Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Another Lame Duck Swan Song from Henry Kissinger

"For God's sake, how many swan songs can a lame duck deliver?"--Henry Kissinger quoted in Rolling Stone (1977)  regarding the number of farewell ceremonies he had to deliver.

Kissinger just released his latest pontification on how to achieve a "new world order" in his latest book called--wait for this--World Order.  You can read Henry's own press release in the Wall Street Journal or you can read Hillary Clinton praising this warmonger in the Washington Post.  If the book is anything like Hillary and Henry's previews, it should largely read like a piece of fiction.

The problem facing the world, according to Kissinger, is that the "economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world remains based on the nation-state."  He praises the Europe for setting out to "transcend" the state, but laments its reliance on "soft power" instead of state authority.  Well, here's fiction #1.  Europe has not overwhelming embraced ceding national sovereignty to a regional superstate, because it has yet to solve the problem of how to represent the various interests of the diverse nations and people within it.  Europe hasn't so much set out on a path for the European Union, so much as it's been politically engineered into place.  Kissinger avoids the fact that there has never been overwhelming democratic support for the EU or proposed North American Union, because such organizations rarely benefit the majority of people in those nations, as former US Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, acknowledges while chiding the middle class in one of his Financial Times editorials.  At least Hillary is honest enough to acknowledge the underlying theme of World Order--"our commitment to renovating and defending the world order"--though she couches that in the fiction that this will lead to "peace, progress, and prosperity."  As Summers points out, most folks ain't seein' much of that.

But seriously, just how many swan songs can this lame duck Kissinger croak out about the new world order?  It's hard to make an argument in support of the success of his policies--Vietnam, Angola, Chile, etc.--unless this goal of renovating the world order that Hillary seems committed to force America to do is in pursuit of an entirely different agenda than what is claimed.  However, that's a topic for some other day.

For now, at the age of 91, can't Henry Kissinger just please shut the fuck up and retire?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Joan Rivers 'Throat Wide Shut'

Comedy fans throughout the world mourn the death of Joan Rivers, the woman who almost trumped Jay Leno to replace Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.  Last night I was watching the opening game of the NFL season as the Seattle Seahawks mauled the Green Bay Packers when there was this announcement for some TV show (paraphrasing):  "...Joan Rivers dies due to complications with her throat."  That's an odd way of saying it.  In fact, it had a certain eerie, Eyes Wide Shut quality to it.

Eyes Wide Shut was Stanley Kubrick's last movie about a powerful secret society that Tom Cruise's curiosity gets him involved with.  He decides to crash a mansion party where masked elitists partake in a bizarre ritual that leads to an orgy (Tom and co-star/wife, Nichole Kidman, are having marital problems).  When he's discovered it's only through the aide of a mysterious masked woman that his life is spared.  Amazingly, he awakens the next day to find the headline in the New York Post "Lucky To Be Alive."  Turning to the inside story, Cruise finds that the young lady who saved him didn't fare so well.

So is it possible that Joan Rivers' throat problems were some of her more controversial statements?  Rivers recently caused quite a stir in the media when she suggested that President Obama is gay and Michelle Obama is actually an transvestite.

Now, the President may have swung both ways during his younger years (an accusation that was sometimes made toward George W. Bush), but I'm not so sure that should really matter.  The accusation against Michelle Obama seems pretty absurd and racist.  You can find it on YouTube and it usually centers around her athletic physique as not belonging to a woman.  By that logic Serena Williams, Angela Bassett, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee must also be men.  I would date any one of those ladies.

I think much too much was made of Rivers' comments, which may have been nothing more than jagged cynicism and impromptu comedy for which she felt no need to apologize or explain herself to anybody.  That shouldn't tarnish her career or injure her reputation.  Joan Rivers' shtick has always been the brash, outspoken woman living in a man's world, as you can see in this stand-up routine on the Ed Sullivan Show from 1967.  At that time, she would have been branded a "Women's Libber."  Now she's attacked as a fur-wearing conservative pariah.

So maybe both sides of the elite wanted her to shut up.  Throat wide shut.  That would explain the creepiness behind the strange and unexpected death of Joan Rivers.

"No, no.  The password is Fidelio.  Fye-Del-Eee-Oh.
 I'm all dressed up for an orgy and the limo was supposed to pick me up and hour ago."

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Killing Herself To Live

Here is a sad story about Maria, a 32 year old woman who was working four jobs to make ends meet and literally died of exhaustion.  It makes me think of the Black Sabbath song Killing Yourself To Live.  "You work your life away and what do they give?  You're only killing yourself to live!   ...Never give your trust away, you'll end up paying 'til your dying day!"

I wonder how many Maria's there are in the much touted "economic recovery" that is being cited to justify draconian actions like the elimination of federal unemployment benefits and food assistance (more on that some other time).  According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics there are about 6.8 million multiple job holders, or about 4.6% of the workforce.  Now I understand some of that is from people who switch jobs in the month or choose to take on extra contract work to earn more, but I'm quite certain the great majority are compelled by financial necessity.  They quite literally work their fingers to the bone.

