Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Mammoth Release" of Baahubali 2.

Weekend Box Office Results.

BoxOfficeMojo: 'Furious 8' Tops $1 Billion, 'Latin Lover' and 'Baahubali 2' Open Big & 'Guardians 2' Debuts.

In third is the mammoth release of the Tollywood sensation, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion distributed by Great India Films in North America. Playing in a mere 425 theaters the film brought in an estimated $10.1 million, a whopping $23,855 per theater average and nearly three times as much as the opening for the 2015 original. This is the largest opening for an Indian film domestically [Emphasis mine.--P.Z.] and we are still hoping to get a full report regarding its performance outside North America.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Inside the Guts of Macy's Herald Square

Bloomberg: "Big Oil on Track for Back-to-Back Triumphs as Fortunes Turn."

"New York's Never Been Better Than It Is Today"

Maybe I'll visit there someday.

Ladies' Code, "The Rain."

Various Tweets: From @postcarbon

Friday, April 28, 2017

Kunstler: The National Blues

Kunstler is right, but he overstates the extent of the problem. There's still richness and soul in American life.

Kunstler: The National Blues.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"And Then There Was Hannity"

If O'Reilly was Ass't. Principal Vernon, Hannity is Andrew Clark.

Bloomberg News.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Junior: "Mama Used to Say."

More on The New York Observer: The Later Years

Kunstler: Ready, Set, Splat.

Kunstler: Ready, Set, Splat.

As I write, the French stock market (the CAC 40), is doing a grand jeté (up 4.5 percent!) in celebration of Emmanuel Macron’s assumed slaying of the dragon Le Pen. But that was just the first round under the interesting French election system. Consider that two other candidates who were eliminated, Monsieurs Fillon and Mélenchon, got nearly 40 percent of the vote. Are we so sure about where their voters go in the second and final round two weeks from now?

I suspect that most Americans — even the ones who follow Rachel Maddow — are about as interested in French politics as differential calculus. Macron, 36, is a blank slate. He was finance minister under current president François Hollande, of the Socialist Party, but declared during the election campaign that he’s not a socialist, he only wanted to be of service to his country, and this time he ran under his own party, En Marche! He appears to represent the continuation of business-as-usual with the European Union, which seems to put him on the wrong side of history at this crucial moment — if you suppose, as I do, that the EU is so riddled with hopeless financial contradictions and centrifugal political tensions that it is unlikely to persist.

Yet, understandably, people are reluctant to change the system they’re living under. Le Pen wants to blow the EU up, especially the bureaucracy lodged in Brussels that has become a self-serving and self perpetuating monster. Blowing up the EU would necessarily, it seems, mean the end of the European Central Bank, and with it the scams and Ponzi schemes that have provided an appearance of normality, despite an official 10.5 percent unemployment rate in France and a constant chain of public massacres by resident Jihadistas of one sort or another, some of them perpetrated by radical refugees allowed in under EU policy.

Macron might serve the interests of the American Deep State, which is determined to drive a wedge between Europe and the Chinese-Russian-Iranian “silk road” economic bloc that would consolidate trade in the Eastern Hemisphere. The US wants “the West” to remain what it had been for seventy years: the dominant posse. Even if the underlying conditions remained the same, this might not be possible.

But those underlying conditions are changing, and in ways that much of the political maneuvering across the West cannot alter, or even comprehend, for instance, the inability of these mature industrial economies to grow anymore. That is largely a function of the end of affordable energy. Unfortunately, the absence of growth portends not stagnation but collapse as society fails to generate enough new wealth to pay its debts.

Now, we’ve seen a pretty impressive demonstration of advanced nations playing financial games to cover up this corrosive condition. But the dishonesty at work is pretty obvious, and the problem with dishonesty in financial affairs is that it represents unreality. The accrued momentum in colossal sums of money flowing this way and that way has allowed unreality to reign in international finance for a while. But that is now flying apart. The ultimate reality, politicians and economists will soon discover, is that you can’t create your own reality.

