"Wanted (Shimei Tehai)"

Licence IV - Viens boire un p'tit coup à la maison

Debby Boone, "You Light Up My Life."





Ye Olde Gag and Doodle

I found this by chance, and it's worth checking out.

YeOldeGagandDoodle.tumblr.com

"How to Cite a Tweet."







"Tainted Treats: Racism and the Rise of Big Candy."





"The Masters of Classic Indian Horror Are Back!"

"Die Katzenpfote" from the Glogauer Liederbuch



I heard this on the radio a couple of years ago. The announcer said the piece was translated as "The Cat's Paw."

Monday, October 30, 2017

Kunstler Essay in The American Conservative: "The Infinite Suburb is an Academic Joke."

One might find Kunstler to be an apologist for Russia or a Hillary-hater. But few are better at laying out the ways industrial civilization is dependent upon cheap energy, especially that derived from fossil fuels. (I should say, however, I know someone who not only installed solar panels on his house a while back but has now bought a slightly used Leaf electric car, which he charges at home--with the solar electricity. And he is thrilled with the car.)

Here.

Kunstler: Thar She Blows

Kunstler on the indictment of Manafort, et al.

Remember that Kunstler can't stand either Trump or Clinton, only in different ways.

Kunstler: Thar She Blows.

I’m obliged to file this blog before Robert Mueller’s office releases the name of the first winner in the Russian Election Meddling tribunal indictment lottery. Most of the betting is on Paul Manafort, the Swamp-creature-fixer-lobbyist-grifter who spent his summer vacation of 2016 managing Donald Trump’s election campaign.

Before that unfortunate summer internship, Manafort was just a shadier-than-average influence-peddler. It happened that many of his clients were bigshots in foreign lands — Mobuto Sese Seko (Congo), Jonas Savimbi (Angola), and Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), as well as interests in Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ukraine, and other world beauty spots. Also, most notably, Russia where the wicked Mr. Putin dwells and incessantly plots evil against our shining city of a republic.

Over the years, Manafort took large sums of money to the DC laundry room and then distributed bales of it around town to other lobbyist subcontractors, but he left quite a trail. And he overlooked the requirement to register as an agent for foreign interests. So, indicting him looks like a no-brainer. An entry-level US Attorney could, figuratively speaking, hitch him up to the rear bumper of a Chevy Yukon and drag him over five miles of broken Coke bottles.

If I am right, his indictment will provoke a five-column headline in The New York Times, Don Lemon will have a multiple orgasm on CNN tonight, and by Halloween the whole Manafort matter will be as forgotten as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Las Vegas Country Music Massacre. That’s how we roll in Attention Deficit Nation. I suppose Mueller’s team next will want to charge fired National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn for failing to register as a foreign agent prior to a having conversation with the Russian ambassador — but mightn’t it be a little absurd to outlaw dialogue between incoming White House officials and foreign ambassadors who, after all, are here to have conversations with our people? That’ll be an interesting precedent. Why would other countries even bother to send an ambassador here if that’s our policy?

There’s an outside chance, of course — outside, say as far away as the planet Mars — that Mr. Mueller will just flop his whole hand on the table and indict President Trump. Wouldn’t that be a jolt? And it would instantly prompt a constitutional crisis, so my money says ain’t gonna happen.

It’s hard to see where it goes from there. The standard plot-line is to net these smaller fish and use them as bait to harpoon the Big White Whale. Give them immunity and let them sing their hearts out to avoid getting sent to ping-pong camp in the Poconos for a five-year stretch. Or else these two schnooks go bankrupt paying hotshot DC lawyers to get them off the hook. Does Mueller go after Donny Junior for having a conversation with a Russian lawyer? Or son-in-law Jared Kushner for flying to Russia and having meetings with Russians? Hey, does anyone remember that A) We’re not at war with Russia, and B) the soviet regime there folded up twenty-five years ago?

The casual observer can’t avoid dragging Hillary into this. It appears that, among other things, the Clinton Foundation received over a $100 million in “charitable donations” from various Russian companies and individuals over the years. Gosh, they’re a big-hearted people! Maybe it’s all the vodka they guzzle. No doubt, the newly-converted Russian capitalists were yearning to support “impact entrepreneurs” who are creating “new enterprises to generate both social impact and financial returns” by addressing market gaps in developing countries, or to “strengthen the capacity of people in the United States and throughout the world to meet the challenges of global interdependence” — as the Clinton Foundation described their activities.

