2016.09.16 a mixed bag

I’m back here, and I think this time out will probably be a general grab-bag of stuff.

In the world of banking and finance, a recent story was an item about how Wells Fargo business practices included some sort of massive fraud where, evidently, a flock of people in that organization made some sort of “performance” numbers for themselves in terms of “new business” by taking people’s money, transferring it into new accounts those people did not create, or want, and then skimming money out of the money involved in fees and charges related to that account, you know, some sort of “administrative fees” and such, apparently counting on the idea that the people being robbed in this scheme had so much money and such complex financial affairs that they simply would not even notice. This is just one facet of massive wrongdoing in modern banking and finance and business, where some bunch manages to make themselves wealthy by simply stealing from wealthy people. Of the words you could apply to describe this, one would be to call this parasitic activity. It literally is exactly that.

It is important to note that this kind of thing is not only robbing the wealthy, of course.

So what came of this, once brought to light? Well, it appears that the person with the main overall responsibility has left Wells Fargo, with a massive pile of money as some kind of bonus, as well as shiny praise from Wells Fargo.

Tolstedt, however, is walking away from Wells Fargo with a very full bank account—and praise. In the July announcement of her exit, which made no mention of the soon-to-be-settled case, Wells Fargo’s CEO John Stumpf said Tolstedt had been one of the bank’s most important leaders and “a standard-bearer of our culture” and “a champion for our customers.”

Note the part about “a standard-bearer of our culture”, which is just staggering, with monumental amounts of irony found in being one tiny rare bit of unintentional truth coming out of that “culture”.

Is there anything in the works regarding criminal responsibility? Yeah, right. That’s funny.

Now, on the other hand, there has been the recent story, a series of stories, actually, regarding a project ravaging some Indian territory, the lands of native American tribes, for some massive oil pipeline project. One little online meme made an observation that this kind of project somehow seems to always manage to find itself routed through some land of native tribes including some patch of land sacred to them, but never seems to come near white middle-class suburbs and gold courses, and, it almost seems as if this happens on purpose. Imagine that.

So, with the uproar about that, comes news that Democracy Now journalist Amy Goodman is wanted by the law with a warrant issued in North Dakota for her arrest, for being present on the scene reporting on events.

Part of the saga of this pipeline project has been one item of many, adding to the outrageousness of the whole epic, involving bulldozers evidently deliberately going out of their way to cause purely malevolent destruction.

So what consequences have come of that? Well, a different news item is that Green Party candidate for President Jill Stein also has an arrest warrant issued for her for the egregious crime of spray painting the blade of a bulldozer involved in the horror show.

On a different but related note, I tried to point people toward a very good piece about the general facts about different variations of underground hydrocarbon compounds that loosely get covered by the term “oil”. This is a topic I’ve covered often before, although I have not written about it in a while. With all the attention on the general concept of “fracking”, hydraulic fracturing processes, and notions of “shale oil”, there is wide ignorance and misunderstanding, including, as I’ve said before, the term “shale oil”, frequently misused when what is actually being referred to is actually more correctly called “tight oil”, when the term “shale oil” actually refers to a much different substance, kerogen, which is essentially what would eventually become what we know as crude oil petroleum if subjected to vastly long term geological processes, and at this point, is basically oil that is nowhere near done cooking.

That got no reaction. As far as I know, nobody has paid any attention to it at all.

Almost invariably, predictably, anything about oil resources and consumption (and depletion, which is inherent when you combine “consumption” with “finite resource”) gets turned into a political subject, and that turns into the whole realm of squabbling madness of “politics” now.

That drags in a running topic here, and in some ways it’s exasperating to think, how many times, in how many different ways, can you address the same problem? There is an extra layer to it in the problem of trying to explain what I’m talking about to anybody who does not already get it. Much of what I’m talking about, as I have said over and over, can be encapsulated in the term “bipolar political disorder”, where everything, first, becomes a “political” item, even if it really is not, and then, all kinds of noisy useless squabbling proceeds based on people’s notions of what might be “their side” or “the other side”.

