About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cat Paradise; with apologies to The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson

The Pussy-Cat of Paradise

Calling in the night push-push

I chased her, down the stairway of days and up
the veils of night, I chased

until chastened but not caught,
not in my arms;
there was nothing
Only nothing

I searched for her
Listened for the sound of eyelids opening
and for the songs of cats in love
My ear peeled, my keening throughout the house,
creating the house,
I searched.

I pled, I begged like an outlaw caught
with his red hand in a bucket of greed.
I pleaded for the tender mercies, all for me, and
all about me,
everyone everywhere could hear this oyez plea!

For though I knew love, I did not know I knew,
and knew not how
new love would know.

Or having love, I dreaded what else I must have.
For so often
You get what you never saw
And scratched by its paw.

Was searching so,
through a window darkly for the black cat of love,
dressed to the nines of its liquid life
As Love to pursue
the little spotted margay
so troubling the bear at the gateway of the stars
or the jawed jaguar
Wrestling the alligator of our intermittencies
searching for the furred stop, the rejoinder,
with the mystery of its passion,
frisking the feathers of hope with its love of risk.

I searched on full moon nights the pale ports of mystery.
The shut doors of pure unholy ignorance,
gob-smacked down
the empty halls of cold marble
harked to the echo of distant trumpets
Gone smoking astray

I said to Dusk: be quick – to Dawn: be soon;
With the scattered rose find me one tremendous Lover,
heaping with blossoms
Float this veil and sail the carpetings of magic things
to the solid hearth
Where the heart’s content will lay down among its cats.
Their truth, their soi-disant claims to simplicity.

Only I clung to the whistling dark.
There was no answering purred remark.

I said to the world: be still – to its turning: stop.
With the twine of caresses not yet receiving
did I yearn for Love’s redeeming.
Lip to lip, the soft keening breath.
Be still. And yet, it did not stop.
Lucent-weeping yet, it only promised tears are wet.
The wind-walled palace of my hopes
were spiraled out in milky tropes.

All willful seem the clouds to be
how awful the snortings of the sea
And all that’s born and dies
comes face to face with skies
of possibility and doom.
Felt a failure, the search was done;
hoped for all, but found none.
I was heavy with the Even
and surrounded by the lonely blue shadowings
of cathode rays
around the day’s dead sanctity.

Then, BOOM!
You landed as if from the sea.
You mustered my commingling heats
gathered up the fur
the push-push and curling tail, so curing
the human smart.
Now, let Love live, who lives Love.
Cat my paradise.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What lives, hungers.

What do living things "have in common"? The Hunger. As if in order to live, existance has to curl around a need, the desire to live that moves the prepositional object.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Consumer Protection replaced by Consumerism

In AlterNet:

How Our Gutless Media Helped Trigger the Credit Crisis

By Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review. Posted November 20, 2008.

http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/102963

"As Dean Starkman, who runs The Audit on cjr.org, pointed out in this magazine in March ("Red Ink Rising"), American credit-card debt now stands at more than $900 billion, up 9,000 percent from 1968, having risen by a third between 2001 and 2006. Worse, he noted that more than three quarters of the credit industry's profits now come from people who make minimum monthly payments. As he further reported, these industry-wide changes followed a regulatory rollback and were by and large missed by the nation's press."

During the Bush-Cheney-Rove regime, Americans preserved an appearance of prosperity even as they lost it, by dramatically deepening their dependence on rolling credit. The "investment bank" packaging of CDS/Credit Default Swaps with sub-prime mortgages was just the beginning of the financial collapse. The Trillion Dollar credit card debts which underemployed people will never be able to pay back has not yet begun to blight the rapidly eroding "fundamentals".

Ants - why we like them - complex system analysis

For those of us who really love ants, the Web is wonderful bait. My essay on the thirteen Great Myths About Ants (part of my series on almost everything you believe is just wrong) is already out of date.

One current view and point of research is running the hive as a model for Complex Systems. Ants have no leader, and they get their marching orders from larvae, yet millions of ants -- and the scale is part of this interactive success pattern -- following almost pre-instinctive rules of individual behavior, can build bridges with their bodies and forage for food along vast efficient highways. They farm, cultivate, protect, and have thrived with an almost indifference to evolution, in their present form for 100 million years.

What are the rules these little guys are following? Can we run the model and project it to the next scale?

