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December 2010 Archives

December 1, 2010

Ant farming

"I was one of the people who got all excited about the possibility of getting somewhere with very detailed agent-based models — but that was 20 years ago. And after all this time, it’s all still manifestos and promises of great things one of these days."
That's my bete grise, secular saint Paul of Bellmore, who has a neat new model, co-authored not with Robin his wife, but with his Batman-type Robin, the fair-haired Heggers Eagersson.

Worth a read, Greek and all? Prolly not. Worth noticing? Well, yes, since the model incoporates credit rationing constraints, and certainly something of that sort is now crimping and may continue to crimp our global "spontaneous" recovery. Right now credit blocks in place on our jobbler households have entered into the policy mix needed to insure we remain in the Great Worldwide Advanced Economy Stagno.

But why this quote? Why this nerd post in general? Recall the explanation of canine ball licking.

At any rate the quote brings into focus a key part of macro as a holy grail quest. Our best policy models (think Samuelson et al.) are completely without "realistic" micro foundations. The basis of these models is a batch of ill fitting labels, assumptions, and applications. So when these models faced the high 70's wage-price spiral, bingo, time for a change -- and for more then 35 years now that has meant the sovereign community of econ-cons of both major flavors have chased after a unification of the small agents and the whole ball of wax, as if that might produce better policy guidance.

It didn't. Especially not after the theoricists had carved out a model which hung its hat on one gruesomely bald and bad assumption -- there is only one private agent! Get that, and its tie-in with micro was completed by in effect destroying the entire practice of state intervention. It became yet another edition of what amounts to Christian Science for the economy. "Touch nothing," as Hercule Poirot was wont to say. And then of course comes '08.

But Cio's dialectic never produces just one development. During this same period another approach emerged, and by its bold universalizing promise -- much like string theory -- attracted ambitious outsiders and marginalii. These models, unlike their rivals were nicely based on the assumption of multiple private agents. In fact they quickly became frightful monstrosities.

These are the models PK alludes to above -- these wonderful "literal" projects to build up from the agent units to an emergent set of macro behaviours. A road to conspiracy-free laws of economic motion.

And the results... what hath emoiged?

Lots of digital ant farms gobbling up lots of computing power.

Have we arrived at a new realism? Nope. Most full-figure interconnected Euclidianly resolved econ-con models are still at best metaphors -- either simple, tractable, and therefore dangerously misleading magic trick models, or the aforementioned ant farm models that feet-on-the-ground folks can only laugh at.

As a practical matter, PK needs to dump his own awful micro foundations -- all that "expectations" voodoo -- and stick to a few obviously paramount features produced by the very architecture of any vast credit-based corporate-dominated economy.

He also oughta confine his policy advice to one maxim: "Try something that intuitively suggests itself. If it doesn't work then double down. If that fails... try something else."

You don't need a full-fledged analytic model if you venture forth to do good by your fellow jobbler masses, at least macro-wise and at the national level, like the cream of the New Dealers. What you do, if you do anything, is rely on feedback. Try it out. Twist the dial, measure the outcome as best you can, then adjust the dial accordingly.

The theory Keynes cooked up, around the same time as FDR improvised us through the 30's, was really just a nice bedtime story that may have let a few advanced New Dealers sleep a bit better through that long night's journey into war.

They say I'm hard to please...

... but in fact there are a good many people I like more than not: Fidel, Hugo, Noam, Alex, Ralph, Mahmoud.... Of late, Julian occupies a place of honor in this mini-pantheon:

I've been very surprised and puzzled by a pandemic tendency on the Left to look the Wikileaks gift horse in the mouth. Reactions have ranged from the ho-hum ("Nothing new here") to the Chicken Little ("The leaks give the US a better pretext to attack Iran") to the downright conspiratorial ("Assange is a CIA asset").

I find this Grinchery hard to understand.

Of course, for us Lefties, it's certainly true there's nothing especially new and startling. The cables, to the extent that they have any interest, generally confirm what we already thought we knew (though the business about Hillary Clinton trying to hoover up UN staffers' credit card numbers was novel; I wasn't expecting that.) And then one would hardly expect the State Department to be privy to the really juicy stuff, anyway.

in fact it's the very consistency of the material with previously observed patterns that leads me personally to conclude that it is just what it appears to be, and that Assange is also just what he appears to be -- a very intelligent Aspergerish computer nerd with a strong moral streak. That may sound odd, but the fact is, I know dozens of people just like Assange, and love 'em all.

It surely comes as no surprise, for example, to hear that all the US puppet rulers running the reactionary Arab regimes hate Iran like poison. I assume this is Ahmadinejad's reason for dismissing the cables as fabrications -- he wants to preserve the decent diplomatic hypocrisies with the neighboring regimes, even though he knows, who better, that they would love to see the last of him and everybody like him.

Or hey, maybe he's just like so many of my email comrades and really buys the Sinister CIA Plot theory. He's not answering my desperate emails. Prick.

I personally find the Sinister CIA Plot scenario unpersuasive. (Sorry, Mahmoud, my brother.) These fiendishly elaborate, hyper-refined, wheels-within-wheels schemes that we love to give our lords and masters credit for -- no. I don't think they really work that way.

Complicated machinery can't be depended on. Bombs, on the other hand -- they're a well-understood technology, and if you blow somebody up with a bomb, that person will no longer be a problem.

Now the Empire has more bombs than it knows what to do with. So why would it resort to some ultra-Machiavellian double- or triple-false-flag Rube Goldberg device? Particularly when the material falls well short of Zimmermann Telegram standards?

It just doesn't add up.

So: if the material that Wiki has Leaked is so anodyne -- why are our lords and masters so furious about it becoming public? Are they just faking it? For some super-crafty reason of their own?

I don't think so. I think they're really pissed. And it's not because the material in itself is so explosive. No. It's just because they've been disobeyed.

Being obeyed is just the thing they must have. After all, there are more of us than there are of them. So docility, fearfulness, and compliance on our part is indispensable to our rulers. If they say something is secret, it must stay secret. If they say we have to take off our shoes, we have to take off our shoes.

My man Assange has shown them that it's not so easy to control the horizontal, and the vertical. Bless him, and long may he live to drive them insane.

December 3, 2010

It's quite simple, really

Here's Alternet's long-simmered reduction of the Wikileaks broth:

The only question that should be asked is: did the release of “cablegate” break the law?
Well, that certainly does away with a good many perplexities.

Break containment

It's often been said, ever since the days of Usenet and Tiananmen Square, that the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

As it was in those bygone days, so it is today, as the US State pressures Wikileaks' "cloud" provider and DNS service to take steps in an attempt to silence dissent.

The problem is -- at least, if you're the US State, it's a problem -- Wikileaks can still be reached on the Web via any number of alternate links, such as through its numeric "dotted quad" IP addresses and It can also be reached through its alternate domains in Switzerland and the Netherlands.

I'd like to encourage everyone reading this to follow that grand old Web censorship-defeating tradition of "mirroring" and passing alternate links around, and post these links to your blog or Web site:



Tough luck, Barack. Better luck next time, Hillary.

NOW you're talking

Responding to the recent floods in Venezuela, here's my hero Hugo. (Really, it's surprising how many heroes there are, and no, I don't mean to include any police force anywhere in that category):

President Hugo Chávez on Sunday offered Miraflores Presidential Palace as a “symbolic” place of refuge for 100 people, or 26 families. “Today I have ordered that they move to Miraflores…where we recently built rooms, small residential units, for the comrades of the security [staff],” said Chávez who cancelled his weekly television address to visit affected areas of Falcon state....

On Wednesday, as Chávez received 26 affected families at Miraflores Palace, he called on all Venezuelans, including ministers, governors and mayors, to open their homes to flood victims.

“This is a national emergency, and it is time to leave aside personal comforts, egoisms, and open our hearts and homes to our fellow Venezuelans,” said Chávez on Venezuela de Television (VTV). He also called on the offices of the vice presidency, publicly owned Channel 8 and other government-owned buildings to remodel one floor of each building for emergency housing. Chávez assured the families that within one year they will leave Miraflores and move directly into their own homes or apartments.

