Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fear of fear itself

Ahhhh! What was that? Was that a bubble? I thought I heard a bubble! Did you hear a bubble?

Fears of second-half slowdown spook corporate America...

"... Corporate America's hopes for a second-half pickup in the U.S. economy dimmed on Wednesday, as companies from Emerson Electric Co (EMR.N) to Corning Inc (GLW.N) warned of weakening demand for everything from industrial equipment to televisions..."

We're done for! We're done for!

Oils well that ends well

World Oil Supplies as reported in EIA’s most recent International Energy Statistics:

Running on empty

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Conspiracy theory; conspiracy fact.

Oh my god, have you heard? FEMA is building internment camps for political dissidents! I went on the Internet and there's a website with a photo of barbed wire and a guard tower so it must be true!!!!

OK. Settle down.

Here's what bugs me about conspiracy theories. There's so much crap out in the open, you don't need conspiracy theories.

A certain faction of America's elite have been advocating an "Atlas Shrugged" kill-the-government strategy in the pages of The Weekly Spectator and The National Review for the last two decades. And getting exactly what they want.

Forget the "secret" prisons. The Prison Industrial Complex has been growing like a cancer -- and increasingly privatized. (Which creates a powerful lobby with a financial stake in throwing lots of people in jail. Mainly black, brown, poor and young, natch.) If the Illuminati want to throw your ass in the pokey, they don't need a secret camp to do it.

The Apocalyptic One-World-Gummint Interstate to Mexico doesn't bother me quite so much as the cross-border triangle trade of drugs guns and money (thanks to America's idiotic "war" on drugs) that's pretty much turned Mexico into a failed state--and launched an infrastructure of narco-capitalists and human traffickers who, of course, will want to diversify their interests.

Worrying about all this secret crap is sort of like watching brownshirt thugs beat some victim in an alley with rubber hoses. Then point to some guy sitting at a sidewalk table and say "I think he's up to something."

These days, most of the fear and loathing is out in plain sight.

So what do we do?

Off the top of my head, don't say anything to tip of the "Big Ear" at the N.S.A. Heh-heh. Just kidding. Spendid chaps, really.

Seriously, what do we do?

OK, me. Since you put me on the spot, I'd say keep an eye on the big picture and think strategically. I.e.: there's a lot of disinformation out there, on both Left and Right. Make sure your scary revelations are well-sourced. Saying something doesn't make it so. Posting a photograph of a barbed wire fence next to the headline "FEMA Internment Camps" doesn't mean that's what it actually is.

Strategically, without resort to conspiracy theories, America's elite have an interest in a culture of dependency. (This has largely been accomplished with credit cards, consumerism and compound interest and the dismantling of unions, government oversight and the blurring of chains of responsibility for large-scale financial misdeeds.) Today, the system of American consumerism seems to be breaking down after a long process of downsizing, outsourcing, and globalization. Historically, the elite in any country never seems to mind if they're living in splendid mansions in the hills while 90% of the population combs through the garbage dump. America's one-percenters might not need consumerism anymore; or perceive broad American prosperity to be in their interests.

The response to that? Stop the crooks robbing banks with fountain pens. Get people angry about that. How? Dunno. Today, that kind of populism is a hard sell, thanks to the diversionary tactics of The Tea Party and wedge social issues and the wall-to-wall propaganda of Right Wing media. This ain't Socialism; it's the New Deal. But they'll paint you Red, anyway.

In the 1960s, one concept behind the counterculture was the notion of dropping out of American consumer culture and not being dependent on "the system." Do-it-yourself Emersonian thinking! Living off the grid! Growing your own food, sewing your own clothes, slapping up a geodesic dome, etc. Today, you've got to be highly capitalized to enjoy the simple life. I'm not sure if it's possible anymore -- aside from being homeless.

And now here's something we hope you'll really like:

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Under the Skin: Lucian Freud

"... British painter Lucian Freud, famous for his discomfiting nude portraits, died in London today at the age of 88. Opposite of glamour, Freud’s nudes exposed the mortality of flesh. His thick, lavish brushstrokes made skin transparent, revealing an underside of pulsing veins and fat that reduced his subjects to degenerating masses of meat. And yet, while exposing the vulnerability of his subjects, he portrayed their flesh with sensuousness and abandon..."

R.I.P. Lucian Freud

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Invasion of the Green Giant

A classic spoof from the late, great Wally Wood.

Friday, July 8, 2011

From the stars to the mud

OK, as we all know, the last Space Shuttle zipped off into space today. Fare thee well, Atlantis. Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't have named it after a doomed civilization.

John Logsdon has an interesting take on the Space Shuttle program in the current MIT Technology Review:

Space Shuttle boondoggle.

The money quote: "The selection in 1972 of an ambitious and technologically challenging shuttle design resulted in the most complex machine ever built. Rather than lowering the costs of access to space and making it routine, the space shuttle turned out to be an experimental vehicle with multiple inherent risks, requiring extreme care and high costs to operate safely. Other, simpler designs were considered in 1971 in the run-up to President Nixon's final decision; in retrospect, taking a more evolutionary approach by developing one of them instead would probably have been a better choice."

I've consistently said that the Space Shuttle was a Rube Goldberg compromise on Werner Von Braun's concept of a reusable space plane.

To me, the official history of the space program tends to leave out an obvious fact: the X-Plane series was the embryonic beginning of a true space plane. The United State bypassed it in favor of a "space capsule" on top of disposable, staged booster rockets. The only rationale for this idiotic technology was the ridiculously expensive publicity stunt known as "the Space Race."

We got to the moon -- and Americans got bored with the space program and didn't want to fund it at the same level. Nixon's backing of the half-ass Space Shuttle design was a reflection of that lack of commitment.

We touched the stars, and crawled back into our self-absorption.

Sad, ain't it?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy clown? Or Saud clown?

Pepe Escobar: The House of Saud paranoia

'... For Riyadh, the great Arab revolt is all an Iranian plot, another front for the House of Saud in the psy-ops war it is fighting against Tehran's "polytheis", directed by the Medieval Wahhabi clerical establishment. The Saudi message to Washington and London is clear - we hold the petrodollars and we're top dog in the Gulf, so forget silly ideas about "democracy"...'

Mad, bad, Saud