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August 2010 Archives

August 3, 2010

Secrets of the workhouse revealed

A rather surprising piece in the credentialling-sector house organ, Inside Higher Education:

Higher Education's Big Lie

The notion that education, particularly a college degree, is the key to career success is a particularly American idea. It is what the sociologists W. Norton Grubb and Marvin Lazerson have called "the education gospel," a national ethos of hard work in school paying off and of equal opportunity for all. ...

And workers have responded to the call. As The New York Times reported recently, there are now more students enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education than ever before.... With millions more students attending college, it makes sense to ask whether their degrees will pay off.

First of all, it is debatable whether a majority of future job openings will require a college degree. ... According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most job growth in the next decade will be in labor markets where a bachelor's degree is not necessary. Furthermore, the cost of attending college has risen dramatically in recent years. Conflicting claims about the economic value of a degree along with skyrocketing tuition raise a question about whether college is a good investment for all students, especially those low-income students who can least afford to spend money and years on a higher education venture that may not produce rewards.

Secondly, the issue of college payoff becomes even more complicated when we consider that many students who begin college will not complete degrees. While the U.S. leads the world in college attendance, it is ranked near the bottom in the number of students who actually graduate.... According to education researcher Peter Sacks, the chance that a low-income child will earn a bachelor's degree is no higher today than it was in 1970, a grave contradiction in the meritocratic narrative of the education gospel.

In fact... the qualities that lead to academic success are not linked to college access, effort, or intelligence, but to accidents of birth. For the most part, the children of affluent parents attend the best colleges and get the best jobs....

These days it is more likely that a student's first tuition bill will be paid with money from a loan. What looks like an investment in the future, however, can often turn into an economic disaster. For example, Valerie, an immigrant from Haiti... After high school in Harlem, Valerie spent six years at a private, nonprofit, open-door college in New York City accumulating credits for a psychology degree that she finally completed in 2006.

One year after graduation, the only job she could find was working as a teacher's aide (a position that did not require a bachelor's) for $14,000 per year. She also had to work as a salesperson in a clothing store to make ends meet.... [A]fter years of student loans, Valerie owed almost $60,000, a sum she could never hope to repay. After returning to the same college to earn a M.A. degree, Valerie found a job as a social worker earning a $33,000 annual salary [but] Valerie was still unable to meet her financial obligations, and she had begun to question whether her six-year investment of time and money had been worth it....

The whole thing is well worth reading; and the credentialling sector's most implacable enemies -- among whom I number myself -- could hardly find anything to add. It's really quite damning.

Stop the presses

Bobby Reich has returned from the mountaintop with a message for us pwog dwellers-in-the-valley:

"Whatever the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections, the activist phase of the Obama administration has likely come to a close. The president may have a fight on his hands even to hold on to what he's already achieved..."
Comes then some driftwood:
"The administration's original sin was not spending enough and focusing the stimulus more directly on job creation."
Gee, that's news, Bobby. I suspect even the Austrians at castle Ron Paul secretly share that insight these days. But listen to this:
"In fairness, no one knew how sick the economy was in February 2009 when Congress approved the initial stimulus."
No one knew?! Are you shittin' me, Bobby?

August 5, 2010

Lemme at 'em

POTUS to AFL chiefs:

'In my deck of cards you're aces-high guys... but here all I got is a pair of deuces for you to work with.'
No, that's not what he said. Not literally. This is what he said:
"Well, you guys don’t need advice from me, but let me tell you what I see out there. We were hurt by this recession, badly hurt. This is going to take some time to recover. Unemployment is at unacceptably high levels."
And talk about soft soap:
"FDR was asked once what he thought about unions. He said, “If I was a worker in a factory and I wanted to improve my life, I would join a union.” Well, I tell you what. I think that’s true for workers generally. I think if I was a coal miner, I’d want a union representing me to make sure that I was safe and you did not have some of the tragedies that we’ve been seeing in the coal industry. If I was a teacher, I’d want a union to make sure that the teachers’ perspective was represented as we think about shaping an education system for our future."
NB: the sectors he notices both already have unions. How about Walmart, Mr POTUS, and those Toyota assembly plants and Mcdonalds and and and...?

But hold the presses! There's more!

This speech to the Aflack politburo by our maximum leader is a real rip-snorter, a stem-winder, cork popper, an honest to God fightin' man's job class tennis-court oath.

Not only would Barry join the coal miners' union, if he was a coal miner; gander at this, headline message number II:

'We're gonna export our way out of this dirty brown job shit hole we're in once and for all.'
Another Paine jape? In effect, he did say that:
"Instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that want to ship jobs overseas, we want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in the United States of America."
Whoops, wrong quote. Forget that one. Pretend you didn't read it. He's not as grotesque and Kerry-tree-like as that makes him out to be. Really. No, really.

Ahhh yes, here it is, the money line:

"We are going to keep fighting for an economy that works for everybody, not just a privileged few."
C'mon, Paine, boooo! Yer stallin'! What about that export-led recovery?

