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Onanism Open Thread

You celebrate your birthday your way.

Franz Kafka International Named Most Alienating Airport

Break out of ennui and use this an an open thread. Feel free to post Kafkaesqe, terrifying, alienating links or otherwise comment on the meaningless nightmarish quality of human existence.

I’m No Economist, but I Think We Need Prosecutions!

The face of greed

The face of greed

I’m hooked on the economics blogs these days. Blame Dakinikat for starting me on a (probably hopeless) quest to understand the economic meltdown. I have been mathphobic since the eighth grade when I was horribly traumatized by algebra. And geometry! Don’t even get me started. When I was an undergrad, I was forced to take two math classes–basic math and statistics. Fortunately, those of us in the psych department were assigned a good humored, patient professor who cracked jokes about our having post-traumatic stress from high school math and had developed simple ways to explain mathematical concepts. Thanks to that kind and supportive professor, I was also able to survive two mind-numbing semesters of graduate statistics without too much anxiety.

Despite my lifelong troubled relationship with numbers, I am determined to understand what is happening to our economic and political systems to the best of my ability. These days, when I first get up, I open up The Confluence (my home page), quickly see what’s happening and then I check all my favorite econ blogs to find out the latest news and views.

This morning via The Market Ticker, I found this ABC News story on Joseph Cassano. (By the way, Cassano donated $2,500 to Obama’s primary campaign and $2,300 to his presidential campaigns. Isn’t $2,300 the maximum?) But back to ABC News:

The FBI and federal prosecutors are reportedly closing in on the AIG executive whose suspect investments cost the insurance giant hundreds of billions of dollars. The government is investigating whether or not 54-year old Brooklyn-native Joseph Cassano committed criminal fraud in virtually bankrupting the company. Continue reading

Inside the U.S. Treasury

Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay it back.  (Your grandchildren will get stuck with the tab)

From McClatchy News:

Welcome to life in Mendota — the unemployment capital of California. With a 41 percent jobless rate, the town’s social fabric is tearing at the seams. Alcoholism and crime are on the rise. To save money, some mothers wash and re-use disposable diapers. Unemployed men with nothing to do wander the streets and sit on benches.

Why did I bring that up?  Because Mendota listings are in my local phone book.


I'm this many

I'm this many

Today is my birthday.

I was raised in a fundie Christian church that taught me how the Hebrews were delivered from bondage in Egypt and led by Moses to Mount Sinai where Yahweh entered into a covenant with them that gave them the land of Canaan.  I learned that under Joshua the Israelites begin the conquest of their Promised Land, including the dramatic battle of Jericho.  It wasn’t until I got older that it occurred to me that the Canaanites were God’s children too.  Couldn’t He have given them some unoccupied land instead?

The church I grew up in was very pro-Israel, seeing the restoration of it as a nation as a sign of the imminent Second Coming.  Most of my life the news and media treatment of Israel and the Israel/Palestine conflict has been very pro-Israel.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that presented a pro-Palestinian point of view, but I’ve seen lots of depictions of Palestinians and other Arabs as terrorists.  Not without reason, for I also recall seeing news reports of Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorists committing numerous acts of violence including hijackings, bombings and the horrific massacre at the Munich Olympics.

The I/P conflict has been going on since before I was born 49 years ago.  Several times during my life the conflict has broken into open warfare involving Israel, the PLO, Egypt, Syria and/or other neighboring states.  Rarely has there been any progress towards achieving real peace in the region and there hasn’t ever been more than brief lulls in the violence.

I majored in history and I am aware of the Diaspora and the two millenia of pogroms, inquisitions and other anti-semitic attacks against Jews in Europe and elsewhere.  I studied Hitler and the Nazi era which included the Holocaust.  I also studied the history of Islam and the Crusades, but I confess I am no expert in those topics, nor am I an expert in the current conflict.

The area I live in has few Jewish or Palestinian people, so with the exception of the best boss I ever had (a survivor of Kristallnacht) and some former next-door neighbors who were Palestinian Christians my relationship with anyone from either group has been fairly rare but positive.

To me anti-semitism is like pedophilia – I know what it is but I don’t understand how someone can be that way.  I find ideas like the “Jewish Banking Conspiracy” and the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” absurd and the denial of the Holocaust deranged.

