Flimsy Sanity: March 2008

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weird Awarding of Homeland Funds

Online Videos by Veoh.com

A hypnotist tells how to influence targets including reborns and Marines in the essay, The battle for your mind: persuasion techniques.

Dem Candidates and Private Military

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ultimate Peep Show

Easter Message for Bankers

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Bubble Mentality

The next bubble:
Priming the markets for tomorrow's big crash

A financial bubble (I will use the familiar term “bubble” as a shorthand, but note that it confuses cause with effect. A better, if ungainly, descriptor would be “asset-price hyperinflation”—the huge spike in asset prices that results from a perverse self-reinforcing belief system, a fog that clouds the judgment of all but the most aware participants in the market. Asset hyperinflation starts at a certain stage of market development under just the right conditions. The bubble is the result of that financial madness, seen only when the fog rolls away) is a market aberration manufactured by government, finance, and industry, a shared speculative hallucination and then a crash, followed by depression.

Nowadays we barely pause between such bouts of insanity. The dot-com crash of the early 2000s should have been followed by decades of soul-searching; instead, even before the old bubble had fully deflated, a new mania began to take hold on the foundation of our long-standing American faith that the wide expansion of home ownership can produce social harmony and national economic well-being. Spurred by the actions of the Federal Reserve, financed by exotic credit derivatives and debt securitiztion, an already massive real estate sales-and-marketing program expanded to include the desperate issuance of mortgages to the poor and feckless, compounding their troubles and ours.

That the Internet and housing hyperinflations transpired within a period of ten years, each creating trillions of dollars in fake wealth, is, I believe, only the beginning. There will and must be many more such booms, for without them the economy of the United States can no longer function. The bubble cycle has replaced the business cycle.

If you want to skip reading the whole Harper's article, Eric Janszen says the next bubble will be alternative energy. I hope he is right and it is not food.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So Hard to Find Political Heroes

Eliot Spitzer was always a hero to me and I hoped he would run for President. Why didn't he say he was infiltrating the prostitution ring? Everyone wants to know what exactly one gets for a $5500 an hour call girl, so research is of public interest. The real hypocrisy is that prostitution and other victimless crimes are against the law. I agree with one poster in metafilter who said, "It's good to have a Democratic sex scandal again. The Republican ones are creepy."

Also, NY1, a television station in New York City, reports that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange erupted in cheers when the news broke. Forget privacy in our brave new world. Many people say that J Edgar Hoover was blackmailed by the mafia because they knew his sex secrets.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Because of the falling dollar and the wild stock market, investors are moving their money to commodities driving the price of food up. People in poor countries, already spending 70% of their money for food, are starving because of the huge increase in the price of rice.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Why Massive Income Disparity Matters

What Can an Individual Do?

What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we've been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain.

Our leaders? There aren't any politicians — Democrat or Republican — willing to speak truth on this. Instead, politicians compete to prove themselves more draconian than thou, to embrace America's most profound and enduring policy failure.

Read an excellent article by the writers of the TV program The Wire here. The only thing they left out is corruption in the justice industry. The writers advocate "jury nullification" as something an individual could do to stop the madness. In the south, juries would often excuse white on black crime and who is to say lying could not be used for good. By the way, Denver voted on a law that would make marijuana arrests a low priority but the cops responded by increasing arrests. Selective law enforcement seems to only go one way.

Republicans ridicule Battleboro Vermont's petition that said Bush and Cheney could be arrested if they showed up in town. They dismiss it as a liberal trick, but I see it as an act of people who see the two party system has failed. I think doing something, (even if it is hopeless) is preferable to doing nothing when one sees an injustice, but that is just me.

