Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's The Economy - and It's Not Stupid!

Back in the Roaring '90's, for every straight-up software developer there were at least five who specialized in vaporware - "it's in the pipeline," "we launch v2.2 before Christmas," "our developers are just finishing the final testing phase." Ah, those were the days - IPO's fueled by pure rocket, uh, vapor. Looked fast, demoed hot, and always run by some man behind a curtain. Funny thing was, many of those demo's happened on Wall Street. What's funny about that, you ask?

Think about it for a second - if you were some hot-shot speculator, looking for software that would give you a leg up on the competition, you were attending as many demos as you could - and just as many software companies were featuring software products aimed right at that specific demographic. Hey - that was clearly where the money was. Remember what John Dillinger said about banks? Same deal here. So Speculator Dude sits through countless demos, eventually either figures out the vaporware angle on his own (remember, these Dudes are pretty smart - dangerous, but pretty smart), or he hears one of the sales demo folks drop the word when they think they are out of earshot - software sales folks are not as smart as the Spec Dudes, and have an even worse propensity to brag - trips 'em up every time! (Always remember to check to see if you really turned off that mike, right?)

So Spec Dude starts the wheels turning, spills the phrase over a ten-martini blowout after his latest Big Buy, and the word catapults across the Spec Dude Landscape faster than a bank failure, and Voila! - derivatives are born! Pretty soon, some other Spec Dude comes up with credit default swaps, and before the '90's are over, vaporware has taken over the Street, then the Big Banks, and pretty soon, everybody wants some. It's like rocket fuel laced with heroin - the entire world goes bat-shit crazy, hot and hooked, and P.T. Barnum is once again proven the most prescient human being since Nostradamus (who was hooked on mercury, apparently, which explains, no - that's another story.)

So, here we are, significantly poorer, up to our third-eye in debt, a real fight between the 99% and the Mitt Romney Special Olympic Relay Run for the Really Freakin' Rich for who gets to run the show, and all anyone seems interested in is how freakin' much money Facebook just sucked out of the Spec Dude's pockets. Which is just going to flow right back in again anyway, so what exactly was the point? Look, Zuck is getting richer, world debt crisis averted!! Er, nope, sorry. Just more vaporware, people, move along now, just another train wreck, move along. Twenty-plus years of this malarkey, and people still don't get it. No surprise, one supposes - nearly every state has a lottery, or poor houses, er, casinos, and they ALL have banks (John Dillinger was just on the wrong side of the ATM, that's all.) And the Far Wrong has been just as swift to capitalize on the vaporware trend - if you tell a lie long enough, and with endless spin to keep everyone spinning along with Mitt, pretty soon, "it must be the truth." George Orwell should be proud.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bullies Remain Bullies For Life

So now we know that Mitty-baby was a gay-bashing bully. And yet, I am not surprised. While it does suggest that Mitt, like all gay-bashers is a secret "guy" liker, and too afraid to admit he likes "guys," such behavior is in keeping with the entire Republican Far Wrong ethos. "We will tell you how to live your life, but we want the government off OUR backs - not yours." So, consistency upheld, one supposes.

The truly pathetic thing here is the rush to defend his past by others, with not even the slightest attempts to disguise their hatred for certain groups that offend their sensibilities. I am not arguing for political correctness here, mind you, but for some small degree of consistency of values. The so-called right to lifers have only contempt for those who are simply trying to live actual life with a modicum of dignity and equality, while insisting that every sperm is a life held in abeyance and thus needful of our saving. One supposes that every condom is thus a chance to save all of these potentialities, though the question of how to balance the inequality of numbers between viable sperm and available egg staggers the imagination. But in the meantime, let's bash gays.

But why stop there? Mitt and Company sees not merely the gays, but pretty much anyone who questions their loathing of all things liberal, and they've supported that contention with plenty of bashing for all who they disagree with, as the evil that separates them from their rightful place as rulers of both thought and country. Just look at the yahoo who just defeated Richard Lugar - he stated that his definition of compromise was to have the Democrats agree with everything the Republicans demand. Just throw the damn dictionary out the door, and slam it behind you already.

So bash away, boys! By their deeds ye shall know them, as the saying goes. And if knowledge is power, then I suspect there will be surprises aplenty in the months ahead as the power shifts into the hands of those who would rather bash injustice and pigotry (no, that is not a spelling error). As for Mitt, the truly sad thing is not what he did in high school - it's what he is doing right now when reminded of that moral failure: "Uh, sorry, but, I don't even remember it."

Maybe its the itchy underwear.

