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July 2010 Archives

July 1, 2010

A civilian expeditionary force for Iraq and Afghanistan

Raw Story a has a piece on it, with some entertaining comments.

Democrats have for years been extolling the virtues of poorly compensated compulsory service. It's the feel good version of the Republicans' strength through miserable obedience program. The Democrats offer goo-goo satisfaction and oneupmanship sanctimony as a teaser. The Republicans offer hostile goo and a sense of moral victimhood.

The parties are intensely and cynically interested in extracting surplus value through appeals to frustrated compassion. And of course the appeals are targeted at youngsters, who face the prospect of decades of soul-killing drudgery in occupations directly opposed to anything even hinting at compassion. Of the two, the Republicans are a tiny bit more straightforward: miserable obedience, performed properly, offers a little power somewhere down the line. They even have a perverse meritocracy and ethical system. The Democrats' model relies on the Republicans' regular implosions.

Faced with a series of crises, created by what passes for ideology amongst the elite, the Democrats put out a feeler for the market-readiness of old wine in hope'n'change bottles. They want shabbily compensated, compulsory labor as a means of delaying a reckoning for imperial botchery. The sensible thing would be to abandon the misbegotten project. There's no fix for it. Managerial royalism in any cause has nothing to offer, no matter how much enthusiastic "human capital" is poured into propping up stooge regimes and pasting smiley faces on cruel exploitation. It's a cynical ploy and won't change a thing. They may however manage to put a number of ingenuous humanitarians in harm's way.

I used to wonder how they could live with themselves. But the answer is right there. They live quite nicely. Although they occasionally feel sorry for themselves.

Today In Academia

Insofar as it produces historic personages, Harvard produces almost nothing but terrorists.

A Crow's Eye View of the Authoritarian Personality

The post, with excellent comments.

Every relatively healthy adult experiences cognitive dissonance as a severely distressing condition. In the face of overwhelming refutation, supplied by people and world around them, they sooner or later back away from the insupportable belief. It's not easy, sometimes, and it can take ages to make headway. But it does happen. The defensive constructs of wilder and wilder dissonance pall and finally gall so much that it's a relief to give up on them. What comes after, of course, varies.

The Crow's Eye post (and comments) takes a hard look at the serial imputation of idealized qualities to public figures who invariably fail to live up to them. The qualities, if they existed, would be sufficient to impart vast integrity in the face of totalizing systemic obstacles to their exercise. As the systemic obstacles are indeed totalizing, effectively so at that, the vast integrity remains forever out of reach. But there's no shortage of new faces to which it can be assigned. And that's a lot easier than taking a step into what looks like chaos. The dissonance, then, is a comfort. Not distressing except in the moments between new faces.

July 2, 2010

A Day In The Life

Have you ever been to one of those meetings where everyone else has just a little something , oh, wrong with them. You're pretty sure they're comrades. They have all the right shibboleths. You can denounce the bourgeoisie in the bathroom without causing any sudden, unfortunate spattering. They all get a definite misty-eyed look when the word "labor" floats across the room. But they keep plaguing you with offers of untagged C4 when the conversation is really supposed to be about fixing the printing press.


If you have, or know the feeling, and wonder how those deep cover Russian spies were caught, the Stiftung Leo Strauss has a post of interest.

July 3, 2010

Cop Riot

While rampaging in Toronto, the police managed to arrest live action role players—Renaissance Faire types. I can't imagine why they thought that would do anything for their image. But they did, and they displayed the costumes and props at a press conference as though they were proof of nefarious intent. All it cost was a billion dollars. Such snotty little boys. I think they need something worthwhile to do.


Poorly socialized children can sometimes be helped by teaching them how to care for animals. You have to keep a watchful eye, but often they can relate empathetically to pets and use that as a springboard to being able to consider humans, human.

July 4, 2010

Giant Rabbits

Good news for fans of giant rabbits.


Note: this is filed in the "Abstinence" category, out of concern for the children.

July 5, 2010

Liberalism with woodchuck characteristics

Tom Tomorrow's cartoon explains it.

It's an apt choice. From Wikipedia,

Groundhogs raised in captivity can be socialized relatively easily; however, their aggressive nature can pose problems. Doug Schwartz, a zookeeper and groundhog trainer at the Staten Island Zoo, has been quoted as saying "They’re known for their aggression, so you’re starting from a hard place. [Their] natural impulse is to kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out. You have to work to produce the sweet and cuddly."


Clinton Lectures Russia


For occupying part of Georgia, for Russia's failure to abide by this and that and for building "enduring" military bases. There may be more. I don't know.

You turn your back for a minute...

... And you get a garbled phone message saying your site has been taken over by rabbis.

Oh. Rabbits. Never mind.

July 6, 2010

Heels turn face, but shills are forever

While perusing the pwog-e-con-salon, I noticed a familiar name pop up on a piece of WSJ corporate propaganda : Laura D'Andrea Tyson.

As it happens, I had recently stumbled upon a 1994 video of that old villain Sir James Goldsmith debating Tyson. Before viewing, I would recommend moving your monitor back a couple feet and tucking away any delicate objects that may be lying around, as there is a good chance that you will find this twit as infuriating as I do.

For those with high blood pressure, here's a synopsis:

Goldsmith: There is a divorce between the interests of MNCs and the interests of the public. Offshoring is destroying the advanced economies.

Tyson: Offshoring makes American MNCs more competitive and creates better jobs in America.

Sixteen years later, Tyson is shocked -- shocked -- to discover that these same MNCs are now jumping ship and moving their headquarters outside of the US. Rather than contemplating that Goldsmith was right, Tyson argues that the U.S. did not go far enough in catering to the MNCs. They need more corporate tax cuts and they need them now!

I often imagine that shills who completely discredit themselves choose to take the hit for the team, knowing that they will live out the rest of their days in some comfortable position, writing boilerplate for the WSJ or "teaching" at a business school. That's the standard career path. However, when a shill is this glib, this obnoxious, there is only one place for her: Obama's economic team.

Now some might say that this is an indication of the Obama administration's Versailles mentality, or the resurgence of the Clintonian machine, but I have a more economics-oriented explanation: it's about marginal tax rates and work-leisure tradeoffs. You see, the marginal tax rate faced by the most productive of our fainting goats is so high that we cannot entice enough of them to join Obama's economics team, and therefore we have to settle for second-best solutions like Laura D'Andrea Tyson. Instead of taking on that extra consultancy gig for the administration and moving up into the next tax bracket, the little bleaters would rather increase their time spent lazing about, or attending the Goats Music and More Festival.

Something must be done. We need lower marginal tax rates for fainting goats, and we need them now!

July 7, 2010

ahh, the smell of it

Daily Kos, alas, still seems to be turmoiling along:

3/5 of House Dems "Obsessed" with Afghan Withdrawal Timetable
by Robert Naiman

According to our Commander-in-Chief, "obsession" ... characterizes the widespread interest in the timeline for bringing home 100,000 American boys and girls safely from Afghanistan so they can grow old with their sweethearts and lead economically productive lives...

