Saturday, January 31, 2009

Astounding Republican Cosmic Physics Breakthrough!

Has the monied class devised a plan to actually remove money from this universe? 79

We’re talking “big picture” here. One day the stock market is sitting at 13,000, or so (DJA). A month or two later, it is parked solidly at around 8,000. So far, for most of us, we’re only talking numbers.

The first term, 13,000, implied that -- somehow -- the stock that people, retirement accounts, pensions and the like, owned, was worth a certain number of dollars. Granted, those of us watching television really didn’t know much more than that. The second term, 8,000, implied about the same thing, except by then the stock being owned by all these folks was only worth about two thirds of what it was, apparently, worth when the number was 13,000. Experts say that this difference in dollars is around $7 trillion.

All of that suggests that the old people (DJA = 13,000 = "old people") had less money, and that someone new (DJA = 8,000 = "new people") had more money. $7 trillion dollars worth of "new" money for the "new people." After all, even those of us who watch television know that money doesn't simply "vanish into thin air!"

Hold on for a minute. There are a couple of rather “sketchy” presumptions floating around by this time that need to be added to the mix. Presumptions floating around very suspiciously and very conveniently. In fact, floating alarmingly close to the impossible "vanish into thin air" idea.

The first suspicious and convenient presumption is that this stock market “value collapse” just “happened.” Yup. There were plenty of “reasons” floated, but as time went along and the number got worse, even they seemed to change. The first “reasons,” we were told, were actually caused by complicated things done by the next, unanticipated “reasons.” Suddenly, we were shocked -- again -- when we were told that the second bunch of “reasons” weren’t the “actual reasons” at all! The second bunch was, shockingly, caused by a third bunch of “reasons.” And so on.

As to the “just happened” part, we were told that all this, well, “just happened.” Like a sudden thunderstorm in the afternoon of a day that started out clear. You know. “Just happened.”

The second suspicious and convenient presumption is that all the “lost” money is, well, simply “lost.” That means that no one has it. It is lost, and, of course, it cannot never be “found.” “Lost” actually means more than stolen or misplaced. “Lost” means totally, eternally, inexplicably gone.

Hence, the physics breakthrough.

The Republicans and their ultra-intellectual friends (cronies) have successfully discovered new physics which made it possible for them to transport the “lost” money out of this universe!

Probably to “another universe” where no U.S. taxes are collected and where there is no extradition treaty. You know, “another universe” like Halliburton's new home or some place like that! Some other universe that is, well, shall we say, "off shore."

A recap:

Just like the unexpected "thunderstorm" in the afternoon of a day with a clear morning, the “reasons” that the stock market “value collapse” “just happened” is because the “lost” money just "vanished into thin air" when it was sent to “another universe” which is "off shore" where it can never be "found" and where there are no U.S. taxes collected and no extradition agreements.

That’s pretty darned easy for a physics lesson, isn’t it?

For a fairly orthodox review of the economic crisis, three links are suggested. This first is Alan Greenspan's interesting chat from mid 2008:
the second is George Soros' explanation about how to save the world, January 2009:
and the third is a little background on Soros. He is a businessman who actually got ready for what "just happened" without any "warning:"

Friday, January 30, 2009

Savoring This Moment in Our Main Street Economy

Even in terrible economic times, personal memories are still quite affordable. Let's have a few. 78

I enjoyed an unusual conversation about the economy this afternoon at the coffee shop. Although the man with whom I was speaking was a stranger to me, it was fairly clear that he and I shared roughly the same economic status income-wise.

His premise was that the economic troubles our country faces are primarily going to impact citizens at a substantially higher economic position than he or I presently have. His argument, in so many words, was that the nation’s economic troubles would not really ever reach us in a day-to-day reality changing way.

That interesting proposition caused me to add an additional thought to the model. That thought? How aware of “it’s ability to reach us at this level” would the average citizen -- in this case my acquaintance and myself --actually be? In our world our economic destinies certainly ascend and descend all the time. If the impact we were discussing were gradual enough, perhaps no one in our crowd would even notice.

Consequently, I decided that a sort of unofficial “landmark” might prove beneficial. Maybe all the visitors to the meanmesa blog spot might take just a moment to set a benchmark in their own memory about exactly how things really were in January, 2009.

Hence, indulge me to quickly answer a few questions which might reveal, later, the changes in our personal economies between now and then.

