Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Genius! Pure Genius!

The Federal agency responsible for guaranteeing corporate pension plans switched from bonds to stocks at the height of the stock market in 2007. Instead of making money, the PBGC has potentially lost several hundred billion dollars just when it needed that money the most. Buying at the height of a stock market is pure folly. Evidently, there was an assumption that the market would keep going up and up, but this agency is like an insurance company so it is supposed to invest conservatively. One couldn't have planned a disaster this well. Social unrest, here we come.

To see what lots of money does to grown men, read the article pointed to by this Calculated Risk post. The ending is rather ominous as well. It might be time to invest in silver or gold.


Monday, March 30, 2009

The Curse of Cassandra

Cassandra was a cursed blind seer whose prophesies always came true. Her warnings were ignored - that was her curse. This is the shooting of the messenger because of the message. Are Paul Krugman, Yves Smith, Martin Wolf, Willem Buiter, and other dissenters the equivalents of Cassandra? Is this phenomenon common because people are in denial? I know I feel like Cassandra sometimes when I try to warn supervisors at work of dangers or issues I see developing.

Another warning from another Cassandra:

Yves Smith and Paul Krugman are writing about this article.

How Russians and their allies deal with former insiders who dissent. What's the difference between Russia and the U.S.? In America, we only assassinate the person's character.


What is Family?

The Biological Perspective
A family is generally two individuals - one male and one female who successfully reproduce and raise the next generation of individuals to continue the existence of a species. It is the smallest unit of a species, and in some cases a society, if the social species is also monogamous.

The Social Perspective
A family is the basic unit of a society of essentially monogamous human couples. In most human societies, wealth confers the advantage of polygamy, one male having multiple wives, or a wife and several concubines. Eighty to eighty-five per cent of human societies are polygamous, but 80% of the marriages in those societies are monogamous because the men can't economically support more than one wife. In the East, it has been estimated that something like 8 out of 100 men have inherited the Y chromosome of Ghengis Khan. There are likely two reasons for this, the first being that the Mongols killed many of the men in the cities and the armies that they conquered. The second reason is that Ghengis Khan had many wives and concubines as war booty. The latter would have given him many sons. In the West, there is such a thing as serial monogamy whereby one man or woman has several spouses over time, but only lives with one at a time. I believe that the correct term should be serial polygamy for men and serial polyandry for women, but serial monogamy sounds more acceptable.

The Spiritual Perspective
One does not choose one's birth, or does one? The Buddhists believe that the soul can choose the family one is to be born into. The three Western religions are silent on this for the most part. If the assumption is made that a "soul" can choose its family, then one's family consists of those individuals that love one another the most. However, this assumption is not likely very valid. Jesus Christ didn't much care for his family. He stated that his disciples were his brothers and his sisters more than his real family who were trying to take him back home. Even the Buddha left his family to seek Enlightenment and start a following of students. So, in a way, a spiritual family may consist of people who are not genetically related, but who are related by a set of ideas, principles, or memes. And, this spiritual family is more socially cohesive than a biological family.

For Christianity, a spiritual family will ultimately encompass the entire human species. For Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, and other related religions and philosophies, spiritual family is not just the human species, but the entire planet's biosphere. Since every living thing is connected to every other living thing in some way, we are all related in the sense that we all carry that spark within us called Life. This can also be seen at the molecular and biochemical levels as well, since all organisms carry essentially DNA and RNA as our genetic material, and we all share a common biochemistry that likely arose from our planet's geochemistry. This oneness of Life is implied, if not accentuated, in Taoism, Buddhism, and other Eastern philosophies and religions. Christianity is like Buddhism and Taoism in this respect, but one generally has to read The Gospel of Thomas to find this teaching.

The Psychological Perspective
The psychological perspective of family depends upon which hemisphere of the brain dominates one's thinking. For those individuals we called "Enlightened", likely their right brain hemisphere is in control. This hemisphere sees people and things in terms of energy. It does not distinguish between the individual and the world around us since energy pervades and suffuses the entire planet. Everything is one. In this sense, a family could be taken to be the entire world, not unlike the spiritual perspectives of some Eastern philosophies and religions.

The majority of people are left brained. This is where the "I", the individual exists. It doesn't really care about the group, but is almost entirely focused on the individual's needs, the "little me" - the selfish me.

The Holistic Perspective
"We are all athiests under the self-delusions." - Barry Longyear

Athiests are free of a lot of religious baggage, but they share with religious believers one thing - their human mind and its beliefs. Whether one believes or does not believe in a deity makes little difference. A belief is just an idea or concept. A belief, idea, or concept that is not backed up by experience or experiential knowledge is essentially empty or hollow. Athiests are correct that there is not an old wrathful man running the Universe. The concept of a God such as that is terribly outdated and pretty much dead. If one defines "God" as some form of (conscious?) energy, like the Tao, then one may be getting closer to what actually exists.