Shaddup, here it is:

"the message I want to deliver to our competitors -- and to those in Washington who’ve tried to block our progress at every step of the way -- is that we are going to rebuild this economy stronger than before, and at the heart of it are going to be three powerful words: Made in America. Made in America.

That’s why we’re finally enforcing our trade laws -- in some cases for the very first time. That’s why we’re fighting for tax breaks for companies that invest here in the United States as opposed to companies that are investing overseas or that keep their profits offshore. Because it is my belief -- and I know it’s the belief of this room -- that there are no better workers than U.S. workers. There are no better workers than your members. And they are absolutely committed to making sure that America is on the rise again."

Okay, okay, nothing there about exports. But hey, plenty of import substitution... Maybe... Possibly... Some day when the Rocky Mountains march on Washington. But ye of little faith, behold: here is the export charge stuff:
"... when business and labor are working together, then we can compete against anybody, and we can knock down trade barriers in other countries, and we can start selling products around the world. And we make great products in this country. We’ve got the best workers in the world, the best universities in the world. Got the most dynamic economy in the world. We have the freest market system in the world. And all those things give us a huge competitive advantage if we’re all working together."
Knock down trade barriers! Cue Bert Lahr:

"Ya, ya, let us at 'em! Let us at 'em! We'll moidah dose bums! We'll knock 'em silly! They all got glass jaws, the sissies. We'll flatten 'em, send 'em to funky town, rubberize 'em, extoiminate 'em!"

August 6, 2010


Shown above is one Adrian Lamo -- yes, that's his real name, apparently. Lamo is the police informer who says that he turned in Bradley Manning, alleged source of the Wikileaks Afghanistan material.

Lamo appears in the clip below, taking some very slow pitches from the aggressively, pugnaciously reactionary BBC, and swinging groggily at each one about five seconds after it passes over the plate. (There's a few seconds of setup; wait for it.)

Droll, eh?

There is much rich material here, as well as a few puzzling questions.

Lamo works with a maildrop "organization" called Project Vigilant, headed by one Chet Uber. (Yes, that's really his name too. Dickens couldn't do better.) Project Vigilant's seal tickles me:

(I particularly like the garbled motto.)

Project Vigilant claims to be a mighty network of hundreds of mad-skill'd volunteer super-"hackers", collecting mountains of information from your friendly local ISPs, discovering threats to "national security", and generally acting as a sort of pasty-faced auxiliary police force.

In fact it appears to consist of a handful of cop buffs and self-promoters like Lamo, who has a thorougly bad reputation in the esoteric world of infosec and its penumbra of script kiddies.

(One mailing-list correspondent of mine, a familiar of this milieu, writes: "Lamo can eat a bag of dicks. I hate that douche.")

The big question, of course, is why Manning would have taken an obvious creep like Lamo into his confidence -- which is the story Lamo tells. The evidence offered to back up this claim are a few short decontextualized snippets extracted from emails and AOL chats between the two. (Apparently Wired magazine has the full texts but won't make them public.)

I suppose it all could have happened just as the public story so far suggests: all this material was readily available to a relatively low-level staff guy like Manning(*); he idealistically gave it to Wikileaks; and then was naif enough to confide in Lamo. But it will be interesting to see how the story develops.

The other interesting thing, to me, is the existence of people like Uber and Lamo in the first place. Apparently there's so much runoff into the social waters from the activities of the cops, the spies, the snoopers and surveillers, that it's nourished a malodorous algal bloom of hangers-on, informers, unofficial volunteer secret-police trolls, parasitic entrepreneurs hoping for spilled swill from the national-security trough, and a richly repellent inventory of other loathesome creepy-crawlies.

Welcome to Obama's America, a land where everyone not a screw is either an inmate or a stoolie.


(*) This isn't as improbable as it may sound. Lots of large bureaucratic organizations -- I have worked for a few -- tend to think of information security in terms of an Iron Wall between inside and outside. On the supposedly secure "inside", access and trust are far too widely distributed. I've never been in the military, but it would surprise me if this mind-set didn't exist there, perhaps even more strongly than in the corporate world.

Any crash you can walk away from...

The latest employment report sucks, of course. We're in yellow-flag time here at the North American job speedway and maze. Lots of rigs are in the pits changing tires, so to speak, and yup, some ain't comin' back out onto the track.

I like to avoid the monthly sermonette about just how bad it is out there -- as if people didn't see what's right in front of their eyes. Especially now, since this Baby Huey of a contraction a few months back gave way to what? The long goodbye of stagnation?

But let's look again -- or maybe for the first time -- at the true efficiency number here, jobmarket-wise.

Forget the various rates of unemployment, each more astoundingly record-breaking then the last. Just go ahead for a moment and carve away the layers of knee-jerk agitprop and notice the real big dog in the hunt here. It's not any delta of UN-employment rates at all. In fact, it's a rate of employment, not unemployment -- the so-called job participation rate, traced here in all its graphic beauty over the last 50 years:

(Click to enlarge.)

