Thursday, January 28, 2010

From Groom, Tx...B/W

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Will it perform? We'll see! Worth a look though!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Swingtime by James Howard Kunstler
on January 25, 2010 7:13 AM

A lot of things started shaking loose last week, and not just in Haiti. The Scott Brown senate seat victory in Massachussetts shook loose a Democratic "super-majority" that only had to be constructed because the US Senate stupidly turned the filibuster into standard operating procedure where it once was a seldom-used procedural dodge employed strictly by villains seeking to paralyze the chamber. Thanks to the new system, the senate is now in a continual state of paralysis.

The election in Massachusetts prompted President Obama to understand that the voters were pi$$ed off -- among other things -- about the special privileges of banks and bankers, after a year of force-feeding them taxpayer money like Strasbourg geese. So he outlined a bank discipline offensive that sounded an awful lot like the return of the Glass-Steagall Act -- which several of his top advisors (Summers, Rubin...) had a direct hand in repealing a decade ago -- only without proposing to reinstate Glass Steagall. Go figure. Note: for all the bluster, Mr. Obama did not mention activating the moribund Department of Justice, where Attorney General Eric Holder has been in a coma all year. Somebody ought to inform the president that he has an entire criminal investigation division there, and that a little brisk leadership could gin them up into action as they were following the Savings and Loan scandals of the 1980s (when Republicans were in power, by the way).

Now, one big question is how come the president waited until after the Massachusetts election debacle to man up with the banks? Did it only just come to him that they were looting the nation -- with government assistance? Pretty obviously nobody will believe that Mr. Obama is sincere about reigning in fraud-ridden Wall Street until he issues pink slips to the Goldman Sachs alumni who have been running him like a radio-controlled monster truck: Summers, Geithner, Rubin, et al. There was a hint of that last week, when the president made his statement with "the big guy," Paul Volker, standing right behind him. Fed Chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Geithner have both claimed more than once that they are "not regulators." That must partly explain the absence of meaningful regulation all year. My guess is that Geithner is about to be tossed overboard like a feculent weiner, and that the president is praying for the senate to vote against Bernanke's reconfirmation this week.

The underlying reality is that the financial sector of the economy has got to shrink. It ballooned from about five percent of the US economy to about 22 percent over the last two decades -- mainly as a way to compensate for our declining real productive activity as we off-shored and outsourced and disassembled US industrial capacity. Capitalism only works when it operates in the service of productive activity. Trading mere paper certificates (or digital simulacra of them) in ever more "innovative" (i.e. abstract and incomprehensible) ways is not a substitute for making goods. These practices reached such a grotesque level of unreality that they eventually poisoned what remained of our economic prospects. Now that their operations have been revealed as perfidious, these institutions have to be sliced and diced and, in some cases, punished, perhaps with extinction. It will happen anyway. The only question is whether civilian leadership can guide the process within the rule of law. In the meantime, the derivatives rackets that made up so much of the fraud -- especially the trillions of dollars vested in credit default swaps contracts -- are ticking out there like bombs placed by madmen, and may bring down the entire global money system before an orderly downsizing of finance can occur.

The larger underlying reality is that the United States as an entire, integral organism, has got to contract, downscale, and reorganize. The mandates of energy resource reality demand it. We can't maintain our way of life at its current scale and we have to severely rearrange and rebuild the infrastructure of it if we expect to continue being civilized. We have to get the hell out of suburbia, shrink our hypertrophic metroplexes, re-activate our small towns and small cities, reorganize the way we grow our food, phase out the big box retail (and phase in the rehabilitated Main Streets), start making some of our own household goods, and hook up the far-flung reaches of this continental nation with a public transit system probably in the form of railroads. By the way, there are plenty of "jobs" in this process, only not the kind of work we've been used to... sitting in cubicles or assigning tanning booths.

