It's not likely to get any traction here because we're having a really hard time getting out of our own way, but the consensus emerging from Davos is that economies need guidance, and that free markets need supervision if they're to stay free.
A few items:
Obama took a shot at the Supreme Court's decision in favor of corporate campaign spending, and the "conservatives" have their panties in a bunch. When he started the job as President, he didn't stop being a citizen - the guy has an opinion; he gets to tell us what it is.
"you're here to serve the needs of your constituents, not your own political ambitions"
Obama may have tricked the Repubs on the jobs thing. He says employment is the top priority for 2010, which of course gets everybody on their feet, and then he tacks on the bit about wanting a Jobs Bill on his desk ASAP. I'm thinkin' the Repubs need to be seen as favoring employment, but they don't wanna be in favor of a Dem effort to get The Gummint to provide jobs for people.
The best part tho' was when Obama talked about the proposed Transaction Fee to get some of our bailout money back from the banks. All the Dems were up and applauding, while all the Repubs were s…
One of the highlights:Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there's one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it's that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.
But when I ran for President, I promised I wouldn't just do what was popular -- I would do what was necessary. And if we had allowed the meltdown of the financial system, unemployment might be double what it is today. More businesses would certainly have closed. More homes would have surely been lost.
So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. And when we took the program over, we made it more transparent and accountable. As a result, the markets are now stabilized, and we have recovered most of the money we spent on the banks.
To recover the rest, I have proposed a fee on the biggest banks. I know Wall St…
There was a lot of noise when a kid named James O'Keefe came into the light with his "ACORN sting" - he's the guy who went into a Baltimore ACORN office, posing as a pimp and asking questions about how to evade taxes - but of course, there was a lot less noise about how the video from his hidden camera had been creatively edited to make ACORN look as bad as Cluster Fox needs them to look.
(BTW: ACORN has some big problems and it's never a bad idea to bust people doing wrong things; I'm just saying we need to follow our own rules - Due Process keeps us all free.)
We should make a point of watching who steps up to take care of this guy. In one way, he's the Henry Hill of conservatives - willing to do anything to get in good with the mob boss. I wonder though, about the publicity. If he gets too famous, it should be harder for him to pull off his tricks in future. So what's he really up to?
Corporations have 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals that dole out corporate money to shape and write legislation. They use their political action committees to solicit employees and shareholders for donations to fund pliable candidates. The financial sector, for example, spent more than $5 billion on political campaigns, influence peddling and lobbying during the past decade, which resulted in sweeping deregulation, the gouging of consumers, our global financial meltdown and the subsequent looting of the U.S. Treasury.
It's estimated that medical knowledge, for example, doubles every seven years, and scientific knowledge doubles every twenty years. The total written knowledge in the world is said to have doubled between 1450 and 1750, and then to have doubled again between 1750 and 1900. Between 1900 and 1950, human knowledge doubled once more, and then again from 1950 to 1975. Now, it is believed to double every 900 days. By the year 2020, global knowledge is predicted to double every 72 days. plain truth = schooling never ends; education is never finished.
A couple of posts at The Baseline Scenario point to some real-world examples of a creepy feeling I've had for several years - that the point of the exercise is no longer to honor your word and to deliver at least what you promised, but to make the customer force you to hold up your end of the bargain. It's like every business is adopting the Used Car Lot model.
James Kwak tags it as "Design or Incompetence", and has begun to lean toward Design. ie: they do it on purpose. The banks or the mortgage companies or whoever make the contract or the offer of service as complicated and opaque as possible in order to suck us in and then fuck us over. (first post - second post)
Most of us being 'hassle-averse', we're not inclined to press a point even when we think we're not being treated quite right. Applying this assumption to a business rolling out a new offer (using rough round numbers here): I'm trying to pull in $1M in new revenue, with a Net Targ…
SCOTUS blows up a hundred years of 'settled law', and there's an awful lot of sturm und drang about the end of democracy as we know it. (BTW: I'm gettin' a little tired of Olbermann - seems like he's in full Drama Queen mode every 3rd day about some damned thing or another) I don't wanna lose my shit just because something scary is happening.