This is a personal poll. That means that there is no link, nothing to write and no e-mail or phone call to make. These are simply a few questions to be answered by oneself and, perhaps, tucked away in one’s memory for later.

1. Where did I go today? How did I get there? Why did I decide to go there? Did I really need to go there?

2. What’s in my refrigerator? How many cans of different things are on that shelf? How long could I go without visiting the grocery store if I absolutely had to eat what I already have? How much did I spend on groceries the last few times I went?

3. How old are the shoes I’m wearing? How long could I go without having to buy more shoes? Another winter coat? Socks? When was the last time I repaired some clothes with a needle and thread because they were worn out?

4. Do I know how to grow a vegetable garden? Would I ever do that for food rather than as a hobby? Do I know how to "home can" fresh grocery store bargains or extra good crops from the garden?

5. How much are my monthly bills (not including mortgages, but possibly my car...)? Have I thought about trying harder to keep the lights turned off when not in use, keeping the house heat off except for a few hours a day? Have I thought recently about whether or not my gas and electric bill was getting too high? Have I considered getting along with a cheaper cable package?

6. How many times have I eaten out in the last couple of months? Have I thought about a way to avoid that, work on a less expensive approach such as packing lunch?

7. Have I considered lowering my “sin” expenditures on cigarettes, liquor (yeah, add pot...) by being more conscious of my consumption?

8. Have I recently thought about moving to a different apartment so I wouldn’t be traveling so far to get to work or other frequent destinations? Have I reconsidered how much bicycle riding I could do to avoid car expenses?

9. Have I started shopping more aggressively to find lower prices on everything I buy? Have smaller savings justified extra effort to add another store to my usual list?

10. Do I have close friends I would try to help if they were hungry? Would they try to help me for the same reason?

Add your own questions if some occur to you that were missed in this list.

The media is constantly talking about trillions of dollars, arcane economic things such as the “M1” money supply and “securitized mortgage packages.” If our problem is solved while these are the most central and worrisome questions it holds for us, we should probably feel grateful. On the other hand, five years from now the questions on the list, posted here in 2009, might foster the very memories we will be using for comparison when we speak of the “good old days.”

OOPS. Maybe two years from now.

Believe it or not, the Wiki has a darn good overview of the economic crisis (without wasting much time on finger pointing). This web entry links to several others, if the first one doesn't get it done.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In Memoriam: The Republicans

A glimpse from the MeanMesa "Future History" Series:

House Tea Bags in all their glory.  ca: 2011
Tea Bag base voters in all their glory.  ca: 2011
Republican Party becomes regional, rural.  ca: 2011

An excerpt from the Condensed History of the World, 413th edition, “Glossary of Contemporary Terms and Titles Throughout History.” Date of original publication 2954, [P.O.E.]. Date of 413th edition 3418, [P.O.E.].

Republican Party (Republican, -s [proper n.]; Republican [proper adj.], republican [common adj.])

The term Republican or republican was used intermittently as a title [“brand”] for a variety of political parties and other less well defined bodies of political philosophy throughout classical times [“ancient Greek, Roman, etc.”] to roughly the first years P.O.E. [Post Obama Emergence]. The self-imposed extinction of the last modern form of “Republican Party” [see: “GOP”] in the final days of the American Imperium [2,000 - 2,008 C.E. {“Common Era”}] is widely considered a formative factor in shaping modern civilization.

One contemporary account: (circa 2009, C.E.) "It was amazing and unexpected. Every Republican in the House simply surrendered at once. Clearly, the aging party leadership had imposed its will in favor of one last, symbolic gesture as a monument to the purity of the party's dedication to old style obstructionism. Although many at the time considered the action to be no more than 'sour grapes' at a spending bill moving through its legislative process too fast for traditional Republican looting, the unanimous self-destruction of the Party itself caught everyone by surprise. True to the end, Republicans still willing to speak publicly, continued to promote the Party's ancient mantra: "The entire purpose of the creation of the human race is to cut taxes."

Many historical observers, writing at the time, consider the Republican Party’s [GOP] attempt at the obstruction of the initial Obama economic rescue plan the most idealistic case of voluntary self-dissolution of any political entity, an estimate made especially pungent by the Republican Party’s remarkable domination of all power systems only one or two years prior. The self-sacrificing bravery of those ancient Republicans [GOP] to take such a historically unlikely action attests to strong nationalistic patriotism, long a hallmark claimed by the group.

