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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

American Death Cult Part III: Pavlov Speaks*

A creepy house in backwoods Wisconsin funded by bloodmoney, built by a minion of  the Aztec Night Lord Tezcatlipoca, and a talking Chihuahua seeking redemption and to end the millenia-old feud with the Ho-Chunk culture hero Red Horn.  Must be Thursday.

The first and most cardinal rule of any heavy drug habit is to hold fast to your center, not allow yourself to panic at the inevitable bad trip. Assenine braggarts are likely to tell you that it’s an inborn character trait that you simply either have or do not have, and that it is not possible to cultivate a tolerance.

Utter and complete bullshit.  Dangerous bullshit.  Because it denies the essential primacy of DISCIPLINE in the process and is a telltale sign of the feckless self-indulgent irresponsibility that means imminent death or at least a lengthy sanatorium stay.  No, what is required is a steely willfulness and intense focus.

There are several techniques to achieve this focus and they all work, even under the most insane sensory assaults--provided you employ them with an iron discipline.  One method is to always remain in the company of a responsible, experienced user whenever you take a new drug for the first time.  But even more important is the technique of listening to your heartbeat.  It alerts you to any potential medical problems early enough to seek professional care should that be necessary and it grounds you, reminds you that you are still John or Jane Q. Ordinary living in Normalsville, Planet Earth, complete with all the standard plumbing.  You know that you have a living, breathing material avatar to take care of here, even if you can see and count the quarks vibrating through your hands.  Or, as in this particular case, if you haven’t taken any illicit substances (that you know of), but find yourself engaged a in a twelve hour conversation with a Chihuahua dog1 claiming to be the exiled ruach2 of the Paul Ryan, the Republican chair of the House Budget Committee.

“So you see?  I couldn’t tell ANYONE about this stuff until you’d spoken my name out loud and broken the taboo.3  You’re the only one who understands this nefesh/ruach/neshama stuff AND gives a flying fuck about my welfare.   The ONLY one.”

“YOUR welfare?  Let’s not exaggerate here;  I only care about stopping your wholesale destruction of the—“

He grimaced and interjected impatiently:  “Okay okay okay!  You’re the only one who gives a shit about what my neshama is doing.”

Fair play.  I wasn’t going to argue with a frantic talking dog.  Especially one that was such a cutie pie, complete with the lisp of a five year-old child.  If he said I was the only one who could save all three of his souls from eternal damnation, who was I to argue?  I continued.

“Okay.  Agreed.  I don’t want you to destroy the country by undermining its social and economic infrastructure . . . “

“You don’t want my NESHAMA to destroy the country by undermining its social and economic infrastructure, you mean!  Get it right!  Not me, my NESHAMA.  Remember, I'M the ruach, that blabbering gobadaw you see prattling away on television is just an empty shell of a soul--an impoverished neshama leaning on a hollow nefesh.  I was ejected by the force of pure moral disgust when that eejit proposed the 'Roadmap to America's Future'".

"Er, yeah.  Got it.'  I recapped the nonsense as best as I could, as much to keep my own mind from imploding under the stupifying weight of its absurdity as to placate Pavlov's wrath.  "And when you ended up in the netherworld, Red Horn pleaded on your behalf for a second chance, a chance to defeat the dark corruption of The Roadmap.  But the only way you could do that was to incarnate in an avatar, an avatar that reflected the nature of your sin and wouldn't provoke Tezcatlipoca's wrath or attention."

"Basically, yes."

"Okay.  Now  I get you.  You didn’t mean for all this to happen.  You just wanted a little attention, wanted to be loved.  You didn’t think all this would happen, that it’d spin out of control so quickly.  You didn’t mean for grandmothers to get thrown out on the streets ‘cause they couldn’t make rent AND afford their meds or little kids to get pulled off chemo because the insurance company—“ But I couldn’t go on that line.  The little fella had melted into the settee, whining as his eyes began to tear up.

