Showing posts with label Goo-by Krool Wurld. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Goo-by Krool Wurld. Show all posts

Friday, November 11, 2016


That Which Has No Shape

Zukunft (Zoo/kun/ft): The Future. The word Kunft is from kommen, which is to come. And the word zu can be translated as to, so in a way Zukunft means nothing other than: to come.

(And, all you wags out there: Turn the page now.)

What Michelle Goldberg Said.
All over this country, the deplorables arewilding. “US Hate Crimes Spark Anxiety in the Wake of Trump Win,” says a Financial Times headline. Reports CNN, “Fears of heightened bigotry and hate crimes have turned into reality for some Americans after Donald Trump’s presidential win.” Fliers at Texas State University said that in the wake of Trump’s victory, it’s time “to organize tar and feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off all this diversity garbage.” ...

Trump has taken time to denounce the protesters filling city streets to express their horror at his election but not the people committing violence in his name. He has not, for example, said a word about the Trump victory parade that the Ku Klux Klan is holding in North Carolina.

What Peter Thai Larsen Said. explicitly inward-looking America would have a far-reaching impact on the world. Protectionist measures might prompt other countries to retaliate... Countries that previously sheltered under the U.S. military umbrella would rearm, adding to regional tensions.

There are no other hegemons ready to step in. The European Union is grappling with a stagnant economy, a wave of migration and the threat of an expansionist Russia. Several of its members could suffer Trump-like insurrections next year. ...

China, meanwhile, will strengthen its grip on Asia: the Philippines and Malaysia are already cosying up to the People's Republic. However, China's extraordinary growth over the last three decades has largely depended on its ability to hitch a free ride on the global system of trade and finance policed by the United States.

What Valerie Volcovici Said.
The election of climate change skeptic Donald Trump as president is likely to end the U.S. leadership role in the international fight against global warming ... Trump has called global warming a hoax created by China to give it an economic advantage ... He has appointed noted climate change skeptic Myron Ebell to help lead transition planning for the Environmental Protection Agency.

What Mandos @Ian Welch Said.
5. The Supreme Court appointment issue is the worst thing to come out of this. A court that has assisted an unjust legal and social order has ensured the perpetuation of its worst elements.

What Digby Said.
Popular disgust with the status quo propelled Trump to the presidency as a Republican. It arose because after decades of being played for dupes by their leaders, the GOP base finally caught on that they were being bullshitted. Finally, people rebelled. Also against Democrats more interested in business interests than voters'. What made Trump their champion was how he out-bullshitted the bullshitters. Somehow, in spite of his sketchy personal history, this made him seem more honest and trustworthy. We will see how far Trump's talent for bullshitting gets him with supporters once he breaks their hearts.

What TT Said. Kind Of.
(See it Here At The Nation.)

What Dan Wright Said.
There’s no way to sweep this under the rug: the American people have voted to end the empire. The entire imperial apparatus lined up behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to become president. Former CIA Director Mike Morrell even publicly endorsed Clinton and called her opponent an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

But it was ultimately Donald Trump who prevailed in the election. Trump spent the entirety of his campaign attacking the foreign policy of George W. Bush and one of its chief advocates, Clinton. First Trump took down former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in the primary by slamming the Iraq War and Jeb’s ambivalence surrounding it. Then he used Clinton’s support for the Iraq War and regime change in Libya to call her “trigger happy” and dangerous.

... Trump’s realism and Clinton’s history of aggression and interventionist positioning led to a neoconservative exodus from the Republican Party. The neocons uniformly opposed Trump from the beginning and before long they all endorsed Clinton. By election day, almost all of the 2003 Iraq War architects and cheerleaders supported Clinton or at least said they would not vote for Trump.

In the final debate, Clinton said she would launch an air war against Russia and the Syrian government to establish a No Fly Zone in Syria, then accused Trump of being a “puppet” of Russian President Vladimir Putin for not supporting it. Trump coolly responded that he thought it would be good for the country and world if America and Russia got along.

 What Matt Taibbi Said.

... Shunned during election season by many in his own party, President-elect Trump's closest advisers are a collection of crackpots and dilettantes who will make Bush's cabinet look like the Nobel committee. The head of his EPA transition team, Myron Ebell, is a noted climate-change denier. Pyramid enthusiast and stabbing expert Ben Carson is already being mentioned as a possible Health and Human Services chief. Rudy Giuliani, probably too unhinged by now for even a People's Court reboot, might be attorney general. God only knows who might end up being Supreme Court nominees; we can only hope they turn out to be lawyers, or at least people who played lawyers onscreen...

Trump made idiots of us all [i.e., in the media]. From the end of primary season onward, I felt sure Trump was en route to ruining, perhaps forever, the Republican Party as a force in modern American life. Now the Republicans are more dominant than ever, and it is the Democratic Party that is shattered and faces an uncertain future.

And they deserve it. The Democratic Party's failure to keep Donald Trump out of the White House in 2016 will go down as one of the all-time examples of insular arrogance. The party not only spent most of the past two years ignoring the warning signs of the Trump rebellion, but vilifying anyone who tried to point them out. It denounced all rumors of its creeping unpopularity as vulgar lies and bullied anyone who dared question its campaign strategy by calling them racists, sexists and agents of Vladimir Putin's Russia.

... Most of us smarty-pants analysts never thought Trump could win because we saw his run as a half-baked white-supremacist movement fueled by last-gasp, racist frustrations of America's shrinking silent majority... no way he could topple America's reigning multicultural consensus. How could he? After all, the country had already twice voted in an African-American Democrat to the White House.

Yes, Trump's win was a triumph of the hideous racism, sexism and xenophobia that has always run through American society. But his coalition also took aim at the neoliberal gentry's pathetic reliance on proxies to communicate with flyover America. They fed on the widespread visceral disdain red-staters felt toward the very people Hillary Clinton's campaign enlisted all year to speak on its behalf: Hollywood actors, big-ticket musicians, Beltway activists, academics, and especially media figures...

Candidate Trump told a story about a conspiracy of cultural and financial elites bent on finishing off a vanishing white middle-class nirvana, first by shipping jobs overseas and then by waving hordes of crime-prone, bomb-tossing immigrants over the border.

These elites lived in both parties, Trump warned. The Republicans were tools of job-exporting fat cats who only pretended to be tough on immigration and trade in order to win votes, when all they really cared about were profits. The Democrats were tools of the same interests, who subsisted politically on the captured votes of hoodwinked minorities, preaching multiculturalism while practicing globalism. Both groups, Trump insisted, were out of touch with the real American voter. Neither party saw the awesome potential of this story to upend our political system.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Random Barking: Stuff Out There

PUNKED-OUT SPIKY MOHAWK BOY:  Whata'ya cryin' for? Since when do we give a toss about this sorta bullshit???
GOTH GIRL:  Come on, Dysentery; where's your sense of national flippin' pride?

-- King Ralph (1991) 


The UK vote is a class vote. Those who have lost 10% of their wages since 2008 struck a heavy blow at prime minister David Cameron and the bosses, unanimous in their support for the EU. There is evidence that this vote is partly motivated by racist sentiments and that the far Right dominated the Leave camp. But the incapacity to articulate a Left Leave — beyond small formations like the Socialist Workers Party and a few union bodies — is a failure of the whole British Left. 

In particular it is a missed opportunity for the new Labour leader — and historic Eurosceptic — Jeremy Corbyn, who made his own small contribution to delivering the popular classes into the arms of his enemies.