Over on the left you got yer New Frontier rates -- wow, only in the mid 50's! Then comes the obvious if cruelly jagged climb through five cycles and 40 years to the apex in the champagne twilight time of the Clinton-Rubin-Greenstain miracle. Yikes, the rate hit the mid-60's: a 20% increase!

Since then, after one complete cycle and into the "bite me" opening of a new one, looks like maybe we face a break in the trend, the onset of a epochal reversal, the beginning of an n-cycle, m-year-long ragged secular decline in the participation rate.

I know, I know, most of those uptrend years were for shit, what with us goin' faster to barely stay in place. Rising participation was coupled with wage stultification, but at least it liberated the housewife army. Without that wage squeeze, who knows, today we might face far worse, as the last of the male-order factory jobs slink away to Asia major.

Much has been made of the now nearly completed trend toward two-job households, most of it bad: oh the sweat, oh the waste, oh the toil. But right now how about we look at it from the eggs in a basket POV. Compare in your head the impact of pop's layoff back in the Ike years, when so often he was the only householder participating in the job force, with now, when even after the most grotesque job contraction since 1937-38 we as a jobbled nation are still at a higher participation rate then in the glorious new frontier/great society years of Sinatra and Lennon.

Sure, we make less per hour, and produce a lot more "value", but we see more of our hours bought... right? And that means despite drastic job loss, today's middle American households not only have unemployment comp but often a second household member still out there at the front, still at the job site, still pullin' in gainful work-time wages.

If we think of ourselves, each of us in our little household unit, as yeoman outfits, each a private grower of potential job hours, much like the family corn farmers of old -- what has happened to us since Nixon jousted with premier K on that fake kitchen set in Moscow?

Well, we're sellin more time, and as I mentioned, producing more with it. And okay, getting less per unit sold.

But sports fans we're still selling our two pairs of hands per household, not one. And that's even at this pit point in the cycle.

No wonder the teabaggers aren't savaging corporate America; their spouse still works inside there.

Gotta love a system that can increase household income AND at the same time increase the rate of exploitation; create more job insecurity AND spread around more jobs. Shows an instinctively keen inner coherence, an innate ability to stablize itself right along with its satanic drive toward insane instability.

Yeah, it relies on us to scramble a bit too much, to produce that dugout of stability in the gale force instability roaring around us. And yup, it was us wee weebles done all the streamlinin' to our basic units -- you know, cut down on kids underfoot and old folks overhead; pretty well wiped out marathon family repasts and home-cooked pies and haircuts, etc.

But like the resurrectionists used to say: "Hey, don't knock it, mate, till ya tried it. Fuck, it's a livin'... ain't it?"

August 7, 2010

Barge that tote, bale that lift

This just in, from the DCCC:

Diane von Furstenberg designed Team Pelosi Tote Bag $65.00

Legendary designer Diane von Furstenberg has specially designed a signature tote bag to benefit Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats. The proceeds will go directly to helping elect House Democrats. Perfect for work, the beach or travel, this stylish tote is available only through the DCCC for a limited time. The bag measures 17"w x 14"h x 5"d. Union made in the USA.

You can't make this stuff up. Personally, I would be happy to buy the bag, and even pay more than $65 for it, if Ms Pelosi's bleached disarticulated skeleton were neatly tucked inside, each vertebra and phalange lovingly wrapped in organic silk spun from Marin County worms who heard nothing but Vivaldi during their short happy laid-back lives.

The party as brand -- you heard it here first, and some time ago, too.

"Union made in the USA." By the last union member left in the USA, who lovingly bit off the stray thread from each seam with her sole remaining tooth.

Then there's the whole Free Alterations Feminist angle -- this is the perfect accessory for exasperated executive-suite women who can identify with Nancy Pelosi.

People just don't understand the heavy responsibilities of management. One can easily imagine some poor drained VP of HR, just emerged from the ordeal of laying off a few hundred cubicle rats. She was careful to place a box of Kleenex in each exit-interview room, because she's a good-hearted person. But she has received nothing but abuse for her efforts. She catches an interview with Nancy Pelosi on NPR, or some such outlet, and thinks to herself, I feel her pain. These ingrates! We're trying so hard!

You won't be seeing many Pelosi tote bags at your local Wal-Mart, and considering how ugly it is, you won't be seeing many in Southampton either. But even so, Southampton is a better bet than any Wal-Mart in the land.

Question, though: What's this business about Diane von Furstenberg being "legendary"? I always thought she was an actual person.

Mark takes a walk on the wild side

My closet dream boyfriend, Mark Engler, has a nice ponderation on tea-party election tipping -- a kissin' cousin of cow tipping.

First the good news:

Mark has a royal road way to insure the jackasses still get to graze for free on the top of the Hill after November:

"Are you a Democratic congressional candidate in a tight electoral contest? Here’s an idea: Help to recruit a Tea Party candidate to enter the general election and siphon off voters from your Republican opponent. Sure, you might be forced to debate a reactionary nut job. But this only makes you look more reasonable. More importantly, the new entrant splits the right-wing vote. You waltz to victory."
Hmm... that Spanish fly in his mojito didn't get me what I wanted out of Markie last night, but it did send him somewhere plenty weird.