That said, I think the decision is pretty fucked up. It allows any given company's Executive Suite to dedicate a portion of every employee's work to a political agenda item that will likely NOT be in the best interests of those individual employees, even as it works to benefit that company. It concentrates way too much power in way too few hands.
None of this is certain, of course, but I don't wanna be all Zen Master-y, and just say, "we'll see", because there's a very real potential threat here. The first priority of power is to perpetuate itself. And since we haven't seen anybo…
Via True/Slant Researchers have turned to a slime mold for tips on work efficiency. While that’s just another day at the office for me, the researchers seem impressed.
They say Physarum Polycephalum built a replica of the Tokyo train system in 26 hours that’s just about as efficient, reliable and “expensive” to run as the real thing. It could be the ultimate outsourcing strategy, but Japanese and British scientists see another opportunity.
From James Fallows:Counting the new Republican Senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts, the 41 Republicans in the Senate come from states representing just over 36.5 percent of the total US population. The 59 others (Democratic plus 2 Independent) represent just under 63.5 percent. (Taking 2009 state populations from here. If you count up the totals and split a state's population when it has a spit delegation, you end up with about 112.3 million Republican, 194.7 million Democratic + Indep. Before Brown's election, it was about 198 million Democratic + Ind, 109 million Republican.)
Let's round the figures to 63/37 and apply them to the health care debate. Senators representing 63 percent of the public vote for the bill; those representing 37 percent vote against it. The bill fails.
Sully posted this one today. "Much indeed to be regretted, party disputes are now carried to such a length, and truth is so enveloped in mist and false representation, that it is extremely difficult to know through what channel to seek it. This difficulty to one, who is of no party, and whose sole wish is to pursue with undeviating steps a path which would lead this country to respectability, wealth, and happiness, is exceedingly to be lamented. But such, for wise purposes, it is presumed, is the turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for," - George Washington, in a letter to Timothy Pickering, July 27, 1795.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2010
U.S. Military Officially Endorses Crusade
I've written numerous posts showing that the war on terror is really a religious crusade, at least for troops on the ground (I've pointed out that the officials ordering the troops into battle may not be religious at all, but may be faking religious sentiment to rally the troops).
Now, an official Pentagon spokesman is making it clear that the U.S. military endorses the crusade. As Raw Story notes:
A Pentagon spokesman says there is nothing wrong or illegal with the armed forces using rifle sights inscribed with references to biblical passages.
Air Force Maj. John Redfield, a spokesman for US Central Command, said the sights from Michigan-based Trijicon -- which are now the target of controversy following news reports earlier this week -- "don't violate the [military] ban on proselytizing because there's no effort to distribute the equipment beyond the US troops who use them,&…
I posted earlier about the collapse of the USSR, and how the defensive spin was that "Communism didn't fail; the Soviet leaders just weren't true to the core tenets of Real Communism."
We've been hearing the same crap from the Bush apologists (we need more conservatism because Bush wasn't really a conservative and didn't stick to conservative values), and now we're hearing it from the Free Market purists.
From Dan Geldon at The Baseline Scenario: Over the past year, there has been much discussion about how the financial crisis exposed weaknesses in free-market theory. What has attracted less discussion is the extent to which the high priests of free-market theory themselves destroyed meaningful contracts and other bedrocks of functioning markets and, in the process, created the conditions for the theory’s weaknesses to emerge.
The story begins before Wall Street’s capture of Washington in the 1980s and 1990s and the deregulatory push that began around …
Hey, Democraps. Coakley lost because people got the impression she felt entitled to the position; and because people tho't the Mass Dems gave her the nomination because they felt entitled to public support for any stupid fucking thing they do; and because people are gettin' a little pissed off, thinking they haven't seen much of the change they were promised when they voted for Obama, so they're still voting for change.