This fresh electoral insurrection expresses the large-scale political recomposition now underway in the West: almost everywhere the extreme centre — centre Right and centre Left alike — is being put in difficulty by forces and figures as politically opposed as Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, Podemos, and Marine Le Pen. The EU is the archetypical incarnation of the extreme centre project. In the 1970s continental integration was almost at a standstill, progressing only through the slow sedimentation of European Court of Justice decisions. Its resumed takeoff in the 1980s, which led to the realisation of the single market and then economic and currency union, coincided with the affirmation of neoliberal ideology and financial hegemony.

The product of this short historical sequence, the EU’s institutions definitively bear its stigmata. As the almost perfect institutional incarnation of the Zeitgeist of the neoliberal era, the EU does not have the historic depth that would allow it to address the great turbulence unleashed by the 2008 crisis and rearm itself for the new period. Lacking in any democratic roots, nor does it have the legitimising procedures that would allow it to reinvent itself. A space of compromise among "responsible"  governmental partners, the EU is the terrain of a permanent grand coalition excluding any popular involvement.
          -- Cédric Durand / Contretemps, June 25, 2016, via Soul Of America

MEHR, MIT POSTEN:  Let we only think of the Brexit vote as populist Xenophobes and 'Little Englanders' versus The Left and those Brainwashed By Globalism, these Twittered comments to the Financial Times online made by various British citizens give a flavor of the Brexit issues and emotions:
“So let me get this straight: as a young person, we bailed out the city and the over inflated pensions and savings that were gambled away by governments we didn’t elect (Thatcher, New Labour), and we will have to bail all of these people out while millennials see a decline in earnings and an ageing population (rising pensions, healthcare costs, etc). What do we get in return? We lose the right of freedom to move, study, work, live and be treated as equals in any European country, we face rising debt levels and now even lower incomes as we punch our own economy in the face for some poxy nationalist cause and fake democracy. What about proportional representation? What about the House of Lords? Where were the Brexiters then? As soon as I’ve finished my studies, I’m out of this country.” (By "g7")

"I think you are missing the bigger point: for those of us living in London and working in the financial sector the benefits of a remain are obvious, but the fact is that we have reaped the biggest gains from Globalization and these gains have not be shared by other parts of the country…All of the time that this inequality has been building, that London has getting richer, enjoying double digit house price inflation and incomes at multiples of the rest of the country, an outcome like this (a vote against the establishment) was getting more likely. The condescending idea that this is due to ignorant voters (over half of the population) is way off."  (By "Hugh Firmin")

“I’m not sad. I’m actually oddly satisfied. The UK has reminded the EU a simple rule: you cannot govern without popular support. Since 2005 and the failed referenda on an EU constitution, the EU has lost all of its popular support. It has offered the same solution (more Europe) to people’s problems for almost 30 years without being effective. That is not the way a democracy works. Even now, the only thing EU officials are talking about is “avoiding contagion”. No one has ever tried to understand why a contagion would happen and why citizens would want to leave the EU. That is arrogance. Arrogance is met with disdain, and anger. Rightly so. You reap what you sow. You cannot expect to earn what you do not deserve."  (By "Kotaro123")

“In Switzerland we know this feeling well: a no of the populace. Lessons for the UK? Leave is not a doomsday and remain has not lost in full. A great democratic nation has decided, so everybody in Europe [can] get its act together and reshuffle.”  (By "Eur-View")

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Random Black Dog Bark Bark Barking

In These Times

(Winston Churchill -- world leader, champion of England's titled class; boozer, dilettante painter and cigar aficionado -- used to call the bouts of depression which seized him periodically as "The Black Dog". I'm not a black dog, but am feeling a bit 'dark' these days (indeed; no surprise there), so be warned.)

The current economic situation in the United States, also described as 'The New Normal', could be summed up in these points:
  • Salaries and Wages = Nearly Flat For Over A Decade -- Luckily, we have had almost no inflation during the same period, but if you're not bringing home more money even a modest rise in prices can hurt;  
  • It's Not That Jobs Are Created; It's What Kinds Of Jobs -- Employment numbers have gone up to a degree in construction and some manufacturing sectors, but the broadest gains in total jobs have been in the Service Economy -- maids and waiters and towel boys and gardeners and spa attendants and boat crew lackeys;
  • Unemployment Figures Continue To Ignore The Lost Workforce -- A news item like "US Jobless Claims Hover At Pre-Recession Levels... [which offers] further evidence of the economy's underlying strength" might make you believe everything is 'finally getting back to normal' after the Go-Go, 'Lil' Boots' Bush years and the Crash.  
  • >>> The numbers receiving unemployment payments, as reported, is shrinking -- but the number of people who have been unable to find work since the fall of 2008 (no pun intended) is ignored. No one really knows how many people are in this category -- and even the new Fed Chairman, Janet Yellen, questions whether there is more unreported 'slack' in the labor market than unemployment figures suggest.
  • The Gap Between The Top One-Tenth Of One PerCenters And Everyone Else Has Grown in the past decade. Period. We are a more stratified and less socially-mobile culture than at any time since the end of the Second World War. 
  • >>> The proof is in two points:  The average annual income of the bottom 90% of Americans is approximately $30,000 -- the annual income of the .01% is $24,000,000 ; and, the distribution of all wealth (not just annual income, but 'who owns what') in America is lopsided:  42 percent of everything is owned by the top One Per Cent, while the bottom 80% of the population owns just 5%.  That's of everything -- real property (homes, office buildings, land), stock, bonds, cash, cars, et al.
The current definition of The New Normal is "Secular Stagnation", where job growth is modest (we still haven't reached the percentage of full-time employed in the overall U.S. workforce as existed before 2008).  Large corporate employers have continued to keep wages low, while executive and managerial bonuses have gone up. The pension and health coverage benefits of their retirees is shrinking, and those just entering the workforce understand their employers will only provide the minimum, band-aid-for-their-conscience safety net of benefits. It ain't your grandfather's work-world any more.

Obligatory Image Of Happy Children, Enjoying Life In Modern America ©
In Middle Of Nihilist Blog Rant

 It's just one Dog's opinion, but you might have the feeling, looking around, that we're becoming a society where a layer of the truly wealthy, the Owners, live in security and privilege, nearly invisible to the rest of the world, while the rest of us... don't.

We buy the products and use services which they've significantly invested in -- or, they own the raw materials, or the land, or the ships. It's like the difference in San Francisco between those who "ride the bus", and everyone else (though employees of Google and Facebook and eBay and Yahoo are just as much Tools and servants of the .01% as the rest of us). We're fleeced by corporations, finance companies and banks, manufacturers, and employers from our first day to our last, and in the end a company the wealthy own will rent our children pennies to put on our eyes.

But, take heart. Paul Kingsnorth, former environmental activist, is fairly certain that we are moving swiftly into a period of climatic upheaval and that the chance of an apocalyptic die-off in the human population, a Mad Max coming to a street near you, is a certainty as ecosystems fail and power systems can't be sustained. Meaning that (according to Kingsnorth, and other environmental researchers) no matter what we do, we're doomed.

The good part, I suppose, is that the Uberwealthy will suffer, die, and slide into extinction along with the 99%. And there won't be any pennies left for the Boatman, let alone our eyes.

Well. I recall a comment made by Martin Luther -- devout christian; constipation sufferer, author of the 95 Theses whose efforts created the Reformation and centuries of civil war in the christian world; religious and political radical, misogynist and anti-Semite.  He said: If I were told that the world would end tomorrow, I would still go into the garden and plant an Apfelbaumchen (little apple tree).

And so must we all.


MEHR: BITTE SCHIESSEN SIE MIR SOFORT:  As another sign that civilization has passed its peak and is now in irreversible decline, if you were a shareholder of Warren Buffet's Berkshire-Hathaway corporation, you would be attending the company's annual meeting in Kansas City -- and like any gathering In These End Times, you get the chance to take home a Tschochki or two, you lucky, far-sighted investor, you.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. will sell rubber ducks of Chairman Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charles Munger wearing Mexican-themed outfits at the company’s annual meeting, which falls two days before Cinco de Mayo. The “fiesta ducks” sport sombreros, multicolored ponchos and — in Buffett’s case — a maraca, according to an advertisement in the visitor’s guide to the May 3 event, which will be held at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The souvenirs will be sold by Berkshire’s Oriental Trading party-supply business for $5 a pair.

