Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Future of Work

I think I've made this point before, but I have to ask whoever still reads this screed for comments on a thought experiment. But first, watch this video.

So the question becomes this simple: what do we do with the folks who don't have to work anymore? Do we finally push for a guaranteed minimum income? Or do we start up the meat grinders?

I don't have an answer for this. I think the concept of what this society might look like is either terribly dystopian (like The Road) or strongly resembles Star Trek's version of the future, where (since everything is easily achievable), no one gets paid for anything, and does whatever they can for the benefit of the society, or just for themselves, because everything is free.

I'd like to think it won't suck too hard, but then again, we are human beings after all...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Only Living Hero

New blog listed on the right-hand side of the page, called Stonekettle Station, a fellow from Alaska named Jim Wright, retired US Navy Warrant Officer, who's been through a lot of war. I may never again publish on the subject of military behavior or military politics again, just because of this guy, damn him. He gets it right, he's clearly been thinking about all of the stuff he writes about for longer than I have, and he is full of both righteous indignation and resigned sadness about the role of the military in America. I love his writing, and I'm finicky. I'd salute him, but I've heard that civilians saluting the military is considered weird, or perhaps just inappropriate (unless you're a small child - then the soldier/sailor/airman/marine will take it very seriously indeed).

I consider him my arch-enemy, and that is high praise.*

This is a guy who profoundly gives a shit, and will take none. Why he's not getting paid handsomely for his writing is a mystery to me. Anyway, you're welcome.

* to paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Political Dynasties, American Style

As we sidle into the Next Big Election, many things have become "acceptable" to the average American that might not have been so last time around. Gay marriage is one. Gun control is another. Gun control at gay weddings, well, that's a whole different story, especially if you listen to the good folks at the NRA.

But I'm not here to talk about that. Thanks to gerrymandering, we will probably have a Repugnican Congress and a Democratic Senate again, after 2014. Doubtful that the Senate will go all the way R, but one never knows these things for certain. So, not much will change there. We can also expect a race in the Presidential elections coming in 2016 between Hillary Clinton, and some conservative guy that no one likes, not even conservatives (either because he's too extreme, or not extreme enough, and he'll do that simultaneously - not gonna be a woman candidate this time, sorry folks).


I just thought I'd say that. Meaningless, but it's a fun word to say and to write.

Unless another candidate comes along who can truly energize the base, we will have another fucking Clinton in the White House in 2017. Bernie Sanders is too leftie, too much of a lecturer to connect with people. I'm not saying I wouldn't vote for him, I would. but he gets under people's skin the same way Mister Superior did last time around (you know who you are, Mr. Gore). Sarah Vowell described Al Gore's reaction to a dumb answer by Mr. Bush during one of the debates as "nerd snort". A kind of smug-ass laugh that only smartie people make when confronted by someone obviously less intelligent than themselves. And it really, really alienates people. I don't expect Senator Sanders to do the same thing (waaaaay too serious), but he'll figure out a way to let his nerdiness become his likability's Achilles heel.

Elizabeth Warren, now, there's a candidate who could give old Hils a run for her money. Schoolmarmish, she looks like the second-grade teacher you liked, because she reminds you of grandma. She's kind, and she has a nice smile. She's also incredibly smart, and very well connected with the folks at home (rather than the fools on the Hill). Hillary is the ultimate Washington insider, playing the game very, very well, and dancing for those that brung her. Elizabeth thinks they're just out for what they can get, and she doesn't trust them any farther than she can throw them, which is exactly the right place to be. And when she rips into them, you can hear the flesh tearing off in great hunks between her teeth.

I've said it before, what I dislike more than anything is this idea of political dynasties. We've had two Bushes in the White House - why does the left have to respond with a second Clinton? Can't we think of anyone who can express the country's rage in an articulate way? Because I don't think Hillary will be expressing rage, so much as smug self-satisfaction that she can do the job at least as well as her husband, and without getting caught having a nooner with one the interns. Sort of the difference between the two of them - he sees it as kind of a perk of the powerful, she sees it as a character defect.

