Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day @ Pecan Grove...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day is not just for memories

Published: Thursday, May 27, 2010 10:37 PM CDT
As life moves along, we all have memories. Some are happy ones. Others, not so much. I have recently noted the 13th date since My Dear Departed left my life, which means I also face another Memorial Day. We McKinney-ites are blessed to have some dedicated and reverent citizen-leaders who plan a Memorial Day commemoration at Pecan Grove Cemetery with all the bells and whistles to remind ourselves of and teach our children the historic value of sacrifice which has, for several hundred years, kept Americans safe.

Thirteen years ago, after Rusty breathed his last, I was faced with arranging a family/ friend/ co-worker get-together at the local funeral home in Virginia. It was Memorial Day weekend, and almost everyone had plans for the long-anticipated three-day holiday. As he wished, he had died at home in our Quaker farmhouse, captured in a rented hospital bed with much of our family at his side.

His father, brothers and sisters were all in the Tidewater region, unprepared for his demise. I had our daughter, her best friend, her husband, our first grandchild, Rusty’s closest friend, my dearest friend and our hospice nurse at the bedside. But, even today, after so many years, I cannot escape the grisly death scene we all witnessed.

Fast forward to my relocation in McKinney. Harry McKillop, renowned for his insistence that Memorial Day be something special in McKinney, was marshalling his resources and recruiting help-mates to produce a meaningful ceremony at his beloved Pecan Grove. As a reporter, I had met Harry. For some reason, he thought of me and invited me to be a guest at the event.

It was hot. It was muggy. I gratefully, but sadly, took my place under the tent where all the local muckety-mucks (and a sprinkling of the questionably worthy – including yours truly) were awaiting the morning goings-on. I said hello to those I knew, met those I didn’t know, and squared myself for what was about to unfold. I was not prepared.

Our Congressional representatives made speeches. Our city fathers made speeches. There was a contingent of Civil War re-enactors entertaining the children. And then, it happened: “Taps.” Tears streamed down my face as I remembered those notes wafting over Arlington National Cemetery as my husband was about to be laid to rest in that hallowed ground. As the hundreds of well-wishers filed past the coffin poised for his last journey.

Coincidentally at Pecan Grove, there was a high-ranking Air Force officer seated next to me. When he heard my sobs, he put his arm around me...a perfect stranger...and held me up as the bugler surrendered the last mournful tones hanging over the assembly.

As I looked out toward the citizens sitting in the sun and humidity, I saw a woman who lives fairly close to me in the Historic District. We were acquaintances, but not really close friends. Her tears were for me and all the others who were there to respect our loved ones and those we didn’t even know. I will never, ever forget that moment, now frozen in time.

Harry McKillop, Reps. Sam Johnson and Ralph Hall and other dignitaries never knew about that. But Nina Ringley cried with me (and so many others that day) in remembrance of those who have gone before us.

If you have never participated in this moving event, please delay your barbecues, swim parties or whatever you have planned for Monday. Join your fellow citizens at Pecan Grove for your very own memory and an indescribable opportunity to share with your children what being an American really means.

It starts at 10 a.m. Take your chairs or blankets. Share in an experience which will truly enrich your lives and those of the people who matter to you. God Bless America.

Cheramy Rusbuldt is a free-lance journalist who lives in McKinney’s Historic District.
Get Ready For The Oil To Gush Into August...May 30, 2010, 2:35 PM
Slowly, they let out the truth....

Joe Weisenthal | May 30, 2010, 2:35 PM

Good luck finding someone who actually thinks the LMRP is going to work. At best it will capture some of the oil, and at worst, it could cause the spill rate to increase 20%, since it involves removing the bused blowout preventer, which is mitigating things somewhat.

Today on Face The Nation, Obama environmental advisor Carol Browner said what may have been the most honest thing yet: you should probably expect oil to gush until August.

In other words, the oil-soaked wetlands are just the beginning, in all likelihood.

