Arrogant ain’t in it! Where’s the outrage?

Pardon my Christmas spirit, but these bastards are despicable – DESPICABLE!

I say screw you – go under – but first, give us every damned penny back or go to jail!

I’m talking about those fat-cat jerks on Wall Street that are making the jerks running the car companies and flying their private jets to ask for handouts look like pillars of good sense and common decency.  As the Associated Press reported:

WASHINGTON — It’s something any bank would demand to know before handing out a loan: Where’s the money going? But after receiving billions in aid from U.S. taxpayers, the nation’s largest banks say they can’t track exactly how they’re spending the money or they simply refuse to discuss it.

“We’ve lent some of it. We’ve not lent some of it. We’ve not given any accounting of, ‘Here’s how we’re doing it,'” said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money. “We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to.”

Boy – I was angry yesterday – I’m past angry today. No kidding. I have a life. I enjoy it. And I’ll continue to enjoy it having gotten this off my chest. But any time I see a chance to open my mouth and deny these bastards anything, I’m taking it. Any time I can urge my Congressman and Senators to vote to regulate these people until their nuts are in a vice and being cracked, I’m taking it. They can’t take my money, then throw me a one finger salute as thanks! ANd if their too incompetent to know what they did with the money, then they sure as hell deserve to be out on the street corner selling pencils, and curling up on a park bench at night.

Hey – anyone watch the Giants/Panthers. Wow! One of the best games I saw this year. Loved the ending. Love running like that – brings me back to the days of the Green Bay Packers with their guards pulling out and leading the way for Paul Horning.  You know what – I sense ahuge irony building. The Giants almost beat the Pats at the end f the season – thenbeat them in the SUper Bowl. Bet the Giants meet the Panthers again inthe playoffs – and bet the Big Cats win.

Big cats – yeah – why am I talking about this? Just trying to lower my blood pressure. Get back to Christmas and building my astronomy Web site and taking the puppies for romps in the snow, and . . . Boy they’re lucky most people don’t look at the news at this time of year!

Bah! Humbug! This makes me angry – very angry!

Banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts awarded their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

The rewards came even at banks where poor results last year foretold the economic crisis that sent them to Washington for a government rescue. Some trimmed their executive compensation due to lagging bank performance, but still forked over multimillion-dollar executive pay packages.

Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

So is this still going on after the bailouts? Not entirely clear, but it seems to be. Have any of them ever been asked to give any of it back? Are you kidding. These people aren’t repsonsible for anything they did!

I hate exorbitant pay for ceos. I hate it when they thought it was OK because it was “private” industry. Hey – there’s no such thing. We’re all interconnected, as we’re finding out so painfully. We always have been. Private industry is an illusion. People complain about public employees – and sometimes with good reason – but we need to keep in mind that public employees also pay taxes and most of the money the government spends goes to “private” companies which pay executives ridiculous salaries. Government spends roughly one-third of our tax dollars on public employees.

You say “more power to him” when a baseball player makes a ridiculous salary. I say bullshit! I don’t watch much baseball , but it doesn’t matter. I still pay for that salary.  I pay more for the bread I eat because my bread company thinks it has to advertise on the baseball games on TV. And they dish out more advertising dollars because the base owners contracting with the TV stations pay more to broadcast the games because the players – and owners – make more money.  We kid ourselves with this private vs. public crap. We’re all part of the same economic system – anyone rips off the system and we all end up paying. So whle I don’t drive a Chrysler, the salary of the Chrysler ceo still ha a small, but real impact on me.

Now it was hard to make that case before – but if the public can’t see it now, they’re blind, because your tax dollars are going directly into the overstuffed, obscene lifestyles of the rich and not so famous. Read this AP story and weep. My country club is my back yard.  I drive myself. My private plane has a wing span of 78-inches and I fly it with a radio control box – total cost? $150. Come on folks, why do you tolerate taking your hard-earned dollars and baling out these losers – these people who do nothing when they should do something and do something wrong when they eventually do make a decision. But they’re not losers. They’re stealing our tax dollars and using it to sustain their greedy lifetsyles having already made it more difficult for us to earn money by their incompetence.  Geeeesh! Grrrrrrrr.

