Monday, October 20, 2014

The Oil Weapon Can Backfire

The oil weapon has a long history. It pre-dates the 1973 oil embargo. The oil weapon was first used when the US placed an oil embargo on Japan in 1940. This set the ball in motion for war in the east as Japan had two years worth of oil stored. A Pacific with different European powers, America and Japan all having interests was replaced with an American dominated Pacific. The oil weapon is making a comeback now in a weird repeat of an urban legend from the '80s. Geopolitical battles involve many different types of weapons, and in the age of American military dominance, will force others into other competitive realms. Per recent reports, the Saudis are pumping oil with no regard for how low the price goes in hopes of punishing both Iran and Russia. This has the chance for major blowback and unintentionally wrecking the petrodollar system.

The price of oil is dropping like a rock, which is partly due to supply and partly due to trader manipulation. With the full force of the printing press backing trades, the FED can fiddle with the price of oil if it wants. Besides that, economic activity is clearly stalled or looking shakier than official statistics show. Supply of oil is still going strong, so we have more oil than demand. The Saudis do not want to cut back, which ahem, makes no sense given their repeated claims before that the world should get used to $100/barrel oil. With a drop in the price of oil, it ruins the balance sheets of Russian, Iranian and every single other nation that depends on oil revenues for government expenditures. Russia and Iran need high oil for their governments, but Russia's debt to GDP ratio is incredibly low, so a temporary deficit situation could be easier to weather. This looks like a poorly planned and public version of the '80s Reagan administration-House of Saud deal to pump up supply while the US reduced consumption to flood the world with oil and destroy Soviet balance sheets, bankrupting and ruining the USSR.

This is poorly planned because history is not a perfect repeat cycle. Right now, the US is far more leveraged in all regards. The US Dollar system itself is in a weaker position. The Saudis also have to maintain a high price of oil for their own peasant pacification programs, and a Saudi prince has expressed his displeasure with this. Other petro-states are in a similar bind. No entity is a monolith, and the Saudis are no exception. The Saudis also needed the US more in the '80s. There is another quirk at play. As I wrote before, the US petrodollar system has been boosted recently by the massive jump in oil production through the shale plays. The stabilization in our oil import bill gave our global financial efforts some credibility. If oil drops from $100 to $70, how many shale rigs shut down? How much production goes away? How many shale firms running on massive cheap debt go under? If they go under and production drops, our import bill will rise even if the price drops because how many companies will restart or re-drill since well depletion is so quick? It might not happen if the knock on effect of shutting down shale production creates a problem for the dollar and interest rates.

That is the core of the problem. The US elite may be getting to clever by half by resorting to this old weapon. The move will hurt Russia and Iran. The move will hurt Saudi Arabia in return. The move may hurt the US balance of payment issue and cause further concern by others that the dollar is not secure. Interest rates are tanking again, so maybe the lords of the universe have a bit more time to hoodwink the world out of more loot and maintain control indefinitely. It is an oddball coalition for Team America both domestic and foreign. America has interests, not allies or enemies, and the American regime's interests is maintaining control. That is also the interest of different ruling cadres for our allies, so how far are the Saudis willing to go before they have to roll the tanks out again on their people? The tools are the same, but the environment is different now. All things come to an end. All regimes fall. This one is no different.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

China Can Deploy Sanctions Too

There has been much trumpeting of US sanctions against Russia for uhhh, gays, uhhh Ukraine, uhhh the Crimea, whatever the excuse is for a nation resisting American borg assimilation. Russia has made nice with China to the tune of hundreds of billions in economic deals. If not soon, when China fully confronts the US, someone will write a "Who Lost China Part Deux" column. Forgotten will be moves in the '90s that allowed for China to have more independence and American self inflicted wounds, and Putin will get some credit for seeing the Chimerica split. Sanctions go both ways, and not just with Russia's counter-sanctions on imports. China recently hit an American ally, Australia, with a pretty stiff coal import tariff.

Australia is not to be laughed at as an ally. It is an important commodities producer. It is part of the Anglosphere. It has also participated in each military engagement led by the US after World War Two (including Vietnam). America has a military presence there, and has a long history of cooperation with the Australian military. They are an important Pacific partner. They also have had a huge housing bubble, sucked in tons of Chinese money the last decade, and have been feeding the dragon with raw materials for a long time. Australia has invested immense dollars and resources into developing their coal sector to meet Chinese demand. China hit them with a 3% import tariff on coking coal and a 6% tariff on non-coking coal. China had been shifting coal import sourcing already, but this stings Australia's mining sector. If you think this is worldwide on China's part, they gave Indonesia a nice exemption for coal imports since the Indonesian coal is cleaner. Not hard to piece together the fact that Russian natural gas could further reduce China's use for Australian coal.

