Watching the slow-motion train wreck of an economic system collapse unfold

Watching the slow-motion train wreck of an economic system collapse unfold
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sarah palin and the tea party did not kill those people  

Posted by howard in nyc

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”~mark twain

apparently any right thinking american today knows for sure that the political environment is at least partially to blame for the mass murder saturday. obviously. of course. everybody knows this.

heh.

idiot economist paul krugman was one of the first to spout this obvious truth, within hours of the event. apparently he can apply fact-free (and logic-free) analysis to criminology as well as he does to economics. but lots and lots of others are chanting the same refrain--this violence is an inevitable result of the rhetoric of sarah palin and the angry right wing tea party.

i reject this opinion disguised as a fact. while on saturday afternoon i certainly thought this was a possibility, it was not a given. and as the facts of this mentally deranged young man rolled in, this cause and effect that so many people believe as a sociological truth is being knocked down.

he did it because of violent video games
he did it because of violent rock and roll music
he did it because of violent hippy-hop music
he did it because of all the violence on television/in movies
he did it because of colombine/va tech/
he did it because sarah palin used violent words

obviously.

all these possibilities are of similar value. and that value is pretty damn low.

dude has a bunch of warning signs of psychosis, and likely schizophrenia. psychotic schizophrenic people attack and kill other people pretty often, historically. sometimes famous people, sometimes political people, sometimes other figures of authority (like cops). these violent incidents have happened long before our particular political environment emerged--before anyone had heard of sarah palin or the tea party.

some other reasons that may have pushed him to commit murder? having nothing to do with the political rhetoric of our times:

~he had a general interest in politics, and had met congresswoman giffords three years ago. and combined with his increasing mental illness, he formed some delusion or group of psychotic thoughts around her. like jody foster or john lennon.

~he heard a voice telling him to do it. like david berkowitz.

~he was pissed at being rejected by the army recruiters, for his pot smoking.

~he was pissed at being kicked out of community college. y'all watch how señor chang does when he snaps.

~he didn't like jews. i seem to remember violence done to jews independent of our current political environment.

~he couldn't find a job, like millions of other 22yo high school educated young men in this country.

~he could see no good future, due to the destruction of the middle class and of the economy, the future often being a concern to disaffected 22yo young men.

~he thought all politicians were craven tools of the wall street bankers who have continually lied and sold out the people of this country (oh wait, that is me. nevermind.)

the combination of fear and stupidity is potent. and i am sure many people fear the violent rhetoric of many tea party types. but this case is just not likely to have anything to do with the rhetoric of our times. this type of violence is not unique to times of poisoned rhetoric. this type of violence is not necessarily political at all (john hinkley), much less a result of some segment or some variety of political speech.

for many, like my man keith olbermann and others in the media on the left side, there is a political gain to using this incident to bludgeon the tea party. for many others, the conclusion that violent rhetoric led to this mass murder is a result of fear clouding their thinking. for others, it is just easier than actually thinking it through.

and don't get me wrong. i love a good sarah palin bashing. i am even enjoying this, not because it is true, not because it is complete bs but she is taking it anyway. but primarily because she was so quick to be outraged and offended by the speech of others. like david letterman. and katie fucking couric. she set the bar for outrage way low; now she gets to have lots of folks bash her with that same bar (after they jump over it, to keep the metaphor kinda straight).

i dislike the rhetoric of the times not for violent potential. but because it feeds stupidity and fear. and, it distracts from the true and from the relevant.

and ultimately, that is the big joke on the lefties who are indulging in this falsehood. the foxies are firing back, i am sure (the left use tons of violent rhetoric; the left are going to use this as an excuse to violate the second amendment and restrict guns; hey, i agree with both of those--do i have to start watching fox? ain't gonna do it; too much stupid in the fear/stupid mix over there on the right). so there can be lots of back and forth on this canard. while the looting of the treasury continues unabated. while the ben bernanck handed another $8 billion to the wall street primary dealers today, to keep the market from crashing. another $8 billion more due tomorrow. but they will be busy hemming and hawing over the tea party language.