Venezuela’s National Assembly on Tuesday approved the first of two drafts of the Emergency Law for Housing and Urban Terrain which, according to the Venezuelan News Agency (AVN), allows the State to “decree the creation of emergency zones for the occupation of urban terrain apt for housing.” If and when this new law is passed, lands that are either “unused or underutilized” – including a number of extensive golf courses located near major highways outside of Caracas referred to by Chávez last Sunday – become possible targets for expropriation.

The guy is thinking about expropriating golf courses? Oh sweet Jesus, take me now. I can die content. What's next, downhill ski areas? It's too much happiness to bear.

December 4, 2010

Punitive Happiness

The coerced affect industry is possibly the most parasitic of all the competitors in the corporate bloodsucking sector. It's definitely the most pathological. The neoliberal Taylorists merely insist on frantic step-up, fatuous metrics and worker burnout by age forty. The imperial crackpots can settle for shredding children with cluster bombs. The nightstick fetishists ask for no more than few canisters of pepper spray and handcuffed victims. The banksters are content with a world economy run for their benefit. The happiness people want you to like it.

The fulsome giddiness and unapologetic emotional blackmail of their pitch would be disturbing no matter what was getting pushed. In the context of the world as it actually exists, it's much worse than disturbing. The insistence on shit-eating grins is as close to violence as one can get without actively assaulting another human being.

Scrooge, you

As I write, almost a million unemployed have lost their benefits. Could be above two million by the new year:

The elephants are producing a cliffhanger of a particularly melodramatic form this time.Will the folks tumbling off the UE log get a Xmas rescue... somehow? Will these GOP stalwarts suddenly go through a conversion? Buy the Chuck Schooomer sub-million-dollar compromise? Or will Ohbummer knuckle under to the nasty mean Scrooge party extortion and allow a re-up of the entire Baby Bush rich man's tax cuts?

Frankly, why not? Obsessive fantasy tax attacks on the rich are mere moral hygiene for merit-class Holy Joes. Proles, the ever level-headed delightful Esau class, prefer the benefits now to some sanctimonious farce of ritual forced sacrifice at the margin.

Progressive tax revanchism is for the dark side of the merit moon.

Fuck Paypal

That image above shows St Dominic presiding over an auto-da-fe-- a public burning of heretics. This is a little unjust to Dominic himself, who never, as far as I know, did any such thing. (The insignificant victims are down in the lower-right-hand corner of the image.)

Paypal has joined the Inquisitorial campaign against Wikileaks. How far have we come, and in what direction, since Daniel Ellsberg gave the Pentagon papers to The New York Times, and the Times printed 'em? Ellsberg didn't get rounded up and extradited on laughable charges of Inconsiderate Sexual Activity, and nobody tried to shut down the New York Times.

Now, however, in the time of Good Emperor Obama I "Lightbringer", the land of the free and the home of the brave has put in place, with admirable dispatch, its own version of the Great Chinese Firewall. North American DNS, at least from where I sit, will no longer resolve the name wikileaks.ch. One of the numeric IP addresses I have ( appears to be no longer routable from an armchair in New York. Another ( ) appears to be live, but I wonder whether it's the real site, or a spoof. There are elements that don't quite add up.

Paypal has obviously heard from The Man, and has predictably caved in. I encourage everyone with a Paypal account to cancel it, as I have done with mine.

Oh yeah, I know, it's just a pinprick. But it will make you feel -- and rightly so -- like a better, cleaner, more honorable person. Think of it as saving what little you have for a better day. If you're not an utterly abject slave, then when the better day comes, you'll be that much more ready for it.

At the moment, we're scattered, disorganized, powerless. They can come with their guns and flak jackets and take over our server farms, or kick in our doors and confiscate our laptops, or whatever else they might be worried about that day. Our feelgood corporate false friends, like Paypal, will be right there to lend a loyal obedient hand.

But there are still, and will always be, more of us than there are of them.

December 6, 2010

Two can play at that game

It always makes me happy, wildly giddily happy, when people fight back with whatever modest means are at their disposal:

Anonymous attacks PayPal in 'Operation Avenge Assange'

Anonymous has launched a broad-ranging campaign in support of Wikileaks, starting with a DDoS assault on a PayPal website.

The denial of service attack lasted for eight hours and resulted in numerous service disruptions, Panda Security reports [1]. The group [2], spawned from anarchic message board 4chan, first came to prominence with a long running campaign against the church of Scientology... [Anonymous] said on its website:

While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons. We want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas....
Operation Avenge Assange [3] will incorporate a combination of political lobbying (writing to MPs etc), a consumer boycott of PayPal as well as practical support (mirroring) and advocacy for Wikileaks. The traditional denial of service attacks will also come into play with an assault against the ThePayPalblog.com. ®
Okay, okay, all you Grinches out there, I hear ya. This sort of thing is utterly futile -- until suddenly it isn't. Robin Hood didn't bring down the Plantagenet monarchy, either. But we still remember him.

December 8, 2010

The Suburban Restoration

I normally try to keep my Canadian politics references to a minimum. The working assumption is that people need an update on Canadian politics about as much as they need an update on their co-worker's digestive issues. With that in mind, I think that SMBIVA might still get a kick out of Toronto's new mayor.

Rob Ford is a rich kid who never actually graduated university or worked any sort of real job in his life. As far as I know, his only non-political job was as a volunteer high school football coach -- a position he gained in return for a donation of $20,000 to equip the team. He has been arrested for DUI and possession of marijuana. He's an unapologetic fat-ass. He behaves like a child during council sessions, and has to be warned repeatedly about swearing and other bizarre behaviour. He's basically Tommy Boy, and he just won Toronto's mayoral race in a landslide.

This election has exposed a rift in Toronto between the leftist downtown core, which voted for Anybody But Ford, and the conservative suburbs, where Ford dominated. As might be expected, the downtown elite have taken the news hard. Richard Florida is inconsolable. I'm told that he has been in seclusion since election night and is subsisting solely on tom yum broth. Naomi Klein has been spotted on the Mink Mile, splurge-buying Hermes scarves. To add insult to injury, Ford gave his scheduled victory interview to CBC Radio (the equivalent of NPR) while coaching a football game, and part way through told the host "I gotta let you go", as if dealing with a telemarketer.

Right about now, I'm sure that MJS is out there somewhere asking "Is there actually any downside to this Rob Ford character?" Well, let this be a lesson in "first they came for the vegan improv troupes..." to you, Father Smith:

That's right. Rob Ford is here to end the War on Cars, put those goddamn pain in the ass cyclists in their place (on the sidewalk), and eliminate the bike lanes. This was actually a key plank in Ford's platform, and arguably his defining issue. Toronto has recently set up some bike lanes, taxed motor vehicles to pay for transit infrastructure, and undertaken a variety of other greenish initiatives. Now we are getting the blowback.

If there is one thing that the suburbanites here hate more than anything -- more than bureaucrats, more than fancy pants professors, more than the immigrants, more than the gays, more than the feminists -- it is the "fucking bike nazis". Oh, the rage. Never mind the fact that most of the suburbanites rarely come downtown more than once a week. Apparently the inconvenience of having to yield to a cyclist on a crowded street is enough to engender a lifetime of frothing hatred. Now that their man is in City Hall, the horizon looks quite bleak for cyclists in the GTA.

Perhaps I'm being overly dour. Could Ford pull a bait and switch on his base? There's at least one promising sign. Despite using homophobic, underhanded tactics against his rival during the campaign, Ford selected Canada's most famous homosexual to give a speech at his inauguration ceremony:

The horror!

Rachel Maddow is cute as a button, and obviously a clever person, in a compliant, A-student kind of way. So -- call me naif -- it's always a bit of a shock, even now, when she comes out with something like this:

Is not just a face-value harm for this president`s political power. It is actually a substantive harm for the presidency itself. Either the president of the United States matters or he doesn`t.

And if the president cannot win when his party is the majority in Congress, if no one can even conceive of the president winning fights when his party is in the majority, let alone the minority in Washington, then the presidency itself starts to atrophy. It starts to disappear.

So many questions. Why does Rachel think "the presidency" is a good thing? Has she ever asked herself whether it is or it isn't? The fundamentally authoritarian and dirigiste character of liberalism couldn't be more clearly exhibited.

