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Denial is a River In Washington DC

[ Comments Off ]Posted on March 1, 2013 by admin in Politics

Friday, March 1st, 2013

When you’re drunk on power, you’re bound to act like an addict. Maybe it’s time for an intervention.

My name is Washington, and I’m powerless in the face of power“. That’s a chorus I’d like to hear, as the message machine in DC and the megaphone of the media collude to try to drill the phrase “fiscal cliff” from our brains with the word “sequester”. Quite comically, if you Google “sequester”, one of the top results is a definition of the verb form, which is “to isolate or hide away someone or something” using the example “the artist sequestered himself in his studio for two years”. While this seems uncannily accurate in the case of Washington’s addict-like behavior (more on that in a moment), verbs represent action, and we have little hope of seeing any of that in Washington. So we’re left with the more obscure definition, a noun that means “A general cut in government spending”. Which also seems grossly inaccurate; there’s nothing “general” about these automatic budget cuts. They’re the very specific result of a total abandonment of responsibility on the part of a bunch of overpaid, underperforming, self-obsessed twits who are supposedly at the driver’s wheel of our country. And that’s the scary part. The paralyzing partisanship in DC means that two hands are on the wheel of a battered vehicle with no forward visibility, flat tires, and low on fuel, and the only thing they can agree upon is that the car should keep moving at all costs. And you and me? We’re like the huge codependent families who – in spite of knowing that our friend is a drunken idiot making absurd claims about another drunken idiot – stand faithfully on one side of the argument or other, pointing fingers. This analogy is not really much of a stretch,  David Ignatius of the Washington Post framed it as a Political DUI, and when I made this general analogy to an addict’s “I’ll quit next week, I promise” behavior, a friend of mine agreed, saying “Basically, our goverment decides it will take antabuse to stop drinking, and then goes ahead and drinks, anyway“. If Washington can’t deal with its addiction and gambling problems, maybe it’s time we did an intervention.

Neuroscientists Can Predict Your Political Views with a Brain Scan

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 18, 2013 by admin in Politics

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Not clear on what your political beliefs are? No need to slice your head open or get an MRI, we have some quick handy quizzes to do the job!

Did you know that a brain scan can predict your political leanings with 83 percent accuracy? A Smithsonian Magazine piece  the other day about research done at the University of Exeter offered some surprising insights into the reflexive responses in the brains of a small set of subjects which demonstrated a correlation between the subjects’ political leanings and their response patterns to various stimuli. In a nutshell, the study suggested that liberals tend to be more willing to accept risk and novelty, and show stronger bonds with broad social connections, while conservatives tend to have more pronounced “fight or flight” responses to risk, and are more stimulated by narrower social connections. See the full article and its embedded links for a more nuanced picture, it’s not quite that simple.

But you don’t have to scan or slice open your brain to figure out what your political leanings are. In an era of politics shaped by the “values vote” political messaging masterminded by Karl Rove and Frank Luntz, a lot of us are not quite as liberal or conservative as we think. Strong sentiments about issues like abortion, war, and gay marriage can manipulate your thinking into a very polarized position, when in fact you may in every other way espouse values of the party you think you detest. But don’t worry, there’s a test to help you sort things out. Actually a bunch of them. With just twenty a/b questions, the Pew Research Political Typology Quiz informed me that I – along with 10% of the population – am a “New Coalition Democrat”. I of course bristle slightly at this; if I have to put myself in one of the current boxes available, I think I’d be a weird hybrid of Green Party and Libertarian. The common red vs blue framework doesn’t really capture the values of someone like me who thinks money itself is an obsolete concept, which renders a lot of other dialog pointless. Anyway, adding a little more nuance, we have the Political Philosophy Quiz, which identified me (with relative accuracy) as a “socially progressive, moderately capitalist, libertarian pacifist”. The On the Issues PartyMatch Quiz assessed me as 55% Democrat, 53% Green Party, and 37% Republican. A little more accurate in some ways, but all of these quizzes highlight one thing, which is that we’re stuck in a gridlocked bipartisan system that doesn’t really represent anyone’s values, except those who are inside the game, or happy to take their marching orders from those who are.

Probably the most useful of these online quizzes for someone like me was the About.com Political Loyalty Quiz, which asked questions like “Which bumper sticker would you be most likely to put on your car?” and offered choices like “At Least In Vietnam, Bush Had An Exit Strategy” or “Nice Hummer. Sorry About Your Penis”. What about you? Do you know where you really stand? Or or are your party convictions really based on single issues?

BP and Exxon Literally Going to War?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 30, 2013 by admin in Politics

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

The French military fighting for uranium mining conglomerates? I guess I don’t care if corporate proxy wars are the next big thing, as long as it means that evil global megacorporations wipe each other out.

