The Daily Grunt Archive

August 20, 2011

"The Long Emergency" a song from the band Zarathrustra


August 20, 2010

Shortly before he died, Matthew Simmons warned of "a giant lake of oil" lurking in deep water under the Gulf of Mexico, here reported by Bloomberg. He said it would be especially dangerous if a hurricane fetched up this material and dispersed it inland. Maybe he was onto something. Standing by for further developments....

Plus, more indications that oil will continue to spill and leak in the vicinity of the Macondo well site indefinitely, another point consistent with Matthew Simmons's recent final interviews: From Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism.com.

"In other words, the geology beneath the seafloor is so fractured, with soft and unstable salt formations, that we may never be able to fully kill the well even with relief wells. Instead, the loss of containment of the oil reservoir caused by the drilling accident could cause oil to leak out through seeps for years to come. See this and this for further background." Read more....

 

August 10, 2010

Farewell to Matt Simmons

I was shocked and sad to hear about the sudden death of Matthew Simmons, at his home in Maine, where he had been working on a wind energy project. The former CEO of the eponymous Houston-based company that financed oil exploration and drilling, Simmons had become a peak oil activist in recent years. He was the author of Twilight in the Desert, the first serious attempt to comprehensively understand and explicate the future of Saudi Arabian oil production. He was a passionate voice in recognizing the energy realities of the future and advocating for new living arrangements in America. Most of all, he was a good man who cared about the destiny of the human project.

 

August 4, 2010

RIP Cheez Doodles

 The mind that produced this cosmically savory snack is gone, but the aftertaste lingers on. While others anticipating a collapse of complex industrial society lay in supplies of lentils, brown rice, and One-A-Day vitamins, I'm stocking up on these brain-nourishing extruded clouds of fabricated cheese-type-product and corn slurry derivatives. Let the electric grid go down! Cheez Doodles will light our way. We salute their creator, Morrie Yohai, gone, at 90, to that great snack aisle up above, whose long life was testimony to the wholesome goodness of his legacy product.

In 1949, Yohai began his career at the snack food factory in the Bronx. Eventually, Yohai sold the company to Bordon. His new title was group vice president in charge of snacks. He told Newsday that his job involved sitting around a conference table with other executives and selecting the toys inside Cracker Jack boxes.

Read more:

 

July 6 2010

Amazing Dodge challenger TV commercial affecting to prove that car-dependency is the highest and best element of American democracy

June 15, 2010

Extremely disturbing discourse on severity of the BP Blowout in the Gulf of Mexico by a knowledgable oil professional at Theoildrum.com

Hat-tip to Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism.com

June 5, 2010

For the Record:

I frequently get letters like the one that follows. I attach my reply FYI.
__________________

Dear Mr. Kunstler,

I think you have correctly identified the elephant in the room: Peak Oil and our dependency on that almost magic stuff.

But I believe you are still ignoring the dinosaur: Overpopulation. Walkable communities are all nice and well but how are you gonna feed 7 billion people without oil and gas? You don't. And according to Bertold Brecht "Erst kommt das Fressen und dann die Moral", I have serious doubts about 5 or 6 billion people starving away peacefully.

Maybe science will come to the rescue, though nothing short of big style nuclear fusion will do it, but I doubt that, too.

I wish you all the best
___________________

Dear _________

I don't ignore it.
I have stated many times that there's little to say about it because we're not going to do anything about it. There won't be any policy or protocol. Instead, the usual suspects will assert themselves: starvation, disease, violence.

I get lots of letters from people who say the same thing as you. What's the point? To say "I'm smart and you're dumb because I know what the real problem is?"

What do you suppose we're gonna do about it? Kill all female babies? Nuke China? Pass a "one-child" law in the US Congress?

Jim
James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”

May 11, 2010

Letter to JHK from William Shortino serving with the US military in Afghanistan:

Friends,
I am into my 6th month and halfway through my deployment with the US Army in the country of Afghanistan. It is getting hotter but we are in the rainy season here. It is raining as I write this too, it is a real gully, oops I mean wadi washer. There is thunder, lightning and hail. It rained last week and cooled off. It cooled off enough so that it snowed in the mountains to the North of me in Pakistan that are over 10,000 feet. It is greening up around the hills surrounding FOB Salerno. Tomorrow will be Monday May 10th my birthday I will turn 54
.

Read the whole letter

April 28, 2010

If I was questioning Lloyd Blankfein in a hearing room:

JHK: Is English the principal language that Goldman Sachs conducts most of its business in?
Blankfein: I... do you...? Well, the context... I... do you have an exhibit number....
JHK: How old are you, Mr. Blankfein?

Blankfein: I, uh... do you mean counting from conception, uh...?
JHK: No, just from your last birthday.
Blankfein: I, uh, well, um... I... fifty-five.
JHK: Were you raised from childhood speaking English?
Blankfein: I, uh, let me see... you mean in the context... uh, do you... uh, have a... I... uh....
JHK: And how many years have you worked at Goldman Sachs speaking English there?
Blankfein: You want...I... well, if the context... of course we... yes.

JHK: In your time on Wall Street, have you ever heard the term 'a shitty deal?'
Blankfein: It depends on... I mean, uh, what do you mean by... we don't do deals, we quote prices.
JHK: Could you state your understanding of what that phrase, 'a shitty deal,' means?
Blankfein: I, uh... the context is... um, I don't... it depends on... I... we make markets... um.
JHK: Will the sergeant-at-arms please take Mr. Blankfein into the cloakroom and shoot him.

April 20, 2010

Nice quote from Eric Fry Over at The Daily Reckoning:

"If you shine a light on a cluster of cockroaches, they scatter and hide. But when you shine a light on a cluster of investment banking con men, they simply stare back and reply, "The SEC's charges are completely unfounded in law and fact and we will vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation."

10, 2010

excellent piece by blogger Scott Schneider:

Good Ole Boys

When one drives through the Southern and Western United States, it is immediately clear that in the last 10 years there has been no reversal of America’s commitment to a total automotive, sprawl culture. NONE WHATSOEVER. This is true in spite of the Economic Depression of the last 2 years with no end in sight, and the reality of Peak Oil undeniably upon us.

Not only is the lifestyle unchanged, its premises are totally unchallenged. The car is a basic right as well as a necessity – it is part of one’s personhood, especially one’s manhood. To play “car wars”, tailgating and intimidating in your pickup truck or SUV while racing to your minimum wage job, is the only form of freedom psychologically left for tens of millions. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a terribly dangerous, joyless war of survival fought in choking traffic that perpetually drains life-energy, health and your bank account. It’s an extension of your physical body. To be separated from the vehicle is profound trauma, loss, the end of freedom....

Read More....

April 7, 2010

Nashville bank turned tattoo parlor on kunstler.com

This shot says-it-all about our current national condition -- a fine Beaux Arts bank building in Nashville turned into a tattoo parlor. The indignity of it all...!

Thanks to Barbara and Bob Conner for sending the picture in.

 

April 3, 2010

No, this is not an April Fool's gag. . . .

Something weird is going on the gold markets
. A story out of Eric King's King World News site says the Commodities Futures Trading Board (CFTB) in collusion with JP Morgan has been rigging the gold markets for years. I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but this is pretty juicy stuff. Nor do I pretend to understand the technicalities of the method used. The nub of the story seems to be that JP Morgan massively manipulated short sales using the paper Gold ETF market and had paper gold leveraged up against real metal at 100:1 ratio. Read for yourself and draw conclusions. The mainstream media has not even touched this story.

Zero Hedge on the story

Jesse's American Cafe on the Story

Janet Tavakoli on the story

March 5, 2010

My Invitation From Fox News

On Mar 3, 2010, at 4:52 PM, Lott, Maxim wrote:

Hi Howard,

John Stossel of the FOX Business Network is doing a show this Friday at 6pm on zoning. We’re going to be comparing zoning rules in Cleveland and Houston, and will also have Randal O’Toole on the show. He will say that we need to get rid of zoning because it gives the government planners too much control.

Max--
I was on a John Stoessel ABC show a few years ago and I consider him a completely unethical person, since he used me as a straw man and distorted everything I had to say -- in the editing process.
Randall O'Toole is a shill for the sprawl-builders. You deserve him.
Please tell Stoessel he can kiss my ass.

Jim
James Howard Kunstler
“It’s All Good”

February 25, 2010

Don't Cry For Me Argentina....

Hummer to close after collapse of Chinese deal

By Chris Isidore, senior writerFebruary 24, 2010: 4:52 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors' deal to sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese automaker fell through Wednesday and the company said it now plans to shut down the brand.

GM did not give any details about why the agreement to sell Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co. Ltd. could not be completed, saying only that it was disappointed it was unable to close the deal.

February 18, 2010

This Illustrates America's habit of using statistics for feel-good therapy. Ask yourself: Is it really a good thing to plow up more pastures, cornfields, and meadows to plant more suburban houses -- especially when over seven million houses are already in pre-default loan delinquency?

Housing construction up 2.8 percent in January

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; 9:04 AM
WASHINGTON -- Housing construction posted a better-than-expected increase in January which pushed activity to the highest level in six months. The solid gain raised hopes that the construction industry is beginning to mount a sustained rebound from its worst slump in decades.


February 4, 2010

A Brief on Corporations and Electioneering

     The arguments so far against the recent Supreme Court decision on corporate "free speech" (that is, buying elections = free speech by corporate "persons") have missed the point. For example, this lame discussion on the otherwise usually intelligent Bill Moyers' Journal podcast.
     The personhood of a corporation cannot be exactly equivalent to the personhood of a human being. By law, corporations owe their allegiance entirely and solely to their shareholders. The alleged personhood of a corporation is therefore devoid of any duties, obligations, or responsibilities to the public interest. This condition could be described as sociopathic. Since this condition is explicit, the alleged personhood of corporations must be held to be different from the personhood of human beings and subject by law to different constraints. Among these, corporations must be barred from participation in the fundamental exercise of the public interest, elections of public officials and votes on propositions and amendments to law, including the financing of political election campaigns in any form.

Why is that so hard to square with existing legal philosophy?

February 1, 2010

Sharpen your pitchforks and prime the torches!

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein stands to collect $100 million bonus

"This is Lloyd thumbing his nose at Obama," a banker at one of Goldman's rivals told The Times of London. The prospect of a $100 million bonus would dwarf the $67.9 million Blankfein collected in 2007. It also would come after Obama called such payments "shameful."

January 30, 2009

Readers know that I regard fixing the US passenger rail system as hugely important.. But this strikes me as a somewhat deceptive venture. First, bear in mind that $8 billion is way way less than Obama shoveled into rescuing the car companies (not to mention the banks, the GSE's, et cetera). It's not very much money for truly shaping up a national network.

I maintain that real high-speed rail is far less important than fixing the regular-speed system that is still sitting out there rusting in the rain, waiting to be restored. In fact, I regard high-speed rail proposals as a species of techno-grandiosity, given how bankrupt we are. I maintain that the public would be delighted to ride trains that went 70-mph and ran on schedule.

Anyway, my sense of the proposal at-hand is that it mostly represents research-and-development, and that little actual rail service may come out of it. That said, I hope it works out better than I suspect it will.

Obama unveils high-speed passenger rail plan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama unveiled his administration's blueprint for a new national network of high-speed passenger rail lines Thursday, saying such an investment is necessary to reduce traffic congestion, cut dependence on foreign oil and improve the environment.

* * *

Also RIP J.D. Salinger. Is there a Boomer male who was not affected by Holden Caulfield's little misadventure in New York City? J.D. was a strange breed of porpoise. God knows what he's been up to in his New Hampshire hermitage since 1953. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

January 28, 2009

State of the Union:

To me, a disappointing snore of a speech largely trafficking in unreality and evading the core of our nation's predicament -- how to manage an implacable contraction of all activities from their current colossal scale to a scale in keeping with the resource realities of the future, especially energy and capital resources.

