Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Santa is checkin everything out from the window upstairs...

Blue Christmas


As the end-credits rolled for James Cameron's new movie, Avatar, the audience burst into rowdy applause. It seemed to me that they were applauding the sheer computerized dazzlement of the show -- but in the story itself they had just watched the US suffer a humiliating defeat on a distant planet. In the final frames, American soldiers and the corporate executives they had failed to protect were shown lined up as prisoners-of-war about to embark on a death march.

More to the point, the depiction of our national character through the whole course of the film was of a thuggish, cruel, cynical, stupid, detestable, and totally corrupt people bent on the complete destruction of nature. Nice. And the final irony was that Cameron had used theatrical technology of the latest and greatest kind to depict America's broader techno-grandiosity -- as the army's brute robotic warriors fell to the spears and arrows of the simple blue space aliens. Altogether, it was a weird moment in entertainment history, and perhaps in the American experience per se. No doubt audiences overseas will go wild with delight, too, but perhaps with a clearer notion of what they are clapping for than the enthralled masses of zombie Americans.

The infatuation with technology, and the disgusting cockiness that goes with it (so well-captured in Avatar), is but one facet of the psychosis gripping the nation -- and by that I mean the profound detachment from reality. We have no idea what is happening to us and, naturally, no idea of what we are going to do. I sat in a bar Friday evening with a financial reporter from a national newspaper, trying to explain the peak oil situation and what it implied for our economy. He had never heard it before. The relationship between energy resources and massive debt was new to him. (It also came up in conversation that he could not tell me what the Monroe Doctrine was about, despite a history degree from Yale.) There you have a nice snapshot of the mainstream media in this land.

This year, America can look for a nice lump of coal in its Christmas stocking. That lump will be called "the recovery." This recovery consists of a massive self-deception, made up of accounting tricks and falsified statistics, with a sugar-coating on top of sheer disbelief that the outcome could be anything but a particular happy ending -- namely, the continued levitation of the unsustainable. What is most amazing about Mr. Cameron's holiday blockbuster is the explicit message that America is a society that deserves to be punished (and humiliated!) by others who manage their own relations with reality better than we do. I wonder how much that will secretly account for its popularity. I wonder what the leaders of China will make of it.

The other current embodiment of national character failure, Tiger Woods, golfer, has also dazzled the American public. Personally I find it much more interesting to learn that he was a really lousy tipper than that he got a lot of action on the side with opportunistic bar girls, porn stars, and other denizens of the sports-entertainment netherworld. Is it not also amusing that golf is even taken seriously as an athletic pursuit? I mean, why not pancake-flipping? Or dice? Or shooting rats at the landfill? This is the kind of knucklehead culture we have become after six decades of the softest life imaginable. Anyway, I'm not shedding any tears for Tiger. Even if all his endorsements dry up and his ex-wife takes him to the cleaners for a hundred million or so, he'll still be left with enough cash to pay for porn stars and lobster tails until the end of time, especially if he keeps his tipping policy at its current level.

Next week I'll put out my forecast for the coming year, 2010. But for now I'd like to leave readers with this Christmas present: a preview scene from the sequel to my novel of the post-oil American future, World Made By Hand....


Up near Honey Grove...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hostage Situation


Apologies for server problems that dogged this website most of Monday....
Okay, so President Obama didn't run for office to help out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street - or so he said on CBS's "60 Minutes" show Sunday night. But maybe it didn't seem like such a bad idea once the election was over. Anyway, the net effect of his administration's actions since then - all nicely documented in the latest Rolling Stone dispatch from the choleric Matt Taibbi - was an immense helping out of fat cat bankers on Wall Street at the expense of a lot of American citizens who work elsewhere, if they are lucky enough to have income-producing work.

Mr. Obama has really offered no satisfactory explanation for why he larded his department of the US government from the get-go with so many agents and recent graduates of Wall Street's biggest firms. Nor has any clear reason emerged for the absence of criminal prosecution - or even investigation - by the Attorney General in such obvious cases of criminal fraud and insider trading as Goldman Sachs's double-window technique for hedging its own issues of mortgage-backed securities. By comparison, the Savings-and-Loan scandal of a decade ago led to thousands of criminal convictions.

Last week, the Right Reverend Lloyd Blankfein, still "doing God's work," announced in a "cash-for-pitchforks" deal that the top thirty executives of his company, Goldman Sachs, would not receive dollar bonuses this Christmas but instead will get stock that ostensibly can't be sold for five years. Those of us in the USA who enjoy a good mystery are wondering exactly what fine language in this memorandum drawn up by a team of thousand-dollar-an-hour lawyers contains the magic catch that frees up the GS execs to convert this stock into money, say, on February 2, 2010 - because you know it's got to be in there somewhere.

Anyway, insofar as the top 30 GS employees is made up strictly of people who are already multi-deca-millionaires, notice that the other 31,670 employees of GS, including not a few hundred in the upper income tranches, will be receiving cash bonuses as usual this year from a bonus pool that amounts to about $16 billion (sixteen thousand million dollars). Of course, being a publicly-held company, GS will have to announce soon what those cash bonuses are. Perhaps this is why the news also got out about GS employees seeking handgun permits in bunches. Exactly how they get around New York City's special "Sullivan Law," which supercedes the New York State permitting rules, has not been explained.

Meanwhile, all the stops are being pulled out to produce a mighty wall-of-sound in dubiously-reported statistics pertaining to national unemployment and retail sales - the first way down and the latter up, supposedly - in an attempt to squeeze one last giant potlatch Christmas out of the dying "consumer" economy. Jew though I may be, I confess that Christmas is for me. I'm sorry, fellow Chosen People, but Hanukkah is just plain boring - the equivalent of Danish Modern furniture for the spirit. Give me Christmas, with its pagan yule logs, feasts, and revels! One can enjoy the holiday doings and trappings without subscribing to either the divinity of Santa Claus or the Babe of Nazareth. But Christmas does invite us to indulge in all kinds of "hopes" and delusions, and the main one crackling through the American zeitgeist this year is the wish that our national life will resume the yeasty expansion of goodies that most living citizens regard as baseline normality - namely, a never-ending orgy of credit card spending and real estate flipping.

This wish is doomed to disappointment. The cold boney finger of reality, like Dickens's spectral Ghost of Christmas yet-to-come, points to many a tableau of desolation in the decade ahead... of a lost "normality," of evictions, foreclosures, tragedies, ruinations and most of all dashed expectations - assuming that the vast public clings to habits and behaviors no longer suited to the mandates of new circumstances in our world. And it is the greatest disservice of all at this holiday time for respected authorities to pimp that wish. What a shabby thing it has become anyway - a sordid spectacle of multitudes moiling in chain store checkout lines en route to the certain anguish of buyer's remorse in the parking lot.

