Blog Archive

10 April 2010

Anarchist Pig Investment Advice for April 10th, 2010

As part of my blog, I am going to start posting investment advice based upon my own portfolio. This may surprise some of my readers because how could a blog by a Buddhist Anarchist possibly include investment advice ? In my mind, it's simple. Strong personal finances equals liberty and independence and the ability to generate income, which in turn, can be used for more beneficial uses such as helping others.

So, knowing that some of my readers trend a bit more towards the radical side, my first investment tip should be right up their alley. In my portfolio, I bought the following bond and have been enjoying a nice return on it of late-

Venezuela, 10.75 % 9-19-2013
CUSIP ID # 922646BJ2 (this is the identification for this bond.)

Simply put, this is a bond issued by the government of Hugo Chavez that you can buy on the open market through any brokerage account. As of yesterday, Friday April 9th, this bond was trading at around $ 982.50. Since the bond yield of 10.75 % is based on the face value of the bond, $ 1,000.00, you actually receive a yield of 10.94 % if you buy at this price. The bond pays semi-annually, and the coupon payment you receive is $ 53.75 twice per year for simply owning the bond. I hold this bond in an IRA making the deal even sweeter because the fascist bastards at the IRS can't get their mitts on it until I retire.

The downside is that this bond is considered near junk status by the investment community and is rated B2 by Moodys and BB- by S&P. Even though the coupon payment is fixed at 10.75 %, the underlying price of the bond could fall causing a loss in the original investment. You need to have some courage to make an investment like this, but I am confident that rising oil prices will benefit Venezuela and reduce the likelihood of a default on their debt.

This week, Citigroup reports earnings and I will comment next week on the call option strategy that I put into place this week under the assumption that their earnings will improve. If they don't, I will be drinking heavily and will probably not post anything at all.

Dislcaimer- Anarchist Pig Investment Advice is just that- advice. I am not an investment advisor, broker or investment professional and if you use this advice, you are using it at your own risk. If you take my advice, you need to do the research to see if it supports your investment goals. IN other words, if it doesn't work out, don't fucking call me.

Review- "The Buddha" on PBS

I was looking forward to the premiere of the new PBS film "The Buddha" the other night after seeing the previews for it. Written and directed by David Grubin, narrated by Richard Gere and a whole cast of experts including the Dalai Lama, it seemed like it was going to be an enjoyable two hours of television. Usually after watching a program I can very quickly tell if I enjoyed it, or I didn't. This is one of the few cases where I'm still not sure.

Writing, producing and editing a program like this can't be easy. Condensing all of The Buddha's teachings, impact on civilization and examination of Buddhism today into two hours is a daunting task. If you're not a Buddhist, imagine trying to do the same thing with Jesus and Christianity- what to leave in, what to leave out while working against a defined time limit for the show. Unfortunately in the sake of brevity, a lot of stuff is going to be over simplified, rushed or omitted. Still, you would try to concentrate on the main points, provide a sense of reference for that time in history and offer some insights on how these beliefs impact people today. Whether because of poor editing, writing or directing "The Buddha" largely accomplished these goals but lost me at many points along the way.

I have a friend that is not a Buddhist, he's a good Christian and will be so for life. Still, he thought the show sounded interesting so he tuned in to watch it and we talked briefly about it a couple of days later. He was completely confused. While he learned something during the show, namely a little bit about The Four Noble Truths, Buddhist views on existence etc., he was mightily confounded by the constant cut aways to a yoga master doing contortions of extreme effort, Indians washing themselves in the Ganges and other vignettes of Indian life. I was confused by this too and I consider myself moderately well read and practiced on the subject. If the point was to show a setting for the story, and what life might have been like in India in ancient times, it succeeded but the point was labored to the extent that my friend thought such yoga practices, as well as ascetic sacrifice, were required of Buddhists.

Overall the film seemed to jump around a bit and was difficult, at times, to follow. Then again, I could have just been tired and my mind was wandering. Another omission from the show which I think would be an especially important point for non-Buddhists would be in explaining the different schools of belief instead of the giving the impression that the Dalai Lama and Richard Gere speak for all Buddhists.

