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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Aboujt All the Killing In Syria?

"It's not that simple," the apologists for evil-doing love to use as their idea of a convincing rebuttal to those who oppose their views on the basis of simple right and wrong, and that is what we see happening today in events involving Syria. The citizens of Syria have been employing one of the best forms of collective human effort -- protests -- in a bid to get rid of their ruler, a despot named Assad, who gained his post not too many years ago as the heir of his father, another Assad, who likewise did not shrink from killing many thousands of his own people, when it came to setting his power in stone.

At first and for a long time these protests were peaceful, but from the start this Assad the 2nd answered those subjects who wanted him out not by explaining himself calmly, politely, and peacefully, and if necessary stepping aside should his arguments not prevail. Instead he ordered his troops to open fire on the unarmed protestors, with live bullets, along with inflicting all the other dire injuries to life, limb, and property that always accompany such deadly means, and now more than twice as many blameless Syrians are dead at the hands of Assad's enforcers, who are supposed to be Sryrians, too, as died during the 9/11 terror attacks. Yet it's an amazing tribute to the more worthwhile side of the human spirit how the protestors kept rallying to the call, regardless of the gigantic danger.

That went on for months and months, and in fact it's still going on. The Arab League managed to get some "monitors" in there, but despite their presence the mowing down of Syrian citizens by military gunfire has kept right on going at about the same rate. So now, the U.S. is siding with other Arab nations who have come out against this renegade leader of their fellow Arab country, in trying to get the U.N. to impose strong measures against Assad, but that effort is being stymied by a small group of other countries, headed by a very determined and obstinate Russia.

It's not easy to understand why Putin & Co. should be so happy with the continued slaughter of Syrians. For public consumption they say that ousting Assad would lead to a Syrian "civil war." But that is already happening, because, in addition to the protestors, an additional force has arisen which is confronting Assad's murderous men with weapons of their own.

It turns out that the Russians have other reasons as well. They see Syria as being one of its clients, plus they have a naval base there -- very likely a big thing, since, to be the largest country by far in the world, territory-wise, oddly they have always been five beers short of a six-pack when it comes to openings to the seas, except up in the chronically ice-bound Arctic, though that could be changing as a result of climate change.

It's easy to believe, though, that their main motive is simply spite, showing once again how often the schoolyard cruelty and nonsense of children is elsewhere in time and space exactly duplicated, like electron pairs in quantum physics, in the behavior of the highest national and world leaders. And the Russians are simply miffed that, after signing on to the U.N. agreement to work to prevent more slaughter of protesting Libyans, NATO bombed Gaddafi's forces and otherwise helped the insurgents ultimately to prevail. The Russians claim they were not told that such means would be used, which must mean that if they had had their way, today Gaddafi would still be alive, and he would be smiling broadly while sitting atop a mountain of skulls, presumably the goal of Assad II as well.

To mollify the Russians, H.Clinton, the U.S. Sec of State, is saying that it is not the West's and the Arab League's intent to repeat the Libyan experience. But it's impossible to see how any other means can work, because by now it's really clear that this Assad guy's intent is to maintain his right to rule right down to the last six Syrians if necessary. It's his family legacy and obligation, you know.

GWBush set into motion an effort that resulted in the deaths of many, many times as many Iraqis, for reasons that, even if taken all together, still don't make the slightest sense, so that it's just as reasonable as anything else to suspect that it was purely because of a certain deadly attitude toward Bush's sire that Saddam Hussein was thought to harbor and that was bruited about and believed by Bush himself

Meanwhile, no one can fail to notice that, speaking of those electron pairs again, the Syrian effort is being repeated in the U.S., in the ways that authorities use to resist the Occupy Wall St. movement and its numerous offshoots, with the big and highly important difference that the U.S. police -- so often employed and so often delighted to accede in being the main agents of resisting changes for the better -- have so far, to their great credit resisted opening live fire on their fellow citizens, though only because so far not nearly enough of the protestors have been "the wrong color." And we can be sure that the Rainbows -- and everyone else who watches and observes such things -- know that.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Non-Regularity in Posting