By the way, this is what Ralph had to say on the subject of the war on drugs:
Our failed war on drugs is endangering our communities, imperiling police, wasting tens of billions of dollars and, because it is criminalizing what is a health problem instead of rehabilitation for drug addicts, is filling our prisons at $40,000 a prisoner and making the corporate-prison industry even richer. The way to go is to look at drug addiction as a rehabilitation challenge, focus on youngsters in terms of prevention, have community policing where the police work and live in the community, which is the best way to make a community safe, and decriminalize marijuana so we can begin to move this into a rehabilitation-health problem.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Home Investments

Foreclosures are at a record high. Home equity is at a record low. The housing market is spiraling down with no end in sight -- and taking people's sense of economic security with it. For the first time since the Federal Reserve started tracking the data in 1945, the amount of debt tied up in American homes now exceeds the equity homeowners have built. Economy.com estimates 8.8 million homeowners, or about 10 percent of homes, will have zero or negative equity by the end of the month. Even more disturbing, about 13.8 million households will be "upside down" if prices fall 20 percent from their peak. The latest Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index showed U.S. home prices plunging 8.9 percent in the final quarter of 2007 compared with a year earlier
- http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080306/housing_woes.html

We have gone through the tech com bubble, the housing bubble, the only thing left is the military armaments bubble, but really, how many wars can we have?

Secret to Success

1: a goat upon whose head are symbolically placed the sins of the people after which he is sent into the wilderness in the biblical ceremony for Yom Kippur 2 a: one that bears the blame for others b: one that is the object of irrational hostility.

Whenever I get to thinking that humans are reasonable things, I remember that scapegoats of one form or another show up in almost all cultures. A major tenet of Christianity is that Christ died for your sins. How is that less insane than sending a innocent goat to die and saying he is taking your sins? Witches were burned because they were to blame for the Black Death. Hitler had his Jews. Bush used the Taliban and then the people of Iraq to pay for the sins of September 11 (taking our freedoms was a bonus). The Democratic party uses Ralph Nader to blame for the last seven years. So it goes.


This soldier video is causing public outrage. I'm sure neither one will suffer from PTSD - even the little girly man who says "That's Mean" instead of beating up a sadist.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

This Was Interesting

CANDIDATES’ VOTING RECORDS COMPARED (updated March 4, 2008) (Clinton scores better than Obama)
Here’s how they voted:

(1) Confirmation of Condoleeza Rice to be Secretary of State
Vote taken: 1/26/2005
Analysis: Neo-con, war criminal
Clinton: Yes, Obama: Yes, McCain: Yes

(2) Tort “reform” (Class Action Fairness Act of 2005)
Vote taken: 2/10/2005
Analysis: Opposed by more than 68 consumer, civil rights, environmental and labor groups, it was described as the “final [Republican] payback to the tobacco, asbestos, oil and chemical industries, at the expense of ordinary families whose health has been compromised.”
Clinton: No, Obama: Yes, McCain: Yes

(3) Dayton Amendment (S.Amdt. 31) to the 2005 Bankruptcy Act
Vote taken: 3/3/2005
Analysis: Would cap credit card interest rates at 30%. Senator Dayton provided examples of predatory lenders charging vulnerable people more than 1000%/year interest. Republicans argued that “free-markets” should set interest rates, and government should not interfere.
Clinton: Yes, Obama: No, McCain: No

(4) Energy Policy Act of 2005
Vote taken: 7/29/2005
Analysis: A corporate-welfare bill called “bad policy” by Public Citizen because it gives “billions of dollars in unjustified subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries,” rolls back environmental regulations for the oil and gas industry, and “repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), an essential consumer protection that ensures that electric utilities exist to serve the people, not the profit interests of large corporations.”
Clinton: No, Obama: Yes, McCain: No

(5) Dorgan Amendment (S.Amdt. 1665) to the 2005 Commerce Appropriations Bill
Vote taken: 9/15/2005
Analysis: Would prevent future trade deals that allow “dumping” of products into the U.S. at prices below their cost of acquisition (harming U.S. farmers, ranchers, businesses and workers), by prohibiting the Commerce Department from weakening current countervailing duties and antidumping laws.
Clinton: Yes, Obama: No, McCain: No

(6) Confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court
Vote taken: 9/29/2005)
Analysis: Hard right-winger
Clinton: No, Obama: No, McCain: Yes

(7) Confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court
Vote taken: 1/31/2006
Analysis: Hard right-winger
Clinton: No, Obama: No, McCain: Yes