The event set a precedent followed by many similar political entities in the years since. Numerous “old style” dictators, theocracies and war lords, seeing the historic similarity of their various failed positions of violently imposed autocracy to the last Republicans, followed the example of the Republican Party's [GOP] self-dissolution to peacefully end their periods of control. Although condemned as ruthlessly opportunistic and corrupt at the time of its final dissolution, contemporary criticism of the Republican Party [GOP] has faded in favor of recognition of the new model of social order implied by this remarkable action of peaceful, voluntary self-extinction.

The term “Republican Solution” is now widely used to suggest to troubled autocracies around the globe that it is “Time to go quietly into the night.” Although widely hated at the time of its voluntary self-destruction, the modern evaluation of the ancient Republican Party's honorable embrace of its terminal destiny has rehabilitated the reputation of the name in modern times.

For a more contemporary account of the historic House vote:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gee, mom, did God make Banks?

Everything that is "extra, extra complicated" really is "extra, extra complicated."
How to selectively avoid understanding almost anything.73

Oh darn. That $300 Billion bail out was supposed to help get credit started back up again, whatever that means. (For the numerically challenged, 300 billion is 300,000,000,000.) Gosh, we put the money into the “thing” at just the right places, but there are still all sorts of folks who can’t borrow anything. Nothing. Certainly not enough to keep business going and jobs in place.

Well, most of the most important people who could have signed off on those bail out checks, have. They are okay. They have enough money to last them through the disaster the rest of the country is facing. After what’s left straggles back to its feet, they can start the “trickle down.” Again.

“Trickle down” means that their banks will finally start loaning the money businesses need to keep going. Just before these "trickle down" folks start “trickling down,” most businesses will be in a failure state. They will be on their last legs. or, perhaps, on their backs. You know, “for sale” at a really cheap price. If the neo-con wet dream has come true by this point, it will be a shopping extravaganza if you have any money.

Gosh darn it, no one seems to have any money, though. Wait! There’s still the “trickle down” folks wandering around with what’s left of their $300,000,000,000! After all, they certainly haven’t lent much of it to anyone. Maybe, out of the goodness of their hearts and their great love of our country, they might be inclined to take a risk here and there, buy a few American businesses at bargain basement prices, and try to start the economy again.

That would be something new. Once again, they would wind up owning everything, strangling the rest of us not by “innovation,” “invention” or “competition,” but by good old fashioned business sense, funded with the tax dollars they took from us back in 2008. This next chapter of the “American Dream” just happened to have fallen into their laps by extraordinary good fortune!

They will have solved the labor problem, too. Labor problem? That means excessive wages and benefits will have been curtailed just in time for prosperity! The American worker's race to the bottom will be well under way by this time. No business means no jobs. No jobs means extra, extra low wages and plenty of desperate workers ready to gobble up any job (and any wage) they can get. It will be paradise! You know, just like "the good old days."

Captains of Industry. Maybe Dick Cheney will feel well enough to be President for a while. You know, well enough to “git ‘er did!”

Solution-wise this travesty makes the black hole of Calcutta look like a Sunday school social. Turn on your television. The man in the suit will explain everything. There is no solution. We just have to pump as much money as possible into these banks and then patiently wait and see if they start making loans again. Sort of like pushing a lobster through a key hole. It might work....

The reason it is all so complicated is because we just have to wait for these frightened bankers to get themselves into a little better frame of mind. They must be reassured. Right now, they are so freaked out with the prospect of being poor, they won’t even loan money to each other! The television man will provide you with 97 reasons why that is the case and another 231 reasons why this insanity is the only chance we have to get the lobster through the key hole.

Well, there is another solution.

A surprisingly American solution.

Here’s the plan. Split off a few billion of the bailout money and convert it to cash. (Bushie’s old Iraqi viceroy knows how to do this. And how! He was tossing around pallet loads of bundled U.S. hundreds to everyone who would stand still!)

Next, buy two or three thousand used Winnebagos. It’s okay. Gas is cheap right now, and we’ll be done with them before the price can get back to $4/gallon. Put a cot and a coffee maker in each one. Pack the back half of each Winnebago with cash.

Hire ten thousand bankers. There are plenty of unemployed bankers running around loose right now. Loan officers would be good.