I wonder why I am so unable to post something every day on this site, say, for at least a week running. Instead I'm averaging about one a week, if I'm lucky. After all, every day I visit a number of other sites, hoping to see something new, and usually that happens. It's not that I'm short of subjects. Every morning I wake up with my head buzzing with things I could say, and more come flooding in throughout the day. And it's not that I haven't already written a lot of stuff anyway --- some might say far too much, for a weblog that nobody reads. This coming April will mark eight years since I started this weblog, and in that time I've written over 1,250 posts -- very few of which are only two sentences long.

I guess it's because, having finished the two big jobs that I started at the beginning of this winter -- fixing the leaks in my homemade pumphouse and cleaning out and reroofing my also homemade (as is everything else around here except the vehicles) car shed -- I am now spending the rest of this winter, and longer if I can manage it, working on my big stained glass Iris window, morning, noon, and night, and I don't allot much time for anything else. But having steadily avoided even so much as looking at things like facebook and twitter -- as much because I don't like those ill-chosen names as for any other reason -- I still like having this site, and in fact I feel kind of distinguished in having kept it going for so long, after reading from time to time that the great majority of people abandon their blogs within a week or two of starting one.

Two Recent Cases of Eloquences for the Good

Lots of progressive sites are carrying a video showing Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, refuting the end run that C. Christie, the governor of Booker's state, is trying to use to bury the law that the N.J. legislature recently passed to allow same-sex marriages. Christie opposes those unions but for political reasons would rather not veto the measure, and he is saying that the issue should instead be decided by all the N.J. voters, in a referendum.

My own view on this matter is that people should be allowed to marry anybody they damn well please and who in turn would want to marry them, regardless of gender. This is even though I have no understanding at all as to why a man would rather marry another man when there are all these much more desirable and fitting and interesting creatures called "women" everywhere you look. But then I also don't understand why people like beer, eggplant, and rap or country music either.

Christie is quoted as saying that this issue is too important to be left to the "129 people" in the state legislature and should be decided by all the citizens. But if that's true, then what's the use of having legislatures of any kind? Should they then be left to attend only to the picayune stuff? --Well, that's not a bad idea, since legislators tend to be a bunch of picayune rascals anyway. But that means that all the really important issues would be at the mercy of whatever the prevailing bigotries in the state are at the time. The thinking on legislators, and judges, too -- despite the bad luck with them that the Greeks and the Romans had right from the start -- is that they're wiser than the general run of people and will usually make the right decisions regardless of all.

Mayor Booker's rebuttal to Christie was brief but complete. He seems to have been able to make it right off the cuff, and I was highly impressed, as I was with the general aspects of the man himself. I had vaguely heard of him some time ago, but I didn't know that he had become the mayor of Newark, and anyone who undertakes that job is to be highly commended for that act alone, because Newark could lead other U.S. cities like Detroit, Gary, and East St. Louis in being perennially under the worst kinds of distress. Mayor Booker has all the appearance and sound of being highly competent, and he seems to have the potential of some day soon becoming B. Obama the Second, not in the sense of the kind of person that Obama is but instead in regard to accomplishments.

It should be said, though, that Booker's eloquence was a slam dunk, because the trickbag in Christie's idea is so easy to see.

For one thing, those on Christie's side would think they're on to something by arguing that he is being eminently reasonable, since right now polls indicate that 53% of New Jerseyans are in favor of allowing same-sex marriage. But the truth is connected with the fact as soon as a person gets filthy rich, his next move usually is to perpetuate the filth by taking Republican stands, and that's why it's so much more financially profitable to be a regressive than it is to be progressive. This is openly and vividly exemplified today by a formerly little known billionaire named Adelson, who has almost single-handedly backed the N. Gingrich campaign with 10 (ten) million bucks so far, with more available. I thought there were campaign laws against such things, and I don't understand how that can be, but there it is. And thus Republican money could and most likely would reverse that N.J. same-sex measure in very short order if it was put to a referendum.

