Sunday, February 26, 2012

Congratulations, crisis avoided: Greece

Hurrah!  All is well in the- fuck it just read the articles:  (emphasis added)
The Dow Jones industrial average crossed 13,000 on Tuesday for the first time since before the 2008 financial crisis.
The Dow passed 13,000 about two hours into the trading day.... Its last time above 13,000 during a trading day was May 20, 2008, four months before the Lehman Brothers investment bank went under.
US stocks got help from a long-awaited bailout deal for Greece, aimed at preventing a potentially catastrophic default.....
Just after 11.30am EST, the Dow was up 43 points at 12,993. In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 was up five points at 1,366. The Nasdaq composite index was up 10 points at 2,962.
And also

1. Greece will have to accept non-Greek inspectors in Athens
European monitors, "an enhanced and permanent presence on the ground in Greece" as the statement put it, will move into Athens ministries.
Quick! Into the Rabbit Hole!

The Private-Sector Involvement or debt haircut scheme
As evening moved to night the early hours and then morning,sleep deprivation made the March Hare flutter before Eurogroup members eyes once more. His words shown below suddenly seemed reasonable.
Those investors who did not accept a 21% debt haircut will be keen to accept a 53.5% one!
Of course they will! Meanwhile back in reality I expect plenty of trouble from this. I hope that the new forecasts for Greek public expenditure allowed for expensive legal bills. 
Official debt haircuts
These are noticeable in the main by their absence and I am reminded of the words of George Orwell
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others
And if I may mix my literary allusions the March Hare is back again as the European Central Bank which bought Greek bonds at 80 which are currently worth 20 will share its “profits” with Greece. I kid you not! Does that mean that buying at 20 and selling at 80 creates a loss? Perhaps the March Hare can explain….
Just to be clear the ECB does have income from the coupon or interest-payments on the Greek debt that it holds. However this is far smaller than the capital losses described above and even worse is another “round-tripping” exercise. Greece is receiving bailout money from the Euro zone to help it pay the interest which this part of it is being paid back to the Euro zone representative the ECB. Yes taxpayers do not only subsidise the activities of private-banks these days they also do the same for central banks. 
Whatever the cost you must protect the banks
Estimated bank recapitalization needs have increased . The Blackrock diagnostic exercise, the PSI exercise (including its likely accounting treatment), and refined estimates of resolution costs (as opposed to recapitalization costs) have pointed to higher needs than assumed at the time of the Fifth program review (€50 billion versus €40 billion previously). Recoveries, through the sale of bank equity, are not expected to be materially higher in the medium-term.
You may note the last sentence too.
You are most certainly welcome Greece.  Thanks to the valiant efforts of the EU and EZ and IMF and ECB you have managed to avoid a disorderly default and are on the path to slashing destructive social safety nets.  You may now dream of a future (sometime post-2030) when you will no longer be shackled by your abhorrent public servants and social compacts.  Sleep well knowing that the safety and stability of the banks has been secured.

A Starbucks coffee shop burns, right, as firefighters try to cut open a locked truck to get out the fire hose after protesters took the keys
AAAAHHHH not the Starbucks!  That's the one soulless corporation I like *sadface*

Suddenly I grow concerned for the hoi poloi in Greece .

Congratulations, crisis avoided: Somalia

Hurrah!  All is well in the Horn of Africa.
They expect the oil to flow within weeks. Coming from two miles underground, the crude should reach the arid plains of Puntland in the north-east corner of Somalia by April.
Around the same time, Somali diplomats say an offensive against al-Shabaab militia in the south of the country, backed by US drone strikes, should have damaged the Islamist group's "effective fighting capability".
Meanwhile, the UN plans to impose trade sanctions on the illicit international trade in charcoal, Somalia's "black gold" which not only funds al-Shabaab but also destroys the country's forests and led in part to last year's widespread famine.
The promise of stability coupled with the apparent discovery of oil reserves could help to rebuild this poverty-stricken country. 
Don't know about you, but I'm like totally feeling confident about about this.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Surprisingly not caring about Mass Effect 3

(mini-update: Here's a cheerful preface to all my ranting)
I bought the first Mass Effect twice, on 360 and then on PC.  I bought Mass Effect 2 the day it came out, and then bought all of the add-ons (DLC), even the scandalously overpriced 'alternate appearance packs' which I loved anyways.  I bought Dragon Age (also by Bioware) on launch day, and then bought nearly all of the DLC.