More likely they wanted to grease their access to the sure-thing It’s-My-Turn Madam President. Except then she went and lost the election… all because of Russian meddling.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017





VFW Pans Kid Rock's Bowl Show.

Monday, October 23, 2017



On a related note: A few years ago, I read a tweet by a locally prominent man in which he said that he hadn't been to the library in ages, and it didn't matter because we had Borders. And Borders would close in a few months. As much as I liked Borders, I know there is no substitute for the library.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

Kunstler: The Future (Not)

Kunstler: The Future (Not)

I took myself to the new movie Blade Runner 2049 to see what kind of future the Hollywood dream-shop is serving up these days. It was an excellent illustration of the over-investments in technology with diminishing returns that are dragging us into collapse and of the attendant techno-narcissism that afflicts the supposedly thinking class in this society, who absolutely don’t get what this collapse is about. The more computer magic Hollywood drags into the picture, the less coherent their story-telling gets. Hollywood is collapsing, and it’s not just because of Harvey Weinstein’s antics.

Movies of this genre are really always more about the current moment than about the future, and Blade Runner 2049 is full of hilarious retro-anachronisms — things around us now which will probably not be in the future. The signature trope in many sci-fi dystopias of recent times is the assumed ever-presence of automobiles.[Emphasis mine.--P.Z.]

The original Mad Max was little more than an extended car chase — though apparently all that people remember about it is the desolate desert landscape and Mel Gibson’s leather jumpsuit. As the series wore on, both the vehicles and the staged chases became more spectacularly grandiose, until, in the latest edition, the movie was solely about Charlize Theron driving a truck. I always wondered where Mel got new air filters and radiator hoses, not to mention where he gassed up. In a world that broken, of course, there would be no supply and manufacturing chains.

So, of course, Blade Runner 2049 opens with a shot of the detective played by Ryan Gosling in his flying car, zooming over a landscape that looks more like a computer motherboard than actual earthly terrain. As the movie goes on, he gets in and out of his flying car more often than a San Fernando soccer mom on her daily rounds. That actually tells us something more significant than all the grim monotone trappings of the production design, namely, that we can’t imagine any kind of future — or any human society for that matter — that is not centered on cars.

But isn’t that exactly why we’ve invested so much hope and expectation (and public subsidies) in the activities of Elon Musk?* After all, the Master Wish in this culture of wishful thinking is the wish to be able to keep driving to Wal Mart forever. It’s the ultimate fantasy of a shallow “consumer” society. The people who deliver that way of life, and profit from it, are every bit as sincerely wishful about it as the underpaid and overfed schnooks moiling in the discount aisles. In the dark corners of so-called postmodern mythology, there really is no human life, or human future, without cars.

This points to the central fallacy of this Sci-fi genre: that technology can defeat nature and still exist. This is where our techno-narcissism comes in fast and furious. The Blade Runner movies take place in and around a Los Angeles filled with mega-structures pulsating with holographic advertisements. Where does the energy come from to construct all this stuff? Supposedly from something Mr. Musk dreams up that we haven’t heard about yet. Frankly, I don’t believe that such a miracle is in the offing.

The denizens of this 2049 Los Angeles are a rabble of ragged scavengers bolting down bowls of ramen in the never-ending drizzle. Apparently they have nothing to do, nothing useful or gainful, that is. So you can’t help wondering how this hypothetical economy supports such a population of no-accounts. I mean, we do know how our current economy supports the millions who are out of the work force, bolting their ramen between visits to the tattoo parlor: by giveaways based on pervasive accounting fraud backed by the now dwindling supply of oil that can be profitably extracted from the ground. But that won’t continue much longer. Know why? Because things that can’t go on, don’t.

One thing Blade Runner 2049 gets right in its retro-anachronistic borrowings from the present is the awesome joylessness of the culture. The artistry in this vision of the future is especially vivid in illuminating the absence of real artistry in contemporary “postmodern” American life. Sleek mechanical surfaces are everything, with no substance beneath the surface.

I walked out after two hours, and there was plenty more to go. It was too dreary, and too intellectually insulting to endure. I don’t blame Ryan Gosling, though. His look of doleful skepticism throughout the proceedings was perfect.