That whole knotted problem of a subject can be endless if you try to sort it out, as I’ve been trying to do for some time, but it might be worth mentioning that this sort of thing came up in one particular way in the past couple of days. A bit of online conversation among a group of people came up around an online acquaintance who stated that a limit of their own had been reached regarding their “social media” communications from people who were simply being obnoxious, suffering in their own way from the bipolar political disorder, not just being fundamentally rude, obnoxious, and vile, but being so caught up in a dysfunctional calcified mindset that any real serious discussion of anything is virtually impossible.

Speaking of noise making things impossible, I digress for a second to mention that I’m dealing with doing this while bombarded with extraordinary noise coming from a bit of work being done nearby. I mean really loud. Really really loud. It’s all about a project that has been going on over some time in the area that involves what you might generally call “infrastructure” work. In a way, it might be a situation that can be a lead-in to a larger subject. On one hand, this stuff is definitely a disturbance (seriously, if this right now involved me actually saying all this to you in the room here, instead of typing written words to whatever place and time you read them, I would be shouting in order to be heard over really loud machinery). On the other hand, there is work being done on freshening up some “infrastructure” type stuff, and there is a larger topic in just what needs to be done, in a lot of different kinds of things, all over. In that broad subject, there are all kinds of subtopics, like, what is not getting done, that needs to be done, and what isn’t getting done because of money and resources, with all the complications and dysfunction that can go with that matter, and even another issue. That issue is how people can be grumpy and complaining about the repercussions of some work not getting done, yet also complaining when the work is getting done.

It occurs to me that this last bit actually nudges us back to that item about large pipeline projects and where they run.

Leaving that there for now, and letting you have your own thoughts about that, including the obvious, the whole “NIMBY” phenomenon (“not in my back yard!”, just in case you hadn’t run across that acronym, which is a little improbable considering how common that phenomenon is), the matter of an oil pipeline brings up an extremely important item that, incredibly, is being almost completely ignored.

Remember that whole “difficult oil” thing you just read about? For some years now, we’ve heard all kinds of noisy delusions about “shale oil” (tight oil deposits) and the wondrous miracle of fracking, and how all that has somehow solved all oil supply problems, with silly articles even appearing here and there about topics like “the death of Peak Oil”. As I’ve said many many times, even the term “peak oil” itself, as a bit of shorthand reference lingo, became a phrase that became warped and misused to such an extent that more often than not, if it registered in public consciousness at all, it ended up somehow being regarded as something of “conspiracy theory” and “doomsday prophesy” or something regarded in one way or another as some silly crazy nonsense, rather than a shorthand description of a general kind of pattern discovered and studied over years and decades by people directly qualified and involved in the matters involved, like geologists working in the oil business, based on decades of data.

A recent item came up that laid out in clear form something that is huge news, that I came across almost accidentally. In the realm of the supposed wonder miracle of tight oil resources, despite all the ridiculous noise about “fracking everywhere” and “shale oil” making any concerns about oil some absurd notion made obsolete, most of the actual deposits involved here in the US are focused around a couple of different areas, known as the Bakken formation, mostly within the borders of North Dakota, and the Eagle Ford region in Texas. The ignored big news is that evidently, both of these have now apparently passed their peak of extraction rates and have gone into the decline of the downslope of Hubbert’s curve (the “peak” in the term “peak oil”).

It probably will not come as much of a surprise to anybody who bothers reading my little corner of the web here that this news was relayed by me to people elsewhere on the web, and the response was… nothing. Silence. Crickets. Tumbleweeds.

Now, of course, if I had tossed out some meaningless trivia about some televised entertainment, or sporting contest rituals (which actually carries with it the side note observation that the Venn-diagram intersection of these two things almost completely overlaps), all kinds of extended chatter is likely to ensue.

