Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Circus of the Bizarre: Irony, Racism & Bedfellows

 No Cake and No Candles at the Big "Irony Party"

MeanMesa is not usually particularly interested in another expedition to breathlessly unveil the ironic.  Typically,  discussions of such matters tend to be a bit smarmy and lifeless, populated with fantastic laments and crushing pessimism, faux "bright shiny objects" interesting only to those already invested in the darkness.

However, destiny itself occasionally breaks the tedious malaise which is the predictable companion of the hours in coffee shops -- always accompanied with the sighs, of course -- which we are prone to spend bemoaning the outrage of the latest crop of these ironies which has beset our otherwise dismally uneventful world.  Now, irony-wise, what had traditionally been rare, tasty figments for our complaints has become "a tide at flood."

Desperation seeds the fields where irony flourishes.

Bedfellows, bedfellows.  (image source)

Bedfellows-wise, the hybrid seeds have sprouted like New Mexico milk weeds after a rainy spring.  Let's look at a few of these unlikely alliances.

1. Catholics and Mormons

 Mere weeks ago, the "men in dresses" were quietly condemning the Mormons as apostates who had dared rewrite the holy book of the Catholic franchise for their own connivance.  Now, as mentioned in a previous MeanMesa post, these same liturgical, Vatican purists find themselves eagerly embracing the very heretical center of their previous outrage and offering themselves as "ground troops" in replacement for the now defunct tea bags. 

When the Mormon opened the door of opportunity for the re-subjugation of women, the modern army of Gustavus Adolphus returned as the carnivorous  scourge of the Bible belt -- and probably, also Pennsylvania and Ohio.

2. Catholics, Mormons and Evangelicals

Likewise, the self-purified arrogance of the evangelicals was just as eagerly set aside for an unholy union with the anti-uterine Catholics.  The "old rugged cross" crowd swallowed their first class reservations to paradise to make an unthinkable alliance with their previously disdained Papist neighbors.  Just as unworkable as welding tin to butter, inspiration married obedience.

And, this newly discovered, pragmatic tolerance of these evangelicals didn't stop there.

The Catholics and the Evangelicals had tasted the "sweet nectar" of Mormon cash when their unlikely alliance had savaged homosexuals in California during the Proposition 8 "election."  This historically unfathomable dalliance,  forged on bloody opportunity, turns out to be a tempting one with enduring attractions.

3. Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals, Republicans and the Bible

Biblical principles of tolerance, hospitality, peace and compassion were obstacles -- narcotic anathema -- to the looting schemes of the GOP's oligarch class.  Unleashing the corporate media on the illiterate base, health care became demonic, minorities were to be feared and hated, Iran was to be bombed and the political concept of "plundering unto Caesar what is Caesar's" became the new golden calf without the Moses.

Every "principle of Jesus" had been systematically dismembered with a craven brutality, elaborately justified at every turn of the screw.  Only the parts which were either painful or economically self-elevating were left in place.

Dig out your old Biblical Concordance and review the table of ancient Israel's ultra militarized "good kings."  After the repulse of the prehistoric savagery subsides a little, investigate exactly why they are considered to be such "good kings."  For these folks, "freedom" means "serfdom instead of outright slavery," not liberty.

4.  Zionist, Wahabist and Christian Super PACs

GOP billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson gave tens or hundreds of millions to any primary candidate who promised to attack the Jewish state's nemesis, Iran, with American blood and treasure. As, one after another, the "ripest" of the most bellicose of the primary possibilities spoiled on the tree, the billionaires quickly changed the "pay to" lines on their "freedom of speech," ROI investment checks.

The Citizen United Super PACs provided a new, invisibly legitimate, host for vast sums of smelly money.  MeanMesa has been watching "doe eyed" for the first glimmer of evidence that Saudi and Kuwaiti dollars are also patiently wending their way through "cleansing intermediaries" to the campaign war chest of the, of course, latest war monger's Super PAC.  Most of the Middle Eastern dictators are shopping for a low cost, bargain basement vengeance on the Persians paid in full by Americans who will be the only ones left with bloody hands -- and even emptier purses.

5. Debt Haters and Debt Creators

After the lawyers at Freedom Works incited dozens of drooling tea bags into a frenzy with "barely legal" assertions about the national debt a couple of years ago, spending cuts and a grotesque, suspiciously targeted, sort of clanky, pointless austerity became all the rage -- enough of a rage to usher an unprecedented clutch of adolescent tea bag crooks, ne'er do wells and opportunists into a House majority.  The modern product of this newly forged power -- for example, the Ryan budget -- is, of course, a predictable "second wave" of an identical debt catastrophe.

Characterized as "marvelous" by the GOPCon Presidential nominee, the Ryan budget would borrow an additional $5 Tn or so to finance more tax cuts for the oligarchs and their corporations.

Sobering up following this "Normandy Landing" of sudden political power, the House tea bags have now robustly demonstrated that they have absolutely no idea about what to do next.  The gaseous tea bag "groundswell" has been relegated to the parks' nearest litter can while the nova-faux Republicans gleefully ban Sharia Law in Oklahoma, name post offices and fiddle while the economy continues to burn.

Feeling even more, quite justifiably, cynical and deceived, the now discarded tea bag horde finds itself in its new resting place under the bus.  The tea bags wanted less debt, but they elected debt creators beyond the scope of anything they had seen in the past.

6. Lovers Infatuated with Simultaneously Larger and Smaller Government

Everyone saw the paradoxical glory of the "Keep Big Government Away From My Medicare" signs at those tea bag "rallies," too.  However, at both the state and federal levels the small government hacks have now trotted out dozens or hundreds of big government programs.

Suspiciously profitable drug testing for food stamp and unemployment recipients, suspiciously Medieval vaginal movies for women seeking reproductive health services, suspiciously ideological contempt indictments for the Attorney General and even suspiciously 1940's style calls to investigate elected "anti-American" actors in the Congress are just a few of the antithetical "low hanging fruits" which are supposed to still be narcotically tempting to the groaning hill billies in the American Legion bar at midnight.

In the educational vacuum of American politics smaller government is implied to mean lower taxes and greater liberty.  The sickening almalgam which has oozed from the ideological purity bunch amounts to little more than an "economy pack" of previously pent up, screwball, illiterate, social vengeance.

WTF?   No, WTU - Willard "The Uniter"
Of course, it's not actually Willard himself.