If you want to read what an environmental nightmare looks, read this account of what the oil could do to the encironmental ecosystem around Florida. Or better yet, don't click and try to enjoy the weekend.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Location scouting...and this is a good one!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Art Walk…Downtown McKinney Is Hopping! May 22, 2010 at 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Historic Downtown McKinney

Local and regional artists will come out to play in Downtown McKinney on May 22, 2010. McKinney Main Street invites you to come down and visit the shops in Downtown McKinney hosting artists representing every mix and medium of art. Over 50 artists will showcase their art forte in store

fronts throughout downtown. A series of uniquely decorated frogs line the downtown streets to guide shoppers into shops during the event. The ArtWalk is a perfect opportunity to come down and experience the magic of the historic shopping district. The weather is just right to enjoy the day with your family and indulge in shopping, dining and art of all kinds. For more information please visit or call McKinney Main Street 972.547.2660.

Where: Historic Downtown McKinney

Price: Free

When: 10:00am Sat 5.22.10-6:00pm Sat 5.22.10

Something Happened

Everybody in the world is broke, except for maybe Lloyd Blankfein, and he may not end up broke so much as broken -- by a political meat-grinder that is revving up to turn the world's woes and swindles into a new kind of Long Emergency sausage, to be distributed among the roiling, angry masses as a synthetic substitute for nutriment. Call it a synthetic non-collateralized political obligation.

Something snapped in the world last week and a lot of people around the world sensed it -- especially in the organs of news and opinion -- but this ominous twang was not very clearly identified. It was, in fact, the sound of the financial becoming political. The macro-swindle of a worldwide Ponzi orgy now stands revealed and the vacuum left in its place is about to suck everything familiar into it -- standards-of-living, hopes, dreams, not to mention lives. The political action will be a desperate scramble to determine who and what is able to escape getting sucked into this black hole of annihilation. It's very suddenly shaping up to become an epic in human history.

Meanwhile, a giant oil blob lies quivering in deep waters off the Gulf coast, like some awful amorphous Moby Dick full of malice waiting to sink Pequod America -- or at least the economies of five states. A few months from now, the BP corporation will wonder why it didn't go into something safe and predictable like the pants business instead of oil exploration. They will surely question the viability of conducting future business anywhere near the USA, and the USA will enter a wilderness of soul-searching about the drill-baby-drill strategy that only a few scant weeks ago seemed to be a settled matter. Tough to have your future hoped-for energy supplies evaporate at the same time that your hopes for future prosperity get sucked into a black hole.

I've maintained for a long time that the folks down Dixie way are the the most dangerously crazy people in America and the Deepwater Horizon oil blob is not going to improve their outlook when it slops over their beaches and bayous. They'll blame Obama for it by syllogism. Anyway, they are only marginally more crazy than the rest of the folks in the USA. Those folks are warming up for an election season that is going to send a horde of exterminating angels into the halls of congress and the governor's mansions, and before too long those merchants of retribution are going to appoint their inquisitors. It's going to be a heckuva spectacle. In retrospect, Mary Shapiro's SEC will look like the Council of Trent. You can be sure that if ten gallons of gasoline remain to be found in America a few years from now, they will power the last GMC Sierra to drag the captains of Wall Street through the sawgrass prairies of Collier County, Florida.

What has gone on in Europe the past few weeks is nothing more complicated than a waking-up to how broke they are. We're not quite there yet on this side of the Atlantic. They fired one last bazooka of wishfulness at the enveloping monster of debt and the monster laughed at them, and now they are standing in the windows of palatial edifice of the Euro Union waiting to see who will jump first. Here in the USA, we're still dazed and confused. What for a long time had looked like a game of musical chairs is morphing into something more like a national Chinese fire drill, a pointless running around in circles in the hope that sheer motion will be an adequate substitute for conscious action. In any case, both Europe and the USA are out of bazooka ammo now. Nobody can bail out so much as another lemonade stand. From here on governments really start to crumble.

As in any time of severe turmoil, all political bets are off. There are insinuations in the press, for instance, that the communists will rise up in Greece and overthrow the elected government. That's rich, since communism was flushed down the human race's credibility toilet twenty years ago. The Greek opposition may even call themselves communists, but what on earth could they mean by that? There are no "means of production" left in a country whose economy consists solely of cab-drivers, bellboys, and waiters. There's no "wealth" to redistribute, only the pain of collective economic loss when the tourists stop landing.