President Obama said there's "a lot of obsession" about the withdrawal date for U.S. troops from Afghanistan, AP reported Sunday.

This "obsession" has so afflicted the body politic that Thursday night, three-fifths of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives voted for an amendment on the war supplemental that not only tried to lock in the July 2011 timetable for the beginning of the drawdown that President Obama promised last year, but also would have required the President to establish a timetable for the completion of the drawdown.

Much matter for bitter laughter here. A few more than half the Donks voted, symbolically, for a measure sure to fail. Obsession should be made of sterner stuff. Talk about a non-straw in a non-wind.

What I really loved was Naiman thinking these poor soldier boys and girls want to "lead economically productive lives". Gloriosky. One hopes they have more vivid dreams than that.

July 9, 2010

Gedanken; or, Throw the bums out

Politics is really a dull subject, isn't it? How on earth did I ever find myself spending so much time on it?

Is there a way to make it more fun? Fun, and really easy -- no agonized wonkish Kosnikoid head-scratching required?

That's what I'm looking for these days. How about this: Always vote against the incumbent. Doesn't matter how bad the challenger is: the golden rule is to throw the current bum out, and thrown the new bum out first chance you get.

So here's the thought experiment: suppose enough of us adopted this principle that nobody ever got a second term. What would the effect be?

It probably wouldn't interfere much, in any direct way, with the operations of the Empire and the police state. But on the other hand, it would tend to delegitimize the established order, wouldn't it? If nobody ever got a second term -- wouldn't that convey the message that nobody believes in these creeps? Wouldn't it teach young people that elections are a joke -- at best -- and a rather poor tired joke at that?

This thought comes to my mind after the recent nauseating spectacle of Barack Obama fellating Bibi Netanyahu (accent on the "yahoo") right on the Oval Office carpet. I got to thinking, what's the worst I could do to this abject shameless worm?

The obvious answer: Vote for every Republican in sight. Turf him out of the Oval Office in 2012, and Jane Harman and Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi with him, and replace them with Sarah Palin and Ted Bundy and Vlad The Impaler and the Tasmanian Devil and whoever the fuck.

That's pretty much what the wise American public does. Brand A disappoints 'em and they vote for the Other Guy, even if the Other Guy is clearly suffering from hydrophobia.

July 12, 2010

Δημοκρατία -- in the etymological sense


Viva Greek class fire!

"Two million Greek workers walked off the job for the second time in two weeks Thursday after the country's Parliament backed Prime Minister George Papandreou's slashing of the nation's pension system. It was the sixth general strike in the country this year."
Now that's a mobilization. Scale equivalent here? 60 million, give or take.

Is it just street theatre a la the Gallic paradigm -- that class struggle theme park of a nation?

We will see.

(Stele now in the Agora Museum, commemorating the passage of a law against tyranny in 337 BC. The relief shows the Demos being crowned by a personification of Democracy, and the law itself is inscribed below. -- Ed. )

A hot town in the old time

This just in:

A tiny clay fragment - dating from the 14th century B.C.E. - that was found in excavations outside Jerusalem's Old City walls contains the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem, say researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The find, believed to be part of a tablet from a royal archives, further testifies to the importance of Jerusalem as a major city in the Late Bronze Age...

.... Details of the discovery appear in the current issue of the Israel Exploration Journal.

Excavations in the Ophel have been conducted by Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology. Funding for the project has been provided by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman of New York, who also have provided funds for completion of the excavations and opening of the site to the public by the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Company for the Development of East Jerusalem. The sifting work was led by Dr.Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Zweig at the Emek Zurim wet-sieving facility site.

... the script is of a very high level, testifying to the fact that it was written by a highly skilled scribe that in all likelihood prepared tablets for the royal household of the time, said Prof. Wayne Horowitz , a scholar of Assyriology at the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology.

Rrrright. Somebody should write a book -- if it hasn't already been written -- about the politics of archaeology in the Promised Land. A good deal of money seems to be spent there on grubbing up potsherds and ossuaries and sad old bones, all of which goes to show, supposedly, that the thieving conquerors really belong.

I especially love the bit about the "high-level" script. No clumsy cuneiform in Jerusalem, already a hip and happening town fourteen centuries before the Unfortunate Misunderstanding.

July 13, 2010

Tar baby

Latest and greatest from our pal Mike Flugennock:

American icon

Apparently some of the humane and high-minded opponents of the death penalty are willing to make an exception for Mumia Abu-Jamal:

.... leaders and individual board members of several of the organizations in the US abolitionist movement had signed... a “confidential” memorandum ... stating bluntly that, “As international representatives of the US abolition movement, we cannot agree to the involvement of Abu-Jamal or his lawyers....”

.... [T]itled, “Involvement of Mumia Abu-Jamal endangers the US coalition for abolition of the death penalty,” the memo .... asserted that the abolitionist movement in the US is trying to “cultivate” the support of the ultra-conservative and staunchly pro-death penalty Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), an organization representing some 35,000 police officers in the US that advocates the execution of Abu-Jamal and all other prisoners convicted of killing of police officers. The FOP, said the memo, has “announced a boycott of organizations and individuals who support Abu-Jamal,” and therefore anything done ... to aid his cause would be “dangerously counter-productive to the abolition movement in the US.”

The ins and outs of Mumia's case are complicated, Lord knows, and I don't pretend to have an opinion on whether he did the deed or not. But I don't care, either. A defeat for the cop lobby would make me very happy, a victory, very much the reverse.

The nightstick lobby has become such a political heavyweight that like the Israel lobby, they now find themselves looking for more battles to win. Doesn't matter what the battles are, in any substantive way; the point is to keep winning 'em. These gurney cases are a good choice: they appeal to public sadism and moral panic, and drive home the essential lesson that if the police don't like you, you could, well, get killed.

If there's anything to this story about "realistic" abolitionists trying to curry favor with the toilet-plunger Praetorians, it falls into a familiar pattern -- a little like Daily Kos' sick soldier-worship.

July 14, 2010

Cargo cults...

... and their cultic virtual aircraft, as for example:

The course of recent trade shows a stall has set in for Ohbummer's cargo-cult project to close the national trade gap. Things look a bit better if we strip out oil -- recently running at about 350-370 million barrels a month.

But even that really doesn't improve the trend line much. Fast rising exports as a source of macro thrust is just not happening. Add in the state and local offset to Uncle's deficit and you haven't got enough thrust to restart corporate domestic spending and, through that, household job hours, wages, and to complete the loop, spending.

Bottom line: job stag continues.