----
* For example, Futurism.com: "Elon Musk's Rocket Could Get You Anywhere on Earth in 60 Min. Here's What It Would Feel Like." --P.Z.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cut Rate

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The New York Times: Casting Light Upon Darkness.

Via one of coozledad's posts on NancyNall:



Of course, the original story linked to is from The New York Times, a paper coozledad has lately taken to bashing, including in his immediately preceding post [Warning: lot of cussing].

The Times is far from a perfect paper, but its reporting can be vital: "Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades" by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, 5 Oct. 2017.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Friday, October 06, 2017




Thursday, October 05, 2017

"Gun Owners: What Gun Restrictions Would You Support?"

Wednesday, October 04, 2017



Knelling is extremely respectful.

As for kneeling (presumably while the National Anthem is being played):

› Title 36 › Subtitle I › Part A › Chapter 3 › § 301

R.I.P. Tom Petty



Monday, October 02, 2017

The First of October

We celebrated my sister's birthday yesterday by going to Kona in the afternoon and eating at Outback Steakhouse with my aunt who lives up the hill. It was a long but fun day, and we came home about ten. As I was getting ready for bed, I turned on the TV and saw the news about a shooting in Las Vegas: two dead, several injured. This morning, the count was fifty-eight dead, over 500 injured.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Violeta Parra, "Volver a los Diecisiete Con Letra."

Te Vaka, "Tamahana."

Eugénie Buffet, "La Sérénade du Pavé" (Sidewalk Serenade).

Big Tom, "An Old Log Cabin for Sale" and "Be Careful of Stones That You Throw."



Mr Peters & his Boom & Chime, "Promis Lan"

Jimmie Riddle & Jackie Phelps, "Sittin On Top of the World."


Chalermpol Malakham, "Kang moung koy mia."



I think this song is also by him.

Eusèbe Jaojoby, "Velono."

Rish, "Locked Out of Heaven."

ARKA'N, "Got to Break It."

Firmin Viry, "Le roi dans le bois"

Siven Chinien, "Bondyé"



Read Kunstler.

Bruno Mars, "Versace on the Floor."

Friday, September 29, 2017

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Spent the Day in Bed."





And maybe she'll listen to this during/after that.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hack Has More Than One Meaning.



No. And Lifehacker is useful. See below.


The Way Ahead

Nancy Nall was just laid off from her job at the online Bridge magazine. Many talented journalists are out of work. What is a solution? Perhaps a cooperative or collective.

Friday, September 22, 2017



Wouldn't it be something if he and Tom Boggioni ("tbogg") met face to face.

Kunstler: In the Murk.

Kunstler: In the Murk.

Puerto Rico, You lovely island,
Island of tropical breezes….

— West Side Story

Welcome to America’s first experiment in the World Made By Hand lifestyle. Where else is it going? Watch closely.

Ricardo Ramos, the director of the beleaguered, government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, told CNN Thursday that the island’s power infrastructure had been basically “destroyed” and will take months to come back

“Basically destroyed.” That’s about as basic as it gets civilization-wise.

Residents, Mr. Ramos said, would need to change the way they cook and cool off. For entertainment, old-school would be the best approach, he said. “It’s a good time for dads to buy a ball and a glove and change the way you entertain your children.”

Meaning, I guess, no more playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard on-screen because you’ll be living it — though one wonders where will the money come from to buy the ball and glove? Few Puerto Ricans will be going to work with the power off. And the island’s public finances were in disarray sufficient to drive it into federal court last May to set in motion a legal receivership that amounted to bankruptcy in all but name. The commonwealth, a US territory, was in default for $74 billion in bonded debt, plus another $49 billion in unfunded pension obligations.

So, Puerto Rico already faced a crisis pre-Hurricane Maria, with its dodgy electric grid and crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water and sewage systems. Bankruptcy put it in a poor position to issue new bonds for public works which are generally paid for with public borrowing. Who, exactly, would buy the new bonds? I hear readers whispering, “the Federal Reserve.” Which is a pretty good clue to understanding the circle-jerk that American finance has become.

Some sort of bailout is unavoidable, though President Trump tweeted “No Bailout for Puerto Rico” after the May bankruptcy proceeding. Things have changed and the shelf-life of Trumpian tweets is famously brief. But the crisis may actually strain the ability of the federal government to pretend it can cover the cost of every calamity that strikes the nation — at least not without casting doubt on the soundness of the dollar. And not a few bonafide states are also whirling around the bankruptcy drain: Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Kentucky.