One program that covers the subject of the life and teachings of The Buddha which I highly recommend is The Story of India which also aired on PBS in 2009. Michael Wood is an excellent guide and narrator for the BBC documentary which was beautifully filmed and very well written. Episode 2 "The Power of Ideas" includes a long segment on The Buddha, his teachings and his times and you can watch a brief clip of it here.

The Future & Buddhist Vegan Militias

A very interesting view of the future written by Reihan Salam in Time Magazine.

I really enjoyed this article. Salam sees the convergence of technology, energy costs and an emerging view on education as fundamentally transforming our society into one that (except for the technology) would probably be rather familiar to our ancestors. One can already see this transformation taking place in places like Detroit where thousands of abandoned homes, which once housed the massive labor force required for the car industry, are being torn down and redeveloped into other uses including urban farms.

"The cultural battle lines of our time, with red America pitted against blue, will be scrambled as Buddhist vegan militia members and evangelical anarchist squatters trade tips on how to build self-sufficient vertical farms from scrap-heap materials. To avoid the tax man, dozens if not hundreds of strongly encrypted digital currencies and barter schemes will crop up, leaving an underresourced IRS to play whack-a-mole with savvy libertarian "hacktivists."

Salam also makes the point that the federal debt implosion that I fear is coming might actually be a mixed blessing which weans our society off the government teat and returns us to a more individualistic society which relies on the support of neighbors rather than taxpayers-

"Look at the projections of fiscal doom emanating from the federal government, and consider the possibility that things could prove both worse and better. Worse because the jobless recovery we all expect could be severe enough to starve the New Deal social programs on which we base our life plans. Better because the millennial generation could prove to be more resilient and creative than its predecessors, abandoning old, familiar and broken institutions in favor of new, strange and flourishing ones."

Indeed, Salam notes that society could undergo a quiet, fundamental revolution as citizens decide they will not participate in a blood sucking system that consumes the majority of their effort and will instead turn to solutions that would have made Proudhon turn misty-eyed-

"Faced with the burden of financing the decades-long retirement of aging boomers, many of the young embrace a new underground economy, a largely untaxed archipelago of communes, co-ops, and kibbutzim that passively resist the power of the granny state while building their own little utopias."

Regardless of one's view of the world, we can all see that our society is headed for a transformational brick wall whether we like it or not. The old systems of massive government, the social safety net and bloated bureaucracy are simply not sustainable and people are finally waking up to the fact that they trade off in terms of taxes paid is simply not worth it. The nanny state will crumble not from political pressure, but from being starved of the revenues that allow its existence.

Hopefully, the transformation to a society such as the one described by Salam will be relatively peaceful. Unfortunately, history shows that such massive upheavals in the order of things usually result in terrible violence. Buddhist Vegan Militias- it's time to stock up on tofu and .223 ammo.

09 April 2010

Last Regular Season Game at the Igloo

As I mentioned in a previous post, last night was the final regular season game for the Penguins at Mellon Arena.

The wife and I arrived early and just soaked in the place. They had a great pre-game ceremony which featured 50 former Penguins including too many to mention here. Well, okay, it's my friggin blog and I'm going to mention my favorite as a kid, Pierre Larouche. The game itself was a near blow-out for the Penguins as the Islanders seemed content to just want to get back on the bus and get to the airport. Fans were in a festive mood, the old barn was rocking and it was a fitting send off for the old girl. Numerous post game activities kept us in our seats until well past 11 pm after which we strolled out into the chilly night. I have to admit a wave of nostalgia hit me on the way out and I felt compelled to fist bump one of the turnstiles on the way out the door.

A Tiger's Tale

As the media breathlessly follows Tiger Woods' every move at Augusta, it would seem that they are missing one rather large point- not only has Tiger reportedly returned to the Buddhist teachings of his youth, he is a walking example of the suffering which was identified, and can be corrected, through the Buddha's Four Noble Truths. Even more importantly, this message applies to all humans, regardless of their faith or beliefs, as we are all victimized by the incessant need to fill the holes in our lives with things, unhealthy practices and activities.

