Flimsy Sanity: September 2008

Flimsy Sanity

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bailout Legislation

I don't understand why they are spending all this time and effort trying to write a bankruptcy bill for investment bankers. Can't they just use the one that they wrote for individuals - the one that made it so hard to get out from under crushing medical bills? Corporations wanted personhood, didn't they?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wall Street Suicides

On the day after Black Thursday, the New York Times reported that many "wild and false" rumors were spreading throughout the country, including claims that 11 speculators had committed suicide and that a crowd had gathered around a Wall Street building because they thought a workman was a speculator preparing to jump. That same day, Will Rogers quipped that "you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of"; and soon Eddie Cantor was joking that hotel clerks were asking guests if they wanted rooms "for sleeping or jumping." By mid-November, New York's chief medical examiner tried to put the kibosh on the rumor by publicly announcing that there had been fewer suicides between Oct. 15 and Nov. 13 than there had been in the same period the year before. (Winston Churchill—himself a major stock-market investor—may have added to the rumor mill: He was in New York during the crash and, in a December 1929 Daily Telegraph article, recalled how, under his own hotel window, "a gentleman cast himself down fifteen storey and was dashed to pieces.")

The two Wall Street leaps that did take place, however, were dramatic enough to sustain the myth. On Nov. 5, Hulda Borowski, a clerk who'd been working at a Wall Street stock brokerage house for 28 years, leapt off a 40-story building. On Nov. 16, three days after the market had taken another dive, G.E. Cutler, the head of a produce firm, climbed onto the ledge of his lawyer's office. The New York Times reported that an attorney struggled to pull the frantic Cutler inside, to no avail:

The week following the 1987 stock-market crash, at least two suicides in the United States were linked to the crisis, but none involved a window plunge. (One of the incidents was a murder-suicide in which a distraught investor in Miami killed a Merrill Lynch executive and then himself.) There were also rumors that the Pacific Stock Exchange had asked Golden Gate Bridge officials to be on alert for jumpers, but the stock exchange denied the claim.
- Slate

Thanks to Vineyard Views for the great picture, though the sign should replace the s with a $.

In My Neighborhood

My neighbor's mother's funeral is today and I know the respectful thing is to show my support for them but I just cannot go inside a church or a starbucks because the phoniness is just too much for me to handle.

Christianity in a nutshell (if you have never heard of it) is that Christ died for your sins. I think that whole idea leads to irresponsibility. Another neighbor's son is in prison for arson and his mother (like any good mother) says he is innocent but he confessed to keep his girlfriend out of jail. Now if that is true, the girlfriend is a real jerk for letting someone take the rap for her and I wouldn't want to associate with her or her kind.

Also, I don't see how there can be justice such as a hell for our enemy's deeds, but forgiveness and heaven for our own. The whole reward and punishment might work for dogs, but in humans it produces the brats that are screaming in the aisles of the grocery store until they finally get something if they will just be good. I like the "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" system that requires you to "Be Good for Goodness Sake".

Of course the whole religion thing employs a lot of people so I suppose that is a good thing as it keeps them out of the other power trip - politics.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Not Crazy but Consumer

Last weekend I went to a rummage sale at a mental health clubhouse. I had a bunch of crap I could have contributed to their sale and asked the woman taking the money if they wanted it for their cause. I was thinking they were planning an outing or something fun. The woman said that the sale was just an activity for their "consumers" and the money was going to an organized charity. I suppose she thought the label "consumer" was the least offensive one possible and at first, it bugged me as just more jargon that evolved from the equally irritating "client" but the more I thought about it, the more it may indeed be the perfect label for crazy people.

The term schizophrenic is often misused as somebody who does opposing things simultaneously so perhaps in that common kind of usage, "consumer" is the best descriptive noun. I sell stuff on ebay and there are two ways to pick things to sell. Currently popular ("all the rage" and how irrational is rage) and rare. Talk about your opposing goals.

I was visiting my neighbor and was trying to explain how insane shopping is. For a short while, I took consignments and sold three charger plates for a woman. They were the same shapes, the same colors, the same manufacturer (sorry, I cannot remember it anymore) and were just crude drawings of animals and things on the plates (the sale term is "primitive"). Two sold for under $10 but the one with the horse sold for over $200 because not as many were manufactured - they weren't even handpainted but machine made. How insane is it to want a variety of a common thing just because it is more rare since it serves the same purpose. The only reason is to inspire envy in other people. Same with books. I call rare books, "knick knack" books because they are not to be read, only for display. Same with mansions because you can only be in one room at a time and why wouldn't rich people live in a little house with a vault for diamonds and gold (or pickles if they become rare) instead of wasting all that glass and wood and chandelier electricity unless the goal is to inspire envy? I don't think I made my point because my neighbor wished I could remember the manufacturer.

