Thursday, December 17, 2009

Family

Last night, I met the family of the fellow I aim to have as my companion. It has nearly a decade since my last meet the family encounter and alas, I have evolved less than I had hoped....

My whole life I have read fiction, non fiction, biographies, philosophies etc in the hopes that somewhere in there I would glean the type of insight that enables a person to see clearly in the moment the tapestry that is being woven and then, instead of just observing the weaving, actually pull a few threads to enhance the overall pattern. There are people who can do this, but anecdotal observation indicates that they do it innately. It seems to odd to them that not everyone can do it. I can not do it. I can imagine it sometimes. I can see nervous chattiness or deer in headlights in the moment sort of. but never in such a way that I can grab hold of the space and allow or enable myself to occupy it in a more dignified way.

There are areas of improvement. That should be said. I do not worry about losing myself this time. I do not worry that I am glossing over inconvenient truths in order to make the picture fit. I have grown up a bit and I have improved, but of course, as life is apt to do, it all get so much more complicated now. The pressure and meaning of decisions, compromises and negotiations will feed more significantly into the meta narrative. I am no longer given the comfort of writing a little written story, which was scary but easier to improvise within, easier to see what defined progress & growth. Now I would pretend to write an interesting story within a nearly universal tale.

Now I have to believe in something in order to see it. Now I have to believe in someone in a way that puts my own well being at risk. Now I do not walk alone and its terrifying. There really had better be some fucking unicorns and rainbows or I'm going to be pissed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's that time of Year again

I have been keeping this blog since 2006, which seems such a long time ago. I fear that it has proven less valuable than I hoped and am sure that I have not grown significantly in my capacity to write in a way that conveys my impressions of the world. In fact, with the unending disaster that is this embarrassing attempt at health care reform, I am finding my interest in how the world runs itself waning. It seems that only the utterly corrupt and indifferent get airing and those of us who wake up everyday and get the job done, we are dispensable. There is no ROI on our lives in the eyes of those with the power and money. I will do a self check and if I really have given up I will stop posting. No reason to subject others to my cynicism.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Let it be true!

Apple's alleged Kindle-killing tablet appears to be on the runway for a spring 2010 takeoff. And in what may or may not be related news, two top-drawer US publishers are holding back ebooks of dozens of their upcoming major titles until the same time frame.

According to one analyst's "supply chain sources," mass production of Apple's long-rumored "iPad" is scheduled to ramp up in February, with release to follow in March or April. So says Yair Reiner, senior analyst for Applied Technology and Apple specialist at the Oppenheimer & Co. investment firm.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I am moving this weekend and enjoying the holiday season for quite possibly the first time in my life. It's amazing.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The things that move us

I should go to bed soon. I am tired and have a long day in front of me. Still, I want to know...if you can not ever know your story till it's written, how can you know how well you are writing it? And really, if we are honest, given what we know about how memory works, even when its written, we likely still don't really know. So we live and then die barely knowing what we have done and yet desperate to have done something that will have mattered. Somehow in there, with the pain, struggle, joy and logistics should be a guaranteed quota of peace. Moments where you feel at one with the universe that you can remember in all the other convoluted moments and tell yourself you had a glimpse of the larger narrative, so you don't need to worry so much about your own. It should be a fairly large quota.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

moments in time

I am having problems at work. It seems like everything I'm assigned to is blowing up in spectacular fashion. Hopefully it will pass with no significant calamities but it has made me aware of how disconcerting it still is, despite my wizened age, when the ground you are standing on shifts suddenly.

I really thought that part of getting older would be getting better at life. I am beginning to wonder if that assumption in not only flawed but fundamentally inaccurate. There are certain areas where I will get better, but fundamentally threaten my sense of security and those gains can seemingly be washed away with nary a thought. It is disheartening to think that we can only improve our ability to handle the stable moments in life, but have much less chance of improving our handling of life changing moments.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

This year's assignment

As I come into yet another holiday season, I struggle with what I did with the last year of my life. SO..this year I am publishing an assignment list that I can either check off or give myself a fail at next year. Same time.

1. Make a list of 50 things that I want out of life. Get input on possibilities from coterie.
2. Explore opportunities for expending energy on making a concrete difference.
3. Make a home for myself. A real, permanent home.
4. Meditate consistently.
5. Improve schedule management.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thoughts on singlehood- updated

I wrote about being single and its implications on life a little less than a year ago. I was a long time singleton, who assumed on a fundamental level that I would stay single. I am good at being single. I am well suited to having a well developed life and personhood as defined by me and me alone, but alas I find myself once again in a relationship.

So the plans would have to be altered if this were to become a permanent thing. I will have to compromise some level of autonomy in order to experience long term companionship.....and as I dip myself back into the flow of an intimate dynamic, I feel no clarity on the reference point question, middling confidence on having the capability of sustaining/creating a dynamic that mostly enriches, and real curiosity about what happens next.