Divide the bankers into three groups. Make them all Federal employees. The first group will go in the Winnebagos to make loans. The second group will be in charge of bookkeeping. The third group will be in charge of catching bankers from the first two groups when they cheat.

Next, park the Winnebagos in every city where the banks have not started loaning money, put out a sign, open the door and start making loans. I have to suspect that business will be good.

Pretty soon all those frightened bankers will get over their fright. Oh, whatever. In any event, they might stop buying each other, paying stock dividends and huge executive bonuses with our bail out money and start making loans again.

Total cost? $30 billion ought to get things rolling right along. Bailout money going to banks ($300 billion) hasn’t done much yet. Bailout money to businesses who need it and qualify might accomplish quite a bit.

God, is this ever complicated.

For a quick review of the journey of bail out money so far:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What will replace the “media?”

A study in over reaction? Sure, unless you like be lied to. 75

All kinds of things are showing up in the light of day. Stinky old secrets that were paying good wages only a few months ago seem to be shamelessly, well, exposing themselves in public places. These media giants, once the envy of the world, have become trailer trash so obnoxious that not even their truth masters can get the lip stick back on them.

Staggering about with vague credentialism from the the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the “Big Five” media corporations have, probably, terminally “soiled” themselves. The news manipulation so brazenly crafted by these opportunistic corporations is now growing more damagingly obvious every day. The dark creatures who had guided and protected these deceit peddlers have, judiciously, withdrawn from the new light. Like comatose patients awaking after a long sleep, even the most credulous viewers are growing suspicious of a massive public deception. Suspicious, and a little embarrassed.

By “credulous” we mean “automatic.” Automatic viewers are those who spend no time with alternate sources of news and are unaware of the tide of voices warning the public about what’s gone on. For years these stalwart media fans could be counted on to fill the roster of the millions of users these media conglomerates exploited so profitably. Regardless of the clear disconnection between even the reporting offered to viewers on one day and contradictory reporting on the same story a few days later, these automatic viewers had been artfully coaxed into, well, habits.

That habit was to park the car, pour a drink and relax with the news, then discuss it as if it were fact the next day at the water cooler. The factual nature of what had been reported as fact was reinforced by others in the conversation who had seen an almost remarkably similar story on another network. In the absence of any reporting done outside the editorial control of these media monsters, things meshed. Stories supported each other. There might have been an occasional debate about what appeared to be the substance of these stories, but never a debate about the credibility of them.

After all, every newsworthy network always agreed on all the newsworthy facts.

Precisely what media monsters do we mean?

Easy. CNN (AOL Time Warner), NBC (General Electric), Fox (News Corp.), CBS (Viacom) and ABC (Walt Disney). Of course there are many more, but these are the specific corporations presently enjoying the great masses of viewers, followers, acceptors, addicts, subjects, you know, believers. This handful of companies represents only the mountain tops. For example, CBS owns 37 television broadcasters, 47 radio broadcasters and more than 20 publishing houses. Between all of these organizations we see a dismal presence in every major media market in the country.

Major media market? Of course. That’s where they were convinced the treasure rested.

The treasure? Narcotized addicts, lockstep volunteers for their toxic hypnosis. Why, the zombies could vote, send their sons to any war made necessary, and, most important, elect without question.

So what’s the crime? Think about it. Some years ago we received First Amendment reporting that Sadam Hussein had poison gas, bacteriological weapons and delivery systems. Think about it. You received that reporting, didn’t you? Try to remember.

It was, of course, false. We could care about its source, but for right now, let’s consider whether or not broadcasting known falsehoods is consistent with First Amendment protected Freedom of Speech. By the way, that broadcast propagates itself through airwaves owned by the recipients of the lies.

That would be us. We’ve been gang raped.

Keep thinking. Was there a retraction? Was there a correction? Was there more later? Any in depth reporting as to the exact story of how this got broadcast to us? Who benefitted? Why it was done? Keep thinking. Try to remember.

What about 911? Keep thinking. Who knows if there was a conspiracy -- probably no one in my acquaintance knows. Who is interested in whether or not there was a conspiracy? Just about everyone I know. Try to remember. What news organization spent so much as a second on this story after its fabrication had delivered the public opinion to start the war? Was there a retraction? A clarification? An explanation? Were there any questions asked and answered? Try to remember. Did we get our First Amendment Free Speech’s money worth from the free press broadcasting over our air waves? Try to remember.