So whatever you think now about the French election, or the fate of the EU, is liable to change as the great debt crack-up our time finally gets underway and suddenly every nation has to scramble desperately to keep its shit together. That magic moment may be at hand this week as the US congress returns from Easter recess to face its budget and debt ceiling dilemmas. If the credit-worthiness of this country takes a wrong turn, it will upset the global currency system. In fact, it will rip a hole in financial time-and-space into which the presumed value of all sorts of things represented on paper and computer drives will disappear, never to be seen again.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What would Kunstler make of this?

What Ever Happened to The New York Observer?

That's what I wondered this morning. I subscribed to it from 1999 till the mid-2000s, and every week or so, a pink broadsheet would come in the mail. And it was one of the most delightful and informative periodicals to which I've subscribed. I stopped subscribing well before Jared Kushner bought it. Searching online, I found


CAMEROTA: So Jared Kushner is a pivotal player. He was during the campaign, he is during the transition, and he may be in the White House. He's basically your boss.


CAMEROTA: So from how he has run "The New York Observer", what do you think he brings to the table?

SCHWARTZ: It's interesting to sort of see what's happened to "The New York Observer" over the past few years. Definitely it's leaned more conservative than it has in the past. After the election it was announced that the paper edition of "The Observer" would be shutting down.

CAMEROTA: So the paper would be shutting down but it would still exist online. And was that just modernizing or was that because of some mismanagement? What reason was given?

SCHWARTZ: I think paper media, print media is suffering across the board. So I have to just imagine that it's moving forward.

The Wikipedia article provides a good overview.

It's just as well I stopped subscribing when I did.

The famous illustrator Drew Friedman remembers working at The Observer and dishes some dirt.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

And vice versa.

O'Reilly: Looking Back...and Forward (a post in progress)

26 April update: Leaked E-Mail Shows O'Reilly Tried to Save His Job.

23 April update: An Associated Press article on the options O'Reilly has after Fox News.

Quoted in the article is Michael Harrison, publisher of the radio trade magazine Talkers: “He’s made for TV, this guy, as opposed to radio. He talks with his face.”

Meanwhile, O'Reilly returns Monday (but with no opportunity to talk with his face)with his "No Spin News" podcast, available only to premium subscribers to his website.

National Review: The G-File: Bill O'Reilly's Nostalgia Factor, by Jonah Goldberg.

I always thought O'Reilly (a former teacher, incidentally) was a real-life Asst. Principal Vernon.

VladTV: Cam'Ron's Famous You Mad Interview Resurfaces....

Excerpt from a book on O'Reilly.

O'Reilly's interview with Terry Gross here and here.

Friday, April 21, 2017


More later.

Kunstler: A Matter of Mercy

The metaphor of a dementia-addled patient is strained, but Kunstler is right that stuff happens and is quickly forgotten.--P.Z.

Kunstler: A Matter of Mercy.

Paging Doctor Oz! A patient calling itself The United States wandered into the emergency room disoriented, wearing a filthy warm-up suit, claiming it was “the greatest” this and that… but was unable to complete the nine-page admission protocol or present valid insurance ID. Patient is growing increasingly violent, threatening staff and other patients….

Nations do develop something like Alzheimers. Perhaps you haven’t noticed that for some time now nothing sticks in the national brain-pan — if that’s what we can call the news media and its analogs on the Web waves. For months, an obsession about “Russian interference in the election” raged through the left lobe of the national consciousness. Then, about a week ago, it vanished utterly. Grandpa suffered similar delusions about the Russians meddling with “our precious bodily fluids.” (Paging Doctor Strangelove.)

Not so far back as last summer, a candidate named Trump un-ironically called for “an end to endless war in the Middle East.” The oft-applied policy of “regime change,” he said, was not working out in the various US-engineered failed states such as Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine. About two weeks ago, I seem to recall, the State Department even declared explicitly that we had no brief for regime change in the case of one Bashar al-Assad over in Syria.

Then there was something in the wifi waves about a poison gas attack. The evidence as to exactly who perpetrated it looked, how-you-say, not altogether convincing. This evidence amounted to the US Intel services, in their aggregate omniscience, asserting that, “yes, it was so that this weasel Assad bombed his people with Sarin.” Wolf Blitzer and Rachel Maddow ran so hard with the story that they vanished over the horizon.