(Apparently this is a transcript from an MSNBC show last night; I don't have a link for it, alas. A correspondent just sent me the text in an email.)

There's a lot of other good stuff in it; she's interviewing Simon Johnson, and the two A-students agree that the tax cuts are a bad thing because they will increase the deficit. Do we laugh or cry?

It's been a good day for Pwog folly. Here's another prize, in a comment on Stoolie -- erm, that is, Wired:

Posted by: honest_cloud | 12/7/10 | 8:57 pm |

It’s one thing to righteously release videos of Bush’s baby killers slaughtering innocents in Iraq; it’s a totally different matter to undermine the Obama administration with overly sensationalized diplomatic cables.

After considering the damage Assange has done to America’s most promising president in the last 65 years, it’s hard to believe his motives were pure.

Isn't that great? Everything is all about the Bushoabamamachia. Leaking on Bush: Good. Leaking same stuff on Obie: Bad.

There, in a nutshell, you have the raison d'etre of this site. I would like to save one or two poor souls from this kind of intellectual disgrace, which forms the terminal stage, the general paresis, of Democratic partisanship.

Before Yggie There Was Iggy


If you read a lot of blogs, you're likely to have come across a comment spammer called Coach Outlet Online. Rumor has it that Coach is actually Michael Ignatieff, cruise missile liberal, former Harvard professor in the cruise missile liberalism department and currently leader of Canada's Liberal Party, a position he uses to promote cruise missile liberalism.

One might easily assume he's a single issue kind of guy. But he's not. As the picture demonstrates, he likes to lecture people while grasping a pair of imaginary underpants. No one knows why he does it. He just does it, randomly, and gets upset when people fail to understand. The Liberal Party elevated him to the leadership because they were afraid of alienating people who support Stephen Harper, leader of the Seal Clubbing Party.

December 9, 2010

Our fierce feathered friends

The fog shrouded ole curiosity shop of a Xmas passion play now on the Washington main stage took a nice turn while I was visiting the big apple the past few days.

Barry the Manchurian POTUS took a big time public buggering from the nasty chief sprites of the Grinch party, and God bless him, he sez he took it "for the little people" and in the face of well-anticipated "liberal" uproar.

I cannot imagine a more wholesome dime's-difference frolic.

Substantively of course I'm already on the record here, but I'll add a little 'Owen's own' catechism:

The Esau class got unemployment extension and a payroll tax cut. Is that a mess of pottage worth yet another birthright renunciation? I'd say so.

From the Esau McShitski jobbler POV, what's an additional $50 billion in rich man's money per annum, converted to uncle revenue, gonna accomplish for them?

Not much, if anything. Indeed, a smaller budget gap marginally reduces the robustness of job markets, which of course Esau types depend on like Blanche Dubois depends on the kindness of strangers.

Is this holiday season giveaway as another cave-in of the public-option caliber? Ridiculous.

What then of our partners in the popular front... the pwogs?

As usual, the feathery souls never saw a prospective tax increase or improving social expenditure they didn't cream at. So from them we got -- what else? -- outrage! This squalid inter-class quid pro quo has the pwogs flapping into flight.

These good guys of the merit class pride themselves precisely on the moral distinction that flows from being the only important taxpaying economic class fraction actively in favor of increasing taxes (especially on themselves).

They ask not what Uncle can do for them or us, but what they in their civic virtue, and we in our benighted selfish ignorance, can do for Uncle.

How this meshes with the present motive -- slap the rich class with a tax increase -- speaks volumes in a few words to the dark side motor inside their entire enterprise, their revengeful dream to tax the blazes out of the moneybags set. When it comes to inner spirit there are few souls that in this respect -- unabashed class hatred -- can claim peerage with our pwogs.

To throw away this chance to take a bit of flesh out of the plutonians, in particular simply for a unemployment benefit extension and a few other meager scraps? Yikes! The very summit of pusillanimous Dembot surrender!

And yet in spite of my obviously Olympian take on this event, I come to a chthonic conclusion. Let it be clear: with this post, I, O.T.L. Paine, Esquire, duly announce my personal public support for any and all efforts in Congress by its gaggle of self righteous pwogissimos to torpedo this monstrous sellout, in the name of Clio's naughty child Chaos.

December 10, 2010

Framing the brain properly

This not the silliest, wordiest thing Doc Lakoff has ever written. Although, how could anyone really know for sure? But what recommends it is the progression from framing as marketing to framing as a means of changing the brain. The good parts of the bad brains need to be tickled into existence before the framing can work. Needless to say, that can only be done through framing. Now...

I'm sorry. I can't write anymore. It's hard enough just reading his column.

Update! Mr. David Bowie sings his hit song, Frame.

Please send more post-dated cheques. Thx. Bill

Marcel Proust

This is Pete Campbell Bill Ackman. Like many hedge fund managers, Bill recently went through a bit of a rough patch. His attempted takeover of Target was voted down last year, and he reacted in a fashion quite unbecoming of Wall Street's most impeccably coiffed manager. While announcing the failure of his takeover bid, Ackman burst into tears. Channelling Marcel Proust, he then stayed up all night writing a 5,000 word essay explaining that his tears were not for his own loss, but were rather an involuntary reaction to a flood of memories, images, and recollections of possible futures lost, all triggered by a particularly poignant JFK quote that he used in the speech. True stories.

Today Ackman has dried his eyes, set aside his hauntological theories, and is back with a new asset class to get rich on: SFHRPs. What's that, you ask? Is it like Treasury coupon STRIPS, or is it more like an MBS CDO?

Well, it's actually more like this: picture the home you live in now, but owned by a twat in a bespoke suit.

It's the Single Family Home Rental Property!

Now I'll take any excuse to post up pictures of a mane like that, but I think that this story is actually related to a couple of themes that surface here from time to time.

Brian M. recently commented that suburban living, despite its drawbacks, still represented an improvement over the days of slumlords and filthy tenements. Does that still hold though, when that piece of the American pie is no longer free and clear, or even mortgaged, but must instead be rented from a ruling class that has given up on productive investment and returned to the most basic rentier behaviour?

Conversely, Father Smith is, to his credit, a great proponent of renting. But for everyone to rent, someone must own, and a population of renters-for-life makes for easy prey.

I'm a bit more agnostic about buying vs. renting, houses vs. apartments, etc. I prefer whichever puts a roof over the people's heads at the lowest percentage of income. The good thing about having both rental and purchasing markets is that it puts a limit on price gouging. One can always sell the home and start renting, or vice-versa.

This dynamic should ensure that landlords can't extract excessive rent from tenants who could always buy for themselves. But if there is no excess return to be had, no alpha to be generated, then why is Bill Ackman sniffing around?

I think that I have this game figured out. It's all about credit score arbitrage. Say you take a family who, through no fault of their own, bought in too high on a bad mortgage and got foreclosed upon. Their credit score has been destroyed, and now they are shut out of owning property. But here's the thing: they still have the same cash flow. If you have a better credit score, you can buy a property, rent it to them, and extract a premium over what it would cost for them to buy the home because they cannot switch to buying.

Bill probably has the right idea. Extorting the credit score refugees could very well be a cash cow. This tool of class oppression isn't new, but I get the sense that it will be increasingly important. My own pet solution: the credit score jubilee. Think about it. Is it at all fair that regular working Joes are being punished for failing to foresee the previously unobserved positive correlations between local housing markets, or failing to research the effect of securitized lending on home price appreciation? Surely, if "no one could see this coming" then it hardly makes sense to punish the people who had the very least responsibility to foresee the subprime crisis.

I know, I know: the empire doesn't do ponies, "tough luck, bub" is how it is and how it always will be for the underclass -- but this man-made credit famine really ought to be exposed and opposed before these Goriots corner the market.

December 11, 2010

Progressives Rising, Lowering The Boom

Progressives are organizing as we speak, have been ever since the election in November. We are in the process of naming the new party and choosing a platform on which to run a candidate. No flies on us. Obama better shake his tail and start some decent governing or we're going to overtake and displace him, and beat out the Republican candidate, whoever that will be. We are tired of the average American getting trashed by Republicans and Elite Democrats alike, and we're fighting back hard.