No _ I am not complaining about bailouts per se. I understand that the survival of some companies may be critical yo you and I. But that is exactly because the economy is so interconnected. Pribvate business is really  public business. Hell, we’ve been bailing out certain farmers – those supposed rugged individualist types – for deacades. Stop kidding yourselves.

What I’m complaining about is a few, greedy individuals making exorbitant salaries for doing no more than anyone else and not doing it very well. Maybe we tolerate it because we think some day we’ll win  the lottery too – we’ll become the ripper rather thant he ripee. In that case, we’re trapped by our own greed – and pretty stupid to give in to fantasies that have little chance of fulfillment.

There are simple solutions to this. Just place upper limits on earnings. We cna do it with the tax code.  No one earns millions of dollars a year. No one has that much to contribute to society by what they do. And the people who do contribute significantly – people like cops on the beat, teachers in over-crowded classrooms, nurses in short-handed hospitals – don’t get paid for what they contribute while some guy playing games, manipulating paper, makes millions. Am I talking class warfare or communism? Of course not. There is plenty of room for salary differentials and legitmate reasons for them.

Some people work harder, some people work longer, some people require a ton of education before they can begin to earn – and some people simply do things better than others. I  have no objection to reasonable salary differentials. What do you think? Do you know someone who is worth ten of you? Do they do ten times the work? Have ten times the skill? Maybe.  But I don’t think there’s a person on this planet who is worth 400 average, hard-working people – or anything close to it.

Blame the greedy, blame the idiots, blame “The Decider”

Yeah, the buck stops at the top and the self-styled “Decider” had all the wrong ideas at all the wrong times for all the wrong reasons. Here’s how the NYT explains it in a beautiful analysis today:

From his earliest days in office, Mr. Bush paired his belief that Americans do best when they own their own home with his conviction that markets do best when let alone.

He pushed hard to expand homeownership, especially among minorities, an initiative that dovetailed with his ambition to expand the Republican tent — and with the business interests of some of his biggest donors. But his housing policies and hands-off approach to regulation encouraged lax lending standards.

Mr. Bush did foresee the danger posed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage finance giants. The president spent years pushing a recalcitrant Congress to toughen regulation of the companies, but was unwilling to compromise when his former Treasury secretary wanted to cut a deal. And the regulator Mr. Bush chose to oversee them — an old prep school buddy — pronounced the companies sound even as they headed toward insolvency.

bush_homeHow could one affable, good ol’ boy from Texas screw up so many things so quickly? Good question. But he didn’t do it alone. He had a whole host of enablers who elected him to office twice without ever looking at his resume. If they had, they would have seen that what George Bush did as president is exactly what he has done all his life: Time and again he was elevated to a position he didn’t deserve by his father’s influence and money, screwed things up royally, then turned to his father’s buddies – including the bin Laden family – to bail him out. Only difference this time, is we’re the folks doing the bailing!

Hey – let’s look what else Texas has given us – I mean,  how about them Cowboys!? America’s team playing it’s last game in hole-in-the-roof stadium. (Yeah, so god can watch his team!)  Yeah – and in the last quarter they give up  back-to-back touchdown scampers of 77 and 82 yards from scrimmage?

Hey, how about them Lions?! Wonder if the Big Three Idiots fly in to watch their team? Does nothing good come out of Texas these days? Or Detroit? As the NFL teams go, so goes their states? Hmmmm . . . Maybe we need to root harder for the Pats.

See why I seek solace in the night sky, coming back to “reality” only  once in a while to look at a football game? Every time I look at the “real” news, I see something like the preceding. Yeah, I saw a lot of this coming. But there’s little comfort in knowing that the nightmares you had in 2000 were an accurate preview of the country in 2008!

Believe me – I hope that the Miracle Man can perform miracles. But he’s the ultimate version of the kid who is given a barn full of manure for Christmas and immediately grabs shovel and with a smile says – “There must be a pony here somewhere!”

Arghhhhhhh . . . and speaking of shovelling crap, I’m guessing his new chief of staff didn’t emerge from the Chicago sewer system without some of the smelly governor’s slime sticking to him. Damn!

ooops –  I forgot – major mood shift time Merry Christmas . . .

img_77661

I know, I know . . . some folks don't like snow. Sorry. I love it! Gives the world a major do over! Hmmm. . . maybe that's the derivation of "snow job?" Ah what the heck - grin and bear it 😉

BLAGOJEVICH – a criminal we can laugh at, but . . .