No amount of wishing for techno rescue remedies, or techno-triumphal fantasies, will overcome this basic reality. This is change you have to believe in whether you like it or not. Most of America doesn't like it and doesn't want to think about it and is doing everything possible to prop up the old arrangements. Bailing out the banks is just a lame attempt to keep banking over sized. Bailing out the automobile companies was just a way to avoid the recognition that Happy Motoring will soon be over. Bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was just a way to avoid understanding that suburbia is finished. The "green economy" that so many people idly blather about -- imagining that it will just mean running WalMart by other means than oil -- is actually an economy of awesome stringency. It's nothing like they imagine. It's a world made by hand.

We should be turning our efforts and our remaining resources toward the task of becoming that differently-organized, finer-scaled society.The money that went into propping up the automobile companies could have been used to rebuild the entire railroad system between Boston and the Great Lakes, and the capital squandered on AIG and its offshoot claimants could have rebuilt everything else the rest of the way to Seattle. Is it really so hard to imagine what history requires of you?

Apparently so. That's why movements like Naziism start. If there ever was another nation beautifully primed for an explosion of deadly irrational politics, it's us. And it looks to me as if that's exactly what we're going to get -- especially now that the Supreme Court has made it possible for corporations to buy elections lock, stock, and barrel. I hope our constitutional law professor president turns his attention to proposing a legislative act that will sharply reign in the putative "personhood" prerogatives of corporations. They are relatively new entities in legal history, and their supposed "rights," duties, obligations, and limits have been regularly subject to re-definition over the past hundred years.
There's no reason to believe that the court's current ideas are definitive. In fact, they are completely crazy -- given the fact that the fundamental character of corporations is sociopathic, insofar as their only express allegiance is to their shareholders, meaning they are devoid of any sense of the public interest, meaning they are unfit to participate in electoral politics.

Finally, I note the sad untimely death last week of the great Kate McGarrigle, 63, who with her sister Anna produced some of the finest music of a generation that was transcendentally saturated by music. They were folkies at the height of the rock and roll era, but their beautiful harmonies and lyrics rose above the din.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A veritable cornucopia of information!!!
Get it...its worth the money and time to read!
Mine stays in camera bag most of the time!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A little more of Honey Grove...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dallas from the patio at the Belmont Hotel...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Urban Decay...Honey Grove...

Reminders of the past!...

Krewe of Barkus back Feb. 14 in McKinney

Published: Sunday, January 10, 2010 11:37 PM CST
It’s going to be hearts and hounds this Valentine’s Day in Historic Downtown McKinney at the Art Institute of McKinney’s annual Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras Dog Parade.
This year we will be celebrating Barkus Romance and paying tribute to both real and fictional Valentines from TV, Movies and in the News. All area hounds and their handlers are encouraged to come dressed in their “Valentine’s Best.”

Costume prizes will be awarded in the following categories: Best Movie Valentine – Best Television Valentine, Best Political Valentine, Best Fairy Tale Valentine and Best Valentine in the News.

The event will run from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Feb. 14.

Patterned after the legendary Mystic Krewe of Barkus in New Orleans, the festival will feature a parade, festivities and shopping galore!

Humans and their dog escorts are invited to participate in the parade; however participants must be pre-registered and pre-paid. Children may also enter decorated wagons and bicycles as floats. All participants should check in at Mitchell Park (corner of Church Street and Louisiana Street) at 12:30 p.m. The parade will begin promptly at 2 p.m.

Registration: Participation in the costume contest is $5 per dog. To register contact AIM at 972-529-6872 or e-mail Please include dog’s name, owner’s name, address, phone and e-mail address.

For more event information call 972-547-2661 or visit

Thanks for reading the McKinney Courier-Gazette, your hometown newspaper.

Runnin for office in Fannin County...

Disasters Far and Near

As the disaster in Haiti moves into its "Katrina" phase of organizational chaos, relief effort failure, and public health calamity, the world will get another lesson in the dangers of techno-triumphalist posturing. American authority pretends to be in flawless control of a situation that by the minute crumbles into anarchy and death as the generals strut their stuff and the CNN crews broadcast yet another feel-good segment about adopted orphans. At this point, one rainstorm is all it will take to kill what is left of the Haitian social order.