Holy Crap, so cool!

Kid helps save the world!

"At that time, I didn't have a lot of knowledge about engines. I knew that there must be some problem with the engine's combustion [to have all that black smoke coming out] and I knew that an engine is about the combination of two elements: gas and air. I started looking into the gasoline side, but there had been lots of efforts to improve the gas - all sorts of additives - and none had really worked.

"So I started to think about the air side. I realized that if I wanted to change anything, I had to treat the air before it reached the combustion chamber."

From that initial brainstorm, after much trial and error, the Z5 emerged. In layman's terms, the device, built from a special alloy, improves the air flow into the engine in such a way that the combustion is much more efficient. By being more efficient, the car both uses less fuel and produces fewer emissions.

How does a teenager with a dream and lots of will power actually create a product? Trial and error, according to Badash.

"We had an old large generator in our house that used to put out lots of black smoke. I started trying to put different metals into the air filter. Then I would measure the amount of gas used and try and gauge whether less black smoke was coming out."

"It took a long time, with a lot of trial and error, until one day I realized that I was actually making a difference in the amount of smoke coming out," he recalled. "Well, I was very excited when I realized that I had discovered something which worked. It's not every day that a 16-year-old invents something.

"I went to my father and we took it to the next level. We spent two years perfecting it, finding the right metals. Now we've started to market it."

The next step for this budding inventor and entrepreneur is one familiar to most 18-year-olds here: Badash will soon be drafted into the IDF.

Asked whether he had any other ideas up his sleeve, Badash replied with a laugh, "We'll start with this right now and see where it goes."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Being Alpha

I am pretty sure that I have a naturally competitive personality. I have always wondered about the nature/nurture question as it impacts gender identity. Specifically, since there is anatomical proof of structural differences between male and female brains, what of it. Are there traits that are universally female or male?

An interesting study by Gneezy, Leonard, and List (2008) explored the role of culture in determining gender differences in competitive behaviour. They investigated two distinct societies, the Maasai tribe of Tanzania and the Khasi tribe in India. The former is patriarchal while the latter is matrilineal. In the patriarchal society, women were found to be less competitive than men, a result consistent with studies using data from Western cultures. But in the matrilineal society, women were more competitive than men. Indeed, the Khasi women were found to be as competitive as Maasai men. The authors interpret this as evidence that culture has an influence.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

After watching the healthcare speech

I needed some good news. Here is what I found.



Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

oh shit!

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Seven young Chinese women suffered permanent lung damage and two of them later died after working for months without proper protection in a paint factory using nanoparticles, Chinese researchers reported.

Nanotechnology, or the science of the extremely tiny, is an important industry. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter while nanoparticles measure between 1 to 100 nanometers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Now can we jail him?

The documents show that staffers in Rove's office were actively seeking to have Iglesias removed after Republican figures in New Mexico complained that he was not pursuing voter fraud cases they wanted. In 2005, Rove aide Scott Jennings sent an e-mail to another Rove aide saying, "I would really like to move forward with getting rid of NM US ATTY."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

time management

I used to be able to manage life. I used to be excellent at scheduling, being super punctual, etc. Now I'm like some crazy lady walking around dropping things and forgetting stuff and unclear on how anything is getting done. I prefer the old me and would like to re-create her asap.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

thoughts

It is hard to know one's self. It is even harder to try to dicover the truth of one's identity while allowing new evidence to suggest that your current understanding is not whole. i.e. growing up well is hard.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Time

Scientists are reporting an advance toward a memory device capable of storing data for more than one billion years.

Alex Zettl and colleagues note in the new study that some of today’s highest-density experimental storage media can retain ultra-dense data for only a fraction of a second. They note that William the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book, written on vellum in 1086 AD, has survived 900 years. However, the medium used for a digital version of the book, encoded in 1986, failed within 20 years.

The researchers describe development of an experimental memory device consisting of an iron nanoparticle (1/50,000 the width of a human hair) enclosed in a hollow carbon nanotube. In the presence of electricity, the nanoparticle can be shuttled back and forth with great precision. This creates a programmable memory system that, like a silicon chip, can record digital information and play it back using conventional computer hardware. In lab and theoretical studies, the researchers showed that the device had a storage capacity as high as 1 terabyte per square inch (a trillion bits of information) and temperature-stability in excess of one billion years.

http://www.physorg.com/news162061022.html

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Practicing compassion

These last couple of days, it has been harder than normal to believe that there is goodness in everyone.

Quakers recommend that, in our relations with each other, we should strive to respond to "that of God within everyone." In my own thinking, I have always related this to a supreme principle of respect. At least part of respect includes believing that everyone is capable of goodness. And at least part of the recommendation to look for and respond to "that of God" within everyone is also to assume that everyone is capable of goodness.

