Monday, August 31, 2009

Letting Terrorists Go Free

A terminally ill terrorist was released from prison in the UK to go home to Libya to a hero's welcome. Way to go UK, letting out a terrorist because he has terminal cancer. Isn't that part of the punishment of prison? You do not get to see your family and friends through life's ups and downs because you committed a heinous crime. You are kept away from civilization for their protection as well as punishment for your crime.

As an FYI, our president did object tot his. Way to get passionate about a terrorist being released. Way to have any pull in the world as the president of the USA asking that a killer of our people be kept in jail. "We have been in contact with the Scottish government indicating that we objected to it," President Barack Obama said of Thursday's release."We thought it was a mistake. We are now in contact with the Libyan government, and want to make sure that if in fact this transfer has taken place, he is not welcomed back in some way but instead should be under house arrest...."

My family has been in that position of releasing a murderer early. My great-great grandfather was murdered by two thieves. They murdered him, as he fought them in his 80s, by hitting the back of his head with a religious statue. Many years later (30+), one of the murderers developed cancer while in jail. He petitioned to be released to die with his family. My great-grandmother was next of kin and called into speak. Her words echo now at a moment like this. "I never said goodbye to my father, why should he?".

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Last Centurion

"The Last Centurion" is a summer read that flows like a Heinlein book. If you like Heinlein's writing, check this book out. It was a bit over the top sometimes with its points, but I enjoyed it. It also made me check my survival kit that my wife & I have stocked. I can't wait for a house, so I can stock my garage & have a generator for emergencies. The book also showed me other reasons to not eat organic foods and reminded me to thank the men and women who serve in our armed forces. The bummer is that I drafted up this movie screenplay (I mention it here) "1000 miles" about a post-flu epidemic that fucks up civilization and forces a group of people to travel 1000 miles to their families. This felt like the guy took that concept and make it a really interesting universe that one could easily write the "1000 miles" idea into and have fun with it. I read this at times and said "dammit why didn't I write this first". There is much more military stuff in this, and that was something I did not have at all in my idea.

Thank you veterans for your service and members of our military for standing watch on the wall.

For Political Fun: The Bush Dynasty

Here's a rundown of what I could list for the Bush Family as a political dynasty.

Prescott Bush - 2 term US Senator from Connecticut
George H.W. Bush - Congressman from Texas, Ambassador to the UN, special envoy to China, Director of the CIA, Vice President, President
George W. Bush - 2 term Governor of Texas, President
Jeb Bush - 2 term Governor of Florida, the smarter but sadly younger brother (primogeniture applies in politics)

There is a huge difference in the Bush family dynasty compared to the Kennedy family dynasty. The Bush family is more of an executive branch dynasty, whereas the Kennedy dynasty is more of a legislative branch. More 'power' in the Bush dynasty, but the Kennedy influence maybe greater because of Teddy's long Senate career. The Kennedy's also have a problem with the next generation. Some of Bobby's kids have run for office and lost, while others just are content to be rich assholes that like to ski and play football at the same time while drunk, causing them to crash into trees. Ahhh, the life of a wealthy jerk. The Bush family also has 2 young guns that I could see making political moves: Barbara Bush (the cute, Yale graduate) and George P. Bush. George P. Bush will be a Hispanic military veteran within a decade. Combine some brains (JD from UT) and family money-connections, and you have a winner. It really is as easy as that.

One of the Last Old Timers, Ted Kennedy

In many conversations with my pal working in Congress now, we constantly bring up how so many of today's Congress members are not as beholden to local interests as they are the national party goals. I bring up names like George Mitchell and Bill Cohen as perfect examples. Yes, they represented their parties interests, but they were Mainers first. That time seems a bit old, and I wish it would come back. They were not creatures of a separate political class, but citizens fo theri states and districts representing their interests.

Ted Kennedy's passing is another reminder of the change in Washington DC. He was a link to that past full of deals made by men like LBJ, Tip O'Neill, and as prez, Reagan. He's also one of those people that as time passed and few of his peers remained, his reputation was helped just by staying alive. This happened in baseball with Ted Williams, who was a first class asshole, but since he outlived so many of his peers, suddenly was remembered more fondly than his attitude justified. Yes, he was wicked liberal. He was also someone willing to give an inch to get an inch.

