Thursday, December 25, 2008

Inside Out

The other evening I was sitting with an Ethiopian friend enjoying
a meal of injera and tibs and some quiet conversation. The tv was
tuned to some evangelistic channel.

At other times, I had told her that the world is inside out from
the way that most people see it most of the time. That most people
are wrong about most things, most of the time, although there are
some people who are wrong about everything all of the time.

An infomercial came on. They showed african children, their limbs
horribly thin, their bellies distended, flies busy around their faces,
and eyes full of sadness, fear and hunger. They showed one or two
white people, handsome, strong, healthy; giving food and administering
to the children. They asked for the viewers to send money.

I asked her what she thought. She shrugged and said "The poor
will always be with us."

I said to her, "But you know, these are the only images that
most of my people ever see of Africa. This is what we think of
when anyone mentions the continent. We are taught this way to
believe that we are strong, healthy, and happy while all of the
Africans are desperate, unhappy, dying, and in need of our help
and support. This is such an insidious message. We are exhorted
to send money but we also learn that we never, never want to go
there. We send money to make us feel good and powerful. Almost
all of the money received stays in the hands of white people, the
rich evangelists and charity organizations with their fine offices,
the rich agribusinesses, the transport organizations, and all that
infrastructure. Only a tiny amount actually becomes food and help
for these children. And even when they receive help, they still
grow up to face an environment with no jobs, no land to work,
but only more needs."

"In this way, my people receive a message of their superiority.
They receive reassurance that the way they live is the best. They
learn control and arrogance. But you and I, we have been there,
we know differently. The people of Africa, by and large, know an
astounding beauty, happiness and joy, companionship, sharing,
friendships which is utterly beyond the knowledge and experience
of my people. In reality, my people have an appalling emptiness
in their lives, they dare not reach out to talk or to share anything
with strangers or even acquaintances, but instead live in isolated
cocoons, unable to taste any but the slightest little bit of
spiritual food."

I saw a light go on in her eyes. Suddenly she saw, she
understood, how most of us see things and why we act the ways we
do, towards her and towards her country and her people. A light
went on which will never be extinguished.

It was Jesus' message as well, over and over, such as his
statements at the beginning of the sermon on the mount, about the
poor inheriting the earth while the rich are so poor in spirit.
Those statements are so familiar to so many people, but they read
and write and say and sing them without any understanding.

You have to go there.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pain Medication

Few people can have even a casual conversation with me without
catching a glimpse of gold. In fact, there are twelve gold crowns
in the back of my mouth. They may not, however, realize that all,
all, of the teeth in front are also crowns, but of the porcelain
variety. Throw in a handful of root canals and several separate
extractions, and you may admit that I could be an authority on
this subject.

Reclined in the chair, my mouth fully occupied by foreign
tenants, I could be forgiven for trying to picture the doctors
during the US Civil War using wood saws to remove injured
soldiers' limbs before (or after!) gangrene. Imagining such
scenes I could easily suspect that the most difficult aspect
of such tasks was to restrain, and listen to, the patients.

In such a situation, one observes. I observed that if I
had not received sufficient Novocaine, that my body makes a
very timely reaction to steel drills amongst certain nerve
cells. I further reserved that such reactions would tend to
upset the individual working away in there almost as much or
maybe even more than myself, to bring out another hypodermic
with alacrity. And I further observed, that after sufficient
Novocaine had been duly administered and received, that those
reactions came to an end, but, my body still concentrated on
sending messages to my brain that somehow, somewhere, I was
under severe attack, that there was something very, very wrong
going on. Having this experience over and over, I came to
understand that the novocaine really did not lessen my
discomfort at all, or very little, that its main effect was to
reduce my ability and urge to react to it and thus, the anxiety
and distractions for the person peroforming the procedures.

From there, it was a simple exercise to extrapolate. One
observes how very often and for such a variety of circumstances
that doctors and other health practitioners push pain
medications, from aspirin to serious narcotic. They insist,
almost demand, that people take them.

The worst problem with that scenario is that the medical
community has thoroughly conned the consumers into PAYING for
all these drugs when it is the doctors who benefit the most.
I'm sure that most of our community actually believes that
they need these drugs and that they help them. Of course,
of almost as much concern is the destruction and havoc that
addictions can have on peoples' lives and the phantom pains
and distractions of withdrawal.

