Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! & Psycho Bitch Party

I had a strange dream tonight. I was in a place I’d been many times before, a place of comfort and respite where I could share common interests, but tonight it was very different.

Ground rules: Fair fight. Don't attack when you have the floor unless your opponent has the same privilege. Rope-a-dope. If you're trying to settle a score, let us in on it. And do your homework, goddamnit!

People read work that seemed to come out of their veins. One woman wrote a nasty piece on “shoving a straw up” something--Hey, I'm a native NYer, tell it like it is. At least come out and say it, “shove that straw up your c-word, you c-word, or up your ass, or whatever.” She alluded to all sorts of nasty things this “person” with the straw was attempting to do while using the “straw”.

She attributed the basest motives to the person with the straw, that she was using it to fend off “hatred of others” and other disquieting thoughts. Who knew a straw could be so powerful? What makes it so frightening? What does it symbolize? She also casually mentioned lobotomies, shock treatments and other frightening activities used against the helpless.

Another woman started her reading by remarking how she was “guarding the hallway because people were having trouble coming back from the bathroom”. She did a piece on Mr. Peanut, saying “Mr. Peanut this, and Mr. Peanut that.”

At one point, she mentioned John Lennon. Okay, you don’t have to hit me over the head with this sh*t. (Actually, you do, because I don’t understand the thinking behind it. Mr. Peanut is not a real person. It is a brand logo. John Lennon was a formative musician and rebel under FBI surveillance who was assassinated.) Perhaps she saw the Parallax View montage I did and was mocking it, making everything equivalent—Mr. Peanut to me, Mr. Peanut to you, John Lennon to all of us. I don’t know how John would have felt, but I was offended.

And by the way, no one has told me they've seen anything related to what I was experiencing. If they have, please clue me in. I may be crazy, but I want to have fun, too!

I wish someone would tell me when I can wake up.

Monsters from the Id

In the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet, an American space search team headed up by a strapping, robust Leslie Nielsen landed on the remote planet Altair-4 to find out what happened to the people sent to colonize the planet several years before.

They ran into Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), who, along with his daughter, a scantily clad Ann Francis (to quote one of the men who'd been out in space a long time--"Oh, brother!"), were the sole survivors of the party. Everyone else had been torn to pieces practically overnight by some undetermined entity.

As Nielsen and his crack team of astronauts tried to pry answers out of the reluctant Morbius, who wanted them to get the hell out of there, they found out about the Krell.

The Krell was the Altair-4 civilization from thousands of years ago who had advanced way beyond us. They, too, vanished without a trace in a single night. They left behind some artifacts, including a self-generating source of energy (like a mini-sun). But (to quote the doctor in the plot) they forgot one thing. Monsters from the Id.

You may well ask, what the hell is the Id? The id is the third level of Freud's tripartite which includes the superego and the ego. It is the unconscious. It's the primitive instincts that seek to consume and will do so unless repressed. The id consists of energy that can explode or be directed in many ways. The libido, or the sexual instinct, is the most powerful. It demands fulfillment. And if you forget about it, you can be torn apart. By yourself!

The id is at work in the anonymity of the internet and the unchecked aggression of right wing media. You can see its unrepressed form in the false narratives about race, where the New Black Panthers are offered up as objects to fear. They are not the ones carrying unconcealed weapons into Starbucks. Or the imposed history that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery or the demand that Anita Hill, a courageous lawyer daring to confront one of the powerful men in the world, apologize to his wife, the head of a very powerful conservative lobbying force.

This is the American Id split wide open, unrestrained, angry that the president is a black man who rose by dint of merit to the top of the American political system. It will do almost anything to obliterate that fact.

President Obama's spectacular achievement collides with the "wisdom of the crowd" so highly touted by Silicon Valley gurus and the ideology of the Internet. It gives the lie to the notion that expertise is elitist.

Perhaps in the world of computing, many computers working together produce a more powerful result. Certainly the supercomputers of Goldman and those that can afford them give a nano-glimpse of market movements sufficient to drive the market, or crash it. Computations happen at a much more rapid pace than human decision making. But speed shouldn't be the overriding concern.

Unless the id is repressed somehow, or held in check, we will be destroyed just as the Krell was. Our civilization will become degraded and the notion of progress will dry up like autumn leaves.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Sh*t's Hitting the Fan, and No One Has A Clue

If you're curious as to why the U.S. economy continues on its disastrous course, all you have to do is peruse the ($2 in NYC) print edition of the NY Times. I like print because I can write on it, mash it into a ball and throw it right between the eyes like Ron Guidry used to. Also, origami.

The Fed is adding more paper to the money supply as it sold $600 billion worth of Full Faith and Credit. Unfortunately, instead of driving down the yield of the 20-year bond, the face value did a predator drone nose dive driving yield up. Everyone's scratching their heads and thinking/saying, "Huh?" Is it the uncertainty of what will happen after the Bush tax cuts expire? Is it Bush's face flogging his new book? Is it currency manipulation designed to drive down the cost of exports? Then you go to another story which explains that even with a weak dollar, fewer American jobs will be created because operations have moved overseas where the money is.

Perhaps the truth lies in the front page left column story where the entire Eurozone is in crisis mode You see, children, Eurozone countries, disparate though they might be, must keep their budget deficit at a certain percentage, which means pain and misery (aka "commitment to austerity"). Unfortunately, there comes a point at which dog food cannot sustain the population. For instance:

Of paramount concern to policy makers in Europe is Spain, which is struggling to close its own deficit of 9% of GDP at a time when unemployment is more than 20% and the economy is failing to grow.

Worries about the banks [in Spain] have peaked recently in light of data showing that distressed [read: will not be paid back] loans are now 5.6% of total Spanish bank loans--the highest level since 1996.

"This policy of saving banks at the cost of breaking the back of entire countries is a disaster," said Daniel Gros, direcor for the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels.

As long as housing prices continue to fall, [losses] cannot be capped.

Our money is based on the sustained belief that horrible, worthless loans are actually worth something (mark-to market accounting) as opposed to fair value accounting (what bankers say their loans, and bottom line, is worth). The Fed transferred those failed mortgages for liquidity to the bankers. Not solvency, liquidity. No one is getting a hair cut except the foreclosed . Thank God the big banks figured out they could shovel the problem of lack of documentation, robo-signers, no ownership paper trail etc. into a huge PR push:

[In preparation for Congressional testimony about the fact that about 4 million families still face foreclosure], Barbara J. Desoer, president of the Bank of America Home loan...plans to apologize for shortcomings in the foreclosure process, while reiterating her defense that no foreclosure or eviction was pursued by mistake.

For the first time, Ms. Desoer also plans to highlight Bank of America's role as a servicer in most cases, rather than the investor that actually owns the mortgages.

David Lowman, chief executive of Chase Home Lending, is also scheduled to testify and adopt an apologetic stance.