Notes from the front page. Some of this may remain useful or interesting or both.
1. Postage rates are up. International transit has become very expensive, USA package rates are about 2x western Europe. Singapore seems to be the cheapest & probably the best postal system in the world at the moment. If your purchase cannot realistically be sent as a letter the minimum now is about $14.00 (Canada $10.00) raw cost + about 6-9 extra minutes of work for the correct packaging and paperwork. Registration is now about $16.00. My government does not want me to be in international trade.
Because someone reminded me that web pages are noticed by the robots when they are updated. Do any of you have any opinions on monetizing of this site? Should I take ads? Should I open up a real subscription service with a yearly membership to "privileges"? Should I open an ebay or amazon or v-coins operation? Opinions please.
Big changes coming. Not exactly sure what they will be. So look then, at this if you're new to the site. Here's the thing: get on the email announcement list. That's where the discounts and the special offers happen. There is a 10% discount on some categories going on until 1/31/18. You have to be on the contact list to find out about that stuff. So get on the email announcement list and read them when they arrive. There won't be too many.
1. WHAT I FIND MYSELF SAYING LATELY is that business is down. I compared Greysheet prices from 8 months ago. They think so too. Just eyeballing, no stats, looks like 20% down on the prices, more or less. Accordingly: price cuts. This decline has been going on for 2 years, the, uh, 4th such I've been through in my life in coins. This time I wonder if its the final slump, that in terms of coin collecting the whole world might turn into Netherlands, or Mali. Are there any collectors at all in Mali? I don't know. Netherlands is a country notorious for lack of vibrant and active numismatic market. Kids these days, they ain't into, you know, things, by which I mean stuff.
2. LOOKS LIKE I'll break even on the Europe trip. Eventually. Profit margins. That's the way it is these days. Everybody knows everything. One imagines/hopes that professional to professional this professional will see something that the other professional has missed or doesn't care about. In real life usually that's not there. The 20% courtesy discount leaves a 10% markup to pay for the trip costs.
3.MY CHARITABLE contributions down this year too. I find myself thinking about Barbuda: who's looking out for them? Where do I make my token contribution? But you know, Syria still, logging in the Amazon, etc. I'm still doing electoral politics. Municipal elections in this "off" year. Most All of the candidates are at least 51% imperfect. The specific things I mean people who are bottlenecking the efficiency of my party organization are still in place doing their usual inefficient things. But he persevered. Something he did because it made him feel good, as if that was what he really wanted to do.
4. And this nice Chinese stuff from western collections that has come my way. And a client/friend dies. (My) life full of everything.
5. And I have an update on the competence of the Democratic Party on any level, including the county party. No. Act not together. Hopes for new executives not fulfilled. Situation normal.
ABOUT EUROPE: I found more than a few dealers had gone out of business. I visited a second string auction house that flogged high priced grade B material & got high prices while never describing cleaned or damaged material. Several dealers whose public business was buying only, they put the good stuff in auctions, move on the rest to favored buyers, nothing to show me. Several dealers were internet only. A fundamental change in the dominant business model. I found 3 old style shops out of 12 where I could look at coins, where negotiation was possible, where professional courtesy was extended. Lot of modern stuff, lot of high prices. Made we want to think about doing something else.
Stamps are probably bigger than coins there. Picture postcards are a major collectible field, at least half of the buyers and sellers are women.
Solar and wind everywhere in Germany. Trains. Even the fast food is good. European coffee is the equivalent of American espresso.
Someone wanted a Napoleon 40 francs but didn't have the money so I didn't get one. They are common in France, a lot cheaper than you were thinking. Let me know when you're ready. I have some contacts now. Maybe I'll go back some time.
More on this
1. I'M JUST WATCHING the national political scene. The incompetence is impressive. Local organizing is going well. Will the DNC get its act together? Can't tell. Can't tell about the state party either. But the county party seems OK or OK-ish.
2. IF SOMEONE DOES THAT HANDSHAKE THING you just slide to your left a bit, pivot to face the bully from their right side, put your left hand on the base of their right hand by the wrist, push a bit to extend the bully's right wrist. It will hurt, the bully will be surprised, will probably stop the bullying. If not, raise your hands and shift to point the bully's fingers down, making sure you maintain the extension of bully's wrist. The situation will have changed. Strength is not required. Its all angles. Be sure to smile.
3. LOOKS LIKE I'm going to Switzerland, Germany, France in later April on a coin buying trip. Anyone there who might want to meet with me get in touch, see what can be done. Anyone wants me to look for things for them let me know.
4.STAGNATION in the bullion market has bled into the coin market and has reduced margins, making less motivated dealers find something else to do. There is opportunity for people who still like the round flat shiny things. Want $20 gold coins Unc, low markup? Ask me.
5. YOU KNOW that the major grading services ignore edge nicks, right? Comment applies to coins and banknotes.
1. I'M JUST WATCHING the national political scene. The incompetence is impressive. Local organizing is going well. Will the DNC get its act together? Can't tell. Can't tell about the state party either. But the county party seems OK or OK-ish.
2. IF SOMEONE DOES THAT HANDSHAKE THING you just slide to your left a bit, pivot to face the bully from their right side, put your left hand on the base of their right hand by the wrist, push a bit to extend the bully's right wrist. It will hurt, the bully will be surprised, will probably stop the bullying. If not, raise your hands and shift to point the bully's fingers down, making sure you maintain the extension of bully's wrist. The situation will have changed. Strength is not required. Its all angles. Be sure to smile.
3. LOOKS LIKE I'm going to Switzerland, Germany, France in later April on a coin buying trip. Anyone there who might want to meet with me get in touch, see what can be done. Anyone wants me to look for things for them let me know.
4.STAGNATION in the bullion market has bled into the coin market and has reduced margins, making less motivated dealers find something else to do. There is opportunity for people who still like the round flat shiny things. Want $20 gold coins Unc, low markup? Ask me.
5. YOU KNOW that the major grading services ignore edge nicks, right? Comment applies to coins and banknotes.
1. OK, EVERYONE HAPPY NOW?
2. I CAN ACTUALLY SYMPATHIZE WITH the big orange baby. I don't want to play by the rules either. But you spend your life figuring out how to get around the rules you break things & make a lot of mistakes. For me the most important line in the smutty bus video was him saying "I can't help myself." We all want to go "the Hell with it" and just do it, don't we? But is that a way to run a country?
3. I DIDN'T REALLY GET COMFORTABLE with failure until I started studying a martial art at age 58. Failure is normal in that course of study. First you learn how to do it wrong, then gradually you start to learn how to not do it wrong. But if you live by your public promise to never be wrong you've kind of foreclosed on your possibilities for success, eh wot?
4. I HIRED SOME (young) people to update my website & it developed that perhaps they had the tech skills but they lacked project manager skills so the project evaporated and I supported a few young people for a short while while they threw code up in the air. In the "exit interview" the default PM made excuses and refused to consider giving back some of the money in the future, when perhaps solvency would be in the picture. But that's not my point. As he was defensively lashing out he mentioned that he "lost out" on a job when the interviewer looked at my home page and picked out the words "conspiracy theories," which perhaps you might recall I had made a humorous list of few months back. Controversial, he didn't get the job "because of that.." I was 1) what kind of nitwit interviewer would go off on buzz words, you want to work for that company?, 2) serves you right for using my antique website as part of your portfolio when you hadn't done anything for me except lighten my bank account. Feh.
5. This list has a lot of cheap coins that I either haven't had in years or have never had. Just turned out that way.
1. WHAT DO good experiences and bad experiences have in common? They are both experiences.
2. HOW did we get here? We say we don't know but we all saw it happen.
3. HAVE YOU ever edited video? Takes not a little bit of time Experts can zip through it but it still takes time.
4. I HAVE FOUND myself on both sides of many dichotomies, occasionally at the same time. I have been in rooms where I was the only supporter of my position.
5. THERE IS the long tradition of dancing on the corpses of the conquered enemy. There are expansive feelings associated with victory. The victors exalt. The vanquished abase. The abasement of the vanquished is somehow a necessary component of the victory celebration. I think we get this from our predator origins. The victims' struggles and blood make the meal more satisfying. I think Asoka got it better. After his last victory, observing the dead in the field, he went into mourning and decided not to do that again.
6. FACEBOOK can be used as a kind of graphic display of sectarian mood if one has a broad enough range of "friends." Of late I've seen quite a bit of victim blaming and "who, me?-ism" amongst friends who think of themselves as "white." Noticeable increase lately. Amongst people for whom "blackness" is major concern a tired, mournful feeling of internal solidarity without much in the way of searching for allies. A similar dynamic seen between Indian and Pakistani "friends." Between Hindus and Muslims there seems to be not much reaching across the wall. In China there is apparently a growing movement against animal cruelty, perhaps meaning that that kind of awareness is growing from 0.001% to 0.002% but, you know, something.
7. SAME kind of disinterest in solidarity at a recent state Democratic Party business meeting I went to. I seem to always look for things that aren't being attended to.
8. THEN immediately after writing a picture emerges of 2 men, one holds a Pakistan flag, the other an India flag, kissing in public at a demonstration, probably in USA, land of the freedom of speech.
1. CONSPIRACY THEORY: the failed Turkish military coup was a black op by "someone," designed to fail & increase the power of the president.
2. CONSPIRACY THEORY: "Black Lives Matter" is "behind" cop shootings.
3. CONSPIRACY THEORY: Nice in France an ISIS plot or not. Orlando an ISIS plot or not. ISIS is a CIA/Israel plot. Every mass shooting since Columbine was a false flag operation to promote gun control using the same disaster actors again and again.
4. CONSPIRACY THEORY: 9/11 a CIA plot (restrict civil liberties), a neocon plot (more war, more military contracts), a Jewish plot (insurance scam), a Saudi plot (religious fanaticism)
5. CONSPIRACY THEORY: "the" KKK has been infiltrating local police departments for 100 years. "The" religious right has been infiltrating the Air Force. "The" liberals "control "the" media. "Wall Street" controls "everything." All local governments are controlled by real estate interests.
6. CONSPIRACY THEORY: Trump and the Clintons have a deal: he throws the election to Hillary, gets plenty money.
7. CONSPIRACY THEORY: my local Democratic party had an election in which every officer was elected without opposition by acclamation. Seemed unlikely but I was there. I was involved enough to be able to be certain that there was no conspiracy. Would have been impossible to keep a secret.
8. KEEPING SECRETS when lots of people are involved is really hard to do.
9. I THINK: a lot of people prefer to be scared, even more hope for simple answers, so-called "leaders" present their puffed up selves as answerers. We really need competent administrators but we are offered people who can speak well in public. It is not a conspiracy, it is a situation with many interested parties trying to gain advantage.
1. POSTAL RATES have changed. Big jump in international, domestic not so bad. For domestic shipping either priority or first class is still the best bet for getting stuff delivered quickly. In this business so far no one is offering free shipping programs like Amazon, whose free shipping program is really a pre-paid shipping program. But you who have been working with me for a while know that I often partially subsidize the shipping & occasionally give a freebie. When I feel like it.
2. LOSSES IN TRANSIT - client in one country reports that 2 sendings in succession did not arrive. That appears to be a problem. Something will have to be done. Another kind of problem is I sold some of those fragile spade coins last list & a customer reported arrived broken. I doubt it, I knew they were fragile & packed them accordingly, but my policy is everyone gets one chance. This other guy in Singapore though, claimed it never arrived, forced a paypal refund, then the box came back opened, the spade removed from its protection, broken, thrown back in the box, PO sticker RETURN TO SENDER. He's not my customer any more, though he has not been so notified. Want to see if he tries to order something again. Eventually I'll out him to the world as a turtle egg.
But seriously, if you want guaranteed, full indemnity, fully insured international shipment the paperwork will have to be perfect and if will cost real money.
3. HAD ENOUGH OF BAD TASTING POLITICS YET? Do yourself a favor, check out your local candidates: the real estate sharks, hired guns, clueless egotists, blank screen stuffed shirts, deluded ideologues, monomaniacs, maybe there's a good one in that ballot somewhere, but how will you know if you don't do your own research? I was talking with a local guy who had been a judge, we elect em here. "I did traffic all day long, maybe a bit of burglary & so forth. What difference does my opinion of abortion make to my job? But that's all anyone ever asked me when I was campaigning."
2. AND MY WIFE is beginning to see that having different names on different legal documents is getting to be more of an issue these days. Straightening that out sooner rather than later is probably a good idea. Just saying.
1. SHAKEOUT IN THE BUSINESS? I pay more attention to the Asian coin market than to the USA/Europe sector. There is a general "settling" of price levels in Chinese stuff, except at the top of course, which I don't work in. I've seen interesting stuff come on the market as upper-middle class collectors can't afford their kids' tuition & have too dump some of their goodies at a loss. The Chinese market has not "broken" however. Neither has the Indian market, though probably all of the lemming collector sector has disappeared. All in all an OK situation for business & pleasure, assuming you have some disposable income, which, generally, fewer people do than, say, 10 years ago. And I can't say I've run into any "young numismatists" here where I live, though there are plenty living in other countries.
2. LOSSES IN TRANSIT last year were approximately at the same rate as usual: about 4 per 1000 packages, evenly split between USA and non-USA addresses. Locations seem random. No trends have become obvious.
3. 1. ALL OF THE FALSE STUFF being thrown at Hillary does not stick & will not stop her from winning if that is what she does. The problem with the wrongwing is that they don't care whether something is true or not, they just like to throw stuff. If they want to stop Hillary they need facts. Shouldn't be too hard to find. Unfortunately for them all of the potentially anti-Hillary facts have left implications and generally discredit wrongwing narratives.
2. WIFE & I were watching the debate on tape & noticing how conspicuously they were stiffing O'Malley. Putting on our moderate hats for a moment we found O'Malley to be nicely put together, presidential looking, wellspoken, cogent, smart, all that good stuff, as opposed to Hillary, who has some, you know, issues, and Bernie, who has some too. We found ourselves asking each other how come O'Malley gets nothing & doesn't have a chance. Its as if the times demand a little bit of crazy. Solid/bland doesn't cut the butter.
1. LOOKS LIKE I sold 98% of my banknotes to another dealer so almost all of the old stuff sitting around is gone. Good riddance. Most of it had declined in value. Immediately someone brought another 1000 banknotes, a collection no less, not an accumulation, so I'm still in the banknote business. Banknotes have always been about 5% of my business. Nothing I've tried has increased that ratio. The guy who bought them wants to spend all his time on them but, he told me, he has to do coins to pay the bills. What does it all mean? I don't know.
2. MY PARENTS are still fragile and require care. We just got the wills and associated paperwork in order. Took about 2 months. Many people commented "why's it taking so long? Can't you just do... (whatever). Well, it turned out, no, it was kind of complicated. Dad began with a one page document that wasn't going to work & hadn't been registered & all the other stuff that's supposed to be done. When we were done with the new versions each parent had a 35 page document & other documents & memoranda & contingencies & modifications. Piece of cake. Now we can talk about long term care.
3. REMEMBER I WROTE about local politics last time, how I didn't exactly trust the new batch of local (Dem) party bosses? Turns out they are more competent than their predecessors. I still don't know if they are what you could call trustworthy, but they are making the trains run on time, politically speaking. Meanwhile, I find myself not stirred by state politics: quite a few people up for reelection on both sides are getting out but the expectation is that the overall situation - domineering legislature intent on reverse robinhooding & neglecting infrastructure & cronyism - will not change due to extreme gerrymandering. I find myself not stirred by presidential politics. My preferred candidate appears to be becoming a bit more homogenized as time goes by, the connective bond thing being taken up by increasing propaganda about how authentic that person is. I have not given anyone any money yet, may not until after the primary.
1.SOME PEOPLE are telling me that coins are "in a slump." Maybe so. My flow of business is holding steady, more or less, though I went to a local show a couple of weeks ago & walked out in 5 minutes. 30 dealers, about 10 customers. Nice weather that day, nice weather supposed to depress show attendance, but then bad weather is supposed to depress attendance too. What would boost attendance? Maybe nice coins & notes at reasonable prices but not so much of that. Plenty of nice stuff but too high. Junk was too high too, and not that much of it. Maybe they're right, maybe it is a slump. But I'm still busy all day every day.
2. DAD had an episode of hospital & rehab, Mom can't totally take care of herself, so I've had 3-6 hours of an extra job for the past 3 weeks, otherwise this list would have been in your hands 3 weeks ago. He's back home, weaker & slower than before, my support activities will continue for the foreseeable future.
3. AT THE SAME TIME my political activities are in flux. As you can see if you look around there is an increase in governing-by-seat-of-pants at almost every level of administration, with generally incompetent results. Locally my state legislature is passing unconstitutional stuff (declared so by courts) and declining to fix the problems they created leaving administrative black holes (if you fall into the situation there is no way out). In my local party the new officers apparently conspired together to ignore the rules for how to run the meeting that got them elected, did so, got elected, now what? They seem not less incompetent than those that came before. How do I know they did this? I was at the meeting. How do I know they conspired? They told me, without me even asking. Reminds me of toddlers playing with knives. Can I work with people who act like that? I don't know. For that matter, are there candidates worth working for? Debatable. It seems to me the political party organizations have become irrelevant when a candidate can get hired by a rich person who can finance the entire campaign. One imagines that this will not end well.
4. I WANT TO BUY COINS, medals, tokens, banknotes. Good stuff to poundage. Have money. Need stuff now.
SOME CHANGING MARKET & BUSINESS CONDITIONS OF NOTE:
1. SHIPPING COSTS & CONDITIONS: USPS is still cheapest but there are increasing problems. Service is deteriorating (political reasons mostly, far as I can tell, maybe discuss that later) & prices are high. To save bits of money I have begun using a private mailing service to buy discounted postage but still ship through USPS. There have been losses in transit but not more than with USPS all by itself. However, there is an overall slight increase in losses. If your package is insured you will get your money back but if not, not. Generally, for domestic shipments, your best bet (priority) now costs $6.00 minimum: quick, tracked, insured. Less than that seems to be getting increasingly iffy. For international the situation is worse. The best service (quick and with tracking) now costs a minimum of $60.00. Registered first class is trackable but transit time is uncertain, indemnity if lost is limited, there have been losses. Without registration takes an undefined amount ot time, is not trackable, no indemnity if lost, Most shipments get through but not all of them.
2. OVERALL ECONOMY HAS IMPACTED COIN BUSINESS AS FOLLOWS: healthy growth at the top, recession at lower levels, which is where I live & work. There is less stuff available to buy, lower prices at both buy & sell, fewer customers trending older. Low bullion prices don't help of course. My benchmark for a bad year has been 1981. It is not 1981 quite, but the subject comes up. Your collection assembled 20+ years ago is worth a lot more than you paid for it but probably less than it was worth 2 years ago. Now, there is a cyclic thing I've seen in my life, so some kind of recovery is expected. However, in my life every rebound has involved bigger numbers of dollar & people but a smaller percentage of people, so I am not in a position to advise you when & how much things will get better for, you know, "us."
3. THAT SAID, I plan to stay in the business next year, need to buy stuff so I can sell it, have money to do that. Looking for "good stuff," ordinary stuff, bulk low end material, interesting things. Help me out?
4. THIS MAY OR MAY NOT be my last offering for this year. Wishing y'all happy, merry, warm, calm & prosperous next year.
1. I SEE I WROTE ABOUT the nasty stuff happening in northern Iraq back in July. There are a couple of aspects to this complicated situation: 1) Iran is the tip of the spear in the short run & we have to help them do what needs to be done. I am not worried about Iranian nukes because they want them to counter the Sunni nukes (Pakistan, possibly Saudi), threats to Israel are mere diversionary propaganda. But Iran cannot win this Islamic 30 years war (population dynamics), it can only draw. It could lose though, & losing would likely look like ISIS with 100 million people rather than few hundred thousand. So we must, strategically, support Iran. 2) Which means supporting Assad in Syria. We supported Stalin in WWII. We can support Assad. Greater good & all that. We can always go back to hating him again when it gets to be 1946 again. 3) We USAers can't do it on the ground. With all due respect to those what crave it, we, I'm sorry to say, don't know how. Proxies, back channel deals with various flavors of devils. That's not the only way, but I am not at the moment thinking of other ways that would yield any kind of non-worse result. Hard to think of any result less worse than the piles of bodies scenario we have going on there now. "At least" they're not making mountains of the heads they're cutting, a not uncommon spectacle in the past. Yet.
2. THIS IS the third year of no monarch butterflies. Shortage of pollinators have decreased the local zucchini crop, but a fig tree around the corner is heavy with fruit. There was an outstanding mushroom bloom this August from the rains & not-too-hot temperature. A small emergence of big fat annual cicadas, dogs & cats find them tasty and fun.
3. BUSINESS has slowed on both the buying & selling sides. I am finding less interesting stuff to sell at prices worth buying while ordinary stuff is sluggish & also not abundant. I will need a few hundred pounds of poundage soon. I really want to buy whole collections, anyone?
1. I WRITE THIS the day after what's his name had himself declared caliph by a flunky on youtube. In my opinion that is not an act of power but rather one of insanity. He is in no position to enforce anything & has instantly alienated 2/3 to 7/8 of his projected sunni "subjects." If this is a megalomanic gesture it is probably precipitated by the money he grabbed when his boys took Mosul, he thinks wrongly that he is rich enough to do what he wants. If it is calculated then we might as well say that he is an Iranian agent because his Baath army allies are either allowing him to play out while they consolidate in the background or they are alienated. The Saudis hate him because they think they should be the caliphs. The Turkish government hold the caliphal "stuff," the sword & such, & are not going to give them to anyone. There is a split in the sunni insurgency that will become evident sooner rather than later, the only party to benefit will be our back-channel friend Iran. More and more this looks like the 30 years war of Islam.
2. SIGN OF MY AGE? I get my news from NPR, facebook (I have left & right FB friends all over the world in various languages & also various special interest political people selected partly for their oddness & generally tending toward what I consider intelligent and non-angry. I have recently found myself having difficulty verifying claims of various political partisans that this or that event actually happened. Even the presence of video has not always been convincing. These dubious "facts" are for me annoying. There is more than enough real stuff out there to please or displease any consumer of newsertainment, no need to make stuff up. Cultural thing I guess. Last time I was in California I had a brief conversation with a young female person in the office I was in at the moment. Revealing my age it went: "Oh, you don't look that old. A little hair color you could be in the game." Me: "I'm kind of why bother about that." "So you're a what you see is what you get person." "Kinda." But I also notice that out in the non-human world various animals are trying to fake out other animals all the time, mostly so they can catch and eat them. To me its annoying, I often can't tell if its a put on or not & decide I don't have the time to find out.
EARLY this year I decided to work more and do other things less. I proceeded to do that and over these past months my other things I do dwindle, including "expressing myself." I've become pretty boring probably, can't be sure, don't have the time to think it through. I have, you know, work to do. The economy, it seemed, demanded that I work harder/more to keep my head that far above the water. Seems to have turned out OK, there is still work to be done. I still don't "have time" for luxuries like "opinions" mostly. Its funny, I used to have opinions about like everything. Now it mostly seems silly. Like complementary colors: blue does/doesn't "go" with muddy brown? OK, whatever/
2. NOTWITHSTANDING, I think the hidden dimension of the Islamic civil war is the Sunni (Saudi) - Shia (Iran) aspect. The Iranian push for nukes is probably because Saudi Arabia has probably already bought a few from Pakistan, Iran couldn't get them from anyone else but Russia and the Russians don't give them out. Israel is in that viewpoint nothing more than a convenient-for-all distraction. The whole Wahhabi push in the world is paid for by money from Saudi and propagandized from there, all those fundamentalist madrasas. We Americans support the Saudi project totally. The number one enemies for Wahhabis are heretics, worse than unbelievers for them. Shia are worthy of death, that's Iran, that's why Iran thinks it nees the bomb, to balance Saudi Arabia.
What kind of questions could be asked at a press conference of a bigwig regarding the possibility that there is already a Saudi nuclear capability?
1. IT HAS APPARENTLY become illegal for Americans to own Bulgarian material from before 1750 without proper certificates, though the market for that stuff is free in Bulgaria & the EU, just us. I guess that means that all of those trachea, Celtic coins, etc. are from Hungary or Romania? I see the Feds seizing the shipments of a major dealer here & there but they have not impacted the bottom end of the market where I and my colleagues buy & sell our pitiful pieces of junk.
2. I WANT TO DISCUSS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY - in my opinion it has been systematically broken at the state level by the Obama machine, while at the top it has been sold to a faction of "the oligarchy." I won't defend that statement here for lack of space. The upshot is that the state parties are cash & talent starved & politically on their own. In my state the Dems have no power on the state level & there is ideological war between the "people's needs" people & the "let's talk with the people who have the money" people. Registered Dems outnumber Reps & what we call "unaffiliateds" here but gerrymandering has put them out in the cold. The state primary looks to be the usual snoozefest in which a 15% turnout will be considered "good." My local Dem candidate for state House is the only one in the county (?) with a primary opponent, a DINO who voted for McCain & Romney & editorialized about how great Palin was in his student newspaper. I read about how some Tea Party people switched their registration to Dem & filed to run in the Dem primary in Montana. Maybe we have one of those here? It is an odd & muddy situation. In my opinion being unaffiliated & taking the "plague on both their houses" view is counterproductive: we live in their neighborhood & they are the ones who decide what to do & how. Election year. I am making lemonade.
3. AND ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT CAMPAIGN MONEY DECISION: the only remedy is door-to-door personal contact. If that is done all the money there is won't matter. It is to turn off the TV & talk with the neighbors. What do you think?
1. ABOUT THE COIN MARKET: it is generally off. One can tell because the big guys are all talking about how great everything is but traffic is light & what they are talking about is some million dollar coin that sold somewhere. Sellers of ordinary stuff are trying to hold their prices but a lot of it just sits there. Ebay has become the best indicator for prices on ordinary stuff, the indications are that there are bargains around if you like same old. On the other hand, interesting material has become scarce. I've had less stuff thrown at me, most of it is quite ordinary if not inferior, I pay not very much for it, sell it for not very much too. China & India have been the star countries for coins for the last few years but the bloom is off both of those roses and we are picking around in the crumbs. A US dealer laments Peace dollars only worth $20 (to buy). A world crown guy keeps asking for good stuff but there isn't any. I was shown a collection of mostly #2 or less Mexican coins, offered $10,000, didn't get it. I had previously not gotten a porcelain notgeld collection from that dealer. The porcelain went to a collector at about 50% higher than my bid, which was a great retail deal, but that would have been impossible for me. So good for them.
I'm not complaining, just explaining. I can probably sell coins all next year before I have to go out and try to find something. Nevertheless, if you have interesting stuff I want to buy it if you'll let me, and if you have ordinary stuff I'll buy that too, pay well, given the state of the market.
2. I have two adult children living here with us, the older one got a dog, so we have a dog. That's pretty interesting in a grinding sort of way. The younger one has a job as a math tutor, possibility of going somewhere in a minor kind of way. Older one is working some for me, also for a carpenter. I'd rather have them here than sleeping on someone's floor. Looking forward to spring. We can skip winter far as I'm concerned.
3. Merry Christmas y'all. Take it easy, get plenty of sleep.
I can comment on local politics, perhaps you have heard about us in NC:
1. VARIOUS TOPICS - They took the water away from Ashville, Ashville has sued. They delayed a plan to clean up pollution for the Raleigh water supply for 2 years. The attempt to establish a separate charter school board failed but they cut education big time. Cut unemployment, cut medicaid, did not join Obamacare. Messed with voting system in various ways, all of the things make it harder to vote.
2. FRACKING - they could not get it together, the moratorium on fracking stands.
3. DIRECTOR of public safety resigned suddenly, the governor mispronounced his name twice while announcing it. There is probably a scandal but details have not emerged. The #2 resigned at the same time. There is no replacement at this time. That department will be run by a committee.
4. GOVERNOR is seeming to be clueless, incompetent, powerless, ignorant.
5. BUT THE OTHER PARTY (mine) is in various kinds of slothful disarray. All in all pretty bubbly politics in the state in which I live.
1. BEES - 30%+ honeybee dieoff in USA 3rd year in a row. Europe has banned neonicotinoid pesticides suspected as a cause of colony collapse disease. I see/hear no discussion of this issue at any level of government. Something to write to legislators about.
2. OTHER BUGS - there is starting to be increasing talk about farming insects for food. What better indication that food is getting tight? Time to figure out how to break our addiction to food.
