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Why Are People Bad Friends?

Outside of romantic love, friendship is the most important aspect of a person's life.  To men, friendship is as important as erotic love - which is why a wife's first goal is separating her husband from his lifelong friends.  Yet we don't spend much time thinking about friendship.  We think about what we want from people, but that's not thinking about friendship.  That's thinking about strategy and manipulation.

Friendship is mentioned 198 times in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, but people are more likely to quote from The Prince.  If you want to understand why people are bad friends, Google this should-be-famous quotation: "For friendship is a partnership, and as a man is to himself, so is he to his friend."  No one seems to be interested in that type of thinking.  Now start Googling any of Machiavelli's quotes.

Mark Bennett, while noting a useful heuristic for friendship, asks the wrong question of friendship, namely: "Who are your friends?"  He continues:

A true friend is one who, when he finds out you are in trouble, will drop what he is doing and do what he can to help. Want to know how many genuine friends you have? Get charged with a serious crime.Who tracks you down when you’ve disappeared into the maw of the criminal justice system? Who visits you in jail, just to talk? Who puts money in your inmate trust account? Who bails you out? Who picks you up in the middle of the night when you get out? Who returns your lawyer’s calls? Who drags you to rehab? Who gives you rides to and from court? Who keeps you company when you’re there?

The better question is: "To whom am I a friend?"  It's a subtle shift in perspective, but it's an important shift to make.  Here is Aristotle:

It is found difficult, too, to rejoice and to grieve in an intimate way with many people, for it may likely happen that one has at once to be happy with one friend and to mourn with another. Presumably, then,it is well not to seek to have as many friends as possible, but as many as are enough for the purpose of living together; for it would seem actually impossible to be a great friend to many people. This is why one cannot love several people; love is ideally a sort of excess of friendship, and that canonly be felt towards one person; therefore great friendship too can only be felt towards a few people.

To be a great friend puts the action where it should be - on ourselves.  When's the last time you go out of bed at 3 in the morning to bail a friend out of jail?  Loan a friend a grand?  Or to jump start a car?  Or to listen to someone bitch about stupid shit?

Friendship requires elevating the other person - your friends.  When I have money, my friends have money.  It's really that simple.  Friendship is a sort of voluntary socialism.  Of course there will always be the occasional mooch, but one can get an STD from having sex.  Does this mean you stop having sex  - or that you start being careful?  So, too, it is with friends.

Who are you a friend to?  If you wouldn't come pick me up at 3 a.m. when my car broke down, you're not my friend.  Why waste time and energy pretending we're friends?  We're not, and that's cool, and friendship is so great that you should devote your time to someone who is actually a friend.

Many things in life are best understood in Eastern sayings.  He who doesn't worry about who his friends are, has the most rewarding friendships.  He who worries about his friends is he who has no friends.

To our Western minds, this seems contradictory.  Someone could "refute" the aphorisms by nothing that friendships must be nurtured like a garden.  Such "refutations" miss the truth.  The seeds of friendship must be planted in yourself.

When you start thinking about what you can do for other people, something contradictory happens: People start thinking about what they can do for you.  There are varies theories explaining this.  Perhaps we've been cultural conditioned to follow the reciprocity principle.  Perhaps the wrongly-attacked Law of Attraction is true: Goodness attracts goodness, and so your good deeds are rewarded by good deeds.

We are not what we say or think, but are what we do.  We become what we do.  If we do good things for people, even if we begin as sons of bitches, we change.  This change leads to the Sun Effect: We become the type of person others are draw to.

One need not prove the cause to note the effect.  The person who is a friend to others has friends.

And so if it's true that, "True friends are few and far between," there is no mystery.

Friends are hard to find because you are not a friend.

People Who Don't Need to Diet, Diet

Going out for business lunches is always a ridiculous experience.  "Why are you eating like that?" - where that refers to something other than french fries and fatty meat.  "I'm on a diet."  "You don't look like you need to be on a diet."  Well, no shit, right?  Isn't that sort of the point?