 View The Terror And Shame: Click On Image To Enlarge! Easy! Fun!
(Picture courtesy of the Berkshire-Hathaway Annual Meeting Brochure,
Which You Can See In Its Entirety Here)


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Ending Is This World

Big Mayan Thing Maybe Happen Okay

Personally I am the skeptik. Not like I am wishing the big earthquakes and giant octopus from out of space. No way Buddih! But there is big industry of people making lots of the Money from this thing of the Mayans. And, of course, I would have like to be making some of this End Of World Money. You, also, would like (Oh, yes you would too).

In the Mean Time, back on this planet, we gots plenty work to do just to get restaurant food not tasting like cardboard and Idiots walking around making the Texting all the time and not watching where they are going. Plus we have people with the guns and also Global Heating. Not like we do not have enough to do; yes, Mayan Guy say world is ending; fine. Thank You. We will be getting right on that, but first there is even scarier Fiscal Cliff. Maybe we could solve this using some money from End Of World stuff.

These, believe me, are way bigger problem than Center Of Galactic Thing making creamed corn on your personal shoes -- or, you know, whatever you believe Ending of World will look like.

I ask Great-Uncle Yehudi about End of World (Having been in Great Patriotic War, I am thinking he might know something about this). He is being sitting in Barcalounger, watching Leaving It To The Beaver House on the TeeVee, and laughs while waving at me to go away. "If Messiah shows up, call me," Yehudi says. "Otherwise, go do useful things -- but somewhere else."

So; ending? Maybe, Not Maybe; I don't know. I am betting it looks just like downtown Moldova.

I, Rabschinsky, say this -- to Moldavish Guy; you also.


AND, ALSO:  This morning, still in the darkness, I am made awake by telephone. It is Great-Uncle Yehudi. "Guess what?" He is asking.  What, I am saying. "World did not end! You still need to take out garbage, bubchick."

And so this is "the excitement of living".


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Japan Will Burn Fukishima's Radioactive Debris

What Is Past Is Prologue: We Regretfully Express Regret

(I originally saw this on Barry Ritzholz's The Big Picture and was more appalled by the criminal stupidity he was reporting than I can express. Much of this post is based on his article and the links in it; go and read Barry's post.)

In May, Japan will begin burning approximately 25,000 tons of highly radioactive debris created by the March 2011 tsunami, then irradiated by the disaster at the four Fukushima nuclear reactors.

Members of the international scientific and regulatory community said while the Fukushima catastrophe was taking place that the management of Tepco, the company which owns and operated the reactors, and the Japanese government, was intentionally downplaying and covering up the extent of the crisis.

They're still doing it. The Japanese government has artificially lowered their own public standards for what is considered 'permissible' in exposing human beings to radioactivity. Their standards are no longer those used by the international scientific community.

If you want to eliminate an embarrassment, the expense and responsibility of dealing with it, then simply deny the reality. Drive in private cars to large, expensive private homes and sit in a peaceful garden. There; no more bad things -- at least, not for you.

As reported in the Japanese press, the debris contains up to 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.
FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) -- The state will start building storage facilities for debris generated by the March 2011 tsunami as early as May at two locations in a coastal area of Naraha town, Fukushima Prefecture...

Debris created by the tsunami largely remains untouched within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from which residents have been forced to evacuate in the aftermath of the earthquake-triggered disaster.

About 2.5 hectares of land have already been secured at the two locations, a large portion of which lies within the exclusion zone, and about 25,000 tons of debris are expected to be brought into the facilities beginning in the summer, according to the officials...

If more than 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium are found per kilogram of debris, the debris will be transferred to a medium-term storage facility to be built by the state.

But if burnable debris contains 100,000 becquerels of radioactive Cesium or less, it may be disposed of at a temporary incinerator to be built within the prefecture, according to the officials.
The American NRC and international nuclear experts have said that debris with even lower levels of radioactive Cesium, twenty times lower than what the Japanese will allow to be burned at Fukushima, would need to be buried underground for thousands of years.

Burning radioactive debris only spreads it. Particles from the burning will end up not only in other parts of Japan, but will travel with prevailing winds across the Pacific to fall in Hawaii, Canada, Oregon; Washington and California.

Effectively, it recreates the Fukushima disaster by releasing a huge amount of radioactivity on the ground back into the air. Again, from The Big Picture:
It is bad enough that radiation from Fukushima is spreading across the Pacific to the United States through air and water, that the Japanese are underplaying the enormous threat posed by the spent fuel pools, and that the Japanese have engaged in a massive cover-up of the severity of the Fukushima crisis.

But intentionally burning radioactive debris to try to cover up the problem – and spreading radiation worldwide in the process – is an entirely separate affront.

Postscript: In addition to burning radioactive debris, Japan intends to build tents over the leaking Fukushima reactors. While this sounds like a way to contain the radiation, it would actually funnel it straight up and spread it globally:
But nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen said that the tents – while helping to protect workers at Fukushima – will actually increase the dispersion of radioactive gases. Specifically, Tepco will pump radiation out through stacks, which will push radiation up to a higher elevation, dispersing it even further around the world.
A commenter to Ritholtz's article noted (paragraphing added for clarity):
I have Hashimoto’s. Basically my thyroid died and went to heaven and I was lucky I didn’t. The interesting thing is that my specific manifestation of the disease is endemic to left handed midwestern males born in the mid 50′s. One could directly correlate it to open air nuclear testing if one wanted to, but Eisenhower’s favorite complex might take offense.

We already have excellent data on worldwide particulate transmission as a result of Krakatoa and Pinatubo.

Now we will have excellent data on various aggressive radiation induced cancers.

I find it interesting that this slow motion train wreck has been going on for quite a while and only now are we disturbed? There were plans to evacuate TOKYO. This is a tragedy of the commons of the first order and there is nothing we can do about it. Fait accompli.
Even so, we know there has been a cover-up of the disaster so far; there's nothing we can do about that but shun those responsible and publicly shame them, if you're into that sort of thing. But, unlike the disaster that followed the earthquake and tsunami, we know in advance what will happen. This is a completely avoidable catastrophe.

But the United States government won't do much. Why not? Another commenter to the same article at Ritholtz's site said, "Yeah right , threaten *permanent sanctions* with one of the few allies we have" to counter a rising China, beginning to flex its armed muscle. No; our leaders won't do more than "express concern" to the Japanese.

And when it's all done, and in years to come when the damage is obvious and public; those Japanese scientists, government officials and all the fun boys and girls at Tepco will just bow a few times for the cameras. They'll say, "We express regret". Everyone will just have to understand, and that will just have to be enough.

Again: This is avoidable. It does not have to happen. Is anyone doing anything to stop it?

Didn't think so.

As a species, it's a wonder that humans can remember how to breathe.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Andrew Breitbart Dead

And A Nation Mourns

Screenshot From The "Goof Gas Attack" Episode Of
Rocky and His Friends, 1962 (Wikipedia)

However, the nation in mourning is Pottslyvania. Told of Breitbart's death, Fearless Leader said, "Who?"

I won't be making any (other) cheap jokes at Herr Breitbart's expense. I never knew the man -- he was (as Commander Worf pointed out from time to time on STNG) "Not of my home world".

Life isn't only only about showing up; what you do while you're here, and how you affect others, matters. And if you demanded more attention from the world in life than most people -- your actions affect so many more.

