News? What News?

Pic of the day, part i:  The Massacre at Chios, by Eugene Delacroix

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No one talks more passionately about his rights than he who in the depths of his soul doubts whether he has any. By enlisting passion on his side he wants to stifle his reason and its doubts: thus he will acquire a good conscience and with it success among his fellow men.

Friedrich Nietzsche; Human, All Too Human

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I try not to get my information from the same sources that most people do. I don’t watch network news, and I read news that I search for,  not news that shows up and announces itself to me as news.   I cannot, unfortunately, avoid getting news from the same sources as everyone else.  That would be impossible, but I try to keep my immersion in that pool of bullshit to an absolute minimum.

Which leads me to think;  Why do people read, listen to and watch the news that we watch?   Is it because they tell us what people are interested in?  Because it informs us what is going on?  Because it is a way to while away some time learning about the goings on of the world, while not doing much anything else? Because we feel left out if we don’t know what’s going on?  Something completely other?

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I am of the mind that news should be, at least in some sense participatory.  I find it hard to just listen to what someone else wants me to hear.  The same story about Romney or Obama or Bernanke or Merkel holds no appeal to me. I not only don’t watch the news on television and just let it wash over me, I don’t allow then to tell me what stories are important.

I have only the eyes in my head though, so I have but a limited ability to find a different pool to look into.  Looking for news into any particular company, regardless of the company, will generally come up with glowing good news about them.  Even Bank of America, a generally not very much liked company, comes up with mostly good news.  Monsanto?  All good news.  Citigroup?  All good news.  Alcoa?  All good news.  I could toss a ton of other company names (Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, etc, etc.) that I have searched for with nothing but good news coming up…

And yet, Employment?  Bad news.  Job Market?  Bad news.  Hiring?  Bad News.

That strikes me as odd.  How could there be nothing but good news about companies that live and work here in the United States, and yet we hear so much bad news about the economy?  Unless they really aren’t in that bad of a state, and we are all being fed a line by people who stand to make out by feeding us that line?  I just don’t know.

Stands to reason that if all these companies, all the ones that I can think of (save Barclays and a few other banks, who are having a bad time for reasons of their own choosing, and who will be out of the news cycle in a week or two) are doing well, where is the uncertainty coming from?  Dunkin Donuts? (nope) Kraft? (nope) Exxon? (nope)

Or more properly put, who is feeding us this crap and why?

I’d say we’ll never know, but if we are so stupid that we simply don’t know, despite the fact that they tell us every day who they are, then we are idiots, and deserve whatever fate befalls us while they buy the election and anything else they can get their grubby ugly mitts on.

Just saying…

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Pic of the day, part ii:  Dante and Virgil in Hell, by Eugene Delacroix

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Our dangers, as it seems to me, are not from the outrageous but from the conforming; not from those who rarely and under the lurid glare of obloquy upset our moral complaisance, or shock us with unaccustomed conduct, but from those, the mass of us, who take their virtues and their tastes, like their shirts and their furniture, from the limited patterns which the market offers.

Learned Hand, The Preservation of Personality

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Leaning Together

Pic of the day, part i: Symphony in White no. 1 (The White Girl), By James McNeill Whistler

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Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all: —
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.

T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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Silly story of the week. Some guy challenged the President to arm wrestle in exchange for a vote for him on election day. The President, not surprisingly declined. The President is a skinny dude, and frankly, skinny people have no business arm wrestling. Should’ve challenged him to a game of chess, or, in a nod to the movie War Games, global thermonuclear war. Don’t think arm wrestler man could handle that shit.

That would have been fun!

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The President, while he was out and about said he had filed a complaint with the WTO over unfair tariffs on American cars in China. Which is good news, try to get our cars out on the international market, and selling as much as they can by trying to get other governments to lower taxes on them.

Maybe he can get American car manufacturers to lower their car prices here so people can afford the damn things without having to take out a loan or sell a kidney every time they want to buy a new one.

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The Jobs picture will again be in focus tomorrow morning. The few places that I have read say that they think that the jobs numbers are again going to be soft, and that the market is as a consequence going to tank. But other numbers, like the challenger job cut numbers and the ADP employment report seem to be pointing to a more robust jobs picture. The consensus numbers from ADP before the numbers came out said that there would only be an increase in private payroll of 95,000 people. The actual number was much higher, at 176,000, higher than even the most optimistic numbers expected from ADP.

Good news indeed.

Add to that the fact that jobless claims for the week dropped by 10,000 people more than expected. With luck tomorrows numbers look good and the market reacts strongly to it.

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Pic of the day, part ii: Nocturne in Blue and Gold, Old Battersea Bridge, by James McNeill Whistler

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We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw.

T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

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That’s it from here, America. G’night.

The Sea and Mill

Pic of the day, part i:  Magdalena Bay, view from a peninsula in northern Spitsbergen by, Francois-Auguste Biard

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Whatever we may think or affect to think of the present age, we cannot get out of it; we must suffer with its sufferings, and enjoy with its enjoyments; we must share in its lot, and, to be either useful or at ease, we must even partake its character.

John Stuart Mill

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I just don’t like Joe Lieberman.  The man was great back in 2000 when he was Al Gore’s running mate, or at least that is what I thought back then.  No more.  The more I listen to the man the less I like him.  The man makes a statement on one of the news programs that are on Sunday mornings here, and says that some of the methods used to carry out cyber attacks on Iran were leaked.  Not a problem.  The problem comes in what he said immediately after.

He says that the fact that it was leaked that we were the culprits in the cyber attack on Iran (my wording, not his) may well legitimize an Iranian or terrorist cyber attack on us in return.

You see the problem with that, right?  It’s not that we launched the attack, but that we were found out.  If you don’t want to be found out there are a few ways to handle that.  One is don’t do it. Find some other means to get them to stop.  If you can’t, get someone else to do it, if you must do the deed.

I have not heard anything that would suggest that the leak happened prior to the cyber attack on Iran. And yet that is exactly the implication Sen.  Lieberman makes.   Bitching after the fact that somehow the bad guy is the one who leaked the info seems a bit silly to me, especially when there is no credible evidence (that I have seen at any rate, and I keep my eyes open for it) for any such event happening.

Joe can be a real pain in the ass sometimes.  But just to be fair I must ask anyone who comes across this, if you have seen any news of a leak to the Iranians prior to Flame  (or stuxnet even) hitting them, please forward it to me. I haven’t seen it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Thanks!  \m/

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Pic of the day, part ii:  The night; a sea port in the moonlight, by Claude Joseph Vernet

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The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.

John Stuart Mill

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There is some hemming and hawing over the victory of the right in the Greek elections.  Those who are making all the positive noise should temper their celebrating.  The amount of help that Greece needs meeting people who admit and want that help does not guarantee in any way shape or form that the Greeks will be able to fix their economy, and in fixing it make things better.

There are far too many other problems out there to simply say that one victory for austerity and help for one nation will somehow do all that much to help a world economy that is showing many signs of a worldwide slowdown.

Spain is in far too much trouble, and China is not the economic bedrock that Asia really needs it to be.  Portugal is still a mess, Italy and Ireland are not yet out of hot water, and Germany is not the economic superpower they would need to be to hold the Euro together.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

Bet

Pic of the day:   The Mongul Invasion, by Kawasaki Jimbei II ( after Morizuno Yugyo)

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There is no single, definitive “stream of consciousness,” because there is no central headquarters, no Cartesian theater where “it all comes together” for the perusal of a central meaner. Instead of such a single stream (however wide), there are multiple channels in which specialist circuits try, in parallel pandemoniums, to do their various things, creating multiple drafts as they go. Most of these fragmentary drafts of “narrative” play short-lived roles in the modulation of current activity but some get promoted to further functional roles, in swift succession, by the activity of a virtual machine in the brain.

Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained

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And now you know why I love Daniel Dennett.  Onto the news…

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The most amazing paragraph I’ve ever read is in this article on bloomberg business.  Most amazing as in the biggest bunch of business bullshit propaganda I’ve heard in a long time.  It is the fourth paragraph in the story, but to get the context read the entire thing.  Bloomberg is an asshole about fair use so I’m not gonna quote the entire paragraph.

The article is about the $2,000,000,000 loss incurred by Jamie Dimon.  The article says that the  bets Dimon were making (and it was Dimon making them, no matter who was in charge of the unit he was in  charge of the company) were so large they were driving the $10,000,000,000,000  market (yes, that is 10 trillion) and could not be easily unwound.

The article says this and what does that 4th paragraph say?  The fact that there are investigations ongoing into the matter, and the fact that there is going to be a senate hearing over this is an overreaction to a minor misstep.

Overreaction to a minor misstep?  Overreaction?  MINOR misstep?

ARE YOU PEOPLE STUPID?

Oh wait, you people are in the stock market, of course you’re fucking stupid.  Gamblers, alcoholics, crackheads, all of you.

Shitty risk management, overzealous betting… If you read the actual story on what happened, these guys sound like gambling addicts trying to convince themselves that everything is gonna be ok, that they only “almost” lost their shirts.  They sound unprofessional and frankly dirty as hell talking like this is some small thing.  Jamie Dimon was personally driving a 10 trillion dollar market with bets so big that it was risky to his entire operation to unwind the damn things.

That is NOT a small thing, and anyone who tells you different is full of shit.

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Another great quote from this story by the crack addict enablers over at bloomberg business is in the last paragraph.  Some douche bag formerly of citigroup said :  “Advocates of tightening the so-called Volcker rule, which restricts banks’ proprietary trading, want “to use it for their own ends

And he wants to eliminate the volcker rule for his own ends.  The Volcker rule, the “ends” the douche bag is talking about is anything but dangerous to the stability of the market.  Yet this guy wants to get rid of the “So-called Volcker rule” and let the inmates run the asylum.  Again.

Let them do as they please like numbnuts here wants and the market will correct itself (srsly?) is what he apparently thinks.

Just like it did in 2008.

Ya.

Corrected itself to the tune of the biggest recession in recent memory which necessitated the biggest bailout EVER, which was handled poorly by that dumbass Dubya and that evil bastard Hank Paulson .  Paulson, along with Chris Cox destroyed much of our economic strength with the relaxation of the net capital rule.  Cox relaxed it at Paulson’s behest.  The entirety of Wall street got way in over their heads betting on sub-prime mortgages. And the whole thing went to hell in a hand-basket because we let Wall Street do things the way they wanted.

So ya, when these wall street shysters talk about their dislike for regulation like this dime store putz did, just remember where that little piece of deregulation got us.  Listening to these banksters, these criminals, should give us all pause.  They aren’t investors.  They are bettors. Betting on your future, betting for their own wants.  They don’t care if you win, so long as they do.  You lost trillions, and they still have their mansions and yachts.

Think on that.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night.

The Trillion Dollar Highway

Pic of the day:  Rocks and stream along the million dollar highway, Ouray County, Colorado

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You’re afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be. Mistakes can be profited by. Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people’s faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you’ll never learn.

Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451

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I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  I just read a story on Reuters that said the President is pinning recovery hopes on European leaders.  Good lord, the way that Europe is looking right now, I don’t see it.   Spain is running headlong into financial collapse.  Greece is looking like they are ready to bolt the Euro zone. The way things are going, with how fast the euro zone is falling apart, they don’t really have much time.  Months, maybe weeks, if things turn out really bad in Greece during the election there on the 17th.

The President also said that the U.S. banking system is prepared to weather whatever comes out of this.  I hope he is right.  But the problem here is that a deepening recession in Europe will ripple around the world and shake an already fragile world economy.  And in the end that will do more harm to America, thus taking our shaky economy and possibly throwing it back into recession.  With all the hard work America has done, with as far as we have come, we could lose much of what we have gained over the last few years.

And we have gained much.  Several million jobs added despite a less than robust economy, with unemployment actually surprisingly being lower than it was when President Obama took office.  A stock market that has bounced back to levels that they were at at just before the recession began, when things still looked good, before the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008.

I’d hate to see all of that hard work go down the drain.  I don’t know that I could handle another recession.

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In a related story, Standard and Poors are now saying that the United States needs to do something about the national debt.  If not the U.S. risks having it’s credit rating downgraded again.

These assholes…

I wrote about this the last time these morons did this, when they downgraded us the first time.  They are doing this strictly as a political stunt.  They are republicans, moving to put fear of some catastrophe in the American people.  Do you remember what happened when they did this the last time?

No?  You wouldn’t be alone.  It didn’t do much, aside from scare the crap out of some really stupid investors.  It caused the DJIA to plunge and lose about 650 points in one day.  The debt ceiling is still sky high, as is the debt, but it’s always been like that.  And we have had to spend the way we have because of how bad the economy was before President Obama came to power.  Without the recession of 2007 -2008, there would have been no need for the amount of spending we’ve had.  We wouldn’t have spent like this as a nation without it. There’s more to it than that, and I’ll get into it again at a later date.

Without that spending the economy would actually have been in significantly worse shape than it is.  That spending will have to come down.  And it will.  When we can.  Not when the S&P says we have to.

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That’s it from here, America. G’night.

With All That Said

Pic of the day:  a Life magazine cover from 1902

The caption reads: Those pious Yankees can’t throw stones at us any more.  And yes, that is a depiction of the American military using water-boarding over 100 years ago.

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We, the most powerful democracy in the world, have developed a strong norm against talking about politics. It’s fine to talk about politics with people you agree with. But it is rude to argue about politics with people you disagree with. Political discourse becomes isolated, and isolated discourse becomes more extreme. We say what our friends want to hear, and hear very little beyond what our friends say.

Lawrence Lessig, Free Culture

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Viddy of the day:  Weekly Address:  It’s time for congress to Get Back to Work

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Republican partisans simply won’t see the Presidents call to action as authentic in the above video, and will critique it negatively simply because he is a “Liberal” and believe he is a “Socialist.”  Neither of those labels actually fits, but that doesn’t matter to right wing partisans.  Some of the Presidents actions would be right at home in a Republican White House.  He has cut taxes, which are lower now than at any time in history.  Lowered spending, to the point where the amount he has spent is lower than any President of the last 50 years.

But they call him out as taxing us to death, when he clearly isn’t, and spending like it’s going out of style, when he isn’t.

Republicans have never been good at math.

They blame him for everything short of the rainstorm that is currently dumping rain in Maine.  And they’d blame that on him too, if they could figure out a way to make him look bad doing it.

We are all political actors.  But, seriously America, do you have to ham it up that badly, and screw up all the lines?  Ya wanna call him out on stuff?  Great!  Call him out on stuff he is actually guilty of!  He has been good to America , by lowering tax and spending despite coming into office during the worst recession in 80 years in a nation that has recessions at a rate of about one every 10 years.  McCain couldn’t have done better.  Bush made it happen, using policies and tactics that were old when Reagan was a child.  Face it, Barack Obama is the best we’ve got, and America would be in considerably worse shape without a democrat, without him at the helm.

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With all that said, little matters to me right now, short of my wife and my work.  My work, after two long weeks out because they simply did not need me, has called again, and again I get ready for work.  I have to tell you that it feels good to be joining the racks of productive people again.  It is only 4 days of work, but four days of work is better than none, I’ll take it.

Money is short, short enough where I had to jump back in and grab money from unemployment.  Being out due to lack of work for a few weeks makes everything difficult.  Without unemployment I would not have had enough money to pay the rent and the electric bill.  Without it I would not have been able to get the food my wife and I eat every day.

I am thankful everyday for the kind generosity that I receive from the world.  Happy and humbled am I to be able to survive and stay solvent even in the modest manner in which I have accustomed myself.  And my wife has stuck it out with me, she is truly a remarkable woman.  Speaking of my wife…

My wife is getting ready to take off on a business trip to the other side of the country.  She leaves on Tuesday and will be gone for a full week.  I am doing everything I can to pack in as much time with her as I can before she goes.  My heart tells me it would be wrong of me to act otherwise.  She deserves much, works very hard, and I am not the best husband in the world.  I don’t get her flowers.  I can’t afford them, but that is neither here nor there.  I don’t take her places.  I don’t get her things.

Being poor sucks.  I hate not having enough money to feel comfortable to do the little things that would make a greater show of my love for her.  But I give what I can when I can, I do whatever is within my power.

And what really gets me, is that I haven’t worked in two weeks, and the one day I want to be home and be around so I can help my wife get to the airport, I won’t be able to.  I need the money and the alternative, not working, is simply unacceptable.

Such is life.

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That’s it from here, America.  G’night!

The Costs of Regulation

Pic of the day:  Death and the Miser, by Hieronymous Bosch

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We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of the workman. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject.

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book I, chapter viii

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There are plenty of things that are wrong with government.  There are plenty of things that have always been wrong with government and will not change regardless of who is President or what party runs what parts of the government.  Regulation for example, is expensive as hell.  Costs an absolute boatload to make sure that everyone do what they are supposed to do.  According to the Romney campaign it cost something like 1.75 trillion dollars annually.  The Romney campaign says as much in big bold letters on it’s website.

But they paint the picture a bit too gloomily I think.  They are projecting the cost not to the United States government to regulate businesses, but the total cost to businesses to make sure that they comply with those regulations.    The actual cost of regulations to the United States government is closer to 55 billion dollars annually, FAR from the near 2 trillion dollar number being floated by the Romney campaign, among others.

Now that is a tremendous cost to American business, and I have no idea exactly how the businesses that are spending that money are spending it.  Does it go to having people on the payroll to make sure that regulations are adhered to?  If so then those dollars are well spent.  If it is for attorneys so that they can make sure businesses are abiding by the law properly, then I tell you that I have no problem with it. I believe that circumstances similar to the picture I have painted here are the reason the private costs of regulation are so expensive.  It keeps thousands of people working, hundreds of thousands if I am correct.  If the cost of your safety and mine from the predations of big business and job safety are the costs of regulation, and I believe that they are, then that cost is essential to the health and maintenance of American business, both large and small.

And I say pay it, smile and pay it.  If it keeps discover card from dripping you dry with costs unforeseen, if it keeps the dockworker who makes sure you get your goods safely and on time safe, if it makes companies follow rules they would much rather not, then I say pay it.

If there are ways that business can defray those costs, then by all means do so.  Lobby the government, call senators and representatives, speak to the people in power about helping you.  But damn you, don’t complain about spending money that keeps Americans working, safe and free from the predations of the world.

Mitt knows what he’s doing here.  By writing that the private costs of regulation are a bad thing, when they are at once necessary and proper, is a feat of legerdemain fitting of a man who will do or say anything to reach the highest seat of power by any means necessary, regardless of the consequences.

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That’s about it from here, America.  G’night.