I own other EA games also, sans-DLC.  I own Burnout Paradise, Spore, and Sims 3 plus a slew of older titles.

Then my EA accounts disappeared.  All of them.  They literally stopped existing.  I can't play with any of the DLC I bought for ME2 or Dragon Age, I can't log into the online features in Spore or Burnout Paradise (the only reason I bought those games).  EA and Bioware customer support is a hellish maze of nonsense and frustration that would make Dell proud.

Then Bioware decides to do major day one DLC for ME3.  They did that for ME2 and Dragon Age also, but if you bought the game new you received most of it for free anyways.  Not so this time.  Unless you pay extra for the collector's edition you will have to pay $10 (US) for the extra squad member, squad member outfits, new weapon, and new quest(s).

The ME3 DLC would be aggravating by itself, but all of this together is too much for me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Matt Taibbi sums "It" up perfectly.

I just had one of those trippy moments where I stumble upon an essay that sums up perfectly something I'd been struggling to articulate in a eloquent fashion for quite a while.
No, it was while watching the debates last night that it finally hit me: This is justice. What we have here are chickens coming home to roost. It's as if all of the American public's bad habits and perverse obsessions are all coming back to haunt Republican voters in this race: The lack of attention span, the constant demand for instant gratification, the abject hunger for negativity, the utter lack of backbone or constancy (we change our loyalties at the drop of a hat, all it takes is a clever TV ad): these things are all major factors in the spiraling Republican disaster.
Go read it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We've created a generation of propaganda generators.

After 50 years of a Cold War and a decade of the War On TERROR there is no longer any need for the US government to put any effort into war agitprop.

That's the only way I can make sense of the impending war with Iran.

From the Guardian:
But while in the case of Iraq an attack was launched over weapons of mass destruction that didn't in fact exist, the US isn't even claiming that Iran is attempting to build a bomb. "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No," Panetta said bluntly last month. Israeli intelligence is said to be of the same view. Unlike Israel itself, which has had nuclear weapons for decades, it believes the Iranian leadership has taken no decision to go nuclear. [links removed]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Another thing I agree with Scalia on

This from Joan Walsh, regarding the Catholic Church's freak-out over condoms:

But maybe the best argument on behalf of the Obama administration’s position comes from a very unlikely source, as Jay Bookman points out: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In two different decisions, the conservative Catholic Scalia has sided with the court majority in finding that religious teachings can’t justify religious employers – or employees — failing to comply with labor law. In the 1990 Employment Division v. Smith decision, regarding an employer’s ability to fire a Native American employee who used peyote, despite the employee’s claim that using the drug was a religious rite, Scalia wrote:
“We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition.” In an even more directly relevant 1982 decision holding that Amish employers must comply with Social Security and withholding taxes, though their faith bars participation in government support programs, Scalia wrote:
Respondents urge us to hold, quite simply, that when otherwise prohibitable conduct is accompanied by religious convictions, not only the convictions but the conduct itself must be free from governmental regulation. We have never held that, and decline to do so now.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The answer is "no" I've discovered.

March 9, 2011 I wrote a post called "Bordering on literal fascism".  Upon further review: no, it is not even close to literal fascism.

My bad.  My only defense is that I really didn't understand a lot about politics, except through the lens of the American two-party system.  Taking part in something as cataclysmic as the February protests left me shaken, and with few ways to try and make sense of it.  Naturally I fell into the psychological/intellectual trap that plagues us here in America (not to say they are free of this elsewhere): Without any meaningful historical or political context everything is perceived as being either 'extreme' or 'moderate' with few other meaningful distinctions.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What Linda Hirshman gets wrong about what David Brooks gets right about the left.

Continuing the theme, expressing irrational amounts of rage over things I read on Salon today, which I began in my last post, I recommend this piece by Linda Hirshman.

Full disclosure: I haven't read Brooks' article, and have only Hirshman's to go by.  If her's is well-written that should be enough anyways.