What an innocent prat, eh? Makes me lick my chops, just to think about him capering about in self-delight: such a a Machiavel!

But these highs always wear off, as my hero Roman P knows all too well. And then what?

In this case that hypo-manic opening through fading course awinding ends up in what can only be called a final Hamlet-like interrogatory inner mope:

"Is there a downside to this type of thinking? Only the possibility that Tea Party candidates could actually win, in which case we’d be governed by the far Right."

I’ve worried about this with regard to Sarah Palin. Some progressives have hoped that, amid a weak field of Republicans, Palin will emerge as the Republican nominee for president in 2012. They have faith that she would be a weak and polarizing candidate in the general election, leading to an easy Democratic win.

I’m inclined to think that this strategy is playing with fire. Sure, Palin makes egregious gaffes on a regular basis.... Still, as a friend recently remarked to me, plenty of people thought George W. Bush was a bumbling, unelectable dimwit -- and look where that notion got us."

That not being enough, or should I say too much: to end it all with a stab to the heart, my boyfriend-to-be has to give us all a lesson in righteousness, brayed out like any confident schoolmarm might bray it:
"Electoral strategies that must rely on too-clever maneuvering can only conceal a party’s more fundamental weakness for so long. At the local level, you can make a case for trying to split the right-wing vote. But, at the risk of being trite, I think there’s a better case for progressives learning to defeat conservative ideas on their merits."
Bend over, Mark, and prepare for punishment.

August 8, 2010

Like Rats To The Lifeboats

Orszag and now Romer. Anyone care to bet they wanted some distance from the bankster-hugging debacle of Obourbon's great cat food restoration? Reputations are commodities too, and even the most shameless technocrats get edgy when the scape goat trickle-up starts looking good in the throne room.

August 9, 2010

You say WPA, I say PWA

Above: a ghoulish of aspect -- and dying -- Citizen Hopkins and of course, the Vozhd himself.

Lots of kindly folks with long deep hearts and a smattering of economic good sense like putting themselves to sleep at night fantasizing about WPA II...

... That Roosevelt-era gimmick where Uncle Sugar puts millions on the federal payroll doing good public deeds for chump change -- kind of a liberal gulag day-camp gig tricked out with various solemn claims to lasting value and thriving virtue.

Now Harry Hopkins, the father of the WPA, is a real honest-to-Marx hero of mine, and despite the facts, I wish he, like that other great Harry, Harry Dexter White, had really in fact have been one of Stalin's robots. But alas, such poetry is all too sentimental for Mother Clio.

Hero or not, though, we don't need no more lousy make-work projects, despite what such recently revered authorities as the late Hy Minsky claim. And thank our class stars we don't.

(Here's another snap of Harry H in a fine hat, looking more as I like to recall him.)

And here's the other Harry, obviously ready to subvert jolly J Alfred Keynes, lord Ha-Ha, and his utterly sublime draft of a postwar international economic architecture:

These WPA multiple wet dreams, if any of 'em were ever to actually climb out of their local dream factory, and into the mainstream of American work life... it would prove to be, yes, just as awful as high school -- a sweatbox imposed by minimum security and financial desperation -- an American floating opera as labor gulag -- a workhouse without walls.

Honest toil? Maybe. Even kinda useful work? Maybe. But not an honest job; not a job mediated by the Tartarish market mechanisms. A job neither good and well paying enough to suck in private sector workers with an existing private sector gainful employment, nor a job able to excite the fury of our private sector chiefs of production.

Those glorious WPA jobs of pwog memory and myth were little more in ultimate motivation then confected Calvinic chores for idle hands, punishment for preterition at the hiring office of Limited Liability Inc., doing good by pouring concrete and sweat -- and, I hasten to add, quite unlike the work of the anagrammatic PWA, brainchild of that tightassed fatfaced thumbtack of a man Harold Ickes, which produced objects of a bygone glory and a splendor for ever and a day.

The WPA was not convict labor -- not literally, at least -- but neither is 11th-grade French homework. A WPA job for almost ever would end up as generally popular as forty years of high school; and throughout it would remain in essence Cain's curse, stigmatized labor.

Think about it: you yourself wouldn't "resort" to that type of job setting unless you don't have any choice, right?

The notion is that by this means we can set up a receptacle that can fill up higher and higher when there aren't enough Mcjobs, no matter how many missing Mcjobs we need. But why bother with this crap slide when we can in a perfectly straightforward way use macro policy to induce as many Mcjobs as we need, and have 'em all be more or less self-sustaining?

Take, for example, noted plagiary and cave wizard Hy Minsky, the Howard Zinn of macro. He includes a recipe for make-work in his recipe for perpetual stability: Uncle as employer of last resort. He wanted a Fed for the broken jobsters, like the Fed we already have for broken bankers.

But in this new context, with the society we've got out here, that's a nasty hellfirish concept. If Uncle becomes employer of last resort, by definition we end up with a 6th army of losers at a siege of Stalingrad job site, chopping wood and clearing brush at some deeply discounted wage.

