« December 2010 | Main | February 2011 »

January 2011 Archives

January 1, 2011

A low dishonest decade

Goodbye and good riddance to the Naughts. I was getting ready to say the Teens can't be any worse -- but in fact, they can, and very likely will.

Department of Happy Family Studies

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
IOZ recently linked to this wonderful item:
Now that asking and telling has ceased to be problematic in military circles, ROTC has resurfaced as a national issue: Will universities such as Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League schools be opened to Reserve Officers' Training Corps since colleges can no longer can argue that the military is biased against gays and therefore not welcome?

... Only one of the eight Ivy League schools - Cornell - offers a degree in peace studies. Their pride in running programs in women's studies, black studies, and gay and lesbian studies is well-founded, but schools have small claims to greatness so long as the study of peace is not equal to the other departments when it comes to size and funding....

ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school...

The author, Colman McCarthy, "directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington and teaches courses on nonviolence at four area universities and two high schools."

Whew. "Intellectual purity!" What "intellectual purity" does McCarthy think the Ivies, or the Unis in general, have, or ever had, to "taint"?

And oh gentle Jesus, he wants yet another "studies" department -- Peace Studies. A big, well-funded one, too. Right up there with the Lesbians. Understandable on his part, since "teaching peace" seems to be the guy's metier.

But.... What exactly is "peace", other than the absence of conflict? And what other absences need a "studies" department? The department of vacuum studies? The department of wheeled organism studies? The department of empty-set studies? The department of factorable prime studies? The department of non-redheadedness studies?

And why should anybody care about the Unis' "claims to greatness"? In fact, shouldn't we oppose all such claims to the utmost of our power?

There's altogether too much positive thinking in the world. And by positivity here I mean, among other things, the activity of positing stuff. We posit some entity called "peace", and then set up to teach it. But the entity is a chimaera, and it can't be taught.

We could teach something negative -- we could teach, for example, that armies and empires suck. But it's hard to imagine the provost signing off on a Department Of Military-Imperial Suckiness Studies. This would be too much like attacking somebody else's product -- like f'rinstance the Department of National Security Studies -- rather than just (peacefully) trying to sell your own.

The various departments can compete for butts in chairs, but you can't have 'em tearing each other down. Bad for business in general.

So the implicit negative critique must be repackaged as a substance, "peace", sold by the credit-hour, and found in Aisle Three. In fact you could major in National Security with a minor in Peace. It's the metaphysical apotheosis of eclecticism: I'll take a pound of X and a half-pound of Not-X and go home with a pound and a half of bullshit in my shopping bag.

And don't even get me started about the conceited Uni-centrism of thinking that teaching "peace" on campus makes "peace" any more likely to happen. It's a bit like the famous Academy of Lagado:

This Academy is not an entire single Building, but a Continuation of several Houses on both Sides of a Street; which growing waste, was purchased and applyed to that Use.

I was received very kindly by the Warden, and went for many Days to the Academy. Every Room hath in it one or more Projectors; and I believe I could not be in fewer than five Hundred Rooms.

The first Man I saw was of a meager Aspect, with sooty Hands and Face, his Hair and Beard long, ragged and singed in several Places. His Cloathes, Shirt, and Skin were all of the same Colour. He had been Eight Years upon a Project for extracting Sun-Beams out of Cucumbers, which were to be put into Vials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the Air in raw inclement Summers. He told me he did not doubt in Eight Years more he should be able to supply the Governors Gardens with Sun-shine at a reasonable Rate; but he complained that his stock was low, and intreated me to give him something as an Encouragement to Ingenuity, especially since this had been a very dear Season for Cucumbers. I made him a small Present, for my Lord had furnished me with Money on Purpose, because he knew their Practice of begging from all who go to see them.

January 3, 2011

Contractors and contractees

This oughta be high on any new year's MNC to-do list: fix the cross-border skill-flow system.

Present systemic problem: the direct self-motivated flow of global south migrants up into the global north.

Under the present system migrants get up here somehow and find jobs somehow -- a "direct migration" system. Lots of 'em are completely unmediated by our squadrons of large MNCs. It's the transmogrified bitch spawn of our Victorian Lady-Liberty option. This hodgepodge of quotas violated, dark markets ignored, and undocs employed is co-joined to a system of professional clique-ogre'd restrictions on "scarce skill" markets, and hey, worst of all outcomes, the wogs stay here post-employment, reproduce, and further hyphenate the motherland.

Obviously this system has too much "self capture" for our present transnational corporate mode of social progress. The stinkin' migrant grabs too much of the benefit and retains too much control over the process of cross border movement back and forth, and place of final residence.

Millenial corporate answer -- how the MNCs can have it both ways:

Continue to get the ever-lower north skill pay rates, now produced by scattershot, free-for-all means, and also "capture", or re-capture, lots of the gains from trade in labor time now going to the migrant skillheads themselves. And, on top of that, the MNCs can tap the surplus latent in future cross-border migrations of "professional" level skill sets.

Watch what happens next. Here's one way: "contract-based movement as opposed to employment-based movement."

Sounds fairly innocent, eh? But note the detailing of features. Contract systems mean that "firms" can capture the differentials almost completely, and the corporates can counter Yahoo cries of cultural dilution of the motherland, since the migrants can't stay: contract terms "make temporariness more credible as contracts are time-bound."

Of course "contracts may be recurrent", i.e. permanent in effect. However, "once the worker reaches the maximum length of stay, he/she must be rotated."

The migrant gets the axe and a one-way ticket home. The corporate supplier gets to recycle the outsourcing -- get the grinder here?

"contract-based movement allows internalisation of some objectives that otherwise require regulation. For example, a common constraint on international trade in services is non-recognition of licenses and professional qualifications. Rather than require re-certification or the negotiation of (mutual) recognition agreements – a cumbersome and time-consuming process – a contract-based approach leaves it to the buying firm or entity to establish whether foreign suppliers satisfy prevailing quality and related performance standards."
Get it? the professional/guild regulations of the target national job market get blown to bits.

The important point here is these contracts are for skillsters, not wetbacks. The wetback undoc migration is still aces so far as corporate America is concerned. It produces lower wages, harder work, and, bingo! on the other side of the ledger -- reactionary nationalism-ization, if that's a word, of the native wage class.

What's not to like?

Even as the wetback undocs continue to flow in like drugs, to provide fury and sadism spectacle for yahoo kneejerkers, the professional class hung up on merit gets squelched too, because "Contract-based approaches can... easily be designed to generate incentives to encourage workers to return [home]."

(Love that word "incentives", as Torquemada said while oiling his thumbscrews.) Merit class foreigners from the global south are unlikely to recede into the chinaski shadow jobs once their contract expires, thumbscrews or not. But maybe they'll go home to re-up; and of course the whip hand here is corporate.

More nice stuff:

"As the contracts are between firms, the government can hold them accountable for performance, further helping to internalise incentives."
How is that good for MNCs? Well obviously this can as easily be read upside down and inverted, eh? "Gummint" can fail to hold firms "accountable", right? And which opption suggests itself to you as more likely, given Uncle's track record?

I like this sum-up:

"inclusion of temporary movement of service providers on a contract-basis as part of the liberalisation of trade in services can also help catalyse needed labour-market-related reforms in both origin and destination countries."
Exactly! Catalyse the capitalizin'! MNCs uber alles.

And oh yeah, in particular, for you meritoids of the credential sector: the contract system

"... would create incentives for governments in origin countries [and destination countries? -- Ed.] to design educational regimes to better fit the needs of the labour market."
The phrase "educational regimes" is remarkably candid, don't you think?

January 5, 2011

Against progress

I'm getting very tired of “progressives”. In fact, I'm getting tired of the word itself, and the concept – not just the people, tiresome as they mostly are.

Partly, of course, it's the hypocrisy. “Progressive” is what liberals call themselves when they want to avoid the L-word. Nobody's against “progress,” right? But even other liberals don't like liberals.

My objection goes deeper than that, though. This “progress” we're all supposed to be for – what does it mean, intensionally? And what, concretely and extensionally, does it refer to? If we follow the path of progress, where will we be in ten years or so? Closer to... Sweden? And where will Sweden be, if it continues to “progress”? Or has Sweden shifted into reverse? Is it “regressing” now?

