cleaning the sensors

As Sandy the Storm was still in the process of beating the hell out of the most populated region of the United States, I turned on a TV and took a peek at CNBC. It was virtually the same exact myopic obsessive-compulsive yammering, about all the games of finance and trading of theoretical wealth, as always, even as the NYSE and other activities of Wall Street were shut down, while the southern portion of Manhattan was being swamped with seawater.

Nothing much had really changed from their usual routine. The only noticeable difference was that the usual barrage of scrolling data on the screen was missing some of the usual running updates that would normally be coming from the Wall Street exchanges. It was probably about as good a look at the detachment of that subculture from the rest of the world as you’re ever going to get.

We’re now a few days past the actual storm, and the circumstances and problems of much of the northeastern US are severe and massive in scope and scale. I’m thankful and fortunate to be hundreds of miles away from it, but between news reports, including views of portions of the scene via television, and more direct information, there is a picture of some severe and stark and very disturbing contrasts.

Thanks to the communications medium of the interwebs, I can get more direct and personal glimpses from people of the online acquaintance kind who are right in the middle of it, in places like northern New Jersey, just across the Hudson from NYC, and Long Island, and so on. It’s rough, to put it mildly, even among people who are able to function enough that they can actually communicate online, having electrical power and internet access.


Stuart Staniford’s Early Warning blog addresses something that’s fundamentally important and has been on my mind for years now, the whole notion of “just-in-time” business practices in logistics.

That strikes accountants and various management types as just wonderfully clever money saving. What it neglects is the question, what happens when the routing of stuff from there to here has some kind of a problem? It’s not a hard question. Things fall apart, cease to function.

I’m having this feeling of déjà vu because I’m about to say something that I realize I’ve just written within the past couple of days. We have, and we have been dealing with, a long list of complex problems and repercussions, situations where things have been made so overly complex, and combined with so much shortsighted foolishness neglecting matters of function and reliability, that a great many things don’t function well, or even don’t function at all, even when circumstances are normal.

So, what happens when serious problems turn circumstances to extremely abnormal?

In an era in America where avarice teams up with blatant dishonesty and short sighted stupidity way too often, these things are not factors that could possibly cause major problems one day. They are biting us on our asses, right here, right now.


It’s reasonable to say that, if you want to talk about there being a broad general kind of cultural character, and talk about notions of general American character, the best of what that might be is a general sense of no nonsense, a practical sense of realism, of getting to the point and dealing with things, of what many of us would sometimes describe as just having good working bullshit detectors.

Much of what I see as severe problems here in early 21st century America, a problem that was developing well before the turn of the century, consists of abandonment or failure this kind of sense.

I have more than a couple of thoughts about that, but I suspect that a lot of it could be put into some kind of metaphor about too many people having their personal bullshit detectors just massively clogged up, inundated by excessive quantities of bullshit coming in and thoroughly saturating and plugging up the works like some kind of filter in a nasty environment that then also hasn’t been cleaned or changed in years.


As I write, we’re now just a couple of days away from the big national election here in the United States, and the detachment from reality extends, as it has for some time, to the continuing mendacity of Republican party candidate Willard Romney, and what surrounds that.

Just in the past week, the magazine The Economist and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have both declared their endorsements for the re-election of Barack Obama as president. In both cases, it’s not so much a declaration of full agreement with and enthusiasm for the incumbent President Obama as much as the sheer nonsense and separation from reality and the truth of candidate Willard Romney. What’s especially interesting, in a glimpse of how severely twisted the mental malfunction has become in some areas of the public realm, is the publication National Review has published commentary about these endorsements and dismissing them as endorsements of Obama by “the Liberal Establishment”.

You just can’t make this shit up.

In my last note, I referred to the burst of gross dishonest deception from Romney regarding matters of American auto manufacturing, sometimes while speaking in territory where these matters are of direct local relevance, and people know that it’s absolute bullshit. It’s even worse, as I just read just yesterday about some detail regarding Romney, the GM rescue he completely opposed at the time, and his relationship to the matter where it involved Delphi.

The obvious, ongoing, and severe problem here is that the people who most need to get their heads around all this are also the people who won’t know about it, or will ignore it even if it’s presented to them, and will just even flat out deny it if it’s right in front of their face.