It's a tragedy for the ages, and tragedy is a fulcrum of the human condition that techno-triumphalism pretends to have vanquished. All the meals-ready-to-eat on God's green earth won't add up to a happy ending for everybody. Haiti was a disaster waiting to happen every bit as much as the Federal Reserve is for us. For decades, the USA's policy (and the UN's too) was just to stuff more food aid onto an island already so far beyond its carrying capacity for human existence that every new birth certificate was a death warrant in disguise. But free people are free to do what they will do, and in Haiti there was not much more to do than make more people.

Now the USA will also pretend that there is a Haitian government in charge -- as in the pathetic grandstanding of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the other day -- though the Haitian government was a fiction for decades before the earthquake struck. The recent blatherings of Bill Clinton would have us believe that Haiti is poised to become an exemplar of economic development for the Caribbean once things are tidied up there. What planet are these people living on? (Answer: Planet Limousine.) Rather Haiti is the example of what life may become in nations bethinking themselves developed further along in The Long Emergency. If the figures on world crop failures for 2009 are relevant, even places like the USA may get a taste of this before the end of 2010.

On the home front we have President Obama's announcement last week of a tax on banks that received bailouts of one kind or another. This tax, he said, would amount to $90 billion over ten years. That's pretty funny, since there is no shortage of opinion to the effect that ten years from now $90 billion might buy you a box of Little Debbie Snack Cakes -- if the means of production are even there to make the darn things. Here's an idea: if the USA is going to backstop companies that are not allowed to fail, then maybe these companies should fork over hefty premiums for what is, in effect, an insurance policy. For instance, those billions now slated to be paid in in bonuses to the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan / Chase, Citibank, et cetera ad nauseum. Let them just pony up these bonuses to the taxpayers every year as long as they enjoy backstop insurance. (They'll still have very hefty salaries.) And, by the way, those bundles of money don't even cover these bank's off-balance-sheet liabilities.

I raise these indelicate points to argue that the stories we are telling ourselves these days do not reflect the real circumstances we find ourselves in, and will not help us to get through the difficult times ahead. In fact, they amount to an invitation for more tragedy. The more the USA imagines itself to be too big to fail -- and immune to the mandates of reality -- the more likely we are to fail massively. The more we indulge in techno-triumphalism and organizational grandiosity, the more chaos we invite. The signal failure for the moment is the Obama regime's unwillingness to imagine that the old economy is dead and that no amount of financial mortician's wax and rouge will bring it back to life. Stunts such as so-called Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee (the $90 billion tax over ten years) will only corrode what is left of Mr. Obama's authority as its meaninglessness reveals itself.

In the meantime, no one with any real authority has asked figures like Hank Paulson, Lloyd Blankfein, and Tim Geithner under oath exactly how Goldman Sachs managed to get paid 100-cents on the dollar for derivatives bets from the foundering AIG; and how come in the first place Goldman Sachs was short-selling the fraud-riddled derivative securities it was packaging for sale as AAA-rated paper to credulous investors; and many other pertinent questions of the day that ultimately must be answered and settled within the rule of law. Funny, too, that our constitutional law professor president hasn't demanded this from his own Department of Justice. I maintain that it's crucial to settle these matters if we don't expect to become an entirely lawless nation. It's necessary to break up the TBTF banks. It's necessary to investigate their officers, and prosecute them if the facts warrant it. It's necessary to open up the dark vaults of off-balance-sheet liabilities and dispose of them at their true value.