Back when I was studying linguistics, in the days of the early Cretaceous, there was much attention being paid to the implicit presuppositions of discourse. One thing that is clearly presupposed in this discourse of “progress” is the idea that there is a directionality in human history – a gradient at whose base lie chattel slavery, and human sacrifice, and disco. In 2011 we fortunate Teeners in “the West” – another concept that needs examining – find ourselves a bit upslope from this vale of tears, but the shining heights stretch on and on above us to... what, exactly? Is there a summit? Or does Progress just go excelsior! like the positive integers?

Well, never mind. The summit, if there is a summit, is veiled in clouds of glory. We don't need to know, exactly, what's up there. All we need to know is that the moral arc of human history consists in climbing that slope. And climb it we have.

Oh, we slip back from time to time. The Cro-Magnon Clinton years gave way to the recrudescent Neanderthalism of Bush. But it was only temporary – like the marble glory that was Greece giving way to the tawdry brick-and-cement oafish grandeur that was Rome. But still. Look at the big picture – the grand sweep – the bottom line! Hey, we don't burn widows any more!

It must be admitted that old Marx and Engels, for all their dialectical sophistication, fell into this callow way of speaking from time to time. There's that notorious swipe at the “lazy” Mexicans as opposed to the “progressive” Yankees, f'rinstance -- a passage which has been cited to me as evidence of Charlie and Fred's belief in “progress”.

The whole essay is well worth reading, as is just about everything either of those two irrepressibles ever wrote. The Mexican/Yankee thing is a rhetorical flourish in an attack on Bakunin's Pan-Slavism and its essentially moralistic underpinnings. Here beginneth the Gospel:

"Justice", "humanity", "freedom", "equality", "fraternity", "independence" - so far we have found nothing in the pan-Slavist manifesto but these more or less ethical categories, which sound very fine, it is true, but prove absolutely nothing in historical and political questions.…

Just a word about "universal fraternal union of peoples" and the drawing of "boundaries established by the sovereign will of the peoples themselves on the basis of their national characteristics". The United States and Mexico are two republics, in both of which the people is sovereign.

How did it happen that over Texas a war broke out between these two republics, which, according to the moral theory, ought to have been "fraternally united" and "federated", and that, owing to "geographical, commercial and strategical necessities", the "sovereign will" of the American people, supported by the bravery of the American volunteers, shifted the boundaries drawn by nature some hundreds of miles further south?

[W]ill Bakunin accuse the Americans of a "war of conquest", which, although it deals with a severe blow to his theory based on "justice and humanity", was nevertheless waged wholly and solely in the interest of civilization? Or is it perhaps unfortunate that splendid California has been taken away from the lazy Mexicans, who could not do anything with it? That the energetic Yankees by rapid exploitation of the California gold mines will increase the means of circulation... concentrate a dense population and extensive trade at the most suitable places on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, create large cities, open up communications by steamship, construct a railway from New York to San Francisco... open the Pacific Ocean to civilization, and... give the world trade a new direction?

The "independence" of a few Spanish Californians and Texans may suffer because of it, in some places "justice" and other moral principles may be violated; but what does that matter to such facts of world-historic significance?

This is Fred, of course, not Charlie. But Fred was no slouch.

The interesting thing – to me – about Fred's idea of “progress” here is that it is quite different from a contemporary “progressive's”. Fred has entirely divorced “progress” from the continuous arc of moral improvement. He as much as admits that the Yankees stole California. He looks forward to the “rapid exploitation” of the gold mines – and he and Charlie elsewhere wrote some fairly trenchant words about what industrial exploitation might entail.

In fact his idea of progress here doesn't imply any big-picture movement from relative darkness into relative light. Rather, he sees the Yankee thieves' triumph in a very specific historical context. It's a “fact of world-historical significance,” he says. What does this vague grand phrase mean? Does it mean anything more than that it will advance his project – or rather, the project he thought Clio had up her sleeve for the next hundred years or so, and strongly approved of?

We all know what that project was, and I for one share it. A little overdue, but hey, I ride the New York subways every day. The train is often late, but sooner or later it shows up.

Old Charlie notoriously declined to provide any recipes for the cookshops of the future; and that reticence, I think, also implies an unwillingness to project the topography of mountain ranges still hidden in fog.

If we take seriously the thickness of the fog – if we have no idea, really, of the topography of history outside our immediate environs – then aren't we blessedly relieved from the necessity of being principled? Can't we be as opportunist as Fred and Charlie, who flagellated the thieves of Manchester with one hand while stroking the thieves of Yankeedom with the other? Can't we make common cause with old boys like Dean Swift, and problematic contemporary boys like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Are we not allowed to use any stick that comes to hand, to whack the people who are manifestly our actual present-day here-and-now enemies?

January 6, 2011

Thought experiment

Two sectors dear to all soft hearts deserve quite divergent tactics.

One is, of course, health care, and here it looks like the state is the only way to blugeon through to a better and cheaper health service for all.

However we also hear lots of wildness about the schooling sector and efforts to demolish the state's de facto lion's share of our nation's production of mass citizen liter-ates and numer-ates. In particular we hear a lot of geschrei about charterization and today's topic, voucherization of the public schooling dollar.

Seems plenty clear that voucherization of state provision of health care funds would be a deadly act indeed, and for all the obvious reasons well understood by the popular culture at large and not worth my paltry input.

But brothers and sisters should we really really... really mobilize our limited lefty activist resources to fight vague movements toward the voucherizing of primary education?

I'll suggest a distinction: battling for health care is a universal battle and any move away from ever more fully socializing our health system must be battled with ferocity.

But should we care even if the present schooling system disintegrates? Would that be a dark-age outcome... really?

January 7, 2011

The Angry Philosophers

I get email from them. They want to leverage the power of the internet into a tool for revolutionary irredentism; for change; for progressive Rooseveltian change; perhaps change we can believe in, even if that's looking shopworn and cynical. After a while, they wonder why the power of the internet hasn't led to the desired revolution. Then they blame elitists, perfectionists, purists and some dude named Ralph.

Their reasoning is masterful. They are revolutionary philosophers and they are using the internet. They have thought deeply and concluded that this is the best possible use of their time. Therefore it's best possible use of my time. Get active, they tell me. Do something. Do something progressive. So I do, but I suspect mocking their entreaties is not what they have in mind.

I have labored to express a home truth to them. My direct approach hasn't worked. It makes no sense to them. I've tried, but we're not operating on the same wavelength. My most recent response takes the form of a ludicrous, disingenuously enthusiastic syllogism.

Something needs to be done.
This is something.
Therefore it needs to be done.

This doesn't work either, but it has the virtue of being philosophically irrefutable. It also makes them angrier, but that can't be helped. Progress and its cheerleaders will have to learn to cope.

Midget McNamara

Woody Mattchuck says:

What we need, I think, is some form of American gendarmerie—a quasi-military federal organization specialized in police/security functions rather than finding and killing bad guys per se. Such a force would, unlike today’s military, have a valuable peacetime domestic role to play as a flexible auxiliary police force that could assist high-crime jurisdictions with the kind of temporary infusion of extra personnel that can help push crime rates down to a lower equilibrium. A “surge” if you will. But it would also be prepared to deploy abroad in the case of contingencies. The regular military would be big enough to beat an adversary (i.e., a lot smaller than the regular one) but it would need to call on the gendarmes (who naturally would need a less French name) to conduct an occupation. This means we wouldn’t be caught lacking capacity in a real emergency, but since the gendarmes would be performing a useful peacetime domestic service politicians would (appropriately) feel that initiating situations that require their mobilization is high cost situation that ought to be avoided if possible.


I thought we already had the proposed paramilitary. In fact, I thought we had several; some of them in the "private sector", the rest under notional government management. Maybe he wants to add another one? Regardless, it's a phenomenally stupid idea. It's not worth arguing on the merits because there is no merit whatsoever. We already know how badly it works out. The military budget doesn't get cut. It increases. The use of the military increases too. The official and quasi-official paramilitary groups burgeon, demand more license, a bigger remit and more money, and they get it. The process yields more conflict and more criminality. This results in demands for bigger budgets, even more license and a remit that's better defined by what it doesn't cover than what it does.