Was there some innocent reason we’ve never seen coffins returning from Iraq? Was it just an oversight? Perhaps, never -- never once -- newsworthy? Try to remember. Try to understand. Never newsworthy?

Is it a coincidence that every neo-con knuckle dragger on Fox came up with the identical talking points day after day? Maybe it was simply a sign of very thoughtful selection of newsworthy topics. Maybe some blogger left his group address enabled. Try to understand.

Was Reverend Wright so newsworthy that his ranting somehow deserved millions or billions of dollars worth of free press news treatment? Did so many Americans worry whether or not Obama was a Muslim that the question had to be resurrected day after day? Did a same or similar calamity befall all the candidates equally? Try to remember. Was there a retraction? A correction? An explanation? Think about it.

Let’s pause for a moment. All these companies has every right to maintain and promote an editorial policy and make editorial comments, all well protected by the free press clause in the First Amendment. Because they are profiting from their control of our air waves, it might not be out of line for us to require them to identify these editorial comments of theirs in a way which would prevent them from being promoted as news or fact. That would be something like “public interest.”

Further, can we countenance outright incompetence in this news reporting process? Sure. Everyone can make a mistake. But what else might we expect? A correction? Try to remember. Were there corrections? Even more important, would corrections have had anything to do with “public interest?” Does accuracy have any place in the First Amendment’s protection of a free press? Even when the lie is covered with American blood and treasure? You know, accuracy? Fact?

The worst transgression of all, and exactly the one which should push all these parasites out of business and into the dustbin of neo-con failures is the 5% lie, the innuendo, the uncorrected minor mistake. Now we will see that what these giants have been reporting to us, every word and utterance of it, has been carefully toxified by their ownership to produce just the “automatic” reception they wanted. The reception they needed. To keep their vampire scheme well oiled.

This contamination is not manifest in flaming, outrageous lies. It is carefully presented with omissions. Ever hear a story about why Al Quaeda wanted to hurt us? Wait. The “they hate our freedom” thing is no more than odorous rubbish. Not newsworthy? Doesn’t exist? Try to remember.

How about stories explaining why the Palestinians are attacking Israel? Try to remember. Are they just crazy or is there actually some kind of reason? We wouldn’t know. Why would anyone want that one sided war to happen? Is it First Amendment Free Speech? Is it “fair and balanced?” Is the reporting we get complete? Try to remember. Maybe there just isn’t any reason that’s newsworthy? Try to remember. Take a moment. Do you really understand anything about what’s happening in Gaza? Does anything in the story we got make sense?

This posting gives examples which are present in our immediate thoughts. There are thousands more. Just when our democracy was in the most threatened moment in its history, our view went blank. The pablum oozing from our television screens was an insidious, yeah, you got it, conspiracy. Everything we received from our First Amendment Free Press, everything being broadcast over the public airwaves in the “public interest,” had been tilted just enough.

Now they've already started in on our new President.

As an informed public, we have no idea what is going on. Somebody thought that was a good preparation for selling us all sorts of stupid, destructive half truth. They delivered their media torpedo of deception and lies. We bought it. When the main players began the looting, the manipulation, the fear mongering and the lies, they assumed that we were entirely prepared to do our part.

Our part? To believe.

Pissed? Try to remember. They are counting on you to not be able to remember. They tell you that your memory fades in a few days. In fact, they tell you that over and over -- sort of like “they hate our freedom” and “cut and run” and “appeasers” and “stay the course.”

God. What were we thinking?

Anyone else in favor of dumping this “free press” of ours before it destroys us? Oh my. What could replace it?

How about a free press?

An educated electorate needs to know what’s happening in the world. You know. What’s really happening. Both sides. Bad news. Questions. Answers.

Yeah, that stuff.

For an interesting self-test concerning media objectivity (you own view...), try:

and an interesting, short visit to Al Gore's book:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Revisiting Unthinkable Presumptions

A Glimpse at Re-Birth Instead of Melt-Down

Are we “man-enough” to turn around and walk away? 74

George Bush (GWB) (Oh hell, why not both of them...?) has always done his very best “work” when he paints his pitch with the direst urgency. Texas style, hair on fire, save America urgency. Recalling what may be the most calamitous deceptions he has “sold” to the American public, we are impressed with the sinister alacrity always present.

