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September 2010 Archives

September 1, 2010

A disappointing speech

I expected bromides and I received bromides, but I was still disappointed by the president's speech. It was a wasted opportunity. He should have entered the oval office carrying a fake turkey and wearing a codpiece. This would have lent dignity to the rebranding of the occupation. But he blew it. What a dipshit.

September 4, 2010

Condensed Cock A Doodle Doo

This is, in its way, perfection.

I have a personal story that might help. In my native land, we rise at dawn, stuff beans up our noses, mount our pogo sticks and hop to work. None of us asked to be born into that. Some of us can see the imperfections. A few reject the beans and the pogo sticks, bless their hearts, but what do they offer in place? Fantasy, that's what. And what they fail to take into account in their fantasies are the people who wear underpants on their heads.


Those of us who are sensible, like woodchucks, don't especially enjoy the beans. They hurt. They make our eyes water. Sometimes we fall off our pogo sticks and writhe in agony. Hence, Obama. His proposals make sense. We can't have perfection, but we can have better beans and better insertion methods. Admittedly this hasn't worked out. In consequence, some people are dispirited. They asked, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood, and the answer was provided by Robert Gibbs: urine samples and mental hospitals. Discouraging, yes, I can dig it, man. But does this mean we should abandon our program? Does this mean we should hand our country over to the people who wear underpants on their heads? Because those are our choices.


The tyranny of empiricism is a dead end. A failure of morale is our greatest threat. Let us renew our hope for change instead. It's time to hop.

September 5, 2010

Proportional Vacuity

H/T Mike Flugennock.

The Gawker opines on another pseudo-trend uncovered by those tireless crackpots at the New York Times, where vacuity goes to be nurtured into robust category error philistinism. This time, the Times is interested in political implications of the silliness of the youth of today, which is narcissistic and creepy, like a man with a comb-over reading Nietzsche to impress hipster baristas.

The Youth of Today® suffers from vacuity at the same rate and pace as their elders. There's no need to worry that they'll make a hash of things. Of course they will, just as previous generations have. Tradition is secure. The slick campus psychopath will become president, the ambitious sycophants will become reporters at the Times and interesting, relevant news will remain on the margins.

Fetish vs. fetish

What a rush this must have been, don't you think? You aim the truck at the flimsy siding, you stomp on the accelerator. The wall leaps out of the middle distance into the foreground. Maybe you'll survive the crash, maybe you won't. But in that euphoric millisecond before impact, perhaps you sense, without having the time to form it into words, that you've set one of your masters upon the other?

* * * * *

I'm back from my bucolic -- or rather, riparian -- Maine holiday. Still can't afford a cottage in the very nice place where Better Half and I usually go, so naturally I'm rooting for a major drop in real estate "values". Perhaps I'll get it, or so the Gray Lady of 43d Street seems to think:

Grim Housing Choice: Help Today’s Owners or Future Ones

The unexpectedly deep plunge in home sales this summer is likely to force the Obama administration to choose between future homeowners and current ones, a predicament officials had been eager to avoid.

It's all downhill from here, of course; in spite of the sensational headline and lede, the story goes on to make it crystal-clear that Obie & Co. will continue to prop up the fictitious "equity" of "owners" to the extent possible, and the hell with non-owners (or, as the Times humorously refers to them, "future owners"). The "grim choice" was made long ago, and made quite blithely; and as with a number of other previous grim choices, Obie and the rest of the Donkery are right down with it.

The silver lining is that whatever the Obienauts can do may not be enough. My delight in a further plunge of real-estate prices, should that occur, will be greatly enhanced to the extent that it knocks the Democratic Party into a cocked hat, or rather, knocks it farther into an even more cocked hat. How much can prices fall in the two months before the midterms? Here's hoping we set a record.

One of my lefty mailing list colleagues wrote recently, in response to a thread entitled "Ciao, Dems":

Of course the subject line, "Ciao, Dems," needs, for the sake of accuracy, to add something like "for the next few years." Over the last 50 years there have been several predictions of the permanent disappearance of one or the other of the parties after some landslide election, but of course the loser always ended up the winner in 4 to 12 years.
It's always astute to observe that the future is likely to resemble the past. Still, there are occasions when the car finally runs out of gas (though let's hope it gets through the siding and the balloon-frame first).

This is not your father's Democratic Party any more. What committed constituency does it still have left? Liberals -- a tiny and inconsequential social formation. Union bureaucrats, ditto.

Of course, there may be a kind of oxygen-tent effect: Perhaps there are elite interests who derive some advantage from having an A team and a B team of flunkies. Play 'em against each other. Every officeholding sycophant serves at pleasure, and there's always some lean-and-hungry B-teamer waiting in the wings if the incumbent doesn't give satisfaction.

* * * * *

What I really want, of course, is for the precarious house-of-cards occupation regime of bribery and subornation in Iraq to break down spectacularly. If I were a truly conscientious person, I would add, the sooner the better. But in fact, I hope it happens in October 2012. Or no, that's unimaginative. I hope it happens on September 11, 2012.

Wouldn't it be exciting to witness the actual disappearance of one of the duopoly parties? We haven't had that pleasure in this country for quite a long time -- even I am not old enough to remember when the Whigs evaporated, and the extinction of liberal Republicans, while gratifying, wasn't quite so tectonic.

I desperately need some excitement; don't we all? This is turning out to be a very boring Administration and Congress. There is a certain arid pleasure in having been right, but nothing to compare with the wild ride Clio can give you when she decides to kick up her heels and surprise you.

Ms Clio! Paging Clio!

Decline and fall

I wouldn't have thought anything could possibly make me miss Bill Clinton, but I had forgotten about Smith's Twenty-Fourth Rule of Life, which states that every President makes you nostalgic for his predecessors.

Nostalgia for Bush Jr may take a few more weeks, but suddenly I miss Bill. A sidelong obiter-dictum in the previous post gelled it for me: this administration is a crashing bore. Even blogging about them -- easy as blogging is -- starts to seem like a Sisyphean sentence to a life of endless, unrewarded tedium.

But Clinton! Not nearly as much fun as Nixon, of course -- who could compete? But good God amighty, it's all relative, and where's the louche zaftig girl in this administration?

Obie needs to start shtupping the interns, preferably under the gaze of a surveillance camera concealed in one of those dull heavy artless plaster moldings in the Oval Office. It's his only chance of re-election, and more importantly, it's the only actual human pleasure his life might have to offer, poor man.

September 7, 2010

Hogging the limelight

The insufferable David Petraeus stepped up to demand his share of the Quran-burning spectacle.

"It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort," Gen Petraeus said in a statement to US media. "It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems.

"Not just here, but everywhere in the world, we are engaged with the Islamic community," added Gen Petraeus, who heads a 150,000-strong Nato force against a Taliban-led insurgency. "We engage them here, we engage them there, we engage them with a thrum-thrum tiddle and a military air," concluded Gen. Petraeus as he produced a fife to signal the end the of interview*.

Bless his heart, he's not quite on the ball. The biggest danger to the troops is the overall effort, closely followed by the general himself, his fellow generals, the Obama regime and Congress. The concept can be difficult to understand for people accustomed to communicating entirely in euphemism. But it's not one of those tricky post modern things. There are no grand numinous forces working unseen. The "overall effort" didn't appear out of the blue and demand compliance. It's traceable.

*An editorial gesture, forced on me by grand numinous forces.

A Cynical Ploy

In a move Democrats characterized as a cynical ploy, designed to siphon votes from Democrats, who are entitled to them, a Republican operative put homeless people on the Green Party ticket in the Arizona elections. "They're human beings," noted the bewildered operative. "They're really human..."

In a move Republicans characterized as a cynical ploy, the Democratic Party announced it would adopt the Green Party platform in order to counter the Republicans' cynical ploy. "We're entitled to those votes, and we'll have them, even if it entails adopting principles*."

