Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Carol 2011
By James Howard Kunstler
on December 26, 2011 7:52 AM

Slouched in woe beside the Christmas tree, a lot of Americans missed the point of 2011: Santa Claus had already emptied his goodie sack before the night of wonders and miracles arrived and was back at the North Pole checking the balance sheet to see if he could raise a little cash selling some remaining assets off to the Blackstone Group or maybe work a leveraged buyout deal with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. A few elves would have to join the unemployment line, but they could probably get by on half-rations of food stamps. Or maybe Henry Kravis could feed them reindeer steaks... at a discount, as long as they last.

It's remarkable how the year's great mega-holiday blowout suspends time and circumstance. I didn't see how the European banks were going to make it to December 25, but then, heading into the shopping frenzy home-stretch, swap lines opened up between the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank and around $600-odd billion in ZIRP loans flowed to over 200 Euro banks. Maybe that will cover the next two weeks of aggregate debt rollovers, and then what? They can't even look forward to President's Day over there - unless we rented out the George Washington and Abe Lincoln brands to them.

Who is still not impressed with the ability of these central banks, and their owner-operators, to keep re-circulating immense loads of notional money? Alas, every wash-rinse repeat cycle leaves the certificates a little paler and thinner, and it won't be long before they just appear to be blank paper. But rackets as grand and insolent as these would not be possible, except in a culture so estranged from truth that anything goes over without notice. I wonder about that scene around the American Christmas tree, though - the empty space between the floor and the lowest boughs where the gaily-wrapped presents used to appear.

I reckon it will take a few weeks, perhaps through the whole winter, for a sense of swindle to set in among the rooked. You may notice a pervasive undertone of grumbling in the background - and winter is the right time for that - like the eerie, ominous chords of ice groaning in the darkness on a still night around the frozen lake. But eventually come the tumults and torrents of spring. I suppose what baffles many of us in the ethers of bloggery is the apparent failure of that demographic slice acquainted with thinking to register any objection to the travesties and organized brigandage's of these times. At any other time in the life of this republic, such folk with active frontal lobes would have identified arrant criminal activity for what it is. Apparently, the nostrums of Paul Krugman are as powerfully narcotic as the raptures of Nascar.

I'm afraid events are a little too far gone now. There was some hope that Mr. Obama would restore the rule of law, but he has gone even farther in the opposite direction by disabling even the levers of truth - and in so genial a style that nobody noticed that, either. That thinking demographic slice of the public I averred to must have mortgaged their souls the past three years just to keep on keeping on. Hence, when the truly rooked wake from their zombie sleepwalk, there will be hell to pay for sure. Sometimes an intellectual governor on events no longer even avails, as was the case in the French Revolution. When the lawyers, political theorists, and philosophers got into the act, the blood really flowed.

Will that happen here, in the months and years ahead? I do think so. We've grown ourselves a toxic aristocracy of privilege and mega-wealth as cheeky (or worse) than the fops and strumpets of Versailles. I confess, I feel a bit lusty for some Grand Guignol action myself. There are stock figures in The New York Observer's weekly "Shindigger" column who I would enjoy seeing treated after the manner of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, the celebrated "impaler." And what better place for it than Zuccotti Park, a much more intimate venue than the agoraphobia-inducing Place de la Concord. You see what happens: in the absence of the rule of law even prudent men turn to the reptile agencies of mind.

The truly interesting thing about America's romance with our Wild West was that there was always an Unwild East to return to - if you survived adventuring in one piece. Well, first the frontier closed about 100 years ago, and now we wake on Christmas morning to discover that the whole land, from sea to shining sea, has gone feral with rot. Enjoy this nebulous week of suspended animation while it lasts. I'll be back next Monday with the 2012 forecast. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

At CTC Junkyard with Mr Giersch...

Carpenter's Bluff Bridge...from OK side...

