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November 2010 Archives

November 2, 2010

Paging Dr Cerberus

In local news... the famed three-headed dog, formerly set to guard the entrance to Hades and now in the private equity business, just got the OK to buy the Boston archdiosece hospital "chain" Caritas.

And it's not just the pope that's cashing in chips here; lots of public hospitals are on the auction block too. In the words of our reliable chronicle the WSJ: "Many governments are selling or forging partnerships with for-profit entities to offload their public hospitals". Counting all sales, public, sacred, profane but private: "53 hospitals, totaling $3.1 billion".

Should honest altruistic hearts fibrillate over this revoltin' development? I say no. As far as I'm concerned, bring on the for-profit wrecking crews.

And why? Because there's real investing to do here in new technology? No: because Soviet enterprise methods have led to absurd cost sumping. Hospitals need to be destroyed to save our childrens' childrens' childrens' health and welfare.

I know, I know, we SMBIVA types are supposed to figure the gouger profiteering corporate maxi/min boys will reduce quality, reduce wages, and raise prices anyway. Maybe so.

But they sure as hell will knock the Holy Joe act out of the operating room and the convalescent ward once and for all. Hospitals like colleges need to shed their fraudulent sheep's clothing. Non-profit? My ass! Doing well by doing good has turned health care into rampant petty all-against-all sharking worthy of Volpone, and openly going Wolf, Incorporated opens the door to socialization and a national health system.

Okay, okay, so that's only the first of N doors we gotta open to get to a comprehensive national publically owned and operated health system. But you gotta trust in Clio here. The gal knows how to use these corporate octopi to do Her dirty work for her.

Cool off, it isn't the SS taking over here. Maybe you don't need a Himmler after all, for every single world-historical purpose? Maybe just Hacksaw Duggan in a Savile Row suit, two-by-four in hand, a taste of Old Testament house cleaning... an updated Hebrew judge.

Were Paul the king, it would be good... right?

More notes in a bottle from the Krugman watch: our Paul sez folks ask him all the time "Okay then, what would you do if you ran the Fed?"

Good question worth asking an econ-con bigfoot operating his mouth at any volume and speed. Our man of course has an answer.

"Announce a fairly high inflation target over an extended period, and commit to meeting that target [e.g.] achieve 5 percent annual inflation over the next 5 years — or, perhaps better, to hit a price level 28 percent higher at the end of 2015 than the level today.... Crucially, this target would have to be non-contingent — not something you’ll call off if the economy recovers. Why? Because the point is to move expectations, and that means locking in the price rise whatever happens."
Expectations management -- the voodoo way to recovery, here expected to step up aggregate demand by lowering the public's expected real rate of interest, in fact pulling it into negative territory for the first time since the 70's, and inducing changes in domestic spending by both corporations and households (This notion of PK's originally debut-ed here.)

I doubt the Krugman fed could make it happen since it lacks any for-sure driving mechanism. Lowering the interest rate would really trigger substantial increases in spending? No one has a clue how this works, even in the simpler mode of quantitative easing. No one really knows what would happen if the Fed bought say $3 trillion of outstanding debt in the next coupla quarters; and even if it went off as hoped by its boosters and reduced nominal rates, it's still unquestionably vastly inferior in effectiveness to a good old-fashioned Keynesian fiscal blowout.

But this fantasy wish of PK's does highlight one thing I like very very much indeed: price level management.

We really do need a way to manage the "price level" and of course the real way to do that -- the never-discussed way -- is the direct way, the Colander-Lerner-Vickrey way -- setting up a markup market that could easily enforce precisely the 28% price level increase in five years that PK suggests, or any other higher or lower price level, and get there in easy to swallow quarterly hops

A markup market operates just like any warrant system: the beauty of this one you can lift prices as well as restrain them, without guessing quarter to quarter what the target price level move requires in either a Pigou tax or subsidy to make happen. The trading market for warrants needed to legalize any specific violation of the target change in markup produces spontaneously the "correct" tax or subsidy

But any price level targeting -- even voodoo-style, a la PK -- has pathetic chances; as PK suggests, "no better than those of getting an adequate fiscal stimulus." Imagine the chance for the totalitarian Gosmart notion of a markup market hovering over the heads of corporate Amerika!

November 3, 2010

Pwogs and their dawgs

She's out!

And so's he!

Headline from Paine Analytic: Blue dog / pink pwog balance in Dem House caucus shifts seriously as half of the blue dogs are washed away in the GOP wave. Huffpo seems to agree: "According to an analysis by The Huffington Post, 22 of the 46 Blue Dogs up for re-election went down on Tuesday. Notable losses included Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-S.D.), the coalition's co-chair for administration, and Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), the co-chair for policy. Two members were running for higher office (both lost), four were retiring and three races were still too close to call.

The Blue Dogs, a coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats in the House, have consistently frustrated their more progressive colleagues and activists within the party, especially during the health care debate. Blue Dog members pushed to limit the scope and the cost of the legislation and resisted some of the mandates of the bill. Last summer, seven of the eight Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee even threatened to block health care reform unless it met their cost requirements."

I suspect this is meaningless to most SMBIVAers, since come crunch time recently, a pwog is just a dog's breakfast; but there were pwog losses too.

Maybe some like best and want to thank most that hunk of the central florida electorate for spiking the Grayson, and others the loss of papier-mache populist el Perriello. What is more fun -- whackin' the dog or stompin' the pwog?

November 7, 2010

Diddle diddle dumpling

Above, a retrieve from before the crisis of fall '08.

Sometimes you see more of a soul than you want or decency should permit. I find after viewing this ponderous cloud of a mind, I can take away only a shapeless emotion, a Rousseau-like pity for tubby little Brad the smart swaddled boy of Ivy privilege who has has maturated into this gas-leaking tethered ideological blimp, a slightly chilly, mildly unpleasant but harmlessly sluggish university mammal, more the three-toed sloth than the orangutan of neoliberalism. Let us trouble him no more.