It turns out that religion, political ideology, favorite economic policies, war or peace are all issues set aside easily for this new political base.  MeanMesa is sure that Willard, in self-aggrandizing, quiet moments, sees himself as the brilliant populist who has managed to hammer all these traditionally antagonistic political interests together into an razor edged sword which will be ushered into the Oval Office on a tide of suddenly discovered political excitement.

Unfortunately, that "razor edged sword" will be more like a cast iron "wind kite" on a calm day if Presidential power is ever added to the mix.  If Willard were in power, all these chaotic voices would immediately commence their respective demands in retributive compensation for a few months of shallow loyalty.

What in the world has put all these players together this way?

If each group had been asked only a few months ago to define the priorities driving them forward, the answers would have spilled all over the table and onto the floor.  Yet, we suddenly see all these "cats and dogs" marching more or less coherently in an unexpectedly organized lock step.  What, exactly, is the glue holding this thing together?

The answer isn't pretty.

In every case the sign on the tent reads the same.  Racism.

At present the influence of the "special interests" controlling the Congress is based on money and avarice.  All that would continue, but, added to the vomitous recipe, would be a staggering gang of "special interests" driven by even less comprehensible priorities.

MeanMesa will see you at the polls in November.

Friday, June 22, 2012

WPA/Marshall Plan Not Allowed

Making Economic Analysis Toxic for Election Year
Just What We Need After "9-9-9"

MeanMesa has watched an intriguing collection of "economists" play down the prospects of infrastructure construction as an engine for US economic recovery.  This blog posted about a PBS NewsHour "interview" with Judy Woodruff, Austen Goolsbee and Martin Feldstein in September, 2011.  (http://www.meanmesa.com/2011/09/newshour-trainwrecking-obamas-jobs.html)

The relevance of that post to this one has everything to do with a comment by Feldstein, the revered spokesman/intellect for the oligarchs.  Further, Feldsteins otherwise drearily predictable comment was repeated last week by the guest on Thom Hartmann's show during an interview with Dr. Ravi Batra -- inescapably a voice from the "other end of the econo-political-commentary spectrum."

Batra, an economics professor at Southern Methodist University, and Feldstein both offered up the same "good reason" not to take the economic recovery potential of infrastructure spending seriously.

By dividing the spending in Obama's Jobs Act by the number of direct new jobs which would be necessary, both of these "geniuses" arrived at a preposterous "cost per job" -- around $1.5 Mn -- and, based on this sophisticated conclusion, both summarily discounted the workability of the proposal to repair infrastructure as a means for economic recovery.

Just as MeanMesa posted then, if the logic employed by these two experts amounted to anything more than "the water left after carrying a leaky bucket all day," they might have had a point.  But, of course, they didn't have a point.  That "bull" loose in their respective "economic China closets" doesn't require lipstick to become delicious rib eye steaks.

In both cases, their $1.5 Mn/job figure would make sense if there were no new highway when the policy was finally completed and retired.  However, there would, indeed, be a new highway!

Batra and Feldstein have both fallen into the [Secondary Model] trap where popularity has become a first priority.  Now, instead of being dull, but honest economists, they are both infatuated with their ambition to be the one "who told you so" or "frightened us the most," a prospective role valued much more than the quieter fame of having formulated serious economic recovery strategies.

(image source)
 "We might consider letting the little people spend some of their tax dollars to repair a road if we need it fixed for our factory.  Not too much, though -- unemployment might go down.  Plus, if we allowed them to spend the money on a road or something, there's just be that much less to loot left over in the General Fund."

 Obama the "Chicago Economist"

MeanMesa isn't impressed by the "incomprehensible complexity" of our problem presented by these expert monetary policy analysts.  Is it possible that the schools which prepared the geniuses taught that passable roads had no value?  Did the lesson include the idea that expenditures such as those for infrastructure maintenance were no more than an awkward aside?  Some troublesome irritant insisted upon by the little people who were actually trying to live in dismal shards of this wretched economy?

If anyone is still wondering, there's more benefit from repairing a road than job creation.  With streets and highways in top notch condition, the delivery trucks for Acme widgets can hand the product to a consumer for less cost.  When traffic flows well, these trips are briefer, fewer trucks are required, fewer pot holes trash suspension systems, less gasoline is used and the system suddenly realizes that Acme Widget's profits have gone up enough to hire more employees for an extra shift on the widget assembly line.

New employees who need groceries and tires.

Obama understands this.  Economic policy performed horribly in the urban places where he was a community organizer.  On the other hand, even the "less than genius" neighborhood observers there knew that more weekly pay checks did more to improve local economic conditions than even the most brilliant and inspired macro-economics model.  More pay checks meant new businesses to meet the DEMAND.  New businesses meant new jobs to meet the DEMAND. 

Macro-economic models seem to have always promised higher profits and less cost for SUPPLY.  We've greased the wheels of every obstacle and cost standing in the way of higher SUPPLY side profits for decades, and the results -- suppression of organized labor, out sourcing jobs, stagnant wages for the middle class and savage income and wealth inequality -- have been outrageously awful. The whole country is like the alcoholic who, although his life is thoroughly shambles, is certain that just adding a little more brandy to his Manhattan holds the solution to his problems.

1.  This isn't rocket science  -- or brain surgery.
2.  Lowering the import duties on buggy whips 
won't help get the rocket off the pad.

(image source)
"We pay plenty for our lobbyists and for those Congressmen and Senators.  Why would we want to leave any scraps on the table? The damned stimulus was as close as we get.  We would never have done that if they hadn't scared the crap out of us."

A Few Reflections on Economic Disaster
Traditional responses are out of reach

On the day of this post, half of Europe is coldly facing the inevitable "next chapter" in the lethal mix born of our recent autocrat's "deregulate everything everywhere forever" scheme.  The out of control mortgage securities gizmos coupled with the predictably narcotic "easy money" frenzy -- both here and in Europe -- have left mountains of debt as far as the eye can see.  Every trader and banker who could finger in more "zeroes" on his ten key became an expert, and no one was watching.

Is this a new, cruel "outrage of unforeseeable destiny?"

Hardly.  And, it turns out, that "hardly" also applies quite nicely to the solution to this serpent.  

Is this where "history's economic secret" comes into play?  Well, sort of, except, of course, the "secret" isn't a secret. 