The Cookie Crumbles

     A lot can happen in two weeks, which is what remains before the glorious orgy of gifts, sugar plums, and roast goose. Imagine what a global bank run would do for that ole holiday spirit - not to mention the GDPs of the world. Oh, weeping celestial choirs! I suppose we generally assume that God Almighty himself would move heaven and Earth to prevent such a dire convergence of Christmas and a banking collapse, but perhaps the Old Diety is asleep at the switch like the US Department of Justice, the SEC, and a whole alphabet load of other watchful regulators in this, our only known universe.
     Reality is a harsh mistress. She insists that you pay attention and then, having done so, take care of business. Politics, on the other hand, is more like stage magic. The man in the tuxedo is always trying to divert your attention. The world has run out of money, that is credible money of the type that represents real wealth, and yet is up to its ears in paper representations of putative wealth-like stuff: mortgages, credit default swaps, Gold ETFs, synthetic CDOs, naked shorts, bonds of all sorts. And now, alas, at Christmas time, the world has gotten a margin call and needs to fork over a whole lot of collateral in order to demonstrate that the global system of financial obligations is legit. Only the collateral turns out to be all this dubious paper, really just a bouquet of promises to pay in distant future Tuesdays for trillions of hamburgers today.
     Nobody who observed the proceedings in last week's European Union talks came away from that spectacle feeling reassured. Brussels is like a ventriloquist's dummy sitting on Germany's knee. Germany cannot just step up and act like the Boss of Europe. Too many bad memories of an earlier instance, when a gang of maniacs wearing uniforms studded with grinning totenkopf insignia turned the whole region into a charnel house. So, Germany has to pretend to speak through Brussels. The message was: listen up all y'all nations of the Eurozone!  Prepare to live on a whole lot less than you're used to! Do not exceed your borrowing and spending! Or else!
     Yes, the lingering question: or else...what?
     It is safe to say that nobody believed this mummery. Anyway, Great Britain (a.k.a. Old Blighty) simply checked out. The sceptered isle is now Europe's dog-house. They stayed out of the Euro currency for a reason: so that their equivalent of Wall Street, the City of London, could short the shit out of it when the time came, a strategy that begins to look absolutely brilliant - except considering what Old Blighty is otherwise left with as an economy: Scotch whiskey, mints, and a whole lot of Hallel grocery shops, with the Royals as window dressing. (I'd sooner invest in Argentina, with its amber waves of grain.)
     The old animosities are leaking out of Pandora's History Box. Stolid Angela Merkel is stepping on Nikolas Sarkozy's size 14 ½  neck - how long before he starts to buck and holler? The astrologasters cannot come up with any math that shows Italy can meet its forthcoming debt payments. But they are only the leaders of a deadbeat posse that includes virtually everybody else in EuroClub, except perhaps Holland, Germany, and Finland. Could they really start beating up on each other with armies again? It would appear unthinkable. But that is exactly why the First World War destroyed the morale of Western Civ in 1914, too, after the Long Peace that followed the Napoleonic Wars. You're standing there on a lovely street corner in Verdun and the unthinkable whaps you upside the head. So much for the quality of advanced thinking in the Modern Age. Maybe its Poland's turns to rule the world?
     In any case, the storyline is as much about the banks as the nations they are in. The banks are at the point where they can conduct business with each other only by pretending that exchanges of value are taking place. Nobody sees any lines of depositors forming on the sidewalks outside their branch offices, but then again nobody can see the digital zeros and ones streaming through the fiber-optic cable, either, and that's certainly where the action is. For the moment that action has a direct line into the perceived greater safety of Wall Street. Oh, yeah, follow Jim Cramer's advice and buy buy buy. Invest in a nation of lawless slobs with a two-second attention span oscillating between Nascar and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
     Did you catch President Obama on 60 Minutes last night. Charming fellow. Sincere and even purposeful, too. But displaying a big patch of cluelessness, like virtually everybody else in a position of authority in this benighted land. The President intimates that we will surely return to the turbo economy of a fast-receding yore. He is missing something big there. We are not going back to that. The fiesta is over. And his job is not to try to go back there, because it is impossible. His job was to lead an epochal re-set of the economy to a very different disposition of things, smaller, finer, more local. It is so far outside the box he's in that light-years cannot even begin to describe the distances involved. And I completely dismiss his claim that the reason no prosecution of Wall Street misconduct happened was because, however odious their schemes and scams were, they were technically legal.
     Anyway, I'm already looking forward to the nominating conventions of next summer, when angry mobs of the swindled and desperate descend on Charlotte and Tampa like ravaging locusts. Won't that be a wake up call!
     And now to bake all my Christmas Cookies.

Kossa, Koshare, & Kwahadi Native Dance Groups from back in October...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Driftwood down in the ravine...

Suspended Civilization

     Question du jour: why is Jon Corzine still at large? In what fabulous Manhattan restaurants has he been enjoying plates of cockscombs and lobster with sauce hydromel and cinghiale ai frutti di bosco, while less well-connected citizens of this degenerate republic have to order their suppers from the dumpster in the WalMart parking lot where they have been living lately.
     Is there still an Attorney General in this country? Will somebody please follow Eric Holder down a hallway and see if he leaves a trail of sawdust on the floor. Or did congress just retract all the fraud statutes by stealth in the same way that the Federal Reserve handed out $7.7 trillion in bailouts back in 2008 (much more than the generally accepted figure of the $800 billion TARP) without anyone finding out until three years later when some Bloomberg reporters rooted the numbers out of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filing. And by the way, what is the US Federal Reserve doing handing out billions of dollars to the Royal Bank of Scotland? Was Scotland admitted to the Union by stealth, too? Or did Jamie Dimon just buy it as a birthday present for Barack Obama, who likes golf.
     This is what life in the USA is like nowadays: shit happens and shit un-happens, and you find out about it years later. Only a desperate and hopelessly degenerate nation would choose to live this way, in a law-optional society, in which money means everything, and yet nobody even knows what money is (or where it goes, and what it does when it goes there.)
     Jon Corzine has not revealed the destination of the loot (somewhere between $600 million and $2.5 billion, estimated) that vanished from the "segregated" accounts of his many clients at MF Global. The rumor is that it went to cover a rude margin call from Jamie Dimon's bank, JP Morgan, after JC took some unfortunate positions in European sovereign bonds in a bad month. Beyond the question of why Mr. Corzine is not in jail (as a flight risk, just like DSK) is how come the Department of Justice has not so much as issued a statement saying that they were looking into the matter, so as to reassure both the victims and the financial markets that this is not a culture that just makes shit up as it goes along - i.e. that we have predictable rules and formal procedures for doing stuff.
     The clowns and villains who run America have accomplished something really epic: they have vanquished meaning. Nobody knows what anything means anymore. Anything goes now. All bets are off. It's not reassuring. It leads to bad things happening like blood in the streets. When nothing means anything anymore, some people will actually strive, make an effort, to reestablish meaning in practical economic and political life, because civilized life is impossible without it. So, in those historic moments when civilization is suspended, people will work like hell to restore meaning. Sometimes though, like Germany in the 1930s, you discover that the suspension of civilization is itself intoxicating, and you ride with that for a while.
     Things are really flying apart now, and just in time for Santa Claus. The European bond rollovers are about to come in fast and furious during the season of Advent and nobody can make their interest payments. They will be skipped or postponed and promised for "next Tuesday," and yet the bizarro universe of credit default swaps will not be triggered - is there a counter-party on God's green earth who could afford a pay-out? Of course not. It was all a charade. So we'll just learn that there actually is no "insurance" on all this paper. Yesterday's "hair-cut" will be tomorrow's "throat cut" as the middle innings of suspended civilization play out.
      There are heroes as-yet-sung-and-unsung in America, people who prefer reality over reality-TV, people with a taste for meaning in life, which often requires the recognition that some things are true and some not so true, and you're better off with what's true. What appears to be true is that the old order is finished and a new disposition of things is coming along. The Long Emergency will beat a path straight to the Great Re-set. Sign up for it. Roll up your sleeves. There is so much to do in this country. If you are young, especially, it's all waiting for you. the ravine behind the lakehouse...'
between Matador and Quitaque...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Blue Bus Is Calling Us