Of course, the Right are having a field day with her looks, her brains, and her choices in clothing. Only one of which is relevant. Yep, it's the Pradas. (joking of course)

No, they say her brain has flaws, because she spent a little time in hospital dealing with a clot. Someone else has tweeted Mr. Rove, asking whether he thought Jack Kemp was qualified, even after the eleven concussions. (which are okay, of course, because football)

It's not the physical part of her brain that has flaws, it's the ethics, morals and policy part of her brains that has flaws. Anyone who's ever sat on the board of WalMart and not come away needing a three year shower has problems I don't want to elect. That her concept of relaxing after being Sec. of State was to write a book (which is generally thought of as a lead-up to running for Pres) means she hasn't read Huffington's new book, either. The one that says over-work and stress shouldn't be some sort of cultural norm.

No more names we've heard before. There must someone who can win who isn't related to someone who's already been in. Please.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Politics as Madness as Politics as Usual

Crisis, crises, Christ Almighty...

The loathing I have for our politicians and for many, many of our citizens has finally gone beyond any level where I can name it. This "legislate via Mafia tactics" nonsense has gone on long enough. The Dems tend to be spineless (though they seem to have found it this time), and the majority of Republicans are either spineless, or are simply willing to let their own party die for the sake of trying to score a few extra points with their most extreme constituents. And then there are Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert - two ends of the exact same spectrum: one, the Hahvahd-educated son of Americans living in Canada, the other... how does one describe Louie, other than crazy imbecile? Cruz was well-known in college for his effete snobbery (you didn't go to Yale, or Princeton? begone with you, peasant!), while Louie might have only been known for his affinity to farm animals. Yet these two Republican poster-boys sorta worked together to bring the United States to the brink of financial ruin. It's nice to know that Cruz can work with someone whom he would normally consider beneath him. And it's nice to know that Gohmert can work with an Hispanic-American without resorting to calling him an ethnic slur.

Beyond that, I wish they'd stop working together, since all they seem to want is for the republic to implode.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Story Gets Better and Better

Let me get this straight: Alex Jones says that the World Trade Center towers were brought down on purpose, so that the US would go to war? Or to negate a bunch of freedoms? Or possibly to destroy the financial infrastructure of the US? Maybe even to initiate some kind of marshal law and/or gun control.

He's in good company. The Boston Bombers also believe/d that the 9/11 event was created by the US - to fan the flames of hatred against Muslims.

Alex Jones gets his information from other people on the interwebs, people who are (in most cases) obviously looking for some way to explain their drab, miserable lives by making wild accusations, or spouting off theories that would embarass even the Lone Gunmen. My favorite so far has been a video of a scruffy guy describing a photograph of one of the pressure cookers as "evidence" that it wasn't the actual bomb, the shape of the explosion was wrong, there were no shrapnel holes in the lid, etc., etc. Meanwhile, he's about two inches from his webcam and he acts like he's hiding from his mom.

And, of course, there are Muslim websites doing the exact same thing, saying stuff like "Israel performs lab experiments on live Palestinian babies to see how well their nerve gas works" or such-like. (disclaimer: I've NEVER EVER READ anything that actually said that, so pshaw)

This is what makes the Internet such an amazing, wonderful place. Anyone can write anything, without regard to consequence, but then the consequences actually come along and people die. I'm not suggesting censorship, but I am suggesting a better fucking education systems.

But my own relatives are taking this BS seriously, and it is beginning to piss me off. I love them dearly, and they're both very smart, smart people, but this is beyond insane. Alex Jones is propagating the kind of "journalism" that consists of asking zillions of contrarian questions in the hopes that more and more people will climb on his bandwagon, and even pay him money, in order to lend credence to his views. If enough people check into your website on a daily basis, if enough people buy your videos, well, Holy Shiite! Maybe one day Piers Morgan will invite you on his show so that you can yell at him endlessly. Only one problem that I see - what if almost everything you spout is total BS? What public interest are you serving by "asking questions", when it's possible that what every other news report (well... almost) is actually checking facts before they go and release any information at all. Maybe THEY are actually interviewing people who were REALLY THERE. As opposed to the countless whackos who you link to your site in order to fan the flames of inflammatory rhetoric that you spout, so that you get plenty of hits, and yet somehow manage to educate or even inform NO ONE. Because if you're not giving people facts, you're just screaming out GUESSES.