People made fun of them; ridiculed them, mocked them and sneered. Little did they know, oh ho, that the Progressives were rising, quietly but steadily, and infiltrating the party structure. It took two years. Two long years, but they knew what they were doing and now they're ready.


Yes, ready. No flies. Tails must be seen to be shaking, because they're ready to lower the boom, if necessary. Ready to give Obama one last chance, or else! Ready to give critical support and withhold the boom, if warranted. Ready to apply pressure. They stand as captains of a mighty host, demanding the rights to which average Americans are entitled, ready to maintain readiness to engage in boom-related lowering activity programs.

Category Error Catechism

I come not to club Krugman, but to expose his critique of Obama as "shallow-end" dissent. Professor K. uses all sorts of shrill-sounding terms about Obama's presidency, even raising questions of morality and character. But he persists (willfully? unwittingly?) the notion that Obama is weak and a poor strategist, rather than fundamentally opposed to left/liberal/progressive policy. Such denialism is the essence of the "category error" riff.


Shrill in this context is a good thing, by the way. Many people are admirably shrill, right up until it's time for them to wade in over their ankles. Then, like all good people with laudably soggy socks, they start to recite the category error catechism.

The catechism is baseless imputation. There's no way to impute decency into existence. Obama and his flunkies hurl snide, nasty comments because they're snide, nasty people. They evince an arrogant sense of entitlement because that's what they have. They "failed" to push anything hinting at liberal meliorism because they're opposed to it, and they opposed it very effectively. Well enough, in fact, that it's bitten their expendable contingent. They're going to keep opposing it too, and when they're out of office they'll daschle off to their rich rewards.

The progression is so well-documented and so clearly demonstrated that after a while ingenuous imputation starts to look cynical. Appearances aside, however, it fits the definition of category error. Hence Vastleft's entirely apposite use of the term.

December 13, 2010

Raising the bar

Oh its just so tewwible, tewwible, or so sez a major drumhead liberal bigfoot:

"There's a real asymmetry between liberal and conservative goals. Liberals want active change. This means they can't just obstruct. They have to figure out a way to build a supermajority coalition for complicated legislation, and that means compromise. And everyone knows this. So compromise is baked into the cake. But conservatives, to a much larger extent, are often OK with simply preventing things from changing, either as their first best or second best position. For that, all you have to do is maintain a very simple position among a minority caucus. No real coalition building or compromise is necessary."
Note this "supermajority coalition". This point is about a system of legislation hamstrung by a senate hamstringing itself by its own rules.
"Political coalitions are simply too public to sustain an artificial bargaining posture. The problem with the Democratic caucus isn't that they negotiate badly, it's that the Democratic caucus is genuinely fractured. And again, everyone knows it. You can't pretend you're willing to go to the mat against high-end tax cuts when there are half a dozen Democratic senators who support high-end tax cuts and Republicans know there are half a dozen Democratic senators who support high-end tax cuts. To fix this, you need more liberal Democrats, not tougher leadership."
Again, it's just a matter of getting more goddam liberals, till we have, say, 66 liberals to insure a steady 60 vote supermajority.

But then he gets into "a genuine and growing fracture point within the liberal coalition", with quotes from some fellow lib-lipper of an analytic blowhole:

"Civic republicans vs. non-republican liberals. Civic republicanism (small “r,” of course) is an awkward label for a common position: that the fundamental issue of our time is the ability of the rich, and corporations, to game the political system and prevent the rest of us from exerting true self-governance...In contrast, a non-republican liberal position is that giving material sustenance to the poor is more important than whether the rich get paid off, however regrettable and undeserved that is."
My my, this civic clique looks nasty, eh? Go to the wall. The worse the better. That's the only way to take out the corporates -- beat 'em at their own hard-nosed game.

Translation: the new Dembo stoics will allow the safety net to shrivel rather than give ground to gaming corporates. And the upshot? I guess it gets so bad we... elect 66 liberals to the senate!

Degree of difficulty here? For sure, in normal waters, it's beyond yokel capacity to perform.

I love it. Set standards for the rubber-stamp electorate that they can't reach. How merit-class, eh?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

Even a stopped clock...

... is right twice a day.

SMBIVA is not exactly a fan site for the judiciary branch, but let the record show that Bush-appointed judge Henry E. Hudson has done a truly marvelous thing, and I am not being one bit ironical:

A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional....

In a 42-page opinion issued in Richmond, Va., Judge Hudson wrote that the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

Judge Hudson's logic seems eminently reasonable to me:
The judge wrote that his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”
By contrast, the New York Times' inline editorializing, in the story linked to above, seems remarkably incoherent, even for the Times:
The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million uninsured because insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to treat those with expensive chronic conditions....

The administration has said that if that [insurance mandate] eventually falls, related insurance reforms would necessarily collapse with it, most notably the ban on insurer exclusions of applicants with pre-existing health conditions.

Actually, I misspoke. "Incoherent" is the wrong word. It's perfectly coherent: it follows the insurance-shark and Administration soup-hound line perfectly.

December 15, 2010

Face of the enemy...

... and thighs, and tum:

Lipo-terrorists like the sinister figures above are the target of a new national-security roundhouse punch from the sinewy arms of the well-toned Michelle Obama, First Gymrat of the nation:

First lady Michelle Obama [thinks] that the nation is seeing “a groundswell of support” for curbing childhood obesity, and she is unveiling new ammunition from current and retired military leaders.

“Military leaders … tell us that when more than one in four young people are unqualified for military service because of their weight,” the first lady says... “childhood obesity isn’t just a public health threat, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well."

You can't make this stuff up, can you?

Every society has its own characteristic forms of dementia. For the sexually repressed Victorians, it was hysteria. For us -- mind-over-matter Gnostics living on the slippery glutinous slopes of the Great Rock Candy And Animal Fat Mountain -- it's anorexia nervosa.

I recently became acquainted with a young fella suffering from this malady -- yes, it happens to guys too, though much more often to girls. In accordance with Nature's usual heavy-handed irony, he works in an upscale grocery store here on the upper west side of Manhattan, and he had me in stitches with his imitation of the "yoga moms" who bustle in and scrutinize every label with narrowed eyes and grill the staff relentlessly about trans-fats and glycopenes and I dunno what-not -- are they all biochemists?

(Michelle Obama, of course, is the professional-bourgeoise yoga mom par excellence: disciplined, energetic, ambitious, rational -- in an instrumental kind of way. Knows what she wants, knows how to get it, and expects the staff to jump when she says "frog".)

My acquaintance thinks it's a "cop-out to blame the society" for his illness, and I understand his reasons; it's a very personal struggle for him. But leaving aside the dubious concept of "blame", it's hard not to read anorexia as the vector sum of a ferocious double bind: "Eat! Lose weight!"

The two horns of this dilemma correspond to our contradictory but equally indispensable roles in the great machine of Wealth Creation. On the one hand, we are consumers. On the other, we are producers. The consumer side must consume a lot to keep the machine going. But the producer side must be disciplined, self-denying, Stakhanovite, underpaid and overworked. The consumer side must be oral-aggressive. The producer side must be anal-retentive -- or no, that's not right; it must be so starved that there's nothing to retain. The reality of life in the present phase of capitalist society is the contrapositive of Fordism: we've got to consume even though they don't pay us.

Curiously enough, when you look at the matter demographically, the real producers in the society -- regular blue-collar Janes and Joes -- tend to make up for their exploitation at work (or the concentration-camp regime in their schools) by hoovering down the Cheetos and Budweiser at home. And -- look you, there is correspondences in all things, as Fluellyn says -- the merit-class rentiers living in actual fact off the fat of the land have made a religion out of lowfat yogurt.

The Janes and Joes get to bear two burdens: production and shame. The Yoga Moms (and Marathon Dads) get two types of income: money income, of course, commensurate with their credentials and their sedulousness at the office; and psychic income, in the form of moral self-congratulation.

I wonder which takes more actual pleasure in life? The two jolly girls shown up top look like they're having a good time. Michelle almost never does.

Les incompétents

Some days I imagine that the rich and powerful maintain their position by employing the most skilled, ruthless agents that money can buy. Then there are the days when I watch a White House White Board presentation:

I probably shouldn't be so hard on poor Austan Goolsbee. It really is a great thing that the White House is doing with him. Many University of Chicago professors react badly to entering the real world and discovering that they wasted so many years learning inapplicable nonsense. However, if they are carefully shielded from this discovery, they can actually lead full and satisfying lives, just like normal people. The key is allowing them to believe that they are performing a real job, while maintaining a safe environment where they are free to make mistakes and grow as a person.

