Old King Coal Stricken; Prognosis Grave

A coal train once supplied the city of Holland, Michigan with fuel for its electric generating plant. They converted the plant to natural gas. Their costs are down, their emissions are down, and coal is down for the count.  (Photo by wsilver/Flickr)

A coal train once supplied the city of Holland, Michigan with fuel for its electric generating plant. They converted the plant to natural gas. Their costs are down, their emissions are down, and coal is down for the count. (Photo by wsilver/Flickr)

After bestriding the mountains of Appalachia, among many other places, like the proverbial Colossus for a century and more, the U.S. coal industry has been taken to hospice, a pathetic wasted shadow of its former self, its physical condition terminal, its thought processes derailed by dementia. It’s not a pretty sight (except perhaps to the survivors of the ruin, destruction and death it has brought to thousands upon thousands of helpless people) and there are those who say its fate foreshadows that of the oil fracking  industry, which is now in the ICU, and the legacy oil bidness, which has started to have dizzy spells and occasional sudden hemorrhaging. Continue reading

First They Came for the Sardines…

The fish held a meeting, and decided to spread the alarm, but it was too late. They were all dead. (Photo by James Palinsad/Flickr)

The fish held a meeting, and decided to spread the alarm, but it was too late. They were all dead. (Photo by James Palinsad/Flickr)

You see the stories here and there, usually in local West Coast papers and on specialized websites. One has a gross picture of a dissolving starfish, another a heart-tugger of a starving sea lion pup. Then there are the stories that have no pictures  because they are about something that isn’t there, such as sardines and krill. Or something that is happening but cannot be watched, like the slow impassive death of oyster beds. It takes a while for it to begin to dawn on you: Holy Crap! Everything on our Pacific Ocean coast seems to be dying! Continue reading

The Glad News Bears

The Glad News Bears are cute and entertaining, but should not be mistaken for financial advisers or life coaches. (Painting by Frederick Stuart Church [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

The Glad News Bears are cute and entertaining, but should not be mistaken for financial advisers or life coaches. (Painting by Frederick Stuart Church [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, the U.S. Energy Information Agency forecast that oil production in the country’s two largest fracking patches — Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas — will actually decline this month. To those who have been watching the agony of the oil patch with clear eyes, this had all the shock value of a soaked weather forecaster, standing in a downpour, predicting rain. But it had no effect at all on the Glad News Bears, the relentless chanters of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and “Ain’t Gonna Rain No More, No More.” Continue reading

47 Felons in the US Senate

Benedict Arnold

Stop the presses! We have 47 names to add.

When 47 United States Senators sent a letter to the government of Iran, presuming to explain our Constitution (which, the Iranian Foreign Minister immediately observed, they do not seem to understand) and demonstrating profound ignorance of international law, they did not merely embarrass themselves and our country, they broke the law. Their purpose was to prevent the Obama administration from reaching an agreement with Iran to prevent that country from manufacturing nuclear weapons (something the country has always professed it does not want to do anyway).

These Senators presumed to tell the leaders of Iran that should they reach agreement with the United States negotiators, who for years have been trying to find a way to limit Iran’s nuclear energy program to prevent weaponization, any such agreement would probably not be honored by the Congress or the next administration. Since no such agreement exists yet, they made this threat without knowing what would be in it. Doesn’t matter; if Obama did it, it’s evil. Continue reading

The Crash of 2015: The End of the Beginning

Coming soon to an economy near you: a two-train wreck.

Coming soon to an economy near you: a two-train wreck.

The setup continues of the double train wreck that will decimate the U.S. economy this year; the switches have been thrown to prevent either train from leaving the track, and the engines are accelerating. It doesn’t take much perspective, now, to see both trains, closing fast.