Imagine how stupid that conversation would be in any other context.

"What are you doing today?"  "Working."  "Why are you working?  You already have a job."  Completely moronic, and yet when you change the context to dieting, suddenly no one can understand why a guy who looks fit is eating lean meat and vegetables.

Dave Tate captures the moment and sentiment:

You ever go out with a bunch of people for dinner when you're dieting? Isn't that a fucked up situation?

Let's say you're at a table with seven people and everyone's ordering their food. You're at the end so you're ordering last. They're getting ribs, chicken strips, spaghetti, and whatever. No one in the group cares what they're ordering. The conversation stays the same. Then it comes to you and your first question is, "How do you prepare your chicken breasts?"

People start looking at you.

Then you order two plain chicken breasts with a side of broccoli with no butter or seasoning. The waiter writes it down and off he goes to the kitchen. Now everyone's looking at you like you're a freak.

They didn't care that your other friend was eating ribs. They didn't say shit when the guy ordered his chicken strips. So how is your meal selection any different? It blows my mind.

If you ordered something that was complete shit, no one would say anything. But because you ordered something to help you achieve a goal, it's a problem. And now for the next ten minutes you're having that stupid fucking conversation.

"It's so easy for you to lose weight," they say. "I can't do it."

And you're thinking, really? Here I am at Outback Steakhouse ordering two plain chicken breasts and broccoli – which is gonna cost me 40 bucks by the way – and it's easy? This is something I want to do? You think I want to sit here and watch you fuckers eat wings and ribs? I'm here for your company, not to give you dieting tips you're not gonna listen to.

Predicting America's Future

There is much to disagree with about this set of predictions.  It's certainly a plausible hypothesis, though:

Okay, listen up. Here's how the real estate market and the economy will unfold after 2010:

1. The housing market continues to crumble. More sob stories about fucked boomers who can't sell. The real estate industry keeps pumping out happy bullshit. The republican and dems who defend the financial industry face angry crowds. The too big to fail bankers pass more laws to rig the system. A cash economy starts bypassing the banking system. This prompts tougher laws that turn average citizen into a criminal for not feeding the financial beast. The trust of the system that has marked the last century starts to wither. Anti-government extremism grows like crazy. This causes a corrosion of society unlike anything we've ever seen before.

2. The retail economy starts to crumble. Who needs a flat screen TV or new game system when you don't have job? Malls die even more than they are doing now. Large spaces of malls and big box stores are converted into government use buildings or demolished. Look for more flea markets in others. "Shop till you drop" seems as distant in time as "Remember the Maine."

3. The garage sale/Ebay economy takes off. Boomers sell off their stuff. Want a luxury car? A boat? A fancy furniture set? They can be yours if the price is right and you have a truck to haul it off. We have to much stuff. Who really needs anything new? Because this economy is off the books, so is enforcement. Disputes once settled in small claims court are settled with baseball bats. This actually is a plus for society. Scammers and petty criminals are killed off or have their bones broken. People aren't working to keep up with the Joneses anymore. A lot of the pressures of the granite counter/SUV culture are gone. As the boomers die off, their stupidity becomes even more apparent. They become a laughable footnote in history. Thanks for the music though!

4. Gas prices drop. Jobless people don't drive. People fearful for their jobs drive smaller cars. The SUV economy dies. It's used minivans now. People are forced live in denser areas. Fringes of the suburbs start to turn into weed-covered wastelands. 

5. You have boomers who can't afford to move and Gen Yers who can't find jobs. They become roomies! You have kids living with their parents well into their 30s. Boomers forgets about those retirements to Tuscany. Fun times are had around the dinner table. Domestic violence between generations. Shut your pie-hole gramps or I'll beat you again with this HDMI cable!

