Thursday, March 31, 2011
That didn't last long. While I came to understand why Marx's pithy critique of capitalism had become so popular around the world, I soon became disenchanted with his historical analysis of economic problems. At one point, I read that Marx believed that capitalism was superior to feudalism because that was the stage of economic development where the problems of production had been solved. Solved? By that point in my life I had worked enough in jobs like construction to know that there had NEVER been a time when the problems of production were solved--those problems had to be addressed every day!
More importantly, solving the problems of production has nothing to do with one's politics and everything to do with the facts on the ground. Visits to some Marxist states confirmed for me that people who believed that problems of production were something that had been solved in the ancient past tended to produce extremely shoddy goods. This made my infatuation with Marxism very brief--it would not survive exposure to something as utterly absurd as a Wartburg (an East German car produced in Eisenach.)
But while history demonstrates that capitalism has been much more effective than other political systems at providing consumers with quality goods, it is hardly without problems of its own. Take the example of Boeing. Here is a company that produces arguably the finest commercial aircraft ever made--to the point where there are pilots and passengers around the world who will say "Its Boeing, or I'm not going!" But in February of 2000, the neoliberals who had infiltrated Boeing management provoked a bitter strike with its union of rocket scientists called SPEEA. Because Boeing cannot produce aircraft without its rocket scientists (SPEEA's rallying cry was "No Nerds, No Birds") it was forced to settle. The neoliberals were outraged and so set in motion changes that would make Boeing less vulnerable to labor actions. It moved its corporate headquarters to Chicago and began outsourcing its work in earnest.
So now, Boeing's war on its workers has come back to haunt them. Neoliberal management has made it very difficult to produce the latest plane.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
1) You really don't have an economy without manufacturing. Making money by making things is orders of magnitude more difficult than organizing a financial fraud, but over time doing the very difficult very well is by far the most reliable route to generalized prosperity.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
The United States and Britain have been solidly on the path of economic neo-liberalism since the regimes of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. (Wikipedia provides a useful definition: "Neoliberalism describes a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neoclassical theories of economics that stresses the efficiency of private enterprise, liberalized trade and relatively open markets, and therefore seeks to maximize the role of the private sector in determining the political and economic priorities of the state.")
What have been the actual results - the fruits - of neo-liberal policies over the past forty plus years? Industry in both the U.S. and Britain has been systematically looted by the financial sector; income inequality has grown to be the worst in human history according to some; the working class in both countries has been destroyed, with a male in his thirties today making near ten percent less than a working class male in the 1970s; real rates of illiteracy - if honestly measured - approaching forty percent; the worst financial crash since the First Great Depression; and an inability to simply maintain our physical infrastructure in good working order.
La Follette believed that a state university existed to help make the lives of the citizens better whether it was explaining how to produce tastier honey or how to make the organs of democratic government more effective. Cronon is an example of the sort of teacher / historian La Follette believed a democracy needs to explain the institutions of government during times of upheaval.
So Cronon is the prototypical cultural wise man of Cheeseland--what does he have to say? Not surprisingly, a lot of good stuff.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The debts we are running up with the planet, on the other hand, are very real indeed. In fact, we are informed that in one year, we burn as much oil as was created in 5.3 million years. Our lifestyle cannot be sustained for the simple fact that we cannot consume the earth's carbon "capital" as such rates without soon going bankrupt for real.
To compound the problem, we are allowing the banksters and their trivial debts keep us from addressing our real debts.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
It is almost certain that the banksters will try to get this ruling overturned for one simple reason--the profits booked by the moneychangers these days are simply not possible if they cannot resort to fraud. In fact, my personal estimate is that if restricted to useful activities--you know, the ones they would rather talk about when confronted with their sleazy practices, the banking sector would be about 1/10th of its current size.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
It didn't make much of a splash on the political blogs I usually monitor, but I think this is the sort of news progressives should be stressing as we battle to turn back the raging hordes of wrong-wing ideologues trying to create a New Dark Age.
And now we see how heroic the nuke crews can be.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
What this clown fails to understand is that society simply cannot afford the huge, overpriced Predator Class as represented by him and his remarks. One thing is for sure--he obviously does not think open class warfare is possible.