I consider Mr. Mattchuck an idiot, for obvious reasons, but he's got some use as a bellwether. His nose—his shit-covered nose—is attuned to the "deep thinking" trends in the Democratic Party. I expect to see this cretinous proposal of his catapulted into the party's propaganda stream.

January 8, 2011

Mass murder is the text...

... which generally provokes a disappointingly low grade of commentary.

(Some of you old-timers may recognize the image above. Answer at the end of this post.)

More morals have been drawn, in the last couple of hours, from today's shooting of Representative Giffords (and a number of bystanders), than pints in all the pubs in Dublin on St Patrick's Day. Matty Woodchuck's is, not surprisingly, the most glorious cocktail of shallowness, heartlessness, and silliness:

I think a deadly political assassination is an ideal time to remind people that violent rhetoric should be avoided.
"Ideal time"! Twitter really is the ideal medium for folks like Matty and Melissa Haruspex-Perspex, isn't it?

Matty's theory seems to be that if only the memesphere were a less polluted place -- if only our public discourse were more civil and reasonable -- then folks like this Arizona gunman would leave the semiauto at home. Or perhaps never pick it up in the first place.

More broadly in the pwoggienet, there seems to be universal agreement -- based on what, I don't know, other than wishful thinking -- that the shooter must have been some Teabagger type. And of course this has fuelled a new torrent of brownshirts-on-the-march garment-rending and hair-tearing from the usual Chicken Littles.

Events like this seem to be so useful for all of us that perhaps it's no wonder they happen so often. I mean, if you look at the thing sociobiologically.

Of course it's quite possible that the guy was a Teabagger. Arizona, and all that. He's certainly not likely to have been a Pwog, for sure -- they're all talk. And there are a lot more highly motivated right-wing crazies than left-wing crazies; we don't seem to have even enough vitality to attract crazy people.

Now I don't approve of shooting legislators. Don't get me wrong. Hell, I wouldn't even shoot Joe Lieberman. There's no point. They just go find another one, without missing a beat, and the supply seems to be endless. That's why only a crazy person would bother to waste the ammo -- if politics really had anything to do with it.

Presumably we'll find out more about this would-be assassin -- whose name, it seems, is Jared Laughner, according to a recent update. But even if he turns out to have been a devoted Teabagger, I'd argue that that doesn't explain why he did what he did -- though it might perhaps explain his choice of targets.

The great American culture medium seems to nourish, every few years, a person who just can't sleep at night until he's blown away a dozen or so strangers. The image up top shows one of the first of these who came to my own attention when I was young -- Charles Whitman, the 1966 Texas Tower sniper.

Being an 'umble obscure person myself, I personally would selfishly prefer that these folks, when they finally snap, should go after notables and officials and celebrities rather than climbing a tower and opening up on ordinary pedestrians like me, innocently going about our pedestrian occasions. At least it takes us out of the line of fire.

But this seems to be almost the opposite of Matty's feeling on the subject. If Laughner had just shot up a shopping mall, one rather thinks that Matty, had he deigned to comment at all, would have simply filed the event under "random craziness". Since it was a Congressperson, however, and a Democrat at that, it's a far more weighty matter, for Matty -- an assault on the very structure of society, perhaps; a sacrilege.

Of course, it's worth thinking about what processes produce individuals like Laughner. Perhaps it's not even culture-bound at all; how widespread, across the world, is the phenomenon of running amok? Is the characteristic American variant simply more lethal because we're a better-armed people than the average?

I dunno. But if it's true that we do run amok more often than other people, the explanation has got to be more structural than anything Matty is interested in thinking about. Those kids at Columbine weren't wound up and set on their course by Republican campaign ads.

Crank up the platitude machine

No sooner do you surmise something than a Democrat confirms it. Here's Steny Hoyer, channeling Matty Woodchuck -- or is it the other way round?

“Today’s cowardly attack is ... equally devastating to every American—to everyone who cares about our democracy. Our form of government, like all human things, is imperfect and flawed; but one of its greatest virtues is its power to resolve questions of the greatest import without violence. An attack on a member of that government—of whatever party or whatever views—is an attack on that principle, in which every American has a stake.”
Perfect, huh? If it had been half a dozen random Amurricans in a food court, that would have been one thing. But an attack on a member of the government...!

It's amazing how widespread, and widely accepted, this kind of thinking is. To take a random example, there are minatory notices these days, all over the various mass-transit modes that I ride, direly warning me that an assault on a bus driver or a train conductor or a token clerk is a very serious crime, much more serious than an assault on my elderly person would be, and I'd better not even think about it -- though I do think about it, and think about it a lot. Especially the bus drivers -- half bureaucrat, half motorist. Talk about hellspawn.

And then of course there's that business about shooting cops. Shoot a civilian, and take your chances. But shoot a cop, and you'll be hunted to the ends of the earth. Why, I wonder, are cops' and politicians' and, yes, busdrivers' lives, worth more than yours and mine?

I also can't forbear to remark on what must be my favorite cliche, which really needs to go into the famous Catechism:

Q: Of what variety was today's attack on us?
A: The cowardly variety.
Q: And by whom was our latest attack on someone else committed?
A: By our brave heroes in uniform, begob.
Rosy-fingered dawn, fleet-footed Achilles, cowardly attack.

Now the crazed Laughner is not exactly a hero of mine, but for Steny Hoyer to call him a coward seems a bit much. Laughner showed up in person, knowing undoubtedly that troops of armed gendarmerie were prowling the streets, as they always and everywhere are these days, and he took his chances at close range. He must surely have known that either he would be killed on the spot, or dispatched leisurely, with all the refinements of medico-legal crypto-sadism, on a gurney in some antiseptic room, watched intently by a ghoulish Presbyterian board of elders trying to conceal their crypto-boners.

Whereas Steny and Obie and Hillary and Co. commit their mass murders by proxy, and never have to worry about the cops, or the needle.

I remember this "cowardly attack" trope from the 11 September aftermath. You couldn't mention the WTC attacks without noting, obligatorily, that they were "cowardly". Now the September airplane bombers knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that they would die the instant their mission was accomplished. In what demented world of discourse does the word "cowardly" fit their case?

Anyone who can read the death of Little Nell...

"... without laughing, must have a heart of stone," the immortal Oscar insightfully says.

A commenter here observed, in connection with today's Arizona massacre,

It's hard not to feel for the family of the nine year old girl who was shot and killed.
Indeed. That goes without saying. Or rather it ought to go without saying: to go without saying. Each of us should take it for granted -- absent evidence to the contrary -- that our interlocutors are not sociopaths.

Little Nell is a fictional character. One can laugh at the death of a fictional character -- indeed, as Oscar says, there are times when one must. Sentimentality is one thing, real feeling quite another. One of the great missions of the propaganda sector is to confuse the two.

The child who was killed today was not the smarmy Little Nell. She was a real person, and her death deserves some real feeling. Her family and friends will be feeling it. Perhaps it's best left up to them, without the intrusion of some officially-approved and media-promoted public sorrow, whose broadness is the reciprocal of its depth.

There are, and always will be, so many we shall have to mourn, as the poet says. It's a question of respect not to appropriate the sorrow of the people who actually knew and loved this child. In fact, we can go a bit farther: it's a gesture of gross disrespect to turn their sorrow into some kind of political Bloody Shirt.

January 9, 2011

Pwog Eliminationism

Bill Sock, er, Sykes and the other anthropathological investigator pwogs keep harping on the racism, paranoia, authoritarian culture and status fears of the poor wingnuts, but they rarely care to discuss any of the economic factors that gift the right wing demagogues with recruits. It's an astonishing oversight. Downward mobility, job insecurity, fragile savings and wage stagnation are the driving forces. The fear-based manifestations are the results, not the proximate causes. Once they're in place, it gets harder and harder to address the causes. That's a problem. Or is it?

