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November 2, 2008

Mr Obama, Mr Kennedy, and Mr Shandy

I was recently delighted to read -- okay, to skim -- a six-thousand-word essay by two savants named James Blight and Janet Lang, purporting to answer the question, "does it matter who's president?"

Naturally, B&L come down on the affirmative. Their argument rests on John F Kennedy -- not, however, the actual, historical, indicative-mood John F Kennedy, he of the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam, but rather, what our authors call "Virtual JFK": the subjunctive-mood JFK whom we "would" have seen if the real JFK had lived past 1963.

According to B&L, the subjunctive JFK is a very different and much nicer fella -- not at all like the dismal indicative one whom prosaic history delineates. And B&L feel quite confident they can chart with precision the parallel-world movements of their vastly improved ectoplasmic construct (italics mine):

  • If President Kennedy had lived and been reelected in 1964, we believe he would not have Americanized the conflict in South Vietnam.
  • We believe JFK would have continued the withdrawal of U.S. advisers from Vietnam that had begun during his presidency.
  • Kennedy’s successor, Johnson, by deciding to Americanize the Vietnam War, reversed the process JFK had set in motion.
  • Thus, we believe the identity of the occupant of the White House made all the difference: between a conflict that would have become little more than a footnote in U.S. history if Kennedy had lived, and the catastrophe we now know as the American war in Vietnam and in which millions perished.
B&L's technique for predicting (postdicting? transdicting? phantasmadicting?) the behavior of nonexistent persons -- which possesses, they claim, "something approximating scientific rigor" -- is described by them at too much length, and with too little specificity, to reproduce here. It's worth a look, though, if you're a connoisseur of intellectual comedy, and have time on your hands.

You can see where this is all going, right?

What about the 2008 U.S. presidential election? In matters of war and peace, what do we want the bottom line of our next president to be? Should it be to avoid war, and the unintended escalation of war? Or do we want the next president’s bottom line in foreign affairs to be the avoidance of defeat (or retreat, or conciliation, or something less than unconditional victory)? How do the two presidential candidates fit into this historical context? Can the JFK-LBJ-Vietnam quasi-“experiment” help us decide whom we want to elect as president this year?

... Does anyone believe that Al Gore, if he had assumed office on Jan. 20, 2001, would have invaded and occupied Iraq? Is it conceivable that anyone other than George W. Bush would have done so?

Does anyone believe you add up a lot of contrary-to-fact conditionals and arrive at a certainty? 0 + 0 + 0 + ... + 0 = 1!

The question is rhetorical. Of course there are people who believe this. They are called liberals. It's like the old Borscht Belt joke -- we lose a little on each sale, but we make up for it in volume.

The locus classicus for this kind of reasoning is Mr Shandy pere's theory of the auxiliary verbs, which will be found in full below the jump:

Continue reading "Mr Obama, Mr Kennedy, and Mr Shandy" »

November 3, 2008

What does Joe want, anyway?

So is this guy gonna cost the Dembos the White House?

Doesn't seem likely at this point, though he had 'em worried for a few minutes there. He is the Achilles heel -- 'cause Barack and company ain't earned his vote.

First off: all you higher-edified secular pharisees -- it's too easy to call it race. There's more to Joe and Co's credo than just "white guys -- real white guys -- don't vote black." There's also:

  • We don't ask for handouts.
  • We don't candy-ass to college types, and report cards and guilt trips.
  • No matter what grandpa did during the New Deal, we don't vote for nanny party rainbow symbols.
  • We don't vote for "I feel your pain" rubber-faced condesecenders.
  • We don't vote for safety nets. We think safety is sissy.
  • We don't, don't... Well, we just don't.
He's the American underground man, stepping out of a crowd, popping up out of his knothole for the regulation 15 minutes, and us pale-souled merit elite can only grind our teeth. 'Cause face up to it -- we don't get, that is, really get, where the white joes are comin' from -- and neither does Barack.

Here's the pivot point: the Joes know it's shit when these Dembos say where the Joes might be goin' to -- "if ya just vote for me!"

The Joes don't believe it, and why should they? It's been 60 years since there was any real meat ridin' on them tossed jaw bones.

It's a nasty world out there. So you dump the fat bag of a wife and you shave your head. You work out. Keep your crib spare, and work off the books. You turn yourself from Mr Paunch Baldy to -- what? Somethin' hahhhhd, somethin' ripped and stripped, somethin' ready for the great American midnight

Licenses are for hall monitors, taxable income for pocket-protected paper-swimmers, marriage for pussy suckers... bada bing bada bang bada boom.

Okay, you say: if so -- if it's rebel yell reaction, the rage of Satan's angels on day four -- then why that civic lesson Wurtzy gave, once the press got him completely cornered, and why the humble-mubble act?

Class camo plus shame, I suspect. Put a microphone in somebody's, anybody's face, and they're more than likely to say what they think is the expected thing. But try catching him after hours, after a good round of imbibes, and then ask him about the men's room, here in the real America.

Good folks of the Near Left: these kulaks are the prime result of 60 years of jackass farts in the face. Sure, race matters, just like it did in 1936. But in 1936 FDR had earned Joe's vote, and Barack -- better yet, Barack's party -- haven't.

Hell, even the national Gibraltar of our New Deal legacy, the Social Security system, becomes a sham if enough gas gets blown up your nostrils, and enough payday taxes extracted.

"Sorry ... Sorry... We gotta do this. Sorry, but hey, this is gonna hurt me more then it's gonna hurt you... Joe."

November 4, 2008

A fresh face

Election day. Record turnouts, or so they say, and I can well believe it. Everybody I encountered today seemed very jazzed-up.

Seen from a remote, intergalactic distance -- my preferred viewpoint, when I can manage it -- this makes a kind of sense. The country's in a desperate state (thanks to tireless bipartisan efforts over the last, what, eight, sixteen, twenty-eight, forty years?). People are worried, frustrated, keenly aware that the pooch can't take much more screwing.

How fortunate for our rulers that this hundred-year flood of discontent has, once again, been safely channeled into the storm-sewer of the Democratic Party. No structures are in danger. Traffic is moving normally. Stay tuned for the stock market report at 6.

* * * * *

I broke my usual rule, yesterday, and talked about the election with an old friend of mine. She's an old enough friend that she knows my views and, though she doesn't share them, she's kind enough to make allowances. But still. It makes her a little evasive and squirrelly on the rare occasions when the subject does come up.

So -- I asked -- explain it to me. Why Obama? I just don't hear the music. Why bother? Enlighten me. Seriously.

(I meant it, too. Seriously).

Her response, after some hemming and hawing:

-- You know, it's time for a new face. Not another tired, sclerotic old white guy. A woman woulda been nice too, but this is really, like, a huge step.

This got me thinking. A fresh face. Let's give our blood-spattered, cannibal-toothed old Empire a more attractive spokesperson.

My friend is a good-hearted individual and she doesn't approve of imperial blood-spattering and flesh-eating; and she's well-informed enough to know that our empire has done its share of these disagreeable practices. I don't think she really, rationally expects the empire under Obama to be that different.

But I suspect that on some half-conscious level she thinks, or hopes, that Dr Jekyll will soak into the fibers of Mr Hyde and transform him into a better global citizen.

It will be nice if she's vindicated. But the original story didn't turn out that way; and I've always felt that Stevenson is a very underrated writer.

The white Negro

From one of my lefty mailing lists -- let's call the writer Holtkamp:

I also have to say standing in a long line... really brought home to me what the possibility of having a black pres means to black Americans. I know many of them will be disappointed - and I also suspect many of them know pretty well what's likely to happen. (And it will freak the hell out of a lot of white racists.) Who am I, white boy leftist, to dismiss all that?
This guilty-conscience thing weighs like a nightmare on the brain of white American lefties.

It's more than understandable that a lot of black folks would be excited about the prospect of a brother in the White House. Rooting for the home team is human nature.

But if the team in question is not your home team... then you have the luxury of asking yourself: what is this team going to do for me? For the world?

