Friday, February 27, 2009

Morning In Beverly, Twilight In Thebes

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a-prey
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.

Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith wrote "She Stoops to Conquer," some lines of which have come to mind. The snap above is of Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. This morning's Cheery Thought was inspired by a drive through FameLand with a gonzo-economist guide. I love L.A. The highway signs talk to you here. While stalking Julia Roberts who doesn't really even turn either of us on we couldn't help but notice how surprisingly few nice places there are to live amongst these mansions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

subprime works
The Financial Mess & Solution Explained In 3 Minutes

The presentation above is the quickest and best primer you'll ever see on what led to this. A shorter version: greed and deception. But if you flip through those slides you'll be able to explain it to others. Thanks to Bruce at The River Blog for retrieving it.

What it doesn't explain is deleveraging. That's what's so unpredictable, unknowable, since the closest known financial event was when all the railroads were used to back bonds back in the 1860s and they were way over-leveraged and it all went bad in 1871 and things like international commerce and eating food shut down for awhile. Multiply that by a factor of 7.5, add it to the dollar going off the gold standard in 1974, subtract a little Great Depression, and divide by a regression analysis accounting for the compression of time and space. You've got at least two, two-plus years of fairly intense trouble ahead which could also develop into a prolonged Dark Ages. Sound like a strong statement? The S&P Case-Shiller National Home Price Index reported that prices sank a record 18.2% during the last three months of 2008, compared with the same period in 2007
. More of the same if some people don't get their heads out of their own I'm sure very sweet-smelling asses immediately.

A credible and consistent economic plan is called for, i.e., The One We Don't Got. This would need to include monetary policies widely viewed in the US as unorthodox. Easy money, zero-rate policy, hard stimulus that builds infrastructure and making the debt-failed sectors of the housing market solvent, philosophy be damned. Plus foreclosure forbearance. Under everything is The Land, and on it people live. This is pretty simple stuff. Fuck the banks, they're fucking fucked anyway. Nationalize them and re-privatize later.

The more people we keep in their homes and working, the faster we get out of this. And along the way we better get rid of the All Growth Is Good economic assumption. Because that does not begin to describe the world we're heading into.

Non Sequitur News

President Obama signed the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and unveiled a $275 billion plan to help some of the 6 million homeowners facing foreclosure in the next three years. Some Republican governors said they would refuse stimulus aid that required their states to expand unemployment insurance. "If Republican governors do not want this money," said Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association,
"Democratic governors will put it to good use." Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele announced an "off the hook" Republican publicity campaign, targeting "urban-suburban hip-hop settings. We need to uptick our image with everyone," he said, "including one-armed midgets."

Credit-card defaults neared a record high, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell to its lowest level since 1997. The federal government eased the rules governing the preferred stock that American taxpayers now own in more than 350 financial institutions, allowing ailing banks to convert that stock to common stock if necessary. On her first Asian trip as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton urged China to keep buying U.S. debt and told the audience of "Awesome," an Indonesian music show, that her favorite bands were the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. She was later asked by Fox News if she preferred the Beatles' early "hand-clapping" phase or the "drug-fueled existentialism" of their later music. "The hand-clapping mode was what I first was captured by," she said. "But then, as I went through my angst period and struggled with the challenges of living in the real world, the more existential message struck home."

Descendants of Geronimo sued a Yale University secret society rumored to have stolen the Apache warrior's skull and bones, and leakers close to Dick Cheney said he was angry at George W. Bush for his failure to pardon Scooter Libby for leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. A man dressed as a clown in Redwood City, California, was arrested for impersonating a federal agent, and eight bald eagles in Enumclaw, Washington, got sick after eating the carcass of a euthanized horse. A chimpanzee who previously starred in ads for Coca-Cola was stabbed by its owner and then shot to death by police in Stamford, Connecticut, after mauling a guest to its home, and thousands of cows died in Argentina, where ranchers have lost an estimated 1.5 million head of cattle so far in the worst drought in 50 years. Workers digging in a Los Angeles garage found the largest known cache of Ice Age fossils, including 80 percent of a mammoth and bones from a North American lion. A raid on J.B. Precious Puppies, a dog-breeding facility in Seneca, Missouri, found 170 abused chihuahuas and other small dogs, and a starving Bengal tiger in a cage full of puppy parts. Walt Disney took control of the Ice Lantern Festival in Harbin, China, replacing dragons and other Chinese-themed ice scuptures with Disney characters. "This is beautiful," said Li Jing, a 22-year-old visitor wearing cat ears in imitation of Tigger. "It brings my childhood memories back."