Yes, international greed has now officially over topped both the material and financial  damage of World War II, leaving tangled infrastructure, starving demand, hideous austerity plans, entire nations in poverty and double digit unemployment in its grisly wake.  Yes, the same looters who drank all the blood are now demanding the very juiciest steaks which they insist can still be found somewhere on the carcass.  Yes, the meatless pots at the soup kitchens are perpetually invisible to them.

You know, what we see around us is basically the state of conditions in post WWII Europe.

History's secret is the Marshall Plan.  The goal, the concept, the outcomes, the mechanism and the necessity are all eerily isomorphic even though Harry S. Truman may be missing.  The Plan attacked the train wreck which remained after the saturation bombing and field wide tank battles on two fronts.  It rebuilt everything possible, and it employed Europeans who had survived the war only to find themselves with empty bellies.

It was NOT a SUPPLY SIDE solution.  It was a DEMAND SIDE solution.

Yes, roads, bridges, schools and fields were being rebuilt, but almost as an aside during the process, DEMAND skyrocketed, and Marshall Plan financed pay checks were driving it.

Rather quickly, a truly terrifying, horrible -- at least for Republicans -- development materialized.  Prosperity.  Further, it didn't take 400 years to repay the cost.  Economic prosperity began to create tax bases, and the thing was fundamentally out of control in short order, at least, certainly in short order compared to the length of the war, plus, the successful reconstruction was not only much more pleasant, but almost universally inspiring and hopeful.

With respect to "boosting economic morale," a few economics dreamers have proposed a modern dose of the old WPA approach. Most of these voices have been either blatant or disguised saboteurs with agendas which included, at some point, maneuvering another looter into the Oval Office.

The working population of this country is quite estranged from the "labor ready" days of FDR.  Most of the Americans who need a job right now can't particularly do anything compared to the capacities of American workers in the 1930's.  They are essentially illiterate and mortally untrained -- if not actually untrainable.  In the "horror of horrors" to not only Republican reactionaries but also to other gentrified racists, the demographic exception to this generality rests with the hopeful minorities among us.

Most of these minorities who haven't fallen under the gang hypnosis know how to do something. Most of them also have the human stamina to actually do whatever it is that they know how to do.  Vast numbers among the desperately unemployed traditional labor force are lacking such abilities, not to mention such stamina.  Worse, when the artificial bubble of easy prosperity finally burst forever, a grotesque, crippling pessimism coated every national spirit like six coats of gray paint.

If it's not going to be easy, it's got to be hopeless.

The World Wide Marshall Plan of 2013

It's been all the rage to focus on the latest manifestation of the Bush Disaster of 2008 as if each was, somehow, detached from the rest.  There have even been brave gambits among the talkers, fleeting, fly-by patinandos, implying that the explosive collapse had causes adjacent to the bloodshed.  All this is false.

The hideous thing started in the Oval Office.  The persuasive cronies of the handicapped Executive lured his power farther and farther away from an even furtive, modest adherence to his oath and closer and closer to an abattoire of greed and frenetic largesse.  When the first spark of administrative cogency was re-installed with the Obama Inauguration, the damage had been done.  Recent reports estimate the unilateral reduction in the wealth of American families to be 40%.

(image source)

"Marshall Plan??!!  Ha!

Maybe someday, but not until we own all the contractors and suppliers."

It hit Wall Street and the banks first.  It hit Europe within weeks as sovereign borrowing rates began their unbridled ascent.  It hit the United States in full tsunami force a year later.  The Bush handed his over extended friends $1 Tn in ready cash backed up with another $14 Tn in loan guarantees to "make whole" the endangered oligarchs who owned his political party.  The Europeans were slow to fire up their printing presses, but they were caught in the terror soon enough.

In the US the printing presses have been steadily busy, applying every advantage of the country's great wealth through stimulus, quantitative easing and other arcane inventions.

This is exactly the point.  The oligarchs have already shuddered adequately with the prospect of "dents" appearing in their money bins.

If we dare consider some concept so expansive as the "planetary economy," the crumbling pillars of what we have now are obvious almost at once.  The work, resources and money which would have been, more rationally, directed at planetary maintenance is now in a few dozen Swiss bank accounts.  Predictably, the rest of the thing is falling apart before our eyes.

The poor old thing we've mindlessly patched together, piece by piece, in an unthinkable jumble of horrendous, careening contradictions is patiently preparing to kill us.  All of us.  Yes, we may -- ourselves -- be the material actors in this extinction, but of course what will really be killing us is our absolute refusal to do anything to retard -- much less, simply stop -- our inevitable demise.

The "main business" of 7 billion erratic homo sapiens for the previous centuries has been the constant insistence on bringing us to this day.  So, since the money presses have already been started, let's get crazy.

No one has dared to confidently present either credentials or insight which might validate the journey MeanMesa can undertake effortlessly right here.

Let's rebuild the world.

Let's rebuild the entire world.

Also, let's make sure that this "rebuild the world" idea is not limited to strictly concrete and steel sorts of items either.  Just as important are the terrifically awful "social cultural practices" which have led us to this current precipice.  These are the "practices" which we have adopted to maneuver ourselves this perilously close to extinction.

In terms of concrete and steel, the new world needs plenty of things.  The coastal cities must be moved inland to avoid flooding from the ocean rises along the coastlines.  Agricultural lands must be re-established in the regions into which the rain is moving.  Global energy generation systems must become sustainable rather than terminally consumptive.   Land which is rapidly becoming too hot for its current level of inhabitation must be abandoned.  Other land which is gradually becoming arable need to be developed to produce food.
Beyond the terms of concrete and steel, the parasitic oligarch class must be forever  and perpetually relegated to the status of the pariahs and sociopaths they are.  The obscene wealth now "trapped" in this dung hill of history must be recovered and applied to saving the world.  The ancient psychopathy which has driven this grotesquely greedy element of society must be addressed squarely and honestly, then energetically discarded.

In written history we have seen, for example, the practice of cannibalism decline from an arcane acceptability to a uniformly rejected horror.  A similar process must transform the acceptability of the old world's greed into a new "something" which can fit into a new world.

Further, the "trash heap" of history must hold more than just the bones of the oligarchs.  Explosive population growth without limit must end.  Abhorrent religions with appetites only for war and domination must be discarded.  For every individual, a profound responsibility to the future good of the species will no longer be unusual,  optional, or even strangely idealistic.