I could hardly believe this.   Not the part about Paul Ryan being a Midwestern hayseed who didn’t know what he was doing and found himself sucked into something he didn’t really understand on his first trip to the Big City.  That’s the oldest and saddest story in the world.  What I couldn’t believe was that I FELT SORRY for the sonofabitch who was planning to do all this horrible shit . . . er, that his NESHAMA was planning to do, anyhow.

I couldn’t take in all of this in one sitting.  It was all too much.  I wasn’t yet ready to feel sympathetic towards this scumbag, and I wasn’t yet ready for Pavlov’s description of the building of the House on Maiden Lane.  Nor was I ready to hear an epic narrative describing the battle between the Ho-Chunk culture hero Red Horn and the Aztec Tezcatlipoca, Lord of the Night.  And the sun was sinking fast, too, covering the sittingroom in a cold shadowy blanket.  I got up and made my excuses, saying I was going to the back yard to get lumber for a fire.

Pavlov just curled up into a fetal sleeping position and quietly ignored me.  He had no reason to fear that I was going anywhere.  We were in the middle of Bum-Fuck, Wisconsin, and Siobhan had cobbled my truck the prior night.  No one was going anywhere without Pavlov.


*  Again, people, this is allegory.  A fictional narrative attempting to describe certain social realities using poetic or figurative language.  Don’t get your knickers in a bunch or hit the DEA on your speed dial.  Check out the friggin’ footnotes already, will yah? Sheesh! . . . . The readership of William F. Buckley’s “National Review” got this when they published it, why can’t you?

1     Pavlov, the Chihuahua dog who called out to Liam at the end of Part II of this story.

2    This is NOT a trivial point that you can just gloss over in order to get to the punchline.  The Kabbalistic scheme of the soul’s architechture is a primal key component of this plot and you’ll never be able to achieve any satisfaction until you have a working knowledge of it.  I’m not claiming that it’s necessarily a factual reality that you’ll need to function adequately as a moral human being, but it’s one of the cornerstones upon which this narrative is built.  According to the simplified (purists would say ‘bastardized’) version of Kabbalah that I’m cobbling together here, the human soul is comprised of 3 parts:
a.    The Nefesh:  Representing man’s base physical, instinctual or ‘animal’ nature.

b.   The Ruach:  Representing man’s emotional or moral character.  This describes the ways in which a person relates to others.  It recognizes the non-materialistic links of psychic interdependency between individuals that transcends the immediate claims of biology.

c.   The Neshama:  Representing man’s rational, intellectual character.  This describes the meta-cognitive structures and biases that inform a person’s thought processes.  In and of itself the concept of neshama is completely value-free. 

However in practice the latent bias of its various particular structures has profound spiritual consequences that can either amplify, complement or negate the moral polarity of the ruach.  For example, a simple, earnest man such as the image of St. Patrick conjured for us in his Confessio seems likely to have originally been possessed of a rather kind, but simple ruach despite lacking the polished social graces or academic credentials favored by the Roman hierarchy of his day.  Patrick’s quintessentially compassionate brand of holiness seems to shine forth all the more brightly because of his neshama’s lack of sophistication. 

On the other hand, an urbane Church Father like St. Augustine seems to have been possessed by a considerably more impoverished ruach, though it was more than offset by an uncommonly refined neshama.  Turning his back on a youth spent in debauchery and the thoughtless indulgences of a citified sophisticate, he devoted the rest of his life to creating the foundational intellectual doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church regarding numerous moral issues such as slavery, the role of women in society, the extent to which warfare may be considered morally justified. 

St. Augustine’s legacy is considerably more complex than that of St. Patrick and I will not attempt to make a final evaluative comparison of the two here, but merely emphasize again that the careers of these two exceptionally influential and holy (though not uncomplicated) men serve as excellent illustrations of the interaction between ruach and neshama.