The First Noble Truth- Suffering

Before the media broke the story of Tiger's rampant infidelities, he seemed from the outside to have it all-beautiful wife and children, incredible athletic ability, more money than he could ever need, private jet, luxury homes etc. And yet, it seems, the poor guy was completely miserable and leading a strange secret existence that included numerous mistresses, secret meetings and rather elaborate planning to move his girlfriends around the country to be available at his bidding.

The Second Noble Truth- The Cause of Suffering (Craving)

We have all seen this in our lives. Whether it is ourselves, friends or family members, we seem not to be content with what we have. Although self improvement is admirable in terms of bettering ourselves, and the opportunities it brings those that depend upon us, the craving for bigger homes, better cars, more money, better restaurants etc. is incredibly destructive. I know a number of people that bought very nice homes which would be considered palaces in the 3rd world who immediately began complaining that they weren't what they really wanted and renewed their search for the next, better, perfect home. So it went for Tiger too, I guess. At some point of living the mega luxurious lifestyle, I suppose even billionaires can suffer from craving. Got a 8 passenger jet ? Great. Now I want a 12 passenger jet. Got a 12 passenger jet ? Now I want a 20 passenger jet...and so on.

The Third Noble Truth- There is cessation from Suffering.

Ah, the good news. Even though Tiger smacked his balls into the rough, there is a way out of this endless cycle of greed, desire and craving. This merciless wheel of rebirth can be broken, suffering ended and enlightenment attained.

The Fourth Noble Truth- The Eightfold Path to the end of Suffering

They are- Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. Through diligent perseverance and adherence to this path, the end of suffering can be attained. I will breakdown the eightfold path in future posts and try to explain how I have tried, with varying success, to work them into my life.

Look, I'm not a psychologist and I'm not judging Tiger to be a bad person because of his actions. I had the discussion with many of my friends of "well, what would you do if you were incredibly famous, rich, good-looking and had lots of women throwing themselves at you ?" More often than not, we all had to admit that the temptation would have been just a bit much to deal with. Still, being aware of the Noble Truths helps to put life into better perspective.

The recent comments by Augusta chairman Billy Payne are unnecessary at this point and amount to nothing more than piling on. “It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children." That's been the problem with heroes for millenia- they are human beings. Why was Tiger Woods obligated to live up to Mr. Payne's exacting requirements of being a role model for America's youth ? Because he can hit a rubber-synthetic ball with a piece of steel or composite great distances with incredible accuracy ? If that is what passes for hero status these days, we are all in trouble.

We are indoctrinated at a young age as we are bombarded by media advertising promising us that happiness is just over the next horizon and can be obtained by buns of steel, a new car, whitened teeth, the golf club that will change your game etc. The same media built Tiger Woods into demi-god proportions creating shoes that no mere mortal could ever fill. Maybe the best thing to come out of this is that it provides a teachable moment for all of us. I find myself telling my kids a couple of times a week "things can't make you happy" as they tell me they want an i-phone, the new Playstation, this, that and the other thing. Things are impermanent, transient and like my dad always said "never love something that can't love you back." Good advice indeed.

08 April 2010

Civic Arena Memories

Tonight marks the last regular season game the Pittsburgh Penguins will play at Mellon Arena, formerly known as the Civic Arena and affectionately known as the Igloo. My wife and I will be there sitting in our seats in section B28 hoping for a victory and reminiscing about this place that was a big part of both of our lives. Despite my threat to bring a ratchet and take the seats with us after the game, I have promised to behave and not do anything that will get us on the eleven o'clock news.

The arena was born a few years before me back in 1961. It was an engineering marvel for the time built by local companies using local materials- U.S. Steel providing stainless steel for the roof and Westinghouse the motors that would open the roof for special occasions. Originally, the arena was conceived and built for the purpose of being home field for the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. How they thought a 16,000 seat arena could be filled by an opera in a shot and beer town like Pittsburgh is beyond me, but the Penguins eventually became the primary tenant of the building.