By "all activities" I mean things like global commerce, big box retail, petro-agriculture, Happy Motoring, and banking on the TBTF level. The current patches on the system are wholly inadequate in addressing these imperatives.

Personally, I don't believe that borrowing our way out of debt will work. We have to take the hit in asset deflation whether we like it or not. Promises to the contrary are empty bombast.

Because of our failure to face reality squarely, it will take us from behind and have its way with us.

 

January 22, 2009

Yet another reason that we better get started repairing the US passenger railroad system. I predict that commercial aviation as we know it will be history in five years....

2009 airline revenue: Worst drop ever

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter
January 20, 2010: 1:05 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The airline industry suffered its largest drop ever in passenger revenue last year as a weak economy grounded many would-be travelers, an industry group said Wednesday.

The Air Transport Association of America said total passenger revenue for the major U.S. carriers fell 18% in 2009 versus the year before. It was the largest drop on record, exceeding the 14% decline in 2001.

Full story

January 21, 2009

Dubai Shutting Down Project-by-project

From a guy I correspond with, working in Dubai:

The news in the UAE changes daily. One day the news is good and the next it’s bad.

A few weeks ago, if you recall, Sheikh Khalifa (of Abu Dhabi) was obliged to pony up $10 billion to bail out Dubai World. This was the third tranche of $10 billion in just over a year. Keep in mind that Abu Dhabi’s annual oil margin is around $20 billion, about half of which is shared with all the Emirates until 2016 as part of the Union Agreement that created the UAE.

Until this last Friday the proclamations and news releases that followed generally portrayed Dubai’s financial and business future as akin to “Rosy” or “Upbeat”.

Then, in the last four days there were two ominous news items that hit. The first was that the Japanese contractor that had been appointed to build the fabulous ultra modern Dubai Metro had to demobilize and return to Japan because the Roads & Transit Authority (RTA) hadn’t paid them in over a year: they are owed billions and had put in variations for billions more. The second was that the contractor that had been appointed to the Etihad Road improvement project (a major necessary link between Dubai and Sharjah) stopped work and demobilized because the RTA hadn’t bothered to pay them in over a year: they too are owed billions.

And the hits just keep a coming: this week a spokesman for Sheikh Khalifa announced that the Masdar Zero Net Carbon City project is now on a minimum one-year hold. The understanding is that the funds set aside for this project were used to bail out Dubai World. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody announces that the Federal Center Project in Abu Dhabi will be put on hold as well. And with regards to the Abu Dhabi Metro project, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Price of Abu Dhabi, was supposed to have announced the successful bidder to be appointed as development manager in November. These guys are becoming a pack of space merchants.

I would guess that this news will be inevitably followed by more proclamations and news releases portraying Dubai’s and now Abu Dhabi’s financial and business futures as “Rosy” or “Upbeat.”

January 15, 2009

This guy doesn't get me at all. I'm not against white people... I'm just against white people who are against other people....

Kunstler and Whites
December 28, 2009 by Hunter Wallace

link to the blog Antisemitica

James Howard Kunstler, a Jewish writer/Peak Oil doomer, is predicting White Nationalists will overcome their political marginalization in the year ahead. He sees a “variety-pack of political disturbance” including “dangerous players such as the political racialists, the posse comitatus types, the totalitarian populists” coming “out of the woodwork” and joining “the contest over dwindling resources.” Racialist ideologues will offer “revolutionary action to redefine some lost sense of national purpose.”

January 15, 2010

Kunstler and Whites
December 28, 2009 by Hunter Wallace

link to the blog Antisemitica

James Howard Kunstler, a Jewish writer/Peak Oil doomer, is predicting White Nationalists will overcome their political marginalization in the year ahead. He sees a “variety-pack of political disturbance” including “dangerous players such as the political racialists, the posse comitatus types, the totalitarian populists” coming “out of the woodwork” and joining “the contest over dwindling resources.” Racialist ideologues will offer “revolutionary action to redefine some lost sense of national purpose.”

In his 2010 forecast, I was surprised that Kunstler didn’t include his usual dire warnings (Palinites with pitchforks) about “cornpone Nazism,” a subject he has endlessly harped upon in the past. Kunstler has become notorious for his scathing hatred of ordinary White people. Last month, he went so far as to describe the White working and middle class as “The Yeast People.” I’ve been following him for years and have never seen him use this kind loaded rhetoric to attack blacks and Hispanics for their sordid underclass culture, which by any honest measure is several orders of magnitude worse than comparable trends in the White community.

Kunstler’s attack on the BNP is especially revealing: “History is ironical. Perhaps this time the Germans will be the good guys, while England goes apeshit with its BNP. Wouldn’t that be something?” The BNP is the only political party in the UK which has raised awareness of the Peak Oil issue, which everyone knows is so dear to his heart, but Kunstler sees Nick Griffin as the leader of the bad guys. He implies that the BNP are Nazis.

Kunstler’s Jewishness, the source of his fear and loathing of White people, weighs more heavily in his mind than anything he has said about Peak Oil, suburbs, walkable communities, relocalization, or the automobile. I can’t help but wonder whether or not this animus is the real source of his social criticism.



January 14, 2010

It was pretty obvious that Christmas retail sales reports were not going to redeem the month of December. The real picture is starting to emerge....

Retail sales unexpectedly fall in December

Washington Post
Thursday, January 14, 2010; 8:34 AM
(Reuters) - Sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly fell in December as consumer spent less on vehicles and an array of other goods during the holiday shopping month, data showed on Thursday, raising concerns about the durability of the economy's recovery.

Link


September 9, 2009

The Stonewalling of Peak Oil

Interview With Robert Hirsch, author of The Hirsch Report from the US Department of Energy (2005)

update of his views of the situation since then....

Question: Given where we are today, if you were made energy czar, what policy initiatives would you pursue?

Hirsch: If I was involved in the government at a high level, I would argue very strongly to the president that he needs to take national and international leadership on the problem. He should do some homework to be sure that he hears what the issues are -- do it quietly -- and then stand up and say, "world and country, we've got a very serious problem and here is what my administration is going to do about it." That's what I would argue for because somebody has to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes. That's going to be very difficult because people don't like to hear bad news, and this is terrible news, and as it sinks in, markets will drop and there will be an immediate recessionary reaction, because people will realize that this is such a horrendous problem that having a positive outlook on employment and the economy is just simply unrealistic.

More...

August 28, 2009

A fine discussion of 'legitimacy' from the fertile skull of blogger Charles Hugh Smith at OfTwoMinds.com.

"Claiming financial fraud is legitimate delegitimizes capitalism, the U.S. financial system and the U.S. as a nation...."

August 27, 2009

A lot of readers have been wondering what I think about Michael Lynch's recent op-ed piece in The New York Times:

Peak Oil is a Waste of Energy

I've debated Lynch on the radio. He is a world class horse's ass. The only significant thing about his piece is the poor judgment the Times shows in disseminating his inane views.

August 21, 2009

A nice lucid summation of things from Bill Bonner over at The Daily Reckoning:

The world economy will probably drag around a bit on the bottom...with low, or negative, growth rates in most places...until it finds a new model. The old model is dead. The authorities can put on as much rouge and powder as they want. They could even give the corpse jolts of electricity to make it sit up. But they can't revive it. It's finished. Over. Kaput....

Despite the urging of their government, Americans cannot be expected to take on more debt in order to continue consuming more stuff from China. Nor can the Chinese reasonably expect to work themselves out of an overcapacity problem by creating more of it.

August 20, 2009

A holy shit moment for the US Economy: National Asso of Homebuilders shutting down

From: The Executive Officers Council [mailto:eoc@nahb.mmsend.com]
On Behalf Of The Executive Officers Council
Sent: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 3:38 PM
Subject: NAHB to Shut Down Operations August 24 - 28

Dear Executive Officers,

As NAHB President and CEO Jerry Howard reported to the NAHB Board of Directors in May, NAHB will be closed for business for eight days in 2009 and will reduce compensation for the entire staff. Jerry noted that “this shut down plan, along with other cost-cutting measures that have already been adopted, is being implemented to help the Association save millions of dollars.”

As a reminder, under the plan NAHB will shut down its operations for the final week of August (August 24 through 28) and the three days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday (November 23, 24 and 25). In addition, all staff compensation will be cut by a commensurate amount. During this shut down, NAHB staff will not be in the office or generally available via phone or e-mail. Staff will answer any messages received during the closure when they return to the Office and normal business operations are resumed.
NAHB.org, a key communication tool for the Federation, will remain up and operational for your review during this time. Should you have a question or concern and are uncertain as to where it should be directed, you can review the NAHB Subject and Staff Directories at: www.nahb.org/contact, or leave a message with the NAHB Service Center via phone or e-mail at: 800-368-5242 x0 or info@nahb.org. Again, responses to any waiting e-mails will not take place until NAHB returns to normal business operations.
Your flexibility and support during this challenging time is appreciated.
Regards,
The Executive Officers Council

 

August 18, 2009

From the great blog, The Automatic Earth:
Bookmark it

If Washington would withdraw from the housing market now, home prices would revert to levels that people can actually afford. I don't know if you ever heard of a thing named "supply and demand", but you can look it up in the same dictionary, at the other end of where you found "Bulgaria". Supply and demand, or free market principles, if they were applied to the US real estate market today, would instantly bankrupt all of Wall Street, plus a few thousand smaller banks, plus Fannie and Freddie, and the parade wouldn't stop there. In other words, the entire economy is held together by the government taking money from its people and their children, and using it to prop up a financial system that guarantees those same children will not be able to afford a home of their own.

August 7, 2009

tattooed hands

Announcing fantastic investment opportunity for America's greatest new growth industry:

California company aims to build tattoo-removal empire across the US

 

August 3, 2009

R Crumbs Worst Case for America

Juan Wilson does a nice blog about Robert Crumb's artwork on the suburban fiasco (with an angle on the Kunstlercast).

August 1 2009

Brilliant Piece on the Health Care Fiasco by Charles Hugh Smith

"Here's why healthcare (a.k.a. sick-care) costs cannot be reduced; the entire system is based on vast pools of "free money." The corporate-America or union/government employee who goes to the doctor pays a few dollars for a visit and drugs; the "real cost" is of no concern. Ditto the "real costs" charged to Medicare and Medicaid...."

"There is a solution so simple and so radical that it is "impossible" (and of course you're reading it here): shut down insurance and all government entitlements, and return to the "golden era" of the 1950s when everyone paid cash for healthcare...."

Read More....

 

July 14, 2009

A sound and scary theory on major gaming of the stock market by Goldman Sachs and their ilk:

By John Mauldin

Buddy Can You Spare Five Trillion

...I want to direct the attention of those in the US finance industry to a white paper written by Themis Trading, called “Toxic Equity Trading Order Flow on Wall Street.” Basically, they outline why volume and volatility have jumped so much since 2007; and it’s not due to the credit crisis. They estimate that 70% of the volume in today’s markets is from high-frequency program trading. They outline how large brokers and funds can buy and sell a stock for the same price and still make 0.5 cents. Do that a million times a day and the money adds up. Or maybe do it 8 billion times....

