Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pimpin' Ain't Constitutional

Governments are sometimes compared to prostitutes. I find the pimp analogy more fitting.

Like pimps, governments offer you "protection," yet constantly beat the hell out of you. And like pimps, governments take a giant cut of your income in exchange for this "protection."

Like pimps, governments batter and bruise you into forming a sick love for them, a twisted, Stockholm-syndrome-like sympathy for them that they expect you to demonstrate again and again. And like pimps, if you dare question why you should love your government, you just get hit harder.

I'm not suggesting there aren't similarities between prostitutes and governments. Both sell fantasies. But hiring a prostitute is a voluntary act. Governments force themselves on you. And prostitutes are gone the second the transaction is over. Governments never leave you alone.

If prostitutes took the government approach, instead of "Love you long time" you'd hear:

You are going to have sex with me, and you're going to pay a price that is way above what the market would charge for it. And you're going to pay for everyone else in the neighborhood to have sex with me. And if I want to I'll draft you to go shutdown competing brothels. And those diseases I'm going to give you...they're your problem.

What, you're not happy with this arrangement? Don't you know there are millions of people all over the world who would love to live under a whore as nice as me?




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Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to prevent bad suicide prevention

When an adult expresses depressed or suicidal sentiments, a common reply is: “But look at what you have; a roof over your head, food in the fridge. Millions of people would love to switch places with you.”

This is a sub-useless response. Let’s talk it out:

So SUICIDE GUY has all his material needs met, putting him in a much better position than many others, yet despite this he is still stricken with a sadness profound enough to cancel his self-preservation instinct...soooo how is this an argument for his continuing to live? If having everything he needs to survive in the face of widespread famine and squalor ain’t enough to shock him into life-loving gratitude, what else could he reasonably expect will enter his life to make him feel better? And what happens if SUICIDE GUY loses that roof and well-stocked fridge? And since when does a guilt trip make someone feel better about himself?

When a teen expresses depressed or suicidal sentiments, a common reply is: “C’mon, these are the best years of your life.”

Hard to imagine a more pro-suicide retort. If these are the best years of DEPRESSED TEEN’s life, and these years have left him suicidal, how is that an incentive to keep living? Effectively what you’re saying is: These years that have driven you to consider self-murder are the best you’ll ever have, and when they end in a few short years, according to the stats you’re looking at at least 60 more years that will make you nostalgic for this period that has given you a deathwish.

I’m not a medical professional, but it seems to me that if you encounter someone who is depressed/suicidal, it is best to leave these canned answers on the shelf. They actually strengthen the suicide's case.



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Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Monetary History of the European Union

When the smoke clears, here is what the “World Is Flat” droids will say about the failed European experiment…

It will be said that the European Union fell apart because we didn't have enough "political integration." That is, we had monetary union without fiscal union. In other words, this grand experiment in democracy failed because the individual nations had too much democracy.

They will blame Trichet for not easing soon enough or for not printing enough money. The collective wisdom will be that he made the same "mistakes" (insufficient money printing) the Fed made in the 1930s. They will say he gave in to the inflation hawks. They will blame Germany’s “irrational” memory of the Weimar hyperinflation for preventing Trichet from becoming Helicopter Trichet (should the Reichsbank President who oversaw that hyperinflation be nicknamed Dirigible Havenstein?).

Ireland, one of the darlings of the European experiment, is now among its worst off. That "Celtic Tiger" is now a paper tiger, paper as in debt. It has incurred unconscionable liabilities because it jumped headfirst into the modern blarney of “growth” through skyhigh leverage. Remember, modern economies run on paper shuffling and asset bubbles, and anyone who questions this just doesn’t “get it.” Well, those who expected to be made whole on Irish debt aren’t going to “get it” either.

For all their worship of progress through psychiatry, one thing these brain trusters don’t do is self-actualize.

The world is round. Greece isn't Germany. Technocratic global democracy is a scam.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shakespeare: Pompous Scribbler or Badass Editor?

Shakespeare is sometimes rejected by readers for being too flowery. Ironic, considering that the wide dispersion of his phrases saves us bundles of words whenever we use them.

It is often highlighted how embedded in our language the Bard's writings are. His words have become household words. Even the term "household words" comes from Shakespeare (Henry The Fifth). But using his lines shouldn't make you feel pretentious. His lines are often the shortest distance between two points.