When War-Mongers Get Miffed About War

If it had happened on their watch, you bet yer booty they'd be crowing all over the place.

So Mitt and his Puppy Pac are in a snit, because That Guy in The White House is justifiably showing off his record to the Amurican Peeps as a part of this, what's it called again? Oh, right, an election campaign. For any who have conveniently forgotten, an election campaign is where you wallop the Other Dude/Dudette whilst simultaneously reminding everyone of what you have heretofore accomplished - at least those things you want everyone to remember, while at the same time trying to help everyone forget what you'd rather they never remember again. So when the Guy reminds everyone on how it was on His Watch that dastardly knave bin Laden got his comuppance, Mitt and his Pups go into overdrive trying to cry Foul! for doing exactly what he would have done had the situation room been reversed, so to speak.

It must really be sticking in the craw of every Far Wrong Republican right now that they can't exactly beat up the Prez on his foreign policy creds. I mean, he's been so bloody hawkish that the Neo-con-jobs have sh*t-fits every time The Prez sends troops around the world to kick some other nasty-astards buttocks in order to Do The Right Thing. That is SO un-Democrat, right? I mean, really!! That is only supposed to happen when the Repubs are In Da House!!

Tsk. Tsk. If The Mitt hopes to sway votes by crying "unfair" about what This Prez did that the Prior Prez failed to do, he is in for a rude shock. Not to mention a major Irony Attack. because it was the foreign policy freak-out of the Bush-ites after 9-11 that pushed us into Iraq, found us sunk to our eyebrows in the muck of Afghanistan, and slowly being sucked into other conflagrations that are a direct outfall of the nasty handiwork of bin Laden. So if This Prez wants to crow a bit about actually Getting The Job Done, I somehow think that Mitty-baby is going to get a first-hand reminder of that special child-hood rant we all remember so well - "I'm rubber, and you're glue, and what bounces off me, sticks to you."

But given the over-all tone-deafness we've seen from Mitty so far, I somehow think he wouldn't even notice all the feathers adhering to his super-polished hide.

Gay, Straight - Worry About Crooked!

Beware the usual distractions, America! Marriage isn't the issue, ya dig?

Well, here we are, and much earlier in the election season than one usually expects it. I am talking about the pointless distractions, of course. Everyone is getting their pantaloons in a snit over whether The Prez does or does not back gay marriage (and all this time, I'd been going on the assumption marriage was supposed to be a gay affair for all concerned. My bad!) But whether one believes that marriage is a right or a mere tradition is really of little concern. Whether we keep adding new jobs? Big concern. Whether we manage to get through the next year without new hostilities breaking out between, oh, Israel and Iran/China and the Phillipines/China and Japan/Syria and, uh, Syrian people, etc., big concern. Whether fracking is going to produce a whopper new earthquake somewhere in Pennsylvania, big concern. Whether we are even going to have anything resembling real healthcare/immigration/etc., reform in our lifetimes? Big concerns. Whether you will ever again be able to go through airport security with at least your underwear still attached to your body? HUGE concern right now. So, Jerry and Jeff want to get hitched? Puh-leeze! Get a life, people!

While all this froo-fraw about gay marriage distracts everyone from the real issues, the Euro-zone is melting faster than the Polar icecaps, and creates a very real danger for our very slowly recovering economy. The Retreads believe they can fix everything by just making sure their wealthy donors are made wealthier on the backs of the poor, because of course, the poor are miserly donors, fer sure. But the reality is, if those greedy little monkeys would spend the money they are pouring into the Super PACS to just launch more jobs, they would get the election on that basis alone. Who wouldn't vote for anyone backed by the Koch Brothers if the Koch brothers announced 100,000 new jobs? I mean, BINGO, baby, right?

But instead, they and their little monkey friends are spending gazillions to con you and yours into being afraid - very afraid - that the boys next door will have a wedding party. And shucks, but it looks like you won't get invited. So, this will teach those nasty boys - don't invite us, will you?

Ya know? It's really no wonder the rest of the world has pretty much given up on wanting to emulate us anymore. We've turned into all the things we used to say were so bad about the Soviet Union, but with all the really crappy stuff about capitalism floating around the outer edges like the Tidy Bowl man was on extended leave.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Slow Decline of Rampant Individualism

Sorry, but its really not always about you.

A kind of false differentiation has existed within the Western thought-stream for the past several hundred years, that which divides the rights of the individual from the rights of the community at large. While this differentiation began essentially as a response to the authoritarian rule of kings, it has reached its apotheosis in the late 20th Century and into the first decade of the 21st. Beyond the insistence of various groups pushing for laws to further expand such rights, the advent of personal electronics, especially the so-called smart phone, has placed even greater autonomy into the hands of the individual.