 

June 30, 2009

Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse, explains why the fall of future oil supplies is likely to be swift and severe in The Slope of Dysfunction

"Perhaps you have heard of the Peak Oil theory? Most people have by now, even the people whose job used to involve denying the possibility that global crude oil production would peak any time soon. Now that everybody seems a bit more comfortable with the idea, perhaps it is time to reexamine it...."

dmitry orlov's peak oil aliens chart

 

June 26, 2009

Farewell King of Pop

      It's fascinating to follow the coverage of Michael Jackson's death, but especially the lavish tributes to his "genius" and general wonderfulness. He was, in fact, a monster, and an apt reflection of America's extreme collective cultural confusion. He was a distillation of the lies America tells itself. He was infantile, grandiose, horrifying, and probably dangerous. His "accomplishments" as a grown man amounted to little more than a half dozen popular songs. The arc of his life may have been tragic, but it was a tragedy of his own making. His sudden end brings to mind a remark Gore Vidal made upon hearing about the death of Truman Capote: "Good career move."

 

 

June 19 2009

The predictable destiny of DestiNY  

     The actual spelling was DestiNY USA. Get it?
     Some years ago, the villainous Pyramid Corporation (real name!) led by Robert Congel dreamed up a nightmare project of a super-giant shopping mall in Syracuse NY, to rival the Mall of America. The idea was that rubes would drive from places like Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Worcester, Mass, to buy sneakers in Syracuse. Congel hosed the city of Syracuse and the State of New York (thanks to Senator Hillary) for millions in tax incentives. He borrowed zillions more from Citigroup to get the project underway. Then The Long Emergency got underway. Citigroup cut off DestiNY's line-of-credit a few week ago. Game over....

Plywood goes up at Destiny USA
(click for full story)

by Rick Moriarty/The Post-Standard
Thursday June 18, 2009, 2:02 PM

Syracuse, NY -- Sign of the times at Destiny USA?
     In what could be another indication the project is shutting down, workers used plywood Thursday to cover up some of the openings in the exterior of the Carousel Center shopping mall addition....

destiNY shopping mall Syracuse closes down before it opens

 

June 15 2009

Rural Mich. counties turn failing roads to gravel

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Some Michigan counties have turned a few once-paved rural roads back to gravel to save money.

More than 20 of the state's 83 counties have reverted deteriorating paved roads to gravel in the last few years, according to the County Road Association of Michigan. The counties are struggling with their budgets because tax revenues have declined in the lingering recession.

Montcalm County converted nearly 10 miles of primary road to gravel this spring.

The county estimates it takes about $10,000 to grind up a mile of pavement and put down gravel. It takes more than $100,000 to repave a mile of road.

Reverting to gravel has happened in a few other states but it is most typical in Michigan. At least 50 miles have been reverted in the state in the past three years.

June 10, 2009

Department of... Huh...?:

Off the Bloomberg Wire:

Fed Unveils Lending Details Without Identifying Borrowers

 

June 2, 2009

Unbelievable stonewall...

...by Federal Reserve Inspector General Elizabeth A. Coleman appearing before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing of May 5, 2009. The questioner is Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida

eliz a coleman in congress

Is anyone minding the store??
Click here to Play YouTube of it


"Earth 2100" Sound Blackout

     ABC's “Earth 2100″ was broadcast in many media markets Tue night without the audio track (parts of California, Oregon, Texas, Ohio, Indiana, and my own Albany NY). I called up the ABC affiliate in Albany and they blew me off — “it’s a network issue,” they said. I think the public deserves an explanation for this.
    Did anyone else out there see this program and encounter this problem? I'd like to figure out how many localities were affected.

*

     My message to the ABC-TV network comment board prompted the following not-very-reassuring email reply (yet another lesson in the diminishing returns of computerized communications):

Dear ,

Thanks for sending us the feedback. We read every piece of information we get from our users, and will forward your contribution to the right people here at ABC News. Please stay in touch.

Sincerely,
The ABCNEWS.com team

 

 

May 30, 2009

Tattoo Barbie

For real !
What America needs right now: a trailer trash Barbie. Complete with toy pregnancy test.

Tattoo Barbie

Even features a Barbie "tramp stamp."

Tattoo Barbie tramp stamp

 

March 20, 2009

My cat Scooter communes with the wild turkeys who have been visiting under the bird feeder through the late winter.

jim kunstler's cat "scooter"

 

March 4, 2009

Dear Jim:

You stated in your blog today that you were anticipating financing problems for the 2009 crop year. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If there is one exception to the high risk borrowing, it would be agriculture. Having learned some difficult lessons in the 80’s, farmers by and large are in great financial condition in comparison to Wall Street and Main Street. The reason: Most farmers have little debt leverage. Ground that has been selling for astronomical levels over the past 5 years has mostly been purchased by farmers – FOR CASH! There will be no difficulty in obtaining financing for the 2009 crop. The banks would like for nothing more than to get their grimy hands on some prime farmland as collateral for operating loans.

I am a relatively small farmer with about 1,200 acres of row crops including corn, wheat, soybeans, milo and sunflowers in SE Illinois. My biggest fear isn’t financing for 2009 crops. My biggest fear is the continuing collapse in commodity prices. Current price levels for grains won’t come close to breakeven. My biggest fear is that once I plant my crop, prices will continue to plummet and I’ll be left stranded with huge input costs for fuel, machinery, labor, land, fertilizer seed, etc. Our input costs have not dropped in synch with commodity prices.

The other possibility I see is a systemic collapse of the banking system which would leave us with the counterparty risk of not having a viable end user to purchase what we grow. At the moment, my best strategy would be to leave my land idle and preserve my capital instead of throwing it on the crap table. It will require approximately $ 375,000.00 for me to plant my crops this year. We are about 45 days from normal planting date. It’s getting pretty scary at the moment.

I’m afraid as farmers we’ll be diving headlong into the abyss. . .

Dave Burt
Burt Farms

http://www.burtfarms.com

 

 

February 26, 2009

The Housing Bailout

Explained beautifully by Chris Martenson:

Politically, this is a great plan. Good sound bites and it looks like action. Also, roughly 9 million votes are secured for the next election. Two thumbs up in this regard.

Economically, it stinks. This is throwing good money after bad, and, worse, by seeking to “shore up sinking house prices,” it betrays a complete ignorance of the actual root of the problem. Blaming sinking housing prices for the fix we are in is equivalent to blaming the car for the drunk driving wreck. If Obama were to craft a similar program for drunk drivers, it would include new cars for any that happened to wreck their own. The problem is not that house prices are sinking, it’s that they got too high to sustain. It was a bubble for goodness sake! That’s the very definition of a bubble. Any and all attempts to “shore up” bubble prices is a doomed effort that will assuredly squander both additional capital and valuable time.

Morally, it is a complete disaster. The clear implication here for every sentient person is that it pays to be reckless. Moral hazard is written all over this one. I can easily envision millions of people arriving at the same conclusion: “I need to stop paying my mortgage right away so that I qualify for a handout!” It’s entirely sensible, and I would seriously consider this option if I had a mortgage and little or no equity in the house.

 

February 6, 2009

The horror, the horror

I was on a Continental Airlines connecting flight yesterday afternoon from Newark airport to Albany. Extremely high winds kept us on the runway in a take-off queue for two-and-a-half hours before takeoff. The ride was very turbulent and scary. I was pretty nervous There was a cool young man sitting across the aisle from me, a Continental pilot. The turbulence didn't affect him at all. I chatted with him a little, just out of nervousness. He said he had to fly several flights later that day and evening. One of them was Newark to Buffalo. He said he doubted the flight would get out later that night because of the runway wait times. This morning I learned that the Newark to Buffalo flight crashed seven miles short of the runway. Forty-nine people killed, including four crew members.

Plane crashes into suburban Buffalo home; 49 killed

 

February 6, 2009

A How Wall Street Reacts to Horrible Economic News:

dow feb 6

US Jobless rate Rises to 16 year high of 7.6 percent; payrolls fall by 598,000

GE's AAA rating is unsustainable

 

 

January 20, 2009

A stirring occasion

Barack Obama's induction to history was a great stirring ocassion, though the scale of it all -- those vistas of wool, polertec, and running noses stretching from the Capitol steps to the Washington Monument -- induced agoraphobia even over the television cable; it's hard to imagine how vertiginous the experience was for Mr. O. as he looked out at it. One also couldn't fail to notice the flags waved by so many African-American spectators standing on the mall and along the motorcade route that signaled love of country even after laboring under injustice for so long. The new president's speech was strong and straight, and there's no need to parse it here. But was there a dry eye anywhere in the USA after the Reverend Joseph Lowery's spectacular benediction?
The times are daunting. CF nation wishes President Barack Obama good luck and God speed !

January 6, 2009

Israel-haters come out of the closet

Bob Moriarty, the blogmaster of 321Gold.com took offense at what I said about the Hamas Israel conflict. I have gotten a raft of anti-Israel emails for suggesting that Hamas should quit lobbing rockets into Israel. To read Moriarity's whole rant, click here. If you wantto send Bob Moriarity a note, his email address is bob@321gold.com

Bob Moriarity wrote:

I have long been a fan of James Howard Kunstler, author of “The Long Emergency.” Up until today, I have recommended it to everyone I know. We have posted a dozen or so of his pieces, with a link to his site.

I’m sorry I did, it took a reader to point out to me Kunstler is a racist anti-Semitic whining War Criminal.

This is part of what he said, “Until the last few days of the year, that is. I'm sure the ever-growing cohort of American anti-Semites who send me emails will be tickled when I assert that the Hamas rocket attacks against Israel of recent days guaranteed a sharp response from Israel -- and now, of course, Hamas is playing the crybaby card: "... what'd we do to deserve this...?" Well, you fucking fired a bunch rockets into Israel. Did you ever hear of cause-and-effect?”

Well Mr. Kunstler, have you ever heard of cause-and-effect? If the Zionist war criminals running Israel and the American political system stopped stealing land from the original owners, perhaps they would not get rocketed.

Read the whole thing
Plus, read zesty antisemitic hate mail I've received

Bob Moriarty's latest email to me inveighing against Israel:

"You and Israel aren’t even smart enough to realize you have already had your ass kicked.

"I’ll give you a prediction that you can take to the bank and cash. If there is one Hamas member alive at the end of this carnage, they will be deemed to have won the war. You have lost everything and gained nothing. Any war not worth winning is not worth fighting.       Bob"

 

December 24, 2008

Rail Takes Back Seat as States Target Obama Stimulus for Roads

Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Missouri’s plan to spend $750 million in federal money on highways and nothing on mass transit in St. Louis doesn’t square with President-elect Barack Obama’s vision for a revolutionary re-engineering of the nation’s infrastructure.

Utah would pour 87 percent of the funds it may receive in a new economic stimulus bill into new road capacity. Arizona would spend $869 million of its $1.2 billion wish list on highways.

While many states are keeping their project lists secret, plans that have surfaced show why environmentalists and some development experts say much of the stimulus spending may promote urban sprawl while scrimping on more green-friendly rail and mass transit.

Read the rest...

December 8, 2008

Public Misinformed on Oil Again    

 Judging by Lesley Stahl's utterly idiotic report on the Saudi Arabian oil industry in this week's "60 Minutes," the flagship of the mainstream media still doesn't get it, and almost certainly the viewing public will once again draw all the wrong conclusions.
     Stahl batted her eyelashes and wrinkled her nose at a series of Saudi oil officials, who completely hosed her about their production prospects, their reserves, and the world's ability to keep industrial society running in its current form on Saudi oil for decades to come. Nobody outside the Saudi system was even interviewed to provide an alternate view. This report was unworthy of a major news-gathering organization.

Nov 5, 2008

Regime change comes to America.

Congratulations Sens.Barack Obama and Joe Biden !