Now of course that is eactly what corporate types want and job class folks oughta be thunderin' about. Read my imaginary friend Greg Mankiw:

"...economists should be cautious when recommending exchange-rate policy, because it is far from obvious what is best. In fact, Americans’ embrace of floating exchange rates is relatively recent. From World War II to the early 1970s, the United States participated in the Bretton Woods system, which fixed exchange rates among the major currencies. Moreover, in 1998, as much of Asia was engulfed in a financial crisis, Robert E. Rubin, then the Treasury secretary, praised China’s exchange-rate policy as an “island of stability” in a turbulent world. "
... And here's Bobby "The Human Doll" Reich:
"Last week I attended a conference with global business executives. When I asked them where they expected to find new customers to replace Americans who are pulling back, they all said China and India and quoted me the same number: 800 million new middle-class consumers from these and other fast-developing countries over the next decade."
So what will corporate America let us do?

We know we want to substitute local sources of energy, and we can, of course. if we can beat or bribe our energy guys. We just install equipment that harnesses the local shit, whatever it is...right? Big cut in imports, bingo!

But trying to evoke new local sources of industrial "products" gets more complex, and in any event -- if it's at a high level of productivity, as it should be -- not likely to provide many long run operative and maintence jobs even if we get a nice closing of the trade gap, with attendant full employment fiscal gap reduction.

So what is to be done now?

In the trade area, nothing spectacular; but of keen long-run impact, we need now to attack the relatively small, relatively skill-intensive service sector of our trading system: knock off our imports over the wires of the services of those Chindian cheaply-built skill types, by adjusting at the border with a tax that not only wipes out any forex manipulation, but also any "national differences" in "the production cost" of these human skillheads

Oh no, Paine! Once back behind a wall of protection, how then can we curb the runaway wage demands and education costs of our own home-grown skillheads?(*)

Just allow those foreign-built skillheads to come here and compete, no holds barred... errr, so long as they pay an adjustment for any remittances they make while here, and leave their savings here too, at least for a decent interval... if they choose to permanently return to their native heaths, or maidans, or paddies, or whatever the native topography may have been.


(*) Why would we want to? -- Ed.

July 16, 2010

Take a hike

Love the solar panel.

The Washtub reports that Shahram Amiri, mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, has returned to Iran:

TEHRAN -- An Iranian nuclear scientist at the center of a bizarre espionage drama arrived here to a hero's welcome Thursday morning, including a personal greeting from several senior government officials.

... Amiri's tale has dominated Iranian media since Monday night, when he surfaced in front of Iran's diplomatic mission in Washington and asked for a ticket back to his homeland. Amiri, 32, told officials that he had been abducted by U.S. intelligence operatives and had spent much of the past year in Tucson being questioned about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Amiri's reappearance was as mysterious as his disappearance and came just weeks after a series of Internet videos added to the intrigue surrounding the case. In the videos, Amiri claimed alternately to have been kidnapped by the CIA and to have come to this country on his own accord to pursue a PhD.

... In the first, which aired on Iranian television, Amiri stares into what appears to be an amateur Web camera, claiming to have been tortured and pleading for human rights organizations to intervene.

But in a subsequent and more polished video that U.S. officials said was crafted with help from the CIA, Amiri is dressed in a suit coat before a backdrop that includes a chessboard and a globe turned to the Western Hemisphere.

This CIA video is richly comical. The set appears to have been dressed by Lyndon Larouche:

I dunno, maybe the guy really did defect to the US originally. (Though I doubt it.) If so, they made a mistake sending him to Tucson, which would give anybody second thoughts about life in theseUnited States.

It will be interesting to see whether the Iranian government now decides those hapless young hikers don't need to stick around any longer. After a decent interval of course. Stay tuned.

O save us from the pitchforks, dear Paul!

Over at Thomatose Central, I catch Paul Krugman, terrier for equity, once again chewing up a stage rug over those scarey guys from Elephant Town. Heeere's Kruggie:


Republicans are feeling good about the midterms — so good that they’ve started saying what they really think. This week the party’s Senate leadership stopped pretending that it cares about deficits, stating explicitly that while we can’t afford to aid the unemployed or prevent mass layoffs of schoolteachers, cost is literally no object when it comes to tax cuts for the affluent.

And that’s one reason — there are others — why you should fear the consequences if the G.O.P. actually does as well in November as it hopes.

Krug, Krug. Banging the drum for the donkey is obscene, after the lesser evil has more than once, on most major policy avenues, flat-out flunked the George Wallace "dimes worth of difference" test. To suggest continuing to play the lesser-evil card is for undercover Quislings.

PK, the donks deserve to get turned out. Sweeping away pure cover and brand perception management -- all the handwringing on one side and the kill-the-wolf crying on the other -- can you say objectively that Ohbummer & Co. have made life signifigantly better for the median voting souls than a prez McCain would have?

Go down the list of policy areas one by one. Don't notice how it would be packaged, but just what it really would probably amount to. If the difference, the real difference, is second-order, then Ohbummer and his congo pals deserve to get turfed out, for passing up a once-in-a-generation opportunity to try at least to be qualitatively better then that fleabitten gimped-up mean-spirited flight-deck pappy would have been.

I can understand the temptation to pull the lever for a lesser evil. Do it, pal, do it. Even if it only makes a second-order difference, it's still a difference. The logic is fine -- as far as it goes. Pull the jackass lever in November then. I guess that's okay -- even if I think rewarding them only perpetuates a symbiotic evil. Maybe that takes more "evidence" than you find in the record. You certainly seem to have a higher opinion of the Clinton years than I do.

But still: why this absurd ballyhoo -- "The wild things are coming! The wild things are coming!" The guts of your argument becomes this:

"Good people, we have to admit to ourselves that Ohbummer rather pusillanimously has protected the big boys from our righteous pitch forks, and let a lot of us down, but that's only half the story.

"At least he's trying -- you know, trying to protect us from... ahhhh... their evil pitchforks. Right? Eh? Right about that at least... err, if you look at it kinda sideways, maybe, and at least now and then.

"Um... come on... I mean, he's got a good heart... don't he? That oughta count for somethin', I think... no?"

July 17, 2010

Winners and losers

Over at union think tank EPI they got an update on the continuing stag saga, nicely packed in to one comparison. Point A:

"Total profits of U.S. corporations,...were at $1.50 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2007, and reached $1.59 trillion in the first quarter of 2010."
Point B:
"Over that same period, the country lost 8.2 million jobs"

Vanity Fair

Woody Mattchuck hates Republicans. They lie!

Take the fiscal budget. They don't really want it to balance, those lying dogs. They don't even want to cap spending, so long as it's them doing the spending, and doing it their way.

Boy Yggie:

"The key element of conservative fiscal policy is that tax revenue as a percent of GDP should be made as low as possible. This isn’t a goal they pursue that stands in some kind of balance with concern about the deficit, it’s the only goal they pursue."
Of course Matt's an idiot. But that's not why I'm posting this. I'm posting it because I'd like someone to tell me why so many realist pwogs are content to say that schoolroom spending is good, damn good in fact, and soldier-boy spending bad, very very bad -- then fold their hands and belch and fart like a sow after polishing off a big trough of mash.