I know, this is just one more example of the deceptions,
lies, and con games that the large corporations and the very
rich have gradually, insidiously, foisted upon the american
people, and that they have allowed them to so do.

Its almost enough to make me want to SCREAM!!!!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Global Warming

Well now, we finally have a president in the United States who wants to reemphasize scientific research and in particular, the body of observations which lead to the facts of global warming and the theory that civilization’s actions may be responsible or partly responsible.

I suppose that that will make a lot of people happy for a minute. Especially those looking forward to new engineering and construction jobs trying to sequester carbon dioxide and new jobs on Wall Street creating and trading CO2 swaps.

Isn’t it just so like mankind, always to focus, too late, on the last crisis and turn a blind eye to the next one coming at us?

If you show a stock trader or other market trader a chart which looks like this:

without telling them time frame or underlying fundamental of any kind, to a man they will predict that what will happen next will look like this:

Mother Nature is unerring in this pattern. But in this example, we are not talking about dollars and prices, about oil or gold or stock or real estate … this is “global warming”. And I believe that we have just past the peak.

If you dig for it, you can find a few scientific observers who will postulate that this is going to happen and who offer a plausible theory of explanation. All the ice in the polar regions is made up of fresh water. The salt and other minerals go out of it before it freezes. The earth has a giant circulation system which functions a bit like the radiators and hot water pipes and furnace in a hot-water heated building. Water carries the heat from the furnace to the whole house and then returns, cooled, to the boiler. Some 10% of the earth’s heat circulation is carried out by the trade winds. The other 90% is carried out by ocean currents, currents like the Gulf Steam, in each ocean, in each hemisphere. The mass of moving water is far, far greater than the earth’s entire atmosphere. By this means, heat energy is collected around the tropic regions and carried to the polar regions.
This is why, for example, the climate in London, England, at latitude 52 degrees,
Is habitable (yes, wet and dreary, but habitable) while the climate in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, same latitude, pretty much isn’t.

So what happens when a warm, salty ocean current comes up against a mass of cold, less salty water? Well, the warm water sinks, because warm salty water is still heavier than fresh cold water. It sinks and stops its flow.

There’s also the situation of the lack of data to consider – man did not collect an awful lot of observations at the start of the last ice age, or else he did not archive them and document his formats and his metadata very thoroughly.

Observers of the sun have noted a famine of sun spots and solar radiation for the last six months. Observations in the last century or two have recorded a regular 11-year cycle of sunspots and a period of a week or two of no spots was predicted for last summer,. But no one proposes that we know enough about the sun’s internal metabolism to explain why this cycle occurs. The prediction calls for a regular steady increase back to hundreds. The six month famine is unprecedented in modern observations. You have to go back 400 years to find spotty observations suggesting a similar event. And that event corresponded with what was called “a little ice age”. At least, we cannot blame the sunspot famine on the coal-mining industry.

Every cloud has a silver lining. A cold spell on this planet would bring about the return of Lake Chad, of rain and fertility to the middle east and across some of the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa. But permanent ice covering Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of New York, Vermont and Maine, might, well bring about some larger life-style changes than “global warming” ever did or threatened to do.

Not much to do to prevent it. Mankind does not have power like that, no matter our egos that think we do. But it might be time to start thinking about relocating.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I have reached that age in my life where people
generally understand that it is rude to ask of me
how long I have been riding the commuter train to
work. It is that age where there are still a few lights
who can laugh about seeing my ID when I go to buy rum.

For quite long enough, thank you, I have been
living close to the tracks in an old railroad town. For
many years I observed the derelicts of the town
walk the streets, waiting patiently for their steam-
fitting or wheel-replacement jobs to return. The
other day I learned that the last of the familiars had
died. To my mixed horror and bemusement I suddenly
realized that I myself, stubbornly walking while all the
younger folk insist on their fleeting creature comforts,
have become the icon of the town.

Up in the hills even in town, and much more out in
the countryside, one can see and hear all manner of
songbird, thrush, dove, and finch. I have not caught
sight of the eagles nesting in a sycamore high above
the water in several years, but there is a new family
of blue heron who were not here before.