[Note: The Crash of 2015 is not expected to be the collapse of the global industrial economy, which will take a little longer.  Just another lurch downward of the shattered Titanic, further unsettling those passengers who do not believe in icebergs.] Continue reading

Holding Accountants Accountable

If I had known that was the name of my accountant's firm, I don't think I would have turned over my life's savings....  (Photo by Indi Samarajia/Flickr)

If I had known that was the name of my accountant’s firm, I don’t think I would have turned over my life’s savings…. (Photo by Indi Samarajia/Flickr)

It’s on account of accountants that we can’t count anymore, and someone should hold them accountable. We call them bean counters not to disparage them — honestly, I mean no disrespect — but to remind us and them of their purpose: to tell us how many beans are in the jar. When instead they tell us how many beans were in the jar last year; or how many beans would be in the jar if we had only put more in; or exactly how many beans are in a jar we don’t have and can’t get, they are not just failing to do their job, they are doing a great deal of harm to the people and companies and system they serve. Continue reading

America’s Most Violent Terrorists: White Christians

Say “terrorist attack” to us and, like Rudy Giuliani asked how he’s feeling, we immediately respond “Nine-eleven!” But in the 14 years since 9-11, it’s not Al Qaeda operative who have been killing us. We have met the enemy, as Al Capp told us so long ago, and he is us. (US Navy/Wikipedia photo.)

Say “terrorist attack” to us and, like Rudy Giuliani asked how he’s feeling, we immediately respond “Nine-eleven!” But in the 14 years since 9/11, it’s not Al Qaeda operative who have been killing us. We have met the enemy, as Walt Kelly told us so long ago, and he is us. (US Navy/Wikipedia photo.)

“The domestic radical right has killed more people than radical Islam since 9/11 in the United States, without a doubt.” Those are  the words of Ryan Lenz, principal writer of a Southern Poverty Law Center study of violent “terrorist” attacks that occurred in the U.S. between 2009 and 2015. In a classic example of confusing ideologues with facts, the SPLC study found that while US security officials were focused exclusively on protecting against foreign organizations of Islamic extremists, Americans were steadily being picked off by home-grown, Christian lone wolves. Continue reading

When Life Gives You Yemens

What happens when Yemenis have had enough, as they did in 2011. It’s not about which son of Allah you follow, or whether you get to vote; it’s about food and water and fuel. Always. (Wikipedia Photo)

What happens when Yemenis have had enough, as they did in 2011. It’s not about which son of Allah you follow, or whether you get to vote; it’s about food and water and fuel. Always. (Wikipedia Photo)

When the nation of Yemen was put on a gurney and trundled down the hall from the global intensive-care unit to hospice, it was in pretty bad shape. The United States runs the ICU, of course, and has only two treatments to offer, whatever the symptoms presented: massive injections of cash, or invasion surgery. The outcomes are universally terrible, and have been since about 1950, but no one seems able to think of another approach. That may have something to do with the quality of diagnosis: a patient who is starving and dehydrated is unlikely to respond well to either a high-pressure currency infusion or a brain transplant.   Continue reading

One of Our Islands is Missing

Going, going....  How is it we let one of our islands get away from us without learning anything? (Photo by Highcamera Aerial Photography Service)

Cedar Island, Virginia, going, going…. How is it we let one of our islands get away from us without learning anything? (Photo by Highcamera Aerial Photography Service)

The story of Cedar Island, Virginia, is a quintessentially American story, of a man who had a dream, who wrested from an empty landscape a vision of congestion, postage-stamp-sized, $100,000 lots — lots of lots — along with seaside highways, entertainments and villas. He called his vision “Ocean City, Virginia,” and it endured for half a century. But now Cedar Island’s 2,000 acres, dozens of seaside homes, and dreams of wretched excess have been wiped from the face of the earth by an implacably rising sea. Is this a great country, or what? Continue reading

The Crash of 2015, Day 49: Hell to Pay

You have this perfectly good structure, and then you kick out a few of the supporting pillars, and the next thin you know the SEC is on the phone.

What do you mean, Uncle Clarence didn’t believe they were going to do it, and stayed in his room?

I know, it’s old news. If I stop by on Monday and tell Oscar Oblivious that his house appears to be on fire, he is of course concerned. But when I stop by on Wednesday to say it’s still burning, has consumed most of the structure, and collapse appears to be imminent, he demands to know why I am bothering him with old news. The Crash of 2015, the burn and crash of the economies of much of the world into — at least — serious recession for a very long time, is well under way. It is of course no news at all for the mainstream media, transfixed as they are with simpler stories of happier, imaginary times. But for you who come here from time to time, it’s old news. How is it then that you are still in the burning house? Continue reading