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Vonnegut, Five Years Gone.

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Kurt Vonnegut left the planet five years ago today.  If you noticed his absence then, surely you also know by how much the world has not been the same since.  Some things, however, have not changed:  Kurt found the world humorous, hapless, sadly lacking  -- a pratfall away from cheating death or a breath from unimaginable brilliance.  Or both, maybe simultaneously.  He has said, "Human beings might as well look for diamond tiaras in the gutter as for rewards and punishments that were fair."

He was the author of 14 novels, 5 scripts, 5 short story collections, and 5 books of essays, and countless drawings, all filled with effervescent, irreverent, self-fluorescing Vonnegutian wit and crinkled-smile insights.  "Cat's Cradle" was one such book, in which Kurt created a fanciful and poetic religion, Bokononism -- along with the end of the world, of course.  The new religion gently explained the way of things, in rhyming "calypsos," using rare pairings of wry humor plied with the harsh truth:


The Man Who Made a Forest

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The whole business of heroes and fame routinely gets tangled up, mangled and strangled by modern life, interest levels somehow high in vapid and empty people created for the times, people famous only for being famous, their lively, spontaneous actions for renown all baled up with (and sometimes bailed out by) well-rehearsed legal dance-steps, or the fancy footwork of plain-deadly infamy.

In our modern world, we often confuse price and value, among so many other things.  That is marketing's tales-and-sales mission, and marketing always lands its beachheads well-prepared.

Contrast today's fleeting flights of fame, awards for spurious and curious being, against those of the world's geniuses of the past who invented and gave back to the world so incredibly much.


Hazards, House Organs, and Kidneys

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Just when you thought Fukushima was giving your sanity a breather, there's lots more human-generated hazards and madness waiting to provide us all individual meltdowns -- and that's not even counting politics.

Fukushima, again, or some more, the scoring's up to you:  Reactor Number 4 has a fuel storage pool that's barely intact, in a badly damaged building, the fuel open to the sky, in a region prone to regular earthquakes.  We humans ask again in unison:  What could go wrong?

A portion of the Monday report from Japan's Mainichi news:  "...the storage pool [is] barely intact on the building's third and fourth floors.  The roof has been blown away.  If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode, causing a massive amount of radioactive substances to spread over a wide area..."


Ten Places to Start

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We primates are flukes of evolutionary whims, stumbling experiments with bigger brainpans, still merely monkeys with car keys and credit cards.  We are not to take ourselves too seriously, nor be depressed or surprised at any of the routinely dumb monkeyshines or monkey business we perform and pull off in this life.

Really now, a realistic view:  Expect nothing of value to occur.  Should anything happen to go well, be pleasantly floored, realizing the usual state of our primitive efforts in any regard usually ends in catastrophe and collapse. This is a cautionary prescription for improved mental health, as most primate miseries stem from dashed hopes for better, staggering survivors of crashed expectations.  This is less pessimism than a Futilitarian view, which dictionaries describe as the belief that human striving most often is futile.  Sounds truthful and downright utilitarian, if you ask me.


Wall Street: Occupying Our Thoughts

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A postscript regarding eyebrow-raising news from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas:  It was news that said we'd best break down those megabanks that are too big to fail, lest the whole economy get sucked in and squashed when they topple again.  Imagine that, a conservative regional bank saying what regular folks have been saying -- for how many years, again?

The temptation is strong to say something snide here, such as, "What? No honor among thieves?" but we will do all we can to rein in that urge. Instead, we will simply agree it's asking for trouble, keeping more than half of the nation's banking assets in just five institutions.  The Dallas Fed agreed, adding those megabanks not only prolonged and amplified the 2008 crash, but have also been squarely hindering the recovery.


The World as Ante: Quite a Pot!

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In poker, when bluffing is not an option, and you're holding a very weak hand, folding is the most graceful and expedient way to bow out.  Keep hoping our global luck holds out with nuclear power plants, lest they get so maniacally sideways they force our entire species to fold.

Some countries are on a good path:  Germany has announced plans to abandon nuclear power in ten years.  Japan's faster, shutting down its last plant next month after people there declared they'd had enough radioactive fun to last them a few lifetimes.  The Japanese have taken the high road:  The only people atom-bombed in war, they are now trying hard to not return the sick favor, not spray radiation back on us all.


Wonders Never Cease

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The Dallas Federal Reserve is echoing the thoughts repeatedly spoken by frustrated observers in all categories:  Too big to fail is simply too big to let survive.

If the biggest U.S. banks are not broken up, so they say, taxpayers will again be stuck with the tab on another gigantic bailout.

You may remember that the most recent round of carefully-engineered, bubble-and-burst spree of capitalist greed and freewheeling casino-ism, cost taxpayers 180 billions of dollars by some estimates --3.5 trillions of dollars by other estimates, all costs included.

The S & L crisis that dogged us in the days of Reagan, in the 80s and 90s, says the nonpartisan GAO, will cost half a trillion dollars before it is fully wound down -- however, that estimate was made some time ago.  As always:  loss estimates are fluid when dealing in liquid assets -- how much can bankers cart off in their thievery, versus, how much, if any, did they spill, on the run, sloshing their way outside?

Sounds like the Dallas Fed -- one of the most conservative of the regional banks, says economist and author Robert Reich -- are themselves finally seeing the invisible handwriting come clear on the wall, and can now see what we have all been looking at in horror all this time.

Among the many wonders suddenly not ceasing to be, is this one, written by Reich at his blog post:  "Taxpayers will be on the hook for another giant Wall Street bailout, and the economy won't be mended, unless the nation's biggest banks are broken up.  That's not just me talking, or the Occupiers movement, or that wayward executive who resigned from Goldman Sachs a few weeks ago.  It's the conclusion of the Dallas Federal Reserve."

Joyce Hanson at AdvisorOne wrote, "According to the 34-page report, the financial institutions that amplified and prolonged the 2008 crash continue to hinder not only the recovery but the very ideal of American capitalism."

The best hope for the U.S. economy is "breaking up the nation's biggest banks into smaller units," says the Dallas Fed in its recently released annual report, "Choosing the Road to Prosperity:  Why We Must End Too Big to Fail -- Now."

Prosperity: There's a word not usually bandied around.  It was a popular word during the financier-and-bank-triggered Great Depression, the word holding out a morsel of hope to ravaged Americans trashed by its own banking system -- one allowing clawing, rampaging greed by a few at the very top.

As the Dallas Fed notes, "More than half of banking industry assets are on the books of just five institutions."  Sound like a healthy country, or a booming, free-market system we always hear being touted around?

Too big to fail is absolutely too big to keep propped up -- too big to keep hoping easy-money swindlers and scam artists in suits won't push over again in their race to the dining table and trough, pursuing their usual, single-minded, feeding-frenzy of unbridled greed.

Nice to spot the Dallas Fed opening its eyes, and now seeing the same mayhem and danger the rest of us have been seeing for a very, very long time.

Wonders never cease.


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