      America gets to feel okay about itself for a little while before the rigors of reality assert themselves again.
      I had a rogue idea last night while watching the sequence of John McCain's fairly gracious concession speech (given the low down tone of his entire campaign, which cannot be blamed entirely on his handlers) and the stirring spectacle of the Obama rally and speech in Chicago's Grant Park (where I was gassed by the police back during the convention riots of 1968). My rogue idea was this: what if this nation can really begin to bootstrap itself into a realistic post-oil economy? It would require not just "change," but pretty severe change -- in essence accepting the reality of a way-of-life based not on "growth" but on fruitful activity, because that's where we're headed whether we like it or not. It will be interesting to see if President Obama can discover that reality for himself and lead a government that might guide a people through that dark passage.

 

Nov 2, 2008

Ambrose Evans Pritchard writing in the UK's Telegraph says:

"...In any case the damage caused as credit retrenchment squeezes real industry is likely to be so great that Barack Obama may have to pursue unthinkable policies, just as Franklin Roosevelt had to ditch campaign orthodoxies and go truly radical after his landslide victory in 1932. Indeed, Mr Obama – if he wins – may have to start by nationalizing the US car industry."

     JHK's Comment: I kind of think we'll have to nationalize some remnant of the US auto industry in order to retain the ability to make military vehicles.  


THE 2008 ELECTION INTERLUDE BLOGETTE (Reads backwards, sorry)

October 20, 2008

The Curious Case of McCain

     For the unsentimental among us, John McCain has demonstrated an interesting paradox in behavior: how someone regarded as a war hero can end up behaving so ignominiously -- by running a presidential campaign based almost wholly on scurrilous attacks and trafficking in lies about his opponent. The latest is the barrage of "robot" phone calls going out to voters that declare Barrack Obama to be a "terrorist." Remember, back in the Vietnam War, John McCain did not choose to be shot down and taken prisoner. It was just something that happened to him. He was able to endure his captivity, and suffered greatly in the process. But he didn't necessarily come out of it a person of good character. People would like to think so, but perhaps it just didn't happen that way.

*

Remember to spread the "meme" -- help "re-brand" the Republicans as The Party That Wrecked America

 

October 8, 2008

Great Debate Number Two

What tedium. Neither of the candidates was able to honestly articulate the terms of what this society faces. Both are more-or-less trying to hose the voters with promises that can't be kept about pensions and medical care. Both are deluding the voters when they repeat the mantra about "energy independence." But on the level of what is revealed about character, these debates tell a different story. John McCain comes across as desperate, feeble, and hooked on scurrilous insinuation. His reference last night to Mr. Obama as "that one," established a new low in campaign manners. Mr. Obama comes across as self-possessed and fair-minded, even if he couldn't bring himself to tell the voters the truth about their diminishing prospects. Given the background situation of the melting financial landscape, Mr. McCain looks all but finished.


October 6, 2008

Our "Hero"

    Did John McCain authorize Sarah Palin's thoroughly scurrilous attack on Barack Obama this weekend in which she accused him of "paling around with domestic terrorists" -- ?? If so, it is a further demonstration of the fact that being a war hero, of surviving an enemy prison camp, is no guarantee of future honorable behavior. McCain is running a guttersnipe campaign.

October 3, 2008

The Veep Debate

Sarah Palin is an excellent performer. The trouble is the nature of her performance -- a vindictive know-nothing out of her depth in national politics, tricked out like a sexy librarian in a porn movie to seduce the votes of all those sore beset uptight Midwestern babbits whose car dealerships are going out of business. The spectacle of seeing Ms. Palin presented as a serious national candidate only reflects on the dishonorable behavior of John McCain, who cynically picked her as his running mate.

A reader from Ohio reminds us of a very important point:
"$700 billion could completely rebuild the US passenger system! All the way to complete eletrification and to the same standards the French enjoy with their TGVs."
Its enough money to bring service to every town of 5000 and up.

Sept 26, 2008

A Scene for the History Books
From The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The day began with an agreement that Washington hoped would end the financial crisis that has gripped the nation. It dissolved into a verbal brawl in the Cabinet Room of the White House, urgent warnings from the president and pleas from a Treasury secretary who knelt before the House speaker and appealed for her support.

“If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.

Sept 25, 2006 

    What on earth was John McCain thinking when he "suspended" his campaign -- including a duck-out from the first debate? This was his response, by the way, to Barack Obama's phone call to him suggesting that the two of them put out a joint statement supporting some kind of swift congressional action to prop up the credit markets. I suppose McCain was trying to "look presidential" by rushing back to the geographic center of power. But after twelve hours the gambit has already taken on the odor of a major blunder, since McCain's rush back to Washington was upstaged by President Bush's TV speech last night -- even though Bush came off like a cigar store indian delivering his plea for action.
      Meanwhile, events on the financial scene are still out-pacing personalities and parties. At 7:00 am Thursday some deal points seem to be in place involving executive pay and government equiity stakes. But I think this is still a smokescreen for the real central issue, which is transparency -- the clear market valuing of the troubled securities that so many playerz in the system want to off-load on the taxpayers.

Sept 24, 2008

Bailout Games
    What an amazing spectacle to watch the Senate hearings on C-Span last night with Treasury Sec'y Hank Paulson, Fed Chief Ben Bernanke, and SEC chairman Chris Cox.
    Most conspicuous was Paulson's tortured squirming as he avoided the outstanding question at issue, which is whether holders of securitized debt of dubious value can simply dump them on the US Treasury in exchange for "real money?"  Paulson wants the holders of these things (called "assets" but which are really liabilities) to be able to exchange them for whatever price they say they are worth. This bypasses the fundamental process of markets establishing the price of a security (otherwise known as "mark-to-market").
    Notice that this is essentially a swindle.
   Notice that many of the holders of this paper are the same people (and companies) that created it.
    Notice that the company headed until recently by Treasury Sec'y Paulson (former CEO of Goldman Sachs), was not only in the forefront of engineering these debt securities, but that an office within Goldman Sachs was shorting the very securities that they were creating and selling to other banks, pension funds, and municipal investment funds
?
    The US Senate and Congress are being squeezed very hard to pass desperate enabling legislation that would allow the dumping of all this worthless paper. Their desperation may overcome even the wrath of their constituents, who are catching on to this scam. However, I'm not convinced that anything they pass will, in fact, stabilize the collapse of this house-of-cards. Many additional horrors are waiting in the wings to work their own hoodoo, including the fiasco of credit default swaps (another swindle class of investment paper), and the debacle of credit card default along with automobile re-pos. Meanwhile nothing prevents the continued slide of house prices back to (and probably beyond) parity with incomes -- not to mention the gathering losses of incomes (i.e. jobs) that will wring more solvency out of the American public.

Sept 9, 2008

The Party That Wrecked America

     It's official: John McCain and Sarah Palin are up in the latest polls now that the conventions are over. This is a positive development. It will give the Obama-Biden campaign incentive to get serious. It would have been a disaster for Obama-Biden to come out of this past week ahead. It might have prompted them to kick back and be complacent.
    McCain-Palin have nowhere to go now but down, and I will tell you exactly how this will happen. They can run away from President Bush, but they can't run away from the Republican Party. The Republicans will be regarded from now on as "the party that wrecked America." Over the weeks ahead, as carnage in the economy and the financial markets ramps up, it will become increasingly clear. It is important that this meme be spread through the internet. I urge all commentators who read this blog to adopt and spread the idea that the Republicans are "the party that wrecked America." It will work because it is the truth. Use it freely. Don't bother attributing it to me. Just spread the word. Get the meme going.

Quote of the day: Mike Morgan on bad debt contagion in the financials:

"This is a virus, with a 100% kill rate. This is a pandemic, the likes of which we have never seen. This is only something that can be fixed after we kill all the players that carry the virus, because the virus only dies when the host is dead. The hosts are the sick financial institutions being run by crooked executives, regulated by incompetent regulators, appointed by blissfully ignorant politicians and at the end of the line is a judicial system that is without power to do anything."


Sept 8

The Party That Wrecked America

It's official now: John McCain and Sarah Palin are up in the latest polls now that the conventions are over. I view this as a positive development. It will give the Obama-Biden campaign incentive to get serious. It would have been a disaster for Obama-Biden to come out of this past week ahead. It might have prompted them to kick back and be complacent.
McCain-Palin have nowhere to go now but down, and I will tell you exactly how this will happen. They can run away from President Bush, but they can't run away from the Republican Party. The Republicans will be regarded from now on as "the party that wrecked America." Over the weeks ahead, as carnage in the economy and the financial markets ramps up, it will become increasingly clear. It is important that this meme be spread through the internet. I urge all commentators who read this blog to adopt and spread the idea that the Republicans are "the party that wrecked America." It will work because it is the truth. Use it freely. Don't bother attributing it to me. Just spread the word. Get the meme going.

Sept 5

The Old War Horse

       John McCain, an old hero in a dishonored political party, made his appeal to the nation last night. In contrast to the vicious bombast all around him this week in Minneapolis, it was a pretty low-key, diffuse appeal. Strangest of all was his attempt to dissociate himself from the very party he was pitching his appeal to. The net effect was to lay all the blame for the mismanagement of US affairs on George Bush's doorstep, and hope that the voters don't notice that George W. Bush is not the only person running the US government (or that the Republican Party has been a full partner in the enterprise).
     The internal contradictions in McCain's pitch were such that he fell back on the prisoner-of-war narrative as the main reason voters should elect him. It is a powerful narrative of survival, but it was a long time ago in a different campaign called the Vietnam War, and one senses that if he trots it out again, let's say in the upcoming debates, it will start to sound like a sob story.
      Both McCain and his stratagists are trying to make the most of a campaign devoid of ideas or an agenda for action by turning it into campaign about feelings and symbols. By a strange paradox, they have succeeded in feminizing their party. The Democrats started doing that in in 1984 with the snivelly Walter Mondale, but they have now gone in the other direction and re-masculinized. My guess is that the voters will notice, including the female voters -- and the times ahead will seem sufficiently scary by November that the old war horse and his old prisoner story, propped up by his Gal Friday veep, will seem inadequate to the new tasks-at-hand compared to the much more credible and straightforward Obama and Biden. That is, unless this nation is so far gone that it actually decides to commit suicide.
     One hint of that came in McCain's remarks about former Soviet Georgia (birthplace of Joseph Stalin) -- one of the few parts of his speech where he departed from a fuzz and gauze rhetoric of mere feelings. If there's a case of US imperial over-reach these days, Georgia is exhibit-number-one. It is clearly not in our sphere of influence and provoking Russia over it by meddling there is nothing less than an invitation to commence hostilities. Perhaps that is what war horses do. It seems extremely unwise.
     Mostly I'm relieved that the conventions are over. How mortifying to see our countrymen parading around in ridiculous hats, like eight-year-olds, and what is increasingly becoming a Nuremburg-style display of jingo-patriotic symbolism -- fifty-foot high televised flags and such. I shudder to think of what people in other nations think of us when they see us act this way.
    Anyway, I think the mainstream media has missed so far the real story-line developing in this election -- the US economy is cratering, and the banking-finance sector is blowing up. Moving into October, the Republican Party will come to be seen as the party that wrecked America. I doubt the old war horse can overcome that.