Another reason why Booker had no trouble in shooting gigantic holes in Christie's proposal was that it is the easiest thing in the world to say how the voting would have gone in all the segregationist states of the South, and elsewhere, as Christie says should have been done, back in the 1960's, if the Rainbow desire to gain their proper civil rights had been put to referendums. Thumbs down everywhere, especially since Rainbows were not even allowed to vote. And in fact, I am now wondering if Christie's notion will give the Republicans the idea of trying to realize in one big swoop their fervent and obvious desire to roll back not just a few but all the Civil Rights advances of the past 60 years by seeing if they can bring about a review of all the Civil Rights of so-called "black" people and putting them to state and even national referendums.

Meanwhile, the other instance of "recent eloquences for the good" refers to a Tunisian writer named Hele Beji.

A couple of days ago, in his Informed Comment weblog, Juan Cole presented a statement titled "We Are All Tunisian Jews" that he had lifted from a French publication, in which Ms. Beji made an all-encompassing and incredibly eloquent protest to an outcry that had been made by some Tunisian religious extremists, upon the arrival in Tunisia of a Hamas leader, with words like "Death to the Jews!"

She quite rightly roundly condemned this attitude on the part of Tunisians anywhere, in a deeply heartfelt statement that could be profitably addressed not only to the Tunisians but also to the successful revolutionaries in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and all the other Middle Eastern countries that have been rising up against their despotic rulers, and on beyond those to just about any revolution that has ever been made or will be made. This is because of the well-known tendency of a certain percentage of revolutions to eventually turn into tyrannies rivaling those that had just been overthrown.

An American patriot could sit back comfortably and say, "Well, of course that did happen in Russia, France, Cuba, and other places, but not here, as shown by what has not happened in the nearly 250 years since then." But these things take time. Consider for instance the numerous evil-minded groups of today that are collectively called "the Tea Party."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mooning the Electorate

"The selection of a Republican candidate for the presidency of this globalized and expansive empire is — and I mean this seriously — the greatest competition of idiocy and ignorance that has ever been."

Fidel Castro said that a day or two ago, in an opinion piece. Now 85 and having long since handed over the Cuban reins to his brother Raul, he didn't have much more than that to add - a far cry from his glory days -- he of the fabled three-hour speeches. But the irony here is that his assessment of the matter is so on the mark that he doesn't appear to be getting much disagreement, even, I suspect, among those Republicans who still retain some small sense of proportion.

For in fact it has been a wild ride so far on the nether side of the Moon, and it is still far from over, though the thinking now is that the original "Crazy Eights" have now been reduced to just two, M. Romney and N. Gingrich, with R. Paul and the Santorum loser still hanging in just because Gingrich's getting this far is a sure sign that anything can still happen there.

Speaking of the Moon, from his past and his Cupboard of Curiosities, Gingrich dragged out another of his wild notions for campaign purposes, during a visit to Florida's "Space Coast." He promised that if elected President, he would see to it that by the end of his second term in the White House, he would have a functioning American colony on the Moon, and that furthermore, soon thereafter, the first 13,000 Americans to be based there would be enough to form this country's 51st state.

This leads me to wonder what the rest of the world would have to say about that, because I assume that by this he sees the U.S. as taking over not just one part but all of the Moon -- for which the precedent would be the endlessly obscene British attempt to take over the whole of the Earth, an effort in which they at least partly succeeded to an unbelievable extent, while seeing nothing at all amiss in doing so. In tomorrow's world it's hard to imagine any one country succeeding in the same way on our lunar neighbor, no matter what overwhelming military advantages that nation might have.