Can't we come up with a better American Dream, even one that includes Christmas? I think we can. It would require the liberation of American citizen's minds from their thralldom to bigness in every realm from work to worship to recreation. If you think Barack Obama is a hostage to Wall Street, reflect for a while on the people's self-surrender to the tyranny of everything that diminishes us to mere "consumers." We're on a journey - and we don't know it - back to a nation of communities where your character really matters, and where character rests on whether your deeds comport with truthfulness. Many will be dragged kicking and screaming upon that journey, and many a dark night will be passed in the cold and damp on the way. But it will take us to a place where the hearths are burning brightly and the estranged spirits of our national character await a reunion with us: fortitude, patience, generosity, humor. That will be a Christmas to live for and remember!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Cowboys of the Grand Canyon II
Brian Magnuson
@ Laura Moore Fine Art in McKinney


Thursday, December 10, 2009




Cowboys of the Grand Canyon II
photography series by Brian J Magnuson featured at Laura Moore Fine Art Studios in McKinney Dec. 12
By Laura Moore Fine Art Studios Dec 7, 2009

McKINNEY, TEXAS - - Brian J. Magnuson has managed once again to catch a rare glimpse of the life of a modern day cowboy in one of the few remaining places where cowboys still work full time. In March, Magnuson traveled to the Grand Canyon and continued his ongoing photography series. Magnuson's personable style proves to connect anew with these seasoned cowboys allowing an insider's look at their daily routine. This exhibit of over twenty black and white images at Laura Moore Fine Art Studios beautifully captures a different scene of the rugged Arizona cowboys without rodeos or cattle drives, but rather working the mules down the steep canyon descent.

Magnuson's stunning classically hand printed darkroom images take the viewer behind the scene for a detailed look at what goes on in the life of a Grand Canyon cowboy from the early preparations of the packers, well before sunrise, to fellowship of the cowboys at the end of the long hard day. The viewer will be placed in front of the farrier shoeing difficult mules, the saddle maker making repairs and dramatic views as riders on the backs of the mules climb out of the deep canyon.

Magnuson, an artist and educator in Plano, has been photographing things of interest and importance for fourteen years and has held many one-man shows across America as well as been included in several group showings. His work has been promoted on Good Morning Oklahoma television program, Dallas Morning News Guide and other publications.

"Cowboys of the Grand Canyon II" will open with an artist's reception on Saturday, December 12th from 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. Through January 6, 2010, at Laura Moore Fine Art Studios, 107 S. Tennessee in historic downtown McKinney.

Hours: Mondays through Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Free admission.

This is a family friendly exhibition and all are welcomed. 214.914.3630. www.lauramooreart.com.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


People are getting ready for Christmas...




Climate, Oil, War, and Money



Against a greater welter and flow of incoherence jerking the nation this way and that way en route to collapse comes "ClimateGate," the latest excuse for screaming knuckleheads to defend what has already been lost. It is also yet another distraction from the emergency agenda that the United States faces - namely the urgent re-scaling, re-localizing, and de-globalizing of our daily activities.

What seems to be at stake for the knuckleheads is their identity, their idea of what it means to be an American, which boils down to being an organism so specially blessed and entitled that it is excused from paying attention to reality. There were no doubt plenty of counterparts among the Mayans when the weather changed and their crops failed, and certainly the Romans had their share of identity psychotics who doubted reality even when Alaric the Visigoth was hoisting off their household treasure.

Reality doesn't care if we are on-board with its mandates or not. The human race has to get with whatever program reality is serving up at a particular time. Are we shocked to learn that scientists fight among themselves and cheat as much as congressmen? Does that really change the relationships we understand about parts-per-million of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere and the weather?

What the people of the world can do or will do about a change in climate is something else. My guess is that the undertow of entropy is now too great to provoke any meaningful unified change in behavior. The collapse of the US economy is too close to the horizon, and the so-called developing nations will have problems equally severe. In the meantime, it is unlikely that any of the major players will burn less coal and oil, or not cheat on each other even if they pledge to burn less. People who are not knuckleheads will make the practical arrangements that they can. These will, by definition, be localized, small-scale, and non-global communities, doing what they would have to do anyway.

A parallel identity mania afflicts those who have decided that the Bakken shale oil deposits and the Marcellus gas play will allow the USA to cancel any modifications to our living arrangements. This cohort of knuckleheads wants to believe the public relations of the oil and gas industry, and in particular the bankers who are arranging the financing for these ventures. The facts are irrelevant to their identity-claims (that the USA has limitless energy resources). In fact, the Bakken shale formation is unlikely to produce more than a few hundred thousand barrels of oil a day in a nation used to burning about twenty million. A few hundred thousand might mean a lot if were only used to light kerosene lamps, but it is unlikely to keep the faithful motoring off to WalMart and Walt Disney World - which is the exact expectation of the knuckleheads.

Shale gas is a similar story. It will be too expensive to get out of the tight rock at a flow that will allow business as usual to continue. It certainly won't be produced at under $10 a unit, and the nation's comprehensive bankruptcy accelerates every day, making it less likely that the public can pay premium prices within the framework of our current living arrangements.

*

Who the hell really knows what we're up to in Afghanistan. President Obama tried to present a coherent explanation last week but, frankly, it all just seemed an exercise in futility - and reminded me of those countless wealth-sapping expeditions the Roman army made to the frontiers of their own empire during the period of collapse. Paul Craig Roberts, the former Reagan treasury official turned fierce critic of bail-out economics, said on a podcast last week, that he thought our adventure there was about protecting a Unocal oil company pipeline from Turkmenistan. Sorry, Paul. I can't buy that. Like, we're going to post soldiers every two hundred yards across some of the most forbidding terrain in the world? And keep them posted there, and provisioned... forever? I don't think so.

One pet theory of mine about the Af-stan adventure is that we wanted to make a baloney sandwich out of Iran by posting armies on both sides of them, with Iraq and Af-stan as the Wonder Bread. All I can say about that is that it doesn't seem to have affected Iran much during the past six years, or modified or influenced their behavior favorably. Or perhaps it just allows us to stand close by to Pakistan, in case the Islamic maniacs get their mitts on central power there - and by extension, on a bagful of nukes. It's a lot less easy to believe that we have any prospects for really domesticating and/or democratizing Af-stan itself. And even if we do manage to suppress the Taliban for a few years, are we prepared to continue the mission... forever? As soon as we're out of there, the Afghanis are back to tribal business-as-usual. So why not just bail while the bailing is good? Make like the Russians and the Brits before them and cut our losses? Is our prestige at stake? And by extension our identity as world-savers?

I suppose this leads to larger questions of a.) the stability of Islamic Central Asia in general, and b.) the capabilities and intentions of the maniacs within it who would like to inflict punishment on us Western crusader types. One popular theory, of course, is that they only feel that way because of our intrusions in the Islamic Ummah; that they would back off and mind their own business if we would just quit sending our knights over there. I have no idea if this is true, though one would suppose there is a certain inertia in play that would keep their animosities at work for a long time to come, not to mention the millions of under-employed young men who seek to work off their testosterone by blowing things up.

