Friday, September 30, 2011


Two basic choices for any politician who wants to survive beyond the next 14 months - get something done or get the fuck outa the way.

I've also wondered some about the criticism that this thing can't possibly get anywhere because it "lacks a clear message". This of course from the people who helped get us into this mess to begin with. But never mind. What Occupy Wall Street is showing us is that it doesn't really matter where you start - but ya gotta start. Act faithfully and faith will come.

From We Are The 99%:

Deep Down

I think it's a good idea to remind myself once in a while that politicians are always in search of a unifying theme to shape the political narrative, and one of the most powerful is Self-Loathing.

How many of the TeaBaggers (eg) are people who absolutely deify "The Greatest Generation"?  How many of them were too young - or not physically present on the planet - to have had much to do with either the Great Depression or WW2 (the events they keep telling us made that generation The Greatest)?  How many of them look back at their own lives and "hold their manhoods cheap" because they didn't have the chance to test their mettle in the forges of hell?

How many Boomers are thinking they copped out on their opportunity to mount a protest and missed their chances to get "hassled by the pigs" or shot at by teenagers in Nat'l Guard uniforms?  How many are thinking they should have stayed true to what they used to believe in because a lot of what they thought was wrong back then is coming back on them now?  Or we can take that one in the other direction, and ask how many Boomers were happy to duck military service in the 60s and 70s, but now feel a little guilty about it?

And how many of us feel the need to make up for our past failings by finding ways to demonstrate how worthy we are now?  Seems pretty natural - a shot at redemption is a powerful thing.

Nobody likes the feeling that their main problem is themselves.  Smart politicians are always looking for ways for us to take the anger we all occasionally feel towards ourselves, and redirect it at a conveniently unpopular target.  Starting to sound familiar?

Both Sides Do It

Except when they don't.

I dunno exactly what the score is, but when I look at things in general, I see one side making some large sized efforts to restrict people's rights.

Collective Bargaining
Marriage Equality
Religion in Government

This is not my Republican Party.  These people are rabid and radical, and I wouldn't trust them to run a coin-operated laundry, much less a government.

From Balloon Juice: my opinion, conservatives and media have succeeded beyond my worst nightmares in convincing people that the fundamental and constitutionally guaranteed right to vote is exactly the same as cashing a check, using an ATM, or purchasing a bus, train or airline ticket. I’m sure I missed one or two comparisons there, although I believe I’ve heard every one. Like everything else under the sun, the franchise is now akin to a commercial transaction.

War Sucks

You wanna do everything possible to avoid war because once the shit starts, you can't contain the costs.  War is just plain bad business.

Listen to Peter Van Buren on Fresh Air.
The first indication this was all chicken shit was the smell as we arrived at the plant with a group of Embassy friends on a field trip. The odor that greeted us when we walked into what should have been the chicken killing fields of Iraq was fresh paint. There was no evidence of chicken killing as we walked past a line of refrigerated coolers. When we opened one fridge door, expecting to see chickens chilling, we found instead old buckets of paint. Our guide quickly noted that the plant had purchased twenty- five chickens that morning specifically to kill for us. This was good news, a 100 percent jump in productivity from previous days, when the plant killed no chickens at all.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Holy Fuck, Batman

Elections are decided by an average of 12 votes per precinct. Don't believe for a minute that there aren't people out there who think they're doing their patriotic duty by stealing an election or two.

The current narrative in the press is aimed at setting us up to accept "a stunning upset win" by a GOP that is nothing more than about 20% of the electorate.

Save A Pretzel For The Gas Jets

I guess the real tragedy is that he makes almost as much sense when you hear exactly what he's actually saying.

(hat tip: Crooks and Liars)


The story about the Listeria outbreak is several days old now, and I have yet to see or hear hardly anything at all on the aspects of food safety inspection - except on some of the blogs I read.

AGAIN - where the fuck is the reporting?  There was one piece a day or two ago that briefly mentioned the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010, and said food handling/processing facilities were supposed to be inspected at least once every three years, but apparently, nobody has brains enough to go to the FDA and ask about the status of inspections at Jensen Farms!?!

This one, from The Guardian, is typical.