Right from the first paragraph things go horribly wrong:

As he often does, in his column Friday New York Times columnist David Brooks offered what looks like a “nonpartisan” analysis.  Social movements, he warned, are suffering because everyone thinks they should make up their own belief system. Unless you’re Nietzsche, Brooks advises, this is a guarantee of failure. Every man is not a political genius.
Well yes.  His analysis certainly looks nonpartisan.  That fact that he's a complete right-wing partisan and establishmentarian hack will be overlooked for a moment though.

Nietzsche's belief system, as much as he professed to have one, can be summed up as, "question everything, and then ask why you were asking those questions."  He also explicitly argued that ideas which are entirely original are necessarily going to be bad ideas.

However, most people never take the time to read any Nietzsche for themselves (start with Walter Kaufman's translations if you do!) and so I'll forgive that gaffe.

Next Hirshman explains a few concise points:

  • "Nobody does “whatever floats your boat” like the liberal left."
  • "Letting every person with a “mic check” suggest a fundamental strategy for the movement is a recipe for disaster." 
  • "Not only have existing intellectual traditions been the product of superior minds, they have stood the test of time. Anyway, how to act collectively when everyone is pursuing his own quixotic dream?"
How is it that conservatives get away with spouting these types of elitist cliches and still get to accuse everyone else of being a snob?

If I have to explain to you the value of group discussion in brainstorming, then you're hopeless.

Describing the left as "everyone pursuing his own quixotic dream" is hilarious.  First, half of the left is pursuing 'her' own dreams, something I'd think Linda could sympathize with.  The more substantive problem with that caricature will become clear as November approaches.  Soon all the GOP ramblings about those damn hippies will turn into warnings about the left 'drinking the Kool-aid' and marching in lockstep off a cliff with Obama.
"For his friends on the left, however,  Brooks advises a simple reversion to their philosopher, Karl Marx"
Wow!  Something I agree with Brooks on!  Well, I'd prefer not a 'simple reversion' but rather a critical reconsideration, but still!

But then Hirshman goes on to make this statement:
Fortunately, should the left be capable of giving up its endlessly proliferating individual belief systems, two schools of thought other than the return to the specter of communism would be available to them.  There is a robust utilitarian tradition, represented most recently in the work of Princeton philosopher Peter Singer....
Wait a sec, if you get to reference the ideas of the much-maligned Friedrich Nietzsche, why can't we talk communism?
The well-worked-out analysis of Singer’s argument for beneficence is a vastly better foundation for a long-term social movement than any of the slogans on OWS placards. “Tax the rich” is catchy, but dissolves when confronted with Brooks’ comrades’ libertarian first principle: “It’s my money.”
Not if you're using a Marxist perspective....

From here her essay devolves into a typical "leftists could save themselves if they just became Randroids" screed.

Another great 20th century philosopher, the late John Rawls, made a very well-worked-out argument for why it’s not “your money” at all. It’s only your money, as citizens of many less well-favored societies than the United States know, if other people are willing to refrain from killing you to get it. Otherwise, life is, famously, “solitary, POOR, nasty, brutish and short.” Rawls set forth elaborate conditions for when societies agree to let the rich keep the money without having to live behind walls topped with ground glass.
Most important, Rawls posits, inequality must also benefit the people on the bottom, e.g., by expanding the size of the pie. This was the case for much of American history, and the society was the better for it. But now that finance has replaced manufacturing as the engine of the economy, not so much. The endless claims of money movers like Mitt Romney that they are “creating jobs” reflects the deep power of Rawls’ construct. If they’re not, what is he doing with all that money? Rich people’s claims to be complying with Rawls’ condition can only go on so long in face of the robust evidence to the contrary.

On second thought, I don't think she got anything right, except for parroting Brooks' call for more Marxism.

Vive la Révolution?

"Don't ask us about social issues, just know we'll bring sweeping change" - A Libertarian

Purely for the sake of amusement, go read this tripe.