And I don't believe in guesses any more than I believe in God. Because it's important to remember one thing: while facts are immutable, beliefs are mostly self-sustaining falsehoods that live on and on precisely because there's no evidence to support them. In Alex Jones' case, if the evidence is at odds with what he's saying, that just proves there's a conspiracy to silence him.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Bombings and Other Extreme Sports

While there is a certain temptation to throw various sports metaphors at the criminal attack of the Boston Marathon, now is not the time. As they say, comedy equals tragedy plus time, and there hasn't been enough time yet.

We have been told that there are two bombers, brothers of Chechen background (sort of), legal immigrants, one of whom recently became a citizen. One of them is now dead, shot during a shootout in which the other brother managed to escape.

I am not going to say any more on the subject, because I am not convinced of any of the particulars yet.

What I will say is that I am tired, so VERY, VERY tired of people who claim to be concerned, thinking individuals, yet who are using Alex Jones as their source for all things accurate and truthful in the news. Alex Jones, who is convinced that the twin towers were brought down by a government conspiracy; who is convinced that the Sandy Hook Shooting was arranged by the current President to curtail 2nd Amendment Rights in this country; and who has said that the latest bombing was also arranged by Obama to find another way to take away our precious freedoms somehow.

Stupidity is SO exhausting, don't you think?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Shall We Do with a Drunken Trader?

In the year of our Lord 2009, a fellow in Britain affected world oil prices during a drunken blackout. In an attempt to not say things like "I told you so" or "No shit, Sherlock", it is my duty to take severe notice of the, shall we say, flexibility of our commodities trading systems around the world.

The timeline, as I understand it, is this:

Steve Perkins, a trader at PVM Oil Futures left work after the end of a long, hard day.

(everything between now and 1:22 am is sheer speculation)

He went to his local, the Bung & Beaver, for five or six pints of the best bitter (or, to be exotic, five or six pint cans of Budweiser). He also stopped at a chip shop to get some delightful takeaway fish to go with the other few cans of beer sitting in his fridge at home. He also stopped at the offy to get a bottle of Scotch (unless he was upper class, in which case it was either Vodka or Gin).

After he arrived home, and haphazardly jammed the key into the lock, he opened the door to find his pet hamster waiting patiently for noms.

So he sits down at the telly, opens up his very hygenically-wrapped fish & chips (no more newspaper, folks!), cracked another can of beer (this time, some kind of shitty ale), and drank with his fish. More beer. More British Idol. More beer.

As we reach the late hour of ten o'clock, Steve is off beer and on to Scotch or one of the clear ones. On the rocks. Until getting up to get more rocks becomes too much trouble. He is sitting in front of his computer, surfing porn. Unfortunately, after ten pints of beer and half a pint of hard alcohol, he is no longer able to get it up, so he turns to the other manly thing he knows how to do: buy oil futures.

So, at 1:22 am (where we rejoin reality), he goes buck wild. And between 1:22 and 3:41 am, he buys up 69% of the world market in oil futures, equaling 7 million barrels of crude oil, valued at $9,763,252. Thanks to the volume and the fact that he kept raising his bids every single time he bid (being a drunken idiot), he raised the price on crude by $1.50 per barrel in a little over two hours. He calls in sick the next day, after an admin clerk calls to ask him why he went and bought 7 million barrels of crude, to which he probably replied, "bollocks."

Subsequently, an official investigation determined that he had a drinking problem.


They took away his traders' license, fined him around $116,000, and told him to go to AA or something like it. They say he will get his license back in five years if he can prove he is no longer a danger to the oil futures commodities market, or at least drinking a little less.

This is up there with the trader who wanted to get his firm in the Guinness book for first-time trading of oil at over $100 per barrel, or the computer-aided high-speed transaction systems sending the market into a tailspin after accidentally dumping stocks so fast the whole market lost a lot of value in a single afternoon. When do we start recognizing that human error and computer error should not have the power to affect the markets that much? It's up there with a mouse being chased by a cat being chased by a dog, etc., causing the fiery destruction of New York City.