Here are Breitbart's Tweets following announcement of Senator Ted Kennedy's death:
26 Aug 09 via web

-- Rest In Chappaquiddick

-- Kennedy is my villain. He took me
from left to right during the [Clarence]
Thomas hearings. Really. Then read Joe
McGuiness book & I wanted to puke.

-- he was a f@#$er. a big ass motherf@#$er.
this aint a 24-hour zone, baby. he was a bad,
bad dude. & if mary jo were your kin youd
be dancin'.

-- This duplicitous bastard spit on GWB's face
when he reached across party lines. T was a
grade school trick. Even til the end, he was a prick.

-- I'll shut my mouth for Carter. That's just
politics. Kennedy was a special pile of human
When another conservative replied, asking him not to treat Kennedy like they believe some on the left treated the passing of Tony Snow and Ronald Reagan, Breitbart responded:
-- @AblativMeatshld How dare you compare Snow
& Reagan to Kennedy! Why do you grant a BULLY
special status upon his death? This isnt lib v con.

-- Look, this man was granted absolution for nothing.
Class, life station played a part but PARTY was every-
thing. GOP couldnt get away with it.

-- In this moment I cant but recognize absolute back-
wardness of media & society. Bush=EVIL. Ted Kennedy=SAINT.
Im gonna keep fighin', folks.
This is an example of one man's actions, and in comparison I don't want to celebrate another person's death by heaping my own vitriol on them. I know about the effect of individual deaths on the people who love them (and yes; even this man had them). That needs to be recognized.

However, the lessening of negativity and the spewing of falsehoods and hatred into our national discourse in the wake of one man's death is not a cause for sorrow. I mourn the man; but I am grateful for waking into a world with that much less unnecessary divisive anger.

I didn't like what Breitbart did, and didn't like his 'contribution' to our culture. But, from wherever he is, now he knows what we do not.
The players you have seen; whether their acts were bad or good; whether they were rouges or heroes; They Are All Equal Now.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Andy Rooney, 1919 - 2011

Andy Rooney, August 2011 (via the New York Times: CBS / Associated Press)

"You know what I don't like about being dead? It's that you're dead; and everybody else is alive. And you don't get to remind them about what they're missing, and what they take for granted."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jenga II (After Greece Comes Italy)

Buffoono Berlusconi's Italy May Destroy The EU And The World Economy

Barry Ritholtz, October 31st; "Back Of The Envelope On Italy" (Some editing cleanup, because Barry uses word-recognition software to dictate many posts -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- and too, also, paragraphing):
REVISED: Here’s a back of the envelope calculation on Italy, highlighting the impact that a rise in financing costs coupled with a lack of growth can have on their finances.

Italy needs to refinance about 310b euros of debt in 2012. I estimate the average interest rate they are paying on this maturing debt is 2.7% (short term rates collapsed in ’09-’10). With an average debt maturity of 7 years, Italy may be paying 6%+ on the refinancing.

Assuming a 350 bps [3.5%] additional cost times the 310B Euros of maturing debt, this adds 10.9b euros of interest expense to the 54b euros of interest payments scheduled to be made in 2012. At the same time, Italy’s 2T[rillion Euro] economy is expected to grow REAL GDP 0.1% in 2012 and nominal around 3%.

Thus, nominally 60B euros will be added to their economy with all of the incremental gain thus going to service interest expense. This also doesn’t take into account any new debt Italy has to take on over and above what is maturing.

Over time, just to tread water, any country needs to generate nominal GDP growth equal to its financing costs. In the 10 years prior to the sharp ’08-’09 economic contraction, Italy saw nominal GDP growth of 3.7% (REAL averaged 1.3%), [which was] near its financing costs over that time period.

A continuation of nominal GDP growth of 3.5-4% (now mostly consisting of inflation) will no longer cut it for Italy with funding costs at current levels.

Short version: Without more economic growth, Italy's government cannot take in enough revenue to pay the costs of financing it's debt, meaning they have annual deficits, which add to the debt, which they cannot pay the costs of financing; etc.

Cullern Roche (of the blog, Seeking Alpha) noted: "As we know with Greece, growth is the key. If these nations [The PIGS: Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain] cannot grow their way out of this crisis, then they are doomed to deteriorating budgets. The worst part about the situation in Italy is that the growth outlook is the absolute worst of the major EMU nations and has been for a very long time."

So in a sense, even if Greece accepts the drastic medicine prescribed by the ECB, it doesn't solve the problem of Italy's inability to grow its economy -- and the so-called "reform" measures that clown Silvio! claims will work were literally thrown together over a weekend and presented by Berlusconi in a letter to the other EU leaders, who were appalled at Silvio's apparent nonchalance.

It's curious -- Berlusconi, an oversexed toad and greedy Oligarch, Italy's "Little Murdoch", has been the first politician in over fifty years to bring some stability to Italy's revolving-door government -- they've had to dissolve fifty governments in 50 years, because no one political party could build a coalition in their Parliament.

Berlusconi could, and did. And he came along -- as leaders of his type do -- just as the international economic engine began to run on Real-Estate-MBS and CDS gasoline (made in the USA). Times were good, and he seemed to hold out to Italians the promise of stable government, economic policies, and a better future.

As a result they let Silvio be Silvio!; the turned a blind eye to his personal life and financial dealings. When times were good, there was plenty of leeway for him to bunga bunga pretty whores women and preen in front of cameras, ridiculous in dyed hair and Botoxed smoothness. He alienated half of Europe as a corrupt businessman, and made the other half sick from laughter. But, then, Berlusconi was something Italy could afford.

But now, in a crisis, when real and decisive leadership is needed to create a coalition to save the EU and stabilize the collapse, Silvio can't cut it. He's vain, weak, and losing power even in the political party he runs like a private club. He's facing potential indictment for money-laundering and bribery; his 'coalition' in the Italian Parliament has dissolved -- weeks ago, his government barely survived a No-Confidence vote, which would have forced him to resign as Prime Minister. Italian lawmakers, seeing what's at stake, want him out even if the price is another round of revolving-door governments.

The best he can do is draw something on the back of an envelope (the source for Ritholtz's post title) and present it to the likes of Merkel and Sarzoky as a serious policy initiative, as he did recently. They weren't amused.

If Greece accepts the deal offered by the other EU countries, at best it's citizens can expect drastically lowered quality of living for a decade -- and then maybe, maybe their economy will return to 2008 levels, when the wheels were already beginning to pop off.

And the same is true for every other badly leveraged, deeply-in-trouble European nation, like Italy.

So, in a sense, even if Greece accepts the deal, there's Italy's mess. Then, if that can be 'solved', it will be someone else's mess -- Spain, perhaps, or even France, and the cycle begins again. We'll see bank bailout after hedge fund failure (MF Global, no?), with news that money has "just vanished" and no one can find hundreds of millions (a bit like the palettes of shrink-wrapped $100 bills shipped to Iraq in 2003, which "just vanished", too: Good Times).

We find ourselves back where we were a couple of months ago. Growth is critical -- if the EU economies don't grow, the cost of financing themselves (the interest on their treasury bonds) goes up, making borrowing difficult if not impossible. Really drastic action -- deficit spending to push the economies forward -- is imperative, but it won't happen on The Iron Lady or Sarkozy's watch. They're strapped to the Austerity Bandwagon, as it rolls straight downhill.

In the meantime, world markets will become more aware of the Recession (which we never crawled out of) growing worse in 2012 -- and as it does, more Austerity measures will kick in. Public services will close or be severely restricted. Banks will announce -- surprise! -- they were holding even more debt than we knew about. Consumer confidence will fall, and so will the markets.