Expanding the CIA-led covert war in Pakistan, the United States launched two missile attacks on training camps linked to Baitullah Mehsud, who is thought to have orchestrated the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. "These strikes are counterproductive," said Owais Ahmed Ghani, the governor of the Northwest Frontier Province. "All it will do is attract more jihadis." A suicide bomber attacked the funeral of an assassinated local Shia leader in the Pakistani village of Dera Ismail Khan, killing 30 people.

Obama announced that 17,000 more troops would be sent to Afghanistan, an increase of 50 percent, partly to help secure the border with Pakistan. General David D. McKiernan said he would like yet another 10,000 troops, adding that it was "very unhealthy" to compare the current war to British and Russian debacles in Afghanistan. "You can't look like the likely loser of the war," explained Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations. "No warlord is going to change sides to join the loser." The recently repainted Abu Ghraib prison, decorated with flowers and renamed "Baghdad Central Prison," was opened to the press. "It was damp," said Saad Sultan of the HumanRights Ministry as he toured the facility. "You really felt the horror. Now there is more light." "I hate this place," said a jailer who requested anonymity. "It is depressing."

Drummer Louie Bellson, whom Duke Ellington called "the world's greatest musician," died. Bellson once recalled the advice of tenor-saxophone legend Lester Young, who helped him learn to play bebop: "'Lou, just play titty-bop, titty-bop, and don't drop no bombs.'"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bush Gets First Job Offer...From A Hardware Store

He's still wearing a Presidential Seal jacket even on a visit to a hardware store? Sheesh. Just imagine if he took them up on the job. He couldn't even locate the "weapons of mass construction."

Had an interesting and nearly blog-free week. Downside was having several computer malfunction issues, diving into the complex task of choosing Lord Running Boy's school, and being me. Upside was personal breakthrough. More later.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gandhian Hardball: Obama's Political Non-Violence

The leader of Team O is very consciously using civil rights principles to make the Republicans (more) insane, and the "filibuster watch" is on. The sooner they openly shut down legislation, the better, the sooner their Party's spine will be broken. That spine must be broken because, in short, it is a corporatist spine. The man's realism comes through below, and then Hertzberg, an actual journalist, sketches the reasons why maintaining a bipartisan posture makes sense.
1) (Obama Interview) "But he did say that he thought the GOP party-line vote was a fait accompli long before it was taken. "Look," he said, "once a decision was made by the Republican leadership to have a party-line vote -- a decision that I think occurred before I met with them -- then I'm not sure that there was a whole host of things that we were going to do that was going to make a difference."
2) (Hertzberg, New Yorker) "Fifty years ago, the civil-rights movement understood that nonviolence can be an effective weapon even if—or especially if—the other side refuses to follow suit. Obama has a similarly tough-minded understanding of the political uses of bipartisanship, which, even if it fails as a tactic for compromise, can succeed as a tonal strategy: once the other side makes itself appear intransigently, destructively partisan, the game is half won. Obama is learning to throw the ball harder. But it’s not Rovian hardball he’s playing. More like Gandhian hardball."
The holes in this boat may be too big to fix, but this guy can be a joy to watch.

Hell-Hound On My Trail

The cryptozoological terror sighted above torments my existence. If I were to flee to the Swiss Alps and hide out in the conference halls of Davos, it would track me down across continents and seas to emphatically corner me, her whole body trembling like some frenetic freak as she drills her dark expectant eyes into me and telepathically blasts out the message, "Give the dog your food. Give the dog your food!" She also has this routine of "are you ready to go out, are we going out? Are you ready yet because I'd really really like to go out out out and pee on everything and maybe I'll see a squirrel and then I'll climb up a fence or a tree and lick it to death."

Her name is Ripley, she is (allegedly) a Jack Russell terrier, geriatric yet undaunted. For any of you who own one of these accursed fox-hounds you know that one of their many annoying mutant traits is they simply must burrow under the covers with you, any covers, and sometimes you'll wake up to this thing, this awful horrible stink-mouthed thing licking your feet. She also has literally run off walls, caroming off the four corners of a room. This was not my choice, my wife inflicted this animal upon me and somehow it became my job, my job, to feed and entertain it. To top it off, more money has gone into her dental work in the past 4 years than has gone into mine in 20. God help us all.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Diane Feinstein Speaks Under The Cone Of Dumbness

Do you remember the "Cone of Silence" that never seemed to work the in the old TV comedy "Get Smart?" Well in Washington, DC, we have the Cone of Dumbness. It extends around the Beltway which surrounds the city, and every time an event is officially predicted or analyzed it usually occurs under that dome. Even so, if you're head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you might want to consider not saying things like this:
At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Islamic extremist targets along Pakistan's northwestern border.