One thing you can state pretty categorically about the Af-stan war: it sure is a good way to blow an additional one trillion dollars worth of capital - that is, money we lend to ourselves, which leads to the next link-in-the-chain: the destiny of our national finances. If a clerk at H and R Block sat down for an hour with Uncle Sam, he'd surely be reaching for the Pepto-Bismol after five minutes. We've been able to play games with ourselves for a whole year about the true state of our capital resources. It is a mighty big system, kept chugging along on little more than inertia, as things will when they are headed downhill and gravity exerts its influence. But it begins to seem now like a great reeking freight train of toxic waste out-of-control on the downgrade and headed for a very nasty smash-up. The Green Shoots crowd - a sub-category of identity maniacs, who think the USA is immune to the laws of history and physics - has made common cause with the oil and climate knuckleheads to proclaim that we are returning to normal, back to the "consumer" orgy, the suburban sprawl nexus of McHousing and miracle mortgages, and new frontiers of corporate profit-raking.

They are tragically wrong. Instead, we're headed into the wildest king-hell debt workout that the world has ever seen, which will propel a lot of people used to working in air-conditioned cubicles into a world made by hand. We march day by day into the great holiday season with mortgages going unpaid and the credit cards getting cancelled and money disappearing and the fears and grievances mounting. Pretty soon, the folks doing "God's work" at Goldman Sachs (and their tribal kin on Wall Street) will announce their annual bonuses (because they are publicly-held companies, which have to do so). Won't that be a galvanizing moment for us all?

Friday, December 04, 2009


Another look at Cadillac Ranch...


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Run on the U.S. Dollar ....Soon

Nov 30, 2009 - 04:33 PM

By: DailyWealth


Porter Stansberry writes: It's one of those numbers that's so unbelievable you have to actually think about it for a while...

Within the next 12 months, the U.S. Treasury will have to refinance $2 trillion in short-term debt. And that's not counting any additional deficit spending, which is estimated to be around $1.5 trillion.


Put the two numbers together. Then ask yourself, how in the world can the Treasury borrow $3.5 trillion in only one year? That's an amount equal to nearly 30% of our entire GDP. And we're the world's biggest economy. Where will the money come from?

How did we end up with so much short-term debt? Like most entities that have far too much debt – whether subprime borrowers, GM, Fannie, or GE – the U.S. Treasury has tried to minimize its interest burden by borrowing for short durations and then "rolling over" the loans when they come due. As they say on Wall Street, "a rolling debt collects no moss."

What they mean is, as long as you can extend the debt, you have no problem. Unfortunately, that leads folks to take on ever greater amounts of debt... at ever shorter durations... at ever lower interest rates. Sooner or later, the creditors wake up and ask themselves: What are the chances I will ever actually be repaid? And that's when the trouble starts. Interest rates go up dramatically. Funding costs soar. The party is over. Bankruptcy is next.

When governments go bankrupt, it's called a "default." Currency speculators figured out how to accurately predict when a country would default. Two well-known economists – Alan Greenspan and Pablo Guidotti – published the secret formula in a 1999 academic paper. The formula is called the Greenspan-Guidotti rule.

The rule states: To avoid a default, countries should maintain hard currency reserves equal to at least 100% of their short-term foreign debt maturities. The world's largest money-management firm, PIMCO, explains the rule this way: "The minimum benchmark of reserves equal to at least 100% of short-term external debt is known as the Greenspan-Guidotti rule. Greenspan-Guidotti is perhaps the single concept of reserve adequacy that has the most adherents and empirical support."

The principle behind the rule is simple. If you can't pay off all of your foreign debts in the next 12 months, you're a terrible credit risk. Speculators are going to target your bonds and your currency, making it impossible to refinance your debts. A default is assured.

So how does America rank on the Greenspan-Guidotti scale? It's a guaranteed default.

The U.S. holds gold, oil, and foreign currency in reserve. It has 8,133.5 metric tonnes of gold (it is the world's largest holder). At current dollar values, it's worth around $300 billion. The U.S. strategic petroleum reserve shows a current total position of 725 million barrels. At current dollar prices, that's roughly $58 billion worth of oil. And according to the IMF, the U.S. has $136 billion in foreign currency reserves. So altogether... that's around $500 billion of reserves. Our short-term foreign debts are far bigger.

According to the U.S. Treasury, $2 trillion worth of debt will mature in the next 12 months. So looking only at short-term debt, we know the Treasury will have to finance at least $2 trillion worth of maturing debt in the next 12 months. That might not cause a crisis if we were still funding our national debt internally. But since 1985, we've been a net debtor to the world. Today, foreigners own 44% of all our debts, which means we owe foreign creditors at least $880 billion in the next 12 months – an amount far larger than our reserves.

Keep in mind, this only covers our existing debts. The Office of Management and Budget is predicting a $1.5 trillion budget deficit over the next year. That puts our total funding requirements on the order of $3.5 trillion over the next 12 months.

So... where will the money come from? Total domestic savings in the U.S. are only around $600 billion annually. Even if we all put every penny of our savings into U.S. Treasury debt, we're still going to come up nearly $3 trillion short. That's an annual funding requirement equal to roughly 40% of GDP.

Where is the money going to come from? From our foreign creditors? Not according to Greenspan-Guidotti. And not according to the Indian or Russian central banks, which have stopped buying Treasury bills and begun to buy enormous amounts of gold. The Indians bought 200 metric tonnes this month. Sources in Russia say the central bank there will double its gold reserves.

So where will the money come from? The printing press. The Federal Reserve has already monetized nearly $2 trillion worth of Treasury debt and mortgage debt. This weakens the value of the dollar and devalues our existing Treasury bonds. Sooner or later, our creditors will face a stark choice: Hold our bonds and continue to see the value diminish slowly, or try to escape to gold and see the value of their U.S. bonds plummet.

One thing they're not going to do is buy more of our debt. Which central banks will abandon the dollar next? Brazil, Korea, and Chile. These are the three largest central banks that own the least amount of gold. None owns even 1% of its total reserves in gold.

All of this is going to lead to a severe devaluation of the U.S. dollar... Which I expect to happen within 18 months. I examined these issues in much greater detail in the most recent issue of my newsletter, Porter Stansberry's Investment Advisory, which was published last week. Coincidentally, America's paper of record – the New York Times – repeated our warnings (nearly word for word) last weekend. Word is getting out.

If you haven't taken steps to protect yourself from the coming devaluation – like owning gold and silver bullion, foreign real estate, and farmland – make sure you do it soon. The dollar rout is coming.

Good investing,

Porter Stansberry

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article15449.html

Monday, November 30, 2009


http://kunstler.com/blog/2009/11/wic...ides.html#more
Wickedness Abides
by James Howard Kunstler
on November 30, 2009 7:12 AM

"While Dubai is not big enough to set off financial repercussions outside the Middle East, the main fear is that investors could flee risky markets all at once in search of safer havens for their money." -- The NYT, Vikas Bajaj and Graham Bowley, reporting.