Elsewhere in Europe, each national house is being outfitted with a procrustean bed of austerity. The various publics are not going to like lying in them. They ain't no Tempurpedics. History being the shape-shifting demon that it is, I imagine that this time around the Brits will be the ones who elect Nazis --or something like them -- while the still-chastened Germans find themselves in the odd position of becoming Europe's moral guardian -- its sole-surviving "good parent" figure, striving to maintain some residue of collective goodwill in Europe's once-ritzy gated community. Great historical figures always arise from unexpected places -- Corsica, Kentucky. Maybe some great unifying leader even now warms a seat in a Norwegian law school.

God knows what the Europeans will make of the helter-skelter scene playing out here in the States. Perhaps some species of schadenfreude tinged with regret for the missing stream of tourists. My own guess is that there may not even be a president of the US after Mr. Obama. Rather, events will get so gnarly and disordered so fast that somebody like General Patraeus will have to step in for a while and keep the reincarnation of the Ku Klux Klan from trying to murder every non-Cracker from sea to shining sea. Of course, once that happens, we probably don't go back. It's not Imperial Rome (release 2.0) after that, either, because even the mighty US military will be too strapped for a means of support to continue operating. Instead, it's the devolution of the US into functionally autonomous regions and states -- and even that scale of governance may be too great for the stringent economic realities of the years ahead.

There remains, of course, the very great question of what the rest of people of the world -- the non-Western world -- do as the West spins into insolvency and tribulation. The Islamists will do everything possible to make things worse, and there's a lot they can do, from restricting their oil exports (maybe cutting them off altogether) to provoking the immigrant populations of Europe into political violence to possibly setting a few nukes off in their enemy's front yard.

The Chinese will affect to referee the collapse of the West, but soon they'll be sucked into their own implosion of population overshoot and resource scarcity. India you can forget about out -- zero oil. Russia gets to kick back in glorious isolation and enjoy the methane fumes of the melting tundra. South America will heed the wise words of a forgotten 18th Century Viceroy of Mexico who explained his method of administration thusly: "Do little, and do it slowly!"

The Long Emergency has now up-shifted to second gear. Wouldn't you know it, I have to go to Europe at the end of the month. And I'm supposed to get paid in Euros -- oh, snap! This week I'll be cavorting with my homeys, the Congress for the New Urbanism, at their annual jamboree in Atlanta (ugh!) and will be reporting on the doings there in this space next Monday.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

From a walk around town this AM...

Friday, May 14, 2010

And Chicks for Free?

The European Union came up with a trillion dollar bail-out for itself at the dawn's early light. Plus, each member gets a Latvian prostitute, gratis. The Germans will love this. It already goosed the Euro back above $1.30 -- just when they hoped a lower Euro would help them move a few more export goods off the shelves. I expect that Mrs Merkel is already catching an earful. A few hours earlier, her coalition of Christian Democrats and free Democrats got their joint ass kicked in a North Rhine - Westphalia local election....

I mention these events reluctantly, knowing how averse we Americans are to news out of Old Europe, that boring backwater of sclerotic cafe lay-abouts, socialistic train service, and less-than man-sized portions of things that real men don't eat anyway.

The question begging itself here, of course, is how Europe intends to come up with roughly a trillion in bail-out money. Sell Portugal to China? Cut Greece up into bait and catch whatever fish are left in the Mediterranean Sea? Frankly, I'm stumped. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul.... All the European nations are already so hopelessly enmeshed in chains of unfulfillable counter-party obligations that the bail-out might as well be a game of musical chairs played in the Large Hadron Particle Collider, set to the tunes of Karlheinz Stockhausen. The European bail-out is, in fact, an absurdity. I predict that the effect of the announcement will last all of one trading day on the stock markets.

The truth is that the imbalances of global finance are so grotesque now that the whole money system is hanging together with nothing but spit and prayer. I get rafts of e-letters every week warning of a supposedly-coming global currency -- a companion idea to the notion of a one-world government. Both are idiotic fantasies. Events are taking the nations of the world in the other direction: towards break-up, down-sizing, down-scaling. Likewise, if major currencies such as the Euro and the dollar blow up, they're much more likely to be replaced by more local bank-notes backed by gold than by some hypothetical Amero or Globo-buck.