My suspicion is that the neglect of causation is not entirely an oversight. The pwogs have a nasty streak a mile wide and just as deep. They're willing to endure a collective economic punishment that affects them, provided it makes the wingnuts even more miserable. Hence their continued support for neoliberal monsters. No pwog will literally take up a gun or burn a barn, although they do have the mentality. Instead, they'll wage economic and police state warfare until the wingnuts completely break. They're the smart people. A passive aggressive embargo keeps the blood from directly dripping off their hands.

I suppose there's a measure of satisfaction in that. They can always feel good about the relatively higher incidences of mental illness and criminality afflicting their brothers and sisters, even as they whittle away at their own chances for security. Change they can believe in, if you will.

Neoliberal Junk Psychology

Boink was kind enough to direct to my attention to this panic stricken anti-leak memo (pdf hotlinked download) that's being sent to all federal agencies. I recommend reading a few pages. It's an exhaustive set of leak prevention guidelines and passive aggressive "questions" that are designed to be taken as guidelines. My favorite part is this:

Do you use psychiatrist and sociologist to measure:
• Relative happiness as a means to gauge trustworthiness?
• Despondence and grumpiness as a means to gauge waning trustworthiness?

Mood is of course never a measure of trustworthiness. The most dour people can be the most steadfast. The chirpy, chipper, hail fellow well met types can be readying the knife. That said, I'm confident the über-pwog managers can find psychiatrists and sociologists so lacking in integrity that they'd be willing to administer the desired tests.

The results, if they carry this out, would be completely worthless. They'd wind up firing loyal workers and entrenching skilled actors. They'd create a reign of grinning, glad-handing terror in the agencies. It's amusing to contemplate. Take it a step further and include infantilizing morale boosters; the hokey-pokey, perhaps.

The memo as I said is exhaustive. There are hundreds of bases to cover. The author, an ass-covering sycophant, went beyond obsessiveness. It's not humanly possible to follow more than a few of the guidelines. The agencies would shut down if they tried. They'd be doing nothing but policing and entrapping themselves, administering "nudges" and performing happiness witch hunts.

I have no animosity to the majority of civil servants. There's is a thankless job most of the time, and most of them do valuable work. They're in the cross hairs (an unfortunate metaphor, but there it is) for wage reductions, job loss and astroturfed populist hatred. It's psychopathic to add this crackpot regimen to their lot—which is why I believe the ass-covering sycophantic author will be rewarded. He's mastered the corporate dream of total personnel awareness.

I hope the program flops. There's no good can come of harassing the toilers in the bureaucratic salt mines.



As a public service, I've decided to add a sock puppet image to any comment on my posts from one of our known sock puppets—the same image, regardless of the puppeteer. I'm sensitive to all internet traditions, including privacy, and actually appreciate a well-conceived trolling or other form of playful mindfucking, but I dislike bores. I particularly dislike arch bores who try to be clever and can't manage it.

The image will allow people to skip to relevant comments, if they care to, while preserving the sock comments as a nod towards the open forum we like to maintain.

Update. Comments are closed.

Stan, you are the one who is stupid. You used to be interesting. Now you're a bore.

Geoff, you are actually stupider than Stan. I'll leave it at that.

January 10, 2011

Poster kids

Remember this fellow?

I submit Dembo operatives are working up a series of party-building scenarios to exploit any appropriate new look for Congressperson Gibbons, up to and including the timeless living-relic act. Here is an earlier Rahmocrat look:

Poor Brady was wheeled around for a generation to run over the gun lobby. I wonder, can this poor lady hope for anything better?

The scold's bridle

At left, the item of ingenious early-modern penal technology from which I take my title. At right, the pony who may yet appear if the technology is judiciously used.

The increasingly manifest deep-rooted insanity of Jared Loughner has certainly not deterred the Pwogsphere from increasingly shrill cries for the application of the Scold's Bridle to those awful teabaggers, and indeed to Republicans in general. This is really their moment, the Pwogs; the reek of smug Miss Manners self-righteousness off these people would stun a turkey vulture. "See what you've done?!" they shriek, and wring their hands, and weep.

It's not much of a moment, though, and it won't do 'em much good. "Play nice" is a rather feeble political rallying cry. But as Larry David says about Christmas, Hey, let them have their holiday.

The Republicans' ability to indulge in unbridled extravagant rhetoric has long been a source of resentment and envy to the Democrats. The situation is asymmetrical because the Democrats -- once the party of Jackson! -- no longer have much of anything resembling a popular base. The core constituency is refined people who are easily shocked, easily grossed-out; superior souls of the type DH Lawrence mentions in a memorable bit of doggerel:

My mother was a superior soul,
A superior soul was she,
Cut out to play a superior role
In the God-damned bourgeoisie.
It's a lot easier to get these people to go along with a war than with a coarse expression.

January 11, 2011

Threats & menaces

Pwogville is wringing its collective hands so much over the Arizona massacre that I fear they may end up permanently crippled. My favorite shrill email from today:

Tell Sarah Palin: Violent Threats Have Consequences!

Sarah Palin has a special responsibility and opportunity in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, because it was Palin who earlier put the crosshairs of a gun on Rep. Giffords.

To be clear: we don't know why the shooter targeted Rep. Giffords and Palin did not arm him or pull the trigger. We don't know if he admired, loathed, or ignored Sarah Palin. But...

But still! But still!

Violent threats have consequences, huh? If only that were so. Bill Gates would have been dead years ago.

Snow day... or not?

Iron Mike, the little Napoleon of New York, seems to have learned his lesson. He didn't make the last act of God disappear right away, a couple of weeks ago, but he's sure trying harder tonight. As I write -- about 11 PM, New York time -- the snow has hardly begun, but the plows are trundling raucously up West End Avenue, under my bedroom window, about every five minutes or so. Amazing how much noise they make. Partly of course this is because at each pass there's maybe a quarter-inch of snow on the pavement, so the plow blade is essentially scraping up the asphalt. A nasty sound.

This is all for the benefit of people in cars, of course, who always think it must be somebody's fault if they can't drive wherever they want to go, any time they might want to go there, at sixty or more miles per hour.

Never having owned a car, my own memories of New York snow days are much happier. I remember West End Avenue unplowed and unplowable -- a Currier & Ives scene, with people scooting on cross-country skis down the big hill from 102d Street to 96th, an exhilarating descent on skis, and hardly noticeable in a car. The parks -- Central and Riverside and van Cortlandt and Prospect -- were an anarchic paradise for snow-play. Now, of course, they plow the paths to a fare-thee-well -- for whom, I wonder? -- and fence off the lawns.

I liked New York better when it was a mess. Then, you only had to worry about the robbers. Now, you have to worry about the cops.

January 12, 2011

Violence, senseless and sensible

Frere IOZ, who has a good ear, noticed this splendid new entry for the catechism of cliche:

One of the verbal tics that's most in evidence now is the catechismal insertion of the adjective senseless before the word violence. What kind of violence was it, Mister President? Senseless violence.
The notion of "senseless" violence obviously presupposes that there might be a sensible violence. Perhaps the tragedy of young Cousin Fester, shown above, is that he was denied an opportunity to participate in the latter. Apparently he tried to enlist in the armed forces -- to fill a pair of those boots on the ground we hear so much about -- but was turned down because of some drug thing.

Drugs? In the military? Oh noes, as IOZ might say.

Dunno what it's like now, but back in the day, dope was the only thing that got most ordinary people through the military. (Of course the people destined to become colonels and generals were another matter; what they had to worry about was being shot in the back by their own troops. Presumably rear-echelon jobs were to them what dope was to the grunts.)

Quite apart from the preposterous dope hypocrisy, it seems an awful shame and waste that Jared didn't have his opportunity to kick ass in Afghanistan. Schizophrenic, schvitzophrenic -- these are the boys we need.

If Jared had become a soldier boy, by this time he would have collected several medals, and then been unofficially dispatched by one of his fellow-grunts, on a lonely hill somewhere in Waziristan, while the rest of the platoon just happened to be looking in another direction. His country and his family would be proud of him, and the kind soul who gave him his long-sought quietus would never say a word about it.