It's necessary to start telling ourselves a different story about where we are going. We're destined to become a different kind of society and economy. If that future economy is not based on real productive activity conducted at a scale consistent with resource realities, then we will starve to death, or watch our infrastructures of daily life crumble away to nothing, or hack each other to pieces as the the people in Haiti may do before the end of this week. Goldman Sachs and its cohorts are not necessary for the future economy of the USA. In fact, they're already dead. The real zombies of this world stalk the sidewalks of Wall Street, not the swamps of Port-au-Prince.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Road Trip...back to Honey Grove...:)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The Haitian capital has largely been destroyed in the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in more than 200 years. Journalists from The Associated Press describe severe and widespread casualties after a tour of streets where blood and bodies can be seen.

The damage is staggering even in a country accustomed to tragedy and disaster. AP reporters say the National Palace is a crumbled ruin and tens of thousands of people are homeless.

Many gravely injured people sit in the street, pleading for doctors many hours after the quake. In public squares thousands of people are singing hymns and holding hands.

The 7.0-magnitude quake struck at 4:53 p.m. Tuesday, leaving large numbers of people unaccounted for.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Six Months To Live?

The economy that is. Especially the part that consists of swapping paper certificates. That's the buzz I've gotten the first two weeks of 2010, and forgive me for not presenting a sheaf of charts and graphs to make the case. Just about everybody else yakking about these thing on the Web provides plenty of statistical analysis: Mish, The Automatic Earth, Chris Martenson, Zero Hedge, The Baseline Scenario.... They're all well worth visiting.

Bank bonus numbers are due out any day now. The revolt that I expected around the release of these numbers may come from a different place than I had imagined earlier -- not from whatever remains of "normal" working people, but from the thought leaders and middling agents in administration (including the prosecutors) who, for one reason or another, have been diverting their attention, or watching and waiting, or making excuses for a couple of years now. When Frank Rich of The New York Times starts calling for Robert Rubin's head, then maybe the great groaning tramp steamer of media opinion is turning in the water and charting a new course for the port of reality.

Anyway, the grotesque carnival of rackets and lies that the US economy has become -- held together with the duct tape of stimulus cash, gamed accounting, mortgage subsidies, carry trades, TBTF bailouts, TARPS, TALFS, shell-game BLS reports, and MSNBC "green shoots" cheerleading -- gives every sign of tipping into collapse at a moment's notice. There are just too many obvious things that can go wrong, and that means there are many less obvious, hidden things that can go wrong, and isn't it tragically foolish to tempt Murphy's Law, since it operates so well without any help from us? The call is even going out lately for criminal prosecution of the current Treasury Secretary, Mr. Geithner, for engineering AIG's $14 billion credit default swap payoff to Goldman Sachs as part of the AIG bailout. Okay then, why not Paulson, Bernanke, Blankfein...?

But the other rings of the circus are fully occupied by clowns and dancing bears, too. Even with sketchy-looking stock market prospects for 2010, it's hard to explain why the world would run into US treasury bonds, especially a few months from now, after the initial rush-to-safety -- that is, when you could just as easily buy Canadian or Swiss franc denominated short-term bills. And then what happens when the Federal Reserve has to eat all the uneaten treasuries, while it's already choking to death on collateralized debt obligations and related worthless toxic trash securities? After all, the greenbacks we swap around are called Federal Reserve Notes.

Why would anybody think that the housing market is going to keep levitating? A big fat "pig" of adjustable rate mortgages (i.e. mortgages that will never be "serviced") is about to move through the "python" of the housing scene, shoving millions more households into default and foreclosure. Meanwhile, local and regional banks are choking on real estate already in default that they are afraid to foreclose on and have been keeping off the market through 2009 in order to not send the price of houses down further and put even more households "under water" for houses worth much less than the face value of their mortgage. I doubt that the banks are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, but whatever the motive, this racket of just sucking up bad loans can't go on forever. At some point, a banking system has to be based on credibility, on loans actually being paid back, or it will break, and we are close to the breaking point.

The pathetic truth at the center of the housing fiasco is that prices have to come down further if any normal wage-earner will ever afford to buy a house again in America on anything like normal terms. Anyway, sooner or later the banking system is going to have to upchuck the "phantom inventory" of un-foreclosed-on houses, and sell them off for whatever they can get, or else a lot of banks are going to go out of business.