Sept 4

The Patriot Game - Wednesday


     The odious soap opera in Minneapolis gets worse each night, this one like a Sandra Bullock movie produced and directed by the Devil. I tuned in for Rudolf Giuliani's keynote speech, a hyperthyroid exercise in oratorical thuggery, which led directly to the main event, Sarah Palin's acceptance of the vice-presidential nomination.
     She quickly proved to be a confident podium performer, but the content and tenor of her remarks conveyed all the petty viciousness and insecurity of the Republican right-wing. As she spoke, the cameras panned around her rapt audience, affording snapshots of the dumbest white people in America, self-congratulatory in their small-town ignorance and brined in a dangerous jingo-patriotism that must make leaders in other nations cringe in amazement at the rhetorical recklessness being served up. Everything about her speech was small-minded, vindictive, smugly sarcastic, and shot through with falsehood (e.g. that the Republicans will "lead America to energy independence"). You wonder how much kool-aid these people have to drink to believe their own bullshit. In fact, watching Ms. Palin's performance, two notions came to mind and lodged there firmly: 1.) That the Republican Party has itself become a vector of terrorism, and 2.) that these are exactly the people I had in mind when I conceived the term "corn-pone Nazis" to describe the worst outcome of an over-stressed society.
     In the aftermath, with the whole Palin family bathed in cheering before a giant televised waving flag, the true ethos of this phony spectacle revealed itself: this is the party of losers, and Sarah is their cheerleader. Deep down, Americans feel like losers. Our economy is cratering in an abyss of greed and foolishness. We're exhausting our resources in imperial military adventures. And we're stuck in a car-dependent living arrangement with no future. This bunch doesn't want to face the reality in any of this. They just want to "drill drill drill" so they can keep snowmobiling and rack up more credit card purchases of Chinese-manufactured salad shooters in the WalMart.
      Here's an interesting question: if they win the election, will Sarah Palin and her whole family move to Washington when she takes up her duties? What will her husband do there? Who will take care of her "special needs" baby while the mother is learning how to become commander-in-chief of the armed forces and guardian of a nuclear arsenal (plus presiding over the senate)? Will daughter Bristol stay home in Alaska with her teenage husband and their new baby?
     Tonight is the climax of this awful spectacle. John McCain gets to explain why the party that wrecked America deserves another term running things in the in the nation's capital.

Sept 3

Pretend-O-Rama in Minneapolis

     What a sordid spectacle it was to watch the Republican dignitaries and delegates strain to pretend that John McCain's impulsive Vice-Presidential pick, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, was a great choice, and that the US economy was strong. But as one member of the club explained it, this election is not so much about issues as about feelings. I'll tell you what feeling is expressed overwhelmingly by the Republican script: insecurity. They know they are absolutely full of crap and that a big portion of the electorate is on to them. Hence, all the jingo-patriotism, including their scurrilous motto, "Country First," as if their Democratic opponents were foreign agents. There were moments last night (Tuesday) when the pretending and outright lying got so strenuous, I thought I was at a Pinocchio look-alike contest. These are the people who are locked into defending the mis-investments of the past, in every sense. They will not adapt to the emerging realities of the future, or even entertain the notion that it is necessary. They will also come to be regarded, as this campaign moves into the heart of autumn, and the banks start crashing, as the party that wrecked America. In fact, speaking of feelings, I have a feeling that the Republican party is so morally bankrupt that it might actually explode in factional war after this election, and maybe even blow up altogether. They are the Whigs of our time.

Sept 8

The Party That Wrecked America

It's official now: John McCain and Sarah Palin are up in the latest polls now that the conventions are over. I view this as a positive development. It will give the Obama-Biden campaign incentive to get serious. It would have been a disaster for Obama-Biden to come out of this past week ahead. It might have prompted them to kick back and be complacent.
McCain-Palin have nowhere to go now but down, and I will tell you exactly how this will happen. They can run away from President Bush, but they can't run away from the Republican Party. The Republicans will be regarded from now on as "the party that wrecked America." Over the weeks ahead, as carnage in the economy and the financial markets ramps up, it will become increasingly clear. It is important that this meme be spread through the internet. I urge all commentators who read this blog to adopt and spread the idea that the Republicans are "the party that wrecked America." It will work because it is the truth. Use it freely. Don't bother attributing it to me. Just spread the word. Get the meme going.

Sept 1, 2008

Family Values Republican Style

     Meet America's first trailer-trash vice-presidential candidate: Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska ("the state closest to Russia!" ) -- soon-to-be grandmother of out-of-wedlock child carried by 17-year-old daughter, Bristol. Shown here relaxing, Alaska-style.

Sarah Palin with bikini and rifle

Aug 29, 2008

The Democratic Convention Wrap up
Day Four
Sorry I missed Day Three here, but the quick recap:
Hillary played the withholding bitch right up to the end -- it was always about her. This crap about telling her supporters to vote their own feelings instead of coming out and telling them to get serious and vote for Obama... well, the narcissism was just breathtaking. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, being that extremely rare bird, the empathetic narcissist, recovered some of his own stature in the process of generously and fully endorsing Mr. O.
It is hard not to like Joe Biden, who came across as an authentic, well-integrated personality with humor and guts. He will be all over Mr. McCain like a cheap suit the next two months.

The Obama "moment" Thursday night was at once stirring, gratifying, and reassuring -- watching a capable young man in the prime of his life call his country to attention after a long sleepwalk. We certainly are a better nation than we have appeared to be in recent memory. We're on board this train.

The good news is that the Republican Convention, opening Monday, will likely be eclipsed by hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico. The Party That Wrecked America gets what it deserves.

Day Two
Excellent column by Maureen Dowd about the antics of Hillary and her supporters.

...this Democratic convention has a vibe so weird and jittery, so at odds with the early thrilling, fairy dust feel of the Obama revolution, that I had to consult Mike Murphy, the peppery Republican strategist and former McCain guru.

“What is that feeling in the air?” I asked him.

“Submerged hate,” he promptly replied.

Day One

    I tuned in just as Nancy Pelosi started in on her speech constructed entirely of cliches and platitudes. The strategy, I gather, is to serve up as much innocuous reassurance to a public perceived as extremely skittish -- especially about Democratic ideology centered on fiscal largesse, not to mention the coronation of the party's first African-American candidate for top office. There is something inescapably the "party hack" about Pelosi, despite her pleasant grandmotherly looks and demeanor, that is unsettling -- I suppose it's the notion that she is not really capable of framing our serious problems coherently, or of accomplishing anything poltically to address them.
     On the other hand, it was hard to not be impressed by the rhetorical skill and personal charm of young Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr, who followed Pelosi. Jackson came closest Monday night to a reality-based appeal to "the better angels of our nature" aspect of politicking.
     Caroline Kennedy came off as curiously wooden, lacking in passion, and not terribly interesting in her introduction to "Uncle Teddy." The short film about him was... weird... focusing, as it did, on his ability to sail a sixty-foot yacht that probably cost two million dollars. Well, okay, we know the Kennedy's all came into a fortune... but, really, when you're trying to appeal to a middle class whose standard-of-living withers a little more every day, this seemed a bit... out of touch. However, Kennedy's repeated emotional (and genuine) appeals for decent healthcare made perhaps the most important point of his segment. The senator's real-live speech had the aura of a corpse eulogizing himself at an Irish wake -- and there were plenty of moist eyes in the audience that seemed tuned into this theme -- but the tribute to the "old lion" was certainly understandable (and inescapable), and the big symbolic moment came when he reiterated his late brother's memorable line that "the torch has been passed to a new generation...." just as his terminal illness threatens to carry him off into history with Jack and Bobby and Joe Junior.
      Michelle Obama carried her headline speech off with signal aplomb, though the whole thing came off as very much a calculated performance -- the catch being everybody knew it was meticulously planned as such. The genuine moments with her kids and the screen image of Barack off in Kansas City, had a more charmingly awkward authenticity. Altogether, they come off exactly as engineered: an appealing, normal family grounded by two parents familiar with the vicissitudes of life and not the least bit stuck-up about where destiny is taking them.
     Footnote: I happened to 'cruise' by PBS just as Jim Lehrer and his gang were chatting up Jimmy Carter. It was grand to see this excellent former President so at ease, so articulate, and in seemingly good health.

 


Aug 14, 2000

Steve Jobs Meets Franz Kafka
Apple's MobileMe Fiasco

     The hard drive on my MacBook (laptop) died last week and Apple replaced it in two days on warranty. So far, so good. The trouble really started with Apple's iDisk program. idisc is a service Apple offers for a couple of hundred bucks a year. It gives you some storage space on a remote server so you can send files 'out there' where you can retrieve them when you are on-the-road. For instance, if I'm working on a chapter, I can upload it to idisc and and then work on it away from home. It's also good "insurance" against loss-of-files in case your house burns down. Finally, idisk also offered an additional service of sychnchronizing things like address books and web bookmarks between one's desktop and laptop computers... pretty handy.
     Now, wouldn't you know it, Apple has really screwed up. Some months back, they decided to rename idisk "MobileMe," and reconfigure it. The transition has been a fiasco. It has caused me huge headaches this week, such as the loss of my email account (through a botched synchronization).
     But here's the really weird part: Apple's technical support has been excellent in the past. They have live human beings (here in the USA) available by phone and the wait is rarely longer than ten minutes. Except they have decided not to offer phone support for MobileMe / idisk. In other words, the most screwed-up part of their system is the one thing they don't offer phone support on. Instead, they make you go on an internet chat line, which is extremely cumbersome and ineffective. What I want to know: if you can pay somebody to sit in front of a keyboard, why can't you put a phone headset on him or her?
     Someone please call Steve Jobs and ask him to get his head out of his ass on this one. The one thing you don't offer phone support for is the service that we pay $200 a year extra for -- ???
     If Apple stumbles, this country is really lost.

August 11, 2008

Airlines Fiasco: Report From the Front Lines

     I'm still recovering from one of the worst airplane journeys of my career last weekend. Seven hours of delays on the way out to Colorado was nothing. The way back was something else. Three line-ups for a stand-by ticket (on account of original long flight delay) ending in failure to get a stand-by ticket. Finally made it to Chicago. Ran like hell from Terminal C to the E-F Terminal. Banged on the jetway door to a connecting flight that had "closed" more than ten minutes before scheduled departure (huh?). Got let in, finally, when employee responded to door-banging. Sat on the plane for three hours waiting for a thunderstorm to end. When the storm ended, pilot announced that flight was cancelled (huh?). No explanation. Ran like hell to another F gate for a different flight to Albany, NY. Got stand-by ticket. Boarded plane. Sat in plane on runway for two more hours. Wheels up finally at 1 a.m. Got home at 4 a.m.
     Now, a lot of this trouble was weather-related. But it was greatly aggravated by the extreme shortage of United Airlines ground employees. There are just no gate agents around. So, when delays occur, there is nobody around to re-book passengers. The majority of Customer Service desks are shuttered, and the few open ones have lines a quarter-mile long, so that even if you got on line, you'd miss the next available flight before anybody re-booked you.
     The result of all this is a climate of anxiety, helplessness, and despair that makes air travel a miserable experience. You never know whether your flight will take off. The few ground employees actually on duty lie incessantly about the reasons for delays and cancellations (or say they have no information). If you get on a flight, you never know whether you will make your connection, or whether your connection will be there (if an actual plane will get there from someplace else).
     The overall effect of US aviation these days is of life during wartime.
     I'm quite sure it's not going to get better.

 

July 30, 2008

Letter from Australian doctor on implications of Peak Oil for medicine

"...One of the ideas that I'm trying to develop for these talks and the possible interview is the critical dependence of modern medicine on the productive capacity and complexity per se of our modern industrial society. Given the absolute dependence of our industrial economy on abundant cheap energy, I'm sure that PO means huge problems for high tech medicine." Read more

 

July 16, 2008

"DRILL DRILL DRILL ! ! !"

Why this is a fool's mantra
A discussion with letters from Matthew Simmons and also from Jeff Brown of TheOilDrum.com. . . .


July1, 2008

Excellent piece in the UK Telegraph by Mick Brown on American decline. Very thoughtful and comprehensive

Once symbolic of optimism and certainty, America's credit-crunched suburbs may be facing a decline as dramatic as that of Detroit, itself once a beacon of industry. Mick Brown and the photographer Alec Soth continue their investigation into the contrasting fortunes of the US and China. . . .

