No Freedom in Industry, or from Industry

Freedom Industries: other chemical is ‘proprietary’ | MSNBC

The reasons why this company calls itself “Freedom Industries” become less apparent by the moment. They enslave entire populations by polluting their water supplies, they don’t believe in freedom of information, and they don’t give any of their product away for free.

If the management of this company were following any logical argument, then it might declare that the disaster is “proprietary”: theirs, and theirs alone, just like the identity of this chemical. To the contrary, Freedom industries seems happy to claim ownership of everything except their responsibility in this mess. It is only in this sense that the name of the company makes sense. They are free from any responsibility for what they do.

Adios, Chris Christie

Christie Fires Aide in Bridge Scandal as U.S. Opens Inquiry – NYTimes.com.

The man always came off as as big talker, anyway. He never impressed me as a particularly edgy intellectual or an especially skilled manager who can delegate authority prudently towards the efficient accomplishment of tasks. His choice of operatives, however, is his undoing in my mind, and it should be his undoing in the minds of everyone else.

Given that a successful Presidency, even more so than a governorship, is vitally dependent on appointing the right people to the right positions, Christie’s career is now officially over. His apology today impugns him. In this very long mea culpa, he effectively is saying that he appointed idiots to the most important posts, and that it took him over three years to discover that they are idiots. (His specific words are “abject stupidity”.) In a presidency, three years is enough time for idiots to destroy the world.

The company one keeps, they say, says a lot about one, Mr. Christie’s company have said absolutely nothing good about the politician or the man. People should take note.

To Which Crime Will Rob Ford Confess Next?

Rob Ford, embattled Toronto mayor, admits he has bought illegal drugs | CBS News

“What is this man thinking? What was this man thinking?” Those are the questions that every human being on earth asks after each Rob Ford revelation. How could an avowed conservative and ostensibly scrupulous man commit the lowest of crimes and then confess to them? Worse yet for the man–but absolutely wonderful for the entertainment starved world–each crime confessed is more outrageous than the last: getting drunk too often, smoking crack cocaine, buying crack cocaine! To what will he confess to next? Here is a list submitted for consideration, in no apparent order.

  • Shooting heroine.
  • Speed balling every time one of his initiatives pass the city council.
  • Running over a hobo before every Canadian Thanksgiving.
  • Acting as a mule for free joint.

Somewhere in the United States, former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is assuredly sitting, aghast, mouth open, and utterly incensed that a pasty Canadian honky is flourishing under the spotlight for the same acts for which Barry was jailed.

Marion Barry ultimately reclaimed his elected position, and Rob Ford’s appeal seems not to be waning. Yet, this feels decidedly different from the apparent maturity we ascribe to the French populace when they wisely ignore their politicians’ dalliances.

Marion Barry was indignant even after he was re-elected. Ford is repentant to the extent that he seems to be preparing to offer “I was on crack” as an excuse for any poor decisions he may make or may have made as mayor. He and Barry are the only two politicians in all of history who could use that excuse. This is rarefied company, indeed.

I extended my warmest thanks to the citizens of Toronto for having provided the distraction that I desperately needed, as did countless overworked Americans.

Seminal Act of Civil Disobedience

Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square | World news | theguardian.com

Picture of the act from The Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the artist in the photo, has a substantial history of employing self mutilation in performance pieces that protest the increasingly repressive nature of the Russian regime, according to The Guardian article above. About the man’s possession of boundless will power and tolerance for pain, no doubts can be harbored. One only hopes that this act is more successful than his previous protests. This writer certainly wishes that this extraordinary act of self mutilation inspires the tsunami of rebellion that the artist desires to incite against a political system that has indeed become a shadow of the Soviet autocracy against which so many people like the artist gave their lives.

The most unfortunate question thus arises. Is a mere scrotum enough of a sacrifice? Should he have gone as far as being incarcerated without due process like Pussy Riot, a cause for which he mutilated himself to no apparently productive ends? Should he have immolated himself like the many Tibetans who do so annually in a final, desperate expression of defiance and self determination against an omnipotent, malevolent government? Must roads to freedom and self determination be paved with entire corpses, not just limbs and valuable appendages like the scrotum?

The political artist’s expression will forever be deconstructed. The desire for attention will forever confound any legitimate expression he or she may have made. It will be a shame if Mr. Pavlensky’s remarkable act of defiance is dismissed as a shameless act of self promotion. It rings sincere, in this writer’s mind, in its desperate expression of a desire for rights and dignity for every citizen in Russia.

Should its impact and distribution be limited to the pages of odd news sections and blogs like this, then the inescapable conclusion is that it is more effective to stick one’s neck out than it is to go balls out in the quest for freedom. Given how extraordinary it is to see a man go balls out like Pyotr, it is hard to imagine that anyone will stick their necks out. This may be the ultimate sign of resignation in the western world and the ultimate assertion of the current price of progress.

It is, perhaps, time to contemplate Syria, Chechnya, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and myriad other countries where necks are slashed in plain sight of western citizens far too apathetic to vote to protect their own interests. Political and military power are tools we developed to stroke our own balls, it seems, rather then to save necks.