3. WATER - in North Carolina there are legislative (Republicans have supermajority) moves to confiscate municipal assets such as water supply and airports and to give them to governor (Rep.) appointed oversight boards. It is thought that these moves are a prelude to privatization. They are also trying to remove oversight of charter schools from the state Board of Education & to establish a separate charter board. It seems they want to dismantle & sell off everything they can in the time they have.
4. FRACKING - there was supposed to be a deal here involving significant disclosure of the fracking chemicals but Halliburton (a corporate person) complained & they sent the bill back to committee.
3. AND - the director of public safety (top cop) is continuing to advise his clients (Republican party, etc. & others with business before the government) in his capacity as a duly licensed lawyer. He insists that he is avoiding conflicts of interest but declines to reveal details of course because of confidentiality. It is a golden age of cronyism here.
4. I NEED TO BUY your good coins & notes & military medals now.
5. Ask me about my recent negative interaction with paypal.
1. NC POLITICS: Repubs have the gov & the leg & are going nuts trying to get as much done as they can as if they figure they're going to lose big next time so better hurry. There is a higgledy piggledy aspect to their activities, seems to be a lot of surface pride. They did a dandy gerrymander in the reapportionment but there is a degree of excess that I think bodes ill for the future. We shall see. Possibly the most dangerous thing they are working on is fracking. We have frack unfriendly geology, the possibility of extensively poisoned ground water is being ignored. They plan to remove science advisors from some of the pertinent oversight boards. It is very strange. Stampede to stupidity.
2. USA POLITICS: strangeness on that level too. Kerry as Sec State was nothing but a personal bonbon, not a particularly outstanding person but helped Obama at the start. Not that Susan Rice would have been better. I guess its hard to find talent. But never mind. The idea of firing every member of Congress seems popular on right & center (there is no organized left here). It seems 2014 might be a great year to throw out a bunch of bums, but again, where is the talent? None on the right, second string all. Not much in the center. Time for a change but where are the changers?
3. AND THE WORLD: it is pretty droughty in a lot of places this winter. We seem to have lucked out again in the flu season. Food & water, that's what I want to keep my eyes on. But I can't. Too much work to do. Spring coming soon. Keeping my fingers crossed.
4. I NEED TO BUY your good coins & notes & military medals now.
1. EARLY this year I kind of decided to work more and do other things less. I proceeded to do that and over these past months have noticed my other things I do dwindle, including "expressing myself." I've become pretty boring probably, can't be sure, don't have the time to think it through, I have, you know, work to do. The economy, it seemed, demanded that I work harder/more to keep my head that far above the water. Seems to have turned out OK, there is still work to be done. I still don't "have time" for luxuries like "opinions" mostly. Its funny, I used to have opinions about like everything. Now it mostly seems silly. Like complementary colors: blue does/doesn't "go" with muddy brown? OK, whatever.
2. NOTWITHSTANDING, I think the hidden dimension of the Islamic civil war is the Sunni (Saudi) - Shia (Iran) aspect. The Iranian push for nukes is probably because Saudi Arabia has probably already bought a few from Pakistan, Iran couldn't get them from anyone else but Russia & the Russians don't give them out. Israel is in that viewpoint nothing more than a convenient-for-all distraction. The whole Wahhabi push in the world is paid for by money from Saudi & propagandized from there, all those fundamentalist madrasas. We support the Saudi project totally. The number one enemies for Wahhabis are heretics, worse than unbelievers for them, Shia are worthy of death, that's Iran, that's why Iran thinks it needs the bomb, to balance Saudi Arabia.
What kind of questions could be asked at a press conference of a bigwig regarding the possibility that there is already a Saudi nuclear capability?
3. REPEAT ADVICE: this seems to be a relatively good time to sell good stuff. Good Chinese & Indian have become scarce, B-level material of those countries does well. I need all kinds of numismatic stuff.
10/25/2012 Straight from my paper price list sent to people who refuse
to use computers:
1. PEOPLE WHO GET THESE LISTS are used to paying attention to things so probably this is preaching to the choir, but I urge you to pay some attention to your local candidates. Mostly they don't have enough money to get their word out, whatever it happens to be, which is too bad because there is the usual bell curve distribution of talent in that collection of people. It has become extremely easy to get candidate information, takes some minutes, then you know. On line that is.
2. SEEMS ALSO that all the extra money from the Citizens United decision us not in general making a whole lot of difference. Something that may be going on is ad time has become so expensive that the locals are starving for publicity. Here we have a governor race - no one is paying any attention. Very odd feeling political season.
3. I THINK I SHOULD CONTINUE TO POINT OUT that in this period of choppiness numismatic opportunities seem to continue to show up. Everything is changing for me in this business. Most of the money comes from overseas, more than 95% from the internet, more than 50% from internet auctions I've been running. Bids on selected world coins from certain countries are getting very surprising results. If you want to raise some cash you might consider discussing consignment with me.
4. PERHAPS THIS IS AN AGE FUNCTION - noticeable numbers of my acquaintances, friends, relatives, seem to have become nutjobs on various topics. It is interesting to watch those opinions develop. Often they start with a question then wander down a line of rhetoric that leads to an opinion, then they decide they like that opinion and there they are: nutjobs. I myself seem to have become a nutjob about exercise. Think about it all the time, do it couple of times a day.
1. ALL ABOUT BUYING STUFF - This is still happening. People are sending me nice $50/+ things then I send an email & a picture or something and a lot of them are gone in a few days, sellers are surprised at the niceness of my payments. That's the song these days. Purchase or consignment. Sell me something. I continue to do business as the world teeters on the edge of something.
2. AS I WAS WRITING THIS THE Supreme Court health care decision came out. As usual I'm not sure what it means in detail or aggregate. It doesn't seem to be a winning point for the Republicans. There is a kind of tilting at windmills aspect to the anti-healthcare campaign. Funny to watch this.
3. WRITING OF WHICH, I am amazed by the formulaic lack of imagination of all of the campaigns. Those ads are so lame. The moves they make are lame, they don't look good, they don't speak well. Stupid stuff designed stupidly by stupid people and aimed at stupider people. Stupid rich people stupidly putting stupid money into stupid campaigns that go after the stupid vote. Deep fried good old stupid. They keep doing it because it seems to work.
4. STILL, I'd rather have fools I can vote about rather than just fools. Big fan of voting here.
1. ALL ABOUT BUYING STUFF - This is still happening. People are sending me nice $50/+ things then I send an email & a picture or something and a lot of them are gone in a few days, sellers are surprised at the niceness of my payments. That's the song these days. Purchase or consignment. Sell me something.
2. THIS OCCURS in a time of rising instability all over the world: this month is the same fragile situation as 2 months ago: nothing serious being done about the serious problems, fanatics chasing willothewhisps, sociopaths trying to get what they can from the situation. The "plan" apparently is to allow people who can pull it together to survive the resource crunch & to let the rest of "them" ("us" if you're in some way communitarian) "go." "We" need the water, sorry, not enough to go around. We can't do it they/we will say, the problem is too big. We kind of are proving to ourselves that our collective species intelligence is not advanced over that of bacteria, who grow their population until the resources are gone then they die.
3. WILL YOUR valuable collection be worth anything "afterward"? Coins seems to be kind of special somehow. Every other collectible category seems to have a smaller market than it used to but not coins. Coins is bigger. I don't know why but it is so. Coin collecting was practiced in China 1000 years ago. In Europe at least 500 years. Vast new hoards of collectors in China & India. I am starting to fill orders from Brazil. They collect the world, they have money. They are not personally confronting the serious situation. They are collecting coins, banknotes, military medals. I help them with that.
4. TODAY I am thinking about the quantum impossibility of accuracy, how the edges of things are all porous and constantly dissolving, crumbs falling off the cookie, into the rug, trying to create compost, someday a grass seed blows in through the broken window, owner of house gone, life goes on. Owner perhaps had a coin collection, sold (most of) it to finance migration of family to some supposed safe zone.
4. HOW IS IT that all human organizations have the same things go wrong with them and become useless but refuse, like living organisms, to die?
1. ALL ABOUT BUYING STUFF - I am finding that I am paying high-seeming prices for "good" stuff & not being sorry afterwards. I am getting smiles from the consignors. Many checks are being written, recipients are sending me second and third and 15th packages. 40 years, this is probably the best time to sell good stuff I've ever seen. Why? China, India. Now.
2. THIS OCCURS in a time of rising instability all over the world as responsible parties find themselves in tighter than ever squeezes with diminishing capabilities.
3. WILL YOUR valuable collection be worth anything "afterward"? Your gold, even? I don't know. Probably. So maybe this is a good time to buy, like my gold bug friend says. $6000 gold he says, its all numbers. He is buying gold now, holding it. Maybe he's right. I like to spread my risk.
4. TODAY I am thinking about biblical-style jubilee debt relief. I am feeling optimistic. I think we will get a constitutional amendment that corporations are not people. After that we can have a general forgiving of debts. Greece won't pay, it will suck in all the neighbors. I think there will come a point at which no one is paying timely anymore, all the money will disappear. Kind of like inflation but all zeros. Sound crazy and senseless? More senseless than what is actually happening?
5. GREAT TIME to sell good stuff. I have buyers.
1. MORE DATA (& "data") for this business: I put out 6 printed price lists this year, as opposed to 8 last year & 12 the year before. Less than 10% of the gross came from printed price list customers. The biggest increase came in the phone & email sectors. 3 clients accounted for ~30% of the gross. 1 client accounted for 20%. Gross was down ~15% from last year, but net will probably be about the same.
2. 2011 HAD A boom in Chinese & British Indian coins, one could call it bubbly, the excitement has come & gone, base prices are much higher for good stuff, lot of formerly available items not present in the market. Booms without busts, the current normal is boom followed by famine.
3. DESPITE FLUCTUATIONS the market continues relatively strong. There is a general lack of good and medium stuff available, only the purchase of old collections gets anything "good" in. I bought 5 such collections this year, or parts of them. Want to sell me some of your stuff? This year consigned material brought in 35% of the gross. Of course most of that was the big Chinese silver coins but still, about 5x what it was the year before. 15%, commission, 12% single items getting $1000/+. Come talk with me.
4. BEYOND electoral politics - all over the world we see manipulation of elections & electorates. The tendencies are toward election of stupid people by riled minorities yielding stupid governments that do the wrong things badly & the right things seldom. Something new apparently taking shape in the internet, we don't know what it is yet. We can see how easy it is to get poll data now, perhaps a different way of making collective decisions devloping. Harder to get away with really bad stuff now: everything likely to show up on the internet. New Optimo Principi aborning?
5. BEYOND confrontation - not necessarily reconciliation, more likely grudging grumbly putting up with it. The neighbor dog barks early Sunday morning. Put up with it. For me annoying things remind me to not get annoyed, do something else instead. Take a deep breath. Get some exercise.
6. SORRY about all the mistakes I made this year. I'll keep making them and I'll keep fixing them.
7. I NEVER know, something good might happen. Keep busy, maybe something will get done. Health & comfort for you next year.
1. WHILE I was writing this list silver went from $41 to $28 & back to $32. All silver prices are guestimates at the moment. They may be higher or lower. There is a lag in the drop of dealer prices as the market falls but eventually the loss is buffered by time & new aquisitions at lower price and our prices fall too. This week a retail gold ounce has a premium of about $100. If the market stays low prices will adjust. I will sell many of my bullion-related items at spot more or less through October. The silver coins 105% of spot will remain available until those coins are gone.
2. DEMOGRAPHIC changes in my clientele: ~2/3 of my gross income this year involved Chinese in some way or other. 90% of the business is done on internet. 98% are male, middle-aged.
3. I BOUGHT my mom a laptop, she'd have a lot of fun but she refuses to learn it. Thinks it'll be too much effort. I remember thinking that way. I still don't have a smart phone. I don't mind waiting until the technology is mature, then I do not let sentimental memories of the good old days express & I add the layer of complexity. Like trying to avoid the ocean.
4. ARAB SPRING - I tweeted & facebooked extensively during Egypt, warned about typical revolutionary regression to the mean, a very brief doorway through which a segment of Israel could have walked (Peace Now contingent in Tahrir Square & other such pipe dreams) & now has become apparent that they only had 1/2 of a revolution & suspect they cannot go all the way to takeover. Watch and learn I told my kid's hipster peacenik friends. Observe all the many ways to fail. How do you keep a united purpose without a personal leader or a rigid ideology linked to an authoritarian hierarchy? We didn't figure it out. You'll have to do it. I tell them.
9/23/2011 Update of coin, papermoney, exonumia inventories today, but
I have not been able to comprehensively review the prices so many of them
remain old and mostly too cheap. More and more my business is becoming
commodity related, prices of silver & gold being mostly bullion related
and therefore floating these days.
1. STUFF OF LIFE delayed this offering until now: all sorts of non-trivial but not disastrous things had to be taken care of.
2. IN THAT TIME, June to now, metals peaked, fell back, advanced again, therefore prices of gold & silver items subject to change. In my business these days there is getting to be a rough head knowledge of the weights of various coins so we sort of quickly calculate in our heads what a coin is worth in metal terms. Silver dollar 3/4 ounce, sort of. So in a sense us coin people are doing ancient style money changer business.
3. TWO REGISTERED PARCELS going out of country to different destinations sat in two different airport facilities for 15+ days before going on to destination. They were not customs issues. They just sat there. A domestic parcel insured $300.00 arrived out of package, totally chewed up, merchandise intact, 6 weeks NC to CA. 3 odd events out of 77 parcels sent. Best freight prices: USPS.
4. POLITICS a very blunt tool with which to attempt to do surgery on human nature. Ideologies inept attempts at instruction manuals. Users of those manuals not understanding them anyway, most of those manuals stay there on the shelf, owner thinks: oh, the answer is over there in the manual, I'll look it up some day. Hire someone else to do it for me. No wonder so much doesn't get done. The wonder is that stuff gets done at all.
5. EXCEPT US. The coin collectors. We know how things work, right? Enjoy rest of summer, Europeans on vacation, stay out of the hurricanes southerners. Avoid spreading zones of anarchy if possible.
5/26/2011 Beware of flaring tempers during hot summer months.
4/10/2011 Still too much going on, no time to write about it. Aged parents have arrived in town. I have to help them get settled. Health issues.
2/24/2011 Too much happening, no time to write about it. Hope to soon.
1/27/2011 Updated inventories. Supposedly we will start shifting the inventories to a searchable database this year. The change will proceed in pieces. Ancient coins will go first.
This update and posting has been prepared partially on the road, mistakes will be fixed in a couple of days.
1. ADVICE REPEATED FROM NOVEMBER: GOLD & SILVER continuing to bubble.
Likely that some of the prices in this list will be obsolete before it
is printed and mailed, changes in those prices possible. There: you
have been advised.
2. I AM SERIOUSLY NEEDING TO BUY COINS. Sell me your collection now please. If you have Chinese now is time to sell some (save some for later). Indian too. But its also a good time to sell anything else. Please send me some stuff.
2. WIKILEAKS demonstrates the generational divide. Do the numbers: there are too many leakers. They can't even keep it down in the hard dictatorships. To restore secrecy we will have to destroy technology. That may happen anyway but we are not going to DO that. There is a new way of doing things going on in front of our incomprehending old people eyes. Vast numbers of educated people for whom national governments mean nothing, no more substantial than breeze on a balmy spring day.
3. THERE IS a large collector community in Indonesia. They collect NEI mostly, VOC. They only speak Indonesian. I bet there are more than a million of them. I'm facebook friends with some. They don't have any money but they collect anyway. There's money in China though. They bought all my good Chinese, then they bought all the grade B, now they're buying anything good from anywhere. US silver dollars get more there than here.
4. THE ECONOMICS this year feels like 1981, gold & silver like 1980, the tightness we feel is like what we felt during Vietnam, paying for all that war. A big difference is that 30 years of neglected infrastructure and resource depletion, the extra people. Not the new extra ones, the old ones, us. Luck to all of us in next year.
Check out Uganda. Another holocaust brewing.
Life has lately given me/us a bigger plate of stuff to do, thus the rather dramatic lateness of this update and pile of unfilled orders. I attend to your orders directly following posting, and if lessons of history can be applied this time I expect to be up-to-date sometime next week. Thanks for your patience.
More patience: we are very close to the searchable database/catalog/inventory I've been talking about for the last 5 years. Should have something for everyone to play with in another month or two.
1. GOLD & SILVER looking bubbly again. Likely that some of the prices in this list will be obsolete before it is published, changes in those prices possible. There: you have been advised.
2. I SAW a movie last night that a major theme was watching people watching things (sports). Kind of meta. This morning I am thinking that I have had several, no, many personal interactions lately in which my perfectly ordinary interlocutors dropped total slogans on me in the midst of ordinary conversation. There was some purpose to the slogan drop, often political, I was supposed to engage on an agree-disagree axis. Of late I have confined my engagement on that level to an observation of the derivative nature of the phrase, to please explain in partner's own words so I can respond from my own experience, OK? Because everything's complicated and all I know is what I know.
3. SO HERE in Raleigh Republican insurgents took over the county school board last year with 4.5% of the vote (9% turnout), abolished the previous integration policy, have not managed to put a replacement in place, they ran their meetings with major drama, now they are fighting with themselves, the main thing getting done is nothing. I kind of think Raleigh is a vanguard city, it happens here first.
The little picture is that the big money is effectively neutralizing about 55% of the population most of the time over time, getting us to waste the bulk of our spare time with consumption of commodities and photons while they do what they like to do, which is make/take money. The medium picture is that nobody knows what to do but the thieves so ephemeral "movements" arise, population shifts around like the water in the bathtub with the kid and the boats, occasionally the agitation spills over makes a mess on the floor, parent has to clean up. But we are also the parent.
So many people, all wanting things.
1. TENDENCIES: to imagine that because people don't know what i know they don't know anything at all, to look at an aspect and ignore the matrix, to play the game of making pseudo-logical if/then constructions in "my" "mind" aka jump to conclusions, to think that i know things, to think that i'm "right," to get excited by stuff, to seek to get excited...
2. LAYERS: layers of things arrayed in space, particular viewpoint (aka "me") moving through the array, layers of atmosphere, water, rock, life, culture flowing through each other, layers of intent, denial, hope, fear, etc. like rime on our activities, layers displaying other sides of things, obscuring and thereby demonstrating layers beyond, shreds of wisdom perhaps occasionally encountered while blundering through the layers.
Apply these principles if you wish to your electoral activity this fall. Haha. My response perhaps to the GlennBeckathon.
2. THE ANSWER LIES within, it doesn't lie without.
3. PAKISTAN - I give to UNICEF - 100% put-through. The thing is though that this kind of major disaster stuff will be happening more and more as the population gets thicker and the resources get thinner. One does what one can, feelsless worse, can't catch them all. I imagine we humans will experience movements of 10s of millions of people in next few years, deaths of millions, the rest of us will feel bad and go about our business what else are we going to do? Wasn't us this time.
4. IN RECOGNITION of the probably imminent deflation of non-essential commodities and concomitant inflation of things like food every order made in September will get extra free gift stuff of greater than no value at all.
5. AROUND the middle of September I'll probably sell off all of my silver, so if you want some buy it now. I have some nice-ish stuff in the melt box.
1. MAKE NO MISTAKE - in the next 3 months there will be a lot of blather followed by the election by us USA-ians of various public servants. About 60-70% of the voters know what they're going to do about that, something between ~20-~70% of us will vote - these are uncertain times. I seem unable to refrain from giving advice, so here are my recommendations for those who are not committed to an electoral plan:
-reduce or eliminate TV as your news source. The visuals get in the way of conceptual thought. Find other ways to get your news.
-sample the propaganda of your ideological enemies regularly. You will always find that they have some good points to make, most of the idealogizing is empty but if there was truly nothing there no one would be interested.
-get your sample ballot from the Board of Elections & research the candidates. That's easy to do on the internet, if you don't do computers someone you know does.
I've been working in elections for 5 years now. The opposite of elections is dictatorship of some sort. I like elections.
2. MY LEAST FAVORITE WORD: "just" - Just do this, everything will be fine. I've always found that to be not true.
3. MY PARENTS - are moving down here in September and I will be involved in the logistics. We can imagine that this will have some impact on the schedule of the next pricelist, well, we'll see what happens.
4. PEOPLE WANTED me to comment on the oil leak, now its capped, everyone's going to loose interest if it stays capped. Like what happened to Haiti? Congo? Darfur? I think in Darfur they said they killed all the people they wanted to so its "calmer" now. Gotta take the long view on these things. The human layer for future geologists will be the one with the chlorinated hydrocarbons in it. Keep going. What's the alternative?
5. NOW I'm on facebook where I make cryptic comments and a blog where I blather.
1. SO, what's the Gulf disaster like? Maybe like the destruction by the Soviets of the Aral Sea. That was when they drained about 60% of it to grow cotton and the rest of it is evaporating leaving a gigantic toxic dustbowl. Also maybe West Virginia-Kentucky coal country, hundreds of square miles mashed up and remade into truncated pyramids. This is about lack of attention. People more interested in what they are thinking than in what they are doing. I see my son do that. He's got a thing in his hand, a spoon, when he's done with the spoon he puts it down, before it gets where he's putting it he's turned his head away, on to the next thing. What do I want to do? Now what? Now what? Uh, oh. Now what do I want to do?
Every functionary in the front lines is working under extreme scrutiny, all are excruciatingly human with the usual bunch of mediocrities and redeeming features, they're doing what they think they can (though the thing about not giving the brave fishermen any respirators and moon suits and just letting them go out there and "do stuff" is probably going to end up being one of the criminal negligence aspects that will get them in the end. The oil is in the gulf stream with that carburetor cleaner stuff they dumped to "disperse" it. Well, it did indeed disperse it. Some of it will end up in Europe. There will be international litigation, BP may die.
If you are feeling like "doing something" and not that people are rushing down there to help, except for some people from Alaska who are advising in reference to their experience with their disaster, you will undoubtedly find a little miniature environmental disaster probably within walking distance of wherever you are, probably that rates moonsuit cleanup. Start working on that. What can you do? If its non-hazardous you clean it up yourself or organize a cleanup party. If its ongoing or hazardous you start a campaign by writing letters to the editor in local paper, calling local authorities about it, etc. Start a journal on the project, keep records, etc. Your own little personal environmental campaign. That's what you can do.
And you can fund your favorite charity and legal fund. You fight those me-first-walk-away-from-the-problem guys with money.
3. STAY CALM. Think things through. Just because there are excited people all around you doesn't mean you have to get excited. Look for the exits.
4. OBAMA'S PROBLEM is that he and his wife are young and credulous. They are impressed with nice clothes, luxurious surroundings, "experts." There are hints of possible greatness, but some very heavy lifting possibly necessary for him to break through that surface fascination thing. Time is short, reality is making extraordinary demands. I have no idea if he will rise to the occasion. Still waiting.
5. THE SPREADING UNEASE IN THE essentially stagnant "markets" seems to be that there is no new money being made so everyone is being extremely careful with static (ie dwindling) funds. A bright side view: "we" are "realizing" that we can't call unnecessary production and consumption of junk "growth." A new paradigm: build to last forever, struggling to be born.
6. GOLD going toward a dollar record, silver stagnating, more or less. Still doesn't seem like a surge to me. Is the flow from the public dwindling? Somebody tell me. If it blows past $1300 I'll change my mind: China and India will have started serious buying again.
7. WHAT THE OPPOSING "SIDES" have in common: axiomatic thinking, incompetent execution. Measurement of performance on the defeat-triumph axis. Tribalism. One should talk with one's "enemies" at every opportunity.
1. FROM LAST MONTH: I GUESS we'll find out in like the next 2 months or so if Obama is a black belt or not, what?
Ish, I think. I had said that his job would be to disappoint lefties full time and to pop the bubbles of righties. Pretty much so far. I guess. Art of the possible. Could have been worse.
2. I HAVE LATELY become interested in the edges of ideas. We have these ideas we use to describe things, they do not cover, you know, everything about the thing, they have an "edge." What is beyond the edge is not part of the concept. Like, um, say. 7th generation considerations in personal planning. Undescribed is not necessarily unnoticed, but usually so I think. You?
3. MARKET IS FUNNY. I talked with a dealer friend who on that day was like "I don't want to do a $10k bullion deal today." Too much trouble. The prevailing margin has spread a bit, even though prices are robust more or less. It is like people are thinking that there is a hollowness to the activity, they don't trust it, want to hedge.
4. For me there is event pressure: aged parents are moving down here, there will be time devoted to that project, so there continue to be delays in response/fulfilment. I am globally sorry about that. All of the business is getting done, order in confidence. The business schedule is 2/3 of the way back to normal. I thought that was pretty cool, but perhaps I grab at straw. I am advised that there continues to be progress on the IT project, there are delays in that area as well. Not that I'm complaining or making excuses, I'm just complaining and making excuses. And on that note - on to the stuff.
Today there is news of a massacre in Nigeria. Mostly women and children were killed. One of the opinions offered was that the men all ran away. Another was that the killers wanted to commit ethnic genocide. There was also discussion that it was a nomad/farmer thing over diminishing resources.
I will offer that it is an example of what will probably become more common, essentially food wars. People seeing less than enough in the future, taking things into their own hands. Ethnic/religious divides will be convenient separators.
Post-ethnic/post-religious types will have to be militantly and martially united to preserve their open society models. If you want a future in which you can live with people who are not like you you will need to think about these things and decide what to do. Otherwise, someday, "they" will come after you, whoever they happen to be, and you will not be prepared.
2/28/2010 - Referring to 2/17 below, well, I could say it's still today.
I thought right after Haiti - someplace else, few weeks, the big ones seem
to always come in twos. I predicted that after the Turkish one, was
right, and after Sichuan, remember? The scientists say not so but
perhaps I may be allowed to suspect that they got that by analyzing at
too low a Richter level so that perhaps in comparing 1000 earthquakes of
R2 say there is no connection, perhaps R6+ incidents would show that corellation
and perhaps one of you knows or can look it up properly. This in
the presence of the Chilean earthquake. And "I" have a "feeling"
there'll be another biggie in another few weeks. Where? How
should I know? Other side of Pacific maybe. India.
On the human level the donations flowing into Haiti aid are down by like 90%. Chile's a "civilized" country and probably they'll get not much in the way of charity, do you think? We, um, need to talk about what to, you know, "do" with all the people. Get another 4 major disasters this year, just our luck, say, then what?
2/17/2010 - I'll put some ideation here later today.
1. VERY SORRY this list is so late. Could not be prevented. I tried to do an abbreviated list with less stuff and ended up with 1500 items. We are getting close to a turning point in the business reorganization. That might mean that the delays and errors may increase even more than they have. Well, January list will be late too but then I hope to be able to gradually move back toward first of the month.
2. TURNS OUT that at least the beginning of my unworkable plan for Afghanistan (the joke was that it needed at least 300k troops) is part of the McChrystal plan, to whit, hold the cities and work out from there. McC is special forces, there will be a lot we never find out about this campaign. Long term cultural issues involved in this development. I'm not sure there is a policy on Afghanistan yet, rather think not. Anyway, a lot will have to be inferred. Plenty of time to discuss if it actually does develop that way.
3. SO HERE is another joke: the Taliban take over everywhere though imagination fails as to exactly how. They are essentially antitechnological, so everything falls apart under their rule and general mortality drops to 19th century levels. Half of the humans die in a couple of decades or less. That will solve the carbon footprint problem. Fewer footprints. It was pointed out to me that population is not being discussed in Copenhagen. Strawberry shortcake but no berries, no cake, only short. It doesn't matter if humans "cause" climate change. The real question is what are "we" going to do about it. That will depend on the qualities of "weness" that "we" possess. The indications are that "we" will not demonstrate the collective intelligence necessary to deal "rationally" with the situation that perhaps is developing so therefore "we" will not deal but rather respond to it irrationally and emotionally so it will be a big mess with a suboptimum outcome, however we choose to define better and worse. (For horror show fans I can report that the "Venus scenario" that I mentioned in a private correspondence about a year ago has made it onto the media, radio to be exact, that would be NPR of course.) When/if the situation becomes extreme and mass human dieoffs begin to occur there will be local wars of both desperation and opportunity. Additionally, in the face of what seems to be an impossible politico-bureaucratic situation, which could be reasonably expected to deliver what might increasingly be sensed as inadequate responses, one could expect major adventurous moves by big or desperate megalomaniacs (personal and/or corporate) at world coup d'etat to force whatever course is considered proper by that person(s). Anything is possible.