"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.
You can be vicious. You can be stupid. And you can be viciously stupid. Feinstein just moved the Fall of Pakistan up to this calendar year. Predator drone strikes that kill people's families at dawn are perceived as being worse than the Taliban pulling men out of a marketplace and executing them. I can see why military folk might not "get" that. But if we can't get better out of our leadership, there really is going to be a Global War On Terror, for real, and my side will lose. Get Smart, Obama.

Oh, and all those nice things I just said about women? Do not apply to Diane Feinstein. Now if you excuse me, I have people to go kill.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day: Little Trip To Heaven, Music & Lyrics By Tom Waits

We all of us have big secrets which finally need to be unburdened, and here is one of mine. I am quite possibly the most undeserving man alive. I've been incredibly lucky in love and that's no lie. Casanova has nothing on me, and he does in raw numbers but I'll never trade. If you've ever seen how I look, you would be strongly inclined to agree, but it's not so much about the looks if you're a man, as Casanova knew. You've heard how the Hunchback won the heart of a woman whose ass when she walked recalled the bells he rang at Notre Dame. I can confess proofs and pearls of greater price, but there's only one nobody can deny. There's a beautiful woman who gladly somehow suffers the indignities of being married to me. And she gave me overwhelming sons who have it in them to run this world well.

Valentine's Day. I don't care where it came from, it's a wonderful tradition. Tom Waits went to the trouble, a few times, of writing love songs, and this one praises a girl in his long-ago past. He went on a quest over the same mountains and emotional mine fields as me, the trip I set out on to meet my wife. He's a better writer, a poet who could use his gift to any purpose but in short, like Tom, I was once Big in Japan. His wife's name is Kathleen Brennan, she helps him write all his music, she's the source in the percussion credits who designated an instrument: "man beating shit out of wardrobe." She's his soul-mate and they're inseparable, mother of his kids. An ipso facto great woman, because Tom used to have a Jersey girl named Rickie Lee Jones wrapped tight around his finger and his legs and for sure there are a lot more back there than her.

I've taken great amusement in poking fun at your species, ladies, and know your foibles intimately. I know your best and less than charitable desires because I've studied you like an obsessed bird watcher might inculcate the behaviors of lost auklettes which have not been spotted alive for a hundred and seventy-five years. I've done enough things to provoke your worst, received your repercussions, and I know exactly why Jack Nicholson and Khalil Gibran paused to say: Let there be spaces in your togetherness. Amongst my sins, I would never say I loved you until cursing you in vain, denied getting wet in the rain, and shut off my heart's yearnings until I almost went insane. But the truth is, I still think my wife and women like her hung the moon up in the sky that's shining tonight. I manifestly do not need to take a trip to outer space. All I need to do is look at her face.

In ancient times, princesses were known amongst tribes as "the bringers of peace." One girl's or one woman's beauty often could and did stop wars, and their heroic achievements went largely unrewarded, almost entirely unrecorded. I am eternally grateful to those hidden histories, being a flawed man of immense physical and spiritual appetites who can in return hear hints and echoes of significance. When I drove home from my high school sweetheart's house back through the town, I knew I was partaking magic as a mere prop in a show much, much larger than me. I felt its power. More gratefully, more gradually and consciously now,
I know for certain-fact that one mind-blowing woman can come along, a miracle who renews your faith in an improbable God.

There are gifts of love more precious, if you've ever known the hardships of a spiritual life, than gravity itself. I've known those gifts in concrete floors in jails praying on my knees, I've pleaded for souls and played Texas Hold 'Em all night with eternity. Over twenty years ago. Everything comes back, and y
ou don't need to send flowers, just flames. If perchance you see your Valentine on the downtown train you must have the courage to point at her and say "You."

Believe, believe a little, or believe in none of what's above, just
believe that it behooves us all to become better men. Believe in the goodness of women. Fortunately, almost all of them are suckers for a box of chocolate and a long-stemmed rose, and if the chocolate is Swiss you might share it for breakfast. Either way, I'm happy, I'm in love, I'm dealing what I've learned on down to progenies and this post is guaranteed to get me laid. (Had me a girl from New York, she up and pulled my cork.)

We may all be stuck here on the ground, and time can't be un-sequenced, but I'm not afraid to thank God in his inaccessible dimensions. When loving is your weakness, you're bound to get caught sooner or later. I don't know what's what, I have no reliable map of the universe, but I'll thank the Muses and
the Furies for my love's spirit because, burning charges of thermite, she will always be she, and fused right down into me.

