Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year 2012: Reflections on Endings and Beginnings

A dazzling sunset on one of the last days of 2011 following a rainy afternoon, as seen from my 5th floor apartment looking to the southwest, Washington, D.C., 4:42PM, Dec. 27, 2011.

Yes, I have posted similar sunset images from this vantage point recently, but it seemed appropriate to do so again this last day of 2011.

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OK, this is my last entry for 2011. The pictures in this entry that I took include those of a rainbow and spectacular sunset on Tuesday night (three days ago); a trip to the National Zoo to see Zoo Lights on Wednesday night (two days ago); and some TV screen shots from the 1956 movie Earth vs. the Flying Saucers that was on TCM three nights ago (although I managed instead to get most of the same scenes from the YouTube movie promo with screen captures as substitutions).

The movie Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was a sci fi film from 1956. If you are interested in the plot of an alien invasion of Earth, read the Wikipedia article here. The images of the UFO's attacking and then being defeated over Washington, D.C., are quite interesting.

The occasion of this movie was TCM showing a series of science fiction films on Tuesday night that included my favorite movie: 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind. 

I actually called my dad (for the first time in almost two months) and we spoke for about 80 minutes. He was watching that movie when I called, which is how I found out it was on.

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As a recap, 2011 began on a very bad note -- first with the stinging disappointment of the missed "Boxing Day" 2010 blizzard that buried New Jersey and parts of the immediate East Coast but gave the D.C. area squat.


This was followed a month later by the biggest personal crisis of the year: My Cobalt banning by Matthew "Mr. Sirius" with the help of the two other members of his Unholy Trinity, to wit, Oooza the Unloved and the peacock-shrieking Turkey Vulture, on the grounds that I tried to trip his boyfriend on the steps of that nasty place.

Recall that Mr. Sirius long ago -- over 7-1/2 years -- had me banned from JRs and since the D.C. gay mafia never goes anywhere and instead remains in its super lucrative position for decades and decades ... 

... the ban is still in effect.

A few stealth trips in the past year notwithstanding, I now mostly avoid 17th Street outright.

Screenshot from Earth vs. the Flying Saucers showing the flying saucers over Union Station here in D.C.

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My counter-effort (the IRS and DC OTR letters) did not work out, but those letters were always going to be a long shot (not because what I wrote is untrue -- far from it -- but because it was all circumstantial).

Here is Mr. Sirius in his bar, I mean, Tulip the Holstein cow in her barn at the National Zoo, 7:37PM, Dec. 28, 2011.

Mr. Sirius may have had a bad year anyway because this live-in boyfriend unexpectedly broke up with him and moved out of his place.

As for Mr. Sirius, I genuinely think I am getting over the whole stupid situation and FINALLY achieving what I've longed to achieve: indifference toward him.

Here one of the flying saucers plows into the Washington Monument as its propulsion system is disabled, outright destroying the world-famous marble obelisk.

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It was also strange year for my friendships. I ended those that needed to be ended, including with Wall-P and HG. Upon reflection, I have omitted a lengthy discussion about these two.

Here the Washington Monument collapses. This was actually a surprisingly disturbing scene for a campy old movie.

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The year slowly improved as things steadied at my job -- and we avoided any Federal shutdowns despite the GOP Teabagger insanity in full throttle control of one (if not two) of the branches of the Federal Government. A shutdown and loss of income would have been very bad, no, catastrophic, for me.

Ah, the ending ... with the characters played by Hugh Marlowe and Joan Taylor looking at each other in front of the damaged U.S. Capitol building (a flying saucer crashed into the top of it).

BTW, the movie featured one of space ships on the beach along the Chesapeake Bay -- except there was a 2,000' mountain along this bay. Obviously, that was filmed in California or some such place.

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By the end of the year, things were steady at my job, even though I'm living check to check (as ever); I was (am) paying off another credit card debt; I am now getting along well with BOTH my parents; and I'm sort of surviving, even if not flourishing. I'm getting older and I'm too heavy.

During 2011, I managed to find comfort, intellectual and otherwise, in the writings of Paul Krugman and Michael Lind (although he has ignored two e-mails I sent him -- in the past, we had a few e-mail exchanges).

In particular, Paul Krugman -- through his regular New York Times hosted blog and his Monday and Friday regular op-ed columns -- has helped me enormously in grasping economic and monetary issues confronting us.

He has done this by hammering home a basic macroeconomic understanding of what is going on in a time when failed "zombie" ideologies (e.g., expansionary austerity and the Chicago School of endless deregulation and market self-regulation) still are causing great suffering, and the "Washington Consensus" (to use a phrase from the 1990s) is wrongly obsessed with deficits and debts when the real issue is massive under-utilization of the workforce, with the attendant social suffering that brings.

For his part, Lind has wonderful insights into America's political situation and sees big-picture connections and relationships I never considered.

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Weather-wise, 2011 featured area-wide ...