In a move the Democratic and Republican parties characterized as a cynical ploy, the Green Party announced that it continues to welcome anyone who supports their platform, provided they actually support it. "We're entitled to a welcome," huffed a Democratic spokesman. "Exactly," added a Republican. "Be my brother. Or I'll kill you."

*Not really, no.

A Fitting Monument

The Al Gore Memorial Academy is perfect. It's a tremendously expensive edifice, dedicated to a narrow interpretation of good intent, which is reinforced by an implicit comparison to actual good intent, and it's beset by problems with toxic vapors. It reinforces crackpot meritocracy and has drawn humorless defenders whose solution to a crucial problem is: a drive-by acknowledgment of the problem and circling the wagons in defense of the status quo.

September 9, 2010

Hit the bricks, prof

I wish I had had more professors like the wonderfully sinister and overstatedly Jewish crypto-Red shown in the marvelous propaganda image above(*). No doubt I would be a much better Commie now.

Not that I was unlucky in the professors who actually fell to my lot (and I to theirs, poor devils). My professors were generally fine people, with a few conspicuous exceptions, and several of them even managed to teach me a thing or two, in spite of all the resistance I could muster.

Still, there are a lot of ways to learn, and I concluded some time ago that the wildly topheavy and insanely intricate bureaucracy of "education" -- particularly "higher education" -- has got to go. It appears I have some bedfellows in this bunk, strange though they may be:

[I]n recent months, [an] unlikely privileged group has found itself in the cross hairs: tenured ­professors.

At a time when nearly one in 10 American workers is unemployed, here’s a crew (the complaint goes) who are guaranteed jobs for life, teach only a few hours a week, routinely get entire years off, dump grading duties onto graduate students and produce “research” on subjects like “Rednecks, Queers and Country Music”...

The debate over American higher education has been reignited recently, thanks to two feisty new books. ­Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids — And What We Can Do About Itby Andrew Hacker, a professor emeritus of political science at Queens College, and Claudia C. Dreifus, a journalist... is if anything even harsher and broader than the cartoonish sketch above. [Its arguments] are also echoed in Mark C. Taylor’s Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities, which is more measured in tone but no less devastating in its assessment of our unsustainable “education bubble.”

But of course you can always depend on Pwogs to defend existing institutions -- particularly sanctimonious hypocritical institutions like the Supreme Court and the Academy. Here's Jesse Lemisch, on Truthout, approvingly cited by some of the high-Church Marxists on my lefty mailing lists:
From Reagan's nonexistent "welfare queens" to today's "unnecessary medical tests" and old people viewed as burdens to be put out on the ice, atypical large expenditures - or rumors of them - are used as justification for enormous cutbacks. We associate these arguments with the right, but more and more they come, as well, from the "liberal" center. Consider Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus' hot new [book mentioned above]....

Before I read this book, I thought of Hacker and Dreifus as liberals, which remains the case - but helps us to see what liberalism has all too often come to mean, even for some veterans of the left.... To my dismay, the book turns out to be propaganda for a neoliberal program of cuts in higher education, part of the international retreat from earlier social gains in pensions, vacations, education, health care, and part of the mounting attacks on social services and on public employees.

Now this analogy seems a little forced. Cutting "education" is arguably more like cutting the police budget, or the military budget. Pensions put money in people's pockets, and vacations give them leisure, but "education" as we know it takes money out of people's pockets and deprives them of what little leisure they have.

I've spent a bit of time, in my day, as a occasional slavey among the huddled masses of "adjuncts" and other academic proles. My students were by and large a likable bunch, but every one of them was in that classroom because they had to be, or believed they had to be, not because they wanted to be. They certainly didn't consider it an amenity; they considered it a burden. I don't think they would have responded quite the same way to a nice Government check every month, or a nice French-style vacation.


(*) Does anybody know the original source of this? I found it in my usual googleophagous way, but the site where it turned up gave no hint of provenance. And the prof's face reminds me very strongly of somebody, but I can't quite figure out who.

September 10, 2010

Bigfoot domesticus

Don't know why Paul Krugman seems always under my tack hammer. But here we go again:

"... The Paris-based OECD is Conventional Wisdom Central; and in May, it dutifully relayed the conventional wisdom that advanced nations should start cutting spending and, even more remarkably, raising interest rates right away...this made no sense even in terms of the OECD’s own forecasts, which said that unemployment would remain very high and inflation very low for years to come...Now the OECD has climbed down, sort of. Maybe hold off on those interest hikes, it says, and if things get really bad, maybe delay the fiscal austerity."
So far, so good; not a bad setup to his "Two points":
"1. This new document is presented as a response to a change in forecasts. But as I pointed out in May, even given the forecasts the OECD was making back then, its call for near-term austerity made no sense."


"When you’re expecting 8.4 percent unemployment and 1 percent inflation at the end of 2011, raising interest rates this year would be a violation of everything we know about sensible monetary policy."

Yup again.

"The OECD never explained why fiscal contraction should take place while the economy was still deeply depressed, except by vague appeals to confidence, i.e., the invisible bond vigilantes."

Wow! Yup-cubed! And three points in one!

"2. The slowdown we’re seeing now isn’t a surprise."
Damn straight, PK!
"Everyone who took a Keynesian approach seriously was very worried about the second half of 2010, long in advance."

That borders on a tautology -- in fact, it's precisely this retrofitted antique schlock Keynesianism that received the bulk of the sneers from most highbrow anti-activist " ratex-model stunted parrots.

But here is the vision of the Nassau Merlin hizzseff:

"What we’re really seeing here is a sort of intellectual Wile E. Coyote moment... a bit of bad economic news has led the organization to look down, and realize that there’s nothing supporting its position. But there never was."
If that were the whole post I'd have left it to Paul's many-headed many-hand-wringing chorus. But he slips this in:
"Back in May, the OECD was responding to social pressure, not economic logic. All the right people wanted austerity now now now, because, well, because, and the OECD went along."
Paul, this should be the lede to a post, a long well-reasoned post, that answers the questions it raises: what "social pressure" group equals "all the right people"? And what is the "because"? And when did these right people know it as their "because"?

I haven't seen, in all Paul's endless monsoonlike downpourings since the crisis of fall 08, any answers to those obvious questions.

No doubt all us SMBIVAers have our own ideas about the "right people" and the "because", and I bet a lot of our answers would coincide. And yet, despite its Gibraltar-like obviousness at the narrowest strait of the present policy bottleneck, and despite his tenured position over at the Times Square Bombers' op-ed page, it seems to be a stretch of ground that this endlessly feisty, often agile bigfoot fears to tread.

September 11, 2010

Hommage a Speer

Yesterday evening I happened to be sitting on a rather pleasant roof terrace -- not my own, alas -- down in the Village, with a glass of Lambrusco in hand (whaddya expect, it's the Village).

The sky was heavily overcast with dark turbulent clouds, and as darkness gathered I happened to glance downtown to see a sinister glow emanating from the thick ceiling, as if there were something big on fire about two thousand feet up. Too bright for the moon, and the lurid brassy color was all wrong, and the moon wasn't in that part of the sky at that hour anyway. Quite alarming. A vast meteorite, heading straight toward me and thus apparently unmoving? A blimp disaster? Some new surveillance platform just parked above Manhattan, to keep an eye in the sky on all of us, and perhaps display Nike or Ipad ads for good measure?

I finally figured it out. They were gearing up for the annual civic liturgy of Ninelevenism, with the inevitable searchlights outlining the former towers, like the titanic thuggish ghosts of Nelson and David Rockefeller, a spectral Gog and Magog looming above our hapless island in death as they did in life:

(Outof-towners may not be aware that the hideously ugly Twin Towers were familiarly referred to by many of us as Nelson and David, in honor of the brothers from the Rockefeller crime family who were largely responsible for foisting them upon us. )

This particular decorative technique was, of course, invented by Albert Speer:

... which seems quite perfect, somehow.