In the Obama case, there's precious little reason to think that the world and I -- and Holtkamp -- are going to be much better off.

Holtkamp, I happen to know, is no fool. So why is he deploying this thoroughly stupid argument?

I suspect it's just apotropaic: Holtkamp knows he's done wrong, and wants to frighten away the harpies of criticism. So... wave the Bloody Shirt!

* * * * *

I just popped into the room where the rest of my family are watching the election returns -- as if it were Oscar Night. Barry O is unsurprisingly in the lead. I can look forward to four years -- maybe eight! -- of twitting Holtkamp about his cave-in.

Hey, we take the pleasures we can get.

Wild in the streets

All the yelling and horn-honking is keeping me awake. I haven't heard anything like it since I happened to be in St Louis in 1964, when the Cardinals won the World Series. Of course there are also five or six police helicopters hovering overhead, just to make sure that the high spirits don't get out of hand. I don't think the cops really have anything to worry about -- but they do love the flak-jacket theater of it all, don't they?

Will there be fewer police helicopters under Obama? Personally, I doubt it.

One does wonder just what all my noisy, happy, law-abiding neighbors are expecting. Wrong question, probably. They're mostly just glad that the Other Team has been vanquished, and that someone they think is a person like themselves is going to take over.

I do feel a bit pleased, actually. Of course I would have been pleased either way. But the "I told you so's" will have a much sharper, sourer taste, after all this sweet euphoria.

November 5, 2008

More dribble from Codepink...

... passed along by Mike Flugennock, our resident Codepink monitor:
CODEPINK: Women for Peace

November 5, 2008

Dear Friend,

"Today we become the nation we dream of being, a place where everyone can rise to the level of their true worth, with no false barriers. Today truth triumphs over lies, hope over fear. Today we become the people who can do the great things that are needed to restore health and balance and abundance for all. Today we take the dream and make it real." --Starhawk

An Obama victory is a victory for the peace movement. It sends a message to the political establishment that being against war is the winning position. War is SO Over.

War is so over, huh? Wanna bet?





But, seriously, folks...I'm giving it two years -- two years for President Timberlake to re-invade Afghanistan, invade Pakistan, invade Syria, nuke Iran, re-instate the draft (oh, I'm sorry, that should be "national service"), and create an American Stasi (anyone catch that footage on YouTube?). Also, in the context of the mindless jubilation of the Pwogwessives, I'm thinking two years will be enough time for the crack to wear off. I plan to continue to eschew the "rock" myself in favor of catching up on all the binge drinking I missed out on in college.

Oh, and btw, that bit about the chick on MSNBC is absolutely true, although she didn't mention exactly which country Oprah would be US Ambassador to (I'm guessing South Africa, as Queen Oprah already has her Indoctrination Institute For Girls there). I didn't get to bed until 3:00 this morning and, despite padding my head in several squishy pillows to muffle the jabbering of my wife's TV as usual, I couldn't get to sleep at all and, rising at about 3:30ish, I was just in time to hear some frosted tart on MSNBC mentioning the chances of an ambassadorship for everybody's favorite filthy-rich self-aggrandizing self-appointed authority on modern literature and talk-show queen, in the context of "The Oprah Effect" (the anchorette's exact words).

On the upside, however, there's that little-mentioned facet of The Oprah Effect in which a couple of recent latest greatest must-read books she's touted on her show turned out to be a complete hoax (James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces") and a complete boatload of vacuous bullshit ("The Secret"). In a couple of years, I suspect we'll find out which one of these President Timberlake will turn out to be.

And speaking of the Audacity Of Hope, I was hoping that however this "election" turned out, we'd finally see the end of all this Phony Obamamania. Sadly, though, from the sound of the wife's electric babbling shitbox, it's going to get exponentially worse from here on in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get started on my drinking, if I expect to be comfortably numb by lunchtime.

Nunc dimittis

Couldn't have asked for a better Guy Fawkes Day present: Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff in the Obama administration. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.

Rahm is an old favorite here at SMBIVA: not just a Clinton hatchet man, but an actual Israeli, to all intents and purposes, whether or not the guy has a Promised Land passport in a hidey-hole somewhere.

Rahm's dad was in the Irgun, Rahm himself flew back to the Heimat during the first Iraq war and served in the Israeli army (as some kind of unenlisted civilian volunteer, he says), and he was and has remained a stalwart promoter of the second and still ongoing Iraq war.

Don't look for any constructive developments anywhere between the Euphrates and the Nile with this ghoul roaming the White House corridors.

Nice to see that Mr Change And Hope is living up -- very quickly indeed -- to our low expectations of him.

November 7, 2008

Obie to labor: See you in 2012

From the Wall Street Journal:

Next Administration Shows Signs It Will Seek Middle Ground With Business on Thorny Issues

WASHINGTON -- The weak economy, congressional races that empowered moderates and President-elect Barack Obama's choice of business-friendly advisers suggest Democrats will go slow on controversial labor and regulatory issues.

A bill that would make it easier for unions to organize workers, efforts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, and a slew of contemplated taxes will likely take a back seat....

Later this month, Congress is expected to start crafting an economic-stimulus bill.... Some Democrats say the bill could include incentives for alternative-energy initiatives. But anything more controversial -- such as a provision allowing bankruptcy judges to lower mortgage payments for homeowners -- likely won't be included.

That proposal and measures making it easier for people facing bankruptcy to gain protection from creditors are favored by many Democrats, including Mr. Obama. But such proposals could be difficult to pass in their current form without a protracted fight that could tarnish the new administration.

As if Rahm weren't bad enough...

... I hadn't realized that another notorious vampire from the Israel Lobby's well-stocked crypt, Dennis Ross, is in the Obamamix too:

[Obama campaign adviser] Ross's record includes supporting the pro-Iraq War advocacy campaigns of the Project for the New American Century and serving as a consultant to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a bastion of Israel-centric policy thinking in Washington.

Ross... reportedly has told friends and foreign officials that he hopes to nab a very senior post in an Obama administration, one that at least covers Iran policy, if not the entire Greater Middle East.

Ross's efforts [under Clinton] to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were a failure. In his writings, Ross has emphasized Palestinian intransigence....

Other participants in those negotiations have pointed their finger at Ross. In their book Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace, Daniel Kurtzer, who is also an Obama adviser, and Scott Lasensky cite a number of anonymous officials who were critical of Ross.

Said one Arab negotiator, "The perception always was that Dennis [Ross] started from the Israeli bottom line, that he listened to what Israel wanted and then tried to sell it to the Arabs ... He was never looked at ... as a trusted world figure or as an honest broker."

Likewise, a former Clinton administration representative told the authors, "By the end, the Palestinians didn't fully trust Dennis ... [T]hey thought he was tilted too much towards the Israelis."

Ross got his start in high-level policy-making working under Paul Wolfowitz in the Pentagon during the Carter administration....

When Wolfowitz was tapped to head the State Department's Policy Planning Staff after the election of Ronald Reagan, he included Ross in his team....

[Ross] supported the invasion of Iraq and, during the run-up to the 2008 presidential elections, repeatedly teamed up with writers from groups like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to craft hard-line policies toward Iran.

Ross also helped produce the 2008 report "Meeting the Challenge: US Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development," [which] argues that "Cold War deterrence" is not persuasive in the context of Iran's program, due in large measure to the "Islamic Republic's extremist ideology." Even a peaceful indigenous uranium enrichment program would place the entire Middle East region "under a cloud of ambiguity given uncertain Iranian capacities and intentions."

Among the report's proposals are undertaking a major military build-up in the Gulf, ... setting a pre-determined compliance deadline and be prepared to apply increasingly harsh repercussions if these are not met, leading ultimately to US military strikes.

The new FDR, or...