Instead of saying, "Whatever he is feeling is obvious by the way he looks," you can say "He wears his heart on his sleeve" (Othello). 4 words saved.

Instead of: "Just because something looks good doesn't mean it is," you can say, "All that glitters is not gold" (The Merchant of Venice). 6 words saved.

Instead of: "The one guy I thought was on my side...he stabbed me in the back too! " you can say "Et tu, Brute?"(The Tragedy of Julius Caesar). 13 words saved.

You not only save words by quoting Willie Shakes; you do it with a veneer of refinement.

Too bad so many shy away from Shakespeare unabridged. The Bard was the ultimate abridger!




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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Atlas the Shrug

CEO performance is typically judged by the price of his company’s stock. Before the crisis, it was much easier to look capable or even “visionary” thanks to all those incessant (though nominal) new stock market highs. The broader market was papering over A LOT of executives' flaws.

Now with stocks dropping and stock juicing measures failing across the board, many of those “brilliant idea men,” who were praised for overpaying to acquire companies they didn’t understand, are set to be exposed. Turnover is bound to accelerate at the CEO level too.

Too many of these guys carry themselves like Kardashians in suspenders, so it will be nice to see the CEO-celeb bubble burst a bit. I have heard enough of their painfully generic statements about “looking global” while “keeping an eye on local trends.” I don't need to hear about how he learned his most important business lesson when he forget to wear sunblock on his first day selling peanuts at NOSTALGIA-EVOKING BALLPARK THAT NO LONGER EXISTS. Oh, and did you know that although his title says William he makes sure everyone calls him Bill? What else would you expect from this “CEO next door?”

Meanwhile this shareholder value wrecking machine has a mistress for every letter of the alphabet and would be 99% helpless without his Chief Risk Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Chief Financial Officer (who only get to be famous when they screw up).

A lot of CEO reputations are going to plummet in tandem with their stock price, leaving them to pound the pavement like the rest of us. Regular jobseekers look for jobs on sites like careerbuilder.com. Where do useless “visionaries” with no detectable skill look for work? Companydestroyer.org?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

EVERYONE IS MICROMANAGED!!! Or are they?

Every man, woman, and child complains that his boss is a micromanager. If we were to take this at face value, we would have to believe that every single corporate authority figure is a bitchy Sasquatch with a sawed-off Blackberry. It is not that unambiguous.

As someone who has been micromanaged, I sympathize with the anguish it causes, but listening to people’s huffy homilies about micromanaging bosses is like listening to their huffy homilies about bad drivers. Everyone claims every driver but them is an incompetent maniac. Not true. Driving is an activity that begs for catastrophe, yet accidents are infrequent. It is simply not the case that every driver but you is unable to differentiate between the gas pedal and the brake.

It is more probable that many folks define themselves as great drivers and therefore must claim everyone who isn’t them is so useless behind the wheel they couldn’t even crash a bumper car. Just as it is impossible that every driver but you is a menace, it is impossible for every single boss to be a psychopathic micromanager. I don’t doubt that micromanaging is widespread, but I don’t think it happens to the extent the anecdotal reporting would indicate.

Here are some of what I think are the nuances of the micromanagement phenomenon:

Most people work in close quarters now; offices ("cubicle farms"). This means when you’re ordered to do something, it is right up close, so your sheer proximity to the order-giver makes you feel more micromanaged.

It also used to be much easier to fire people. When it was more of a “My way or the highway” world, you only had to tell someone to do something once, because if he didn’t comply, you could can him. Now that employees have much more leeway, you have to nag them to get them to perform their duties, which of course is interpreted as micromanagement.

And unlike the days when many people worked in factories and fields, today it is less obvious who is in charge. When you’re the team leader of an office as opposed to a factory foreman, it is less apparent what purpose you serve, so you must show yourself to be conspicuously in charge, which leads to constant authority-asserting emails and 386 word mission statements with 2 words of actual meaning.