Constitutionally states are not permitted to declare bankruptcy, though counties and municipalities can. Congress would have to change the law to allow it. But states can default on their bonds and other obligations. Surely there would be some kind of fiscal and political hell to pay if they go that route. Nobody really knows what might happen in a state as big and complex as Illinois, which has been paying its way for decades by borrowing from the future. Suddenly, the future is here and nobody has a plan for it.

The case for the federal government is not so different. It, too, only manages to pay its bondholders via bookkeeping hocuspocus, and its colossal unfunded obligations for social security and Medicare make Illinois’ predicament look like a skipped car payment.

In the meantime — and it looks like it’s going to be a long meantime — Puerto Rico is back in the 18th Century, minus the practical skills and simpler furnishings for living that way of life, and with a population many times beyond the carrying capacity of the island in that era. For instance, how many houses get their water from cisterns designed to catch rain runoff? How many communities across the island are walkable? (It looks like the gas stations will be down for quite a while.) I’ve been there and much of the island is as suburbanized as New Jersey — thanks to the desire to be up-to-date with the mainland, and the willingness of officials to make it look like that.

We’re only two days past the Hurricane Maria’s direct hit on Puerto Rico and there is no phone communication across the island, so we barely know what has happened. We’re weeks past Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, and news of the consequences from those two events has strangely fallen out of the news media. Where have the people gone who lost everything? The news blackout is as complete and strange as the darkness that has descended on Puerto Rico.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On The Village Voice Ending Its Print Version























Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017



Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Reverend Khader El-Yateem





More to follow.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Kunstler: In the Dark.

Kunstler: In the Dark.

The stock market is zooming this morning on the news that only 5.7 million people in Florida will have to do without air conditioning, hot showers, and Keurig mochachinos at dawn’s early light Monday, Sept 11, 2017. I’m mindful that the news cycle right after a hurricane goes kind of blank for a day or more as dazed and confused citizens venture out to assess the damage. For now, there is very little hard information on the Web waves. Does Key West still exist? Hard to tell. We’ll know more this evening.

The one-two punch of Harvey and Irma did afford the folks-in-charge of the nation’s affairs a sly opportunity to get rid of that annoying debt ceiling problem. This is the law that established a limit on how much debt the Federal Reserve could “buy” from the national government. Some of you may be thinking: buy debt? Why would anybody want to buy somebody’s debt? Well, you see, this is securitized debt, i.e. bonds issued by the US Treasury, which pay interest, and so there is the incentive to buy it. Anyway, there used to — back in the days when the real interest rate stayed positive after deducting the percent of running inflation. This is where the situation gets interesting.

The debt ceiling law supposedly set limits on how much bonded debt the government could issue (how much it could borrow) so it wouldn’t go hog wild spending money it didn’t have. Which is exactly what happened despite the debt limit because the “ceiling” got raised about a hundred times though the 20th century into the 21st so that the accumulated debt stands around $20 trillion.

Rational people recognize this $20 trillion for the supernatural scale of obligation it represents, and understand that it will never be paid back, so, what the hell? Why not just drop the pretense, but keep on working this racket of the government borrowing as much money as it wants, and the Federal Reserve creating that money (or “money”) on its computers to infinity. Seems to work so far.

Rational people would also suspect that at some point, something might have to give. For instance, the value of the dollars that the debt is issued in. If the value of dollars goes down, then the real value of the bonds issued in dollars goes down, and as that happens the many various holders of bonds already issued — individuals, pension funds, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds of foreign countries — will have a strong incentive to dump the bonds as fast as possible. Especially if backstage magic by the Fed and its handmaidens, the “primary dealer” banks, keeps working to suppress the interest rates of these bonds at all costs.

Would the Federal Reserve then vacuum up every bond that others are dumping on the market? They would certainly try. The Bank of Japan has been doing just that with its own government’s bonds to no apparent ill effect, though you kind of wonder what happens when a snake eating its own tail finally reaches its head. What’s left, exactly, after it eats that, too? My own guess would be three words: you go medieval. I mean literally. No more engines, electric lights, central heating….