... better yet: Howard Zinn thinks Obie might be the new Lincoln:

Those of us on the Left who have criticized Obama, as I have, for his failure to take bold positions on the war and on the economy, must join the exultation of those Americans, black and white, who shouted and wept Tuesday night as they were informed that Barack Obama had won the presidential election. It is truly a historic moment, that a black man will lead our country. The enthusiasm of the young, black and white, the hopes of their elders, cannot simply be ignored.
"Must join"? "Cannot be ignored?" Oh Howard -- just watch me.
There was a similar moment a century and a half ago, in the year 1860, when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Lincoln had been criticized harshly by the abolitionists, the anti-slavery movement, for his failure to take a clear, bold stand against slavery, for acting as a shrewd politician rather than a moral force. But when he was elected, the abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips, who had been an angry critic of Lincoln's cautiousness, recognized the possibility in his election....

What kind of change is needed? First, to announce the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to renounce the Bush doctrine of preventive war as well as the Carter doctrine of military action to control Mideast oil. He needs to radically change the direction of U.S. foreign policy, declare that the U.S. is a peace loving country which will not intervene militarily in other parts of the world, and start dismantling the military bases we have in over a hundred countries. Also he must begin meeting with Medvedev, the Russian leader, to reach agreement on the dismantling of the nuclear arsenals, in keeping with the Nuclear Anti-Proliferation Treaty.

Presumably Obie "must" do all these things in the same sense that I "must" join in the euphoria over his election.

Howard is a historian, a well-informed and well-read individual. What congeries of circumstances is going to force Obie to do all of Howard's 'musts'? Lincoln's hand was forced -- the slaveowners attacked Fort Sumter. To be sure, Lincoln rose to the occasion, most admirably (as did FDR, on a somewhat less world-historical scale). Obie, considered as an individual, is a pretty remarkable human specimen, and he might rise to an occasion too.

But somebody needs to give him one. A guy who's been tiptoeing through the tulips with Rahm Emmanuel and Dennis Ross, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin, is hardly likely to kick over the traces, sua sponte, and "withdraw... our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, ... renounce the Bush doctrine of preventive war as well as the Carter doctrine of military action to control Mideast oil," and all that other good stuff on Howard's Christmas list.

November 8, 2008

Getting better all the time

I'm really enjoying myself these last few days. Here's the latest: Obama will apparently be continuing Clinton's and Bush's provocative forward policy with respect to Russia -- a Western imperial tic (as I've observed here repeatedly) with a 150-year history.

From Aunty Beeb:

US President-elect Barack Obama will go ahead with plans to build part of a controversial missile defence system on Polish soil, Poland has announced.

President Lech Kaczynski's office said the pledge was made during a telephone conversation between the two men.

Russia opposes the US plans, and early this week said it planned to deploy missiles on Poland's border and electronically jam the US system.

This is the first signal that Mr Obama plans to continue George Bush's policy.

During the US election campaign, Mr Obama said he wanted to review the system to build a missile defence system in central Europe to ensure it would be effective and would not target Russia.

November 10, 2008

Peace, shmeese

The mental Babylonian captivity of many Lefties by Obamadulation continues, with richly humorous results.

One of my lefty mailing lists has recently been burning up the fiber with a debate about just how bad Rahm Emanuel is. Predictably, the Obamaphiles are saying he ain't so bad -- one earnest fellow even went so far as to say that Rahm's views, far from being Likudnik, were closer to Peace Now.

Turns out there may be more to this than I would have thought, though not in quite the same sense that Rahmbama's defense attorney intended. Here's a snippet from Peace Now's position paper on the infamous Israeli apartheid wall:

At the present stage in the conflict the fence is a necessity, however Peace Now believes that this fence should run only or as close as possible along the Green Line....
Disappointing -- Israeli liberals, it seems, can be as feeble, wishy-washy, and yes-butnik as American ones.

November 11, 2008

Obama: Soft on welfare queens

-- No, no, not those welfare queens, a different bunch:

President-elect Barack Obama yesterday urged President Bush to support immediate aid for struggling automakers and back a new stimulus package, even as congressional Democrats began drafting legislation to give the Detroit automakers quick access to $25 billion by adding them to the Treasury Department's $700 billion economic rescue program.
I've always been very amused by the contrast between the self-representation of business folk, and the actuality. Some years ago, a couple of other propellerheads and I had quite a good idea -- an idea which some other propellerheads ended up making a lot of money with -- and we went with our begging bowls to various venture-capital folk (this was when that unamiable species was as thick on the ground as bison were, before the railroads came). The first question the VC guys asked (and they were guys, every time, so cool your jets there, Ms Steinem) was this: "What are the barriers to entry for potential competitors?" The Grail they were seeking, you see, was quite simply monopoly. Competition is for losers.

Representation: risk-taking; self-made; beholden to no one; bold; unafraid of possible failure; eager to compete on the level playing field, may the best man win, et cetera, et cetera -- one has heard all this piffle a million times, right?

Reality: they hate competition worse than cholera, and when they fail, they run to Uncle for a handout.

And Uncle, with both halves of his bicameral, bipartisan brain, feels their pain.


From the Washington Post:

President-elect Barack Obama ... intends to renew the U.S. commitment to the hunt for Osama bin Laden [and] intends to move ahead with a planned deployment of thousands of additional U.S. troops [in Afghanistan, which is] likely to be welcomed by a number of senior U.S. military officials who advocate a more aggressive... course for the deteriorating conflict.

...[C]onversations with several Obama advisers and a number of senior military strategists ... reveal a shared sense that the Afghan effort under the Bush administration has been hampered by ... an unrealistic commitment to the goal of building a modern democracy....

Some European and NATO officials have suggested that an assembly of tribal elders should select the country's next leader.

Sounds like the Bush Iraq "surge" redivivus: find the right warlords and bribe 'em. But keep the boots on the ground.

Smart 'Bama

I happened to overhear an elevator conversation recently, between two of my neighbors. They were talking about the election -- when, I wonder, will anybody on the West Side start to talk about anything else?

Neighbor A: "At least Obama is intelligent. Bush was such a... dummy."
Neighbor B: "That is SO true. Thank God!"

Got me thinking. I've heard this intelligence trope a lot. What does it presuppose?

You want your lawyer to be smart. If you hire a computer programmer, you want him or her to be smart (unless the job includes Javascript, which a smart person won't write). And so on.

Wanting a smart president, then, goes along with another trope: that the presidency is a "job." And of course (unlike people who actually make hiring decisions, in the real world) we want the best man -- or woman, as the case may be -- for the job.

What exactly is the job description? Administrator of the global empire, right? Required skills: bland hypocrisy, experience with mass murder....

All of which makes me think I'd rather have a "dummy" in the job. It's not, actually, a job I want to see done well.

I made this point recently to another neighbor of mine -- call her Lyle. West Siders are nothing if not quick. Lyle shot back, "You just had eight years of the biggest dummy in US history. Did that make you happy?"

Now factually, I don't think she's right about Bush. She's deceived -- as New Yorkers often are -- by the hick accent. Who knows what Bush is really like? But the carefully-contrived persona to which both she, and the people who voted for him, are responding, is not that of a dummy, but of a sly and crafty peckerwood anti-intellectual, quite a different matter. Lyle mistakenly believes that a peckerwood anti-intellectual must be dumb -- it's her New York provincialism coming out. And it must be noted that if this Administration was run by dummies, it nevertheless strangely succeeded -- with a good deal of help from the Democrats, to be sure -- in doing exactly what it wanted to do.

Still. Let's grant Lyle's point, arguendo. I didn't have a response ready at the time, but pondering the matter later, I realized that I wasn't all that happy after the presidencies of the two officially-certified Brainiac presidents in my lifetime, Carter and Clinton. (Nixon was smart too, but poorly educated and crazy as a bedbug, so he's in a class by himself.)

Smart as they undoubtedly were, they left very unsatisfactory records behind them -- unsatisfactory to me, anyway, happy though others may have been -- and more to the point, these two mighty intellects paved the way for Reagan and Bush II respectively.

So how important is intelligence in a president? It depends, I suppose, on what you're looking for. Here I must return to a favorite theme: to wit, that people like Lyle and my neighbors in the elevator, when they go to vote, are mostly looking for someone they can recognize as a person like themselves. In the case of my neighbors, this would be a smart person, with a reasonably good education (as these things go), with some regard for culture, and above all -- no fucking hick accent.