In complex systems, through local interactions and self-organization, stable or semi-stable patterns emerge at a next level or a higher scale. They project.
They adjust to small changes in the system or initial conditions and re-apply across new conditions. Very promising research models.

....Well, back to the ANTS, here is a short Digg List:

Army Ants Have Defied Evolution For 100 Million Years (May 9, 2003) — Army ants, nature's ultimate coalition task force, strike their prey en masse in a blind, voracious column and pay no attention to the conventional wisdom of evolutionary ... > read more

Clemson Fire Ant Research Uses Biological Approach (Dec. 21, 1998) — In the ongoing war to control fire ants, a new, biological approach is being tested at Clemson University. Entomologists here have introduced a naturally occurring disease into fire ant colonies as a ... > read more

Parasites Prevent Ants From Protecting Coffee Plants (Aug. 8, 2003) — Azteca ants are voracious predators that live on coffee plants and aggressively defend their territories. That’s generally good for the coffee plants, which are protected in the process against ... > read more

Some Tropical Birds Depend Completely On Army Ants To Flush Out Prey (Oct. 17, 2007) — In the jungles of Central and South America, a group of birds has evolved a unique way of finding food -- by following hordes of army ants and letting them do all the work. Some of the birds rely ... > read more

Army Ants Form Living Pothole Plugs For Their Roads (May 28, 2007) — Certain army ants in the rainforests of Central and South America conduct spectacular predatory raids containing up to 200,000 foraging ants. Remarkably, some ants use their bodies to plug potholes ... > read more

Ants Are Experienced Fungus Farmers (Mar. 25, 2008) — It turns out ants, like humans, are true farmers. The difference is that ants are farming fungus. Entomologists are providing new insight into the agricultural abilities of ants and how these ... > read more

Get 'Two Steps' Ahead Of Fire Ants With Organic Control (May 12, 2004) — Red imported fire ants love wet, rainy, cool days like the ones that ushered in spring. That's why so many of their mounds have been popping up all over Texas this year. But help is only two ... > read more

Ability To Capture Large Prey May Be Origin Of Army Ants' Cooperative Behavior (Dec. 15, 2005) — Scientific insights come at the darnedest times. Animal behaviorist Sean O'Donnell was having an afternoon cup of coffee when a giant earthworm exploded out of the leaf litter covering the jungle ... > read more

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spam - the unwanted tide

The number of unsolicited and unwanted emails transmitted on the Internet exceeds 180 billion per diem. Spam now makes up 90% of the content of email. Curiously, the 10% balance is roughly double the Postmaster's figures for the percentage of personal snail mail. We seem to combine a tolerance for wildly arbitrary commercial assaults with reticence, no matter what form of communication our technology provides.

I am reminded that in 2004, Bill Gates predicted that the distribution of bulk emails spam would be marginalized. Was he not making a serious prediction? Or was he just that wrong?

Clearly, it is "personal life" that is marginalized; persons as such have almost no life. Between being over-run and being bored, or between being a victim of mass media and being one of the spammers, what vitality is left?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

CRIMINALITY OF STEALING MONEY / PRIVATE FRAUD REMEDIES

New laws and regulations are not necessary to "save" the world from thieves. What has been missing for 8 years is a prosecutor, or a "police" agency willing to maintain conventional standards of behavior in the Market place.

It appears that the appointment of a vigorous Prosecutor would resolve both the financial and psychological aspects of the present "crisis" presented to us by the defalcation of President Bush, who appointed an Attorney General who did nothing to protect us. What is The Law for that we do not enforce?

There are also conventional "private" remedies -- civil causes and even class actions. However, these were also compromised by an Executive who was extremely hostile to legal relief for consumers against institutional predators.

If an investor has been damaged by a fund manager, the investor may have a cause of action against the manager. If a pension fund is involved, the fiduciary duty is even higher. The point is, investors can hire private attorneys to sue investment bankers for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, or fraud. Interestingly, most of the investment bankers have liability insurance policies covering negligence.

The cause of the present financial crisis is that poor credit risk sub-prime loans were deliberately packaged by investment bankers as "high grade structured credit enhanced leverage funds" for sale to our pension funds. In other words, by giving the security a title that makes it appear to be financially "sound", the bankers were able to aggregate sub-prime loans into "derivatives" that created billion-dollar transactions to support their million-dollar bonuses.