Also, you can now send someone a command from anywhere. Before smartphones, if you were physically away from your computer, you couldn’t send or receive email. Neither could your boss. So if he went to lunch, no commands were issued for at least 30 minutes. If you went to lunch, no commands were received for at least 30 minutes. What this means is that in the old days, an email sent at 12:02 wasn’t read until you returned to your desk at 12:30. Now that 12:02 email reaches you while you’re on line at Chipotle, prompting you to scream: “Doesn’t he know I’m at lunch?!” Pre-smartphone or post, that email was sent at 12:02, but now that it reaches you wherever you are, it makes you feel he’s all over you.

Leaving aside technology, the old axiom still holds: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Every person thinks his way is the right way. If you’re a boss, your subordinates are never going to be exact clones of you, which means you will never get them to do things exactly as you would, which in your mind is the right way. So because they’re not you, in your mind everything they do is at least a little wrong, causing you to keep trying to correct them (it is after all your job to mold them to do things “right”). Hence micromanaging.

And because you the subordinate also think you know how everything should be done, you resent receiving any instruction on a task, because you believe you innately know the best method for the task (again, if you want something done right...). So any degree of instruction is going to make you feel micromanaged.

What is happening is the mechanisms required to be a boss in the modern white-collar world are colliding with the innate sense people have always had that they know best how to do things. I guess all we can do is update some old worker angst songs: “You load 16 GBs, whadda ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt.”




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Thursday, September 15, 2011

More phrases that need to be retired

Feel free to stop saying the following:

I didn’t ask to be born.

Actually, you kinda did. Who else made that frenzied journey to fertilize the egg? It wasn't your guidance counselor. Perhaps you weren’t classically sentient, but you certainly participated. You begged to be born, struggled for it even. Out of millions of sperm, you were the one that jumpstarted the egg. You succeeded in spite of the odds, something you probably haven’t done since.

And lest you think being a mere sperm lets you off the hook, remember: you were a part of your father before you became your own being, so you were part of the being who choose to engage in the procreationary behavior that originated your counterproductive existence. So at the very least you were an accessory to the crime.

The 70s were the golden age of porn.

This is one instance where the oldies were not goodies. 70s porn featured convoluted plots, bushes thick enough to be chastity belts, and sex so tame it is just a notch above abstinence. Nowadays all you have to do to see anatomic degeneracy is slow down a Disney film. I'll take a pass on "Debbie Sort Of Moans While Pretending To Do Dallas".

If women ran the world…

Recently named most flawed premise of all time by Car and Driver, the statement if women ran the world is usually followed by: “There'd be no war! There'd be no poverty!”

Putting aside the bloodthirsty horseplay of H. Clinton, C. Rice, and M. Albright, why don't we cut to the group most young grrrls cite as their heroes: The Amazons.

The Amazon women were so preoccupied with warmaking they chopped off their right breasts to enable arrow shooting and spear throwing (even Amazons knew that girls throw like girls). Their turn-ons included ritually slaughtering male children. Yet the same grrrls who tout matriarchies as the cure for Earth's troubles cling to these brutes like trophy wives at a Hollywood premiere.

So yes all you difference makers, things would be different if women ran the world...chicks would be barefoot and pregnant in the War Room.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Real Men Talk Behind People's Backs

Why is it considered a good thing to SAY IT TO SOMEONE'S FACE? People typically applaud non-violent conflict resolution, yet "saying it to someone's face," an action that greatly increases the odds of the conflict/disagreement becoming violent, is commended.

Talking behind people's backs is something we all do. We dislike many of the sorry bipeds we’re forced to compete with for attention and sustenance, and practical living doesn’t permit us to freely voice our thoughts on everyone else to everyone else. But the thoughts remain. So sometimes we engage in gossip. Sometimes that gossip evolves into outright badmouthing. We all say we hate it, but we always listen in (guiltily or not). What else is fiction but gossip about imaginary people? What else is reality TV but gossip with fancy editing?

Talking behind people’s backs releases steam and actually prevents a lot of simmering grudges from becoming five alarm fistfights. But we're told it is better to say it to someone's face. We're fed the message that it is wrong to engage in violence, but that it is right to behave in ways that lead to violence.

The behind-the-back smearers are usually not the ones who provoke altercations. It’s the bull in a China shop, I’LL SAY IT TO HIS FACE!-types who bring matters to a head. Every office, every medical staff, every platoon is loaded with covert mudslinging, yet most of these entities function in spite of it. Relations typically only break down when someone makes the “laudable” decision to say something to someone’s face.