Values values values... the kulturkampf! More uplifting black kids to college, versus less airlifting Yahoos to Kandahar.

You can blame a comment of electric Al's for this banal mind-stumped query of mine:

"The meritoids have been getting sucked dry for a long time, and their resolve every electoral cycle is to support more and better vampires. When that fails them, as it always does, they slink over to the "decent middle ground" between the bugfuck nuts and batshit crazy neoliberals. They're as hopeless as the wingnuts. All that counts for them anymore is the fatuous satisfaction of feeling superior to the hysterical wingers."
Bugfuckers to one side, batshit crazies on the other, and they are good with it -- if they can just sip that elixir of moral and intellectual superiority. The Dems' top pwog-org cutouts and stone oracles like ole bucktooth Woody got themselves a regular moral-industrial / intellectual-industrial complex goin' 24/7, feeding these unwinged souls a steady stream of sweet-tastin', long-lastin' spirits of Vanity Fair.

July 19, 2010

Blame the Blue Dogs

That could be the Dembo party line on the evening of the first Tuesday this November, if the party "of the people, all the people, and nothing but the people... so help me God" loses control of my beloved House.

The blues blocked a full-scale stimulus, and a full-scale stimulus, even if delivered in two dosages, would have meant more folks quickly back to counter and cubicle, with the delightful result... another two more years of little-guy-friendly Dembo party House dictatorship.

Here's a fitting outcome, perhaps: crime followed by smart bomb punishment. This election cycle I'd expect them blue dogs will take more of the hit than their Milquetoaste pwog colleagues. Blue dogs are in tippy districts, pwogs ain't.

Let's hope Dennis the Menace has solid grounds for a big schooner of... what's that German word?


Above, the perhaps-mythical Nicolas Chauvin, eponymous ancestor of chauvinism.

One of my Marxoid mailing lists has erupted in a positively Shiite orgy of self-flagellation about its own male chauvinism, sexism, or worst of all, "patriarchy", a politico-cultural category as bogus as phlogiston. People have even hopped into the Wayback Machine and started talking about the "Woman Question."

(Erm, sorry, Professor, what was the question?)

Needless to say this has opened the floodgates to a denunciation of several other ism's. There is, for example, a very worrisome thread of anti-Semitism among Palestinians, which must of course be deeply deplored and utterly rooted out.

The righteous ragout has even been spiced up with some universalist anti-Iranian propaganda -- those ragheads, you know, they're awful male chauvinists. Or sexists. Or patriarchs, or something.

A few samples:

I despise [Hillary] Clinton politically as much as anyone, but I despised even more the posts on this list... during the campaign which included remarks clearly elicited by her gender, not her politics. I found those posts really disgusting.
(That one was from a guy whose stuff I usually like. Same guy below, being uncharacteristically purple, categorical, and superlative):
The Woman Question is the question of the role of women in the anti-capitalist revolutionary movement. And I want to start out with a flat claim: Unless the anti-capitalist movement 'solves' this question both in theory and practice there will be no revolution, there will be no resolution of the 'problem' of global warming, there will be no defeat of imperialism. To solve that question is to solve the 'problem' of political organization in our movement. To fail to solve it is to dissolve our movement. No greater theoretical and practical problem faces us than this.
By contrast, the next guy, fortunately for me, is a complete idiot, as far as I can tell:
I stick around because there is useful stuff to learn here, but the ignorance and insensitivity around gender are simply stunning, and the adolescent defensiveness around being called out on it is breathtaking. It makes me realise how fortunate I am to have worked mainly with exceptionally enlightened people for several years now; I sometimes forget how damaged and backwards even some of my best brothers can be. It's really disheartening.
Another comrade:
[S]exism on the left, the dead mouse on the kitchen floor that nobody wants to acknowledge, needs to be acknowledged. And this is no wholesale bashing of the left: There are many good, sincere brothers who truly care about womens' issues.

I have experienced much indifference (at best) and even disdain for women's issues among men on the left. It pains me to read, for example, marxists on this site defending Roman Polanski's rape of a young girl, sexist comments against Hillary Clinton and CNN reporter Candy Crowley and more. You are the same people who would be offended (and rightfully so) by a racist attack on Barack Obama.

There's something really wrong and misplaced with all this. Nobody gets beaten up or raped on an email list. People can be awfully rude and nasty, but for heaven's sake, at the end of the day, it's just pixels on a screen.
No greater theoretical and practical problem faces us than this.
Sorry, cher camarade, this jumps the shark. The achievements of the movement for women's liberation in my country in my lifetime have been amazing and entirely positive, in a thousand unanticipated ways, but to say in 2010 that there is no greater problem for the Left than its sexism? No greater problem? Please!

It's time to declare a moratorium on isms. Take the Tea Party loons. The characteristic left-liberal response to these folks is to hurl the thunderbolt -- or rather, alas, the now-damp squib -- of "racism" at them. Very likely it's accurate, as far as it goes -- they dislike Obie a bit more than they otherwise might because of his complexion. Perhaps they don't like black folks in general, and never will. But really, who cares? Isn't it more important that they're just batshit delusional, in a hundred more interesting and perplexing ways?

Desegregation -- and women's liberation -- are events that happened within living memory. It takes a hundred years or so for the last diehards to die off, to the point that diehardism becomes merely quaint. But come on. These battles were won on both the political and the ideological plane. It's a mopping-up operation now.

This obsessive bien-pensant ismist nattering about people's attitudes and language is preposterous. It's the mentality of the revival meeting: are you really saved?

July 21, 2010

Scoring error

Soul-twisted Mark Angelnacht has decided he went too easy on the Ohbummer-Hillary handling of the coup last year in Honduras:

"Back in January, I gave the White House a “D“ for its response to the coup. Even though it totally botched its approach to the elections in the country last November—reversing its demand that Zelaya be reinstated...

I argued against giving the White House an “F” for its response. My rationale at the time was that the Obama administration’s approach was distinctly better than what we might have expected from the Bush cabal...[But] In early June, [Hillary] defied the rest of the hemisphere by arguing at the Organization of American States that Honduras should be readmitted to the body...

" This type of backward-looking guff deserves no quarter. Engelbird here ought to get a long stretch hung by his thumbs, in some town square in outer Honduras.

But no. He'll stay here, behind the human-rights plate, calling strikes, balls, and walking Uncle Sam's unclean agents around the bases.

(Editor's note: If you really want to get depressed, do a Google image search on the phrase "report card".)

One more under the bus

I watched Shirley Sherrod's whole 40-minute speech just now and was intensely moved by it.

She reminded me very much of my own paler-skinned Southern relatives. She lived through experiences my gang never had to face, of course. But one recognizes the same idiom, the same attitudes, the same strange mix of wisdom and un-wisdom.