The global chessboard truly is a big board with many players and different moves. While the dominant player for now, America and her allies have weak spots and can be subject to pressure just like Russia and China. Australia's commodities boom has strengthened their currency, has fed the housing boom and boosted their consumer sector. With the leverage in place in Australia, it would not take much of a reduction at the margin for foreign commodity demand to pop their entire bubble economy. After all, the US financial crisis of 2008 was started because by late 2005, we had run out of greater fools to buy homes in sand states and the Ponzi buyers had lost the asset inflation power to sell for higher to cover their borrowing costs. We are just in the phase of sanctions and minor trade war moves. Looking at moves on the back pages, and not just from the regime's propaganda shills, is a good indicator of who exactly is hurting whom.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Open David Lynch Thread

After writing about David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, I thought I would leave this post open for any comments on what you would consider his best work. I do not have many comment droppers, but you lurkers are invited to leave a quick suggestion or explanation for what you consider his best film or work. I have not seen everything he has done, but enough to be familiar with the probable works selected. 

I'll take your comments and paste them into the blog entry with your name to identify your choice. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wind Along Mulholland Drive

Week Two's entry for horror-thriller month focuses on Mulholland Drive. Last week was Vertigo.

In the wake of David Lynch's announcement of a return to Twin Peaks, I thought I would rewatch an amazing Lynch film that still intrigues me: Mulholland Drive. I wrote about Drive in 2007 after watching it twice in two days, both tv edit and original cut. I focused more on the mood and atmosphere of that film. Drive was part of the genre of "what is real" films that flooded theaters in the late '90s and early '00s. It is also a mysterious film with a fantastic, David Lynch mood that really draws people in. I will gladly listen to any interpretation of it. Is it all real, is it half dream, half real, is it a Mobius Strip, is it back to back dreams, et cetera because there is something for every interpretation. Tis the season for scary movies, so let's walk with sweet Betty and sexy Rita down Mulholland Drive.

Drive is an unwanted television pilot Lynch filmed that he eventually slapped on roughly forty five minutes of story and released as a film. That could go horribly wrong, but Lynch turned the busted play into a touchdown. I personally love anything that will make me think a week after experiencing it, and here I am a decade later, still intrigued by it. The film is rewatchable because of the multiple ways of interpreting it, and for Lynch's storytelling combined with interesting visuals (and a Roy Orbison song as always). The blue box, the use of red, the female protagonists' make up and costuming conveying mood or status, the "cowboy", and the evil being behind the Winkies diner. Who or what is that thing? The mood is wonderful and tense. Not all Hollywood productions have to be Aaron Sorkin or Kevin Smith verbal diarrhea fests. Lynch creates a world centered in Los Angeles, that while a completely canned Hollywood product, feels a bit dirtier, sleazier and more real than the facade we are presented with daily. We know something is wrong with Brian Singer but it is unconfirmed what exactly it is but we kind of know, yet Hollywood wants to tell us he's just an awesome guy who likes to make superhero movies. Drive wants to show you the scenes of Singer with even younger men and even worse drugs, that still produces a product that people will eat by the gallon.

So what are the theories on what exactly we are seeing?
1. All Real - Time moves forward.
2. All Real - Time is jumbled.
3. Mobius Strip
4. All Dream
5. Betty/Rita dream, Diane/Camilla real
6. Two dreams back to back
7. Pre-Blue Key inserted into Blue Box is an afterlife way station for Diane, Post-Blue Key inserted into Blue Box is the reality that creates her suicide

8. And many more...

I am open to all interpretations. All have some support with the film, so you could talk me into each of them. I will listen. I have a preferred theory, but here's a back up. "It is all real." The first part of the film is post-hit attempt, but the second part of the film is what led up to the hit. Camilla makes her way to the apartment complex that her mother in law runs, and hides out in an apartment. She takes the name Rita from the poster. Betty is a hallucination from her concussion. Check when Betty has scenes on her own; they are prefaced by Rita falling asleep. Betty is the chipper newbie Camilla envisioned Diane was. She remembers Diane and goes to find her. She finds her body dead from suicide. She figures it out at Club Silencio. The film after the zoom into the blue box is Rita snapping out of her temporary amnesia and piecing it all together.