My earliest memory of going to the arena was when I was 4 or 5 to see the circus. I remember this was probably when I developed a lifelong fear of clowns as my older brother casually mentioned out of parental earshot that the clowns were going to take me back to clownville, or wherever the hell they lived, after the show. I went to the arena many other times over the years to see hockey games, indoor soccer games, concerts and monster trucks. Despite the fact that the majority of Penguins fans only know a championship team, I recall many, many nights of sitting through shitty hockey games with a couple of thousand other souls who received free tickets. A couple of other highlights I will remember will be playing indoor soccer there as a youth, skating with my son on the ice during one of the Penguins free skates and seeing my kid emerge from the visitor's tunnel onto the ice during a skills competition. Pretty cool.

What will I miss about the arena ? What I call the Igloo funk, a strange smell of stale beer, old popcorn and forty plus years of human b.o. that has impregnated the structure. I swear that on cold nights when they open the doors the Igloo funk rushes out like a warm embrace welcoming you back home- part pretzel smell, part wet fart, part zamboni exhaust fumes. What won't I miss ? Escalators that were built with a maximum safe load of 2 or 3 people instead of a couple of hundred trying to jam themselves into the tunnels, seats that were built with such close clearances that you are tempted to rest your beer on the fan's head in front of you and the strange lumps of unknown substances that have fossilized under the seats.

Favorite memory of the arena ? Probably the greatest hockey fight of all time only it didn't occur on the ice, it occurred on the sidewalk after the game. My brother and I were leaving one freezing night when an obviously drunk fan, wearing a suit, tie and wire rimmed glasses pounded on the hood of a car waiting at the light. He screamed at the car because they had the gall to honk at someone (that being him) crossing against the light. He looked like an attorney, at least that's what I hope he was based on what happened next. All of a sudden a petite young lady who couldn't have been more than 100 pounds dripping wet jumped out of the driver's seat walked straight towards him and punched him in the face. "Wham !" Attorney boy made sort of a yelp as his glasses flew off and his face was flushed. My brother and I looked at each other, completely stunned. "Wham, Wham, Wham" Like a diminutive version of Tie Domi she was all over him knocking him to his knees. I remember my brother yelling some advice like "pull his coat over his head" but she was content to just whack him a few more times, jump back in the car and sped off.

Ah memories. By this time next year the Igloo will be gone, replaced by the uber corporate and chic Consol Pepsi Coke Fritos Gatorade Accenture Mellon PNC CCM Verizon Arena. It's going to take another 40 years to lose that new arena smell.

07 April 2010

Book Review- The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents by Alex Butterworth

Book review by Stuart Christie, The Guardian.

Sounds like a good read. I'm going to pick up a copy. The book is available on pre-order for June 15th, through Amazon.

An interesting observation from the review-

"The main story, however, is of the penetration of these groups of often naive utopians by the sinister functionaries of the secret state whose job it was to protect the status quo: the policemen and spymasters who lurked in the shadows seeding uncertainty and dissent, cultivating tensions, beguiling with deceits, and luring credulous and impressionable idealists into committing crimes they may never have otherwise conceived."

History has indeed shown that idealists and revolutionaries are often long on ideas and short on proper counter-intelligence techniques !

06 April 2010

Gary Hart, Former U.S. Senator, Commenting on Anger against the Government.

Gary Hart, former Democratic Senator, seen at left with his girlfriend Donna Rice (actually, that would be officially his mistress since he was married at the time,) opines in his blog about the anger driving tea partiers, anarchists and other assorted malcontents. Try to look past the irony of the blog's title "Matters of Principle" while looking at the picture of Mr. Hart and Ms. Rice relaxing on his yacht "Monkey Business" back in the mid 80's.

"Looking on from the outside, anger seems to be the glue holding together anarchists, libertarians, conservatives of various kinds, and groups harboring complex grievances."