Despite her hardship, the article describes Maria has having been a positive and popular young lady who immigrated to America from Portugal to find a better life.  She's the kind of immigrant we should be doing a better job to identify and welcome to our country.  Unfortunately, her pursuit of the American dream literally killed her.  Rest in peace, Maria.  This one's for you...

Friday, August 29, 2014

Coral Snakes & Ebola Virus

I read this article from the NY Times saying that government is cracking down on companies selling cures or preventative medicine for ebola.  Sounds reasonable enough, since you don't want people getting ripped off or poisoned, but some radically paranoid bloggers are suggesting that the government is trying to crack down on possible cures.  Those kind of leaps toward hysteria seem to drive more traffic than my blog, so here's my take on the situation.

Personally I'm more concerned about the U.S. government's failure to do something about the absence of coral snake venom from hospitals, which could result in an apocalypse of highly neurotoxic envenomation in an America.  It's hard to call these docile and candy-colored little elapids "terrorists," but they are native American and quite deadly if allowed to chew on exposed skin.  Fortunately, the NFL's New England Patriots' quarterback superstar and supermodel-husband, Tom Brady, took the time to film a bare-chested, public service announcement on YouTube to warn people about the danger of coral snakes amongst us.

Come Halloween Night 2014, all coral snake antivenom will be past its already-extended expiration date from the FDA.  This colorful relative of the taipan, krait, and cobra will have free reign among the living, who will no longer have recourse to antivenom, only a potentially awful death!!

Now back to the pestilence of Ebola on the world stage.  I'm not selling a product or pretending to be a doctor, nor have I ever played one on TV.  However, if we did end up in this nightmarish, 28 Days Later scenario, here's what I would do.  Basically, it's the same thing I do for the common cold...

Take lots of zinc.  Zinc was used as a treatment to smallpox and scarlet fever.  I have several bottles in my cupboard which I tap whenever I feel flu symptoms coming on.  I also eat lots of garlic, because the allicin in raw garlic is considered to be good for fighting viruses.  My ex-girlfriend also claimed these measures were effective at stopping herpes outbreaks.  On top of that, I take the herb echinacea, which another ex-girlfriend turned me on to and she was so hot, she had to know what she was talking about.  Oh, and lots of Vitamins C and D.  That's the WARR Blog remedy for the common cold.  I have no idea if it will work for ebola, but figure it's better than nothing.

All that said, my best wishes go out to the people of Africa who are going through this.  Maybe the CDC needs to get back to basics and just think about addressing zinc deficiency (as with smallpox) as a cheap way of ameliorating the progression of ebola.  All options should be on the table to stop this plague.

Monday, August 25, 2014

YES!!!... for Scotland's Independence! Freedom!!!

A short shout out to all my distant clansmen and Scots.  Vote yes for your independence and self rule!  I've yet to make it to Scotland, but for the record my grandmother's folks on my father's side came to America from Scotland in the 1800s.  I'm a mixed American mutt, but on my great grandfather's side my family is from the Colquhoun Clan.

I recently visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the American Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution of the United States was drafted and executed.  I'll be brief with my argument here--all progress in human civilization has come from the decentralization of power.  The Roman Senate, The Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution are all examples of where authority and information was distributed.  When power is held in fewer hands, brokerage of that power occurs across a more narrow range of interests and humanity suffers.  This has certainly been the case with the trend toward supra-sovereign organizations and treaties like NAFTA, the G7, and EU.  Though their stated goals are ostensibly humanitarian, there is always an undercurrent of avarice and nepotism that reigns in policy.  The most visible victims (for those who care to look) are nations like Greece, Argentina, and Azerbaijan.

The Founding Fathers of the USA understood something very important about the consolidation of power.  It's bad, okay?  Thus most of the time and furious debate over our fledgling Constitution centered not around what was considered Democratic or Republican (by today's standards).  The debate that raged for years was over the distribution of power between the federal government and states' rights.  Unfortunately, the U.S. has taken a strong turn back toward Federalism, which is the natural consequence of war-time crisis (Civil War, Great War, WWII, War on Korea, War on Poverty, War in Vietnam, War on Drugs, War on Iraq, War on Terror, war, war, war...).  The average middle or working class person is always the loser.

What has the consolidation of power at the UK and EU brought Scotland?  What has hard fought independence throughout history brought Scotland?  The eyes of the world are upon you.  Choose your independence and, like Iceland recently, you will find your own path.  Your friends and distant clansmen the world over will support you.  I personally will visit Scotland at long last and hopefully have a chance to meet some long time Nazareth fans and raise a glass to your independence.