(8) USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization
Vote taken: 3/1/2006
Analysis: Allows the government to spy on citizens in “fishing expeditions” without probable cause or a court order, including listening to telephone calls, intercepting emails, accessing private medical records, library records and bank records, and searching homes and businesses without permission or knowledge.
Clinton: Yes, Obama: Yes, McCain: Yes

(9) Feinstein Amendment (S.Amdt. 4882) to the 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Act
Vote taken: 9/06/2006
Analysis: Outlaws use of cluster bombs in most cases, in order to protect civilian lives from unexploded cluster munitions.
Clinton: No, Obama: Yes, McCain: No

(10) Iraq withdrawal timeline goal (2007 Supplemental Appropriations Act)
Vote taken: 3/29/2007
Analysis: Provides that, “The President shall commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008, all United States combat forces from Iraq.”
Clinton: Yes, Obama: Yes, McCain: No

(11) Kyl-Lieberman resolution on Iran
Vote taken: 9/26/2007
Analysis: Tantamount to a declaration of war (Sen. James Webb, former Secretary of the Navy).
Clinton: Yes, Obama: NV, McCain: NV

(12) Feingold-Reid Amendment (S.Amdt. 3164) to the 2008 Department of Defense Appropriations Act
Vote taken: 10/3/2007
Analysis: Requires the President to safely redeploy all U.S. troops from Iraq by June 30, 2008, except for those needed for al Qaeda operations, security and training.
Clinton: Yes, Obama: NV, McCain: No

This came from the comments section: http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/03/04/7465/
as did this reasoned argument on why to vote for Obama (italics mine) from Reality Checker:
I have been a member of the Green Party since 2002 and I plan on voting for Obama. And thanks to all the self-congratulatory cynics on these forums for the warm messages you have for people like me. But alas, I am not stupid (or even stupider) or disillusioned. I am not voting for Obama because I think he will change anything. I am voting for Obama because he is the catalyst that is leading a movement that is independent of any one person or their policy positions, and it in fact could transcend any political party. I really don’t care how we get there or by what name, the fact is that we need to build a large enough coalition to have political power in this country. So I am joining the millions of new voters and the millions of recently re-engaged voters and the millions of former Democratic voters in building a movement for things that we all agree we want. Universal health care, a living wage, restoring the Constituion and demanding justice to name just a small few. Do I think Obama will bring this change? NO! But I believe that the people supporting him want these things and eventually will demand these things. If we don’t act to build a movement instead of tearing down coalitions because you don’t think they are pure enough or revolutionary enough then we are also destined to fail. The Green Party movement is a viable option right now for local governments and elections. But why do progressives insist on trickle-down politics? Trying to elect a Green President when there isn’t a Green Congress person or Governor, or even a Green Secretary of State is futile? If the object is to create meaningful change, and the only change we ever receive is the change we demand, then at some point we need to build a large enough coalition so that we can not be ignored. So you can join us in creating the change we want, or you can continue to sit on the sidelines and scoff at the people trying to make a difference regardless of political party but in the end we are all part of the new majority of Americans and unless we consolidate we will never have enough power. In-fighting and divisions between progressives only strengthens the fascists. There is nothing smart about putting Party (or despising a party) ahead of principle whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent or a Green….. So I choose to have a 2 pronged strategy- I am actively working on building a viable third party while also trying to foster a movement that currently is found marginally within Democratic voters. I just don’t see the virtue in only voting for ideologically pure candidates or parties when there is so much work to do and so many people to convince. We can do both, Si se puede!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Orwell Rolls in His Grave

Monday, March 03, 2008

Our Next War

This is a one hour movie about the politics of drugs in Colombia and our involvement.
Add our Plan Colombia and the hate for leftist Chavez together and it is interesting to see the spin on these recent events.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Talking to Men

This reminds me of the joke about people talking to their dogs when all the dog really hears is its name, and the words "treat" and "walk".