Immanuel Kant proposes something similar in his moral theory. One formulation of his "categorical imperative" is "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means" (
Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, 429, trans. James W. Ellington, Hackett Publishing Company, [1785] 1981).


I have been reading the stories of the women who went to Dr. Tiller for care and they are nothing short of breathtaking in the level of trauma the women he helped were in.

From Joss Whedon's Angel:
we will never win.  not completely. that's not why we fight. we do it because there are things worth fighting for.


So I'll continue to fight without resorting to violence, in the belief that compassion is the right way to fight. sigh.


Monday, June 01, 2009

This is what fanaticism does


My wife and I spent a week in Dr. Tiller's care after we learned our 21 week fetus had a severe defect incompatible with life. The laws in our state prevented us from ending the pregnancy there, and Dr. Tiller was one of maybe three choices in the whole nation at that gestational age. My wife just called with the news of his murder, weeping. I can't really come up with some profound political statement just now, so let me just list some memories of Dr. Tiller.

I remember him firmly stating that he regarded the abortion debate in the US to be about the control of women's sexuality and reproduction.

I remember he spent over six hours in one-on-one care with my wife when there was concern she had an infection. We're talking about a physician here. Six hours.
He told the story of his previous shooting, where a woman shot him twice in both arms as he drove out of his clinic. At first he wanted to run her down with his Jeep, but then he thought "she shot you already George, she'll do it again!"
I remember being puzzled about a T-shirt he was wearing, which said "Happy Birthday Jennifer from team Tiller!" or something similar. Turns out it comemmorated the birthday of a fifteen year old girl who was raped, became pregnant, and came to Tiller for an abortion. As luck would have it, she was in the clinic the same week as her birthday. So the clinic threw her a party.

The walls of the clinic reception and waiting room are literally covered with letters from patients thanking him. Some were heartbreaking - obviously young and/or poorly educated people thanking Dr. Tiller for being there when they had no other options, explaining their family, church etc. had abandoned them.

I remember my wife, foggy with sedation after the final procedure, being helped from the exam table. He had her sit up and put her arms around his neck, and then he lifted her into a wheelchair. "You give good hugs" she whispered. He paused just for a moment. "You're just fine," he told her.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pro "lifers" murder again

A lightning rod in the bitter culture war over abortion, George Tiller had already been picketed, bombed and shot in the arms.

He was shot to death just after 10 am (1500 GMT) in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, police and city officials said.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why is this not front page news in the US?

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hives

I get hive outbreaks from an unknown allergen that sometimes will go away with two benadryl and sometimes, will take me out and require IV steroids to stop the reaction. This happened to me last week.  I was walking home when the reaction started and by the time I got home and took the benadryl I knew it was going to be a bad one so I called a taxi to take me to the hospital. Now I am smart enough to know that I should have called an ambulance, but I didn't want to pay for it. As a result, the reaction increased, I passed out on the sidewalk and someone walking by called an ambulance.

Seriously. 

I have health insurance and am not in financial dire straits. I can afford the ambulance ride. But the last time this happened it took six months to setttle all the bills between the health insurance company, the doctors, the ambulance and the ER.  Six months of phone calls, faxes and e-mails with various parties trying to confirm who had paid what.

My friend just got back from Denmark and described their social system of free healthcare, daycare and subsidized vacations.  She got it right on. We do it wrong.  

We construct situations that needlessly add to the anxiety and administrative burden of life and call it freedom or free market. I want to have a conversation with someone who argues that health care should be a "market". I want them to explain how people who are sick and vulnerable should be required to make rational, informed decisions about their care.  It is ridiculous and there should be a way to force the conversation on healthcare to acknowledge that.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Costa Rica Trip Thoughts



So I traveled by myself for a week in Costa Rica. There were several reasons for going by myself, but at a base level, mostly to see if I could do it. Well I did it. I nearly drowned (Thanks for the shitty signage J.W. Marriott Guanacaste) but I did it. I was able to clear my head a lot and think about some stuff that I have needed to think about. No grand conclusions, but I feel less harried. 

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bloodsuckers

Soros says U.S. faces lasting slowdown | Reuters:

"'What we have created now is a situation where the banks who will be able to earn their way out of a hole, but by doing that, they are going to weigh on the economy.

'Instead of stimulating the economy, they will draw the lifeblood, so to speak, of profits away from the real economy in order to keep themselves alive.'"

Bloodsuckers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thinking

I had thought that there were things I would know by now. Compassion would tell me to be patient with myself and the time it takes to understand those things....but timing is a bitch. This I know for sure. So there will be things I miss because I missed the opportunity to be in that moment and let that moment bring me somewhere else.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Invest immediately in Pitch Forks....just in case

Short version: New Fed program will rape you more than you are already being raped, like with bayonets.