But over the parking lots, around the church spires,
and above the sidings, one has always had the troop
of starlings to watch. Hither and yon they fly in lockstep,
almost like the armies which come and go on this planet.
Now and then one chooses to pass in my yard and I
get a good look. From the outside, they are covered
in long jet-black finery, with bright gold tips much
like the chevrons of self-important officers. Turn
one over, however, as you go to dispose of its carcasse,
and you find a dirty beige belly covered in dark spots
like mud. If you study them, you find out that they
are garbage-collectors, living in town because humans
produce so much of that commodity.

Watching them is tireless. The flock seems to vary
in size with the weather, some days as thin as a large
family, other days as large as the gathering waiting for
the morning train. They fly together in formation,
resembling gnats, equidistant from each other. They
fly in exactly the same direction, for as far as a hundred
yards, before turning all at exactly the same instant,
as if they had all received some invisible electronic signal,
and heading on a different course. This they hold for
some agreed-upon distance til they all make another
turn. Continuing watching them for many minutes, you
will very soon come to the conclusion that the ultimate
achievement which this action achieves is, that they
get nowhere and do nothing.

I read somewhere some scientific study which showed
how each single bird watches over the seven nearest
neighbors and this is how their unity is achieved, since
there is no leader. I read that this action serves to
protect the individual since he is never alone.
But in contemplating this scientific article, I realized
how devastatingly easy "stareling hunting" could be.
One could sit or stand out in the open because they
act fearlessly. One could simply wait for the whole flock
to come close. Every time they are within range, one merely
must pick out one or two to aim at and bring down,
and tame the impulse to want all of them. Then,
when they go off distant, one just reloads and waits.

The stock market, lately, has been just so. The
media bewails the "volatility", the "uncertainty", the
failure to adopt some long-term direction or goal.
But the hunting has been very, very good for me.
I keep my portfolio loaded with different items with
different erratic behavior. When any of them get too close,
I pick out one or two and take profits. When they all
go off elsewhere, I reload. I love starlings!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

DXO chart

RJ says "Look at the volume!":

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


In my day, I have shared living arrangements with quite a
large assortment of cats, though usually only one or two at a
time. I appreciate their fierce drive for independence joined
with a sweet, ingeuous affection, seldom ever holding any grudge
about anything for longer than it takes to give themselves a
thorough bath.

One who will always live in my memory was Sadie, born and
raised a junkyard cat and to her last day preferred food that
she caught herself to anything I ever provided for her. But
Sadie lived the last 22 years of her life associated with me
and in her older years taught me a great many secrets about
life which I still cherish and use to this day.

The one who is keeping my feet warm on cold winter nights
now is named “Mittens”. She has most unremarkable black-and-white
markings and small stature leaning towards pudgy, but she knows
she is a princess and expects everyone to treat her that way.
She was far too good for my lap for the first couple of years that
we were getting to know each other, but every now and then lately
she begins to forget that foible, though she is still young enough
to chase straws or little pieces of stick. Already though, her
favourite thing to do is watch “television”, the glass in front
of the wood stove, and then to lie completely exposed and
unembarrassed on her back soaking up the heat.

Mittens does, however, expect attention when she expects
attention. And that means, among other things, that when I am
working away on my computer, it is her obligation and her right to
come between me and the monitor. Usually she gets a bit of what
she wants and moves on. Then one day the most remarkable thing
happened. She caught sight of the cursor. Now I can’t speak for
anyone else but I have never known a cat to be the least bit aware
of images or electronic displays. But every cat has some idiosyncracy
all her own, and soon Mittens was chasing the cursor like it was a
mouse, up and down and all over the monitor. We had as much fun as
her kitten days. I was just enthralled.

Like any game, she tired of this after awhile. But the other
night my wife put a large mirror down on the floor leaning against
the wall. And Mittens caught sight of herself, and she was at it
again. She looked, and looked, stared and stared. Then she tried
something different, moving her head very rapidly up and down to
see if she could catch the other cat that was so carefully copying
her movements. Finally, she ran around to the other side of the
mirror to see if she could catch this guy, and was visibly surprised
to find neither live cat nor image back there.