The White House has been quite progressive in adopting the best practices for accommodating someone with a PhD from the University of Chicago. Although he will never be able to give a press conference like a real Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Austan is allowed to have his friends over to make videos for Youtube. This way, he can get up and give a speech just like a real Chairman, but instead of there being an audience of reporters, his friends record it for him. Once it has been reviewed by his support workers, he can upload it to Youtube and share the link.

The most remarkable aspect of the White House's program is the room that they constructed for Austan. It looks normal, but everything in that room (the walls, the mouldings, the furniture, the whiteboard, the stand -- everything) is made entirely of a pliant polyurethane compound for Austan's safety. Austan could charge full speed at the wall with a wastepaper basket over his head, but then bounce back unscathed. Or say he has his friends over to build a fortress out of the sofa cushions and they use the fireplace poker as a central support pillar. He can jump off of his desk, do a belly flop on the poker, and then scamper off to get some more apple slices and peanut butter, completely oblivious to the fact that he could have impaled himself. It's really a wonderful program.

Political rap ain't dead y'all


I'm not sure if I should thank Doug Henwood or curse him for passing along the latest from The Roman Polanski of Rap: No Labels Anthem.

My ears!

Those bad old Wepublicans do it again

Lest we forget the FIRE sector amidst health provisioning follies, do y'all remember the the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission? Next month it's scheduled to disgorge its "final report"!

Here's a blog post by a stalwart lady tribune of honest people-person oriented credit dealings, to refocus our eyes some on the "horror" -- err, temporarily:

The gist: The Rethugulars on that commission are fixin' to go off reservation soon, and pre-emptively blame the last ten years of financial foolery on Barney Wonka and the chocolate factor.

Ms Blogger:

"The intent is pretty transparent: to discredit an effort at fact finding into the roots of the crisis, what was hoped to be a Pecora Commission, by making it appear partisan and launching an alternative narrative to muddy the waters. And the reason is clear. Even though FCIC is certain not to have the same effect that the Pecora Commission did, of discrediting major financial services industry figures and exposing various forms of chicanery, it appears that even lesser forms of criticism of the banksters must be sandbagged (the bizarre part of this drama is that at least some Democrats and very selectively, Republicans in office are willing to call out the predatory, extractive behavior of the large banks. But no one has the guts to buck an industry that is a major paymaster in a very serious way)."
Read the whole post. It's a Christmas special. I wish I had a tenth of the fresh indignant energy of some of these moderate white-hat observers. It's quite a show seeing them dancing on the hot griddle over this hi-fi Laputa shitstorm.

Seeing stuff too soon, and from too great a distance, can make a snarling sniping growling dark-hole critter out of even the least asocial of us poor parlor pinks -- that is, if it don't make us completely into just another catatonic mute in the nation's basement.

December 16, 2010

Deficit hawk with a heart

Behold the Jan with a plan!

I love the Janster, anyway(*) and any time, and gosh, here she is swingin' the double-headed budget broadaxe, and in the holy class cause of progress, goodness, light, and the little peoples' purses.

It's pdf, but I can't cut and paste it here, for some dang reason or other, so go read it yourselves, ya bastids, it's only 7 panels long.

Gistifying, for the kids and great-uncles: today and tomorrow, "TOUCH NOTHING!" But in fiscal budget 2015:

  • Add 150 billion to tax revenue -- yes tax increases, the merit-class glory hole;
  • Even better, close 130 billion in corporate and wealthy-guy tax loopholes;
  • And best of show, cut 110 billion out of the death star project! Yes indeed, slash an assorted set of gratuitous procurement gigs, both ongoing and pending -- carve out a few war freakouts and fanfares!
  • A few modest nibbles at the fringes of the social budget. Never fear, they're mostly mined from corporate and rich boy rent sumps (these are fun fantasy moves, aren't they, Ms Progress?)

  • Allah be praised: a cost-cutting pub-op for health insurance, and Uncle at the table in drug price negotiations!
Ummm, Owen...tax increases? Hey, what else? Hacks at a few of the Limited-Liability Man's immaculate exemptions, passover cults, and uncle-sanctioned legal frauds.

What's not to like, eh? The wish sandwich and wolf-ticket department has lots of fetching lefty market-oriented inventory moldering on the shelves, don't it?


(*) Just look at her! What a knockout! The eaglebeak nose... the short frosted hair... the wolverine eyes... Like man, it hurts so good... it hurts so good.

Oh noes!

We're still seeing lots of this pwoggie-boy blues:

"...Already passed by the Senate, the House probably votes today... on extending the tax cuts for the rich and permanently cutting the estate tax to a very, very low level.... It is hard to convey just how dispiriting this is to progressives who worked so hard to reach and persuade people and get them to the polls in 2008 to vote for "change." The "change" was not supposed to be about giving even more breaks to the wealthy and big corporations..."
Thought experiment: why not? Out of spite? Out of budget-gap superstitions?

I think behind it all is fear of "starve the beast" --- lots of keen uplifters and such now can't be afforded. To which I sez "who sez? And who cares?"

But it doesn't stop at crumbling schools and faulty train tracks -- let alone cuts to our sacred multiple endowments for the inanities. Nope, the threat to the transfer system now looms up at 'em through the proposed payroll tax holiday.

Imagine that. If there's to be any "left" attack on that proposal it oughta start with "it's too fucking small, brother."

I say cut out the employee side of the payroll tax completely, and until further notice.

So why are so many serious pwogs cackling about this dimension of the "double deal"?

The goddam fools figure the payroll tax holiday "won't be revoked"! Yup, they are afraid taxes on wage work might never get restored!

It's all amazing. We have paid, what, $2 trillion-plus out of payroll to fund the armada these past ten years or so? Was that prudent? The game here is so rigged its stupefying.

Why do the pwoggles fear this unintentional dribble of sane melioration? I think it's because they fear the "spirit of cutting" will spread to the benefit stream, and not tomorrow, but, you know, years from now.

Esau class first principles here: if it isn't cut today, or tomorrow morning at the latest, then who cares?

The Esaus are right: so long as Uncle has his limitless dollar mine, anything is nominally possible, and since this is all in nominal terms...

It's really simple, but somehow pwogs fail to understand the nature of transfer systems backed by the free source of all new dollars. You can only transfer real stuff produced today to a mouth or a warehouse. There is no other real saving or consuming. Anything else is paper chains that are as easily ripped apart as they are clapped on.

If I eat more today than yesterday, no one can go back in time and take it away tomorrow. And if they try to take it out of my next year -- I mean really take it out, that is, out of my real stream of goodies -- then the fight to stop it won't really be any the more difficult no matter what today's paperwork might say.

Rule one of corporate class exploitation: if they and their gubmint can take it away now, they will. There is no ease-off. You'll never hear 'em say "well, yeah, you cut your eats yesterday, so here's more today."

The Esau class needs to play by the same rules. Tomorrow's Esaus oughta consider it a point of honor to default on any inter-class agreements made today and yesterday.

They've got the right, based on the backside of the golden rule: it oughta be just as decent -- if not as easy -- as the corporate class default during these past 35 years on all of their post-WWII inter-class agreements.

We can always reverse any pact to cut future benefits -- and it will be even hard er to cut the the social security benefit stream than to restore the taxes that pretend to pay for 'em today.

The only part of Uncle's spending we job-class oriented lefties oughta fuss over is the transfer systems to regular folks and all the taxes on regular folks. And I mean, of course, today's taxes and benefits, and maybe next year's, but never ten years from now.

Uncle is not limited by the laws of prudent finance. Uncle is not a corporation, or even a California times ten.

Fellow avatars of Esau, take as much as you can from Uncle in cash right now and block as much of his taxation on you as you can -- right now. The rest is rabbit's-foot/black cat superstition.


PS: I saw a poll somewhere that showed barely a third of registered citizen rubberstamps "like" the payroll tax holiday.

Why might that be? The two-thirds agin' must include zillions of honest wage earning geefs. So why the nyet?