Apart from the stark self-contradiction in this quote from The New York Times, you have to love the fatuous 'it's all good' self-assurance where global banking is concerned. No problemo y'all! A mere overdraft incident, a cash-flow hiccup... and yet "the main fear" [among whom?] is that investors [where and in what? Like, everywhere?] could flee risky markets all at once in search of safer havens for their money [WTF?]. Gosh, well, as long as they don't flee the New York Stock Exchange, the Hang Seng, the FTSE.... And, hey, do you suppose anybody bought any credit default swap "insurance" on the deals that financed scores and scores of super-giant condominium skyscrapers and hotels amounting to the greatest spec construction folly in the history of the world?

Snapshots of the stupid ****ing work-in-progress have been circulating around the Internet for five years, the disbelief was so monumental. I confess, when I first saw the Palm Island I was impressed at what a superb air-strike target it presented. And then, when the real estate assemblage of artificial islands arranged like a map-of-the-world came along, I could only imagine the megalomanical glee rising in the throat of a jet bomber pilot (nationality unspecified) as he closed in on it.

Whom the gods would punish, they first make completely crazy. That includes us, here in the USA, by the way, but pound-for-pound Dubai is the current champeen. The monstrosity they built in their waterless convection-oven of a city-state makes Las Vegas look like a mere strip mall in comparison. Throw in a few other affronts to nature, such as an indoor ski "mountain," a beach cooled by an under-the-sand refrigerated pipe network, golf courses that have to be hosed down with acre-feet of desalinated sea-water, and forget about "the gods" -- one begins to see the monotheistic hand of "Old Scratch" himself working the levers of the construction cranes out there.

Frankly, I have no idea whether the Dubai fiasco will send seismic ripples thundering through a global banking establishment that is already crippled in more ways than you can count. But it does remind those in thrall to the dazzlement of "green shoots" that debt comes a'creeping, and runs so far, deep, and wide through the broken system of mutual assurances constituting international finance, that Ben Bernanke and his counterparts in central banks 'round the world could drop helicopter loads of paper cash on every rooftop, intersection, parking lot, field, forest, and camel raceway and never make a dent in the fatal web of false obligations we have woven for ourselves.

But you do wonder what was going through their minds as this ridiculous organism took shape on the horn of the Persian Gulf, just as one wonders at loathsome aspirations that Las Vegas presents in our own so-called culture -- essentially a wickedness that exceeds the wildest fantasies of the most demented clergymen, be they closeted sado-masochistic Southern Baptist teleministers, Vatican-approved child molesters, or mullahs dispatching suicide bombers to the marketplaces frequented by housewives and their children.

Lately, the much-repeated aphorism has circulated around the Web that civilizations build their most extreme monuments at the very moment of collapse. If this is true -- and it is hard to argue with the historical record -- then it's time to organize a new Third Party for the 2012 election with Jared Diamond and Cormac McCarthy heading the national ticket (and Roland Emmerich for EPA chief). By then, if we don't stop lying to ourselves about the destruction we have induced, every other suit-and-tie wearing authority figure in America, from the county clerk to Barack Obama, will take on the aura of the archetypal Evil Clown from a Stephen King yarn. Imagine living in a country where absolutely nobody in a leadership position is credible. This is the kind of country we're becoming and it will not keep running that way for long.

The markets will begin digesting the Dubai news in earnest today, making for a holiday season of possibly momentous thrills-and-chills. The big debate going into Thanksgiving was whether the dollar would continue its downward trajectory, leading to some kind of currency failure, hyper-inflation, take your pick... or turn briskly around as investors bailed out of risk vehicles for the conventional safe-haven paper parking lot of US Treasuries. This debate between the inflationists and deflationists has defied resolution all year. Personally, I side with the deflationistas these days, though I believe our ultimate destination, in a year or so, is destruction of the dollar.

In keeping with the wickedness theme, isn't it interesting that our society now vests all its hopes and wishes for thriving -- indeed survival! -- on a yearly ceremony we have come to call Black Friday. I was raised in a religion-free household, but I confess the signs are just everywhere that we've taken some turn to the Dark Side. I'm a little surprised that "consumers" were not caught on video wringing the necks of chickens in the WalMart parking lots the other day in the hopes of winning supernatural favor for that race down the aisle to the flat-screen TV loss leaders. The cinemas are full of blood-sucking teenagers. Grown men swarm in the unemployment offices wearing sideways hats and butt-crack trousers. Why not just tattoo a message on your forehead that says: "Moron For Hire"?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Dickens of a Christmas...Day 2...



Lots of folks out spendin that cash and having a good time!
Good for the city!...



Friday, November 27, 2009


Dickens on the Square this weekend!...




Monday, November 23, 2009


Cadillac Ranch...

"The Cadillac Ranch, located along the tatters of historic Route 66, was built in 1974, brainchild of Stanley Marsh 3, the helium millionaire who owns the dusty wheat field where it stands. Marsh and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, assembled used Cadillacs representing the "Golden Age" of American Automobiles (1949 through 1963). The ten graffiti-covered cars are half-buried, nose-down, facing west "at the same angle as the Cheops' pyramids."

Playing with off camera flash!

http://kunstler.com/blog/2009/11/cou...sion.html#more

Courting Convulsion
by James Howard Kunstler

How infantile is American society? Last night's CBS "Business Update" (in the midst of its "60 Minutes" program) featured three items: 1.) The New Moon teen vampire movie led the weekend box-office receipts; 2.) Cadbury shares hit an all-time high; 3.) Michael Jackson's rhinestone-studded white glove sold at auction for $350,000. Some in-house CBS-News producer is responsible for this ****ing nonsense. How does he or she keep her job? Is there no adult supervision at the network?

Meanwhile, over at The New York Times this morning, Paul "Nobel Prize" Krugman writes:

"Most economists I talk to believe that the big risk to recovery comes from the inadequacy of government efforts; the stimulus was too small, and it will fade out next year, while high unemployment is undermining both consumer and business confidence."

Disclosure: I'm not one of the economists that Mr. Krugman talks to (nor am I an economist). But it's sure interesting to know that the ones palavering with Mr. Krugman imagine that that the US can possibly return to an economy based on the fraudulent securitization of reckless debt. Does Mr. Krugman think that the production housing industry can resume paving over the nether exurbs with half-million-dollar houses (to be bought with no money down loans by the sheet-rockers working inside them)? Does he think all those people receiving cancellation notices from their credit car issuers are in a position to flash their plastic at the Gallerias this Friday? Or ever will be again? Is he perhaps misusing the term "recovery?" After all, that is generally taken to mean resuming a prior state, which is, in turn, presumed to be a healthy prior state. Is that what the economy of the past decade was? And, incidentally, what exactly is a "consumer?" And why, at the highest levels of journalism in this land, do we refer to citizens that way? As if the American people have no other purpose except to buy things? Or is that that the only way an "economist" can imagine them?

I'm sorry to burden the reader with so many questions, but the idiots running the mainstream news media in this land are not doing it and somebody has to.

If a "recovery" is not in the cards, then what exactly is going on out there?