For anyone mindlessly trotting out the hackneyed resistance to these ideas, the message is extremely simple.  Screw you.

The first step is to create humans capable of rising to this challenge.  Step two is to create governments which can be trusted to accomplish what will be needed.  Step three is to access and apply the planetary wealth, a process which must flow effortlessly across borders.  Step four is to then do the very best that we can with a new, planet wide Marshall Plan.

A Few Historical Points

Conquered Germany and devastated Europe could be controlled.  The spending of the Marshall Plan money was not subject to corruption, and -- perhaps even more importantly -- those who were called upon to provide the resources for the Marshall Plan expected and demanded that the money they provided create results. 

Today's corruption is the fundamental badger savaging the picnic.  The underlying problems which explain the Euro's reluctance to move decisively on the debt problems there have everything to do with corruption.  In today's Europe, Greece and Spain are not trusted to spend assistance money any more effectively than they have in the past.  Spain negotiated for a "modified bailout" with austerity imposed domestically.

The corruption problem is the foundation of the Arab Spring.  Even slightly more effective autocracies could have possibly "sailed through" their respective domestic outrages.  It is the "main dinner guest" in countries as disparate as Pakistan and the Peoples Republic.

It would take no longer than five minutes to line up a thousand naysayers to proclaim that every idea in this post is an impossibility.  Ten years ago, this might have been a relatively palatable opinion from such cynics.  However, this is not ten years ago, this is today.

Just about everything that was previously concealed is now illuminated.

Here and now, deep in this self-imposed disaster, we may be looking at the unlikely face of hope.

We must not look away.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Religion's Broken Axle

The Religionist Dream

When MeanMesa uses the term, "religionist," the intention is that it be all inclusive, that is, that it comfortably include all religions.  The "religionist" forsakes a more organic application of human problem solving capacities for an alternative application of mythological concepts while validating such an unlikely effort with precepts of that mythology.  Naturally, when this approach is taken, the application of mythological interpretations to "what's left" of normal reality leads to all sorts of troublesome, paradoxical contradictions.

"What's left" of normal reality?

Having evolved on this world, humans have been "blessed" with a more or less sufficient, "on board" consciousness system which innately promises them a credible prospect for responding to reality.  When humans are confronted with the myriad challenges of life encountered here, their instinctive impulse is to solve such problems, mitigate such disadvantages or make some other necessary redirection in their values so their lives might continue more or less comfortably and casually.

The mythological influence persuades humans to act quite antagonistically to this more normal and more organic way.  The furtive mythological arguments fly through their otherwise fairly rational behavior providing two notable disadvantages. 

First, these challenges, viewed through the very suspicious lens of the mythology, become re-framed into mythological "tests" which leave the "real world" challenges neither comprehended nor met.  Second, what passes as the solutions to these chronically misperceived challenges are not constructed of actual possibilities, but instead, they are fabricated from mythological precepts.

All this would be little more than a stuffy and academic tirade if it could be believably relegated to the status of a mere lecture in a philosophy seminar.  However, it can't.  As this day dawns, we find ourselves "dragged along" with this absurdity.  Willing or not, convinced or not, the application of these religionist "solutions to what ails us" is being eagerly imposed by force.

The process has insinuated itself into our unexamined presumptions about the necessities of our own governance.

This post is not another historical litany of religionist atrocities.  There are already plenty of libraries bulging with such breathless laments.  This post is about the summer of 2012.

A Pretend Bible and a Purloined Constitution

Further, just as this is not the litany of atrocities mentioned above, it is also not the desolate sigh which ushers in the latest revelation of hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy doesn't bother the contemporary religionist because he is illiterate, and it doesn't evoke the hopeless resignation of MeanMesa, either.  How could it?  

If there ever were an esoteric "anchor" for all this mischief, all curiosity is now just as odorous as the vomit of a religionist sot inebriated by the momentary narcotic of overly easy, synthetic piety.

When fairy tales have been sequentially interpreted one thousand times already, who will sacrifice an ounce of serenity when the interpretations -- much less the actions based on them -- fail in consistency?  Perhaps the Wizard of Oz was bald!  Material relevance in the contemporary "hay fest" has grown as fetid as week old communion wine.

However, now we find unwritten, imaginary scripture from an impossible mythology frenetically exhorted by the otherwise uninterested and violently imposed by the instantly willing.  All enforced by a dull -- very dull -- bloody sword of half baked theocracy.  The theocracy being imposed on the Republic has no basis beyond a naked avarice for power.

Illegitimate Religion

How can an institutional franchise become illegitimate?  Hypocrisy and illiteracy perform no service to it, but these "feet of clay" alone cannot soil one specific, deflective apostasy any more than the previous or the subsequent.  Although the idea does not originate with MeanMesa, it can be stated here.

The illegitimacy of religion is revealed by the ambitions, causes and machinations of its proliferation.  If there is legitimacy, it will be seen in the process through which a proselyte hypnotically purges the sense of a lifetime to embrace the impossible.  It is not seen as the product of offering refuge, promising ultimate divine retribution to enemies, the desperate gratitude of proffered food or the empty promise of paradise.

Is there a means to adopt religionist mythology which might color the process as legitimate?  Not really.  Religions in which -- by "holy precept" -- the "faithful" must grow in number are already damned to an inevitable "Earthiness" before the first pew is filled.

The Modern "Holy Bizarre"

A realistic appraisal of religionist saturation into the "hearts and minds" of Americans reveals three, unmistakable "ideative demographics."

The first group is so infatuated with the "specifics" of the religionists' mythological promises that they think of them constantly.   Naturally, a rational attempt to apply such ideas to modern life results in a disturbing frustration.  All the promises infatuate the undeveloped humans, but immediately, the uncertainties which are a necessary part of the franchise follow the blissful hypnosis with a crushing chaos.

The second group maintains the "specifics" of the first absent the glacial torrent of arguments.  Commonly, these identify themselves as "believers" not as "obedient followers."  They revel in differentiating their loosely flowing  background axiomatics from the rigid discipline imposed on the first group.  This second group is attracted to the "feel good" parts while actively denying the troubling remnants of ancient tribal patriarchy and divine judgment.

The third group considers the first two groups to be an unavoidable social anomaly, one which is best left unperturbed in actions or words.  To this third group, encounters with both the "specific" and "non-specific" religionist amounts to the equivalent of being handed a new baby with a full diaper.  They will nod and gracefully accede to the grotesque infant's intelligence, health and good behavior, then return the mess to its mother's arms as quickly as possible.