Given all the weird wonky chatter about the crisis looming in THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM and the bipartisan track record on this very system since the mid-80's -- maybe a lot of smart McShitski jobblers figure this is just a sly con move prior to another massive attack on their retirement system.

If so, I don't blame 'em. Given the idiotic pwog fiscal panic -- come the time to debate, the job class may find the same folks that beat back Bush in '05 won't have the stomach for it next time. Get ready, gang; with or without the holiday, the attack is coming, and the pretext provided by starve-the-beast tactics is no more dangerous than any other alibi lies of the Cyclops class.

December 18, 2010

Et tu, Dudley?


The Bank of Canada has long been a paragon of virtue among central banks. It always plays by the rules, and regardless of its policies, or even despite them, always seems to succeed. The Bank's greatest badge of honour is its exchange rate policy. It was actually the first central bank to attempt a floating currency in the 1960s, and has generally been a leading proponent of unmanaged currencies.

For almost 15 years now, the Bank of Canada has avoided any intervention in the foreign exchange market. This means that the BoC allows the value of the Canadian dollar to fluctuate freely. It can still influence the exchange rate indirectly through interest rates, but it does not actually go into the forex market to buy and sell dollars, like a Chinese or Japanese central bank. According to recent speculation, however, the Bank of Canada may be driven from this virtuous path:

Govenor Mark Carney is dealing with a recovery that is slowing, partly because of flagging U.S. demand, but also because the stronger dollar is eroding Canada's export competitiveness by making goods more expensive outside the country. At the same time, he wants Canadians to stop gorging on debt, but he has to keep interest rates low for economic reasons.

"He would like to raise interest rates to slow household debt accumulation," Mr. Shenfeld said in a report today. "For now, he can't do so for fear of sending the loonie soaring, and adding to the existing drag on exports."

But, he noted, a weapon that remains is "fighting fire with fire."

"Canada could match foreign central bank intervention in favour of our currency with an offsetting intervention, selling an equivalent volume of loonies," Mr. Shenfeld said. "That would simply move back to market-determined exchange rates, and would loosen the death grip on the Canadian dollar. Just a thought."

Just a thought, indeed. At the very least, this would be a symbolic death blow to Bretton Woods II. To Canada''s central bankers it is utter sacrilege, underhanded knavery, despicable selfishness and… maybe not such a bad idea.

Things have usually worked out well for Canada's central bank, but lately that just isn't the case. Canada is now caught in the same double bind that Greenspan was caught in earlier this decade: low employment and a growing housing bubble. This combination doesn't leave you any good moves with regard to interest rates. Do you raise rates to delfate the bubble, costing thousands of jobs, or do you lower rates to support employment, and become responsible for the bubble? Greenspan (to his credit) chose the latter, and look where that got him.

The obvious cause of this problem is a malfunctioning exchange rate due to foreign intervention, and the solution is to either stop the foreign banks from intervening, or start intervening yourself. Canada lacks the geopolitical heft to force a new Bretton Woods, so it comes down to currency intervention. Everybody's doing it:

Several countries are now managing their exchange rates amid a currency cold war, for want of a better phrase, sparking much controversy.

"Going to school on the lessons from the past crisis, global policy makers are moving towards financial sector reforms, while a second source of those troubles, an imbalance in trade tied to misaligned currencies, is getting less action" Mr. Shenfeld said.

"Bank of Canada Governor Carney warned of a 'death grip' on the U.S. dollar, with over 40 per cent of America's trade now with countries with managed exchange rates against the greenback, and more than a dozen countries seeing double-digit growth in their reserves as they control those rates."

But the loonie may also be in a death grip of its own, he said.

"Anything that elevates the greenback against overseas economies is tilting Canada's cross against those same markets, and affecting our trade balance as a consequence."

So it's either strangle or be strangled. Could the Canadians go over to the dark side, and become currency manipulating mercantilists? Not for a while yet, I'm sure. But if the US refuses to defend itself and the rest of the floating currencies, there's only so long that you can stick to the losing cause.


A minor flapdoodle has erupted in recent days after publication of "An Open Letter to the Left Establishment" sent by, who else, the left establishment, or a portion thereof. Full disclosure: though my own distinguished signature was not individually sought for this broadside, I nevertheless went to the Web site and signed on as a steerage passenger, and I encourage everybody else to go and do likewise, for two reasons: 1) The letter calls for "disruptive" protest -- an idea dear to my heart -- and 2) it made Tom Hayden furious.

Hayden's response is worth reading, if you've got a few minutes to kill, and if you enjoy the spectacle of a preening popinjay writhing under an affront to his amour-propre. But he doesn't have anything interesting to say, of course.

Bill Fletcher, however -- one of Obie's legions of "critical supporters" -- is somewhat interesting, though a little obscure, in his own clearly annoyed response to the letter:

"The Letter reads as if those named in the first paragraph have been sitting on their hands or standing at the gates refusing to permit the masses to pass through and challenge Obama... it is odd that the names would all be thrown together as if someone were actually trying to stir up confusion and promote disinformation. I don't know, but i have actually seen a film much like this before....

One thing that the authors of the Letter did not address was the question of the African American electorate. I don't know about you, but how we handle the question of this administration is particularly dicey when the African American electorate feels, overwhelmingly, that Obama is under an intense racist assault from the political Right (which is, as you know, quite correct). This basic question of the African American electorate and huge portions of the Latino electorate means that our electoral tactics in the coming two years will have to be handled very carefully, even while we put the pressure on this administration and struggle against its defense of warmed over neo-liberalism.

That second paragraph is intriguing. What's Fletcher's downside scenario, I wonder? Attacking Obie from the left is going to make some black folks do... what? Join the Teabaggers? Get annoyed at white leftists? Vote Republican? Sit out the next election?

Some of these scenarios seem unlikely -- the Teabagger option, for example. Others, though perhaps regrettable, are tolerable: tension between some white lefties and some black activists is an old story; it doesn't necessarily reflect badly on either party -- nobody has a monopoly on wisdom, and everybody has a duty to fight his own corner; and we can always get together on the things we agree about, even while sniping about the ones we don't agree about.

But one, at least, of these scenarios seems to me like an unalloyed good: namely, that disillusioned black folks might sit out the next election in droves. As I've argued many times here, it's better to do nothing than to do something that's actively harmful.

Bobbsey twins

Uncanny, innit? America's first and second black presidents -- wearing the same suit and the same inoffensive tie. Obie's is a little better knotted. That's the difference between Chicago and Arkansas.

Bill looks happier, though, doesn't he? And well he might. He, after all, got a second term; and there are still a good many fools out there who look back on his reign as a kind of Golden Age... okay, no, that's unfair. A Gold-Plated Age. But still. Who's going to have any nostalgia for the short-lived Age of Obama?

As usual, those wonderful photo editors at the New York Times -- the only people worth a hill of beans in that temple of Moloch -- found the right image:

December 20, 2010

The War On Christmas

SMBIVA has no party line position regarding Christmas or other religious holidays—with two small exceptions. One is the usual ecumenical damnation of Satan's little helpers, the Democratic Party, may they choke on the coal left in their stockings. Better yet, may their stockings choke them and the coal remain in the ground.

The other concerns work. It should be a day of rest, with pay. The reasons for both are self-evident and require no supporting argument.

Outside the modest party line, there's an issue that probably won't benefit from being addressed, but should be, in the same spirit with which the money lenders were flogged. The issue is the radical escalation of victimhood clutched and suckled by people who suffer contortions of their psychic bowels when someone wishes them "happy holidays". I think Jesus would agree when I say, tough shit.

The imperial state and corporate hegemony over daily life require the blandest possible "political correctness". There's no room for meaningful individuation or significant cultural differences. There are a lot of people to abuse. The scale of it precludes little niceties, such as principles or any religious beliefs that might lead to an understanding of common humanity. Homogeneity becomes more important than tolerance or acceptance, and blandness serves homogeneity best.

The people of the contorted bowels have found a refuge from homogeneity in victimhood. Whatever their other differences, whatever may be left of those differences after tending to imperial and corporate meat-grinding, they can all agree that the demands of empire and corporate hegemony are someone, anyone, else's fault. For them, Christmas is a time of special resentment; to be celebrated with an extra layer of angry, spite-hardened bricks for their bunker mentalities.