We'll limp along into an uncertain future of scarcity, high unemployment and political instability, power shortages and a gap between The Elite Rich and The Rest Of Us that will astound you; we will resemble Tunisia, or Egypt, more than the United States, and the fact that we're a DINO (Democracy In Name Only) will become more apparent the farther out in time we proceed. And that's the best-case scenario.

We could, I suppose, always have another little war. But even that would do nothing more than raise tensions and shake up nations already living with levels of psychological uncertainty not seen since the height of the Cold War or WW2. It would provide only the most temporary stimulus to Western economies who are too diverse to depend on 'defense' spending to be the solution.

Worst-case, Greece or Italy or someone else implodes, the Eurozone unravels; and the world's banking and finance sector, corrupted and corrupting, holding on by its fingerprints, collapses in a matter of days and drags the international stock markets down with them. And the dark world I described earlier hits us, full force, and all at once. It will be quite a shock to lose generations of security and surety in the nature of things and people, that fast.

And, that's Jenga.

MEHR: In the aftermath of the G20 conference in Cannes, which failed to create additional IMF guarantees to bail out European TBTF banks and temporarily stop the domino-effect collapse of European sovereign debt, Silvio! continued his government's policy of "Laugh, Clown, Laugh!", oogling the Argentinian minister at the Cannes conference and brushing aside all criticism of his reign by saying Italy's economy was "just fine".

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Death Of The Duck

Mommar Quadaffi Dead

Al Arabya is reporting that Mommar Quaddafi, whom we've always referred to here as Quaddafi Duck, murderous repressive sociopath (and winner of the "Most Bizarrely-Dressed World Leader" award for twenty years running), has been reported dead in his home town of Sirte, Libya, where he had retreated when all but a few die-hard retainers feld for the safety of the West, leaving the Duck to die in the Führerbunker -- whoops; sorry. Got my historical despots confused for a moment.

Sirte had been surrounded and pummeled by forces of the new Libyan government for weeks, finally coming down to one, single neighborhood which wouldn't surrender. Early this morning (PDST) in Sirte, The Duck and a small group of soldiers attempted to break out of the neighborhood and in the ensuing firefight Quaddafi was killed.

Someone on the scene took a short cellphone video of the crowd surrounding and dragging The Duck's body. Al-Jazeera was showing it unedited in the beginning, then began showing it with Quaddafi's body blurred until it reached a single frame (shown below) where he could be recognized.

Also, it must have been taken almost immediately after the gun battle and his death; in the video, Quaddafi's arm and hand fall back as he was being rolled over, without any apparent stiffness in finger or wrist joints: Rigor begins to set in almost immediately after death, and it begins in the extremities.

AlJazeera Shows Cell Phone Video Of Crowd Defiling The Duck, Mussolini-Style
(Screenshot: Al-Jazeera online)

The Duck is dead. And thousands of shoulder-launched missiles (things which can easily be used against, well, airliners, for god's sake) and other weapons have fallen into the hands of Nobody Knows Who. The possible blowback from Quaddafi's fall and exit is anyone's guess.

There is, however, much rejoicing in Tripoli and elsewhere in Libya, and in the Arab world, at the End Of The Duck. The Libyan people endured decades of repression and bizarre costumes -- so, for a while, no one should harsh the Buzz that comes from the collapse of a dictator and the end of a long season of fear.

MEHR: Additional videos of The Duck's final moments have surfaced.

As a former law-enforcement-related Dog, seeing anyone killed by a mob without benefit of Due Process is repugnant, no matter how much I may understand the emotions behind it. As a human being, seeing any kind of violence happen, at all, disturbs me. The videos are visceral, brief, but manifestly ugly on a very profound level.

The leader deserved a trial; the man deserved just enough cold, common politeness to get him into a jail cell. Well... Sow the Wind; Reap the Whirlwind. You can do anything in this life you want -- absolutely anything; so long as you understand this: You have to pull whatever freight comes with it.

I think The Duck (like so many of us do, with relatively less serious consequences), had convinced himself that he was somehow immune from that.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Move Along; Nothing To See Here

It's Not A Sentence; It's An Adventure

Bargains For The Owner Class (Click To Enlarge; Easy And Fun!)

What Digby Said [Some paragraphing added for emphasis]:
So you've probably heard about the Big Deal that's (surprise!) congealing today, at the very last minute... I'm a little surprised at how shocked people seem to be. I'ts [sic] about what I expected: trillions in cuts, no revenue, a Super Commission with a mandate to cut even more and an up or down vote requirement, and a trigger with mandated cuts if that Commission vote fails. It's pretty much a combination of the worst aspects of all the Republican plans that have been floated...

Unfortunately, the trigger means there will be "entitlement cuts" in the next round:

[Inset quote from HuffingtonPost]Under the new proposal, if the new legislative body composed of 12 members of both parties doesn't come up with a bill that cuts at least $1.8 trillion by Thanksgiving, entitlement programs will automatically be slashed.

The Super Congress will be made up of six Democrats and six Republicans from both chambers. Under the reported framework, legislation the new congressional committee writes would be fast-tracked through the regular Congress and could not be filibustered or amended.

The parties are negotiating the outlines of the super panel's mandate, deciding roughly how much in cuts must come from defense spending, how much from seniors, how much from veterans, etc.
For me this isn't a shocking disappointment. I have felt that this whole process was a disaster from the beginning and it really doesn't matter to me if the Democrats eke out a couple of concessions about defense cuts or close a few loopholes "in return" for these cuts.

That isn't "shared sacrifice," it's asking the poorest, oldest and sickest among us to give up a piece of their meager security in exchange for the wealthy giving up some tip money and the defense industry giving up a couple of points of profit.

It's stripping the nation of necessary educational, safety and environmental protections while the wealthy greedily absorb more and more of the nation's wealth and the corporations and financial industry gamble with the rest.

The idea that they are even talking about this at a time of nearly 10% official unemployment with the economy looking like it's going back into recession (if it ever left) makes this debate surreal and bizarre. To cut the safety net and shred discretionary spending in massive numbers at a time like this is mind boggling.

That it's happening under a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate is profoundly depressing.

But it's happening. And sadly, I still think it will be mostly Democrats who end up voting for it.
But, hey; who cares about a few cripples and old farts, anyway? Fox's fall lineup should be full of entertainment -- and there will be new apps for your new iPhone; and there will be new iPads, and Kindles; and cool new clothes!

Of course there will be, silly. There always has been, hasn't there? And the price of alcohol will be pretty stable, so it'll be a good time to PAR-TAY! Sure it will. That will just make up for everything.


Won't it?

Noch Einmal, Mit Schwein (via Drudge Lite):
“If the final bill is passed by establishment Republicans and House Democrats and does not include a balanced budget amendment as a requirement, it will be completely unacceptable and will be seen as a violation of the mandate that the tea party and likeminded people gave Republicans in 2010,” said Ryan Hecker, the leader of a crowd-sourced tea party effort called the Contract From America.

“The tea party didn’t help elect Republicans because they liked Republicans. They elected Republicans to give them a second chance. And if they go moderate on this, then they have ruined their second chance, and there will be a real effort to replace them with those who will stand up for economic conservative values,” said Hecker, who helped conservative House Republicans rally support for the amendment.
And as Digby also said, "Just keep in mind that progressives should want to do all this."

Und: Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont):
Sen. Bernie Sanders issued the following statement today after he voted against a Senate deficit- reduction proposal:

The Republicans have been absolutely determined to make certain that the rich and large corporations not contribute one penny for deficit reduction, and that all of the sacrifice comes from the middle class and working families in terms of cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, LIHEAP, community health centers, education, Head Start, nutrition, MILC, affordable housing and many other vitally important programs.