Yes, there was an awful lot to do. And yes, political headwinds have been fierce. But while Obama has managed to get some good things done, his messaging hasn't hammered any of it home, and his supporting players in Congress have looked weak and timid. Also, he's seen as being way too cozy with Wall Street assholes and K Street pimps - basically, it seems like nobody's really sure whose side he's on.
It's a little weird, but it's like people got so used to being spoon fed Republican Brand Bullshit for so long, they're exhi…
A couple of posts from RedState.com (first and then second) indicate some interesting dynamics are at work in Republand.
It strikes me as positively karmic that the Karl Rove school of wedge-and-pick-off politics is now being practiced in earnest within the Repub ranks; and that it's scarin' the crap outa people like Erick Erickson. This guy has made a name for himself over the last several years by demanding obedience and lockstep agreement with his vision of Party Orthodoxy. Now, suddenly, he's begging forbearance as he gets a taste of his own medicine.
My oldest is on some kind of list, and it makes things just that much more difficult for the whole family every time we fly. We've been told he's on this list, but nobody will tell us what it is or what we can do about it.
On the one hand, it seems nice for an onerous government agency to offer a way to fix problems. But what if they're just gathering more info on people to use it against us?
Where are the Reaganites? Why are the Teabaggers and Libertarians not attacking TSA as an example of "Government's Not The Solution, It's The Problem"?
Just tho't I'd throw ya a little extra paranoia today - enjoy.
Industrial production increased 0.6 percent in December. The gain primarily resulted from an increase of 5.9 percent in electric and gas utilities due to unseasonably cold weather.Manufacturing production edged down 0.1 percent, while the output of mines rose 0.2 percent. The change in the overall index was revised up in October, but it was revised down in November; for the fourth quarter as a whole, total industrial production increased at an annual rate of 7.0 percent. At 100.3 percent of its 2002 average, output in December was 2.0 percent below its year-earlier level. Capacity utilization for total industry edged up to 72.0 percent in December, a rate 8.9 percentage points below its average for the period from 1972 to 2008. It continues to be a hard place to find - the space between having to sell confidence in the system, and the need to tell the truth about how things really are.
I don't know what exactly we need to do to fix the economy, but here's another indication that there are some real problems (in this case, it's mortgages and loan modification at JP Morgan). This particular difficulty seems to stem from the tendency of large organizations to become disconnected from the people they are supposed to be all about.
From Calculated Risk, here's Jamie Dimon on why it's hard to get through all of the adjustments to their borrowers' mortgages:
"We have not thought of a better way to do it than loan by loan, which is does the person want to live there, can they afford to live there, and we really think that the payment, how much you're paying is more important than principal. Even if you are going to do something on principal, to do it right you have to do it loan by loan and it effectively comes a similar kind of thing. The difficulty is the loan by loan part and we've asked the government and I think they tried to streamli…
The President just keeps moving (stumbling?) forward. The Nobel Committee threw the Peace Prize at him because they think he's at least trying to undo some of the damage of George & Dick's Odious Adventure, and now The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved their Doomsday Clock back one minute, acknowledging Obama's approach to - and initial successes with - the problems of proliferation. “A key to the new era of cooperation is a change in the U.S. government’s orientation toward international affairs brought about in part by the election of Obama. With a more pragmatic, problem-solving approach, not only has Obama initiated new arms reduction talks with Russia, he has started negotiations with Iran to close its nuclear enrichment program, and directed the U.S. government to lead a global effort to secure loose fissile material in four years. He also presided over the U.N. Security Council last September where he supported a fissile material cutoff treaty and encourag…
Of Says His Three words. He can’t get them out of his head:
“of says his.” Those are the words, but those aren’t
the words. Something is not right—the order.
“His says of.” No, the other order was
better, closer somehow. “Of says his.” This
order is right, but it doesn’t make sense.
He decides to take a break, think new words:
“At ten, I shall shun the edifice.” Yes,
but what does it mean? The edifice is
clearly a symbol, representative
of some other word, some other concept.
Edifice (of says his) is a building.
Building what? This is a construction, but
what are the materials, the foundation?
How large is this, and how solid? But these
thoughts are somehow also wrong, straying from
what he is trying to grasp, which is what?