I remember all the sacred, I remember all the profane. Tom Waits sings in another of his innocent and elementary songs, "I'll be your Dick, honey, if you'll be my Jane." I tip my bowler hat, adjust my sequined blue jacket, and calmly look down at the arrows sticking out of my beating heart. Happy Valentine's Day:
Little trip to heaven on the wings of your love
Banana moon is shining in the sky
I feel like I'm in heaven when you're with me
I know that I'm in heaven when you smile
Though we're stuck here on the ground
I got something that I've found, and it's you

I don't need to take no trip to outer space
All I have to do is look at your face
And before I know it I'm in orbit around you
Thanking my lucky stars that I found you
When I see your constellation, you are my inspiration
And it's you

You're my North Star when I'm lost and feeling blue
You're my sun that's breaking through, it's true
And all the other stars seem dim around you
I thank my lucky stars I found you
When I see your smilin' face
I know nothing's gonna take your place
And it's you, and it's you, and it's you,
and it's you, and it's you, and it's you

The Sacred: Vasuveda, Who Dwells & Shines, Said "Everything Comes Back"

You can change the fate of humanity with a laptop, but some things you never want to change. I strive to save the best of what we were. Most of all, I want to save people's voices, and if you ever hear the not yet perfect results of synthetic speech processing, odds are I was involved in their creation.

The picture above is beautiful. I want to be there, too. Hindu devotees from Bihar state performed rituals this Monday in Allahabad, India, the annual month-long Hindu religious festival of Magh-Mela. It was such a festival that Hesse's character Siddhartha attended and decided to give up his luxurious life as a prince, to go after something far greater. People still bathe at Sangam, at the plexus where the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati meet, to wash away their sins. If we could only but likewise wash ours down the River.

My wife puts her mouth against our two month old son's belly, blows to make the sound of a whoopee cushion, and he laughs with the purest joy. I remember that feeling, I don't want it to ever leave the earth, or that is to say, erased without trace, without beholder. I remember that we can hold pieces of ochre in one hand, buildings in the other, that I will do anything to halt a long decline of everything I've ever loved into the ground, and I remember the end of that book, Siddhartha:
It was the self, the purpose and essence of which I sought to learn. It was the self, I wanted to free myself from, which I sought to overcome. But I was not able to overcome it, could only deceive it, could only flee from it, only hide from it. Truly, no thing in this world has kept my thoughts thus busy, as this my very own self, this mystery of me being alive, of me being one and being separated and isolated from all others, of me being Siddhartha. And there is no thing in this world I know less about than about me, about Siddhartha.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Profane: "I'd Rather Be On A Deserted Island With A Gorilla"

The quote in the title was actor Mickey Rourke's response to the question, "Is it true you're going out with Courtney Love?" The rumor had been devoutly constructed by the Infinite Estate because of the way he looked at the expert courtesan whilst behind her on stage at the Bread and Circus awards ceremony. I have looked at Courtney Love similarly, before I even know who she was, and my thoughts were far from lustful. They were more along the lines of, "This psychotic bitch is fully capable of killing someone and enjoying it." A lot of Kurt Cobain fans are convinced she did.

Mr. Rourke has the same sentiments and expressed them in a way that made me laugh non-stop, but then I've been laughing a lot lately. Video of Mickey and female companion being ambushed by webarazzi is here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The New-New Bank Bailout Plan, AKA "Thing Which Makes Me Contemplate Mob Hit On Self To Collect Life Insurance For My Family"

So I caught some of Obama's bailout road show in Elkhart, Indiana, in which he said we're in the run-up to something like another Great Depression, only probably worse. Something in that subject inspired a Washington Post reporter to ask what the President thought of Olympic swimming Wheaties-box superstar Michael Phelps going to a frat party and taking a bong hit before getting laid by a cadre of sorority girls. Or maybe he asked something about the pre-Madonna A-Rod taking steroids and how he won't ameliorate his contrition intravenously with the two hundred million dollars he's made as a baseball player. Either way, the Infinite Estate just reached a new journalistic high.

This caused me to look up the stimulus plan between panic attacks, and to actually listen to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's interview about his enhanced bank bailout plan today, or at least to some of it. About three minutes in, I hurriedly ran out along with the rest of Wall Street hitting the mute button on my conference calls to start frenziedly converting cash and redeemable assets into more gold bullion and stick it in hard-to-search places. (Did you know you could get gold femur replacements?) Liquidation is a vexing, complicated process, so we could only sell enough of the Dow to lower it by 4.8% in two hours.