TALF details suggest Obama doesn’t get it - Credit Writedowns: "Marshall Auerback here. As Ed lucidly suggested to me by e-mail:

“We see the Fed giving a loan for assets at the price as reported on the institutions’ books. Otherwise, you have to take a write-down just to get the loan. That’s a non-starter. So the Fed is going to take the asset as collateral at its reported value and will administer a haircut of 5-16%. This program is applicable only to certain AAA paper to diminish the possibility that more haircut would be needed (I am sceptical here).

If irrational despondency goes away, the loan is repaid. However, if the asset falls in value, the Fed has no-recourse. Given the fact that they have already mentioned the SPV, it suggests the investment company could then renege and have the collateral seized with no other penalty.”

But a lot of this is not “irrational despondency”. The reality is that large chunks of these toxic “assets” are not “impaired,” or “illiquid,” or “distressed”. They are worthless, now and forever – unless the peak real estate values of the bubble can miraculously be restored and a whole bunch of deceased LBOs can be raised from the tomb. The banks know this, investors know this, Geithner and Co. know"

Flying

It's work week 11 of 2009 and I am on my 7th trip this year. An amazing flight as far as the sky scenery goes, but after finding a certain level of calm last week, it's not enough to soothe me. I feel as if I am lurching through time and its only moments where I feel like I am in any sort of present tense.

Certain jokes I make feel as if I am pretending to be a me that is familiar to the people around me while inside I am almost totally disconnected. I had a conversation with someone who is struggling mightily in their life and the familiarity with that darkness almost felt like nostalgia. At least when I was swimming in chaos I knew I wanted to find my way to solid ground. There was an objective purpose to the expenditure of energies coupled with the uncontrollable onslaught of unpredictable emotions. I stood at the water's edge and for the first time there was no familiarity, no sense of coming home.

Now I am presumably 30,000 feet above the earth preparing for what I hope is another professional success and I feel different. I am different, but I don't understand how or why or what I am supposed to do about it. My friend who just recently became a mother can so eloquently articulate the way a baby alters your perspective and priorities and it clicked. Me too. But there is no baby, no reason for the switch.

At service this week, there was an attempt to describe the levels of the mind and how one can get beyond the voices in your head to the underlying mindful awareness. It was acknowledged that while in this space there exists incredible light, comfort and awareness, it is likely the same space as the darkness which is torture, confusion and absence. For awhile, again when I was struggling with the darkness, I sought out this level actively in order to calm the tumult. Now I look for it and it seems to look back at me expectantly. I fill my head with stimuli because the contemplation seems to demonstrate only absence, the horrible purposeless abyss.

It is quite possible that this is it. That this is the level that I am capable of existing at and interacting with the world. Maybe my limitations are far more severe than I imagined and the work I did to get out of the chaos has created a box so tightly fitted that it is not possible for really new things to penetrate.

Other people feel things far more than I do. It informs their existence in a way I don't seem to be able to really imagine. And then I think that maybe I was right at the beginning. The things that happen can permanently lessen you. In the same way that brain damage can rob you of your memory, traumatic events can permanently damage your capacity to feel wholly.

I think of all the times people told me to just wait and I would understand what they were talking about. I resented it when I was really young, but as I got older I changed my perspective to hoping that what they predicted would come true.

You will understand your mother when you are older.

You'll understand when you fall in love.

Everything happens for a reason.

If you have faith you will feel less afraid.

Nope, not so far as I can tell. Clearly I am doing this wrong.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I got the news today

Several friends of mine got laid off today at work. Everyone else is on IM trying to figure out where else the ax fell. Modern day felling of armies.

W
ASHINGTON – The net worth of American households fell by the largest amount in more than a half-century of record keeping during the fourth quarter of last year.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that household net worth dropped by a record 9 percent from the level in the third quarter.

The decline was the sixth straight quarterly drop in net worth and underscored the battering that U.S. families are undergoing in the midst of a steep recession with unemployment surging and the value of their homes and investments plunging.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cool lady and once again Massachusetts baby!

Mme Duflo has, above all, developed and promoted the concept of "scientific" testing of anti-poverty programmes – what works and what doesn't but also, crucially, why things work and why they don't. She believes – and has proved – that the effectiveness of anti-poverty programmes can be explored by "random testing", in the same way pharmaceutical companies test drugs.

Esther Duflo does her research not so much in government archives and university libraries but villages in India, Ghana or Kenya. She is left wing but in a "whatever it takes" kind of way. She has spent most of the past 10 years in the US, where she is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Three years ago, she founded the Poverty Action Lab, to put her ideas into practice. The World Bank incorporated ideas developed by "random testing" in 87 of its programmes last year. "Some of what we prove may seem obvious but we have to overcome prejudices," she said. "Many aid organisations, for instance, believe people should not be given bribes to improve their own health."

"We have framed tests in different countries, which show that people will take, say, de-worming medicine in far greater numbers if you give them a tiny incentive, such as a kilo of beans."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Because sometimes women do fight back.