Boy is Frank Rich on target this morning! After pointing out what a sick clown Blagojevich is, he brings us back to reality.

What’s really laughable is how bipartisan the Chicago criminals are. Blagojevich is a Democrat and Democrats should take their lumps for his criminal idiocy and hubris. But he campaigned on a “restore honor” policy, much as George Bush did, and both did as much damage to the office they sought as their predecessor – and in the case of Bush, far, far more. But you have to laugh at the absurdity of a Democratic governor being prosecuted for corruption while his predecessor, a Republican, watches the procedings from his jail cell.

The scary note in all this for me is Barach Obama. I love the guy, but if he waded through this cesspool and stayed clean he really does start to look like the Messiah. Walking on water is one thing – walking on crap and staying clean is quite another! But I digress. Back to the basic point of Frank Rich and the entertaining sideshow Blagojevich is providing:

But the entertainment is escapist only up to a point. What went down in the Land of Lincoln is just the reductio ad absurdum of an American era where both entitlement and corruption have been the calling cards of power. Blagojevich’s alleged crimes pale next to the larger scandals of Washington and Wall Street. Yet those who promoted and condoned the twin national catastrophes of reckless war in Iraq and reckless gambling in our markets have largely escaped the accountability that now seems to await the Chicago punk nabbed by the United States attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

Read the rest here.

What’s a blog and why do it ?

Blogs are an evolving medium with no single, simple definition. I see blogs that have evolved into online news magazines, such as TPM and Huffington Post. And I see long-established media giants, such as the New York Times and CNN, evolving towards blogging. Hey, the BBC even uses the mini-blogs called Twitter.

But that’s big-time blogging, all of it. There are thousands upon thousands of other blogs. What are they about? Fortunately, as I mulled this over I stopped myself and went back to something I wrote five years ago. Now five years ago is ancient history in terms of the Web and computers, but I read it and you know what? It’s pretty good. I don’t think I would change a word. So if yo’re curious and you want to know more, I suggest you go here. 😉

Can you say Sarah Palin? Can you say Blagojevich?

I can say Palin – I still am trying to get the hang of Blagojevich. But I can say “hubris.”

What do these two have in common?

Well, they both live in the same fantasy land where they think that reality is what they say it is and they can look “black” in the eye and call it “white.”

Thus the BBC just reported:

The attorney-general of Illinois has told under-fire state Governor Rod Blagojevich to quit or she will take legal action against him.

Lisa Madigan said she could file a suit with the Illinois Supreme Court asking to declare him “unable to serve”.

Mr Blagojevich has been arrested for allegedly trying to “sell” the Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama.

He denies the charges but the perceived abuse of his role has led to calls from Mr Obama and others for him to quit.[My emphasis.]

It’s the last part that gets me! He’s caught red-handed and foul-mouthed seeking to abuse his power for money. It’s on tape. Remember Nixon. Tapes tell a painful truth. Which all reminded me of Sarah Palin having a taped phone interview with reporters after a legislative investigation found her guilty of ethics violations.

Here’s what the legislative report said:

“For the reasons explained in section IV of the report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.11(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. “

And here’s Palin talking to reporters after this came out. (“Meg” is her press secretary in Alaska.)

Palin: Hey, thank you so, Meg. Thank you so much. Thank you also to our local reporters up there in Alaska. Even hearing your names make me feel like I’m right there with you at home. It’s good to get to speak with you. Let me talk a little bit about the Tasergate issue if you guys would let me and, Meg, you want me to just jump right on in there?

Stapleton: Sure Governor, go ahead.

Palin: OK cool.

Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.

The above is not a slip of the tongue – it is actually repeated in slightly different words later in the conference call.

This isn’t a Democrat or Republican thing. It isn’t a liberal vs conservative thing. It’s a super hubris thing. It’s politicians, starting with Bush, who really believe that reality is what they say it is and the public is dumb enough to go along with it.

KISS my magnet – or may the Force be with you!

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid – a great motto, at least for me, for the simpler it gets the more profound it seems to get and the simplest and most profound piece of science I remember from what? Elementary school? Junior High? I’m not sure. Maybe even high school. But it was at least 50 years ago, so while the insignificant details have escaped me, the significant detail remains: Like magic, iron filings dropped on a sheet of paper line up along the lines of force created by a bar magnet placed underneath that paper.