Uncle, if he paid a decent wage, would in a stroke become the keeper of the job vortex. Given a choice, who would work for a corporation if the same work at the same pay were offered by a sunny side of Uncle Sam? Think the dynamics of this through to its "stable equilibrium": either this WPA evolves into a living job hell or it gets its neck broke just like Ickes' WPA got it's neck broke.

You can only be a last-resort employer at a penalty wage rate, right? So now imagine the effect of implementing such a pit of bottomless capacity on long-term private sector wages.

It could easily become a diabolical form of wage suppression; and, horror of horrors, Hy Minsky himself prolly figured all this out right down to the exact penny!

Now Hy, of course, Gandalfian type that he was, liked to call his employer of last resort a yellow brick road to lasting "inflation control" -- which comes to the same thing, doesn't it?

(Hy was obsessed with chronic inflation of the kind sponataneously generated by credit and fiscal deficit macro policies, and social-democratic counter-cyclical policies. His implicit motto: "Death to transfer systems!")

But even if you worry about unwanted uncontrolled inflation(*), you don't need to undermine the job market to cure it. There's no reason forcing you to create a perpetual class of dole-underpaid underclass workers. If inflation is the concern, you need to take it on at the source where pricing decisions are made -- i.e. at the corporate level. You need to construct a system-wide mechanism able to thwart these unwanted uncontrolled anarchic bursts of inflation by... by... wait for it...

... Imposing a markup cap-and-trade warrant system(**)!

Oh dear, there's so much room for digression here, but blogs call us to end the huffing and puffing more or less as quickly as possible. The point is simple: if in the end we want to maximize value added and wages per hour, maximize job participation rates and minimize job hours per week/year/career, then setting up a nonstop WPA is just effectively a way to absorb an oversupply of job hours by setting up sweatful local purgatories, and as a result, over time, hold down the entire wage structure of our corporate sector by stabilizing any level of stag in the corporate job market deemed most profitable.

Instead of heating up the job markets by heating up effective demand, we follow Hyman and simply sop up the unemployed with a public make-work program -- all the unemployed, that is, who are willing to face this Nurse Ratched and her gauntlet.

What, in the long run, is that gonna do? Among other things, keep the corporate job market slack while keeping goo-goos contented that all souls are fast at work, and God's will is done on earth. With last-resort employer Uncle Sam in place, there's no more need to pump up demand.

"Why Paine," you say -- "Paine, you arrogant shallow twit! We could employ 10 million folks today, right this second, greening up our production platforms, our infrastructure, our apartment complexes..."

I agree. But that kinda work is PWA work, not WPA work: projects long premeditated and planned, slowly implemented and paid for at honest union wages, not some fly-by-night rocks-into-pebbles act, not some red-white-and-blue prison without barbed wire. Not some take-it-or-leave-it Mother Hubbard ration station.


(*) Accelerating inflation can indeed be the outcome of a Wild Bill Vickrey final solution to job scarcity, if you cure our ills by using giant fiscal deficits backed by bank credit to drive us to hyperemployment. You need something to backstop bosses that is, in fact, a serious threat of bankruptcy in the final analysis.

(**) Now of course that will lead at some point to a nice toe-to-toe class-on-class slugfest over "shares" of value added; but that too is another story.

August 11, 2010

This retired math teacher...

... wants more from YOU!!

That's the sort of headlines you're gonna be seeing pretty soon, if the tyke shown below is any indication:

Here's a column of his, run recently at Manhattan's fabled New York Spinal Tap. It's exactly the sort of thing that upper West Side America deserves and oughta admire.

Battle Looms Over Huge Costs of Public Pensions

There’s a class war coming to the world of government pensions.

Class war? Gadzooks! Details, please. Details!
"The haves are retirees who were once state or municipal workers. Their seemingly guaranteed and ever-escalating monthly pension benefits are breaking budgets nationwide. The have-nots are taxpayers who don’t have generous pensions. Their 401(k)s or individual retirement accounts have taken a real beating in recent years and are not guaranteed. And soon, many of those people will be paying higher taxes or getting fewer state services as their states put more money aside to cover those pension checks."
Stew-pendous, eh?

Now follow that up with this looming hanging curve query: "Who should pay for the trillion-dollar pension gap?"

The rest is scrambled eggs, starting with this basic 'numbers please' face-off ;

  • Average annual SS retiree benefit payment? $14k
  • Average Colorado teacher pension payout? Closer to $35k.
And to top that off, as if it alone wasn't enough to bring out the brown shirts: "Many [gray-topped Colorado teachers] also got a 3.5 percent annual raise, no matter what inflation was."

"Got"? Well, see, the Colorado legislature barbered the contracts a bit recently.

Are you interested in capitalizing these backroom deals doled out in the prior 40-50 years or so? Mr Columnist does. Taking the Colorado teachers as a for-instance, our NYC weekend relief pitcher here discovers (at a handy online insurance agency) that a 58-year-old male shopping for an annuity with the same set of outputs would have to hand over a minimum of $860,000! A woman would need at least $928,000, because of her longer life expectancy.

Now I'll do some math myself to break out the $20k increment above average SS payment really involved here, and yikes -- being just an average retiring 58-year-old Colorado public school male teacher is to be worth $500k more today then being an average Mcjobbled jerk of 62-65.

Talk radio can make some damn ugly music out of that, eh?

Sum-up, pinko style:

Teachers get 30 years of second-rate pay in exchange for a first-rate pension. Maybe fair enough, all things considered. But, comes time to collect, and what happens? What else -- the eye-patched slash-and-burn Yahoo demagogues bring out the cutlasses.

We got the makings of a continuing nation-wide saga underway here. Care to bet on the outcome?

Beware the professional left!

Boy, ain't that the troof.

That's the message to us pwogs, not just coming out of this pink zit of a smudge pot, but out of the hot air vents over at the White House too.

Now of course they have different reasons than, say, father Smiff, or electric Al, for growling at the "professional left", but they are acting plenty sore. Example (this is press secretary Tubby Gibbs talkin'):

"the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama. Progressives... are the liberals outside of Washington “in America,” and they are grateful for what Obama has accomplished in a shattered economy with uniform Republican opposition and a short amount of time."
We're grateful, all right -- grateful dead!

Listen to Ohbummer's doughboy try to rant:

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it’s crazy. They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality... They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”
I suppose this attack works well both ways. If you're a member of the progressive caucus this devil's curse amounts to anointment. You've ducked the fire, it's aimed over your heads -- or is it between your legs, at the evil brownies of the "professional left"?

And as for all us pwog hopers, it keeps us thinking quite the opposite: "Boy, the heat's on inside the belt. The woodchucks are screeching from the hotfoot." Visions of hardnosers like Code Blink and the Tom Hayden Project settin' blazes under 'em all... imagine, it's gotten so vexing that the POTUS, in a pale blue rage, like old King Henry the Deuce, cries out, "will no one rid me of this, this... professional left?"

August 12, 2010

Ex oriente lux

Continuing this week's Darth Vader theme:

The Barack Obama Action Figure.

What seems to have happened here is that vapors from various American brains -- Markos Moulitsas', Arianna Huffington's, Katrina van den Heuvel's -- percolated out of their skulls and rose into the stratosphere, rode the jet stream hither and thither, and finally, due to some vortex in the upper air or the direct intervention of Providence, found each other and coalesced somewhere over Japan.

One peach-blossom night this self-organizing cloud of Pwog fantasy descended and found a fevered entrepreneurial brain suitable for colonization, and this work of utter sublime genius is the result.

I'm going to see if I can order one. It will drive my Pwog friends insane.

I don't know which image I like best. Perhaps it's "President, enjoy the winter in Japan":


IOZ! I hate him! He beat me to this one, from Release The Kruggen:

America Goes Dark

The lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights....

[A] country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.

And a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened.

And here is the detestable IOZ, saying everything I would have wanted to say about this idiocy, and saying it a lot better:
America is overpaved.... there isn't a holler that hasn't got its own asphaltized state route, even if it only sees one beat-down Chevy every decade.... every single bridge in Pennslyvania is [said to be] a fart and a hiccup away from total structural collapse, and yet it is unthinkable and unimaginable to propose that perhaps we have too many bridges, too many roads.... Cleveland, OH, a city with a population of three retired steel workers, a black guy, and a rat, has a highway system as elaborate as Paris'.

Colorado is turning out streetlights? Bully! Modern streetlighting is obscenely wasteful. The pure and unnecessary expenditure of megawatts, light dumped futilely into outer space, is a travesty.

Hawaii is shortening the school year? Oh no. We might fall behind Japan!

Seems to be a case where ol' Krug, who is unquestionably a smart guy and probably a good-hearted guy too, is exhibiting the extraordinarily confined imagination of all the merit class's most stellar products. Conventional wisdom really is the Law and the Prophets to these SAT Wunderkinder, isn't it?

August 13, 2010

Off to the north country

I'll be rusticating in Maine for the next coupla weeks, so things may get even slower than usual around here.

August 15, 2010

Ten Years of Shame

Via Monsieur IOZ, Dolchstoss liberalism is back in fashion.

But what's dangerously myopic about going ballistic as Gibbs did in his statements is that just 10 years ago we had a little event in which only a tiny portion of the base went with a third party bid from the left --- and the consequences were catastrophic. Democrats, of all people, should remember that every vote matters.


Nader-baiting! It's been almost ten years, but the "narrative" retains its allure: A tiny minority managed to put the country in a Wingnut Interregnum. Good King Al (no relation) was robbed of his rightful office by their feckless yet dangerous, disciplined yet hysterical, mindless yet cunning, etc. etc. etc... Where was I? Oh, yes, he was robbed by the left wing stab in the back.

If only it were true. A successful spoiler minority would be a force to be reckoned with. Politics, need it be said, is an ugly vicious business. There is no morality play to it. The party leaders hate their base more than they hate their notional opposition. They inflict regular, gratuitous discipline on it, harvest it for labor and money and react with vituperative outrage at the merest hint of rebellion. In the face of that leave it the liberals to cry, "Disarm! Disarm now! Or all is lost."

There's no need for the panic, but I suppose it gives them something to do while they contemplate the bankster-hugging, Afghanistan-surging, Romneycare presidency of Barack Obama.

August 16, 2010

Nodemsatol, a partial panacea

Nodemsatol is not a complete cure, but it is a vital component of any healthy regimen. It can relieve social constipation, alleviate cognitive dissonance and provide an active alternative to people who feel their treatment plan presently consists of a kick to the crotch followed by a kick to the teeth. It is neither legal nor illegal, but it is definitely not an officially approved remedy and can frequently be difficult to put into effect. Side effects may include externally inflicted red-baiting, inducements to fatuity, sanctimonious lectures, harassment by urine sample fetishists and accusations of mental illness. Benefits may include fewer sightings of puckered, inflamed donkey sphincters, surge abatement, bankster remediation and a diet that excludes endocrine disruptors.

Isn't it time to give it a try?

August 17, 2010

The Visceral Lapidary Limned In Beale-esque Distemper

That's complete nonsense, I know, but it's the best way to introduce Michiko Kakutani. There's a good explanation for that from Monsieur IOZ, where I snagged this snippet from Christopher's comment:

intemperate blog entries and Howard Beale-like outbursts are cheered as expressions of a collective distemper.

I have no idea what that means, but I can spot the rage of a philistine easily. The incoherence of it is grounded in senior middle management entitlement. The offending parties must read her mind, as she can read theirs, in order to know what they've done to provoke.

Cutting loose like that is a generic corporate behavior. A little bit of power brings out the worst in poorly socialized people. And I think it explains the overwhelming managerial class support for a state that's policed from the creche to the grave. They want to abuse people and they want to feel safe doing it. The end result is a country that's impoverished to provide bodyguards for shit-flinging senior book reviewers, among others.

Hyperbole? Try walking into any corporate tower in any major US city.

August 18, 2010

Intro to Godley Economics Pt. 2: Stock-Flow Consistency

The last post in this series went over the concept of the flows that make up GDP and their necessary relationships. I've reworked that post to make some of the concepts clearer, so you might find it worth revisiting. In this post I'm going to introduce stocks to the simple model. A quick refresher on stocks vs. flows: The federal debt is a stock, while the federal deficit is a flow. Your bank account balance is a stock, while your monthly income is a flow.

Wynne Godley's concept of Stock-Flow Consistency is fairly simple: in a closed system like the global economy, all flows must come from somewhere and end up somewhere. An increase in one stock must be consistent with the net flow into it, and also decreases in other stocks.

Since everybody loves an animation:

This concept can be applied to our earlier sectoral balances equation:

(I-S) + (G-T) + (X-M) = ΔNGDP

You can visualize each of these sectoral flows having a corresponding stock:

(I-S) = -ΔPrivate Stock
(G-T) = -ΔGovernment Stock
(X-M) = -ΔForeign Stock

When a sector saves, it builds up its assets and/or decreases its liabilities. When it dissaves, it reduces its assets and and/or increases its liabilities. This yields a change in the sector's stock, the net position of its Balance Sheet (Assets vs. Liabilities).

As you can probably imagine, keeping track of these stocks and flows between more than two sectors is a bit of a difficult task. In order to summarize the state of a large system, and the interdependency of the various sectors, Godley uses matrices. Shown below is a simple matrix that, for simplicity's sake, only considers financial assets and liabilities to simply be money borrowed or lent in the form of bonds:

Say the government spends $50 billion, and takes in $100 billion in taxes:

(G-T) = -ΔGovernment Stock
($50B - $100B) = -ΔGovernment Stock
-$50B = -ΔGovernment Stock
$50B = ΔGovernment Stock

The government's stock would increase by $50 billion. If the government is already in a net debtor position, the net debt would decrease by $50 billion. In order to satisfy Stock-Flow Consistency, the other sectors would have to borrow $50 billion from the government, or the government would have to build up its cash holdings and other sectors decrease their cash holdings (not included in the above matrix). These cash holdings, or money stocks, act as a buffer within the system, allowing the economy to run smoothly.

What happens when one sector can't find another sector to lend to, or to borrow from? The amount that is not recycled through inter-sectoral lending or borrowing is instead added to a sector's buffer stock of money, or effectively destroyed by paying down a debt to a commercial bank, or created by taking a new loan out from a commercial bank, showing up in a change in NGDP.

This is about as far as we can go with this simple model. In the next post I'm going to start disaggregating the private sector and introducing a banking system that actually creates dollars. I realize that this post is a bit dry, but I just wanted to introduce some of the basic methods and concepts used in Godley's analysis before delving into the more interesting stuff.

August 19, 2010

Teabagger organizing vs. Left organizing

Organizing Teabaggers is easy, if you have the cash and the stomach for it. They don't represent a radical tendency. Their program for change is satisfied by dog in the manger spectacle, security theater and Fox News bear baiting. Their leadership is satisfied with media attention and a bit of trickle down power. They have well established social networks that closely, and not coincidentally, resemble consumer pressure groups and they're working with structures that want to keep their patronage (cash, free labor, votes). Maybe ten percent of them give a damn about a "small government" that actually governs less. The rest only want to protect privilege and relative status. They're useful to capitalism.

A Teabagger organizing comparison to Left organizing is not really workable, if by Left one is referring to the small percentage of self-identifying lefties who do represent a radical tendency. The best comparison is to subordinate Democratic Party harvesting groups, e.g. MoveOn, which are successful and which resemble them in everything but the content of their marketing.

August 27, 2010

Predictive Policing

Human behavior is not irreducibly complex. I can, with little effort, give an accurate prediction of criminal conduct right down to the crimes and individuals who commit them. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Or, more to the point, like the mass murder of defenseless subsistence farmers.

I can also predict, with the same degree of accuracy, that the use of statistics-driven predictive policing to control less spectacular crimes will be used as a means of harassment, entrapment, false imprisonment and mass criminalization driven by moral panic. The great social philosopher, Richard J. Daley, observed that "[the] police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder." Feed that into your program for change.

When it comes to reduction of less spectacular crimes, money is better spent on facilitating compliance than on enforcement. Policy is better directed at increasing economic security than on reducing it. Etc. It's hardly rocket science and the methods for doing so are well known.

August 28, 2010

Corporate Performance Art

Is there a qualitative difference between "Restoring Honor" and "Change We Can Believe In"? Their respective enthusiasts are equally sincere and have the same chance of achieving their notional goals. In practice, the notional goals will evaporate into a bad smell. Once they've achieved it, they'll feel the same maudlin sense of victimhood. The difference is one group will be sore losers and the other will be sore winners. Both will then want to "take back the country". The only thing that comes close to being real is the soreness.

I can sympathize, but only up to a point. Suffering caused by persistent, freely chosen victimhood is real suffering, and the degree of it is wildly unjust, but dragging everyone else down too is simply vindictive; the sufferers' ignorance and vulnerability to peer pressure notwithstanding.

More Infantilization? Why not!

There's no end to it. I really thought the death of the Hope And Change sparkle pony would collapse the market for it, but see for yourself, if you have a strong stomach. And don't say I didn't give you fair warning.


That's the least toxic of the screen shots. The rest are much worse.

August 29, 2010

Credit where it's due

Book burning is not entirely without merit. There's a catch (not that one). It needs to be done in a way that increases book sales.

Also, three cheers for the Nanny State. When you need an infantilizing response to an infantile act,

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Officials in a Florida city have denied a burn permit for a church that is seeking to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.

Interim Fire Chief Gene Prince said yesterday that the open burning of books is not allowed under Gainesville's burning ordinance.

The Dove World Outreach Center drew international attention after announcing a plan to burn copies of the Islamic holy text on church grounds to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Prince says the church will be fined if the burning is held.

In an e-mail sent yesterday, the church said, "City of Gainesville denies burn permit - BUT WE WILL STILL BURN KORANS."

The Gainesville church made headlines last year after distributing T-shirts that said, "Islam is of the Devil."

Why not do the book burn inside the church? That would teach the fire chief a stinging lesson. Fill it to rafters, by all means, for it is written that pointless, faked-up, self-inflicted martyrdom is pleasing to the Lord, who shall ridicule them in His own time and at great length, for His mercy is infinite. But please forget about the Quran. There's no need to add insult to Predator drones, and there are worthy writers who need all the publicity they can get. Burn blogs in effigy too. Purify the ether!

Status Intoxication

I don't want to start one of those ghastly "failure of the Left" threads, but I want to throw something out there. And that is, the Left has nothing to offer to people whose political concerns revolve around protecting their status.

People who complain about "big government", but vote for Military Keynesians and Corporate Millenarians aren't interested in any kind of democratic control of capital. That's the last thing they want. Look at what they do. They're sending bagmen to the federal government and those bagmen do their jobs, with a vengeance. The rank and file is hanging on to its status in capitalism's race to the bottom. Without extravagant corporate entitlements and federal contracts, they're sunk and they know it.

When the Left talks about material security and economic justice, they're adding "relative to whom and not at my expense", not relative to what they have in an absolute sense. They despise and mistrust their petty nobility and its plans, and rightly so, but they have no problem with the concept of petty nobility itself. A true left wing program would mean complete upheaval in their world.

August 30, 2010

Dr. Socks

To tell you the truth, though, I’m still not convinced that Obama actually wants anything, at least not in a political sense. He seems to me an utter blank. He’s a self-propelling election device that exists solely to get itself elected. It continues to amaze me that so many people somehow thought this empty suit was a savior. Even his campaign message was just a recycled leftover from one of Axelrod’s earlier clients.

The rest of the post and the comments are very good.

About August 2010

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

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