The first group probably represents around 20% of the active electorate.  The second is much larger, perhaps 40% or 50%.  The third group would represent the remainder, maybe 30% or so.

However, 60% or 70% of the electorate which can potentially be influenced by religionist innuendo or, even more energetically, be occasionally swayed by outright schemes to enforce ideas presented as consistent with ancient tribal law, represent too rich a prize to be tastefully "left alone" by political opportunists.

Of course, the political opportunists most interested in exploiting such a "wind fall" are precisely those with the least appetite for "trumpeting about their record."  For manipulating both the obsessed and the barely caring, the biblical political opportunities are "low hanging fruit."

Forget fifty centuries of screamingly obvious, craven religionist machinations, the "old rugged cross" is effortlessly called back into service.  The precisely repeated, sanguine terror -- the "service" -- it will dutifully provide has not changed an iota since the spring slave burnings in Ur in the annual Sumerian tribute to Enlil.

The "biblical targets" Call To the Righteous

Here, MeanMesa can easily provide a comprehensive list of "biblical" imperatives being forcibly breathed into legal existence as precepts consistent with the tattered old fairy tale -- whether or not, of course, they were ever a part of it.  Yes, gifted with a slightly higher illiteracy than the rest of the country, the Southerners are leading the pack in this head long plunge back to the Dark Ages, but plenty of "public school products" roaming the territory beyond the Mason Dixon Line are also desperately eager, slathering volunteers.

Forget the details, they are "knocking on heaven's door."

Which political favorites have been insinuated into biblical legitimacy?

The prohibition of caring for the sick.

The infatuation with war mongering.

The codified neglect of the poor.

The validity of unequal wealth.

The  dispatching of responsibility for the planet.

The denial of rights to marry for minorities.

The demonization of women seeking abortion.

In each case, the admonition is either contradictory to the biblical source of the religion, antithetical to common teaching or not so much as mentioned at all.  The "sins" which have become so popular have everything to do with the psychology of the bankrupt.  These would never have "seen the light of day" if the Neanderthal impulse of the religionist could not have been incited to vote politically based on them.

Yes, it is grotesque, but the consideration of the absurd in this case remains toothlessly impotent under the threat of castigation for real or imagined transgressions against the religionist franchises.  No one is willing to discuss specific instances for fear of insane reactions from those with the greatest -- worldly -- interests in sustaining the spell.

When the vagaries and details of the piously adopted, fabricated "divisions" between vast, unsubstantiated "articles of faith" which are the lines of demarcation between various flags each franchise proudly bears are added to the chaos already firmly at hand, both unanticipated blood letting and astonishing complicity emerge.

MeanMesa abhors the necessity of protecting fellow citizens from the claws of this church or that one.  The medieval "terror of purity" is now attacking the vaginas of unarmed, powerless women and the choice of partners for homosexuals with no capacity to resist.  Unthinkable coalitions, bizarre in ways which defile history, are casually formed for political ends.

Pentacostal purists embrace an "anti-christ" Mormon amid the frenzy of realizing racist bigotry which can hide under no other name.  The shock troops for this unlikely amalgam are frenzied Catholics selling evangelical fear as they storm across Republican strongholds like hordes of locusts, persecuting women in a style more popular seven centuries ago.

Quiet horror without design.  Khaled's Cellars.  (painting source)

Still, amid the wreckage, they are taken seriously.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hector Balderas - The Good Candidate

Why MeanMesa Voted for Martin Heinrich in the Primary

Heinrich and Balderas were both vying for for the New Mexico Democratic nomination to run for US Senator in the 2012 election.  Both are outstanding Democrats, generally progressive and very popular in the state.

Balderas assembled his credentials as New Mexico State Auditor -- more about that later in this post. 

Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) (image source)

Heinrich moved -- not so gradually -- from being a City Council President in Albuquerque, through an appointment by the Richardson administration to serve as Natural Resources Trustee to an election to the US House of Representatives in 2008.

Although perhaps disconcertingly meek for MeanMesa's profile of a progressive Representative, Heinrich has consistently voted well.  This blog rests now with a comforting suspicion that Martin Heinrich might have both more rarefied progressive blood and more fight in him than we've seen so far.

Heinrich got our vote for most of the reasons one would expect.  First and foremost, if he can find the "bones' to be just a little more aggressive, he can defeat the huge, flatulent, Citizens United cash bubble which will inevitably accompany his Republican opponent, Heather Wilson.  Next, with a little more determination, Heinrich can master the persuasive image of collegiate pensiveness New Mexicans associate with a successful Senator.

New Mexico doesn't need a Republican Senator, and this is exponentially more true if that Republican Senator turns out to be Heather Wilson, a heavily soiled, slight of hand harlot left over from the George W. Bush autocracy.  [This may sound harsh, but it is actually MeanMesa comporting itself with its most carefully measured words in the most personable terms possible.]  A Wilson Senate term would amount to a nightmarish, grotesquely purified, regression back to a retired military version of the "patrona dynasty" of Heather's old school mentor, the now retired Senator Dominici (R-NM).

New Mexico Democrats' Circular Firing Squad

With Heinrich's decision to campaign for US Senator, his old post of US Representative became open.  Had he run for another House term, the odds were very good that he could have won, but the retirement of the state's past Senator, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), left -- again, due largely to the ugly potential of vast Citizens United money -- both an unacceptable vulnerability to the Senate Democratic majority and an irresistible opportunity for Heinrich.

MeanMesa has no "bone to pick" with the three Democrats who cast their names on the primary ballot to replace Heinrich.  However, MeanMesa DOES have a "bone to pick" with the state's Democratic leadership which failed to convince Balderas to target the House seat instead of the Senate seat.

With just the tiniest bit of inspired primary campaigning, Hector Balderas could have handily won the nomination to replace Heinrich in the House.  That primary victory would have positioned a highly electable "battleship" in the Democratic line-up on the November ballot.

Why Balderas Would Have Been So Electable

MeanMesa canvassed during both the 2008 and 2010 elections.  This was a great chance to "talk to the neighbors" about the candidates.  The point here is that, even among these admittedly "low information," lower middle class voters, the common theme of these canvassing conversations centered on the corruption of the Richardson (Bill Richardson, Democratic Governor of New Mexico prior to the election of the current Governor, Susana Martinez, Republican) Administration.