January 13, 2011

The Pyrates, reloaded

Here's Dean Baker making a sober rerun of the high 90's Rubinite-Clintonite macro con, now that we got two more of Bobby's Rangers running the dashboard at the White House:

"Both Daley and Sperling were major actors in the Clinton administration. At the center of the Clinton administration's economic policy was the idea that reducing the budget deficit was the key to boosting the economy."
From day one in '93 this was mean Mr Rubin's brainchild. According to Baker the scamalogue ran like this:
"If the deficit fell, then the private sector could be counted on to provide the demand to fill the gap created by less demand from the public sector."
And did it work? Dean:
"While the private sector did fill the gap in the late '90s, it did so from growth that was driven by a stock bubble. The stock bubble primarily fueled consumption, which hit a record high as a share of the GDP. It also led to somewhat higher investment, although much of this was in hare-brained, Internet start-ups of little or no value.

The stock bubble burst over the years 2000-2002. The resulting recession featured what was at the time the longest period without job growth in the post-World War II era....

Clintonite-era policy made the recovery from the last recession more difficult.... Robert Rubin's high dollar policy led to a massive trade deficit. An overvalued dollar provides a huge subsidy to imports, and effectively imposes a tariff on exports."

And why this royal road?
"Banks... like a high dollar because it makes them more powerful in an international context; however, it is about the worst imaginable policy from the standpoint of manufacturing workers. The high dollar is the main factor behind the loss of six million manufacturing jobs over the last 13 years. The basic story is simple: it is very hard to compete when your currency gives your competitors a 30 percent cost advantage."
And that's just the Eurocomp. The East Asian bloc has us by more then 30%.

Then there's "the NAFTA-type trade deals", and of course China into the WTO,

"that further depressed the wages of manufacturing workers by... placing them in direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world..."
Call it an endgame, eh?

BTW here's a tic-like sore point with blue-collar tribune Dean: this was pulled off "while leaving highly paid professionals like doctors and lawyers largely protected..."!

Let us note, the system is coming for the docs, too, Dean. Plausible "final solutions" are mobilizing on the international skill-head front even as i type this.

Of course there's MORE!

"The Clinton economic agenda was.. about setting Wall Street loose... This meant..taking enormous risks with creditors, knowing that the government will come to the rescue if necessary.... This growth path... laid the seeds for the economic wreckage that engulfed the country when the housing bubble finally burst in 2007."
I'd prefer to say, when the hyper-leveraged toxic nut-gathering frenzy by these same hi-fi outfits self detonated in the fall of '08. But then again... lot bubbles, default swaps, 33% leverage on house accounts -- hey, it's all connected at the hip, no?

Our man's sum-up:

".. If progressives had devised policies that caused 25 million people to be unemployed or underemployed, cost the economy $4 trillion in lost output and caused millions of people to lose their homes, they and their children and their grandchildren would be exiled from policy circles for the next century.However, for the Clinton crew, it's just a matter of putting on a "pro-growth" hat and going back to work."
True enough, Mr Baker.

Obie jumps the shark

"Rain puddles in Heaven."

Sweet Jesus.

Up to that point I was mentally constructing an observation to the effect that Obie's rhetoric has become as purple and detestable as Woodie Wilson's, but the old Jersey Klansman never delivered himself, so far as I know, of anything at that level of smarminess.

Our pal Jack Crow has a more extensive comment on the Caesaropope's hommage a Pericles, which really kinda says it all.

January 14, 2011


An interesting item from Gallup crossed my e-desk the other day, in connection with the recent Defining Moment in Tucson. It's kinda fussy to reproduce the graphs here, so I hope y'all will go consult the original, which ought to open, helpfully, in a new window or tab.

Americans greatly approve of guns. Oh, we knew that, right? But the interesting thing is that they approve of guns a lot more now than they did a few years ago -- even though it seems that gun ownership, on a per-household basis, has actually dropped(*). Back in 1991, the ratio of people who wanted more strict rather than less strict gun control laws was 78/19. The ratio got close to 50/50 in 2003, crossed that magic threshold in '09, and now stands pistoleros leading, 54/44. Support for more handgun restrictions went from 60% in 1959 to 29% in '09.

I'd like to see somebody break these numbers down -- historically, if possible -- by urban/suburban/rural moieties. Of course almost nobody, statistically speaking, lives in a truly rural setting any more, but the relative number of people living in what I would call suburban settings has vastly increased, and is probably still doing so, though perhaps less rapidly. (Again, the census figures don't allow us to distinguish readily between what normal people would call urban and suburban -- it's all urban, as far as the census people are concerned.)

It seems plausible that suburban life, with its severe social isolation, promotes a paper-thin ideology of self-reliance, which may give rise to fantasies of self-defense, along with the familiar Joe The Plumber fantasies of wealth around the corner. Maybe that's part, at least, of the picture.

On the other hand -- as the New York Times might say -- there is, for me at least, a more encouraging way of reading these stats, in connection with some other graphs that Gallup gave us in the same item.

The Gallupers asked folks whether they thought the Federal government posed a threat to the rights of ordinary citizens. The nays had it, even in 2003, 68/30. But now it's down to 51/46 -- not far short of the crossing point at which more Amurricans will believe that their Gummint is a threat than not.

This development, I would say, is a tribute to the perceptiveness of the American people; it is increasingly plain to anybody paying attention that the Federal government, as actually now existing and operating, is a police-state horrorshow, pursuing goals fundamentally inimical to most of its subjects, and utterly beyond any answerability to them.

So on balance, I'll take the pistoleros, any day -- even if they're just rotisserie-pistoleros -- over the liberals, with their geschrei and gevalt about the terrible "mistrust of government" among the poor benighted American peasantry. I'm with the pistoleros on this one; "distrust" doesn't begin to describe my attitude toward actually-existing government.

If this sounds Cockburnian -- well, I've been in worse company, in my day.


(*) Good per-household or per-capita stats on gun ownership, and particularly time-series stats, seem to be hard to come by. If anybody can point me to some believeable numbers, I'd be grateful. My tentaive conclusion about per-household and/or per-capita gun ownership is based on null-hypothesis extrapolation from stats that don't directly tell the story.

January 16, 2011

Tearin' up the chickpea patch

Sorry to say that I'm as ignorant as a rat about Tunisia and the recent events there -- though usually I love to see people running wild in the streets, and it's very encouraging that the Egyptian regime and the Israelis are worried about it.

Comments sought: is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? The real deal, or just another dreary Color Revolution? And why?

January 17, 2011

Squealer preaches it

In a speech some weeks ago, read before the pro-union Economic Policy Institute, Larry the porcine Merlin gave us an exit sum-up. It's all too obvious that reality is wildly different from his twice-told tale. But don't think doc Summers doesn't know the score; don't think he doesn't know what he's done and not done.

Here's Larry's introductory evaluative criteria, the yardstick and scale he uses to vindicate WH policy:

"It is by what happens to the middle class that our economic policies have to be judged."
In particular,
"A better life for our citizens [and] Upholding the 250 year American tradition of children whose lives are better than their parents'"
Let's skip Larry on the past two years, and "what the White House did to strengthen the economic position of the middle class". I'd like to focus on Larry's vision thing.

He calls this long haul objective "Keeping our Economy the Envy of the World" and he warns "We need to renew the American economy for a century that will be very different from its predecessor."

Here's the pivot:

"the key lesson that management strategists have distilled for businesses is this: you don't succeed by producing exactly the same thing that other people are producing in the same way just at a lower cost. You succeed, by establishing your own uniqueness and excellence... The United States has led the global economy by building on its unique capacities.

By building on our distinctive strengths, we can continue to lead in the next century.

There is no going back to the past. Technology is accelerating productivity in mass production to the point where even China has seen manufacturing employment decline by more than ten million jobs over the most recent decade for which data is available.

We are moving towards a knowledge and service economy... the world is shrinking... It is a different, a smaller world. What does it mean to adapt to this?"

Get it? We gotta find the next crop of rent generating products -- stuff that isn't in the process of commodification. It's like the proverbial racing ahead of the steam roller... but to pick up billions.

Now Larry sez it's possible 'cause, 'cause, well, well we done it before so now we just gotta do it some more, only now on a national scale.