6. Story after story of boomers dying due to lack of decent medical care. Can't afford your insulin or heart medicine? Tuff shit! Buh bye! Boomers who laughed at Obamacare are now all for massive government health care. Gen Xers and Yers join them. Too bad we spent the money for a public options on wars!

7. Wal-mart even takes a hit. They have to close stores in hard hit small towns, this kills small towns ever further. Whole parts of rural areas are abandoned like detroit.

8. Crime invades once rich suburbs. Crimes like drug dealing and meth production now become part of the lost middle class. Connor and Dakota are the new market for drug dealing thugs. Clueless boomer parents are suddenly dealing with drive bys and the rough end of all those "get tuff on crime" laws they voted for. Got meth in your house? It's not yours? Tuff shit! You're going to jail! Now you know what inner city blacks have been dealing with for years. Assume the position Milton!

9. The US military withers. Sorry folks! No tax money? No mean green war machine. Red states take it hardest. How's that "government off our backs" talk workin' for ya? Hypocrite republicans scramble to get their share of an ever shrinking amount of government pork.

10. The highway system starts breaking down in parts. Want to drive through the USA? You might have to go off road on to gravel roads. Some sections might become undrivable and cut off from the rest of the nation. I hope you have GPS and plenty of gas. Break down in the middle of nowhere? Meet the locals! Squeeeal like a pig!

11. Crumbling infrastructure kills large chunks of the retail economy further. Even grocery stores have trouble keep stock on the shelves. Want fresh milk? We're out! Go get your own cow. Local farms take up the slack. This actually creates jobs.

12. Colleges start to close because there is no one who believes a degree gets you anywhere anymore. Even the rich don't believe in colleges anymore. They hire private tutors. American learning goes backwards. Bluto from Animal House looks like a Rhodes scholar. At least he knew there was a Pearl Harbor and a World War II. Some kids can't even speak one language. They grunt and snarl like animals and watch TV thinking TV shows are real. 

13. Cops and local groups of armed citizens go to war with each other. Interesting times in some HOA controlled neighborhoods become their own city states.

In the end, the United States degrades into several ungovernable sections. Civilization survives, but on a much more humble level. People rebuild, but the days of hyperconsumption and globalization are over.

News v. Knowledge

During college I did something that I wish I had the will to do today - I did not follow any of the news.  Any of it.  When a classmate told me that the World Trade Center buildings had been hit, I assumed it was eco-terrorists.  When he said, "Bin Laden," I had no response.  I didn't know whom Bin Laden was.  When a girl told me I looked sort of like George W. Bush, I felt nothing.  "Who's that?"

People were shocked.  How could I not follow current events?  Yet when I asked these people about Aristotle, their brains were blank pieces of paper.

Back then I did not study the news: I studied knowledge.  There is a difference.

The "news" is simply a collection of transitory events that corporations and government want us to pay attention to.  Did you know that the Ground Zero Mosque isn't really a mosque?  It's a large community center - basically a YMCA for Muslims.  It's also several city blocks (have you been to New York?) away from Ground Zero.  Most Americans would have to drive from Ground Zero to the community center.

The truth about the Ground Zero Mosque is boring.  Who cares?  Knowing the truth would lead to a decrease in ratings.  Thus, the media must ensure that you care.  You must care today, because ads must be shown today.  You must care tomorrow, because tomorrow ads must be shown.

And so news is manufactured.  And yet even legitimate stories have the same thing in common - people.  And themes.  People don't change, only cultural issues.  Fifty years ago Negroes and whites couldn't interbreed.  Today homosexuals can't marry.  Black and gay are the same - both are different from the moral majority.  Yet a person who understands Jim Crow understands Prop. 8.

Once a person mastered knowledge, he has mastered the news.  He can predict the news.

Let's look at, for example, the Iraq War.  How did I know this would be a boondoggle?  Simple.  I understood that America is a corporatacy, as it has been since General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex.

If you understand that Vietnam-style wars are profitable, then you can predict that the War in Iraq would be long, drawn-out, and aimless.  Why?  Because the best way to profit from a war is to continue fighting the war.