As a native New Englander, I cannot discuss his wonderful service as a champion for the poor and disabled, as well as unions, special interest groups, academia, and rich people, without mentioning the bad. Kennedy was a cheater at Harvard who got to the Senate because of his family wealth & name. He was a boozer & skirt chaser even in old age to the point where "In Living Color" and "Saturday Night Live" made fun of him in the early 90s. He was a joke as well as an institution. A Denis Leary joke went "Ted Kennedy: good senator, bad date". This was not just a reference to his drinking and harassing but to his "Chappaquiddick" problem. When you drive, probably drunk, into water with a young woman not your wife, then you escape, leaving her in the car to die, and don't go to the cops right off the bat, you are a first class douchebag. If it happened today, he'd resign and maybe face jailtime. Fortunately for Kennedy, the first moon landing was later that week. He also had his money, fame and a far less intrusive press to manage. My parents like to laugh about his press conference with a neck brace when he turned his head to answer a question, showing the brace to be a fraud. Imagine if he had escaped with Mary Jo Kopechne. He'd have been president in 1976.

Instead, he was a very human senator. He lived in the shadow of 3 brothers who died while in service of their country (soldier, president, senator). He wraps up the Kennedy name. No one left in that family has any charisma or fire. It's a family with so much promise unfulfilled. What if JFK is not killed in 63? What if Bobby survives his attack & becomes president in 68? What if Ted saves the girl? What if JFK Jr. doesn't fly at night when he wasn't instrument rated? America will never have a royal family, but the Kennedy family is as close as we will get (if the Bush group has another Prez, then we can reconsider). Like any dynasty, they have their highs and their lows. After nearly a century in the public eye, their impact, their good deeds, and their place in America history can truly be evaluated and appreciated.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Deficits are Bad

This is why I do not like the US running federal deficits. This is why I do not like running massive deficits on "stimulus plans" that have no positive, sustainable impact (Bush in '08 & Obama in '09). This is why I say no to public option govt healthcare right now. Japan is a huge buyer of our debt. If they pull the plug, it's a nosedive for the currency. If the currency nosedives, we have an Argentina in 2001 situation where the dollar loses 20-50% of value quickly. If the USA issues debt in another currency besides the US dollar, we are screwed as well since we will not be able to inflate our way out of debt. Look at the pie chart in the column. If Japan will not accept the debt in US dollars, then how could we say no to China, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait? When your sovereign debt is in another currency, then you are open to hyperinflation. This is important. One of the concepts that we base modern society on is having a medium of exchange we can trust.You can't form any meaningful contract without trusting the means of compensation.

Check out www.zerohedge.com. It has quickly risen up to my #1 spot for finance discussions, government-wall st crony connection exposing, and investigative posts on the shenanigans going on today. A good sign is that the mainstream media is constantly trying to out who is Tyler Durden and discredit him... even though different people use that moniker to post.

Global Warming Ramblings

I do believe the Earth has become warmer since exiting the mini Ice Age int he mid 1800s. I do think that human activity has some impact on that. I do think that we will never truly know the human impact on Global Warming (GW). I also think it is very arrogant to think we little humans cause so much damage to Earth. Earth is pretty resilient. It will get by without us if need be. My main concerns are deforestation, resource depletion, and clean oceans/water. Let's keep water/land clean and resources available.

CO2 is not a pollutant. It's a greenhouse gas just like methane & water vapor, except much milder in "damage". Carbon Monoxide (CO) used to be the big harmful greenhouse gas in enviros eyes as it destroyed the ozone layer. We made changes with exhaust systems to reduce CO output. Enviros changed focus. If one considers how the enviro cause started in the '60s and had amazing success with pollution, CO, forest and wetland protection, it is no surprise that they ran out of things to go after and now focus on an invisible gas that humans exhale involuntarily and plants love that might or might not make things warmer. They've run out of 1st world targets, and don't have the guts to face developing governments about deforestation anymore (like China).

That said, I also believe that big ball of gas in the sky, the Sun, has a pretty big impact on our warming and cooling. I think it's activity is far more critical with Earth entering and exiting ice ages and warm periods than CO2. Sunspot activity looks pretty important to me. This blog post with many links seems important as it was 5 years ago. In 2008 and so far in 2009, sunspot activity has been down. Could cooling and a mini or full blown ice age be coming? I hope not. An ice age would mean my home state (actually all of my former residences) would be under lots of ice. An Ice Age is much more dangerous than a 1 degree celsius rise in temps. When it was warmer, the Romans had vineyards in England. In Roman times, Britain was a bit WARMER than now, yet they enjoyed wine, hmmmmmmm. Slightly warmer than now and they survived. Let's do more research, let's get scientists working, and let's not just drown out and blacklist scientists who do not toe the GW line. More research is needed. More data is needed. A little less alarmism would be good.