I cannot support legislation like the Reid proposal which balances the budget on the backs of struggling Americans while not requiring one penny of sacrifice from the wealthiest people in our country. That is not only grotesquely immoral, it is bad economic policy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Very Very Very Stupefyingly Horrifically Bad Bad Bad Things


This is a critical and exceptionally sensitive moment in history, where the results of a long string of events (some political, others economic; others cultural) combine to create the same circumstances as Carl Sagan's 1983 description of the nuclear arms race after the ABC program, "The Day After" was broadcast (I'm paraphrasing): Imagine, if you will, a man standing in a room, up to his waist in gasoline. And in his hand is a package of matches.

That isn't meant to be funny. This is where we are now. I'm dead serious.

It doesn't only involve America's right-wing politics being hijacked by extremists and flown to Nowhere; it also involves Europe. It's not a Black Swan moment, because too many people have warned, predicted, and described in detail (with actual data to back up their analysis) what may be about to take place, and why. What astounds me, and others, is how all that information is being ignored in a fundamental way -- as if people and governments were incapable of making other choices.

But, possibly, the crisis points of the previous century looked the same to observers at the time: The beginnings of the First World War. The financial Crash of the late 20's and early 30's; the rise of Fascism and agitation from the Left; the Holocaust. There may have been observers who sounded their own Cassandra-like warnings then, too; I don't know.

Paul Krugman, who is quoted above, has provided a great deal of analysis about the current economic situation, and has been saying it publicly well before the Crash (remember those heady days of the Go-Go, 'Lil' Boots' Bush years?), that the financial and political events of the last fifteen years would have real, predictable effects in the world, and not only in America:
For some reason events in European bonds markets aren’t making big headlines. But they should be: even as the GOP does its best to destroy America’s credit, things are falling apart, with a vengeance, on the other side of the Atlantic.

The interest rate spread between Italian and German bonds is now higher than it was before the big European rescue package was announced. Since the purpose of that package was, first and foremost, to calm markets before Italy and Spain sank into self-fulfilling debt spirals, this is very bad news.

Also, German interest rates are plunging. This does not reflect greater confidence in German solvency; if anything, investors are less confident in that respect, as the potential costs of a peripheral bailout start to get reflected in credit assessments of the core economies. What this is surely about, instead, is the growing sense that European recovery is sputtering out, and that the European Central Bank — which sets short-term rates — will eventually call off or even reverse its planned rate hikes, with rates staying low for a long time.

In short, what the markets seem to be seeing is disaster on the periphery and the Japanification of the core. And I can’t say they’re wrong.
The 'peripheral' European countries (Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy; Greece) have been provided loans by the ECB, involving banks in the 'core' EU nations (primarily France and Germany). Two weeks ago, the ECB announced their most recent loan packages would mean Austerity programs in these 'peripheral' nations, which will actually create low growth and few jobs -- conditions exactly the opposite of what's needed to pay the loans back at all.

If any one of them can't meet their obligations (or their populations say "Fuck This!" to the New Austerity), that's the ball game. The remaining peripherals may tumble, and then the Euro -- that would effectively end the European Union in fact; its political structures aside, the EU is welded together by its common currency and not a twelve-starred flag.

The economies of the 'core' European countries -- principally France and Germany, whose banks are at the center of the loans made to the 'peripheral' EU nations -- will tumble, and suffer their own 'Japanification' -- high unemployment, low GDP growth and Zombie Banks unwinding debt. Japan's economy melted down (no pun intended) in the 1980's, due to their own massive real estate bubble, and TBTF banks carrying billions in worthless loans; their Recession lasted over ten years.
Simon Johnson writes about who’s worse — America or Europe? Basically I agree with his assessment: Europe has more fundamental problems in sheer economic terms, because it adopted a single currency without the necessary institutions to make it workable. America has a long-run budget problem, but our current mess is entirely political. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to solve.

What’s extraordinary, though, is the paralysis that has taken over essentially the entire advanced world. America is hamstrung by its crazy right; Europe by its single currency that can be neither abandoned nor accompanied by sufficient reforms to make it work; Japan by lousy demography and monetary timidity that is now deeply ingrained in expectations.

Technology continues to advance; resource shortages are not severe enough to pose a major constraint; climate change is terrifying in its long-run implications, but hasn’t inflicted much damage yet. The only major problem we have right now is the one that was supposed to be easy to solve: a simple lack of adequate demand. And we’re totally failing in our response.
In our own country, we seem to have been afflicted by the Perfect Storm: Know-nothing Rethug Tea Partei brownshirts and tepid, rudderless Democrats. Krugman continues watching the Ship Of Fools head straight for the iceberg:
These are interesting times — and I mean that in the worst way... In the United States, right-wing fanatics in Congress may block a necessary rise in the debt ceiling, potentially wreaking havoc in world financial markets. Meanwhile, if the plan just agreed to by European heads of state fails to calm markets, we could see falling dominoes all across southern Europe — which would also wreak havoc in world financial markets.

... policy makers seem determined to perpetuate what I’ve taken to calling the Lesser Depression, the prolonged era of high unemployment that began with the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and continues to this day, more than two years after the recession supposedly ended...

The great housing bubble of the last decade, which was both an American and a European phenomenon, was accompanied by a huge rise in household debt. When the bubble burst, home construction plunged, and so did consumer spending as debt-burdened families cut back.

Everything might still have been O.K. if other major economic players had stepped up their spending, filling the gap left by the housing plunge and the consumer pullback. But nobody did. In particular, cash-rich corporations see no reason to invest that cash in the face of weak consumer demand.

Nor did governments do much to help. Some governments — those of weaker nations in Europe, and state and local governments here — were actually forced to slash spending in the face of falling revenues. And the modest efforts of stronger governments — including, yes, the Obama administration -- in those countries “under a programme” are being forced into drastic fiscal austerity, this amounts to a plan to have all of Europe slash spending at the same time. And there is nothing in the European data suggesting that the private sector will be ready to take up the slack in less than two years.

For those who know their 1930s history, this is all too familiar. If either of the current debt negotiations fails, we could be about to replay 1931, the global banking collapse that made the Great Depression great.

But, if the negotiations succeed, we will be set to replay the great mistake of 1937: the premature turn to fiscal contraction that derailed economic recovery and ensured that the Depression would last until World War II finally provided the boost the economy needed.

...There’s an old quotation, attributed to various people, that always comes to mind when I look at public policy: “You do not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed.” Now that lack of wisdom is on full display, as policy elites on both sides of the Atlantic bungle the response to economic trauma, ignoring all the lessons of history. And the Lesser Depression goes on.
It seems clear that there are people like Krugman who can see, and describe, what is happening to the Western World's economies. In The U.S., common sense is overridden by political extremism. In Europe, the fragile political union appears ready to collapse under the financial extremism of Austerity programs.
Mr. Bush squandered the surplus of the late Clinton years, yet prominent pundits pretend that the two parties share equal blame for our debt problems. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed a supposed deficit-reduction plan that included huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, then received an award for fiscal responsibility.

So there has been no pressure on the G.O.P. to show any kind of responsibility, or even rationality — and sure enough, it has gone off the deep end. If you’re surprised, that means that you were part of the problem...
The Tea-Partei-fueled failure to raise the debt ceiling could trigger a real panic in world financial markets, not just our own. And given the interconnected nature of the global banking system, a massive selloff in equities and the effect to businesses worldwide would at a minimum stall and reverse what little "recovery" from the Crash of 2008 has taken place.

At worst, it could create enough European banking instability to trigger a collapse of the fragile ECB loan structure, followed by a collapse of the Euro. If that happens, all bets are off.