November 12, 2008

The day of Jubilo

And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
The husband here would be Barack, of course.

When all else is folly, hope is best based on.... prayer.

Let us pray then.

Let us pray for a New Dealusalem.

Pray, baby, pray.


Note: Many visions, great and gauche, exist of the new Jerusalem. I picked the one above because of its Borg cube quality.

Trickle, trickle, dime and nickel

The mage of Kentuck strikes at the hated tower suite queens demanding balance-sheet and cash-flow injections: "Uncle, honey, come fill my pipes" -- leaky pipes as they may be.

Father S has a money fetish, I fear. He thinks dollars must come from somebody's pocket. But Uncle Sam-I-Am has an unlimited supply of digital dollars, a bottomless pocket like Baucis and Philemon's wine-jug--

--and the leaks at least might drip down into the real economy, eh?

Here's today's you-figure: If GM's too big to fail -- is the UAW too big to fail? The plan most foul prolly includes a bail for the various legacy funds.

Okay, so these pot-bellied Joe the Line Worker types won't see the high side of $25 an hour ever again -- but at least Uncle could provide health and pension plans.

Then again, we could let the Big Three slide away, and scrap the whole damn Reuther hophop down the bennie-trail.

November 13, 2008

Deficit -- sufficit?

Time to build ten thousand digital shrines to this new world sage, Bill Vickrey. In spite of the disreputable distinction of winning the economics pseudo-Nobel, on the three big battle fronts of the global klass krieg -- jobs, inflation, and deficits -- Doctor Bill was peerlessly fierce and fearless.

In particular, he was a good deal bolder than, for example, that impish Mephisto, Harvard Yard's own Mitt Romney advisor, Greg Mankiw. Greg tut-tuttingly quotes Vickrey:

Deficits are considered to represent sinful profligate spending at the expense of future generations who will be left with a smaller endowment of invested capital. This fallacy seems to stem from a false analogy to borrowing by individuals. Current reality is almost the exact opposite. Deficits add to the net disposable income of individuals, to the extent that government disbursements that constitute income to recipients exceed that abstracted from disposable income in taxes, fees, and other charges. This added purchasing power, when spent, provides markets for private production, inducing producers to invest in additional plant capacity, which will form part of the real heritage left to the future. This is in addition to whatever public investment takes place in infrastructure, education, research, and the like. Larger deficits, sufficient to recycle savings out of a growing gross domestic product (GDP) in excess of what can be recycled by profit-seeking private investment, are not an economic sin but an economic necessity....

[W]hat I would like to see is a budget deficit of about $500 billion averaging for the next five years, until we get from 5 percent unemployment down to 1 percent unemployment.

Mankiw sniffily comments:
Was Vickrey a kook? Advocating $500 billion deficits in 1996 certainly sounds kooky. Correcting for inflation and real growth, that would be about $800 billion today.But no, he was not a kook: He was one of the last hard-core Keynesians, far more Keynesian than so-called new Keynesians like me....
$800 billion times 5 years equals four trillion: not enough, of course, but a grand start.

Now Wild Bill's schemes might not pass a thorough audit, at least as laid out in pop lingo here; but as cautiously glossed here, the full force of his vision brought down to us from the mountaintop is vastly understated.

Fanship undertow

Small-boat sailors know that they should always stay well clear of large vessels. There's a very dangerous suction that a container ship, or a tanker, creates, as its enormous hull shoves through the water -- a suction that can draw a small craft right up against the behemoth's hull, with predictably unpleasant consequences.

There is a similar phenomenon in politics. It's one of the reasons I disapprove of voting -- much less working -- for Democrats. The well-meaning pwog, in his or her little coracle or catboat, ventures out into the harbor. He falls into the suction of a mighty steel-hulled commercial ship, like the SS Obama. He is drawn closer, and closer. He collides with its cold, unyielding adamantine sides. His fragile craft is smashed, and he is pulled under, and drowned -- drowned intellectually, and politically. Things that would have had him baying at the moon, if Bush had done them, he now finds excuses for -- when a Democrat does them.

I call it Fanship Undertow.

I've seen it time and time again. There's a lot of it going around just now. An occasional correspondent of mine -- let's call her Sadie -- recently wrote:

Rahm's an interesting choice- I know that there's some concern about him being a partisan figure but he's (in my view) not facilitating a partisan role. His main objective is to keep the ship in order and his experience in the Clinton administration would indicate that he knows how to navigate the waters (so to speak). Even more importantly he's ultimately pushing Obama's agenda....
Classic. This young woman would have been quite ready to agree that Rahm Emanuel was the Abomination of Desolation -- until Obama picked him.

But she has given her heart to Obama. And a heart once given is not easily taken back. So the Fanship Undertow has gripped her. Her good, well-meaning heart has been drawn under. Will she survive? I hope so. How long can she hold her breath?

Two things strike me about her ingenious, hopeful email:

1) She has become a Crackpot Realist. All of a sudden this youthful insurgent has come to value order -- experience -- knowing how to "navigate the waters."

2) She is still delirious with giddy, utterly unfounded hope. Rahm will "push Obama's agenda." From what we know about Rahm -- and we know a lot -- does he seem like the sort of guy who would push anybody's agenda but his own?

Fire away! I fear no man!

Here's a fact: the ratio of national debt to gross domestic product was 1.2 to 1 in 1946. Today its 0.5 to one.

Citizen suckers, hear this: we could run up cumulative federal deficits in excess of 10 trillion dollars over the next four years, and be fiscally poised for the future, just like we were at the dawn of the cold war.

$10 trillion... that's what Obama could borrow in his first term, and end up making us all better off than we were when he arrived at the White House.

So... what to spend it on?

As some Chinese red mandarin was quoted in the press recently -- we gotta spend it "fast" and with "a heavy hand".

But here's the real point: the best and fastest first shot would be not to spend it at all, but to rebate it: send a check for last years SSI taxes to every payrolled geef and geeffette in this country, and then declare a holiday from the SSI tax till further notice.

It's ours, we earned it, so let us spend it -- or pay down debt, or whatever. Just plain dispose of it any way we want.

Then next we might think of nationalizing the HMO's, like Uncle is already doing with all our big-boy high-finance outfits. Replicate the Paulson/Bernanke/Ribbentrop bailout pact -- but not to the benefit of the silk pajama crowd. Nope. For us -- by socializing the private health insurance industry. Call it single payer by other means.

Once it's partly ours -- get every American signed up to a private plan, and have Uncle pay the first $2000k per head, as social coverage of... well... personal coverage. That oughta get the ball rolling.

Note: This rebate plan is unlike the balance-sheet plugs approach, AKA "bail the big bums out" -- or as Obama all too benignly calls it, "fixing the financial plumbing." Don't matter if it's for the banks, or the insurance companies -- balance sheet injections only benefit us jobblers directly if the pipes leak. Otherwise we gotta pray for lots of so-called wealth effects to lift aggregate domestic expenditures.

Note: anticipating that 5% of upper-crust wealth increase will get spent -- not lent-- is prolly high ...that's as far as wealth effects go.

So if the rich guys behind these faltering hi-fi firms feel restored to former wealth levels, by a trillion or two in bail bonds, then they'll spend maybe ...maybe... maybe... 100 billion more than otherwise.

Not a very high yield, eh? And so far as the "plumbing" goes -- as far as lending goes -- hey, the state of defaults makes lending increases very problematic. The bastards are unlikely to turn the taps enough, any time soon.

Whatever voodoo hoodoo might occur as a result of the series of pain-relieving Paulson corporate injections, a direct rebate to wageling households, of taxes extracted to begin with right out of their own work earnings, will hit the real economy -- the one that makes real products -- much harder. And more importantly, resurrect the job force levels much much faster. It's a virtual WPA, folks -- bootstrap macro at its finest. In fact, if the household expenditure wave is big enough, in about two or three years, when we finally have the plans for our green lean and clean sustainable production machine, we oughta see such hyper-employment conditions, and such a real wage spiral under way, and such a production capacity squeeze that... it'll knock the pips off the dice in Las Vegas.