Lots of people seem to find this spectacle ethereal, poetic, elegiac, delicate, etc. I don't. I find it intensely creepy. Partly no doubt this is because of the Speer connection, but not entirely.

Let's start with the searchlights. What are searchlights for? Spotting escaped inmates scurrying across the free-fire zone around a prison. Shooting down airplanes that are on their way to bomb us. Part of the iconography, in other words, of incarceration and embattlement.

Then there's the abstract geometry. The ghost buildings are supposed to commemorate actual buildings -- things made of physical matter, things which have to take account of physical weight and mass if they're not to fall down, as we do in our corporeal bodies.

Now one of the nastiest things about the actual towers, while they were standing, was precisely that vulgar-modernist refusal to acknowledge gravity and weight in their architectural iconography: the third floor looked just like the ninety-third. As if you could defy allometry and scale a milk carton up to Brodingnagian dimensions.

But the ghost buildings take this vulgarity a big step farther. They are made of photons, which don't notice gravity to any extent that we can readily observe. So the spook towers don't even have to resort to the secret subterfuges and hidden corsets that Yamasaki provided beneath Nelson and David's stolid outer garments. There's a kind of bargain-basement heaven-stormingness about the virtual skyscrapers, as if we had finally built the Tower of Babel -- built two for the price of one, in fact -- but done it on the cheap and on the cheat.

It's rude to shine a flashlight in somebody's face. Whether or not you believe that anybody dwells in the heavens, the sky itself is surely entitled to at least that much respect. Projecting a brummagem simulation of two of the ugliest buildings ever built all the way into the Empyrean is the act of an interplanetary polluter.

But I guess this is the kind of dissociated cheap hubris that comes from being Top Country for the moment. We commemorate a humiliating defeat by making something insubstantial Stand Tall, while all us actual physical human beings cower under the guns of our own police.

Genesis XLI, all over again?

Is it lean-kine time down here in Pharaoh Obama I's happy realm?

Ichabod Goolsby's Adam's apple...

... is replacing the sweet smile of Junoesque milkmaid Christy van Romer as the public face of Pharaoh's fifthwheel council of economic advisers.

Gee, they looked like almost a couple back at the barn dance last month.

Signs of conflict within?

I'd say prolly not. I tend to think they both were front-row fodder whenever the headless horseman galloped the night roads of Sleepy Wallow...

... to the spooky reverb'ed cry of "Porco...porco..porco!"


Nineleven needs to be a Federal holiday -- displaced, of course, to the nearest Monday, and renamed, like Independence Day: American Victimhood Day, perhaps -- AV-Day for short. It could get generalized like Memorial Day did -- a time to remember and celebrate all the Americans martyred by malcontents around the world, who hate us because... because... oh well, they hate us, anyway. Fuck 'em.

The POW/MIA crowd could surely get right down with it.

Of course what's really needed to make it an established part of the American civic calendar is participation by the greeting-card industry. We desperately need Nineleven cards, and we need better ones than the pawky affair shown above. More eagles, more sinister towelheads, more weeping firemen and jut-jawed policemen. Oh, and dogs. C'mon, guys, this is a fucking gold mine.

They just blew up your pony

Another Nineleven observance, reported by the aptly-named Orlando Sentinel:

A "suspicious" toy pony was blown up after it was found abandoned in the middle of a cul-de-sac near an Orange County elementary school this morning.

The FurReal pony, an expensive, life-like toy, was investigated as a possible explosive device after someone called Orange County deputies to report it. A robot inspected the toy before a pack of explosives was placed near the stuffed animal and detonated.

Students at nearby Waterbridge Elementary School were placed on a modified lockdown in which no one was allowed in or out of the building during the investigation. The lockdown was lifted after the pony was blown up.

Orange County Sheriff's spokesman Jeff Williamson said the pony was later declared "non-threatening."

These ponies generally are "non-threatening". Video here:

Lots of fun in this report, but the thing that I really notice, as I so often have noticed before, is the lip-smacking way newsreaders say "lockdown" -- and say it over and over.

Kudos to Super Al for this one. He started writing a post about about it and just couldn't go on -- one of those "where do you start" moments. He handed it over to your coarser-fiber'd editor for a suitably ham-fisted treatment.

Tiptoe through the tulips

The sudden bursting of most "value" bubbles couldn't, by themselves, bring down a national economy. Not even one like the recent house-lot bubble. So why do we think so?

Despite the chatter about the specifics of home ownership, etc., they're largely incidental to this ongoing horror. Anything could have triggered the present slow-but-steady monster mash. It was in the cards from 1971.

Recall the burst bubbles of yore: The S&L bank blowout of '89... The stock meltdown of '87... The dotcom burst of '01... The energy price collapse of the mid-80's... My own favorite, the gold bubble of '79.

I'm no chronicler of hi-fi mayhem, but that's a start.

There's lots of 'em. They go with modern credit-driven capitalistic asset markets. They're bult into the institutions and rules of the game, and so they come and go like cyclones. Most times the economy sails on through with only above deck wreckage

If you want to study the present...impasse, then forget bubble-watching. Leave that to the portfolio crowd. If you're a regular Mcjobbled type, like me, I suggest you rent your digs, spend your takehome, and die somewhere between 70 and 75.

Yup, plow into the here and now, brothers and sisters.

Recall these words: "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?"

But I wander.

You're a wage slave. Live with it. But if you want to have some fun pretending to be a prophet while you play out your string, then keep the global economy under constant scrutiny.

Yeah, we get bubble-bursts there too, of course. Just recall the Chinese firecrackerish string of forex crumbles in '97-'98, or Mexico in what, '94? Argentinia in '00, or was it '01? The debt crisis that ate the Iberian continent in the mid-80's. Black Africa just about 24/7. Etc. Etc.

But no. I mean the overall international flows of trade, and what is called, with genteel nicety, "investment".

There are, I dunno, 180-20 bounded outfits stationed around the planet. Prolly 30-40 of 'em are significant, and they're all criss-crossed by multinational corsairing crews scurrying about, making bold real crossings and near-invisible virtual crossings everywhere and always.

This gets to be complex and snared. That's where we come in, we wagelingers of the developed zones. If we're not watching, we settle in for some version of what we got right here today: a yellow-flag slowdown, a "stagnation".

These are protracted "outcomes", right there in the cards from the very production of the deck, just waiting to turn up again and again: not as one or two bad cards in a row, to a few players here and there, but to most players and for many hands in a row, game after game, enough bad cards to immiserate nearly every sucker at every table on the surface of mother Earth.

Despite the fact we're mired in a global crisis of deep structural origins, a crisis that has no exit for us little types without great upheaval or much quiet misery, our mainstream liberal press still flings hammers at itself and at Wall Street over the hammy Brechtian drama of fall '08. That curtain-raiser still keeps most of the MSM ink spilling over. How to prevent a repeat of Lehman-AIG?! -- As if there was nothing but handwringing to do about today's panoramic policy of deliberate cruelty that only continues the great recession -- this giant stag party thrown for us deepfried OECD jobbler-gobblers, so we won't have the cash or credit to import 3 trillion dollars worth of Asian products over the next few years.

Imagine if the calls for austerity got explained that way. Better we analyze the details of the lot bomb/toxic paper fire-dance. Better we use that dark morality play to alibi the present criminally intentional macro regime of Darth Ohbummer, der Hungerkanzler!

September 12, 2010

Dumping Obama

jeffroby proposes a "Dump Obama Movement". I think it's a good idea. Dumping him is essential for people who think there's some use to be squeezed out of the Democratic Party.

Political parties and small "r" republicanism require constant stewardship and at some point that entails forcing a change in leadership. Obama has proven completely useless in advancing a liberal agenda. His claque shows more hostility to the party's supporters than it does towards the Republicans. Their behavior is bizarre, even by the standards set during the Bush regime.