Maybe all this is no big deal to you. Maybe you’ve seen it
before, or maybe its just boring after the super-real war game
you’ve been playing. But little moments like these are the
punctuation and hot sauce of my life.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Within the past few days, The Washington Post ran
a story on the front page about the local acorn
situation. I was fascinated. This is something
that I was completely unaware of. I guess that
I have not taken enough walks in places where
oak trees proliferate (the canal is overhung
by sycamores, persimmons, maples,
and numbers of weed trees). It seems that this
year,many, many oak trees in the area have
produced zero acorns. Not just a reduction, but
completely none. In fact, this phenomenon has
been observed up and down the east coast.

There were numbers of comments on the article.
There was your typical liberal proposing that this is
some dire new effect of global warming, some new
plague that our nefarious industrial technology
has somehow foisted on the earth. There was
your typical neo-con insisting that the author
and his sources were just crazy and not looking
in the right places. There was your typical young
person asking why such a trivial tale graced the front
page. But one old codger, perhaps more of a
woodsman than any other commentator, offered
the observation that oak trees do this from time to time,
in cycles of about 20 years. He made the theory that
sometimes the population of squirrels becomes so
great on the annual nut harvest, that they succeed
in eating nearly all the acorns so that there are none
left togerminate, take root and grow into new oaks.
When the oaks all skip a year, the result is that
large numbers of squirrels die during the winter
of starvation, so that the cycle can begin again.
He did not offer any explanation as to how the oak
trees get together and decide on such marvelous
behavior. But somehow it sounded more believable
to me than any of the other comments.

Perhaps, why I had not observed any such event
myself, is that the squirrel who calls my backyard "home"
these days is looking so fat and waddling that I
fear one of these days he will misjudge a leap and
find himself on the ground face-to-face with one of
my cats. There are several black walnut saplings
back there, along with a couple of mulberrys and
the lilacs and other tall bushes. One in particular,
near my backyard, is growing so tall and straight
that I know it will be producing wonderful beautiful
lumber, in another 60 years or so, and I take
special care of it for that some other woodworker
who may enjoy them. The squirrel cleaned out each sapling
in turn, systematically, although I've seen evidence
that he is not completely greedy and short-sighted
but is burying a goodly number of them for future

I don't know where his family is, He probably doesn't know either.

I am not giving anyone anything for Christmas.
We are celebrating the death of materialism this year.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I spent some time last night
reading about the Weimar government
and other examples of hyperinflation.
No doubt, the bankers and financiers now in charge of events
are also familiar with these historical events.

A couple of facts came out which strike me as important:
First of all, very very few people in Germany anticipated hyperinflation
and even while it was gathering steam, refused to recognize it or plan for it. Neither inside the government nor out on the street.
The story goes of the upper-middle class german fellow
who started making payments to an annuity for his retirement before the war had a decade or so to go,
but he made every payment religiously.
As time went on, the payments became easier to make and he kept them up.
Finally in about 1922 he made the last payment.
He promptly cashed the annuity and went down to the market
and bought a loaf of bread with it.

Another fact I hadn't known was
that when the german mark completely collapsed
there was an interregnum period.
The bankers and everyone got together and established a new currency
This new currency was stable for years until
Hitler came to power, gew in power, grew in enemies,
and needed to begin putting lead in the gold coins again.
No doubt, Paulson and others are aware of that history.
We are all anticipating hyperinflation and trying to make a profit off of it and that helps to prevent it from happening.

The trouble is, while many say that hyperinflation is caused by huge increases in the money supply AND the velocity of money
(MORE credit. Borrowing one-day loans for high interest.
Buying whatever you can today because the price WILL be higher tomorrow. etc etc)
many others say that hyperinflation is brought on by a lack of public
confidence, for example in a government which is fighting and not winning a major war, etc etc.

NOTHING has been done to stem the outflow of confidence,
in our bankers, financial houses, CEO's, politicians, lawyers, corporations, etc.
GM wants bailout money so that they can buy Chrysler,
continue to stifle competition and insult their customers.
Citi wants bailout money so that they can create more derivatives
to "protect and insure themselves", not to make more loans.