A Spanish mother has taken revenge on the man who raped her 13-year-old daughter at knifepoint by dousing him in petrol and setting him alight. He died of his injuries in hospital on Friday.

Antonio Cosme Velasco Soriano, 69, had been sent to jail for nine years in 1998, but was let out on a three-day pass and returned to his home town of Benejúzar, 30 miles south of Alicante, on the Costa Blanca.

While there, he passed his victim's mother in the street and allegedly taunted her about the attack. He is said to have called out "How's your daughter?", before heading into a crowded bar.

Shortly after, the woman walked into the bar, poured a bottle of petrol over Soriano and lit a match. She watched as the flames engulfed him, before walking out.

Love

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

um, yeah you think?

Former Fed Chairman Volker speaks to Canadians..states the obvious.


There is a certain interest in what's going on in the financial world. And I will disappoint you by saying I don't know all the answers. But I know something about the problem. Let me just sketch it out a little bit and suggest where we may be going. There is a lot of talk about how we get out of this, but I think it's worth remembering, or analyzing, how this all started.

This is not an ordinary recession. I have never, in my lifetime, seen a financial problem of this sort. It has the makings of something much more serious than an ordinary recession where you go down for a while and then you bounce up and it's partly a monetary - but a self-correcting - phenomenon. The ordinary recession does not bring into question the stability and the solidity of the whole financial system. Why is it that this is so much more profound a crisis? I'm not saying it's going to get anywhere as serious as the Great Depression, but that was not an ordinary business cycle either.

.....


When we finished with the ordinary ways of spending it - with the help of our new profession of financial engineering - we developed ways of making weaker and weaker mortgages. The biggest investment in the economy was residential housing. And we developed a technique of manufacturing class D mortgages but putting them in packages which the financial engineers said were class A.

So there was an enormous incentive to take advantage of this bit of arbitrage - cheap money, poor mortgages but saleable mortgages. A lot of people made money through this process. I won't go over all the details, but you had then a normal business cycle on top of it. It was a period of enthusiasm. Everybody was feeling exuberant. They wanted to invest and spend.



We need to understand this

I am necessarily consumed by financial/political news, so can easily understand why this economic crisis seems so opaque and overwhelming. The system is clearly collapsing, but why? What drove such a complete collapse? I am not going to pretend to have some witty answer to that question, but there is a component of the wall street incentive structure that should be understood by every citizen on this earth and then we should all get really really fucking pissed at what they did.

One of the arguments one hears in the compensation debate is that the bonus system used by Wall Street ....is there to “reward talent”. While I find this notion of “talent” debatable, I fully agree that incentives are the heart of capitalism and free markets – but certainly not that incentive scheme.

In fact, the incentive scheme commonly in place does the exact opposite of what an “incentive” system should be about: it encourages a certain class of risk-hiding and deferred blow-up. It is the reason banks have never made money in the history of banking, losing the equivalent of all their past profits periodically – while bankers strike it rich....

Take two bankers. The first is conservative. He produces one annual dollar of sound returns, with no risk of blow-up. The second looks no less conservative, but makes $2 by making complicated transactions that make a steady income, but are bound to blow up on occasion, losing everything made and more. So while the first banker might end up out of business, under competitive strains, the second is going to do a lot better for himself. Why? Because banking is not about true risks but perceived volatility of returns: you earn a stream of steady bonuses for seven or eight years, then when the losses take place, you are not asked to disburse anything. You might even start again, after blaming a “systemic crisis” or a “black swan” for your losses. As you do not disgorge previous compensation, the incentive is to engage in trades that explode rarely, after a period of steady gains.

Here you can see that this mismatch between the bonus payment frequency (typically, one year) and the time to blow up (about five to 20 years) is the cause of the accumulation of positions that hide risk by betting massively against small odds....

If capitalism is about incentives, it should be about true incentives, those resistant to blow-ups. And there should be disincentives to remove the asymmetry of the free option. Entrepreneurs are rewarded for their gains; they are also penalised for their losses. Now, by comparison, consider that Robert Rubin, the former US Treasury secretary, earned close to $115m (€90m, £80m) from Citigroup for taking risks that we are paying for. So far no attempt has been made to claw it back from him – only UBS, the Swiss bank, has managed to reclaim some past bonuses from its former executives....

[W[hen it comes to banks and other “too big to fail” entities, the problem is severe: we taxpayers in our respective countries are funding these global monsters and are coughing up money for mistakes made by bankers who retain their bonuses and are hijacking us because, as we are discovering (a little late), banking is a utility and we need them to clean up their mess....