In this land, we face a situation in which both the value of money and the cost of borrowing money would be, at last, completely detached from reality — reality being the real cost and value of all goods and services exchanged for money. Voila: a king-hell currency crisis and the disruption of trade on the most macro level imaginable. Also, surely, a massive disruption in government services, including social security and medicare, but extending way beyond that. And then we go medieval, too. The mule replaces the Ford F-150. And The New York Times finds something to write about besides Russia and trannies. [A gratuitously nasty comment.--P.Z.]

The value of money and the cost of borrowing it is about as fundamental as it gets in a so-called advanced economy. You can screw around with a lot of things running a society, but when that goes, you’re flirting seriously with anarchy. In the meantime, we’ll see how the social glue holds things together in those parts of Florida that are entering a preview of medieval attractions in the electrical blackout days ahead.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Kunstler: Swamp Fever.

Kunstler: Swamp Fever.

Map of section of Florida.


Further proof, as if more were needed, that God is rather cross with the world’s number one exceptional nation: Hurricane Irma is tracking for a direct hit on Disney World. In the immortal words of the Talking Heads: This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.

Houston is still soggy and punch-drunk, with a fantastic explosion of breeding mosquitoes, and otherwise it’s not even in the news anymore. This week, the cable networks had their scant crews of reporters scuttling around Florida, asking the people here and there about their feelings. “What’s gonna happen is gonna happen….” I think I heard that one about sixty times, and there’s actually no disputing the truth of it.

For the moment, though (Friday morning), it’s a little hard to calculate the effect of a complete scrape-off, wash, and rinse of the state of Florida vis-à-vis the ongoing viability of the US economy. There’s going to be a big hole with dollars rushing into it and that will likely prompt the combined powers of the US Treasury, congress, and the Federal Reserve to materialize tens of billions of new dollars. Overnight the DXY plunged to a new low for the year. {Tweet about this embedded below by me.--P.Z.]

Am I the only observer wondering if Irma may be a fatal blow to the banking system? The mind reels at the insurance implications of what’s about to happen. Urgent obligations triggered by an event of this scale can’t possibly be serviced. Look for it to snap the chain of counterparty leverage that has been propping up the banks, insurers, and pension funds on mere promises for years on end. Finance, both private and public, has been feeding off unreality since well before the tremor of 2008. The destruction of Florida (and whatever else stands in the way up the line) will be as real as it gets.

You’ve heard the old argument, I’m sure, that a natural disaster turns out to be a boon for the economy because so many people are employed fixing the damage. It’s not true, of course. Replacing things of value that have been destroyed with new things is just another version of the old Polish Blanket Gag: guy wants to make his blanket longer, so he cuts a foot off the top and sews it onto the bottom. The capital expended has to come from something and somewhere, and in this case it probably represents the much talked-about necessary infrastructure spending that is badly needed for bridges, roads, water and sewer systems, et cetera, in all the other parts of the USA that haven’t been hit by storms. Instead, these places and the things in them will quietly inch closer to criticality without drawing much notice.

The second major weather disaster this year may not be enough to induce holdouts to reconsider the issue of climate change, but it ought to provoke some questioning about the development pattern known as suburban sprawl, which even in its pristine form can be described as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. Surely there will be some debate as to whether Florida, or at least parts of it, gets rebuilt at all. The wilderness of strip malls, housing subdivisions, and condo clusters deployed along the seemingly endless six-lane highways that accumulated in the post-war orgy of development was an affront to human nature, if not to a deity, if one exists. There are much better ways to build towns and we know how to do it. Ask the shnooks who paid a hundred bucks to walk down Disney’s Main Street the week before last.

Apart from all that remains the personal tragedy that awaits, the losses of many lifetimes of work invested in things of value, of homes, of meaning, and of life itself. Many people who evacuated will return to… nothing, and perhaps many of them will not want to stay in such a fragile place. But the America they roam into in search of a place to re-settle is going to be a more fragile place, too. A week or so after Irma has gone away, the ill-feeling that heaps this country like a swamp fever will still be there, driving the new American madness into precincts yet unknown.




Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Kunstler: Perturbations Anon.

Kunstler: Perturbations Anon.

Happy Labor Day everybody. Forward from here, things get jiggy. The nation faces a pile-up of events as we turn the corner on summer and head into the spook-house of autumn.