 

July 1, 2004

Greedy Fuck Gets Away With Ill-Gotten Fortune.
Grasso Wins Dismissal of Remaining Parts of Pay Case

By Karen Freifeld and Thom Weidlich

July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Richard Grasso, the former New York Stock Exchange chairman, won dismissal of the two remaining parts of the state's lawsuit over his $190 million pay package.

A state appeals court in Manhattan today said former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer lost the authority to maintain the case against Grasso when the Big Board was converted to a for-profit business.

``Unless it's reversed on appeal, Grasso has won this particular lawsuit, because there's nothing left,'' said Richard Schulman, a lawyer with Bryan Cave in New York who isn't involved in the case.

June 28, 2008

Very interesting letter from reader George Abert on oil and its relation to the finance fiasco

James;
You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote regarding my theory that a substantial chunk of the increase in the price of oil was due to speculation to offset bad debt portfolios by the larger east coast investment houses. What puzzled me was how this worked: because once the futures are bid up and the margins made, then the price of crude at the head assumes the previous month’s futures price! The short answer is that a kind of ratcheting mechanism is at work: once the price is bid up, it stays there until it is bid up again the following month.
It’s reported that the level of oil futures market activity by these investment houses is significant, with at least 10 percent of the futures market controlled in any one month. With each market manipulation, their margin per barrel is probably around $5.00. So if you take 10 percent of 85,000,000 barrels a day times 30 days in an average month times $5.00 you get a total of $1,275,000,000 in margin. With each month of these shenanigans, these banks can offset upwards of 12,000 subprime mortgages. Not a lot given that there may be upwards of 2,000,000 of these ticking time bombs, and considerably more if the banks fail to walk the razor’s edge they’ve defined for themselves. At this rate, it will take over ten years to offset the bad debt portfolios and only if few of those who have investment accounts make withdrawals. At the rate of +$5.00 a month, the price for a barrel of oil in 2018 would probably be over $900. It will never get there!
So each month, the investment houses pay out cash to those with account holders who demand it, offset bad paper and then go back to work the futures market with what’s left and what they borrow for 30 days from the Fed. As long as they work quickly, they can keep ahead of the game, at least until the price of oil destroys the underlying economic base. It’s reported that with Americans now paying around 11 percent of their income on energy, we are getting pretty darn close to the end of these shenanigans: in the 1973-74 time frame, the tipping point was reached when Americans had to pay more than 12 percent of their income for energy. When oil gets to $150/barrel in two to three months we’ll be past that point.
Another thing to note: a fair amount of funds in the investment accounts are withdrawn annually in the July-August time frame so that middle class parents can pay college tuition. This is one of the reasons why the market always drops in value in the late summer.
If you consider the combined effects of both the limits to oil futures manipulation and the annual July-August tuition dip and you have some of the makings of a perfect storm.
I think that we very well could be witness the effects of gravity on some very big shoes within the next two months.
It is a pity that potatoes do not have planting instructions written on them like Burpee seed packets do.
Regards,
GEORGE W. ABERT, AIA
ROSEMARY BEACH, FL

 

June 25, 2008

Interesting Letters from two correspondents:

1. Beware the Electric Grid this Winter

Jim,
I just did the math. The Northeast Electric grid is going to collapse next winter.
A gallon of home heating oil is 130,500 btu's and oil burners are 80% efficient. At $4.50 a gallon 1000 btu's of oil heat costs $0.043.
A kilowatt hour of electricity is 3413 btu's and electric heaters are almost 100% efficient. At $0.15 per kilowatt hour (what we pay in NH) 1000 btu's of electric heat costs $0.044.
The public will soon figure out that plugging in electric space heaters and leaving the electric stove on 24/7 will be a cheaper way to heat the house next winter than to run the oil burner. Besides the electric utility companies are prohibited from shutting off your electricity during winter.
Sixty percent of the homes in New England heat with oil. There is no way the electric grid can handle the increased demand.
-- Correspondent in New Hampshire.

2. Apropos the oil situation

They're dragging rigs that were made in the late 40s off the fence line, patching them up and sending them out....and there still ain't enough. Never mind the bottlenecks around too few people to run them, too few mechanics to service them, people living in tents, and on and on. Months and months of lag time because they can't get a part or something.

And people think drilling off FL is going to bring gas down by September....

--Correspondent in Virginia

 

June 21, 2008

 Friday night, my little dachshund, Sammy, lost his life.
     He was twelve years old, at least, possibly a little older. I adopted him seven years ago at the suggestion of a friend, who saw him up at Adirondack Save-A-Stray. His original owner, an elderly lady, had to give him up to go into a nursing home. He was a comical and sweet-tempered little feller. He had developed the bad habit only recently of nipping at the "heels" of cars leaving the house, and that's what he did Friday night when he made the error in judgment that took his life. We had a dog funeral on Saturday morning and laid him to rest with his favorite bunk and blanket. He was truly a good little boy and I'll miss him a lot.

Jim Kunstler and his dog Sammy on Lake George 2005

Sammy and me on Lake George, 2005

 

June 20 2008

Courtesy of TheOilDrum.com...

A must see video on CNBC this morning. Dr. Robert Hirsch explaining why oil prices are high and going higher. He stated “Economists don’t understand the situation!” He also stated, concerning offshore drilling, something to the effect, that when the recession hits and gets deeper and deeper each year and people start losing their cars and homes, opinions are going to change.

 

June 18 2008

Ominous rumblings from interesting places.
     A startling press release hitting the media this morning. The Royal Bank of Scotland warning investors of an imminent stock market crash between now and September. . . adding to the Bank of International Settlements warning of a second Great Depression (June 9). . . plus Morgan Stanley reissuing an older warning of a crash in equity markets. One thing we know for sure: the big banks have postponed the workout of their massive bad debts for about a year by playing pattycake with the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England. It's a game that couldn't go on forever. It has led to paralysis in lending. Meanwhile, these banks have shut down their securitization mills, meaning they are no longer generating the huge fees that they'd become routinely accustomed to. And every month the securities they sit on lose value as the revenue stream is choked down by mortgage defaults.

June 12, 2008

Two excellent new books by friends-of-Jim....

1. Leisureville by Andrew D. Blechman
I read this laugh-out-loud work of journalism in galley-proof some time ago and it finally hit the stores a few weeks ago. Blechman spent weeks in a huge, bizarre Florida retirement "community" called The Villages, where the developer exercised Orwellian control over the resident oldsters in everything from the piped-in Muzak to the feel-good local newspaper, to the developer-owned pick-up bars for randy seniors -- and note that they have one of the highest group STD rates in the nation! It presents such a weird picture of our national psyche that your left in a kind of delirious awe at the general indignity of American life. Four and a half stars.

2. Reinventing Collapse by Dmitry Orlov
 Orlov is a tremendously subtle, mordant writer who grew up until age 12 in the disingtegrating Soviet Union, escaped to America for his teen years, and returned to Russia periodically as an adult American-based businessman both before and after the Soviet downfall. In America, he has been among the most astute commentators on the implications of Peak Oil, and he posits a unique view of an impending US collapse every bit as dire as the Soviet fiasco -- except twenty years on, America seems, if anything, more poorly prepared. For instance, the Soviet Russians were used to failed agriculture for decades and became prolific home gardeners. Now we see the US food system teetering, in part because of our desperate and reckless ethanol program, and hardly one American in 10,000 knows how to grow a potato. The fascinating observations don't stop there. Four and three-quarters stars.

June 6 2008

Airlines Dying, Democrats Better Take Up Initiative on Revival of Passenger Rail -- are you listening Mr. Obama?

Letter From a Pilot for Major US Airline

. . . United is parking 6 - 747s and 94 - 737s and somehow doing that by only eliminating 1,100; Continental announced today parking 67 airplanes and shedding 3,000 employees. US Airways President Kirby met with West pilots in PHX last week, and when asked about furloughs, was told there is a hot evaluation going on inside the company, and to expect to hear The Plan in two weeks: so that's 7-10 days from now. Kirby made a strong point when asked, that there were still too many empty seats for airlines to be able to charge what it costs to provide the service, ie, pass on fuel increases.

Plus update from the railroad front: Letter to JHK from Railroad Employee

 

June 4, 2008

Obama Wraps Up Nomination
     
What a relief to finally see the end of all that!
     Hillary's message, essentially of defiance and peevishness, was disgusting in the strictest sense of the word. In the end, she is a power-crazed harpy.
     McCain's event in New Orleans was a wan scene, with scanty-looking audience of narcoleptic shills who could barely bother to cheer. The old war hero sounded extremely pugnacious, denouncing his opponent by name in every other line, it seemed. His behavior gave off the odor of fear and defeat. He came off looking like a 21st century edition of General Winfield Scott.
     Barack Obama contrasted with both his opponents as confident, self-possessed, generous, and forward-looking. The TV heads were right for a change: it was a signal moment in American history. We've been subject for so long to what is sordid in our culture that it is shocking to recognize that we have some things to be proud of.
    Over the next five months, conditions are liable to grow more difficult for the people of America. Personally, I believe the Republican Party will stand discredited and reviled before the election happens. If Obama wins, he will face a tide of woe. I hope he is able to inform the public what we are in for.

May 22, 2008

Oil Passes $135/barrel in overnight Asian trading. Meanwhile, the airlines swerved closer to the end of their death spiral. American Airlines is cutting back 10 to 12 percent on its service starting in October, charging $15-a-bag for checked luggage, and firing thousands of employees. The airline's stock dropped 24 percent yesterday. The CEO of AA said, "The industry will not and cannot continue in its current state. The fact that four more airlines have liquidated this year and one is operating in Chapter 11 is clear evidence of that...."


Meanwhile, top executives of the US oil industry appeared before a Senate panel yesterday. This exercise demonstrated that the US Senate members remain utterly clueless about the global oil predicament, a.k.a. Peak Oil. They also apparently have no idea how the worldwide oil trade operates. In fact, 90 percent of the oil traded around the world (including the more than two-thirds of all America's supply which is imported) is produced not by the old "majors," but by the newer nationalized oil companies such as Saudi Aramco, Mexico's Pemex, Brazil's Petrobras, and so on. Anyway, world oil prices are set in an auction process on the spot and futures markets, not by the producers. Congress could slap punative windfall profits taxes on the old US "majors" (Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, et al), but that would only put in place a huge disincentive for this country to produce the oil it has left, and the net effect of less US oil being produced would be higher oil prices world-wide (including here). Meanwhile, notice that today's New York Times barely mentions the growing oil emergency.

May 20, 2008

Boone Speaks -- Oil Markets Snap

Boone Pickins went on CNBC Squawk Box this morning and predicted $150-a-barrel oil this year... and the oil markets went into new record territory a few hours later... hitting $129 and change by 11 a.m. Gold is back over $900. The dollar back to sinking against the Euro. And the Dow down nearly 200 points. I'm not cheerleading for doom, you understand... merely asserting that we have a problem in the USA. Our behavior and our lifestyle are not consistent with reality. The markets are registering this for the moment. They'll go back into delusional territory again, as the wishful thinking ramps back up, but the trendline is clear.

Also, check out stupid fucking editorial in the New York Times promoting a bailout of troubled home mortgages.

May 13, 2008

Hillbillies, Nascar Morons, and eleven-fingered folk go big for Clinton.

CNN: Analysis: Clinton crushes Obama across the board

The Unstoppable One wreaks more havoc in the Democratic Party trying to prove that she's the only candidate white people will vote for.