Do what exactly? Something he calls "the American North " did in the last century: namely, to prosper

".. even as the southern part of the United States caught up, even as we drew strength in the generation after World War II as Europe and Japan's economies converged towards our own"
Ummh, yeah, give or take a few Fall Rivers and Brocktons, as they say where I come from, and, err, a few Flints and Toledos too.

Here's the homework for America as assigned by Professor Summers:

"Find ways to prosper as the emerging markets of the world take their place on the global stage."
So, Professor, the last 40 years of industrial contraction and regional corrosion in "the American north" represents a necessary warning shot and graphic lesson?

But the past is just prologue, as the man said. What now should "our" approach be?

Not "to compete with the world on price even if it means striving to win races to the bottom." Nope, that's not for us, not if we want our "middle class" to "prosper". Better yet, no "workers" sacrificing "wages, benefits, and bargaining rights to hold onto their jobs." No slashing of "taxes on businesses even as their profits rise in order to lure them to stay in the United States." No shredding the "social safety nets in the name of self-reliance." Larry thinks "such Social Darwinism was bad morality and bad economics in the 19th century, and it is no better in the 21st."

Nice to see that you've caught up with Charlie Dickens, Larry. Maybe now that you're out of office, and no longer run Harvard, you've had a chance to do some reading?

Okay, Larry, now take us to this better place. Larry is like, so there:

"Consider this: The flatness of the world notwithstanding, by far the largest part of the activities Americans engage in and the goods they buy remain quite local. It is health care and retail services, recreation and education, haircuts and insurance policies, hotels and houses and I could go on."
I bet you could, Larry. I bet you could. Just how many credits is this course, anyway?
"Moreover, where we compete with other countries, our strength is collective. Few of us can hope to succeed as individuals in a global economy where any particular task or skill can be purchased at very low prices in much of Asia and beyond. Rather, our strength must come from establishing uniqueness, establishing that which is difficult to replicate, that which comes from more collective action."
He's rolling now! Let's let him roll:
"Any idea or machine or even individual capacity can be transplanted. Far harder to transplant, imitate, or emulate are our great institutions – the national laboratories and the national parks and the national highway system, great universities and great cities and great technology clusters, a diverse culture, deep capital markets, and a tremendous ethic.

Where competition is concerned, the lesson for us as a nation is the same as the lesson for business: far better to compete by innovating, leading, and competing on strength, than by standing still, and reducing prices. Let me highlight what I see in this regard as the three essential priorities for the years ahead. "

Are you ready for it?
"President Clinton used to say that in a world where ideas can move, capital can move, a nation's distinctive strength lay in its people. Our biggest failing as a nation over the last 50 years has been with respect to education. We were once the envy of the world; now we struggle to get into the top half of OECD nations.

The Duke of Wellington famously observed that the Battle of Waterloo had been won on the playing fields of Eton, and I would suggest that in this less elitist age, the battle for America's future will be won or lost in its public schools. For too long we have been caught in a sterile debate between those who believe in more accountability and those who see the need for more resources. In truth, no one who has seen the conditions in our urban schools can deny the need for more resources, and no one who believes in incentives can deny the need for more accountability.

Through Race to the Top the Administration has sought to reform elementary and secondary education both by providing resources and by increasing accountability. These kinds of efforts will need to be magnified in the future.

Even as we strengthen elementary and secondary education, we must also expand higher education opportunities. The US used to lead the world in the share of young people who became college graduates. It is no longer in the top ten..."

*Thrusts fingers down throat and vomits*

Onward the chariot rumbles, last seen poring over the high side, screaming "more means tested scholarships, more means tested scholarships"!

Now, however, comes the real Larry hobby-horse stuff. "Unique institutions"! I.e.

"the link between education and... innovation, the other central pillar of economic growth... "

"We have had for a very long time in the United States a distinctive ecology which is the reason we are the leading economy in the world."

Watch as Larry makes myth run uphill:

"On the one hand, we have recognized, venerated, and acted on the observation that it is individualists – the Edisons, the Fords, the Gates and Zuckerbergs – who, with a uniquely anti-bureaucratic temperament, who would not dream of a filing a grant application, who drive an enormous amount of the economy's progress. We have maintained a culture where it is still true today that with all our financial system's failings, and they are many, we are the only country in the world where you can raise your first hundred million without owning a tie if you have a sufficiently good idea. And that is a great strength of our economy."
Oh sweet Jesus. The Zuckerbergs. Let's have some more Zuckerbergs. Not to mention the Gates' -- both of whom went to Harvard, not so coincidentally.

"At the same time as maintaining a culture that supports the entrepreneur, that salutes the rebel, that allows people to establish themselves as major figures in business without even bothering to complete a college degree – at the same time as having support for the individual, we also recognize that fundamental innovation and progress will not happen without the public sector playing its essential role.

There would be no internet without DARPA. No car industry without highways. No pharmaceutical revolution with the NIH.

Maintaining and increasing our American capacity for innovation thus requires both fundamental support for entrepreneurial innovation and for the key foundations of science and technology.

That's why we have to make it easier to patent a new idea or innovation; make it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to raise capital; make it easier for the most promising minds and the most promising entrepreneurs to come to this country from around the world."

Gotta love it: the guy from the Academy by way of Wall Street wants the labs, universities, and, I presume, big studios of the nation, cookin' along, turning out intellectual property by the long ton.

Between that and Wall Street's paper towers we will...let's see... insure a broadly prosperous ever materially advanced middle class? Recall Larry's yardstick here?

By devoting our public dollars and might to the support of IP, Inc. outfits we'll raise the golden mean?

This is amazing. How can he expect anyone to fall for this shit, even if conflated with cries for more higher ed. The man knows these world-leading institutions have already internationalized their sources for top earners. From Hollywood to Harvard, it's third-world brains a-go-go. The Zuckerbergs are just the thin end of the wedge.

From fashion to fusion, it's only the globe's best for these top outfits. So how does that trickle down, Larry?

It's a rich text. There's so much more:

"Budget deficits are a tax on our future, unless used to finance productive investments... it is essential that we establish long-run parity between revenues and expenditures."
Though he adds this:
"Baumol's Disease... In certain areas, rapid productivity growth is possible... but it always has and always will take 8 teachers to teach 96 students for one hour in classes of twelve."

To infuriate MJS, Larry adds "Moynihan's Corollary to Baumol's Disease: there is a tendency in activities in which Baumol's disease is most pronounced to migrate to or be located in the public sector..."

Moral: "That's why Bowles-Simpson so important."

Lovely. Bowles-Simpson! That fucker was DOA. Wonderful to consider how a text delivered in mid-Decemeber, even a text from a world-historical mind like El Puerco's, will pass its sell-by date long before mid-January.

January 18, 2011


This is kinda old news, but I don't get out much, and I just found out about it.

Steve Jobs, the patron saint of hipsters, has filed for a very "creepy" patent, so described by my friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Steve Jobs Is Watching You: Apple Seeking to Patent Spyware

It looks like Apple, Inc., is exploring a new business opportunity: spyware and what we're calling "traitorware". [The company is] preparing to apply for a patent on technology that [provides] a roadmap for how Apple can — and presumably will — spy on its customers and control the way its customers use Apple products....

Essentially, Apple's patent provides for a device to investigate a user's identity [and] would allow Apple to record the voice of the device's user, take a photo of the device's user's current location or even detect and record the heartbeat of the device's user....

This patented device enables Apple to secretly collect, store and potentially use sensitive biometric information about you....

Here's a sample of the kinds of information Apple plans to collect:

  • The system can take a picture of the user's face, "without a flash, any noise, or any indication that a picture is being taken to prevent the current user from knowing he is being photographed";
  • The system can record the user's voice, whether or not a phone call is even being made;
  • The system can determine the user's unique individual heartbeat "signature";
  • The user's "Internet activity can be monitored or any communication packets that are served to the electronic device can be recorded"; and
  • The device can take a photograph of the surrounding location to determine where it is being used.
In other words, Apple will know who you are, where you are, and what you are doing and saying and even how fast your heart is beating. In some embodiments of Apple's "invention," this information "can be gathered every time the electronic device is turned on, unlocked, or used." When an "unauthorized use" is detected, Apple can contact a "responsible party." A "responsible party" may be the device's owner, it may also be "proper authorities or the police."