Friday, August 22, 2014

The Top 1% Only Get 1% of Income... Well, Sort Of

Income inequality is a hot topic these days, with the Occupy Wall Street movement of a few years back and so much attention being paid to the disproportionate share of income for the top 1% in the U.S.  However, that's not true for income earned by labor (wages, tips, etc.).  In fact, it's quite the opposite, with the top 1% earning only about 1% of income from labor.  How can this be?  This discrepancy of polar extremes is because the top 1% earns around 75% of income from capital gains.

I always find it rather amusing how caught up Democrats and Republicans get in the debate over income brackets for personal income and what those progressive levels of taxation should be for earnings from individual labor, when capital gains remain a flat 20%.  That 20% is less than an individual will pay on their 36,901st dollar of income in 2014.  Now I'm not saying capital gains should necessarily follow the tax tables for earnings from wages, interest, etc., but come on!  At what point should a Top-One-Percenter pay an extra 5% on their capital gains?  How about their one millionth dollar of cap gains?  Too stifling for business you say?  How about the ten millionth dollar?

And why should all cap gains be treated equally?  How about a higher differential for short term capital gains as opposed to long term (gain on securities held over one year), since the average middle class investor is constantly preached to about the value of "investing for the long haul?"  How about leaving cap gains at 20% for gains from long positions and a higher tax rate for short positions, since institutional bets against the market increase volatility?  How about putting the cap gains tax higher for more exotic securities like derivatives, since their presence produces excess leverage which ultimately translates into higher market risk for all, as we saw in the financial crisis of 2008?

Now before you shake the Internal Revenue Code in my face and start bitching about complexity, consider that the great majority of folks who will really have to deal with the extra forms are in the Top 1% anyway, and those guys all have CPAs and tax attorneys to do the work for them.  And those fees are tax deductible.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow - Starring Tom Cruise as Dirk The Daring

So I just today saw Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, quite late I should say, because my strategy for budgeting my limited time to catch the occasional movie is to wait and see if (a) it's sufficiently reviewed, (b) I remain interested months after all the opening week hype, and (c) it comes to one of my favorite pub theaters where I can see the movie and down a pint of microbrew all for a Paper Hamilton.

The movie has been reviewed thousands of times by bloggers and critics already.  Most reviewers pick up on the action-adventure version of Groundhog Day.  Far fewer make the connection of the video game plot--you play and die, play and die, play and die, until you figure it out and win.  You kill the mothership (yeah, I guess there's a little Xevius to the plot).  I couldn't help but think of Dragon's Lair, the first video-anime arcade game where Dirk The Daring dies over and over again (Over the Edge? - shout out to LA Guns classic).  But that point's been made, even if I'm the first to compare Tom Cruise to Dirk The Daring.

I would much rather talk about Emily Blunt, the movie's heroine than Tom Cruise.  Not only is she one of the most beautiful actresses of her day, she's also one of the most talented.  Any actors talent is ultimately measured by their range of roles, and Blunt has shown a very rare talent to take on any role and transform it into an imitation of life--think Sean Penn here, because she's that good.  I think Emily Blunt may be the best actress of her generation.

Getting back to the plot, and the original point I wanted to make here, there's an element of social commentary that I haven't seen mentioned in the few dozen reviews I've looked at for Edge of Tomorrow.  Cruise's character starts the movie thoroughly unlikeable.  Major Cage is, in fact, a first class asshole in a way that any generation that's lived through war (I guess that's every generation, because world leaders can't seem to figure out the peace thing) could relate to.  He starts the film as one to "play the game with the bravery of being out of range" (ping Roger Waters), a talking head on CNN with images of Hillary Clinton and other war pigs (ping Black Sabbath) talking about how winnable the conflict is, invoking the "Angel of Verdun" (Blunt's character Rita), and how it just needs more sacrifice to win.  Historians of WWI will recognize the Verdun reference, but the battle that claims Cruise's life over and over again is more of a foolish assault, like The Somme or Passchendale.

When Major Cage pops off to the commanding general, threating him with blackmail to avoid being sent to the front, he gets demoted and dispatched to the first wave.  The soldiers don't like the pompous, white collar officer either.  His attitude says it all--the hellish side of war is for blue collar people like you.  Cage goes across the English Channel in D-Day fashion and begins his series of brutal deaths.  He connects with Rita, the war hero who he learns had previously had his strange connection to the aliens to reset time, and they begin working through Cruise's memory to advance further and further on the alien mothership.  As he does, not only does Cruise advance in the game to save the world from annihilation, he also becomes a better person.  Edge of Tomorrow borrows from Groundhog Day, but it also has a lot of another (better) Bill Murray film in it--The Razor's Edge.  "The path to enlightenment is as sharp and narrow as a razor's edge."  Cruise's character, as a future-forward Dirk the Daring, doesn't just die over and over again in an endless stream of quarters until the game is won.  He goes through an accelerated, reincarnational drama.  He becomes a new man, a better man or son of man.  Then the story ends.  Did he go to the "Edge of Tomorrow" or did he just go "Over The Edge?"