The patient had a dream after that: a dream of cruise missiles reigning down hellfire judgment upon a Syrian air base. Quite a few of them went astray and blew up some prickly pears in the desert and a pod of migrating sea turtles out in the Mediterranean. (Thank you Microsoft Windows.) Then the Secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson declared that “Assad must go.” The patient now was completely confused about who was coming or going. Then the patient forgot about the dream and we’ve heard no more about this fairytale land of Syria since then. Oh well….

It seemed like only yesterday that head honcho over North Korea — a character straight out of the James Bond fantasies with the weirdest haircut in recorded history — was threatening to blow up the United States. A US aircraft carrier fleet was soon steaming around his half of the Korean peninsula. A rocket lifted off somewhere… and promptly blew up. Well, at least something blew up. I forgot what, exactly….

And now I see on the morning wire that ISIS has gone and pulled off another terror incident in Paris — one cop dead, one injured in a street shooting. Weren’t there other incidents before this one, possibly even worse ones? I forget. Anyway, in this case, it was easy to figure out the man’s identity (one Karim Cheurfi) because the fucker had spent 15 years in prison after being convicted of three attempted murders, two against police officers, and was released on parole in 2015. There was some additional chatter in the wire story about the incident having an effect on an upcoming French election. But I forget who’s running. And when the darn thing is over, I’ll probably forget who won, and why.

That’s how we roll in the national Alzheimers ward. Shit happens and then is promptly forgotten. Sometimes the shit that happens is forgotten so completely that it’s like living in universe where nothing happens. The auditors who once reported to work in your brain have left their stations — with no duties left after the smart-phone came on the scene. They are among the millions “no longer looking for work” in those BLS reports.

Maybe this is a manifestation of what used to be called “God’s mercy.” Now that we’ve almost succeeded in making the planet uninhabitable, we don’t have to remember how it got that way, or what will happen to us in the meantime, while we’re still here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Hard Fall From the Top

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Huffington Post: Bill O'Reilly Possibly Out at Fox News.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Kunstler: Buy the Dip?

Kunstler: Buy the Dip?

The military frolics of spring have distracted the nation’s attention from the economic and financial dynamics that pose the ultimate mortal threat to business as usual. Note the distinction between economic and financial. The first represents real activity in this Land of the Deal: people doing and making. The second, finance, used to be a minor branch — only about five percent — of all the doing in the days of America’s putative bigliest greatitude. The task of finance then was limited and straightforward: to manage the allocation of capital for more doing and making. The profit in that enabled bankers to drive Cadillacs instead of Chevrolets, but not much more.

These days, finance is closer to 40 percent of all the doing in America, and it is not about making anything, but getting more than its share of “money” — whatever that is now — and what “money” mostly is is whatever the people engaged in finance say it is, for instance, Fannie Mae bonds representing millions of sketchy loans for houses of vinyl and strand-board built in places with no future… or stock issued by the Tesla corporation… or the sovereign IOUs of the US Treasury.

The list of things that pretend to be “money” these days would be long and shocking and the sheer churn of these instruments among the banks and markets “produces” the fabled “revenue streams” beloved of The Wall Street Journal. What happens when the world discovers that these instruments (securities and their derivatives) represent falsely? Why, bigly trouble.

And this is the season we’re moving into as the dogwoods blaze: the season of the re-discovery of actual value. For those of you gloating over last week’s demonstrations of US Big Stick-ism, be warned that our military shenanigans have given China and Russia every reason to discipline this country by undermining the international standing of the dollar. They’ve been preparing for this very deliberately for years: constructing an alternative to the US-sponsored SWIFT international payment system, stockpiling thousands of tons of gold, building trade partnerships to circumvent US dominated syndicates. Before the month of April is out, they’ll “pull the trigger” on new voting arrangements in the International Monetary Fund that will reduce the financial power of the US and the Eurozone, especially in the oil trade.