Monday, March 21, 2011
In fact, I would argue that the last thing the MIC needs to do is advertise on TV. This insight was provided me at a young age courtesy of Mennonites. They believed that it was totally natural for young men to want to go to war--it was part of the basic package of "original sin." They believed the only way you can raise a non-warlike young male is provide him with regular instructions in pacifist teachings. And even that is often not enough because the warlike animus is so strong. Just remember, Dwight Eisenhower was raised as a devout Mennonite and he became a five-star general. Just remember, the Social-Democratic members of the German parliament had made a powerful anti-war political statement just shortly before leaving en mass to join the fighting in 1914.
Or as my mother would say, "There will always be war. Men LOVE war." Fortunately history provides an alternate example. My tribe, the Swedes, have an extremely warlike history. After all, we were a part of the hordes of the north that struck such terror in the hearts of the rest of Europe that they actually prayed to God for deliverance. (From the fury of the Northmen deliver us, O Lord!) The Swedes did enough damage during the Thirty Years' War to affect the boundary between Protestant and Catholic Europe to this day. Swedes figured out a way to get into wars pretty much continuously from the Viking Age on.
And then in 1818, it stopped. Sweden stopped making war--she hasn't been in a war since. What changed? Sweden had a succession problem and so formed a committee to recruit a new king. They found a handsome officer in Napoleon's army who agreed to move to Stockholm, learn Swedish, and be the new king. He had the fine name of Bernadotte and his family still makes up the modern monarchy.
Now I am a devout republican. I do NOT believe in kings. But if the Swedish monarchy is responsible for turning perhaps the most warlike society in history into a nation that believes the best way to interact with the rest of the world is to turn them into satisfied customers for the goods produced by their clever and industrious population, then there is a least one example of a monarchy being useful. Cultures CAN evolve! And it took a military man who was obviously fed up with the lies that have to be told to sustain a military becoming king of a land populated with folks best described as fierce.
And of course, the peacemakers do have the argument that their way is better because a peaceful environment leads to amazingly sophisticated societies. It makes for better farmers. And it makes for MUCH better industries. It is the basis of "soft" cultural power that military minds can only dream about. This is true mostly because militarism, like most actions of the Leisure Classes, is a primitive response to the outside world. As the War Nerd, Gary Brecher, points out so well here, there is very little new in military thinking.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Blowing a Hole in Dodd-Frank
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is close to a decision to exempt the $4 trillion-a-day foreign-currency market from key provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring greater transparency in the trading of derivatives. In the horse-trading over the final conference version of that legislation last year, both Geithner and financial-industry executives lobbied extensively to give the Treasury secretary the right to create this loophole. As the practical reach of Dodd-Frank is defined by the executive branch, this will be the first major decision to signal whether regulators will act to strengthen or weaken the reforms.
Friday, March 18, 2011
While organizing emergency response for tornado victims started out as an act of Christian virtue for my Mennonite neighbors, the reason folks were happy to see them show up had little to do with their religious beliefs. No, the reason folks in the surrounding area didn't really feel like recovery was under way after a tornado until the Mennonites showed up was because those folks actually made things better when they arrived. The Mennonites were good neighbors because they showed up with skills, organization, and a willingness to work. Dangerous trees got felled, roads were cleared, emergency supplies got delivered--along with the notion that recovery was possible. Watching this coordinated effort was like watching a demonstration that once in a while, virtue is its own reward.
Watching the Japanese organize the recovery from the Kobe earthquake of 1995 convinced me how much larger and more organized than the efforts of the good neighbors of my childhood needed to be to cope with such a mega disaster. Damn, these guys are good!
Even so, Japan has a real mess on its hands. Fortunately they have enormous resources to bring to these catastrophes--most emphatically including skills and organization.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
However, the amount of sheer nonsense being written about the effect on the Japanese economy by these events borders on the insane. And I would believe some of it except most of this has been written before--and it was wrong then. For example, Michael Lewis' 1989 Article: "How A Tokyo Earthquake Could Devastate Wall Street & The Global Economy" is making the rounds again. Much as I like Lewis, this article is pure rubbish.