You simply need not read newspapers or listen to analysts describe the goals and objectives of the invasion.  You already know how the war will be waged.  You know the end before it begins.

Moreover, if you understand that society is run by a group of elites who conspire with each other to enrich each other, then you understand that even good-faith government action will fail.  The elite are not the most talented.  They are not, as the famous 1972 book brilliantly explains, the best and the brightest.  They are, like George W. Bush, morons who'd be bankrupt had they not been born into the right families.

The elite do not select for talent, or even for ideological agreement.  They select for power and status.

Who is Rush Limbaugh more likely to invite to his fourth wedding - a notorious-but-rich homosexual, or you?  Limbaugh paid Elton John $1 million to attend Limbaugh's wedding.

Yet people Limbaugh would have security escort from him home, believe that "Rush is right," and that Bill O'Reilly is "looking out for you."

These people are not your friends.  They do not care about you.  They govern and pontificate to enrich their friends and expand their own wallets.

That has how it has always been.

Do you really think the Civil War was about "state's rights"?  The bumble-fuck bullet catchers who could never afford slaves may have believed it.  But they were just catching bullets for the rich slave owners.  The bullet catchers were sold a lie to enrich a oligopoly.

Today's newspaper lines tomorrow's bird case.  Knowledge will last your entire life - and unlike the news, will create new and deeper associations.

If a person tuned out from the news for a month, instead reading books that have survived for over 100 years, the person would never need to watch another news program again.  The tune remain the same, even if the words change.


A pop song that has been slowed down by 800%, this is perhaps the most beautiful music I've heard. Probably this is what music in outer space sounds like.

J. BIEBZ - U SMILE 800% SLOWER by Shamantis

Because we don't move through time 800% more slowly, this is the original song:

The song is the same. The music is the same. The only difference is our temporal perception of the song. Although a computer slowed down the song, if we traveled closer to the speed of light, the first version would be how we experienced the reality of the song.

How much of what we consider "reality" is an illusion?

Adolescence Extends to 40

Scott Greenfield links to and comments on a New York Times article describing the unwillingness of young people to "grow up."

Adolescence is extending well into a person's 30s.  It's not hard to explain while: Lifespans are increasing.

Any Fantasy literature fan would tell you that elves are the most playful species because of their long life cycles.  If you're going to live to be 1,000, why "grow up" at 50?

When life expectancy was 30, 13-year olds were serious business.

There's a very good chance that people in my generation (who don't eat themselves to death) will live to be 100.

And so what we're observing isn't a nefarious cultural trend: It's simply a rational response to changing longevity.  Thirty is not middle-aged, and for some might not even be quarter-aged.  Relatively speaking, a 30-year-old still is a child.

And for another take on the issue, see here:

"They're going to have to grow up eventually!" First, I hear contempt in your voice, like you can't wait till they have to suffer. That's narcissism. Get that out of you, why should you be happy that they're going to suffer?

What is so great about adulthood that you'd wish it onto someone?

Free Will

I believe it was William James who said something like: "I do not believe that free will exists.  You will be better off living your life as it does exist."  In other words, live as if you have a choice.

Some would say that this is living in a fool's paradise, but there isn't any proof that free will does or does not exist.  Plus, anyone who believes in today's science would be wise to read old science textbooks.  Why do you think that we - unlike every other generation of our ancestors - has it all figured out?  Why the hubris?  Do you realize that every prior generation of humans believed that their science was The Answer.  And yet...

And even getting into the free will argument is amusing, because if there is no free well, then I cannot help but believe in it.  So why are you trying to persuade me that free will doesn't exist?  Well, that's because you cannot help yourself, since you don't have the will to resist trying to persuade.