A breathless pharmaceutical bill passed a 3 AM half by exhausted, threatened senators and half by others wildly drunk on avarice, a panicked Patriot Act recklessly perched on choreographed “facts,” an emergency $300 billion dollar Christmas present to an unnamed “black hole” filled with “special bankers,” the only ones who could be trusted to save the country from “special bankers” who had just finished looting it -- all these are but a few of the more public outrages.

“Gee whiz, they all seemed to make sense for a little while!” Is anyone else getting tired of listening to this endless toothache of, well, emergency emergencies?

Now it’s hangover time. There’s simply nothing to do but have another drink.

We don't even know who got our money. We don't even know what who ever got it, did with it! Sure, we asked, but those in charge told us to "Shut up." They told us we didn't know enough about such things to even ask questions like that one, let alone expect that we could understand the answers. "Just keep paying." "Otherwise, melt down! Whatever we decide that is, it will be lots worse than this!" "Just keep paying."

Sorry, maybe not. What exactly happens if we bravely turn our backs on this whole collection of vipers? What exactly happens if we just lean back, relax and let the whole financial “whatever it actually is” demolish itself? It’s pretty clear that the hardest part of fixing things is finding anyone to trust long enough to do the work.

Maybe these fun loving opportunists need a stake through the heart. Yeah, their movie making machine is running full steam with yet another saga of precisely how awful things would get if we don’t keep paying. Yeah, they’ve managed to recruit some otherwise credible voices to join their well paid choir of impending disaster. The economic charts and graphs are flowing like a river at flood stage, every one of them portraying something akin to a Biblical disaster.

There is even a short hesitation generously injected to attempt to educate us about the difference between “financial” and “economic” disaster. The “financial” disaster is the one to be suffered by our road weary billionaires if the bail out should so much as pause in its progress. You know, billionaires. The people who make campaign contributions because they love our country so much that it hurts.

The “economic” disaster, I suppose, is the one we will be feeling. The story line says that the billionaires must always be considered first. Something like the instructions to the mother on the air line. “Put the oxygen mask on yourself before the baby.” We have been artfully convinced that the billionaires are the ones who will need to keep breathing if the rest of us are going to make it. An interesting coincidence when, not long ago, they were the ones in favor of "drowning the government in a bath tub."

Owning the media, lock, stock and barrel, comes in handy for stuff like that.

Well, if these old banks fall apart, isn’t it the American way to expect new banks to rise up out of the ashes? If the stock brokers take the hit they are always claiming to be ready to take, why not let them take it? If the dottering bigots in the Congress cut loose with their practiced screams about “good Southern ideology” and “American ideals” and “founding fathers” and the like, what happens if we don’t dance?

Wouldn’t honest, hard working Americans recreate the stock market if it turned out to be something we needed? Wouldn’t American voters realize what kind of crooks we had been electing if we saw, first hand, the damage they had inflicted all these years while they were convincing us they were actually doing something else? Something honest? Something American?

Could the United States somehow just dump all this crud and start over? We started from scratch more than once before. The wealth of the country remains. The old owners are such toothless whiners we start to suspect they never really owned everything anyway. We start to suspect that our indebted servitude to them doesn’t actually amount to much more than hot air, the rancid stench of something dead in their over burdened digestive tracts.

These "old owners” have now perfected their endless ranting about the sanctity of capitalism, at least capitalism as they have always promoted it. Leaving them on a street corner with their fancy paper and their shrill voices doesn’t really seem like such a bad idea.

Time for a realization. They aren’t capitalists. These unquestionably elite "Captains of Industry" haven’t “competed” or "invented" for decades. This sacred economy that we are being told that we must save -- for them -- is about as capitalistic as a bunch of over weight oligarchic pigs with trust funds squawking with screams of desperate urgency in a belching contest. They bought all these politicians, judges, media corporations. They dreamed up all the “financial doo dads" that they lost their shirts selling to each other.

So? Let’s honor our traditional ideas about “private property” and let these clowns keep all these expensive folks they’ve bought. We can elect new politicians. If it turns out that we need to, we can create a new stock market based on capital that actually exists. We’ve already started the replacement of their crooked, worthless media machines. (You’re reading this blog right now! Ain’t it great? No newsprint!)

Oh gee. What about all those honest foreigners who lent us all that money? They shouldn’t have to take a bath just because they tried to help us out with a few trillion. They only had our best interests at heart. They only wanted to take a small, honest advantage of our great capitalist system. Right. None of us has ever even seen anything that money bought! It certainly doesn’t seem to have bought anything for us. We don't even know where in hell it went.