... a horribly hot, miserable summer with big weather disappointments the first half of the year but then it became more interesting with a hurricane (Irene) and above to much above normal rainfall. It was was warmed than normal. I calculate at Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) it was +2.1F for the year but +4.2F for June and +5.3F for July and December.

Preliminarily, since no additional measurable precipitation is likely through midnight Jan. 1, 2012, here are the yearly totals and their comparisons to the new (1981 - 2010) 30-year normal values for the usual DCA, BWI, and IAD regional troika of climate stations:

DCA: 46.89" +7.15" (39.74")

BWI: 56.52" +14.64" (41.88")

IAD: 46.20" +4.66" (41.54")

Maryland Science Center: 54.06" +13.17" (40.89") (Note: I am also unsure if this is a full 30-year record.)

As I have already noted, Harrisburg, Pa., had by far its wettest year ever: 73.73" (as of today), surpassing the previous (1972) record total of 59.27" and +32.99" above the 1981 - 2010 normal of 40.74".

It was the kind of weather year about which the LWX crew, in particular WOODY!, and their pet Sue Palka - Cabra creature, would have mixed feelings.

Let's check in one last time in 2011 with the Sue Palka - Cabra creature. There she is ... What say you, Palka - Cabra??

ROAR!

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Wall Street Rigged Casino Ends Year Mixed, Corporate Oligarchs Still Entrenched in Power

The  images accompanying this were taken from a Dec. 30, 2011 New York Times online article on the stock market's 2011 performance.

The vulgar and amoral Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 5.53% or 640.05 points to 12,217.56 while the dirty S&P 500 was statistically unchanged with a 0.04 point drop to 1,257.60, and the bubble-prone NASDAQ fell 47.72 or -1.80% to 2,605.15.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) percentage performance in 2011.

The Standard & Poors (S&P) 500 Index percentage performance in 2011.

The NASDAQ (National Association of Dealers Automated Quotations) Composite Index percentage performance in 2011.

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Meanwhile, to quote Bernard Connolly, the "malignant lunacy" of the euro promises to continue apace with Angela Merkel doing the bidding of German bankers while the useless Nicolas Sarkozy stands around with that half-arrogant / half-dumb ass look on his face.

BTW, check out this YouTube satirical parody version of Germany's long-running New Years Eve classic Dinner for One TV show featuring Nicolas Sarkozy as Angela Merkel's drunken butler.

A screenshot from the aforementioned YouTube clip.

At this point, the peripheral euro zone countries, esp. Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Latvia really have no choice but to remain in that unholy monetary alliance. 

A far more integrated political alliance is needed, but does anyone seeing the Germans really embracing the Greeks or anyone else in a true union?? Mississippi and California are fraternal twins compared to those countries.

This graph from Paul Krugman's 12/24 blog entry probably best sums it up -- comparing wages in Iceland, which defaulted on its debt and allowed its currency to drop sharply, to those in Ireland and Latvia, both in the euro fiscal straitjacket. It also compares what would have happened had Iceland been on the euro.

The moral of the story from the above image is that EITHER a country needs its own ability to print money, lest it be forced to square the circle and deflate its way to someone else's prosperity OR there needs to be a genuine political integration with all that this means in terms of government budgets, including transfer payments, as well as financing debt.

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Looking ahead, 2012 will feature its own worrisome challenges, many closer to home, involving my job.

As for big things, such as the endless mind numbing inanity of the American presidential election and the nihilistic sport into which the U.S. corporate media make it. I can't suffer that brand of insanity and will mostly tune it out.

And what of that media -- outlets such as POLITICO (distilled nihilistic essence of the The WaHoPo) and reporters such as CNN's Wolf Blitzer (clueless dumb).

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Readable Reads to Close Out 2011

Here are several readable reads from Salon to end the year ...

A Salon interview with Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas? and a new book Pity the Billionaire, on why the American rightwing made such a tremendous comeback just two years after the 2008 financial crash and start of the Lesser Depression.

He argues it was a combination of deeply ingrained fanciful American ideology and a pretty much useless, out-of-touch, Washington-centric technocratic "liberals," including those in the Obama administration, that while in some cases necessary (the Recovery Act), failed to channel populist outrage.

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Entrance to the National Zoo decked out in the nighttime annual December Zoo Lights display, 6:47PM, Dec. 28, 2011.

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The second piece is by Andrew Leonard and is entitled "World on the verge of a nervous breakdown". He argues that high-tech capitalism -- or rather, its present-day, ultra highly financialized form -- is creating a world of incredible instability and stress.

Excerpt:

"Our modern high-tech markets, in which more money than ever before swirls around the globe in a blink of an eye, are better at transmitting panic and fear than anything heretofore created by humans. If civilization is supposed to imply progress, then something has gone very awry: In the second decade of the 21st century, our infrastructure is increasingly fragile, increasingly prone to disruption. The sword of Damocles hangs above everyone’s head, and the thread that keeps it from falling is fraying perilously thin."