From the Business Section, NYT.

Every article at least hints at the industry policing itself.  Apparently, we're deeper into an era of privatization and free market self-regulation than I thought.  In the NYT piece, the food safety manager at CostCo is calling for better Quality Control measures from the growers and handlers, but he says nothing about an actual food safety inspections regime on the part of any level of government.  I'm not saying every food item should be tested, but there are sampling techniques that work astoundingly well in manufacturing (eg) that could be applied to cantaloupe or potatoes or practically anything else.

So I'm asking American Business to tell me what the calculation looks like: how many people have to die before it becomes cost-effective for you to stop killing your customers?

FInally, here are a couple of dots that can be connected to this story:
1) All those annoying emails about how grand it was once, back in those golden days when we could do as we pleased and we didn't have to worry our little heads about anything.
2) Tort Reform; particularly Product Liability.

Do you really think this shit just happens at random?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

This Latest GOP Debate

Rick Perry took most of the pundit flak because he stumbled again and bungled his sharp-angle rebuttal against Romney's flip-flops (again).

Also, he's had to defend his position on granting in-state tuition for the kids of illegals against attacks from the Hard-Ass Retribution Wing of the GOP, saying something like "if you feel the need to punish kids for something they had no part in, then you have no heart" - and he's gettin' slammed for that defense.  One schmuck on DumFux News said Repubs don't want to hear that because it sounds like something "some liberal would say".  So - yeah.

First, what Perry said sounds a lot like recycled Compassionate Conservatism to me.  Maybe that's what they're worried about.  Hard to say of course.  As hard as the Repubs have been working to wipe away all traces of Junior Bush from the national memory, I imagine they hate it when the guy they've been subtly marketing as the Cowboy Guvner From Texas Who Actually Knows Some Stuff is the one who keeps reminding everybody of the boob they're trying to get everybody to forget.  Circularity's a bitch I guess.

But second, it kinda sounds like these pundits are saying, "Everybody knows we're assholes - our brand is all about Asshole now.  Being assholes got us a majority in The House.  We have to be ever more asshole-ish or we'll lose our credibility, and our momentum, and nobody'll be afraid of us anymore, and then it won't be any fun at all."

That's pretty fucked up, right there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Dear Mr Santorum

This guy is just completely stuck in 1992.  He carps about 'Social Engineering' in the US Military when it comes to DADT, and ignores all the other social engineering that's been implemented with some real success stories coming out it all.

Black people serving side-by-side with white people.  That was a bit of social engineering.  They said  we couldn't do it because unit cohesion would be disrupted.  Guess what - it disrupted unit cohesion.  Guess what else.  The unit got over it; and in fact, the unit got better because we started drawing form a wider and deeper pool of prospective talent.
(ok - so I lifted most of that from an episode of The West Wing - it's exactly the point and it bears repeating)

Women - see preceding paragraph.

LGBT - see preceding paragraph, and understand that there's been an LGBT presence in the US Military FOREVER.

Santorum loves to warn us about the dangers of sexuality - especially HOMO SEX - In fact, it seems like every time anything pops up regarding LGBT, the guy goes straight to the Oh-My-God-There's-Gonna-Be-Just-Way-Too-Much-Fucking-Going-On-I-Can't-Stand-It-But-I-Can't-Stop-Thinking-About-It card.  Why should I not think he's just a little too obsessed with it?  Why should I not wonder if he's battling his own demons?  OK, too easy.  If he's a latent case, I gotta figure it'll show up soon enough.

What really gets me tho', is that none of the Press Poodles has picked up on the claim about LGBT's wanting us to "grant them special rights".  That's been bullshit going back 20 years as the Repubs have been trying to pass all those fucked up amendments aimed at denying equal rights to LGBTs.  Where the fuck is one decent journalist who'll ask Santorum to delineate exactly what 'special rights' LGBT's are demanding?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ya Still Gotta Sell It

One of the problems with how "the left" has traditionally approached issues is their inability to sell the idea in a way that appeals to the people who have to be sold on the idea in order to support it.  The idea may be the best thing since perforated toilet paper, but if you can't sell it to the big squishy political middle, then it's not gonna happen.