Entitled "The Screwed Generation: Libertarian, Not Liberal", here are some of the words of wisdom to be found:
So when the traditional liberal means of protecting ourselves — uniting behind the government to promote action that benefits the common good — no longer serves our best interest, we begin to serve our own. We have a new set of morals that have been established because the old ones were no longer cutting it.
Sounds good.
....The fact that there are still discussions between contending candidates about whether gay marriage should be legal or if women should have the right to have an abortion is shameful in the eyes of the youth vote.
What?  Which "youth vote" are you talking about?  Even though the trend is towards more progressive attitudes there is still substantial, and reactionary, opposition in the 'youth' demographics.
...Let’s be honest, when we’re facing a domestic and global recession, high unemployment and a blunder-filled tax code, social issues act only as a distraction to engage the “religious right” and the “hippie left.” By jettisoning social issues, Paul is able to have a conversation about fiscal policy with a bunch of kids who are growing up in a new economy.
Except you just said that the 'young generation' does care about social issues that are under attack by the religious right.  Are you therefore saying that our generation is mostly of the "hippie left"?
...If our conversation about fiscal reform starts to reshape our economy, we will spearhead sweeping social change. 
Ok, now you're just creeping me out.   What changes do you want to make?  How will they be made?    Saying that you'll make sweeping social changes sounds suspiciously unlibertarian.
We still vote with our heart; it’s just in a slightly different place. We’d rather bring home our troops from overseas and save those lives while spending that money to establish a universal healthcare system that will save even more.

You want universal healthcare?  Do you understand what libertarianism is?  Specifically Ron Paul libertarianism, since you specifically talk about the value of his presidential run multiple times.
We’re still “liberal,”
Then what was the point of your fucking article?  That liberals should shut up about social issues?

If you're just trying to say that "Ron Paul brings important things to the discussion" then just say that instead of blathering on forever.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Marxist perspective of Southern Slavery.

America has an addiction to "illegal alien" and prison labor, and it is only going to get worse before it gets better.  Here in Wisconsin the Christmas tree decorations in the capitol building were put up by prisoners this year.  In the spirit of all that, here's something worth keeping in mind.  From Black Liberation and Socialism by Ahmed Shawki, (pg 34, 35):
Slavery not only oppressed the Black slaves, it also ensured the subordination of the poor whites, Douglass argued:
The slaveholders... by encouraging the enmity of the poor, laboring white man against the Blacks, succeeds in making the said white man almost as much a slave as the Black slave himself... Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers.  The slave is robbed, by his master, of all his earnings, above what is required for his physical necessities; and the white man is robbed by the slave system, of the just results of his labor, because he is flung into competition with a class of laborers who work without wages... At present, the slaveholders blind them to this competition, by keeping alive their prejudice against the slaves, as men-not against them as slaves.  They appeal to their pride, often denouncing emancipation, as tending to place the white working man, on an equality with Negroes, and, by this means, they succeed in drawing off the minds of the poor whites from the real fact, that, by the rich slave-master, they are already regarded as but a single remove from equality with the slave.
What Douglass describes in the South was mirrored in the North among white workers.  While slavery flourished in the South, the Northern economy was entering a period of rapid expansion.  The emerging labor movement of the 1830s was blunted by nativism and racism.  The bulk of "native" workers reacted violently to the mass migrations of Irish workers in the 1840s and 1850s.  Historian Mike Davis described the reaction of native-born workers to the Irish immigrants: "[The Irish] were met by the universal hostility of a native working class which rioted against them, evicted them from workplaces, refused them admission into trade unions, and tried to exclude them from the franchise." 
Both native and immigrant labor competed for jobs, and accepted the argument that the emancipation of slaves would "flood" the labor market with four million Blacks.  Free Blacks in the North (who numbered 250,000) were excluded from all the existing trade union.  The question of slavery was thus also crucial to the working class in the North.  Marx put it succinctly: "In the United States of America, every independent workers' movement was paralyzed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the republic.  Labor in a white skin cannot emancipate itself where it is branded in a black skin."

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Music to chill out to.

Not the Kid - Communist Daughter

Good Things - Sleater Kinney

Fur Lined - How To Destroy Angels

Monster Hospital - Metric

Satanarchist (Total Fucking Necro) - Anaal Nathrakh
Satanarchist (In the Constellation of the Black Widow) - Anaal Nathrakh

Satanarchist may seem like a bit out of place, but it's one of my favorite songs, and this is my list :P

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wake me up when the nightmare starts.