At seven a.m. Eastern time, the European stock markets were zooming, and Bloomberg even carried a wonderfully mysterious headline saying Greek Bonds Rally. That was especially rich -- like, who in the fuck is going to load up on Greek bonds now? Is there a pension fund somewhere run by such dimwits that they would sell their positions in the Goldman Sachs issued Timberwolf CDO in order to get in on the new bargain in ten-year Greek sovereigns? I hope those pensioners are prepared to spend what remains of their lives selling chestnuts from pushcarts on the streets of Oslo, because they sure won't be clipping coupons in front of any World Cup telecast.

As if life in the USA wasn't surreal enough last week. Once upon a time, the stock market was a place where people with capital went to look for productive activity to invest in -- say, a company devoted to making soap flakes, an underpants factory. Now the market is a robot combat arena where algorithms battle for supremacy of the feedback loops. Thursday's still-baffling fifteen-minute "crash" was an excellent demonstration of the diminishing returns of technology. People too-clever-by-half, aided greatly by computers, have now gamed the investment indexes so successfully that these markets no longer have anything to do with investment -- they're just about shaving micro-points of profit at high volumes by micro-milliseconds off mere differentials in... math! This is truly quant heaven, a place where only numbers matter and there is no correspondence to anything in the real world. In other words, last Thursday's bizarre action was a warning that the American stock markets have flown up their own aggregate ass.

These algo-robots may be elegantly complex, but they are really no more than triggering mechanisms, and Thursday's -- whatever it was -- glitch, let's say, ought to be regarded as a mere preview of coming attractions for a full-on feature clusterfuck in which the putative contents of these stock markets get sucked into a black hole so vast that the trading desks will have to find a way to arbitrage infinity to ever again catch a glimpse of America's receding wealth. And it could all happen in a finger-snap.

Why would anybody not heavily medicated stay invested in the stock markets? Well, the answer must be that they're not. The few still hanging around are the institutionals with nowhere else to go, the pitiful pension funds or the pathetic college endowment funds desperately chasing "yield" in a world where once-sturdier instruments yield zirp-o -- and these poor chumps are getting played and played out. The only other remaining marketeers are -- you guessed it -- the too-big-to-fail banks, the Federal Reserve, and possibly the US Treasury itself playing front-running games and algo stunts and black box buy-ups, and carry-trade rackets, and -- let's not forget -- outright swindles.

We tend to forget that all this hugger-mugger once had a relation to real economies. The basic truth about real economies -- at least the industrial-strength ones -- is that they cannot be successfully managed on the basis of revolving debt in the context of no growth -- and no growth is exactly the bottom line of the peak oil story so revolving debt is finished for now. Speaking of oil, the Deepwater Horizon disaster (still ongoing) has gotten so boring to the editors of The New York Times that further news about it has been banished from the front page of the paper. Too depressing, I guess.

In the meantime, though, rest assured that whatever else is going on out there, credit default swaps never sleep.

BP tries tube to siphon spewing Gulf oil to tanker

Undersea robots tried to thread a small tube into the jagged pipe that is pouring oil into the Gulf of Mexico early Friday in BP's latest attempt to cut down on the spill from a blown-out well that has pumped out more than 4 million gallons of crude.

The company was trying to move the 6-inch tube into the leaking 21-inch pipe, known as the riser. The smaller tube will be surrounded by a stopper to keep oil from leaking into the sea. BP said it hopes to know by Friday evening if the tube works and can siphon the oil to a tanker at the surface.

Since an April 20 drilling rig explosion set off the catastrophic spill, BP PLC has tried several ideas to plug the leak that is spewing at least 210,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf a day. The size of the undulating spill was about 3,650 square miles, or the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, said Hans Graber, director of the University of Miami's Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing.

In the fateful hours before the Deepwater Horizon exploded about 50 miles off the Louisiana shore, a safety test was supposedly performed to detect if explosive gas was leaking from the mile-deep well.

While some data were being transmitted to shore for safekeeping right up until the blast, officials from Transocean, the rig owner, told Congress that the last seven hours of its information are missing and that all written logs were lost in the explosion. Earlier tests that suggested explosive gas was leaking were preserved.

The gap poses a mystery for investigators: What decisions were made — and what warnings might have been ignored?

"There is some delay in the replication of our data, so our operational data, our sequence of events ends at 3 o'clock in the afternoon on the 20th," Steven Newman, president and CEO of Transocean Ltd, told a Senate panel. The rig blew up at 10 p.m., killing 11 workers and unleashing the gusher.

Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents several rig workers involved in the accident, questioned whether what he called "the phantom test" was even performed.

"I can just tell you that the Halliburton hands were scratching their heads," said Buzbee, whose clients include one of the Halliburton crew members responsible for cementing the well to prepare for moving the drilling rig to another site.

Details of a likely blowout scenario emerged this week for the first time from congressional and administrative hearings. They suggest there were both crew mistakes and equipment breakdowns at key points the day of the explosion.

Buzbee said that when Halliburton showed BP PLC and Transocean officials the results of the pressure tests that suggested gas was leaking, the rig workers were put on "standby." BP is the rig operator and leaseholder.

Buzbee said one of his clients told him the "Transocean and BP company people got their heads together," and 40 minutes later gave the green light.

The attorney said the Halliburton crew members were not shown any new test results.

"They said they did their own tests, and they came out OK," he said. "But with the phantom test that Transocean and BP allegedly did, there was no real record or real-time recordation of that test."

None of the three companies would comment Thursday on whether any data or test results were purposely not sent to shore, or on exactly who made the final decision to continue the operations that day.

Five thousand feet under the sea, the effort to thread the smaller tube into the larger pipe began overnight. But the crushing depth requires engineers to work slowly and carefully, BP spokesman John Crabtree said Friday.

Crews overseeing the effort hope to have a better grasp Friday evening on whether this latest method to stem the gushing oil spill is going to work, Crabtree said.

If the tube doesn't work, BP could try a second containment box, which would be placed over the well and also would siphon the oil to the surface.

In another experiment, BP might wind up shooting junk of all shapes and sizes to plug the nooks and crannies into the blowout preventer — a giant piece of machinery that's allowing some of the oil to escape. In the aptly named "junk shot," engineers would shoot pieces of tires, golf balls, knotted rope and other items into it in hopes the right size stuff makes its way to the appropriate holes. Once the leak is clogged, heavy mud will be poured in. It would then be sealed off with cement.

BP also has sprayed chemicals on the oil to break it up into smaller droplets, with about 4 million gallons of oily water recovered.

The size of the spill, as measured from satellites, seems to have grown about 50 percent from May 10 to late Thursday, said Graber from the University of Miami.

"There's a hell of a lot coming out," Graber said of the oil.

The estimate of 210,000 gallons daily from the leak comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has frequently been cited by BP and the Coast Guard. Some scientists have said based on an analysis of BP's video of the leak that the flow rate is much higher, while others have concluded the video is too grainy to draw any such conclusions.

BP is sticking with the NOAA estimate, company spokesman Mark Proegler said Thursday. He said BP hasn't sent down equipment that might be able to more accurately measure the oil because "our focus is on stopping the leak, not measuring it."

As for the missing data, rigs like Deepwater Horizon keep a daily drilling report. It is the version of that report given to Congress that cuts off at 3 p.m.

The log confirms that three pressure tests, conducted from the morning to the early afternoon of April 20, indicated unseen underground leakage into the well. But there is no mention of a fourth test that BP and Transocean say was conducted and that they say indicated it was safe to proceed.

In the hours leading up to the explosion, workers finished pumping cement into the exploratory well to bolster and seal it against leaks until a later production phase. After the tests that indicated leakage, workers debated the next step and eventually decided to resume work, for reasons that remain unclear.

At the same time, heavy drilling fluid — or mud — was being pumped out of a pipe rising to the surface from the wellhead, further whittling the well's defenses. It was replaced with lighter seawater in preparation for dropping a final blob of cement into the well as a temporary plug for the pipe.

When underground gas surged up uncontrollably through the well, desperate rig workers tried to cap it with a set of supersized emergency cutoff valves known as a blowout preventer. However, the device was leaking hydraulic fluid and missing at least one battery, and one of its valves had been swapped with a useless testing part.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, said the lack of offsite data storage is something he intends to look into further.

"I'm sure we'll be taking action to follow up with those requirements," he said. "Because it's critical information that would give rise to understanding of what happened and why more wasn't done to shut off the flow of oil and prevent this from happening."


Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Hammond, La., Jeff Donn in Boston, Chris Kahn in New York, Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles, Garance Burke in Fresno, Calif., and Fred Frommer and Seth Borenstein in Washington also contributed to this report.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Burning Man is trying to figure out how to respond to the revolution in digital photography.

worthwhile read...