Having known some bankers, I empathize. Geithner didn't name even one of them or confirm their home address so he could send them, their lovely wives, mistresses, call girls and children seven or eight figure magic checks. More palliatively for their panic, however, the "bad asset bank" you may have heard about was discussed in the form of a "Public Private Investment Fund.” Apart from language being officially dead after a life-long torture by Washington beaurocrats, Satan ruling with blood and power on this earth, and people getting tax cuts for buying crappy new cars, those words don't even form an acceptable acronym. Attempting to explain the PPIF makes even less sense, because it will be “jointly run by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, with financing from private investors, to buy up hard-to-sell assets that have bogged down banks and financial institutions for the past year.”

Bogged down? My plan for bipartisanship was to cram a stimulus bill down Republican throats, getting two votes short of cloture and then letting them make more fulsome assholes of themselves by filibustering for three months on the Senate floor reading autographed English and Arabic translations of Mein Kampf. But no. We got this. Maybe, as Lord Wife urged Team Obama, they can just take the bill back into committee and add stimulus in, with a provision for razing the vacant public school three blocks away from our house and turning it into an Indy-Car race track for hyper-competitive children. Also with some other stuff like job creation, public works, renewable energy projects which would never get built except by a government and will move us up into this century and keep giving back for 120 years.

I've just taken two deep lung-fulls of air and have started holding my hopeful breath. The political system could change from within, unlike the rioting by the without in Iceland, Latvia, Estonia, Greece, Argentina, the demonstrations and strikes in France and England. And what would happen here? We shoot socialists, don't we?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Iran

Thirty years ago today the Iranian people threw a US Proxy Playboy-Thug out of their country, assuring their entry into an elite club: "Nations Which Must Forever Remain On the Hit List Until They Are Dead Dead Dead."

Mohammad Khatami, a moderate former President, has stepped back up to run again. Oddly, he was President until Iran's first election after, umm, when was that? Oh, yeah. The election came after America invaded Afghanistan, then Iraq. So Iranians reacted to aggression right next to them on two sides by electing the tough-talking and wily Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former mayor of Tehran.

Now an olive branch has been extended by the Obama Administration. Yes, I know, the nature of that branch can be quibbled over. Still, you have to admit that whatever it is, it's something other than putting gigantic blinking neon "F%!# You" signs on 5 or 10 or 20 aircraft carriers and trolling them up and down the coast 24 hours a day for 6 years. And because he would like to stay elected, Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready for talks with the US. A little confidence, reason, and de-escalation might go a long way.

(In power calculus terms, of course, this means Israel has little choice but to send in commandos with prominent "I Heart the Ayatollah" tattoos on their chests and backs to take over Georgetown University for a week and a half.)

Very Strange Thought Of Day

People with Alzheimer's are going to use Twitter.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Psyche's News Roundup

Leahy: Investigate Bush Now (your "f*#! you" is going to cost you, Dick)
Who Will Throw the Book at the Bushies?
Ben Smith's Blog: Lugar turns down Air Force One Invite - (Republicans in destroy-the-country mode)

jdledell's Blog | Talking Points Memo | My Israel: (questioned by Shin Bet thugs for blog post -- Israel only wants right-wing Jews)
Preventable deaths at Fort Carson | Salon News Adam Lieberman tried to kill himself when he returned from Iraq. Only then did the Army take his mental health seriously

Obama Aides Rip Cable News, D.C. Media And Political Elite | The Plum Line (You mean The Washington Post?) - Wiki White House: Obama Admin and Technology
Lawyers, Guns and Money: The internet made me a potty mouth

Think Progress » Lieberman: Republicans In The ‘Gang Of Moderates’ Are ‘Heroes,’ Deserve The ‘Congressional Medal Of Honor’ (patting each other on the back)
Ann Coulter Under Investigation For Voter Fraud
Meg Whitman, Former eBay CEO, To Run For Governor Of California (eMeg!)

Resilient Strategy for Times Despite Toll of a Recession - ("Last Grey Lady Standing")
Rick Wolff, "Flip-flops of Economics" (serving business interests)
New Statesman - Glad to be grey?

Obama Pushing Stimulus Plan Through Grass-Roots Support
Obama Backs Rule Change to Modify Mortgages (cramdowns)
On handling the stimulus: 67% approval vs. 31% approval (Republican resurgence!)