Next post:

General product inflation is ripe for a harness. Enter the markup cap-and-trade system -- to end price pollution in our time.

November 14, 2008

Change-y -- or mangy?

The Note says it all:

Thirty-one of the 47 people so far named [by Obama] to transition or staff posts have ties to the Clinton administration, including all but one of the members of his 12-person Transition Advisory Board and both of his White House staff choices.
They're even saying he might make Hill Secretary of State! I can't tell you how delighted I would be. The thought that we might not have her to kick around any more was too sad for words.

The ratchet effect

I happened to run into my old friend Annie today -- Annie, the old Lefty I've written about before, who can't get away from the Democratic Party even though she knows better. I couldn't resist teasing Annie about the number of raddled old Clintonites with whom Mr Hope And Change is surrounding himself. (Annie loathed Bill Clinton -- loathed him so much that she actually voted for Nader in 2000, though she has since repented, in sackcloth and ashes, for her sin.)

"Hey Annie. Looks like what's old is new again. Clinton's third term!"

She looked at me sourly. But she's game. "After eight years of Bush," she observed, "Clinton doesn't seem so bad."

Now there, if you like, is as beautiful an illustration of the ratchet effect as you could hope to find. The two parties' well-practiced collusive pas de deux has got her giving thanks now for things she despised eight years ago -- things that she correctly saw as deeply reactionary and detestable.

So it goes. By conceding the legitimacy of Reagan and Bush I's revanche, Clinton prepared the ground for a further revanche under Bush II, who took the ball and ran with it it so far that he makes Clintonism in retrospect -- well, in blurry, amnesiac retrospect, anyway -- look comparatively benign.

This phenomenon is at the heart of the American two-party system. The only thing that ever interrupts or arrests it -- much less reverses it -- is those blessed outbreaks of near-insurrection: the Populist upsurge, the Thirties, the Sixties.

Man, are we ever overdue for another one.

Summers is y-goin' out

It's starting to look like loathesome, porcine Larry Summers is out of the running for Obama's treasury secretary. Wage-earners everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief -- but breathe it quick, before you find out who Obie will pick.

Summers is out, it appears, not because he's a fanatical advocate of the unfettered dictatorship of finance capital, but because he's fallen foul of the Free Alterations Feminist (FAF) movement:

Intense backlash from women’s groups may have pushed former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers off the short-list to lead Treasury for President-elect Barack Obama....

The Summers backlash rises out of a controversial 2005 comment he made as president of Harvard University that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers.

"Backlash" is an odd term to use in this connection. "Rage" -- quite justified rage, too -- would seem to be more appropriate. Here's one case, anyway, where the FAFs have done a good thing. As far as it goes.

One one of my lefty mailing lists, a comrade sourly noted:

For what it's worth...here's my favorite paragraph:

"Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said there are other reasons to oppose Summers, citing his involvement in Clinton-era policies that many say contributed to the current economic woes."

Three cheers for Kim Gandy. I really appreciate the fact that NOW takes an expansive view of its mandate.

November 15, 2008

Hail to the Jailer-In-Chief

Looks like the Hope-'N-Change Team may be turning into the Rope-'N-Chains Team. The New York Times reports:

[A]s Mr. Obama moves closer to assuming responsibility for Guantánamo, his pledge to close the detention center is bringing to the fore thorny questions [including] a matter that people with ties to the Obama transition team say is worrying them most: What if some detainees are acquitted or cannot be prosecuted at all?
Golly, that would be terrible, wouldn't it?
[S]ome liberals are arguing that to deal realistically with terrorism, the new administration should seek Congressional authority for preventive detention of terrorism suspects ... even if they cannot be successfully prosecuted.

“You can’t be a purist and say there’s never any circumstance in which a democratic society can preventively detain someone,” said one civil liberties lawyer... who has been a critic of the Bush administration. ...Whether the Obama administration should push for a preventive detention law has inspired “a very hot and serious debate,” said Ken Gude, a national security scholar at the liberal Center for American Progress, adding, “I’ve had conversations with progressives who think it is a good idea and conservatives who think it’s a terrible idea.” ...[A] move by Mr. Obama to seek explicit authorization for indefinite detention without trial would be seen by some of his supporters as a betrayal.

Not to worry. They'll eat it and like it. It will give them an opportunity to display their crackpot realism, like
Benjamin Wittes, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, [who has] argued... that Americans needed to cross a “psychological Rubicon” and accept the idea that preventive detention was a necessary tool for fighting terrorism.

“I’m afraid of people getting released in the name of human rights and doing terrible things,” Mr. Wittes said in an interview....

In the end, the Obama administration may conclude that it is simply not feasible to seek a new preventive detention measure. Doing so could portray the new administration as following in the footsteps of President Bush....

Meaning, I suppose, that the Obama administration will simply... maintain the status quo. No further attempt will be made to legitimize indefinite imprisonment without trial; but neither will any attempt be made to end it.

The change we can believe in, as expected, is merely a change of face, as an Obamaphile friend said with such enthusiasm on Election Day.

Lotsa lampposts out there, too

Sign of the times:

Sacked worker kills Indian-American CEO in US
Press Trust of India
Saturday, November 15, 2008 (Santa Clara)

An Indian-American CEO of a semiconductor company was shot dead along with two other persons by a laid-off employee of the firm in northern California, police said.

Sid Agrawal, the chief executive officer of SiPort Inc, the company's vice president of operations Brian Pugh and an unidentified woman was killed when several rounds were fired on the premises of the firm in Santa Clara on Friday.

Police said investigators are searching for Jing Hua Wu, 47, in connection with the shooting.

Jing ... had recently been laid off from the company....

Agrawal ... held a degree in Electrical Engineering from IIT-Kanpur, an MS degree from Southern Illinois University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

A Chicago MBA? Say no more.

November 17, 2008

Krugman: Gee, the sky really is falling

"The main thing to realize is that for the time being we really are in an alternative universe, in which nothing would be more dangerous than an attempt by policy makers to play it safe"
This line, by the latest faux-Nobelist econ man, Auntie Paul of Krugspielenschaft, very nicely captures the flavor of cutting-edge respectability right about now.

In the blog post from which this morbidly panicked line was culled, there is also this:

[Goldman Sachs] then turn to an estimate of likely changes in the “private sector balance” — the difference between private sector saving and private sector investment. And it’s stunning:

The GS house price forecast combined with current equity prices and credit spreads implies a rise in the private sector balance from +1% of GDP in the second quarter of 2008 to +10% in the fourth quarter of 2009 -- a rise of 9 percentage points, or 6 points at an annual rate.

You may ask me: "Owen, what the geek does this mean to imply?" After feeding these numbers through my own special parametered virtual job multiplier, I take it to imply that if we hold all else in a paralytic grip, then we're in for a ride past 15% unemployment before the sun rises once again over America.

Yes, Virginia, we're headed down a continent-wide rabbit hole -- unless, that is, our dear ole Uncle Sawbuck, the stricken cyclops of planet Earth, takes some super-bad, mighty bold and bodacious countermeasures, and takes 'em pronto.

Again St Krug:

"What’s the answer? Huge fiscal stimulus, to fill the hole. More aggressive GSE lending. Maybe a “pre-commitment” by the Fed to keep rates low for an extended period -- that’s a more genteel version of my “credibly promise to be irresponsible.” And maybe large-scale purchases of risky assets."
Yeah, Paul, and maybe a lot more besides.

Note on the relative meaning of "huge fiscal stimulus": to Paul it's prolly on the order of 800 bills in increased fedral deficit. Which is piffle, a mere pigeon drop. It might-oughta take us, on highest estimate, and with a tail wind from Asia, if we're extra lucky, and all hits just right -- about halfway across the canyon.

November 20, 2008

In a nutshell...

... why the Democrats are the prison-house of constituencies. From the Huffington Post:

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is effectively shutting down its Wal-Mart watchdog group in order move its focus to... legislative priorities....