What to do? Stop watching TV. Start paying attention to what's going on. That kind of stuff. TV. Stop watching it. Because I said so.
2. A bit closer to actual reality perhaps is the emerging outline of World War III, which again will be Eurasia, substantially probably leaving out South America like the last two times. The flash point is India-Pakistan of course. The missing pieces of the war are an intention to intervene by China and/or Russia. If either of them decide that they want to play soldier with the Islamizers in countries not their own (you know what? I'm going to start calling them Kharijites, which is what they are, which is people who think its OK to kill other Muslims who don't agree with them) there will be that generalized conflict with nuclear possibilities over wide regions for a long time that we've been expecting/fearing since 1945.
1. RESULT OF LAST MONTH'S poll: 100% did not respond. Unity is a wonderful thing.
2. A game plan for Afghanistan: garrison the major cities (1 year), then secure the ring road (2 years). Then seal the eastern border (assuming Pakistan continues to softly not cooperate) Sweep the Taliban west and drive them over the border into Iran (summer campaign if successful, years if not). Iran would love to take care of the Taliban. It will make them happy.
2. Iran's bomb is not for Israel. It is for Pakistan if it goes Taliban. It is for Arabia after the Islamic revolution there, when the king dies or something. Purely defensive. Only Shi'a country in the world. Surrounded by enemies. Israel is just a red cape to wave around.
3. Referring again to last month, someone opined that India could not be expected to behave coherently about Afghanistan because of its utter looseness in governing philosophy. That is a good point, but are the armed forces there bearers of political influence at least as great as other great nations? When diplomats go there they talk with people and then sometimes things happen. It is not merely a gigantic muddle. Another question might be do they care much about Afghanistan when they really have to do something about China? All that water in the Himalayas. Who gets it?
4. I JUST WANT TO THANK YOU again for putting up with the dislocations, latenesses, errors etc. that go with the reorganization of the databases, inventory, and the business in general. We're probably halfway done. Hope we're not doing the last half first or something.
1. I WAS writing on the metaphor of an upset stomach in regard to the current economico-political world, then I thought that talking about stomachaches before I ask you to buy coins might be not so pro-business. But then I thought: a) I'm an artist, my business is my art, and b) my clients will understand. So I go on with it.
2. OCTOBER has been a high anxiety financial month since at least 1929.
3. GOLD probably would be higher if there was enough money around. Gold buying in India is apparently not booming. They are not spending their money either. It's not happening.
4. BUT COINS are happening. Funny about that. We're a special breed.
4a. PROGNOSTICATION: perhaps the US $ is low because they want a low dollar to pay out all of those low interest T-bills they sold last year. So then perhaps they will have to raise rates to keep the T-bill buyers interested next time. So - stagflation next year. Stag because still weak on the jobs.
5. IT SEEMS getting on a year out, that Obama has been middle-waying it pretty well. I am way left, expected him to constantly disappoint me with half measures and delays and obtuse stupidities caused by his um, sheer lack of experience (still better than the guy who learned the wrong lessons from his experience, if he hadn't he would have run as the guy he was rather than the guy they told him he had to be). He has not disappointed my expectations. The other side is very frothy, which is funny until someone gets hurt. So if radicals on both sides are mad he's probably just about right.
6. I DON'T UNDERSTAND why they can't get clarity on Afghanistan. Its going to be hard, but they need India, Russia, and Iran in on the deal if they want to get it done. So they sort of half have Russia, which means they have a handle on Iran finally (but only as long as Russia is happy). India is to balance Pakistan. Without India Pakistan will continue as the disintegrating sink of corruption that it is. Pak can't secure its western border without security on the east. What have we offered India? I don't know. Do you?
7. POLL: Have we pushed the planet over the edge? Define "edge" and then answer: yes or no?
1. THE SCHEDULING FOR OBAMA'S speech is wrong for me to comment but I can meta. It is risky to make a speech into a linchpin of a campaign. Groundwork and planning win wars. They have obviously discovered that campaign is different than govern. Well, they all start out naive, don't they? Now we start to see what he's made of. Too bad we think we need stars. They don't seem to need them in, like, Finland.
2. WAS THAT FUZZYHEADED ENOUGH? Someone asked this morning about gold going up. In the course of the conversation it was remembered that in late 1980 it got to $950 so you can justifiably state that the price has averaged flat for 30 years.. Haha.
3. NUTS & BOLTS: because of scheduling this month pictures will be late and probably most of them will not be fully processed, or at least not "on time." We (the plural first person in business is becoming more correct as time goes on) are very close to the major changeover to a new database / website / order fulfilment process. It may begin this month, leading to disruptions, expected & not, in the procedures. Wish us luck.
1. LOBBYING SEASON. I HAVE FOUND that the form of communication with one's elected representatives most likely to elicit a personal response is to ask a question. The more specific the better. If related to currently pending legislation best of all. I did so recently: My person responded a) didn't know anything about it, hadn't read the bill, b) would investigate. My second query ('Well, what did you find out?") brought a response: a) he talked to the bill's author, b) didn't have an opinion yet, c) thanks for bringing it into attention. They have too much to do, they will always miss a good chunk of what happens. But now something new is known. Being useful.
When you just tell them what you think or what they should do they put your communication in a pile: yes, no, look at this. They pay attention to the size of the piles if they care. But they like to answer questions. Makes them feel useful. Who doesn't like that?
2. MY PEOPLE in Pakistan all lived in Udigram near Swat. Army came through on its way to attacking the taliban, who had also passed through Udigram but had not set up shop there. Army tanks shot up his town more or less for the hell of it, he says. This guy's house flattened, that one too. My main guy got away easy: only about $20,000 of damage. He showed me pictures. They are all internal refugees. He's a go-getter so they just moved their business to a different town.
That, I'm sorry to say, is standard Pak army practice. They have a wolf problem so they go shoot one of their own dogs to wave at the wolves: "You better watch out or we'll do this to you!" Wouldn't be so bad haha if they hadn't been running that wolf breeding operation all those years. No offense to the wolves, the real furry kind.
I'll post some pictures of his trashed house in a few days.
1. POSTAL INSURANCE: They have changed the claim filing procedure and coincidentally I got my first claim denial in about 15 years. I will appeal it. If, suppose, the new system turns out not to pay claims, we'll all have to consider what if anything to do differently. Loss rates remain low. I remain grateful.
2. IRAN: Ahmadinejad probably won but then they padded the vote count. Just very clumsy. Now they'll have to go around pretending that their fly isn't open. They will, I assume, get mean. Show trials, etc. Like 1976-78 it will be up to the overseas students to keep the ball rolling.
3. HEALTH CARE: Turns out my freshman senator is on the health committee & is playing coy in a bid for influence. That's Kay Hagan, blue-dogish "democrat" from N. Carolina. I am not amused. Emily's List was her #2 donor. They called me for contribution, I asked them to get her to commit to public plan & call me back. This is the exact time for you to contact your 2 senators & rep. & tell them what you want for health care.
4. Just today a "successful" meeting between Russia & USA. They discussed Iran, Afghanistan, E. Europe, Japan, China then they announced agreement on nukes and materiel overflights for our bad dream in Afghanistan. They seemed to be smiling a bit. We shall see what happens.
5. You've noticed the long term agricultural leases: China in Russia, S. Korea in Uruguay, etc. Waddiditellya? Gonna be a food problem. Learn to like bacterial preparations grown in bottles.
A. THUMBS UP & DOWN:
Up on the budget. It does what I want it to do.
Down on the bailout. Those bankers ain't nothing but a bunch of smooth talking crooks. All they want to do is steal money and they spend all the rest of their time figuring out how to twist the laws to make their theft legal. Abolish their business. The Muslims have it right. No interest. No limited liability. Only joint partnership. Western style banks have a near monopoly in the world. There needs to be some competition. All of the local money experiments that are going on are doomed to failure. Only Amish style communalism works against the wolfpack that is the banks. The question is how to have multicultural communalism, which is a matter of who do you love. So there it is. Its not a matter of rules. Its a matter of heart. People have to actually change.
Look, I'm a numismatist, which means I've been studying governments and money throughout history. Governments are attempts to keep criminals in check but some criminals always attempt to take over the government so they can go on criminalizing. When they succeed things break and don't get fixed. If a good leader comes along that person still has to deal with hordes of criminals occupying perhaps a majority of executive positions.
B. THIS & THAT
1. NOT WANTING TO DISTURB OR ANYTHING, but I read in Scientific American that a big meteor missed us by a few hundred thousand miles last month. The scary part? It was noticed a few days before closest approach. Last time I looked there was only partial sky search in the southern hemisphere.
2. LOOKS a little drouty again around here.
3. POSTAL RATES GOING UP AGAIN.
4. VARIOUS CHANGES ARE IN TRAIN here at the business. This list may start looking different, I'm not sure. The composition method is going to change, and the software that composes it, so you'd assume it will end up different , but then, maybe not. There may also be some deviation from the once a month schedule of the last about 20 years. I don't know, but we are changing things. Mistakes, uh, will be made. I'll apologize in advance.
5. YOUR elected government people are deep in the middle of whatever mischief they're up to. I was hipped to a bit of local skulduggery involving broadband licensing recently, contacted my state rep who didn't know anything about it. Now he does. I have to get back in touch with him, see if he agrees with me or if I have to argue with him. Asking questions - good method.
1. THE FUNNY profit ratios for bullion have been mostly squeezed out as the holders have had to liquidate at the real market. Not quite, about 90%. There is foolish bubble stuff going on with near bullion and bullion US coins but that will probably deflate soon. About the time you can't afford it anymore bullion will be "normal." Soon.
2. OBAMA is being too careful for my taste but that probably means he's about right. I am so far from middle of the road. The bailout looks very messy, will certainly get more so, meanwhile people will have to give up, take the hit, go on, things will continue to happen. I am more concerned that he get as much of his budget as possible. Too many things to do, not enough time. I wrote my senator, one of them anyway, the other is no point. She's a "fiscal conservative." Told her she can say whatever she wants as long as she votes for it. This is the best of all possible times to bombard your reps with messages. Tell them what to do. Enough people do they start to pay attention.
1. ONCE AGAIN I CAN SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE: numismatics was not dead in February. You came through for me, hope I can continue to come through for you.
2. WHAT ELSE I CAN REPORT: in another forum I have been complaining that there seemed to be no continuity of the Obama campaign organization with the local party structures, in which I am (in a quantum-like sense) entangled. The campaign organization is supposed to be engaging in advocacy for the Obama program, such as it is, but the "normal channels" are not being accessed. This leads to grumbling from the old guard. There is the possibility, however, that what is being generated on a "meta" level is buzz, and that perhaps this virtual campaign, so to speak, will carry the day. leaving the yakking suits to wonder what it was they just did. In that sense, perhaps, I am participating in the pro-O agit-prop merely by mentioning it. If so, do you find yourself heartened and/or convinced? (or, conversely, if you are on the other side, ditto inverse?)
1. MY JANUARY was not too shabby. About the same as my December and November, which were close to the average for the last 2 years. Does that say anything about the economy in general? Not sure. I've talked with many (!) people who are or will be laid off or lost seriously on investments. Numismatic people seem for the moment to have a bit of a cushion. My dealer buddies are reflecting that view. There remains activity. My worst month ever was January 1981, so bad I remember it. I was at a show and like 100 people came all day Saturday. This is not as bad. Yet.
2. MIGHT AS WELL GET STARTED criticizing the president. Kind of my other job. OK, he's president of every citizen, some of those citizens are various kinds of non-nutritious scum (from my point of view, as I am scum to some of my compatriots). Still, I think there is just a bit of a trace of a bend over backwards to the right that has perhaps a tinge of a flavor of something other than political aikido. Was nice to see Pete Seeger up on stage serenading the nation on behalf of a president. I'd feel a bit more comfortable if that side got a nod about once every 2-3 weeks while the status quo gets 3 for every 1 for "progress." Still, must be philosophical. Until few weeks ago there was no ratio at all. "They" got all of it. "We" got none.
And I know that at least 50% of you, my esteemed clients, just thought "what you mean "we"? Chill. One of my associates (maybe half way to friend) is a xillionaire, lost big in November, created for him a personal emergency. His story: "They (AIG) won't take my calls. I've got a million bucks invested with them but I'm just a little guy. They don't have time for me."
3. US STATE DEPT. just put out a "memorandum of understanding" that seems to require new paperwork for import from China of coins, etc. before 960 AD. China had been asking for before 1911. A colleague in Hong Kong thinks that this doesn't apply to HK dealers. It certainly does not apply to import from countries other than China. Since similar agreement with Cyprus I have not noticed that Ptolemaic tetradrachms from Paphos have disappeared from the market, though Iraqi cylinder seals & clay tablets have. So I don't know what this new China thing means.
1. I'VE RECEIVED the new KM 17th c. coins & pre-1961 paper catalogs. IMO they are not significantly improved over previous eds. Few price changes, but pricing by the catalog is probably a mistake in most cases, they're last year's prices at best, if they didn't change most of them after 5 years (17th c coins) what does that say?
There appears to be some serious interest in getting an online catalog going. If it starts to happen I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I urge you to consider a future without Krause catalogs so that you will not be caught out "Huh?" if it happens.
I am establishing a special email list for discussion of various aspects of this online catalog idea I'm playing with/working on. Various questions to be discussed. If you want to participate contrive to let me know please.
2. MICE PLAYING - is my take on the current Israeli activity. Maybe they figure they wouldn't be able to pull it off after Jan. 20 when there's a man in the White House instead of a boy. Not a good job. But you want to see what the real Arab response is: Egypt is helping Israel, Syria is busy distilling rose attar or something. No unity. God is Great.
I submit, however, that pushing a city toward Somalia status is kind of self-defeating. There is a thought that if you treat a bad country as an infection and quarantine it you will contain the contagion but I think the metaphor does not hold in fact. Anarchy spreads but tends to be overcome by regulated free enterprise, which everyone likes better.
You with me on this thinking? Niceness trumps meanness in the end. That's what I see.
3. BETWEEN NOW and the middle of January will be the best time to contact your legislators and officials and tell them what you want them to do. After that they will be getting to work and won't have time to deal with little you. Go talk with them now, ask them what they think, get them to agree to consider what you say. Then you can go back later and tell them that they said they'd do such and such, what's up.
1. I think I'm starting to think that capital gains tax is, like, backwards. The way it is it promotes speculation. You want to get in, do your thing, get out in less than a year. It should be exactly backwards from what it is. An investment position that is liquidated in the shortest time should attract the highest tax. The longer term it is the lower the tax. Promotes long term growth. Probably the tax should never be zero. What do you think?
2. We are in a both-and time, not a this-that time. It will be necessary to be global, in the Kerryesque sense to make sense of things. A unitary view is insufficient and will fail. Attempts to solve our problem in linear fashion will not succeed.
What does this have to do with coins? Well, Krause publications has seen fit to dispense with the services of both Colin Bruce and Randy Thern. We all know that the main product they produce - the Standard Catalog series - has become badly messed up due to what appears to be fundamental data handling problems. The absence of those two guys means that they are pretty much down to about 2 people in house who know coins like at all. That means that they have lost the ability to improve their product. Also, their main money comes from yearly sales of the 20th c. coin book & yearly updates are no longer necessary. This means they are probably getting ready to abandon it.
While I will not abandon the Krause group as long as they are the only game in town, I think that the need for a decent catalog for world coins is critical to my business and your benign obsession. Preparations must be made for a future without Krause catalogs. Because of cost considerations the successor catalog must be on line.
I am working on a structure for such a catalog. I need help from people with various levels of computer skill ranging from keypunch to systems integration. No money yet of course, possible piece of the action, maybe some "free" coins.
If you think you see what I think I see get in touch. Time is of essence.
My comments on the election will be in 2 sectors:
1. calm down
2. what next
Then I will briefly address "him."
1. I have within various parts of my "being" various views
of history, which in some ways I "do for a living." And it turned
out that I did research in some, it seems, very specialized (= unpopular)
fields, so that I find correspondences in events that other people do not
notice. Ask me for examples if you want to go there.
But I will, in this presentation, keep those thoughts to myself. Not out of coyness, but because I think I have more interesting things to consider.
So I'll start with some naked admonishments, that is, unsolicited advice given in the imperative mode: do this! Don't Do that!
The next president is all sorts of historically special, may be extraordinarily aware and/or capable, may turn out lucky or not. The important thing for people to keep in mind is that he is a politician and that we hired him to do political work.
Politics is the practice of dealing in an ongoing manner with all the things that need to be done in a "society." To have a "society" there has to be minimal provision for everyone in it. Politicians attempt to build and maintain structures of production and distribution so that people don't all over die in the streets, etc. Some people act in a primarily egalitarian manner and in the extreme are called "saints." Other people act in a primarily selfish manner and in an extreme are called "sociopaths." Both extremes and mid-rangers in that field of self-regard enter the field of politics and devise ideologies to explain and promote their habitual activities. Perhaps, in human history there has been found a preponderance of sociopaths employed as politicians.
Obama may turn out to be Joshua to Martin King's Moses, or more likely will turn out to be an ordinary character with some sort of fatal flaw, but he is still a politician whose job will be to get things done with the various sociopaths with whom he will have to deal because the have their hands on some levers. That means he will produce a long string of half measures, imperfect approaches to inadequately appreciated situations, earmarked legislation, positions filled for political rather than practical reasons, one disappointment after another. Even if he is Joshua the army that he's leading is, you know, us, and you know what kind of lazy, stupid, selfish good for nothings we are, don't we? Plus all those complete jerks he has to do business with all the time.
Joe Lieberman fer cryin out loud. I mean it is just a big fat joke. There'll be Obama going "My good friend Joe." For the 58th vote, or the 60th, whatever. Whatever Joe wants he's going to get. And we Obama millenarians are going to go along with it because O's the one who may not give us anything we really want but will at least make the right noises, feel our pain. Instead of the class warriors whining about class warfare as they steal from our pension funds.
2. What next. I am writing from the perspective
of a 56 year old. I am actually on the dinosaur side of a tech situation
that has rendered me substantially irrelevant to the youth of today.
My children spend major time interacting in venues I don't know about,
use technology I don't know about, do things I never heard of, etc.
"Those people" just built an organization from nothing that took over the
Democratic party, made the existing party structures irrelevant, elected
a president, and we old people essentially had nothing to do with it.
It was a dump-the-old-people election and we got totally dumped.
I will illustrate from my local perspective. I was a precinct chair for the local Dems this year. We had plans and programs and volunteers to do them. Obama people came in for the primary and stayed. They were dynamic and organized like we had never been and they did their thing essentially without reference to us and our plans. It got so that they had so many people out doing Obama things, and including our local people of course, that the local party in October essentially said "never mind, go work with the Obama people." They did our get out the vote job better than we ever had. So, technically, nothing to complain about.
The responsible thing to do now would be for that superb organization either to come to us like the Borg, resistance is futile, and I would happily go along as long as the goals and methods looked right for me, or, like missionaries of yore, to bring the new gospel and methods to the primitive heathens and to let us use them if we can, imperfect vessels that we are.
We'll know soon enough if they intend to carry on into the new age, and if they do, are they capable. That's neither here nor there. What is here for all of the individual "us" is the ever-present opportunity to be involved in the political process, which is, for everyone, to talk with friends, relatives, neighbors, etc., and the politicians, to form interest groups and promote issues, to deal with people who seem to disagree with us on something in order to get stuff done, all that stuff that most of us (me included) don't like to do. Because that's how it gets done, and if you don't do it and I don't do it either THEY will do it the way they want to do it which may not be the way WE want it done or it won't get done.
The end of making excuses? The beginning of personal responsibility? We'll see.
3. About him. Reagan was a guy who wanted to do
something. From my point of view what he wanted to do was base and
ignoble, never mind it was a direct assault on my class interests (lower
middle baby, toe that line, pay that mortgage). He was pretty successful,
and in the end a very few aspects of his program turned out to be not utterly
bad. Never mind. We sense that perhaps Obama wants to do something
too. That he is becoming a president not primarily to please himself
like Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Clinton. They ran and ruled in vain and
unsuccessful quests for self-validation, psychosomatic presidencies, if
you will. Obama, we think we sense, is different. Some of us
imagine the things he seems to hope to do are in some way "progressive."
But we don't really know. We've had bad luck for so many decades,
we're jumpy about optimism. The competent ones applied their competence
to theft, lies, brutality, etc. That we might actually get someone
at long last who will push for reconciliation rather than victory.
The possibility is immensely scary even for people who yearn for it.
It is obscurely eschatological, is it not?
We don't know. But we will see.
GO AND VOTE!
1. PASSED ON: as people feel squeezed there can emerge panicky thoughts as they look (desperately) for something that will relieve the pressure. Two of these incidents have come to me, both from suppliers "higher placed" in the numis zone than I. One was a lot of silver: "lot of collector coins for you" that turned out to be astonishingly low quality. Other was a paper batch that had many minor problems to kill the value. Probably both of them were prepared with the kind of wishful schizophrenia one gets when one is focused on survival. One thinks: "He won't mind," "She won't notice," "Maybe she'll like it." I don't blame those guys, but next time I will of course have to examine the merchandise much more carefully, plus they each owe me one.
You will not get that from me. I have an absolute satisfaction policy. You don't like, you send back. I prefer your happiness to my solvency. You got a problem talk with me. I'm listening, I'll try to work something out..
2. HEY AUTO MANUFACTURERS: want to survive? Think about things other than wheeled vehicles. Think about things other than transport vehicles. What do people really need?
"Think, think, think, think," said Pooh.
(But what does that do for tourism?)
3. MARKET FORCES CONTINUE TO UPREDICTABLY AFFECT my pricing. This is a great time to bid. Bid high or low, how to tell what the right price is in ten more minutes? I may cut prices on my own. Or maybe raise them. Who knows?
4. OH, thanks for the good business last month. Very reassuring.
I will write on the outcome of the election later this week.
1. WELL, SO, I am apparently still in business. Will I still be so next month? Up to you. Remember I wrote about the bullion hoarding going on amongst the holders? Still happening. Nobody can believe the prices are so low. They must be wrong. But can't argue with reality. Nobody serious (like 200 million people in China & India) is buying so the price stays low. The spread has grown too, at least at my level. Hedge the risk. Paying less, charging more. Funny. Haha.
2. NEEDLESS TO SAY I suppose, but fact is I have no idea what things are worth. I didn't know last year and I still don't. Only now nobody knows what anything is worth. Yet we stagger on in the dark. Maybe these prices here are high or low. You, I suppose, will inform me in due course. And that (what you do) will determine if there is a pricelist in December. Oh, and husband of my assistant was de-jobbed so I probably will lose her because they need a job with benefits.
3. THIS ONGOING UNCERTAINTY spiced with bad news tends to produce irascibility (not me, fortunately I have the key) and irritation and a few clients have unusually complained about some of the numerous mistakes I make all the time (and more as the body progresses toward trade in). Warned me I'd better shape up or they'd cut me out. Two guys. Chill, guys. I fix all my mistakes at my expense. That's all I do. I can't make you happy. Only you can make you happy. You want perfection go shop at like Littleton. Life is short, the world is big, why get upset about things that don't matter? Or even things that do, come to think about it.
4. I AM SOMEWHAT INVOLVED in local electoral things here, various approaches to getting people to vote. I wonder if I'll get the November list out on schedule. Want to guess who I'm going to vote for?
5. THIS IS A TIME OF MAXIMUM DANGER in some ways. People will go to the projected loser with truly dangerous ideas and we will be relying on the character I think he has always had that lies underneath the coat of sleaze to say no. Back of the wrong ideas and the impulsiveness and the misplaced hurt and the festering neurotic desire to win the Vietnam war I think that there is a core of wanting to do the right thing. This must really be giving him an ulcer. Let him think about all the disastrous things that people could do on his behalf and firmly act to prevent them.
6. THE PERSON who runs the bread store where I buy my bread is a Coptic Christian from Egypt. I don't know if her church is mainline Coptic or a small sect. She invited me to a festival they had, was it Easter picnic? I forget, we did the picnic part, not the church service part. Maybe 5 years ago. They have this church that is built of stucco to look like a 1500 year old mud brick Egyptian church. The people at the picnic looked like the people in the ancient tomb paintings.
So one day in the spring this year I mentioned something political and she said "I'll never vote for Obama. He's a Muslim." And I said, "No, he's not. He's a Christian." "No," she said.
"You know how they are, if the father is a Muslim then the child has to be a Muslim."
"Yes, but two things," said I. "First, his father became apostate and wasn't there to force the issue, two, this is America, where the Prophet's (PBUH) charge that there is no compulsion in religion is taken seriously."
"Doesn't matter about the first, he's still a Muslim even if he doesn't practice, and doesn't matter about the second. You know that they are permitted to lie. He's lying. You'll see."
Well, and then since then she has brought up the matter several times, giving me numerous examples of Muslim perfidy and mistreatment of her people from history and from her own experience. I have no doubt that some of her own stories were true. Certain types of bad behavior are kind of endemic though not universal in Muslim cultures in general and in Arab cultures in particular, just as certain (sometimes other) types of bad behavior are endemic here in "the west."
Most lately, last week she attempted to give me a series of "lessons" in pamphlet form prepared by her church on the danger posed by Islam to everyone else in the world. Must have been maybe 40 of them. I took one. Promised to read it.
Well, I did. Thoroughly scurrilous. Kind of like what the Nazis wrote about the Jews. Little bits of truth here and there set in a framework of apocalyptic hysteria. I won't give examples. Basically, Muslims worship the devil and everything they do is bad.
I have to go back and discuss that crap with her, and she is an old lady. I am going to ask her what do her people plan to do with all this fear and hatred? There are maybe a couple million of them if she is mainline Coptic, do they want to fight to the death with a billion people?
It is "fundamentally" unhelpful to invoke the divine in support of such extreme positions. It is the mirror of the "join or die" approach that the Muslims followed, some of them, over the last 1400 years. It kind of doesn't work in a world of billions of enemies. One kind of has to be a little more discriminating, if you know what I mean. Perhaps in some "fundamental" way there is an "existential" us and them thing going on, but some day the moderates on each side will need to find each other to make a different kind of "we." I meet "we" people all the time. Think I'll be able to do a "we" thing with her? If it happens I'll let you know.
1. MOST UNUSUAL BULLION SITUATION: after the almost 40% drop in silver in 2 weeks a bullion "shortage" developed as the whole world, so it seemed, wanted in on the bargain, but all the holders wouldn't sell. Why just yesterday I got 3 calls for bullion. They all told me no one had any. That wasn't true of course. So I played coy. Spot was $13.50, would they pay $20 per ounce? Yes. Would I sell? Call me back tomorrow, I have to do this list. (-:
This situation is stupid.- "Everyone" is sure prices will rise, but of course no one knows. Could actually drop more. Anyway, in a week the mood will be different. The disposable cash people think what they have could be all gone next week. Or another week of holding and the holders will start thinking about cash flow again. 3 weeks ago people were telling me they didn't have the money to buy the gas to come sell me $10 of silver to buy more gas. The situation is not significantly different this week. We breathe the sigh of relief, gas is $3.60 rather than $4.00. Bullion "gradually" rising again. We might be able to fit 2 boom-bust cycles into a single year?
The cycles are very fast. That's instability. The correct image is the unicyclist ("the economy") on the inclined high wire juggling plates, beginning to lose balance. Fortunately there is a safety net. Unfortunately the safety net is us.
Perhaps we should study Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Moldova, etc. to get some idea what to do in a stripped economy, how to grow food without artificial fertilizer, what to do about water.
1. JUST CURIOUS - how y'all doing in "these uncertain times"? Some of you in some kind of tight spot? Well placed and doing OK? Going to tough it out? Looking for something to do with some money?
I have business. So far so good.
2. NOW THAT inflation is here and everything is more expensive I guess I can stop talking about it? But now comes deflation as everyone runs out of money and can't afford to buy things, prices come down. But they won't come down a lot, at least not for the necessities. I mean, aren't we happy that gas has gone down a dime after it went up a dollar?
The bright side is that if this goes on long enough substantial pools of derivative money will evaporate and we'll have a clearer idea of what things are really worth.
3. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY is the wrong metaphor. It objectifies and alienates the products of the mind, binds them to a crystallized version. Crystals are pretty and can be potent, but they are an end point in the creative process and then you have to start again. The correct metaphor is the older usage: intellectual field. Open in every direction. These guys and their lawsuits are trying to keep thoughts in a bottle like they were carbonated beverage. Doesn't work. Give up guys. Produce tangible product. The new ideas grow out of the product. They are not the product. You sell the cow you don't own the calf.
4. OH, SHOULD that apply to spiritual practice as well? Are the fruits by which thou shalt know them actually beside the point? Hmm.
3. I WAS CONCERNED lest Obama be assassinated while out of country. Sigh of relief. Worried Willy me. I figure if the kids vote for him he'll win, if they don't probably not. My 17 year old is only peripherally interested. Probably vote like his parents. If he votes at all. To him Obama is old. He's off to college in 3 weeks, a little less.
1. IT SEEMS TO ME that the ideal human behavior is that which is conducted without ulterior motive. How does it seem to you?
2. I FIND IT EXTREMELY DIFFICULT myself to operate without ulterior motive. There are all these different angles.
3. ONE OF THE REASONS things don't get done is because there's too much to do, do the easy stuff, sacrifice to some ulterior motive just a bit (because you deserve it), deal with the big stuff later. That's with the best will in the world. And people get distracted, they get wielded out when they make a mistake, personal stuff gets in the way, maybe even big parts of the plan are wrong. No wonder politicians turn into creepshows. Even the best of them. They deal in wholesale people. They can't help turning into what they are.
Hmm, I guess that applies to upper management and major shareholders too?
I mean, I kind of know every customer I have, at least to some extent. But I put them into categories and generate stats. I don't do that with my family. Wholesaling. How much more so when they have a million employees and a million shareholders and 100 million customers. The people become like a school of fish to the observer/manipulator. Strange things happen to the "soul" when contemplating one's family that way.
1. POSTAL RATES have turned out not so bad for letters and light stuff but significantly higher for packages. If you order weight there is less range before priority kicks in at a bit less than $5.00 per pound for delivery in USA. For out of country it is pretty expensive in dollars, more so-what-like in euros. So I will hold at the $3.00 minimum shipping charge for shipments in USA but will predict a somewhat higher level of add-on for larger orders.
2. MORE ON PRICING: an economic "moment" seems to last a few months these days. That pseudo-benchmark commodity gold seems "stable" in the $800-1000 range. The US dollar seems momentarily "arranged" with the other major currencies. The food staple situation is evidently subject to speculative hoarding, the kind of thing that enlightened despots in olden days would impose public execution after torture to punish, is plainly bubbling, the bubble will burst, hopefully with only "minor" deaths from famine and the blighting of millions rather than tens of millions from malnutrition. This year, I mean. Oil also seems bubbly. The problem is not the price, it is the scenario that Joseph laid out for Pharaoh. The people at the choke points continue to manipulate and skim profits. This is what Einstein was referring to in his "ways of thinking" comment.
In China they study Chinese history. There were several incidents in Chinese history in which avenging armies of liberation ate their oppressors.
Prices for numismata are being set outside the USA and are higher for what they want. As I write this the markets "out there" remain strong. I continue to be surprised. Put some price on something I think is insanely high, it sells. What it is for budget collectors is a great time to sell. At this "moment."
3. MY CURRENT INITIATIVE BUGBEARS are net metering and recycled municipal water.
1. POSTAL RATES GOING UP THIS MONTH. Don't worry about it. I'll see how much it costs and adjust as necessary.
2. I AM FEVERISHLY RAISING PRICES but will inevitably overshoot, the bubble will burst, it will become possible to make successful bids again. But not yet. Stupidly high prices are the way it is for now. Could change any day.
3. I WROTE THIS ABOUT 4 weeks ago: I think what we're seeing with the global food shortage (breathtaking concept, no, not "breathtaking," more on that lsome other time) is mostly a series of dislocations I think mostly caused by speculation. I don't think there's actually so much more ethanol being produced. If there was a serious shortage meat production would decline (and again, that doesn't count fish), its not, so where's all that alcohol? Its not there, ergo there's a lot of hoarding going on out in the world. Meanwhile it has taken less than a year for "everyone" to figure out that corn ethanol is a bad idea. This has been one of the stupider and more shortsighted of bubbles. Farmers figured that out halfway through last year I think, thus the reduced corn planting. I think, barring bad luck or even stupider decisions on the part of people who can make things happen, that farming will get back in balance in a few years, maybe only one. Widespread famine unlikely in 08 I think, at least on that score.
Now I am kind of thinking that maybe I was overly optimistic. It appears that the food thing is being seriously mishandled and is too big to wiggle out of. Spotty famines later this year seem more likely than not. Keep fingers crossed we'll avoid widespread regional famines. And, you know, breakdown of order.
4. GLOBAL WARMING will tend to make Siberia very attractive to China for cropland. Perhaps we would see some interesting agricultural contract operations in central Asia if we looked for them. Anyone know anything?
6. FOR THE DEMS it is to dump the boomers or not. Bill or Michelle? For the Reps it is how serious is Mr. Straittalk about being a kindergentler Bushiot. One has to assume he is being disingenuous. Doesn't one? The mendacity of hope.
5. IF YOU LIKE CHINESE COINS - I bought a tasty collection. Get in touch to get the announcements.
4/2/08 - Let's talk economy. It is obvious that thieves are all
over the place and the only thing anyone can do is to read the fine print.
That's all there is to it. Like if you live where I live, and you
can't recognize poison ivy and black widow spiders, you have a problem.
Read the fine print. Keep records.
Anyway, prices continue to be fluid in my business. One day I'm paying $14 for a silver dollar, next week $11. Prices will continue to be subject to change without notice.
So look, 5 days later the bullion is getting to 20% off the high. The guy I helped, I hope he had his prices locked in (hard to imagine on a weekend) otherwise he made nothing or maybe lost some. It rained all week, the barrels are full (but it didn't rain 82 days last season).
1. POSTAL RATES GOING UP NEXT MONTH.
2. AS I WRITE THIS the anticipated crash has not occurred in the coins/metals market . My sales seem to be slightly growing despite the fact that I am raising my prices all over the place as fast as I can get to them. There's probably some creation of future scarce dates going on now as stuff gets melted, but good material is getting pretty tough and high. Just the way it is.
3. THAT MALIKI! What a card! Doesn't he realize he's a puppet? They must be slapping their heads in DC. Johnson was reported to have rolled his eyes about SVN strawman Nguyen Cao Ky, who would go off and do things without permission, daddy America would have to come in and clean up. Can't hire good help. He could have at least asked. But no, he has to do it himself. Look Daddy! I can conduct my own operations!
4. MOST USEFUL BOOKS: PROPAGANDA, by Jacques Ellul (explains how it works), THE PETER PRINCIPLE, by Peter (explains why things don't work), SHIKASTA, by Doris Lessing (very accurate prediction level).
5. WE PUT IN SOME WATER BARRELS, now we wait for rain. The barrels fill up we get about a week of water for the garden. So maybe it won't rain for 80+ days like last summer. Winning strategy.
6. IT WILL BE GETTING INCREASINGLY EASY FOR US ordinary people to fly off the handle as the pressure of life increases (consider, though, the alternative). Very useful to be able to step back and consider calmly as the flames creep closer.
7. WILD SALMON fishing soon to be banned in USA Pacific waters. Should have bought some wild salmon futures last year, eh?
8. HELPED a local colleague buy bullion this morning. $100k of business last week. Americans are not buying gold. Americans are selling gold. Chinese and Indians are buying.
1. ME THROWING MY HANDS IN THE AIR about pricng last month got 2 interesting responses. Both were to the effect that my (modern) banknote prices were high. They have a point. But the older paper is getting just ridiculous prices. No one complained about the coins. Most of the silver I sold in February now spots higher than my price. When I wrote this list silver was $18. As I take it to the printer its $19, a lot of the prices are already obsolete and I'm going to raise them.
This is like 1980, but the underlying causes are different. Massive quantities of gold and silver are being put in the ground all over the world. There is certainly some bubbliness to this situation, but when it pops there will be a lot of bullion out of circulation, so I figure the busted price levels, whenever they arrive, to be considerably higher than we used to be used to, Meanwhile it feels funny buying silver quarters, currently worth more than $3, etc.
But the low dollar and the increase in money elsewhere has moved the other sectors too and that makes for queasy situations when a coin or note is offered for triple or quadruple of what it says in the catalog and it SELLS.
The sum of behaviors we seem to be observing is a sort of consensus that what we're collectively doing really is unsustainable, that it has to stop soon, but no one is going to stop until there's no choice any more. Hence the bullion hoarding.
Several countries have placed export restrictions on wheat. A prediction of local food shortages in "developed" areas may be appropriate. A bit of famine perhaps in outlying zones.
Then there's the matter of the oceans, but let's not talk about that now, OK? Everything related to everything else.
2. NOBODY KNOWS what to do, except what obviously cannot be done, which is everybody calm down and be nice. Thus we drift, like polar bears on ice flows, hoping to jump to well water before the city system fails, put some gold in the ground, put a year of canned food by. Countries trying to do it too: take over the energy supply, poach someone else's fish. Oh, didn't want to talk about the oceans. Farm raised sweet water, only way to go. I have seen the future and it is tilapia.
3. BUT ANYWAY, until further notice, which may arrive at any moment, this is a great time to sell. Prices may seem painful if you were alive in other eras, but there are people out there to whom these numbers are normal. If you were thinking about it go for it. If you weren't thinking about it, think about thinking about it.
I hope to write some blather in next few days - life is so "interesting" these days. But there is no time at all. This I wrote a few days ago to fill space on the paper price list I send to the Luddites:
1. I DON'T KNOW THE RIGHT PRICE FOR ANYTHING ANYMORE! Are there more
collectors than ever or are we all broke? Y'all let me know if my prices
are ridiculous, OK?
2. THIS IS WHAT the edge feels like, you know? I skipped NYINC this year, my aged parents came to see us this year. Instead went to a local show where the main business was buying bullion and you could see lots of floor. I had a good January but it sure was interesting. Wasn't it? Hope you did OK too.
1. PERSONAL: Last time I looked I still seemed to have my feet on the ground. All things considered, under the circumstances, I'm moderately hopeful that I am in a not too unprepared position, whatever weirdness comes along next year. And it has to be weird, if only on the superficial ly political level. Lot of distractions for us potential voters. Many mice will play as the media updates the odds every hour on the hour.
2. BUT THEN there is that realer reality, "somewhere." I have not received a package from Pakistan since August. My guy there seems to have temporarily relocated to the provincial capital. I hear from him fitfully. He's OK, there is activity of various kinds.
3. WE GOT 2" of rain yesterday at the measuring site, but not on my garden, maybe 1". It was displayed by the media as reducing the rain deficit to only 7" for the year. They did not mention that it added only a couple of days to the 70 or so left in the reservoir. I probably don't pay attention as much as I used to but I noticed that.
4. INFLATION - It has become apparent to me that we have moved into a serious inflation in like all sectors except used electronic & digital stuff. In my business (this one) I am finding relacement prices for most numismatic items are the normal retail prices of a year ago. Anything decent I mean, and the level of decency has descended, not to be too generalizing about it. Really nice stuff is kind of out of sight. relative to the norms of the last two decades or so.
They are buying their old coins in Mexico and Netherlands!
We will have to adjust the number of zeros we are comfortable with.
And of course there are exceptions to this upward trend. Mid & low-level USA coins for example.
5. MY SITUATION again, perhaps seems to me to be good-ish. I seem to have good sales out of country, and perhaps that puts me in a position to sell your stuff at good prices "over there," where they pay more. Think about it. Watch the trends. If you want to, get in touch. Good time to sell.
1. WELL, Thanksgiving knocked out any spare time November might have had. But I really want to write about the disclocation(s) in the business. For the last 2 months I have been doing more selling out of country than in. Cheap dollar. This has caused all of us dealers to raise their prices and the foreigners don't seem to care - American stuff is still a good deal. So now we can experience stage 2 of inflation. Not only are imports more expensive, American products are more expensive. We can't afford, like, anything. Or maybe tomorrow if not today.
I've raised my prices too, but, you know, moderately. Middle way in all things.
There will be stages. At a local show couple of weeks ago it was like everyone was positioning their stock 15% ahead of the market. The net effect was to discourage sales and conserve stock. They all figured resupply would be a shoe dropping experience. There were sales though, maybe at the grade B level. But next year, when all the stock is gone, then where will the customers be. everything is 35% higher, or 50%?
For me its like, can I afford to have $0.50 coins any more?
And all of the silver in the world is heading for China, where there is about a 6% premium.
I figure better to be forced out of business with the inventory all gone than to have it and no one can afford it. This stuff is only for discretionary funds, after all.
Overall, busier than ever. This is an excellent time to sell your coins to me me me me me. And paper money too. Everything.
2. SOME TIME NEXT YEAR maybe some real estate opportunities? If you have any money of course. Just step over the financial corpses on your way to the closing. But maybe you'll be bidding against foreigners who got paid in non-dollars and who don't have to pay health insurance premiums because their government takes care of it.
Like, say you pay, oh $13k in taxes and $8k for health insurance, or your employer does. If there was single payer you'd be paying more in taxes, right? Would you be paying 60% more? Do they pay 60% more in Canada? I can tell you because I know. They don't. If you add in health insurance premiums we might be the most heavily "taxed" people in the world.
Hahahahaha, as they say in Iraq. Joke's on us.
3. OH, hasn't been in the news at all. My guy in Pakistan told me that the government there has been bombing the town of Swat for about 2 weeks to try to get this radical mullah who took over the town a few weeks ago. He told me he could hear the noise from 5 miles away. Not a peep from the media until few days ago when it was mentioned that the guy was now on a mountain outside of town and the government was going after him there. If a major action falls in the woods and no one says anything does that mean it didn't happen?
1. THERE IS EVIDENTLY a critical situation at the State Dept. Supposedly they are getting ready to interpret literally a request from the Chinese government that we ban import of all Chinese objects made before 1911. This despite the fact that the Chinese government does not ban export of this stuff and has asked no other country for similar restrictions. Supposedly State will grant this request as a pre-Olympics good will gesture. I am advised that the person to approach to attempt to derail this is Congressman Tom Lantos. If you are in his district you should contact him directly, otherwise you should contact your own Congressperson and request that person talk to Lantos to “find out what’s up” with the Chinese request.
I can provide background on request.
This is now. If you are going to do something do not delay.
Recently Cyprus requested and was granted somewhat less sweeping restrictions. Included in the Cyprus list were about 10 extremely rare archaic Greek coins, so what from my point of view, but also the extremely common Ptolemaic tetradrachms of Paphos, most of which are not found in Cyprus and that the customs examiners would have to know Greek to distinguish from other (allowed) mints. So it’s a problem.
The camel’s nose is in the tent here. If China goes Italy will come back with its request, which, recall, encompasses everything made in the Roman Empire at its maximum extent.
This is now. I do not relish the possibility of saying once again that I told you so.
Do not just go with the flow. When did I ever tell you to do anything? Well, its time to do something. Write those letters. Make those phone calls. Whatever you think about the rest of my politics this is definitely something we have in common. Go. Do.
On the other hand there is enforcement. For that, probably, ha.
2. MARKET IS quite roiled at moment for bullion and buyer pressure reasons. There is also that low dollar thing. And the excess disposable income in China thing. And the recession in the housing sector thing. Millions of people are finding that they have a lot of money and then suddenly maybe they don’t, then they do… It is very fast. In my experience when things get this sketchy it usually does not result in a soft landing.
For instance - I had overall a pretty good month in October, but if all of the various proposals I had received had gone through it would have been twice as good.
And all of what made this a better month was from China or overseas Chinese. And all of the stuff that didn’t happen was also Chinese.
So how are you doing?
3. YOU KNOW I’ve been getting stuff from Pakistan. It is not quite war there but it is war-ish. Might not be able to get stuff in future. Have to wait and see what happens.
4. ON TO INSANITY: I heard an interesting theory on NPR. Putin’s job as he sees it is to keep oil high. The way to do that is to keep the pot boiling in the mideast. He doesn’t have to really do anything, we do it all for him. He sits back and whispers encouragement to Iran, lets us clobber them, he can then hug them and promise to make it better, meanwhile getting all warm and fuzzy inside because Russia always has contemptuously hated Iran for 500 years now. How wonderful to get the stupid Americans to do the dirty work for the motherland. Oil drifts towards Osama’s prophecy of $144/gallon.
You know what this reminds me of? Daddy Bush saw an opportunity to stick it to the next president by going into Somalia. How pleasant to be able to pretend to launch a humanitarian mission while really handing a big mess to the guy who beat him. Then when it goes sour you can blame the sap for screwing it up. Which is what they did. Somalia was not Clinton’s fault, it was Daddy Bush’.
Can they be stopped?
4. LOW DOLLAR - allow me to remind, is being created for the purpose of paying off government debt with depreciated money. This is how we pay for the war (and corruption and profiteering) - by sticking the creditors (China, etc.) It is getting extreme enough to annoy Europe, where the relative strength of their currency is making them fiscally musclebound.
They smile while we stick it to them. But you know what they will do when we are tapped out and on the ground. They’ll put out their cigs on our forehead, laugh and walk away.
5. SPEAKING OF TAPPED - around here they are talking about not having enough water to run the electric plants so maybe they’ll ration electricity as well as water. Really. Rationing, as in they turn off the water (and electric?) x hours per day. And they are talking about, oh, you know, if this goes on, well, uh, regional food shortages because no water to irrigate.
No plans yet. Just hints of rumors in the media. A bit of steak sauce to tenderize the mass mind.
6. MUST BUY COINS & PAPER MONEY. Please send.
1. MY FEET TO THE FIRE: I told y'all that everyone who ordered from the last pricelist would get a 10% credit towards their next order. If I forget to do it please remind me. I should notice that you ordered, and therefore give you the credit, but many a slip... And please DO NOT calculate the discount yourself. Go ahead and pay full amount. I'll refund as necessary. Administrative pseudo-efficiency.
2. THOSE PEOPLE OVER THERE who dumped bullion to pay bills last month evidently got over the hump and bullion prices are back up. Meanwhile the dollar is so cheap, who in Europe could resist? But fear not, there'll be plenty of gnashed teeth when the outstanding T-notes get cashed in. And there are going to be a whole new pile of bills in October.
3. DECRYING GAME: been watching too much Stewart, affecting my language. Today we learned that the sole water source for the town I live in, population 200K or so, is down 54% and we'll run out in January. I remember writing about this drought a year ago. Its getting that I hate being right. What am I thinking ahead about now? Never mind, you don't want to know. I mean, its not like I'm worrying or anything, not my style. Calmly watching the asteroid approach, getting ready to jump. Only its not an asteroid. Its a tsunami of stupidity. You find the last 7 years kind of dumb? Just wait. (What else is there to do?)
4. I DID see the guy pulling out of the gas station but I don't know if he (she?) saw me. I was on my bike, hit the brakes hard to not hit the car. Me and the bike went airborne. I broke my wrist. He (she?) drove off. Did he (she?) ever see me? Don't know. When I looked up he (she?) was gone. Sep. 21. Doc told me to not use the arm. I'm using it. A little. 6 weeks before the cast comes off.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Been thinking about it for few decades. I think the only long term answer is that ALL women should be fully trained in personal and military combat. All mothers should learn the craft and teach it to their daughters. The males - well let them do what they want to do. Further, every female who graduates from firearm class should carry a firearm at all times.
Think that might take care of some of the problem?
1. CHANGE IN MINIMUM POSTAGE CHARGE - the dust has somewhat settled on the new postal rates and it is not good. A single coin of any degree of thickness rather than thinness is apt to be classed as a "package" with a charge for 1 ounce at $1.13. It does not get better for higher weight. Therefore, effective immediately, the minimum charge is $3.00, and I humbly beg you think of the weight and add extra just in case. You'll get back overage as refund or credit.
2. BECAUSE OF CURRENT TIGHTNESS IN MONEY we are all feeling a bit poorer, aren't we? So here's an incentive to make you order more: every order will generate a 10% credit towards your NEXT order. Deferred gratification - the best kind.
3. I GOT A LOT of responses to my scribble on obsession. Several stories reminding me that collectors can and do go to the dark side pretty regularly. Ripoffs of all kinds: show thefts, returning a worse coin in place of the one sent, was reminded of a guy who got mad at one dealer and proceeded to order and not pay for stuff from several more. So scratch my proposal that numismatists are milder and more moderate than other obsessives. We are nuts too.
4. DROP IN DEMAND & THEREFORE PRICES of most discretionary things has caused shortage of bullion for sale as everyone holds on to theirs waiting for things to get better again. If things stay tight people will eventually be forced to dump and then there will be plenty of stuff around. I will continue to buy until I run out of money. Could be tomorrow, maybe the next day, whatever day you read this. Or maybe not.
5. I FIGURE that this is the beginning of the payback for the bonds that financed the Iraq war. Will be like post-Vietnam - stagflation and wotnot, malaise. When? Don't know. Gotta keep on keeping on.
1. ON THE NATURE OF OBSESSION - the trick, I keep telling my children, is to keep it moderate. We all have these "things" that tickle some deep parts of "us," that's theoretically OK as a process, some go so deep that there is the possibility of damage. The damage can range from a stupid annoyance to an inability not to commit the worst possible felonies.
It can be anything: objects, habits, food, drink, emotional state, ritual activity both secular and sacred, collecting, watching things (sports e.g.), drugs, sex, violence, exercise, pets, work, prudery, dominance... you know - things. In general, but specific for the obsessee.
If you find you have one, I tell them (who doesn't?), you must arrange your relationship with your particular thing so that you can stay alive, avoid harm (to anyone), stay out of trouble, etc.
Also, I tell them, there are a few things that the potential for damage is too great, and you should not do them at all. And there are a smaller few that must never be engaged under any circumstances. You'll have to find something else to do, otherwise you might as well just turn yourself in.
Lucky me, they are not intrigued by that last category. But they have set up a trampoline right near the cliff, so to speak, and they are bouncing up and down.
I don't think I've ever met an out of control collector in my business, though I have met plenty who made unfortunate decisions about exactly what to collect. A quasi-contemplative activity like that has only one way to get you into trouble - spending money that should have gone somewhere else. But coins, at least at the level that you and I work at, involves so much study that we're pretty much forced to be smarter than we used to be. We don't go nuts very often, do we, except maybe at an auction?
2. TOLD YOU SO - about the economy, I mean. The holes in the bucket have become rather large and the decline in money level has become widely noticeable. It should get worse as the various bonds become due. Well, maybe a giant rabbit will hop out of the hat. Meanwhile, you're still buying, and so am I.
A. I need someone to analyze, attribute, and price cut stone and natural crystal specimens for me. Maybe sell them too. The task can be seen by you as a job or as a business opportunity. As a job it could be short term or "permanent." From my point of view the outsourcing will be either educational or a delegation of responsibility. Last year my cuts & crystals made about $6000 of profit for me. I think there is room for expansion. If interested please get in touch.
B. I am looking for partners/collaborators who want to discuss the possibilities of mutual cooperation in the development of distributive systems and resource allocation. I think that there are vast unutilized opportunities. The model is standard small business: work hard and make small profits over and over again. For me time is the bottleneck. Prerequisit is to know or to imagine you know what I'm talking about. If interested please get in touch.
C. I want to discuss possible applications of swarm theory to data handling. Also want to discuss the concept of "active data" that metaphorically stands up and waves its hand when you look for it. And I want to discuss the possibilities of using a neural transmission paradigm of wave propagation in an analog to the electrochemical solution of neurology. I'm looking for degrees of correctness, you know? And the leakage of heat from the transistors as the current passes through them carries information too, yes? Is that an analog perhaps to the electrochemical wave stimulating the nearby neurons that are NOT in the direct circuit? Sure, nerves function in binary too at the bottom, its either calcium or potassium, but in space and time there is a gradient and that is how we do what we do with our lump of jello. You know what I mean? Moore's law is not going to pull our chesnuts out of the fire forever. There is a billion dollar idea there. Let's talk about it.
1. WHAT IS ON MY MIND AT THE MOMENT is what appears to be an early onset of summer doldrums in the coin business. Or maybe its more complicated and long term than that. The people I talk with are all on my level, I have not much contact with the "big guys." All of us are living on serendipity. There is no flow. Supply is not merely tightening, it is tight. Local show last weekend - traffic light, plenty of gold lying around, distinct dearth of interesting new stuff. Paper money is very tight, almost to the point of stasis - almost nothing happening.
In short, droughtlike. Makes one wonder about things like longterm sustainability - the kind of thing they must be thinking about all the time in Tucson. They are wondering where they're going to get the water. I'm wondering where I'm going to get the $5-50 coins, the interesting banknotes at any price.
Maybe the hollow shell that is the housing market is reaching the coin business? Last night I heard on the radio that super-rich around the world are stepping away from hedge funds, which apparently are feeding on a tax gimmick that may soon be illegal if it is not already, and are buying... real estate.
When real estate is "cornered" you get landed gentry. Perhaps we are seeing the reemergence of feudalism? No, actually, I think not. More like the Roman Empire. Maybe.
People frequently ask me if they should hold gold. I remind them that it is expensive to hold value - you have to buy the security. Lack of security is why we continue to dig up hoards. The former owners could not get back to the hole they had dug. Rich guy bought the land maybe, or maybe the Mongols came.
2. ENOUGH GLOOM AND DOOM for the moment. Younger son is at a state-sponsored smart-kid summer program. He reports that so far they are mostly wasting his time. Better, I figure, that someone new wastes his time for him. He's pretty good at wasting time already, but maybe he'll get some tips from these people.
3. AN ATTEMPT this spring to deal with a spraying cat using a slingshot brought this revelation about weapons: if you don't carry them around all the time they are useless.
1. NEW POSTAGE RATES: this time they have done a major overhaul. I'm not sure how everything has changed, will find out over the next few weeks. Most things are more expensive of course. The main thing for most people in USA is that large envelopes or lumpy packages will in many cases be about $1.00 more, or more. For international, there are various exclusions, etc. that were not there before, and registration is now $9.50. We'll figure it all out eventually. Meanwhile you might go ask for a raise, cause you know postage is going to be the least of your worries.
My minimum postage charge is still $2.50 and will suffice for 2 ounces insured in USA. The rate of increase is steeper though, not for weight but rather for size. If they decide its a "package" rather than a "letter" it goes from $0.41 to $4.50! So lumps are going to cost. And there's a big bump in insurance: $200 is $2.45, $250 is $4.60.
I'm going to pass all of this along. You don't have to think about it especially, except that when you get a "balance due" for inadequate postage you can remember that you read this, if you did.
2. MY BUSINESS is quite significantly shifting overseas as the weak US dollar and the increasing affluence of a substantial sector "there" allows the 2% or so of collectors to do more of what they like to do. Overseas receipts are still "only" about 20% of orders in terms of numbers, but they tend to be richer in content, approaching 40% of income.
More and more countries are developing a collector base for their own numismata, so that there is a drain of "good stuff" from here back home. The latest countries I've noticed are Belgium and Netherlands!
3. THE PRICE of gasoline is about 30% higher today than it was a year ago. But the US dollar is about 30% down against the rest of the major currencies, so really we're paying about the same. Ha ha. From a macroeconomic view, I mean. We're also getting paid 30% less than last year. Chuckle. No ticket no ride.
4. What the Democrats should say: "OK, we admit, we can't stop him, we knew we couldn't. We're going to let him continue to waste your money and your children's lives and when he has to go home we'll clean up his mess for you, raise your taxes to pay for it all, straighten out the budget, all that good stuff."
5. I did some back-of-envelope calculations, made some miniscule changes of habit involving duration and volume of showers taken, method of washing dishes, etc., and cut my personal water use almost in half. Mental equivalent of remembering to put my glasses someplace in particular so I can find them in the morning.
6. http://ejectiraqikkk.blogspot.com/ - Iraqi kid living in Jordan, blogging in English. Reminds me of my kids. Great humor, but you know, he's a kid. NOTHING is sacred. Good for him. I found him googling "iraqi jokes." There are about a million of them, one for every 17 Iraqis.5/1/2007 International Day of Labor Solidarity AND major European pagan festival day. Let the music play. Let the May be poled.
I will write again in my normal bilious manner when I get a chance.