What's going on in the US economy is a slow-motion convulsion from which we will emerge as a very different nation with a different economy. The wild irresponsibility of the media in pretending otherwise is only going to make the convulsion worse, more painful, more socially and politically destructive. The convulsion can be described with precision as one of compressive contraction. Historic circumstances are requiring us to change our behavior, to make new arrangements for everyday life in all the major particulars: capital accumulation and deployment; food production; commerce; habitation; transport; education; and health care. These new arrangements must be organized at a smaller and finer scale, and on a much more local basis.

The main "historic circumstance" mandating these changes goes under the heading of "peak oil." We've come to the end of our ability in this world to increase energy inputs to the global economy. The routine "growth" in industrial activity and production that has been the basis of our financial arrangements for 200-odd years is no longer possible. Offsetting this decline in oil energy "input" with "alt.energy" is a dangerous fantasy because it distracts us from the urgent task of making new arrangements for trade, food production, et cetera - the very things that would provide jobs and social roles for our citizens in the future.

We are seeing a comprehensive failure of leadership in every sector and every level of American life - in politics, business, banking, education, news media, medicine, and the clergy. All are determined to pretend that we can somehow continue the habits and behaviors of the pre peak oil era. They are all unwilling to face reality, and are all engaged in mutually supporting each other's dangerous fantasies.

If we don't attend to the transformation of American life by downscaling our activities and changing the way they are carried out, and re-localizing them, we will see our society disintegrate - and I use the word "dis-integrate" with purposeful precision. Everything will come apart - our political arrangements, our households, our health and well-being.

At the moment, banking is disintegrating. It's happening because the end of regular, predictable, cyclical, industrial growth means the end of our ability to generate credit without limits, and in fact we passed this point by stealth some time ago leaving the banks in "Wile E. Coyote" suspension above an abyss, where they have lately been joined by government at all levels and the indebted citizens of the land. The profound nausea spreading through the offices of America is the somatic recognition of exactly where we are in all this: off the cliff.

It's important to remind readers that so-called "capitalism" is not to blame. Capitalism is not an ideology. It refers to a set of laws governing the disposition of surplus wealth. There is going to be surplus wealth somewhere in the years ahead, even if our living standards fall substantially, even under the strictures of peak oil. All the communist experiments of the 20th century produced some kind of surplus wealth. All of them were subject to the phenomenon of compound interest. What matters in the disposition of capital are the rules created for accumulating and deploying it. In the USA the past two decades, we ignored the rules, repealed some of the critical laws, and failed to enforce the existing ones so that, when faced by the historic circumstances of peak oil, we allowed fraud and swindling to run wild - just at the moment when we should have taken the most care. That is why our money system ran off the rails.

We're now seeing worldwide a kind of race between the assertion of peak oil and the failures of capital management as to which will provoke a widespread convulsion first. They are obviously related and whichever gets us in the most trouble fastest, our destination is the same: the absolute necessity to reorganize how we live. Among the many elements of this is the fact that "globalism," in the Thomas Friedman sense of the word, is over. The urgent need to re-localize economies makes this self-evident. As a practical matter for us, this means committing to import replacement - making things we need in the US, probably much more regionally. "Globalism" now joins the many other fantasies that we can no longer indulge in.

At the moment, going into Thanksgiving 2009, America's leadership has dedicated itself to worst action it could take under the circumstances: a campaign to sustain the unsustainable. This is what's embodied in the foolish term "recovery." The way we try to explain things to ourselves matters, if we don't want to be crushed by history. Go back to the top of this blog and look at the things we pay attention to. Aren't you ashamed?

Friday, November 20, 2009


Pictures from Groom, Texas...
The sculptured bronzes in the Stations of the Cross are life-size...


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

29th Annual Dickens of a Christmas...Home for the Holidays

Date: 11/27/2009 TO 11/29/2009
Time: 8:00 AM

Description:
Downtown McKinney’s premier festival, the 29th annual Dickens of a Christmas…Home for the Holidays is right around the corner. An old fashioned Christmas festival with horse drawn carriages, strolling carolers, pictures with Santa Claus, the Christmas tree lighting and activities for all ages. Seasonal music, food and children’s activities provided by local organizations will take center stage during the event. Patrons are encouraged to spend the weekend enjoying all the activities and taking advantage of the many great shops, restaurants, and entertainment. The perfect start to the holiday season -Dickens of a Christmas…Home for the Holidays is our opportunity to give back to the community. The event will be held for (3) days (November 27, 28 and 29, 2009). This festive event will launch on Friday, November 27 with an “Earlier than the Bird” shopping extravaganza followed by festive activities throughout the day leading up to a message from our Mayor, the lighting of the tree and candlelight shopping until 8:00 p.m. Periodically, during the month of December, the shops in downtown McKinney will stay open for extended hours so that customers have a chance to finish all of that holiday shopping in one place with over 100 boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, apparel, gifts and exquisite antiques. Consumers can find the unique and special things that they won’t find anywhere else in downtown McKinney. This magical event is free to the public and parking and free shuttle service will be provided. McKinney Main Street and supporting sponsors will support the local economy by providing festive and interactive activities throughout the busiest shopping weekend of the year, which will in turn promote the heritage of our wonderful city. For more information please visit McKinney Main Street at www.downtownmckinney.com or call 972.547.2660.

Directions:
From HWY 75: Exit 40-A go east of 75 1.2 mile and you will be in Historic Downtown McKinney

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The DPS got together for a shoot in downtown McKinney this afternoon and a discussion about balancing ambient light and flash in the shade...I did OK...not great, but OK...


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Outside, the sky was bleak and the snow was drifting. But inside the meeting hall in Toronto's financial district, the mood was warm, as it usually is when Warren Buffett is in the house – even on those occasions when he's spreading a message of fear.

It was February, 2008. The U.S. economy had slipped into a funk and the markets were rattled, but the world's second-wealthiest man said little to indicate he had a clue about the panic and the chaos that would arrive in months ahead. He didn't see it coming.

But what he did predict that day was major stress on the U.S. dollar. As long as American shoppers and businesses buy far more from abroad than they sell, said the Oracle, there's really only one direction for the greenback to go. “Force-feeding a couple of billion a day to the rest of the world is inconsistent with a stable dollar.”

Here we are, nearly two years later, having gone to financial hell and back – and we're right where Mr. Buffett said we'd be. The buck is sinking, and fast: 6 per cent against the euro so far this year, 14 per cent against the Canadian dollar, 26 per cent against the Brazilian real.

In America, many people think a weak dollar is a good thing because it helps exporters and ought to result in a lower U.S. trade deficit. It's the less-Wal-Mart, more-Boeing strategy for returning the country to prosperity and economic health. And even China hinted this week that it might play along (at least a bit) by letting the yuan rise (at least a bit).

No doubt that would please American congressmen in hard-hit manufacturing states, who have long complained that the Chinese policy of suppressing its currency has come at great cost to blue-collar workers in their districts. But have they thought about the other half of the equation? Because there's a second part to Mr. Buffett's long-held views of U.S. currency and trade policy.