So I see this whole situation as a monumental dilemma,
a historic battle going on within every single participant, large and small,
between driving the US dollar to infinity (hyperinflation)
and driving it to Zero (no one has any anymore).
In the meantime, anyone who produces any goods or services of real value to other people
is still getting screwed.

And I don't see either side gaining any advantage right now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


butternut squash soup

1 large butternut squash (2-3 lbs)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
dash salt
1/2 teazspoon ground cinammon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

I suppose you could do this with pumpkin instead but
I find butternut squash just a little gentler.

This takes a little bit of time, but its something your family
doesn't get everyday. First, take the squash and cut it into
manageable chunks. Throw away any part of the stem and
use a large spoon to gouge out the seeds and gunk. Boil the
chunks in water in a large saucepan for 20-30 minutes or
until very tender. Drain off the water. Use the same spoon
to remove the skin. Place about half the meat with about
half the condensed milk in a blender and mix until creamy.
Pour that back into the empty saucepan and do the other
half. Then cook over medium heat for 5 or 10 more minutes,
adding the other ingredients.

Serve hot or chilled (maybe a marshmallow or two for garnish)
Serves 6

butternut squash bread (or cake or muffins)

If you get an "Ewe! What is this?????" reaction from your
family to the soup, then try this:

1 cup shortening or vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups butternut squash soup
2 tsp baking soda -- use baking powder instead, it makes it
lighter and fluffier
4 cups white flour
1/4 tspn salt

Mix the shortening, eggs, sugar and soup in a large bowl. Fold
the flour in slowly. Grease two bread pans or muffin pans
and preheat the oven for 350. Mix in the baking pwoder
and work out any lumps with your hands (yes, I know its
messy, and warm, and sticky, and fragrant. Just like
sex ...). Put into the pans and into the oven for half
an hour, then turn the oven up to 375 for about another half an
hour or until it passes the knife test.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


About ten years ago, I made the acquaintance of an
unusual young woman. Anything out of the ordinary gets my
attention quickly and my curiosity usually overcomes my
timidity. So an attractive young woman, shapely figure,
long blond tresses, and a cute smile, taking up her
position at the subway station as the lead coin-collector
and resident homeless person, brought friendship out
from its customary hiding places within my psyche.

We talked about this-and-that, from day to day,
whenever I got tired enough of my daily chair-warming
job and went out for air. She was warm enough but
reticent to talk about how or why she came to such a state.

In my artistic tinkerings I was into casting bodies
in those days. We talked about in general terms her
coming to my house and my paying her some modeling fee.
However, one of my workmates counseled me against taking
any such step. she was deep trouble, he explained,
because she was mixed up with some heavy, and tough,
cocaine aficionados. So I let the conversation drop.

For the next many months I watched, with quiet
horror, a metamorphosis such as one would only see in
a cheap terror flick. Her hair turned to grey, almost
before my eyes. Her cheeks hollowed out and wrinkles
crawled over her face. Those eyes, which had sparkled
with life before, became empty-milky, in deepening
sockets. After awhile, I could not bear to smile, or
even throw coins.

I am as much guilty of using charity as a rationa-
lization for controlling others, as many other people
from my culture who do the same thing. But I could see
that this was a losing struggle, all the way around,
and could cost me dearly were I to get involved, so
I just let things be.

Another few months later, she just disappeared.
though I feared the worst, I did not inquire.

The other evening, leaving my office for the train,
I was lost in the gloom of more losses on the stock
market, job losses, store closings, and the perennial
struggle to get my management to use some common sense
once in awhile. A hand came out to touch me. It was
Mary! She was glad to see me. A bit of color had
returned to her hair and her cheeks were full and plump
again, and she had a new alertness and quiet dignity.
The intervening years had not been gentle, for all her
teeth were gone and the youth drained out of her face.
But I could see that she was happy. Clearly she had
through divine intervention and her own desire for
self-preservation, changed her ways. She introduced
me to her new husband, a young man whose bravery and
strength clearly outclassed his intelligence, but
he seemed honest and sincere. They had a place
together and were making a real life for themselves.

In these threatening times, I was so uplifted
to be reminded that I don't have to save the whole
world by myself, and that americans and people in
general are not quite so stupid and self-destructive
as we like to say they are, and that hope is alive
and thriving.