Happy holidays, assholes. You have no one to blame but yourselves.

A Robust Remedy

SMBIVA doesn't have a party line position on sex in the military either—save to emphasize the importance of consent and a non-negotiable insistence on discussing it with the most salacious innuendo possible.

But if, as the panic people never cease to remind us, there are reasons to be concerned about young people doing what young people will do, then the best imperial solution is to restrict recruitment to people over forty five. The youth of today needs the jobs we have. It would serve them right. Also, we're pretty much dead already, so it doesn't matter if we get shot, and we've still got a few good killing years left. The need to conclude combat operations before senility sets in might speed up the wars some. Best of all, thanks to middle aged irascibility, there'd be a lot more fragging. This would have a laudable darwinian effect on the officer corps. They'd learn pretty quickly to be the best they can be. Or else.

I've been told before that this is an "unserious" proposal. Relative to what? We've packed our Senate with demented old geezers and the courts are practically old age homes. A semi-vegetative state is no obstacle to the presidency and the House is a jobs program for failed used car salesmen. Most of our think tank scholars should be medicated. I don't want to hear about "unserious".

On the economic side, health care costs start dramatically rising in middle age. The military provides a single payer solution. Corporations would drool over the prospect of easing peak earners out of the workforce and into endless occupations.

I can't see any flaws with this. It's pragmatic and progressive.

Paging Dr van Helsing

Here it comes, ghostbusters, the great pwog crusade to re-free our social security holy land, now in yet another grip of cold corporate steel.

Is this the third or the twelfth of such crusades? Watch out for professional pwog-pols bearing dire warnings...

"The tax deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is just the first part of a multistage drama that is likely to further divide and weaken Democrats. The second part, now being teed up by the White House and key Senate Democrats, is a scheme for the president to embrace much of the Bowles-Simpson plan — including cuts in Social Security. This is to be unveiled, according to well-placed sources, in the president’s State of the Union address. "
Yup the POTUS is a vampire too.

December 21, 2010

Pig tales

Pair fined in deer rescue

Two men who helped rescue a deer from a frozen river last week were fined for not wearing life jackets aboard their inflatable boat, authorities said.

At 5 p.m., Baltimore County fire and Natural Resources Police officers were called to the Patapsco River Bridge at the Baltimore-Anne Arundel County line because a deer had fallen through the ice and was trapped.

James Hart, of Jessup, and Khalilalim Abusakran Jr. were on the scene, but officers told them to get off of the waterway because they weren't wearing required life jackets, NRP Sgt. Brian Albert said. The men continued to advance, and managed to break the ice so that the deer could follow the path of shallow water that was about 50 feet to the shoreline.

But because the men didn't follow instructions, they were each fined $90, Albert said.

"We're coming under scrutiny," Albert said. "But it's easy to pay a fine. It's hard to tell these gentlemen's families that they didn't make it because they were trying to rescue a deer cross the ice."

Many familiar themes here. There's the cops moaning, as usual, about how hard their jobs are, and claiming some kind of smarmy moral high ground on that basis. There's the contempt, masquerading as concern, for the inept public, who would never make it home to their families -- always the "families"! -- without the oversight and guidance of the gendarmerie. There's the minefield of nanny-state regulations, which enable the cops to bust anybody, for something or other, any time they feel like it. And then of course there's the real reason, rather bare-facedly acknowledged: the two Samaritans "didn't follow instructions".

It must be admitted however that the Baltimore County cops are well behind their New York counterparts. Here in my fair city, rescuing a deer without police permission would have you behind bars, charged with a vague but potentially serious offense like obstruction of justice, or lèse-policier or some such catchall bullshit.


Why Apple Removed a WikiLeaks App From Its Store

Apple on Tuesday confirmed that it had removed from its online store an iPhone and iPad app that let users view the content on the WikiLeaks site and follow the WikiLeaks Twitter account.

Trudy Muller, an Apple spokeswoman, said the company had removed the app “because it violated our developer guidelines.” Ms. Muller added: “Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or group in harm’s way.”

"In harm's way!" It's been observed here, some time ago, that this is a touchstone phrase, like "right to exist" and "national security". Anybody who uses these expressions, spit in their eye, bite 'em in the neck, push 'em down a flight of stairs.

"Comply with all local laws." So an app could not, for example, show a picture of an unveiled woman in Saudi Arabia?

I've always hated Apple. I recall years ago taking apart some of their machines and disassembling some of their code, and confirming a long-standing suspicion that their stuff was just as crummy as IBM's and Gates' -- Bill, I mean -- but with slightly more hip packaging.

All that's just aesthetics, though. The more interesting point, which hardly needs underscoring for the readership here, is that large monopoly corporations who have copyrighted "alternativeness" are still... large monopoly corporations. Such institutions have become so mutually interdependent with various categories of police that it's become a little difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. They're lichens -- half fungus, half alga, and you can't have one without the other.

Love a man in uniform

It's not fair to beat up on the cops without also taking a whack at their brothers-in-arms, the soldier boys.

Our far-flung mercenaries have become so heavily armored and padded that they look like the Michelin Man. But as was the case with the armored chivalry at the battle of Agincourt, all this plating and protection doesn't seem to be working out so well. It does make them look ludicrous, though, and that's all to the good, of course.

And every day brings some new absurdity. What is that preposterous dog-legged apparatus that appears to be sprouting out of this young officer's helmet? I dunno how the Afghans can stop laughing long enough to take aim.

This image illustrates a remarkably maudlin New York Times story. Quotation can't begin to do it justice; but then, I don't exactly recommend it, either.

December 22, 2010

Cui Bono?

This post is just an excuse for a bad pun. In Latin, worse yet. But really, for whom is he any good?

And don't you love the look on Bill's face? I'm gestating a Gates post, now that I've vented my spleen at that sociopath Jobs.

December 23, 2010

A feature, not a bug

Erich Fromm's criticism of the Stanford Prison Experiment is well worth your time. The experiment was so badly flawed, so lacking in scientific integrity, not to mention ethical considerations, that it's an indictment of the institution in which it took place and the experimenter himself.

One cannot help raising the question about the value of such “artificial” experiments, when there is so much material available for “natural” experiments. This question suggests itself all the more because experiments of this type not only lack the alleged accuracy which is supposed to make them preferable to natural experiments, but also because the artificial setup tends to distort the whole experimental situation as with one in “real life.”

There's the thing that caught my eye. What if the desired end is not knowledge, but ethically crippled managerial types? Throw in a little analytic philosophy and you've got a perfect people grinder.

December 24, 2010

More like the movies

Here's a filibuster rule change update.

My brother, Royal Paine, is on one of those Democratic Party email lists. The traffic he's seeing suggests that there's no end in sight. The Donks are braying to beat the band (echoed by Alternet and Kos) about a change in the rules to... to... "make 'em talk". Here's the text:


Are you as angry about the broken Senate as we are? In the movies, in order to filibuster, Senators have to stand in the Senate and make their case to the American people. But in the modern Senate, a filibuster takes no such act of principle or courage. Senators can filibuster simply by placing a phone call to a clerk and heading off to dinner!

This January 5th, we have a chance to change the rules of the Senate, and make Senators engage in an all night talk-a-thon in order to block legislation or nominations. We can make the filibuster a real filibuster....

' To get across the finish line, we need members of the Daily Kos community to show their support. You can do so by signing the petition Daily Kos has created in support of making the filibuster real.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, that's what we want. A "real" filibuster. Like in the movies.

As we've noted here before, endlessly, the filibuster constitutes one of the most staggeringly obvious, slap-in-the-face insults to the principle of majority rule in the whole comical US system of government. And that's saying a lot, considering the presence of elements like the Supreme Court, and the Electoral College, and and and... the Senate itself.

I hardly need more than the persistence of this one "procedural element" to convince myself the Orthrian hypothesis is valid. After all, if the Donk rump majority in the Senate can change the rules, on this first-day meeting, to "make 'em talk", they could equally easily do away with the filibuster altogether. But they don't want to do that, and they won't.

Merry Fucking Christmas

There are things to like about Christmas -- if you don't venture out onto the street anytime between Black Friday and Epiphany, and don't listen to any seasonal music composed in the last hundred years or so.