If we walk away, we will be standing there without any hope that these hard working billionaires and their honest, compassionate "foreign friend" billionaires are going to “help” us any longer. We would just have to look after ourselves.

We could start looking after ourselves with whatever is left in the treasury.

I think we could make it.

One of our founders said that democracy needed to be covered with the blood of patriots every decade or so. He was close. Our democracy needs to be covered with the blood of crooks and cheats, their professional liars and their private collection of “bought and paid for" politicians.

Time to clean house, take our lumps and get this thing back on the tracks.

Gosh. Did I tip my hand?

For more insight concerning the"Extra, extra complicated" melt down picture, the following explores the question, "How many different directions can a room full of bankers point their fingers?",0,394443.story

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Kalashnikov Paradox and the Gaza Solution

Enlightened Export of 2nd Amendment Democracy? 72

After being in “school” for half a century, we have learned a great deal about the Kalashnikov automatic rifle. At least we have learned all sorts of technical things. Along with other ambitious colonial powers and decades of rather sordid schemes and other adventures, our own American forces have met this weapon all around the world, and our diplomats have met the unexpectedly determined men and women who carried it.

We certainly haven’t missed many details about the machine itself. What we have missed is the essence of precisely what it meant to be one of those carrying one. The United States has consistently tried to frame the motivation of those we have confronted in our own frame. They were not in our frame of reference at all. Our insistence that these adversaries were, somehow, just like us aside from some ideological differences allowed us to make them incomprehensible.

Portrayed in our press as it ignored this “frame” problem, we simply could not understand these enemies of ours very well at all. It turns out that our awkward mystery had less to do with the Kalashnikovs than with the minds and bodies pulling their triggers. Now, at the start of 2009, we find ourselves, once again, paying an uncomfortably heavy wage for our lack of perception.

Kalashnikov imposed interesting requirements on his design. One was the extreme durability of the weapon. Did he think that “wars of liberation” could never finally succeed? His weapon design was so durable that it almost always remained quite serviceable at the moment when victory finally prevailed in these conflicts. That led to a new, revolutionary government inheriting a population of well armed former insurgents. In these historically dynamic moments, an experienced and well armed revolutionary force of irregulars could turn on the new government as quickly as it had risen up against the previous one.

Our lingering view of war

Thanks largely to the “incomprehensible motivation” of these adversaries mentioned before, we have gradually mutated our most fundamental concepts about war, not to necessarily make them more realistic or accurate, but at least to make them more comfortable, that is, more comfortable than “incomprehensible motivation.”

We have made all these variations within what we call insurgencies, vacuously homogenous. We have formalized, for ourselves, a blanket condemnation of war, devoid of details. We have repeatedly sought what we called “ceasefires,” regardless of the substance of the issues of combat, claiming that our position was “high ground.”

Worst of all, we have wandered into this unusable wasteland with the perspective of a colonial power, a “super power,” although we deny it. Naturally, that approach strands our considerations of the reality of such matters back in the frame problem. Again.

At the moment we are confronted with folks, most carrying, of course, Mr. Kalashnikov’s rifles, in eastern Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and, most recently, in Gaza among other places. If all these conflicts ended tomorrow, another list of other conflicts is already prepared to replace them. In every case our insistence on what we call “negotiations” or our proposals for “disarmament” seem to be strange songs played out in alien notes. When we speak of limiting proliferation of conventional weapons, our song becomes even less interesting.

“Gosh,” we think, “if only we could get them to stop fighting. They just seem to prefer the mayhem of war.”

Three quick visits to the war zones

Consider Darfur. The problem seems to be that only one side of the conflict is doing all the shooting. If you are a refugee woman who needs to gather firewood, you face the prospects of being raped. You are effectively helpless. The bad guys have all the guns (What else? Kalashnikovs, of course), and you’ve seen them in action. You are trapped without any particular protection or alternatives.

Consider Zimbabwe. The government and the army seem intent on wrecking everything. There is no work. There is no food. There is no help allowed. You have seen everyone who has raised his voice disappear. Usually for good. Sure, there’s probably politics involved somewhere, but at the moment it is a problem of food for your family, cholera and desperate, hopeless violence. You are trapped without any particular protection or alternatives.