He isn't one of those Chinaphobes who dislikes the U.S. trade deficit for its own sake. Rather, it's the consequences of that deficit: Americans are trading their wealth in return for someone else's goods. In the first nine months of 2009, the United States spent $275-billion (U.S.) more on imported products than they received from exports. Repeat that year after year, decade after decade, and eventually somebody winds up with a whole pile of claims against you. That somebody is China, with its Everest-sized pile of dollar bills and other foreign currencies totalling more than $2-trillion.
China, helpfully, has sent those many of those dollars back to help the U.S. government keep the lights on. But buying the low-yielding T-bills of a high-deficit country with a depreciating currency does not make a wonderful investment. Sooner or later, China and other foreign holders of U.S. dollars will demand something with a little more upside, no?

That may come in the form of higher interest rates that squelch growth. Or it may come through trading some of their U.S. dollars for ownership of some prime American companies. China has tried this before: A state oil company tried to take over Unocal in 2005, then abandoned it because of a wall of political opposition.

But the U.S. has less moral authority with which to block such a move now, especially if China starts to play nice(r) with its currency. And heaven knows that, after the crash, there are a lot of investors who'd happily take the takeover premium and run. The list of big-name U.S. companies whose shareholders have earned nothing over the past 10 years is a long one.
As Mr. Buffett put it that day two winters ago: “The truth is we're selling America to the rest of the world. It's just a question of [in] what form we sell it to them.” It's also a question of when. As the dollar sinks, the era of the foreign acquirer seems to get closer.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/...rticle1363074/

Monday, November 09, 2009


South end of Palo Duro Canyon...beyond the park...
Tropical Storm Ida

Statement as of 9:00 am CST on November 09, 2009

the last reconnaissance data that supported hurricane intensity were
obtained around 07z...and the satellite presentation of Ida has
been steadily deteriorating during the morning. Most of the deep
convection has been sheared off well to the northeast of the center
and will be moving onshore shortly...leaving only a small area of
convection near the center. A Quikscat pass around 12z showed
winds of 50-55 kt in the core...and assuming that the instrument
did not quite resolve the maximum wind speed...the advisory
intensity will be set to 60 kt. Another aircraft will be in the
cyclone around 18z.
With Ida moving through an environment of cooler waters and
increasing shear...continued weakening is expected. The global
models do not show much in the way of baroclinic re-intensification
prior to landfall...so the hurricane warnings and watches are being
discontinued...leaving only tropical storm warnings in place. The
official forecast is still above the icon consensus.
The last aircraft center fix showed the 700 mb- and surface centers
decoupling...and since then the surface center has been difficult
to locate in satellite imagery. The initial motion is estimated at
340/15. The forecast philosophy is unchanged. Ida is expected to
move generally northward today ahead of a mid- to upper-level
trough moving eastward across the northern Gulf of Mexico...and
then turn eastward as it becomes embedded within this mid-latitude
system.
The track of the surface center of Ida is losing significance in
terms of the effects of this storm. Strong winds cover a large
area of the Gulf of Mexico and the associated rains are moving well
ahead of the center. This should continue to be the case as Ida
weakens and begins to lose tropical characteristics.

Forecast positions and Max winds

initial 09/1500z 26.5n 88.3w 60 kt
12hr VT 10/0000z 28.6n 88.7w 55 kt
24hr VT 10/1200z 30.4n 88.2w 50 kt...inland
36hr VT 11/0000z 31.2n 86.6w 40 kt...extratropical
48hr VT 11/1200z 30.5n 84.5w 30 kt...extratropical
72hr VT 12/1200z...dissipated

$$
forecaster Franklin

Dreams Die Hard


In The Long Emergency (2005, Atlantic Monthly Press), I said that we ought to expect the federal government to become increasingly impotent and ineffectual - that this would be a hallmark of the times. In fact, I said that any enterprise organized at the colossal scale would function poorly in years ahead, whether it was a government, a state university, a national chain retail company, or a giant midwestern farm. It is characteristic of the compressive contraction our society faces that giant hypercomplex systems will wobble and fail. We should expect this.

It's tragic that the avatar of hopefulness himself, Barack Obama, stepped into his role at exactly the moment when this set of conditions was getting traction. It is sure to get worse, and there are going to be a lot of disappointed people out there who will be suffering terrible losses and real pain in daily life. Societies don't do well when the public falls into the broad despair that is the opposite of hope. That's when the long knives and the tribal animosities come out and things get smashed.

Within the context of conventional party politics - the kind that has been baseline "normal" in the USA for a long time - we see this playing out in two factions that are increasingly out-of-touch with reality. The Obama government has made itself hostage to a toxic form of pretense and lying. In order to sustain the wish for "hope" - if not hope itself - the President and his White House advisors along with his cabinet appointments, are pretending that the historical forces of compressive contraction are not underway.

They're flat-out lying about the employment figures issued in the government's name. They're willfully ignoring the comprehensive bankruptcy gripping government at all levels. They refuse to bring the law to bear against "the malefactors of great wealth." They appear to not understand the epochal energy scarcity problem the whole world faces, or its implications for industrial economies. Most of all, they persist in promoting the lie that this economy can return to the prior state of reckless debt accumulation (a.k.a "consumerism") that has made us so ridiculous and unhealthy.

The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management. These days, Americans don't like reality very much because it won't let them push it around. Reality is an implacable force and the only question for human beings in the face of it is: what will you do? In other words, it's not really possible to manage reality, but you can certainly choose to manage your affairs within reality. We won't do that because it's too difficult. This harsh situation leaves the public increasingly with little more than bad feelings of discouragement and persecution. It's astonishing that all the smart people around the president don't get this.

Reality unfolds emergently, and this ought to interest us. For instance, I have maintained for many years that we are approaching the twilight of the automobile age - and the implications of this for daily life in the USA are pretty large. For a long time, I had assumed that this change of circumstances would proceed from our problems with the oil supply. But reality is sly. It has thrown two new plot twists into the story lately. America's romance with cars may not founder just on the fuel supply question. It now appears that our problems with capital are so severe that far fewer people will be able to borrow money from banks to buy cars at the rate, and in the way, that the system has been organized to depend on. Our problems with capital are also depriving us of the ability to pay to fix the hypercomplex system of county roads, interstate highways, and even city streets that make motoring possible. What will we do?

For now, a cashless government gives out cash-for-clunkers, which is basically a self-esteem building program designed to make the government feel better about itself because it is ostensibly taking 11-miles-per-gallon cars off the road and replacing them with 27-miles-per-gallon cars, thus forestalling scary problems with climate change. It's dumb of course, but the failure of leadership is comprehensive. Even the elite environmentalists at the Aspen Institute are preoccupied with finding new "green" ways to keep all the cars running. They put zero effort into the idea of walkable communities, or restoring the railroad system, which will be the reality-based remedies for the car-dependency problem.

The Republican right wing is, if anything, even more childishly delusional. For Glen Beck and Sarah Palin it comes down to "drill, baby, drill." They know nothing about the geology of oil - they don't even believe that the earth is more than six-thousand years old, meaning they don't believe in geology, period - but they are inflamed with the faith of eight-year-old children that we must have a lot more oil in the ground because this is America and God loves us more than people in other parts of the planet so it must be there. As their disappointment mounts, their childish ideas will turn cruel and sadistic. They'll seek to punish anybody who believes that the earth is more than six thousand years old. The catch is, If they get into power in the election cycles ahead, they'll be impotent and ineffectual even at persecuting their enemies.