Friday, February 13, 2009

I might become French, They seem to get it

Communism is dead, most pundits--the mainstream, stupid ones anyway--have been telling us since the USSR shut down in 1991. As it turns out, the libertarians were wrong. Half-right, anyway: Human nature may be inherently individualistic, as free market capitalists claim, but it's also inherently social. When economies boom, most people are sufficiently satisfied to leave well enough alone. Who cares if my boss gets paid 100 times more than I do? I'm doing OK. As resources become scarce, however, we huddle together for protection. The sight of a small rich elite hoarding all the goodies violates our primal sense of fairness.

"In Soviet times," a man in present-day Tajikistan told me, "we lived worse than we do today. But we were all the same. Now we live a bit better, but we have to watch rich assholes pass us in their Benzes." Which would he choose? No hesitation: "Soviet times."

In America, a French cliché goes, people are afraid of the government. In France, the government is afraid of the people. With good reason, too: the French have overthrown their governments dozens of times since the Revolution of 1789. The French are hard wired with class consciousness. Strikes, demonstrations and general hell-raising are festive occasions. Only when things spin totally out of control--as when Muslim youths rioted in the suburbs of Paris and other cities--are conservatives like Sarkozy able to make headway.

Riots over police brutality by disenfranchised minorities make the French nervous. But contempt for American-style "harsh capitalism," where citizens pay $800 a month for healthcare and write nary a letter to their local newspaper to complain, is 100 percent mainstream. The French don't think they should have to suffer just because some greedy bankers went on a looting spree.

Even Sarkozy is getting the message. "We don't want a European May '68 in the middle of Christmas," he warned his ministers in December. He shelved proposals to loosen regulation of business. Arnaud Lagardère, CEO of the Lagardère Group, told the financial daily Les Echos: "We're seeing, in renewed form, the most debatable aspects of Anglo-Saxon capitalism called into question."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Democracy Now! | Bill Moyers asks: "Why will Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! never show up on 'Meet The Press?'" (watch video)

Democracy Now! | Bill Moyers asks: "Why will Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! never show up on 'Meet The Press?'" (watch video): "JAY ROSEN: You know what’s really striking to me about this, is Lawrence Wilkerson, who worked for Colin Powell, when he retired from the government, he said that the people in power: Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld especially, were, in his view, radicals. That the radicals were the people actually running the government.

And this idea that the people in power were kind of outside the sphere of normal government, never made its way into the establishment press at all. The idea that Wilkerson could have been right, that the real radicals were running the federal government, never really penetrated their narrative at all.

BILL MOYERS: How do you explain the fact that so many in the press, pundits and others as well, were saying Obama has to be bipartisan?

JAY ROSEN: I think that the ideology of the press is not so much liberal or conservative. They think themselves the keepers of realism, of savviness. I think the real religion of the American press is savviness. And in their view, it isn’t savvy to say you’re going to mobilize the anger and frustration of the American people and bring that power to Washington to change it."

Grow your own food!

California
California is facing its worst drought in recorded history . The drought is predicted to be the most severe in modern times, worse than those in 1977 and 1991. Thousands of acres of row crops already have been fallowed, with more to follow. The snowpack in the Northern Sierra, home to some of the state's most important reservoirs, proved to be just 49 percent of average. Water agencies throughout the state are scrambling to adopt conservation mandates.

Texas
The Texan drought is reaching historic proportion . Dry conditions near Austin and San Antonio have been exceeded only once before—the drought of 1917-18. 88 percent of Texas is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, and 18 percent of the state is in either extreme or exceptional drought conditions. The drought areas have been expanding almost every month. Conditions in Texas are so bad cattle are keeling over in parched pastures and dying. Lack of rainfall has left pastures barren, and cattle producers have resorted to feeding animals hay. Irreversible damage has been done to winter wheat crops in Texas. Both short and long-term forecasts don't call for much rain at all, which means the Texas drought is set to get worse.

Augusta Region (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina)
The Augusta region has been suffering from a worsening two year drought. Augusta's rainfall deficit is already approaching 2 inches so far in 2009, with January being the driest since 1989.

Florida
Florida has been hard hit by winter drought, damaging crops, and half of state is in some level of a drought.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Evil Fucktards Defined-read the whole post

And they have done and are doing a bucket load of things to keep farmers and everyone else from having any access at all to buying, collecting, and saving of NORMAL seeds.
  1. They've bought up the seed companies across the midwest.
  1. They've written Monsanto seed laws and gotten legislators to put them through, that make cleaning, collecting and storing of seeds so onerous in terms of fees and paperwork and testing and tracking every variety and being subject to fines, that having normal seed becomes almost impossible (an NAIS approach to wiping out normal seeds). Does your state have such a seed law? Before they existed, farmers just collected the seeds and put them in sacks in the shed and used them the next year, sharing whatever they wished with friends and neighbors, selling some if they wanted. That's been killed.

In Illinois which has such a seed law, Madigan, the Speaker of the House, his staff is Monsanto lobbyists.