I personally remember making a bunch of apocalyptic predictions about the global economy following the Kobe earthquake--so I am FAR from guiltless on this. But being so wrong about Kobe makes me extra careful this time. Here is what we should remember about Japan.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
"The dollar's swoon is drawing more investors to the $4 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market."
$4 trillion-a-day, folks. That's just in the forex market. There's trillions more traded in the stock, bond, futures, options, and derivatives markets every day. One fifth of one percent of $4 trillion is $8 billion. Multiplied by the number of trading days in a year, that's $2 trillion.
Budget deficit? Tobin Tax Initiative. Problem solved.
There's plenty of money out there. The problem is, we don't control it. But, what are governments for?
In recent years, American workers have received an ever-decreasing share of what our economy produces.
Is it any wonder that many Americans aren't feeling so happy about the so-called recovery (assuming, of course, it's more than just smoke and mirrors)?It's interesting to project where Ronald Reagan and George Bush were elected: their Presidencies were absolute disasters for American workers.
During this time, I was introduced to economic thinking when I got hold of Galbraith's New Industrial State in high school. Galbraith is one of the founders with Humphrey of the Americans for Democratic Action (Youtube channel). Galbraith got Vietnam right. Galbraith got Keynesianism right. Galbraith was a delightful writer. He helped restore some of the lost shine to Liberalism in my mind that Cold War ethical monsters like Humphrey had done so much to destroy. But it wasn't enough. I couldn't call myself a Liberal any more--I had to find another label for my political beliefs.
Fortunately, I didn't have to look far. I soon discovered that Minnesota had all these "liberals" because we had a long and interesting history of radical and progressive movements that stretched back to the settlement itself. Ou forebears gave their movements lots of names. The best-known was the Peoples Party of 1892 who called themselves Populists. But Robert La Follette over in Wisconsin believed the state university should be the intellectual foundation of good government and in Madison, it was just down the street. He combined the politics of the Populists with a world-class university and called his movement Progressive. When I discovered this in early 1980s, it didn't take long for me to decide that I could embrace the label "Progressive" as defined by the founder of the movement.
Now days, there are LOTS of former Liberals who now call themselves Progressives. Most of it is just a way to escape the negative associations that have grown up around the Liberal label. I mean, damn few of these Progressives-come-lately have ever heard of La Follette much less understand what he was trying to accomplish.
Moreover, most Liberals turned Progressives still believe there is nothing especially wrong with Liberalism as it came to be practiced in USA--it is just that slander from the Right Wing has destroyed the label beyond repair. Here they are mostly wrong--relentless Right Wing assaults on Liberalism are a fact, but Liberals did a fine job of trashing the label on their own.
Here Chris Hedges--a serious old-fashioned Liberal--provides us with a pointed come-to-Jesus critique of what went wrong from the inside. I believe Hedges is profoundly correct in his assessments.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Critics of nuclear power would argue that it was incredibly dangerous, created waste products that would be hazardous for thousands of years, and was hideously expensive if all costs were taken into account.
Monday, March 14, 2011
This does not mean Inside Job is above criticism. The Blu-ray version exposes some weaknesses that would have probably gone unnoticed by merely seeing this doc in the theater (at least that is true for me). The biggest shows up in the little 12-minute "The making of Inside Job" mini-movie tucked in the extras folder of the disc. Watching it I discovered that Ferguson is FAR from being a bomb-thrower. In fact, his attitude seems that of a rich man (he sold his software company Vermeer for $133 million in 1996) who is sadly disappointed by the ethical failings of some in the financial services business. (He might have even lost a large chunk of his nest egg and is pissed by the thieves who stole it.) His film does not examine the systemic failings of the institutions of finance--rather it looks for (and finds) bad guys.
Nowhere is this concentration on the personalities over institutions more apparent than with Ferguson's treatment of the economics profession. When I first saw Inside Job, this was by far my favorite part of the whole movie. This time around, I found it sad and irrelevant. This does not mean I have suddenly forgiven the Predator Class ravings of someone like Harvard's Martin Feldstein, it's just that I don't find it terribly important that he took money (gasp) to write position papers that supported the crooks who crashed the global economy. Why?