There's all that excel-in-school and whup-your-kids stuff, for example. But Shirley is really genuine. There's nothing scripted or calculated there. An ideological muddle, by the exigent standards of my lefty mailing lists, but obviously a thinking person, with some very sharp insightful things to say, and besides that, a good generous heart.

So of course they ditched her.

The response has been so fierce, and the embarrassment so intense, that they may end up backtracking. I hope they do, but only because I want Shirley to have a good steady job for a few more years. The important, the telling thing, is that they ditched her in the first place -- because some right-wing loon put together a cut-and-paste three-minute pastiche of what she said.

Now this is an old story. My lefty mailing-list comrades are already comparing her to Joycelyn Elders and Lani Guinier -- though, being intellectuals, my e-comrades think Lani and Jocelyn's fate is "worse" because the latter two were purged for their ideas. Proportional representation and masturbation -- proportional or otherwise -- there's the liberal Palladium for you.

Absent the ranking, though, the comparison is right on target. Same phenomenon. And the persistent calculus involved is so childishly simple it's embarrassing to point it out: If you dump a Guinier, or an Elders, or a Sherrod, you won't lose any black folks or white liberals because, hell, where are they going to go? You've got them sewn up.

On the other hand, you might pull in a few wavering pissed-off white guys. Especially if they're unemployed. and have a vague memory of their Grannys telling them about Roosevelt, but they're still kinda worried about the nigs.

So there's no downside risk in tossing Lani, or Jocyelyn, or Shirley to the sharks. But there's a possible conjectural gain.

Integrate -- in the mathematical sense -- this function over a few years, and where do you end up?

Show your work.

July 22, 2010

Intro to Godley Economics: Sectoral Balances

A little while back, Owen asked me to do an exposition of Wynne Godley's economic model. Here's a start at least. I'm going to begin with the basics of macro, like GDP, and then move into a simplified sectoral balances approach used to analyze the factors that influence GDP. It's pretty "wonkish", but if you can get through this, then you'll be dismalizing with the big dogs in no time. If anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the value of all goods and services sold within a country during one year. GDP measures a flow rather than a stock (example: the federal deficit is a flow, the federal debt is a stock).

In the above diagram, Nominal GDP would be measured as the flow of money that passes through the "Domestic Producers" in one year, while Real GDP would measure the volume of goods and services produced by the "Domestic Producers" in exchange for that money.

If RGDP increases, then you have growth. If RGDP decreases, then you are in a recession.

If NGDP increases faster than RGDP, then this contributes an increase to the price level (average per unit price of domestically produced and imported goods & services). If the overall change in the price level is positive, then you have inflation.

If NGDP decreases faster than RGDP, then this contributes a decrease to the price level (average per unit price of domestically produced and imported goods & services). If the overall change in the price level is negative, then you have deflation.

The blue arrows (Savings, Taxes and Imports) denote money being taken out of the national economy. The green arrows (Investment, Government Spending and Exports) put money back into the national economy. If the total outflows are more than the total inflows, then NGDP decreases. If total outflows are less than total inflows, then NGDP increases.

(Inflows) - (Outflows) = Change in NGDP
(I + G + X) - (S + T + M) = ΔNGDP

The sectoral balances approach, pioneered by Wynne Godley and now in use at Goldman Sachs and PIMCO, provides a useful way for thinking about the imbalances that may occur. It groups the inflows and outflows according to sector. If any sector takes more money out of the economy than it puts back in (saving), and is not compensated for by the other sectors putting more money in than they take out (dissaving), then the overall flow of money to the Domestic Producers, NGDP, decreases (Paradox of Thrift). For any given period, ex ante, it would look like this:

(I-S) + (G-T) + (X-M) = ΔNGDP

I = Investment
S= Savings
G= Government Spending
T= Taxes
X= Exports
M= Imports
ΔNGDP= Change in Nominal GDP.

The brackets are used to denote the separate sectors.
Private sector (business sector & household sector) dissaving= (I-S)
Public sector dissaving= (G-T)
Foreign sector dissaving= (X-M)

This chart from Goldman Sachs shows the savings rate for each of these three sectors over the last few decades. Whenever a sector stays above 0, it is saving (lending to others). Whenever a sector is below 0 it is dissaving (borrowing from others) . Note that since savings equal debts at the aggregate level, all three rates sum to 0, ex post.


Clinton Era (1992-2000): The trade deficit results in the foreign sector saving. The government also saves by reducing its deficit and eventually establishing a fiscal surplus. The private sector picks up the slack by increasing its borrowing, encouraged by Greenspan's low interest rates. Trend: private dissaving, public saving, foreign saving

Bush Era (2000-2008): The trade deficit is still widening, and the foreign sector is saving even more (Bernanke's "savings glut"). The drag from the trade deficit is so bad that Bush's large fiscal deficits and Greenspan's low interest rates are necessary to keep the economy afloat. Trend: private dissaving, public dissaving, foreign saving

Obama Era (2008-2010): The trade deficit is still an issue, but now the private savings rate has gone up while private borrowing has collapsed. The private sector can't be convinced to increase its borrowing, even with interest rates at 0%. Now the public sector has to pick up the slack for two sectors, necessitating huge deficits. Trend: private saving, public dissaving, foreign saving.

That's it for now. For further reading, you can check out this article.

Causation: This model itself doesn't say anything about causation (why one sector is saving or dissaving). It leaves that question open. I've hinted at the way that I see the causation running in my summary of the Clinton-Bush-Obama timeline, but the model itself leaves those questions open to further inquiry.

July 23, 2010

Everybody loves a tax, right?

Recently Ferdinand Trumka, the bull of the union pampas, thundered over to a microphone and bellowed: "It’s time to restore the estate tax and restore it now"

I'll second that, brother T!

Here are some rather limp suggested restoratives (as retailed by the blog squad at Aflack HQ):

"...the estate tax should be restored at its 2009 levels or stronger. In 2009, the estate tax exempted the first $3.5 million and applied a 45 percent rate thereafter. Trumka said the AFL-CIO has endorsed two current bills. The first, from Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), includes a $2 million exemption and rates of 45 percent to 55 percent. That would raise about $31 billion more over 10 years than the 2009 levels.

Legislation from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Harkin has a $3.5 million exemption and rates of 45 percent to 65 percent and would produce about $62 billion more over the next 10 years than the 2009 levels."

A mouse of a revenge tax, given 50 years of wicked burden shift. But like Mrs O'Leary's cow and the lantern -- maybe it's a start.

July 24, 2010

Welcome to the tar pit, baby

Public sector job force under siege: that's the gist of it these days, a constant pounding as state and local budget gaps get closed with pay cuts and pink slips.

Hey, lots of these folks got unions... no?

Are they fighting back? In many cases, yes; but so far the asshole Mcjobbed majority is not responding. The wage and benefit isolation of the public sector workers from their fading cousins in the private sector has really come home to roost this summer.