sticks and stones may break my bones, and quantitative easing will destroy my savings and inflate gasoline and food. but words have yet to actually hurt me.

there is a discussion over at the swamp, as to whether there is an actual noticeable increase in violence in recent years that is politically related. even if tenuously related. we are making a list of violent incidents, and kicking it around. personally, i think there is, but there are many many factors, first being the economy, second being the culpability of both political parties for handing the economy over to the wolves/vampire squids. and third, being fear of a black kenyan secret muslim president. but i am sure some of the tea party rhetoric does lead to real violence. i count spitting on black congressmen at a tea party rally as violence.

but not this psychotic mass murder. and to spout this as an obvious truth is just ridiculous.



mass murder, congresswoman giffords shot  

Posted by howard in nyc

terrible. a mentally disturbed pothead snaps and commits this horrific act. and here is how folks are gonna react.

already the 'vitriolic political environment' is being blamed. regardless of the fact that the 'economic' environment is pretty piss-poor right now. as is the 'opportunity for young people's future environment'. and the 'lawlessness of the rich and powerful, particularly bankers environment' kinda sucks too. but those environments will not be blamed, just the political vitriol.

makes no sense.

further, exactly how much non-deadly violence have we seen leading up to this horrific event? what kind of pattern of political environment triggered violence does this fit? oh, none.

and prior assassinations and attempts, like those of presidents reagan and ford. those occurred in times of particularly vicious political environments, right?

complete fucking nonsense. and that is what the media will dish out, and the people will lap up.

the more ominous reactions are 1) elected officials, particularly congresscritters, will further hunker down in an 'us versus them' mentality, if that is possible; 2) they and the executive branch agencies will use this as an excuse to further clamp down on various liberties of speech (online and offline), assembly and maybe even gun ownership. the vitriolic political environment, you know. gotta tamp that down, before they fire it up again.

jeez. the political environment today is people watching their favorite partisan cable network, while idiots yell talking points at one another. and every couple of years, get to vote for tweedledee or tweedledum, from one or the other branch of the corporate/banking/pharma political party that is running the show.

use the horrible incident to continue the misdirection. use the incident to continue the control of the masses and degradation of freedom. yeah, i'm going out on a limb with these forecasts.

happy new year 2011  

Posted by howard in nyc in , ,

cause 2010 sucked balls for me. would've been horrible, except my team won the friggin world series. and that is the only thing i will remember from this year. well, that and the hard lessons learned.

the hardest to accept lessons are those regarding the sorry state of our country. and worse than the hard truths are the constant lies, and the refusal of most americans to admit to even a few of the hard truths that define our america today. simple, obvious truths that if you speak them in polite company, folks excuse themselves from the conversation, and they don't invite you next time.

simple unambiguous gems such as:

--the wars in afghanistan, iraq, pakistan, yemen, and soon to come to somalia, are bankrupting our treasury, are immoral, are pointless, are making us less safe, and are absolutely unwinnable. the people who become 'terrorists' hate us because we are over there making war and killing people.

--the economy is completely wrecked, being looted as it dies by wall street and the bankers, being artifically supported by trillions of printed and borrowed dollars that cannot be sustained for very much longer. as soon as they stop printing, the whole thing falls.

--98% of congress are bought and paid for by big money interests, and serve 100% of big money interests, and 0% of the public good. this is also true of 100% of presidents, immediate past, present and immediate future.

--the war on drugs has been a spectacular failure. legalization/decriminalization could not possibly increase drug use and drug addiction from the current all-time high levels. the proof is in the history of alcohol prohibition, and in the experience in various european countries that have legalized. crime would plummet, the war in afghanistan would come to a quick halt (no more money for the taliban), only one-tenth of the savings could fund rehab and treatment on demand for every single addict in america. but too many folks in the usa (prisons and cops) make too much money from drug crimes.