That kind of makes sense from a straightforward human point of view. That is not Lynch though; it's not his style to be straightforward. Had this been a series, the first part would have been real and story lines would have unfolded from there. Had HBO picked this up and used it as the hour long drama in between Sopranos season, we would have watched and Lynch, learning his lesson from Twin Peaks, would not have killed the golden goose so early and left Rita a mysterious and dangerous person to be around for seasons. So what is it about? Here is my pet theory.

Diane gets confirmation of the murder of Camilla from the box behind Winkies, has snorted some ungodly amount of drugs and passed out in her bed. The Betty/Rita portion of the film is Diane remembering her arrival in LA, and her whirlwind romance with Camilla. People love to get high to forget or go to a happy place. The darkness is too much for her drugged out, dreaming mind. The weird parts get mashed in that tie into the hit she later arranges on Camilla is her guilt piercing through to invade her dream. In real life, she secretly hates Camilla for the big break she got in the The Sylvia North Story. In real life, she sees Melissa George's character kissing Camilla at the dinner party and is hurt and jealous. Bingo, the "this is the girl" forced selection for the Sylvia North role in the dream is named Camilla Rhodes but Melissa George is playing her. This is why the unibrow goober is so afraid of the man behind Winkies. In real life, Winkies man is playing with the blue box that Diane found, which fit her key and horrified her. In the dream, Rita/Camilla is completely dependent on Betty/Diane for everything. In the dream, she needs Betty/Diane, the only name she can think of is Diane's, and she is a magnet for evil putting good, na├»ve Betty/Diane in trouble. When Diane wakes up, we see a series of events that build up to her putting the hit on Camilla, and then in guilt over being an utter failure and killing the one thing good in LA that she found, loved and lost, she kills herself.

The horror, besides evil being behind the Winkies diner, is in the dirt that goes on daily and how deep that dirt is beneath the very thin layer of *Hollywood* in the lives of players big and small. The mob is not dead in America, well at least the Jewish Mafia that runs Hollywood is not dead. They will go to any ends to get their way, and they will necessarily have a toolbox full of weapons to use for different circumstances. The horror is that love can fill you with every emotion, including ones that lead to murder. You can only properly know hate once you know love. You will hate someone who wrecks your love, whether an interloper or the object of your desire simply rejecting you. Lynch is very explicit in his discussions of Drive to say this is a love story. Diane is told when you find this (the blue key), you will know it is done. She finds the key, but to what? It would gnaw at her, and she may doubt the scruffy looking hit man. She'd ask, and he'd tell her where the key goes. She'd find that box, the real box, behind the Winkies. What is in there? I don't know, but if someone doubted I did a hit, I'd leave proof behind where only they could find it. That realization of what is done being final could send someone already on the edge to suicide. The old couple (perhaps the grandparents who raised her) being the final demons chasing Diane are the same old folks who wished her well in her dream as "Betty" arriving in Los Angeles. This is your life Diane, and it was one horror show.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Royals' Cinderella Story

One of the best set ups in sports is when the dominant, powerhouse team takes on the scrappy underdog. It sucks in marginal viewers, listeners and readers. The story is easy to sell, and plays on two American loves. America loves the powerhouse colossus that destroys all, and it pretends to be a hard fighting underdog that with a little moxie and improvisation, can pull through in the end. Baseball will miss out on this with the elimination this post-season of all big market teams, but it has a Cinderella story that usually one finds only in March Madness. The Kansas City Royals are rolling through the playoffs, and everyone is loving the small market team improbably beating up bigger and better foes each round. There is one catch though. The Royals are still spending a ton of money on their roster.

In the minds of sports fans, the small market team is by definition a small television market team from a mid-tier city. The association with small market is small payroll. In baseball this contrast was best exemplified a decade or so ago as the Yankees and Red Sox bankrolled teams for more than $150 million per year, and occasionally met the Athletics or another team with a payroll half or less than half of Yankees/Red Sox levels. The Royals are not near the top of the payroll charts, but they are also right in the middle at a rather inflated payroll of $92 million. Sure, the big market teams spend more than small market teams, but the increase in spending by smaller teams is large. Just this year, all but two teams spent $77 million or more on payroll. That is far different than ten years ago when there was a greater spread in spending. If the Royals are a have not, they are a free spending have not. A key thing from the link on the Royals spending is that they are breaking even with this high payroll despite a poor television deal and an increase in attendance but still not a maximum capacity attendance situation. They probably even have room to increase ticket prices if they wanted to for next year. They can spend this much and still survive.