Obama himself has no skills beyond campaigning. It's possible, and likely, that he really has no idea what's going on in the world. He appears to be totally self-involved, incapable of anything but adding fraudulently obtained energy to an increasingly incoherent marketing schtick.

I don't think the party is salvageable, but if people want to try, then dumping him is the right move.

September 13, 2010

Confiscate their keyboards before they hurt someone

But I assure you that I, Jason Ditz, am not now nor have I ever been an agent provocateur for any government, let alone the Iranian one. The fact that such a proclamation has to be made is perhaps a lesson in the absurd state of affairs for a radio station that has gone from Cold War propagandist to CIA proxy to forgotten (but still funded) ward of the government.

Antiwar Blog

I laughed for a moment. What they [Radio Free Europe] did was so majestically stupid and incompetent, so gratuitously fatuous, that even the most beaten down time-serving hack would cringe with shame at being party to it. But it's not really funny. Websites lift content all the time. Link farms do it to rake in the click pennies by the basketful. Everyone with a web presence knows that. With the exception of complete newbies, there is no one in a position to claim ignorance.

Yet, Radio Free Europe tried to imply an association between an Antiwar writer and the Iranian government. Are they trying to get him hurt? Loose cannon jingoes are always a problem and in the midst of a grinding economic catastrophe their grievances burgeon.

September 14, 2010

Saving: a semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensity

I recently came across one of Keynes' essays that I had never seen before, "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren". It was heartening to read, given that I share a certain sense of optimism with him -- the sense that we are on the cusp of solving the economic problem, that our chief problem will soon be an excess of otium, and that our current crisis is more likely to give way to an era of progress rather than one of stagnation. These things are as true today as they were when Keynes was writing 80 years ago. He thought that this sort of economic utopia could be achieved by 2030, but I would add another 50 years to that, given the four decade detour that we have been on.

One part that I particularly enjoyed was his speculation regarding the fate that awaits saving, once it is no longer of any use to society. Oh to be rid of these grasping Goriots, these heinous Harpagons! I can hardly wait!

When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession -as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life -will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease. All kinds of social customs and economic practices, affecting the distribution of wealth and of economic rewards and penalties, which we now maintain at all costs, however distasteful and unjust they may be in themselves, because they are tremendously useful in promoting the accumulation of capital, we shall then be free, at last, to discard.

Of course there will still be many people with intense, unsatisfied purposiveness who will blindly pursue wealth-unless they can find some plausible substitute. But the rest of us will no longer be under any obligation to applaud and encourage them. For we shall inquire more curiously than is safe to-day into the true character of this “purposiveness” with which in varying degrees Nature has endowed almost all of us. For purposiveness means that we are more concerned with the remote future results of our actions than with their own quality or their immediate effects on our own environment. The “purposive” man is always trying to secure a spurious and delusive immortality for his acts by pushing his interest in them forward into time. He does not love his cat, but his cat’s kittens; nor, in truth, the kittens, but only the kittens’ kittens, and so on forward forever to the end of cat-dom. For him jam is not jam unless it is a case of jam to-morrow and never jam to-day. Thus by pushing his jam always forward into the future, he strives to secure for his act of boiling it an immortality."

With any luck, our New New Soviet Man will look down on Warren Buffett (a truly demented specimen) with the same mix of pity and revulsion aroused by the sight of a hoarder slowly entombing himself in bric-a-brac.

September 15, 2010

We soothe and reassure

So riddle me this: That logo to the left -- what does it stand for? Is it a subway line somewhere in the Pacific Northwest? The insignia printed on a new tranquilizer tablet -- Detachxx, vel sim. -- or a personal hygiene product of unmentionable use?

None of the above. It is, apparently, the new emblem of the Democratic Party, if their website is to be believed.

The new logo appears on the web site yoked with the old familiar Obamapill, shown left.

The Obamapill, for its day, pushed the envelope: it represented a consummation of anodyne blandness thitherto undreamt-of in the field of graphic design. But the new Party logo makes the Obamapill look jazzy and vibrant. It's soporific -- narcotic -- comatiferous.

The Democrats have an interesting approach to marketing. I've said for years that their marketing pitch is that they're the un-Republicans. But they seem to have taken a step or two beyond that. What the new logo seems to suggest is that they're the un-party -- not to say the non-entity.

The implicit new pitch seems to be something like this: Tired of shrill crazy people with all these, like, theories and opinions and policies? Vote Democratic. We're like, whatever.

September 16, 2010

Avant la lettre

Here's the Old Man himself, with a prescient take on the liberal-schmiberal blogosphere:

Flat, bombastic, bragging, thrasonical, putting on a great show of rude vigour in attack, yet hysterically sensitive to the same quality in others; brandishing the sword with enormous waste of energy, lifting it high in the air only to let it fall down flat; constantly preaching morality and constantly offending against it; sentiment and turpitude most absurdly conjoined; concerned only with the point at issue, yet always missing the point; using with equal arrogance petty-bourgeois scholarly semi-erudition against popular wisdom, and so-called “sound common sense” against science; discharging itself in ungovernable breadth with a certain complacent levity; clothing a philistine message in a plebeian form; wrestling with the literary language to, give it, so to speak, a purely corporeal character; willingly pointing at the writer’s body in the background, which is itching in every fibre to give a few exhibitions of its strength, to display its broad shoulders and publicly to stretch its limbs; proclaiming a healthy mind in a healthy body; unconsciously infected by the sixteenth century’s most abstruse controversies and by its fever of the body; in thrall to dogmatic, narrow thinking and at the same time appealing to petty practice in the face of all real thought; raging against reaction, reacting against progress; incapable of making the opponent seem ridiculous, but ridiculously abusing him through the whole gamut of tones; Solomon and Marcolph, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, a visionary and a philistine in one person; a loutish form of indignation, a form of indignant loutishness; and suspended like an enveloping cloud over it all, the self-satisfied philistine’s consciousness of his own virtue.

September 17, 2010

Secrets of the Order

Dd, in a comment some days back, pasted up a link to, who else, Paul Kludgeman:


Seems Paul wants to stick his nose under the MNC tent. Or does he? First he goes over the side into a ditch:

"U.S. officials have tried to reason with their Chinese counterparts, arguing that a stronger currency would be in China’s own interest."
Really, honestly, where's the evidence of that? Other than spokesperson press gibber and Lindsey Grahamcrackers and mushschrummerisms. So far as I can see, all pure show. But here's worse: PK buys into that squalid nonsense line:
"They’re right about that: an undervalued currency promotes inflation, erodes the real wages of Chinese workers and squanders Chinese resources."
That's it, Paul, throw the textbook at 'em!

Just saying no, barking "currency manipulation is bad for China as a whole" -- it's simply wrong.

Isn't it long since established that such a fixed, forex-rigged industrial development policy "works" nationally? Hell, it gave us Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, postwar Germany. Forex fiddle is the WTO loophole for blatant import blocking and export dumping.

Now that that's out of the way...

Our dear terrier of Times Square goes bold and divides China into...Marxian classes! Not only is the current strategy bad for Chinese "real wages", why... it’s lo and behold good for "politically influential Chinese companies, many of them state-owned."

That compound line is delightful, ain't it? Notice the nuanced choice of "influential", and by God that menacing "state-owned"! Imagine that! State-owned!

Watch, children, as this angelic pwog toils cleverly for the MNC devils' brigade. But here's the point of Dd's link -- I think: "There’s a more sinister cause of U.S. passivity: business fear of Chinese retaliation."

That's "business" as in US-based MNC outfits.

"Consider a related issue: the clearly illegal subsidies China provides to its clean-energy industry. These subsidies should have led to a formal complaint from American businesses; in fact, the only organization willing to file a complaint was the steelworkers union. Why? As The Times reported, “multinational companies and trade associations in the clean energy business, as in many other industries, have been wary of filing trade cases, fearing Chinese officials’ reputation for retaliating against joint ventures in their country and potentially denying market access to any company that takes sides against China.”
American MNCs get blackmailed by the Reds into tumbling for forex! They don't benefit from the forex, they simply allow it because they're... they're...