"We set up Wal-Mart Watch to highlight the issues facing American workers as seen through the largest employer... Then we win this election, and a bigger voice than ours says, 'We have an economy that doesn't work for Main Street, it works for Wall Street, and we are going to do something about it.'"

Indeed, the move by the SEIU underscores how much the labor community anticipates a new political landscape under the upcoming Obama administration -- one in which it can score legislative victories as opposed to fighting outside-government battles.

November 22, 2008

Compare and contrast

The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands bold persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.

--Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 1932

* * * * *

Mr. Obama continues to place a premium on deep experience.... "[T]here's going to be no time for experimentation," a member of the Obama foreign policy team said.

-- the latest from Sinai, according to the New York Times

O Great Leader, live forever!

Jeezus H. on a Segway, how goddamn' Stalinist can you get?

NY elementary school is renamed for Obama

NEW YORK (AP) - It was only a matter of time. A New York school has been renamed in honor of President-elect Barack Obama.

The former Ludlum Elementary School, in Long Island's Hempstead Union Free School District, was renamed at a school board meeting Thursday—effective immediately.

School officials say most of the 440 students there are black or Hispanic, and Obama's victory is a source of great pride.

Ahh, well, give 'em two or three years; the kids'll be burning the goddamn' joint down.

Plus ca change, all over again

From the Los Angeles Times:

Antiwar groups... are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.... both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates could be in the Obama Cabinet [and] several other short-list candidates for top security posts backed the decision to go to war.

"Obama ran his campaign around the idea the war was not legitimate, but it sends a very different message when you bring in people who supported the war from the beginning," said Kelly Dougherty, executive director of ... Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Kelly has got this wrong, of course. Obama did not "run his campaign around" any such "idea". He ran his campaign around his supporters' apparently infinite capacity for self-delusion.
... [T]he roster of possible Cabinet secretaries has included Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who both voted in 2002 for the resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq....

"It's astonishing that not one of the 23 senators or 133 House members who voted against the war is in the mix," said Sam Husseini of the liberal group Institute for Public Accuracy....

Astonishing, Sam? Perhaps if you're three years old.
Another possible contender... former U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, also backed the Iraq invasion.

Kevin Martin, executive director of the group Peace Action, said ... "[I]n the short term, we're going to be disappointed"....

Long term too, Kevin. You will be sorely tried. But I have confidence in you. At the end of the day -- the long, bloody day -- you will, I feel sure, be numbered among the diehard Obama faithful.
Martin ... recognized that [his group] must approach the subject delicately because of public euphoria over Obama's historic victory.

"There's so much Obama hero worship, we're having to walk this line where we can't directly criticize him," he said. "But we are expressing concern."

Concern, huh? Obie must be shaking in his jackboots. I love these "delicate" antiwar groups. They would probably be quite effective if the militarists were equally delicate.

And finally:

Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War, said that although he finds Sen. Clinton's views "very troubling," Obama should be given the benefit of the doubt.
What a name: Win Without War. Win what? How? Does Tom believe that an empire can be run on Ghandian lines? Why didn't Napoleon think of that? -- Not as smart as Tom, probably.

And as for "doubt" -- at this point, doubt is about as well-founded as belief in the Easter Bunny.


It's summertime, summertime
Sum, sum, summertime... 

Well, no more studying history
And no more reading geography
And no more dull geometry
Because it's summertime

It's time to head straight for them hills.... 
... Or Hills, as the case may be. But this post is about a different old porker from the Clinton sty:

Larry Summers may have missed out on Treasury -- thanks, it seems, to his foot-in-mouth dis of the math skills of upper-middle-class women -- but will nevertheless dwell deep in the bosom of Obaham, as director of the National Economic Council: Obama's "closest economic adviser," as the Wall Street Journal notes with ill-disguised and well-justified delight.

The Journal goes on to add:

Mr. Obama has instructed his economic advisers to draft a stimulus that could ... push back planned tax increases on families earning over $250,000 from a planned 2010 start date to 2011....
... Or, perhaps, indefinitely. These crises, you never know when they're really over.

Essay question, in two parts: (i) In the image above, which party is finding the encounter more painful? Discuss, in particular, the closed and/or narrowed eyes of the figures depicted. (ii) Will they nevertheless manage to suck it up and work together successfully for the benefit of very wealthy people? Justify your answer. (Especially if it's "no".)

November 23, 2008

Most. Pussified. Action. Call. EVER.

"Presence, rather than protest." "Respecting the celebratory mood of the day."

Huh, what's more to say? Go to the Web site, check out all the signers, including Howard Zinn and a boatload of other folks who should know better:



An open letter to those seeking to build a world from below....

We call on all anarchists, horizontalists, autonomists, anti-capitalists, anti-authoritarians, and others organizing a world from below to bring our best creative spirits to the project of a “Celebrate People’s History and Build Popular Power” bloc on January 20, 2009, in Washington, DC—or in your hometown, if you can’t make it.

As people striving toward a nonhierarchical society, yes, we can—and should—be rigorously critical of Barack Obama. It goes without saying that we want a world without presidents.... But not all heads of state are alike, and if we fail to recognize both the historical meaning and power of this particular moment, we will ensure our own irrelevance.

"Ensure our own irrelevance?" That's pretty much taken care of, isn't it?

November 24, 2008

Ain't love the sweetest thing

She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.
My liberal, Obamaphile friends are rapidly losing their sense of humor.

Oddly enough, it was more or less OK for me to be a Grinch before the election. Now, however, it seems to be in very poor taste. I'm getting a lot of sour looks and testy emails, when I chortle about Rahm Emanuel, and Tom Daschle, and Larry Summers, and Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.

My friends fell in love, it seems; and the love-object is, well, dumping them -- dumping them with almost indecent haste.

Oh yeah, sure, it's kinder to dump an ex-lover quickly and briskly, instead of drawing it out. But there's something creepy about a person whose heart is so much under his control that he can act on this undoubtedly sound principle, and never turn a hair.

The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Stimulate the patient, Doctor. But not too much.

Okay, so we're on a doomsday dive toward massive roasted homestead territory. Millions are about to get spit out of the corporate back door. Millions, as in ... 15 millions. So what's with this 2.5 million jobs bit, Mistah Barracket?

Christ on a bagel, everywhere he goes, every time he speaks, its "2.5 million jobs... 2.5 million jobs..."

Fellow yankers, our nicely browned prez-elect drones on these days like.... a hypnotist, eh? "America, you're growing sleeepy... sleeeepy... sleeeepy."

I got two questions: first, where'd that number come from?. Second, and more importantly -- where in the fuck decent green and blue-skyed can that pissant of a job number hope to lead us to anyway?

Here's my guesses:

Barrack's magic job creation number came right out of Larry Summers' asshole. Without a shitload more, it will drive us and our economy to a tender spot where we're still only a short putt from the hellhole we're headed for right now.

By my calculations, between fiscal deficits and trade gap reductions, the nation's macro net demand-increasing effects will need to induce, as noted above, 15 million jobs -- which is well more than ten percent of what we have right now.

And that's figuring on a bare minimum spontaneous job slough-off process. The silk-hatters have visions, I suspect, of more like 20 million net sloughs, but that's another post.

Obviously we can't get anywhere near that on Obie's plans, at least as so far announced. Even given a few hidden ball tricks, we'll need in addition a freakishly huge shift in our trade balance, considering the present globe-wide simultaneous import contraction. Unless we act to counter it, a massive wave of feeblization is about to hit our export sector.

Recall that we had galloping exports last year and that kept our whole production system hovering over the abyss, instead of plunging into it. But now any job-inducing, net-trade-gap-closing, abyss-fall-rate-decelerating on the international front must come from (drum roll, please) import reduction.

Ya, I know, there's a big plus there. Look at oil. That oughta knock a couple hundred bills off the trade deficit all by itself. Fine. You just bought us maybe two million more jobs. Combined with Obie's green-thumb army, that still leaves, what, 10 million jobs to go.