The ineptitude and corruption of the Richardson government has been very energetically publicized by in-state reactionary media -- in many cases, quite deservedly, even if not particularly objectively.  Given the gravely uncertain times these neighbors have experienced in the throes of the Great Republican Recession of 2008, this waste and misdirection became a very material issue politically.  

MeanMesa suspects, given the disastrous results of the 2010 tea bag ascendancy, that a similar back lash occurred in many other places as well.

Now, in the aftermath of 2010, MeanMesa is talking to the neighbors once again in preparation for the 2012 campaign.  The notable "bright spot" encountered repeatedly is the widely held, positive opinion of Hector Balderas' performance as New Mexico State Auditor and his good work in straightening out these often rather egregious, financial gaffes and suspicious peccadilloes.

Hector Balderas - New Mexico State Auditor & Senate Primary Candidate (WIKI)

From the viewpoint of a lower middle class voter in Albuquerque's Northeast Heights, Balderas has the well deserved image of a "White Knight," fighting for state legislative financial discipline and honesty.  Further, these voters know that the role of the US House of Representatives is to hold and execute the nation's "purse strings," that is, the same task on a national level.

The combination of Balderas' record and his House candidacy would have been a "marriage made in heaven."  His record in New Mexico would have fit perfectly with exactly what most voters want most in the next House of Representatives team.

MeanMesa looks forward to campaigning for Hector Balderas just as soon as the state Democratic leadership pulls their heads out of their a**sses and places him as candidate for the right Congressional job in the future.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Syria and Russia

Internationalizing a Smelly Little Dictatorship

There are dictatorships, and then, there are dictatorships.

Huge, geopolitically important dictatorships such as the old USSR or the modern theocracy in Iran certainly host all the trappings of power and influence, sharing these generously with the respective autocrat.  However, smaller minded autocracies such as Iraq or Libya hosted their "premier citizens" somewhat more modestly.  MeanMesa noted after the Iraq invasion that Sadam's "palaces" looked more like seedy, 1960's Holiday Inns, for example.

Syria, under Bashar al-Assad and his equally murderous father, Hafez, lacks that terrifying "verve" that the old Soviets used to be able to bluster and muster.  The country is not particularly endowed with much more than a strategic "sweet spot" with respect to its location, and the al-Assad family have run the place more like a worn out family store with a secret Mafia hide out in the back for decades.

As the initial waves of the Arab Spring began to sweep the country, the current al-Assad immediately reverted to the tried and true approach for which his father was famous.  The elder al-Assad slaughtered 20,000 or so Syrians in Hama in the early 1980's.   No matter how brutal the current reaction may seem, it remains ever so slightly more civilized -- at least based on the death count.

Also, plenty has been said about "out of country" players.  The Russian Federation inherited Syria as a client state from the old Soviets.  Although the Earth of the Middle East had moved under their feet, the Russians have adhered closely to the Soviet model of the client state.

With this post, MeanMesa will attempt to fill in a few of the mysterious parts of the incomprehensible events now taking place in the country.  First, a look at the players.

The Assad Regime's International Map (Image Source/MeanMesa)

 Although the Syrian military -- usually accompanied by mixed gangs of Iranian "street clothes" helpers and Alawite shock troop militias -- seems to have been "spreading the glee" all over the country, a closer look shows that the heaviest violence has been in a concentric ring around the port city of Tartus.  This is not a simple coincidence.

Tribal/political map of Syrian Arab Republic (map source)

We can see the names of the cities and villages where the slaughters have occurred on the map above.  There have certainly been exceptions, but many of the places noted in the news are in the states surrounding the port of Tartus -- Hamah [Hamas], Idlib, Latakia [al-Assad family origin], Hims [Homs] and ancient Aleppo.  Some of this concentrated regional attack may be caused by natural concentrations of religious groups, Sunni and others, who oppose the al-Assad autocracy, but MeanMesa suspects that the proximity to Tartus may offer even more of an explanation.

Adding Russia to the Recipe

Although there is, undoubtedly, plenty of both Arab Spring and government repression to go around in Syria, we see the Syrian government responding most forcefully in these regions.  We may also assume that Bashar al-Assad simply doesn't have enough army to repress the less populated Western states which seem to have been getting more of a "hit and a lick."

We can see from this map recapping the casualties from March 2011 to April 2012 that while certainly not all, but still a large majority of Syrians suffering from the government's attacks have been living in this "ring around Tartus" area.

Locating Syrian casualties. (map source)

The Importance of Tartus begins to emerge from the fog of this back woods dictator.

The alliance between Syria and Russia has amounted mainly to arms sales which are supported by access to the port.  Here we need to review a few things about Russian arms in the region.

In the wars with Israel, Russian armor flowed from Syria in a wave which was intended to crush the IDF and recapture the Golan.  Instead, Israeli armor, principally US M48's successfully routed the Syrians.  A similar tank victory occurred in the Sinai.  The trend continued in Iraq where US M1Abrams faced Russian armor in the desert.  Gadhafi was using primarily Russian arms as he attempted to retain control of Libya.

The Russian Federation has roughly the same eagerness for arms sales as the US.  However, Russian prices are notably lower while Russian claims for effectivity are often calibrated by how well one might expect to do against similar NATO or US equipment.  Long before the problems in Syria, Russian arms merchants had already become wary of direct conflicts where their equipment actually faced the armor they had boasted on being able to defeat.

In Syria the Russian Federation's presence is not limited to armor.  Syria was "fortified" by the old Soviet Union after the "show down" over Damascus.  With the combat arena essentially cleared of Syrian armor, the Israeli IDF began unmistakable field tactics for an assault on the Syrian capitol.  This prompted the 1967 Kruschev call to LBJ:  "You stop them or I will."

No matter the final outcome in Syria, the Russians have an equivalent client in Iran.  We can anticipate the same complications dealing with them there.

Looking at Tartus

Years ago, Israel successfully destroyed a nuclear facility in Sadam's Iraq.  More recently, after the successful Israeli pre-emptive strike on the mysterious nuclear facility in Syria the matter of air defense gained priority.  Again, the Russian arms dealers were prepared to ease Syria's concerns.  Over a period of years, fairly competent Russian anti-aircraft missile batteries were purchased and  installed.  Today, we find the country of Syria with a modest, although aging fleet of Russian interceptor aircraft and a non-proportional air defense.