I have an old friend -- an instinctive Lefty like you and me -- who nevertheless shamelessly acknowledges that his favorite movie of all time is "It's a wonderful life." Makes me want to shake him. I've always hated this movie, and every year I hate it more.

George Bailey is recalled to life because he's told that his life was in fact useful -- not pleasurable, or divinely ordained for reasons beyond our understanding, but drearily useful. So Clarence the angel is a stand-in for Jeremy Bentham's mummy.

The only authentic moment in the whole ninety minutes is when George tells his daughter to stop playing her monotonous tune on the piano. Anybody with kids has, like, SO been there.

Pelion upon Ossa: Our hero is a banker -- a banker, fer Baby Jesus' sake. His great contribution is that he's turned some poor hapless working people into "homeowners" -- with a mortage, of course.

For all his bourgeois sorrows -- he doesn't get the European tour, he has to worry about the bank examiner -- the guy doesn't even lose his big spacious Victorian house with its WBFP's.

On the other hand, perhaps being married to Donna Reed is punishment enough even for a banker.

The only funny bit, to my way of thinking, is that if George had died, Donna would have ended up as a... librarian! But then of course, one has to wonder: what other poor shrivelled creature became the librarian instead?

Continue reading "Merry Fucking Christmas" »

December 28, 2010

Scapegoats du jour

Public employees and their unions are often hated by poorly fact-oriented wage-class citizens, and today the reactionary cadre of the corporate class mischief movement are harvesting this misbegotten wrath.

Honorable if frustrating work this, battling the wave after wave of corporate-class lies about gubmint and its 'umble woikahs. And yet belief in the lies is running toward high tide these days, and why? Well yes, in part because the job class is predisposed to believe this stuff. But at least as important is the higher level of job insecurity in the private sector.

Obvious stuff, of course, but in the absence of a speedy and total recovery in both our job markets and our house lot markets, trying to get out the facts here about these toiling public servents to the nation's broad masses is nearly futile.

And by the way... as to the public sector unions: look, comrades, after clinging fiercely to the underbelly of the corporate-dominated Democratic party all these years, they have no one to blame but themselves if their corporate-groomed choice for prez has allowed a job class cratering, and subsequent protracted stagnation, of biblical proportions.

December 29, 2010

The only thing we learn from history...

... is, notoriously, that we don't learn from history.

A salmagundi of items passed along from various email correspondents landed in my inbox today, and suggests reflections more numerous than I can corral into coherence.

First, from the pen of the loathesome Fouad Ajami, some choice remarks from the loathesome Barack Obama:

In May of this year, President Obama brought together a group of presidential historians for what was supposed to be the first of many meetings. By available accounts, he was curious about the rise of the tea party, curious as to whether there had been precedents for this sort of backlash against the established order....

"Ghosts," he said in one meeting when the late Richard Holbrooke... tried to draw parallels between Lyndon Johnson's dilemmas in Vietnam and the current American engagement in Afghanistan.... [Obama] was 13 in 1975, he said, when South Vietnam fell: "So I grew up with none of the baggage that arose out of the dispute of the Vietnam war. I also had a lot of confidence."

Fouad's own orotund ruminations about this ahistorical insouciance on Obie's part need not detain us, of course.

Then there was this, from the loathesome David Ignatius, sucking his loathesome thumb about the loathesome David Petraeus:

If briefings could win wars, Gen. David Petraeus would already be finished in Afghanistan. Here's what his masterful presentation looked like in Kabul this month - and then some hard questions for him to answer.

The general's aides come in first, carrying six wooden easels as if they're setting up an art display. Next come the charts, displaying an array of information as densely woven as a spider's web.

The Afghanistan campaign plan comes at the problem from every direction: It's top-down, in building the Afghan army, and bottom-up, in training tribal militias known as Afghan Local Police. It's about military power, especially the deadly night raids by U.S. Special Operations Forces, and it's also about making governance work in this corrupt and feeble country....

Like any war, this one is ultimately about willpower.... [But] history shows that three variables are crucial in countering an insurgency...

So here are a few questions for Petraeus to ponder at year-end.

I'll spare you Ignatius' "variables" and questions. They're all quite technical, in the original sense of the term; like an engineer -- in Ignatius' case, of course, an armchair engineer -- with a machine to design, weighing the choice between solenoids and pneumatic cylinders.

History, it seems, is a very useless thing. Petraeus and Obama despise it; Ajami and Ignatius think they can read its entrails; and it's hard to decide which of the four is most contemptible.

But it's easy enough to know which two are most dangerous, anyway. Ajami and Ignatius might bore you to death, but that's the only way they'll ever kill anybody. Whereas Obama and Petraeus have a practical infinity of death-dealing instrumentalities at their disposal, and seem very eager to leave none unused. This difference is probably just circumstantial, though; who would trust Ignatius or Ajami with even one Predator drone?

There's something all four have in common: an outlook we might call Problematism -- the notion that life consists of problem-solving exercises, like the Scholastic Aptitude Test, where a number of purported solutions are offered, and you have to pick the right one.

What distinguishes Petrocephalus and Obie, on the one hand, from the haruspices of capital-H History, Ignatz and Fubar, on the other, is a tactical difference in their approach to the exam. The former consider themselves the smartest guys in the room and are quite sure they can do well without studying much, whereas the latter are swots, for whom History is Kaplan, Inc., writ large.

Maybe that's why the latter are just scribblers, whereas the former get to play with rockets and stuff. Confidence will take you a long way in life.

December 31, 2010

The Voice Of Moderation

...consider the modern system of presidential primaries. Through most of American history, somebody like Sarah Palin could never have gained the support of party leaders who dominated the traditional party conventions. But today’s primary system—dominant only since 1972—permits right- or left-extremists to win a major party nomination.

Bruce Ackerman

Indeed! Just look at the extreme left nominees from the Democratic Party. Walter Mondale led the jacquerie that sacked Fairfax County and torched the CIA headquarters at Langley. John Kerry will go down in history as the John Brown of Wall Street. His last stand at the New York Fed is part of the urban warfare studies program at West Point. Barack Obama narrowly beat back a challenge from Hillary Clinton, whose Che beret and guerilla army of AK47-toting Pumas struck fear throughout the Mid West.

Truly, we live in parlous times. The rest of the Ackerman article is just as insightful, by the way. For example,

This isn’t the place to get into further details—the key point is to create an institution with the integrity necessary to say “No” when the president is violating Congress’ commands.

Thank God he does go into details, inapprorpiate place notwithstanding. To the uninitiated, that institution would be Congress. I think there was some moldy old document or another that outlined the procedures, responsibilities and stuff. But anyway, if it's not up to the task, and clearly it isn't, then Ackerman has a swell idea. He calls it the Supreme Executive Tribunal.

The point of the Supreme Executive Tribunal is to apply a legalistic break at a far earlier stage in the life-cycle of a runaway presidency—requiring the president’s lawyers to defend their actions in front of the tribunal before they go into effect.

Whoo! Boy that'll cramp the style of a rampaging president. The essential component, and I think Bruce would agree, is to make sure only the most thoughtful, deep thinking jurists are appointed to the Supreme Executive Tribunal. They should be people who, well, they should be people like Bruce, and maybe Todd Gitlin and that nudge guy, Cass Sunstein.

The late Tony Judt called liberals "Bush's useful idiots". Bruce and Todd responded by answering to the name of liberals. They said so. They said "we answer to the name of liberals"—not useful idiots, liberals. They made a point of that. Judt was wrong about them, of course. They are not useful in any way.

More Deep Thinking

The hard truth is that until the Left gets onto the field in a much more serious way and starts engaging the Right in its “war of ideas” -- including making major investments in media, think tanks and other means of getting information to the public -- politicians will continue to disappoint and embitter the Left. So will mainstream journalists. -- Robert Parry.

Lady Poverty

That's a recurring trope with pwogs. The big problem, needless to say, isn't a lack of idea-propagation infrastructure. They have an embarrassment of riches. What they're lacking is ideas. The only one they have is: vote for Democrats. That's it. They flap their gums a lot in between voting for Democrats, but none of it is meaningful.

About December 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in December 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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