Apple does not explain what it will do with all of this collected information on its users, how long it will maintain this information, how it will use this information, or if it will share this information with other third parties. We know based on long experience that if Apple collects this information, law enforcement will come for it....

You thought all those surveillance cams on every streetcorner were bad? Well, Mister Skinny Jeans, you're gonna have a way-cool surveillance cam in your pocket.

This item is from, blush, August '10. I haven't found anything more recent. Have any other shoes dropped? Anybody know?

I note also that Jobs is taking another health-related leave from running Apple. I doubt that his absence will make the outfit any less evil, and I'm basically too kind-hearted to wish ill-health and early death on anybody. Even Bill Clinton.

But there is a side of me that hopes I see less of Jobs. A lot less.

January 19, 2011

Joe blows

So Joe "Talks to God and won't let God get a word in edgewise" Lieberman is apparently not going to run again in 2012. There is a strange sense of anticlimax in this news.

Time was, one could actually care what this runt did or didn't do. Indeed, we wasted a fair amount of virtual ink on the garden gnome from Bridgeport right here at this very blog.

What were we thinking of? Surely it is clear that Joe's departure won't change a thing, and never would have? It's so easy to get caught up in the smell of the crowd and hiss the designated villain con brio along with everybody else.

Looking for someone who might give a shit about this development, I finally worked my way down the list to the dank moldy subbasement of Daily Kos, a space formerly used for temporary storage by Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb, where the general tone was one of peevish puerile Bronx-cheering. But God bless 'em, there are always realists at Kos more crackpot even than their wellmates:

Hopefully he joins Obamas cabinet (6+ / 0-)

Lieberman was excellent on Dadt, even when he apparently knew he would have to leave the Senate. In case you haven't noticed, he is a formidable foe and a powerful ally. So called moderates look to him for leadership. I'd rather have him on our side than against us. The last election, we got our ass handed to us in ways that it is still impossible to understand. So as mad as he made me, I want him with us not against us. We don't have a shortage of enemies, we have a shortage of allies and ideological purity ain't the answer. It's not personal. Strcitly business. Sometimes we lack that sense In the progressive community.

by jasonb on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 03:28:45 PM PST

yep--it does our side no good (0+ / 0-)

to burn bridges.

for the 99 things liebermann did that pissed me off, i've still got to give him some credit for dadt.

i hope he does go to fox---and actually stands up for our side, even if only the moderate faction. hell, that would be better than we've got now.

by mama jo on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 05:31:20 PM PST

Interesting to see that even at Kos, nobody that I saw was trying to make any case that the cankered munchkin's departure mattered. They just didn't like him, or most of 'em didn't, anyway, and were glad to fling a spitball at his meagre ass on the way out. Which does them credit, of course, to the extent that inconsequential fanship choices can.

January 20, 2011

Okay, BE evil. Like I care, Mister Big Shot.

Ugh. Enough said, surely?

January 22, 2011

They're comin' for ya...

... brothers and sisters of the public service!

It's a historic moment. Last year the lines crossed; now we have more pubsec union workers then prisec -- both in the 7 million range. Amazing!

The pubsec unions are waking up to the horror: "we are alone now... almost."

Much of the corporate McShitski jobholding citizenry, as unionless as a flock of barnyard fowl, see the public sector unions as a nasty cartel made of boneless blubbery parasites, freeloaders, no-shows, etc. -- a menagerie of human vice. And of course this conclave of leeches is also seen as the puppetmaster of the Democratic party, which doesn't do the latter any good.

Yes, it's a terrible unfair soul-draining caricature and to a large extent a figment of ignorant willfulness; but not only do large toonish abstractions make for nice punch toys on talk radio, it's a outcome I blame on the Dembots.

What with the snarling lizardry of the GOP in perpetual motion attacking them, what heros have these poor white-collar geefs toiling in the public interests, if their champions are the likes of inconvenient bore Al Gore and Bobby "miniature golf" Reich? Are these the lead hounds you'd want defending you against the yahoos of business liberty?

It's bad enough we got a president like Bill "NAFTA" Clinton from the state of Arkansas, where unions are non existent outside the walls of Bugrustle State Prison. Now add in endless nanny talk about "what you folks need is more tax-supported spinach and schoolin'" from the mouths of blithely supercilious pompous frauds like Cherry Tree John Kerry. With friends like these the pubsec unions might as well shoot themselves in the head right here today and have done with it.

Pubsec fish must swim in a sea of private union voters, not hope to survive off the preachings of Ivy League Ichabods and furfaced Oxford-trained mutts.

If I were a pubsec union leader I'd be setting up a private sevice sector equivalent of the glorious Committee for Industrial Organization. Much as the miners' money funded the steel and auto organizing drives, the pubsec guys and gals need to fund organizing drives aimed at Walmart, Best Buy and Freshdirect, the big national restaurant chains, the counter, cashier and table server class.

January 24, 2011

The town that Billy Sunday couldn't shut down...

That would be Chicago, of course.

I've quarreled, unfortunately, with all my native informants in Chicago, that toddlin' town where I misspent eight irreplaceable youthful years, years I wish I had misspent almost anywhere else, including Waziristan.

So I don't have the benefit of any inside dope on the delightful reversal of fortune that the vile filthy Rahm Emanuel recently experienced: the Illinois courts have apparently determined -- at least, until the next appeal -- that this not-so-covert Israeli operative failed to maintain enough of a "residence" in the City Of The Big Shoulders, during his giddy years in Congress and the White House, to be eligible to run for mayor -- even though he left his piano there! And his wife's wedding dress.

Chicago is kind of a sui-generis place. There's a recent piece in Harper's, which I wish I had written, that places Obie quite nicely in the Chicago context:

Maybe I was being skeptical to the point of cynicism [at the height of Obie-mania, in 2008]; maybe, as one leading liberal editor argued to me, the Chicago machine itself had changed, that Mayor Richard M. Daley was significantly different from his thuggish father, Richard J. Daley. Maybe Obama was in the machine, not of it, and would use its power in the cause of peace and good government.

Now it seems I wasn’t skeptical enough. The appointment of the Chicago-trained liberal-baiter Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff confirmed my fundamental point that the machine’s political apparatus was moving to the White House, not some fresh-faced parvenu with an African name.

Apart from the tender-heartedness toward "liberals", of course. But the fundamental point is a good one -- seeing Obie as the entirely predictable hellspawn of the Chicago political machine, which really hasn't changed much since the palmy days of Richard J Daley -- or Big Bill Thompson, if it comes to that.

January 25, 2011

Credible partners

I'm having a lot of fun reading the Palestine Papers -- needless to say. Wonderful stuff. Those Quislings in the Palestinian Authority have done everything but bend over and spread 'em. No right of return for Palestinians. East Jerusalem on a platter.

But even Ehud "Lesser Evil" Olmert still wanted more, more, more; and you can imagine what the brutish goon Netanyahu (accent on the "yahoo") and goodfellas like Avigdor Lieberman are after. In fact, you don't have to imagine; Lieberman wants half the West Bank.

It all makes crystal-clear, to the meanest intellect, what should have been crystal-clear to that same intellect quite some time ago; namely; that the Israelis -- with complete bipartisan accord -- aren't interested in any settlement that gives the Palestinians anything, except perhaps the status of barely-tolerated helots, hewing wood and drawing water for their lords and masters.

January 26, 2011

Fav'rite of the honkeys, buried with a donkey?

Is the contagion spreading?

Thousands of Egyptian protesters inspired by the revolt in Tunisia clashed with police in the largest anti-government demonstrations in years, flying banners and decrying political repression, corruption and unemployment under the three-decade rule of President Hosni Mubarak.
For decades now Mubarak has been referred to derisively by just about everybody in the Middle East as "la vache qui rit" because of his remarkable resemblance to a well-known trademark:

January 28, 2011

Outside agitators

The New York Times is predictably dyspeptic about my friends and role models at Al-Jazeera.