We can play these games all day, which is why I've moved on to more amusing hobbies.  I brought the issue up, however, because Williams James has been vindicated:

Do philosophic views affect job performance? The authors found that possessing a belief in free will predicted better career attitudes and actual job performance. The effect of free will beliefs on job performance indicators were over and above well-established predictors such as conscientiousness, locus of control, and Protestant work ethic.

Many things are like this.  I warned a friend against the existential philosophers.  I told her, "Existentialism is poison to your soul.  They are right - that existence is futile and meaningless.  Yet once you internalize the utter futility of existence, you're going to feel much worse.  Unless you're going to kill yourself, you are going to be alive.  And therefore one should live as if life is worth living."

Or kill yourself.  Indeed, the only existential question is: Why shouldn't I kill myself?  If you're going to live, live as if...

Some would say this is the elevation of feelings over truth, but that would demonstrate a failure to understand that feelings can lead to truth.  Feel as if today mean something, and the truth will be that today means something.  Feel as if today is shitty and pointless, and that, too, will become your day's truth.


Lately I've been buying flowers for my apartment. It adds color and aroma to the living room.

I bought a bouquet where only half of the flowers had blossomed. I added water, and left the curtain open during the afternoon. As expected, all of the flowers soon blossomed. Yet I noticed something else.

All of flowers were leaning towards the window. Even the fully blossomed ones were reaching out to the sun.

The sun, by simply being the sun, gets the flowers.

Department of Justice Sells Licenses to Trade with Iran

Today the United States Department of Justice issued a press release praising its work in the non-prosecution of Barclay's:

Barclays Bank PLC, a United Kingdom corporation headquartered in London, has agreed to forfeit $298 million to the United States and to the New York County District Attorney’s Office in connection with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) ....

"Banks like Barclays will not be permitted to disregard sanctions put in place by the U.S. government," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division. "Not just once, but numerous times over more than a decade, Barclays stripped vital information out of payment messages that would have alerted U.S. financial institutions about the true origins of the funds.

For over ten years, Barclay's broke the law.  Thus, the total fine averages out to approximately $30 million a year.

I will give anyone here 10-to-1 odds that Barclay's earned more than $30 million in profits during each year.  Would anyone want the other side of the bet?

Money laundering his highly profitable, and thus a $30 million a year licensing fee is a bargain.  Barclay's made billions of dollars by trading with and laundering money for terrorist nations.

Although Barclay's bankers broke the law for over 10 years, no individual bankers were indicted. That's odd, when one considers how Barclay's laundered money for terrorists:

Barclays routed U.S. dollar payments through an internal Barclays account to hide the payments’ connection to OFAC-sanctioned entities and amended and reformatted the U.S dollar payment messages to remove information identifying the sanctioned entities.

Barclay's did no such thing.  People did.  Humans stripped out information, in order to earn out-sized bonuses.

A corporation is an entity that encourages commerce by limiting the liability of shareholders.  A corporation does not act.  People do.  Who personally "routed U.S. dollar payments," and "amended and reformatted the U.S dollar payment messages to remove information identifying the sanctioned entities."  It had to be a person, right?

At the settlement conference, Judge Emmett Sullivan - the same judge who took DOJ to task for its prosecutorial misconduct in the Ted Stevens prosecution - demanded answers.  How did DOJ respond?

Justice lawyer Kevin Gerrity said Barclays’ senior management was unaware of the criminal conduct at the lower level of the bank. The Justice Department, Gerrity said, conducted its own interviews and looked to hold individuals accountable. The government was unable to identify a person for prosecution, he said.

Does anyone really believe this?  Barclay's is a bank.  Banks exist to to count and keep track of money.  That is what they do.  It is almost impossible to embezzle money from within a bank, because bankers are so capable of keeping track of who had the money last.

The Barclay's settlement is a disgrace.  The Department of Justice has yet again told bankers that they may violate the law - as long as the bankers will graciously allow shareholders to pay a fine years later.

And if the banks never get caught, everyone wins - especially DOJ lawyers who move on to private practice, brining them them Barclay's as a client.