I went out to my backyard this morning, around 8:00.
It was a crystal-clear autumn day. The sun was well up
in the cloudless sky. The air had just a hint of chill,
the cold has yet to come.

I was overcome with the silence. There were no
sound of cars, no jets or helicopters in the air.
There was no birds chirping or playing. There were
no sirens, for once. There were no freight trains,
neither moving or crashing into one another or
warning horns or deep-throated idling diesal.
No crickets. No cicadas. No dogs. No hunters'
guns going off.

The only sound that I could here was the steady
rustling of the dry leaves in the wind, and
the utter loneliness of fear.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wild Turkeys

Sunday afternoon I happened to drive down a few
country roads that I had not traversed before. The
weather was coolish and spottled. Many of the
autumn colors were past their prime, although
some leaves were still green near the riverbed.
One or two bright red-orange trees still
commanded attention, bringing one to recall
Moses' first experience with the transcendental.

Around a bend my foot moved to the brake
as I saw a couple of large dark animals in
the road up ahead. As I closed in to a stop
I saw much to my surprise that I had come upon
a stately procession of five wild turkeys, calmly
crossing the road, as if there were no such
thing as hunters or thanksgiving dinners.
Tailfeathers furled, they were still immense,
majestic birds. For comparison, ostriches
came to mind before geese. Naturally, I had
left my camera at home and so could not
verify my sighting to anyone else later.

I agree with the minority at the time that
the wild turkey would have been the better choice
for our national bird. But these days, the
dead-fish breath hunter and carrion-eater that
became our choice symbol, seems after all more

But as the birds slipped back into the trees
and dead leaves that provided them more cover,
and I drove on my way, I wondered about such
an anomaly, for I had never seen more than one
at a time in my whole life, and even so only a few
times. Did they augur changes up ahead?
More peaceful times, where people can coexist
more comfortably and securely and walk this
earth with a little less trepidation? Or is
that just a fantasy, a fond wish? Maybe I really
did not see them, after all.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Firewood is the chief source of heat for my
home. I live in a region with moderately cold
winters and prodigious wood supply which
developers are always struggling to dispose of. I
have back-up electric heat and my monthly bill
sometimes gets as high as $200, although that's
due in part to my wife's fondness for hot showers.

There is an airtight woodstove in the kitchen
and convection heats the whole house. It adds to
ambiance and the kitchen becomes the chief
gathering-place in the winter, where the temperature
in the room is often around 75 or 80.

I cut and split almost all the wood I burn,
myself. While I crosscut with electricity I do
almost all the splitting with an old sledgehammer
that came out of the railroad yard, and a couple of
steel wedges. An average winter sees three or four
cords go through my stove.

There are those who say that I must do it for
therapy. I know that it feels good. I'm pretty
sure that therapy is just an indulgence for people.
I think that's fine, but I do think that they are
likely to get better results if they label it
correctly. At any rate, it does more for me than
alcohol or drugs.

There are probably people who applaud my use of
a renewable energy source. It puts no sulfur,
mercury, or carbon monoxide in the air, after all.
My local jurisdiction still takes issue with the
practice. It does put some soot in the air.
If everyone burned wood the air might get pretty
thick. Or maybe they just don't appreciate that I'm
not paying as high taxes to the fuel vendors.

There are probably others who say that I do it for
my health. Certainly I have never had any serious
illness or broken bones. I admit that I have
occasionally snickered when a young person complains of
miscellaneous obscure and phantom back problems or other
pains. I have heard that vigorous exercise reduces the
risk of cancer. At any rate, I don't have cancer yet,
so maybe its true.

It does seem to me that it must have an impact on
my sex appeal. I am still surprised at how many offers
I get from women, some of them young and very attractive,
more than at any time in my life. I don't think that's
because of the white hairs percolating all over my cranium
these days, or the wrinkles furrowing their way deeper into
my skin as I approach 60. Do they ask me because I am
shorter than they are? I am not sure about that either, do
they think that makes me easier to boss around?