1. A FEW DAYS AGO a news article on Blackwater Corp. the "military services" company. They have many thousands of guys running around in Iraq & other places including at one time (and still?) in New Orleans. The report mentioned various ripoff tactics that the company engaged in, among which that they billed the taxpayers 3x what they paid their troops, I mean employees. If you're in business you know that 3x is the magic rule of thumb. We business owners pretend that if we can't bring in 3x what we pay them we're going to lose money. Maybe that's actually true, more or less. So that's not the problem. Rather, it is why were Blackwater goons in New Orleans (or anywhere else) in the first place & why did the govt. deny it had hired them? Then there is the whole non-delivery of services syndrome that has put them and Brown-Root in the news over and over these last boondoggle years. More important even than their hands in our pockets is the building of this private army, strategic location of large private military bases in several parts of the country, & extension of contacts with officials in and out of the military. Think "militia" in the Iraqi rather than the constitutional sense. Um, if you don't have a problem with this situation, uh, why don't you?
2. THEN I HAD A CONVERSATION with one of those people who ask a question for 4 minutes and then interrupt the response about 10 words in to give their own opinion about the question just asked. Subject was "usury." The thought there was that Islam prohibits "usury" and that is somehow better than what we have. Actually, Islam technically prohibits interest of any kind, which is a problem for them because it requires accumulation of cash through saving, thus over hundreds of years they fell behind the Europeans with their turbocharged banking system fed by interest. I think that the problem is not interest, which is essentially an economic widget, but rather limited liability, which is a matter of fairness. Limited liability allows the top dog in a venture to put more of the risk on the bottom, to be able to walk away from the train wreck and still have scratch, leaving the grunts to clean up the mess. Fundamentally unfair. And once unfairness is allowed it tends to grow without limit and top dogs tend toward enslavement and cannibalism as livestyles. The religions of the world have tried to reign in this tendency but they have only partially and occasionally succeeded. That means that they fail regularly, and having failed they concoct explanations of how what they are not doing is OK. But its not. Fairness is the issue - what you do to the least of these.
3. DRUG LEGALIZATION SCHEME - Legalize everything. Users of incapacitating drugs can give up their kids and their assets and live in a "gated community" (jail) where they can have all the drugs they want, ruin their bodies, die, etc. They're addicts, they won't care. If they want to clean up they can, when they're clean they can leave. Users of pot & alcohol can give up their drivers licenses. Something like that. What we do now is ridiculous. This plan is ridiculous too. Shoot em all has been tried and does not work. Something should be tried that has some relation to the facts.
4. THE STANDARD CATALOGS (of World Coins, etc.) problem relates to their ongoing attempt to digitize their operation. We have seen several years of declining quality in their products. I don't know if they are going to be able to fix the problem. There are time and personnel constraints, and it may be that they got off on the wrong foot with the computer stuff 10 years ago and now they are digging a hole to nowhere with their efforts. I also don't know if they are ready, in a corporate sense, to admit this. Would be a shame if the whole thing fell apart. Then what would we do? Don't know, but assume it involves the web. A number of us are working on the problem, like mice running around between the feet of the dinosaur. I, for one, seek venture capital. Low 6 figures a year for about 3 years ought to do the trick I reckon.
5. IT IS APPARENTLY ILLEGAL to buy & sell USA military medals again, or even to put them in the mail.
4/16/2007: NO, that's not so. The real story here: http://www.usmilitariaforum.com:80/forums/index.php?showtopic=3345
6. ALSO ILLEGAL to export more than $50 of US coins. Is this true?
WE HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE
A projection of what will happen if the Iraq oil law goes through (google it):
The USA will eventually pull out of Iraq in a more or less disorderly manner leaving a government that will fall. A horrendous situation will ensue. From the ruins will emerge a nationalist or imposed government that will be rough and tough. As soon as it can it will repudiate the oil law. It will then immediately make a deal with Russia &/ or China &/ or India. So the instigators of this foolishness will not get the oil anyway.
Meanwhile, ethanol is set for failure in this country because it is tied to corn and cannot be profitable in the long run and hydrogen is a will-o-the-wisp. So the whole plan is in vain. They (the planners) are pig headed but they are not stupid, therefore they know all this. So why? Because they can't live with the shame, emotional weaklings that they are. And because they are essentially criminal sociopaths who only want what they want and no one else matters (i.e. normal governing types).
Nothing to do now but to stand around with the shovels waiting for it to all be over.2/15/07
I think I like the Murtha plan. Comments?
LATER THAT SAME DAY
State Farm pulling out of Mississippi illustrates perfectly the basic flaw of the capitalist system, which is designed primarily to boost private benefit. The private corporations feel that their pursuit of private gain trumps considerations of public citizenship, honor, duty, etc. This is normal in business. Only the great visionary business owners and leaders pursue goodness and mercy as their primary motives. Like immature juvenile delinquents they need to be constrained and trained.
On the "important" issues of the day I find that my views are being thoroughly verbalized by the usual suspects, so that I may be quietish and catch my breath. There is snow on the ground here. No clear advantage. Spring will come and attempts will be made.
1/26/07 more or less
I think that one of the major issues we humans have in dealing with war is the juxtaposition of heroism with stupidity. The heroism is on the ground, the water, in the air, may one day be in space. The stupidity is frequently active at the top - the strategic level or above. In our human history it has been the case more often than not that the troops do the above-and-beyond in the furtherance of motives base, criminal, or merely stupid. From the start it has been the propensity of jerks to grab power and to twist the capacity of (young) people to the service of their disgusting or asinine ends. The youth go bravely to Hell, some don't come back, the returnees deal with various damages. Often the jerks continue their jerkiness to their natural conclusion.
We owe a great debt to the damaged youth. Whether that debt is a debt of gratitude or contrition depends on the circumstances, and cannot always be determined. For every World War II or Rwanda, in which one side is clearly being demonic, there are about 1000 conflicts in which both sides have some claim to just cause. But the debt is complete. We allowed them to take a job that might wreck or kill them. The contract ought to be lifetime and it ought to be top ranking. Damaged veterans and their dependents should get lifelong care and support, survivors should get lifelong care and support. Jerks, being jerks, will always try to screw them.
I will take this thought all the way to the end, and update it to modernity
by not referring to World War II. Grunts who served during the dirty
wars in Argentina, Chile, Salvador, who have no choice in North Korea and
Sudan, are entitled to be proud of their service, no matter that their
leaders were/are disgusting creeps and/or nincompoops.
1. THE UNSEEMLY HASTE of the execution of Saddam seems to me to hint at a hidden hand. The guy was a motherlode of intelligence. Who wanted to hide what?
I find that I am practically forced to blow my horn about me me me regarding Iraq. Read my old stuff - I was 99.9% correct all the way through. Way back at the start of this I wrote something about Iraq being the oldest country in the world, political-social-religious things hiding there deep underground, survivals of the 8000 years of written history. Up in the north there are "Assyrians," remnants of the empire of Sennacherib, a mere 2700 years ago. There are so many layers and nuggets of power that we cannot possibly know who is in control, and indeed that is what we have there. Every face we see is a puppet. Anyone we can recognize is not worth dealing with.
2. IT DOES NOT HELP that our number 1 ally there, the estate of Sa'ud, is and always has been working at cross purposes with "us." Given, however, the close and murky personal relationship between the Sa'uds and the Bushes there would appear to be more to the apparent contradiction of Sa'udi funding of the Sunni insurgency. Makes one (me) wonder if Iraq is perhaps a proxy war between the visible Sa'uds and some untouchable internal opponent, another side of the family I suppose. If that funding source was not untouchable the visible Sa'uds would have simply eliminated them by now - they are an absolute monarchy, no one would have stopped them. Thus we are simultaneously "protecting" them in Iraq by yanking the tiger's tail and aiding their enemies by spraying oil on the fire. (If you can't abide mixed metaphors you have no business messing around in the Middle East.)
Now, Bush having been hung out to dry, we can expect, I suspect, some kind of build to a climax of bloody absurdity in the next 6 months, followed by some kind of shift of phase. I would go on, but I want to see what his plan (or, more likely, "plan") is before I point out its foolishly tragic inadequacies.
3. EVENTS IN SOMALIA throw light on Sa'udi Arabia from another direction. There is anarchy on two sides of Saudi Arabia, an enemy (Iran) across a small body of water. It is inconceivable to me that Christian Ethiopia has not been bankrolled to some extent by the "visible" Sa'uds at war with their invisible "Islamist" enemies. I don't think it is possible for Ethiopia to stabilize Somalia. If they leave it will immediately revert. If they stay they will become the USA in Iraq. They (or the Sa'udis, or us) have bought themselves an untenable situation. They must know, or certainly will soon, that they are someone's cat's paw. I used that phrase to characterize Israel in its recent Lebanese pratfall.
When searching for hidden hands it never hurts to start with Iran, a country where all of the interesting stuff is always invisible, but there is more to it, as there always is in Iran. If you shine the light on Iran at just the right angle you can see a shadow, shaped just a bit like a bear, picked out on the rubble.
4. SHALL I set up a forum or penpal club so y'all (the "community" of people who can stand to deal with me) can meet and discuss, um, things?
What is happening with the Iraq (and Afghanistan) discussion in DC seems to show that stupidity is not the sole property of the Republicans. None of the "ideas" being floated by the Dems will avert disaster. If any of them get implemented in any way the inevitable failure will be put on the Dems. They really ought to keep their mouths shut and let that fool continue to fool around. If they keep yapping they will get pinned. "We cudda done it but the libbals dint lettuce."
Slow motion stumble before they even get to the gate. Some choice. Party of wrong ideas or party of no ideas. Impressive.
Suggestions for rank-and-file Republicans
Forget the party labels and the fairy tails, be they Disney versions or Grimm. Look for people who don't lie. Who might that be? Hard to tell. Have to pay attention over significant periods of time.
Suggestions for the Democratic Party "leadership"
Hillary has too much baggage and "we" are not interested in presidential dynasties for obvious reasons. Edwards may have his heart in the right place but he knows squat about international stuff and very little about national stuff, besides, he's never actually done anything as a politician. Obama is too new. Get a general for 08, one of those guys that got pushed out by Rummy.
Suggestions for Democratic congresspeople
He is still a skunk. Watch out. He'll double cross you. Set you up and knock you down. May I suggest: clean up the mess and work on the budget. Oh, and pay some attention to Afghanistan. Let HIM fix Iraq. In fact, let him go there and work on it.
And for Cheney
Don't you think its time to give the old ticker a rest? How about resigning? "For health reasons."
11/2/2006 There is apparently a degree of explosivity in the following
screed. More comments than usual, enough that I have decided to keep
a running tab, which might (or, as usual, might not) be of interest:
TOTAL AGREEMENT: 4 (I find it scary when people tell me they agree with me completely.)
GENERAL AGREEMENT: 5
DON'T AGREE BUT YOU'RE FREE TO SAY WHAT YOU PLEASE: 2
YOU'RE NUTS BUT YOU'RE CUTE: 1
ORDERS MADE WITHOUT REFERENCE TO THE EDITORIAL SINCE POSTED: 34 in first 20 hours
TAKE ME OFF YOUR LIST: 1 (I asked for clarification exactly what bugged him - no response, but here's one from a soldier stationed overseas, 26 years service:
"Good comments on the main page. Our biggest problem [giving a stereotype to Americans...] is that we can't laugh at ourselves, we're too concerned with someone else's opinion, and our leaders and want-to-be leaders are wondering about what the "exit strategy" should be before we've fully engaged. Until we can have a good belly laugh at our screw-ups, and a bigger laugh directed towards our opponents, and not worry about how offended they are, we're screwed."
1. DON'T FREAK OUT PLEASE, YOU REPUBLICANS: I'm going to compare and contrast GWB and Hitler. Don't worry, GW does not compare, and as we all know, Hitler FAILED, whereas GW, um, well, ...
Anyway, Hitler accurately saw that his period was the high point in power terms of the so-called "white race," and that if it was going to nail down its supremacy it was going to be then or never, so he built up a gigantic army and the wildest national hysteria the world has ever seen and he launched a war to conquer the world. He threw his entire country into the effort. It was, as we recall, pretty severe.
Why did he lose? I say it was because he narrowly focused his racism, explicitly excluding a rather large majority of the other "white" people, so that instead of making allies of, say, the Russians and the Americans, both nations at that time (never mind the current situation) prone to racist formulations, he ended up having to fight them. The European side of World War II was thus a sort of civil war amongst the "white" people. I leave out of this discussion for the moment the racialist aspects of the Asian side of the war.
My point is that Hitler correctly reasoned that nothing less than a total effort would have the slightest chance of winning, so the war he launched was total on every level. The repression in the occupied zones was ferocious, well, everything was ferocious. But as we see, it was not enough. He had a bad hand & a dumb idea, played it as well as he could (at least at first), came up short, broken on the jagged shores of bad luck, self-delusion, and the United States of America .
The only chance for the "white race" in the post-war period was to go for broke for goodness and mercy, otherwise population pressure was, as Hitler correctly forsaw, going to pass them by. In other words, "we" would have had to "wage peace" as aggressively as Hitler waged war, to produce the forgiveness and mercy in the outlook of the future top dogs, those we see emerging today.
(This emergence is what the Japanese forsaw, and, stupidly, tried to prevent rather than to co-opt.)
"We" didn't do that. What we have produced, over there on the other side of the world, is a nation of selfish people emulating our selfishness, who collectively can't think of any better outcome than "me first." They cannot be prevented from becoming top dogs. One could conceive of them collectively doing something stupid and failing to top out, but that kind of deus ex machina is pretty slim pickings in the hope department. This is the bed of nails we've made for ourselves, now we can try to convince ourselves that this is what we wanted all along.
Now, about GWB. No, a digression. Immediately after the fall of Baghdad, when all that looting was going on, I wrote a plea to Rummy to clamp down and issue a shoot-all-looters order in the good old Nazi style. I did not back the war in Iraq (I backed Afghanistan, though I predicted they'd screw it up), but having done it, the fools, they should have done it right. That would have involved 2-3 times as many troops for the occupation as fought the war, and a Nazi or Soviet style repression. I, Mr. Whycan'twebefriends, advocated shoot-on-sight. Well, never mind. When that didn't happen I predicted that we would lose, and that eventually we would leave. Whatever administration does the leaving will call it peace-with-honor or some such twaddle, the opposition will call it cut-and-run. The opposition will be correct, but there is no other option. A WWII veteran remonstrated to me in 2003. We can't give up, he told me. I replied that we were not being serious, and I may have told him that we couldn't possibly be serious the way we were going about it. I told him that I was not ADVOCATING cutandrun, I was PREDICTING it. I think I may have lost him as a client.
The only thing that will save, no, finish Iraq will be total war. We can fight it or they can do it themselves, but that is the only way the issue can be settled. It is too late for anything else. We will not fight that war. We will choose the path of dishonor. We have to, because the war was dishonorable to begin with. If we had wanted to fight an honorable war we could have finished up Afghanistan then gone on to Sudan. But instead they did what they did and we let them. They picked Iraq for the same reason I picked Kerry - they thought they might have a chance of winning. Well.
NOW about GWB. He cannot even complete a sentence. He is a bad actor, they give him his lines, he goes out on stage, delivers them, we note that he doesn't do any better than we could, that's supposed to be reassuring. Meanwhile, in 6 years, nothing came out right. He's no Hitler.
The game now, as always, is to minimize the damage. I would write more, but that might approach advocacy.
TWO WAYS OF CHANGING YOUR MIND
1. AMAZING GRACE
Full acknowledgement of the change, scales fall from eyes, once was lost, now am found, apologies and restitution if necessary.
2. SAVING "FACE"
Quickly or slowly one changes one's position. One can disappear for a while and reappear as a blond or 40 pounds lighter, or one can stick around and let it happen in the open. One can deny that anything is happening or one can acknowledge that "something" is happening. When the change is complete one can then openly acknowledge that one used to be something other than what one is now or one can deny that one ever had the previous position.
Confucius supposedly made a quip to the effect that some people have it easy and others have it hard, but if it gets done its all the same in the end.
3. I HAD A THOUGHT about the doctrine of the rapture and its implications for intestinal bacteria, and mitochondria for that matter...
"He who is offended when offence is not intended, is a fool; he who
is offended when offence is intended, is a greater fool.” -Brigham Young
(My Mormon assistant brought this to me. Someone else claims to have found it attributed to Confucius, who thus possibly shows up twice this month.)
In two places in the local newspaper today two
valid responses to terror were presented.
The first was a batch of letters on the response of the Amish to the terror visited upon them. The letters particularly noted the request of one of the murdered girls that she be killed first. That girl had gone all the way to perfection in her faith at the age of 13. One has to assume that the culture she was raised in must be approaching the pure expression of God's love that we all seek. The murderer asked her to pray for him, as if she were a saint of the Catholic tradition, revealing thereby that he was seeking that love as well. Though he had voluntarily placed
himself in Hell instead, he was still expressing his ultimate desire, which was for divine forgiveness.
The Amish are showing us an unimpeachable way to live.
In the same paper was an article about a school in Texas in which the principal had invited a British company to come in and train everyone in the methods of resistance to violence. Kids and teachers are all advised how to rush an armed assailant, how to be heedless of danger, in short, how to DO SOMETHING rather than just to sit there and let it happen.
This is the lesson of the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. Why should we give them what they want? If we're going to die we can die fighting. Give them a hard time, make them pay. That's how the terrorists think, they don't care if they live or die. From our side, the non-terrorist one, when they point the gun at you you might as well assume you're going to die, are you going to just sit there and let it happen?
NO is a valid response. Even a kid would rather do something than wait. Kids hate waiting. I remember, I was one. Kids love to be heros, the British program gives them permission. Yes, they might die, but they might have died anyway.
Two valid responses: total acceptance and total resistance.
We do our kids an ultimate disservice by hiding their future death from them. They know anyway, and if they didn't they are surrounded by dissonant fake death on TV all day every day, giving them the wrong idea of how it really is. They could benefit from training in death. We are fighting all the time about sex ed in school to little effect. That river still flows. How about death ed? Some people don't engage in sex, but everyone dies. We don't talk about it at all.
A GENERAL APOLOGY & A PLEASE
The apology is to everyone on my email list, including casual inquirists and cold callers, all of whom received recently the email requesting a picture of a coin of ancient Ebora. I neglected to start that message off with a notice that it was a bulk email, so many people thought inappropriate thoughts upon receipt. Noteworthy thoughts included the idea that I was addressing only the recipient personally, triggering in more than one case some investment of time on my behalf, and the idea of a virus bearing spam. I got over 60 responses, including 3 that pointed me to the same picture, permission to use subsequently obtained from the owner of the website. Now possible suspicion has arisen regarding the ability of that person to actually give that permission, but let it go, perhaps I will have to apologize further at some point. But here and now please accept my regret that I did not make clear the broadcast nature of my request, please also forgive.
On a matter related by the fact that it involved one of the recipients of the abovementioned email who expressed annoyance at time "wasted," I was pushed to an annoyance of my own. That person had been in negotiation with me earlier this year for the purchase of an expensive artifact. The discussion had reached the point at which the intent to purchase had been confirmed, details of my bank had been conveyed in advance of an expected wire transfer, then - silence. Several requests by email and finally by physical letter for clarification went unanswered. Months went by. Finally a response to the picture request, which I responded to immediately, asking, by the way, what about that artifact? The response came back that "specialists" had advised that it was a modern fake.
Well, thought I, thanks a lot. And for what reason did you fail to so inform me, so that I could make use of the information? Did pleasure perhaps arise from the continued observation of that (from your current point of view) misrepresented fraudulent item on my website, bringing, if you are correct, my entire operation into disrepute?
I have emailed back, asking if perhaps I might be permitted to consult directly with those "specialists." I await response. (10/14/2006 - no response. I am peeved. I consider his actions to be incorrect and unhelpful.)
Now then my plea: I don't know everything of course, and I have found myself the unwitting purchaser of fakes from time to time. I have also misattributed things, sometimes greatly overestimating thereby their value. There is in the current offering a coin that I am asking a high price for, authenticity backed only by my lifetime return policy. When one of you believes that I am misrepresenting something PLEASE LET ME KNOW, with as much detail and supporting evidence as possible. Accuracy for me is an attribute of holiness. You can even cast aspersions and call me idiot, liar, etc. I won't mind. Truth before comfort.
TODAY'S SERMON, I THINK, WILL BE ON THE SUBJECT OF SELF-DELUSION
We all do it, I think. My wife, long ago, expressed a thought that she was the only "person" in existence and everything and everyone else was her imagination. At that time I think I asked her how she would know, maybe she was someone else's figment, other possibilities. It was decades ago. Then, years later, we had children and that was the end of solipsism for her.
One of the things we humans do is to justify our desires. We want something, we make up reasons why its a good idea. There is a little bit of idolatry in that process. We can't just do something, we have to have a reason, so we polish our desire, arrange the lights and the music, come up with a story line, invoke nature and diety. Maybe we get a little obsessive, all that covering. Spend more time and energy on the thing than if we just did it and went on.
What gives us pause are the certain knowledges that at the exact moment when we are having the most fun there is someone right around the corner dying in pain and other such other sides of the coin. It doesn't matter when, it is always. And then a lot of the fun things we do are relatively harmless but some of them have direct negative impact ranging from short term pain to long term damage on other contingent beings. A few of those things are activities that we engage in all day every day. We have to hold our noses and go on, otherwise we would have no fun at all.
Is this too abstract for you?
Aside from the raw sensory feel-good stuff: the hot water and air conditioning, the tasty food, the various physical pleasures, the prosperity and comfort of ourselves and the people near us, there is also the ideational structure we build around ourselves. That is where we really get in trouble. We decide we think or "believe" in something, we try to stick to it through thick and thin, when all is lost we stick with our concept. If we do that we allow ourselves to think that we are brave. Maybe so, or maybe we are just stupid.
One can pick many examples of practitioners of extreme fidelity from human history. Some of them are generally acknowledged to be good, others are (almost) universally execrated. You put these various people together, those faithful until the end, it is a strange group, mass murderers sharing tea with sons and daughters of man.
So, have you examined your core beliefs today?
On to local (USA) politics. He/they have shown themselves to be singularly, peculiarly incompetent. That would be bad enough, but he/they have shown themselves incapable of accepting responsibility for messes they have made. Behind the surface bravado is desperation. I can see it, can you not? They are a bunch of one-track minds, unwilling to change were they capable. In their last two years they will likely move to desperate measures, as unbalanced politicians have so often in the past. They will have to be restrained. May I suggest that you consider voting so as to attempt to tie their hands.
I am not tax-exempt so I can say what I please.
NOW THAT EUROPE has decided that it will not let Turkey in for now the Turks no longer have any incentive to play nice. The Kurds are at this very moment trying to nicey nice Turkey but I suspect its too late and perhaps the Turks will move soon to wreck the Kurds, perhaps shortly after the USA elections. That would pull the only planted tent peg in Iraq and the whole country could then fly off into oblivion. We could then expect some further taking care of business by Russia, in the Caucasus of course. In my crystal ball I see lots of fires burning.
Topics I was thinking about recently:
1. RELIGION: a word meaning "coming together again." I spend parts of most days in collaboration with a devout Mormon. No problems of course. My favorite carpenter is a fundamentalist Protestant. When he was doing work on our house last year we used to engage in exploratory conversations on the nature and purposes of reality, us being basically in agreement on the matter of what Buddhists call "right action." He has all along been extremely careful to restrain his conditioned urge to proselytize me, not that it would do any good. And when I mentioned my Mormon "connection" in our last conversation I'm pretty sure I saw him take a conceptual step back, the recounting of which to my Mormon associate elicited a fit of laughter.
Anyway, he came over from working next door because he missed our philosophical discussions and I proceeded to oblige his discursory thirst. He asked me at one point what it would take for me to pick one religion over another, my position being that they are all "fundamentally" the same, as I have written elsewhere. One is brown, one is white, they all are ducks, so to speak. That's what I think. And I was beginning to formulate a formalistic response that I knew would not satisfy him when he threw in what from my point of view was a red herring/
"If you came to me and told me you had cancer and if I prayed for you and you were healed would that be enough?" Of course not, I replied. If I live or die is God's will, unmediated by your prayer. If you claim that your faith gives you supernatural power, or puts you in contact with same, you may or may not be correct. You could just as well be interfering with God's will by your intercessionary prayer. My healing could just as well be the work of the Devil. We don't know. That's why (IMO) Jesus said that bit in the Sermon on the Mount about not asking for anything in prayer (Matthew 6:6-8).
He said he'd think about it.
2. INFORMATION STORAGE AND RETRIEVAL: "we" have discovered in the last 2 years that there is a "fundamental" problem with data collection. It is that it is necessary, in order to access the data, that it be tagged in various ways, the tags are ordered, when you want the data you call the tag, but you have to know the tag. So you get to where you have a zillion tags, then you have to tag the tags, and this tagging process goes on until the datum is wholly obscured by the tags and is the size of a galaxy. So we have invented computers to look through all the tags very quickly but the computers do not address the basic problem, which is that we know what we want but we have to know what to call it before we can do anything with it.
That tagging is a problem becomes obvious to us when we search for a telephone number that we don't quite know, or when the social security number is off by a digit, or we spell the name wrong.
I have described the problem in spiritual terms thusly: the thing knows what it is, God knows what it is, but we mid-level beings are distracted by the names we call things. The things are not their names, but we usually do not know anything other than the name, sometimes we don't know that, sometimes we only know what we want, sometimes we only know that we want something, not sure what.
That is why databases take up so much storage space. That is why large data management departments are created; whole teams of people working full time to maintain and utilize the data.
I've discussed this with IT people and they acknowledge that it is a problem and that it is not being dealt with. No one has a clue. It is a trillion dollar problem.
I find myself thinking that if the question is asked in the proper manner an answer might be eventually obtained. I take heart from the recent acknowledgement that Poincare's conjecture has been proved.
Anyone have any thoughts on this?
3. NO POLITICAL OBSERVATIONS this time. It is all too stupid. Nothing works, they stand there and deny that they were doing anything anyway. Idiots. Morons. Clods. Bums. Fools.
Became annoyed at another comment from the fox at his "news" conference yesterday. He referred to the killing of Zarqawi again and deliberately as "brought to justice." I repeat what I said before: he was not "brought to justice," he was killed in war. The fox thus revealed a deliberate plan to change the meaning of the word "justice." This is a 1984 type exercise along the lines of "How many fingers am I waving in the air?" The correct answer is "Whatever you say." He also referred to "the Democrat Party," which is not its name.
Changing the meaning of words is an exercise that people engage in when they want to distract the listener so they can do something else. I would recommend, were you to ask me, that you watch where the money goes.
1. A PERSONAL COMMENT: Busier than ever. There is all of this stuff sitting on the floor, not enough time to get to it. I would mention it: the iron war axes from Pakistan for instance, but I probably couldn't get to it any sooner if you asked. I seem to be in the website development business now as well, with a real and non-numismatic client. ... Oh, go ahead and ask - whatever you're looking for, just give me a call and ask me. So much stuff is coming in lately, might not have it today, might be here tomorrow.
Not that I'm complaining. It's definitely better than not working. But it is work. Trust me - that's what it is.
2. CHESS - About the current unpleasantness in the middle east, I had been thinking along the lines of Israel being used as a cat's paw by Iran in that the situation was set up as a political trap in which Israel couldn't win no matter what it did and it has pretty much played out that way so far. Then I got to thinking earlier today about chess. The better you are in that game the further ahead you can plan your moves. If you're good enough you can see the end of the game, if the opponent is dumb enough, after just a few moves.
Chess was invented in Iran. What is the essential fact of Iran? Iran's main enemy is not the USA and of course it is not Israel. It is Arabs, especially Sunni Arabs. And Turks of course, should they care to get involved which they apparently don't, having, they suppose, bigger and European fish to fry. There has been bad blood between the Persians and the Arabs since, like, forever. That nuke they want to build is not to throw at Israel. It is to balance the Sunni bombs in Pakistan. Israel is just the bloody puppet they wave in the face of the faithful, and Hizbullah is the club they wield, not against Israel, though that is what we see at the moment. Hizbullah's real enemy is our real enemy. Remember who that enemy is?
No, not us. We may end up being our own worst enemy, and certainly we have dumb and dumber pulling the strings on
our side at the moment (never mind that the "moment" seems to have been continuing through my entire life). But imagine this: Hasan Nasrullah's Shi'i portrait hanging in all those Sunni windows. Who do you imagine will be most upset by that turn of events?