Mike's First Law of Business:
No matter how good your company is; no matter how great your product or your service is - nothing good can happen for your company until somebody sells something.

Repubs and "conservatives" have been a lot better at coming up with catchy slogans and snappy jingles, and a sales patter that gets people standing in line for the crap they're selling.  Dems and "liberals" always seem to rely on lofty ideals and 30-point policy statements about why it's good for us to eat all the stuff that tastes bad.

I'm not saying change the message or abandon your principles; and I'm not saying water it down or sugar it up.  But you have to sell it better, and the way you do that is to make it appeal to the self interests of the prospective buyer.

If you have nothing but "do it 'cuz ya know ya oughta do it", then you're going to lose at the first sign of resistance because it's the easiest thing in the world to rationalize away anything you "oughta" do when it's inconvenient or it costs a little more than doing it some other way or not doing it at all.  And it's really easy for the opposition to paint you as a preachy know-it-all trying to tell people how to live.  And yes, I know the other side is trying to tell people how to live too, but if they're first to accuse you of that, then they win the point.

If you want action on Climate Change, then you sell it on the strength of doing business in a smarter, cheaper, more cost-effective way that does not require learning a whole new way of doing everything.  Revolutionary change may sound exciting and cool to you, but it scares the shit outa the people you're asking to make the changes - and who, BTW, have the power to squelch the idea before it even comes up in the next executive committee meeting.

One of the things Selling is about is getting the prospect to the point where he realizes that buying what you're selling is not just a good idea, it's actually what he had in mind all along.

Makes Me Wonder

The main question is exactly what Olbermann asks: In a media environment that desperately needs content to fill a 24/7 airspace, where's the coverage for this? I can see how CurrentTV would use the lack of coverage by others to pump up their own cred, but that doesn't explain how practically every other outlet is avoiding the story of a days-long protest aimed at the heart of American economic power.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Smart Is Good

I think it's getting safer for people to be smart again. I'm hoping this anti-intellect thing is passing into the dumper where it belongs.

And btw: maybe it's just that I've felt starved for really smart policy arguments for a very long time, but I think Elizabeth Warren is really sexy.

Madison Ave Gets It?

So how far behind the rest of us does Washington have to fall before they start to understand that they have to lead?  They can't just sit there waiting for the new polling numbers to show them it's time to get up off their butts and get out in front of something.  Step up or step aside, fellas.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jesus Junkies

The visible spectrum of the GOP has been almost completely captured by the Christianist wing. It's pretty obvious that there's very little room in any Repub primary for anybody not willing to lie his ass off (if need be) to establish his bona fides as a standup God-fearin' TheoCon.  This is not new, of course.  Its been heading this direction for at least 30 years.

For my own self, I lean towards atheism and I believe strongly in making my own decisions about my own life; knowing that it has to be tempered by the understanding that we're all in this together so we need rules to keep us from steppin' on each other too hard or too often - not much that's particularly odd about any of that; but I find myself totally unwelcome in a political party I once thought of as home.  Don't get me wrong, I think registering as Independent has been a net plus.  It's kinda forcing me at least to make the effort to dig out something I can hold onto from "both sides".  Also, I've had to disabuse myself of any notion that what we have here is a two-party system.  One of the soul-stripping effects of the system we do have (ie: Legalized Bribery) is that we can either vote for the candidate who's a complete asshole, or we can vote for the one who's slightly less than a complete asshole.  So, yeah - it's a Hobson's choice between the lesser of two evils, but that means you damned sure better be paying attention so you don't pick the greater of the two evils.

Attempting to counteract the TheoCons, "Lefties" are trying to hold up the Jesus of The 4 Gospels, saying "Repubs are hypocrites because they're not following the teachings of their hero".  Sorry guys, but these jokers believe we're living in the End Times now.  They're way past that Hippie Jesus.  We're talkin' kick-ass Jesus from Revelation here, Bubba.  This Jesus wears a blood-soaked robe, and he has a sword coming from his mouth.  This Jesus is gonna give his followers the power to "rule the nations with an iron rod".  Jesus is coming - and he's pissed - at you.