4 Years Ago before the housing crisis

The Greatest Depression Is Coming
by John Finger
The Money Management Firm, Inc.
March 11, 2003

The First Signs Are Already Here

The most noticeable sign is in unemployment. Sure, the official unemployment rate is low as of the time of this writing (5.7%), but the standard used to measure unemployment is seriously flawed. For example, that standard does not include “discouraged” workers; that is, those who have given up looking for work. It also doesn’t include the “underemployed,” who are highly trained but can’t find jobs in their own fields, leaving them to work in jobs for which they are overqualified and underpaid. Additionally, the Labor Department publishes new claims for unemployment benefits on a weekly basis. Economists consider anything less than 400,000 new claims a sign of a recovering economy. Yet 400,000 seems to be an average. With that many new claims each week and the help-wanted index hovering near 30-year lows, we can see that the official unemployment rate, regardless of the number, grossly understates the true percentage of unemployed.

People choose to bury their heads in the sand and ignore stock market history. Even if the stock market is boring to you, you must understand one cold, hard fact: the stock market leads the economy. The economy was roaring along when the stock market topped out in both September 1929 and March 2000. When the market started declining, the economy soon followed. In the spring of 1930, people thought that the worst was over: the DJIA recovered to nearly 300 as the economy showed signs of improvement. But then the DJIA took a hard turn south, dragging the economy down shortly thereafter. The DJIA had five major bear market rallies before it bottomed in 1932. So far in this bear market, we have had four rallies, each leading to newer lows.

The stock market has likewise led the economy into other weak periods. Cases in point were bear markets in 1962, 1973-1974 and 1980-1982.

Individual players in the stock market will lie through their teeth, because they have a position to support. But the stock market itself never lies.

We’re seeing deflation for the first time since the 1930s. That’s right: downright deflation. Look at the list compiled by Comstock partners: PCs and peripherals; butter; TVs; toys; long-distance charges; used cars and trucks; audio equipment; women’s underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories; milk; men’s pants and shorts; pork chops; airline fares; new cars; electricity; ship fares; and kitchen, living room and dining room furniture. In most areas of the country, housing prices have started to drop. Rents are dropping. “For Rent” or “For Sale” signs appear at nearly every office building we look at, whether it’s here in Colorado, San Francisco, or anywhere. There are very few prospective tenants who are shopping for space. In fact, the only area where any inflation still exists is in health insurance and energy costs.

The Federal Reserve Board is obviously concerned about deflation. In November 2002, Federal Reserve Board Governor Ben Bernanke made a now-infamous speech to a group of economists in Washington on his version of a remedy for deflation. Bernanke is quoted as saying:

"The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press - or today, its electronic equivalent
- that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”

He was right, but his comments led investors to sell dollars and buy Euros and gold. Moreover, Mr. Bernanke forgot one minor detail: Germany, faced with huge deficits caused by reparations requirements after World War I, tried the same thing in the 1920’s. Pictures soon appeared worldwide, showing people with wheelbarrows full of Reichmarks lining up to buy a loaf of bread. The country was still in a Depression, despite the printing presses having worked overtime. This led in large part to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

What else can the Fed do? They have already knocked the Fed Funds rate from 6% to 1.25%, the lowest rate since 1962, and it hasn’t worked. Japan has knocked short-term rates down to 0.25%, and that country has been in a deep slump for most of the last 11 years. But we’ll be lucky if we go down Japan’s road: at least Japan is a country of savers. We are a country of spenders.

People tend to not care about the trade deficit since they don’t see it. But it’s huge and getting worse. Moreover, when the last Great Depression started, the United States was the world’s largest creditor. Now, we’re the world’s largest debtor nation. In 2002, our trade deficit hit a record $435 billion, and we’re currently borrowing about $10 billion per week. For economists, the trade deficit is now 5% of GDP, a huge amount. All of this occurs despite a weaker dollar. The United States buys goods that are made overseas, because countries like China, India and Mexico have far cheaper labor costs than we do. When we buy their products, our dollars leave our shores and go to the sellers. The sellers have to do something with those dollars. Until recently, those sellers would typically repatriate the money by buying American stocks and bonds. Now, however, with declining stocks, low bond yields, lowering real estate prices and a falling dollar, those expatriate dollars have nowhere to go in America. Think about it: if you have a large amount of dollars, where would you put them right now? Foreigners have that same problem. Since they’re not investing here, investment in our infrastructure declines, which weakens our economic picture even more.