April 1, 2014

If you are already feeling gloomy about the future of American culture, don’t read Michael Lewis’s new book on Wall Street’s latest legal scam: high frequency trading. It explains in painful clarity how the stock exchanges (the actual physical 13 buildings where computers make the actual trades on the stock market) have sold instant access to ‘HIGH FREQUENCY TRADERS’ who intercept the orders of the public and buy the ordered stocks, then raise the price a bit before filling the public orders. Another form of Wall Street parasitism, a private tax on your trades and mine if we are still dumb enough to be in the market. And if you have any savings, what choice do you have? A savings account or CD at less than 1%? As Lewis explains the HFTs are predators, everyone else who plays the market is their prey and the stock exchanges collect huge (all legal, now) fees from the HFTs for giving them millisecond leads on all other trades. I predict this is zero chance that anybody in Congress can even comprehend what’s going on. Lewis warns that this whole millisecond trading situation makes the stock market synthetic, dishonest and highly unstable. All this HFT has developed since the crash of 2008, it’s all new, all legal and all unregulated. Classic Wall Street. All based on using ever faster high tech systems devoid of human control or intervention

And if you despair of humanity, stay away from the IPCC’s latest report on climate change…even worse sea level rises expected, more political disruption like the Syrian Civil War, Ukrainian crisis or the on-going devolution of Afghanistan into the war lord culture that seems to be its basic condition through millennia. Darkest thought: maybe climate change will cause so much war, starvation and desolation that the population will decrease along with our greenhouse gas production. Not in time to help much perhaps…

The Republican establishment is so freaked by the Libertarian assault from Paul II (Kentucky senator) they are trying to get Bush III to run for President. Is America going to go Bush League for a third time?

All those possible bits of the missing Malaysian airplane? It’s our trash, folks. We have so littered the “open sea” that bits of cargo, a frig, a radio tube (how long has that been out there), a freight container…all that stuff is floating out there and being “spotted” by searchers. Like looking for your lost lottery ticket at the local landfill.


March 13, 2014

This is not a story about global warming…exactly. But it does involve our friends in the energy industry. Those clean-livin’, cleaned-up, clean smiling kinda guys. What BP oil spill? What train loaded with death that exploded in a Canadian town? What coal ash spills? What trashed planet?
Turns out all those fracked wells and oil wells in North Dakota have to filter out the radioactive radium that comes up with the oil and gas they really need to make us all so proud and energy-independent. Well, further it turns out the state of North Dakota–having mortgaged its present and future to the energy companies–has made it illegal to put those HOT filters into landfills. Landfills are for plastic and worn out tires and broken furniture and such…not radiation that will go into the ground water and… you know. Mini-Fukushima.
Well, the largely unregulated energy industry has been creative in disposing of these filters. You don’t get rich by being unable to solve a simple problem. They put them into large black plastic bags, then hire the fine folks of “Midnight Trucking”…who then take these many bags and dump them…into dumpsters, onto Indian Reservations, inside abandoned buildings, into ditches alongside back roads.
So while lots of folks in North Dakota are makin’ good salaries, and unemployment in N.D. nears zero and the energy companies may even be makin’ a buck or two…or a few billion…nobody’s worried about all this radiation they’re spreading around, because none of today’s executives will be around when the time comes to pay the bills for the rise in leukemia and other radiation-linked diseases. And Obama and the feds are nowhere to be seen. Let the oil and gas flow. Meanwhile, the oil and gas guys including their paid-for pols in Bismarck and D.C., are all dining out in style tonight. They can drive home by the glow around the roadside.
New motto: Glow, baby, glow!


March 12, 2014

Can a democracy control its spies? We’re about to find out.
Not since J. Edgar Hoover stopped being able to blackmail all the rest of the federal government, have we Yanks been aware of the power and arrogance of our secret agencies. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) has long been a supporter of the spooks and spies that we all pay for, but today she leveled a series of accusations that came out as statements of fact and if any portion of them are ever adjudicated and upheld, heads will roll, men will go to jail and even the CIA itself may be forced to budge an inch.
The CIA has being spying inside the U.S….on the U.S Senate committee that is investigating the CIA’s rendition and torture programs under the Cheney Administration.
Brennan, the CIA chief, will have to go and take with him the acting chief counsel who actually has threated legal action against Senate staffers who had the gall to try to thoroughly investigate the CIA. According to reports Brennan has privately apologized for the domestic spying that he now publicly tries to deny!
Does he really think the CIA has a public reputation to uphold? After all they did for in stopping 9-11, or catching Bin Laden in record time or leading the way to total victory in Iraq and Afghanistan? What reputation?
Oh, maybe for ruthless and brutal…that reputation. But Feinstein’s seen real slaughter…a murdered mayor, then the Jonestown, Guyana, killings. I don’t think they’re gonna rattle this Senator. Ball’s now in Obama’s court ’cause all this stuff has rolled under the door at the Department of Justice.
Can Congress really oversee a bunch of lying spies? That’s the theory. What’s the practice?
Never mind that domestic spying by the CIA is theoretically illegal, so was torture to begin with. This is turning out like one of those murder stories where the crook keeps killing people to cover up the previous crimes. The CIA is digging itself deeper into the hole by trying to stop the investigation of stuff it did under President W and Mr. Cheney, Sir!
But don’t expect this to mean one tax dollar less for our spies and their contrctors. The show must go on.