  1. Monsanto is pushing anti-democracy laws (Vilsack's brainchild, actually) that remove community' control over their own counties so farmers and citizens can't block the planting of GMO crops even if they can contaminate other crops. So if you don't want a GM-crop that grows industrial chemicals or drugs or a rice growing with human DNA in it, in your area and mixing with your crops, tough luck.

Check the map of just where the Monsanto/Vilsack laws are and see if your state is still a democracy or is Monsanto's. A farmer in Illinois told me he heard that Bush had pushed through some regulation that made this true in every state. People need to check on that.

  1. For sure there are Monsanto regulations buried in the FDA right now that make a farmer's seed cleaning equipment illegal (another way to leave nothing but GM-seeds) because it's now considered a "source of seed contamination." Farmer can still seed clean but the equipment now has to be certified and a farmer said it would require a million to a million and half dollar building and equipment ... for EACH line of seed. Seed storage facilities are also listed (another million?) and harvesting and transport equipment. And manure. Something that can contaminate seed. Notice that chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not mentioned.

Fantastic news people, friggin fantastic

Chinese earthquake may have been man-made, say scientists - Telegraph: "The 511ft-high Zipingpu dam holds 315 million tonnes of water and lies just 550 yards from the fault line, and three miles from the epicentre, of the Sichuan earthquake.

Now scientists in China and the United States believe the weight of water, and the effect of it penetrating into the rock, could have affected the pressure on the fault line underneath, possibly unleashing a chain of ruptures that led to the quake.

Fan Xiao, the chief engineer of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau in Chengdu, said it was 'very likely' that the construction and filling of the reservoir in 2004 had led to the disaster"

Monday, February 02, 2009

USA: Safety of Tasers questioned as death toll hits 334-mark | Amnesty International

USA: Safety of Tasers questioned as death toll hits 334-mark | Amnesty International: "The call came as the organization released one of the most detailed reports to date on the safety of the stun gun. The report “USA: Less than lethal?” is being published as the number of people who died after being struck by Tasers in the USA reached 334 between 2001 and August 2008.

“Tasers are not the ‘non-lethal’ weapons they are portrayed to be,” said Angela Wright, US researcher at Amnesty International and author of the report. “They can kill and should only be used as a last resort.”

“The problem with Tasers is that they are inherently open to abuse, as they are easy to carry and easy to use and can inflict severe pain at the push of a button, without leaving substantial marks,” said Angela Wright."

I love Massachusetts

Daily Kos: Tired of Being Lectured by the Rich About Need for Austerity:
"Example 2: I was in line at the grocery store last week when I had to pull out my food stamps to pay for my tiny amount of groceries (here in Mass., they give us what looks like a debit card).

One of the wealthy, trophy-wife yentas who lives around here (I've seen her in the store with her 2x older husband) in line behind me rolled her eyes, made that sigh of disgust the tut-tutters always do, and then audibly whispered this gem to one of her pampered spawn: 'Damn leech.'

So, in my best, most diplomatic tone, I cleared my throat and said, 'We can't all give blowjobs to secure our futures, sweetie. Some of us actually work for it.'

'Fuck you,' she said.

To which I gave my standard response (people in Mass. say F U a lot!), 'No, thanks.'

Two people behind her in line gave me the thumbs up, while the grocery clerk grinned and finished ringing my stuff.

Apparently, we are not alone!"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What Red Ink? Wall St. Paid Fat Bonuses - NYTimes.com

"Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year."

Monday, January 26, 2009

things

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and
sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather
stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the
treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the
terrible boredom of pain.


I have been in thinking mode again. raging, enormous, impatient and inherently
unsatisfying. I have thought too, about these periods where i think like this.

The room is about three paces long and two wide: a mere broom closet
or disused tool room. In the room, a child is sitting. It could be a
boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is
feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective, or perhaps it has become
imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose
and occasionally fumbles vaguely with its toes or genitals, as it sits
hunched in the corner farthest from the bucket and the two mops. It is
afraid of the mops. It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it
knows the mops are still standing there; and the door is locked; and
nobody will come. The door is always locked; and nobody ever comes,
except that sometimes--the child has no understanding of time or
interval--sometimes the door rattles terribly and opens, and a person,
or several people, are there. One of them may come in and kick the
child to make it stand up. The others never come close, but peer in at
it with frightened, disgusted eyes. The food bowl and the water jug
are hastily filled, the door is locked; the eyes disappear. The people
at the door never say anything, but the child, who has not always
lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother's
voice, sometimes speaks. "I will be good, " it says. "Please let me
out. I will be good!" They never answer. The child used to scream for
help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of
whining, "eh-haa, eh-haa," and it speaks less and less often. It is so
thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on
a half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks
and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own
excrement continually.

They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have
come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They
all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and
some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty
of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of
their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their
makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of
their skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery.