The situation feels precariously balanced in too many places, and any one of them might be The trigger which brings everything down. What is a real possibility is a Day Of Reckoning for 'Too Big To Fail' banks, worldwide -- and what would follow would be difficult to imagine. My guess is that here, and in Europe, we would end up with businesses quickly cutting back, or closing, and in a relatively short period -- perhaps a short as six to nine months, certainly a year -- unemployment on a scale never seen in modern times and psychologically worse than The Great Depression of the 1930's.

These are the times we live in, and since they involve money and the artificiality of value our societies are based on, no matter what happens the results will hit us right where we live. Literally.

Monday, April 4, 2011

And Bring The Kids

Japan to Release Low-Level Radioactive Water Into Ocean
New York Times, April 4, 2011: TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power Company said Monday that it would release almost 11,500 tons of water contaminated with low levels of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean as workers struggle to contain the increasing amounts of dangerous runoff resulting from efforts to cool the plant’s damaged reactors...

Over the weekend, workers resorted to desperate measures — including using sawdust and shredded newspaper — in an effort to stem a direct leak of an estimated seven tons an hour of radioactive water escaping from a pit near the reactor.
[Note: Emphasis added]

Safely Contained Behind Bars, Leak Of Water Contaminated By
God Knows How Much Radioactivity Gushes Into, Well; Gosh;
Somewhere -- Free Samples At The Tourist Center! (TEPCO)

Workers have focused especially on trying to pump out highly radioactive water flooding the turbine building of the No. 2 reactor. But a facility at the plant designed to store and treat the radioactive water has already been filled with runoff in recent days, the company said.

To free up space, about 10,000 tons of less seriously contaminated water will soon be released into the sea from the facility, said Yukio Edano, the
[Japanese government's] chief cabinet secretary. Tokyo Electric said it planned to begin dumping water in the ocean starting on Monday night in Japan, with a release of about 4,800 tons of water a day for two days.

[Note: 4,800 Tons of water equals approximately 1,150,000 U.S. Gallons; the total planned release will be three times that number.]

An additional 1,500 tons of radioactive water will also be released from the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors, after runoff was found flooding parts of their turbine buildings... Water from these reactors will be released 300 tons at a time over five days.

Le Show chien et le Petit cheval, Or, While A Dog-And-
Pony Show Is Entertaining, It Only Distracts From The True
State Of Affairs (Photo: Hund Und

The Total release of 11,500 Tons of radioactive water is over seven million U.S. gallons. That's seven million gallon jugs of milk; 280,000 fillups of mid-sized cars at the pump (based on 25-gallon capacity tanks); or approximately 20,000,000 bottles (standard 750ml, of five-plus cups) of wine.

No wonder TEPCO releases its figures in tons -- it just looks smaller.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sing 'Waltzing Matilda'

(Click For Bigger Graphic Of Impending Doom. It's Easy And Fun!)

According to the UN office of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban treaty (an organization with a worldwide network of sensors capable of detecting even small amounts of nuclear radiation), a plume of radioactive material will reach the West Coast of the United States by Thursday or Friday, the New York Times reports.

"Health and nuclear experts emphasize that any plume would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States."

Okay then! "Extremely minor". Move along, nothing to see here.

Neville Shute; First Edition Cover, On The Beach

Neville Shute Norway (1899 - 1960) was a British aviation engineer ("Someone who can do for a shilling what any fool can do for a Pound," he once said) from the late 1920's through the end of the Second World War. He had a number of patents in Great Britain and America for a variety improvements to aircraft construction made over those twenty-plus years.

At the same time, he published over thirty novels between 1926 and 1958 under the name Neville Shute, including the 1956 classic, On The Beach.

(As a young Dog, I read the book in the early 1960's, along with another nuclear war anxiety classic, Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon (1959); books that featured, even described, The Unthinkable were being read by large numbers of people. When Alas was turned into a "Playhouse 90" television drama in the spring of 1960, it scared the shit out of me. And with good reason.

(Where I grew up, Minuteman missile fields were only a few miles away. If (in the immortal words of Slim Pickens in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove) it came to nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Russkis, our war would be very short; we were a prime target. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was revealed that the early 60's Russian strategy to destroy American Minuteman fields was to fire a cloud of missiles with ground-bursting warheads: One to five megatons, exploding every thirty seconds, as they literally dug the silos out of the ground.

The town's large air-raid siren outside the fire station had allegedly been liberated from Dresden, Germany, by one of the firemen after WW2; hearing it go off every Friday at noon for almost two decades in a warbling, rise-and-fall tone of a 3-minute attack warning test, was something I never truly became used to.)

As a novelist, Shute was a realist about human nature. As an engineer, he understood the danger presented by rapid technological change; the development of nuclear weapons and the Cold War were never far from the minds of people in America, England, Russia -- or in Australia, where Shute retired in his 50's after WWII.

On The Beach is a novel about people living in 1964 Australia (ten years in the future for Shute, when he wrote the book), approximately a year after the Third World War. The northern hemisphere is poisoned by radioactive fallout, and everywhere above the Equator whoever wasn't killed in the blast of warheads has died from radiation poisoning.

(I always thought the date Shute chose for the war was a curious coincidence: The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October 1962 and nearly ended in what would have been a series of escalations, and then a full nuclear exchange.)

In the novel, radioactive particles are slowly making their way below the equator to the southern hemisphere. The theory of Australian scientists (which proves true) is, background radiation levels will slowly rise and everyone in the south will die as well. Against that background of impending doom, Shute sketched his characters and set them in motion.

In 1958, Stanley Kramer directed a film of Shute's novel, starring Gregory Peck (who after did To Kill A Mockingbird), Anthony Perkins (his first good film role before being locked into a signature character by Psycho), Fred Astaire (yes, Fred Astaire) and Ava Gardner (who had divorced Frank Sinatra, and spent time in Spain with Ernest Hemingway).

Peck is an American nuclear submarine commander, given orders to go back to the northern hemisphere and see if radiation levels have decreased -- and to go to the United States to investigate mysterious radio signals broadcasting from San Diego (Seattle, in the novel). He falls in love with Ava Gardner, then sets off with scientist Fred Astaire to the north.

When investigated, the signals have a fairly prosaic explanation; the sub cruises up to San Francisco (destroyed in the novel but only abandoned, a ghost town, in the film) then returns to Australia.

Scenes Of A Dying World; Click To Enlarge; Easy And Fun!

Ernest Gold, composer of the film's soundtrack, wove the classic Australian tune, "Waltzing Matilda", as a motif in most of the music. At one point, Gardner accompanies Peck on a river-fishing trip -- crowded with others who want one last experience with rod and reel, and where they are serenaded by drunken campers singing the song, over and over.

In Melbourne, reports arrive of high radiation levels working down from the north. In advance, people are lining up for government-issue suicide pills -- painless and effective. Peck tells Gardner that his crew has agreed that they will take their submarine back to the U.S. -- in reality, to head for the Marianas Trench and dive for the bottom until pressure crushes the hull.

One by one, the film's characters make their Abscheid: Fred Astaire seals the doors in his garage, climbs into the driver's seat of a Mercedes 300SL racer, starts the engine in neutral and floors the accelerator pedal; Anthony Perkins and his wife have a last cup of tea. After watching Peck's submarine submerge from a cliff over the ocean, Gardner's character takes her pills with a slug from a pint of Scotch (" 'Fooled you,' she said ") -- and that is how Shute's novel ends.

Kramer's film concludes with scenes of Melbourne, now as empty and abandoned as San Francisco or San Diego, while the "Waltzing Matilda' motif plays behind.

The final image is of a large banner (There Is Still Time -- Brother), strung across a central park by the Salvation Army in promise of the solace of religion; but here, it was a warning to viewers in the theatre that there was still time for people, nations and their governments, to walk back from the nuclear brink.