I collect toasters that were probably popular in their day and thus have no resale value on EBay. Some have really interesting, esthetically pleasing designs. Because they were popular in their day, they are plentiful and CHEAP, usually in the free box and I am amazed that most work, just in case a big toast starved crowd shows up. My collection is not as good as my friend's collection of BIC lighters from many countries. You cannot believe all the places those things are made and the country of origin is usually printed on them. She picks them up by the side of the road. Her collection is interesting and better than mine in that it hardly takes any room. I am envious ;).

PS: The BIC collection would be easier to steal but both would be easy to replace.

Know Your Schemes

*A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that involves promising or paying abnormally high returns ("profits") to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from net revenues generated by any real business.

The catch is that at some point one of three things will happen:
1. the promoters will vanish, taking all the investment money (less payouts) with them;
2. the scheme will collapse of its own weight, as investment slows and the promoters start having problems paying out the promised returns (and when they start having problems, the word spreads and more people start asking for their money, similar to a bank run);
3. the scheme is exposed, because when legal authorities begin examining accounting records of the so-called enterprise they find that many of the "assets" that should exist do not.

* A pyramid scheme is a form of fraud similar in some ways to a Ponzi scheme, relying as it does on a disbelief in financial reality, including the hope of an extremely high rate of return. However, several characteristics distinguish pyramid schemes from Ponzi schemes:
o In a Ponzi scheme, the schemer acts as a “hub” for the victims, interacting with all of them directly. In a pyramid scheme, those who recruit additional participants benefit directly (in fact, failure to recruit typically means no investment return).
o A Ponzi scheme claims to rely on some esoteric investment approach, insider connections, etc., and often attracts well-to-do investors; pyramid schemes explicitly claim that new money will be the source of payout for the initial investments.
o A pyramid scheme is bound to collapse a lot faster, simply because of the demand for exponential increases in participants to sustain it. By contrast, Ponzi schemes can survive simply by getting most participants to "reinvest" their money, with a relatively small number of new participants.

* A bubble. A bubble relies on suspension of belief and an expectation of large profits, but it is not the same as a Ponzi scheme. A bubble involves ever-rising (and unsustainable) prices in an open market (be that shares of a stock, housing prices, the price of tulip bulbs, or anything else). As long as buyers are willing to pay ever-increasing prices, sellers can get out with a profit. And there doesn't need to be a schemer behind a bubble. (In fact, a bubble can arise without any fraud at all - for example, housing prices in a local market that rise sharply but eventually drop sharply because of overbuilding.) Bubbles are often said to be based on "greater fool" theory.

* Robbing Peter to pay Paul. When debts are due and the money to pay them is lacking, whether because of bad luck or deliberate theft, debtors often make their payments by borrowing or stealing from other monies they have. It does not follow that this is a Ponzi scheme, because from the basic facts set out there is no indication that the lenders were promised unrealistically high rates of return via claims of unusual financial investments. Nor (from these basic facts) is there any indication that the borrower (banker) is progressively increasing the amount of borrowing ("investing") to cover payments to initial investors (as, again, Ponzi was not the first to do).

The confidence men (con artists for short) say "you can't cheat an honest man" because they nearly always use greed as their bait. As long as everyone stays confident that a system works, it can go on. That is why it is so essential that investor confidence needs to be restored before people find out that it is all unsustainable air and we are a country that produces little but wants to live well through gambling and exploitation. The game is over and like all schemes, the winners got in early and are by now off sipping margaritas on their yachts. Like Joseph Kennedy supposedly said just before the 29 crash, he knew it was time to get out of the market when the shoeshine boy was giving him stock tips. If I could require the reading of just one book for every human, it would be Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (written in 1852). It is a catalog of mass human greed and folly through the ages.