Nope. I just do it for the heat.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nixon's China

The other day, my Dad (may God bring peace to his soul) made
the connection to Nixon visiting China and first opening up that
door, to the current republican moves towards nationalizing the
banks and investment houses in the country and putting them under
Federal Government control. I myself had made the observation that
this new ownership, called “socialism of risk” by the mainstream
media, is really tantamount to adopting the communist system first
delineated and predicted by Karl Marx.

Prior to Nixon’s visit, communist China was considered to be far
distant, another world, their politics anathema, their people, culture
and goods unapproachable and completely foreign to our needs and
wants. We were fighting a consuming war with one of their satellites.
It would have been completely unthinkable for any Democratic Party
president or congressman or other public official to make any overture
whatever of recognition, friendship, cooperation or respect. President
Nixon by first opening the door, began a drip of trade, which then
became a trickle, a stream, and finally a torrent of goods coming to
America. Ambitious, hard-working immigrants also came and studied
to fill a hefty percentage of engineer, doctor, computer, and other
scientific positions in our economy, greatly aiding the continuing
advancement of the United States. Capital flowed the other way,
stimulating an economic expansion which is benefitting an enormous
volume of humanity, providing opportunities for huge numbers of people
who otherwise would have had only abject poverty to look forward to.

My Dad’s point was that the recent assumption of new powers and
controls by the Federal Government into the money industry may have
a similar unintended, unanticipated outcome. It is becoming more
obvious every day that the coming election will not only sweep a
Democrat into the White House with the largest victory since the days
of FDR, but a thorough house-cleaning and senate-cleaning will also
be taking place at the same time. There is also a strong possibility that
several of the current republican-chosen Supreme court justices,
including Stevens, 88, Ginsberg, 75, Scalia, 72 and Kennedy, 72 will
retire and be replaced by nominees of the Democratic White House.
Obviously a great number of new faces will be coming to positions of
power and influence in Washington’s cabinet offices and military brass.

And while the Bush administration has opened this door, so very
late in its tenure, it will be all these new, progressive brains who have
this stunning opportunity to write the rules and regulations and
conventions about how these vast new powers are going to be

Considering the travesty and devastation that the current crop of
bankers and Wall Street executives have made of the US economy,
this becomes an incredibly appealing opportunity. I can’t wait to see
how this unfolds.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Homeland Insecurity Department

But it goes back to trust.

The banks themselves, as well as the media, as well as the current crop of
politicians, have all been seeding the ground (and fertilizing) with
massive missives of distrust.

"Report suspicious packages" "Make sure you have virus protection, look out
for phishing and bots".don't trust your neighbor, don't talk to him, don't
even say hi when you pass him on the street. Late fees. Interest on the
late fees. Late fees on the interest. All the fine print on the microsoft
licensing agreements, on credit cards, on insurance policies. No one helps
anyone anymore, most help desks are either computer audio or in
Bangalore reading from a script.

Security cameras everywhere. Security guards everywhere. Torture ships
ply the oceans. IT departments concentrate on securing their information,
keeping users out, blocking any experimentation. Helicopters hovering
overhead, for no known reason. National electronic ID cards in the works.
Anyone who carries and uses a cell phone is carrying a device which can
keep track of everywhere he goes and everything he says, and soon will
also keep track of all his expenditures as well.

Its not to say that there are not legitimate concerns. But as my friend
Ferret points out, the authorities are “leveraging” the fear to such an
extent that originality, creation, productivity are crushed.

Now, all of a sudden, that mistrust has built up to the point where no one
trusts anyone.

And , guess what, money is just like a neutrino. What is money? Paper, that
doesn’t even burn well, just trash. Or, more and more often, only a few
microscopic magnetic fields on a hard disk somewhere. If there is no trust,
no faith, no agreement, no desire to cooperate with other people, all of whom
will have some divergence of opinion somewhere from our own, then money ceases
to have any meaning, any value. When it stops changing hands, when it
stops spinning, its gone.

And all the kings men and all the kings horses can't bring it back ...

We don't need to concern ourselves with muslims.
The enemy is here, and it is us (as Pogo said so long ago ....)
Where is the outrage?