Exploring the alleyways in downtown reason people come here to shoot...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

from the Boston Globe...

Disaster slowly unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico...
To date the most unprecedented environmental catastrophe of our time...

Rebuilding Guy's computer...
Gotta love eTTL...when it works it works great!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting ready for ArtWalk!...May 22nd!!!...

Historic Downtown McKinney Local and regional artists will come out to play in Downtown McKinney. McKinney Main Street invites you to come down and visit the shops in Downtown McKinney hosting artists representing every mix and medium of art.

Over 50 artists will showcase their art forte in store fronts throughout downtown. A series of uniquely decorated frogs line the downtown streets to guide shoppers into shops during the event. The ArtWalk is a perfect opportunity to come down and experience the magic of the historic shopping district.

The weather is just right to enjoy the day with your family and indulge in shopping, dining and art of all kinds. For more information please visit or call McKinney Main Street 972.547.2660.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Louisiana Street Pano...

Friday, May 07, 2010

Come join us!

Discover Lost Edges and meet the artists on opening night, Saturday, May 8th from 7–10pm. Through June 9th at Laura Moore Fine Art Studios, 107 S. Tennessee in McKinney, Texas.

"When two ecozones meet a transition zone is established. It is a special place, an edge, where the richness and diversity of life is expressed. Lost Edges is a photoshow which explores the edges where those things created by humans interact with nature. It is those special places which begin to return to their origins if they are not maintained by their creators. Don Simmons and Guy Giersch have traveled to those places in order to capture where the edges exist and through their lenses capture the beauty expressed where these two worlds collide."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Preparing for the show...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Come see our work!

Art Exhibit Lost Edges Finds Beauty in the Ruins
McKINNEY, TEXAS - April 20, 2010 -
Beauty and decay seldom go hand in hand, yet the photography of Guy R. Giersch and Don Simmons compels viewers to grasp the imagery of twisted beauty found in the decay of the built environment. Their images engage one to reflect on what has been and what is yet to come. Viewers gain insight into the past that is lost yet is somehow becoming more beautiful as the ravages of time bring it to its ruin.

The exhibit, Lost Edges, presented by Laura Moore Fine Art Studios showcases the photography of two notable McKinney based artists, Giersch and Simmons, who impart a distinct visualization of the decaying landscape, documenting a lost sense of time and place. With their cameras, Giersch and Simmons produce experiences that temper what one sees, allowing the observer to experience a visual language rich in beauty and imagination born in images of a landscape in decline.

Laura Moore Fine Art Studios embraces the vivaciousness of Second Saturday celebrations in downtown McKinney where art galleries and other downtown businesses extend their normal business hours into the evening to celebrate the arts and community with live entertainment, spirits, and food. Discover Lost Edges and meet the artists on opening night, Saturday, May 8th from 7-10pm. Through June 9th at Laura Moore Fine Art Studios, 107 S Tennessee in McKinney, Texas. Hours: Mon-Sat 1-5pm or by appointment. Free admission. 214.914.3630.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Some of my favorite recent images can be found here...

Worse Than 1789?

Senator Levin pretty much had Goldman Sach's Lloyd Blankfein dead in a casket with that now-notorious email from GS's head of sales and trading, Tom Montag, describing one of their billion-dollar investment "products" as "one shitty deal." Levin seemed to delight in crossing the boundary into the realm of the unspeakable, knowing that even the so-called "family" newspapers and cable TV networks would have to report it. And just to make sure nobody missed the point, the senator repeated that phrase at least twenty times before the day was over. It was like the climactic scene in that old Hammer Films classic, The Horror of Dracula, where Professor Van Helsing moves from coffin to coffin pounding stakes through the hearts of Drac and all his fellow bloodsuckers.

It's hardly the climax of our story, though. Ours has barely started. It seems to me lately that the crack-up we've entered is liable to play out more gruesomely for our privileged elites than the orgy of bloodletting that attended the French Revolution. That historical moment was a sharp transition between old, settled social relations and the new political realities of imminent industrialization and a rising middle class. The elites in charge of things to that moment, an ossified aristocracy, responded to rising discontent with utter feckless stupidity. To make matters worse, a great many of them were hunkered down in the fantasy-land Royal Palace of Versailles, enjoying what was for practical purposes a non-stop mega house party. They must have thought they were safe twelve miles outside Paris.