But there has always been a tension between the needs (read: rights) of the one versus the needs (read: rights) of the many, and today that tension has expanded to include the issue of privacy. That the issue has been pushed to the fore by these very technologies is no surprise. Given that such technology, while on the one hand intended to connect people with greater frequency and intimacy, also intrudes into the realm of businesses and governments due to their ubiquity and utility, not surprisingly creates a dynamic wherein the very concept of privacy is being challenged on a near daily basis. Whether in the form of the government tracking individuals, corporations tracking buying habits, family tracking their children, hackers invading every open portal, our right to have privacy is increasingly decimated by our own individualism as exercised by our choices for communication.

Therein lies the irony, however. Pure individualism has always been a myth - no one succeeds at the game of life purely solo - there are always people helping each of us along the way. From our parents and siblings, our teachers and doctors, our laws and our institutions, we are in fact creatures of community. There is no such thing as a self-made man, to use the overblown phrase. You needed parents just to come into existence. You need many others just to reach the age of maturity. And when you start that great business that you take so much pride as being "your baby", try being successful with no employees, no suppliers, and, oh yes, no customers. No one succeeds alone - not even Warren Buffett.

To communicate with another means giving up, at least temporarily, your purist ideals of individualism - communication requires us to be both sender and receiver, which immediately implies the interaction of another. With each step into broadening that communication - today exemplified by so-called social media - we merge our autonomy with the expanding community, whether we intend it or not. And it is the merging which puts the concept of individual rights increasingly under the microscope. Where do my so-called rights intrude upon, even endanger, the rights of the community? We seem to believe that rampant use of controlled drugs like cocaine and heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine, are a danger to the community, but hold the opposite view when it comes to the possession of weapons, especially guns. One is a right, the other is a danger. Yet more people die every day from guns than from illegal drugs. This is but one such failure of logic that is slowly disintegrating the concept of the right of the individual over the rights of the community.

The use of the word "disintegrating" is telling here: it means, of course, to dis integrate, to cause a thing to loosen its bonds and fall apart from it's original state. There is an additional irony involved, as well - a Constitution is a document that binds individuals together into a community, a Nation. That certain rights are granted to individuals by this document does not give carte blanc to the individual, it merely tells the State that it must not hold all rights solely to itself. We are quick to remind the State when it oversteps it's own limits, but too slow to remind ourselves when our individual liberties overstep the bounds of the community. The respect for each must travel in both directions, else the document loses its power and legitimacy.

It increasingly appears that the cult of individualism is slowly declining, just as the cult of aristocracy once did. All social and political movements have their natural life-cycle, which includes their demise, when they no longer serve the people's needs, or when they endanger the present and future viability of society at large. Today we are faced with a number of such dangers: global climate change (whether one accepts it or not, the truth is that nature bats last, and if we fail to recognize this truth, it is we who pay the price), a severely damaged public education system, far too many guns (it is a red herring to argue that guns don't kill, people do - that is true - people do, and most often, with guns. If one claims to support the right to life, then it is inconsistent to also support the right to universal gun ownership,) global terror movements (some of which we do indeed bear responsibility for, if not for their creation, then surely for their appeal to the disenfranchised, which our own policies continue to support,) and more. And our belief that we can solve each and every one of these problems without ever having to change our underlying rationale for the focus of rights versus responsibilities is going to be tested in ways we cannot yet imagine.

Rome fell for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important was Rome's own belief in it's supremacy and immortality. The West today finds itself in a similar conundrum: barbarians at the gate (and across the entire Empire,) increasing in-fighting between political factions, and a hubris that makes Rome's look positively quaint by comparison. As long as we continue to believe it is all about us, and what we want, we risk the same outcome as Rome. And as long as we continue to believe it is all about the individual, that risk will continue to grow as close to home as it is across the globe. We have to find the way from me, to us. And them from us, to all. Unlike the false premise of globalism as has been shoved down the throats of people by the actions and goals of corporations and governments, real globalism will have a decidedly different face. I strongly suspect it will be a very diverse face indeed.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Major Fail: Fear Over Reason

Logic is no recourse over fear, especially in America.