Pittsburgh and Ramblings

Pittsburgh is much more green, hilly, small and water based than I imagined. I envisioned a dirty city that had a true city core vibe to it. The opposite is true. The book An American Childhood once described Pittsburgh as a collection of neighborhoods. It is very true. The hills are pretty steep in some areas. The skies are clean & clear. I guess that is the product of enviro laws and costs pushing the steel jobs out to other states (Alabama) & foreign countries. It's charming as a community. The accents are funny and enjoyable. The food is going to make you fat and feel satisfied. I did have one crackhead ask me and a coworker for 80 cents. Yup, 80 cents. The city has been shrinking; it is half it's population of 1950. Sad. The best compliment I could give is I could live and enjoy a life there.

Air travel is even more painful now. Many airlines have cut many many direct flights. This means layover madness. I flew Indy to Charlotte to Pitts. Look at that on a google map. It's an almost equilateral triangle. I'm just going to drive it next time. The extra killer is the charge for checking baggage. No one wants to pay it so everyone carrys on bags that should not be carried on. You end up wasting 20 mins watching people bumblefuck trying to load their bags into overhead compartments. Air travel is way down which is why flights have been stopped. This is all with oil averaging $50 a barrel in the first half of 2009.

The businessmen I met work with many small businesses. Many of those businesses are scared to death about health care reform. These brokers are extremely well educated on health care; it's what they do & they want to save companies money. Maybe some 19 year olds who sit in their dorm rooms updating their web 2.0 self centered platforms could learn a thing or two about HC if they spoke with them? They knew things I had not heard in any newspaper article because they took the 1000 page bill and read it at the urging of their clients (if only lawmakers did that). Some of these brokers have strong union ties & are lifelong Dems (others obviously weren't). If reform passed as envisioned by the ultralibs, it would levy fines on small businesses not complying to medical insurance standards (who sets the standards?). It would also leave a loophole for businesses under 25 lives to not have to comply or pay fines. One broker hinted that many companies he deals with that are around 25 lives will cap themselves of full time employees at 24 and 'contract' out & temp others. Great, just what we need, finagling by employers to defeat the purpose of reform. At the heart of the matter though is that some employers don't want to face reality. They want their HMO with $10 copays to be the same cost forever despite their group getting older (especially if they haven't hired anyone in a while or laid off younger workers). As you get older, you are a worse risk, which means you pay more for the same plan. Change your plan to get costs down.

There is also a fear out there of doing business with companies that have accepted government money. These guys wish that those companies had been forced to sell their blocks of business to safe companies rather than take govt money and be in 'limbo'. Many of these brokers are paid commissions by insurance carriers, while some get fees from employers. Commissions also come with bonus programs. If the govt suddenly says all bonuses paid by TARP recipients are subject to the "pay czar", do broker bonuses get reviewed? They don't work for the TARP recipients but they get a bonus from them? It helps my company as we have had our ratings affirmed and do not take TARP money! Still, this does hurt small businesses as they suddenly have to change their insurance because of TARP fears by the brokers & employers. Who wants to do business with a TARP recipient?

Nothing was as sick as hearing the broker who told me his municipality and public sector clients don't mind cost increases because they think they can always raise taxes. He's tried to warn them that this isn't the case right now. He's paid to advise them & they are not taking his advice. He has advised cities & counties to do what the private sector has done for years and play hardball in these once in a generation economic hard times. As he said, "fiscal year 2010 has pie in the sky projections that will splat next summer, forcing more drastic changes". It would be wonderful to see newspapers investigate this.

The huge theme that I heard & witnessed through conversations with those connected to all sectors of the economy is that things are hurting with end user demand and will continue to hurt for a while. Companies are cost cutting with labor costs because this is a majority of their variable costs. Cap-ex is over and done with, and raw inputs they can hedge better now compared to 1975. Overtime is gone. The other thing is that employers are telling laid off ees that if they come back it will be for less hours or less pay. Why return a person to work for 35K in salary when they will gladly come back for 20-30% less just to get money in the door? Why have them work 40 hours, when they can work 20 and maybe get 75% of their productivity? One broker described how a client had laid off 15 ees out of 50 this winter. They have hired 5 back so far but at the cost of 4. Every worker took a 20% pay cut. Scary that they could do this. Scary that the workers had no alternative.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

District 9

I saw the oustanding sci fi film District 9 today. Tremendous movie. It is a solidly paced, well acted story of aliens putt putting here on Earth as their ship malfunctions. It does so over South Africa, and with a history of apartheid, who better than to treat aliens like shit than South Africans. It's a creative way to tell an alien first contact story with an attempt at realism.