Pyotr, may your balls be safe and your scrotum whole again someday.

The American Economic Revelation: We’re Like Europe

UCLA Anderson Forecast paints dismal picture of economic recovery | latimes.com

Five years after the credit bubble burst, the best experts in the country are still wondering why the robust recovery isn’t happening. They employ pessimistic words to avoid the one truth that is perhaps less convenient than Al Gore’s.

“Growth in GDP has been positive, but not exceptional,” UCLA economists wrote in their quarterly Anderson Forecast. “Jobs are growing, but not rapidly enough to create good jobs for all.”

The report, which analyzed long-term trends of past recoveries, found that the long-anticipated “Great Recovery” has not yet materialized.

That truth is that that the American economy has finally become like the European economy. Whether we like it or not, the American economy is going to resemble that of France and Germany, with slow, sluggish upturns and mild downturns punctuating vast seas of stability.

Fierce competition from Europe and Asia put upward pressure on wages brought by aggressive inflation are enforcing the regime that “socialistic” policies have been enforcing in Europe for over forty years: efficiency. The high wages that strong unions have enforced for decades in Europe are finally coming to the US as businesses that need stability for successful operation realize that they must pay wages that alleviate some of the effects of inflation in order to keep their best employees. Consequently, gone are the most meaningless jobs that one scarcely sees in Europe: parking attendants, valet parkers, bus boys, etc. The most mundane jobs have been automated and the remaining ones ultimately demand a living wage. This level of operational efficiency will not drive job growth.

Similarly, the marketplace is making US capital markets like Europe’s by enforcing stability. Another speculative bubble in the US won’t just be disastrous for the public at large who will be fleeced by opportunistic, well connected executives. It will be disastrous for American institutions who now have to compete globally for the dispensation of capital against mighty institutions in Europe, Asia and Middle East. Short term speculative gains are likely to cause long term annihilation for firms that undertake the Ponzi schemes of the real estate bubble, whether the institution is bailed out or not. Banks’ reluctance to lend even to the most credit-worthy borrowers underscores this fact. Corporate cash hoarding also underscores this fact. They all realize that the next mistake can have existential ramifications whether the government plays savior or not. The core functions of the company matter again. As has always been the case in Europe, a car company has to be a car company again, and a bank has to be responsible.

All of which sums up to a European existence: mild fluctuations peppering vast seas of incredibly boring stability. Global competition enforces a high unemployment rate in such regimes. Companies running efficiently will never effect full employment. This is why Europe has persistent, high unemployment. It is not because they have trouble creating wealth or because they are economically and fundamentally lazy. It is because they are closer to the economic endgame that the US is. Forbes Magazine laments the fact that no path to full employment is visible on the most distant horizon, but, beholden to staunchly conservative owner, it will be the last source to admit that the Europeans were right, that they are ahead.

Let us end this stupid, emotional and utterly vapid debate about the state of the economy and focus on what matters: quality of life. The economy is finally stable. Like Europe, we have the resources to make life better for those who work and for those who do not work. We have the resources to fix our bridges, to build new railroads, to provide healthcare to everyone, to ensure that those willing to work will eventually find a job that will provide a decent living, and to ensure that those who cannot or do not want to work will not be condemn to the oblivion of homelessness and marginalization that will demobilize them from the work force.

We have a stable economy. What do we do about life? Forward, march!

Unscientific Poll Concludes That Iraq Invasion Was a Mistake

Tom Toles: Political Cartoons from Tom Toles | The Washington Post

I voted in this little sideline survey on the Washington Post’s political cartoons web site just to see what the outcome would be. At least with the Post’s well defined demographic, there is near unanimity. I somehow doubt that Fox viewers are quite as polarized. Had Fox any balls, they probably would ask.

iraq_invasion_mistake

The United States Justice Department Are Beer Drinkers

BBC News | Budweiser-Corona beer merger opposed by US

The writer does not write this piece out of a sense of anger, a feeling of resentment or sheer snootiness. The writer is, indeed, grateful–positively, unreservedly and absolutely thankful–that the United States Department of Justice has taken a step to prevent further consolidation in the beer brewing industry in order to keep the market for that elixir that the writer loves competitive.

It is easy to be cynical about this apparently responsible act on the part of a governmental agency that has hardly acknowledged the anti-competitive nature of the telecommunication industry, that did absolutely nothing during the financial meltdown, that refuses to undertake any substantial prosecution of top executives in the aftermath of the financial meltdown, that doesn’t dare prosecute the hierarchy in the Catholic Church responsible for fostering centuries of sex abuse, that threw the book at a defenseless young idealist and drove him to suicide, and that is all to happy to use the PATRIOT act to collect unwarranted data. The same DOJ elected to intervene forcefully, however, to protect the public from higher beer prices. Why is beer so important? So special?