Also the Chinese have just declared their intent to be the next to have its citizens walking on the Moon, and having shown how they can throw up huge skyscrapers in just a few days, nothing can be put past them -- all the more so because, compared to the U.S., they have relatively few foreign entanglements to distract them or to worry about, monetarily or otherwise.

By then they may even have achieved the great miracle of finding the first really worthwhile purpose for putting anything more than our fond gazes on the Moon.

"White Superiority" or What?

Above is a quite astonishing picture of the way that J. Brewer, the governor of Arizona, chose to greet B. Obama, the President of all these United States, moments after he had stepped out of Air Force One on a visit the other day to her state. A true midget when compared to him in every respect, she is nevertheless angrily shaking her finger in his face. Obviously she is grabbing this rare opportunity to give him a piece of her mind in person.

And just as obviously she seems to be blissfully unaware that in large parts of the American culture, such a gesture incites an almost irresistible desire to suddenly grab that deeply insulting finger and jerk it out of its socket.

Brewer said that they were discussing his non-appreciation of her statement in a book she had just published, where she said that he had been condescending toward her during a half-hour that he gave her of his valuable time during an earlier visit of hers to the White House. But I think she had other motives for her ire and her finger-shaking, including the very obvious fact that he had not at all come to Arizona to see her.

This would not occur to the majority of Americans, but I am one of those who are absolutely certain that she would never have resorted to berating Mr. Obama in that or any other manner if he had not had the kind of skin color and hair that is so ingrained in her as being completely indicative of his native inferiority to her, no matter what his station in life.

Once upon a time the famous Scottish biographer, James Boswell, told his hero, Samuel Johnson, the famous English intellectual of the 18th century, that, contrary to Johnson's prejudices, Scotland has many delightful and scenic aspects, to which Johnson replied something on the order of: "Sir, I don't doubt that Scotland has many delightful aspects, of which the greatest is the high road back to England."

Similarly Arizona has many noble features, including the Hopis, the Navajos, and the Grand Canyon. But no one in their right mind would go to that state to see Ms. Brewer, who ranks high in an unusually large slew of governors of the worst kind, all of them not coincidentally Republicans, along with another Arizonan and undeniably the country's worst sheriff, a guy named Arpaio.

Yet I think that in one respect Obama was at fault here as well. In his place I would never have stood anywhere near that close to such a person, or actually anybody, even if she did appear to be a woman. And I don't care how noisy it may have been there at the airfield. -- he never needed to hear anything she had to say in any case.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beauty and the Unspeakable

Bartcop, that irascible and ardent lover of certain brands of tequila and Texas poker, has been running a pic of Sarah Palin that makes her appear to be as inviting and therefore of a certain warm, inspirational nature as any that anyone has ever seen of her. And whether or not this image is photoshopped or is a photo of someone else -- it seems incredibly easy for various ladies in the performance business to assume amazingly close likenesses to her -- this brings up once again the age-question of how an endlessly evil mind can exist within a gorgeous physical appearance. For isn't one reason that we take such pleasure in seeing physical beauty in a woman is that we assume that it is always accompanied and even made only possible by at least a modest amount of pleasing mental attributes? Few things pose this question as vividly as the being of S. Palin, and this is the greatest and so the only gift that J. McCain ever gave to the world.

I believe that the unavoidable pondering on this probably unanswerable question, if only by a certain number of the males in this world, is why it is so impossible to wipe her completely off the bulletin board of national attention, no matter what she does or doesn't do -- or, more accurately, what she does or does not say.

And for the same reason, it is undoubtedly nothing less than divine providence that she continues to live somewhere in the far reaches of Alaska, with seemingly no inclination ever to leave there, and where few people will ever have good reason to go, and never mind the wonders of present-day communications.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Crow-Sledder

On the site of the Atlantic you will find a totally fascinating
Youtube video
shot in Russia. Apparently in Russia they have a species of some especially heady crows, birds that are already widely known for their unusual smarts, because these ones have been known to use the roofs of those onion-shaped structures atop the Kremlin for some extra-curricular sport.