1. Had this movie come out in 1985, it would have been one of the greatest political-social commentaries ever about a current system. Coming out now, we get a story that shows the horrendous features of apartheid. Side note: it's interesting how the black South Africans who suffered under apartheid are portrayed as quick to shove the same horrible system onto another group.
2. CGI was excellent. Looked good, looked real, and didn't have many "oh that's so fake" moments. It was used well too instead of forever on display like a George Lucas movie.
3. Alien design was great. I also enjoyed how the aliens talked a bit like some of the Star Wars random aliens.
4. Solid acting by the lead as a pencil pusher suddenly pushed into a crazy situation and desperately trying to get his life back in order. There's genuine character development with his story arc.
5. The pacing is good as not every scene is a shoot out scene. We get some sad, intimate moments. You get juiced up then some time to relax. You also care about characters.
6. I laughed at the name of the evil corporation: MNU, Multinational United. Way to let us know it is evil.
7. Budget was $30 mil. It has earned $60 mil so far in the US. This thing will crack $100 mil in the US box office alone. I smell sequel.
8. Great blend of news type camera work, film camera work and that COPS camera look. Of course, we can thank "Blair Witch Project" for this.
9. It's an intense movie. Not like "28 Days Later" where you want to shake after a while, but it has a build up and steady level of intensity.
10. The kid alien. Seriously, supah cute.

Malpractice Lawsuit Reform

Health Care Reform is in the air like high oil prices were last summer. Everyone is talking and everyone has an opinion. Once again, I am against a public option right now because we're in the middle of the 2nd great depression. We also will be running 9 trillion in deficits over the next ten years, before this public option plan. There is a path I support effective right now:

1. Limit medical malpractice lawsuits
2. Hire enough people in Medicaid to enroll all of the people who are eligible.

Step 1 would limit costs of malpractice lawsuits, insurance, time & energy wasted reducing costs for everyone in the medical and legal fields. Step 2 would get those who are eligible for medicaid on the rolls. That 45 mil uninsured number is hogwash especially given the inclusion of illegal aliens. That number seems to change by whomever is reporting it. These are changes that would directly impact costs and access for more people.

No one seems to bring up tort reform. The Prez never mentions it because it hurts the lawyer voting block. Bush & Co tried this years ago, and it failed. One politician, who I respect but would not want to see as President, has at least mentioned the idea. I give this some credibility because after all, she mentioned the idea of government deciding who lives and dies and magically the provisions stating that were taken out of the Senate versions of the health care reform bill. I like having her around, but I don't want her behind the wheel.

Back to the issue... this is critical and important if we ever want to curb costs, as this is part of the system in the UK, Canada & elsewhere. Should a family hit the lottery because of a mistake evaluated by a very loose jury-judge compared to a less sympathetic jury-judge? Can you put a price tag on a human life? Think about it, this can cut costs maybe 5-10% and it doesn't affect quality of care or amount of care. It's a no brainer. I can imagine ambulance chasing attorneys would be upset, but is this a negative social effect on society? Isn't there a gain by reducing costs on everyone through lower malpractice premiums than for one family to receive a few million less for a mistake?

Try Not to Tear Up

I've seen these two run together, and it's truly inspiring.

Friday, August 21, 2009

70s Key-tar

Gary Wright sounds incredibly good in this live performance. He sounds very much like the album cut. He's got the crazy cool medallion, the giant silver boots, the open shirt, the synth, the key-tar, the COWBELL, and some poofy hair. I like this song far more than "Dreamweaver", but it does not get the love "Dreamweaver" gets from radio.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Should Have Written the Book

Last summer I wrote a blog post on the possibilities for WW2 to have been stillborn. Now the master of multibook alt-history series, Harry Turtledove, has embarked on what I bet becomes a good money maker with a new series about WW2 starting a bit earlier. The first book is called "Hitler's War". I disagree with Turtledove, as I feel Hitler would have lost quickly if forced to fight over Czechoslovakia. Of course, Turtledove is trying to sell more books.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is it bad to feel good about this?

So Bernie Madoff's lover spills secrets in a tell all book to cash in on the fame and intrigue while it's hot. She gave him the nickname "Winky Dink". He also has a very small penis. The nickname is not because of the small penis. Unbelievable. I call shenanigans.