Talk about a framing frame-up.

Yes it tiptoes into the MNC "interest" territory, but utterly whitewashes the MNC role while doing so. At the worst the MNCs are venal pliable greedy accomplices, maybe even excessively co-operative hostages. The compradors are us. The influence runs from there to her, from the Celestial capital to Wall Street. Our MNCs are but squalid little toys of the sinister Red juggernaut. The Chicoms are playing on our MNCs' craving for a chance to play for profit and progress inside the Red marketplace.

Frankly this demogogic upside-down cake deserves nothing but scorn. It proves either PK is so deeply preformed as to misperceive reality completely, reverse causation, reverse master and servant, make up down, down up, see the tail wagging the dog, the dog's ears back following the tail; or he's a shrewd corporate deep embed.

More likely he's some degree of both, in (one hopes) some only semi-stable one Chalmers Johnsonish risky combination.

Whatever fate awaits this conflicted brain beast I'll finish the analogy: "Similar intimidation has surely helped discourage action on the currency front."


Yet, to be fair, out of context this reads fine:

"[It's] a good time to remember that what’s good for multinational companies is often bad for America, especially its workers.... So here’s the question: Will U.S. policy makers let themselves be spooked by financial phantoms and bullied by business intimidation?"
But then --
"Will they continue to do nothing in the face of policies that benefit Chinese special interests at the expense of both Chinese and American workers? Or will they finally, finally act? Stay tuned."
OP rewrite: "Will they continue to do nothing in the face of policies that benefit American multinationals at the expense of American workers? Don't bother to stay tuned. You know what's going to happen." When PK wants to, he clearly can blitz to the dark heart of the matter. He's poked through the membrane. But even so I see vast immune-system forces at work, ripping the essence of this invasion to bits even as it moves forward.

Is this to be the apex of his assault, implicating our MNC's as mere accessories to the swindle? Or can he push on to the capital of Capitalworld and sieze the boardroom trolls at the center of it all, manning the highest dashboards of the global mix and match game?

Giants in the earth

No sooner had I typed and sent to my noble redactor, Barry White's uncle Perry White, a short uptake on the latest episode in the limitlessly fecund finale of the pageant that has been Fidelorama -- when who should mince up close and personal to our Commandante at the safe distance of a continent away and kick him in the nutz, but monsignor Smiff's waspish hero and quondam patrone, Alex Gall-way Cock-burn the first, he of Serpentine Abbey and the abyss of cynical posing:

"Alas, Fidel Castro just broke an arm and a kneecap when he tripped on that fateful concrete step six years ago. Would that he had bitten off his tongue and thus spared his erstwhile admirers, myself included, the sound of this once great revolutionary plunging into kookdom.

If President Raúl Castro wants to defend Cuba’s record on human rights, all he needs to do point to the fact that his brother has not been deposed from his formal position as First Secretary of the Communist Party, and carted off to an isolation ward in the Casa de Dementes, Havana’s psychiatric hospital. Instead he has unstinted access to the state radio and the newspaper Granma."

Fencing-master Alex at his wicked best, eh? Supple, unhurried, attacking with the usual willowy unstrained skewering thrusts, and, I am forced to add, with the equally usual unbated point covered in shit.

Something in this charlatan son of a great man forces him to pounce on certain star-studded leads as they wend listlessly through their last acts. I recall Hunter Thompson first of all. And now Alex is battering this tattered giant in his Lear moment, a Lear ready to play both the old king and his fool all by himself.

I despise Cockburn for this wanton cudgeling. He's not content to lay off to the side (where we parlor pinks belong) and laugh wistfully at this long jagged final soliloquy. No, sir. Not our king of the sucker punch. Not Alex. No, he must beat this old man into the ground and kick at him with gallant gusto.

Somehow I hear, wafting up from it all, a certain morbid cankerish brat's envy -- something like this:

"That fucking slimebag Goldberg got this interview! Goldberg! Goldberg! Where was I, or one of my stringers, in all this? Why not me? Where was my call to the fucking Jefe's side? Fuck him! Fuck the senile old crackpot!"

Postquam alta quierunt aequora

I may be off for a weekend sail. The season is almost over and I haven't been on the water enough. There's a backlog of posts, and much folly to comment upon, as always, but I may play hooky for a day or two.

September 19, 2010

The World's Longest Bureaucratic Cover-Up

The Torygraph reports:

Benedict XVI said it was “deeply moving” to recall the sacrifices made by Britons during the Second World War and paid particular tribute to nearby Coventry, which was heavily bombed during the Battle of Britain 70 years ago.


His words were particularly significant given controversy over his own wartime record. As a 14 year-old growing up in Germany, the then Joseph Ratzinger was drafted into the Hitler Youth and later enlisted in the anti-aircraft corps.

I felt badly for all concerned when I read that. I realize there's some justice in forcing the Pope to cringe and pander. His record since his Hitler Youth days has been none too pretty. There's also some justice in his choice of pandering topic.

Basil: So! It's all forgotten now, and let's hear no more about it. So, that's two egg mayonnaise, a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Goering, and four Colditz salads.

Basil: Is there something wrong?

Elder Herr: Will you stop talking about the war?

Basil: Me! You started it!

Elder Herr: We did not start it!

Basil: Yes you did — you invaded Poland.

A little comic relief can go a long way to easing tensions, but the essential problem remains the same. The Church hierarchy continues in its efforts to exercise a proprietary control over the religious experience and continues to act as an extension of the state, regardless of the immorality of the state's functions. There was a chance for reform when the liberation theologians were a force, but the Pope helped squash that too.

It's extraordinarily difficult to recruit for a true vocation when the institutional purpose is the preservation of the institution, and the purpose is pursued regardless of the harms that come to others. So it's something of a miracle, if you will, that there are any good priests at all.

September 22, 2010

Summers is ygoing out, lhude sing Cucu

So Larry is leaving the ship in January.

Why announced now?

Could it be to lift at least one sorry incubus off the Donkle's back for election day? Rally the base with, like, hope, of like, a change?

And yet, how nice, anyway: the hog of Harvard Yard is returning to his ivy-twined trough. Who knows, who cares? It's all good -- so long as the Congress can be deadlocked through '12, and the GOP one way or other can be plausibly fingered for the sorry state of affairs.

But now the sounds of population fail?

A correspondent drew my attention recently to this site, with these dire news:

15 Bone Chilling Signs That Part Two Of The Double Dip Housing Crash Has Begun

[T]here are a whole lot of signs that things are about to get quite a bit worse. U.S. home sales have hit record lows in recent months. An increasing number of sellers have started to reduce their asking prices, and there are signs that home prices are already starting to slip substantially in many areas of the country. Meanwhile, the inventory of unsold homes in the United States continues to rapidly increase. Home foreclosures and bank repossessions of homes continue to set all-time records. What this all means is that the U.S. housing market is being absolutely flooded with homes for sale at a time when there are very few buyers.... The home buyer tax credits that the U.S. government was bribing home buyers with helped stabilize the U.S. housing market for a while, but now the tax credits have expired and things are getting scary out there.

[T]here simply is not going to be a "recovery" in the U.S. housing market until there is a jobs recovery. But at this point, even the most optimistic cheerleaders for the economy are admitting that unemployment is going to remain high for quite some time.

But if the American people do not have good jobs then they can't buy homes.

This sounds kinda reasonable, actually.

The author goes on to list his 15 signs of the real-estate apocalypse. I'd be interested to hear the response of those more astute about matters economic than I am.

The site has, to be sure, a somewhat nutty flavor, with links to ad mashups for "Emergency food", "Gold coins", and "Personal security." But even a stopped clock is right twice a day, as my grandma used to say.