Around the same moment, America will wake up to the awful reality of the debt ceiling. This petard has been ticking the whole time that the political bureaucracy of Washington has wasted its mojo on the quixotic crusade to blame Russia for the 2016 election outcome. Congress will return from the Easter recess to discover that they have a few mere days to debate and resolve the debt ceiling problem — that is, to raise it so the country can borrow more “money” — or else they’ll be faced with a shut-down of government operations, including their own generous emoluments. It’s a good thing (for them) that they have plenty of walking-around money from the mysterious perqs of government service, but the rest of America doesn’t have $500 to pay for a new set of tires or the extraction of an abscessed molar.

Some readers may have long wondered what might happen in this country if the SNAP card refills and social security checks stopped coming. Perhaps we’re about to find out. Congress might find itself in a painfully tight spot. The Democrats would like nothing better than to let this drag on for a while in order to humiliate, and perhaps finish off, their arch-nemesis, the Golden Golem of Greatness. Many Republicans have a religious-strength ideological aversion to increasing the already appalling US debt load. The prospects are not bright for a quick-and-easy resolution to this quandary.

The IMF voting re-set and the debt ceiling quagmire have the power to disrupt many of the arrangements that allow the banks and markets to continue pretending that their stuff has value. When that consensus trance snaps, President Trump may find himself in the unhappy position of having to declare a bank holiday. Unlike the usual holidays in America, there will no Easter Bunny, no Jack-o-lanterns, no Santa Claus. Just empty supermarket shelves and pissed-off people marshaling in the WalMart parking lots with flaming brands and espontoons.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! I hope to post more soon.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Kunstler: What Could Go Wrong?

Kunstler: What Could Go Wrong?

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Yeats wrote. The funny thing is, we didn’t seem to miss the center all that much after it was gone. America is perfectly satisfied hunkering down at the margins these days. Especially the margins of thinking.

One thing that used to occupy the center was public discussion, debate, and argumentation. Now and again, it featured a coherent exchange of ideas. These days, the main political factions are sunk in hysteria of one kind or another. Their primitive promptings hardly add up to ideas but rather limbic spasms of fear and rage. And then there is the shadow partner of the two parties called the Deep State, led by the quaintly dubbed “Intelligence Community.” These birds, many of them lifers, are dedicated to making the public discussion of anything as incoherent as possible so as to prevent any change in policy that might curtail the growth of the Deep State, a sort of cancer of the body politic.

Case in point, the recent Syrian aerial gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Elected officials were all over the cable networks selling the NSA’s story that Syrian president Bashar Assad bombed women and children with Sarin gas three days after State Department declared that it had a new policy of letting Assad remain in power after decades of sedulously scheming to shove him out. That might have led to the end of the six-year-long Syrian civil war, which Assad seemed to be winning, finally — with Russian assistance.

But instead the incident has led to new official calls to shove Assad out… to be replaced by what…? Nobody knows. Because the US Deep State thrives when chaos reigns in foreign lands. So much the better for their looting operations, such as the theft of Libya’s 141 ton gold reserves in 2011. And if not looting hard assets directly, the Deep State benefits when its many black box vendors — the private security armies, materials suppliers, arms sellers — are raking in the accounts receivable.

The fascinating part of the Syrian gas bombing story is how easily the public swallowed it. Those elected congressmen and senators infesting the cable stations told the public that the Intelligence Community “issued a consensus report” that the Syrian air force has dropped Sarin gas bombs on the hapless civilians. Nobody offered any actual evidence that this was so. These days, mere assertions rule.

That’s how we roll now. I’m still waiting to see some evidence that Trump’s campaign “colluded with Russia” to spin the election toward him. Those claims, too, were put out as “a consensus analysis” by the Intelligence Community. And then in March, months after the disputed election, just-retired NSA director James Clapper told NBC’s Meet the Press that his agency had no evidence of “Russian collusion” with the Trump forces. That was only a few weeks ago.

For the moment, it may benefit casual observers to adopt the most cynical attitude possible about the “consensus reports” that emanate from these myriad agencies. What it all finally seems to represent is the snowballing incompetence, venality, mendacity, and impotence of the US government in general, in all its layers and branches.