Somehow this one particular crow got hold of a big jar lid and discovered that it would make an excellent sled for sliding down the steeply pitched, snow- or ice-covered metal roofs of buildings. This video shows him or her placing the lid on the top edge of a roof, giving it a little shove to start it sliding downward and then jumping on top of it for a ride of 8, 10, or 12 feet, before being stopped by snow, at which point he or she picks up his precious impromptu sled with his beak and flies in an instant back up to the ridgeline for a repeat performance. He also tries an adjoining roof but finds that it doesn't meet his requirements, and he quickly returns to the fun spot.

Normally extended comment sections can and usually do deteriorate into being a big pain, but the one for this video on the Atlantic is some equally fun stuff from the beginning to wherever it ends, because in it numerous people try to come up with reasonable ideas about how this crow came to do this and what it all means in the greater scheme of things. And believe me these commenters come up with a LOT of ideas, especially when it comes to evolution, and it's great.

Generally they argue about whether the crow is working (for instance doing food-gathering of some sort) or playing. I'm stoutly on the side of those who say he's playing. Crows are like squirrels. They spend a lot of time just running around, seeing what's up.

I know this, because we have crows living with us, as I suppose everybody does who lives in the country, and I enjoy having them around, though they can be noisy at times, and I can't always resist the temptation to join in their debates, though I can tell by the silence that my contribution always receives that something must be grievously wrong with my accent, though certainly not with my line of reasoning.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

J. Cole on R. Perry

Juan Cole's posts on his Informed Comment weblog are consistently informative and interesting, and his panning today of Rick Perry, the man on the white horse who came charging out of Texas just a few months ago amid great expectations that he would sweep all before him on behalf of the Repubs, is no exception.

The rest of Cole's article keeps up the subtle but hard-hitting tone set by his very first paragraph, which reads as follows:

As an American, I’m deeply relieved that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is highly unlikely to be president of the United States. As a blogger who occasionally enjoys a bit of satire, I have to say it is a real shame. Sometimes I spend an hour or so scouring for what news I want to blog about. All you’d have to do is just follow this guy around and report whatever came out of his mouth and it would be endlessly entertaining (at least until he provoked someone to rain down nuclear missiles on us just to shut him up).

Going by Perry's emanations throughout this primary season, I for the life of me can't understand how his state of mind could possibly have qualified him to be the governor of Texas, or to be a pilot in the U.S. Air Force in his younger and presumably better days.

Could it be that in recent months or years he has suffered some sort of early, slow-working cranial breakdown? Because they care so much about their country and their state, why haven't Texans descended upon Perry en masse long before now to escort him back home for a very long period of observation, rest, and treatment?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Names of Things

One of my lifetime things has been naming things. Therefore it's no accident that the only thing I clearly remember about a thriller of scarcely eight years ago (whose title I have forgotten) was how fond the chief villain was of saying, "Give it a name." I thought it was heavyweight cool to go around saying that all the time.

Last night, while googling for the umpteenth time the brightness problem on my monster CRT monitor, I was astonished to find listed my own post on this subject in this weblog, published just a few weeks ago, and on the second page no less! And it looked exactly as if it belonged there.

I don't often -- well, never -- see my scribbles appearing in the distinguished pages of the Google search engine for literally all the world to see, and I knew where the fault lay -- in the title I had given to that post. It was too openly indicative of what the post was about.

There are two kinds of titles: the obscure ones and the fully applicable ones, and I am just as proficient at coming up with the former as I am with the latter.

Is this a problem? Is it necessary to change my ways when it comes to the names of my posts? Not at all.