This will be the week when the reeking after-effects of Harvey’s journey through Houston become super-vivid. It’s going to be hot-hot-hot there all week, perfect conditions for mold to creep through untold square-footage of soggy sheetrock and plenty of nutriment in the toxic gumbo of lingering standing water for mosquitoes and bacteria to breed like crazy. Bigger surprises will be waiting for some:


HOUSTON (CNN) — A Texas homeowner returned to his flood-marred home Friday in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey to a shocking surprise: a 10-foot gator in his living room. Brian Foster made the discovery while assessing how badly the water had damaged his house near Lake Houston, north of Houston….

The news media are already calling Harvey the costliest storm in US history, with estimates running to $180 billion. But damage assessments are incomplete for highways, surface roads, bridges, railroad tracks, water and sewer systems, public buildings, dams (Addicks and Barker), natural gas terminals, and port facilities, not to mention homes and business structures. Texas is the nation’s number one cotton producer and the storm blew away many temporary cotton bale storage modules following a bumper harvest. Corn, soybeans, and cattle were also affected.

The Colonial Pipeline’s hookups to the refineries west of Lake Charles, Louisiana, won’t reopen fully until Tuesday at the earliest. The pipeline conveys 40 percent of the gasoline consumed from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. and extends up to the New York metro area. By next weekend Hurricane Irma looks like she’ll be slamming into the US Atlantic coast somewhere between Jacksonville and the Carolina Outer Banks as a category 3 or 4 event. There’s even talk today of possible cat 5. [Note: As of 6 Sept., Irma is a cat. 5--P.Z.] Will there be enough gasoline on hand for the folks at risk to evacuate? Stand by on that.

Much of western North America is burning up. British Columbia closed off its rivers to fisherman because 680 wildfires had broken out across the Canadian province this summer and 73 were still listed as “out-of-control” on Sunday. San Francisco set a record high temperature of 106 this past weekend. Down in Los Angeles, the county endured the largest wildfire in its history. The La Tuna Canyon blaze scorched 7,000 acres on the edge of Burbank. This morning it was at 30 percent containment after some Sunday rain showers.

Okay, that’s just the weather. You surely couldn’t fail to miss the weekend’s big news story out of North Korea: an underground hydrogen bomb test that set off a 6.3 magnitude earthquake felt across the border in China. Kim Jung-un was photographed with an alleged missile-ready weapon capable of inflicting an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the USA (though in the photo the device looked sort of like a 1938 washing machine barely capable of laundering a load of dishtowels). In theory, such an EMP could fry every electrical device over a large US region, from George Foreman grills to your car’s ignition system to the whole electric grid. After that, nothing works and would take years to fix and there’s a fair chance that nothing would ever work again. Disturbing, huh?

The Sunday Cable News chat-fests were full of politicians and assorted experts saying there was “no good option” available to deal with the North Korean threat. I’m not so sure about that because why would our military reveal a workable option if they had one? Mr. Trump, our (ahem) president made the point explicitly a dozen times during the election campaign that it would be foolish to reveal our military plans in advance of any action. Perhaps he meant it. You’d also have to suppose that computer jocks in the US military / intel sub-basements of northern Virginia are working around the clock to find some way to turn Kim into a platter of smoldering bulgogi by wireless command — and we won’t hear about it until after he’s eaten by his former flunkies and lackeys.

Finally, there are the accumulating hazards kludging up the sputtering engine of the US economy. Houston’s travails will take the GDP down a notch to Q1 2018 and Irma might take it negative. The oft-referenced debt-ceiling problem remains unresolved, and now it appears to have entailed the sticky problem of Hurricane damage relief — and who knows if Houston will ever recover no matter how much money is thrown at it. Dragging out the debt ceiling issue would lead to a chain of government defaults on its obligations, problems for US Treasury paper in the bond markets, and pressure on the dollar.

There are few shelters from the financial storm. In an emergency, the Federal Reserve might take a U-turn back to QE mode. That “liquidity” (money created out of thin air) would rush in to further inflate the over-stuffed stock markets. But without a QE pump, the markets may have already suckered in the last remaining liquidity pools on the buy-side, leaving the sell-side an empty echo-chamber if and when the market mood changes. Gold and silver have already launched into a zoom cycle, finally defeating the years-long efforts by interested parties, shall we say, to squash them in the paper markets. Bitcoin has been zooming all summer. I’m not a fan of the crypto-currencies. They are figments of the server farms, and they’re reproducing wildly like digital yeasts, and in the end they are at the mercy of those computer servers and an electrical grid that is less reliable than even economists might imagine.