I sometimes hope that the thought rages lead somewhere, let me develop a
truly more compelling understanding, but I hope I would choose to have them
even if they are no more than the unimaginative ramblings of a mediocre mind.

Monday, January 19, 2009

these times

I can say the sun
Burns much brighter today
I can see my path though

Clouds darken my way
Yeah I've got this feeling
It's something I find hard to explain
See I wasn't looking
But girl I'm glad I fell in your way

I don't get to watch the inauguration tomorrow because I will be working. I mean I will follow it on the sites who are made up of people who are as deeply invested in this moment as I am and that will help, but I will not get to watch it as it happens. I won't get to see for myself that the power structure has changed and death doesn't follow.

Maybe 2012 is the end of the world or maybe it is just the beginning of the age of Aquarius and I'll get to see it. These times, this life, the content of the story as it is written, are immense and deeply satisfying. I have seen more than I could have imagined and now feel capable of observing and grasping even more. Maybe for a moment I know that the abstract story with no obvious points of intersect is as fascinating as the story of those who get to execute to long known desires. I look forward to tomorrow with unabashed hope.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fuck Yeah

When Bush came into office the US had a US$237 billion surplus. Three days after 9/11, on September 14, 2001, his approval rate was 86%. By mid-2004, the budget deficit was in excess of $400 billion - and growing. (Thanks in large part to a big bipartisan majority in Congress having happily passed his $1.35 trillion package of tax cuts to the rich in May 2001.)

By mid-December 2008, his popularity ratings had plunged to 23% - only one point from an all-time low in every poll taken since 1938. Still, at 30% this month, this means that almost one in three Americans still approve of his job. H L Mencken must be wallowing in horror in his grave.

Coming close to destroying a superpower and the global economy virtually single-handedly is not bad for someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth who never held a steady job until the age of 45 - until "turd blossom" Karl Rove, the little, fat, bald Machiavelli, engineered him as the ultimate, corporate-pleasing, Southern Strategy lethal weapon, and Bush family consigliere James Baker turned a massive electoral fraud, mostly in Florida and Ohio, into a hijacked mandate via the Supreme Court. (American corporate media, by the way, loved it.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

anywhere in the multi verse

my brother and I have many odd arguments. One of our more recent ones is what it means to be an outlier. My definition was that you had to think outside of not only what society defined but also what your family judged you on to be a true outlier. my brother leaves for what might be described as another universe from what we know soon. here's hoping that being an outlier can be a good thing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

assholes

So the world is going to hell and these assholes are still trying get away with it. I think we need to reinstate public shaming. Make them stand in stocks in front of the Wall Street bull.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Wow

Five days have passed since a BART police officer shot and killed an unarmed rider on a station platform, but the officer has not given a statement to investigators about what happened and the transit agency has apparently not forced him to do so.
The delay comes as witnesses emerge with their accounts of what happened, some with video footage of the incident recorded on cellular phones. The hold-up is one reason why BART officials - even in the face of public outcry - have said little publicly about the shooting, including whether they believe it was justified.

BART has not released the officer's name, but The Chronicle has learned that the officer is two-year BART police veteran Johannes Mehserle, who turned 27 on Monday and whose first child was born within a day or two of the shooting - an event that may be a contributing factor to why Mehserle has not yet explained the shooting to investigators.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Even though you knew, still really creepy to see it reported

An e-mail written by a senior FBI agent in Iraq in 2004 specifically stated that President George W. Bush had signed an Executive Order approving the use of military dogs, sleep deprivation and other tactics to intimidate Iraqi detainees.

The FBI e-mail--dated May 22, 2004--followed disclosures about abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and sought guidance on whether FBI agents in Iraq were obligated to report the U.S. military’s harsh interrogation of inmates when that treatment violated FBI standards but fit within the guidelines of a presidential Executive Order.

The FBI e-mail was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The White House had emphatically denied that any such presidential Executive Order existed, calling the unnamed FBI official who wrote the e-mail “mistaken.”

The ACLU has called on Congress to demand that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate whether the President and other officials broke federal and international laws, “including the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act, and federal assault laws.”

President Bush and his representatives have denied repeatedly that the administration condones “torture,” although senior administration officials have acknowledged subjecting “high-value” terror suspects to aggressive interrogation techniques, including the “waterboarding” — or simulated drowning — of three al-Qaeda detainees.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

moments

I'm in Logan airport about to go through security...on my way to Omaha. I have the gear, noise canceling ear phones, kindle books and comfy outfit and slip off shoes. Still I wish the decision I made didn't mean I have to be here pretending that it doesn't really sadden me that sitting in an airport watching planes take off meant potential for adventure and magic instead of the overwhelming sense of whatever the opposite of that is. I thought I left that behind me in Phoenix. Instead I managed to recreate it or I am really just fundamentally lacking in optimism and the story I am in is irrelevant because my point of view has failed to improve.