Ah, the comforts and security of utter obscurity!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lip Service -- Huntsman

Out of respect and concern for one of the weakest of my physical components -- my stomach -- I have bent my ears to only a few words of all those uttered in the many debates that have been held throughout this already far overlong election season that so far has perversely involved nothing but the various combinations of people vying to become the Republican candidate for President. But I have read through all the so-called "live blogs" of these debates that have been appearing on the progressive Daily Kos and on the Lord-knows-what A. Sullivan's slice of the Daily Beast, together with the copious mentions and analyses of those events that appear elsewhere all over the Internet. And through it all, the aspirant that has struck me as being always the most interesting among those different packs of often berserk coyotes howling at the Moon has been the ex-governor of Utah and former ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman.

Quite naturally he has also been the quietest of them and the one who has consistently been polled as being in last place, and he has never enjoyed even a moment as the sprinter in the lead. But now he has finally made a surge during the long awaited and just concluded New Hampshire primary, and he ended up third with 17%, not far behind R. Paul's 23% second place to M. Romney, the winner. Many believe, however, that winning this year is not Huntsman's dream and that instead he's prepping to be the man, the Repubs' man, in the next go-round four years from now.

It's hard to know what to make of J. Huntsman, mainly because of the company he keeps -- this group of Republican candidates. People think that R. Paul, often billed to be a Libertarian instead of a Republican, is the wild card in the bunch, but closer than usual looks at Paul make one suspect that he could be doing a good job of operating behind a smokescreen. Huntsman, on the other hand, like Paul, stays away from the obligatory trashing of B. Obama at every opportunity, and in other respects stays on the subjects and the stands of his own choosing, and they are characterized by the lack of the vitriol favored by the audiences and from which the other Republican candidates have been taking most of their cues, and Huntsman's only true conservative tendencies are supposedly his fiscal ones. But that's not all bad, and indeed it's generally a good thing to want to spend only as much as you already have, if that's included in what is today considered to be conservative thinking when it comes to the cold cash.

I kind of think that Huntsman is not the real thing -- not so much in the way that he thinks of and presents himself, but instead in whether and how the Republican party would present him in 2016 or in any other forseeable year as the candidate of their choosing. It seems to me that that party has already gone much too far down the uncivilized road and their carefully unspoken but always No.1 creed of "keeping the neeggaz down," to be able to make that kind of room for a man like him.

And even if he were -- by the same kind of miracle that propelled B. Obama into office -- to be chosen as President nevertheless, how could he still comfortably serve in that role, in light of the problems facing the country and the world, far ahead of the usual picayune issues? With his insulated and isolated Utah desert background and all those children that he has collaborated in producing, how would be able to address with any credibility the largely repressed but still overwhelming main problem of humanity, which is the presence of too many people crowded on the relatively small strips of habitable land that are surrounded by truly enormous amounts of poisoned water amd an atmosphere, practically speaking, that is barely more than skin deep. Overpopulation is at the root and the heart of all these other problems that threaten calamities all the way down the road -- among them the running out of resources of many kinds, the poisoning of the environment, the extinctions of species, and the turning of the earth into one big sweltering greenhouse from which there is no escape?

In the face of all that, paying lip service to any of the usual nonsense that anyone who would be a Republican candidate has to heed wouldn't work, and that's why it was not a good sign when, midway through the Iowa campaign, Huntsman suddenly turned tail on his previous contention that climate change is real, which brought him so much admiration among the thinking elements of the population, and he now says the equivalent of, "Let's hold up. All the evidence is not yet in." As if the opening of the Northwest Passage is just a fairy tale.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prudence Newly Acquired

You will notice that lately the Republicans have had little or nothing to say about "illegal immigration." Yet at the beginning of this election season it was a hot subject among all their candidates for President, and they presented views that seemed almost calculated to offend the many Latinos in the land.

Now that votes of many kinds are beginning to be taken, the Repubs must have decided on being prudent, with the hope that the Latinos have short or preferably no memories at all, and instead they have picked gays as their latest targets of choice, along with the Rainbows, i.e. "black people," whom they can ignore but never forget. There must not be nearly as many gay people in the country as there are Latinos, while, H. Cain notwithstanding, the Repubs know that most Rainbows flushed their party down the toilet quite a long time ago.