     Zeez European politicians unt economists all zound like rocket scientists wiss all zeir charming euro-chatter. But zey must be quite dumb to machen zuch an unglaublich scheiße sturm of zee système financier. Che cazzo è?
     Surely all the pretending nears its dire conclusion. Everybody is broke and everybody is in hock up to his prefrontal lobes and everybody is whirling around the drain over in the grand continental theme park of lovely cities and great eats. I'm sorry, but I don't see how they can stop the hemorrhaging as we slide into the season of holiday enchantment. 
     Every bank (and its uncle) is dumping everybody's sovereign bonds as though they were discovered to be croissants imported from a leper colony. Feh...! Folks of all stripes and accents desperately seek to move their money to some safe harbor - but where is this cozy mooring? To the US for the moment perhaps; but what happens Monday morning when the markets react to the weekend news that the US Senate super-committee has been utterly unable to agree on decisive action that would forestall the scheduled massive automatic budget cuts built into this red-white-and-blue doomsday machine - not to mention the ratings agencies threats to knock UST-paper down another notch upon such failure. Oy yoy yoy!
     Just to be plain here: nothing is working. The global system of accounting control fraud has completely unraveled. Nobody will lend money to anybody anymore because everybody suspects everybody else is lying about their ability to meet any obligation. The whole world has become a daisy chain of schnorrers and schmiklers. All those hundreds of trillions of dollars in credit default swap insurance (ha!). Worthless and pointless, because now that a Greek default of at least 50 percent, officially, has failed to ignite a payout, then no default will. Instead, you'll just get cascades of un-hedged defaults. All the lawyers who ever lived could litigate until the sun turns into a red dwarf and they will never resolve these swindles, and the money represented in them will be so far gone that not even Ray Kurzweil in full Singularity mode will encounter a trace of it in his eternal travels through a zillion parallel universes.
     So much for the hedge fund industry. I hope the folks who ran those cute operations enjoyed their years in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and Saddle River, New Jersey, because in a few weeks they'll be disguising themselves as OWSers in some makeshift urban encampment in order to line up for three-day-old bagels. Personally, I look forward to test-driving a few $5000 "must-sell" pre-owned Lamborghini Sesto Elementos, not that I'd actually buy one. The nimble might even score some bargain beachfront property in the Hamptons. 
     It's been about a fortnight now since John Corzine's MF Global fund went up in a vapor, including a reported $800 million or so (rumored to be actually more like $2+ billion) filched out of clients portfolios that cannot be accounted for - though there are additional rumors that it constituted a batch of collateral that was liquidated a micro-second after its arrival at JP Morgan, which had lent Corzine's firm enough money to buy the rope that it hung itself with. Notice, the story has completely disappeared from the mainstream news media (while the Kardashians soldier on).
    Even poor Gerald Celente, chief of the Trends Journal forecasting group, arch-nemesis of "the white-shoe boys" got snookered in the action when MF Global somehow ended up with custodial care of the Gold ETFs Gerald was collecting and his shit just vanished! I heard him fulminating over it on a podcast and he is not somebody I'd want to be on the bad side of. Up until now, Celente was only commenting on the prospects for revolution in the streets. Now, I daresay, he'll be out in front leading it (or perhaps rappelling down Jamie Dimon's security wall with a straight razor clenched in his teeth).
     The MF Global case has fast-tracked the evaporation of trust in all the places, large and small, where American One-percenters stash their cash. The redemption orders must be flying through their transoms like radioactive black swans. By lunchtime tomorrow this could include all the TBTF banks. That's what the pundits mean by "contagion." Where will that money go now (if they can get it out)?
     I don't see where else it can go now except to shiny yellow and white metal, and maybe some oil positions. But the mechanisms of the precious metals trade have also been monkeyed with, and you'd best be careful where you place your order. As for oil, if lending really does seize-up, then letters-of-credit will not be issued and tankers will not be moving any product. More to the point, the global revolving debt system has depended on colossal transfers of ultra-short-term borrowed money. If short-term borrowing is simply unavailable, things could go south very quickly - and by that I mean food stops arriving at the supermarkets, which hold just a three-day supply. Wouldn't that make for an interesting Thanksgiving?
     I have admittedly painted an extreme picture this week. But this week presents the most extreme convergence of events the world has seen since September of 2008, and perhaps a good bit worse.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Dickens of a Christmas ongoing in downtown McKinney...
complete with fake snow!...LOL...
thru Sunday 10-6...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

McKinney's Equine unit a few years back...