March 6, 2014

In fact the South insists on sinking. A mixture religion, politics, economic culture and provincialism have created a Confederate stew that continues to taste like something from the past. The Old Confederacy was ruled by oligarchs who were slave-owners. Today it’s apparently still ruled by oligarchs with the obeisance of the poor whites who’d rather be wrong than do anything in co-operation with their black fellow Southerners.
Today Huffington Post has aggregated the various comparative statistics in map form that show how backward New Confederacy still is, how fat, how impoverished…you know the drill. Is that why they still like to wave the Confederate flag? Can one really be proud to be worse off than everybody else in the country except West Virginia?


March 6, 2014

UNESCO warns that many cultural heritage sites will soon be outta sight. Climate change will put them under the sea. Here’s summary of that report.
My prediction: the world will do little effective to stop climate change until major energy corporations see their oilfields or refineries underwater…CEOs find their favorite golf courses from Pebble Beach to Hilton Head are now swimming lakes…and major heads of state find their airports are covered with water…then it suddenly be a crisis. But if it is only Bangladesh that’s inundated and a few puny island nations in the Pacific that have to relocate to New Zealand, well, who cares? It’s more important that we have economic growth and higher stock prices. All this palaver about climate change is just part of the global conspiracy against the wealthy, right?


March 1, 2014

Some time back I blogged about the specific adjective most often associated (via Googling) with various states in the United States. Georgia was unique in getting associated most often with “backward.” At the time I foolishly assumed that “backward” was an adjective…only. Turns out it is a direction as well.
A solidly Red State where Republicans rule top to bottom, Georgia is losing its rural hospitals. They can’t turn a profit so they’re closing. The right-wing press is blaming Obamacare, but most of the eight hospitals that have died this century in rural towns closed before the law went into effect. And no right-thinkin’ Georgian would ever want to go to publicly funded hospital, right? Public, doesn’t that mean taxes or sumthin’ like that?
But the creative folks who run the state, those Red-white-and-red Confederate Americans, have a solution. Repeal that odious federal law that does not allow hospitals the right to refuse service*. That’s right, if you don’t have the money to pay, those upstanding Georgia hospitals should have the right to send you out into the pines to die by yourself. Heart attack? Show me the money. In labor? Show me the money. Stroke? Pay now, care later.
I’m so excited by this return to the Good Old Boys Days I am thinkin’ of buyin’ me a plantation down there right away.
Guess who signed into law that federal statute that does not allow hospitals to test your wealth before they say your life? That damned communist Ronald Reagan, that’s who. If he were to ride back into town on his old cayuse, Ronnie would not recognize his cold-as-steel Republican Party now. Today’s Repubs are still using Ronnie’s bumper sticker slogans, but they have no use for his politics.
One radical in Georgia, head of the rural hospitals association, said the state was headed toward Third World quality healthcare in rural areas. Maybe I could set up a faith-healin’ clinic on my plantation and get rich. Pay now, heal ya later, sucker.


February 25, 2014

NPR’s “On Point” today focused on an issue that I’ve mentioned on this blog: modern digital technology makes more and more money for fewer and fewer, and it doesn’t require that many workers. There is much more wealth than jobs as we go forward.
The program outlined some stunning facts of recent economic history.
YouTube sold a few years back for a total price that amounted to $24-million per employee.
Instagram sold a year ago at a rate of $70-million per employee.
A few days ago What’s App skid to a company that’s younger than the century. Facebook paid $300-million per What’s App employee.
Get it? Ever more money to ever fewer people. Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J. P. Morgan would be green with envy.

Lots of wealth, lots of greed, any way to spread it around?

This is connected closely to related issue of economic growth and how much raw material, including energy, there is on this small planet and how many humans can actually be supported over time? Are we destined to simply destroy the planet and our environment? And meanwhile, more and more people have less work and less money?

Is there any way to lower the population so everybody who wants to work can find a job? Sounds very managed and the current trend on this planet is toward less management as we’ve seen how communism and Nazism and other authoritarian governments have failed in recent history.

Perhaps we simply have millions of small-scale organic farms with human labor. Saves lots of energy and provides a sense of worth…if work can provide that.