3    Pavlov, the Chihuahua-dog avatar of Paul Ryan’s exiled ruach could not explain himself or plead his case, could not deal openly with Liam, until Liam had spoken his name, as occurred at the end of Part II.  This is just one variation of a narrative trope repeated ad infinitum throughout the world’s fantastical and spiritual literature (e.g., the Grail King cannot be healed or turn the Grail to its destined guardian, Percival, until the king had been asked the specifically what ailed him; Rumplestiltskin’s devious plan to steal the princess’ firstborn cannot be foiled until she has pronounced his name; Superman cannot defeat the villain Mxyzptlk until he chants his name aloud, etc., etc.) 

           I was inspired to use this motif here by further meditation on the Obama’s disconcerting betrayal of his own legislative caucus in December, which I satyrically treat here.  My current thinking (admittedly wayyyyyy behind the learning curve of many Disinformation commentors) is that as parties, both the Democrats and Republicans are whoring shams whose platitudinous rhetoric is a stark contrast with their actual immoral actions, and that perhaps the only way to achieve any real progress will be to get the public and the media to call this thing like it is.  It’s not a deistic democracy, it’s not a ‘Christian’ republic.  It’s an amoral plutocracy.

      But that seems extremely unlikely in the short term because people are in such deep, deep denial.  It’s easy to see why:  no one’s going to any great lengths to hide the facts and the level of guilt that is incumbent upon the realization of the truth is so fuckin’ horrible that few people have the guts, the moral integrity or whatever you care to call it, to simply own up.  Shame that nothing will ever get any better until we as a whole nation own up to the fact that we’ve all become soulless whores in thrall to an amoral beast.

      That said, while I’m 100% certain that Obama’s lame “rain puddles in heaven” tripe will never help us confront the national demons that consume us, neither will my traditional tack of single-minded satirical focus on the obvious excesses of the right wing.  That only papers over the equal culpability of limp-dicked, lilly-livered approach of traditional Dems.  So what I intend the story arc to do going forward is to try to take the most sympathetic view of the many and horrible failings of our leaders as possible, while still forcibly decrying their stupidity and innately immoral character.  A tough balancing act, but that’s why it took me nearly two months to come up with Part III.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Still Think Financial Markets = Financial Investment?

For those STILL too gullible to believe that we will never recover until we stop the irresponsible hoarding and gambling behaviours of Wall Street through a property tax on large securities holdings, I present the following:

Our economy doesn't need to print more money.  The economy must have had about $1.5 TRILLION more money at the end of 2010 than it started with.  What we need to do is make the banksters and uber-rich pay their fair share and stop glomming off old age pensioners.

Details available upon request.  Or check it out for yourself here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 10 Unexpiated Sins That Are Dragging America to Hell

While there were a lot of political oberservations that needed to be made in relation to the recent tragic shooting in Arizona, I kinda feel like we're beginning to find that comfort groove again.  Some boringly consistent themes are being repeated ad nauseam and it's starting to bug me.  After Obama's low-content "why can't we just all play nice" speech the gears started to turn.  Something more productive than threadbare conventional plattitudes has to come of this.

Must be my own perverse nature.  You see, some of my biggest heroes have been the guys who f*cked up, but then went on to perform monumental acts of contrition, and in the process redeeming not only themselves but the whole world.  From the (now lapsed) Roman Catholicism of childhood I still can remember St. Colmcille, whose penance for instigating a bloody war was exile and a mission to non-violently preach the love of Jesus Christ to the people of early Scotland.  But I also learned about guys like Robert Kennedy, who started his political career as a stooge for the Red-baiting Joe McCarthy but ended it campaigning against the Vietnam War and racisim.

Oedipus Rex, mad with grief
Funny, but I can't really think of any outstanding examples from our own generation. . . . Nope, not a one.  In fact, the more and more I think about this, what I come up with is a list of unexpiated national sins rather than triumphant redeemers.  Here is my extended meditation on the topic:

Metaphorically (not literally—don’t get me wrong here), America seems doomed to a kind of Hell. Something like the third-world collapse it brought upon Mexico via NAFTA. Here is my list of unexpiated sins that are hastening our doom:

1. Vietnam: Thank you, Mr. Johnson! (D-TX)

2. Watergate: Nixon (R-CA) abandons morality for power in a naked criminal break-in that wasn't even necessary to win the 1972 election.