Saturday, November 19, 2011


     The Penn State football sex scandal, and the depraved response of the university community at all levels, tells whatever you need to know about the spiritual condition of this floundering, rudderless, republic and its ignoble culture.
     For nine years, head coach Joe Paterno covered up a grad student's report of having witnessed former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky anally raping a ten-year-old boy in the athletic department's shower room. The grad student, Mike McQueary, didn't bother to call the police. He was later hired as Paterno's defensive coordinator. Two other Penn State administrators were informed about the rape and let the incident slide, after which Sandusky went on to a lively career in serial child homosexual rape. For many years after the witnessed incident, he was permitted regular access to Penn State's gyms, fields, and locker rooms, while cherry-picking victims from his own foundation, Second Mile, for needy children.
     The intersection of America's fake warrior culture of football with the nation's fake moral and ethical culture is instructive. It has many levels, like a convoluted freeway intersection of on-ramps, off-ramps, and merge-ramps. 
     First is the pretense that college football is a character-building endeavor. Rather it's an odious money-grubbing racket that chews up and spits out quasi-professional players who, with rare exceptions, only pretend to be students. It corrupts everyone connected with it. College football is little more than a giant conduit for vacuuming money out of alumni, hawking brand merchandise, and generating TV revenues. At Penn State, the racket sucked in about $70 million a year net profit. All over America, the old land-grant diploma mills pay their coaches million-dollar salaries, while academic adjunct professors can't even get health insurance. At SUNY-Albany, the flagship campus of New York's system, they got rid of the department of foreign languages, but the football team plays on. Meanwhile ordinary students rack up tens of thousands of dollars in unpayable college debt via a related racket in which free-flowing government-backed Sallie Mae loan money prompts colleges to boost tuition rates way beyond inflation rates.
     Then there is the merge-ramp between religion and football. Was I the only person revolted by video of the phony "prayer" session held in the Penn State stadium just before Saturday's "big game" with the University of Nebraska? Players from both teams led by Jesus-shouting cheerleaders affected to "pray" for Jerry Sandusky's rape victims, an exercise that was joined and legitimized by the crowd with all the passion of a Nuremberg rally. When that easy little ritual was out of the way they could settle back and enjoy the game's ersatz heroics with a clear conscience, and the tailgate barbeques that followed. A genuine sense of collective shame would have produced a different course of events - for instance cancelling the game, maybe the rest of the season, or perhaps even the entire football program in plain recognition of how foul and corrupt it is. That decision would have been up to the university's board of trustees and tells you all you need to know about corporate leadership in America today. 
     Perhaps even more disgusting than the pre-game prayer show was the rash of demonstrations the night the story broke. These weren't about shame and repentance, just violent displays of sanctimonious "moral" support for an entire system in disgrace. Do you suppose these people could not have endured a night or two of uncomfortable silent reflection. And why didn't the new president, or any other campus executive, make a pubic statement that all the prideful carrying-on was indecent?  I wonder how many of the same students will be ground down to dust by the weight of their unpayable college loans.
     Equally disgusting was the cable news media's wall-to-wall coverage of the Penn State story, as if there weren't other important events going on in the world - for instance the resignation of two European prime ministers due to a political crisis that could sink the global economic system. CNN turned the Penn State story into an instant reality-TV show, with play-by-play action and spin-o-rama scenario-flogging aimed mainly, it seemed, at how Coach Joe Paterno might manage to wiggle out of culpability in the civil lawsuits that are sure to dog him now until the end of his days.
     What the public doesn't know is how soon the sun will be setting on these giant universities in their entirety - football, classrooms, alumni golden circles, and all - as we enter the age of intense energy and capital scarcities. Remember: institutions, just like living organisms, often reach their greatest scale just before they go extinct. Resource constraints would be enough to get the job done, but it's interesting to see how our programming failures and internal moral contradictions have reached the last limits of flamboyant grotesquerie in the same exact moment.
     This is a nation with psychological boundary problems in every realm - the family, the school, the government, the corporation, the diocese, the police station, you name it. Meanwhile the so-called fine arts branch of our culture valorizes "transgressive" behavior - as if there were any behavioral boundaries left to cross. Maybe Jerry Sandusky should be sentenced to a one-man show at the Whitney Museum. Then just wait a week or so: we'll get Jeffrey Dahmer, the Musical on Broadway.
     Every new day that dawns lately gives further proof that we are a wicked people who deserve to be punished.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Last weekend was 2nd Saturday with a lot going on in the Square...a goodly number of people came in to see Brian Magnuson's "Cowboys of the Grand Canyon-the Winter Series" show at Laura Moore Fine Art Studio...if you missed it make time to go see it before it comes down in December...

This past weekend was also MAST weekend, and here a couple of students paint in Anne Royer's studio, below some folks checking out the sights and enjoying conversation at Guy Giersch and Pernie Fallon's place...

Another one of the highlights of the weekend was going to see Brian's "Camera Obscura"  presentation at Laura Moore's...all in all a petty good time...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Turkey, TX-the bus over on the right is Bob Wills old touring bus…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Water is a finite resource...conserve when possible!

This image is of Lake Lavon back in 2006...thinking we don't want to go there again!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupy Wall Street And The Demand For Economic Justice
Jeffrey Sachs | Oct 13, 2011 10:15 AM EDT

Around the world, young people -- students, workers, and the unemployed -- are bringing their grievances to the public square. The specific grievances differ across the countries, yet the animating demands are the same: democracy and economic justice. These demands will bring millions around the world together in protest and public education on October 15.

The young people occupying Wall Street and now protesting in several dozen American cities are not a "mob," the ugly deprecation thrown at them by Congressman Eric Cantor. They are channeling sentiments felt very widely throughout the country, indeed the world. Their defining message, "We are the 99 percent," draws attention to the way that the rich at the very top have run away with the prize in recent years, leaving the rest of society to wallow in wage cuts, unemployment, foreclosures, unaffordable tuition and health bills, and for the unluckiest, outright poverty.

It's not just the vast wealth at the top that they are questioning, but how that wealth was earned and how it's being used. Around 1980, the forces of globalization began to create a worldwide marketplace connected by finance, production, and technology. With globalization came new opportunities for vast wealth accumulation. Those with higher education and financial capital have generally prospered; those without higher education and financial capital have found themselves facing much tougher job competition with lower-paid workers half way around the world.

Yet these market forces, powerful as they are, have been only a part of the story. Politics has played a powerful role. In some countries, like the social democracies of Northern Europe (notably Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland), government policies have ensured that all parts of society can benefit from the new globalization. In others, notably including the United States, politics have amplified the surge in power and wealth of the new financial elite.

In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan greatly amplified the pressures of inequality by attacking unions, slashing top tax rates, and deregulating financial markets, just as globalization was beginning to pressure the poor and middle class. Backed by Washington, CEOs began to help themselves to stock options and compensation packages unimaginable in the past, equal to hundreds of times the pay of their employees. U.S. companies increasingly parked their international earnings in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, with the knowledge and even connivance of the IRS. With politicians dependent on the corporations and CEOs to fund their campaigns, the forces of inequality unleashed by globalization and amplified by Reagan, have been left almost wholly unattended by the nation's politicians ever since.