In the meantime, American life will just wind down, no matter what we believe. It won't wind down to a complete stop. Its near-term destination is to lower levels of complexity and scale than what we've been used to for a long time. People will be able to drive fewer cars fewer miles. The roads will get worse. They'll be worse in some places than others. There will be fewer jobs to go to and fewer things sold. People who live in communities scaled to the energy and capital realities of the years ahead are liable to be more comfortable. We're surely going to have trouble with money. Households will drown in debt and lose all their savings. Money could be scarce or worthless. Credit will be scarcer.

Both factions of American political life indulge in the fiction of control. History is reality's big brother. It is taking us someplace that we don't want to go, so it will probably have to drag us there kicking and screaming. For starters, both reality and history will probably take us out to some woodshed of the national soul and beat the crap out of us. That could be a salutary thing, since the crap consists of all the lies we tell ourselves. Once we're rid of all that, we may rediscover a few things left inside our collective identity that are worth regarding with real self-respect.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Hurricane Ida
BULLETIN
HURRICANE IDA ADVISORY NUMBER 18
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL112009
900 AM CST SUN NOV 08 2009

...CENTER OF IDA MOVING INTO THE YUCATAN CHANNEL...HURRICANE WATCH
ISSUED FOR PORTIONS OF THE NORTHERN GULF COAST...

AT 900 AM CST...1500 UTC...A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FROM GRAND
ISLE LOUISIANA TO THE MISSISSIPPI/ALABAMA BORDER. THIS WATCH DOES
NOT INCLUDE THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS. A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT
HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY
WITHIN 36 HOURS.

A HURRICANE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE YUCATAN PENINSULA OF
MEXICO FROM PLAYA DEL CARMEN TO CABO CATOCHE. A HURRICANE WARNING
MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED SOMEWHERE WITHIN THE
WARNING AREA WITHIN 24 HOURS. PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND
PROPERTY SHOULD BE RUSHED TO COMPLETION IN THE WARNING AREA.

A HURRICANE WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE YUCATAN PENINSULA OF
MEXICO FROM TULUM TO PLAYA DEL CARMEN. A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT
HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE YUCATAN PENINSULA
OF MEXICO FROM PUNTA ALLEN NORTHWARD TO PLAYA DEL CARMEN AND FROM
CABO CATOCHE WESTWARD TO SAN FELIPE. A TROPICAL STORM WARNING
MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED WITHIN THE
WARNING AREA WITHIN 24 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE CUBAN PROVINCE OF
PINAR DEL RIO.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE ISLE OF YOUTH.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE ALONG THE NORTHERN COAST OF THE GULF OF MEXICO
SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF IDA. ADDITIONAL TROPICAL CYCLONE
WATCHES OR WARNINGS MAY BE REQUIRED LATER TODAY.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA IN THE UNITED
STATES...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE
MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
FORECAST OFFICE. FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA
OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED
BY YOUR NATIONAL METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE.

AT 900 AM CST...1500 UTC...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE IDA WAS LOCATED
NEAR LATITUDE 21.2 NORTH...LONGITUDE 86.0 WEST OR ABOUT 75 MILES...
120 KM...NORTHEAST OF COZUMEL MEXICO AND ABOUT 80 MILES...125 KM...
WEST-SOUTHWEST OF THE WESTERN TIP OF CUBA.

IDA IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTHWEST NEAR 10 MPH...17 KM/HR. A TURN
TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHWEST AND AN INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED ARE
EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS...WITH A TURN TOWARD THE NORTH
LIKELY BY TUESDAY. ON THE FORECAST TRACK....THE CENTER OF IDA
SHOULD MOVE THROUGH THE YUCATAN CHANNEL INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO
TODAY...AND BE NEAR THE NORTHERN GULF COAST BY TUESDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 90 MPH...150 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS. IDA IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE.
SOME STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST TODAY...WITH GRADUAL WEAKENING
EXPECTED ON MONDAY. IDA IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN LOSING TROPICAL
CHARACTERISTICS ON TUESDAY AS IT NEARS THE GULF COAST...BUT IT
COULD REACH THE COAST AS A TROPICAL CYCLONE.

HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 15 MILES...30 KM...FROM
THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO
140 MILES...220 KM.

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 983 MB...29.03 INCHES.

IDA IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 5 INCHES
OVER PORTIONS OF THE YUCATAN PENINSULA AND WESTERN CUBA...WITH
POSSIBLE ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF 10 INCHES.

A STORM SURGE COULD RAISE WATER LEVELS BY AS MUCH AS 3 TO 4 FEET
ABOVE GROUND LEVEL ALONG THE COAST OF THE YUCATAN PENINSULA. NEAR
THE COAST...THE SURGE WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY LARGE AND DESTRUCTIVE
WAVES.

...SUMMARY OF 900 AM CST INFORMATION...
LOCATION...21.2N 86.0W
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...90 MPH
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NORTHWEST OR 325 DEGREES AT 10 MPH
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...983 MB

AN INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY WILL BE ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE
CENTER AT 1200 PM CST FOLLOWED BY THE NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY AT 300
PM CST.

Have just returned from a short trip into the Texas Panhandle...and FINALLY got to shoot Cadillac Ranch!


Saturday, November 07, 2009


Horner Lake at sunset...

Saturday, October 31, 2009


The Cadillac was alive with party goers for Halloween!...



and the winner of the costume contest is...


Friday, October 30, 2009


Enjoy your Halloween but be safe!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Going back for a few days...


Monday, October 26, 2009

Self-jiving Nation


The scene in the White House these days must be a sort of Opera Bouffe, in which an earnest and rather grave young man moves from one roomful of lesser officials to another in which all agree to pretend that they have prevented the nation from falling into something they call "the abyss." At the end of Act I, a young deputy FDIC commissioner in the Little Mary Sunshine mold gets down on one knee, belts out a show-stopper about the glories of a bright and shining "tomorrow," and the audience goes out for intermission to discover that the city has been burning down around the theater all night.
Out in America-the-Real, Halloween time in this year of 2009 has an interesting "Day of the Locust" flavor. There's more than a whiff of smoke in the air, along with an odor of dead carp wafting out of all the the offices and institutions we depend on to define reality. Like the Hollywood of Nathaniel West's dark 1939 novel, America today seems poised in the gate of some harsh judgment. When the historians look back at this era - especially at the time between January 20th and the holiday season of 2009 - won't they marvel at how well-understood our predicament actually was, by so many parties to it, and the gulf between that comprehension and the story we told ourselves: that we were "recovering."