No, I don't think the Israeli government exactly knows what its doing. Obviously we don't, all this waiting and seeing. None of this is going to do anyone any good in the end, but it will rebalance things over there, and it appears that Iran will come out the better for the moment.
I repeat: despite appearances, Iran is actually Israel's friend, being the natural enemy of Sunni Arabs, and therefore, believe it or not, the friend of the United States, an incredibly well armed giant that happens to be blind, deaf, and stupid. Remember who the enemy is?
One step back from this bloody farce is who? Russia stands behind Iran. We might like to pretend that we are the only
superpower, but they have 15,000 nukes, all pointed at us. Who else is there to point them at? It is us, them, and China in the power game. So, Russia behind Iran, Iran against the Arabs, Pakistan holds the Sunni bomb. Who stands behind Pakistan? Us? I don't think so. China. One more reason for India and China to not get along, as if they didn't have enough on their plate already, those millennia of "we did it first." And if China is with Pakistan then India is with...
Right. Hence our recent nuclear bribe.
This is all local Asian stuff with its own dynamics. We are only in that game as long as we have money. Which, as you know, we do not have any of. We only have debt, which is almost as good, but, when the chips are down, so to speak, not good enough. We are actually only on the bus, except for the nukes, and the reason we're still in the game is because the other players are on the bus too.
We can learn from this crap. Israel could learn something too. But we elect people who are incapable of learning. Not a good situation, but that's what we have to work with.
Notice I did not mention Syria or Lebanon. Why should I? Who cares about them? Obviously nobody. Syria is a rook. There is power but limited mobility (no money). Lebanon is the game board. Lebanese are the pawns on both sides.
Established governments have always tried to defeat insurgencies. If there is any popular component to their movement the
establishment will eventually try to "drain the swamp." That usually does not work lately. Even the Nazis and the Japanese could not pull it off. Franz Josef did it in Hungary in the 1840s. His suppression of that rebellion was called "the peace of the grave." That's what they tried in Rwanda, but those guys ended up believing in their invincibility and lost their footing.
Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I suspect, there will be, all of a sudden and out of the blue, a break, at which point
we can try to figure out who got what they wanted and what exactly the situation is. Then, down the road, we will find out if Hasan Nasrullah is his own guy or someone else's. Israel better get itself a more stable government. It can't keep facing the situation of a stable, manipulative government in Tehran with a bunch of newbies every couple of years. If it does it will end up with Intelligence running the country, which would not be good, but is also obviously not happening now.
I ran this scenario past some Lebanese friends at their gyro joint. It made sense to them. One of them was evacuated from Beirut by the Marines. They were not angry at Israel (!). They just wanted it to stop.
3. ALL OF THIS IS FIDDLESTICKS in the face of the environmental situation. All of this jockeying for position is, what's a good metaphor? Flatulence in a hurricane? We are, I guess, past the point of people denying that something is happening, but no one knows what's the right thing to do or the right place to be. Easy enough to see what we should not be doing, but we are like drunken dreamers - we can't stop.
1. ANYTHING ANYWHERE COMMUNITY NEWS: Um, last month's "thoughts" apparently caused some concern amongst some of my clients/friends, who interpreted my conceptual and prophetic uncertainty as possibly distressful to me if not to them. I got some responses like: "I hope you feel better soon" and "Don't worry." I want to reassure everyone that I am fine, that uncertainty is my usual mode of being, it doesn't bother me. I live very happily in a shades of gray world in which even the vice-president of the United States occasionally perpetrates something that is not utterly mendacious and brilliantly incompetent.
(I can't actually think of an instance at the moment, but I remember thinking recently that something his ventriloquist's dummy
said recently was "OK.")
I think we can now safely say that Mr. Bush Sr. did not do his son any favors by bailing him out of those oil deals and otherwise covering his sorry, um, knee back in the oil and baseball days. Result is that he never figured out how to pick up the pieces and now there are pieces all over the place. The response is to change the subject. It doesn't work. Which brings me to my next topic.
2. THE ELECTION IN NOVEMBER: The choice will be between a party that has no ideas and is locked into its inane slogans and a party that has no ideas and no slogans either. Which is better: a wrong answer or "I don't know"? The simile of a hole is one I've used before and I believe it is still apt. If you've dug yourself into a hole and you have a shovel in your hand how do you get out of the hole? The normal response of a normal politician is to keep digging.
It is an inconvenient truth that we cannot establish anything in Iraq by ourselves. We will have to go whining to the international community and BEG them to help us clean up the mess. It will be humiliating but nothing else will work. We can pour our entire GNP into Iraq and it will just sink into the sand and disappear. I think the Cheney-Rumsfeld regime will actually pull troops out in time for the 08 election, declaring some kind of bogus pseudo-"victory," and it will be ever so much worse,
nothing accomplished, lots of money wasted on no-bid cost-plus contracts. In other words, after they defeat the Dems as
cutandrunners they will cut and run. Something like that has to occur, because they are incapable of making a true apology.
If you want a good nonpartisan tool to judge candidates, just look for 2 things: 1. how much do they actually lie? and 2: do they change the subject?
Voting is more or less the most important group activity we can do. Most of our candidates are worthless but it is good to get to know them. Some of them are less worthless than others.
3. THE DISQUIET THAT I DISPLAYED last month was due to my contemplation of the environmental situation. It was a verbal expression of that feeling you get at the top of the hill on the roller coaster when the roller car is just starting down. It seems that we are in it now, nobody knows exactly what "it" is, but its here and everything else is going to be pushed aside in the face of this "thing" that we are living in. Might as well enjoy it, eh? No matter how ugly it gets, eh?
4. BACK TO POLITICS: we have a long way to go to get back to a McCarthy type situation, let alone a Palmer raids or an alien & sedition act scenario, never mind the hard dictatorship of the Fascists of which the American version was the Jim Crow / KKK period of c. 1900-1970 or so. "The people" are against it. It won't fly today. The danger is from the combination of competent avarice and political & economic incompetence. It is said that the Republicans are masters of the political field these days but that is not so. They are good at substituting stupid reductionist rhetoric for political debate and they are good at winning elections for the moment but they are clueless where it counts, and their "visions of the future" are practically postcards, nicey nice but contentless (and better keep your eyes on that picture, whatever you do don't look out the window!) There is no plan. There is only theft.
Not that the dems have anything better to offer, at least on the surface. But in a party disunited there is at least the possibility
that something of value and use may come up.
More linguistic dissing here. This time I'm annoyed at "brought to justice." That is a bunch of crap. Zarqawi (Al-Harri!) was NOT brought to justice. He was killed. "Brought to justice" means catch the guy, put him on trial, convict and sentence him, then carry out the sentence. That's "justice." What happened is not justice. It is war.
The president and his cabal have consistently throughout their careers stood for the position that words mean what they say they mean. They are masters of the hidden motive. It may be a great thing that Zarqawi is dead. The president, however, is trying his darndest to get us to be stupid. To me, that's stupid. Mix stupid and death and what do you get? Evil. Fight evil with evil what do you get?
On the BBC I just heard some poor deluded fool say "the army's job is to kill people and break things."
The first time I heard that phrase was out of the mouth of Rush Limbaugh, the pied piper of stupid for those who will do anything they can not to think. Perhaps Limbaugh got it from elsewhere or maybe he made it up hisself.
It is facile and sounds catchy but of course it is completely wrong. The job of military personnel is outlined in their oath, which has to do with defending the Constitution and the nation. The means they are charged to employ are not restricted to breaking and killing. In fact, their job is to follow lawful orders given by their superiors in the chain of command. If they are told to kill or break they are supposed to do that. If they are told to serve soup that is their job. If they are told to dress up in pink aprons and dance a jig that is what they have sworn an oath to do. If the order is lawful they are supposed to do it.
Even if most of what they do is kill people and break things that would not be their job description. In fact, most of what they do is not killing and breaking. Most of what they do is waiting and moving stuff around and practicing.
Get beyond slogans, my brothers and sisters. Look for what's real. Think.
We should not have gone into Iraq. We should have done Afghanistan right. But now we cannot leave. If we do it will bite us hard. Unfortunately our leader is worthless and is incapable of doing anything right (except of course stealing money for his class and destroying infrastructure). The people of Iraq and Afghanistan will have to wait another 2 years for relief. And then I'd say there's a good chance that a lowest common denominator American legislature and a polls driven president will refuse to do what needs to be done and will cut and run.
So, just like his baseball team and his oil ventures, everything will be worse afterward, and no daddy's friends to bail him out. We get to clean up the mess. Someday there will be statues for that guy. Ik.
1. It has been a while since I wrote about the American president, hasn't it? I guess I haven't felt the need. He speaks for himself doesn't he? I think it possible his regime will be remarked in retrospect for excellence in theft of public funds and destruction of infrastructure, for malfeasance, obstruction of justice, dropping the ball.
2. On the other hand, pope Benedict at Auschwitz - that was a class act. I think it possible that the Catholic church has got themselves a good one.
3. It has become more evident to me than it was before that the people who cooked up the Afghanistan and Iraq ventures did not bother to read the history of those two countries, neither the recent history in which the British got their collective nose bloodied nor the grand sweep in which Iraq proved over and over that it is a place, not a country, and Afghanistan ate up every conqueror. I prophesied in 2003 I think that we would eventually declare victory and leave both places. I think it is rather looking like that will shortly be obvious to all as the only option open. "Victory" in these situations is undefinable. It would have taken a troop level and a degree of ruthlessness that could not be mobilized for a war of choice. These wars have been for show (politics) and loot (fossil fuels) and the architects have proven incompetent on both counts. Even in the theft category they have only been able to scam a windfall.
The troops have once again been let down by their leaders. Even Haditha and Abu Ghraib, I'm telling you, is not their fault. The rot is in the root. That president is a clunker.
4. I was going to rant about so-called education in the USA but I think I don't have time this time. Problem will still be here next month.
5. And I will also put aside for the moment the ground of our material existence - the "environment" - an objectifying term we employ to pretend that we are "in it" rather than part of it. That will still be here next month too.
6. And here is what I printed a few days ago in my printed list for my snail mail customers:
1. WHAT A DIFFERENCE a month makes, eh? Gold down today $90 from
last week. The "media" is blaming the decline in the US stock markets
on some comment the Fed chairman made but that doesn't account for what's
been going on in the rest of the world. Obviously (I think)
many millions of people suddenly had bills to pay or otherwise found a
lack of disposable income.
The nice thing about the time we live in is that we can see these waves occurring. Who knows, perhaps we can learn to do something with this accumulating information.
Does anyone know: is there a "normal" payday in China and India? Here in USA there is a tendency for people to get paid on Friday. What about there?
The system is in the process of turning into something else. It seems that no one has a clear picture of what it is turning into.
I don't. The governments that I can see (USA for example) appear to be floundering around (as I am with this writing this morning). Perhaps the important business is being done elsewhere, in the various sore spots of the world, where resource allocation is the acute issue rather than the disposition of temporarily excess funds.
2. IN PAKISTAN, I am told, the prices for ancient coins and antiquities are higher than the retail level here. Sales of that stuff, as you are possibly aware, are not in full flood. This is another unstable situation, and will probably lead to a collapse in prices and a flood of stuff later this year or next as people there give up. After that, if they're smart, they will stop "producing" the stuff and the glut will thin and then disappear, leading to an equilibrium a couple of years from now.
I am dreaming of course. There will be disorder. There always is. There is desperation there. If they can't sell it for $1000 they will sell it for $10. At least some of them will. There will continue to be too much of it around.
I don't know what to do either.
3. I'VE PASSED most of the last decade, maybe 2, being a knowitall and predicting the near-term future of human events. Mostly I was right, and that was superficially gratifying. It was not hard. You study history like us numismatists do, you see similar things happening over and over again in the course of human events. The American founding fathers studied the popular modes of government of the ancient world as they cobbled together their attempt at a better way. Your average leader, as ignorant of history as any high school dropout, is going to make classic mistakes that someone like me can easily see is the exact same error made by some Polish king in the 17th century for example. I can then tell y'all that it didn't work then and it won't work now, for the same reason. Feather in my cap. Why don't I teach history?
But now I'm confused. At least I know why. Human history is in the process of being more heavily impacted by planetary
processes than at any time since the invention of writing. There is nothing to compare with except the fossil record. So I don't know what exactly is happening or exactly what to do. We know that North Africa used to be a jungle, now its a desert. Nebraska grows wheat. Maybe in a couple of years it'll grow sand.
We of course are part of that planetary process, so in a sense everything we do is "natural." Gurdjieff at times put out that
planets are "alive" in the way that we are "alive" and that they want to become stars. Organic "life," he propounded, is the earth's way of building the mass necessary to become a star. This is not likely, we humans have figured out, but perhaps we are doing our human thing, with the birthrate and the fossil fuel burning, because that is what the earth wants us to do. Kind of like the bacteria in the compost pile that do their thing, heat up the pile, make it hot enough to kill themselves, pretty soon, presto: compost. Do you suppose that maybe with all this civilization and war and philosophy and religion that's what we're "really" doing?
Today I am musing on the process I have observed in which many people cannot differentiate between fact and opinion. The event that prompted this writing was a call from a member of the public about a 1/10 krugerrand. We went through the process of identifying it and pricing it, and we wrestled with his improperly stated desire to get more than it was worth. (He kept asking "What's its maximum retail value?" as if he might hope to get that in a sale.) Then he asked me "That's not a lot of gold, is it?" I, of course, responded that it was a matter of opinion, thinking in my mind of Ft. Knox, of the misting of gold on chip terminals, etc. He asked me again. And again. I began to form the opinion that he had an opinion and wanted me to validate it. That I refused to do. Why should I? Its an opinion. Who cares? There is a fact there: 1/10 oz of gold. Who needs an opinion when there is a fact?
Opinion: people are funny.
The slowdown I was whining about in recent months seems to be abating if not ending. I don't think I have an interpretation yet about why it happened or if it is actually becoming something else. I do notice that there are a lot of "little" emergencies all over the world, so many that they crowd the news pipes and we don't hear about them for long. I notice too that prices of groceries are mostly up, which could conceivably be due to increased fuel prices.
Several people in my business have decided to clean house or otherwise lighten their load, mostly for personal reasons, and I have been inundated with coins. There are increased wholesale possibilities therefore, inquire if potentially interested.
I have also noticed an increase in calls from non-collectors thinking that this is a good time to buy bullion. I don't know if that is a good idea or not, except to note that if you're in on the rise you're probably buying a ticket to the fall and to watch the market carefully so that you can at least get in on a weekly good rate. The question we all want to know is whether the bullion situation is a run or a fundamental change and I can't tell you that right now. Except that I still think palladium is undervalued.
The attention today in my country is on the immigrant issue. Whatever we see on the streets today is in response to various more or less stupid bills in Congress. Building fences won't work. Serious employer sanctions will not happen. As long as there is such a vast differential in earning capacity between working here and working there no attempt at doing anything can be real. There was a song from before I was born that went "How're you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?" The only answer is to make farming pay, or if not farming then something back where they used to live. Most people want to keep doing whatever they're doing in preference to moving somewhere else, learning a new language, doing something different. In the world today nothing is being done to keep people happy where they are, quite the contrary. The base of all of the turmoil is the persistent tendency to make separations: us against them, people against nature, etc.
Making those distinctions is what allows us to "get stuff done," which class of activities is what makes humans different from the other animals. Being unable to shift gears into unity is what is getting us in trouble. We are all citizens of this planet. Immigration is people moving from one room to another. It is a false distinction. "They" also get up in the morning, get dressed, look for something to eat. The only ways we in USA could stop them from coming here would be to allow their homelands to change to something less infernal (alluding to a song by los Tigres del Norte) or to make this country worse than theirs. I see no sign that we are developing a national will toward either of those options, so the situation will not change.
THEREFORE: I think that immigration has a chance of being taken off the table as an election year issue as a result of today's events and others perhaps to come. That, for me, would be good. Plenty of real issues about which something could be done. Let's talk about those instead, shall we?
I sometimes like to set the background color of this page to compliment the tone or subject matter of this editorial section: green for life, yellow for celebration, dark red for war, etc.
So what is the color of stupidity?
My comment on the Dubai thing before moving on to more important stuff.
I have no problem with the deal. Neither does an Israeli shipping company that released a statement that it had been doing business for years, not only with the Dubai company, but with Dubai itself. And the company responded that it was indeed true, but they didn't want to talk about it too loudly lest it be accused of breaking its solemn obligation to maintain the so-called "Arab boycott of Israel," which is exactly what it has been doing. This is comedy: Who's not on first.
Incidentally, one of my son's ex-roommates told me a story of an Israeli rock band that did a successful tour of several Arab countries. And just last night I heard a radio segment about Jewish hipsters going to east Jerusalem cafes to hang with their hipster Muslim buddies because it was SAFER in east Jerusalem, and cheaper, and armed guards are not all over the place. Drugs and sex cross all barriers.
Anyway, Mr. Bush, or rather his handlers, was correct in allowing the deal to go, but as we can clearly see he, or rather they, have lost control of the political setup in Washington and have royally, or shall I say imperiously screwed up the deal by neglecting to get even one legislative ally beforehand. Talk about tunnel vision! Now he is in a situation in which the only veto of his regime could be on behalf of an Arab company, and the votes are there to override, so there will be no veto. That game is up.
It is totally stupid in many ways.
Dubai is as friendly a friend as you can get in the Arab world. They are all about money, nothing else matters to them. They are also a free port. Everyone hangs there, including our professional ears. We make them grumpy they can shut us down, where's the benefit? It is not a forward looking strategy to keep them out. They are going up, hooked as they are to China, India, Singapore. Where are we going?
Most legislators of both parties are playing the xenophobe card for election year advantage. You listen to the things they say and it is the crudest form of know-nothing yahooism, Dems and Reps both. It is obviously true that the Dubai company has nothing to do with port security, it is equally true that port security is a total joke, the yattering about the Dubai thing is a distraction, nothing will be done about the security problem. Joke, joke, joke. That, I suppose, will be the theme of this year's political campaigns: "My opponent is a scoundrel, I am stupid. Which do you prefer? Scoundrel or stupid? Vote for someone just like you!"
Ha, ha. Ha.
Take a deep breath, I am about to write something cute.
My current president has been feckless since his high school days. I want my next president to be feck. Who out there is feck? I don't see anyone. McCain presents as feck, but is he really? I'm not sure.
Next thing. In another couple of weeks winter will start to wane in Northwest Frontier Province in Pakistan, where the earthquake was. Everyone who died of exposure, etc. will already be dead, the survivors will need to get ready to plant, if that's what they're going to do. Now is the time to make donations to your favorite international aid organization, earmarked for agricultural aid for NWFP. Buy seeds, tools, etc.
Big dislocations in many places. Lot of individual awarenesses going down the drain. Trying to help is the right thing to do, even though everyone dies in the end.
Big drought year coming to North America this year.
One of these days I have to write about Mexico, land of misery and political promise, and about Russia, a possible model for the future of America. But not today?
What's the bright side? Geese. Deer. Coyotes. Forsythia blooming at the edge of my front yard.
Is it just me or has a lot of money suddenly disappeared?
1. OK then, I don't care what you are reading & hearing from the talking heads, including in the coin business, I am experiencing a slowdown. Everyone I'm talking to is experiencing a slowdown too. Customers are absent or buying less. Payments are slower. There is stickiness in the system. There is even stickiness in the bullion sector.
One never knows how long these things will last or how bad they'll get. There are plenty of ominous signs this time, but I
will not predict.
2. ON BEHALF OF SOME CLIENTS I am buying palladium at 104% of spot until further notice.
3. CATCHING IT: remonstrances from a Pakistani guy - please don't tell people not to send money - they are still in a bad way there. But, I responded, all the stuff is sitting in warehouses in Karachi getting pilfered. The stuff won't even get there now. I told him I would send more in the spring.
We're hearing that things aren't happening in any big hurry down in the Gulf either.
4. CATCHING 2: from a learned Muslim colleague remonstrating as a Muslim that I was mischaracterizing certain aspects of Islamic governing practice. Specifically that I was buying into Hindu extremist propaganda, that nobody's hands are clean, that the overall Muslim history is considerably better than, say, the Christian record. I wrote back that he's probably more correct than I am, everyone has lumps in their rug. So what are we going to do about the nut cases who keep trying to run things? I have some in my own family. Can't talk to them about anything.
5. CATCHING 3: from months ago when I was banging on hypocritical "Christians." My interlocutor sent me a book by a Chinese convert I promised to read. Haven't yet. After taxes, I hope. If not then at the family get together at the beach. Narrow is the way. Our culture specializes in things that look like ducks and quack, but aren't ducks. Not so easy to remember which way is up.
THE STORY THAT WILL NOT DIE - It's those stupid cartoons. Greenland is melting and people are writing to me about the cartoons. Things I wrote about Islam might be taken the wrong way. Which brings me to what, to me, is another chapter of the same book, the title of which is YOU CAN'T SAY THAT.
I refer to the Austrian law that forbids denial of certain of the disgusting crimes committed by the Nazis in the last century against everyone who was not them, but especially against the Jews. I remind you that they killed every black person and every Gypsie they could find too, and though they didn't organize a factory operation to kill Russians they left tens of thousands at a time outside in the cold so they could freeze to death.
Anyway, the law was used against some barfbag contents who gave a speech that broke that Austrian law and he was sentenced to some years in jail where he will have nothing to do but feel sorry for himself.
I live in a country in which such laws are illegal. We can we can say whatever stupid, nasty, disgusting, lying, hateful, ignorant thing we want to. With certain limitations relating to immediate public safety and product representation. We can't DO anything we want. But we can THINK anything we want. And we can say what we think. That is the glory of the United States of America. Some toxic waste can get out in front of a crowd and roar out any lie about anything. I can yell right back and tell him that he is the living proof that God does indeed play dice with the universe. Then we can go to work (or wreck as the case may be) on Monday.
I want my Nazis out there in the open where I can see them. I don't want them hidden behind gag laws where they can plot and scheme to take over the world, disguising themselves to look like ordinary people, manipulating things in the background and changing the meaning of words to better spread their lies.
OK, enough of that. Gotta get back to work, or is it wreck?
TEMPEST IN TEAHOUSE - Gurdjieff had poetically described human history as a recurrent interference by the moon, which he claimed was alive in a manner of speaking. He taught that the moon eats human potential, what we are pleased to call "souls," and that when it gets periodically hungry people go nuts and then they go to war. How else explain this insanity over those Danish cartoons? Is it not the most ridiculous thing you ever heard? Kind of like the "uprising" in Los Angeles after the cops who beat Rodney King were acquitted.
But, wait a minute. You can get your annotated copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion at any Arabic bookstore, right? And people believe that crap. Um, and then of course we have the 700 Club, don't we?
And today the farce continues with some demonstrators dead in Afghanistan. And a newspaper in Iran announced a "best Holocaust cartoon contest." But hey, guys, your president said it didn't happen. Oh, never mind. Its like a smelly fart contest. "You think that was good? Smell this!" Plus, its off the point. Instead of tit for tat and a nasty Christian cartoon they'll go for the innocent bystander, because, of course, that particular bystander is, by their lights (darks?) always guilty.
This is entertaining in a Roman kind of way. A few laughs, a little blood and guts. Nuts. Lunatic. Blame it on the moon.
I found the cartoons in question at Wikipedia.org. Tame and lame. If you want to see some Arabic anti-Jewish cartoons, considerably nastier than the Danish stuff, google "antisemitic arabic cartoons." They publish those things in the official government newspapers. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. I find myself remembering that when Muslims speak of Islam as a "tolerant" religion they are using the word "tolerant" as a translation for a technical theological term. It does not mean what we think of as "tolerant" any more than the old Communist usage of the word "democratic," which sounded familiar but meant something completely different.
Always easier to face the truth about someone else than the truth about ourselves. The urge to blame someone else for the way we feel seems to be genetically coded. Dogs and cats do it. So do humans.
Meanwhile, an article in the latest Scientific American - the oceans have become more acidic than at any time in the last 55 million years. They get too acidic the shell animals will not be able to make shells. There have been 2 episodes of 95% ocean species dieoff in planetary history. How much carbon dioxide did you produce today?
Last word on the cartoons is at www.boomka.org. No need now to take it any further. (-:
1. CHARITY: Latest word on Pakistan is that there is enough stuff , now its just a logistical and corrupt-business-as-usual problem. Not to be cavalier about it, but if you were to ask my advice I would tell you not to send any more money there now.
2. ON BEHALF OF SOME CLIENTS I am buying palladium at 104% of spot until further notice.
3. REPORT FROM NEW YORK - I spent a bit more than half a day at the NY International Coin Convention. Met many friends, missed others who were there. The main room was medium sized, more dealers tucked into smaller rooms. It was entirely possible to miss something. There was brisk business, except for a few dealers who appeared to be uninterested in doing anything. Really. Guys who would not look up from their newspapers, who when I asked about things replied "not for sale." So why were they there? Maybe just to go to the auctions. The European dealers were rather lightly represented. The Asian dealers were completely absent. It was not crowded when I was there. I don't go often, but there were years when it was 3 deep at the popular tables. Not this time. There was too much Indo-Greek, not enough Spanish colonial. I like to see new batches, but not much there. Instead there were several secondary batches of previously marketed hoards: things like Alex the Great gold staters, Istrus 2-face didrachms, etc. Gold darics all over the place - I think the price might drop. Everyone I talked to was happy and did OK. I did too. So why do I have this sort of hollow feeling about it all?
4. HIGH TEMPERATURES in northern American midwest. Low snow pack. Will be inadequate water levels in spring. Drought probable in summer.
5. HERE IS HOW I SEE RIGHT WING POLITICS - culture war issues, no matter how heartfelt or even (sometimes) reasonable, are distractions about which nothing significant can be done. You either sweep the stuff under the rug or you legalize and regulate it. Do you really think they can't get alcohol and pornography in Saudi Arabia? Of course not. It just costs more. Go to Europe for the abortion. Culture war flags are waved to hide the real right wing business, which is the perpetuation of economic advantages for those that already have them.
6. AND HERE'S HOW I SEE LEFT WING POLITICS - there isn't any, at least not here in USA. You have to have solidarity across all cultural barriers to do left wing. It is totally "what do we all have in common?" Who's doing that? Since the Spartakiad and before the left has always played the right's us-against-them game, and always from the downhill position. If it wins it becomes the right to maintain its power. Attempts to bridge the gap (Buddha, Jesus, etc.) are coopted by bureaucrats when the charismatic leader is out of the picture. This may be a genetic situation. We may need a mutation to get beyond it.
7. I HAVE A FEELING that there is a significant squeeze coming this year. China is expecting to slow down, energy bills are killer, a shakiness in the air. I don't see how there can not be inflation this year, though I can see how attempts might be made to hide it. Good time to stay alert.
1. PREDICTION: I think this coming year will see a shift in the bell curve of opinion on climate change. I hope that the shift is not precipitated by something serious.
2. OBSERVATION: in Korea, in my hotel room, I spent a couple of hours watching the Chinese export version MTV. The way things are set up in China everything is "official," even while its pretending to be cool, so the music selection can be assumed to have passed ideological review. The mix was international: Chinese, Japanese, Taiwan (!), Singapore, Europe, Latin America, USA. Conspicuously absent: India, Arab, Africa. Some themes seemed to emerge. Europe was represented by punks with weird hair, metal in face, tatoos. Japan was bubble gum, childish, cartoony pop. Latin America was sexy. USA, a small percentage of the mix, was represented by stereotypical slutty black female hip hop, specifically whatever pseudo-porno thing Beyonce was doing at that moment. In other words, everything non-Chinese was a little bit weird. But the Chinese stuff was soulful, tuneful, aware, responsible, chaste, brave, true, beautiful, etc. All in all it was quite obnoxiously racist and nationalist, mitigated for me only by the fact that I noticed it. But I think probably most people wouldn't have, and I think that more about your average Chinese youth watching the PC (from the Chinese CP standpoint) swill. My only hope is that the "average" Chinese youth is as alienated as the average American youth, and doesn't believe whatever it is they're told to believe. But I suspect they're more conformist there than here. If I am correct it is a problem for humans everywhere.