Our vast unorganized private service sector looks on as the public workers take a vicious mugging, and they appear not just inert but silently gleeful.

We can't have a strong sustainable pub-sec union movement if the pri-sec movement is foundering. Hell, the pub-sec unions are comparatively new compared to the once-mighty industrial unions now suffering humiliation in their protracted twilight dotage.

Shape of things to come for all you, too, you silk-contract AFSCME-ites, AFT/NEA-ers and other public-teat whatevers?

And hey, SEIU organizing the vast pool of quasi-public health workers ain't got much better long-run prospects either.

Brothers and sisters of the organized pub-sec: help us pri-sec lugs lift ourselves out of our blighted Mcjobbled pay pits, or prepare yourselves to fall down here yourselves and join us in time-punched purgatory.

July 27, 2010

Metamorphosis of Ajax(*), via the Pentagon

Sophocles' Ajax is seldom performed these days. The reason is not far to seek: to our way of thinking, the protagonist is a bloated overweening brawler, a Bronze Age steroid-crazed gym rat, who literally goes insane because he feels he's been dissed in the allocation of war plunder, and takes out his fury on a bunch of hapless quadrupeds before eviscerating himself with his own sword (and not a minute too soon, one is tempted to murmur as one reads through this very forbidding and hard-to-enjoy text).

Hard texts are of course worthy of study, and there might be ways of reading Ajax which could be illuminating in understanding Sophocles' world or even, perhaps, our own.

But to paraphrase von Rauffenstein: Alas, poor Sophocles. His problem play has been taken up by the Pentagon -- for $3.7 million dollars -- and is, apparently, box-office boffo on Marine bases:

Greek classic resonates at Camp Pendleton

Combat veterans, and their loved ones, say the themes of Sophocles' 2,500-year-old play are painfully familiar. It was staged as part of the Pentagon-sponsored Theater of War project.

Bryan Doerries, director and founder of the project, said Marines tend to be his best audiences, possibly because of their intense focus on the "core values" of honor, courage and commitment.

Under a... contract with the Pentagon, Doerries has brought his productions to dozens of U.S. military bases and other locations including the Pentagon, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a shelter for homeless veterans, the Naval War College and various conferences.

The goal of the project is to show troops and their families that their problems are universal...

Now this is a disservice to "troops and their families." A vicious lie, in fact. Their problems are not "universal". They wouldn't have these problems if they hadn't gotten mixed up with the military. They would have had other problems, sure. But not these problems. Vexing problems, no doubt. But those problems, I bet, wouldn't have led to severe personality disorders on quite such a scale as the LA Times story, quoted above, depressingly reports.

I'm kinda losing my detachment here. I spent some time, when I was a lot younger, stumbling my way through a few of the ancient texts. I came to love the old boys, in my upper-bleachers amateurish way, very deeply.

But by God I would rather that every scrap of Sophocles had been burnt in the library of Alexandria, rather than that the poor man should have his words used by the Pentagon to purge the pity and fear of its ill-used "troops", and their hapless families, so they can keep on keepin' on with the vile unspeakable murderous enterprise of empire.

It's only the truth that can make you free. Making the patsies feel better is part of the con artist's game. But feeling bad, when things really are bad, is Nature's way of telling you to get out of Dodge.

Some of my erstwhile colleagues in the Classics Brigade of the Credentialling Division are pathetically glad that their specialty is getting funded from such a bottomless slush-fund as the military budget. $3.7 mil! That's a lot of tweed jackets!

Okay, guy's gotta pay the rent somehow. But there's a side of me that wants some ex-Marine Ajax to show up, heavily armed, in his classroom, and take out a few harmless domestic animals.


(*) With apologies to Sir John Harington -- though he might have seen some similarities between his jakes and ours.

Corollary To The Peter Principle

BP Plc plans to name Robert Dudley to succeed Tony Hayward as chief executive officer as the board looks to recover the company’s position in the U.S., two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Dudley, the director of BP’s oil spill response unit, is ready to be announced as the company’s first American chief and to take the helm Oct. 1, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because a final decision hasn’t yet been made. The decision was reached in discussions with board members about how best to take BP forward and rebuild its U.S. position, the person said.

“The fact he is American should help to keep things a little more straightforward in his dealings with the U.S. administration,” said Ted Harper, who helps manage $6.8 billion at Frost Investment Advisors in Houston. He doesn’t hold BP stock. “Dudley’s most important task will continue to be making sure that the well is capped.”


Stumbletongue Tony makes way for the only organization man less qualified to handle the catastrophe he created. Taken at face value, Dudley's task was immediate and thorough remediation of the disaster. He's consistently made things worse instead. So of course he's a candidate for CEO. Where else could he go? It's too soon for him to run for the Senate.

I take a jaded view of the Peter Principle. Competence comes with assumptions that have little bearing on the struggle to climb up the corporate ladder. It's crude political maneuvering; petty, sneak thief and vindictive, in which aptitude for the notional organizational purpose gets punished and sidelined long before the strivers get near real decision making power. Ultimately, they're elevated by accidents and missteps on the part of their competitors. Their backers in the frenzy are driven by fatuously post modern concerns (the hollow proprieties of perceived status) and utterly dependent on state support to preserve their positions. The state compradors who toady to them are, themselves, inept hacks who blunder their way to the top through appeals to the most callow impulses of their identity product consumers.

Le juste milieu

On one of my lefty mailing lists I just received an appeal to sign a petition to ban Israel from the next dreary Olympic Games.

Of course I signed it, since I like the idea of banning Israel from anything it could possibly be banned from.

Still, a little humorous imp wouldn't stop giggling somewhere in the back of my brain. Surely, the imp whispered, if there's anywhere that Israel belongs, it's the Olympics? The world's most nearly Fascist country, these days -- surely it ought to take pride of place in one of the world's most Fascist spectacles?

The ideal outcome, of course, would be that everybody else boycotts the London Olympics and only Israel and the Brits show up. Israel would kick the Brits all around the stadium and the Brits would tearfully express their deep gratitude for the opportunity to be of service.

He was despiséd, despiséd and rejected

Ecce POTUS Obama, enemy number one of... corporate America!

Considering just about everything since February of 2009, that is quite a bold anti-meme to play, and yet, read this:

"There’s no doubt that Obama is unpopular in the business world. On Wall Street, he’s persona non grata, thanks to his push for financial reform and his rhetorical sallies against fat-cat bankers. Private-equity managers hate him for trying to take away their lucrative carried-interest tax break. The Chamber of Commerce has attacked him for having “vilified industries” and enacted “job-destroying regulations,” while the publisher and real-estate investor Mort Zuckerman declared that Obama heads “the most hostile administration to business... in decades.” Some of this is just political posturing—when haven’t businesses wanted less regulation?—but it also reflects a real conviction among American businesspeople that Obama has made profit seem like a dirty word...Obama’s tone...is dampening the spirits of business leaders, making them unwilling to take risks."
Thats Mr Sourwiki at the Knickerbocker News. He's played this tune several times before of course. You'd think Obie was welcoming wrath from Wall Street's dark side, like that great cripple from the Dust Bowl years, instead of what... buffing Jamie Diamond's toenails?

