There are times when I'd like to share something with you but my Voice in the Garden site does not seem the appropriate place, thus, this blog.

There are experiences, thoughts, views... and for anyone lurking/waiting to pounce (as has occurred on several occasions), please do not attempt to turn what I post into a political statement. This is NOT a political site, but IS about occurrences, reality, and personal opinion concerning what I see in the world around me and my family. There are many excellent writers whose works "speak" to me, and I shall include some of them. At times it may be
something I think you would enjoy or simply whatever ails you (me).
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alexander the Great's Afghan Campaign (330-327 BC) and Today


"This five-part series is about war in Afghanistan, ancient and modern. Each video is five minutes long. I'm not doing this for money. I have no political axe to grind. I'm a Marine and I don't want young Marines and soldiers going into harm's way without the full mental arsenal of history and cultural context. 

What's my thesis? That understanding tribes and tribalism is critical for the U.S. in Afghanistan. The tribal mind-set (warrior pride, hostility to all outsiders, perpetual warfare, the obligation of revenge, suppression of women, a code of honor rather than a system of laws, extreme conservatism, unity with the land, patience and capacity for hatred) permeates everything in Afghanistan and its neighboring Islamic republics. For war-making or peace-making, it cannot be ignored. 

Think of these videos as a crash course in tribalism...".

Begin with Episode 1: It's the Tribes, Stupid
Episode 2: The Citizen Vs. The Tribesman
Episode 3: Tribes Are Different From You and Me
Episode 4: Fighting a Tribal Enemy
Episode 5: How to Win in Afghanistan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Facebook IPO: Shareholders Weren't Invited to the Real Party

From The Rolling Stones by Matt Taibbi

A suit has been filed by Facebook shareholders against Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Morgan Stanley and others. It's based on a very simple concept: when internal analysts learned that Facebook’s numbers were going to be worse than expected, the company and its bankers didn’t tell everyone, but just "selectively disclosed" information to a small group of "preferred investors."

Henry Blodget, who unfortunately should know about these things, gave a good summary of it all on CBS This Morning:

I was on the phone last night with a former hedge fund CEO who was talking about this. "Facebook," he said, "is a colossal example of a complete clusterfuck where everybody wins except the ordinary investor."

His point was that virtually every week now we see stories like this that hint at a kind of two-tiered market system – in which most of the real action takes place inside an unregulated black-box network of connected insiders who don’t disclose their relationships or their interests, while everyone else, i.e. the regular suckers, live in the more tightly-policed world of prospectuses and quarterly reporting and so on.

All of these stories suggest that Wall Street is increasingly turning into a giant favor-and-front-running factory, where the big banks and broker-dealers that channel vast streams of crucial non-public information (about the markets generally and their clients specifically) are also trading for their own accounts, and sharing information with a select group of "preferred investors," who in turn help the TBTF banks move markets in this or that desired direction by jumping on or off various pigpiles at the right times.

Sooner or later, people are going to clue into the fact that one or two big banks, acting in concert with a choice assortment of unscrupulous "preferred investors," can at least temporarily prop up or topple just about anything they want, from Greece to Bear Stearns to Lehman Brothers. And if you can move markets and bet on them at the same time, it's impossible to not make tons of money, which incidentally is made at everyone else's expense. So we should always be on the lookout for any evidence that that sort of coordinated, non-disclosed activity is taking place.

This Facebook thing is a perfect example. It’s like that scene in Brain Candy where the evil pharma CEO Don Roritor takes his star scientist, Chris, on a walk in the middle of a party at his house: after they walk around Don’s rocking indoor pool, they open a set of doors and there’s a completely different party going on there.

"What’s this?" Chris asks. "Oh, this is the real party," says Roritor.