If you watched the Repub debate the other nite - the one where the yahoos cheered Rick Perry's record of executions, and then shouted in the affirmative when Blitzer asked Ron Paul if he'd just let people die if they chose not to have health insurance - and these things both appalled and puzzled you; well, guess what?  The "truth" has set them free.  The worst possible behavior has now passed out of Unthinkable, through Forgivable (and through Acceptable too), and is now arriving at a place called Preferable.

Do not hand the reins of power to these pricks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Job Creators

Add this to the growing litany of Repub bullshit: "Government never created even one job."

(hat tip to John Gorman)

Both Sides Do It

...except when they don't.

The Southern Strategy
Willie Horton
The Arkansas Project
McCain's Black Bastard Child
WMD (update: this one can be balanced off by Gulf of Tonkin)
Valerie Plame
Swift Boaters
Max Cleland
The Kenyan Usurper
Death Panels

I don't have any problem understanding both Dems and Repubs being at least roughly equal in their venality when it comes to the Pay-To-Play aspects of our system here in the US.  We've allowed a pretty great thing to get almost totally FUBAR.  From that viewpoint, they're dead even.

But when I look at how the 2 sides conduct themselves when they're trying to sell the public on either a candidate or a policy, I see one side getting a lot deeper into the muck.

If you can come up with something Dems have done that can match the whoppers I listed at the top of this post, please apprise me of them so I can check and compare.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Agonist

Pretty good crop of items today at The Agonist.

1) Israel is looking to hookup with Kurdish rebels in Turkey

2) Looming default in Greece


Precisely typical of the quagmire scenario that everybody but Junior Bush seemed to understand:
Baby Bush says, "We'll leave if you'll stop attacking us."
Muqtada al-Sadr says, "We'll stop attacking you when you leave."

Obama rides in and starts the process he promised - altho' it's a couple of years later than most expected.
According to Reuters, Muqtada al-Sadr told his militias to cease operations against US soldiers until the full withdrawal is complete at the end of 2011. If the withdrawal is extended or US troops remain, he has promised renewed attacks.
"Out of my desire to complete Iraq's independence and to finish the withdrawal of the occupation forces from our holy lands, I am obliged to halt military operations of the honest Iraqi resistance until the withdrawal of the occupation forces is complete," al-Sadr said in a statement late Saturday.
And then he warned: "if the withdrawal doesn't happen ... the military operations will be resumed in a new and tougher way."
Read more:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Huey Lewis And The News

You have to be selective because so much of Huey's stuff was pure crap. But the guy knew how to put a band together, and when they got it right, it was pretty damned good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cold Shot

Not everybody loves The Guvner, I guess.

An Email

For my intellectual friends:


Did you know that the words "race car" spelled backwards still spells "race car"?

And that "eat" is the only word that, if you take the first letter and move it to the last, spells its own past tense, "ate"?

And if you rearrange the letters in "Tea Party Republicans," and add just a few more letters, it spells: "Shut the fuck up you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefits-grabbing, resource-sucking, violence-prone, hate-spewing, hypocritical assholes, and deal with the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush and that our president is black, so get the fuck over it."


This is ridiculously powerful, but it's (prob'ly) not gonna matter.

First, she's obviously an egghead, and we all know now that all eggheads are liberal tools of the liberal academic establishment, and the liberal media.  Science cannot be trusted because it keeps insisting that we address "What Is", rather than freeing us to indulge ourselves in "If Only".

Second, she keeps referring to the EPA, and (here again) we all know that the EPA is just a bunch of Big Gubmint looters and parasites bent on obstructing the free market system and denying our noble entrepreneurs their God-given right to do whatever the fuck they want.

Monday, September 5, 2011

You Can't Go Home

The GOP started to lose me in Reagan's 2nd term (Charles Keating and the rise of the TheoCons, Ed Meese's censorship commission, Iran-Contra, etc);  I then struggled mightily to vote for Senior Bush because of the Willie Horton ad; and then had no problem at all going with Clinton* twice - mostly because he was the best Republican president since Eisenhower (IMHO) - but also because his guys weren't pulling shit like The Arkansas Project.