November 9, 2010

Ah, wilderness

My usual post-ballot blues never hit me this time. I sublated it -- no, that's a hollow boast; I simply pre-empted it -- by reading this green shellac job on Ed Abbey, knight of the immaculate conception we call wilderness America.

Fuck the wilderness, the virgin cult of our time and place. And as to the latter day saint Mr Ed, he was just a grasshopper on to a good con, with his

"Magical, sensual evocation of the desert, fierce defense of wilderness and irreverent attacks on conventions of every angle of the political spectrum."
Now there's a yoking of sacred asses for ya, eh?

Here's the Abbey outlook on our near future:

"[a] completely urbanized, completely industrialized, ever more crowded environment."
And then he hits us with this:
"For my own part I would rather take my chances in a thermonuclear war than live in such a world.”

Gotta love that second part, if it has an iota of sincerity in it. But it doesn't, of course. Because in fact those who might opt for the big T Rex of wars over the same old same old, and I mean really opt for it -- those people crave not the sweet breezes of the wilderness but this very same horror, a totally Manhattanized planet Earth.

I venture that in Generation Now such souls are not scarce. Such bravado, real Satanic bravado, explains with Miltonic clarity why lost wilderness tears are so bathetic. At long last, Mr Thoreau, have you no sense of the truly sublime!

Here's another line to clear the sinuses of ballot box blues, this from the worship piece's author hizzseff, answering the musical question "what drives this madness?" The answer:

"human greed exemplified by too many people living too high on the hog."

Are we to accept as self-evident that the pursuit of high-hoggin' it is ipso-facto madness? Narco-nihilists take note.

Abbey and his legendary fictive hero Marmaduke (or whatever his name was) manage to concentrate every kind of arrogant mummy-nature slobbering Wandervogel aestheticism into one single flightless cry of pedantry: "stay off my wilderness!"

What a Grail that, eh? The moral equivalent of "stay off my lawn", for any footloose cellar monkey who happens to be enough of a megalomaniac to "contain multitudes" and burst through the pasteboard mask.

Buy this medicine-wagon con and then you gotta go further and listen to all that "I know its too late" geschrei and still get importuned to "fight on, dogfaces... fight on" against the browning of the great greenness. Throw down your tools of getting and spending, throw down your private chores and go raging into that smoke belching irradiated time tunnel ahead, pausing only to boohoo now and again, and boohoo so church-choir loud we might think it's March 6th 1836, and you're attending a prayer breakfast inside the Alamo.

As if evoking Ed isn't enough for one read, then comes this happy conjecture: "Today, Ed is everywhere" (like the Scarlet Pimpernel or that Joad geef, one imagines).

A f'rinstance alleged Abbey avatar? James Lovelock, "famed contemporary global warming critic and originator of the Gaia hypothesis." His prophecy?

"In the next 30 years rising oceans will displace a billion hungry refugees, worldwide desertification will draw the Sahara north into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad."
If that isn't enough to curl your toenails,
" By the end of the century... the human world will be torn apart by famine and disease, starving Asians who cannot grow their own food [will be] migrating into Siberia and precipitating nuclear war between Russia and China."
Among all the numerous apocalyptic horsemen in Lovelock's stable, they can expect to
"kill off six billion of the world’s 6.6 billion human beings. The plants and creatures of our lovely planet would suffer the sixth great extinction, the most severe yet and entirely human-caused.... Human civilization... would collapse."
Well. That does sound nasty. It's not terribly clear what "wilderness" has to do with it, though. But hey, who wants to be a spoilsport?

November 10, 2010

The shade of Andrew Jackson

Last week, after the electoral deluge, some interesting responses showed up on my lefty mailing lists. Here's one:

So Washington state voters rejected the income tax on $200,000+ households, but approved the lifting of the sales tax on candy and soda! I'm tempted to make some obvious joke about bloated, toothless idiots serving their masters, but that would be to blame the victim, wouldn't it?
The first question that leapt to mind was, whence the 'but'? It's not as though there were some inconsistency. People don't like taxes, and why should they?

There's something larger here, though. I've seen a lot of it over the last year or so, from all points on the left-of-right political spectrum. Dembots to Trots almost universally agree that there's something wrong and unreasonable about Amurricans' dislike of Gummint -- as if the voters' anti-Gummit sentiments really reflected a judgement on the idea of Government in the abstract, rather than a concrete judgement on the government they actually have.

This concrete judgement can hardly be faulted.

Everybody approves of Gummint expenditures on his or her own behalf, and disapproves of expenditures for anybody else. That's just human nature. And a general, settled mistrust that actually-existing Gummint will take the dollars I give it and do anything with them that's going to be very good for me -- that mistrust, for the average Joe and Jane, is very well-founded, though it may be more instinctive than thought-out.

Streets? Cops? Teachers?

People like having streets provided for them as long as they're provided free, or apparently free. But if people would rather not pay for 'em, then depave 'em and plant 'em with something green. The SUV becomes a lawn ornament. Surely this would be an improvement.

Cops? People like watching cop shows, because in cop shows they identify with the cops. Watching these stories costs nothing. Actual encounters with real cops are likely to be far less satisfactory. So the obvious conclusion is that we should have more cop shows, supported by advertising, and fewer real cops supported by taxes.

As for teachers -- here again we have teaching in the abstract on one side, and actual concrete schooling on the other. If the benighted voters, bewailed in the quote with which we began, feel like shutting off the spigot to the actual teachers that they and their kids have dealt with, I'm with 'em.

Oh sure, I've met some wonderful teachers -- wonderful as human beings, I mean. And everybody believes in Education in the abstract, as they disbelieve in Gummint in the abstract. But in the concrete -- in people's actual experience of teachers, functioning in ways defined and delimited by the iniquitous institutions that employ them, and in their actual experience of a Gummint wholly owned and controlled by people with interests utterly inimical to their own -- who can blame these crazy voters for pulling the "No" lever?

November 12, 2010

Obie and the Catfooders

Comes a report, or a precis of a draft of one, from the Barry-built deficit commission, the Simpson-Bowles show, or, less respectfully, the catfood commission.

I pounce, I read it with elan and alacrity and... ahem... what's the adage about firearms bared in a melodrama? This gun has gone off, but alas it's pure clown time. You can make out the pops only if you listen really, really hard.

If these guys condescended to us sovereign rubberstamps any more brazenly, we'd have a Loony Toon here on our hands, not a Powerpoint presentation. Check out its opening salvo:

We have a patriotic duty to come together on a plan that will make America better off tomorrow than it is today.

America cannot be great if we go broke.

Really, I don't have the heart to subject you to any more. On and on it goes, declaiming in alternating voices, from the yukking self-satisfaction of the Penguin...

... to the facetious mock-stentorian stylings of Senator Claghorn.

Does it add up to anything? No; but then if you were tired and it's late and you have miles and miles to go and this looms up ahead in blazing 50's neon:

Color TV
Swimming Pool
Breakfast in bed

As tacky as it is -- does it sound inviting to ya?

November 15, 2010

Comrade High Road

Enter Slubniakoff Zizek:

"...one should avoid the temptation to react to the ongoing financial crisis with a retreat to fully sovereign nation-states, easy prey for free-floating international capital, which can play one state against the other. More than ever, the reply to every crisis should be more internationalist and universalist than the universality of global capital."
Several SMBIVA redskins find this slippery Slav a tar baby. I join them in this conclusion; he's best avoided, but I made the mistake of reading this and now i have the above pile of droppings so clearly in focus that I've just got to step in it and take a swing at him.

Exercising the soveign powers of the nation state is a "retreat"? Remember, this is aimed at advanced Euro societies now, not Nepal. In fact, the full use of national credit systems alone, once decoupled from the international network, is well able to remove the nasty outcome Ziz raises -- "easy prey for free floating international capital."

Guru Zizoomski wants us to believe that such an essay in updated national liberation exacerbates transnational corporate exploitation and manipulation. In his cutting-edge conception of class struggle he becomes an "objective" shill for the multinational corporate regime!

Obviously, it's only as part of the MNCs' network that "international capital" can really "play one state against another." The collective "instinct" to throw off the transnational corporate drag nets is not untutored folly, it's sound as hell.

Break free, brothers and sisters! Slam shut the import doors! No more free entry, no more global capital inflows! Build national economic self-reliance, energy independence, an autonomous financia system! Inaugurate a massive reindustrialization policy, reconstruct your national production platform, become a greenhouse called Eden. All this is as plain as the nose on Sarko's face.

These are the concrete forms of the present class struggle in Europe and this wizard wants the Euro job class to disdain them as a cul de sac, in fact worse than a cul de sac, a form of capitulation to the existing social formation.

So why would our man here reject this intuitively obvious broadly shared project? I suspect primarily it's his learned ignorance, his ethereal roaming among the groves of pink humanist letters. Above all, it's about a pigeon-like incomprehension of the self-developing, self-transforming possibilities of any modern "national" economy.

As a consequence here he is imploring the jobblin' frogs of Europe to keep their ever more heated national pots right over the international fire, foreswear the reform struggles, and instead create liberated spaces of the social "mind".

To me this amounts to saying "just swim faster comrades, round and round the pot. Motion alone will set you free. The impossible happens. To act as if you are free is to be free."

Maybe I'm being a tad unfair, but if so then what acts -- what concrete acts -- does Ziltchnikoff have in mind?

He paraphrases a fellow left sage: "Building free domains at a distance from state power, subtracted from its reign (like the early Solidarnosc in Poland), and only resisting by force state attempts to crush and re-appropriate these ‘liberated zones’" Hmm, what might that mean, here and now? But nope, that don't cut it anyway. Sez Doctor Z: "Today we do not know what we have to do, but we have to act now."

Sounds like fun, eh? Liberation as a naked act of leaping into the unknown, looking to perform the impossible. Okay, that might sound absurd, but it is an act after all -- right? Do not go quietly into that badass night.

For Zibzack, seems an act -- a system-transgressive act, one must presume -- is, yes, just an act. But it's more than an act sometimes, too. Sometimes at the same time its acting leaps the actor and creates its own preconditions. Sorta like in a time-machine movie.

We have learned a great deal from the last century of class struggle. One thing seems quite obvious to me: the unit of liberation is the nation, and the arena of struggle is the movements now that objectively batter the corporate hegemon, not some abstract locationless free domain Shangri-La of the collective mind, kept distant from the state by not really existing at all.

I agree with Zizek and just about all other red hot rad thinksters: the destruction of the existing state -- no matter its form democratic or otherwise -- is the necessary first step toward true societal sublation(*). But revolution is not just around every corner. Part of Clio's righteous work is the day to day battles within the confines of the existing institutions.

The mass battle against "international Yankee led capital" today in Europe means, among much else, the breakup of the euro zone and the restoration of full financial sovereignty to its nation-state members. If that seems hideously sub-revolutionary, so be it. Hold your nose and dive in, or find yourself a self-liberated freeform activated isolate operating a safe distance from the state, and of course from the concrete movements that right now are making tomorrow out of today.

Among other aquisitions we now have the discoveries of modern political economy, and more particularly the technical know-how to sublate much more of market earth's perennial contradictions. Like a hundred thousand clones of Perseus, with these gifts let us charge forward to destroy the transnational Cetus ravaging every coast on the planet.


(*) Even here I disagree completely with Dr Ziz -- the sublation only has possibility if the collapse of the old regime is followed quickly enough by the erection of a revolutionary party-led prole dictatorship, a class dictatorship prepared to forcefully transform the existing rubble of the old society into the structures of the new.

Rhinestone POTUS update

LA Times reports on a post-election White House liberal bigfoot powwow:

"Three days after the midterm elections, senior Obama aides suggested to a gathering of liberal groups at the White House that they might need to scale back their expectations. In the wake of the big Republican win, there would be no new major legislative pushes from President Obama in 2011... The mood, according to some participants at the meeting, was dour. Although the White House advisors said job creation would be a central goal, they did not lay out a concrete plan for putting more people to work. There was an undercurrent of, 'Hey, folks. We're going to have to play some defense'".
Perfection... no?

And this from legenary deep think Dembot Joe Trippi:

"When a president with those kinds of majorities loses the majority in the House, that weakens him in a way where he's going to have to compromise or get less done."
Amazing. The poor battered soul of great merit! Now he has to start compromisin' his load of compromisin', on the road to no horizon.

What Bibi wants, Bibi gets

The New York Times reports, with every appearance of a straight face:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel [pledged] to push for a new, one-time-only freeze of 90 days on settlement construction in the West Bank... [T]he Obama administration... promised not to seek any further construction freezes as a precondition for securing this one....

Under the proposed freeze, negotiated by Mr. Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during nearly eight hours of talks in New York last Thursday, the Israelis would stop most construction on settlements in the West Bank for 90 days...

In return, the Israelis would receive 20 advanced American fighter jets and other unspecified military aid, as well as American promises to oppose any Palestinian attempt to obtain international recognition of statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza without Israeli agreement.

The United States would veto a United Nations Security Council resolution along those lines and actively work against similar resolutions in forums where it does not have a veto.

That must have been quite some eight hours of "negotiation." One wonders why it took so long, in fact. It's a little like Charlie McCarthy "negotiating" with Edgar Bergen. You can decide for yourself which party is Charlie, and which Edgar.

In any case, the Israelis gave up nothing, and got a lot. What "negotiators"!

November 18, 2010

Filibuster bronco buster?

From the national Washpost on the future of the filibuster:

"...A proposal by Tom Udall would grant the Senate majority party the option of changing any procedural rule, including the filibuster, by a simple majority vote at the beginning of each Congress."
Sound sensible? Hold your applause:
"...A milder version advanced by Mark Udall... would restrict the use of the filibuster by the minority party, while limiting the majority's control over minority amendments."
Dueling Udalls? Oughta be fun watching the boys and girls bat around the ole wiffle ball on this one. Will it morph into a session of bipartisan Twister?

November 19, 2010

The schools devour their own

So the unspeakable Arne Duncan made a speech at the Amurrican Ennerprise Instatoot (where else?). Naturally the text is full of blood-freezing enormities, both as regards style and substance. The Baba Yaga Day Care Center, Arne Duncan, Headmistress. Sloganic Spoken Here.

But guess what atrocity -- buried two-thirds of the way down in a 2,500-word text -- attracted the attention of my mailing-list correspondents?

Districts currently pay about $8 billion each year to teachers because they have masters' degrees, even though there is little evidence teachers with masters degrees improve student achievement more than other teachers--with the possible exception of teachers who earn masters in math and science.
The horror!

Of course there is some unintended humor in this auto-amputation. The credential is sold by the claim that it will raise your income. But then the business that sells the credential repudiates, in practice, its own advertising jingle: we won't pay more for Sheepskin Part Deux. Fordism in reverse gear.

I'm starting to like Arne Dagon, who may yet pull down his own temple around his own ears -- no Samson required.

November 20, 2010

Oh, no! Not policy!

When is industrial policy not industrial policy? Why, when you're big enough to call it something else. For developing nations, it requires no euphemism. In fact, the poor things are subject to the full grope and backscatter regimen prescribed for hapless travelers in the Land of the Free. For the G3, however, we get decorous euphemism through central bank-speak.

I do get a kick out of the fan dances that go on in the effort to conceal the fact that winners and losers are necessarily going to be picked. There's no other way to have large scale industrialization. It can either be shitkicking stupid, bugfuck nuts supply side, "la la la I can't hear you" military Keynesian selection, as we have in the full blown neoliberal dispensation, or an activist dirigisme that proudly struts its stuff.

That settled, we can get to the real question: should USian economists be required to adopt stripper names? I think yes, starting with Larry Summers, who looks like a Bonbon du Jour to me. I know that Bonbon, in his heart, would prefer an activist pro-labor dirigisme. Here's a little something to get him shakin' it.

President Obama's chief economic advisor, Laurence Summers, offered the following assessment, "It may be desirable to have a given amount of work shared among more people," he conceded. "But that's not as desirable as expanding the total amount of work." Why is expanding the total amount of work more desirable? From a Treasury perspective, more work increases tax revenues while sharing work could potentially decrease revenues. This treasury view also brings into focus a prime objective of supply-side economics – its magic was supposed to flow from incentives that encourage people to work more hours (or that penalized people for working less).

Excerpted from Tom Walker's The Prosperity Paradox.

Then again, maybe he's not so enthusiastic. Digressing, that could be called the Mother Of All Nudges, making Cass Sunstein look like the miserable piker he is.

Digressing further, why the literal grope and backscatter regimen, and why now? My guess is there's no better neoliberal way to harass and distract people whose social circumstances require air travel. It makes class lines abundantly clear, from the resentful groping class, to the resentful groped class all the way up to the guffawing grope-free class, which loves its Stakhanovite hours. And why not indeed. There's nothing like pushing people around as a means of measuring power and wealth.

Brain in a VAT

Krugman on the Mother Of All Sales taxes.

I think this gets to the heart of the liberal weakness. They decouple everything into a goo that passes for rational, and passes for that only because right wingers reliably provoke deranged revanchism. The correlation between VAT and big social welfare programs requires a narrow, squinting gaze. The big welfare states tax a lot more than sales. Moreover, in recent history the great fortunes of the social democratic welfare states offered less protection against a jacquerie than they do here.

Enter the dragon! -- or no, never mind

The red bamboo network strikes:

"China's state-owned China Telecommunications... redirected... tens of thousands of networks around the world, thousands of them in the US... to IDC China Telecommunication. Major providers were affected, including AT&T, Level3, Deutsche Telekom, Qwest Communications and Telefonica."
A dry run for MNC judgement day, Big Red Han style? Nope. Read the column and weep. Upshot: just one of those things, one of those crazy hazy amazy things, that done got nobody's master stroke behind it at all. "Stuff like this happens," and even worse, "the problem was fixed in 18 minutes."

Nice footnote:

"Security firms always being happy to overstate a threat, McAfee pushed a hysterical analysis of this incident to the press, which played up every theoretical possibility, however remote. The result was a series of hysterical articles...."

November 21, 2010

Gets no respect

Poor Obie. He's reduced to the desperate expedient of inviting the monster Henry Kissinger to the White House, and the old psychopath goes to sleep on him. It's like boring Hannibal Lecter to death.

My hat's off to the other cigar-store Indians in the picture. They're at least keeping their eyes open, though it's clearly very difficult for them.

I like Henry's wooly coif. He looks like a venerable Merino sheep.

Cringe of the day

I should be able to move past this, but my lip curls, my nostrils form a sneer, my hands itch and I struggle to control a cringe when people call themselves "climate hawks".

I'm small g green and have been since I first understood what smog is. Smog bad, yes? I don't care if people call themselves environmentalists, conservationists or tree huggers—provided there's some actual tree hugging going on. It's not too difficult. The more people do it, the less they feel a need to create and manage a brand. The more effort they put into branding, the greater the chances they'll come up with something unforgivably stupid, which is "climate hawk" in a nutshell.

All this branding and rebranding gives people outside the circle jerk the impression that the movement membership consists entirely of perception managers, clip art creative content providers, search engine optimizers, affiliate link proselytizers and bulk mail gurus. That it consists, in short, of marketers in search of a cause that replicates what they do at work.

Anyway, the Center for American Progress wants to know what "climate hawks" should do now that they've been clubbed like baby seals (h/t Drunk Pundit). I believe my first recommendation, that they stop voting for Democrats, would be considered frivolous. My second is that they get arrested with James Hansen. That's probably out of the question too. Okay, how about rebranding themselves, over and over, until they drop from exhaustion? That has the beauty of being something they're doing already. It's frivolous, but if they take it far enough the exhaustion might lead to an epiphany.

Nose to the Gradgrindstone

The gruesomely facelifted skeletal paidophage shown at left is Mike Bloomberg's choice to boil the last scrap of flesh off the hapless schoolchildren of New York. If Klein was Procrustes, this monster is the cannibal witch that Hansel and Gretel met in the gingerbread house. Is she really Arne Duncan in unconvincing drag? Do you ever see them together?

Home-schooling looks better every day. Even though you'd just as soon see less of your children, and they'd just as soon see less of you -- do you want to hand them over to Christine Cathie Black? Do they want to spend any time in her correctional institution? After a week in her custody, wouldn't they too rather be with you, unsatisfactory as you undoubtedly are?

I love it that this corporate vulture was more or less present at the creation of Ms Magazine. Free Alterations Feminism!

Puff piecery

I'd like to suggest an alternative title for this CNN puff piece.

Disgraced Fraud Artist Alarms Neighborhood Revitalization Organizers

The puff piece is about this guy:

NASD Fines Hantz Financial $675,000 for Fraud, Misrepresentations Related to Undisclosed Revenue Sharing Arrangements

Washington, D.C. - NASD announced today that it has fined Michigan-based Hantz Financial Services, Inc. $675,000 for fraud and misrepresentations relating to undisclosed revenue sharing arrangements, as well as other violations. John Hantz, the firm's President, CEO, founder and primary owner, was censured and fined $25,000 for failing to supervise the firm's revenue sharing activities and suspended from acting in a supervisory capacity for 30 days.

He's taken an interest in Detroit's urban farming movement. He wants some of the action. The urban farmers are quietly trying to make something out of a city that's been beaten and left for dead by a gang of corporate psychopaths. The last thing they need is renewed attention from the rent-seeking sector.

November 22, 2010

The Chief Groper Speaks!

The head groping dude is a lovely looking fellow. He looks like a seasoned groper. Look at those hands, that face, that creeping smirk, that molester's toupee and tell me he isn't.


Unsurprisingly, he says he believes the refusal to be scanned is a mistake. I don't believe a word of it. He's patently insincere. Refusing the scans entails more groping, which is obviously his purpose in life.

What a miserable comedown this is for the Democratic merit class. Reduced to the peckerwood perversions of the Republican Party...

Apple Polishing

The comments to this New Deal 2.0 essay highlight one of the many problems liberals face. And this is the liberal habit of issuing extended, attention-seeking manifestos. The desperate apple polishing is unseemly. Every liberal has an FDR essay. We all know that. There's no need to keep elbowing each other to shove them at the teacher. The perfesser knows you're there.

Which brings me to another problem. I have no objection to scholars who take on the didactic chores. Some are talented and it's not an easy task. But to arrange an entire culture around didacticism, with forcible schooling and ankle biting attendance requirements, seriously degrades the concept. Schooling on the foie gras model guarantees antipathy to any educative intent. The frantic apple polishing makes it a disturbing farce.

Exhausting Melodrama

Smithee grabbed another exemplary sample of Democratic apocalypse-mongering. After years and years of similar flailing, I think I can safely speak for all the non-aligned left when I say the party stalwarts' melodrama is exhausting. It's dreary, tired and unconvincing. The hysterics have worn thin. It's as bad as the right wingers' conviction that the world is filled with hateful people who constantly think of ways to harm them.

I suppose it's a comfort to feel so important, but they're just not relevant, Republicans and Democrats alike, to most of humankind. They're barely relevant to civic life here. Most USians can't be bothered to play their favorite game, the biennial popularity contests. They go about their lives as best they can, decent and thoughtful for the most part, and try not to get dragged into the freak show.

I traveled a lot when I was young and worked in the "hospitality" industry. Visitors from other countries often remarked on the reflexive friendliness of USians and the astonishing degree of depoliticization. Both observations are consistent with my own experience. One would think, given the friendliness, that political engagement would come easily. But it doesn't, and I think this is directly attributable to the emotional vampirism and hysterics of the party partisans. People aren't apathetic. They want to hang on to their plasma. Who can blame them?

Perfect consistency

On one score, at least, our legally inflicted and constitutionally imposed preznit has a perfect track record. Every kindly, well-meaning, hopeful person who supported him has received punishment for the effort. He doesn't personally micro-manage the punishment, but he's tireless in setting the conditions. The cool, rational big man on campus, the "no drama Obama", is unflinching in his resolve; a compleat dipshit.

November 23, 2010

In the same vein

SMBIVANs may recall the "Don't tase me, bro" incident, in which a persistent student kept questioning John Kerry's evasions until he was tortured with tasers to make him stop. Kerry rattled away while the poor kid was abused. He was obviously incapable of seeing it the way normal humans would: as an appalling, cruel act by self-dehumanized thugs. He simply didn't get it. He was a little bit baffled, but that was the only sign he showed of contact with the world around him. A normal human, with some level of authority, would have used that authority to intervene on the kid's behalf. Even hard asses have some distaste for gratuitous cruelty. But Kerry couldn't really grasp what was going on.

I relate that without exculpatory intent. Rather, it's an explanation for the behavior of senior Democrats. There's something broken in their psyches. They can't make the necessary empathetic connections. When the chief groping dude defends casual brutalization of travelers, he does so because he honestly can't understand how violative it is. He doesn't object to being in charge of the groping, so why should the victims object to his orders? He gets querulous because his class has decided it's necessary, and there's an end to the matter. There's no way to reach them and explain why it's violative, or why losing a shitty job is frightening, no matter how shitty the job is.

The Bootlicking Media

The latest churn in the news cycle is placing blame for possible travel delays on the victims of Obama's prurient security enhancements. People who object to virtual strip searches and perform the consumer equivalent of job actions are actually selfish. The delays will be their fault, not the fault of the thuggishly stupid policy makers.

This is typical of bootlickers. They lack the gall and the physical nerve to brutalize people themselves, but they feel comfortable dictating and delegitimizing the response to brutality. It's safe and it pays a salary. One would hope the self-loathing from that would be crushing, but they have their cognitive escape hatches. They're only "reporting" what they've been told.

Your Weltanschauung Sucks

This is less a (well deserved) attack on Democrats than a personal gripe, and it concerns the vicious liberal assaults on "Small Is Beautiful". Small isn't necessarily beautiful, but big and medium are certainly no better than they ought to be, the slinking gigolos, and some of us have had to make a virtue of necessity when it comes to circumscribed outlooks.

I've found it wise to to have a reasonably good understanding of a smaller picture and my personal limits. The only political thing I have that scales up perfectly is a salutary aversion to Democrats (and Republicans, but that goes without saying).


I'm sorry I don't have the ultimate coherent super master plan for the salvation and renewal of the country. Mea maxima fucking culpa. For this failure, I offer my sincere apologies to the purple assed baboons who can handle the Big Picture. I am humbled by the immensity of their brains, and even more humbled by the huge vats in which they keep them.

Obtuseness Today

It's not the message. It's the messengers.

There's no kindly way to say this, but I'll do my best. We all want to save the planet. I have plans for my little patch of it. I'd like to have visitors. I'd like their patches to be pleasant, if possible, or survivable for the time it takes to make them pleasant. I'm happy to help, even if it means Democrats will benefit too. But there's not a thing anyone can do when the Democratic Party consists entirely of miserable corporate hacks.

Perhaps a personal story will help. One day I found I had a number of dreadful character flaws. I'll spare everyone the disgusting details and the source of the epiphany. There's a decent limit to confessionals. I realized that I was the problem. To make this story suitably brief, I stopped doing unspeakable things. Everyone said, "hooray!" And we've lived caustically ever after, with moments of happiness.

Differential incidence

Job stagnation doesn't mean bottom-line stagnation, it seems. Thus the NYT:

"The nation’s workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever... Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history."
Coupla points get made: companies are squeezing more out of less human-capital hours in the Old Countries, but more juicy still are the fresh fields and pastures new:
"Economic conditions in the United States may still be sluggish, but many emerging markets like India and China are expanding rapidly."
Until we adopt the global game board perspective of our multinational limited liability outfits, we just won't find the rational core to this north-south irrationality.

The last time Tony Blair got laid...

... It was apparently with Cherie. Poor devil.

Blair's coupling with Cherie is up for a Bad Sex Award
"That night she cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me ... On that night of 12 May 1994 I needed that love [she] gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct ... "
If you haven't already guessed it, this toe-curling passage is the work of the former prime minster Tony Blair, who reminisced about a night of passion with his wife, Cherie, in his new autobiography, A Journey.

Yesterday the paragraph won Mr Blair the dubious honour of a nomination for the least-coveted prize in literature – the Bad Sex Award. He becomes the first writer of a non-fiction work to be considered.

I know this is kinda old news, but I'm so out of touch it's the first I've heard about it.

The idea of Tony and Cherie "having sex", as they say, is so complicatedly repellent that one really doesn't know which of them deserves more sympathy. Sex with Cherie? Sex with Tony? One would rather have sex with Prince Philip. Or any old horse in the royal stables, Or Ursula the Sea Witch -- but no, that's unfair to Ursula, who is rather hot, in a kinky tentacular sort of way.

It's perfect that Tony can date the occasion so precisely. One imagines an entry in the ministerial diary: "Sex with wife. 6.5/10. Two minutes 35 seconds. Felt like animal."

November 24, 2010

Mickey Mouse Machiavels

Read this at M. IOZ

So.... That news makes me very happy. I'm not even going to try to sum it up—save to say that if you can read it without tears of laughter, you have no heart.

Any expat SMBIVANs? Expat life can land you at the edge of Uncle's traveling machination circus. There's no world changing perspective in it, unless you're a naif, but you can get a close look at a few of the personalities that make up the foreign policy implementation machine. They tend towards a contemptuous parochialism. Very few bother to learn the language. They have the privileged high school brat appetite for empty resume building. They're dependent on accomplished strivers who lack the connections and pathology for fighting their way up the food chain. They get sick of each other's company, and struggle between garrulity and paranoia. When garrulity is ascendant, they talk about their favorite topics, with a heavy emphasis on themselves. They'd do better to shut up. The paranoia is a fatuous, solipsistic paranoia. They're worried about threats to their careers, which makes them mistrustful of the strivers. What they do about that is classic, straight out of the General Motors or Microsoft management playbooks: they deliberately undermine the only people with any idea of what's actually going on. Then they close ranks, play stupid and wait for massive bailout intervention. And it works! Because the only serious sins of their profession are breaches of propriety.

November 26, 2010

Rerum cognoscere causas? Naaah.

"Fuck it, Paine, of course I've not attended to the surface facts. Why let that get in the way of deep analysis?"

That's of course Mr Y talkin' (SMBIVA's former Foggy Bottom deep throat). I haven't heard much from himself since he got fired by that progressive think tank stupid enough to hire him after his ejection from the Foreign Service. Then came last night's call, triggered by the North Korean "wall of fire" dance.

"It's a break, Paine, a big bright break," sez Y. "No, it doesn't mean reunification is just around the corner. But these furious spasms always precede a burst of wild moderation by the NK leadership."

Me: "Yeah, yeah, sure. But really now... what's holding up the works here, anyway? I've been waiting for unification since 1979."

Y: "You Hegelians. Ugh. You never get this, do you? The state, in particular the party state, has no reasons of its own. It's just one damn thing after another."

Now that actually surprised me, at least coming out of Y. It's so 16th century, so bleak, so sceptical and anti-world-historical.

Now if it were Oxy or Crow telling me this in a hoarse liquorish voice... but alas, they never call me anymore at all. Must be some conservation law; Y now has to play stage-whispering Elizo-Jacobean Machiavel, faute de mieux, as Father S might say in his Kentucky French.

Team spirit

Greenwald and IOZ have both already commented at some length on a very peculiar piece in The Nation -- yes, The Nation -- by a couple of Junior Woodchucks named Mark Ames and Yasha Levine:

TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal

Does anyone else sense something strange is going on with the apparently spontaneous revolt against the TSA? This past week, the media turned an "ordinary guy," 31-year-old Californian John Tyner, who blogs under the pseudonym "Johnny Edge," into a national hero after he posted a cell phone video of himself defending his liberty against the evil government oppressors in charge of airport security.

[W]e see many of the same elements driving the current "rebellion" against the TSA: Koch-related libertarians, Washington lobbyists and PR operatives posing as "ordinary citizens," and suspicious fake-grassroots outrage relentlessly promoted in the same old right-wing echo chamber.

So far, all we know about "ordinary guy" John Tyner III, the freedom fighter who took on the TSA agents, is that, according to a friendly hometown profile in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "he leans strongly libertarian and doesn't believe in voting. TSA security policy, he asserts 'isn't Republican and it isn't Democratic.' "

Tyner attended private Christian schools in Southern California and lives in Oceanside, a Republican stronghold next to Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps base on the West Coast.

... [T]he whole reason why the TSA was formed was because private contractors paying airport security minimum wages were considered a big part of the reason why the 9/11 terror attacks were allowed to happen. Since the formation of the TSA, not a single terror attack originating from an American airport has taken place. But apparently that's not nearly as relevant as the complaints of a few libertarians....

A recent CBS poll [12] found that fewer than one in five Americans object to the TSA's use of scans and pat-downs. Nevertheless, like the Tea Party libertarian protests that "erupted" "spontaneously" in February 2009, the protests against the TSA, and the media coverage of the spectacle, grips the nation.

One of the Nation authors, Ames, also recently wrote an excruciatingly stupid, stupefyingly long piece -- almost 5,000 words! -- mostly about Jon Stewart and some Hollywood celebrity's kid. Greenwald, an indefatigable researcher (I'm glad he's reading this trash for me, so I don't have to) also linked to this item, where Ames observes in passing:
Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare.
Truly, the Nation has fallen on evil days. Its writers are now defending not just the TSA, but "the Constitution" and "the State" in general, and digging up us old half-decomposed Communists to draw and quarter, like poor Cromwell's corpse, on the same gallows with "subversives" of every stripe. (I don't know what to make, at all, of that garbled "perfect union" quote; what was the Woodchuck thinking of?)

Partly, of course, this is just Team Spirit. Ames and Levine are, of course, Democrats, and now that the voyeurs and gropers of TSA are Obie's voyeurs and gropers, they're also Ames and Levine's voyeurs and gropers. And if, by some highly improbable chance, the Koch brothers are in fact somehow behind the anti-voyeur-and-groper movement, why then the Koch brothers are the Other Team, and therefore anything they do is by definition a Bad Thing.

But it goes deeper. In fact it goes to the very core of the liberal mentality, which as I have argued elsewhere, is in fact intensely authoritarian, and much given to groping people for their own good. Ames and Levine are distinctive only by being boneheaded enough to speak plainly.

Continue reading "Team spirit" »

November 27, 2010

Giving Thanks: Academic Reform Edition

I'm not usually a big fan of "market" reforms. They never have anything to do with markets and plenty to do with funneling money to parasites. But, I'm not an ideologue on the issue. I can praise a market reform when it accomplishes something positive. And I'm delighted to be able to post a link to the story. It's a tale for our times, brothers and sisters, and the seasonal celebration of the entrepreneurial spirt gladdens my heart.

November 28, 2010

Not a losing situation

If Irksome Bowels and Galvanic Simpleton, the cat food commissioners, manage to give Obama cover for the next looting spree, the electoral losses are not going to bother anyone who matters to the party core. Why on earth would they care? Things are going swimmingly. A disciplined and reduced party is much easier to manage. The big shots safely parachute out in ones and twos, to applause and fat rewards. The next tier is free to line up whatever lesser sinecures they can find. The hand-over to the Republicans proceeds with theatrical gnashing of teeth and wailing, and nothing else. Except, of course, the harm to everyone who doesn't matter.

November 29, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

Well, erm, everything, right? This anorectic crazyface, Cathie Black, clearly ought to be in a hospital, getting fed through a tube. (I mean the crazyface in the foreground; the one in the background has a different diagnosis, and I'd prescribe a very different treatment, starting perhaps at the other end of the alimentary canal.)

But in our world, the inmates are notoriously running the asylum; so Ms Crazyface, CEO, will soon be putting the already malnourished children of New York on their own extreme-starvation diet, education-wise.

Black's nomination as schools chancellor here in Gotham was understandably greeted with horror and dismay by everybody with any human feeling left in his or her heart. But it was deeply pathetic to see how the critique played out. It was sadly ineffectual and self-defeating, because it focused on La Black's lack of "credentials".

The credentials in question are of course notoriously worthless; "Ed" credits are easily obtained, if you're the sort of person who can sit in a classroom for a few hours every week and let waves of arrant nonsense break over your head without tearing your shirt off, setting your hair on fire, and running bare-tit and flaming down the street.

But managers can always hire subject-matter experts, and that was of course the Solomonic compromise that finally greased Crazyface's way into the Tweed courthouse. She has to have a credentialled person by her side as she grinds the poor kids' faces further into the dirt. The credentialled person will be glad to have the job. The credential fans will feel that they won a round. Baba Yaga will have her mingy yet nourishing diet of ultra-lean human flesh.

Everybody will sleep well at night -- except, of course, the kids and their parents.

But fuck them. If they were any good at all, they'd be at Horace Mann.

November 30, 2010

Leaking Venom

The Obama regime's reaction to the Wikileaks info-dump is remarkably infantile; threats of prosecution, accusations of attacks against the world, etc. It smacks of spite and sanctimony, which is consistent with the revelations in the leaked documents. Diplomacy is run like a corporate office; replete with snide back-biting, fatuous plots, treachery for its own sake, waste, fraud and abuse. The only difference is capacity for violence. Doubtless there's a plan to send Assange an exploding cigar, or some such vengeful nastiness.

It's likely the leaked documents won't change anything. That would take a vastly different political dispensation. But they nevertheless belong in the public domain, if only because the small "r" republican conception of government requires the informed consent of the governed. Obviously the punters and their harvesters are incapable of taking that seriously and will fight tooth and nail to maintain their freak show. However, anything that could help drag them into some degree of political adulthood has to be accessible. This is particularly important for the Democrats, those wacky inheritors of the paranoid style, whose reverence for the Enlightenment exists in inverse proportion to their willingness to put its precepts into practice. They see a Cheney under every bed, poor things, and it drives them to distraction.

Regarding the cui bono aspect of the leaks, some people place great value in being immiserated by Democrats, rather than Republicans, and prefer to see hegemony pursued by slick crackpot yuppies, rather then flat earth goons. This preference is the aesthetic of cretins. As the Obama regime has tirelessly proved, the cat food and drone missile program is not amenable to "better management".

The chivalry of Chavez

How I love old Hugo:

The Spanish paper El Pais says that, according to a secret cable released by Wikileaks, US intelligence operatives wanted to know whether the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was taking medication to deal with her "nerves and stress". Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez praised Wikileaks and called on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to resign following the latest Wikileaks revelations....

"Somebody should study Mrs Clinton's mental stability", he said and added: "It's the least you can do: resign, along with those other delinquents working in the state department."

"Delinquents"! How perfect is that?


Flash: Alex the Rouge backs a Feingold indy prez run in '12.

Ole Russ and Feathers. Hmm. Land sakes, I know him not. Fellow SMBIVAstanis, fill me in on this paragon of go-it-alone-ism. Is he the next Nader?

If he does run, and if he wants to make a real contribution, he should certainly run in Dem primaries without pledging he won't run as an indy in the general election, like his bookend opposite, the muppet from Bridgeport, pulled off in the Conn senator race back there a piece.

About November 2010

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

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