There’s always excitement in the quickeningly chill air of fall, back to school, back to work, and back to what passes for reality these in these late days of empire. Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Special Counsel Robert Mueller stepped up with a surprisingly sudden bill of particulars in the quest to pry Mr. Trump out of the just-redecorated oval office. The Deep State longs for that fatal lever, but it would come at a time when so many other perturbations are shaking things loose, the satisfaction might not last long.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Kunstler: A Hot Mess.

Kunstler: A Hot Mess.

It wasn’t until more than a week after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans in 2005 that the full extent of the damage was recognized and so it will go with the hot mess where Houston used to be. Mostly, it is inconceivable that the business activity which made Houston the nation’s fourth largest city and, according to Chris Martenson, equal to the 10th largest economy in the world, will ever return to what it was before August 26, 2017.

The major activity there has been the refining and distribution of oil products, and no activity is more central to the functioning of the US economy. So the public and our currently clueless leaders across the political spectrum, plus a legacy news media lost in the carnival of race and gender freak shows, is about to discover the dynamic relationship between energy and an industrial economy.

The pivot in this relationship is banking, which enables the conversion of oil’s raw power into everything else that goes on in a so-called advanced economy. The popular assumption is that federal disaster relief can compensate for all losses. That assumption may go out the window with the Houston flood of 2017. And no amount of federal aid can compensate for the hours, days, and weeks that will tick by as businesses struggle to return to something like their former level of normal operation.

Many businesses will never recover, especially the smaller ones that support the big one — the little tool and die shops, the construction outfits, the trucking and shipping concerns, the riggers and pipefitters, the cement companies, and so on. All of that activity existed in highly rationalized chains of on-time production and service and nothing will be on-time in Houston for a long time to come. The arguments over insurance coverage have not even begun, and then there is the question of how businesses in this perpetual flood zone will renew their insurance. Or how might they relocate to higher ground? And how do they pay for that? And where is higher ground in this vast, swampy lowland?

The public has been conditioned by frequent natural disasters to think that nobody has to eat the losses, so that in effect loss doesn’t exist, just as the nation’s central bank has engineered the belief that risk no longer exists in the management of capital. We sure had a nice demonstration of the latter, with the Dow inching over the 22,000 hashmark in overnight futures trading today. The exertions of the Federal Reserve in propping up the stock markets will have to go pedal-to-metal now to make up for the hole in economic activity that Houston represents.

Meanwhile congress is left to dither over two conjoined financial emergencies at once: authorizing emergency aid to Houston, and resolving the debt ceiling problem. The fault lines are already visible in the ill-feeling left over from Texas’s congressional delegation voting against aid for Hurricane Sandy’s rip through New York and New Jersey. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, for one, has reinvented his political philosophy overnight to accommodate federal aid for natural disasters, something he was not keen on before September 26.

I’d assume that these politicians have some normal human sympathies — yes, really — but that these emotions won’t stand in the way of their agenda for mutual self-destruction. Even if they manage to cobble together some kind of emergency aid package for Houston, the process will coincide with the Treasury running out of supposedly “actual” money — that is, money which can be accounted for by some method besides check-kiting. Another assumption du jour is probably the idea that accounting no longer matters, that bankruptcy no longer means anything. Pretty soon, those logical fallacies will manifest in an accelerated falling value of the US dollar.

Somewhere in this reverberating hot mess stands a character named President Trump. He acted out the customary disaster visitation ceremony last week, but I predict that the as-yet-revealed after-effects of Hurricane Harvey will put him in deeper and stinkier hot water than George W. Bush splashed through with Katrina.

Meanwhile, what’s that monster called Irma doing out there in the Atlantic?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Neon Indian, "Slumlord Rising."

The World is Not Blind












More on Twitter.

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29 August update: Sherri Nichols is one of the most astute commenters on Nancy Nall's blog.

She says,

From some of what I’ve read about Osteen and his church, it wasn’t a simple situation of not opening the doors. Access to the church was problematic. I’m no fan of Osteen, but it’s easy to gin up the outrage machine from afar without understanding the situation on the ground. Like second-guessing the decision not to evacuate 6 million people along roads that are designed to flood.

In a knee-jerk way, this guy supports Osteen's decision:



And people are still being turned away







Osteen claims the church is now open, and wasn't opened before because it was flooded internally.