(*large bunches of Clinton's achievements had some pretty great short-term effects.  The problem is that they also helped get us into our current abysmal pickle; but that's a slightly different rant.)

By way of and The New Republic, here's some good smart analysis of what's been going on.
Over the last four decades, the Republican Party has transformed from a loyal opposition into an insurrectionary party that flouts the law when it is in the majority and threatens disorder when it is the minority. It is the party of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but also of the government shutdown in 1995 and the impeachment trial of 1999. If there is an earlier American precedent for today's Republican Party, it is the antebellum Southern Democrats of John Calhoun who threatened to nullify, or disregard, federal legislation they objected to and who later led the fight to secede from the union over slavery. --John Judis,
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner. --Mike Lofgren,
My conservative instincts tell me to stick with the program.  ie: when the problem is that democracy is at risk, the solution is never less democracy.  Even when the system itself is corrupt (maybe especially when the system is corrupt), you can't strengthen democracy by abandoning the principles of that democracy.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Racism.  Racist rhetoric.  Race resentment.  Affirmative Action Backlash.  Southern Strategy (Repubs).  Modified Southern Strategy (Dems).

Wishful thinkers have pushed the concept of a Post-Racial America since about 2006, when Obama really started to get up some speed.  Maybe 'wishful thinking' is the wrong description for it, because I see a pretty strong tendency in my own kids to categorize people in ways that seem to have a lot more to do with behavior than with race.  One thing that's been kinda jarring for me is that when I've talked with them about their attitudes toward "different kinds of people", they've all but told me I'm a racist my own self.  So maybe the social evolution thing is working the way it should, in that I can claim to be somewhat less racist than my dad was, and that I think I can say with some certainty that I'm  a lot less racist than his dad was.  It doesn't mean the racism problem is fixed, but things are better than they were when I was a kid.

Anyway, we have a system of electoral politics that looks and feels exactly like The Cola Wars, or McDonald's vs Burger King, or Ford against Chevy; or whatever, but it's no longer about finding ways to connect people thru their shared experience and aspirations; it's about getting a mob together based on who and/or what they despise and/or fear.

Crooks and Liars

Oh, and BTW -  it's all Obama's fault.

We Are So Fucked

Labor problems aren't going to get any better any time soon.  We've been pumping out MBAs by the carload, and they're working up thru the system with a kind of single-minded focus on Productivity Improvement as the one true path to profitability.  "Do more with less" is all well and good - everybody needs to be mindful of conserving resources and keeping costs down.  But when you take any one aspect of good management and turn it into an obsession, you're asking for trouble.

Here's today's formula:

  Economic Growth
- Productivity Growth
  Employment Growth

So, you're either making the same amount of stuff with fewer people, or you're making more stuff with the same number of people.  The thinking is that it doesn't really matter which way it tips, if you concentrate on Productivity, the bottom line stays healthy.

If you view it from inside the US, then we're just cannibalizing ourselves, and before long the whole thing craters because there aren't enough workers who can afford to buy the stuff they're making.  But Capital has no respect for political boundaries or any other civilizing conventions.  A market of 300 million Americans matters a lot less when your Potential Customer Pool is close to 7 BILLION.  Of course, that means we're cannibalizing the whole world now, but we believe strongly that by spreading the stress over a much broader surface, we minimize the problems and (most important) we postpone the crash long enough to find some solutions.  Color me dubious.  In the long run, it's still not sustainable.

We have to figure out how to rebalance.  There's always tension between Private and Public; Individual and Collective; Labor and Management; and and and.  It's a Yin-and-Yang universe, but that doesn't make it strictly binary, where it's always and only a choice between one extreme or the other.  It's not a Net Zero thing.  You don't have to lose for me to win.  And if everybody has to lose for me to win, then what's the point?  I can scramble to the top, slaying my competitors along the way; chasing down the gazelles according to my leonine instincts; cracking bones and sucking out the marrow of every deal, blah blah blah - but what have I accomplished?  In the end, I'm standing alone on a hill in the middle of a dead world.

I reject the premise that Economics has to be bloodless and dispassionate and without heart; that business has to be about conquest and consumption.  I expect people to conduct themselves honorably.