I'm pasting the entire section about why she named him Winky Dink which just so happens to be right before the small penis section. Coincidence that it's written this way by Bloomberg? I think not. Rot in jail Bernie.

‘Winky Dink’
He sometimes blinked his eyes uncontrollably, leading her to nickname him “Winky Dink” when she disclosed her affair to some close female friends.


At the Willard, Weinstein wrote, she learned one of his many secrets that they discussed by telephone a few days later.

“Bernie had a very small penis,” she wrote. “Not only was it on the short side, it was small in circumference. That he was now pointing it out to me was telling. It clearly caused him great angst. I wanted to be careful how I responded. Men and their penises have a strange and unique relationship.”

Still, she said: “I liked this man and didn’t want to emasculate him. His tiny penis hadn’t prevented me from climaxing.”

“On the bright side,” she concluded, because of its size, “oral sex would be a breeze."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Sci Fi Books

Looking for a summer set of books, I decided I wanted to go lighter with my fare and leave the non-fiction tomes for my Christmas list. Loving a good space story, I purchased the paperbacks The Sky People and In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. It is a duology set in an alternate history where:
1. Some superintelligence has terraformed Mars and Venus to sustain life and planted life there
2. The US and USSR don't have a Cold War, focusing tremendous energy & resources on space exploration.

These books are written in the pulp sci fi style of yesteryear that described worlds of jungles, deserts, and aliens that were sexy, dangerous & mysterious. Planets were much sexier than they are now as lifeless lumps of rock. The books are quick reads, engaging in the imaginative alien worlds, and well laid out in that they have little 'encyclopedia' entries to start each chapter (kind of like Frankenstein's primary document portions). Overall, I enjoyed these books.

"The Sky People" is about the interactions between humans and 'aliens' on Venus. Venus is a wet, hot and vibrant planet. It is set about 25 years after the first Earth probes go to Venus (1988). It of course follows the good guys of the US at their base, and then how they try to help out the Commie Eastbloc base when a transport of theirs goes down. There's quick action, adventure, romance, and geopolitical intrigue. The bomb and conspiracy piece near the end does sound like something the Commies would have come up with. I appreciated the lack of whitewashing of Commie leadership motivations. I do not want to give much away, but a fast reader could crank this out in one sitting over a few hours. It is fun.

There are some problems. Lead characters are hyperintelligent & strong physical-psychological specimens, but they can't seem to anticipate any betrayals or problems. It gets annoying. There are some random detours from the main plot, that take up pages that could have been better devoted to the primary plot or discussing the world that was Venus. Lastly, the lead character is a Cajun, and he says "oui" to things instead of yes, yeah yup. It gets pretty fucking ANNOYING after the 80th time. I was waiting for another character to say "knock it off fucker, you use 3 french words in random conversation". He does speak French, but as a child of a native speaker who had grandparents talking French often even to this day, if I said "oui" to things not as a joke, I would have been shamed into stopping.

"In the Courts of the Crimson Kings" is set on Mars and in the year 2000, so the "Sky People" activities have an impact on this tale. Mars is a cold, desert planet with a dying atmosphere and a civilization that while planted on Mars after the first humans were around, developed much faster. I enjoyed this book much more than "Sky People". The lead was not as oblivious to signs. The alien civilization had a nice feature of more experience & patience, but was not portrayed as superior... just different. The positives of the author's abilities are on display, and he removed the negatives I cited above. No annoying lead character trait. No meandering detours for 15 pages. No stupid leads. The 'encyclopedia entries' were a bit longer in this one, so he must have received feedback that people wanted to know more about the 'universe' the author created (like Harry Potter or Star Wars geeks' undying thirst for more details). I recommend these two books for the $12 it will cost you.

It also got me thinking... the technology is there to cheaply produce a CGI tv series on HBO or even network, so why not take a stab at something like this or a series set in space? Not the lame "Grey's Anatomy" in space show on now. Something action-adventure based that is open ended, but sci fi to fill that Lost in Space/Star Trek/Quantum Leap/X-Files niche. Grafting this premise, space race finds life on our two neighboring planets, combining the exploration of new worlds and frontiers with the geopolitical drama of Earth, into a series on HBO-FX-Network would give you 12-18 episode seasons that you could string out for 100 epsiodes. The entire first season could be just contact, impact on society and training of the "explorers". The finale is they touch down on Venus/Mars. The 2nd season could be "explorers" set up on Venus/Mars. Following seasons could be set say 3-5-9 years later. This could allow for aging so the producers don't run into the problem Lost had where Kate aged 5 years when she was on the island for 45 days. This could be a winner. CGI that looks good is cheap now. You could draw in anyone trying to become an action movie name. I see viewers.