--the status quo is completely unsustainable, and when the efforts to maintain it fail and/or are withdrawn, things are gonna go from bad (true unemployment of roughly 1 in 5; 1 in 7 americans on food stamps; residential real estate values are going down again and nothing can stop this;) to much much worse.

i have great difficulty not thinking about these truths. the wars and the complete corruption of our leadership make me supremely sad. the continued economic enrichment of a small number of american elites at the direct expense of the masses makes me feel like a broke sucker for not jumping on the greed train and getting mine before the whole thing crashes. the looming full on collapse of the barely functioning economy makes me feel like going to work, and taking risks to build/innovate my little business is a complete waste of effort.

i doubt it is possible for me to ignore the truths, or for me to not react to the lies, denial, deception and willful ignorance. but i must find a different way to react to the political/social/economic milieu. probably a lot of focus and discipline. regarding what i eat; my activity, particularly exercise; and my thinking, particularly reading more books and less internet blogs about how bad the economy is.

i'll work out the details of what and how i want to change. but a part will be venting and purging a bunch of frustrating thoughts. on the internet. right here.

and here come a big batch of rant.

the folks running the economy, the ben bernanck and crew, have really fucked themselves. too bad they fucked all of us at the same time. their only concern has been to preserve the current banks and wall street firms, and preserve the current system of guaranteed money for the elite class that runs and works at the top of the current system. they care not even a little bit for the masses of american people. they may realize the truth, or they may delude themselves otherwise, but they work to enrich the elite at the direct cost of the rest of us. via outsourcing manufacturing and now service jobs overseas. via inflation of the currency. via taxpayer guarantees of fannie freddie and a shitload of bad paper the fed has purchased. via tax evasion by the multinational corporations and banks.

but in the midst of the hollowing out of the manufacturing capacity of the usa, the destruction of the middle class by destroying jobs and blowing serial financial bubbles, they blew it. the ben bernanck has painted himself into a corner. he and his fiscal counterparts, larry summers and the rest, have thrown trillions of dollars at the failed system. printing, borrowing, keeping interest rates artificially low. these machinations have staved off complete collapse. but they were intended as temporary measures, until the economy got back on track.

it hasn't. because the prosperity of the prior decade was fake, built on prior fed machinations (low interest rates) and fraud. the economy has just puttered along, growing only as much as those in control printed and borrowed. not real growth; just borrowed growth.

and, if they withdraw the temporary support, the whole thing falls. and the temporary support cannot possibly become permanent.

first, the borrowing. at some point, the borrowing (and the deficit government spending) has to stop. the chinese, the oil countries, and japan are getting a bit concerned that they may not get paid back. their desire to lend is lessening. their capacity to lend is shrinking as well, as we buy less stuff from them. and at some point, the interest rate the us must pay to borrow will increase (the fed is not omnipotent in the setting of interest rates; they have a lot of influence but not unlimited influence.) and once the size of the debt times the interest rate reaches a certain level, payment becomes impossible. and starts to reinforce itself, with higher rates. see iceland, greece, and ireland for the proof of this arithmetic.

when this happens, that is hard to say. i thought it would've happened by now. i was dead wrong. i underestimated the power of being the reserve currency of the entire world. the power of having most of the millions of barrels of oil sold daily denominated in us dollars. i had discounted the twenty years that japan stretched things out before hitting their wall.

but it will happen. it has to happen. i just have to get used to waiting. (and i was told the waiting is the hardest part.)

second, the printing. if/when you print too much, the value of the currency being printed falls, approaching zero. also, the interest rate for borrowing that currency will tend to rise. which feeds into the above. again, being the reserve currency of the world allows you to print a lot more w/o consequences than if you are printing argentine reals or icelandic whatevers. but it is limited. personally, i do not believe the wealthy elite will allow the printing press to run long enough to cut into their accumulated wealth, to the point of hyperinflation and currency collapse. but i could be wrong, and ben could print until those chickens come home to roost, and a loaf of bread costs $100.

so, if the ben bernanck and the tim geithner continue to print and borrow, the lenders stop lending or charge so much to lend that borrowing stops. or the currency falls toward zero, and the lenders charge so much to lend that borrowing stops. the printing/borrowing has to end.