Ace columnist Sourbraten here drops the POTUS as profiteer bounty hunter amidst an utterly routine pranging of our great corprate trolls for not spending their trillions in cash on shiny new machinery, added "outlets", brilliant new products and ad campaigns, and of course, hiring loads of upskilled new staff wranglers.

The notion that Obie is bad for business is dispelled, of course, and quite right too: "It's the economy" that's causing corporates to cash hoard, not fear and loathing of a scornful POTUS, according to this precision detail-oriented bigfoot.

Crap like this tries to shape the response to the White House limited-liability ass lick, at least among Manhattan wannabes: At the end of the day, despite all Obie's well intended moves.... Sure, he's flunked, but hey, he's trapped by economic forces not of his making and way beyond his control, and err... well... at least the right people hate him, eh?

July 28, 2010

The sheepskin bubble: ready to burst?

From the professional journal On The Inside -- or no, whoops, the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Government Vastly Undercounts Defaults
Many More Students Are Defaulting Than Official Tallies Show

The share of borrowers who default on their student loans is bigger than the federal government's short-term data suggest, with thousands more facing damaged credit histories and millions more tax dollars being lost in the long run.... one in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default....

For loans made to community-college students, the 15-year default rate is 31 percent. David S. Baime, senior vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges, called that number "shockingly high... It's really just a tragedy given the consequences of student loan default."

Borrowers who default on their student loans face significant personal and financial burdens. They become ineligible for additional federal aid and may have their wages and tax refunds seized by the government. Their negative credit records make it harder for them to obtain car loans, mortgages, and credit cards, and even apartments or jobs. When they can get loans, they pay higher interest rates.

But it's the high rates of default at for-profit institutions that are likely to get the most attention.... Fifteen years into repayment, two out of every five loans made to students who attended two-year for-profit colleges are in default.

The parallel to the housing bubble is hard to resist: people sucked en masse into a speculative investment which just hasn't panned out. Because of course, such investments by nature can't possibly pan out for everybody.

This has provoked some interesting and insightful commentary on my lefty mailing lists. Sample:

This blip in the default rate is another byproduct of the one single achievement to which fans of the eight-years of Clinton can point: a reformed system of grants and loans to get people to go to college. After all, in the capitalist world view, unemployment simply comes from a lack of job training.... the Democrats opted for this education-route... As some of us argued at the time, the entire Clinton package on education was about running money through the fingers of those students into the coffers of the universities and colleges (who were all then participating in that building boom).
The "building boom" refers to a Village Voice article -- yes, the Village Voice, reporting some real news for the first time in thirty years or more:
Will NYC's College Building Boom Bubble Pop?
New York's universities have grand expansion plans, but could the economy--and online courses--doom them to failure before they've even begun?

Real estate development was the first casualty of the Great Recession, but a half-dozen New York City colleges are in the midst of an unprecedented building boom.

St. John’s University in Queens has already spent almost $160 million on a new student center and classroom upgrades during the past two years alone. Fordham, the New School, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice are all betting on big campus expansions. And over the next three decades, NYU and Columbia are preparing to shell out nearly $10 billion for academic and administrative buildings, dormitories, research labs, and even unrelated commercial ventures like a hotel and a jazz club.

It's certainly true in my nabe, and my experience. Columbia University, the armpit of the Ivy League, is expanding like a metastatic carcinoma, obliterating whole neighborhoods in a way that hasn't happened in this town since Robert Moses repaired to his eternal brimstone berth in Hades. NYU is visibly doing the same, and even proletarian CCNY is popping up new erections all over the place.

I see the same thing everywhere I go in this broad land. A campus that was quiet and bucolic a few years ago now boasts the gleaming new Harry And Mildred Furrier Fitness Center, or the Artabazian School Of Identity Politics.

The incarceration sector and the credentialling sector -- both huge success stories over the last few decades. One can't help wondering if there's some link between the two -- some deeper law that accounts for both these vast gigantisms.

A few months ago I did a little bit of digging in the stats, and with some help from better-informed comrades on one of my mailing lists, I was able to derive the following graph, showing college and university expenditures per student in constant dollars:

Now what's this money being spend on? It's not faculty salaries, that's for sure, since classes have gotten bigger and the reserve army of casual adjuncts -- shockingly ill-paid, as I can attest from personal experience -- has taken over much of the dreary burden of classroom patrol.

Has anybody looked into this? Does the building boom account for it? If not, what else is involved?

July 29, 2010

The monsters!


Industry Trying to Undercut Congress,
Weaken Provision Worth $1.9 Billion to Customers
That's our health insurance coven the headline refers to.

Say we spread that $2 billion savings over 100 million premium payers. That's 20 bucks a year each. And what was your annual premium, last time you checked?

Oh my God! If the elephant boys retake the Hill -- no $20 rebate for you!

July 30, 2010


More comic relief from Alternet:

Help NPR beat FOX News

Dear Reader,

The White House Correspondents Association is considering giving a prime front row seat at the White House -- recently vacated when Helen Thomas retired -- to Fox News. The idea that a right-wing propaganda outlet would be given such an honor is outrageous. Please join me in telling the WHCA to give that seat to NPR instead.


Truly, I laughed till I cried. Where do you start? We're supposed to care who sits where in the White House press room? We're to believe that we can be saved from the Huns of Fox News by the preux-chevaliers of... NPR?!

One marvels that anybody could be so paltry-minded as to concern himself with submicroscopic trifles of this kind. But of course that's Pwogs for you. Beating up on Fox News represents the uttermost limits of the Pwog politico-cultural imagination.

Yggy and the murder-to-GDP ratio

IOZ and Charles Davis have already dealt with the latest enormity from Matthew Yglesias, the unspeakable filthy suet-faced creep shown above, and dealt with it very well, but I can't resist piling on. Here's the money quote:

From a Keynesian standpoint, I believe that with the economy depressed it’s better to spend the money in Afghanistan than not to spend it.
As Davis points out: Better for whom? One has to wonder just how much economic "stimulus" each dead Aghani adds up to. What's the threshold? Just how much stimulus makes it better than not -- or "worth it", as Madeleine Albright, another bloody-fanged Democratic party vampire once said, in a different but not-so-very-different context?

If we're to take Matt at his word, there's no lower limit, is there? Spending any amount of money killing any number of Afghanis is better than not spending it and letting them live. The ratio doesn't even matter. Ten thousand dead Afghans for a dollar spent? Bring it!