We know what happens when greed feeds greed. Wall Street lost its scruples, if not its basic commonsense. Our marquee firms -- Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, JP Morgan, AIG, Countrywide Financial, and others -- not only acted rapaciously but fraudulently, in an epidemic of corporate corruption. Yet many of the CEOs until today have not accepted responsibility or paid a price. Still they are guests at the White House state dinners, and their senior colleagues are the "bundlers" of mega-campaign contributions for 2012.
The sense of injustice, in short, is not just about the unfairness of a small part of society living in unimaginable wealth while so much of the rest of society lives in economic desperation. It's not just about the top 12,000 American households with more income than the poorest 24 million households. It's about the degradation of politics that turns wealth into power through campaign financing, lobbying, and the revolving door of business and government.
Vast inequality and the accompanying sense of injustice explain why the protests have also exploded in Chile and Israel, two countries doing rather well in economic growth and employment. Chile, Israel, and the United States are three of the five most unequal economies of the high-income world, together with Mexico and Turkey. As in the U.S., a small proportion of households in both Chile and Israel control an enormous proportion of the economy.
Protests come to the streets when the normal political channels are blocked. In Tunisia and Egypt, the blockage was the most severe: long-standing authoritarian rulers and their families keeping a tight grip on power (with the foreign policy support of the U.S. it should be mentioned). In the U.S. the blockage is vastly more remediable but insidious nonetheless. Americans elected a President promising change, but since the President and Congress fund their campaigns from Wall Street, Big Oil, and the health insurance industry, the change is unimpressive.

The survey evidence is overwhelming that Washington responds to rich constituencies rather than to the median voter, much less to the poor. And Congress itself is disproportionately wealthy -- almost half of members are millionaires. According to the opinion surveys, Americans by a strong majority want to raise taxes on the rich, end the wars, and protect the social outlays. Yet corporate lobbying mangles this clear call from the public. We end up with extended tax cuts for the rich, open-ended war, and agreements between the White House and Congress to gut civilian budget outlays in the coming decade.

No, Mr. Cantor, this is not a mob. These are America's young people, soon to be the nation's leaders, and they are telling us something about Washington's corruption, cronyism, and chronic mismanagement of the economy. With the exception of a few voices along with Warren Buffett, many of America's rich on Wall Street and beyond remain smug, self-satisfied, and intent on holding on to every last dollar of their vast fortunes.

America has rescued itself from undemocratic wealth twice before -- when the Gilded Age of the late 19th century was overtaken by the Progressive Era of the early 20th century, and when Hoover's economics and the Great Depression gave way to the New Deal in the 1930s, and then decades of economic prosperity that built a large middle class. The process of American renewal has begun anew.

Jeffrey Sachs is author of The Price of Civilization

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Going Apeshit

     It was amusing to see President Obama try to align himself with the OWS movement. The genial Millard Fillmore update asked them not to "demonize those who work on Wall Street." Of course, demonization proceeds from the failure of this president and his appointed agents in authority to subject those who work on Wall Street to the laws that mere mortals are supposed to follow in money matters. Hence, those who work on Wall Street appear to be something other than mortals. And since their work (on Wall Street) has had a malign influence on the common weal, some might leap to the conclusion that they are malevolent non-mortals, i.e. demons.
     In this early stage of the convulsion rocking the western world, especially here in the USA, a peaceful ambience rules. That is because a game is being played. We played the game in 1968. It goes like this. You get people to turn out in the streets. The idea is to promote the right of public assembly as much as to make any particular point. (In fact, banners advocating all sorts of gripes appear.) Eventually, you get a lot of people in the streets. Feelings of happy anarchy sweep the crowd, a feeling that something special is underway, that the usual rules of everyday conduct have been suspended, in a good way. The crowd basks in the sunny glow of its own mass, happy solidarity. Everybody is behaving splendidly - more to feel good about.
      After a while that gets boring, especially for young males with a lot of testosterone surging from loin to brain. They want to do more than bask in the radiance of their own righteous wonderfulness. They want to engage their large muscles, even if in the service of an idea, for instance the idea that they have been swindled. It is at first a vague idea, but large.  But pretty soon it coheres emergently: swindled out of our future! Yes, it is so. Thousands of demon-like beings upstairs in the curtain-wall towers around Zuccotti Park, people wearing neckties and cultured pearls in warm offices with cappuccino machines down the hall, are at this very moment setting loose trading algorithms that will swindle us out of our future! You can see them up there at their evil, glowing screens!
     That's when the yoga acrobatics and the hat crocheting are put aside and the street people - their ranks swollen into a horde-like meta-organism - start to express things beyond the right of public assembly. Something unseen goes through them, perhaps like the pheromone that transforms a field full of grasshoppers into a ravening swarm of locusts. Being people, they cannot take wing. But they can press forward and up against things, and they can surely break the glass in those sleek curtain-wall buildings (so much for "transparency") beyond which the bankers sit cringing in their expensive clothing. 
     Surely we are heading toward a moment like that. The bank employees upstairs must be getting a little nervous, anyway, just glancing out the windows at the moiling mob below. This is apart from the tensions internally roiling the banks themselves, not to mention the entire networked system of global banking, with all its fissures and cracks, as the merry-go-round of debt flies apart under the centrifugal force of insolvency. Come to think of it, these events could not have correlated more perfectly. Just as a horrific accident in finance is about to happen, a ready-made revolutionary mob is conveniently parked outside the pilot-houses of the world's great money vessels, so as to receive the crews directly into their open arms after the smash up.
     President Obama could have changed the outcome if he had actually believed in change. He could have told his attorney general to enforce the securities law. He could have replaced the zombies at the SEC and told the new ones to apply all existing regulations. Before last year's election, he could have used his legislative majorities to repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and reinstate the Glass-Steagall act. He could have initiated the process of deconstructing the giant banks back into their separate functions - so that banking once again worked as a utility rather than a launching pad for colossal frauds and swindles. Not only did he fail to do any of these things, he didn't even talk about it, or try.
     Obama has a lot of nerve claiming to support the Occupy Wall Street movement. He should be one of the objects of its ire. I'm not even sure Obama will get to finish out his term of office. 2012 looks like a complete horror show in the making. The way world money matters are lining up this fall, some kind of debacle seems unavoidable, much worse than the 2008 fiasco. The normal political channels are clogged and sclerotic. Our institutions are failing us. The cast of "candidate" characters across the political spectrum convinces nobody that they can manage this republic.
     The weather may determine the mood of the OWS crowd. If they don't go apeshit in the next two weeks, my guess is that the nation will hunker down into a dire, melancholy holiday season followed by a desperate winter leading to a raucous spring of political transformation - not necessarily of the best kind.
     For the moment, we seem to be waiting for the proverbial first broken window. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Between Silverton and CLaude...Palo Duro Canyon, south end...
2nd edit...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Everything