Why does this matter? It matters for the same reason Love matters. People generally seek out each other's company because of mutual approval, respect, and ultimately, love. People will sacrifice their lives for the child, the sibling, the friend or the group. They would not generally sacrifice their lives for the institution, the state, or the nation. Those entities are impersonal and abstract, but one's family and friends are not. If one is religious, "God" is not abstract either, and people will die to protect their "God", though it is far more common for people to kill for their "God". If people adopted the spiritual belief that we are all part of one big human family which is part of a larger family called the planetary biosphere (i.e. natural world), a lot of needless suffering and fighting would evaporate overnight. But likely this will not come to pass until a famine, plague, or other calamity strikes Humanity which will eventually happen if we exterminate enough species through our overharvesting of the forests and oceans. Habitat destruction causes most extinctions, whether the cause is Mankind, asteroid (extraterrestrial), or volcano (terrestrial). The house (family) that wars with itself and others does not stand for long.


Monday, March 23, 2009

The Two Worlds

This weekend was the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Trees that were dormant are producing leaves and photosynthesizing. There are copious amounts of pollen in the air. Animals are mating and raising families to pass on their genetic legacies. The natural world is celebrating Life.

Then we have the human world, that crazy, insane human mindset that may or may not acknowledge the natural world. In the U.S. and maybe elsewhere, people wonder where their savings went, whether the banking system is solvent, and whether the current administration knows what it's doing to solve the financial problem created by the shadow banking system. Judging from Paul Krugman's reaction and others, to Geithner's Plan, the country is still not out of the woods. Indeed, Krugman is beginning to despair. I must admit that I am beginning to despair as well. I expected a smart man such as Obama to have smart advisors who would do the right thing. What we seem to have is an administration that believes the banker's version of events, that there is a crisis of confidence, not a crisis of solvency. However one sees it, the end result is the same - they are throwing money at a problem in order to fix it. The standard fix for insolvent banks is FDIC receivership, and for other institutions, bankruptcy court. But that is not on the table since Lehman failed. So now we see AIG being given money and that money being given to its counterparties such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and big European banks. Why are the taxpayers having to make good on AIG's losses? Why are we paying 100 cents on the dollar as well? Why is the government making paper entities (corporations) whole and sticking the taxpayer with other peoples' and companies' losses? Isn't this the Dennis Moore School of wealth redistribution over and over again with each publicised bailout or plan?

How does one live in a world that values money, when he or she knows that money is just bits of paper that are a convenient fiction? Money is a way to judge the value of a person's work be it a service, a craft, art, or product. As we have seen, some people are paid more than they ever deserved. Is there a way to live without money, besides barter, that is? There's no more free land that I know of. If there is, please let me know. Jesus lived without money. He lived day to day on handouts. From what I can tell, the Buddha did as well. One died homeless and alone, executed by the Romans as an example to others. The other died revered. In the West, we'd likely never see Jesus in our midst, for he would likely be one of the homeless. What would he make of the public saving the wealthy from themselves? Would he say that it is insane? Would he say that it is the brotherly thing to do? There is the mention of giving one's shirt off of one's back to another who needs it, but does that hold for a relatively poorer man giving his shirt to a wealthier one who has everything he needs? What is the correct spiritual course? How do we fix this human world?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dinosaurs Among Us

It seems that birds really are the descendents of dinosaurs. Both had feathers, and some dinosaurs may have lost their feathers later on. The dinosaurs never really went extinct. The smaller ones learned to fly and survived the asteroid impact.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tao Te Ching, Verses 51-52

Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Tao.

The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.

In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.

Another way of looking at it is:

Simplicity is something that our
Fundamental nature inherently
Possesses. If we prepare in
Advance and nurture it within
Ourselves, then wherever we happen to
Be, whether in wealth and high rank,
Or poverty and low status,
In foreign lands, or in difficult
Circumstances, we deal with
Whatever situation we are in
By retaining our simplicity there.
It is not increased when we do great
Deeds or reduced when we are
Dwelling in obscurity.
Wherever we go, we are at peace,
Because we have found simplicity.

- Nie Bao (1487-1563)


Somalis and Autism: Is It a Disease Cluster or Not?

Autism rates in the immigrant Somali population seem to be larger than most other ethnic groups. No one is sure as to the cause. The article insinuates that it might be genetic, but no one knows for sure. The only thing known is that many Somalis in America are affected by autism.