February 23, 2014

This week the U.S. Secretary of State likened climate change to Weapons of Mass Destruction, that old wheeze first made infamous during the Dick Cheney Administration when it was constantly trumpeted to make way for the brilliant land campaign that led to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Does Kerry’s WMD statement mean he’s leaning away from embraced the greasy mess that is the XL-Pipeline?
A recent court ruling on the pipeline’s approval by Nebraska’s governor may have delayed the XL decision at the federal level. At this rate it. NOw is even possible the decision will kicked down the road until after the 2016 election when President Obama will then have a clear field to do whatever he wishes with little repercussion. Of course, then the next President could presumably reverse that decision.
One of the major arguments for the XL Pipeline has long been, “The Canadians will build some pipeline somewhere so why not the one running the breadth of the Midwest to Texas?” Then there’s all that pie-in-the-sky about jobs, jobs, jobs. Rarely is it discussed by either side that most of that Canada crude is bound for overseas markets so other nations can keep up their polluting of our common atmosphere.
Whatever happens with XL we humans are trashing the planet at an alarmingly accelerating rate. We’re acidifying the oceans which should pretty well do in the coral reefs and many other living organisms in the sea. We’re killing off wildlife so superstitious idiots can have rhino horns or bear bladders for their manhood’s sake. We’re cutting down rain forests that will take eons to regrow if the climate even allows it. We continue to pave wonderful farmland for ever bigger Walmarts with ever-bigger parking lots and then pretend it’s progress. Now China’s in a race to see they can’t buy and drive more cars than Americans. Oh joy…and who are we to complain when other start living one-tenth as carelessly as we’ve become accustomed to? We’re melting the ice caps on both polls which should pretty well take care of Venice and New Orleans and Bengledesh and any other low-lying area without top-flight engineering and large government spending. We can’t protect New Orleans from a predictable hurricane, we’re sure not gonna save it from the Gulf of Mexico.
We are over-using antibiotics so many bacteria and other killers are getting more deadly. And global warming is making such lovely neighbors like West Nile Virus and Denge Fever ever more widespread. Ebola, coming soon to a home near you!
Now it turns out we are also plasticizing our planet. All those facial scrubs are dumping billions of tiny, potentially deadly, plastic beadlets into our rivers, lakes and oceans. Is there a warning on cleansing cream like there is on cigarettes? Not likely. Sorry, fish, suck plastic!


February 23, 2014

Nice piece in “New York” magazine on the rise and rapider fall of Sen. Marco Rubio, once touted as the GOP savior. The piece clearly surmises that anything proposed by a Republican legislator that can be agreed to by President Obama is a dead issue. The Republicans’ true Congressional ideology is to opposed Obama whenever possible as long as it doesn’t cost them all their political donations. Thus a few were forced to compromise on the debt limit rather than face a jihad from the Wall Streeters who don’t want to see their record-levels of stock prices to tank.
Isn’t it wonderful to see such a socialist President as we allegedly have push the stock market to ever higher record levels? He’s just too damn soft on capitalism, I guess.


February 19, 2014

Thou shallt have no god before me, or above me…of even in competition with me. Thus speaketh the Energy God. And we see the results all around us. Much of the detriment of our sole planet outlined in the new book, SIXTH EXTINCTION, is simply the result of our all-consuming devotion to the Energy God. Everything from race cars to plastics to the Internet is based on constant consumption of energy. We mine, we air pollute, we ground and water pollute, we go to war, we spill nuclear waste, we dump coal ash or toxic chemicals into air, ground and water, we will do almost anything rather than forsake our beloved Energy God.
West Virginia has its chemically tainted water. North Carolina has its coal ash tainted river. Texas has its toxic air because oil and gas trump human health any day in . It is the Lone Star State of Disbelief. The Texas government does not believe in Climate Change or Pollution. Liberal lies and conspiracy for sure.
And even one of the hopes of the “green” energy, solar, is deadly when it is industrialized. How about baked bird? Incinerated insects? Liquified lizards? Vulcanized vulture, anyone?

And the U.S. is now far from the leader when it comes to pollution and demolition of habitat: Canada, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Russia. The list of pollution-means-wealth league leaders is a long and brutal one. The whole industrial system is so skewed that we Americans collect recyclables and then spend all the energy to ship them to China to be turned into something else. Only when we finally squeeze the profit out of transport and energy systems will we finally be able to live on this planet without simultaneously destroying it. And I am not too hopeful about humans ever doing that.

Small, localized, not industrial-scale, unprofitable energy systems could work for a limited population. Without birth control (count out the Catholics and Muslims here), limited growth of all kinds, household or village-sized energy systems, (e.g. my solar panels won’t fry a bird) and small scale distribution of electricity would give us hope of sustainability. But today’s push for ever larger, grander and thus more profitable systems just hastens the destruction of life, of species, and perhaps humanity itself. There is no justice in nature so some of our offspring might find a way to survive on a planet with diminished resources while millions of other creatures go off into the blackness of extinction. The Energy God shows no mercy and continues to conquer all, living or dead, fried sparrow or ferns aged into coal.


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