Susan Sontag on the “Fellahin” of the South

Friday, April 11, 2014

“Every culture has its southerners — people who work as little as they can, preferring to dance, drink, sing brawl, kill their unfaithful spouses; who have livelier gestures, more lustrous eyes, more colorful garments, more fancifully decorated vehicles, a wonderful sense of rhythm, and charm, charm, charm; unambitious, no, lazy, ignorant, superstitious, uninhibited people, never on time, conspicuously poorer (how could it be otherwise, say the northerners); who for all their poverty and squalor lead enviable lives — envied, that is, by work-driven, sensually inhibted, less corruptly governed northerners. We are superior to them, say the northerners, clearly superior. We do not shirk our duties or tell lies as a matter of course, we work hard, we are punctual, we keep reliable accounts. But they have more fun than we do … They caution[ed] themselves as people do who know they are part of a superior culture: we mustn’t let ourselves go, mustn’t descend to the level of the … jungle, street, bush, bog, hills, outback (take your pick). For if you start dancing on tables, fanning yourself, feeling sleepy when you pick up a book, developing a sense of rhythm, making love whenever you feel like it — then you know. The south has got you.”

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Club-K Container Missile System

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Said to be a carrier killer (and a terrorist’s dream). In a big war, it all comes down to cyberwarfare and who can knock out more satellites. The air determines who controls the field.

Here is a story about the Air Force’s X-37B Spacecraft.


The Case for Gloom

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Because WordPress sucks, I couldn’t embed this slideshow.

Here is the link.

I’m just sayin’, is all.


Google, Haiti, and Taxachusetts

Saturday, January 23, 2010

There have been so many juicy topics to cover, it’s been difficult to keep away. Every time I’m moved to write, though, I really have something else to do or simply don’t want to devote the time to it. That said, here is, in summary, how to think about the following issues:

Google/China: Yes, if Google was #1 in China this wouldn’t have happened, but they’re not and it did. As a result, this is one of the great humanitarian corporate moves of all time. Perhaps the greatest (there’s not a lot of competition, I’m guessing). Google should follow through and close their business there. As arguably the most important corporation in the world, the move will properly shame China and the many companies that remain in that authoritarian country. Here’s a question that any one doing business there should ask: Would I want to live here?

Haiti: Nothing to do in the aftermath but help. In the long term, I’m with David Brooks and Bret Stephenson. Let’s stop giving money to countries “in need.” It does nothing, and may actively do harm. It’s difficult, because it is human nature to try to help fellow humans in need, but it’s also the right thing to do. Certainly, what the first world has been doing for decades has not worked.

Taxachusetts: I would have voted for Scott Brown too. Seriously. I would have voted for a cardboard cutout against Coakley. Although she was inept, I would have done it to send the message. I have said, many times, that if Obama and this Congress can’t get it done, then there is no hope for us. Year one has been an epic, unmitigated failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, secrecy, deficit spending, bank coddling, and worst of all, the healthcare nightmare. I blame Obama for not using his robust post-election strength to strong arm Pelosi (failure) and Reid (failure) immediately. Weak, poorly managed, pathetic. Obama, where are your balls? It’s time to lead.

And, btw, why do you need the 60 votes? Make an exceptional bill and let the GOP filibuster. Call their bluff. If they do it, and the bill dies, you hang it around their neck. Now, the bill dies, and it’s a Dem failure. Disgraceful.

(But then there would be no healthcare bill, someone wails. So fucking what? Paul Krugman can cry to his cats. This is not the most pressing issue in America. Budget restraint, financial reform, and confiscatory, punitive taxes on very wealth bankers, should be the priority. Followed by a 10% spending cut across the entire government, no exceptions.

We are going to have to suffer, period. Let us start suffering already so we have a shot at not fucking our children.)

The bottom line for me, in all this, is that I have really given up hope. I don’t believe our Congress (and the state legislatures) are capable of introducing the change (ethics, responsible spending) that is necessary.

Something very, very bad is going to happen in the next ten or twenty years. War with China, epic depression/inflation/default, or, in the best case scenario, a benevolent military coup (and a draft) that reforms the government in a way that makes it possible for America to function properly.

David Petraeus, are you out there? Rome needs you. Cross the Rubicon. Cast the die!

P.S. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Nevertheless, letting it stand.


Why the Stimulus Will/Has Fail(ed)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Because it’s a matter of trust. The economy won’t recover until there is a palpable sense that we are doing the right thing. But no one can say, with certainty, that we are. Meanwhile, Americans, who truly understand being in debt, are watching the government pile on trillions with only a possible (it’s a bet!) positive outcome.

It’s beyond frightening. And though as a basic matter of economics – the money goes into circulation and revives the patient – what they are doing should work, there is a “spiritual” component here that is ignored. The patient has got to believe he’s going to get better. On that score, the doctors have a lot more work to do.

Just watch the Q2 GDP numbers beat expectations. We’ll hear that the recession is (near) over. And yet…their are plenty of layoffs on the horizon and no job creation; plenty of debt, and nothing resembling a balanced budget.

The hardest times are still ahead.

P.S. On a related note, if Congress doesn’t tax Goldman Sachs bonuses at, like, 90% (and they won’t), it will be hard to say that Americans aren’t justified in taking the law into their own hands down at 85 Broad Street. They shouldn’t. It is wrong to do so. But it will still be hard to say. Goldman Sachs represents the apotheosis of the moral hazard. Too big to fail, they make their profits on your back.


Hooray! Unemployment Hits Only 8.9%

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hooray! The official number is only 539,000 jobs lost! …But it is, like seemingly everything coming out of the Obama administration these days, seriously fudged.

BLS adds in a season adjustment of tens of thousands for net birth/death rate, and there were another 60K government census (temporary) jobs added to the rolls. Altogether, the private sector lost over 650K jobs. And it will go up once it is revised next month.

But don’t worry, nothing to see here. The stress tests boosted the banks, borrowing and printing money is not insanely dangerous, and massive unemployment won’t depress a consumer based economy. There are no state and local governments in desperate financial trouble, no pension funds that are seriously underfunded, home prices and foreclosures are leveling off, and America didn’t just have to raise the coupon (mid-auction) on a 30-year bond offering in order to get people to buy them.

Nope, nothing to see here. Green shoots everywhere.

“We cannot go back to an economy that is built on a pile of sand — on inflated home prices and maxed-out credit cards, on overleveraged banks and outdated regulations that allowed the recklessness of a few to threaten the prosperity of us all.”

This was Barack Obama on April 29 in a press conference marking his first 100 days in office.

What is so scary about this is that we really can’t trust anyone, especially the government. The Obama administration understands propaganda and media manipulation (at least as well, if not better, than the Bushies). Do they understand in a deeply interconnected world, with an increasingly irrelevant mainstream media, that lies are uncovered quickly and undermine trust and confidence?

Do they ultimately understand that the crisis is an issue of confidence?

Right now, they’re just buying time and praying. We’d all be well advised to do the same.


Big Surprise: Citi and BoA Fail Stress Test

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From the Wall Street Journal.

Ken Lewis on life support. Pandit, too (though it really wasn’t his fault).

The real problem here is one, to repeat an oft used explanation, of confidence. No one believes the banks or the government. Any reasonably informed person sees what Geithner and Bernanke are doing and breaks out in a cold sweat. Borrowing and printing money to reinflate a bubble (our economy) is either genius or suicide. To me, it is most assuredly the latter.

We are in for years of topsy-turvy hard times with the outcome far from assured. Forget ripping the band-aid off quickly, they’re wrapping it up in bandages made of dollars. It’s going to hurt a lot more when it finally comes off.