The howler monkeys have played their hand, we're going to war with Iran :(


Sorry, I mean Anonymous Administration Officials have said that kinetic actions may be pursued to stop the TERRORISTS from getting nucular  weapons.

For Freedom.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I once got a hug from Boots Riley.

I once got a hug from Boots Riley.  Well, he put his arm over my shoulder.  We were posing for a picture!  Nothing creepy!

Then I forgot to save the picture on my cellphone and lost it forever :(

Anyways, this is why Boots Riley is someone to pay attention to, even if you don't care for the music:

Riley has been an activist since high school, when he spent a summer helping to organize migrant farm workers in central California. He says he was used to seeing twenty-five people show up at demonstrations, and in he past, he’s weighed his activism against what he might accomplish with his music, and generally chosen the music – so many more people could hear the message that way. "But with Occupy, I can’t use that same equation," Riley admits. "What we’re doing here gets a different message out, a stronger message out, to many more people than my music." 
By directly targeting labor and production through actions like the port shutdowns, Occupy Oakland has been different from other Occupy cities, Riley notes. He’s hoping the movement will grow to include elements of the working class who don’t normally organize, such as fast food workers. "There are a lot of companies in cities that are supposedly poor that make millions of dollars and pay people low wages," Riley says. "There’s no reason why McDonald’s can’t pay fifteen dollars an hour and still be turning a big profit. They have it set up where they sell their stuff to franchise owners so the owners have to say, 'I don’t have enough money.' But we if we wanted to, we could shut down all of the McDonald's in Oakland. We could help the workers renegotiate with those franchise owners. At McDonald's, at Wal-Mart, all of those places. We want to organize where people are actually working in the United States — places where people are not able to unionize because they’ll get fired. We can eliminate that risk because if they fire the folks who are unionizing, we can shut them down. Unions can’t legally organize in that way." Riley smiles. "But we can do stuff based on what’s right. Not what’s legal."
Also I've updated my post about AdBlock, check it out if you haven't seen it.

AdBlock, why you be so evil? (important update)

So I'm reading a hilarious* little article posted on the Guardian when suddenly I get a message from my browser (I use Chrome) stating that my AdBlock extension has been updated and requires new permissions in order to be enabled.

What permissions does it need?
>Your data on all sites
>Your tabs and browsing activity
Yeah, no.  Fuck that.

Update:  This was added to the appstore page for AdBlock:

A bug in Chrome is disabling AdBlock and asking you to re-confirm the permissions that you agreed to when you installed.  It was triggered when I tried to add popup blocking to AdBlock.
Don't worry, nothing nasty is going on, other than the fact that AdBlock wasn't supposed to be disabled!
You can safely confirm and re-enable AdBlock.  Sorry for the mess.  See for a little more detail.
If you've left a negative review before reading this, I hope you'll go update it.  It's killing me to see all these confused users!
Finally: if, once you re-enable AdBlock, you go to chrome://extensions and see that you have version 2.5.16 (not 2.5.15), PLEASE email me at adblockforchrome at gmail and let me know.  2.5.16 is supposed to fix the problem and I want to make triple sure that it has :)

And this is from their FAQ:

When I install, Chrome warns me that AdBlock will have access to all my private data and browsing history!
It's true. AdBlock has the ability to access to your private data, but it doesn't actually access it. In order to remove ads from every web page, AdBlock needs the permission to run on every web page; and any extension that runs on every web page has the ability to see everything you're doing and what URLs you visit.
In Firefox, the situation was worse: every extension had the power to access your private data, and you weren't informed. In Chrome, at least, those extensions that need to run on every page show you a warning before you install them!
It comes down to trust: you should not install extensions that ask for more permission than you are comfortable with, unless you trust the author(s). AdBlock is the most popular extension for Chrome, partially because we care so much about our users -- so we hope you'll trust us :)

Not entirely certain what to think about this.  I know Google collects obscene amounts of data about me in general, and yet I still use Google software.  So for now I'm going to re-enable AdBlock, but definitely keep an eye on what's going on.

Any thoughts?

*'hilarious' of course referring to the Greek debt crisis. (update: I find the condescending attitude of the bourgeois jerk from the 'troika' hilarious.  The asshole sounds like he's talking about a petulant child, not an entire nation of suffering people.)