Seizing a Moment, Al Jazeera Galvanizes Arab Frustration

... The channel has helped to shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago.

This piece is disgraceful, even by the Times' admittedly low standards. Read the whole thing; it's a lab study in information-free propaganda disguised as reportage.

Bill Keller and I used to wait at the same bus stop to take our kids to the same school. We struck up a typical urban acquaintanceship -- swapped stories, exchanged jokes, never got into anything very personal. He never mentioned the Sulzbergers, I never mentioned Karl Marx.

Keller didn't seem like a bad guy at all, and compared with some of his mad-dog predecessors, like Mike Rosenthal, he seemed, in fact, like a pretty decent human being.

An item like this shows how little the personal equation matters. It's the institution that counts. My decent and no doubt well-meaning old busmate Bill rides, or at least bestrides, a tiger that has its own purposes. The scrupulous Times, when the times call for it, can and must descend to citing "many" unnamed "critics" and "Arabs." And then of course there's the irrefutable impersonal passive -- "widely considered" and the like.

Bill, Bill. Bail out, old buddy. Administering this shit is not good for your soul.

Ye know neither the day nor the hour

... or, as another distinguished Jewish gentleman vividly observed:

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
I am deeply and uncomplicatedly and un-ironically happy about events in Egypt, and of course in Tunisia as well, as most of us here probably are. It's a truly marvelous, glorious moment; the sort of thing we live for, really.

I tend to be a pessimist by nature, and yet it's never seemed realistic to me, even at the very bottom of the Slough of Despond, to imagine that history is over. So I've always found myself in the odd position of freely acknowledging, in one breath, that things are going from bad to worse and are likely to continue doing so, and indeed accelerating, for the foreseeable future; and then in the next breath insisting that the operative word is "foreseeable". An optimist and a pessimist coexist in my brain, and have learned to get along.

Tonight, however, even the pessimist is happy.

Of course I hope the Egyptians succeed, and send Mubarak packing at the very least. But even -- God forbid -- if they don't, the fact that this wonderful thing is happening at all makes my inner optimist feel justified in his faith.

All day I've been following the live video stream from Al-Jazeera -- which I heartily recommend, by the way. One of the things which has deeply impressed and moved me is the way Egyptian people, interviewed on the channel, are talking and comporting themselves.

There's a kind of wonderful inspiration in a moment like this; it transmutes our base human metal into something much finer. Touched by such events, we can take on a kind of heroic stature for a splendid interval; we can speak clearly, directly, eloquently, insightfully; the hidden glories and powers of our strange muddled nature shine through the quotidian tarnish. It's as if this were the thing we were meant to do; the thing in which our deepest dignity and honor as men and women consists -- to break the yoke of our burden, and the rod of our oppressor, as on the day of Midian.

* * * * *
To descend, for a moment, from the sublime to the proverbial terminus therefrom:

Emperor Obie the First (and Last, let's hope) has, unsurprisingly, been spared the aforementioned exaltation. His comments on the "situation" tonight were the usual gruel of overcooked platitudes, delivered in the usual barking scolding schoolmasterish voice. He has become a stupider, coarser, more inept man in the last two years -- though no more dishonest, of course -- than he was before his election; he as much as said that he called Mubarak up and gave him his instructions. The graceful basketball dude's quick footwork -- fake left, go right, as they say -- has given way to a plodding, punch-drunk palooka's lethargic, robotic roundhouse swings.

January 29, 2011

Favorite image...

... from Cairo so far. One of a very fine set at http://totallycoolpix.com/2011/01/the-egypt-protests/.

Tower troll science

In the midst of all the recent excitement, I almost missed this delightful truffle buried in one of MJS' comments:


It's an interesting paper. The authors seem like fairly smart guys, but without any model to guide them, they meander their way to some really bad conclusions. It's a good example of investment industry economic research. Most of the people who write this stuff actually studied finance rather than economics, even though most of what they are engaged in is economic analysis. When it comes to macroeconomics, they're just winging it, and it shows.

Don't get me wrong. It would be a huge mistake to write off all of the research being done by the finance division of our corporate superstructure. I know it's tedious to go through. There is a lot of worthless drivel, and not very much quality analysis. It is there if you look, though, and it is better than anything being done by our Krugmans or Woodfords.

I think I can save everyone (well, anyone who's interested in economics) a lot of wasted time and just point you towards the one Wall Street economist worth reading:

Jan is the top economist at Goldman Sachs. He's got two main strengths. First, he's a good closet Post-Keynesian and worked with my man Wynne Godley, so you can bet that he has a tricked out proprietary SFC model under lock and key at Goldman Sachs. Second, he's got access to incredible amounts of private information to feed into his model. This combination of the best model and the best information has already yielded clear results. He's won the competition for predicting economic indicators (unemployment, inflation, etc.) six years in a row.

If you don't want to bother with all the theoretical arguments, and just want a quick and accurate take on what is actually happening in the economy, you can just read the latest from Hatzius and call it a day.

January 30, 2011


I love Paul Krugman, but he's got a problem. He has issues with the admission of fruity emissions.

Look upon him. Is that not the look of a man who is saying to himself "I blew the fetid note -- but I shan't admit it!"? Nietzsche had it right when he remarked monstrum in fronte, monstrum in animo. Can there be any doubt that behind the face of a fart denier lies the soul of a fart denier?

Now there could be something to be said for Nobel Paul's rascally streak. As Brother Al might put it, there's a trace of something admirably human there. Perhaps we should indulge this good man's little indiscretions, just as we might set out a glass of brandy in advance of a visit from the parish priest.

I can admit that there may be some merit in this notion, but society demands that certain limits be respected for the good of all, and Krugman's latest crimes against fresh air are simply unacceptable. It's gotten so bad that I'm told -- by certain well-placed sources -- that the ladies on the Upper West Side have taken to calling him "Shoko" when he's not around.

No. I simply cannot tolerate this Krugman fellow any longer. If he would just admit his misdeeds, then all would be forgiven, but the spectre that is haunting America must be addressed.

Worth a thousand words

From the indispensable Angry Arab:

The first two are the new "vice-president" of Egypt, har de har; the last is the recently parachuted-in El-Baradei.

Pictures are so revealing, aren't they? These all tell the same story. Just look at the body language; the poor suppliant Arab drawing the Godfather's plenipotent fist close to his groin; the Ubermensch keeping his distance, distaste and contempt for the grovelling gowk before him etched in every crease of his jowly criminal face.

January 31, 2011

Pitiful helpless giant

Thus the immortal Dick Nixon, back in April 1970 -- oh, I remember it as if it were yesterday:

If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.
Totalitarianism and anarchy! There speaks a man of vision.

Old Dick must be spinning like a uranium centrifuge, out in his Underground White House in Yorba Linda. One of the most remarkable and wonderful things about the Egyptian uprising -- a conjuncture full of wonderful and remarkable things -- is the apparently empty-handed bystandership of the global hegemon. All the usual blustering gangsters in Washington, from Obie Himself down through Hillary and even into the yapping ranks of congressional Wilmers...

... are acting and speaking as though butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. A strange spirit of modesty and restraint has taken up residence in their heads. They're all like, wait and see, democracy is a good thing, on the one hand on the other hand....

Maybe they've got something frightful up their collective sleeve. But actually, I doubt it. What can they do? Nuke the place? Send the Marines?

Events in Egypt, I think, resoundingly confirm the More Of Us Than Them principle. Pulling Egypt into "our" orbit was perhaps the greatest foreign-policy achievement of the Imperium in my lifetime; and now the God-Emperor and the Gorgon Medusa and all the soup-hounds have to stand by, inconspicuously wringing their hands and trying to keep the dismay from their faces, as the jewel in the Mideast crown rolls inexorably toward what is, from their point of view, a sewer grate.

It's amazing how flimsy a thing Empires really are seen to be, when lit from the right angle -- how deeply they depend, like Oz the Great And Terrible, upon the manipulation of perceptions; and how rapidly thirty or forty million perceivers can suddenly agree to view matters in a different way.

About January 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in January 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2010 is the previous archive.

February 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 3.31