otoh, when the printing/borrowing stops, the stock market crashes, the little bit of GDP growth being paid for by government spending/borrowing ends, and the last veils of fake economic growth are removed.

keep printing/borrowing, and the system crashes. stop printing/borrowing, and the system crashes. there is no third thing.

how close are we? well, unemployment is high and getting worse, regardless of which set of government numbers you accept, the fake ones, or the really fake ones. no one i have heard can reasonably postulate where job growth is supposed to come from; how all the construction, real estate and consumer finance related jobs that went away are going to be replaced.

the residential real estate market is bad and getting worse. there was a brief reprieve when the government was giving away $8,000 if you bought a house. but when that program ended, home sales went back down again. there are millions of empty houses on the market. millions more being held back from the market. and hundreds of thousands occupied by people who stopped paying their mortgages, or will soon.

several large states are broke. not just suffering from short-term difficulties; broke. and they cannot print money. same for hundreds of municipalities, large and small. the cost of their borrowing is increasing. they will have to cut jobs, and cut welfare payments. this will make the economy as a whole shrink. maybe the central government will provide some printed/borrowed bailout money. but that will not help, just delay.

oil costs $90/barrel. may be headed up to $100. this will hurt the economy.

the banking system has a huge problem with all the fraud at every level of the mortgage business. because of all those derivatives. all those mortgage backed securities (the trillions of dollars worth that were not dumped onto the fed) legally may not be backed by mortgages that were fraudulently conveyed. if this were a battle of banks vs mortgage holders staying in their houses w/o paying, the government would just slap down the people and let the banks win. but this is bank vs bank; wall street firm vs hedge fund. this huge problem is unlikely to go away quietly.

and that is just domestically. then there is continuing debt problems for every euro country, the inevitable breakup of the EU and the failure of the euro currency; the bursting of china's housing bubble; japan's day of reckoning ever closer; and likelihood of war in korea, pakistan or israel.

none of those issues will help american gdp, although some could temporarily boost the dollar and lower us interest rates. only temporarily.

shit. no wonder i'm depressed. but that is just the numbers side, and not even the worst of our troubles.

happy new year 2011, part two  

Posted by howard in nyc in , ,

the worst part is how passive, how tolerant, how accepting of so much bullshit the american people have become. while the vast majority wallows in the easy emotional bonding with one political party or the other, eschewing actual thought for the warm and fuzzy joy of 'red bad, blue good' (or vice versa). that majority includes the just as bad segment that unthinkingly shrugs facts and feels, 'well, blue may be bad, but they aren't nearly as bad as red, so i'm supporting blue. and in the process, tolerates, accepts and even embraces the web of lies that passes for news and political discussion today.

so many really severe outrages committed by those in power are just shrugged off. the tsa debacle is a recent example. ridiculously abusive bullying at airports, illogically justified as necessary to prevent lame attempts like the christmas bomber, are just joked about and accepted as part of the times instead of demanding that such abuse stop immediately.

the christmas bomber. who boarded a plane in a foreign city, where the tsa has no activity or jurisdiction. who boarded a plane without a passport. these two obvious facts are clear and in the open. just beneath the surface is the description of how the dude was shuffled past that foreign airport security by some well-dressed accomplice. and instead of a demand that these security breeches be investigated and corrected, the tsa introduces groping and intimidation as a response. and people by and large shrug and say, ok, that's fine.

and the new nude x-ray machines, introduced at a cost of about half a billion dollars, justified by 'the christmas bomber'. and one of the executives in the company that builds these devices is the last chief of homeland security, chertoff, that dude last seen fucking up the katrina response. he cashed in millions of dollars. and people just say, ok, that's fine.

illogic, corrupt profits, and infringement on personal privacy. ok, that's fine.

a quick list--a war entered into by lies from the president, prolonged and expanded by a putative anti-war president who was given the nobel fucking peace prize. the enrichment of a handful of financial firms by the national treasury, with the leaders of those banks giving themselves literal billions of dollars in bonuses, with nothing more than a few scolding words from president obama. a 'patriot act' that results in personal telephone conversations and emails being monitored by the government, and the secret surveillance operations of our government constantly growing larger and larger. the torture and imprisonment of dozens of innocent people at guantanamo and elsewhere, unpunished, and a promise by the antiwar president to stop such crimes, institute trials, and close the notorious prison, but the promise is broken.