"Recession Officially Over," The New York Times' lead headline declared around 7 o'clock this morning. (Watch: they'll change it.) That was Part A. Part B said, "US Incomes Kept Falling." Welcome to What-The-Fuck Nation. I suppose if you include the cost of things like the number of auto accident victims transported by EMT squads as part of your Gross Domestic Product such contradictions to reality are possible. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, where are you when we really need you?
     I dropped in on the Occupy Wall Street crowd down in Zuccotti Park last Thursday. It was like 1968 all over again, except there was no weed wafting on the breeze (another WTF?). The Boomer-owned-and-operated media was complaining about them all week. They were "coddled trust-funders" (an odd accusation made by people whose college enrollment status got them a draft deferment, back when college cost $500 a year). Then there was the persistent nagging over the "lack of an agenda," as if the US Department of Energy, or the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs was doing a whole lot better.
    This is the funniest part to me: that leaders of a nation incapable of  constructing a coherent consensus about reality can accuse its youth of not having a clear program. If the OWS movement stands for anything, it's a dire protest against the country's leaders' lack of a clear program.
    For instance, what is Attorney General Eric Holder's program for prosecuting CDO swindles, the MERS racket, the bonus creamings of TBTF bank executives, the siphoning of money from the Federal Reserve to foreign banks, the misconduct at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the willful negligence of the SEC, and countless other villainies? What is Barack Obama's program for restoring the rule of law in American financial affairs? (Generally, the rule of law requires the enforcement of laws, no?)
      Language is failing us, of course. When speaking of "recession," one is forced into using the twisted, tweaked, gamed categories of economists whose mission is to make their elected bosses look good in spite of anything reality says. I prefer the term contraction, because a.) that is what is really going on, and b.) the economists haven't got their mendacious mitts around it yet. Contraction means there is not going to be more, only less, and it implies that a reality-based society would make some attempt to acknowledge and manage having less - possibly by doing more.
     Instead, our leaders only propose accounting tricks to pretend there is more when really there is less. The banking frauds of the past twenty years were a conspiracy between government and banks to provide the illusion that an economy based on happy motoring, suburban land development, continual war, and entertainment-on-demand could go on indefinitely. The public went along with it following the path of least resistance, allowing themselves to be called "consumers." They also went along with the nonsense out of the Supreme Court that declared corporations to be "persons" with "a right to free speech" where political campaign contributions were concerned - thereby assuring the wholesale purchase of the US government by Wall Street banks.
     Praise has been coming in from all quarters for the peacefulness of the OWSers. Don't expect that to last. In the natural course of things, revolutionary actions meet resistance, generate friction, and then heat. Anyway, history is playing one of its little tricks by simultaneously ramping up the OWS movement in the same moment that the banking system is actually imploding, with the fabric showing the most stress right now in Europe. I shudder to imagine what happens when OWS moves into the streets of France, Germany, Holland, Italy, and Spain.
     All of the action right now has the weird aura of being an overture to the year 2012, fast approaching as we slouch into the potentially demoralizing holidays of the current year. I don't subscribe to Mayan apocalypse notions, but there's something creepy about the wendings and tendings of our affairs these days. OWS is nature's way of telling us to get our shit together, or else. This means a whole lot more than bogus "jobs" bills and Federal Reserve interest rate legerdemain. It means coming to grips with the limits of complexity and purging the system of the idea that anything is too big to fail. What happens when Occupy Wall Street becomes Occupy Everything, Everywhere?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

It was a pretty fun night at Laura Moore Fine Art Studio tonight as Pernie Fallon and her mentor Steve Napper enjoyed the opening of their show "Journey Into Color" with some friends and students...if you didn't make down for 2nd Saturday by all means try and see the show before the end of the month...

More to come!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The former Alaska Governor and VP candidate sent the following letter to her supporters on Wednesday:
October 5, 2011
Wasilla, Alaska 

After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for President of the United States. As always, my family comes first and obviously Todd and I put great consideration into family life before making this decision. When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family and country. My decision maintains this order. 

My decision is based upon a review of what common sense Conservatives and Independents have accomplished, especially over the last year. I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office – from the nation’s governors to Congressional seats and the Presidency. We need to continue to actively and aggressively help those who will stop the “fundamental transformation” of our nation and instead seek the restoration of our greatness, our goodness and our constitutional republic based on the rule of law.

From the bottom of my heart I thank those who have supported me and defended my record throughout the years, and encouraged me to run for President. Know that by working together we can bring this country back – and as I’ve always said, one doesn’t need a title to help do it. 

I will continue driving the discussion for freedom and free markets, including in the race for President where our candidates must embrace immediate action toward energy independence through domestic resource developments of conventional energy sources, along with renewables. We must reduce tax burdens and onerous regulations that kill American industry, and our candidates must always push to minimize government to strengthen the economy and allow the private sector to create jobs. 

Those will be our priorities so Americans can be confident that a smaller, smarter government that is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people can better serve this most exceptional nation. 

In the coming weeks I will help coordinate strategies to assist in replacing the President, re-taking the Senate, and maintaining the House. 

Thank you again for all your support. Let’s unite to restore this country!
God bless America.
– Sarah Palin 

Monday, October 03, 2011

Between Silverton and Claude...
Entering Palo Duro canyon from the south end...

Here Come the OWSers!

     All last week across the media landscape, in pod, blog, flat-screen, and crunkly old newsprint columns, fatuous professional observers complained that the Occupy Wall Street marchers "have no clear agenda" or "can't articulate their positions." What impertinent horseshit. I saw a statement on one OWSer's sign that said it all:

$70,000 College Debt
$12,000 Medical Bills
I'm 22
Where's My Bailout?

     What part of that is unclear to interlocutors of what we called "the establishment" back in the day? That would be the day of the Vietnam War and the Aquarian Upsurge. One difference being that in 1968 we at least had some solidarity in the older generation coming from figures of gravity like Senators Robert Kennedy (bumped off), Eugene McCarthy, J. William Fullbright, George McGovern, Rev Martin Luther King (bumped off), and even one US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark. Today, the entire "establishment" is a clueless, hopeless blob of self-interested, craven opportunism. Even the arty fringe - the people who pretend to be an avant-garde- are nothing but narcissistic self-branding operations masquerading as culture leaders.
     The worst offender this past week was the prating empty vessel Nicholas Kristoff at The New York Times who affected to offer the OWSers his own tidy agenda of nit-picky, arcane tax reforms (e.g "Close the 'carried interest' and 'founders' stock' loopholes") and limp-dick banking regulations (e.g. "[move] ahead with Basel III capital requirements"). David Plotz and his Gen X sidekicks at the Slate Political Podcast were equally mystified. I have some heartier suggestions: bring the full weight of the RICO act and the federal anti-fraud statutes down on Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, Brian Moynihan, Angelo Mozilo, and a host of other impudent schmekels still at large in their world of Escalade limos and Gulfstream vistas. Or, if that's just too difficult, how about a handy lamppost and about 40 feet of stout nylon cord?
     It is cosmically ironic, of course, that the same generation of Boomer-hippies that ran in the streets and marched through the maze of service roads around the Pentagon has become a new "establishment" more obtuse, feckless, greedy and mendacious than the one they battled with over 40 years ago. I guess they just don't see that their time has come to get right with reality - or get shoved aside and trampled. The essence of the OWSer's argument is pretty simple: they've got a raw deal; somebody dealt them a bad hand; someone ran their society into a ditch and not a goddammed one of the older generation will set in motion the machinery to correct the situation, or even acknowledge it.
     At the apex of this new establishment is the Baby Boomer's moral trophy president: Barack Obama, whose election made the Boomers feel good about themselves - while they preceded to loot the national treasury's accumulated capital, and then reach forward a few generations to rob their legacy, too. I haven't heard Nicholas Kristoff (or any of his colleagues at The New York Times) complain about Mr. Obama's stupendous inattention to the crimes of Wall Street, or to the dereliction of his proconsuls in the SEC and the Department of Justice. I'd at least send somebody to hold a mirror under Eric Holder's nostrils to see if he is actually alive.
     For my money, the OWSers have plenty to yell about. Apart from the crimes and turpitudes of their elders, the younger generation hasn't even been prepared for the massive change in reality that these times are heaving them into. If it was me out there, I'd conclude that I'd better make up the future on my own, with no help from my parent's generation. In fact, that future is rushing toward all of us so cold, hard, and fresh even in this autumn season that it might splatter the banking establishment - and the global economy - like a bug on a windshield. The OWSers have a front row seat down there in lower Manhattan. The financial gangrene (thank you Zero Hedge) is not just seeping anymore, it's blowing through the arteries of the money underworld like fracking fluid. The damage can't be contained. Let the Arabs have spring. The OWSers of America own the fall. Rock on OWSers and don't let the "pigs" (as we used to call them) get you down.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nice storm this evening...knew my arthritis was acting up for a good reason...had some serious fun capturing lightning...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Now here's somethin you don't such much of anymore...
Brings back a lot of memories for me as my first job was at a drive-in theater...this one is just outside of Turkey, TX...

Punked World

     Europe is a three-card monte game and Greece is the pea and for the moment I'd guess that the pea is under a walnut shell called France. Or the French banks, to be specific. Their vaults are stuffed with Greek bond paper that is giving the whole neighborhood a headache from a stench like unto rotting carp. Everybody else in the neighborhood has their own cache of deliquescing fish-heads, but they pretend the air is fresh and bracing. In fact, so exhilarating that they are avid to dump $3 trillion into a Euro bailout fund that will solve the problem of that fugitive aroma wafting down the boulevards.
     Europe can really only put out stories at this point, and the $3 Tril bailout fund is just another story in a tedious string of them. Where are they going to get the money? From the machinists' union in Dusseldorf? The waiters and chambermaids in Munich? There's that rumored swap line opening from the Federal Reserve to the European Central Bank, but that's nothing more than a cheap loan window, and for a measly half a trillion ($500 billion - the late Senator Ev Dirkson is cackling in his grave). And where do those dollars come from anyway? Who is supposed to pay it back, and how? What kind of collateral is Ben Bernanke going to hold - the contents of the south wing of the Louvre? One hundred million free dinners (wine and tip included) at Taillevent? This game of musical chairs with a hot potato is not fooling anyone, really.
     All it's doing is dragging out the process of the civilized world getting right with reality. Reality has a ledger and is calling in its notes. The civilized world can't believe this is happening, so they pretend it isn't, with pompous ceremonials among the highest level banking officials, and hollow declarations of heroic actions that are not the least heroic because all they are designed to do is protect their fellow bankers. It's certainly not for the sake of the nations involved, because the standard of living in all these countries will take a painful hit any way you cut it.
     This mummery could dissolve in tears any moment, or it might stretch out one more month, but by going this route the leaders of Europe risk all kinds of pressures in the other seams of the system, namely markets. They are testing a 60-odd years long supply of the one indispensible resource: confidence. They've already probably squandered the little that's left. All signs point to a mega-Lehman moment when trust has fled and nobody will lend to anybody and business cannot continue. That'll be a freaky-deaky moment and it will be way worse than Lehman was. When it happens, what seemed financial will instantly go political. The rage of millions will shred the trappings of fakery, and for a while things will seem too real. The world has no idea how all this might resolve. What a show.
     I can't imagine that the explosion in Europe will not affect the American banks - we've already shoveled hundreds of billions into the Euro bank vaults the past several years, apart from that new swap line. Anyway, Washington has ramped up a new game of charades to divert everyone at this end - another threatened government shut-down. If we don't cut this shit out, some Pentagon general is going to have to ride across the Potomac and call a time-out on the constitution. Financial chaos is not cool. Just so you know the sort of fate we are tempting with our shenanigans.
     Speaking of the constitution, I'm getting a little sick of these corporate CEO knuckleheads who come on CNBC and complain that the US Postal Service is running at a loss, and therefore we should abolish it. There is actually little beyond all those post offices that holds the fabric of small town America together anymore. And anyway, delivering the mail is one of the few actual government services that is spelled out in the US constitution in no uncertain terms in Article One, Section 8. It doesn't say the postal service must run at a profit, by the way. The food stamp program is not spelled out in the constitution and it doesn't run at a profit. Neither does the war in Afghanistan (if you don't count the drug money). Congress runs at a profit, but not in any way that the constitution provides for. Before long, a lot of people are going to want to abolish it.
     In the meantime, can anybody answer this question: where is the Tea Party of Progressives? Why are the Nascar morons and Jesus jokers the only people in this country who can mount an aggressive political movement? Will somebody please step up and take the baton?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Scenes from Oktoberfest...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Surveying her domain...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A few more from the trip...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Some scenes I photographed in the Caprock Canyon area recently...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Between Matador and Quitaque...
This area of the country is drought stricken really badly!!...