Consider Gaza. Your home and family know that the “crazies” are in your backyard shooting rockets at Israel. You know that, inevitably, an Israeli jet fighter will come and bomb them. And you. And your house. And your family. Yet, there is nothing you can do. Even if you have a bit of ideological sympathy for the situation, they have all the guns and you’ve seen them in action. You are trapped without any particular protection or alternatives beyond abandoning your house. With your family.

An unlikely proposal

All these unfortunate situations have reached their present grave states based on a firepower problem. The reasonable folks caught up in them have no weapons. The unreasonable folks who seem to be in charge have plenty of weapons.

The solution? Arm everybody, except arm them in a special way.

Of course, pouring modern firepower into these already troubled regions seems outrageously stupid. We know that arming people has a bad habit of coming back at us, especially when we are arming them with our normal ambitions of exploiting them later, when they’ve run off the current crop of bad guys who won't let us exploit them.

We need to consider a different approach to arming them. We need to reinvent the Kalashnikov. We need a new weapon, and it needs to be a “Temporary Rifle.”
Please consider the following design specifications before you quit reading.

1. Temporary: It lasts no longer than one year. It can’t be repaired or refurbished. It can’t be stored away for later. One year is it. Replacement parts won’t help. It can’t be modified to last longer than one year. After that, it’s useless. Perhaps it can only fire two hundred shells before it’s, of course, useless.

2. Durable: It’s tough enough, not for longevity, but for rough delivery. A single rifle and its ammunition needs to be tough enough for an air drop. We won’t be making ambitious little stinky agreements with warlords. We will be arming everyone who can pick up a rifle that has been air dropped. The provision of these weapons will be what diplomats call “unilateral.” No strings attached.

3. Caliber: These rifles use ammunition of such a bizarre caliber that absolutely nothing else will fit or fire in them. If things move in a positive direction, we can drop more ammunition the same way we dropped the rifles. Should we adopt this plan, we can change the ammunition every year or for every conflict. Black market ammunition production won’t look so appealing if the only rifles it will fit are all going to be gone in a year.

4. Range: A 100 yard maximum range should be plenty. Any more, and our rifles suddenly become useful for invasions. That’s not the plan. These are strictly home (and possibly village, possibly neighborhood) defense weapons. No rockets launched in our back yards. No women raped gathering firewood. No “disappearances” at the heavy hands of the police. At least not here and not now.

5. Simple: These rifles have to be easy to use, easy to fire, easy to clean and easy to learn. No one gets any training. Everyone who has one understands the nature of the weapon and its limits. The caliber needs to be small enough for old people, women, and, yes, children to successfully aim and fire.

Is the old frame of reference beginning to slip a little?

If you are that family man in Gaza with the rockets firing from his back yard, and you are armed, you are no longer helpless. Especially if your neighbors have a similar position. If you stop the rockets, you are no longer a civilian. If you don't stop the rockets, you are also no longer a civilian. At least there will be no invasion.

A new picture of strategic success

When all these rifles have done their duty for a year, does it mean that our American businessmen will have complete access to the place where we dropped them? No. The rifles will simply be gone. The results on the ground will be the results accomplished by the people with the rifles.

Hopefully, the people who gathered them up after the air drop have made some progress for themselves, for their situation. Hopefully, the bad guys have mellowed a little once all their old victims started shooting back.

Maybe a popular government is hatching out of the chaos. Maybe the new “man in charge” will remember how quickly his entire population can be armed, for a year, before he starts getting as outrageous as the last government he's replaced.

So, perhaps a good shipment of our new “Temporary Rifles” brings about a “little more war.” Maybe a “little more war” is what was needed all the time, especially when, in this “little more war,” everyone has a gun. At least, everyone has a gun for a year.

Do we have to land troops? Do we have to sit back and bemoan the cruelty that we just can’t stop? Do we have to fire up an endless hot bed of one crazy autocrat murdering the last crazy autocrat? Do we have to attempt “ceasefires” one after another while every opportunist in the play maneuvers for another tidbit, oblivious to the hardship he is imposing on all the people and the rest of the world giggles?

Our 2nd Ammendment has served us well for two hundred years. There have probably been some who would have launched usurpations but abandoned their plans because everyone was armed. Maybe we should share a good idea.

Think about it.

Not up to date with the details of Gaza's conflict? Juan Cole is a fairly good choice:

and a pretty good, "bigger picture" link: