Friday, February 18, 2011

Nobody Asked Me, But....

1) It's possible that the unrest in Egypt, Bahrain, and the Middle East may actually bring democracy to the nation in most dire need of it: America.
The FBI Says We Will Be Attacked By Muslims With Nukes or WMDs with 100% certainty!,...even if those Muslims actually turn out to be white anti-abortionists and they use conventional weapons.
 What would we do without mainstream conservative media?
3) Hey, you know what? Texas may actually end up being a blue state after all! Yea, it will take time. A whole lot of time....
4) Could the Tea Party end up like Al Capone? In jail for tax evasion, because it can't be convicted of racketeering?
5) I, for one, welcome the mandatory nanny-state public breast feeding stations and have much interest in them! Perhaps there is a website or newsletter one might subscribe to?
6) As a victim of both sexual and violent abuse as a child, I hope Scott Brown was not exploiting (or even creating) his experiences for political gain. The story of abused children in this country is one of the most disgusting secrets of American society, and needs to be more fully discussed and brought out into the light of day. My own story I've mentioned before, and while I've dealt with it as an adult, I'm still not prepared for the stigma involved in fully disclosing what happened in such a public forum. Those are two separate stories, by the way, the sexual abuse and the beatings. One was by a stranger, the other by my parents. I'll leave you to figure which was which.
7)       MEMO
TO:         Ben Bernanke
FROM:    Actor212
I have your solution for you: give it all to me.
8) Tea Partier in Mississippi River valley, Spring 2011: "I tell you, there is NO SUCH THING AS GLOBAL WARglugblurglebubble..."
    Tea Partier in Oklahoma, February 2011: "He's right, there is no such thing as globalwarmingwhyaremyshoelacesovermyheadnow?"
9) It's now official: With this article, sexting is passé.
10) By the wondered why I posted Bucky the Squirrel up top of this week's column? Here's why!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Long Stabby Things

Um, yea. Something's got Australians in a bit of a wild mood these days.
First came Belinda Heggen and the cracks about something so small being so impressive, and the next day, a very bizarre and sexually charged exchange occured on a morning show.
It's almost like I'm writing for them...

Speaking Of Boehner

Guess budget cuts stop at his district:

The incursion into the defense budget occurred as the Republican-controlled House debated legislation to cut federal spending by more than $61 billion through the end of the current fiscal year. Nearly all of the reductions are aimed at domestic programs, ranging from education aid to nutrition, environmental protection and farm programs.

Obama has threatened a veto if the measure reaches his desk, but he and the GOP newcomers were on the same side when it came to the engine for the F-35, the costliest weapons program in U.S. history. The House vote was 238-198.[...]

General Electric and Rolls-Royce are major contractors for the alternative engine, and the program has brought jobs to Ohio, among other regions. Boehner, who represents a district in the western part of the state, did not speak during debate on the issue and did not vote on the proposed cut. A spokesman said he did not attempt to lobby fellow lawmakers.

Uh, yea. Even your own party doesn't buy that you've drank the Kool Aid on budget cuts and they're holding your feet to the fire.

This may turn out to be a more interesting legislative session than even I imagined!


I Will Mourn

So should you.

Look To The Skies

Well,  a few months ago, I posted about the coming solar maximum (2012) and the havoc that could be wreaked on earth's communications, navigations and even electrical systems.

A whopper of a solar flare that fired up earlier this week is wreaking havoc on some radio communications on Earth, and could spark exceptional auroras soon.

The class X solar flare – the most powerful kind of solar flare – spewed from the sun Monday (Feb. 14), unleashing a massive wave of charged particles speeding toward Earth. Now the flare has triggered a geomagnetic storm in our planet's magnetic field that interrupted radio communications in China and could disrupt satellites and power grids as well, AFP reported.

So if your cell phone is acting up today, for once, it's not AT&T...but tonight? If your skies are clear, just shoot a glance north every so often. It could be worth it!


How Stupid Do You Have To Be?

Michele Bachmann won't say whether she thinks President Obama is a citizen and a Christian.

"Well, that isn't for me to state," the conservative Minnesota House Republican said today on ABC's Good Morning America. "That's for the president to state."

Obama and aides have repeatedly said the president was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961, and is a Christian.

"We should take the president at his word," Bachmann said, but she declined to weigh in herself, even when pressed by GMA host George Stephanopoulos.

Look, Mickey...I should take you at your word that you're a woman, but you know, maybe you need to offer up proof? I challenge you to appear naked on the next talk show (that's not on FOX, because I'd like to be able to tune in).

Even John Boehner, who gave  a particularly clumsy answer when David Gregory pressed him this past Sunday on a similar topic (i.e. repudiating rank-and-file Republicans of this mistaken belief), was able to say he took the President at his word.

SPEAKER BOEHNER:  David, it's not my job to tell the American people what to think.  Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people. Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there. That's good enough for me.  The president says he's a Christian.  I
accept him at his word.

See, Mickey? Even a klutz like Bonehead can be just a little flat, rather than a half-octave off!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Angry Crazy Blogger

I'm pleased as punch to announce that I managed to twist yet another person's arm sufficiently that I forced her to start blogging.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you our own Truculent & Unreliable's Operation Acoustic Kitty.
That sounds oddly sexual.
Go over and pinch her butt for me...

Anagram Of The Day

OK, before you sort of chuckle this off, I want you to think about it for a second.
People paid upwards of a thousand dollars for a pair of seats to...Watch. A. Movie.
And stood for two hours, screaming and throwing their panties (even the men, presumably).
At. A. Movie. Screen.
For that kind of money, you could buy a big screen TV with a Blu-Ray player and watch a fucking DVD, or feed a family in Gary, IN for two months! What the fuck is wrong with this country?????

Causalities Of War

Before I begin today's piece, I want to firmly state that in no way should any of the ruminations I post in this piece be taken as a defense or plea for compassion for the perpetrators of the assaults on the women involved. I do not in any way condone or defend their behavior. I grieve for the women involved, and had I been there in person, would have done what I could to prevent the attacks.
The nexus of cases of Lara Logan, who was sexually assaulted as Egyptians celebrated the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, and the women involved in the lawsuit against the Pentagon for rapes and sexual assaults that occured in war zones, no less, as well as non-combat military functions, draws attention to one of the more odious, bilious parts of a man's psychology.
There is an undeniable connection between aggression and sex.
It seems to be innate, perhaps even genetic. That they combine so easily tells me there's some neurochemical bond that is enhanced in the brain, particularly the male brain.
One is tempted to excuse it by saying that it's genetic, that our deep ancestry, going back beyond our ape ancestors, equates conquest with, well, conquest. In order to diversify the gene pool, one had to look outside one's immediate surroundings, which usually meant incurring on some other male's turf, and that led to fights and the winner usually got the spoils, including sex with more females.
The nature of the beast, as it were. 
That temptation, no matter how right it appears, is wrong (and simplistic, but that's for someone far better versed in paleopsychology than me to discourse upon.) 
We have other genetic predispositions that we are able to overcome. For instance, it's been shown that babies are born with two fears: falling and reptiles. Yet, people skydive by the millions and goodness knows, enough people own snakes and lizards. 
And people have a deathly fear of falling (like me) and reptiles (well...sort of like me). 
What I'm saying is that these behaviors can and should be overcome. And perhaps I'm making too little of the fact that, in the, tens of millions...of men involved in these two stories, a small handful were guilty of not overcoming these urges.
This does not excuse them. If anything, it makes their actions that much more disgusting. Millions of their brothers were able to treat these women as human beings, not playthings. 
But it does point out two things: we've grown a little as a world in the past fifty years and we still have much growth ahead. 
The trigger of violence is what intrigues me in both these stories: men with guns or in a mob or somehow or other over-empowered, will tend to pick on the weaker members of their tribe. First it was television crews in Egypt. These were folks, men and women, who were encumbered by heavy equipment and who were there to cover a story, not because they necessarily supported a cause. The gatherings were violent, angry, passionate. That same passion was sure to fuel other manifestations. 
CBS, in other words, probably should have provided Logan with a beefier bodyguard or contingent. The signs were there. 
Similarly, aggression in the military towards "friends" did not start with the sexual assault these women suffered. Let's be clear on this: the culture of the military is to actively encourage the depersonalization and dehumanization of people, to train the soldier's mind to discard thoughts of compassion and humanity, to kill.
To kill someone is the ultimate act of dehumanization, and the devastation to the mind of the killer is enormous (not ignoring the devastation to the victim). The training a mind has to go through to be able to do that is a process that is guaranteed to dehumanize the soldier.
So again, the warning signs were there, and they were enhanced by the fact that so much discipline among the ranks is in the form of peer-to-peer aggression. The "Code Red", made infamous in A Few Good Men, even just cross-shouting about cleaning the barracks or turning the music down before a sergeant shows up, these are all ways of reinforcing that depersonalization, to force normative behavior.
To conform or be outted.
I realize I open a door to an argument here against repealing DADT or the admission of women to combat roles, so let me say this: there is nothing in this process that cannot be changed at this time. The strategies and tactics of fighting wars have become so depersonalized already, firing from miles if not continents away, that the need to train a soldier to kill face to face, hand to hand, and to do so efficiently and without remorse has been lessened to almost non-existent.
The ironic part of the Iraq and Afghan wars is, the men and women who had the least amount of psychological training, Reserves and Guardists, were the ones who were most on the front lines.
See, here's where a little knowledge is dangerous. It would not surprise me if the bulk of the assaults in this story are by relatively rookie soldiers, still young and still combat untrained (or generally so). My suspicion is, once you reach a certain experience level, you learn when to turn off the emotion chip and when to turn it back on. The combination of hormones still raging, still unsupressed by humanity and maturity, and fear is probably a powerful violence aphrodisiac.
Sadly. Regretfully. Disgustingly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Is The Stock Market Obsolete?

Felix Salmon, a blogger at Reuters, posted an interesting Op-Ed this weekend in The New York Times

These days a healthy stock market doesn’t mean a healthy economy, as a glance at the high unemployment rate or the low labor-market participation rate will show. The Tea Party is right about one thing: What’s good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street. And the Germans aren’t buying the New York Stock Exchange for its commoditized, highly competitive and ultra-low-margin stock business, but rather for its lucrative derivatives operations.

The stock market is still huge, of course: the companies listed on American exchanges are valued at more than $17 trillion, and they’re not going to disappear in the foreseeable future.

But the glory days of publicly traded companies dominating the American business landscape may be over. The number of companies listed on the major domestic exchanges peaked in 1997 at more than 7,000, and it has been falling ever since. It’s now down to about 4,000 companies, and given its steep downward trend will surely continue to shrink.

In other words, the days of stock exchanges may be numbered. As Salmon himself puts it, they've become a place for speculators and software-driven trading strategies that try to wring every inefficiency out of the markets.

It's true, the original intent of stock markets was a place to raise capital for a company and inefficient companies were punished, while efficient companies rewarded. The theoretical model includes an assumption that every investor can obtain perfect knowledge about the investments, and that no one has this information before anyone else does (insider trading).

But in an age where, to take uncover and take advantage of these microinefficiencies, one must either be a supercomputer or sleep with one, that model is clearly outdated. If in fact it was ever even valid, much less dated. It was likely quaint when those original marketeers sat under the buttonwood tree on Wall Street in 1792. 

So the connection between the performance of a company and its stock price has always been loose, at best, and probably irrelevant. So long as there was a human factor involved, however, there was a certain artistry to the valuation of a company and it usually hewed somewhere in the ballpark of what value should be applied to it. 