May 11, 2008

Wal-Mart profit rises 6.9 pct, beats Street view
Tuesday May 13, 7:02 am ET

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. says its profit rose nearly 7 percent in its first quarter on higher sales. The results beat Wall Street's expectations.
The world's biggest retailer said Tuesday it earned $3.02 billion, or 76 cents per share, in the three months ended April 30. That was up from $2.83 billion, or 68 cents per share a year earlier.

JHK's Comment: In a contracting overall economy, this means one thing: that WalMart gets all the business while all other businesses, large, medium, and small, lose. Anybody who thinks this is cause for cheerleading misunderstands what is happening to this country. The good news behind this is that WalMart's equation for doing business will suffer hugely as the permanent oil crisis gains traction. Like the giant mammal, Baluchitherium, of the Miocene age, WalMart has assumed its greatest scale just before extinction.

        walmart of death                     baluchiterium

 

May 6, 2008

The Gas Tax Holiday
  
   This is one of the more amazingly inane ideas to come along in a long time. It appears to be supported by just about everybody except Barak Obama and Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York Legislative Assembly. Hillary Clinton and John McCain gave it the full monte demagogue treatment.
     The discussions about it so far have mostly focused on the probability that the gasoline retailers would simply raise the pump price to get it back up to exactly where it was before. A few people mentioned that gasoline taxes make up a subtantial amount of the funding for bridge and highway repairs -- an important point. But to me, the most obvious shortcoming of the Gas Tax Holiday has been completely overlooked, namely, the impossibility of coming back in the fall and restoring the tax! What politician would have the cojones to tell the public that the holiday was over?

March 17, 2008

A correspondent working for the US Dept of Agriculture brings strange tidings about government solvency.    

     "I'm writing you this email to tell you something which I find pretty
disturbing. USDA is the second largest federal office building in D.C. It is
massive, with hallways that stretch for three city blocks on seven floors, and
one block the other way on each floor. For the last few months, every other
overhead light in the halls has had their bulbs removed. Sometimes, two lights in a row are dark. It's bright enough to walk down, no doubt, but still
noticeably darker. Moreoever, each floor has two banks of elevators at each
end, with three elevators per bank. For the last few months, one elevator at
each bank has been put out of commission. Further, employees are now forbidden from putting space heaters in their offices, which many have done because the heating in the building has been turned down to a level where even I, a descendant of hardy Russian peasants, feel cold.
    "What does this tell me? It tells me that the government of the United States of America is having difficulty paying its utility bills. Think about that.
Federal offices cannot keep all the lights on, or keep the heat sufficiently
high. (We'll see what the air conditioning is like in a few months, when D.C.
turns into a humid swamp). This is what one expects of Third World governments, not the USA."

 

March 7, 2008

What a week we are having in the financial and political realms.
Too bad one of Obama's advance persons called Hillary "a monster." It was an altogether apt description, though I would have been more specific -- a monster of ambition, right out of Shakespeare's playbook.
News on the finacial front could not be more dire. This is like watching a sequoia tree topple in the forest. The boyz at Treasury and on Wall Street better load up on methdrine. It's going to be a sleepless weekend.

Feb 24, 2008

Blowing More Green Smoke Up Our Own Ass
    
Virgin Airlines CEO Richard Branson announced the beginning of "green" air travel with great fanfare over the weekend by flying a big Airbus jet plane on a combination of coconut and palm oil derived fuel. Now the public is supposed to rest assured that the airline industry has been "saved" by "new technology." It's possible that Branson actually believes this bullshit -- since, contrary to conventional belief, you don't have to be especially intelligent to succeed in business. But the public is sure to be disappointed as reality asserts itself and they discover that the stunt doesn't scale world-wide. That is, sure, you can demonstrate that "a" jet plane can fly on bio-fuel. But can you run the entire global airline fleet on coconut and palm oil, or even a fraction of it? Of course not -- unless you cut down the entire Amazon rain forest and replant it with oil tree crops. Not to mention that the CO2 emissions spraying out of bio-fuel jets at 38,000 feet is not materially different from regular jet fuel exhaust. This is just another tragic attempt to persuade ourselves that we don't have to change our behavior.

Feb 20, 2008

Death of the Airline Industry
     
I knew I was in trouble when I checked in and the Northwest departure board behind the ticket desk said the 5:39PM to Minneapolis was "delayed." That's when you know you're in for an evening of, at least, being lied to and fucked around. Up at the gate, they let it be known that the 5:39 would now leave at 6:08. That was cool. I had a two-hour layover in the Twin Cities for my connection to Duluth. As it happened, though, they didn't board us until 6:00. We pushed back at 6:30, taxied out to the runway, and then sat there for another hour. About halfway through that wait, the pilot got on the PA and said they were "waiting for their numbers." A half hour later he came back on the PA and said the plane was "over its weight limit" and we had to go back to the gate and drop some people off. Huh...? This was a small regional jet. There were 12 rows of two across, and there were a few empty seats. So, we get back to the gate and we sit there for another half hour while a technician comes on board with a clipboard and palavers with the flight crew. It's now two hours past the original schduled departure time. So even if we left that instant, I'd miss my connection to Duluth and be stuck in the Minneapolis airport all night. As it happened, the pilot asked for 13 volunteers to get off the plane. (There was some grumbling about the obvious illogic of a plane designed with 48 seats being unable to carry 36 passengers... but let's not even go there....) If they couldn't get 13 volunteers, the pilot said, they'd cancel the whole flight (and then everybody would be fucked, I inferred). I got up with a bunch of other volunteers -- thirteen, finally -- and straggled off the plane. We hung around the gate for another hour and half waiting to get re-booked for tomorrow, and to get our gate-checked luggage back. The most amazing thing about the whole misadventure is how dim the Northwest employees acted. From the flight crew to the gate agent, nobody really seemed to know what was going on or know what they were doing. I actually don't know if the plane ever did leave. It was still parked at the gate when I finally left the airport at 9:30. By the time I got home it was 10:00 PM. I have to get up at 3:30AM to make a 6:00AM flight tomorrow. (Sigh....)

February 4, 2001

I got a letter from a lady in South Africa:

"I am watching South Africa with an eye on what, when and how the global trends contributing to your Long Emergency will start taking effect. But the government here, together with some outside influences of the stock market, have plunged South Africa into the Premature Long Emergency. It has only been a couple of weeks, but the country is in dire straits. . . ."

Click this link to her commentary

 

February 1, 2008:

Yesterday I wrote

"Calling for a crash in the equity markets
Perhaps before the end of the week
Developments the past several days around the finace sector suggest to me that a crash in the stock indexes is imminent. . . ."

Bad call, I'd say....

The Dow then proceeded to shoot up 207 points (Nasdaq 40, S & P 23)
What happened? One of three leading bond insurers which was about to have its credit rating downgraded, Ambec Financial, retained its AAA rating -- while two other troubled "monolines," FGIC and MBIA, were indeed downgraded by Standard & Poors. The "rescue" of Ambec apparently sent the markets into a psychotic transport of manic spirits. All three of these outfits may be functionally insolvent, almost certainly incapable of meeting their obligations to pay out on losses from trash mortgage-backed securities.
     I still maintain that the finance sector as a whole is hopelessly choking on losses, and that any day now we will see blood on Wall Street.

 

January 9, 2008

A Weird Outcome in New Hampshire:

     "This campaign is about people," Hillary said, sounding more dreadfully Nixonian every day.
     NPR's morning coverage asked one female Clinton voter what moved her to vote for the former first lady. The woman said it was the tears that Mrs. Clinton shed in a diner a few days before the vote. Oh great. So now we can look forward to a "weeping" campaign instead of a "listening" campaign. That would sure set America up for a soap opera presidency.
     I'm still supporting Mr. Edwards, the distant third place finisher, though I liked Mr. Obama's rousing concession speech.

 

Dec13, 2007

From THE NEW YORK TIMES:

This Is the Sound of a Bubble Bursting

House headed into Foreclosure, Fla

". . . .But last December, Ms. Pellegrino’s husband died unexpectedly, leaving her with the two businesses, both deeply in debt, and $207,000 she owed against her home, which is now worth about $130,000, she says.
Disabled and 53 years old, Ms. Pellegrino does not work. She says she lives on a $1,259 monthly Social Security check. Her daughter, a college student, receives $325 a month for child support for one child. Charlene Pellegrino has been looking on the Web for office work for months, but with so many people being laid off, she has come up empty, she says. They have not paid their mortgage in four months."

 

Dec 7, 2007

A heartwarming story that sheds light on the astounding dysfunction of our health care system:

UnitedHealth's McGuire Keeps $800 Million in Options

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s former Chief Executive Officer William W. McGuire will keep more than $800 million in stock options after repaying over $600 million because of a backdating scandal.

Other past and present officers have relinquished about $300 million, including $190 million that current CEO Stephen J. Hemsley gave up voluntarily a year ago, UnitedHealth said. The company announced the repayments yesterday in connection with the settlement of a lawsuit filed by pension funds and other investors on behalf of the company.

Dec. 2, 2007

OPEC CHECKS THE "NO" BOX ON PRODUCTION INCREASE

     This might be construed as conclusive evidence that Saudi Arabia -- the last possible remaining 'swing producer' -- is pumping all that it can now. A slight increase of half a million barrels-a-day might have continued to moderate the price of oil for a while in the $90 range, but now all bets will be off, especially with reports about spot shortages coming out of China. It would have been in OPEC's interest to put no further strain on the US economy with high oil prices-- to keep up demand for their product -- but they didn't go that way. It seems to me that the markets had already priced in a production increase (combined with talk about US recession and 'demand destruction'), so now we may see prices inch back up through the 90s again. Interesting side note: Bloomberg had this article up earlier this morning and took it off just before 11am. How come? Not important enough?

 

November 30, 2007:

Where medicine is At these days

     From a story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about out-of-control hospital costs. . . . the man who is the focus of the story was charged $791 for stockings designed to improve blood circulation that are sold on the Internet for $12, and charged up to $6,675 a night for an oxygen mask to help him breathe while sleeping (rentable from outside medical supply at $250).
     "I do not deny that our charges look insane," says Dr. Pont, CPMC's chief medical officer. But all hospitals operate the same way, he says. "It's the reality of the industry."

November 20, 2007

What we're seeing in the Markets

The Dow is rebounding up 225 points today at 1:45pm -- on what?
- News that Abu Dhaibi is giving Citicorp $7.5 billion -- and by the way, is that a loan or a gift?
- Another theory courtesy of the NY Times: that the economic news is so uniformly terrible that the Fed will be forced to lower interest rates again, thus benefitting Big Bankz (allowing new "carry trade" in dollars instead of yen.)
- Also, crude oil price down $3 on announcement by Saudi Arabia that they intend to increase oil production. Apparently, Wall Street hasn't heard their previous stated intentions to raise production -- which Saudi Arabia consistently failed to do.


CNN enters new depth of retardation

This past weekend CNN ran almost continuous coverage (panels, forums, replays) of a botched interview between Larry King and the plastic surgeon whose procedure seemed to lead to the death of rapper Kanye West's mother. The surgeon, Dr. Jan Adams bowed out on camera at the show's start because West's lawyers sent a threatening fax to the Larry King Show's offices. So the interview never took place. But the coverage of the non-interview bumped every other world and national event off CNN. Where's Ted Turner when we really need him?

 

November 6, 2007

Wall Street Magic:

Dollar Down -- $1.45.58 to Euro
Gold in Record Territory -- $824.50
Oil Inching Back to Record Territory -- $95.96
CitiGroup reporting massive losses

DOW up 60 Points at open !!

Go figure. . . .

November 1, 2007

Why gasoline prices haven't kept up with rising oil prices

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp. said on Thursday its third-quarter earnings declined 10 percent, missing expectations on sharply dropping profits from the production of gasoline and lower natural gas prices. . . .