BTW, no one even knows WHAT these new securities are, much less how much they are worth. When it is an aggregation of billions of dollars assigned distantly from the initial loan parties, a CDS - “credit default swap”, or a “derivative” is a meaningless description for an unknown gas for which no amount or value can be attached, but which apparently floated huge bonuses to CEOs.

For years, the plaintiffs' Bar has been trying to put a check on this kind of fraud by suing the bankers -- but of course, there were no "damages" while home equity was rising, and nobody asked, "By the way, how much is the collateral actually worth?"

Bankers with almost no information about the borrowers or the collateral, and with no basis for believing they knew what the value of the security was, were trading the paper. By consolidating huge piles of this paper, they increased the paper value -- pulling enormous commissions out on each successive assignment.

But isn't it fraudulent to NAME this consolidated paper a "high grade structured credit enhanced leverage funds" when in fact it was drawn from a loan broker without verification of income or reasonable "collateralization of risk"?

Isn't it a breach of fiduciary duty to put our pension funds into a "high grade structured credit enhanced leverage fund" the managers have not actually collateralized? Calling this a "derivative" may be fraudulent, because up until July of 2008, the word gave the impression that the Seller was financially sophisticated.

We must also note that there is a hybrid Janus-like quality of both foreseeability and "surprise" in the marketing of derivatives. The collapse was not unforeseeable or unforeseen -- many economists and investors (apparently all outside the Bush Administration and Treasury) had warned about the over-valued and fictionally-valued derivatives.

Nothing suddenly happened. The "due dates" for balloon payments, and stock calls, were all known in advance. The investment bankers like Lehman Brothers and insurers like AIG, all knew well in advance what dynamics were in place.

All the more reason to question the tactic of declaring an emergency so as to obtain a government bail out on the eve of a regime change in Washington DC. ALL of the "risk" was anticipated, joked about ( http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/187.html ), and in fact discounted by the securities market already.

The fact that Paulson pressured Congress for funds (which Congress would have to borrow, ahem, from "Lenders") in order to buy worthless and toxic assets FROM LENDERS to keep them in business, and when Congress gave him the billions he asked for HE DID NOT DO WHAT HE SAID HE WOULD DO, raises at least some question about whether he understood what appears to be an entirely fictional "crisis".

Paulson may have a good faith belief that there was a "crisis". ALL of his friends are investment bankers, and many of them were CEO's on whose watch their corporate vessels had run into the unpleasant shoals of "due dates" and money famine. And there is no question that the prosperity of the country depends upon the availability of loans.

However, if "loan availability" is necessary, why not just set up a "bank" (or a central bank that loans to local banks) that makes loans? Why was it necessary to invest in worthless paper or inject bail-out money into sinking ships? Is there any question in anyone's mind that the CEO's who secretly awarded themselves million dollar bonuses on the eve of the crash of their companies cannot be trusted with money?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly - incompetent critics

Criticism is a vital part of the polity. The fact that a position or a decision is evaluated by people not predisposed to it, or "yes men", is what corrects our course. Diversity in the POV (Points of View) is what makes for wisdom, in Crowds and in Kitchen Cabinets.

However, our polity is crippled by the commercial success of idiots who are given voice and attention by mass media which they dominate. How did this happen?

It is a simple process:

(1) NEGATIVE INFORMATION. "Bad news" sells well. Negative information has pretty legs. Elections actually require ventilation of choices and investigations into the lives of the candidates. Hence, even "Swift-boating" -- a campaign of distorting the facts on the eve of an election with a Big Lie -- has almost First Amendment protection, although legal counterattacks for slander may remain viable, and there is a scientific question about whether attack ads "work" or not. Credit Reports pay for derogatory information, and provide almost no positive reportage. The fact is negative information has serious commercial value.

(2) ATTRACTS IDIOTS. Of course, what kind of person is most attracted to the purveying of this commercially valuable negative information? Greedy idiots who are indifferent to truth. And the examples abound in Talk Radio. Nasty little people with shameless motives are instinctively attracted to the money and the content of negative media events.

(3) SUCCESS TURNED ON ITS HEAD. Once the negative purveyors become commercially successful, then their ends continue to justify their destructive means. People who become rich by attacking others with lies, simply take their place in the halls of notorious figures, and begin to blend in with other public figures. For example, there is a qualitative difference between the content of the New York Times and the content of the periodicals known for "yellow journalism". And yet, many of the "yellow" journalists and editors actually make more money than the actual reporters of true news events. Negative and mendacious voices naturally sell more, and ride to success over the heads of the true or positive.