In terms of naval power, the Syrian dictatorship has essentially followed the Libyan model, emphasizing coastal security over any particular strategic presence in the Mediterranean.  A truly oceanic Syrian navy would find itself immediately competing with a whole collection of superior forces already present.

Still, the Assad regime faced the possibility of an Israeli incursion by sea.  Further, the presentation of an old American fast battleship to shell Lebanon in 1984, directly targeting Syrian troops and gun emplacements near Beirut, frustrated earlier attempts to gain control of Syria's neighbor. [http://www.pierretristam.com/Bobst/library/wf-329.htm]  After this, Syria transformed the plan toward a political/military presence in Lebanon via Hezbollah, gaining a new level of support from the Iranians.

However, these developments were also rapidly becoming a "perfect storm" for Russian intervention in the region.  The Russian ambition was not new, but the new, favorable conditions were.  As is typical for such things, fortress ports such as Tartus didn't grow from strength but from threats.

Assad was delighted to purchase six dozen Yakhont supersonic anti-ship missiles from the Russians, after which, one thing, well, led to another.

A shiny new Yakhont anti-ship missile. (image source)

Russian-made mobile anti-ship missile systems sold to Syria could be used to protect a Russian naval supply and maintenance site near Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus, a Russian arms trade expert said on Monday. 

Russia earlier announced it would honor a 2007 contract on the delivery of several Bastion anti-ship missile systems armed with SS-N-26 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles to Syria, despite U.S. and Israel security concerns.
Syria needs to shield a 600-km stretch of its coastline from potential amphibious assaults.

With all this in place, the Russian Federation and the Assad government find themselves in roughly the same situation that the US and the Bahrain oligarchs found themselves during the Arab Spring there.  A well established and well located US naval presence in Bahrain was suddenly cast into a political situation inconsistent with US foreign policy values.

There was violent rioting and suppression in Bahrain's streets as the majority Shia population began to resist the established Sunni royalty.  While US foreign policy words stood with the protesters, US naval interests stood with the Sunni rulers.

Switching all the players' names, we can see that Syria now faces a similar inconsistency, and the Russians have been dragged into the fray.  Assad cannot tolerate even the possibility that the Syrian uprising might physically reach the Russians at Tartus.  The Russians haven't enjoyed even the smallest choice to decide whether they are willing to deal with a Syrian opposition government or if they simply prefer to stick with Assad no matter what it takes to keep him in control.

Meanwhile, Assad must do absolutely everything to keep the lid on the Syrian Arab Spring.  Syria isn't going anywhere, and the Russians are probably also not going anywhere.  The only "movable part" left in the equation is Bashar al-Assad.

MeanMesa thought long and hard before including this final photograph. 

Geopolitics crashes to the physical level of humanity (photograph - Huffington)

This child, now ready for burial, was running and playing on the streets of Houla before Assad's forces began shelling and murdering.

For more reading, two other MeanMesa posts on the Syrian conflict:
Syria in September - "The Perfect Mousetrap"

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wisconsin Oligarchs: What They Bought - What They Paid

Oligarchs Taste Victory but Discover the Cost

Of course, MeanMesa was disappointed with the results of the Wisconsin recall election, but -- given the enduring, cheery outlook of this little blog -- the next step must be to look for a ray of hope amid the dismal reality.  Yes, Governor Walker's penchant for inspiring further class division seems to be on track for the moment, and, yes, the only slightly less rich oligarchs standing in the "out of state" shadows are smiling broadly, but is there a "silver lining" lurking just below the obvious here?

A "New Owner" of Wisconsin. (image source)

That would be, "is everything as dark as it looks?" or "is there a silver lining" lurking just below the final vote count in the recall election?

When considered in the first blush, the Citizens United advance seems to be unstoppable.  The prospect of the oligarchic ambition of finally decimating the last bones of the Republic during its final descent seems to be an unavoidable horror.  No matter what resistance is raised among those still cognizant of the democracy, the massive wealth and unbridled avarice of the conquerors may not only seem destined to inevitably carry this day -- but every day to follow.

Worse, these early defeats will not be mere startling exceptions in this grisly forecast.  Outrages such as the Wisconsin recall will be seen as little more than "testing the spears" when set next to what will almost certainly follow.

This post has two primary points to make.

"Are the oligarchs prepared to continue to pay this much?"

Not long after the onset of the Civil War the incredibly awful price of the social division which had precipitated it began to become clear.  By the end of the Civil War the horror had become unavoidably manifest.  By then, the blood, pain and death had visited every home in both the North and the South.

However, as we "look for the light," we must consider the price the wealth class has paid for the Wisconsin victory.

Current estimates are that Governor Walker's oligarch cash amounted to between $25 and $30 Mn.  Some estimates ranged as high as $60 Mn.  Right here, we must also note that the brave pro-democracy forces were able to raise around $4 to $6 Mn.  [MeanMesa sent a few bucks to opposition candidate Barret.]

Of course, the oligarch owned media dutifully reported the money side of the contest with "news" conveniently absent any specifics, always implying that,  money-wise, both sides were financed with roughly equal resources.  Also glaringly absent from the "news" stories was any estimate -- or even mention -- of the "ROI" ["return on investment"] the oligarch class was anticipating in return from their cash commitment to the Walker.

But, well, let's look at the numbers.

Slipping painlessly past any difficulties with the presumption that "cash delivers votes," we can consider the admittedly over simplified ratios emerging in such a subjective conclusion.  Further, because the oligarchs, thanks to their wonderfully awful "quality of being," are ruthlessly pragmatic.  In this case, we can assume that this "oligarchic pragmatism" will have no difficulty whatsoever in "bottom-lining" their, uh, campaign contributions.

Because, inebriated in their glee over their new ownership of the State of Wisconsin, they have "slipped the surly bonds" of logical mathematics, they will attribute their "victorious new ownership" in terms of the amount of their "contributions" cast roughshod into an adolescent ratio with the "margin of error" in the vote, or, as they see it, the size of their victory.

$35 Mn = 1.33 Mn votes for the Governor.
$5 Mn = 1.11 Mn votes for the recall

Careening even more recklessly into this overly simplified mode of considering the outcomes, we can do a fast "fly by" of equation subtraction and reach two  "equally unfounded" arguments -- one with respect to what was required to win the election and one which considers what was actually "paid" to sway each strategic element in deciding the contest, that is, for each vote in the election's now famous, "liberty" and "free market" margin.