Seeing Stars

     I don't want to be party pooper, but is it possible that all the 9/11 remembrance hoopla was a kind of weekend refuge from reality for this psychologically spavined nation? Memorializing is easy; acting resolutely in the here-and-now is another matter. To me, the various  9/11 doings that radiated out over the media gave off an indecent odor of triumphalism - a correspondent of mine referred to it as "self-important histrionics." We seem to put on these shows because we don't know what else to do, and because the only truly effective homegrown industry left in the USA is public relations, the business of making your own reality.
     The trouble is that reality accepts no substitutes (as the old ad jingle goes). It does its thing regardless of whether you acknowledge it or not. I was in Mexico City mid-week and sojourned behind the Zocolo at the ruins of the Templo Mayor, headquarters of the New World's champion people-eater, Huitzilopochtli, a bad-ass muthafucka of a god if ever there was one. The Aztecs had everything going for them except their reality, at the center of which was this bloodthirsty hallucinated monster demanding fresh beating hearts by the hundred-weight. And so, consumed by this insane myth, a half a million of them allowed themselves to be destroyed by three hundred adventurers from Spain.
     Strange to relate, the environs of the ruined pyramid was the most tranquil spot in the entire super-gigantic permanent catastrophe of Mexico City. Old Huitzee would like these times, I thought: a bad moon rising and plenty of fresh meat everywhere. The way the stars were lining up, a pitiless deity could really get his mojo on. It made my skin crawl, I hardly know where to start this week.
     I'll yield to the obvious, then, and turn to President Obama's jobs speech. I don't believe for a minute that it added up to much beyond more political game-playing - although there is more than one game being played judging by the knuckleballs and downfield juke-moves displayed by Mr. O. You can throw in some rope-a-dope, too, since the main objective was to make a virtue out of weakness. So, the Republican-dominated congress will pass a few fragments of the proposals (probably some tax cuts and maybe even unemployment extensions) but they'll wrinkle their noses at everything else and the result will barely make a difference - given the nature of this economy, which is having its Thelma and Louise moment. Obama will claim that the nation was gyped, and the Republicans will claim that they were just following the orders of party chairman the Hon. Jesus H. Christ. 
     None of them has a clue that reality has other plans for the US economy, which is to contract, de-globalize, downscale, and go local. That so-called economy they're trying to bring back? It's gone, baby, gone. I saw the remnants of it in the supermarket yesterday afternoon, endless freezer displays of unbelievable food-like shit such as Fridays © frozen fried cheddar-stuffed jalepeno poppers and something called "Rattlesnake Pasta." What kind of people are we? Is Huitzilopochtli behind all this, fattening us up for the altar? The fact that chili peppers are involved makes me suspicious. Anyway, this trip to the supermarket was like a visit to some unholy museum.  A lot of the stuff behind those glass freezer doors I'd never actually noticed before, and surely never imagined in my wildest Iron Cheffantasies. In a few years, when the US public has become accustomed to a diet of cabbage soup and corn-pone, the memory of all that will astonish us.
    As to Mr. Obama's delivery, I wish he would give up that little vocal trick he employs of constricting his windpipe so as to sound extra-special sincere. In fact, every time he puts that phony voice on, I discount what he is saying, such as you would if listening to a speech by Pinocchio and seeing his nose grow at every utterance. The non-entity former governor of New York, George Pataki, who mounted a seventeen-minute campaign for president a month or so ago, also favored that speech-delivery trick. All it accomplished was to make him look like he was straining himself to appear authentic. Note that the most self-consciously clueless political podcasters in the whole pod-world, the jokers at The New Yorker Magazine's podcast, gave Obama super props on delivery. For them, it was all about public relations, of course. They have no idea what kind of economy is greeting us in reality. Not your grandpa's Wheel of Fortune Rotary Club extravaganza, I assure you, Rick Hertzberg and Ryan Lizza. They're thrilled that Mr. Obama may finally be getting John Maynard Keynes right. OMG....
     The stars are lined up now pointing straight at the tragic heart of Europe. I really don't quite see how the Euro currency gets through to the end of this week. German government officials are making noises about an orderly bankruptcy in Greece. What do they mean by that? Does Greece walk into its lawyer's office with a tidy list of assets for sale? Say, the Parthenon, assorted caryatids, the contents of the Thessalonica Country Club's trophy cabinet, and Uncle Nikos's fabulous stamp collection? I don't think so. More likely, you can expect an unholy shit-storm of credit default swaps setting every bank in the OCED (and few outside it) on fire, and by extension every executive mansion, until you turn around on Saturday morning and the world's currency system looks like an incinerated slice of smoldering wonder bread. It was a wonder that the Euro nations could keep their end of this unholy racket going as long as they did, since their constitution doesn't even allow bail-outs, period. Anyway, it is nowhere recorded in the annals of Bernal Diaz or the Aztec codexes that Huitzilopochtli liked sandwiches. He was a straight-up barbeque deity, though a little molé on the side goes nicely with a plate of human thigh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just returning from a trip up near Caprock Canyon...north Texas is parched and drought stricken...had a great trip, but hate to see what is happening to that area of the state