(4) COMPETENCE. The problem for the Polity is that we really NEED criticism; we need to hear the people who disagree with the choices, who see dangers perhaps not clearly recognized by our leaders. And we have to listen to criticism. However, criticism which is dishonest and outright misleading is not helpful. When the criticism is motivated by hatred or greed, it is not even "criticism" -- it moves into pure fabrication and malicious fiction. For example, Talk Radio provides an abundance of criticism, but much of it is simply incompetent noise or hate-mongering -- not helpful.

We need Critics, but we only need "competent" critics. People who tell us the truth, even if it is not what we want to hear. Three leading radio hosts in particular are Great Disappointments in terms of guiding a mature polity:

RUSH LIMBAUGH. This self-serving drug addict claims to have the largest number of listeners at 25 million. In fact, the actual number is closer to 2 million depending on what a "listener" is, and this exaggerated distortion, is just the beginning of his lies, which only get bigger and bigger. Limbaugh's hypocrisy was highlighted without refutation in a book by the notorious Al Franken.

Recently, and I mean three months before Obama had ever set foot in the Oval Office, Limbaugh announced that "the Obama recession is in full swing". Apparently the fraudulent packaging of subprime loans as high-grade securities by investment bankers, the collapse of the automobile industry, and the tripling of oil prices have less impact on economics than the arrival of a campaigner who could motivate millions of people to join an effort to bring hope back to America. We all know how the stock market reacts to Hope...wait, doesn't optimism tend to increase participation? The eagerness to assign blame to people who are not responsible, and the inability to research the objective facts of causation, is the watermark of a Nazi.

SEAN HANNITY. This Fox News anchor is angry and eager to assign blame to "liberals", using that word in a manner he would like everyone to misunderstand. Hannity describes Obama as "an extreme liberal", and excoriated Obama for choosing "one of the hardest left-wing radicals on the left", Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff.

Somehow Hannity overlooked the fact that Emanuel's record and history reveals a Clintonesque Centrist, described by McCain's ally, the South Carolina Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, as "a wise choice". Graham spent years working with Emanuel and described him as "honest, direct and candid...willing to work to find common ground".

The use of an inflammatory label as a conclusion, "hardest left-wing radical", without bothering to substantiate a basis for the conclusion, is the watermark of an idiologue.

BILL O'REILLY. The creator of "the No-spin Zone" in the highest rated news network, this former attorney and creator of news, a "news entrepreneur", is as intensely ideological as any: He constantly spins. He is unique from other media personalities in his claim that he is NOT ideological. His hypocrisy is highlighted in painful detail on the website, www.oreilly-sucks.com. O'Reilly is perhaps the most wealthy of the bullies in the sandbox, and he apologized for failing to give close oversight over the Bush Administration and its defalcations with respect to the "massive corruption" forces which have destroyed America. He apologized! During the campaigns, in an interview with Guiliani, O'Reilly recommended that McCain appoint Guiliani as Attorney General and Romney as Secretary of Treasury -- with both of them empowered to interrogate "and punish every banker" involved in the financial collapse. This is an example of a "solution" that is barely more than self-promotion, and makes no practical sense. To his further credit, O'Reilly did acknowledge that Wall Street was taken over by "gangsters". But appointing one of them, Romney, as a "go to guy" to PUNISH investment bankers, would solve nothing.

The Polity really needs commentary, recommendations, and hearings. We need the jury poll, the forum, the marketplace of ideas. We just do NOT need hate-mongerers appealing to our fears. We do not need people who got rich by spouting ignorance all over our public airwaves. We need people who will address the urgencies and gravities of our days and our nights, as we fall deeper into this impoverishment of opportunities. We need critics of policy who are competent to investigate facts.

Extinctions - blood-suckers, flesh-borers, meat wasps...

Why is the polity so tolerant of pestilence, and at the same time so willing to see wonderful forms of life disappear right before our eyes?

MOSQUITOES. As fascinating as this tribe is, they are not an essential part of a food chain (could be replaced by other creatures), and their hemotaphagous dirty needles spread immense suffering: The Culiseta family is the most dangerous disease vector known. WHO estimates about 250 million people are infected by malaria, and mosquitoes also spread West Nile virus, four forms of encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue fever, rift valley fever, meningitis, and other diseases. Not to mention they also cause sleepless nights and ruin fishing trips and the crepuscular magic of the tropics. Who could possibly miss them? Ironically, I still find people KILLING the "mosquito hawk", Toxorhynchites, in paroxysms of bug-ophobia. This giant of the mosquitoes actually cannibalizes its nasty little brethren. It should always be protected and released.