Employment etc

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, government accounts for about 8% of jobs in the United States. Here's the breakdown using numbers easily accessible on the BLS website (all numbers from 2006 or 2007):

1,774,000 Federal government civilian employees, excluding Post Office
615,000 Post Office
1,172,913 Military enlisted
230,577 Military Officers
2,424,000 State government (excluding education and hospitals)
5,594,000 Local government (excluding education and hospitals)
That's a total of 11,810,490 government jobs.

The total number of jobs in the U.S. in 2006 was 150,600,000, so government employment makes up 7.84% of all jobs.

In 2007, the U.S. population (according to the Census Bureau) was 301,621,157, so about 4% of Americans are employed by the government.
According to a study by Paul C. Light, a government professor at New York University, the Federal Government also employed 14.6 million contractors in 2006. This was an increase of 2.5 million since 2002, and the study attributes the increase directly to contractors hired as part of the war on terror. (reported in the Washington Post)

So the logical next step is to see what the numbers are for other countries.  If I ever get that together, I'll let ya now.

Read More


The term nostalgia describes a yearning for the past, often in idealized form.  From the late 1600's thru about 1875, it was a recognized clinical condition; a mental illness.  It fell from grace as Clinical Psychology grew into a real thing.

In light of some of the cultural and political developments over the last 20 years or so, it seems maybe we'd do well to bring it back as a diagnosis.

Bill Boyarski has a great piece at truthdig a while back that hit a couple of chords:
What the tea party, the House Republicans and Noonan have in common is something very simple: They believe the United States should not be led by Barack Obama and that we should not accept the change and progress that his election represented. This belief goes beyond arguments over the debt and the deficit. It is deep and irreconcilable. It is the reason why the right won’t compromise.
But when I look at the Tea Partiers playing their little games, and TheoCons who bomb women's clinics and shoot doctors, and the Islamic idiots who insist on operating under 10th century rules, and now this Breivik dipwad in Norway, what I see is a major spasm of panic that a lot of people experience as they get more desperate to maintain their positions of privilege and power.  In "the west", we get to add the complicating factor of people trying to maintain the supremacy of white folks.

Trends of the last few years indicate Tom Friedman is indeed the wrongheaded douche his reputation says he is. So maybe once we wake up and realize we're all 3rd-worlders now, we'll start to see that we're more similar than different after all.  It's possible that the economy forces this reality on us.  The study of Economics (and the management of an economy) are more art than science, but "the economy" is reality itself.

Cultural struggles and political games get us caught up in a lot of wishful thinking.  We start to believe that slogans and bumper stickers will somehow change the law of supply and demand.  Or that by voting for a particular candidate, we can actually get something for nothing.  Or that the natural business cycle of expansion and contraction can be negated if we adopt a particular economic ideology.  But guess what - that up and down business cycle?  That's the economy breathing - and it's generally considered a bad idea to stop breathing.

I don't know how to tie this up in a neat little package - I'm just making some observations right now.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

(Re)Stating Some Of The Problems

Fix yourself a sandwich and let the awesomeness wash over you like the warm autumn sunshine.

This is kind of a golden oldie now, but it seems never to grow stale - I guess I'm a hopeless wonk with a shameless crush on Elizabeth Warren.

Part Of The Problem

A complaint that I find fairly typical on the part of a lot of Americans who consider themselves "regular folk" is that Government is filled with people they disdain as elitist, while at the same time, they spout the virtues of evolving an elite class of leaders in the private sector.

Why is Darwinism commendable and preferable in Business, but dangerous and damnable in Government?

You can try to argue that Government has the power to coerce thru the threat of violence, but I think it's obvious that as Business captures control of Government, then it acquires the coercive powers of Government and you end up with the same effect.

Again: If your basic premise is false, then your conclusion cannot be true.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mile Post(?)

Almost 40 years ago, this was a huge hit for Stories. Here's the original from Hot Chocolate - which I think is a lot more straightforward and honest. The Stories cover seemed to be a little bit sanitized for consumption by a white middle-class audience. So we've come a long way - but we ain't there yet. Still plenty to do.