"Someday soon, you might wake up to the call to prayer of a muezzin"
I have, many times, and my heart aches for that quiet, lonely, peaceful sound
in the mornings. Instead, I wake to trucks, freight trains, helicopters, and
sirens, sirens, sirens, in ever-proliferating plethora of new, more frightful
cacaphony. Friends of mine joke that its the new national anthem.
Since almost no one sings anymore, that's about right ....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Negative Numbers

I am overseeing the general education and GED effort of a close family member these days. I have concentrated more on learning numbers, arithmetic, and mathematics since that is my particular specialty. Her teachers give her textbooks and assignments from ten years or more back, I suppose because the education department has been experiencing negative numbers in their new budgets for quite some time. It has gradually dawned on me that arithmetic teachers and texts in the USA no longer give instruction in negative numbers, as if conditions no longer exist which they can model and explain. No text mentions or teaches them and no sample
questions query about them.

Horror stories about "creationism" and "intelligent design" have made the
mainstream media. However, I've never seen anything mentioned about this travesty.
I am frequently reminded that our evangelists and our propaganda machines wish
to teach our populace "Don't worry. Be happy." as if denying the existence of
our problems, difficulties and obstacles may make them vanish. Alas, my experiences
in life tell me otherwise.

Websites about math instruction tell me that there is a general movement
afoot to only teach students how to use calculators, not to understand numbers
intrinsically. A walk through a supermarket has unit prices precalculated
for shoppers, usually reliably, so that they are spared the mental exercises
of working out ratios and prices themselves, despite packager's reliance on
constantly downsizing package sizes and going from even weights and measures to
more and more complex ratios. To my way of thinking this is part of a general
effort to teach people to be lazy and stupid; an effort in my experience
which has been extremely successful so far.

Am I the only person who finds this development to be horrifying?
Is it any wonder that investors have adopted use of the term "oversold"
to replace the term "cheap" when it does not mean the same thing? Is it
any wonder that so many banks and investment houses are now being found to
be insolvent, owning large quantities of financial instruments which are
found to have negative value and no one has been told about them or how much
losses they have incurred? Is it any wonder that investors are surprised to learn that stock prices sometimes go down? I wonder just how accountants are going to manage to prepare peoples' annual tax returns this year without reliance on losses?

I'd like to hear what other people have to say about this change in our education system.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This is an extension of discussions
from the yahoo finance Suncor message base,
hopefully with the spam removed
and the censorship evaded.

My first posting is a message which Yahoo systematically blocked from publication
(and you thought that that only happens in China!?!?!?!)

(This is from rhjl -- I'm just playing secretary here.)

(Oh, excuse me -- that's a dirty word -- administrative assistant ...)

"I'm thinking that the SEC really needs to grow a pair and declare Credit Default Swaps based upon directional trading illegal. Now.

They have the damn power, and they are corrupt beyond hanging for not doing it. The varieties I describe hereafter are "securities", pure and simple, and not allowed to be traded in unregulated markets. SEC Act 1934. We are being bullshitted into oblivion.

I heard some of a senate hearing yesterday, of all committees, the Senate agriculture committee, chaired by Harkin, I think, because of the devastating impact this is having on agriculture. ( I think I heard a bushel of corn now costs $5 and sells for $3.50-don't quote me). Anyway, the testimony indicated that 90% or so of credit default swaps were "directional", meaning, I gathered, that they were ersatz 'shorts" or "longs", not true insurance plays on real defaults.

I admit I didn't get all of this. If anybody has better info, straighten me out.

The fact that these hearings occurred is confirmed by Bloomberg's report of the CDS Association's reaction, but, of course, not the point of it. That never gets aired, unless you have nothing to do but catch Cspan broadcasts.

Anyway, putting this interpretation together with Cramer's views from last night, which I posted, I see that the "shadow market" is really the regulated market we watch with horror all day, and can't fathom. The "real market" is out of sight, and drives all this madness.

The real bets are placed out of sight, in "dark pools" which our gubment tolerates, while they skin us to the bone.

"Iowa Politics" seems to have heard of this, but not all the real gory details.

These guys picked up comments about naked credit default swaps. Ye Gads. seqNum=5

I think another part of the bill I would craft would require the seizure of the assets of all companies that wrote directional CDSs in the last year.

What a stinking, out of control, ungodly mess this is.

Cramer was right-this is nothing more than taking out "insurance" on your neighbors house, and burning it down."