They'll not come from any other sources of potential trade improvements -- except consider this: given no forex effects, we have only tumbling commodity prices. But this cuts both ways. Save oil, and we're confined by present policy to import reduction. That won't induce the needed weaker dollar. Recall the post-crisis "flight to safety" effect. The rush out of risky currencies and into the imperial dollar has raised dollar forex rates when they needed to go lower. The international credit/default paper catastrophe has reversed that lovely tailwind the falling dollar gave us into a strapping headwind.

Prove it, you say? Let's go to the textbooks.

Munch through any of 'em, and you'll find only two possible kinds of trade demand shifters, and thus gap changers: 1) Substitution effects, where changes in relative value between domestic and foreign prices change amounts of each bought.

Sorry, that's out. We ain't gonna shift from higher-price imports to lower-price domestics, not with a dollar heading back up toward capital-export heaven. Strong dollars obviously only make the domestics relatively more expensive. So that leaves only:

2) Income effects -- shifts that are the result of relative trade budgets. That here translates very nicely as "expenditure reductions". If those reductions, made on our side, outweigh the reductions on the foreign side -- if, in particular, we the many big fat ugly job- and credit-line deprived and wage-depleted American boobiators, cut our purchases of imports more than the fast income-sinking foreign hordes reduce their purchases of our exports -- then we'll create domestic jobs.

In brief: laying a ton of us off, freezing the comp of the rest of us, will indeed work. Putting us on short rations will cut our import demand, right along with everything else, and by routes circuitous put some of us back to work.

To put way too fine a point on it: we'll need to destroy 6 million jobs to gain back 2 million.

Yes, further hope of lift from trade balance improvements exists, shipmates, but it only exists as an easing of our entrained doom spiral.

(One of Father Smiff's sardonic Latin maxims oughta get tagged on here, don't you think?)

On the trade front, if we want gains of, say, another 8 million sustainable jobs, we'll need direct bold big-gubmint action. Just like on the fiscal front, we'll need an intentional return -- with a vengeance -- to a falling dollar. And as things are crumbling away now, world market-wise this won't happen unless Uncle makes it happen through a globe-wide exchange-rate realignment, which includes a serious and permanent dollar drop.

Part II to follow.

November 25, 2008

Stimulus -- or stimunculus? Part Deux

(Part I is here. It argued that while Obama keeps promising 2.5 million new jobs from his stimulus package, the country needs something more like 15 million.)

So where's the rest of the 15 million good sustainable jobs coming from, if not trade and uncle Obama's largesse? How does this sound: 3 trillion dollars worth of unplanned, uncalled-for, highly risky neat new net expenditures by America's free-range firms.

Maybe our economic colossi, the ten thousand limited-liability transnat Freikorps will go totally manic, and spend tons on highly venturesome projects: spend it on real stuff, real products, just now produced products, and just now performed services, that facilitate production and circulation -- a freshet of bareassed investments and gambles, and in lunatic proportions. Does that seem likely?

Will the "private system" spend its own way back to prosperity? Can we wait upon the big Incs? Can we rely on the ten thousand? Can they, like bees, all rise into full buzz at once? Can we have ten thousand simultaneous Scrooge moments? A sudden pandemic boardroom morph into 24/7/365 Christmas-morn mode?

Matter of fact, I think we can we can -- yes we can -- but it'll be a long wait, a decade long even.

As I recall, the old misery himself, the original Scrooge, after two feckless ghostings more for the readership than the protagonist, the prick was finally actually scared shitless by his own meaningless end and gold teeth-picking Death. Maybe that's the way to induce corporate types into caritas in perpetuum, eh?

They'll not be sentimentalized there, reasoned there, jawboned there, legislated there, or hoped there -- only scared at gunpoint there.

Here endeth today's lesson. Now -- let us pray.

"Oh Lord, give us your chosen ones, your semi-toiling, semi-huddled ones, give us out of your infinite bounty 10 million dream factory jobs. Amen."

Now go back to work, you loafers, and tonight, pray again -- pray for an amazing grace. Pray for St Barack to become St Rocky. Pray this present avatar of uncle Sam, with God's hard hand at his bum, leads us back into our amazin' sizzlin' early 40's form. Pray for a battlin' come-back America, an America ready to and able to build our new green and gold cube Jerusalem -- build it fast and all by ourselves.

It's a high-flyin' rag

The dismal Chronicle of Higher Education, which a friend of mine reads ex officio, recently favored its subscribers with this bit of spew:

Progressive Patriotism

It was Wednesday, the day after [the election], and I wanted the election news, so absorbing for so long, now wondrous, to keep coming and coming. Trying to squeeze every drop of meaning from the morning paper, making my Web-site rounds, I was listening to my local NPR station when the host asked, "Is there a new progressive patriotism in America?" Calls flooded in proclaiming a resounding Yes, and I began figuring out how to put an American flag on my front door....

The problem with spending a lifetime on the outs is the damage it does to one's own psyche. The self-protection piles up over the years, and repression doesn't always work Emotion escapes into shrill and nasty humor, which reveals more about the "humorist" than it does about the object. Look, I've needed The Daily Show With Jon Stewart as much as anyone over the past half-dozen years, but seriously: Jeering at one's government is a little like making fun of your own family. It makes for good laughs at dinner parties, but the subject is, after all, your family — where you came from.

Came from? Not quite far enough, Warren. Plod on a quarter-mile or so, and the sky clears amazingly.

November 26, 2008

With friends like these....

La Huffington, Inc., reports:

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman [says] Barack Obama's actions since winning the presidency have been "just about perfect."

"Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration," Lieberman said during a visit to Hartford.

... Lieberman said he believes the rift between himself and the party stemmed mainly from his support of President Bush's policy in Iraq and will close as that becomes less of an issue.

"It appears to me that the war in Iraq is coming to a successful -- I don't want to say conclusion yet, but it's moving in a way that it will not be a divisive issue either in the Democratic Party or between Democrats and Republicans in the time ahead," Lieberman said. "And therefore, I think we'll return to more normal times, which I welcome."

Joe's no fool. He loves the Iraq war like his firstborn son. When he says that the war "won't be a divisive issue," you can take that to the bank.

"Normal times" indeed -- the Democrats are only anti-war when they're in opposition.

If then.

November 28, 2008

This way to the outlet

In a comment on a recent post, dermokrat posted a link to a sermonette by Tim Wise (shown above).

Tim is following a well-trodden career path -- a self-described lefty who spends much of his time berating the left, with the battered but evergreen old tropes of purism, negativity, humorlessness, and of course ineffectiveness.

So far, so hum. Couldn't even read the whole thing. What did catch my eye was the subtitle:

We don't need the "everything sucks" analysis; Obama has mobilized millions of activists and that energy is looking for an outlet.
Tim's line of argument is nicely summed up in this formulation; he might have spared us the almost 2,000 words of clumsy vituperation that follow. Obama. Tim, thinks, has got people all juiced up and ready for action, and all "we" have to do -- "we" being Tim's non-purist, all-positive, laugh-a-minute, and highly effective section of the "Left" -- is show these newly energized and hopeful folks the way forward.

Alas, Tim has got it backwards. Obamaphiles aren't "looking for an outlet." They've found their outlet. They're not looking for more worlds to conquer; they figure they've conquered the only world there is. They've put a hip, cool, well-spoken, intelligent and highly-credentialled scion of the merit class in the White House.

Mission accomplished!

Straw man in the wind

"What is most disturbing ....is the unmitigated praise for the selection of Timothy Geithner. Geithner may do a fine job at Treasury, and we should all hope that he does, but let's not forget that he was in the middle of the policy team that gave us this economic mess. He was a top official in the design of the East Asian bailout that set us up on the over-valued dollar, bubble-driven growth course. He also thought that one-sided financial deregulation was just fine."

Also sprach Dean the undauntable Baker, the Ixion of pro-jobbler econ-con prog-blog tribunes.

Not exactly big-box, as econbloggers go, but he thumps the drum steadily, if not artfully, and I agree: what is it that is a Geithner?