This is good for the game, and most likely the outcome of better regional television contracts and the league's revenue sharing. Baseball has changed the revenue sharing with time and added a luxury tax. It is not the hard cap of the NFL or the silly, somewhat non-existent cap of the NBA, but it must be doing the trick for teams if Baltimore, St. Louis and Kansas City can all break even or make money with payrolls above $90 million that a few years ago would've been considered rich. The more amazing thing with baseball salaries is that despite overall inflation of the roster totals, the top earners are not signing ridiculous contracts compared to the A-Rod deals of years ago. Kansas City is still the Cinderella. Those powder blue uniforms look pretty on-screen, and Kaufmann Stadium is a beautiful park as well. Even though I am a Baltimore Orioles fan, I will pull for the Royals in the World Series. Nearly nine figure payroll or not, I hope this Cinderella story has a few more pages to it.

Cross posted at SWPL Sports Review

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Progress or Change: Kim Novak vs. Kim Kardashian

Last week, I wrote about Vertigo. It is classic Hitchcock because it is suspense and it has the quintessential American pair. Hitchcock considered America in the form of a couple to be a tall handsome man with a blonde younger woman. Most of his movie pairings are that with Tippi Hedren, Kim Novak, Janet Leigh and Grace Kelly filling the fair haired female role. Novak was the blondie for Vertigo, and seemed destined for stardom. Did not happen. A little hiccup happened.  It reveals a little bit about old America vs. new America. Novak fell in love with Sammy Davis Junior, and her career petered out. The studios would not handle an interracial relationship for its stars in the 1950s; no matter the participants nor the talent.

Kim Novak performs very well in Vertigo. She has to sell you at first that she is a rich, classy but slightly crazy lady. Her switch up is then selling you on her just being a regular girl around town, not wanting to play the part of the classy, elegant dame. She has to fight becoming Madeleine for Scottie. She is not just a pretty face or romantic lead in this one because she is in on the con. Novak's career never took off, and 1950s attitudes is why. Vanity Fair ran a long, great article on the Novak-Davis romance. It is pretty stunning to read today, but maybe not if you watched a little known cheesy docudrama called "Hollywood Babylon". Hosted by Tony Curtis, Babylon would tell the darker tales behind old Hollywood legends. Each show ended with "A Moment with Tony", which he'd start with "have ya gotta minute" and would be related to the subject. The show was terrible but incredibly entertaining, and on VH1 or E! in the early '90s. They did an episode on Novak-Davis. Mob gave him a roughing up session. The Vanity Fair article goes into greater detail as Davis was saved by his Rat Pack friends and forced to marry a black woman quickly. It was not so much about Davis as it was Novak who was going to be Columbia's fresh faced female to push. She would be damaged goods with al the implications of an affair with Davis. America wouldn't go for it no matter how powerful the hype machine.

The progressives who hold the megaphone tell awful lies about the past, but as Steve Sailer is quick to mention, it was "I Love Lucy" not "Louis loves Marilyn". Desi, white with an accent, could be paired with Lucy, but no way was America going to watch Louis Armstrong and Marilyn Monroe play house. Odd coincidence, Lucille Ball had an episode on "Hollywood Babylon" about how she walked all over Desi because she was the star, and he was just the husband. She was the first woman with a production studio. Her studio, not Desi's. Some of the past we are fed is fraudulent, but some taboos did exist. Novak's private life made her career a victim of one. She also crossed an incredibly powerful media mogul.