I don't like the writer's habit of referring to houses as "homes" -- a nasty salesman's euphemism which I've always hated. And of course my bones are anything but chilled about the news he brings. I'm rooting for a collapse so huge that it makes people scared to buy real estate for the next generation or two.

One fetish object down, and one to go. Now if we could just convince people that cars make you fat -- as in fact, they do.

Le juste milieu

Twitter may be just the right medium for Pwogs: 140 characters can easily contain any cliche they may have rattling around in their heads.

Katrina van den Heuvel is apparently a devoted Tweetie-bird. Here's a recent sample:

How 2 channel anger + disspt into rebuilding -not destroying?question of our time.
The question of our time! Isn't she something, to squeeze a big gas-filled Hindenberg of a concept like that into a tweet?

September 23, 2010

What's a Gulliver to do?

Are we headed for a two-year hung House next winter?

Gee, I bet the White House hopes so. Better for them if one or the other chamber is in nominal GOP hands. After due consideration, and two sips of lemonade, I think it's better the House go elephant. Don't you? I mean, all things considered?

Imagine the noble poses Ohbummer can strike as the Republican House yahoos block his every essay into recovery, relief, restructuring, and reform.

Oh, hell, who knows what Clio has in store for us all? Maybe we get a period of cataclysmic convulsions. Or on the other hand -- as they say at the New York Times -- the run-up to '12 may be a new time of triangle playing for the Democrat mangement team. Maybe less like the famous Clinton-Morris triangles of 95-96, and more like Harry's in 47-48. The ole mass murderer from Missouri triangulated left, not right, with the rump of the New Deal, then now out of power but fixin' to go third-party. It was all talk, of course, but effective.

Then again, Harry wasn't all talk. His boys were fast building the software of the national security state, and at the same time saving Western Europe for the MNCs.

What is Ohbummer gonna be doing, on the same scale as stopping Uncle Joe in his tracks?

September 25, 2010

I, Churl

In comedy performance, timing and delivery can make up for limited writing. Good writing by itself won't cut it.

The written transcripts of Stephen Colbert's performances are good, and sometimes have the barbs that make kings and their courtiers squirm. The ludic potential is clearly there. But he's far too tightly wound to pull it off. The made-for-television format under which he performs makes things worse. It compresses acting that needs pacing. It always looks like he's either playing catch-up or jumping the gun. And as a result, his victims only get scratched.

Help is on the way... sorta...

Our next econ-con czar a czarina? My pick, Laura Tyson, who recently wrote:

"OUR national debate about fiscal policy has become skewed, with far too much focus on the deficit and far too little on unemployment.... By focusing on the wrong things, we are in serious danger of failing to do the right things to help the economy recover from its worst labor market crisis since the Great Depression...The primary cause of the labor market crisis is a collapse in private demand..."
Notice the use of labor market here, not product markets; and she goes on further:
"Clearly, the pace of recovery is far slower than what is needed to restore the millions of jobs that have been lost... by next year, the stimulus will end, and the flip from fiscal support to fiscal contraction could shave one to two percentage points off the growth rate at a time when the unemployment rate is still well above 9 percent. Under these circumstances, the economic case for additional government spending and tax relief is compelling..."
If she had stopped there and given us a stimpak II number of a trillion dollars, I'd say, right on sister. But of course she she doesn't. In fact what she says has no numbers attached and it's full of the usual stuff about unemployment benefits, school teachers, and bullet trains. Lines like this aren't very helpful:
" The federal government should pledge generous financing increases for [unemployment benefits and aid to state governments(*)] through 2011.."
She sez we can afford "additional spending" but then she ends with the usual neo-lib split decision:
"As long as the economy is operating far below potential, policy makers should do two seemingly contradictory things. First, they should provide additional fiscal support for job creation and growth. And, second, they should enact a credible multiyear plan now to stabilize the ratio of federal debt to gross domestic product gradually as the economy recovers."
Not much, really, but it might be the best we get. Of course according to my latest top advisor at 'Paine Quantitative', THEY'RE ALL EVIL -- every last one of 'em -- so what can we expect?


(*) "Aid to state governments"?!?! Yuck! -- The Editor

September 26, 2010

Aesir vs. Vanir

Loving the scraps fluttering out from Woodward's book on Ohbummer and the frontier war in the 'Stans. From what I can gather, despite great twists and anguish, the POTUS determined last year there can be no exit from empire.

That, in the end, is the message of every one of these dramas stretching back to Korea in the winter of '51.

Reading about the Emperor Barry and his evil dwarf minions grappling with Uncle's toy generals as they ponder and scuffle over the future course in the Afpak -- well, damn it all, what great sport the Great Game is.

Is the Woodward account to be swallowed whole, just as cooked and presented? Why not? Surely we can be allowed this suspension of the critical-ideological faculty. As Monsignor Smiff might opine, none of us was invited to the meetings; Woodward is about as good as we're going to get.

Oh, I just love stuff like this. Blow by blow! Clever midget in agon with lumbering gold braid splashed oaf, whilst the hooded brow and deep penetrating gaze of our mocha Odin, the Unitary Prez, monitors it all, by turns petting, herding, culling, cuffing....

Missiles of October, maybe, it ain't, and as with all dramas in this ironic-mode age(*), all the parts are played by frogs and mice. Makes me wistful for the circles around the Generalissimo and Franklin. Ah, those guys, now they was giants!


(*) Another taunt at your long-suffering editor, who always had a sneaking fondness for Northrop Frye.

Rather lose the loan, and have the pound of flesh

This from the daily Yup-it-up bump-and-grind:

"The substantial drop in credit card debt in the United States since early 2009 has been widely attributed to newly frugal consumers. But analysts say that a significant portion of the decline is actually the result of financial institutions writing off billions of dollars in credit card debt as losses."
The code might have been, back in early '09: one if by household default/writeoff, two if by household wage inflation.

Those are the choices if a nation wishes to escape a household debt trap; and which did the Ohbummer redcoats choose?

The route more traveled by, of course: plan one, the slow credit butchering fought much like a war against an insurgency, house by house, clearing the balance sheets ruining the little jerk's credit score one by one.

Plan two? We coulda gone that way. It would involve a massive surge in effective demand through an Avuncular fiscal power play, one that pulled us rapidly up and into ball-tight job markets and triggered that ever-to-be-desired rapidly rising nominal wages.

Gonna happen?

No. The corporate redcoats usually stick to plan one, slow nasty and long as it is, 'cause it works better for them, all things considered.

And since we're still living in corporate occupied territory -- the redcoats rule!

If they're so dumb... why are they rich?

From the San Jose Mercury News -- oh yes, I read it religiously:

How dumb was the Silicon Valley hiring conspiracy? Let us count the ways

When I think of Google, Apple, Intel, Intuit, Adobe and Pixar, the words that come to mind are usually innovative and progressive.

In the wake of their shocking settlement with the federal government Friday over charges they colluded to not hire each other's employees, another word comes to mind:


It's not just that their actions are shameful.

It's not just that these actions violate everything Silicon Valley represents.

Of course I had to stop reading at that point. "Everything Silicon Valley represents?" What does this poor bloody fool think Silicon Valley represents, apart from venture-capital sharks using poorly-socialized creeps like Mark Zuckerberg, or downright sociopaths like Steve Jobs, to acquire monopoly positions in some carefully walled-off intellectual-property laager?

(The back story was also covered by the Daily Diary of Onanist Aspiration here.)

* * * * *
I am closely related to some Mac people -- live under the same roof with them, in fact. Now it's always seemed to me that Apple is just Microsoft with a better haircut. But try telling Mac people that. They're like, Oh, I'm a Mac person. I'm soooo cool!

Just recently, for the second time in two weeks, one of my beloved Mac people experienced a problem with one of her way-kewl Mac apps. I think it was some kind of don't-worry-your-pretty-head, we'll-take-care-of it automatic backup thing. Turns out they make you change your password -- we're Apple, we know best, do what we say -- and as soon as you do, you're locked out, if I understood her correctly.

So my housemate made an appointment -- an appointment! -- several days away, to take her sleek Mac to the Genius Bar -- no shit, that's what they call it -- at one of the half-dozen or so Mac tabernacles in Manhattan.

Always in search of grist for the mill, I accompanied her to her appointment.

This particular Macernacle is on Fourteenth Street in Manhattan, all the way west, practically in the river. Albert Speer on mescaline. All frosted glass and brushed stainless steel and a spiral staircase made out of Pyrex -- a life of power, behind walls of iron and crystal, as Marinetti fantasized way, way avant la lettre.

It took the geniuses quite a long time to figure out my housemate's problem with their employer's proprietary software -- hours, in fact. So I had plenty of time to watch the Mac kids come and go.

It's a mall, really. A much cooler, hipper, better-designed mall than the suburban version most of these nicely-coiffed younkers probably grew up on. But a mall is a mall. It's a controlled and patrolled private space, devoted to selling things. And yet -- where are you gonna go, if not to the mall?

September 27, 2010

Time to crack down on those no-good kids

This just in:

Sorry kids, President Obama wants to extend the school year by a month.

Students in China, India and other fast-growing countries are already leaving U.S. students in the dust, he said.

"They have caught up and now in some cases have surpassed us," he said.

Now I don't pretend to know the real reason for this brutal attempt to expropriate what little liberty and leisure kids have left -- apart from the general institutional impulse toward aggrandizement, hypertrophy, and metastasis.

(Ivan Illich forty years ago noticed "the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes". Personally, I like to use the English translation of 'pedagogue', namely 'boy-herder'. Perhaps we should coin 'childherd' for the sake of gender neutrality, on the analogy of 'shepherd', and pronounce to rhyme with 'filtered'.)

What is clear is that the claimed purpose of this sadistic initiative -- "competition" with peonage economies like India and China -- is incoherent. Taken seriously, it means that the "race to the top" is really a race to the bottom. The "competition" is a struggle to discover who can take his hide to market most cheaply, and the prize, of course -- to borrow a trope from the Old Man -- is a hiding.

The ideological triumph of the childherd does, alas, appear to be nearly complete. The same Daily News story quoted above ran a poll:

Should U.S. schools extend the school year by a month?
  • Yes, it will help American students compete with their Chinese and other counterparts.
  • No, the kids need a break and it could turn them off to learning.
  • It depends on what exactly they'd be doing for that month.
Note the claustrophobically buttoned-up -- or rather, locked-down -- universe of discourse here. Even opposition to expanding the school year must be expressed in instrumental terms, and moreover, in terms of facilitating the childherd's ostensible mission. No other considerations can be admitted.

Speaking of Ivan Illich, everybody ought to read "Deschooling Society," which can be had online. Sample:

School, by its very nature, tends to make a total claim on the time and energies of its participants. This, in turn, makes the teacher into custodian, preacher, and therapist.

In each of these three roles the teacher bases his authority on a different claim. The teacher-as-custodian acts as a master of ceremonies, who guides his pupils through a drawn-out labyrinthine ritual. He arbitrates the observance of rules and administers the intricate rubrics of initiation to life. At his best, he sets the stage for the acquisition of some skill as schoolmasters always have. Without illusions of producing any profound learning, he drills his pupils in some basic routines.

The teacher-as-moralist substitutes for parents, God, or the state. He indoctrinates the pupil about what is right or wrong, not only in school but also in society at large. He stands in loco parentis for each one and thus ensures that all feel themselves children of the same state.

The teacher-as-therapist feels authorized to delve into the personal life of his pupil in order to help him grow as a person. When this function is exercised by a custodian and preacher, it usually means that he persuades the pupil to submit to a domestication of his vision of truth and his sense of what is right.

The claim that a liberal society can be founded on the modern school is paradoxical. The safeguards of individual freedom are all canceled in the dealings of a teacher with his pupil. When the schoolteacher fuses in his person the functions of judge, ideologue, and doctor, the fundamental style of society is perverted by the very process which should prepare for life. A teacher who combines these three powers contributes to the warping of the child much more than the laws which establish his legal or economic minority, or restrict his right to free assembly or abode.

... Children are protected by neither the First nor the Fifth Amendment when they stand before that secular priest, the teacher. The child must confront a man who wears an invisible triple crown, like the papal tiara.... The teacher.... combines the claims of medieval popes in a society constituted under the guarantee that these claims shall never be exercised together by one established and obligatory institution --church or state....

Under the authoritative eye of the teacher, several orders of value collapse into one. The distinctions between morality, legal. ity, and personal worth are blurred and eventually eliminated. Each transgression is made to be felt as a multiple offense. The offender is expected to feel that he has broken a rule, that he has behaved immorally, and that he has let himself down. A pupil who adroitly obtains assistance on an exam is told that he is an outlaw, morally corrupt, and personally worthless.

How are the mighty, erm, fallen. Nudge. Wink.

You wouldn't believe how many people sent me links to this choice item:

Segway company owner James 'Jimi' Heselden dies in England after riding a Segway off cliff

The British businessman who owns the Segway company was killed when he drove one of his famous two-wheeled scooters right off a cliff.

James "Jimi" Heselden, who was using an off-road version of the iconic ride to inspect the grounds of his estate in northern England, was fished out of a river shortly after the freak accident Sunday.

... Heselden, who began working in a coal mine at age 15, became one of Britain's richest men with a $265 million fortune after he was laid off from his job.

Using his severance pay, Heselden started Hesco and raked in the defense contracts building blast walls to help protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from suicide bombers.

As one of my correspondents wrote: "I didn't make this up!"

One couldn't make it up -- the details are too delicious. (Well, maybe if one were Jonathan Franzen.)

Estate in Yorkshire! "Offroad" version of the loathesome gadget -- the Segway SUV! And of course the guy made his bundle as a war profiteer supplying the aggressors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Fished out of a river" is ghoulishly vivid, isn't it? One can just see the sodden former mil-spec mushroom billionaire, dressed from head to toe in dripping Barbour tweed. The only thing missing, annoyingly, is the name of the river: that would have provided just the touch of specificity needed to hammer the nail home. (It was the Wharfe.)

I've always loathed the Segway. Anything motorized on a sidewalk drives me crazy. I'm even Grinch enough to think that those motorized wheelchairs go too fast, and that their drivers too often exhibit a motorist's sense of entitlement -- get the hell out of my way! (I don't think I'd mind 'em so much if they were restricted to a walking pace.)

Some years ago I was involved in a little anti-car activist group. One of my comrades was a chap named -- well, let's call him Lewis Gold. Lewis was a bit of a hipster avant la lettre. He got mad at the rest of us -- felt we weren't giving him sufficient credit for his ideas, as I recall -- and quit the group. He ended up becoming a shill for the Segway people.

In one of those curious degrees-of-separation encounters so common in New York, he and my wife -- who had never met him while he and I were comrades -- recently had an acrimonious contretemps on a neighborhood sidewalk after he buzzed past her too close and too fast on one of his Segway fleet. She came home and described the guy -- tattoos; Himalayan knit hat with ear flaps -- and his strange manner, an unsettling combination of hostility, aggressiveness, manifest self-regard, and a weird kind of flirtatiousness. "He was, like, c'mon, you know you can't resist me," as she put it. I knew instantly it could only be Lewis.

Haven't thought of him in years, but the news of Heselden's manorial plunge recalled him vividly to mind. If only he had been along on t'Squooiyer's little moorland jaunt...

Whatever happened to the virtuous Japanese?

Cousin Marty is concerned about the Japanese. They ain't savin' like they used to.

