Nice storm this evening...knew my arthritis was acting up for a good reason...had some serious fun capturing lightning...
Monday, September 26, 2011
By James Howard Kunstler
on September 26, 2011 9:18 AM
on September 26, 2011 9:18 AM
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?
Friday, September 16, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
By James Howard Kunstler
on September 12, 2011 8:34 AM
on September 12, 2011 8:34 AM
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
Friday, September 02, 2011
Tropical Storm Lee