The French Revolution actually got off to a better start than it is remembered for. A progressive opposition put together a new legislature, the National Assembly. They undertook the writing of a constitution. But it all fell apart rather quickly since the dim-witted King and his cohorts didn't really get into that old changing times spirit and their lack of cooperation -- not to mention their decadence -- provoked the more violent factions of the common people to form that kraken of politics, the mob. What a goddamned mess it turned into -- a revolving cast of mob masters, each worse than the last, whipping up the crowds to ever more horrible enormities of human vivisection -- a political process that had gone hopelessly out of control. Despite the agile precedent of their friend, the new USA, quickly resolving its own rebellion into a functioning government of law, France opted for a bloody clusterfuck -- which went on for eight more years.

The France of 1789 and the USA of today have a few important elements in common: a striking inability to sort out any national problems, an arrogant, depraved ruling elite resistant to reform, and an intellectual underclass motivated by blind fury. Some signal differences: most of our even theoretically best-intentioned "leaders" -- i.e. elected officials, business, education, and media figures -- are unable to articulate the problems we face, which go way beyond the mere distribution of political power or even wealth. (In fact much of the so-called Left, especially the faculty intellectuals, are preoccupied with esoteric sideshows around wealth, power, and the ridiculous "politics" of gender.) Paul Krugman and David Brooks have no more of a clue about the implications of Peak Oil than Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.

The resounding message of Senator Levin's hearings on Goldman Sachs last week is that Wall Street is a shitty deal for America. Okay, now everybody knows it. Nobody has an excuse for not knowing it. The machinations ongoing over a financial reform bill seem to be leading to a rather feeble outcome. The only people who are excited by it are -- surprise! -- a bunch of economists, who will soon be relegated to the dumpster of discredited professions along with necromancers, alchemists, and magnetic mesmerists. My guess is that something lame will pass, it will be instantly denounced as yet another fraud, and then the next move is probably the stock market's. A return of volume will signal a return of cratering equities as all the indexes give up their hallucinated gains of the past year, and all the pension funds and college endowments and banks who flocked there in the desperate search for yield will find that they were hosed.

By August, it's possible that the entire country except for the editorial board of the New York Times will be members in good standing of the Tea party, and it will have split into a dozen warring factions. By then, too many other destabilizing events will be in motion. The hangover of the British election will reveal the fatal insolvency of the UK, torpedoing the pound -- a huge event that would certainly trigger a cascading fiasco of credit default swap obligations. I don't see how the global financial system emerges from that in any form recognizable to someone watching the scene in the first week of May, 2010. In the background of all this, something wicked this way comes in the matter of oil prices and availability. The eco-disaster underway from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is looking every hour more like an event horizon that will rock the whole industry and, with it, the developed world. At the moment, oil is over $86 a barrel (and gasoline over $3 for regular at the pumps).

I continue to wonder how it will all go down this summer in the Hamptons where, like Versailles in 1789, the elite mega-wealthy of today cavort shamelessly in a semi-private fantasy-land of status vamping for the Vanity Fair shutterbugs. The Hamptons are not defensible -- unless you count privet hedge as an effective fortification. Any bloody-minded gang of unemployed, grievance-maddened mudlarks can creepy-crawl down the Sunrise Highway to Gin Lane with firearms bought at the WalMart (and modified to full-automatic in the garage). What if hundreds -- thousands! -- of them get the same idea? Louis XVI and his homeys probably never thought the mobs would scale the ha-has of his fabulous estate, either.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

...empty parking lot on Sunday afternoon...

View On Black

Oil Spill predictions...

"Using the oil company's and government's best-case estimates, we can't see how major catastrophe can possibly be averted. Even if a relief well is managed perfectly and their two month time frame holds true, two months of this volume of flow guarantees a Gulf-wide (to include both Florida coasts) tragedy. If things are not managed perfectly - and throw in the odd hurricane or visit from old Mr. Murphy - things could immediately become exponentially worse."

Saturday, May 01, 2010

My first stitched Panoramic...not the most noteworthy image but OK under the circumstances...