MEAT BEES ("yellowjackets"). I value creatures whose lifestyle includes eating the other undesireables in my neighborhood. It is my understanding that most of the Vespidae Family, and the Vespula Genus in particular, eat an assortment of insect pests. Our local picnic area and watering hole is often made tricky to use by invasions of aggressive flies which mimic wasps, and a few wasps. Although the sting, usually repeated, of a wasp is painful, and an altercation with a large hive can be fatal, I recommend letting them "be", so to speak. When the occasional paper wasp nest or hornet hole is found too close to my work in the garden, of course, I remove it.

{further list}

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Pollsters did a very good job of predicting the outcome...

My favorite Poll-master - at Electoral-vote.com, has analyzed the relative success of polsters against actual voting results. Looks like ARG, Insider Advantage, and
Quinnipiac U. were on the money at 100% accuracy/correspondence to reality.
Mason-Dixon and Rasmussen were relatively inferior, missing the close calls, although even they came in favoring Obama in overall outcome.

"In Colorado, for example, the scaled poll predicted an Obama vote of 52.7% and a McCain vote of 45.9%. The candidates got 52.5% and 45.9%, respectively. Thus the polls were remarkably close to the actual vote and there is not a hint of Obama polling well but doing badly on election day.

Now look at the eight other swing states. In Florida the pollsters were right on the money. In Indiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia they were off by a maximum of 1.2% for Obama. In the other two states, Nevada and New Mexico, the polls for Obama were off by 4.1%, which is within the margin of error. In both cases Obama did better than predicted, so clearly there is no Bradley effect here. If nothing else, any future discussions of the "Bradley effect" can be quickly ended with the statement: "It didn't exist in 2008."
Comparison of the Pollsters

There are various ways to compare the pollsters. Professional statisticians look to see if the actual results were within the bracketed range predicted by the pollster. For example, if a pollster predicted Obama 51% and McCain 49% with a 3% margin of error and the final result was McCain 51% and Obama 49%, the pollster would claim to have gotten it right because Obama fell within the predicted range of 48% to 54% and McCain fell into the predicted range of 46% to 52%. Laymen would probably say the pollster got it wrong--because they don't understand what the prediction really is. To keep it simple, let us use the second approach and see which pollsters predicted which states right. Here are the data.
Pollster CO FL IN MO NV NM NC OH VA Rt/Tot Pct
ARG Yes Yes Tie Tie - - Yes Yes Yes 5/5 100%
Insider Advantage Yes Yes - Yes Tie - Tie Yes - 4/4 100%
Quinnipiac U. Yes Yes - - - - - Yes - 3/3 100%
Opinion Research Yes Yes No Yes Yes - Yes Yes Yes 7/8 88%
SurveyUSA - Yes Tie - - Yes No Yes Yes 4/5 80%
Research 2000 - Yes Yes No Yes - Yes - - 4/5 80%
Mason-Dixon Yes Yes - - Yes - No No Yes 4/6 67%
Rasmussen Yes No No - Yes Yes No - Yes 4/7 43%

In some cases the pollster predicted a tie, that is, said it was too close to call. Let us remove those from the sample. In that case the scores for these pollsters are given in the last two columns. If you want to play with the data yourself, here they are .csv format."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Politics - the legacy of joy and profundity has begun

With the huge turnout and participation of The People in this election, we demonstrate a love of the "State" in the true sense of patriotism. The one in which l'etat c'est moi, and moi has a dog in the race. A wonderful dog. We are our best friend. Suddenly we have a future again. Time to get over the obstacle of outrage and shame.

Remarkable - John Cusack has expressed the Reality

The actor, John Cusack, provides a wonderful description of predator economics and the Bush Legacy. He provides a wonderful description of both history and present reality, both of which are necessary for understanding the Set Stage which we must now take as Opportunity. What is remarkable is that he does not hold back the recrimination, but does not permit the outrage to impediment a sense of great opportunity: The economics of grace, true Grace.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-cusack/no-currency-left-to-buy-t_b_140250.html