If I had to rate my position on the I/P conflict with +100 being totally in support of Israel and -100 being totally in support of Palestine I would give myself a +25 meaning I lean in favor of Israel.  That number does not reflect my position on every sub-issue but is an average.  However there is no sub-issue where I am pro-Palestinian, I range from neutral (zero) to +50 on everything.

If you are wondering why I don’t “fully support Israel” it’s because I am an American and the only country I am loyal to is the United States.  But I don’t fully support this country either – especially not when it commits war crimes and torture or when it discriminates against women, LGBT’s and minorities.

I also have issues with Israel, like when it commits espionage against us as it did with Jonathan Pollard and Lawrence Franklin.  I am concerned about the influence of AIPAC on our foreign policy (I am concerned about the influence of other groups, foreign and domestic, as well) and the attacks on the appointment of Chas Freeman to the National Intelligence Council.  But having issues or concerns is not the same as opposing Israel – I don’t.

I believe that Israel has a right to exist and that Jewish people everywhere have the right to live in peace and safety, free from discrimination or threat of violence.  But I believe that for everyone else as well.

So I am upset and outraged at the people who wish to accuse me of antisemitism or “Judeophobia” because I don’t support Israel as much as they do or agree with them on every related issue.  The accusations against me (and others here at The Confluence) range from weak to non-existent and include the defense of other people’s right to express a contrary point of view and bizarre conclusions drawn from obvious typos.  And lies – lots of them.

They say it’s okay to criticize Israel, but if you do you’ll never hear the end of it.  Any information that is critical of Israel is anti-semitic propaganda.  If they say someone of something is anti-semitic and you don’t agree they claim you are being offensive and hurtful.   If you obect to their tactics they claim you are trying to silence them!

The liars know who they are.  Their stance is akin to the Obama supporters who accused us of racism for not supporting Obama.  As far as I am concerned they can all go Cheney themselves.  I will not STFU nor go away.

Happy Freaking Birthday to me.

(comments will be heavily moderated on this post)

Tuesday: Reboot

(Early morning meeting.  This will be quick)

Nicholas Lemann, who I know nothing about, has written Mad and Madder in The New Yorker that hints at why Obama may be reluctant to nationalize the banks.  Well, *another* reason that is independent from the fact that his banker backers have him by the junk:

Bank nationalization would drive the stock market down and increase the agita of people with 401(k) plans. Moderate Democrats in Congress would further soften in their support for the Administration’s legislation. The price of bank nationalization might be Obama’s super-ambitious plans in other realms, which, if history is a guide, are likely to pass only in this first year of his Presidency. If they do pass, he will have generated tax revenues from affluent people for social purposes far beyond those of the House’s tax on A.I.G. bonuses, and he will have significantly eased the distress of people who can’t get good health care or education. That is a lot to put at risk.

Ok, the first part of that sentence makes sense; the second part is utter bull$#@&.  It’s the plunging 401K values Obama’s worried about.  Well, not exactly worried about.  Obama doesn’t really worry about people who makes less than 7 figures a year.  But revolutions happen when the middle class gets fed up with being treated badly.  As Thomas Jefferson wrote once upon a time: “all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  Yep, we can hold out a long time as long as its the usual suspects that get the shaft.  You know, the perpetually poor, the undereducated, the ne’erdowells.  But when the value of middle class property starts to fall, “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

So, maybe Obama’s strategy, and we have to assume their is a point to all of this even though there is no policy that we can detect, is to make sure that the middle class doesn’t lose its temper.  Plunging 401k’s would definitely make some people peevish, including moi.  However, if we descend into the semi-darkness of a Japan style “lost decade” where the already devalued 401k’s do not regain any of their value, just so that the bankers don’t have to eat their losses, that would piss me off more.  Maybe Obama figures that his chances of being a president when that happens are very slim.  Fine.  But don’t expect your picture on any stamps or money.  Your name will be “Bush”.

No, what we need is a reboot if there’s any chance to salvage the 401K system.  Of course, I would willingly forgo it if someone would just give me a fricking pension I could live off.  The rally of the stock market recently, I suspect, was partially the result of 401K contributions from bonuses that got disbursed in March.  It’s not going to last.  The market is going to start sinking again and stay there.  And then, people who were about to retire are going to get angry anyway.

Then it won’t be long before the anger spreads upwards to the smelly bourgeoisie.

Hmmm, NYC or Philly?  NYC or Philly?

Hmmm, NYC or Philly? NYC or Philly?

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