And saying it to someone's face doesn't have to lead to violence to cause incurable damage. Verbal confrontations can permanently alter the chemistry of a team. Worse, actually hearing what someone else thinks of you can corrupt your confidence in ways from which it can't recover. On the whole, it is far more considerate to badmouth someone behind his back. If you can't say anything nice, say it when your target is out of the room.



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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Backhands and Compliments

Whenever a player is interviewed on-court at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, the first sentence usually goes a little like this:

So great to be here in New York!

or

Really love it here in New York!

or

So happy to have the support of the fans here in New York!

And in the stands those big city cattle cowpie themselves each time New York is mentioned. Those jaded New Yorkers who have seen it all. Those wile New Yorkers you can't put anything past. Each time they fall for the oldest trick in the book; referencing the hometown.

No one does this kind of pandering at the other Grand Slams, which is weird when you consider that those tournaments also take place in grand locations.

The French Open is in Paris. The city of love. The city of lights. The city where newlyweds go to put a bow on their marriage. The city where oldieweds go looking for a way to tolerate each other for a few more years. The city where gals with terminal illness go to regret not running off with that waiter they thought loved them but who in reality forget their junk-riddled cabooses the second they left the cafe.

Paris is perhaps the most written about city on Earth, yet you never hear players say:

I really love playing on the red clay here is Paris! Red like my heart, 'cause I love this city!

Wimbledon--the most coveted Grand Slam--is in London. The home of the Crown. The nerve center of what not so long ago was the most far-reaching empire in human history. Sam Johnson once remarked that, "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life." Can you imagine a Wimbledon player saying:

So happy to be here under these grimy gray skies in front of you sour snot fans. But hey, that's London for ya! (raises pint glass)

You may laugh at these examples, but are they that much more ridiculous than the spectacle of watching players who travel the world beg for the approval of fans in New York, many of whom are from out of town?

The Australian Open is held in Melbourne. Melbourne, the city of...well, three out of four ain't bad.

If players at the Australian Open bothered to reference Melbourne, it would be something like:

I hate Melbourne. You hate Melbourne. And if it weren't so far away from everywhere else we all know you'd leave.



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Monday, September 5, 2011

Pandora's Box

I was sitting in a hotel lobby, resting uncomfortably, when my eyes fell on a discarded newspaper. The article in view discussed the increasing popularity of surgical techniques aimed at “labia beautification.” You read that right. Labia beautification. Labiaplasty if you’re nasty.

These procedures were previously unknown to me, mainly because the caliber of woman I pull has no need for such improvements.

How did we reach a point where lacking labias became enough of an issue to spawn a labia-makeover racket? Excuse me while I put on my detective hat:

Before shaving/waxing became widespread, most women, and certainly most men, were unaware of how the female nether regions were supposed to look. I doubt even the randiest salon discussions delved into much detail. Then shaving became the norm for female porn stars, causing men to expect well-trimmed women, causing many women to start shaving; leaving them more exposed and more likely to evaluate themselves more closely; causing them to start fretting about the appearance of their naughty bits.

Say goodbye to sex-positivism and hello to gyno-irony! Turns out something designed to make you feel sexier can also give you something new to feel self-conscious about.

So-called repression is not necessarily a patriarchal-Christian-bourgeois-capitalist conspiracy to keep everyone unfulfilled. In fact, “repression” sometimes saves us from ourselves. No one ever achieves fulfillment or completion or contentment. They’re just carrots we dangle in front of ourselves; words to describe the unattainable state we’re all chasing. So the more things we leave unrepressed and out in the open, the more things there are for us to feel unfulfilled about. I doubt labia aesthetics were a major concern in the bad old days of repression. Now there are people paying shrinks and plastic surgeons thousands to help them with their labia dysmorphia (if that isn’t already a widely used term, it will be soon).

Given current trends, I see no reason why this should change. Repression doesn’t seem positioned to remerge, and better technology and smaller families (childbirth now exists mainly to provide edible afterbirth to drooling foodies) means Western women have more free time than ever to scrutinize every inch of themselves. Soon fallopian beautification will be just an app away.

A little bit of repression can go a long way. Just as some stones are best left unturned, perhaps some hairs are best left unplucked.



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