A different item that popped up was a little online graphic meme about the military aircraft project known as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That thing has been going for, well, I don’t know how many years now. I forget when I first heard about that and the idea of the thing, which was a new military aircraft that would be the shiny new up to date piece of war machinery that would serve as the new fighter aircraft for all the branches of the US military who had fighter aircraft (Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps), a supposed efficient cost-savings project by virtue of being one single aircraft for all instead of a collection of different aircraft as specified by those in charge of such things in those military branches.

I don’t pay much attention to these kinds of things, but from what I gather from items about it that have popped up over, well, many years now, there are some issues. Among them is that this project seems to have dragged out for an incredibly long time. Another is that, from everything I’ve seen about it, the whole idea of the thing was as I just said, an aircraft that is all things to all people, or, in this case, all military forces, but it seems that most anything I come across about it talks about how it fails at pretty much everything. But, then, this whole thing is big lucrative business for some in the war supplies business, AKA “the defense industry”.

The graphic image, that does not really need to be a graphic image, has text talking about a Pentagon announcement that they will spend 1.5 TRILLION dollars on the F-35 (which is actually a complicated subject, and I’m not sure this is some new item, which gets into trying to know the total cost of the whole program over time), and then proceeds to itemize various ways that same amount of money could be spent.

A running theme from James Howard Kunstler has been focused by the simple summary declaration describing the American project of suburbia, mostly since the end of World War II, as arguably the greatest misallocation of resources in history. This is a very valid argument, focusing attention on a very fundamental problem, a long term huge mistake for more than one reason, especially focused on the problems of the assumptions of endless cheap petroleum that the entire idea is completely dependent upon. I think it is not the only large, massive, tragically mistaken misallocation of resources, and the kind of thing I’m talking about just now is a glaring example.

One response to that F-35 meme graphic was something that struck me as both idiotic and common. I can’t quote it verbatim offhand, but it basically said that 1.5 trillion for this project might be cheaper than lessons in Russian and Chinese. You know, like, if we didn’t have this, the Russians and Chinese would take over the United States of America, so we must do this, because defending our freedom!

Now, for one thing, an immediate thought would be about the F-35, specifically, and that whole “doesn’t actually work” thing. Even if it did work as advertised, the question would be, is this actually necessary? All sorts of questions arise about what is actually necessary to guard and protect the country, and, for that matter, what “threat” there actually is, and from where.

This is a long running story. The F-35 project, which looks like the kind of thing that some people would use the word “debacle” to describe, is just one item in an order of things where people somehow carry ideas in their head that, in a case like this, this saga isn’t a massive problem, but instead, go something like “we got 1.5 trillion dollars of freedom, buddy!“.

Writing this, I find myself stopping to back up and insert another new item, finding another example of what gets consistently ignored in what people generally get for news here, that being another article actually trying to get at a bit of truth and reality regarding what has been happening in Ukraine, and Crimea. We still find a stream of the narratives from Washington and the main US news media pushing the same nonsense and fiction about what has happened and continues to happen over there in eastern Europe. Crimea became part of Russia again after a huge majority (over 90%) of the people there voted to reject the new gang overthrowing the Ukrainian government in a coup d’etat, and formally ask to rejoin Russia (rejoining, because it had been part of Russia until 60 years before). Among other things, as the propaganda narratives keep pushing nonsense about “Russian aggression”, it has been worth noting that part of the reaction from the Washington neocons and War Party actors was to immediately begin pushing on European governments to “increase defense spending” (because of the supposed “Russian aggression”), which, of course, is just their way of saying “you need to divert much more of your resources to buy loads more war supplies from us”.

As all this goes on, first, I’ve found myself sitting here pausing for a few moments thinking that, as I write, I’m getting a sense of déjà vu. There’s some hard to describe sense of that creeping in, like some subtle but powerful wave, just as I start to turn to another item about a very broad subject of misdirected sense of value and mismanagement. That next item takes us from one domain to another, in what people might divide up into categories of “public and private sectors”. A piece came to my attention from Harvard Business Review saying that excess management is costing the US around 3 trillion dollars a year.

Let that soak in for a while.




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