3. Culture of greed: Couldn’t done it without you and your Laffer-Curve inspiration, Uncle Dutch (i.e., Ronald Reagan, R-CA)!

4. NAFTA: By undermining the agriculture, industry and tax base of the sovereign state of Mexico, Bill Clinton (D-ARK) established a nearly uncheckable transnational powerbase for corporations to set political policy, without regards of the needs or interest of the electorate.

5. Repeal of Glass-Steagall : Yup, Bill Clinton (D-ARK) again. Demolished the prohibition of retail banks engaging in risky speculative games that bloated the M3 money supply to 15 trillion dollars (i.e., 2,000% of the 1960 balance), creating a false illusion of economic prosperity through financial gamesmanship.

6. Sarbanes Oxley: In the wake of Enron, another cowboy, George W. Bush (R-TX), signs the ultimate in worthlessly gameable financial “regulation” by requiring highly subjective reviews of internal controls to ensure the integrity of financial reporting. In 2009 it is revealed that the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which is widely regarded as the first real harbinger of the current economic doom, committed exactly the same type of reporting chickanery that was the subject of Enron’s fraud, despite getting a clear bill of health re: Sarbanes Oxley. Awesome.

7. Iraq: After clearly trumping up the evidence, our favorite cowboy (G.W. Bush, R-TX) unilaterally commits the nation, and the world, to an unending meat grinder based primarily on a drug-addled paid informant code name of "Curve Ball." Coincidence that both Cheney and Bush were long-time oil men and that Iraq has the largest proven-but-untapped oil reserves in the world? I'm sure.

8. Afghanistan: After 8 years of the previous administration's inept execution of this war, and despite mounting evidence that there is no way to achieve any worthwhile political goals here, Obama (D-IL) extends the meat grinder indefinitely.

9. 2010’s Millionaire Tax Giveaway: After months of citing CBO and JCT reports to the effect that he “just didn’t have the math” to make these tax cuts fiscally responsible, Obama (D-IL) engineers a secret deal to enact these cuts behind the backs of his own legislators in congress. Trust fund babies need not pay any Estate Tax for the next 2 years.  And how will this be paid for in times of unprecedented deficit?  Through reductions in the benefits of the poor and old age pensioners.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can Heckling Change The World? Let's Find Out

A big molte grazie goes out to the folks at Disinformation.  Their media aggregation board is always a real thought provoker.  As discussed below, I got a big kick out of their recent repost of a Reuters report.

The nation owes a big debt of gratitude to wise ass m*f*'s like Jon Stewart who finally shamed the ra-ra, flag wavin' hypocrites of the Republican party into finally voting to support 911 First Responders.  But while we correctly applaud the righteousness of Mr. Stewart and the Daily Show team who made this possible, we should perhaps be mindful of a broader principle:  The Truth shall not only set us free, it is also fucking hillarious.

However, we shouldn't just passively rely on television comedians to do all the heavy lifting for us.  Indeed, although many contemporary comedians seem to have a firm grasp on this fact*, others do not.  Remember Dennis Miller**?  Time for you and me to step up to the plate.  Here's a little training exercise to get you started.  And who knows?  With a little coordination and work, maybe you and I can engineer a grass-roots heckling movement to save American democracy.

See the table at the left here?  Based on yesterday's Reuter's write-up on ADP's trumpeting of the brilliant "economic recovery", it is also a graphic illustration of just how fucking lame media attempts at deceiving the public are.  It is a very stark demonstration of the palpable contempt mainstream outlets have for the intelligence of the man and woman on the street.