Each oligarch, sitting impatiently with his gold plated abacus in hand, will calculate the cost of his astonishing good fortune something like this.

1.  $30 Mn delivered the .22 Mn votes in the final differential
2.  $30,000,000/220,000 votes = around $14 per vote

Of course, the billionaires who recently purchased Wisconsin can afford such an expenditure quite comfortably given their expectation of a now, more than ever, exceptionally delirious looting festival once they take possession.  Although $30 Mn may seem to be quite the "pile" to the likes of MeanMesa visitors, the picture's spectacular quality dims considerably when the true scope of things is considered.

Gee, which state shall we buy next?  
Perhaps, I should think of what might be attractive on my charm bracelet.
 (image source)

If you are a billionaire, this means that you have wealth amounting to 1,000 million dollars.  The full purchase price of Wisconsin would amount to only 30 of the 1,000 millions that you have.

However, we now must look even further "down the field"  if we are still interested in what the horizon may look like to our Wisconsin plutocrat.  In 2008 130 Mn votes were cast in the Presidential election, about 70 Mn for Obama and about 60 Mn for John McCain.

Slipping back into our "mathematically pragmatic" calculations, this would leave the margin about around 10 million votes.  If you are an oligarch with the ambition of finally subduing all remaining resistance in the old democracy, this means that you would need to "finance" the shift of a few more than 5 million votes to win the 2012 Presidential election.

130,000,000 voters in a Presidential election/2 candidates
 = 65,000,000 each
$1 Bn on each side directed to winning 65,000,000 votes.
A "winning increment" -- purchased at $14 per vote -- breaks
 the 65,000,000/65,000,000 deadlock, delivering the Presidency.

The 2008 Obama election victory was around 10,000,000 [10 Mn] votes.  If Citizens United cash can "secure" 1/2 of Obama's victory margin, 5 Mn votes, the race becomes a "cash toss up."

So much for democracy.

If the "price per vote" rate in Wisconsin has any merit, this move would require about $14 per vote switched, a paltry $70 Mn.  The amount currently budgeted for this task by the oligarch party is $1 Bn.  This is, theoretically, enough to not just "sway" the 5 million votes you will need to subdue the election, but enough, in fact, to blanket the election very, very richly.

Of course we must remember that the oligarchs will need to over top the Obama spending by this amount.  He plans to have a $1 Bn war chest also.  Still, given the cash which has already "flown into the coop" during the Republican Primary, this is chump change.  If they find themselves positioned to drop a closely targeted $70 or $100 Mn dollars at exactly the right time and place during the general election, they can win.

Second, "Why was it possible?"

The clear mechanism through which the cash was transformed into an election advantage in Wisconsin was the possibility it introduced with media purchases to credibly protect the populist falsehoods presented by the Governor.  He found himself in the awkward position of absolutely needing to misrepresent the common facts of his record while relying on his Citizens United financed media saturation to protect him from the any effective challenge or contradiction.

However, how in the world would something like this ever become a campaign advantage?  Wasn't the Governor ever nervous about his felonius campaign lines being seen through by voters?

Amazingly, the Governor didn't need to be nervous at all.  Perhaps even more interesting, although the media saturation made possible by the Citizens United cash certainly helped, the Governor would have, most likely, not suffered any significant "fact rash" reaction from the 1.33 Mn Wisconsonites who ultimately protected his looting scheme from the recall.

This second part of the post deals precisely with this.

To assist MeanMesa visitors in making the fundamental principle in play right here entirely comfortable, let's meander through a few highly presumptive, electoral "something or other" propositions which have, quite grotesquely, become "mistaken certainties."

The premise:  The more money a candidate has to spend, the more likely it is that he will win an election.

The "something or other" propositions:

1. The more money a candidate has, the better elected officer he will become.

2. If a candidate were not really the best choice all along, his campaign wouldn't have such an immense war chest.

3. If a candidate doesn't have an immense war chest, he is probably a loser.

4. Rich people are rich because they are smart.  Rich people are richer than me because they are smarter than me.  The smart money will always find the best candidate, so I'm going with their choice.

5. If a candidate has a huge war chest, he SHOULD be elected.

These could drabble long until the list reached electoral infinity.  However, boiled down to the bones, the general idea is that the more money a candidate can spend, the more people will vote for him.  He becomes more familiar to them the more they see him and hear him.  When he becomes more familiar, he becomes more trustworthy.  When he says the same -- unexamined -- things more and more frequently, when he becomes trustworthy and when when he becomes credible because he always says the same things, he deserves to be elected.

He becomes a "safe" electoral choice.

America's raging, cultural codependency takes it from there.

This explains exactly what is happening to us and to our democracy.  Voters have thoroughly adopted the idea that the predictably hard work of actually examining a candidate's campaign rhetoric amounts to an unfair responsibility.  This hearty indulgence extends beyond election day.  Once the election is over, voters firmly believe that their job is done.

Everything said and done during the campaign is forgotten.

If this were not to be the case with Governor Walker, the remainder of his tenure in office would be nightmarish.  It won't be.

Please spend a few extra minutes with this MeanMesa article and take a look at this previous posting.

Oh sure, there were a few "rough edges" for the state because of the recall effort, but the "ruffled feathers" should calm down quickly enough, right?

No.  The State of Wisconsin has been shredded, and it will remain shredded for a long time. The Governor carefully crafted a campaign which directly addressed the lowest elements of his base.  It was composed of fear of basically the same shade as the fear of a caveman.  It exploited the jealousy of those who drew pay checks absent the wages and benefits of those who enjoyed the outcome of collective bargaining. 

The Governor's campaign, no doubt well serviced by hate mongers such as Karl Rove and others, divided the State to the maximum possible level, and it was in this brutally divided State where the Governor found the votes he needed.  Of course what remained of Wisconsin after election day was a wreckage of social division and paranoia -- on both sides of the "fight."  What Wisconsin will realize now is that it was manipulated into having a "fight" which, when considered in cooler moments, wasn't actually a fight for anything it particularly wanted.

Wisconsin -- after being groomed into a Republican paradise. (image source)
In the rare moments when physicists describe cosmology in wax poetics, they refer to black holes this way: "They stop time, and they eat light."