Monday, January 09, 2012

What? No Credit Default Swaps?

Somebody, after watching one of the numerous debates that have been waged by the varying numbers of aspiring Republican candidates, said nothing except to ask with a dazed expression on her face, "Do these men know that they are running to be the President of the United States?"

The economy is supposed to be the No. 1 issue by far during this election go-around, yet these guys (and the former gal) deal with it only to say, in lock step and with stupendous unity that the economy is ruined and it is all President Obama's fault, even while their party, especially in the U.S. Congress, has strived with might and main to keep the economy in that parlous state, so as to try to get their own people into the Oval Office this year. And nothing illustrates this point better than to note how rarely their Presidential wanna-be's have so much as mentioned credit default swaps. Maybe it's because there's nothing that people such as these fear more than to be so much as asked to explain what a credit default swap is.

I could not write a book, or maybe even one lucid paragraph myself as to what they are, because they are a mystery that is so closely held that even the various explanations that you will read, written by people who supposedly know all about whereof they speak, are nevertheless still heavily draped with murk and outright foolishness. Maybe this is because actually they make no sense at all. But as nearly as I can gather, they're a form of insurance or a wager, that a mortgage or some other loan or some such will or will not be paid off, and, presumably if it is not paid off in time, then the holder of that mortgage will see his bet paid off by somebody.

It seems to me that just as being able to sell mortgages to others who are unknown to the original mortgagee should be outlawed, so all these tools of financial infamy called "derivatives," especially credit default swaps, should be similarly declared to be crimes against humanity. But instead they became well-known for being among the chief tools of infamy during the Great GWBush Stickup of 2008, an act of terrorism inflicted on the U.S. by the big bankers and other financial villains, though it is more politely called by the more callous or less informed of the experts among us the "T.A.R.P. Bailout" -- a dumb name and an insult to all tarps everywhere, those highly useful and protective sheets of canvas or plastic. Because it appears that a great deal of all those trillions of dollars extorted from the taxpayers went to pay off the holders of these credit default swaps and other financial wagers that weren't in any way necessary or beneficial to anyone except those secret gamblers and that no one, least of all the original borrowers, asked them to make.

So what do these Repub candidates kept saying instead? While never telling exactly how, they lay the Stickup and that whole financial collapse of 2008 not at the feet of their own man, GWBush, in whose name the whole mess got started, during the eight years of his two terms. Instead they would have everyone believe that B. Obama is to be blamed instead, despite all his efforts to turn things around, which they are so loathe to see and which their side has resisted with all the dodges at their command.

I wish I could attend one of those debates and become one of the favored few who get to ask the candidates a question -- the question that so far no one has had the temerity to ask, even though it ranks in importance far above all those endless wrangles on issues that shouldn't even be issues, especially the ones that involve matters that shouldn't even be under the purview of the Government, with a woman's God-given right to decide for herself whether or not to have an abortion being the first of those -- a situation that should never be put in the hands of old men of any stripe who are so far beyond all the complexities of child birth and child rearing.

"Sir," I would ask (while trying my best to avoid putting into that word any inflection of respect that in no way exists in my case), I think that, instead of dealing with all this trite, inconsequential stuff, and instead getting on to the meat of the biggest issue, the wounded economy and how it got to this state, the American people would be better served if you, for instance, could tell us just what you intend to do about outlawing credit default swaps. And first of all, would you please enlighten us, in clear, intelligible language, on exactly what a credit default swap is."

Despite all those millions of dollars that most of these candidates possess, with the frontrunner, G. Romney being in the lead, I'll bet that this question would drop on those devils like a thunderbolt and cause all kinds of choking and sputtering, even if they had known days in advance that it was coming. Talking about credit default swaps must be akin to talking about the toilet habits of Jesus Christ.

