Monday, November 30, 2009
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
Monday, November 23, 2009
"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."
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
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Date: 11/27/2009 TO 11/29/2009
Time: 8:00 AM
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.
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
Saturday, November 14, 2009
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.
Monday, 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
Dreams Die Hard
on November 9, 2009 6:28 AM
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.
Sunday, November 08, 2009
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
...SUMMARY OF 900 AM CST INFORMATION...
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