Recent history suggests this is no longer the case. As market meltdowns from the Reagan M&A bubble to the savings and loan meltdown to the bubble and the most recent mortgage crisis have demonstrated, the ability of computerized trading to sniff out the smallest deviations from perfect efficiency and exploit it has created less an exchange of assets trading, and more of a pessimist's paradise, a place where to be bad is to make money, and to have a heart and soul is inefficient. 

If you want to understand the current rising trend in American political thought about the dishumanity felt towards people who need a helping hand, I would suggest it begins and possibly ends with our stock exchanges. If a poorly run company can be savaged in the markets...and goodness knows, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns provide ample evidence of this...then a poorly run household deserves no better, in the eyes of these people. 

It's no illusion that as machines have risen to control the exploitation of these inefficiencies, people have taken a more mechanistic view towards their fellow man. It's also no surprise to me that as people have grown comfortable with the use and programming of machines to do this task, they too have lost their sense of purpose as human beings. 

Humanity has a duty to its civilizations to take care of and to assist its fellow men and women. As the Dalai Lama puts it, "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive." 


Monday, February 14, 2011

All You Need Is Love

Well, it's Valentine's Day, the one day each year that every man in America, and by "America" I mean the world, dreads. It seems a man can never get this occasion quite right: she's allergic to flowers, candy makes her fat, the lingerie is the wrong size-- and heaven help you if you get a size too big!-- and dinner tells her she can't cook. And really, after the diamond-studded fur bathroom sink, how many diamonds can a man buy?
And god forbid the man make even the slightest, eensiest joke about sex on "the holiest romanticest day of the year"! Once I cracked wise about getting my heart on all day and she never spoke to me again!
Maybe the joke would have worked better in a note, I guess.
And none of this takes anything away from the women on Valentine's Day, who have it almost as hard. If she's married, she has to grin and bear the usual clumsy last-minute presents, including (if she has any) the handmade card from the kids. If she's single, she either has to put up with the plethora of invitations from guys who figure they can get some that night easily, or the shame of a silent phone.
I'd bet the sales of Haagen-Daz and sweat pants spikes beginning February 1.
Hookers look forward to today. They actually get a day off. I'd bet if there were a Hookervania, it would be a national holiday, a day when the blood can flow back into their legs (gender neutral, you'll note).
No one else does.
Which brings up today's topic: love.
The obvious promotional aspect of this holiday aside, why is it necessary to set aside a day, nearly a holiday, to show love to people you care about?
If we care about the important people in our lives, what does it matter that one day a year we buy them flowers or candy or jewelry? If I give care to a loved one the other 364 days a year, should I feel guilty because one day I forget to mark an occasion? If I make a life with someone, does it matter that I prefer to show her (or him) thru being a partner 365 days a year, if by missing this silly holiday, she gets angry at me?
I'm so over these forced displays that some corporate suit has decided means something in this world. I want simplicity. I don't need Halloween to dress up all scary (most Friday nights will suffice). I don't need the fourth Thursday in November to tell the world "Thank you". I don't need the 25th of December to buy a raft of presents for people I care about. I do that on the spur of the moment.
And the people who know me, who care about me and who I care about, who love me, know this about me. I don't need to show love to give love to someone.
To love someone is to let them know they matter to you, that what happens to them matters and that you want to help them as you can. Sometimes you can't do enough, and sometimes you end up doing too much, but in the end it all balances out. The Beatles had it right: the love you take is equal to the love you make. You laugh when they're happy, you comfort them and share their pain when they're sad. When they accomplish something, you celebrate, and when they fail, you offer to help pick up the pieces and dust them off.
I am loved by many. You proved that last week when my mom died. I wish I could find the time and availability to show up at each of your homes and share the love I felt from you with you, and then add my own love to it, but I can't. And I certainly can't in just one day.
So please accept this Valentine as a woefully inadequate raincheck, and just know that, during the year, during our time together, I will give you more hearts and flowers than any ten people could. 
I love you and am loved by you, and that is enough.  
(PS Feel free to copy this note to people you care about. Consider it my Valentine's Day present to you, cheap bastard that I am)