Beer, Benjamin Franklin proclaimed, is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. It is easy to argue that the “happiness” induced by beer is desirably by the DOJ. Given its failures in restraining large corporations from preying on the general populace and its appetite for harassing those who would entertain the notion of counteracting the prevailing corporate order (as enumerated above), a sober populace might be tempted to take the federal department ostensibly dedicated to the dispensation of justice to task. Absent any relief from inflation driven by a devaluing dollar and high oil prices, a cheap high, one might argue, is the only escape left for the average citizen. If it were to disappear, she or he might finally build enough anger and thus gather enough energy to inquire as to why it is that she or he must forfeit every penny earned to profitable concerns that are never held accountable to moral, ethical or economical standards. Why the average citizen must take pleasure–when the citizen’s prospects in the absence of a job are concerned–in toiling arduously daily under the strictest of supervision and face the most dire consequences for his or her failure to dispense his or her duties while the reckless disregard of the most powerful corporations for moral–not even ethical–behavior is rewarded with impunity and material wealth?

The posing of the question is a demoralizing. Pondering its answer is petrifying. It is, therefore, indeed, better to drink beer and to be merry. The DOJ has in this rare instance of wisdom and charity preserved this right for the average citizen. Let’s not drink to that.

Let’s just drink.

The Blue Screen of Death Lives

Apple is the most powerful company in the world. Microsoft software is still pretty awful, but it is quite stable. In fact, the latest revisions of Windows are arguably more stable than Apple’s OS X. Nevertheless, Apple feels compelled to keep the blue screen of death alive on every single copy of OS X sold for the last few years. I first noticed it last year, and on a recent trip to Hawaii, I grew to appreciate the lengths to which Apple has gone to keep the blue screen of death alive.

The public wi-fi network at the hotel in Maui allowed computers to browse the local network. Ever civilized, Mountain Lion neatly organized all the local network computers it found in the appropriate section in the Finder applications, and, low and behold, many blue screens of death appeared in radiant blue and rendered in gorgeous, flawless vector format. Of course, if these computers are broadcasting themselves on the network, they are functioning perfectly, and not displaying the blue screen of death, but that doesn’t stop Apple from representing its competitor–and its savior!–with the most embarrassing emblem any company had ever had the misfortune to earn.

Apple's Icon for Local Network Windows ComputersApple insists on keeping the blue screen of death alive by using that dreaded screen to represent local network Windows computers.

Rivalry is good and fine, and one can never shed a tear for a company that has thrived by emulating, destroying and acquiring its competitors (Microsoft), but it might be high time for Apple not to disrespect the competitor that saved it.

It’s still a damn good joke, though.

Running with a New Coach

I ran with the iRunner app for the first time yesterday. Just about everything about this app is amazing, but it was the totality of the experience that blew me away.

As usual, my head was a virtual disco thanks to the Beats by Dr. Dre headset and the Digitally Imported (DI.fm) app, through which I was blasting the always uplifting Disco House channel.

At every mile, the iRunner app would very politely turn the music down slightly and announce in a female voice like Siri’s the time it took for me to run that mile, my total run time and my average pace. It would then allow the music to resume at its old, pleasant, loud volume.

About midway through the run, my mother called. The iPhone gently halted the music, announced the phone call, which I answered by clicking on the function button of the Beats headset. I spoke with mom briefly, and when she hung up, the iPhone gently resumed the disco house music playback through the di.fm app without my doing a thing.

Throughout the whole process, iRunner kept track of my run, and generated the statistics below.

I am not a betting man (nor am I a gaming man; that euphemism is perhaps the corporate correctness term I hate the most; it’s akin to calling ecstacy Pez; “gaming” avoids all of the serious consequences that gambling contains), but had someone bet me that I would be keeping complete track of my workouts while I listen to CD quality disco music piped via the internet and answering phone calls–all with a device strapped to my arm–five years ago, I would have taken the losing side of that bet.

If I had the iPhone 4S, of course, I could have been dictating my novel as I run, too, supposing for a moment that I were writing a novel.

The wonders never cease, and the rapid pace of progress is astounding. This will positively become a regular workout routine, whether I’m biking or running, because all this technology literally allows one never to miss a beat.

“Pothead” May Not Be Just a Stereotype; What a Shock!

BBC News – Young cannabis smokers run risk of lower IQ, report claims

 

The ultimate joint from Boom Chicago’s guide to drugs in Amsterdam, http://www.boomchicago.nl/Drugs/

The “pothead” is a very lovable guy or gal: sweet, harmless, funny, easy-going, occasionally profound, even keeled, sporadically active and stupid. This last characteristic is up for debate, of course, because it is one of those insulting attributes that we espouse in stereotypes. Every stereotype contains at least one horrendously negative and insulting property, and those properties are usually the result of the human tendency to want to believe the worst about one’s neighbor at least part of the time.

The stupidity of the pothead, however, may be getting some scientific support. The above study suggests that lighting up earlier in life may be correlated with a lower measure of intelligence later in life. Believing this proposition may say more about one’s faith about the reliability of the intelligence quotient than the truth of diminished mental capacity of potheads. Nevertheless, kids should take this lesson to heart: wait until your brain is fully developed before you experiment with it.

virtual but permanent

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