Hence, the idiotic PR stunt the other day of dropping the so-called “Mother of All Bombs (MOAB)” on some backwater of the once-and-future Mother of All Backwaters, Afghanistan. Did you happen to see a photo of that Mother Bomb? It looked bigger than any airplane that might be assigned to carry it, a cartoon of a bomb, more ridiculous than anything you might see in a Vin Diesel movie. It even had the acronym “MOAB” plastered on its fuselage in case anyone might confuse it with a canister of Round-up. I wonder what it cost. Got to be more than the $1 million-plus for a Tomahawk missile. You could probably run the whole Medicaid system of Alabama on what one MOAB invoice comes in at.

Meanwhile, the Navy’s Aircraft Carrier Strike Force 1 steams off the waters of North Korea and we lately have word that the US might just try to preemptively take out Kim Jong-un’s nuclear bomb assembly site. There’s a tang of excitement in the air (and on the cable channels). America’s back in the game, proving that when all else fails we can be depended on at least to blow some shit up. What could wrong?

One Thing Leads to Another

Reading Hattie's Twitter, I saw she retweeted this from Angry Black Lady, which links to Keith Boykin's tweet.

How the President descends the stairs of Air Force One is unremarkable to me. But I remembered how Obama would canter down (or up) the stairs. And I searched online for "Obama descending stairs."

Read for yourself.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Bill O'Reilly laughs at 'bizarre' incident.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Kunstler: "Wonderland."

Kunstler: Wonderland.

There are times in the course of events when a society cannot tell what the fuck is going on, or what to do about it, and this is one of those moments in history here in the USA. The quandaries of life on the home front — how to make a living, how to care for ourselves and loved ones — get shoved aside by misadventures in foreign lands with their own quandaries. One delusion leads to another until you enter a zero gravity of the mind. Case in point du jour: Syria.

The persistent hyperRussomania of the US Dem-Prog alliance and its sob-sisters in the media seeks to make a bad situation worse in Syria and probably for the worst reasons. How many Americans have even the dimmest idea what’s going on in Syria, who the cast of characters there represent, and where the USA fits into all of it?

There is the head of government, one Bashar al Assad (son of the previous president, Hafez al Assad). The Assads had run Syria as a mostly secular Arab state until the civil war within Islam, Sunni against Shia, spilled out of Iraq. The Assads belonged to the tiny Alawite sect of the Shia. They comprise only 13 percent of the Syrian population, which has a Sunni majority. Under the Assads, Syria has tilted toward Iran, the Shia home state, and away from the Sunni Arabs elsewhere in the neighborhood. Russia has cultivated Iran and support its “friends,” the Assads.

A mash-up of Sunni jihad armies fights the Assad government in Syria’s civil war. These are Isis, al Qaeda, and Jabhat al Nusra. The US government had made official noise about supporting the more “moderate rebels” in the Syrian conflict. Who are they exactly? Do you have a clue? Which army among those three rebel groups are “moderates?” And what is their moderate goal under jihad? To topple Assad. And then what? To set up a new theocratic government perhaps? How is it in America’s interests to promote Islamic jihadi theocracy?

One hypothesis is that the struggle is over who gets to run gas and oil pipelines through Syria to get easier access to the Mediterranean Sea and the European energy market. Iran would very badly like to do that. But they are in competition with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the little giant emirate of natural gas. So, you have the Iran/Shia gang on one side and the KSA/Qatar/Sunni on the other side. Anybody who had scanned the news since 1979 can probably tell whose side the US is on. By the way, this hypothesis has had no airing among the mainstream media triumvirate: The New York Times, CNN, and The WashPo. These news orgs won’t even entertain that angle of the story… but as I said, it’s only a hypothesis.

It was not so many weeks ago that President Trump met with the crown prince of KSA at the White House to give assurances of American friendship and support. KSA is supposedly America’s chief ally against Isis in Syria. Yet, KSA and the USA are dedicated to getting rid of the Assad government as well as Isis. That is, we are against both sides in the Syrian civil war. Still wondering why the American public is confused by all this? Do you know who our choice is to replace Assad? Can you name an opposition figure? Of course you can’t. There is nobody. What the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and the NSA seem to have in mind is the familiar failed state policy that has worked so well in the past (not).