R. Perry, with R. Santorum the most hapless of the Repub candidates still standing, calls the Social Security system a Ponzi scheme. But it's criminal even to speak of Ponzi schemes without bringng up credit default swaps first and foremost. Before the Great Stickup it was estimated that all the swaps floating around amounted to 681 trillion dollars. That is many times more money than all the countries in the world could put their hands on at one time, or at any time! And because credit default swaps have been quietly ignored instead of being dumped, that situation could be even worse these days.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Resurrection of a Monster ...er, Monitor

Years ago, before flat panels came in, I bought at a very good price what not long before had been one of IBM's top of the line monitors. Black and a 21-incher, it was their model P-260. Companies that were clearing the way to making wholesale upgrades in their computer equipment would apparently sell their old stuff to a company called Merkor, who would then resell it to people like me who had long since decided that the best time to buy anything in the computer line was right after it became obsolete.

By today's standards this monitor was a monster, because it was built like a tank, it took up a huge amount of space on a computer desk, and it weighed a lot more than whatever its specifications said it did. Today I call it a "hernia inducer," becaused moving it around may have had something to do with the hernia operation that I had to have a little later.

But I was quite happy with it because it had such a great picture -- until one day its display got way too bright, and no amount of adjustment would correct it. Online research revealed that this was a universal problem with this variety of Sony-made Trinitron CRT, which was used not only on IBM monitors but also on those sold by a large number of other big computer companies.

The general concensus seemed to be that the handiest and only surefire cure was to replace a resistor, and that turned out to be easier than it sounds, though it was daunting anyway, because any kind of operation performed on a true monster cannot be taken lightly.

Actually my memory is saying that I didn't replace anything, because I found two resistors hooked up in there in series that looked to be the same kind of home job that I wanted to do, and both resistors were much larger than the replacements that I had bought. So I contented myself with just taking one out and thereby hopefully lowering the resistance in that regulator circuit a sufficient amount.

That improved things but not nearly enough, so next I called myself retiring that monitor permanently. As an alternative to taking it to the landfill, which would have been heavy work getting it into and out of the truck, I considered digging a deep hole somewhere on my property and burying the thing, and I was only kept from taking that crude road by my innate admiration of what a well-built piece of equipment that monitor was, and it still had a picture, though a badly faded one.

So I just let that thing sit off in an innocuous corner of my cluttered shop for another several years, while I used another surplus monitor -- a 17" Dell also with a Sony Trintron tube with a good picture.

But somewhere along the line, while switching things between buildings, a terrible memory lapse caused me to leave it sitting outside one night while it rained. But I had always wondered, hadn't I, what would happen if a monitor or a Tv were to be doused in some way?

I thought sure the Dell was ruined, but just to see, I stored it in a dry place, turned upside down to let water drain out, though I couldn't hear any sloshing around inside. And when I tried it three months later, lo and behold it worked as well as always.

That was three or four years ago. A few days ago the power cord connection at the rear of that monitor started smoking and flashing and sparking badly, though it was still delivering a picture. Nevertheless I decided that that wasn't safe, so I set the Dell out on my workshop deck with intentions of hauling it to the landfill for sure.

I then hauled the good ol' IBM P-260 back out of retirement, to use temporarily till I got around to getting a more modern and blessedly lightweight flat panel. This was easy to do and easy on my gut, because I had the 260 sitting right next to the computer desk,and so I just had to push it a few inches.

But meanwhile I got to tinkering with its adjustments once again, and I managed to darken its light blue screen to a dark gray, and that made it surprisingly usable again, with all the colors there, though muted, and all the information easily readable on that great big screen with that rock solid display, and suddenly I like this monitor again, and I'm very glad that I didn't cruelly leave it at the landfill or bury it in a dank hole.

And now all I have to do is to resolve to clear off the desk, wrestle that big heavy sucker over on its face without straining myself, and having another go at those resistors with a soldering iron.

It should be interesting, as such things always are.