"In the early 1980’s, Japanese households were saving about 15% of their after-tax incomes..."
This is of course a fantastic rate; virtue incarnate, to honorary Scotchman Marty. But after 10 years more of up and then 20 years of nowhere, today the rate is "just above 2%", and this is with a gub deficit of 7% of GDP.

And yet Japan -- Wynne Godley, listen up -- still exports cash. How?

"This apparent paradox is explained by a combination of high corporate saving and low levels of residential and non-residential fixed investment.
" Translation: corporate Japan is exporting [Lenin warning] ... capital! Capital! CAPITAL!!! -- Even as Japan's domestic economy, once the skyrocket of the planet, stagnates and has stagnated for 15 years or so.

Such are the wages of success for the generations of sarariman job smurfs, after all their toil, ingenuity, dedication, and sacrifice. No wonder those little Japanese girls dress and think so dirty; they gotta give the beaus a break from Zeroville. Oh, the precious charmers -- but alas, one day they'll be old and saggy, like Father Smiff and me, and like Japan's industrial base.

September 28, 2010

With friends like these....

So we have our own Blue Dog Democrat running for governor here in New York -- Andrew Cuomo. He's running on a tripod platform -- handouts to corporations, union-bashing, and tax cuts. Oh and charter schools, though that turns it into a tetrapod.

It would be rather difficult to find, in this whole broad land, a more openly and frankly corporate-owned Democratic politician; and certainly in this bluest of blue states he has no precedent.

Yet of course that sad abject body, the Working Families Party, though it is the electoral arm of our public-sector unions, has endorsed this creep. He's a Democrat, you see, and the Republican is admittedly a loon.

The good news is that Howie Hawkins is running against Cuomo on the Green Party ticket, and that lively and likable character Charles Barron, the former Black Panther and current city councilman, is also mounting a challenge on his own new Freedom Party line. (I understand he got 45,000 signatures to put him on the ballot; he needed 15,000.)

Turnout will no doubt be quite low. Black folks, in particular, have no dog in this fight, and neither do union members, and neither do young people -- unless they're disturbed by the manifest lunacy of the Republican. (It's so hard to realize that sane people can be much more dangerous than crazy people.)

But we're screwed, no matter whether the loon or the supremely rational corporate hit man gets elected. So really, why not have some fun? Vote for Howie or Charlie. I'll probably vote for Charlie myself, though I have nothing against Howie; I'll just get such a kick out of being a white former Southerner supporting a black former Panther.

Who knows? It could be such a dismal dispirited contest that the Howie voters and the Charlie voters, between them, deprive the Crown Prince of his throne. Wouldn't that be a hoot?

September 29, 2010


I walked just now into a darkened room in my apartment, looking for a book I'm in the middle of reading. (I'm the night-owl of the family, awake long after everybody else is asleep). There on the bureau, winking confidently at me, was one of my family's innumerable Macintosh laptops.

Long since, I had to outlaw these machines from the connubial cubiculum. That little light, slowly cycling from dim to bright and back to dim, at a catatonic 30 beats per minute or so, is possibly the most annoying branding gimmick since "ring around the collar". Worse even.

And it's surprisingly bright. In a dark room, it slowly illuminates, with its spectral phosphorescence, all the furniture you should have replaced years ago, and all the clutter you should have stowed. Then it goes dim again, and you start to relax... and oh shit, there it is again. Torture. Just try to sleep with a Steve Jobs avatar telling you relentlessly: Look at me... I'm a Mac... Look at me....

On balance, the cool brands are maybe even worse than the dorky brands, as the sane politicians are worse than the crazy ones.

Our fellow mendicants over at Corrente....

... are conducting a fund-raiser:


Comrade Lambert actually does this blogging thing full-time, which is more than I can say, so go lend a hand. It's a fine and valuable site.

Obie unleashes the political police

Well, not "unleashes", of course. They were already unleashed a long time ago. But Mister Hope and Change has certainly dialed up police repression of political activity to a whole new level.

I suppose by now everybody has heard about last week's FBI raids on antiwar groups, with the usual combination of clownish low comedy and ogreish menace -- confiscating children's drawings being an example of the first category, and breaking down doors an example of the latter.

The Thought Police were looking, they said, for evidence of "material aid" to "terrorist organizations", which is against the law these days. Has been since Clinton signed the relevant law, in 1996, I believe.

Now the Prez can declare any group he pleases a "terrorist organization", and "material aid" includes things like responding to an e-mail. So really, this is a policeman's dream. They can pick you up for just about anything.

Not for the first time, I marvel at all my liberal friends, worried about the dire Fascist threat emanating from those poor teabagger loons, while their hero is busy busting down people's doors for engaging in political activity he doesn't like.

It's kind of interesting for me. I personally am clearly, undeniably guilty of providing "material aid" to "terrorist organizations", as Obie defines them -- and proud of it. I only wish the aid had been more substantial.

(Just thought I'd save the Fibbies some work here; I've met a few of them, and they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer.)

I've had materially supportive things to say about Hamas -- hell, I might as well admit it: I think they're wonderful, and I support 'em to the hilt, and you should too. And years ago, I was very chummy with a bunch of PFLP guys and bought them dinner, several times. And helped them publish a newsletter. I do believe I may have even paid the printer's bill once or twice. (I was in funds in those days.)

So send your goons for me, Obie. I've done it before, and I'll do it again, the minute I get the chance, unless you lock me up.


PS -- I just saw a very good fierce piece on this topic by Glen Ford over at Black Agenda Report. Says it all.

More thoughts on the Thought Police

I was pondering: just when was the last time we saw anything comparable to the "anti-terror" roundups and persecutions that appear to be unfolding now? COINTELPRO, back in the 60s, doesn't begin to compare. Even the glory days of Truman's HUAC, in the late 40s and early 50s, may fall short -- we might have to go back to Wilson's original Red Scare back in what, 1918?

It's all quite puzzling, in a way. Mainly because us lefties, who are being targeted at the moment, have seldom, if ever, posed less of a threat to the established order than we do now.

Of course we weren't much of a threat during the HUAC years, either, and even during the Red Scare years, though we had some downright desperadoes among us, we were hardly poised to topple the Republic. So whence the various Scares?

It's interesting that Obie -- a Democrat -- is coming down on us a lot harder than Bush ever did.

Coincidentally, HUAC was a creation of the 79th Congress, in 1945, when the Democrats still had the White House and Congress but were busy winding down the New Deal. And Wilson's Red Scare, too, got ginned up by a War Democrat in the White House and a War Democratic Congress.

Hmmmm. One senses the serpentine stirrings of an hypothesis down in the dark recesses of one's brain.

I wonder whether the Democrats are not, at the end of the day, even more interested in purging the Left than the Republicans are -- because for the Democrats, lefties are a minor though galling base problem, whereas they aren't at all for the Republicans.

Au contraire. In fact the Republicans love us. We're the Raw-Head-And-Bloody-Bones they display to make honest Amurricans' flesh creep.

But for the Democrats we're a bit of a problem. As long as we're lulled we're okay. We'll turn out reliably for the Lesser Evil, and though we may grimace as we pull the lever, what matters is that we pull it in the right direction.

But if we get restive....

Why then we might disenchant some broader component of the usually reliable and docile mildly-left base, and then, who knows? the Donkles would have to go back into opposition two or four years sooner than they otherwise might.

September 30, 2010

A Marvel, A Thing Of Wonder

Have we been too hard on liberal bloggers? I ask in all seriousness*, because according to Peter Daou it looks like they're set to destroy the Obama regime. Skeptics (link credit) will no doubt have some fun with this, but I want to raise the question: are left liberals destroying the Obama presidency?


Obama and his merry crew had a business model. They've done precisely what they set out to do. Now they need scapegoats and flying monkey Peter Daou has sent out a call for unpaid ankle biters.

*"Seriousness" defined as the unexpected joy of discovering I've actually underestimated the sheer mindless fatuity of Democratic hacks.

About September 2010

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

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