Are we still in Iraq?

It's there right? Still in the heart of the Middle East right? We're still there? Really? Do the anti-war people still want us out ASAP? Now that the Democrats, who were strongly anti-war, have control of the WH and Congress, will we get out now? Hmmm, looks like a big no. Looks like we're going to follow the SOFA we signed in late 2008. Come on Dems where's the speedy pull out so that we can stop the imperialist adventure started by that bloodthirsy Dick Cheney and his evil monkey boy W?

Once again, thank you to the men and women that make up the greatest fighting force in the world. They have successfully invaded, occupied, pacified, trained a new army, and most importantly, defeated an insurgency on it's home turf. The books written about this conflict that came out in 2005 were written far too early, and I look forward to the books written in 2020 about Operation Iraqi Freedom. Do you think they'll cite some of the 2005 books and laugh?

Back in the early days of post-9/11, I recall some of my college friends stating how terrorists were expressing themselves through violence because of the horrible repressive regimes that they came from in the ME. When Bush-Cheney came out with the name "Operation Iraqi Freedom", I thought that he truly had bought into the idea that if you build a democracy there, it will reap long term benefits and help fight terrorism by taking away one of the recruiting pitches. Time will tell. I am one who believes some of what we see today in Iran is because of the budding representative govt that still pays respects to religion next door. If one considers how Japan and Germany became stellar members of the representative govt club, anything is possible in Iraq. Japan never had a history of anything but rule by the sword and Emperor. Germany had been authoritarian for years with a brief, sad spasm of parliamentarian politics for 15+/- years. For the good of the ME and the rest of the world, I hope it works. If the relative quiet from the anti-war crowd means that there is no rush to our exit from Iraq, then I am fine with it. Let's not abandon a potential republic as it is learning how to walk.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Big Brother & the Party Stop Telescreen Spying

If there was nothing wrong with soliciting information from citizens about other citizens acting 'fishy' with regards to their opinion on the party's unplanned program, then why did they shut it down?

There's a small part of me that wonders if this debate over lame health care reform, in the midst of the worst recession in a generation, is some tool to distract people from the banking prblems that we still have not tackled. After the TARP program, the AIG 180 bil bailout, and the GM-Chrysler 100 bil bailout, we have not done anything to fix the broken financial system or scrap it entirely for something new. The bankers still run rampant with leveraged bets on the market and still lavish bonuses on themselves. The "stress tests" were shams to show the banks were in OK shape, which were poor tests as unemployment (U-3) has crossed the line they had in the 'adverse scenario'. Nothing has really changed, except for worsening economic conditions. Just wait for the next horrible financial event that will cause more manipulation and looting by Goldman Sachs and their brethren.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Brave New World Here and Now

After a while, I just start feeling like Bernard Marx at the beginning of "Brave New World". I swear I've ranted about "Brave New World" before this post. A constant point I make in discussions of dystopian literature is that while people always talked about the fear of "1984" coming true (Soviet bloc people lived it), few people noticed from 1970 to now how Western countries had drifted closer and closer to the imagined society of "Brave New World". Sure the dystopia of Brave New World chokes the individual, but at least you can get exiled to live with other non-conformists (in the Falklands?), as opposed to torture & death in Oceania in 1984. In both instances, the individual is lost amongst the group, the state, but there's an out in Brave New World that allows an individual to be an individual. In Oceania, you get ground to dust, and then they wait to kill you. Patient totalitarian bastards.

This popped up as I saw that "GI Joe" had a huge opening weekend. Not even Paul Blart Mall Cop being a no. 1 movie is as bad as this. It's just a side effect to the real decay. Similar to the outpouring of emotion for the death of a pedophile who had not done anything culturally significant for over 10 years. Add in rising illegitimacy, the multiculturalism instead of integration movement, broken family dynamics, more children raised in 1 parent homes, decrease in church attendance figures (maybe that will change with GD 2.0), rising govt role in everything, and our world starts to look more like "Brave New World". Destroy the family unit, provide basic services/wealth even if you have to 'trick' people into thinking their lot in life is optimal, make people consider themselves as gods, and you're almost there.