Whew, I'm glad to see that liberals and progressives aren't angry- it must be because they have a deeper understanding of reality than we common troglodytes. Gary Hart cannot fathom anger against the government because he was part of it and it is part of his DNA. He can feign loathing of the government, lobbyists and bankers all he wants but he was a product of the system. It created him and it still sustains him through his academic position at the University of Colorado-Denver. Sorry, but I refuse to buy the whole anti-establishment vibe from a Yale educated attorney who is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Let’s get one thing straight: the president and members of Congress are elected by the people of the United States. If you don’t like that, there are lots of other countries where this is not the case."

The oldest argument in the book- America, love it or leave it. First touted by Nixon republicans screaming at hippies, now touted by Obama democrats screaming at anyone that disagrees with them. Hey, marital infidelity is accepted in lots of other countries, why are you still here ?

"If you are angry at Barack Obama, or any member of Congress, you are angry at your fellow citizens who voted for them."

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. I am pissed off that a junior senator with minimal experience was anointed by the national media as the saviour of this country. I am even more pissed off that he is doubling down on Bush's' expansion of the federal government, bureaucracy, debt and deficit. I am, however, equal opportunity in my anger at my fellow citizens- anyone, or any party, that participates and buys into this system is equally insane in my opinion.

"But if this anger is something else, let’s say bitterness at a black couple in the White House, or women being more equal, or medical care for poor children, or efforts to create a more decent and humane society, then there is little we can talk about."

Oh for God's sake, here we go. Turning the argument against the opposition by labeling them as racists, or worse. (Side note- I'm reading a new biography on Mao. This sounds eerily like it came out of his playbook. Anyways, back to the article.) This anger isn't about the fact that there is a black couple in the White House, or women, or medical care you nitwit- it's about the exponential expansion of the federal government, the resources that it consumes and the self-perpetuating nature of the embedded bureaucracy. It's about the erosion of citizen's rights in this country done in the name of the war on terror, the blackmail of states by federal withholding of funds (contributed by their citizens) and the arrogance of power demonstrated by elected officials who serve for personal power rather than to serve the people.

Come on Gary, admit why you are really pissed- you got caught with a nice piece of ass, lost your shot at being President and you have been looking in from the outside ever since.

05 April 2010

"The Buddha" Premiere on PBS, Wednesday April 7th

The Buddha, A Film by David Grubin
Premiering April 7, 2010 at 8 p.m. EST (check local listings)

"This documentary for PBS by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the Buddha’s life, a journey especially relevant to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion. It features the work of some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors, who across two millennia, have depicted the Buddha’s life in art rich in beauty and complexity. Hear insights into the ancient narrative by contemporary Buddhists, including Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Join the conversation and learn more about meditation, the history of Buddhism, and how to incorporate the Buddha’s teachings on compassion and mindfulness into daily life."

Anarchists vs. Tea Partiers

Apparently some members of the anarchist community are planning counter-protests against the tea party movement on April 15th. Whether or not this event will be broadcast on pay per view remains to be seen.

I don't personally know any tea party members but from what I've read they seem like reasonable people who are completely fed up with the enormity and expense of the U.S. government. That being said, it's hard to take a group seriously that supports an airhead like Sarah Palin, the Barbie doll darling of the Republican party, or receives so much positive coverage from blithering idiots like Sean Hannity. Still, the fact that the Democrats are playing the straw-man of racism, militia violence and every other tired argument they drag out when threatened seems to indicate that they are making some impact on national politics.

The real winner in any tea party-anarchist clash would be, of course, the same government that both groups fundamentally oppose. The tea partiers will be portrayed by the left as crazy, radical racists who want to return the U.S. to the good old days of 1850. The anarchists will be portrayed by the right as subversive terrorists bent on destroying mom, apple pie and what remains of Chevrolet. Sitting in the middle will be the same smug ruling class that benefits no matter which group cracks more heads on April 15th.

Hey knuckleheads, wake up. Your enemy isn't the group across the street, it's the one residing in Washington D.C.