Which brings us to the curious case of Bashar Assad’s recent supposed poison gas bombing of civilians in Khan Sheikhoun. The media triumvirate was avid to play along with the story. I don’t know about you, but I have to ask myself: what would Assad’s strategic goal be in gas bombing women and children? To gin up worldwide positive PR? To get the Syrian people on his side against Isis and other jihadis? What advantage could Assad possibly gain? In warfare generally, the tacticians strike against military targets. There’s a hypothesis that Assad’s air force sought to strike a rebel arms depot in Idlib province — a military target. The hypothesis goes further, saying that the depot contained phosgene and chlorine gas, but not Sarin. The wind carried these released gases among civilian homes and streets in Khan Sheikhoun. People suffered and died. Evidence for the absence of Sarin gas is that the gassing victims were handled manually by doctors and aid workers in street clothes. Sarin can kill on skin contact and doctors have to treat it in protective gear. So, maybe the gas wasn’t Sarin and maybe it wasn’t dropped in bombs from Assad’s planes. But, like the pipeline angle of the story, this hypothesis is missing in the media triumvirate’s pages.

President Trump was lauded mostly for the missile strike against the Syrian air force base that followed. The Dem/Progs and The New York Times gave him brownie points, if only for it being a swipe against Russia. It seemed so clever, what with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago dinner table where, presumably, the subject of the maniac in North Korea came up. Days later, a US aircraft carrier group steamed to the waters off Kim Jong Un’s fortress state. Which brings forth another hypothesis: that the Syria missile strike was solely a demonstration of US military will vis-a-vis the more ominous threat over in Asia — an attempt to get Xi to do something about the Kim Jong Un before we do.

It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. The big fear is that in the event of a rumble, Kim will turn Seoul into an ashtray. The South Korean capital is only a few miles from the DMZ between the two states. The US couldn’t find a jucier enemy than Kim Jong Un, a character so improbable he might have been dreamed up in a Batman comic. [Or a Dick Tracy one.--P.Z.] Hence, he’s comprehensible to an American public that more and more looks like the ever-present crowd of perplexed bystanders in a Batman movie.


I was quite surprised to hear that a podcast called “S-Town,” about the dark doings in an Alabama backwater, had become a huge hit on the Web-waves. Back around 2012-2013, I had some email correspondence from John B. McLemore, the tragic figure at the center of the series. He was a real person, referred to by various people in the series as “brilliant,” “a genius,” “a real character,” and he was for sure.

Apparently, he was also a fan of my books. He got my phone number off my website and took to calling me on the phone. I probably had a dozen long phone conversations with him. Hours. It is well-known now that he called his home of Woodstock, Alabama, “Shit-town.” He regaled me with many a sordid tale of the home-folk, and even of himself. The place sounded like Hieronymus Bosch meets Dogpatch. Since John B seemed so unhappy under his mask of hilarity and mirth, I tried to encourage him to think about moving. He always had an excuse for not doing that, but clearly John B and the neighbors he disdained, fought with, looked for love with, had a synergistic thing going. They needed each other to play out their never-ending crazy scripts of cracker mischief, vengeance, and failure. After a while, John B went dark. I thought he’d just gotten tired of me telling him to move.

I was startled to hear in the second episode of the “S-Town” podcast that John B had made good on his constant intimations of suicide. Startled, but not especially surprised. He was more than a fish out of water. He was like a Martian suffocating in an atmosphere too heavy for him. I suspect the truth is there are thousands of places like “S-Town” all over America, places devastated by the poor choices of the last several generations — most particularly the way they threw away their livelihoods and surrendered to one vice after another in boredom, defeat, and self-loathing. It’s a very sad story and it’s not over yet by a long shot. [On that note, I worry about "Coozledad" of Roxbury, NC. Not that he would turn the violence inward, but outward, in a quixotic spree against the rednecks of that town.--P.Z.]

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Negativland, "Dispepsi."

As good a time as any to post this video.

This would have made for a far better commercial.