If only that 700 billion was used to rebuild our infrastructure by hand so many people had real work and we were back in the world of reality (like the WPA program). If they put that money into the base, it might percolate up, but they will give it to the top, still believing that it will trickle down. Nothing new here, it is the same song that has been going on for centuries, the perpetrators just tweak the verse a little so people think it a new tune. They will never learn from this because it is the human nature to never be satisfied, i.e. other animals will never build a home larger than they need.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I also believe this

i begin to wonder if the republicans even WANT to win this election. i mean, they got their money, right? they got control of the oil. they've pretty much guaranteed that universal health care and social security reform (remember that?) are pretty much non-starters at this point. all the corporations are as big and vertically integrated and unregulated as possible. education is in the toilet. habeus corpus has been repealed. all the jobs are overseas. bible-thumping, homophobic christian fundamentalism is rampant. 1984 has come true (thanks AT&T!). they've established a homeland gestapo. they've killed an absolute shitload of brown people, both here and abroad. and they've pretty much guaranteed that the dems are gonna smell like shit for the next 4 years as all this sinks in. i just can't see anything more they could want.

and you guys are surprised that instead of choosing a VP candidate they opted instead to just pick up a bobble-head doll from the gas station around the corner. really?
posted by sexyrobot at 12:26 AM on September 26

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let Ralph Debate

Thanks Michael.

Better Politicianess than Palin or Hillary

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Fun Protest

According to this article ridicule is still the best weapon:

The pirates of Little Rock stole Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church's thunder last Friday. The Topeka church was protesting the National Conference of Editorial Writers because they are "responsible for the satanic milieu in this evil land" and for assisting the "satanic agendas" of "baby-killers and fags."

But in a fortuitous twist, the protest happened to fall on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Swashbuckling Flying Spaghetti Monster worshipping Central Arkansas Pastafarians decided to join the counter protest in full pirate gear.

The Arkansas Times gave this account:

Yep, the cuckoo Phelps hate group walked the plank this morning after a happy bunch dressed like pirates and holding signs saying "God hates shrimp -- Leviticus" and "God hates cotton-polyester blends" stood opposite them at the corner of Markham and Scott streets. The group, made up of Central Arkansas Pastafarians, waved swords and growled "Arrghh!" in a manner that would have made Abbie Hoffman proud.

"They didn't know what to do," a pirate named Boatswain (aka Gerry Schulze) tells The Pitch. "We decided that the best way to handle them was ridicule. They had not earned our hatred, only our ridicule and perhaps our contempt."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heard on the radio today

Now that the dollar has so little value, we can put him on it. - Paula Poundstone

Those Irrational Humans

Millions of words have been written about the Holocaust. White people are only fascinated with other white people. How could white Europeans like the good hardworking Germans do this? The reason is quite simple: we aren’t rational animals; we are rationalizing animals who want to appear reasonable to ourselves.

Leon Festinger was a social psychologist from New York City who became famous for his Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, which suggests that inconsistency among beliefs or behaviors will cause an uncomfortable psychological tension thus leading people to change their beliefs to fit their behavior instead of changing the behavior to fit their belief, as conventionally assumed. Dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling or stress caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously and cognition in it's simplest definition is "reality". Festinger's theory arose from his observations of a Wisconsin-based flying saucer cult of the 1950s whose prophecy of universal destruction failed to come true. The cult prophesied a vast flood would soon kill everyone on Earth except for the members of the cult, who would be carried away by flying saucers. Before the predicted flood, the cult was very secretive and very reluctant to speak to the media or make converts. After the predicted flood did not occur, they stopped being secretive and spoke very eagerly to the media. The only way for them to reverse their humiliation was to convert other people to their beliefs.

Festinger claimed that people avoid information that is likely to increase dissonance. Not only do we tend to select reading material and television programs that are consistent with our existing beliefs, we usually choose to be with people who are like us. By taking care to "stick with our own kind," we can maintain the relative comfort of the status quo. Like-minded people buffer us from ideas that could cause discomfort. In that sense, the process of making friends is an example of selecting our own propaganda. People that are like us will keep those things away that make us uncomfortable.

In the late 1950s, Festinger and James Carlsmith recruited Stanford University men to participate in a psychological study. As each man arrived at the lab, he was assigned the boring and repetitive task of sorting a batch of spools into lots of twelve and turning square pegs a quarter turn to the right. The procedure was designed to be both monotonous and tiring. At the end of an hour the experimenter approached the subject and made a request. A student assistant had supposedly failed to show up, and the researcher needed someone to fill in by telling a potential female subject in the waiting room how much fun the experiment was.

Some of the men were promised $1 to express enthusiasm about the task; others were offered $20. It is comforting to know that six of the men refused to take part in the deception, but most students tried to recruit the young woman. What was most interesting was the attitudes after the study was over. Students who lied for $20 confessed that they thought the task of sorting spools was dull. Those who lied for $1 maintained that it was much more enjoyable.