Maybe Matt didn't really mean this quite the way it turned out. That vague "from a Keynesian point of view" might be characteristically sloppy and mindless Yggspeak for some such phrase as "considered solely with respect to the American 'economy', whatever that is, without any regard for ordinary human decency or human life." But he's not making that case for himself in his comment cages, as far as I can see; and that kind of thought experiment doesn't really fit into the discursive context of his post (*); and then there's that troubling "I believe".

No. On reflection, I think the poor scrambled Ygg is doing his best to be a "realist" -- that is, a tough-minded practitioner of instrumental rationality. He's so keen on moving the tinny little pieces around his mental Monopoly board that he unwittingly revealed what a shallow, heartless, complacent, conventional, and contemptible little empire-loving careerist rat he really is.


(*) Which appeared at the Center For American Progress web site. This is why, on the whole, I'm opposed to progress. Nobody ever asks "progress toward what?" In CAP's case, it seems to be progress toward ever more cost-effective programs of mass murder.

July 31, 2010

Cap'n Trade sails on, if only in the Sea of Theory

Here's a paper on climate change policy:


I'm a big 'cap and trade' guy -- as a mechanism design, that is. Though the very thought of this 'market solution' sets many a well-intended left-munks a-chittering. The fevered people-person mind fills with a dire vision: an immense speculative mushroom cloud erupting over this 'umble mechanism. bring it but forth, and ye loose the hogs of hi-fi hell!

But I love C and T primarily because I hope someday that type of mechanism will be used as a price level control system, at least for certain select sectors (like health and higher ed) and ultimately, by some pinko contagion, infect our venerable corporate market system in its entrety -- yup, full macro price-level control.

The first really big-time use on the congressional agenda for this marketoidal mechanism is, of course, capping and trading carbon emissions.

This paper linked above looks at various pending bills in the C and T mode, but only their distributional aspects, i.e. aspects that I hasten to add would be similar even if the system used to curb carbon emissions some day is a Pigou tax on carbon -- the prefered hot pink method.

The paper concludes -- quite obviously -- that the ultimate distribution among households of the proceeeds of the public auctions of warrants -- or alternatively revenues from a Pigou tax -- "plays a decisive role in the welfare evaluation of program alternatives."

In arriving at that obvious conclusion, however, it travels through several necessary but usually skimmed-over dimensions and pulls out several important discriminations.

Exhibit A:

"We trace our result to the dominance of the sources side over the uses side impacts of the policy."
(They mean your source of income, not how you spend it: wages or profits or transfers.)
"..Our finding stands in sharp contrast to previous work that has focused only on the uses side, and has hence found energy taxation to be regressive."
I.e., the fairly consistent use-side-only finding is that the lower your income, the higher the burden, because the share of income going to energy costs is higher the lower the household's income.

But notably for boo-hoo "poor folk" fanciers:

"... Lower income households derive a large fraction of income from government transfers and, reflecting the reality that these are generally indexed to inflation... this source of income is unaffected by carbon pricing, while wage and capital income is affected."
Much to scrutinize here before fractious "rouge knees" begin to do the church lady jerk here. Take note, ye soulful salt-of-the-earth-lovin' pointy-hat types.

Christians and Jews: The friendly competition...

... Who's the bigger bigot?

Thus the New York Times:

Debate Heats Up About Mosque Near Ground Zero

An influential Jewish organization on Friday announced its opposition to a proposed Islamic center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero in Lower Manhattan, intensifying a fierce national debate about the limits of religious freedom and the meaning of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The decision by the group, the Anti-Defamation League [ADL], touched off angry reactions from a range of religious groups, which argued that the country would show its tolerance and values by welcoming the center near the site where radical Muslims killed about 2,750 people.

Connoisseurs of moral degeneracy will find much to enjoy here. For one thing, two institutions which one would have thought could not possibly sink any lower, the ADL and the New York Times, have both plunged deeper into the sewer than even their worst enemies -- among whom I am proud to number myself -- would have believed possible. In fact, it's hard to say which of them has, relatively speaking, disgraced itself more.

The ADL, which has always been a byword for impudent arrogance, may not have had quite as far to sink, but has arguably plunged deeper, by injecting the Jewish people into a matter where no slightest shadow of the Jewish Question falls -- assuming, arguendo, that there still is a Jewish Question, and thus a colorable pretext for the ADL's existence in the first place.

But the Times! What's the Times' excuse?

The ADL exists to perpetrate breathtaking enormities. Nobody would pay them the slightest attention if they weren't always finding new sharks to jump. In this sense, they are only running true to form, though breaking a few personal-worst records on this particular topic.

But this Times story reads like it escaped somehow from the New York Post's newsroom, or the London Times', and climbed surreptitiously onto the NYTimes' front page when nobody was looking. The usual solemn Times charade of "balance", the Pilatian other-handwashing, is simply abandoned, thrown barefacedly to the winds. "Ground zero!" "Militant Muslims!" "The limits of religious freedom"!

The first three quotes in the story are given to Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and a little vontz named C. Lee Hanson, who seems to be making a small-time career out of having lost a son in the WTC attack -- one of the innumerable shrill droning swarm of American professional victims.

Interestingly, the ADL and the Times seem in this case to be taking a non-New Yorkish attitude, siding with people elsewhere who think that they have some standing to tell those of us who live here what we can and can't build in our own town. The Times story acknowledges that New Yorkers mostly shrug the whole thing off; it's Yahoos in East Bumfuck who regard the Bathtub and its environs as holy ground.

Here's Foxman the Unspeakable, capo of the ADL, who

... said in an interview on Friday that the organization came to the conclusion that the location was offensive to families of victims of Sept. 11, and he suggested that the center’s backers should look for a site “a mile away.”

“It’s the wrong place,” Mr. Foxman said. “Find another place.”

Asked why the opposition of the families was so pivotal in the decision, Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, said they were entitled to their emotions.

“Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” he said. Referring to the loved ones of Sept. 11 victims, he said, “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”

Breathtaking, eh? Some bigots are more equal than others; and Abe Foxman has taken over the functions of the zoning board. "Find another place."

I'm not a big fan of our current mayor, Mike Bloomberg, whose voice is even more annoying than Obama's. But there are times whyen one is tempted to think that a Napoleonic little dwarfish technocrat may still be preferable to a nightstick fetishist like Giuliani, or a smug lower-middle-class ethnic-chauvinist mugged-liberal like Ed Koch, both of whom would surely have been right down with this Clash of Cultures perspective. Bloomberg, to his credit, observed:

“What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?” Mr. Bloomberg asked recently.

“Democracy is stronger than this,” he added. “And for us to just say no is just, I think — not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it.”

The Times immediately counters:

Still, the arguments against the Muslim center appear to be resonating. Polling shows that a majority of Americans oppose building it near ground zero.
"A majority of Americans." Do they live here? No? Then fuck 'em.

About July 2010

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

June 2010 is the previous archive.

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