I'm pro-legal immigration. My relatives all were immigrants looking for a better lot in life. I am fine with the work permit visas for immigrants. I do feel our immigration policy or lack of enforcement of illegal employment hurts poor or lower skilled people immensely. Let's not even touch the outsourcing of so many skilled jobs all for 1% better return on capital (that's for another post). In a nation of 10% unemployment (the kindest measure of UE), there are no longer any 'jobs Americans won't do'. This illegal employment ends up hurting the lower end of the income spectrum, limiting economic mobility & creating a growing underclass (birthrates at lower incomes are higher than middle incomes). No real wealth creation & preservation to hand down to later generations on which they build. What to do to prevent riots? Drug them up with cheap antidepressants, sugar sweet foods and make sure they have access to cheap consumer goods that develop a wealth effect. Throw in a never ending cornucpoia of entertainment 24-7, a heavy dose of free & private pornography, and it's submission time. Fat, lazy, stupid and obedient. Must be a relation in derivation between the words obedient and obese. Fat people don't protest, hell they start sweating thinking about walking. If the sedate populace needs govt assistance, even better, now they have a mouth (vote) that is dependent on the d-bags in charge. You give them the brave new world with all of its faux riches, and they will never put up a fight.

Yeah, It's Going to Take a While...

Much ink & many electrons have been used to describe the similarities between today and the Great Depression. That scary line you hear often about curing the GD is "the only thing that ended it was WW2". I partially agree with that statement. Many of Hoover & FDR's public works projects were intended to help spur the economy, but were also a way of putting many unemployed young men in remote areas instead of organizing in cities or marching on the government (sad example here). Think the TVA and Hoover Dam were funded purely for electricity? These projects jumpstarted nothing because we had to repair balance sheets and had tons of excess industrial capacity. A turning point in the GD was when the debt levels in America returned to a more normal ratio to GDP. When 'we' got back in line, a true end could be declared (end as in things got back to previous levels and grew, not chump change growth of the cliff dive crashes).


That graph looks pretty scary. It does end in March of 2008, so an updated graph would be interesting to see if we've made progress in paying down debt.Notice how the graph jumps up then slides back down over the course fo the 30s and when the graph reaches equilibirum with historic norms, it coincides with the end of the GD? In much of the talk about making important moves to correct the economy, few politicians or TV experts want to stick their neck out and say "look, we ran up this debt, we got to pay it down". There's also another motivation to that and another way the GD ended. Debt forgiveness. Back in those days, debts were paid off or an element was forgiven, wiped away clean. An example of this is calling your credit card co about your 10K balance, and they allow you to pay only 1500 back and wipe the rest away. This is at the heart of the mortgage problem, and is a way to keep people in their homes. Some heartache and ghost towns could be avoided with debt forgiveness. This is why Obama and Congress' plan to get people to refinance was not a move to help people stay in their homes as much as it was to get people to refinance at a cheaper rate with the same principal, keeping them as debt slaves.
There are some big reasons for this not to happen.
1. Our politicians are owned by the banking industry. - Well, every interest has its claws into our leaders, but the banks are big boys. They want to collect their proper due. Perfect example is how Citigroup is still around in its current form when we, taxpayers, own 1/3 of it & I'll spit nickels if they are solvent.
2. The debt forgiveness would ruin banks balance sheets. - Banks would take haircuts on these mortgages' values, which would show them as insolvent or nearly insolvent. They would rather be able to mark them up high rather than face facts.
3. The ultimate holders of some mortgage and agency paper. - Not just institutional investors and fat cat bankers, foreign central banks, sovereign wealth funds and other bad guys with big pocketbooks (see here). These jerks are the same jerks who fund our federal govt and current account deficits. They recycle their dollars into these holdings. They do not like taking haircuts. Think the average Chinese citizen would like to know hundreds of billions of $$ was wasted on holdign agency paper rather than being put to use in their nation?
wayyyyyyyy down the list in significance, but next...
4. The backlash by prudent folks everywhere & citizens of states that are not bubble lands. - Tea Part protests are a form of this. The "I played by the rules why do they get bailouts" crowd. Actions would ultimately 'bail out' the aggressive households that levered up. This happened everywhere, so in certain areas you'd just anger prudent others. The backlash could depend on how it is positioned by the media (MSM and alternative). Crafted as a beneficial way of socializing losses to spur the recovery in the entire housing market, it could still be a horse pill for the public but acceptable. Portrayed as a means to bailout fly by night flippers, the irresponsible, the greedy, the poor, etc. at the expense of the "good" you could have a huge backlash at entire states (California-Florida-Nevada come to mind). The state bailout of Cali is going to be big and ugly, but that's another topic. The bailout game is always dangerous for the ruling party. You infuriate a block of voters no matter what you do, but the fear is in swing states, districts, sub-groups. Just ask Arlen Spector if he's going to vote for cap n trade or the health care reform debt debacle plan.
This process will take years to sort out. America, and the rest of the world, got into this jam over the course of many years, and it will take many to get through it. Unfortunately, if we do not face up to facts quickly, we will ultimately just kick the can down the road for a later resolution and confront it once more with with a bruised foot. My fear is that we waste money on stimulus plans like the Bush 08 (pure transfer of debt) & Obama 09 (waste on medicaid and transfer payments to the already poor) plans and the bank, GM-Chrysler + AIG bailouts, crimping our ability to borrow money when we truly need it from foreign lenders.
(I say borrow because a govt should never raise taxes in a down economic time. This is also why I am against adding public option health care reform now. After all, Medicare only has 30+ Trillion in unfunded liabilities and is going to start running deficits soon, what's the problem with adding trillions more?)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Jackie Blue