If a student felt qualms about telling a "white lie," the $20 was a ready justification. Thus he felt little or no tension between his action and attitude. But the men who lied for a dollar had lots of cognitive work to do. The logical inconsistency of saying a boring task was interesting had to be explained away through an internal dialogue:

"I’m a Stanford man. Am I the kind of guy who would lie for a dollar? No way. Actually what I told the girl was true. The experiment was a lot of fun."
They changed their attitudes toward the task to bring it into line with their behavior. The Stanford men were in a bind because they regarded themselves as decent, truthful human beings. If they had seen themselves as liars, cheats, or jerks, they would have felt no tension.

University of California social psychologist Elliot Aronson further refined the theory by conducting a controlled experiment showing that people who underwent a tougher initiation have more favorable evaluations of the group they have joined. Aronson concluded that the issue isn’t logical inconsistency, but psychological inconsistency. According to Aronson, the amount of dissonance a person can experience is directly proportional to the effort he or she has invested in the behavior. The harder it is to get into a group, the more an initiate values membership. Rarely does a football player brag that his coach schedules light workouts or that Marine bootcamp was a lark.

No matter how cruel an action, the most common justification is the bully anthem,"he brought it on himself." Everyone likes to think of themselves as good, so when someone deliberately cheats another or marches them to an oven, the other must have deserved it. In the book Mistakes Were Made Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explained that contrary to conventional belief that bullies are compensating for low esteem, they actually maintain a high opinion of themselves. "In the horrifying calculus of self-deception, the greater the pain we inflict on others, the greater the need to justify it to maintain our feelings of decency and self worth. Because our victims deserved what they got, we hate them even more than we did before we harmed them, which in turn makes us inflict even more pain on them."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Desperate Times

If you are in trouble, do you pick the dumbest guy who crashed many planes or the smartest, most moral guy to try and help you find a way out? Do you choose someone who owes favors to the people who fleeced you in the first place or the guy who has been warning about corporatism for decades? When will people listen to the dude who has devoted his entire life to saying regulation is the only way to have a level playing field when elephants are dancing among the chickens?

"The dreaded supremacy of corporatism over civil institutions, stomping both conservative and liberal values alike, has broken through any remaining barriers by the two major political parties."- Ralph Nader

Democrats hate Nader more than the Republicans. It isn't like Nader wasn't willing to work with them.

Meeting with John Kerry — Ralph Nader and Democratic Candidate John Kerry held a widely publicized meeting early in the 2004 Presidential campaign, which Nader described in An Unreasonable Man. Nader said that John Kerry wanted to work to win Nader's support and the support of Nader's voters. Nader then provided more than 20 pages of issues that he felt were important and he "put them on the table" for John Kerry. According to Nader the issues covered topics ranging from environmental, labor, healthcare, tax reform, corporate crime, campaign finance reform and various consumer protection issues.

Nader reported that he asked John Kerry to choose any three of the issues and highlight them in his campaign and if Kerry would do this, he would refrain from the race. Several months passed and Kerry failed to adopt any of Nader's issues as benchmarks of his campaign, so on February 22, 2004, Nader announced on NBC that he would indeed run for president as an independent, saying, "There's too much power and wealth in too few hands."

Paying Nader not to run — Nader also reported in the documentary An Unreasonable Man that many wealthy Democratic donors offered to give money to his public interest groups if he declined to run, however, none of these groups would go a step further to guarantee that his issues would get a fair hearing in Washington. Nader replied, "why should I spend all of your money working on issues that are just going to run into a brick wall in Washington?"
- Wikipedia

By the way, Ralph Nader attended Princeton University and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in 1955. He went on to law school at Harvard University, graduating in 1958. Desperate times demand desperate measures by desperate people. I know he isn't perfect, but he is the best fit for the problem at hand and for anyone who believes that he is an ego-maniacal nutjob, please take the time to watch "An Unreasonable Man". Maybe it is time for a leader that is not a politician but one who has devoted his life to looking out for citizens.

Tylenol and asthma

According to studies in Hong Kong acetaminophen may cause asthma in children.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Inducing Insanity

Marjoe (named after Mary and Joseph)was a child evangelist who renounced the preaching business for awhile and I believe went back to it. This (which I believe is part of the documentary called Marjoe) segment is a little irritating at the beginning because the sound and picture don't match. The comments on You Tube were interesting in that most were from the faithful that denied that it was all sham.

We see things, not as they are, but as we are.-Anais Nin