A perfect example might be something that I already collected in simplest possible form and put up for people to read, comparing timeframes in office of President Reagan and President Obama, and the bottom line annual budget summaries. In comparable timeframes, Reagan had the annual federal government deficit increase by a substantial amount of money, and Obama saw the deficit decrease by a substantial amount of money, when you compare what they started with in their first year in office, via the budget for that fiscal year from the previous president, to the last year of the term, the year of the next election.

The data is simple, a matter of public historical record directly from the federal government’s own accounting, and yet you can guarantee that large herds of clueless people will insist on hanging on to what they’ve been told that Reagan was a hero of “fiscally conservative and responsible small government” and Obama has been “big government wasteful spending doubling the deficit”, despite these notions being completely contradicted and shown to be false by the actual historical facts.

Too many people seem to have completely lost any sense of their own internal bullshit detectors, and the way to explain this might be a simple case of people’s bullshit detectors just being completely overloaded, overwhelmed, saturated to the point where they can’t tell the difference between bullshit and truth.


As the sheer stark reality of the damage and disruption of Superstorm Sandy hangs over the northeast and the nation as a whole, we certainly have a test of people’s grasp on reality versus delusions and deception and sheer idiocy. I was startled to have my attention directed to a televised segment involving broadcast douchebag John Stossel, that’s just almost beyond belief. Basically, Stossel has the notion that the government has no place in dealing with a disaster like this. Stossel’s idiocy has been on public display long enough that this isn’t some total sudden surprise, but even with that as background reference, this is jaw dropping.

To add to that, consider another episode I witnessed myself on Fox News (I didn’t see the Stossel episode). Checking out the Hannity freakshow a couple days ago, Hannity and associates sat there commenting about the aftermath of Sandy.

Consider the storm; a massive unprecedented kind of storm that started as a hurricane and combined with other weather systems into something that had no reference for comparison, that ended up being called a “Superstorm” lacking an existing suitable term, large enough to cover all of Europe at once, sweeping through the most populated region of the United States, including the most dense and complex city in the nation, New York City. Hannity and crew’s comments consisted of basically saying “that Obama, he’s so bad, why, it’s been four days already, and look at all the problems!“.

Contemplate for a while the cognitive dissonance of people sitting in front of a TV watching Fox News and watching both Stossel and then Hannity, and agreeing that the government has no place in disaster recovery and Obama’s government is so terrible at dealing with the disaster that’s happened that it’s inexusable that four days later there are major problems. The lunacy is off the charts.

With that kind of lunacy on display, it becomes a little bit easier to explain how there can be anybody seriously considering a shapeshifting pathological liar spewing nonsense as a suitable candidate to be president, even as incomprehensibly insane as it is to see.

Meanwhile, reality is smacking us around worse and worse the more we ignore it, or deliberately avoid understanding it. We have an immense and complex set of difficulties in the northeast US, in New York and New Jersey. This involves questions of function and things we throw under the broad heading of “public infrastructure”, that are going to be a matter of major repair, and reconstruction, and big questions about how we do things to function into the future.

We already faced serious problems of extraordinary complexity and difficulty that required open eyes and a functioning rational grasp of circumstances before Sandy came blasting through. That just got much more enormous.

It’s completely naïve for anybody to think that everything will just be swell and all work out easily and smoothly if Barack Obama is re-elected, but it’s just positively insane for people to think that we should replace him with a chronic liar, offering perptually shifting nonsense that’s severely detached from reality, that’s all about constant pandering to whatever audience is before him at a given moment, a stereotypical con-man salesman who will say anything to “make a sale”. Willard Romney is not just that, but the one thing that is very clear that he is, and would be, is a full out representative of plutocracy.

We still have the very same problems, of avoiding the reality of remaining finite resources, of the damage to the Earth and the repercussions, of a nation bankrupted by a combination of plutocracy evading taxation and militaristic hubris, and as people chatter about the economy as a primary issue, of avoiding dealing with the pervasive frauds and misbehavior in finance and banking that wrecked the economy for everybody except the people playing the games.

We still have all that regardless of the games of politics, the one thing that is certain is that electing Romney as president would make every bit of that much worse.

Maybe Sandy will be the smack in the head that snaps people out of a variety of failures to face things and understand.




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