About the only thing Americans seem to love more than guns is righteousness, usually, their own. We don't exactly despise logic and reason, we usually don't even give it room at the table. It takes too many steps to get them into the conversation, so how can we expect them to even get an invitation to the party? Righteous indignation and rationalization is quick, it's easy, and permits shouting as the primary tool to defend it's primacy as the first tool of discourse - though discourse is seldom the outcome. "I feel this way, and therefore I am right." Likewise, "I have a right to free speech," has become the de-facto excuse for unreasonableness, invective, and opposition, regardless of the position one is taking on a topic. All too often of late, the right to be unreasonable is its own excuse. It seldom if ever matters that a position might be worth re-thinking - that, it seems, is a sign of weakness, of "flip-flopping." And heaven forbid we re-think anything - we are Americans - we don't have to reconsider our points of view!

But history - remember that little inconvenience? - has a way of operating according to the law of reconsideration - not always positively, certainly, but there it is. The path toward democracy, whenever and wherever it has developed, has followed various approaches through a thicket of reconsiderations. Who should lead; how will we permit ourselves to be led; how will we make change when change is needed; who will determine the course of said changes; how will we measure the success of such changes? All such questions require conversation among reasonable people if they are to produce a reasonable - positive for the majority of citizens that will be impacted by such changes - results. Not that we as a Nation have always had reasonable conversations, clearly we have gotten mired in unreasonableness many times. But the best changes have occurred when we have been the most reasonable, used our better angels to keep us focused on the problem rather than on the opposition-as-the-problem.

America today seems locked into the more unreasonable demons of our nature, not just across our political divides, but within and across all of our communities. The depth and breadth of this unreasoning is breathtaking, and may bode ill for the Republic itself. Ideology, always the worst of all our demons, has become hardened into cement in some quarters, a phenomenon that has often preceded great upheavals in our Nation. The question we all should be asking ourselves today is, are my beliefs based on any real information? Are they likely to serve not merely myself, but the community around me? It is more critical than ever, I feel, that we permit ourselves and those around us the right to reconsider - our beliefs, our positions, our alliances, our attitudes. Just because we have a right to do something does not mean we should take that as a directive to do whatever we think we want to do, if by the doing of that we cause great suffering to the community that we live in.

There is a law which supersedes even the great Constitution of The United States of America, and it is worth keeping in mind today: what goes around, comes around. It can be put in many ways - karma, do unto others what you would have them do unto you, give respect and you will get respect, etc. Our grandparents knew this law. Its time we all started to remember it, as well.

Why Should Romney Care About You?

You aren't rich, you aren't the owner of a team, and you wouldn't leave your dog atop your car.
It's easy to say that the other guy is a liar, when your aim is to make everyone believe a lie. NewSpeak, as George Orwell so aptly painted it, is designed to replace truth with lies in such a manner that the receiver of said lie must feel stupid, and perhaps slightly afraid, to even question its veracity. And no one has so excelled at this practice than the new breed of republicans, launched, un-ironically, by the current low fella on the Republican Primary totem pole, Newt Gingrich, who introduced the world back in the nineties to a new brand of dirty tricks and double dealing that is only now finding it's true metier. And no one has better grasped the utility and necessity of such machinations, nor had the fiscal wherewithal to so thoroughly flood the mental landscape of America with the perfect storm of NewSpeak as has Mitt Romney.

It doesn't matter if something is completely untrue - just shake that etch-a-sketch and do a quick re-write, a quick change of clothes, and presto! Mormon rationalization makes the lie so much more righteous. Make no mistake - while Mitt's stooges are already trying to plant the seeds of "the other side will attack Mitt's religion," - the guy behind the curtain knows exactly what he's doing. Straw dogs are better than scarecrows at getting a dirty trick planted deep into the American psyche, and that is precisely what Mitt's folks are doing. Because simultaneous with his camp crying foul at a foul that has not even happened, they have not once decried the lies that have been told by the Far Wrong thousands of times about his opponent's own religion. And when that issue again raises its ugly head, Mitt should not be surprised if that point is brought straight up without a chaser. watch his lips try to say the opposite of what his mind is aching to lie about when that happens - that will be the "tell."

Funny thing about wealth - it makes one believe they are above the petty and the trivial aspects of life as lived by the masses, and thus can do what they like without having to apologize. Donald the Trumpish is a good example, but he's more a clown about it, and when others laugh at him, he snickers back. But Mitt is in a very different class, one where he would never consider laughing at himself, nor even getting it when others laugh at him. he's too insulated from "real life." He doesn't have to worry about over-self-revelation. But he should worry about one thing above all else - the little people he stepped on along the way. And you'd better believe he stepped on a lot of people, some who've already raised their head above the wall to speak to their neighbors. But the real numbers will begin to raise their voices throughout what appears will be a very hot summer in America. Let's see how above the fray he remains. Because I'm willing to bet some are even from his own party.

Which would really be embarrassing.