Tao Te Ching, Verse 39

In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creature flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
endlessly renewed.

When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Making Sense of the Economic Meltdown Through the Media

Floyd Norris has an interesting article about mark to market accounting and the banks blaming that rule for their woes. If you aren't reading Yve Smith's Naked Capitalism blog, you should start soonest. She's already blogged about the Jon Stewart interview with Jim Cramer. An interview it wasn't, more like an argument, and Cramer was on the defensive. Cramer did admit that he ran an entertainment show, not a serious financial show. That may change, or not. Likely CNBC is run by the Entertainment Division of NBC.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Bigger Scams

A much bigger scam by CNBC. Are people really that gullible?



After I got home Saturday night from the hospital, I unwittingly parked in a reserved parking spot. This is a new thing that just was instituted around 6-8 months ago or so by the apartment management. Whoever paid for the spot called the towing company on me and had my vehicle towed. One hundred, ninety-eight dollars and 30 cents later, I got my car back. All because I parked in the wrong spot in my own apartment complex! I should turn the other cheek, but I can't help but think of scenarios that would either annoy the tow company, the apartment management, or both. It seems petty for one resident to have another resident's car towed for parking in the "wrong" spot. It would be even more petty for me to seek revenge. If the painted decal on the concrete were easier to see in the dark, this would not have happened. What's next a tax for existing or breathing?


My Friend with the Diseased Colon (Update)

My friend is doing a little better. Hopefully, he will be out of the hospital by the end of the week. His colon is gone. It fell apart like crepe paper when the surgeon removed it spilling gut contents (bacteria) into my friend's abdomen. Twenty liters of water later, the surgeon had rinsed out my friend's abdominal cavity. He looks forward to two more reconstructive surgeries over the next 6-9 months, but at least he's not going to die. The care he receives varies from nurse to nurse. Some nurses are great and others not so great. My guess is that they might not have enough nurses per floor. Also, the IV pumps they have are loud and they beep when flow is obstructed or ends which is almost constantly. It is annoying for both the patient and the nurse. Neither gets a break or rest due to the alarms or the noise of the equipment. Thanks for any prayers to a divinity or berating of same for falling down on the job.


Defense Policy Blog Defaced

Tom Rick's blog was defaced Saturday. I saved the page on my G1 phone. The web site had been repaired by Sunday. Here's a bad photo of it:

Tom Rick's Busty and Bootylicious blog

One can just make out ricks.foreignpolicy.com at the top. The irony is readily apparent. Whoever did it was sending the message that he's a whore since the site was just defaced. If it had really been malicious, they would have left the site intact and inserted code to install a trojan through viewers' browsers. It was obviously a personal attack against Ricks. At least they had decent taste in their hookers.


Monday, March 02, 2009

The Ordeal of a Friend, Struck Down by Colitis

I have a colleague from work who has been ill for three months. He developed ulcerative colitis shortly after returning from a trip to Malaysia. He was on steroids for two months, but his condition worsened and his GI doc told him to go to the ER. My friend found himself in the hospital being fed intravenously and having blood transfusions while being pumped full of more steroids. Two weeks later, they did a biopsy because the steroids weren't working and declared that he had CMV of the GI tract. CMV is the virus that causes mononucleosis. Having CMV of the GI tract is very, very rare, rarer than a lightning strike. One and a half weeks later they put him on a TNF-alpha blocking medicine that is mildly immunosuppressive. He and everyone else thought that he was improving. He actually felt better. But he collapsed in the bathroom on Thursday and the doctors knew something was wrong. They did a CT scan and saw that his colon had microperforations. It was leaking gas and likely contents into his abdomen. The next stage is peritonitis, followed by sepsis, then death. A GI doc came in Friday morning and scared my friend to death. He basically told him that he'd have to have his colon removed or he'd die. There was no sugar coating of the truth, no wonderful bedside manner, just the stark, plain truth. My friend went from believing that he'd be leaving the hospital to being told that he'd have to have his colon removed, or he'd die. Needless to say, this news shattered him psychologically. He's only thirty years old, and he was healthy until now. He has the best surgeon available in the area. They gave him a fourth blood transfusion Saturday to prepare him for surgery. He's also being pumped full of antibiotics to prevent peritonitis. Because of his condition, he'll have to have three surgeries. The first is a total colectomy.and an ileostomy. Three months later, after he has healed, his rectum will be carefully removed and a j-pouch will be created. After another three months of healing, the j-pouch will be connected to his anus and he'll have a fairly normal life. He won't be back to work for at least 8-12 months depending upon how he heals. Pray for my friend, Rich Desai. He goes into surgery at 12:45 P.M. today.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?