Full Story here.

My comment: crude oil prices are set on futures markets by auction, not by the oil companies. However, the oil companies do control the price of their refined products, namely gasoline sold by refineries. I think they have been desperately trying to hold the price of gasoline below $3.00 (where that is still possible, i.e. outside California) in order to avoid getting clobbered with windfall profit taxes by an angry congress.

October 31, 2007

How incredibly stupid the American news media is:

     Last week, when French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced the divorce from his wife, Cecilia, he made it clear that he would have absolutely nothing more to say on the matter. A few days later, he sat down for an interview with Lesley Stahl of CBS's "60 Minutes" and what do you know --she asked about his broken marriage. Sarkozy tore the microphone off his shirt and walked out of the room.
     Now the question is: just how fucking stupid is Lesley Stahl? Or how poorly prepared is her staff?

October 15, 2007
     Out in Iowa last week, you could see that they had planted corn clear up to the highway on-ramps, and shiny new grain storage bins were everywhere. The ethanol program is in high gear there. It is, of course, a net energy loser when you figure in all the fossil fuel "inputs" and procedures needed in making the stuff. It was interesting to hear that a lot of "normal" Iowans regard the enterprise as exactly what it is -- an arrant government subsidy racket intended to enrich agribusiness, while blowing "green" smoke up the rest of America's ass.

October 1, 2007

Speaking of Chaos in the Airports. . .

Family Mourns Woman Who Died at Airport

NEW YORK (AP) - A traveler who may have accidentally choked herself to death while handcuffed in an airport holding cell was a "wonderful" woman and mother, according to New York City's public advocate, who is her relative.
    
Carol Anne Gotbaum, 45, was arrested Friday at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix after she became irate when gate crews refused to let her board a flight for which she was late, officials said. . . .
(Rest of story.)

September 24, 2007

Check out Mike Morgan's Housing Bubble Report:

Morgan says:
"I have decided to cut back on writing weekly updates.  I might write one a month, but I might step back and not write publicly anymore.  My clients are keeping me busy on specific projects, so I have little time to spend a full day putting together a weekly update for public consumption.  Folks, we have reached a point in this cycle that is a surprise even to me. . . . The deterioration of the housing markets over the past six week has been devastating.  I really don’t care what we hear on the conference calls this week, because I’m here to tell you from ground zero, it is much worse than anyone has discussed, and it is going to get far worse than any of the builders wants to admit."  (Click here for complete report )

September 17, 2007

Inflate-o-rama
-- Post Script
     First, apologies to readers. Yesterday, late afternoon brain fog caused me to write, by accident and mistake, that the Fed has raised the interest rates. of course that was a flat out error in composition. Thanks to many readers who alerted me to this embarrassing lapse in consciousness. (I really do know the difference between higher and lower rates.)
    It appears that the stock markets will enjoy a kind of Indian Summer fiesta from this news, perhaps until the end of the week. It's reasonable to believe the DOW will cross back over the 14,000 mark. I stick by the idea that you can make money available, but people already over-burdened with borrowing may not avail themselves of more. I also stick by the proposition that these rate lowerings will adversly affect the dollar and send the price of oil and food much higher. By October, a clearer picture of reality may regain traction "out there."

September 10, 2007

Pemex reports pipeline explosion

Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico's state-run oil company, suspects sabotage in pipeline explosion.

September 10 2007: 10:20 AM EDT

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Several explosions believed to the result of sabotage ripped apart pipelines for Mexico's state oil monopoly early Monday, the company said. There were no injuries.

The Mexican state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, issued a statement saying it believed the explosions, which forced the evacuation of 12,000 people, were deliberate.

Whole story click here

Casual Remarks by Jim Kunstler

 

September 7, 2007    

 John Williams' Shadow Government Statistics (Shadowstats.com) is a great website presenting a more reality-based picture of the US economy by analyzing the discrepancy between government numbers and actual numbers. He charges a subscription, but it's worth it. You get monthly reports and intermittent bulletins. Today's example is a good one -- and an unabashed advertisement for the site.

Money Supply Growth Explodes

 

Fed Liquefaction Pushes August M3 Growth Towards 14%
This afternoon's money supply release showed seasonally-adjusted M2 for the week-ended August 27th up by $64.9 billion to $7.400 trillion. M2 now has risen by $111.1 billion for the last two weeks, rising at an annualized fortnight growth rate of 48.2%.

Depending on the large time deposit numbers due for release on Friday (tomorrow) afternoon, annual M3 growth for August could jump to 14.0%, up from July's 13.0%, and up from my early August estimate of 13.6% made last week.

Despite the Fed coming close to its formal 5.25% fed funds target in the last couple of days, the liquidity crisis continues, and the financial markets remain extremely unstable and dangerous. Once again, watch the dollar!

Additional detail will follow this weekend.

August 27, 2007
   I noticed something interesting last week at the Washington County Fair in rural upstate New York: hardly anyone seemed to be spending any money. Very few people were stepping up to the food wagons to buy a small plate of french fries for $5 (the large was $10!) or a sausage sandwich for $6. Virtually nobody was playing any of the sucker games -- knocking smurfs over with a softball or shooting basketballs into a less-than-regulation diameter hoop. I suppose there is a positive aspect to people not throwing their money away on unhealthy snacks and rigged games -- but the message I got from this was how desperately tapped out the public is these days.

August 24, 2007
There is next-to-zero information 'out there' regarding the condition of the offshore Cantarell-KMZ oil fields in Mexico following Hurricane Dean. Pemex simply says it will resume some operations today. It may be that the oil markets have only lost several days of production from this region, say 7 to 15 million barrels. From what I gather, over in the financial sector distressed funds have been dumping positions on the oil futures markets at a great rate the past three weeks, in a desperate effort to raise cash to cover losses elsewhere. They were described by one talking head on CNBC yesterday as ("up to their eyeballs in oil"). The US can easily cover the disruption of a few million barrels of imports via the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, if necessary. Jeffrey Brown over at TheOilDrum.com makes the astute point that the SPR has become, by default, the new "swing producer" when supplies get tight.

August 22, 2007
Hurricane Dean came out of the Yucatan much-weakened to a minimal 80mph storm. Winds that speed may not have much ability to damage oil platforms. But at this point, nobody outside the Mexican government (and perhaps not even them) knows the outcome of Dean's encounter with the Cantarell oil field complex. We do know that something like 15,000 offshore workers were evacuated, and that the production equipment was "shut-in." It may take a week or so for production to resume. Cantarell and its adjoining Ku-Maloob-Zaap fields had been producing about 2.5 million barrels a day --1.5 million barrels of that exported to the US. So, if the complex escapes damage, a week's production / imports will be lost. It's hard to explain the behavior of the oil futures markets in this light -- with the price of crude sinking below $70 -- but the following things probably account for this: 1.) leveraged investors in hedge funds and other troubled entities are dumping saleable assets to cover losses elsewhere, and these assets include positions in oil futures trades. 2.) As pointed out by others, many people trading in oil futures do not necessarily know anything about how oil is produced, or, for example, the meaning of 2.5 m/b/d of shut-in capacity on a world market that is already straining to balance demand with supply. There is an excellent discussion of Hurricane Dean-related matters on TheOilDrum.com.

August 20, 2007
The "How Much Does This Suck" Department:

After Foreclosure, a Big Tax Bill From the I.R.S.
Two years ago, William Stout lost his home in Allentown, Pa., to foreclosure when he could no longer make the payments on his $106,000 mortgage. Wells Fargo offered the two-bedroom house for sale on the courthouse steps. No bidders came forward. So Wells Fargo bought it for $1, county records show. . . . But on July 9, they received a bill from the Internal Revenue Service for $34,603 in back taxes. The letter explained that the debt canceled by Wells Fargo upon foreclosure was subject to income taxes, as well as penalties and late fees.

Rest of story

August 17,2007

From a friend in the National Guard
On Hurricane emergency duty in the Gulf of Mexico:

They're bringing Dean up to CAT 4 south of Cancun by Monday and it will slide into the GoM. Sometime before the end of the week the price of gas is going to go nuts.
 
Then, as it slides/body checks Cancun and gets into the pool of gasoline-like hot water in the Gulf it's probably going to ramp up really good again, maintaining CAT 4 or perhaps even going higher. And then perhaps a recurve north towards Houston/New Orleans.
 
Perhaps Katrina V 2.0...but with people heeding evac warnings this time. Houston could prove a real bad scene if the surge gets up anywhere like K did. If those refineries flood bad enough, between that and the markets, we could have a real deal national economic crisis on our hands...

Best case scenario is that it keeps on rolling WNW and beats down Brownsville. Worst case is a high CAT 4 to CAT 5 just south of Houston. In either case, there's going to be some boys scrambling to batten down the hatches on those Gulf drilling rigs.

August 7, 2007
Cute Move
From Bloomberg.com:

Bear Stearns Cos.' decision to liquidate two bankrupt hedge funds in the Cayman Islands instead of New York may limit creditors' and investors' ability to get their money back.

While most of their assets are in New York, the funds filed for bankruptcy protection July 31 in a court in the Caymans, where they are incorporated. The bank also used a 2005 bankruptcy law to ask a U.S. judge in Manhattan to block all lawsuits against the funds and protect their U.S. assets during the Caymans proceedings.

August 6, 2007
MUST SEE
A real 'holy shit' moment on this clip of Jim Cramer, the CNBC stock tout, losing his cool on Friday.

July 31, 2007

Both West Texas Intermediate and NYMEX crude pushed firmly above all-time record price this morning into uncharted territory over $78.

Re: the finance sector: A Reader sent this extremely interesting blog entry:

There is no scientific proof of this, but I believe that the use of prescription anti depressants has made enough of a change in group decision making that many of the more amazing aspects of the recent credit bubble can be explained by it.
(Click here for link to full blog.)

 

July 30, 2007

From the What-the-fuck? department of today's web news. Is it any wonder that the American public is confused?

Bloomberg.com reports:
"Stock Bulls Grow More Bullish as Global Equity Markets lose $2.1" Trillion
Bulls Load Up on Stocks in Worst Rout Since 2002

July 27, 2007
      It looks like Thursday's rout in the equity markets is continuing today (Dow down 125 at 12:30 pm.) Apparently, the shock of recognition that MBS tranches = piles-of-shit is beginning to get traction out there, along with some other reality-based ideas -- such as the dollar's dubious value in relation to other things, and the implacable upward movement of oil prices. The music has finally stopped and the moment of creative destruction may be at hand.

Note: NYMEX crude crossed the $77 a barrel line this afternoon. It also went into contango with Brent Crude.

July 12, 2007
     
Go figure. The Dow Jones is up over 100 points at 10:30 a.m. in the face of the following headlines:

U.S. Trade Deficit Widened 2.3% in May to $60 Billion
U.S. Foreclosures Increase 87 Percent as Prices Fall
Al-Qaeda Is More Capable of Attacking West, U.S. Report Says
Crude Oil at $73.48
Euro at $1.3773
More Subprime Woes to Come

June 25, 2007
Realtors attend worship service to pray for better market
KERI HOLT Florida Freedom Newspapers

DESTIN — More than 300 people with a keen interest in the Emerald Coast’s real estate market gathered Wednesday at Destiny Worship Center to ask for God’s blessing. . . .

June 15, 2007
Very important essay from originating on TheOilDrum.com about OPEC paradigm shift

Letter from "Hurricane Jim" in Baghdad.

"Yeah, the Frankenstein Factor amidst the detritus of a poorly constructed, post-industrial meltdown. Hunter Thompson couldn't have dreamed this shit up on his worst hit of acid."