Still Time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

$ 1,000,000,000,000,000

One Quadrillion Dollars

"Gold is for optimists. I'm diversifying into canned goods."
-- Commenter On British Financial Blog

Ten Of These

Paul B. Farrell has been a financial analyst and commentator for many years. Semi-retired in Arroyo Grande, California, near San Luis Obispo, Farrell writes a weekly syndicated column carried (among other venues) by Little Rupert's Wall Stret Journal MarketWatch section.

Farrell's message is center-right politically when any politics are called for; even so, a relatively sane voice in the American financial commentary. He was warning of the unsustainability of the Housing Market Bubble, and of the explosion in Derivatives trading, before Nouriel Roubini or even Joseph Stiglitz.

In his most recent column, Farrell warned that the world's financial situation (and America's in particular) is burdened with enough debt to make another Great Depression more than just possible. From some of the commentary, you'll see he makes his politics clear (e.g., Medicare, Social Security) -- again, even so; he outlined fourteen points of debt and their sources or causes, which I list here in full...

... So here are my best estimates, mostly from reported resources, of the huge debts Wall Street is dumping on America, the big bubble they're already blowing, driving the global economy headlong into another meltdown that will trigger the Great Depression II. And likely, with all this debt, soon you can bet taxpayers will stage a revolution making Main Street American streets far worse than Athens:

1. Federal government debt ... $14.3 trillion

Federal debt limit doubled since 2005 to $14.3 trillion limit. Bush/Cheney wars pushed U.S. deep into a debt hole. Military kills 54% of budget. Expect 4% deficits through 2020.

2. Treasury / Fed cheap-money policies ... $23.7 trillion

The Fed's shadowy printing presses have created an estimated but unaudited $23.7 trillion in credits, grants, loans and guarantees, backed by taxpayers. Pure profit.

3. Social Security's rising debt ... $40 trillion

Soon we must either cut benefits or raise taxes 40%. Delays worsen solutions. By 2035 Social Security and Medicare will eat up the entire federal budget, other than defense.

4. Medicare's unfunded debt ... $60 trillion

Going broke faster than Social Security. Prescription-drug benefit added an unfunded $8.1 trillion. In 5 years estimates rose from about $35 trillion to over $60 trillion now.

5. Annual health-care costs ... $2.5 trillion

Costs rising faster than inflation. Burden increasingly shifted to employees. Recent Obamacare plan would have cost $90 billion annually, paid to Big Pharma and insurers.

6. Secretive global derivatives trading ... $604 trillion

Wall Street resists all regulation of their gambling casino that leverages the combined $50 trillion GDP of all nations by a 12:1 ratio. Warning: Less than 2% of Wall Street's derivative bets triggered the last meltdown. Buffett "guarantees" it will happen again.

7. Population growth 50% vs. Peak Oil demand ... $30 trillion

United Nations says global population is increasing from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050. China and India need 500 new cities each. Billions more humans want autos, using up limited resources, shifting more costs to America, as commodity price increases and new resource wars.

8. U.S. dollar losing as reserve currency ... $20 trillion

As China's economy rockets past America's, the dollar will be replaced as the chief foreign reserves. The shift will devalue the relative worth of all America's assets.

9. Global real estate losses ... $15 trillion

Commercial real estate is bloating 25% of U.S. bank balance sheets. Dubai Tower, world's tallest, is empty. China collapse will upstage, further depress America's market.

10. Foreign trade and ownership ... $5 trillion

Foreigners own more than $2.5 trillion of America. China holds over $1 trillion Treasury debt. $40 billion new deficits added monthly. Total climbing at $400 billion annually.

11. State / local budget / pension shortfalls ... $3.5 trillion

Shortfalls of $110 billion in 2010, $178 billion in 2011. On top of more than $450 billion in annual shortfalls in local government employee pension funds. L.A.'s near bankruptcy.

12. Corporate pensions plus 401(k) plans ... $3.2 trillion

Only 30% of Americans have enough to retire. There's $2.7 trillion in 401(k) plans. And 92% of corporate pension plans are underfunded, with defaults guaranteed by taxpayers.

13. Consumer card debt ... $2.5 trillion

Americans are still living beyond their means. Even with a downturn, consumer debt rose from about $2.3 trillion to $2.5 trillion. Fat Cat Bankers love it, yes, love making matters worse by gouging cardholders and mortgagees, blocking help in foreclosures and bankruptcies.

14. Lobbyists' annual costs ... $1.4 trillion

Wall Street bankers, Corporate CEOs and Forbes 400 Richest spend billions to influence elected officials, regulators and bureaucrats with lobbyists and campaign donations to exercise power over government. Voters are easily manipulated, but it takes lots of cash.

The total of all 14 categories of debt is a mind-blowing $825 trillion that includes "apples and oranges," jet fighters, derivatives and insurance fees, credit cards, autos and mortgages. There are more, and of course these are just estimates. Given the lack of transparency on Wall Street and in Washington, our debt is likely over $1,000 trillion.

That's One Quadrillion Dollars.

Farrell's column makes clear that Wall Street is 'betting short' -- placing trades that will make money when aspects of the system lose; this is Goldman-Sachs' methodology. And in order for these Masters Of The Universe to cash in... the system has to fail.

I wish I had a wisecrack to make at this point, but I don't.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Police Identify Incompetent Retard Terrorist Person Of Interest In Attempted Times Square Bombing

The 12th Incarnation Of The God Ra Takes Snapshot Of
Jerkwad Who Couldn't Blow Up Inflatable Love Doll, And
Nissan Pathfinder (Shortly To Become Evidence Jackpot)

ABC News indicates that "Federal authorities" are racing to apprehend the Person Of Interest (©) in the attempted Times Square bombing reported by almost every news outlet in those parts of the world that matter.

(At this juncture, I'm hoping these "Federal authorities" aren't, like, the Undersecretary of Inland Waterways and five janitors from the Rayburn Congressional Office Building.)

This person was described as a completely clueless murderous fuckwad "naturalized American citizen... from Pakistan" who had recently returned to the United States after spending five months there. Purchasing the now-infamous Nissan Pathfinder for several hundred dollars in cash, the deluded circus geek perpetrator loaded it with some fairly crude homemade explosives, and drove it to New York City.

Enraged with America and Freedom and having to drive for hours in Midtown without finding a parking space, the bomber apparently armed his home-made devices. Unfortunately (for him), they were such sorry excuses for bombs that he only succeeded in starting a small fire in the back of the Pathfinder.

Security Camera Captures Secret Terrorist Vehicle In
Times Square, And Enhanced View At Upper Right (BBC)

Finally, he stopped his vehicle directly in front of the All-Seeing Eye Of The 12th Incarnation Of The Sun God, Ra (Bow before his power -- yeah; that means you. You know who you are). Smoke was coming out of an open window in the Pathfinder, and the painful excuse for intelligent life bomber got out, scarpering off walking away into the crowd, unobtrusively leaving the Pathfinder's door open and its hazard lights flashing.

A few moments later, some passing tourists caught this video and sold it to CNN.

As most sentient humans now know, fortunately, the Pathfinder did not blow up -- a fact which has provided investigators with a treasure-trove of evidence. A retired NYPD detective told the New York Times, "He was trying to cover his tracks, but he left more clues than a guy walking into a bank to rob it without a mask... [He] left everything here but his wallet."

Special Timing Device (Photo: New York Times)

ABC added that there is apparent evidence that "the bomber did not act alone and had ties to radical elements overseas", with a "senior official" telling ABC News that in addition to the Person Of Interest (©), there are "several individuals believed to be connected with the bombing and that at least one of them is a Pakistani-American".


WEST HOLLYWOOD -- A woman believed to be suffering from mental issues is under arrest after sheriff's deputies say she stabbed four shoppers at a West Hollywood Target store.

Is this the time of Chtulu's return, or is this all just a run-up to 2012?