One need not look very far to see just how big a sham this piece is, so I'll make it brief and discuss only 3 of its many shortcomings:

1.  This "report" comes out less than 4 working days after the end of the period it discusses.  It is not a rigorously audited statistical survey of the non-partisan Bureau of Labor Statistics ("BLS").  It is the barely lashed together say so of a private, for-profit payroll company, which, even if it does have a large market share, is hardly all-encompassing or a carefully designed double-blind statistical randomization.

2.  This "study" asks us to forget that Christmas and Chanukkah happened in December and that people buy shit as gifts for those holidays.  However, the BLS, being an actually responsible public sector agency, isn't given that luxury.  That's why they issue 'seasonally adjusted' figures to factor out the distortion inherent in the temporary holiday jobs.  The BLS is not likely to release this data until February, but based on the most recent ratio between absolute and seasonal activity, my guess is that we can take out 180 THOUSAND jobs from the reported 297,000--or about 61% of the total.  Merry Xmas.

3.  Finally, this study forgets that employment is not a static target.  In case you'd forgotten since yesterday:  People get older.  Some people die, others are born, a few graduate from college.  All these factors effect both the level of demand in the economy and the size of the labor force.  A real high-level analysis of the increase in the labor force since 2009 suggests that December's share of the population increase was probably about 107 THOUSAND jobs.  Meaning that it'd be bullshit to say that '107' of the 297,000 total can possible count towards reducing unemployment--that's what's needed just to tread water.  Take 'em out.

So what're we left with?  An "increase" of 10,000 jobs--or about 0.01% of the labor force.  A blip, when statistically valid studies (of which this clearly is not) have confidence intervals of 5%.  Christ, someone at ADP could have sneezed when typing the report and showed more new jobs than this analysis does.

What can you do?
I urge you to write to all media outlets repeating this Reuters "ra-ra private sector is recovering" bullshit and call shenanigans on them.  Here's a brief boiler plate message you can leave them or use as a starting point for your own rant.

Dear Media Outlet,

Nice going 'repeating' (vs. reporting) on the Reuters report on the ADP job survey.  If you want to be taken seriously as a competent, reliable source of news you're going to have to do a minimum amount of work, and spend more time communicating substance rather than smokescreen.  Clearly you haven't done that here, otherwise you would have noted that:

1.  Net of temporary seasonal hiring, the 297,000 is likely to be reduced by about 180,000 or 61% to a mere 117,000.

2.  Net of an approximately 107,000 jobs per months needed just to keep up with population growth,
the original 297,000 "new jobs" is revealed to be a mere 10,000--or about 3.5% of the originally "reported" amount and about 0.01% of the total November 2009 workforce.

This stuff isn't a rocket science or some kind of proprietary secret.  See links here and here for supporting calculations.

Suggestion for going forward:  Hire an editor.  Could really help push those employment #'s up.

Here are links to contact sites for the offending outlets I've identified to date:

Christopher Wellisz at for the Business Week article at

 Click here to comment on the Christian Science Monitor article here

 Comment on the Yahoo article here

Comment on the Wall Street Journal article here

Comment on the article at NPR's MarketPlace programme here

Thanks.  And please leave comments if and when you identify others.  If we all pull together, we just may heckle the media and policy makers into a modicum of responsibility.  Just like Jon Stewart did.


* One of my favorite articulations of this was Stephen Colbert's comment at a 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner:  "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."  See one transcript of that speech here.

**Dennis Miller.  D-E-N-N-I-S (space) M-I-L-L-E-R.  If you're under 80 years old, he's before your time.  If you're 80 or older you may have forgotten him.  Last rumored to have been funny in 1980's.  Now occasionally plays an ersatz Robin to Right Wing blatherbox Bill O'Reilly's Batman.  Who're Batman and Robin?  Jeezuz . . . Homosexual lovers from a 1960's counterculture super-hero fantasy entertainment franchise.  Read all about it at the website of Amsterdam's premere museum of perversion.