But was it the main church building or only the underground garage?



Another quick defense:



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2 September update:


See the replies too.



See the replies too.

"Osteen Says He Feels 'At Peace' After Backlash Over Lakewood's Harvey Response."

Kunstler: When the Butterfly Flaps Its Wings.

I'll post the last four Kunstler columns soon.--P.Z.

Kunstler: When the Butterfly Flaps Its Wings.

It remains to be seen what the impact will be from Mother Nature putting the nation’s fourth largest city out-of-business. And for how long? It’s possible that Houston will never entirely recover from Hurricane Harvey. The event may exceed the physical damage that Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans. It may bankrupt large insurance companies and dramatically raise the risk of doing business anywhere along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the USA — or at least erase the perceived guarantee that losses are recoverable. It may even turn out to be the black swan that reveals the hyper-fragility of a US-driven financial system.

Houston also happens to be the center of the US oil industry. Offices can be moved elsewhere, of course, but not so easily the nine major oil refineries that sprawl between Buffalo Bayou over to Beaumont, Port Arthur, and then Lake Charles, Louisiana. Harvey is inching back out to the Gulf where it will inhale more energy over the warm ocean waters and then return inland in the direction of those refineries.

The economic damage could be epic. Much of the supply for the Colonial Pipeline system emanates from the region around Houston, running through Atlanta and clear up to Philadelphia and New York. There could be lines at the gas stations along the eastern seaboard in early September.

The event is converging with the US government running out of money this fall without new authority to borrow more by congress voting to raise the US debt ceiling. Perhaps the emergency of Hurricane Harvey and its costly aftermath will bludgeon congress into quickly raising the debt ceiling. If that doesn’t happen, and the debt ceiling is not raised, the federal government might have to pretend that it can pay for emergency assistance to Texas and Louisiana. That pretense can only go so far before government contractors balk and maybe even walk.

Ordinarily, failure to raise the debt ceiling would lead to a government shut-down, including hurricane recovery operations, unless the president invoked some kind of emergency powers. That would be decisive action, but it could also be the beginning of something that looks like a full-out dictatorship. Powers assumed are often not surrendered when the original emergency is over. And what would the president use for money if a substantial enough number of congresspersons and senators are prompted by their distaste for Mr. Trump to drag out the process of financially re-liquefying the government? (And nevermind even passing a budget.)

Meanwhile, two other major sources of aggravation are waiting off-stage: one is North Korea. Why wouldn’t Kim Jong-un use the opportunity of political disarray in the US to create more headaches for a distracted US government? Never let a crisis go to waste. Another potential irritant is the return of students to American college campuses. Imagine how the campus Antifa forces would react to Mr. Trump assuming emergency powers. It’s easy to foresee an acceleration of violence between the extreme Left and the Extreme right during what is shaping up to look like a major crisis in governing. If the campus Left had any tactical brains, they’d stop marching around in black uniforms and instead organize a mass renunciation of college loan debt.

Behind all this political strife will be wobbling financial markets. The message from the debt ceiling stalemate to the bond market would be that the US can no longer be relied on to pay its debts. Interest rates on US Treasury paper would have to go up as the long-lost concept of risk returned to the bond scene. People and institutions will not be induced to hold bonds unless the yield is recalibrated to the actual risk. Of course, in the mysterious world of bonds (i.e. securitized debt), the price of bonds goes down as interest rates rise. Meaning a lot of current holders of bonds would be hammered if they tried to sell. Rates rising would also spell big trouble for corporations and governments who have to make regular interest payments to bond-holders. A rate rise to as little as 3 percent on US Treasury bonds could spin the country into comprehensive bankruptcy.

How might stock markets and currency markets react to the scenario above? To me it would look like a drop of at least 1000 points on the S & P. The US dollar might actually rise initially as a whole lot of debt is renounced — which makes money actually disappear — but then you have the Federal Reserve waiting on another flank to roll out their own emergency response: Quantitative Easing No. 4, flooding the system with new “money” that has all the appearance and none of the mojo of value, tanking the dollar anew. As a wise correspondent of mine wrote a while back: “financialization is nothing more than money with its value removed.” (Graham Reinders.)

A lot can happen when a faraway butterfly flaps its wings and sets a slight current of air in motion.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Various Tweets















Friday, August 25, 2017

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mad At Trump