Oooooohoooohooohoo jackie blue. Man they play that song non-stop in the Indianapolis Metro area on Oldies stations.

Don't do Meth

No one tops Fergie for her meth transformation or those faces of meth people from that Oregon newspaper, but this is rough.

You can go from ice skating princess who looked of legal age and cute like this......
To scary face messed up drugdealer like this....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Waiting 5 years for my lakefront home in Michigan

Michigan really is in a pickle. They don't do much to help themselves. This is a bad idea. In roughly 5 years, the Michigan unemployment rate will be over 20%. It is at 15.4% right now, oh but they did gain 5K govt jobs in June. I do not know if that is U-3 or U-6 (they are very different). If Michigan's number reported is U-3, then U-6 is well over 20%, maybe 25%. Over time, if there's no new engine for growth like nanotech, robots, the re-industrialization of the area, then Michigan property values will drop. This is after the Michigan property values dropped when they didn't fully participate in the property bubble. Give it time, but the property will collapse further....

For the Witless....

Comedy from the good people at "Stuff White People Like". Their "white people in the news" features are a nice added touch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Facts of Flashback

There's a contestant on "More to Love" that looks like Blair from "Facts of Life", if only Blair weighed 2 bills.


Blair


Now for her large doppleganger

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where is the ACLU and liberals on this one....

Never did I think we'd have surveillance & the use of the internet to help the government compile an enemies list or collect spy on your neighbor tattling that was supposedly common in the age of McCarthy. President Bush asked Americans to keep an eye out for terrorism and national security threats as part of our war on terror (which I guess is over now that a Democrat is in the WH). President Obama just wants you to report people who do not agree with his plans for nationalization of health care....

not good. Wouldn't the NY Times, Washington Post, Daily Show, and the Daily Kos kids be screaming bloody murder if this were done by W? Regardless of party, fight this. There may be a day when a far more evil motive is behind an email or internet collection of names, ideas, etc.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Absolutely

Absolutely.

It's every Americans given right to make fun of their leaders. Check out the 9th Amendment: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." It is one of these 'other rights' that people have. I hoped Obama would prove me wrong, but no, he's turned out to be the very socialist, Chicago politician, anti-capitalism guy I thought he was under the veneer of 'post-partisan, post-racial' healer.

I don't care who the president is, I do not want universal health care, or even this public option, which is a Trojan Horse to destroy the private health care system. Why are we embarking on this expensive program in the middle of a depression??????

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

G.I. Joe

I can't stand the thought of this crappy G.I. Joe movie. I would love to see a new cartoon series for kids to enjoy or reruns of the syndicated stuff from the '80s. Making it live action kind of takes the fun out of the special gizmos and gadgets they had at their disposal. It's also tough to make a guy like Destro look good in CGI, which I doubt they do this shitbomb movie, they'll save him for the sequel if there is one. Cobra Commander just looks like an annoying British guy.



One thing they did right was the Baroness. While I was weirded out that a blonde, Sienna Miller, would play the Baroness, they at least chose someone despicable & slutty enough in Hollywood that would be stupid enough to sign up for this role. I add the Baroness to the list of Princess Leia & Winnie Cooper as to why I love brunettes, especially ones that treat me awful. She was dedicated to being evil, and dedicated to wearing tight black leather most of the time.


I do give credit for this artist concept of the Baroness as she has some meat on her legs, and her guns are not too big. She also looks like a cross between Eva Angelina & Sarah Palin.

Monday, August 03, 2009