Like a lot of other observer-interlocutors, I'd like to know what folks imagine we are recovering to. To a renewed orgy of credit-card spending? To yet another round of suburban expansion, with the boys in the yellow hard-hats driving stakes out in the sagebrush for another new thousand-unit pop-up "community?" For a next generation of super-cars built to look like medieval war wagons? That's the "hope" that our officials seem to pretend to offer. It's completely inconsistent with any reality-based trend-lines, by the way.
Perhaps it's time to redefine "hope" in the greater social sense of the word. To me, hope is not synonymous with "wishes fulfilled." In fact, hope should not be about wishing at all. Hope should be based on confidence that the individual or group is reliably competent enough to meet the challenges that circumstances present. Hope is justified when people demonstrate to themselves that they can behave ably and bravely. Hope is not really possible in the face of patent untruthfulness. It is derived from a clear-eyed and courageous view of what is really going on. I don't think that defines any of the behavior in the United States these days. We've become a self-jiving nation intent on playing shell games, running Ponzi schemes, and working Polish blanket tricks on ourselves.

It begins to look now as if the Obama team is determined to run this creaking vessel right over the falls. We could have bravely faced the structural perversities in banking the past year, but we decided not to. So far only a tiny minority of the public - unfortunately the "tea-bagging" race-baiters - have been the only ones to squawk. I look around at my fellow baby-boomer ex-hippie, ex-political radical age-cohorts and I see a sad-ass claque of passive, played-out, defeated dreamers too depressed to form a coherent thought about what's really going on... lost in sentimental fantasies about "world peace," or free heart-transplants-for-everybody as they, the boomers themselves, lurch toward the graveyard.

Obama was not a boomer, not one of "us," so I had expectations that he'd rise above the fog of wishful thinking. But he begins to look more like Millard Fillmore and less like an earlier president from Illinois who got elected on the eve of a terrible national political convulsion. I think about Lincoln a lot these days, about how circumstances shoved him to act when Southern secessionists fired on Fort Sumter barely a month after the new president took the oath of office (which was done in March back then). There was no spinning the news on it, no wiggling away from reality: an organized insurrection led by rogue U.S. military officers fired on their fellow officers... and that was that. The issue, as the saying goes, was joined.

If you think we have been in a crisis of finance and economy for the past year or so, consider that we have also been sunk in a comprehensive crisis of leadership. Nobody in authority is willing to face the truth, state the truth, and offer a reality-based idea about how to meet the truth, This is a leadership failure not just in politics and government, but also in business, in the university faculties, in the editorial and production offices of the news media, and even among a barely-breathing clergy.

Americans look around and see nobody standing up for their interests. Their greatest interest is a vision of a fruitful society that they can help build and be a part of beyond the current wreckage of revolving-debt consumerism. It will have to be a vision based on fewer resources and on new arrangements for daily living. It will have to recognize losses frankly, and enable us to let go of things whose time is over, whether that is Happy Motoring, college-for-everybody, vast industries devoted to vanished leisure, or procedures geared to getting something-for-nothing.

For now, I still see the inflection point as coming by the holiday season, when the masters-of-the-universe on Wall Street will have to publicly post their Christmas bonuses (and as publicly held corporations, they will have to). It is also well within the realm of possibility that a Black Swan the size of Rodan the Flying Reptile will swoop through the stock markets to breath fire on the computer terminals and melt the glorious rally of 09 away. In the meantime, I wonder about that man in the White House, and those ever more comical meetings he attends every day. He must emerge from them spinning like a nine dollar gyroscope. Nobody wants to imagine what happens to him when the spinning stops.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Kayla...
Trying to meet life's challenges...


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Prepare!!


Monday, October 19, 2009

Marching Towards Zombieland
by James Howard Kunstler



When sober-minded individuals begin to regard an enterprise within a nation as "an enemy of the people" you can bet that some serious blood is going to flow. This is now essentially the situation for the Goldman Sachs company, which last week announced third-quarter earnings of over $3 billion largely derived from converting zero percent loans from taxpayers into zero risk profits off of anything paying more than zero percent in interest, revenue, or dividends.


The "people" across this big country may not have a clue how any of this is done, and there may be much to fault them on from the care-and-feeding of their own bodies to the content of their dreams, but you can't argue with the fact that they are heavily armed to an extreme. And although it may be hard to measure with precision, one might venture to state that they are increasingly pi$$ed off. How else explain popular entertainments like "Zombieland?"


The political part of what has to date appeared to be an economic problem is resolving into a crisis of authority and legitimacy. When those in charge of a nation's livelihood prove to be comprehensively false and dishonest, the economic automatically turns political. Nobody believes the bankers anymore, of course, and nobody believes the interlocutors of the bankers - the Federal Reserve chairman, the Secretary of the Treasury, the heads of the SEC and a dozen other regulatory bodies - and increasingly the charming figure in the White House cannot be believed on these issues of the nation's livelihood.


The questions lately revolve around whether the nation is destroying itself by inflation or deflation - by the willful destruction of the value of our currency to evade the repayment of debt, or by the hapless destruction of households, companies, and governments by default and bankruptcy. It's a fire-or-ice debate. Either way the nation is going down as a viable enterprise. The fiction that we can return to a Crate-and-Barrel credit card orgy has sustained the false of heart and mind for some months now, but even that pleasant reverie will come to an end as the foreclosures mount. Only remember, men living in their cars who have lost nearly everything else will still have guns.


All these tensions beat a path into the holiday season when emotions run high, when blessings are counted and sorrows taste most bitter. So the big question now floating above the sheer data of Goldman Sachs profit announcement is: what kind of year-end bonuses will they dare to pay their executives and minions, and how will the "people" react? It seems to me that conditions are ripening for a bloodbath. The kind of heinous acts that we have feared emanating from foreign "evildoers" since the awful stunt of 9/11/01 are now most likely to come from among our own "people" - a few pounds of Semtex in the lobby of Goldman Sachs's New York headquarters... a few men with market-grade small arms converted to full-automatic outside on the Wall Street sidewalk one evening at holiday time when the suits are leaving work for the day.... It won't take much.


President Obama had better strike first. He's about the only figure left in the whole termite mound who has a shred of even potential credibility left because he still has the power to act. He can instruct the people who work for the executive branch to "claw back" any and all ill-gotten bank bonuses; he can direct the Justice Department to investigate everything from the uses of federal bailouts to grand-scale accounting fraud; he can fire people in high places who have failed to act and lost legitimacy. If he doesn't do these things soon than he's finished, too. In the wake of such a failure things will get fractal fast.


The sense that Wall Street has pulled off a coup d'etat and taken over the machinery of the United States is the most powerful meme out there now, and its power is growing in magnitude every day among all classes of Americans. I can't say how much it reflects reality. Even if it is a result of sheer happenstance - the tragic evolution of an industrial economy into a financial finagling economy - the citizens will still experience it as a stealing of their future. Whatever else one might say about American culture, it is keenly attuned to a sense of heroes and villains. We take great pride in our ability to blow away the bad guys. And life imitates art, as Oscar Wilde observed. If a zombie virus is on the loose in America, the first infections showed up in the zombie banks, among the zombie bankers. Watch out, Lloyd Blankfein! Woody is on his way....