You sure don't look like Reggie. He was vain, definitely, but he had ample reason to be.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


Why would Chelsea Clinton's advisor "deserve a beatdown"? There's far too much violence in the world.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Kunstler: Musktopia Here We Come!

Kunstler doesn't mention Musk's most farfetched and hideous plan of all.--P.Z.
‘Who will control merged human-AI digital space?’ Slavoj Zizek on Musk’s brain implant venture.

Elon Musk: Humans must merge with machines or become irrelevant in AI age.

Kunstler: Musktopia Here We Come!

It ought to be sign of just how delusional the nation is these days that Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X is taken seriously. Musk continues to dangle his fantasy of travel to Mars before a country that can barely get its shit together on Planet Earth, and the Tesla car represents one of the main reasons for it — namely, that we’ll do anything to preserve, maintain, and defend our addiction to incessant and pointless motoring (and nothing to devise a saner living arrangement).

Even people with Ivy League educations believe that the electric car is a “solution” to our basic economic quandary, which is to keep all the accessories and furnishings of suburbia running at all costs in the face of problems with fossil fuels, especially climate change. First, understand how the Tesla car and electric motoring are bound up in our culture of virtue signaling, the main motivational feature of political correctness. Virtue signaling is a status acquisition racket. In this case, you get social brownie points for indicating that you’re on-board with “clean energy,” you’re “green,” “an environmentalist,” “Earth –friendly.” Ordinary schmoes can drive a Prius for their brownie points. But the Tesla driver gets all that and much more: the envy of the Prius drivers!

This is all horse shit, of course, because there’s nothing green or Earth-friendly about Tesla cars, or electric cars in general. Evidently, many Americans think these cars run on batteries. No they don’t. Not really. The battery is just a storage unit for electricity that comes from power plants that burn something, or from hydroelectric installations like Hoover Dam, with its problems of declining reservoir levels and aging re-bar concrete construction. A lot of what gets burned for electric power is coal. Connect the dots. Also consider the embedded energy that it takes to just manufacture the cars. That had to come from somewhere, too.

The Silicon Valley executive who drives a Tesla gets to feel good about him/her/zheself without doing anything to change him/her/zhe’s way of life. All it requires is the $101,500 entry price for the cheapest model. For many Silicon Valley execs, this might be walking-around money. For the masses of Flyover Deplorables that’s just another impossible dream in a growing list of dissolving comforts and conveniences.

In fact, the mass motoring paradigm in the USA is already failing not on the basis of what kind of fuel the car runs on but on the financing end. Americans are used to buying cars on installment loans and, as the middle class implosion continues, there are fewer and fewer Americans who qualify to borrow. The regular car industry (gasoline branch) has been trying to work around this reality for years by enabling sketchier loans for ever-sketchier customers — like, seven years for a used car. The borrower in such a deal is sure to be “underwater” with collateral (the car) that is close to worthless well before the loan can be extinguished. We’re beginning to see the fruits of this racket just now, as these longer-termed loans start to age out. On top of that, a lot of these janky loans were bundled into tradable securities just like the janky mortgage loans that set off the banking fiasco of 2008. Wait for that to blow.

What much of America refuses to consider in the face of all this is that there’s another way to inhabit the landscape: walkable neighborhoods, towns, and cities with some kind of public transit. Some Millennials gravitate to places designed along these lines because they grew up in the ‘burbs and they know full well the social nullity induced there. But the rest of America is still committed to the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world: suburban living. And tragically, of course, we’re kind of stuck with all that “infrastructure” for daily life. It’s already built out! Part of Donald Trump’s appeal was his promise to keep its furnishings in working order.

All of this remains to be sorted out. The political disorder currently roiling America is there because the contradictions in our national life have become so starkly obvious, and the first thing to crack is the political consensus that allows business-as-usual to keep chugging along. The political turmoil will only accelerate the accompanying economic turmoil that drives it in a self-reinforcing feedback loop. That dynamic has a long way to go before any of these issues resolved satisfactorily.

[Added by me--P.Z.]
Parody commercial for the Prius:

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Deals are Made on the Golf Course