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Hippo from the Hippograms blog at the National Zoo inside the building with the ginger bread house displays and Christmas trees, Washington, D.C., 6:51PM, Dec. 28, 2011.

I am hoping that Hippo restarts the blog in 2012.

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The third piece is by Michael Lind on what he calls the "Age of Turboparalysis" -- protests globally galore but they make no difference. Everything still sucks, and will continue for a while.

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More Christmas trees in the gingerbread house display area, National Zoo, Washington, D.C., 6:54PM, Dec. 28, 2011.

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The fourth is by writer Peter Birkenhead. Using the occasion of a trip he and a friend took to Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana, he wrote a lengthy, thoughtful piece discussing how the South -- with the tacit help of the North -- essentially has whitewashed the legacy of slavery. Some key excerpts are below.

"When the Civil War ended, there were no truth and reconciliation commissions formed to process memories, no Nuremberg Trials to enable reflection, no Great Emancipator to free the future from the past — only ghosts and the ravenous politics of memory. The need for national reckoning was quickly subordinated to the political imperative of reunification, and on both sides of the Mason Dixon line, forgetting became more valuable than remembering."

A sunset rainbow as (barely) seen from my apartment looking north toward Meridian Hill Park, Washington, D.C., 4:42PM, Dec. 27, 2011.

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Continued excerpt:

"Southern apologists earned sudden fortunes in a gold rush of nostalgic forgetting. Within a year of the war’s end, a Virginia journalist named Edward Pollard published a novel called 'The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates,' a breathless, self-pitying fantasy, and the first of many to recast the conflict as a tragedy of fraternal strife and regional repression, to blame the Confederate defeat on the overwhelming resources and underhanded tactics of the North, exalt the Confederacy’s most ruthless generals as paragons of honor, revel in stories of freed people run amok, wallow in tearful, postwar family reunions, and pine for the 'Golden Age' of hoop- skirts and happy-go-lucky chattel. It depicted slavery as a benign if not beneficial institution, and relegated further discussion on the topic to the offstage realm of 'touchy' subjects, where, for perpetual Northern fear of offending delicate Southern sensibilities, it has languished ever since..."

"By 1932, and the publication of 'Gone With the Wind' -- the ultimate Lost Cause novel and still the most popular book in America, after the Bible -- Lost Cause literature succeeded in sacrificing the very meaning of the Civil War to the demands of myth-making. (The 1939 movie sealed the deal.) The culture of forgetting had become a national religion ..."

I was able to get a bit more of the rainbow in this picture, but this was as far as I could lean out the window -- lest I fall 5 stories down to my untimely death, Washington, D.C., 4:42PM, Dec. 27, 2011.

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Continued excerpt: 

"After Lincoln's assassination, Republicans struck an implicit deal with the South, a sort of economic/cultural tradeoff, in which the South was allowed to construct the edifice of the Lost Cause culture in return for letting Northern investors exploit the South's resources. For decades after the war, at cemetery and monument dedications, Blue-Gray reunions and Veterans Day parades, Northern politicians and former generals made a point of describing the conflict in the language of the Lost Cause, praising the chivalry of once-estranged brothers, lauding their former enemy's fierce dedication to their mission, and rarely acknowledging what that mission had been. The relative postwar silence of the North on the issue of slavery, and the flagrant corruption of newly established Union military governments, helped stoke already flourishing Southern resentment and denial. Instead of beginning a period of reflection, the South spent the late 19th century dressing up in old uniforms and comforting itself with revisionist stories.

"The Reconstruction-era South didn't invent dishonesty, but its response to America's defining trauma has become a foundational lie, supporting an ever-growing edifice of false history."

Quite a spectacular sunset afterglow on the base of the clouds, as seen from my apartment looking across the intersection of New Hampshire Ave, U St., and 16th St., Washington, D.C., 4:52PM, Dec. 27, 2011.

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My friend and co-worker DD, who has Southern family roots, said that while he agreed with the sentiments, the North too has its own racial legacies that it too has intentionally forgotten.

Exiting the National Zoo beneath some of the Zoo Lights arboreal LED displays, Washington, D.C., 8:36PM, Dec. 28, 2011.

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Speaking of DD, I am having dinner with him and his family in Rockville. Thereafter, I may see K. in Friendship Heights, and then I'll head home to watch the ball drop in Time Square at midnight -- and see Dick Clark try to get through another New Years Eve. Thereafter, I will probably go to Larry's Lounge or Nellie's.

This is the same Tuesday sunset rainbow -- except as seen from Old Town Alexandria by the Potomac looking north / northeast. This picture was actually the top image in the print edition of the next day's (Dec. 28, 2011) WaHoPo.

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OK, I think that's about all for now. I may try to post a brief update on the 1st but my next full entry won't be until Monday or Tuesday. I have to finish up at least two of the three compliance reports (I'm about 2/3 done the big one), and I plan to work on them at home the next few days.

Happy New Year 2012!

--Regulus

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