ok, that's fine.

the reaction of so many people to the wikileaks story to me marked a disturbing and dangerous stage in the acceptance of tyranny by the american people. wikileaks revealed a ton of what would've been disturbing acts by our government--video of murder of civillians; orders to ignore torture and war crimes; state department employees instructed to spy on diplomats at the un; details of secret wars in yemen and pakistan; pressure on foreign governments to suppress investigations of torture.

jeesus, in 1970 when evidence of a secret war in cambodia became known to the public, 300 college campuses were shut down by anti-war protesters. and people don't even remember kent state and jackson state, much less what sparked those protests that were quelled by the us army.

and the reaction today, by way too many informed and intelligent americans--'what wikileaks did was wrong. governments need secrecy in order to function.'

i was shocked at how many thoughtful adult citizens expressed this sentiment, just shrugging off the actual facts revealed by wikileaks.

and that is not even getting into the corporate acts to coerce and shut down wikileaks, by amazon, paypal, mastercard and visa. or the international police manhunt and imprisonment of assange for sexual assault. with not one single charge or indictment, much less a conviction in a court of law.

i never thought fascism was possible in the usa. i thought the breaking point of the populace would have been far short of the outrages accepted thus far in the 21st century. sadly i see not only are such government outrages against freedom and justice not only acceptable with an 'oh, that's ok'; many infringements of personal and economic freedom and justice are actively welcomed, even cheered, by far more citizens, left and right, than i ever imagined.

the worst part, every corruption of our leaders, the politicians and the financial/economic system, has been ushered in by a population of us citizens that fails to see the most simple and obvious facts in front of their eyes. lots of reasons--conditioning by schools, tv and media advertising to feel rather than to think critically; satisfaction by the rising material wealth of the past 30 years while believing it is consequence free and destined to last forever; fear of a big bad terrorist coming to rape our white women and blow us all up; growing comfort with growing dependence on the big benevolent government to fix all the problems from providing unlimited medical care to instantly removing 20 inches of snow after a blizzard.

the people of the usa have surrendered their politics and their economy to the few who are destroying and stealing the wealth of the nation. we have exactly what some of the wisest founding fathers feared (franklin, jefferson and adams in particular); we stopped paying attention, and gave away control of our nation, in return for a bunch of feel-good lies and deceptions. and we got exactly the leadership we deserve.

too bad, we are gonna get the rest of the consequences we deserve.

jeopardy january 2011  

Posted by howard in nyc

monday january 31--Who is Edie Falco? as Carmela Soprano and Nurse Jackie



monday january 24--Who is Abramam Lincoln? (when in doubt, go with the single most famous and notable american person of the 19th century)

tuesday january 25--Who is, oh, i don't know, maybe, SATAN!?!?!?

wednesday january 26--Where is Liberia? helps that my parents lived, met and got married there.

thursday january 27--it should be Barry Bonds, but since the man put him down, Who is Wayne Gretsky?

friday january 28--What is 'Fantasia'? not just a chick on american idol.


monday january 17--Who is Maxim Gorky?

tuesday january 18--Where are Ohio and Iowa?

wednesday january 19--What is the Leatherback turtle?

thursday january 20--Who is Nelson Mandela?

friday january 21--What is "Angels and Demons"?



monday january 10--What is the Caduceus?

this thing:





tuesday january 11--Who was Jackson Pollock?

wednesday january 12--What is 'software'?

thursday january 13--What is 'copyright' protection?

friday january 14--What is slaveholder, err, i mean Washington and Jefferson?


monday january 3--Who is Gordon Sumner, aka Sting?

tuesday january 4--Who is Grover Cleveland?

wednesday january 5--Where is India?

thursday january 6--What is Al Jazeera?

friday january 7--What is Venezuela?