They may go down anyway, because the catastrophe of commercial real estate is following right on the heels of the fiasco in residential real estate. The vast oversupply of malls, strip malls, office parks, and other furnishings of the expiring "consumer" economy is about to become the biggest liability that any economy in world history has ever seen. Who will even want to buy these absurd properties cheaply, when they will never find any retail tenants for the badly-built structures, nor be able to keep up with the maintenance (think: leaking flat roofs), or retrofit them for anything? In a really sane world, a lot of these buildings would go straight to demolition-and-salvage -- except that it costs money to do that, and who exactly right now will make a market for used cinder blocks and aluminum window sashes? I expect these places to become squats for the desperate homeless.

Then there are the bankrupt states, led by the biggest, of course -- California and New York -- but with plenty more right behind, whirling around the same drain (probably forty-nine of them with the exception of that fiscal Nirvana, North Dakota!). Even if they manage to con bailouts from the bailout-weary federal government, the states are still going to have to winnow down the ranks of their public employees (throwing more middle-class households into foreclosure and penury), while they hugely reduce public services, especially to the poor, the unwell, and the unable. That alone will redound into very visible realms of daily life from public safety (rising crime) to the decay of roads and bridges.

Perhaps the most troubling buzz in the air this first month of 2010 are rumors of coming food shortages due to widespread crop failures around the world in the harvest seasons of 2009 (Emergency Food Supply, Food Crisis For Dummies, 2010 Wall Street Predictions.) If the US Department of Agriculture hasn't flat-out lied about crop numbers in 2009, the signs are that their statistical reports are at least inconsistent with real grain storage numbers and commodities prices. And why would the USDA tell the truth if every other federal agency is reporting gamed numbers? Given the crisis in capital and lending, one also has to wonder how farmers will be able to borrow money to get their crops in this year.

Finally there's the global energy scene. The price of oil starts this week over $83 a barrel. That puts it about $1.50 from the price "danger zone" where it begins to kill economic activity in the USA. Things and procedures just start to cost too much. Gasoline. Deisel fuel (and, by the way, that means another problem for food production going into the 2010 planting season). One especially eerie situation the past few weeks has been the de-coupling of moves upward in oil from moves in the value of the dollar. Lately, oil has been going up whether or not the dollar has gone up or down. Two weeks ago the dollar went below 1.42 against the Euro and today it's above 1.45, and oil has been rising steadily from the mid $70 range all the while. 2010 may be the year that we conclusively realize that world oil demand exceeds world oil supply -- and that global oil production cannot hold above 85 million barrels-a-day no matter what we do.

These are the things that trouble my mind at three o'clock in the morning when the wind rises and things bang around spookily. Gird your loins out there for a savage season or two.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Okie Dokie now...look at those pastries!...Makes ya hungry just thinkin about it! Chocolate cake...that's the ticket!!





Tuesday, January 05, 2010

More Urban Decay in Paris TX...

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Futility Economy by James Howard Kunstler
The Futility Economy
by James Howard Kunstler

on January 4, 2010 6:09 AM

It's the first business day of the new year and oil is trading above $80 a barrel, which means the price has re-entered the danger zone where it can crush industrial economies. This is a central element of the predicament we find ourselves in. The US economy is essentially a Happy Motoring economy. During the whole nervous period since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, American gasoline consumption hardly went down at all, though so many other activities collapsed, from house-building to trucking. Yesterday, The Seattle Times published a story with the idiotic headline: Oil Touches $80 on US Economy, Demand Optimism. Apparently, they think high oil prices are "a good sign."

How much can a nation not get it? Would $100 oil ignite a new orgy of "consumer" spending and another round of investment in commercial real estate? Welcome to the Futility Economy. This is the economy where Nature and its material companion, Reality, punish us for our stupidity and fecklessness. This is the economy that will tear the United States apart, after it bankrupts us at every level, and mercilessly drives the population down by one-third through starvation, homelessness, violence, disease, and sheer political cruelty.