Second generation establishment functionary; Dartmouth grad; Kissinger Ganymede; Rubin detail golem; protracted stymate to that mental pederast Arnold Ziffle, er, that is, Larry Summers, through innumerable Clinton-era crises in the imperial cockpit; Bushtime risk morass-maker, IMF hatchet-hurler -- on and on it goes.

Does this augur ill? I'd say so, if I thought this Romulan-eared hyper-cypher had the freedom of will worthy of an earthworm. But I suspect he don't. I see in him a guy in love with climbing marble stairs other folks built.

Look, gang, setting to one side Alexander the Great, Hank the crank Morganthau, and Albert Gallatin, the treasury post is not for guys on a personal mission. Looking over the former inmates, the job looks mostly like it's fit for Wall Street and Washington's B-listers: a bunch of classy pin-pushers, glorified Wall Street valets, and bygone deballed corporate bulls, easily replaced and even more easily bypassed.

Applicable POTUS pocket maxim: "Let 'em catch my flak. Make a gaffe, soak 'em in shame and neglect. Use 'em to misdirect the press. Et cetera."

That goes for peacock walkers, like secretaries of state, too, of course.

A trillion here, a trillion there...

Here's an article that goes to Homeric lengths to itemize the near $8 trillion -- yes, that's not a typo, trillion not billion -- of balance-sheet dice-tosses so far rolled across the hi-finace game board by various wings, arms, and feet of Uncle Sawbuck, in the form of "pledges" and "guarantees".

They're like so many anti-Salvation Army Santas, these minion agencies of der Alte hizseff, and they're are doling up -- ever so generously -- paper gold.

Not to us jobbled masses, mind you, not to allow mortgage write downs. But to allow our challenged elite financial institutions to protect their worldwide legions of innocent counter-parties.

These massive backup obligations made on Uncle's behalf, if not themselves actual means of payment, are at least a rock-solid foolproof riskless private creditors' recourse to our dear rich uncle's famously limitless dollar credit line.

When the final tally tolls, how much of the $8 trillion -- trillion, mind you! -- in pledges now outstanding will go down the gopher hole?

Among friends and comrades: I'm thinkking a measly one trillion. Heh. Chump change.

But even so, this ain't exactly S&L II, no more than Minya's dad is just another Minya:

* * * * *

I hear y'all out there, yelpin' at the indecency of this: "By God and Ralph Nader, compare and contrast here, citzens! On the one hand -- 25 billion for the friends of the UAW, and a paltry 15 billion for Obie's green stables project. Trickles, trickles, and no more, for our fracurted manufacturing base -- while Wall Street gets trillions upon trillions!"

So what's really up here?

It's not quite as grotesque as it looks, nor as aggressive as it pretends to be, for that matter. Keep in mind two very different sets of numbers are circling around each other here; and they always follow old Bill Petty's rule: "never compareth the wrong stocks to the right flows".

We'll pass on the bottom-line point that these two types of action have very different impacts on what matters to us iron jawed prole-o-philes: i.e. job dynamics ... wage rates ... paid hours, etc. The bail actions are just the first step in a series of balance-sheet shifts that leads mostly to no where but around and around the speculative categories of fictitious assetry; while the other -- the money spent on opening factory doors, or keeping them open -- though way smaller, immediately induces actual purchases.

Let's take the numbers for any Gub purchase of real stuff. What do we compare 'em to? Well, of course, the output value of our nation's gross annual domestic product: 15 trillion dollars.

To keep these numbers in persepctive, let's find a real standard unit: something tangible and obvious. I suggest Uncle Spreadeagle's excellent GWOT adventures, which now run us, what, $150 billion a year? That's conveniently around 1% of our 15 trillion dollar GDP.

Using this unit -- let's call it the GWOTbuck -- to measure, consider Paul Krugman's proposed trillion dollar budget deficit. That's 7 GWOTbucks. As long as we stick to real expenditures for actual real useful stuff, like armed predators and bulletproof vests, on this basis Obama's green Michigan initiative is 1/10 of a GWOTbuck -- spread over 3 years!

When we move up above the mundane product system to the Scheinwert realm, where the $8 trillion will someday roam -- how big is it, comparatively? I mean, is it really too big? Is Uncle Sucker's latest "on the hook fer" number really a horror among horrors?

To be absolutely fair-minded, clear-conscienced, and even-handed about it:

Yes and no.

Yes, it is a horror among horrors, because it's a handout to thieves frauds and assembled dungheads. But is it too horribly huge a giant choker of an 8-ball?

Well, no. Not when properly compared to the economy's totalischer scheinwert zyztem -- ie the plausible total value of our vast superstructure of digital IOU/UOMe obligations-- and that, in turn, to the value of our true string of pearls of great price that collateralize these solemn contractual promises: namely, our real production system and our national structures from infra- to ultra- to residential to strictly-for-business.

Clear so far? I hope not, as Hegel would say.

What's it all worth, this pile of money bonds, mortgages and other obligations and entitlements, titles, deeds, certificates, licenses, share equities, insurance policies, annuities, pension funds, and so on-- What's it really worth?

It's worth what it's latched onto that's real -- land lots, for instance (and what are they really worth?) -- and then structures and then equipment and then...? Number, please?

Lets guess $40-50 trillion.

Against that number, what's the $8 trillion Uncle's vouched for -- so far? It's only three big annual criminal-class clawbacks away from paid in full: three 5% wealth levies, and it's gone, pinned back onto the private ledgers.

Beware, high hats. If Uncle turns old-Hickory on ya, and sets his mind to gettin' the republic's purse unstuck, then you might have something to worry about.

To make a clean breast of it: Uncle prolly oughta vouch for all of it, anyway. Yup, the whole stinkin' Scheinwert mountain range. And at book value. Just to create ongoing optimal capital market conditions. Like Ike always said, "knock out any uncetainty you can, as soon and as completely as you can."

I hasten to add: of course Uncle would need to charge the issuers of all these obligations -- sacred or profane as they may be -- an annual risk of default premium of, oh, maybe... $500 billion. Cheap, considering Uncle's one-of-a-kind, nickel-plated, wall-to-wall face-value assured blanket coverage.

Among the results would be risk free investment for us toiling plebian minnows.

Caveat: given this final full socialization of all financial losses, we gotta bind the CEOs in adamantine chains, ironclad and foolproof against wild and fraudulent pyramids. Ninja IRS units, a zillion escrows, 3 million clawbacks... and... and ... gibbets. Lots of gibbets.

November 29, 2008

The ever-receding future

Don't cut the cake just yet, guys. The New York Times reports:

N.Y. Democrats May Skip Gay Marriage Vote

ALBANY — After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democratic victory.

But now, party leaders have sent strong signals that they may not take up the issue during the 2009 legislative session. Some of them suggest it may be wise to wait until 2011 before considering it, in hopes that Democrats can pick up more Senate seats and Gov. David A. Paterson, a strong backer of gay rights, would then be safely into a second term.

“We want to get there, but we want to get there the right way or else we risk setting ourselves back another decade,” [says State] Senator Liz Krueger.

Readers older than, oh, say, twelve, may have noticed a pattern with the Democrats. They campaign on some issue -- in the previous Most Important Elections Of Our Lifetime, the 2006 midterms, it was the Iraq war, for example. Then once safely in office, the find a reason why they can't actually do anything about the issue until they get something else on the next election cycle -- the White House, or the state senate, or a second term for the Governor (why? This one seems especially arbitrary).

It's really exactly like the dear old Spanish Prisoner scam, more familiar in our own day as the Nigerian "419" advance-fee con:

...[T]he ... con-man tells ... the mark that he is in correspondence with a wealthy person of high estate who has been imprisoned in Spain under a false identity. The alleged prisoner cannot reveal his identity without serious repercussions, and is relying on the confidence trickster to raise money to secure his release. The confidence trickster offers to let the victim supply some of the money, with a promise that he will be rewarded generously when the prisoner returns; financially and perhaps also by being married to the prisoner's beautiful daughter. However, once the victim has turned over his money, he learns that further difficulties have arisen, requiring more money, and the trickster continues attempting to get more money until the victim is cleaned out....

About November 2008

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