“Of says his.” This is the key. This order.
And “at ten I shall shun the edifice”
is also this order. He can’t let go
of these thoughts. It is like a compulsion.
Yes! That’s it! “Compulsion.” It still doesn’t
Maybe we're starting to see some movement away from the usual panic - even tho' the Cheneys have been trying valiantly to get us to lose our shit every time something scary happens.
David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy has a great take on it. Obama's reaction to the junkbomber incident was precisely right and just what you want from a leader: Dispassionate, thoughtful, and calculated. He gave his team the time to assess the threat, the breaches and the right next steps to take. At least one person in the United States, Barack Obama, seemed to recognize that the objective of terrorism is to promote terror and sought to defuse that effort by handling the threat with the proportionality and common sense that has long been missing from U.S. counterterrorism strategy. -and- (The Republican Party has the collective cool on these matters of Prissy helping to birth Melanie's baby in Gone With the Wind. As for the media, given that the "news" networks probably devoted more li…
The situation in Pennsylvania mirrors what has happened in many of the 26 states that have adopted high school exit exams. As deadlines approached for schools to start making passage of the exams a requirement for graduation, and practice tests indicated that large numbers of students would fail, many states softened standards, delayed the requirement or added alternative paths to a diploma. People who have studied the exams, which affect two-thirds of the nation’s public school students, say they often fall short of officials’ ambitious goals. “The real pattern in states has been that the standards are lowered so much that the exams end up not benefiting students who pass them while still hurting the students who fail them,” said John Robert Warren, an expert on exit exams and a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. “The exams are just challenging enough to reduce the graduation rate,” Professor Warren added, “but not challenging enough…
The wrangling going on with the Rebups looks like a purge. Here's a tho't: If I wanna look like I'm operating in the "center-right" of the spectrum; and I need to be sure nobody sees me as either moving to the left or acting like I'm some kind of Centrist/Moderate, then what I need to do is to make myself appear a little less like a fanatic by encouraging a bunch of nuts off to my right to go crazy, and then pointing out that they're a bunch of crazy nuts to make myself look more acceptable to wide range of voters who are typically camped out in the middle, waiting for me to lead them.
The good news is that Team Obama is working hard at (and having some success in) keeping us from losing our shit. Napolitano tried to wiggle thru with some spin about 'at least part of the system worked' - and she got spanked for it, but the demands for her scalp were fairly muted and short-lived.
It's also good that only a few Repubs (plus of course, all the rocket scientists at Cluster Fox) are saying demonstrably stupid things like:
-it's a horrible thing that Obama took 3 whole days to say anything about the attack.
(Bush took 6 days to address the Shoe Bomber incident in Dec 2001)
-there were no terrorist attacks under Bush.
(can you say Nine-Eleven? Shoe Bomber? Antrax? DC Sniper? UNC Chapel Hill?)
It may be that the bad news has to do with our getting a glimpse of the political intrigue at work in DC. We don't usually get to see much of the real workings of governance, much less the maneuverings of people who lust after power. Some of what I've he…
The freakout wasn't quite so bad afterall. The usual buttheads (Dick Cheney, Peter King, et al) tried the usual crap, but it's not selling as well as it used to. Of course, there's still vestigial traces of the bullshit about "the President's number one job is to keep Americans safe", but at least, we're starting to hear more about ideas for handling terrorism that might actually work.
From Juan Cole: You can't catch terrorists by casting a broad net. You catch terrorists with good police work. You look at networks, suspicious behavior, clues. Ignoring the desperate plea of a father who goes to the CIA with information about his son being radicalized in Yemen, but then patting down 170 million Nigerians ever after, is brain dead.
I miss him. He got to be a real pain in the ass for me when he flopped over into kind of a standard Glibertarian Mode, but it was always obvious to me that there was some real thinking going on.
This bit with Jon Stewart has some great stuff. My fave is Carlin's take on drugs and the cost/benefit angle. I'm thinking that if we adapted his views into some coherent policy, the war on drugs would already be over.