I’ll always remember the first time I heard the name “United Fruit”. I was a teen reading (yup, reading) Playboy, and in an interview with Mel Brooks, he made some reference to his bum being blown off in the war, and being replaced with a United Fruit box. This was before the web, so even though the reference perplexed me, I forgot about it until years later, when I was reading about the atrocities committed by corporate America in the interest of keeping the bananas on your breakfast cereal cheap. To this day, I’m rather astounded by the gall of naming a clothing store “Banana Republic”. Yeah, let’s go shopping at that store that’s run by a CIA puppet who’s taking grift from Chiquita and Coca Cola and killing his compatriots to keep the Latin American masses enslaved and the banana split floats affordable at Dairy Queen. I was reminded of all of this recently when I ran across this piece which tells the rather bizarre story of how Exxon and BP seem to be on the verge of being directly at war with each other in Iraq. The story intrigued me, because futurist thinkers for a couple of decades have talked about the Corporate Nation State, and although we see signs of this evolution all around us in America – largely in the form of lobby money and politicians on the corporate grift – this is the first time I’d ever heard of two corporations manipulating two governments that are potential enemies, and driving them toward war. I mean, we’ve all heard of the destabilizing strategies talked about in books like Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and we’ve all heard of proxy wars, but corporate proxy wars? What a crazy idea! But as I poked around a bit to see if there were other conflicts like this elsewhere, I immediately ran across this piece about the Mali resource war, which describes the first ever use of the French military to directly defend the assets of a corporation, in this case the Areva Mining Business Group, which mines Uranium in Mali and elsewhere. This is indeed probably the war of the future. It’s fairly common knowledge that near future wars will likely be over resources like water or oil, but it hadn’t occurred to me personally just who would be fighting them. And it actually makes a perverted and troubling kind of sense that it would be the  corporations that profit from those resources who would wage the wars. Imagine Coke and Pepsi duking it out over sugar resources, or Verizon and AT&T battling for frequency spectra as we keep demanding more and more ways to be wireless and connected. I guess our only real concern right now should be how good the pay is, and whether they’ll call us “employees of the United States” or “citizens of Monsanto”.

Just How Big Would a Trillion Dollar Coin BE, Anyway?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 6, 2013 by admin in Politics

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

The web is buzzing with silly talk of fixing the economy by minting a trillion dollar coin. So just how big would that coin be, if it were made of gold?

Yup. That’s a football field. Details below.

You’ve probably heard about the “Trillion Dollar Coin” by now, and maybe even taken the time to take in the experts’ predictably confident and just as polarized positions on the topic. The fact that the idea is even being discussed seriously is rather telling. Can you imagine the same conversation occurring before the bailouts of 2008? It seems unlikely. And that’s ONE angle on this whole thing that especially intrigues me. As much anger as some of us may have experienced as a result of the bailouts and their aftermath, I for one am thankful for them. Partly because it was probably the only way to avoid a replay of the great depression, but more importantly, because it was probably the first crack in a centuries-old paradigm that has far outlived its usefulness. Talk to someone who has studied economics, and the conversation will rapidly fill up with elaborate terminology that tries to express the incredible complexity of global markets and speculative investment. But as much pride as economists or financial experts may take as they display their head-spinning depth of knowledge on the topic, they are usually overlooking one stark, annoyingly simple fact. At the foundation of it all, their elaborate constructs are all based on a rather simple social contract, i.e.: the tacit agreement on the part of large numbers of people that a piece of paper is worth what someone says it is. It’s tragic that millions of people suffered through a decade of poverty and that perfectly functional factories sat idle after the crash of 1929. And the tragedy was compounded by the fact that it was primarily because pieces of paper had lost their perceived value. That was the magical thing that occurred in 2008; Paulson & Bernanke’s Bailout Bankster Brigade basically “broke capitalism”. That has only peripherally sunk in for people, but every passing day, more people get hip to concepts like fictitious capital, and we live in an era of some of the most innovative thought in human history. About the only thing the archaic entity called a “bank” is good for these days is laundering drug  or war money, and centralizing power. That paradigm is not long for this world, in my opinion.

That’s why I don’t find the blogsplosion about the Trillion Dollar Coin  particularly interesting. As Matt Taibbi, the pop media journalist the Goldman Bankster Gang loves to hate most points out in his most recent piece: “The federal rescue of Wall Street didn’t fix the economy – it created a permanent bailout state based on a Ponzi-like confidence scheme”. A paper version of the Trillion Dollar Coin was created in 2008, and we’ve been gleefully spending imaginary money since long before that, it’s just that the average person doesn’t understand why THEY don’t have any. They’ll eventually figure this out, and that’s when the feces will really hit the fan. So what really intrigued me was this silly question:

What if we still had to back currency with a real-world asset, and we were only allowed to mint this trillion dollar coin out of GOLD?

Here’s the rough result. I explain my admittedly sketchy methods below.

Trillion Dollar Coin

I’m no genius when it comes to volumetric geometry and 3D imaging, so this graphic may be a little off. Feel free to correct me in the comments! I used yesterday’s price of gold, which was $1661 an ounce. Dividing a trillion with that figure, I determined it would take about 181.23 tons of gold, and according to Wolfram Alpha, that would require a cube that’s 65 meters on each side. I tried to approximate the dimensions of a quarter (24.26mm x 1.75mm) to create the cylinder/disc dimensions. That ended up being a disc about 418 meters in diameter and 2 meters thick. The football field isn’t perfectly to scale, but you could obviously fit four football fields end-to-end on a 420 meter disc, so I roughed it in.

John Boehner Tells Harry Reid “Go F— Yourself”

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 2, 2013 by admin in Politics

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Or did he?

A lot of news sources are alleging that John Boehner told Harry Reid to “Go F— Yourself”, right outside the Oval Office. We think it probably played out a little differently.

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