3. IRAN RETREAD: I've been through these points before. 1. In Shi'i practice it is considered OK to lie in defense of the faith. 2. Russia and Iran have an iceberg style relationship. Most of it is hidden from view. It is very strong. Because of this we can't "do" anything about Iran unless we first do something about Russia. As can be obviously seen, we have very little leverage with Russia. If you see Russia, for its own reasons, ditch Iran in public that will probably be a prelude to some kind of move against Iran. If not, all that will happen will be yelling and screaming. 3. I don't think they are interested in tangling with Israel with the nukes that they will probably get. In fact, I think they have something very back channel going with Israel. Their big enemy is the extremist Sunni Arabs. The Shi'i bomb is to balance Pakistan. They are actually on our side in the "war on terror." 4. They are far better poker players than our gang.
Those of you who have been in the habit of reading the opinionation presented (for entertainment purposes only (-:) in this spot will have noted, if I may be permitted a prideful self-characterization, something of a lack of classifiable orthodoxy, eh? Equal opportunity disdainer. If there is an appearance of statistical bias in targeting it is because certain categories of thinkers are more damagingly active at one time or another than others. I, being only slightly more interested than my fellow sentient beings in things other than what is exactly in front of my knows (or what I have chosen to put there as a manufactored substitute for reality that I might be pleased to label "the Truth")...
Lost my train of thought...
30 odd years ago (I seem today to be tripping over double entendres with every other metaphorical step) I wrote a song that started "What else have we forgotten now?" That phrase seems to have become one of the operational foundations of the way I do things. That's what people go to engineering school for, right? But in order to get anything at all done we have to draw a line around the project and tell ourselves that it is this, not that. If we didn't we wouldn't be able to "get anything done." This packetization of effort is evidently built into the structure of the physical universe, and it is certainly operative at the most basic biological level. Our nutritional needs are satisfied episodically rather than continuously, and so is everything else. Our "awareness," if I may employ such a prideful term to describe what we bipedal vertebrates do internally as we interact with our environment, is an exclusionary and dialectical process. We do or consider "this" to the exclusion and instead of "that." Our quixotic longing for and, in some cases, active search for "continuity" and "consistency" is permanently thwarted by the requirements of reality, which requires us to comprehensively ignore everything else so we can do what we're doing.
Where was I going with this?
Well, obviously, then, if our awareness can be drawn by "evildoers" or others with some point to prove, the machinery of purpose can be directed to ends other than those dictated by our autonomous needs, desires, or "decisions." That may be, and very often is, something that any of us may have forgotten now.
Of more interest to "me" though, is the concept of tipping point. At a certain stage of a process the thing reaches a peak of some sort. After that peak its all down hill, so to speak. The tipping point is obvious in the case of fresh food. It is less obvious in the case of political activity. It is, evidently, pretty hard to see in geophysical processes or in sociological contexts.
The general principle in politics is the phenomenon of "running out of steam." The motivating slogans of yesterday, still in use, no longer make sense, and efforts expended as before yield diminishing returns and begin to seem silly. They don't stop happening for some time, but eventually people move on, one way or another.
In archeology one finds numerous examples of cities utterly abandoned. In some cases another city developed nearby. Pushkalavati was abandoned and now we have Peshawar about 50 kilometers away, serving the same entrepotial purpose. Other areas were completely abandoned - Ur, Teotihuacan. People just couldn't make it there anymore and they left.
So what else have we forgotten? I find myself increasingly concerned with the extreme fragility of the technological house of cards we have built. It could go "poof" in an instant. If billions of people are indeed dependent on petroleum and electricity as is evidently the case we are all in a position of extreme exposure. We can contemplate doing without, say, everything, for a few weeks maybe. How many of us are in a position to survive a year where we are with what we have?
ACTUALLY, I think that the antiwar demonstration over the weekend probably did less to help end the war because the stupid clucks who are running that hapless losing game never admit they're wrong and the only way to get them to do something different is to make them think they thought of it themselves.
I hate/love to say I told you so, but I did. 2 years ago I wrote that at some point we would, in a best case, declare victory and go home, after which whatever happened would happen. I didn't know at that time what would happen, but now I think I do. There will be a "civil war" which will be, actually, between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran has Russia standing behind it, Saudi Arabia, well, we know who stands behind Saudi Arabia, don't we? So we're back to the cold war. We will end up backing the "insurgents." Do you like apples?
Iran will win. That is, unless Turkey gets involved. This could very easily get out of hand.
SOME YOUNG SHIRT from the Wall Street Journal on the radio propagandizing for abolition of the estate tax - now more than ever, the stock market will pull us through. Look, shirt, the stock market is doing so "well" because its being fed with pension fund money. Has been for 15 years. As we all know, that pension fund money is more than half gone, wasted on lifestyles of the rich and famous and propaganda for same. Only shirts like him can ignore such basic facts, but of course he's getting paid to ignore them.
They talk faster when they get desperate. Oh, middle class, diversify, diversify.
WHIMSICAL PROPHECY - came to me whilst running. An outcome of this disaster will be either a national sales tax or a national lottery.
STUMBLEBUMERY - Another 2 days of anarchy in the Big Uneasy and it will be deja Baghdad all over again. The prez is sending 600 MPs. The armchair general says: a paratroop regiment should be air dropped immediately to secure the place. This gang always tends to want to do more with less. The result is always less with less. They are not serious. They are lost in their dreams.
1. UM, GOOD GOVERNMENT - This is more complicated than it seems, and I don’t want my comments to be dismissable as sourpuss stuff. We are experiencing an advance of chaos all over the world. Chaos yields both danger and opportunity of course. Some people are in a better position to take advantage of things that come up. Those people tend to be what we call today “rich.” There is a tendency, though it is not an absolute requirement, for people who are or have become “rich” to somehow think that they deserve their station in life. There is also a tendency, again, not a rule, and certainly not exclusive to the “rich,” for a fallback to a basic attitude of “me first” when faced with a crisis of need.
Crises of need are, as we all know and can plainly see, springing up all over the place, including right here in the “developed”world. I need not give examples, need I? The response we have from our elected suits is imitation cotton candy, doesn’t even taste good.
Which brings me to the current “government.” If anything that they had tried had worked I would have had a hat to eat, if I had a hat. But the entire project is coming up wanting. Why? Because they started out unserious, then they believed their own propaganda, then they lost their way, now their main backers are backing away.
I return to a theme I raised in 2001, before the Event that provided the ticket for them to go to the rummage sale. The whole tax cut thing was, behind the propaganda, based on the premise that everything’s going to Hell so let’s get what we can while there’s still something to get. Everything since has been a spending spree to see how much money could be put in pockets before the next election. Leave a giant mess for the clueless Dems to clean up.
The ruling ideation, when you strip away everything, is that there is not enough, there’s not going to be enough, we (the rulers) are going to get ours. The corrolary is that they don’t care what happens to the rest of us, best get it over with. None of you reading this are “them.” No matter how rich you are you are “us.” The future “they” envision for “us” is Mexico.
Speaking of which, need I remind the cause of the enormous immigration from Mexico in the last 15 years? Remember
NAFTA? Simple cause and effect. Now we have CAFTA.
This is all just pillage. It will end. Then there won’t be any more stuff. We’ll talk about the good old days when we could
afford to travel.
So I just read a bit by George Will going on about the price of gasoline is lower in inflation adjusted terms than it was in 1980. OK. In 1980 I was making $7.50 an hour, a good wage for sheetrocking. Gasoline cost $1.00 or something. Now my part timer gets $10.00 an hour, everything costs twice or thrice or 10 times as much. Everything except electronics. My car gets worse mileage than the one I had in 1980.
I don’t mind people trying to promote their positions and move toward their goals. I do too. I don’t appreciate them trying to lie to me about it, imagining that if they keep up the noise no one will notice until its too late.
And people call ME cynical.
8/31/2005 addendum to above: re the utter disaster in the deep south. Weather is fine here, price of gasoline up $0.06 overnight, $0.40 more during the day, more to come. We can't stop doing what we're doing. Make the donation to the Red Cross and get on with business. Here in Raleigh we went through hurricane Fran about a decade ago. No power for 9 days if I remember correctly. Whatever is in front of one's nose is what needs to get done. If I'm going to do any carping and I-told-you-so it is that at some point we (our elected and appointed functionaries) actually plan when they are doing our civic planning for us, instead of just going where the money guys tell us we should go. All the money we didn't spend on preparation and proactivity, mitigation and forebearance of short term profits down there in the Gulf - we're going to pay for it now, all at once. Ouch.
2. THE IRAQ CULTURAL PROTECTION ACT, whatever its exactly called, is now law. I cannot tell if it has been implemented in any way. On the ground it seems that nothing has changed. There are various bureaucratic threats to the hobby/business afoot, and they may add up to something some day. At the moment, though, with such a terrific foxes-guarding-the-henhouse operation at the top, it is kind of the golden age of laissez-faire capitalism on the ground. Check out the genuine antiquities on ebay hiding amongst the fakes. Watch 2500 year old priceless relics, tenderly grave robbed and perilously transported in violation of numerous statutes and treaties, going for the price of a pair of running shoes or a fast food meal. Luristan short spear for $121, forsooth! Gonna drive me out of business.
3. THE INVENTORY PROBLEM - Walmart, for instance, is spending billions on doodads which will attach to each item and sing in radio frequency “I’m me and I’m here.” They will force their suppliers to spend more billions. This automates an eye of a needle through which an attempt can be made to join the object of our desire and the desire itself. The object by itself is mute to our limited ears. But IT knows itself. The grail of inventory management is that the object should announce itself. The lost sheep baas. God, so to speak, knows the real names and therefore where everything is. Since the Tower of Babel we are stuck in a house of mirrors, always looking for something and finding only the reflection of our desire. The person who figures out how to make the humans listen to the songs of the “things” will truly change the world. No more wondering where things are. Seems like it should be doable.
4. A FINAL TWEAK TO THE LITERALISTS - No indication of how long the darkness lasted before the light. That first day could have been billions of our years. No way of knowing. An inference that it was “24 hours” (technically a bit more than an actual day) is just that - an inference. There goes the literalism.
Give up. Faith is enough. Forget about justifying ideation. Remember Babel. Don’t be a chump for the smooth sell. Do this. Don’t do that.
5. WHERE'S KARL ROVE? I don't see him anywhere. But I can hear him breathing (heavily). And I can smell the sweat.
This is my conspiratorial interpretation of the abrupt cancellation of the NPR show "the Connection." It was the smartest and most popular of the NPR talk shows, and perhaps the least ideologically slanted. If you didn't notice it, the cancellation was so abrupt that the host, Dick Gordon, did not know until it had been done. He wrote an angry and aggrieved op-ed in the Boston Globe this date. My theory is this: after the push for funding cuts to public broadcasting a few weeks ago, suddenly that move (sort of) died. Most of the money came back, all of the PB people breathed a sigh of relief and so forth. Then this happened. I think that "they" told the PB people "OK, we'll back off for now, but give us your first born." Maybe public broadcasting came back and said "Please, can we sacrifice Diane Rehm? Tavis Smiley?" But "they" wanted the white bullock, only the flawless white bullock would do. Then they said "And you have to do it in public, and you have to cut off his head, and you have to lie about it." And so it came to be.
The strategy, therefore, is to remove the quality and the middle ground and to leave the sectarian and mediocre. Then they can in future point to public broadcasting and whine about how liberal and low quality it is.
They are so clever. Too bad the goal for which they strive is the abyss.
1. DEATH OF "OUT" POLITICAL POINT PEOPLE BY PLANE CRASH seems to be a recurring motif of modern times. Most of those who die seem to be good guys, or goodish. Off the top of my head: Torrijos of Panama, Machel of Mozambique, Wellstone of USA, Zia ul-Haqq of Pakistan (a baddy), now Garang of Sudan. Always very suspicious. So convenient. Well, lets see what happens next.
2. KICKING KARL ROVE when he's down: I got several responses from several people from both "sides" of the snarl fest, which is "several" more than I get from most anything I write about. There was no disagreement, now that he has admitted the gaffe, that it was indeed improper. The difference was in the emotional content: sadness versus outrage.
But I was not, and am not referring to the surface issue, that which we know. I am now apprised of the information that he was fired from Bush I administration for inappropriate and unwise leakage. What underlying personality quirks might produce this recurrent high stakes logorrheah? I speculated at length, before I knew of the Bush I item, on the Karl Roveia of which I am aware, and one day a month ago I had an "Aha!" moment while running. The details of that "Aha!" are, for the time being, proprietary, but they refer to his private life, of which I know nothing at first hand, have no proof of anything, and not even any rumors. I just have that smarmy feeling that one gets on rare occasions, looking at someone from a distance, something about that person. Maybe afterwards you get a chance to say "Oh, of course, I knew it all along." A lot of people saw something like that in Bill Clinton. In ancient history there was J. Edgar Hoover, Roy Cohn, Jim Bakker. A lot of people thought they see/saw "something" in John Ashcroft, Ted Kennedy.
On the other hand, no one thinks they see or saw "something" in Nelson Mandela, or Bob Dole, or Paul Wellstone, or Jimmy Carter, or Ronald Reagan. Like em or hate em, they were/are, as far as we can tell, open books.
I think I see "something" in Karl Rove. I don't know what it is. I just think its something. He ain't just a mean politico. He is some kind of bent paper clip. Seek and I think that ye shall find.
Happy birthday to me. A little tooting of the personal horn: referring to note #2 7/1/05 below, please note that it precedes Karl Rove's current notoriety by about a week. I was referring to something other than the (mis)calculated meanness that produced the political gaffe that is knocking on his house of cards at the moment. That meanness is a symptom. He is quite a bent up guy. A similar but unrelated situation surfaced recently in the Pacific northwest.
I continue to write elliptically because I "know" absolutely nothing. Maybe I'm completely wrong. Since I know nothing, if I articulated my suspicions I would definitely be wrong. I don't mind coming out and stating that, in the currently popular phrase, I love the sinner but I hate the sin, and I want to see him reform. So I urge those of you who read this, and who have time and ability to dig, to look into what Karl Rove does when he is off duty from trying to steal the country. I think what you find will get the core constituency crying shame.
I found myself thinking about Bush and Abdullah holding hands and how people in the America were commenting on it with a homoerotic subtext which was wrong and everyone said so. But I found myself this number of days later thinking: which hand? Someone was holding someone's left hand with his right hand. There is a status thing in the subtext. He who gives the left hand is forcing an issue, so to speak. He who must respond with the right hand acknowledges the dominance of the other. Everyone in Asia knows why. Bush gave the left hand. He was the alpha male in that interaction.
1. I AMAZED MYSELF when I found myself 100% agreeing with the conservatives on the Supreme Court about that Connecticut eminent domain case. A local government can now condemn your real estate and give it to someone else to increase the tax base. Developers can now become privileged nobility who can legally bribe governments. Small owners can go find a shelter to live in. We live in 18th century France.
2. ANOTHER THOUGHT I HAD WHILE RUNNING: while I have no inside information of any kind, I do have some decades of experience of life. I have come to suspect that if one were to investigate Karl Rove’s personal affairs one would find things he has done that would, um, destroy his reputation.
3. AND AN ATTEMPT TO OFFEND A POTENTIAL SECTOR OF MY READERSHIP: if you believe “in every word” of the Bible, please read it from cover to cover, then write and tell me exactly how your beliefs and “every word” correlate. I will respond if you want me to.
THE IMPORTANT THING, as we Americans are led by our leaders into second class status, is to keep nimble. The two primary facts of international relations today are a) that there are about 5 times as many people fluent in English as a second language as native speakers, and b) there is more money out there than there is in here. a) means that unless you know their language you will know what they say but not what they think. Es por eso que he decidido aprender otras idiomas. b) means that “they” are more and more calling the shots and “we” are correspondingly doing more bowing and scraping. At the top the bowing and scraping is in trade and currency gimmes. When the president talks tough on China and then does next to nothing (the “reinstated” textile duties are in that ephemeral category - might have a marginal effect in Central America but will do nothing for the former American textile industry - we are still too expensive) that is what bowing and scraping looks like. Knight in shining armor, broom in hand, clankingly sweeping the red carpet for Chinese suits.
As long as they get to decide what their money is worth they have the front seat. And as long as they hold that ungodly (so to speak) percentage of our T-bills we will let them have it.
NOT THAT I’M ANTI-CHINESE - quite the opposite in fact. But but but our strength as humans (not merely as Americans) is in our reasonableness, ability to tell the truth, generosity, all of that good stuff. We are currently wasting our precious attention on diversions like whose scripture is infallible, pretending that we will have a civil war between a right wing and a moderate wing (there is no left left). Meanwhile, suits who could care less about anyone’s religion, including their own, are eating our lunch, dinner, and seed corn.
A. POLITICS (American): He is not serious. He has never been serious. He came to power so his people could steal things.
He has no intention of doing anything of use. Health care needs to be fixed, what does he do? Dog and pony show about
Social Security. Private accounts. It is mentioned that private accounts do not address the problem. “Still a good idea. What's your plan?” Empty. Then he gets on TV and tells us he'll cut most of our benefits and it still won't fix the problem. Clever only goes so far in attempting to cover stupid. The result will be that nothing will be done about Social Security and nothing will be done about health care either.
It has gotten to be that no one is making money in health care. Not doctors, not hospitals, not even insurance companies. Work 60 hour weeks, make less than last year. The next step when there’s no money is dismantling of infrastructure. This is already happening. The end point is in Turkmenistan, where the dictator closed all health outlets except in the capital (or something like that). If you get sick you can come into town.
I ignore “foreign affairs” in this month’s rant. Promises made, not kept. The main news not pertinent to the true situation. The true situation is that all players are locked in their position at the moment. India & China cannot stop doing what they’re doing, nor Malaysia, nor Brasil. The only players with room to maneuver are us and Europe. Europe is only a unitary
entity for certain purposes, so its only us. But our foxy leaders are busy fooling around in the henhouse. Supreme Court
justices. Regulation of satellite radio.
Is this what you were hoping for when you voted for them?
NOT that the alternative would have been very different.
B. ECONOMICS: oil is NOT more expensive. It is merely a real world commodity that we are buying with depreciated dollars. We have lost our leverage over oil prices. Iraq was an attempt to regain that leverage. It has failed in that goal. Whatever the surface political outcome there the oil chestnut will not get pulled out of the fire. Only a proactive shift into the next phase of energy usage will save the day. “They” are fiddling and diddling, but they are not biting the bullet.
Next comes water. Then comes food.
C. IS THIS MAKING SENSE TO YOU?
D. FUNDAMENTALISM: I have a deep sympathy with the propagators of the various certainty doctrines. I am equally certain of my own opinions, and I don’t even need to interpret a scripture to back myself up. I am a free-standing fundamentalist. Only the truth will convince me.
I have deep sympathy with the followers of the various fundamentalist faiths. They are all the same. Their leaders attempt to cover their fear with slogans and meaningless repetitive activity, their self-satisfaction by calling it a blessing. Everyone is afraid, and everyone feels superior to everyone else. Yes. The homeless drug addict would not trade places with the Lexus-driving owner of 3 franchise fast food joints, and vice versa. What male would trade places with any female, and vice versa? What adult wants to be a kid? What kid wants to be a grownup?
Doctrine and dogma are distractions. There is real stuff happening. If you want the answer to the question “Why” to be
called “God” that’s fine, but it is no excuse to not do anything about what needs to be done.
I was annoyed twice recently by evangelists on my doorstep. “Come to our church, do it our way (or else you’ll go to
Hell).” I quoted back scripture at them. Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said “Do not pray in public. Go in your room and
close the door. And do not ask for anything, but if you have to, just say the Lord’s Prayer and leave it at that.”
They went away.
What has never happened is that someone came to my door and said: “Come with us to the grocery store and buy groceries with us and then let us find hungry people and feed them.” Did that ever happen to you?
They are what they themselves call Pharisees. If you are one of them I challenge you to shut up (meek) and live your
3. I SEEM to be, possibly, turning a corner in this business. There is consistently more work to do than I can handle by myself. More is coming all the time, the hurrier I go the behinder I get. Hopefully this time next year I will have either a part time employee or a full time partner.
I get good ideas when I run. This is what came yesterday. For this (to my mind stupid) social security thing the key point will be what they propose for the employer contribution. I assume, given my political outlook, that they don't give a rat's, uh, whisker about private accounts, caring only about their constituency. Their constituency is "bosses," bosses always want to pay their employees less (I've been an employer and can sympathize), that employer match to the payroll deduction is a real pain in the whisker. And the employees don't even appreciate it because they don't see it. They actually get paid ~7% more than their paycheck says they do, but do they thank the boss? No, they don't. Boss feels unappreciated. Unappreciated bosses become Republican activists.
So I think, when the SS plan finally appears, probably at the last minute to keep the debate to a minimum, it will significantly reduce the employer match. Kind of like the medicare "drug benefit" that made price negotiation illegal.
Let's wait a couple of months to see if I'm right.
2. In my printed pricelist, written 1/25, I called the violence level for the Iraqi election correctly. Good for them.
3. Darfur is still happening.
4. My older son is leaning towards an environmental science major. Field will see a lot of growth. Good for him if he actually does it.
1. PLEASE BE UNDERSTANDING of your state & local governments when they raise your fees & taxes & then cut services, when hospitals close, when fire, police & emergency organizations trim & cease, when schools & roads deteriorate, etc. The “attempt” at balancing of the federal deficit, which will, of course, not succeed, will be effected by trimming the edges. You, dear readers, are the edges, especially you ruralites & children. Make the most of your permanent tax cut, yes? Buy yourself an emergency room, or a school system. And do it soon before you have to pay a VAT.
2. MY WIFE, not so much of a wonderer, asked me why “they” are trying to turn the USA into a 3rd world country. I responded, of course, that where government is weakest the stealing is easiest.
3. MY 14 YEAR OLD SON, more intelligent than I, asked me why school was so easy and stupid. I explained that the thrust of our society these days is to push people to do things on their own. You want it, you have to go get it. That has been normal throughout history - government acting as obstacle to ordinary people rather than as aid. Conservative is supposed to have something to do with conserving. The word today is translatable as “I’m getting mine, you can get out of my way.” They con, but they do not serve. One can conceive a supreme being, watching all of this name being taken in vain that goes on, not being pleased.
4. AND BY THE WAY: it was a flawed election. 30 million votes were not auditable.
5. A THOUGHT I HAD WHILE RUNNING: in India some number of parents have selectively aborted female humans over the last decade+ (to save on potential dowry payments) and this has produced a surplus of males of some 10 or 10s of millions. A similar process has been going on in China to a lesser extent. There is no sign that the practice is diminishing in India. What will all of those excess males do when they grow up and can't marry or otherwise get any? The traditional answer to such imbalances is to make an army out of them and set them to rampaging. Pakistan and Burma better watch out. Will China and India, in 20 years, help each other to solve their demographic problems by mutually eliminating a few dozen millions of each other's excess males?
6. AID TO THE DISASTER: I will stick my nose in your business. If you are making a special contribution to the relief from this act of God allow me to suggest that you meter your contribution to your chosen organization throughout the year. Remember what happened with the blood donated after 9/11? They had too much and they had to throw some of it away, then 6 months later there were shortages because everyone "already gave." The same thing will happen with the donations this time. First too much, then a shortage for the long haul. I repeat & elaborate: decide how much you would want to donate, DOUBLE it, divide it by 12, and make a monthly contribution all year long.
1. THE HARDER THEY COME THE HARDER THEY FALL
2. THE DEBT: when the national debt is discussed “commentators” typically mention some future necessity to raise interest rates to attract investment in government securities. That is a “don’t watch my hand” position. What happens on the ground in high debt situations is inflation, which we microeconomic organisms experience as pain. At the high end inflation is called “depreciation,” which means nothing to us unless we go overseas, at which point we experience pain. At the government bond level investors develop lack of interest as interest rates rise toward ridiculosity, viz. the Argentine situation a few years back. They were paying double digits but no one wanted them. Why? Because everyone knew the Argentine government would not honor those rates, and they didn’t. They converted the bonds. Equals pain to the investors. When “they” talk about rising interest rates they don’t mention what will happen to the current and near past low rate bonds. What happens is that the holders are stuck with them as they become worth-less. This is how governments cut their debt: by stiffing their investors as they squeeze their “citizens.” Sharing the pain. I’ve been saying this for years. Finally last week a voice on the radio agreed with me. She called it “the greatest government default in history.”
3. CULTURE WAR: I am a historian. My study of history has given me the opportunity to see this process before. The only way to enforce one’s behavioral norms is to enforce them. Enforcement always has to escalate if the deviants are recalcitrant. In the end those defined as deviant are liquidated, otherwise the enforcement does not ultimately work. Forcibly keeping the lid on when the pot wants to boil is ultimately futile. Eventually Franco died and Spain became the most “liberal” country in Europe. Living one’s life as an example will be more successful in the long run, and having more kids than your iniquitous neighbors will work best. That is the Muslim “strategy,” though how they’re going to get past China is a ponderable. Meanwhile, you can sweep all that stuff under the rug, but it makes the rug lumpy.
4. AND BY THE WAY: it was a flawed election. 30 million votes were not auditable, so...
The Green and Libertarian parties have joined forces and have raised money to have a recount in Ohio. It seems that they are not looking to overturn the results per se, though if such an outcome were to ensue 48% of us would be happy. They hope to uncover the flaws in the system. You can donate to their effort through their websites. I have. In my state, North Carolina, a touch screen system in one county lost over 4000 votes, leading to a recount and possibly a new election for agriculture commissioner and maybe for superintendent of public "instruction." The "F" word (fraud) hangs like a whiff of chemistry in the air around this entire election. 30 million ballots cannot be audited. It looks like democracy, it says its democracy, but it is not democracy. It is theatre.
Green Party website
Libertarian Party website
1. Given the congressional results, were Kerry to have eked out a theoretical win with absentee and provisional ballots he would not be able to govern. A continuation of (from my point of view) bad governance is preferable.
2. I would urge a critical look at all paperless ballots, about 1/3 of those cast. As I have noted before, these are not verifiable. There have indeed been reports of Kerry votes cast on touch screens in Florida that came out Bush. I repeat, fraud in most of the touch screen ballots cannot be discovered.
3. Under the circumstances I believe we can look forward to more reckless fiscal policy and incompetent international adventurism. Nations pay their international debts by devaluing their currency. The acquisition of a position in portable tangibles might seem prudent.
12/3/2004 A month later my "buy" call on precious metals was spot on. I STILL think you'll do OK trading your dollars for gold. I do not think the euro has too much farther to go. They have too many irons in the same fires we do.
What we have here, administration-wise, is a complete failure of vision. Like father, like son. The guy has nothing better to do than to safeguard the profits of his buddies. He is the president of the top 10,000 donors. Everyone else is the field to be plowed. I shall itemize.
1. Energy policy
Essentially the attention of the current administration starts and ends here. The basis of the Bush energy policy is a last ditch defense of the current owners' positions. Interests of consumers are only to be considered in regard to their ability to pay. The war on Iraq is a harebrained scheme to get a thumb on the levers of the oil trade. Part of the deal leading up to it was a continuation of the perennial hands-off-Saudi-Arabia policy, which allowed them to squeeze the pipeline and give us our highest gas prices ever (Europeans - please tell me - is petrol higher where you live, or is this rise just local?) Meanwhile, nothing but sparse verbiage is being deployed in favor of "energy independence." No increase in R&D, nor in incentives for conservation or installation of non-fossil fuel energy sources. Recognizing a problem, their response has been to protect the assets of the current holders. Truly head in the sand approach.
2. Population pressure and resource
Any fool can see that we (the planet) have an imbalance in this sector. Historians like myself can clearly see dozens or hundreds of examples of cultures that used up a critical part of their resource base and crashed. Now we have what is essentially a global culture and it is obviously unstable. It is obvious that what is required is a changeover to sustainable energy use, universal education, global stabilization of population, rigorous conservation of planetary resources (especially biological). Our administration's response to this underlying problem is to ignore it. The population issue is a throwaway propaganda item for them. Give it to the right wing to chew on. As far as resources are concerned, the only thought is as #1 above - them that's got, make sure they keep it.
3. Not paying bills
The money promised for Afghanistan - most of it still unspent 2 years later. The $15 billion for AIDS in Africa - not appropriated, guidelines as stated so far will prohibit distribution in most African nations. The Russians are complaining that we are tardy in our payments for work on the space station.