Why do I find this so profound? Because it is action at a distance. Oh sure, you say, the thickness of the paper – not much of a distance. No! Look at how the magnetic force reaches out to left and right several inches beyond the magnet. That’s distance!

And order. Pour iron filings onto a sheet of paper and you have chaos. It looks like this.

random_filings

But place a magnet under that piece of paper, then sprinkle the filings on it and you get something like this. (I like watching this in fullscreen – and meditative – mode. It is not intended ot be a wham-bam-thank-you-mam video. Damn! I want things to slow down long enough for me to engage something other than the skin of my brain.)

Simple. You’ve all seen it, right? Or have you? I’m not sure I saw it as a child. But with each passing year – with growing knowledge – I feel my eyes start to open. What was so understandable – I mean there was a “north” end and a “south” end and of course the filings lined up this way because magnets attract iron, dummy. What’s to know?

Well how? Please tell me what is actually happening here? Why should a magnet attract the filings? What are “north-south”, “positive-negative,” but names we’ve applied to a concept we can observe and predict, but don’t really understand. Naming it doesn’t mean it’s ours. Why should “opposites attract” and “like” repel one another? And what is actually doing the attracting and repelling? I know the rules. I know something about atoms. I know just enough about “how” to predict what will happen. I know how to create an electromagnet. I know about radio waves and light waves and a host of other waves that are part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

And I know nothing at all of what’s really going on here.

I know when I look through my telescope at a distant galaxy that electromagnetic waves – energy – from the stars in that galaxy are somehow pinging my brain. And on a fundamental basis I simply don’t know how. I don’t know what that energy is or how it manages to travel all that distance undiminished. (Oh sure, it spreads out. But a photon – something-or-either we name “photon” – leaves a star at 186,200 miles a second and it continues that way for several million years never losing a step until it vanishes into my body. That’s real contact with the real universe, but certainly way beyond our common-sense experience. )

Modern technology tends to obscure the magic – hide it in black boxes that look complex – and are – when you open them up.

So I make simple black boxes. Crystal radio sets, . Simple, simple, simple devices – a few, easy to understand parts. A long wire put in the air. And when I pick up the headphones, sounds. Intelligent sounds. Well, frequently not intelligent these days. AM radio is overloaded with talk-show idiots, or people selling religion or ronco slaad shooters. But that’s not the point. The point is that all the energy that created that sound in my headphones didn’t come from the magic of an electrical socket. And it didn’t come form the magic of a battery. It was drawn instead out of the air – out of the force fields – the electromagnetic waves created by some distant transmitter.

I understand this stuff – honest. That is, I can build from scratch fairly sophisticated radio receivers and transmitters and have done so of and on since my youth. So what. I don’t really know what I’m doing. I have a collection of rules I follow. Connect the arm bone to the shoulder bone – that sort of thing. I know something of the theory of how it all works – why I create coils and capacitors and how they work together in a tuned circuit to select only certain frequencies out of the babel that surrounds us and goes entirely unnoticed by us.

So i take the black boxes we purchase and call radios and I throw them out. I want something simpler. So I build a crystal set. But it’s still complex. little pictures whiz about my head of all those electrons pouring down the wire, heading for ground, but first spining through my coils, pausing in my capacitors, getting chopped in half by a galium crystal and fed into my headphones were they create elctromagnetics that’s pop a thin metal disc in and out so rapidly that it creates sounds. Geeeeeeesh. That’s too much, still. So I go the Edmund Scientific catalog and find a bar magnet and some iron filings and now I’m really functioning at the KISS level. I love it. I can watch this little video over and over. More importantly, i can do the little experiment again and again. I can meditate with the paper before me.

It’s the way I rig encounters with the profoundly unknown. Yes, i can do the same by looking at a candle -a flower, a pebble, an old arrowhead. It’s just that I find some things more stimulating than others – more likely to awake in me that childish sense of wonder I crave. A magnet, a piece of paper and osme iron filings do that. Don’t get me wrong. I assume it’s all knowable. I certainly think it’s all part of one world – the natural world. I don’t see anything super natural. I just see a natural that’s super 😉