Whatever you thought our economy was the past thirty years -- whatever model of it you have in your head -- that is definitely not what we are going back to. Like one of Dickens's Yuletide ghosts, Reality is leading us by the hand into new circumstances. We resist like crazy. We throw our hands over our eyes. We don't want to look. We want to return to the comfort of our dreary routines -- living in places that aren't worth caring about, weaving endlessly in freeway traffic, drawing a paycheck at the air-conditioned cubicle, inhaling Buffalo wings by the platterful, with periodic side-trips to the state-chartered casino where there's always a chance of scoring a lifetime's income on one lucky bet. And at the end of the day, you can retire with a simulated prostitute on your laptop screen! And not even have to fork over a dime -- except perhaps for the Internet connection fee.

Reality is taking us out of that familiar, if sordid, realm, whether we like it or not. Our destination is an everyday economy where you rarely travel far from the place you live, where you have to make provision for you own health, your own old age, your own income, your own diet, your own security, and your own education. If you're really fortunate, some or all of these necessities can be obtained in conjunction with your neighbors in the place where you live -- but don't expect an increasingly mythical federal government to supply any of it. Expect a new and different way of organizing households based on extended families and kinship groups. Be prepared for agriculture to return to the foreground of everyday life, where farming is back at the center of the economy. Think about how you will cultivate your best role in a social network so the things you do will be truly valued by the other people who know you. Learn how to make your own music and write your own scripts. Try to study history. Resist cults. Keep your mind clear and your senses sharp.

Even if you have a dim sense that this is where we're headed, most of you probably want to stay where you are. The investments we've made in the current mode of existence are so monumental that we can't imagine letting go of them. This will be the theme of American life for the next couple of years as we struggle mightily to escape the confining armor of the Futility Economy and move closer to ways of life that have more of a future. Right now, all the power and authority in our culture has dedicated itself to remaining inside that old armor.

The Master Wish around the country, including among people who ought to know better, is that we can "solve" our economic problem by finding some other way to run all the cars. Even hardcore environmentalists yammer incessantly about hybrid and "plug-in" cars as the "solution" to our blues. One of Barack Obama's first acts as president was to "save" the giant car companies. This is exactly the kind of signature behavior of a Futility Economy. It's based on the idea that we have to continue driving cars all the time and for everything, at all costs.

The religion of the Futility Economy is Techno-Triumphalism, which is the belief that an endless sequence of magic tricks performed by shaman scientists can defeat the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which rules the universe -- which true scientists ought to know cannot be defeated. Their colleagues, the shaman economists believe in parallel magic tricks, such as the idea that increased borrowing can "solve" a problem of runaway over-indebtedness. These are the actions that currently engage the people in charge of things in our society.

Given this current state of things, and the current course we're on, my guess is that when the falsity of these ideas and actions are exposed, they will become evident not gradually but very rapidly and shockingly. The people in charge of things will lose their vested legitimacy in a flash, and the institutions they command will become irrelevant overnight. The process would be traumatic for all of us as routines we counted on for a thousand particulars of everyday life vanish or collapse. A Great Indignation will rise across the land over the perceived swindles involved. A lot of effort will go into avenging the swindles instead of rebuilding an economy out of the ashes of futility.

Personally, I would like to see a different outcome. I'd like to see a new birth of intelligence, perhaps in the same way that President Lincoln invoked "a new birth of freedom" after an earlier convulsion in our history. The question is: do we have the resources of national character left to make that happen?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Road Trip

Eiffel tower with red hat...

Mr Giersch and I went on another road trip today...this time to Paris, interesting little town with loads of urban decay and a huge cemetary that may well house more folks than there are currently living in Paris...but it was a nice trip, and found numerous places to shoot in the future...the more we travel around out in East Texas the more we find to shoot! And its always nice to come across the friendly people that live in East Texas...

More to come about Paris tomorrow...