The $800 Billion Gamble: Economists Say Stimulus Cuts Could Be "Disastrous" The Senate has compounded the weaknesses in the bill by sharply cutting what economists agree are essential ingredients of a stimulus bill (Susan Collins and Ben Nelson remove the only part of the bill that was stimulating)
Why The Stimulus Is Too Small - "The most shocking thing to me has been to see the Republican Party playing chicken with the economy"
States' only option now is budget pain - Los Angeles Times

Can We Transform the Auto-Industrial Society? - The New York Review of Books
Recruiting Drops at Business Schools -
Boston Review — Always at the After Party

Essays: 'Darwin the abolitionist' by Adrian Desmond | Prospect Magazine February 2009 issue 155
First Things: The Forgotten Story of Postmodernity by Rein Staal
The Joy Of Violent Muslim Sex |

Mythic Birthplace of Zeus Said Found | LiveScience
First Principles - The Regionalist: Vonnegut’s Cradle
Courtenay Semel: Ex-Yahoo CEO Dad Cut Her Off

Op-Ed Columnist - Slumdogs Unite! - - The tsunami of populist rage coursing through America ... is bigger than Obama
Thomas Ricks: War In Iraq Is Not Over ("A lot of people back here incorrectly think the war is over. What I say in this book is that we may be only halfway through this thing.")
Man who led Sen. John McCain's presidential-campaign office in Pueblo arrested for child molestation | Crooks and Liars

Criticized, Putin Says Europe Has Rights Abuses of Its Own - Worldwide Stimulus Battle May Signal Tough Sell for Bank Rescue (yep)
Economic Collapse: the Japanese solution | Spero News: The shareholders and bondholders of Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and any other insolvent banks need to be wiped out

GOP senators 'caved in' on stimulus, Paul says - "It is like they're born-again budget conservatives," Paul said. "Where were we in the past eight years, when we could have done something?
Daily Kos: NY Times: "You Try to Live on 500K in This Town" (Times: rich New Yorkers need their rich)
Trying to Live on 500K in New York City -

Foreign Policy: The List: The World's Most Notorious Prisons
The Virtues of Godlessness - The least religious nations are also the most healthy and successful
IQ vs. Religiosity
Slumdog Millionaire's Child Actors Still Live in 'Grinding Poverty' in Mumbai | PEEK | AlterNet

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Freedom Writer

A Wayfarer's Notes, a blog by Vincent (also known as "Perpetual Labs" in the right margin) is appropriately dedicated to Basho, whose footsteps inform every post. Some writers can can soak up details of people and things and absolutely bathe them in mindful observation, holding those long enough in mind to transduce into text, for enjoyment by others. Vincent can find spiritual peace and slow down time when walking to buy a reading lamp and a memory card for his wife. A recent post was "Metaphors," and a line in it about the clarity of early-childhood memories especially resonated:
I don’t think we can exactly choose our mood, despite what some say, any more than we can blow into the sails to make our boat go forward. What we can do is be sensitive to the breeze and trim our sails to take advantage of every zephyr that could possibly take us where we need to go: need, not want.

Being a savage, and not a whit ashamed of it, I’m neurologically wired to a sense of place. The whole visible, smellable universe is redolent with associations; thus something happened in this spot, or reminds me of something that happened somewhere else; the scent of the resin from pine, laurel or holly evokes this or that. I cannot pass a certain telegraph pole in the street without its weather-worn tarred surface reminding me of Australia, a land I left sixty-two years ago.

Many things remind me of the ocean journey that brought me to England, with its smell of fresh paint, diesel oil, sewage and salt spray. Memory provides its own kind of presence, one sense invoking the other, so now I feel the constant shuddering of the ship’s decks and bulkheads, the warm exhalations from the ventilator cowls, the daily adventure of getting lost and feeling quite safe, for on board everyone knew me, almost all were women, war brides predominantly. I suppose I used to feel on that ship as a rock star must feel when he dives into the audience and they combine to hold him aloft. Leaving Australia was an exile and loss, but the shipboard journey was a consoling interregnum. I was only four at the time, but all the same I could feel, as I feel now. It astonishes me when I hear a person confess to nothing but vague memories before the age of eight, when up till that age mine are at their most clear and poignant.

This house, too, reminds me of a ship, an imaginary one, not the one in which I sailed from Fremantle to Tilbury. It’s cosy and narrow: a 12-foot-wide slice in a row of similar houses all joined together. But from front to back—I just ran a steel tape measure between the two—is 38 foot. The rooms are furnished simply, and though they are rather dark, the furniture and doors are of real wood, whose glow is derived from the sun’s fecundating rays. Where I sit now, which we call the middle room, for it leads to a smaller room at the back, has an arrangement of five washing lines strung across the room, where in winter drying sheets hang slackly like the sails of a becalmed schooner.
Someon has proven the best travel writers don't even need to travel.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

From The Comments Section "Of Coal Mines & Canaries"

Still Life Living, who wrote the original post, observed:
It is interesting how we Americans recently poured $140 billion into Citibank ($50 billion cash and the rest thru off-balance sheet Fed incentives, loans, and cash infusions), and the market cap today is only $19.35 billion!

God bless America. Where else could such a ruse be pulled off? Why didn't the US just buy all of the outstanding shares at market prices and go forward with a truth commission like investigation? Once we own the company, we own the history. Then we can prosecute and maybe seize assets and get our money back.