It is also quite the contrast to today. Look at the Kardashians. How do we know them? Not from papa's legal work on the OJ Trial. If that were the case, you would have known about the girls before a sex tape leaked out of daughter Kim having sex with a black guy. Nothing left to the imagination. Not Sammy Davis Jr. level A Lister, but a D List pseudo-celeb himself. This has launched the Kardashian family into pop culture and paparazzi crack fame, earning them millions and creating terrible role models. In the late '50s, a powerful studio like Columbia could not work with Novak because of a private relationship with a well respected black star. In the 2000s, Kim Kardashian has earned her family millions ($40 million for 3 years of their tv show alone) all because her mom leaked a video of Kim in flagrante delicto with some black nobody. What would be implied in Noak's era was revealed for a t see with Kardashian. Progress? Change? Decline.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What do we know? What do we think? What can we prove? Ebola Edition

"What do we know? What do we think? What can we prove?" That is a great scene in And the Band Played On as Dr. Curran  tries to stop the hysterics, the guesswork and the fear within the CDC about the early days of HIV-AIDS (GRIDS) and focus on reality. We are in a similar spot here with ebola. I'm going to say ebola is worse as it kills quickly, and there is no therapeutic wonder drugs like HIV-AIDS has currently. Even in its peak for killing, once a person caught AIDS, the average patient's life span was three years. Ebola seems to bring death three days after you show symptoms. We also exist in an even less trustworthy era. Recall that decades ago, governments did try to shut down bathhouses that were prime spreading areas, whereas now the government will not perform the simple feat of stopping flights from infected nations, quarantining passengers who travel through infected nations and mandatory quarantines for anyone who travels to those nations. Once again, what do we know, what do we think, what can we prove?

What do we know?

Ebola is spreading at an exponential rate in the infected nations.
Ebola is spread through body fluids.
Health care infrastructure was already weak in those nations before ebola, and is significantly weaker today. There were 51 doctors in all of Liberia (pop. 4 million) in 2010. 51. That is less than the doctors in Belfast, Maine (pop. 8,000).

Kill rate is only 50%, not the normal 80% like other outbreaks and this is in nations with terrible health care systems.
Locals are acting less than stellar. Aid workers were hacked to death by one set one locals. A special ebola health station was looted by locals. handling of bodies after death has been poor.
Nigeria did have a few infected cases, but did contain the infections. They have had 20 cases and 8 deaths.
Africans will try to come to the West for treatment in desperate attempts to save themselves without regard for spreading the disease to anyone else.

Ebola can remain in the semen of survivors for a few months, which could cause later flare ups. Guess the condoms stop HIV talk in Africa did not work, maybe condoms stop ebola will.
American officials are not closing the door on Africans. Planes will continue to come in with no quarantining.
The media has already framed quarantining and stopping flights as racist and xenophobic. Multiculturalism > safety.
Health workers are contracting ebola despite wearing hazmat suits and following protocols. This was true in Africa and is true now in Spain and the US.
This is the largest ebola outbreak in history, and was already the largest months ago.
If you sneeze and yell out "I have ebola" on a plane, no one is taking chances and the hazmat suited men will come in to remove you immediately.
Humans are still animals that can talk and walk upright. Humans will do stupid things.

What do we think?

That something is different with this ebola outbreak.
That unreported cases are 2-5 times higher than official numbers for infected nations.
That ebola's transmission mechanism is different this time and possibly airborne.
That the doctors are not using full disclosure with the reason medical professionals are catching it despite being suited up.
That possibly ebola's quick burn out rate prevented us from having a huge body of knowledge about this virus.
African corruption and political problems exacerbated the outbreak initially as the WHO staffs in those nations were political appointees.
Infected nations will get more desperate as the body count rises and demand much more from an all too compliant Western power structure (both left and right).

Our officials are not taking every precaution and leaving the door open for more spread through carelessness.
The current ruling class wants immigration reform, which in reality involves amnesty for illegals and quick steps to citizenship for current legals.
The ruling class, with media cover, will down play this as long as possible (see enterovirus D68 right now) to provide political cover to allow for an executive amnesty by Obama in case nothing comes out of Congress.

What can we prove?

That Western leadership will put open borders ideology over basic safety. We have an ocean to separate and save us, but our leaders are allowing modern technology, planes, to carry this disease to our shores earlier than ever needed. Besides that, we can prove nothing. This is all guess work for us little people. Even the facts, as reported, are conflicting. How can a hospital follow all protocols yet staff gets infected? Why do they say all protocols are followed but then say they were not followed once an infected nurse pops up? This actually adds to the fear. Straight answers and full disclosure is needed. Liberals always stress the need for more education and awareness. This is actually a situation where more awareness, education and information is needed. Our psychopathic elite will need to swallow their pride though and shut down the flights, impose travel bans and put safety first... but first, they must be threatened by it.

I'm not optimistic.

* That is my attempt at a creative way to do a links post.