4. Then there is Iraq
What can one say about that black hole into which money vanishes with no result? Simply that there was one goal - get the oil, and no plan. There is still no plan, and the oil is not flowing either. A clearer example of expert execution of a fuzzy policy cannot be found. They don't know why they're there anymore. They don't know what to do. Leadership is not a word that applies to this situation. This is shaping up to be a policy failure of unprecedented grandeur, the likes of which has not been seen since, um, since 'Alauddin Khwarezmshah shaved the beards of Chingis Khan's merchants and then killed the ambassador who came back to complain.
We spend 30% of the biggest GNP in the world on our military. In the past 2 years we have increased military spending about 15% (?). The result is shiny but it cannot do the job because the job is not doable. Pseudo-colonial ventures require an Hitlerian ruthlessness that our culture will not tolerate. (We tolerated it in the Philippines early in the 20th century - 20-odd years to crush the rebellion/liberation struggle there. Are we ready for 20 years of guerilla war in Iraq?)
5. Health care
Nothing going on there. In western Europe and Canada everyone is covered and they spend average 9% of smaller GNPs on health care. Here there are 40 millions not covered and we spend 14% of biggest GNP in the world. From the administration we have been presented with nothing more than a shell game proposal that is not being supported in Congress.
6. I almost forgot about education
Why? Because there is no education. Hasn't been since I was in school close to half a century ago. What we call education is the most mind deadening boring waste of time that could possibly be devised. Always has been. Over many centuries the worst possible method of instruction has been carefully developed to winnow out the strongest minds and to separate the rest into oxen and hyenas. Carefully developed to insure that the majority of inmates-I-mean-students will drop a subject as soon as the class is over and never refer to it again for the rest of their lives. "Education" is designed to make students lose interest in knowledge and to teach them as little as possible in the longest amount of time.
There are two sure ways to teach kids something quickly. One is to put them in a box in which they have to learn something to get out. Want them to learn Spanish? Take them to Mexico. They'll learn when they have to. The other is to make knowledge illegal and forbidden. Put em in jail for learning. People will be selling dime bags of knowledge on the street corners of inner cities.
What do we have for an educational initiative? We have "No child left behind." Translated: waste even more of that precious "instruction" time on prepping for those stupid tests that prove only that the kids know how to take bubble scored tests and punish the teachers if the kids can't do it.
I could go
on, this Labor Day. Mr. Bush said something about how his tax cuts
have made this a "shallow" recession. Shallow at his end of the pool
maybe. Here in Raleigh we've lost so many white collar jobs that
the real estate market is depressed, average values down about 15% since
2001. The tech jobs have gone to India, where a college education
will get you a comfortable middle class salary of $5000 per year.
That $400 child bonus we got this summer, that was nice. Hardly noticeable
though. Two electric bills.
Complain, complain. I don't know what to do. These guys are thieves and liars, wastrels, vagabonds, rounders. Who could we replace them with who wouldn't be thieves and liars?
I'm not satisfied with this piece I just wrote, but I've received several notes informing me that they miss my diatribes - they provide entertainment value. And it's time to post this and get on with the business. So - show time.
Closer to home - you need to know that the post
office went and lost at least 30 of my letters in July. I went to
the beach for inlaws reunion between July 10 and July 19. Usually
when I do that my PO box fills up and they take out the mail, put a rubber
band around it, and leave a pink slip in my box to let me know that they're
holding it for me. This time my box was almost empty and no pink
slip. "Bad week" I thought. But I asked them anyway, and they
went and looked but couldn't find anything. By the second week of
August I was starting to get "where's my order I sent in July?" queries,
and a number of payments had not been received.
By now the total of checks not received is close to $2000.00. None of them have been cashed. About 20 orders did not get to me. Uninsured lost merchandise for my purchase or for return totals about $200.00.
What they did, obviously, is to take the stuff out of my box and lose it, because lost is what it is. They told me they were sorry. They'll try not to do it again.
If your mailed communication to me has not been responded to this is why. Please try again.
I just heard on NPR that the International Atomic Energy Agency found "particles" of highly enriched uranium at a site in Iran. The Iranians are claiming that "Uh, they must have been in the machine when we bought it, and uh, we can't tell you who we bought it from. And of course we are not building nuclear bombs."
I don't have any secret inside sources. They got whatever nuke stuff they have from Russia. Not Pakistan. Russia. And they are making nuclear bombs. They are lying. Moosh bar deevar biman goft.
See my prescient note below on the Bush "involvement" in the 9/11 disaster re who knew what when. There is a thickening plot here. I will dip my toe into the spreading stain and clearly state that there is some kind of problem with this administration, more than meets the eye, something under the lid. Watch what they do, not what they say.
54 years old-
a little overweight-
couple of modest friends-
35 years old
a little overweight-
married to an OK guy-
they're doing OK she guesses
17 years old-
can't stop thinking-
can't finish a book-
can't read her own handwriting...
will be watching TV
will be cooking dinner after a day of bookkeeping for a failing business
will be staring into space, not doing math homework
will wrap the thousand armed mind
around a pretty rock lying on the mental ground
and find it is indeed the end of a tube,
will follow the superstring
(or whatever it turns out to be)
into the other place that is also here
will unify the apparent separations of time and space
and will repeatably demonstrate it so that there will be no doubt
and no confusion
Like water is self-evidently not sand -
no one will argue
1. IRRITATION ABROAD - about the situation in the Middle East.
When I was a kid I used to bother my brother until he responded violently.
That would be the excuse for me to stomp him or tell on him to the parents.
It happened a lot when we were living in the same room, and the frequency
diminished when we moved and got separate rooms.
I guess it won't really be possible to put them in separate rooms. Maybe we could stop selling them weapons? No, I guess not. Too much money to be made.
2. IRRITATION AT HOME - I think I'm coming to the conclusion that this is actually a do-nothing administration. They seem to be determined not to bite the many bullets that need to be bitten. They talk about war on terrorism but there is no war, just talk, and have managed with their talk to alienate almost every overseas constituency. The big military spending increase is substantially dedicated to fancy hardware. Money promised to Afghanistan has not been delivered. The "I care" education bill is filled with unfunded mandates. The energy bill subsidizes coal, oil, nuclear, conservation is lauded but not funded. They seem to be spending the vast bulk of their time and energy on figuring out how they can grow their personal assets. Perhaps, as in the Reagan years, we are looking at another golden age of crime.
Then of course there is whatever mischief they are planning about Iraq and its pustule of a leader. A big thump to Iraq will be good for the oil business, which seems to be the alpha and the omega of this bunch. Why would they care if guys in robes get upset? Oil. Sell it.
3. HOW ABOUT some research into ways of getting off-planet without burning a lot of hydrogen? Lofstrom loops at the equator to utilize the angular momentum of the earth's rotation? Magnetic repulsion at the poles? It is too expensive the way it is. We need duct tape and aluminum foil space travel, not this $20 million a pop stuff. Before Jacques Cousteau and scuba you needed tons of material and a crew to fool around underwater. Time for a Jacques Cousteau of space to hit the scene.
4. TACHYONS - surely someone knows more about this than I do...
stuff I've written relating to the 9/11 incident
Faith & Foolishness - Ruminations on Fundamentalism
A few months back I admitted to being
confused regarding some of the underlying motives of the response of the
American government to the September Event. I received a few responses
to the effect that "It's the oil, stupid." I had stated in this very
space that accusations that our government was complicit in the Event did
not hold up to Occam's razor. Now I'm not so sure. Since that
time (January, say) I've noticed a few things, been apprised of a
few things, have begun perhaps to piece together part of the story.
We learned within a few days of the Event that during the air flight lockdown a single jet was allowed to fly out of the USA carrying various members of the Bin Laden family. At the time this action was attributed to the behest of prince Bandar b. Sultan of Sa'udi Arabia, who asked for and received permission for the flight. Now I've learned (courtesy Michael Moore) that said jet actually made a number of trips to a number of cities picking up Sa'udi citizens, not all of whom were Bin Laden relatives, before leaving American air space. Furthermore, the FBI had requested to interview a number of these people and the request was denied by the Justice Department. Now they're gone home to that Black Hole of intelligence, Sa'udi Arabia.
Well, it seems to turn out that some of the Bin Ladens are personal friends of the Bush family, that they have provided some financing for Bush ventures in the oil trade. Did I hear that there was some personal face-to-face between the two clans in the months preceding the September events? Not sure. I don't take such wonderful notes. But the situation kind of put me in mind of the attempt to assassinate Reagan by John Hinckley way back when. The Hinckleys and the Bushes were friends. I don't recall if it was John himself or his parents who had been guests of the Bushes a few weeks before.
At any rate, the Bin Ladens, some of whom had talked to black sheep Osama in the days before 9/11, were removed from American jurisdiction before they could be questioned, the situation brought about by order of John Ashcroft. This seems to be the opposite of intelligence.
Michael Moore announces that it was printed (somewhere) that Osama was suffering from kidney failure and was on dialysis. If this is true he could not have been hiding in caves in Afghanistan because he needed to have that machine with him otherwise he would die in a few days. The alternative to dialysis for some renal conditions is peritoneal fluid replacement (I'm not sure that's the precisely correct term), which involves several gallons of special fluid dripped into and out of one's abdomen every day. Having his flunkies haul around several hundred gallons of sterile stuff as they dodge bombs is a somewhat more likely scenario than running around with a dialysis machine, but still a bit stretchy. Fluid replacement patients get puffy. Osama's tapes show a guy who is gaunt. If the tapes are not fakes and were contemporary with their release Osama was not at that time a fluid replacement guy.
Then there was a statement by Pakistan's Musharraf that he thought Osama was dead of renal failure, no reason given for the assertion. Maybe that was back in February? Since then there has been no word about Osama, or any other Bin Laden for that matter.
Maybe he's back in Sa'udi Arabia? Maybe he's been there all along? I don't know. Am I being unpatriotic to ask these questions?
Not a word about Mullah Omar. It's like: who cares?
What else? Obstinate refusal of America to do what needs to be done to pick up the pieces in Afghanistan. Relatively minor outlay for peacekeeping and reconstruction but the American position continues to be "We freed you, now get with the program." People sitting around in Afghanistan thinking maybe it wasn't so bad under the Taliban after all, at least you could go out at night (if you were male). One might almost think we wanted the situation to deteriorate. What use would that be? Where else have we provoked and promoted a deteriorated situation?
Iraq. And we still buy their oil. Kick them. Buy their oil. Kick them again. Buy some more oil. Price goes up, oil companies make more money. Price goes down, sell more oil, make more money. American taxpayers pay more for defense of the oil, OK, war on terrorism, let's do it. Factor in the increased defense costs, are we paying $3.00 per gallon yet? It only SEEMS like gas is cheaper here than in Europe, but over there they use the taxes they collect on things like comprehensive free health care and so forth. Here we spend it on protecting the oil.
Well, let's move on to someplace where there is no oil. About Sharon and Arafat. A couple of months ago there was some business about indicting Sharon in the World Court or someplace for crimes against humanity in relation to the Sabra-Shatila massacres in Lebanon 20-odd years ago. I don't know the status of that activity at this time. I did note that there was a guy in Lebanon, former commander of one of the Christian militias that did the job, who was going to testify at the proceedings. He was assassinated a couple of months ago, no discussion of who might have hit him. Well, who might have a motive?
Meanwhile, for decades now Arafat has been triangulating so thoroughly between the Islamists, the political rejectionists, the Saudi money, the Iranian money, the Libyan money, the Iraqi money, that he has accomplished nothing positive for Palestine. Wobbling his jaws in English, banging his fists in Arabic, keeping the wounds open. Squalid dictator type, if he actually had a country to dictate to. But the only infrastructure he's ever developed has been paramilitary. Buffoon with hand grenades.
No need for him to keep the wounds open though. The Israeli settlement policy accomplishes that job all by itself. That single policy has killed the "peace process." It has been going on through Oslo, Camp David, etc. to this very day. In the midst of today's warfare Jewish families are moving into new apartments in the West Bank. As long as the settlements continue Israel cannot be considered a reliable partner in any peace process. We will know that they are serious about peace when the settlements stop. Until then they go in the same category as Arafat: smoke blowers.
All those guys over there. Look at what they do, not what they say.
I (an American) should talk. Look at our own president. What's he saying? What's he doing?
Iraq - need I say anything? I think I hear the sound of a fan someone may have turned on. And what's that smell? The gold buyers don't seem to care though, at least not yet.
1. Refer to the beginning of my month old note on Haiti below - note please how the story is just about gone a month later. The situation has not improved.
2. Late one night about a week ago I was listening to the BBC and they did this 15 minute segment in which they discussed the presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Methane has been observed there for a number of years, and the current rovers, orbiters, etc. have refined the data. The basic point of the BBC story was that methane does not sit around but rather breaks down fairly quickly in the presence of ultraviolet light, which impacts Mars in large quantities, therefore methane is being continually replenished there. The scientists can think of only 3 possibilities for where the methane comes from:
1. Active volcanoes (but there aren't any on Mars)
2. Carbon based life forms
3. Something they don't know anything about.
The BBC went on about how this seems to clinch the argument for life on Mars and called it the most important finding of the millennium if not ever. I went to bed full of wonder, expecting the news to be propagated at length the next day.
Imagine my surprise to wake up to - nothing. Not only was the story not picked up by any other outlet, it was never repeated on the BBC.
April Fool's Day is today, not last week. What's the real story? Only the shadow nos.
Also today - the Department of Energy announced that it will actually review the cold fusion data, which it had previously refused to examine on the basis of preassumed bogosity. Evidently a "real" story.
I've been listening to the news all day as I usually do. There are a lot of stories that could be April Foolish, but they all seem to be serious.
So many one day stories in the American news, but some of these might be coming back to haunt as they rot in the light of day.
Haiti - When Aristide got on the horn and announced that he was kidnapped by US troops I can imagine someone in one of those planning rooms cursing and thinking "Should have killed that cross eyed sucker." Now he's sitting in what is essentially French territory (though there is the illusion of sovereignty in that plausibly deniable country) where he can do whatever the French let him do. I said FRENCH. Remember them? They certainly remember us. This is the year after last year, not ten years later. Aristide will be something of an irritant for some while. We bought this situation last year when we kept the French out of the Iraq misadventure, which they wanted in on. Lucky for them we didn't let them, eh? But now, free and clear of the Iraq tarbaby, but having not forgotten our contretemps of 03 they have kindly offered to "cooperate" on Haiti. Why? No good reason. No one has serious interests in Haiti except drug and gun runners. Even though they speak French in Haiti France is not there. They offered to "cooperate" because Haiti c'est un autre cadeau sous le soulier du grand bouffon, if you know what I mean. And we walked right into it. Why? Ideological blinders.
Our current administration is MANIPULABLE. Why? Because its members prefer the solipsistic contemplation of their own beliefs to the clear apprehension of reality as it actually is. We have been played in Haiti, and now the stench of that mess will be added to the stench of Iraq and the stench of Afghanistan.
I think that's enough bile for today.
I am reading a book named "Snow Crash," which seems to be about the concept of viruses physical, digital, and conceptual, and I am listening to the radio where they are discussing sex education, which in my school district was an oxymoron and the board has just voted to make it more so. "Snow Crash" presents a metaphor that explains the tower of Babel story as an appearance of a neurological virus that causes people to not understand each other.
I have noticed over the decades that there has been a(n increasing?) tendency among people who adhere to various "isms" to use words differently that are ostensibly in the same language, so that a given statement might have quite a different meaning depending on the ideology of the person stating it. I shall refrain from offering an example.
I find that when I talk with people who are sufficiently embedded in
a given ideology that there will be instances in which I know that they
are interpreting my words completely differently than the way I am intending
1.THIS LIST IS LATE. No chance to think of cute & perspicacious quips. One son graduated high school over the weekend, another out of middle school. Aged parents in for festivities. Business did not get done.
2. BUT THERE IS THIS INTERESTING sequence of what are evidently blunders, losses, misallocations, etc. by not just the USA postal services but also those of UK and Germany. No less than 3 registered items to those countries unaccounted for from end of March to end of May! I would consider this incredible if it hadn’t actually happened. And 5 blue tag insured parcels in USA! The USA service seems always to let their efficiency slip in advance to a rate increase, which they have asked for, but what is their excuse over there?
A recent conversation with a self-proclaimed dittohead ("You listen to NPR? Have you ever heard of Rush Limbaugh?") brought me back to the basic-problem-facing-humanity. We have such an enormous need for consoling answers and allow ourselves such a degree of intellectual sloth that some of us may tend to go for any explicatory line that is repeated enough times. Coherency does not matter, let alone accuracy. Memorable slogans are more important.
I quote verbatim from my conversation: Q-"Do you call what's going on in Iraq 'winning'?" A-"Kerry wouldn't have done anything. He eats lunch at the Waffle House every day."
Looking for answers is hard. Trying to formulate questions that can be answered is harder. That is what scientists do. The ability to accept pieces of truth when it they are finally found can be difficult. Realizing that the game is not over and that there are still more pieces to be laboriously discovered is harder. Many people don't want to do that, preferring pie in the sky promises, even coming from thieves and liars, from people who are smart enough to play dumb but dumb enough not to think things through. I have a tendency to forget this.
About the Indian election. Whatever they did they did it right. All electronic, more votes cast than the entire population of the USA, and the ruling party lost. Obviously a fair election when the ruling party loses. American electoral boards: look and learn.
As is often the case, I have not made myself clear. Got a note from a guy - he fought in New Guinea in THE WAR. "Never give up" he responded to me, as if I was PROMOTING giving up. I AM NOT advocating cutting and running. I am merely predicting that we will eventually do that. I mean by that statement that we will leave with the job half done or worse and we will say everything is hunkie dorrie. The reason I think that, I repeat, is that the war was so improperly premised and so ineptly planned that only the most miraculous of political maneuvers could possibly turn it around. Like, for instance, we'd have to hear, say, George W. Bush say "I'm sorry." And we'd have to hear him say "I was wrong." And we'd have to hear him say "This is what I am going to do to fix the mess that I admit I made." I ask you, is this a miracle president?
It would be SO EASY to turn around public opinion in Iraq and Afghanistan, even here in USA. All that is necessary is that politicians NOT LIE. Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief.
BUT - blind bullheadedness does not have its place. To keep on doing something JUST BECAUSE one is currently doing it is not necessarily noble. The thing itself has to be right. Right? The first step away from stupidity is to STOP being stupid. Right? Is there not an awesome level of stupidity involved in this Iraq business?
Unfortunately, there are no good ideas in play for what to do different. Bush's "stay the course" leads to a shipwreck. Kerry's "give it to the UN" is just the kind of wishywashy make believe solution one would expect of him. Either the UN becomes a fig leaf for the muddy American pseudo-policy or it is so incredibly underfunded that nothing will happen. Nader's "date certain withdrawl" is the worst possible option, recipe for instant civil war. My preferred course of action? I have none. Need the miracle. Start with the apology.
I am going to be fair. The way we are dealing with the prisoner abuse thing is OK. It is democratic. It is open. It is the American way. We can be proud to this point of the way we are doing it. And on the other hand those head cutters just don't get it. They have no idea of a pluralistic world. They sure don't know nuts about public relations. Something stupid is done to "you," you don't go and do something stupider. "Aha! My enemy is jumping off the cliff. I will show him! I will ride my horse off the cliff! That will show him. No one will be stupider than me! Allah has ordained it!"
We actually have the ability, here in America, occasionally to call our governors to account. Yay.
1. I WAS SURE during the runup of gold & silver prices that there was a massive buy going on in Asia. Now that there has been this precipitous bust I incline more to the theory that some cabal of positioneers made a small manipulation and have just taken their profit.
2. I’M SORRY - I apologize for predicting a year ago that we would have no idea by now who is in control in Iraq. If I hadn’t said that it wouldn’t have happened, everything would be fine. It is all my fault.
3. NOW FOR THE OTHER FOOT - We will eventually declare victory and leave. It will be a giant mess. The aftermath of Vietnam will seem an honorable and gentle affair in comparison. Ya see, in Vietnam the “enemy” had a political vision and a textbook to follow how to proceed. What comes after us in Iraq is medieval blood feud and total parochialism in a milieu where big fish are used to eating little fish and most people most of the time do not functionally distinguish between truth and fiction.
I can’t say “they” have done everything wrong, because it won’t help. OK then, “we” have done everything wrong. We have about 90% lost the initiative and barring a miracle of diplomacy the Iraq game is almost over and we have lost.
(I wrote this mid-April after the selection of that Republican Guard moustache general to guard the henhouse in Fallujah. Now they say they're going to replace him, he's too popular. And the prisoner abuse business. Scratch 90%. Substitute 97%.)
4. AND WHAT ABOUT THIS RECOVERY? Whine whine whine, complain complain complain. This looks to me like a phony recovery. Or rather, maybe the beginning of inflation. AND - we (the humans) have turned a corner - we (the Americans) are not driving the world economy, the Chinese are. BUT, there is no sign whatsoever that the Chinese are MANAGING their boom. Rather, they (the Chinese suits) are ENJOYING it. Big mistake. They will fall off the cliff and they will pull us with them. Nothing anyone can do about it either. When did the Chinese government ever listen to anyone?
5. I THINK KERRY is more likely to lose than to win because he weighs issues & draws conclusions & what we need today is someone who draws conclusions & then constructs rationales for them while talking to us about toughing it out, compassion, kinder, gentler, and morning in America. Someone who can convey a sense of purpose, who cares what purpose? Time like this you don’t want a guy who asks questions. You want answers. What’s an answer? Its a sentence that ends without a question mark, that’s what it is. You don’t get to the bottom of things by asking questions. You grab a shovel and dig a hole. And you don’t fall in either. You jump. That’s how you get to the bottom.
WHY I’M FOR KERRY - As usual, though I have opinions, I am not trying to change yours. You can do that yourself. I have this vehicle of expression, a constitutional right to use it, and a desire to exercize said right.
There is a loose cannon aspect to Bush that I find dangerous. He is an agressive, bull dog kind of guy, which can be an advantage if accompanied by probing and inquiring intelligence. But that he ain’t got. He has a priori assumptions instead. He has taken us, willy nilly, into quagmires military, diplomatic, and fiscal. If reelected he promises more of the same. He is a clever campaigner but a poor leader and he is a miserable manager. Note that when he was in business everything he tried went bad but he personally came out OK. He is doing the same thing with our country.
Kerry is an ordinary politician. I will take an ordinary politician over an irresponsible, shortsighted, obsessive nut case.
A thought about Iraq - only a Nazi style total repression could have succeeded. Looters shot, the border closed, sweeps for weapons, massive reprisals against the families and towns of resisters. The Russians were half hearted in their repression
in Afghanistan. The USA is not constituted to do such things. We are good at cultural imperialism. We should concentrate on what we do well. My recipe for Iraq is to pour money into Kurdistan and make it shine. Make a deal with the Shi’is and pour money similarly. Seal the “Sunni triangle” and let them suffer until they come around. Do the same thing in Afghanistan, though there we would have to build cordons around the “good” parts instead of around the “bad” part, as is possible in Iraq. We cannot leave at the moment. The current crew will, I predict, retreat as they advanced, willy nilly, leaving a bigger mess than before they knocked over the hornet’s nest. Steal, break and lie are the things they do well. Building things - not a clue.
Referring to my note at the top of this page, apparently all of the "antiquities protection" acts have passed in their respective houses of Congress and are now in committee. As written they will ban the import into the USA of all objects originating in Iraq and Afghanistan that were fabricated more than 100 years ago. All such objects currently in country will have to have been imported before 1990 to be legal. Proof of origin will have to accompany any imports. Coins are not exempted. Nor, for that matter, would be a Baghdad bus ticket of 1903. As currently envisioned, the Customs Service would be responsible for enforcement and status determination. The agency currently charged with status determination is apparently shut out of the process.
If these bills do come out of conference and are signed there will then be a period of rules promulgation, which will (we assume) be accompanied by periods of public comment, etc. It would seem to be proper for you, the reader of this, to make your views known to your representatives (immediately), and to the appropriate hearing boards and rules committees at their appropriate meeting times. As I learn the appropriate dates, people, addresses, etc. I will post them here.
If what you like to do involves the acquisition of antique objects from Asia you really should get involved in the making of these rules. If you don't you will find, some time next year, that you have become, I do not exaggerate, a criminal possessor of contraband, subject to fines and confiscation of your stuff. There may not be any provisions for the disposal of your illegal stuff.
So, do something!
I would have liked to discuss larger issues, but business must be attended to. I would prefer, this time next year, to be doing substantially what I am doing now, rather than something else. But if all is lost I will not be offering Umayyad dirhams from Wasit, anything Abbasid, anything Parthian, Indo-Greek silver (but copper from Taxila will be OK!), etc. No 19th century Afghanistan!
I have been banging on the Sudan issue for a number of years now, though not as long as the Sudan issue has been percolating. I suggested, with tongue in (__), a couple of years back, that a better thing to do with Saddam than overthrowing him would have been to hire him to destroy those maniacs in Sudan. Cut him in on the profits. Keep him busy. But "they" wouldn't listen to me, any more than they listened to my proposal that an international peacekeeping force made of troops from Turkey and Germany keep the Israelis and the Palestinians apart. I still think that's a good idea.
Anyway, there was a guy in Sudan in the 19th century who proclaimed himself the "Mahdi," which is the Muslim equivalent of "Messiah," who was defeated by the British, but his movement never went away, and the current government is his descendant, so to speak. They are "wierd" Muslims, but part of a long line of thinking that began about 1300 years ago with a group called the Kharijites, whose most important tenet was that it was 1) OK to force people to behave in the manner that the Kharijites considered proper, and 2) OK to kill them if they disagreed. Kharijite doctrine has never been dominant in the "World of Islam," but it never went away either. "Normal" Islam tends a bit more toward the First Amendment, live-and-let-live stance of the USA Constitution, which protects the rights of insane maniacs to try to propagate their beliefs. Liberty is indeed a two-edged sword (jian in Chinese).
There is also the indubitable fact that the Arabs of North Africa have been preying upon the Blacks of slightly-less-North Africa since they came 1300 years ago, and that the various light skinned Berbers, Egyptians, etc. have been doing same for several thousand years before that. Some habits are very hard to break.
I call upon President Bush to preemptively bomb various selected government buildings in Khartoum, and to eliminate their air bases, to show Our Displeasure with their unseemly display of bad taste in this racist agression that they've been propagating these last 40 years. Nation building indeed! How about in this case a bit of nation destroying? Hard to think of a government more deserving of reduction to "insurgent" status at the moment.
I can write this secure in the knowledge that nothing serious will be done.
A JOKE FROM AFGHANISTAN:
An American, a Brit and an Iraqi are one night having a beer. The Yankee drinks his beer and suddenly throws his glass in the air, pulls out a gun and shoots the glass to pieces.
He says: "In the states our glasses are so cheap that we don't need to drink from the same one twice."
The Brit, obviously impressed by this; drinks his beer, throws his glass into the air, pulls out his gun and shoots the glass to pieces.
He says: "In the British Isles we have so much sand to make the glasses that we don't need to drink out of the same glass twice either."
The Iraqi, cool as a cucumber, picks up his beer and drinks it, throws his glass into the air, pulls out his gun and shoots both the Yank and the Brit.
He says: "In Iraq we have so many Americans and Brits that we don't need to drink with the same ones twice."
SORRY ABOUT THAT. HERE'S ANOTHER, THIS FROM IRAQ:
Sharon: "Pres. Bush, I send my condolences. The whole Israeli people share your pain. This is a terrible, terrible tragedy that happened and we sympathize with your grief. Words can not begin to describe the horror of this act..."
Bush: "Excuse me, but what are you talking about?"
Sharon: "Oh, I forgot about the 7 hour time zone difference."
BOTH OF THESE WERE TAKEN WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM NATIVE
WEBSITES. MOST IRAQI JOKES SEEM TO BE ABOUT DUMB BLONDES AND LYING
STUFFED SHIRTS. MOST AFGHANI JOKES SEEM TO BE ABOUT DUMB AFGHANIS
AND BAD DRIVERS. THEY DON'T SEEM TO THINK ABOUT AMERICANS ANY MORE
THAN IS NECESSARY, BUT WHEN THEY DO THIS IS THE KIND OF STUFF THEY SEEM
TO THINK. BY THE WAY, IF THERE IS A TREND IN IRANIAN JOKES IT SEEMS
TO BE AN INTERESTING MIX OF SEX AND DEATH. HAHA.