Halliburton has a market cap of $16.4 billion. I think the USA should buy it so we can own the history and start prosecutions.
Where did that 150 billion go? At this point, no one knows, but that's a shit-load of money, 7 or 8 times the total worth. Far cheaper to buy their ass, buy all their assets. And what are they building in there, between 10-K reporting deadlines? I don't know, but Tom Waits and I will tell you one thing: they're not building swing-sets for the children. It would be much cheaper to buy the truth than to keep paying off our captors.

Cheney Telegraphs Nuclear Or Biological Attack With Skillful Cheer

Today Dick Cheney granted an interview to Politico, of all places. From this we know his wheelchair was not rolled into a pool of starving piranhas, that his Pumphead heart still beats and he has embarked on an internet-savvy PR campaign. We learn he owns an Amazon Kindle, that he's planning a book which will reveal how torturing people kept American soil from being attacked by external terrorists for 7 years. With the help of his earth-daughter Liz, his cloaking device worked pretty well throughout the session, so he managed to come off as remarkably times even achieving a disarming quality. Until one examines the synthetic output:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney warned that there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.
Can't we hold this anarchist in jail, or something? He provides more specific detail of the horrific event:
Cheney said “the ultimate threat to the country” is “a 9/11-type event where the terrorists are armed with something much more dangerous than an airline ticket and a box cutter – a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind” that is deployed in the middle of an American city.

“That’s the one that would involve the deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, and the one you have to spend a hell of a lot of time guarding against,” he said. “I think there’s a high probability of such an attempt."
Indeed. To approach the shock levels which followed 9/11, the loss of life from an attack would have to be at least an order of magnitude higher. So here's a red-blinking dot to connect, or not. Cheney's skillful Politico messaging was imparted just as a global threat warning was being issued by the State Department on Monday, February 2nd. A similar warning was issued to embassies and military installations on September 7th, 2001, and then updated on September 10th, 2001.

This "entity" is legion, they are in the business of threat-mongering, and where none sufficient could be conflated, they created one. That's a proven practice in their individual and collective histories as related in "To Russia, With Hate." Given the fixes necessary to feed their dreary highs, one should not disallow the proactive arming of a threat if it serves their continuing interests. Therefore, the Entities personified by Dick Cheney can be suspected as Public Enemy #1, and the threats they always pose are as serious as the mushroom clouds they're fixated upon. This is their business, this is their livelihood, and if you climb into their unhinged calculating heads you may hear questions such as these: "What's the acceptable loss, and where would it have greatest effect on funding?"

Perhaps there are such things as coincidences, the timing of the World Caution notice is mere prudence, and hopefully I'm even more paranoid than Cheney and nothing he chimed on with will happen if we stop torturing people from the third world whose uncle stole someone's goat 60 years ago and got turned in for a vendetta. Just as cheerfully I hope, probably forlornly, that Team Obama is closely monitoring the whereabouts and communications of Cheney and his associates. The most prudent thing to do would be to dispense with trials and proceed to glib denials and unfortunate accidents

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Of Coal Mines & Canaries

The roundup below is from Furtherism - A Rejection of Kabuki, which you'll be hearing from often, it's run by a very old gonzo economist friend who is starting into blogging. Before Christmas, I drafted a post about how this thing is going to unspool bad, but held off because, well, we had one last Bing Crosby Christmas. That was worth it, but I know this financial shit in my bones. Or maybe lungs.

Bottom line, the likelihood of the spreading globo-riots coming here this year is high. We screwed up: the solution to the financial crisis was to tell it to eat itself. Stick those transactions where the sun don't shine, where it never did. We didn't declare the unregulated, illegal, hopelessly opaque tangle of Casino Credit Default Swaps null and void so that 15% of mortgage failures in their value basis wouldn't take down the whole system. A maximum default of 15% called the values of all bets into question and froze a highly leveraged system into final crystals. Stupid! Stupid.

In turn, those casino bets devalued the high-yield Collateralized Debt Obligations bonds they rested upon, then they seeped down into sure-thing Money Market Funds, the surest of which broke the buck. Why? When the back-street gamblers broke the banks, the casinos weren't honest. They didn't say to their patrons, "All bets are off. Take your markers, it's a raid. Go home." Instead, they kept everybody playing, went to the cops who were on their take, and demanded to be made whole. The cheek.

The failure to declare off-book transactions as null and void is what's dragging everything down. Those deals are illegitimate, irretrievable, bets scrawled down on scraps of paper which will never be accounted. That's why the Troubled Asset Relief Program hasn't fixed the problem. It can't, it never will. The gas in the air everyone's running from is lethal, and no one is talking about it. They're either running or dead:
You think Obama is going to save us? Remember, he is not a messiah that can perform magic and miracles. That job is left to us collectively. But in the meantime, let's see whether the canaries are chirping:

From Russia: The Guardian is reporting:
A wave of protests swept across Russia yesterday in one of the first signs of mass discontent with the Kremlin's handling of the financial crisis
From China: RIA Novosti is reporting
20 million Chinese workers have received "pink slips" and are headed back to the hill

At the same time, however, groups of wealthy Chinese are treking to America to by foreclosed properties
From Switzerland:
Wealthy attendees of The World Economic Forum were informed that the global financial crisis has destroyed 40% of the worlds wealth
From Great Britain:
The rich are buying gold to keep (literally) in their mattresses.
From Saudi Arabia:
Economists here are referring to the current troubles as The Greater Depression.
From USA:
Personal bankruptcies are up only 33% to 1,086,130 in 2008
From Brazil:
100,000 indigenous peoples and eco-socialists met in Belem for the World Social Forum to discuss alternatives to "global capitalism", and no one paid much attention
So today's trivia question: what is the canary's song?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Psyche's News Roundup

U.S. role in Gaza invasion | Salon News: Powered by the U.S. - Taxpayers are spending over $1 billion to send refined fuel to the Israeli military
Glenn Greenwald - - The L.A. Times, Obama & Renditions (we can't do without torture)
From the Field: Is a "special" Turkey disappearing? (pornographic Israeli gymnastics)

Media Matters - The LA Times takes a cheap shot at Dr. Jill Biden (a children's school teacher conflated with "Dr." Condaleeza Rice." Write to:
Media Matters - NBC's David Gregory falsely claims Social Security will "pay out more than it's taking in by 2010"
Bailed Out Banks Still Spending Millions On Sports Sponsorships, Considering New Ones (They can't survive by banking alone)

Poll: Majority Of Republicans Want Party To Be More Like Palin (ah geez)
The Expeditionary Imperative: America’s national security structure is designed to confront the challenges of the last century rather than our ­own (ight the last war, not the next)
The Washington Independent » The Triumph of Blue Patriotism

Our Local Correspondents: Ms. Kennedy Regrets: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker: She’s unable to be in the Senate today (not cut out to be a Senator)
The Zany Adventures of (Senator) Caroline Kennedy -- New York Magazine - But the overriding principle of Caroline Kennedy’s life had been one of sphinx-like silence (ditto)
Sony's Sorrows: Japan's Iconic Brands Under Fire - TIME

Bailed-Out Bankers To Be Hauled Before Congress (marshmallows do catch fire)
Op-Ed Columnist - Bailouts for Bunglers - - “lemon socialism”: taxpayers bear the cost if things go wrong, but stockholders and executives get the benefits if things go right (ah, yup)
Kevin Drum - Mother Jones Blog: Today's Two Minutes Hate - Shop at Wal-Mart, obviously a sign of financial distress, and your credit limit gets lowered (credit cards gouging, going after good payers)

E-Commerce News: USPS 5-Day Delivery Week Could Hurt E-Commerce (Amazon, Netflix, Craigslist)
Macy's Cuts 7,000 Jobs, Slashes Dividend -
What the Richest Men in the World Don't Know - The Daily Beast - Study the lives of the nine wealthiest financiers of 1923; quarter-century later, they were all either dead, broke, or in prison (upheaval)

Leaping Real Eyes Archives (why you need at least $5,000 in cash on hand at all times)
Welfare Aid Isn’t Growing as Economy Drops Off - (18 States cut welfare rolls as economy tanked)
Brave New Welfare: Layoff Daily (cash payments out lowest in 40 years)

Chinese earthquake may have been man-made, say scientists - Telegraph
Selfish adults 'threat to children' - Yahoo! News UK: An aggressive pursuit of personal success by adults is now the "greatest threat" to the wellbeing and happiness of children, according to a landmark inquiry
Miami Beach Still Loves its Patio Heaters : TreeHugger: never put a sweater over your Versace top

The Ecologist - Life, religion and everything: Biologist and author Rupert Sheldrake believes that the world’s religions have a crucial role in restoring the earth’s ecological balance
Canada intervenes in Saudi marital dispute: Morin’s mother has said her daughter is unable to leave because, under Saudi law, she is his property because she is the mother of his children (valuable chattel)
'Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.' by Victor Stenger -

Our unconscious brain makes the best decisions possible (get out the deer rifle?)
Lawrence Schiller - Pop International Galleries (the Sixties)
The Zeitgeist Movement