First of all, while the thousands of dollars that these economists picked up for writing papers for the banksters might seem like a lot of money in the academic world, it is just peanuts in the world of global finance. If these economists were really selling out, they were doing it for very little.
Which leads to the more important problem that Ferguson doesn't even touch--It is HIGHLY unlikely that it would have made a bit of difference how much the academic economists made for writing a paper for the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, their conclusions would not have changed much, if at all, had they been writing for free. These academics have managed to convince themselves that economic deregulation was a good idea. They are true believers. This is their loving-held worldview. They have drunk the kool-aid. This is difficult for Ferguson to accept because it means that the Ph.Ds who run the economics departments of the prestigious universities are not so much corrupt as really, REALLY, goofy. (I am reminded again of Michael Boskin of Stanford who said as George H. W. Bush's chief economist in response to complaints that we were offshoring critical electronics industries "It doesn't matter if a country makes computer chips or potato chips." Boskin wasn't being paid or corrupted at that moment to sound like the biggest idiot in the history of economics--he actually thought this was true and will probably defend that crazy sentence to this day.)
Because Ferguson is obviously a bright guy, I am willing to bet that his giving a free pass to academic stupidity is probably more of a class solidarity thing--he has been an academic himself. And like the truly bright, he seems quite willing to update his information base. We will see. Perhaps he has a documentary in the works covering the subject The Dumbing Down of Economics.
And NONE of this criticism detracts from the reality that Inside Job is still one of the great movies. It is truly remarkable. And it is a movie one hopes everyone will see.
In the meantime, the unseen hero of Inside Job, Matt Damon, who narrates the film, has already grown past his mindless backing of Goldman Sachs' favorite candidate--Barack Obama. Someone's evolving!
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The signs were wonderful. Someone over at Dailykos posted a bunch of pictures of the hand-lettered efforts. My favorites:
Friday, March 11, 2011
EVERY local Democratic Party organization, and progressive group, should be getting this in front of the public in any way possible.
More than 50 years after the invention of the laser, scientists at Yale University have built the world's first anti-laser, in which incoming beams of light interfere with one another in such a way as to perfectly cancel each other out. The discovery could pave the way for a number of novel technologies with applications in everything from optical computing to radiology.Read more.
Surgeries with the endoscope are exacting and require special capabilities of the surgeon. The suturing of the tissue and the setting of the knots, in particular, is very complicated due to the lack of space for movement. A new, minimally invasive suturing tool simplifies the procedure. In the future, the suture material will no longer be knotted, but welded with a laser. The device will be displayed at the MEDTEC Fair in Stuttgart, from March 22 - 24, 2011.Read more.
A research group led by scientists from the University of Bristol has demonstrated the quantum operation of new components that will enable compact circuits for future photonic quantum computers.
Quantum computers, holding the great promise of tremendous computational power for particular tasks, have been the goal of worldwide efforts by scientists for several years. Tremendous advances have been made but there is still a long way to go.
Building a quantum computer will require a large number of interconnected components – gates – which work in a similar way to the microprocessors in current personal computers. Currently, most quantum gates are large structures and the bulky nature of these devices prevents scalability to the large and complex circuits required for practical applications.
Recently, the researchers from the University of Bristol's Centre for Quantum Photonics showed, in several important breakthroughs, that quantum information can be manipulated with integrated photonic circuits. Such circuits are compact (enabling scalability) and stable (with low noise) and could lead in the near future to mass production of chips for quantum computers.
Now it has been discovered that the bolts used to reassemble Vasa are corroding and will need replacement.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
But perhaps the most important new economic program was the Morrill Land-Grant College Act, which created the backbone of most state university systems.
One final note: most of these programs were really not new ideas; but it was only after the conservatives in Congress withdrew as their states seceded - taking their parliamentary obstructionism with them - that the rest of the country was able to actually get enabling legislation passed.
$100 Oil? Blame Speculators and the Bank Lobby, Consumer Advocate SaysRead more.
Oil prices fell Tuesday after Kuwait's oil minister said OPEC may hold an "urgent meeting" to discuss the cartel's response to escalating warfare in Libya, where output has fallen by as much as 1 million barrels a day, Bloomberg reports.
Still, crude remains well above $100 per barrel as the rolling protests in the Middle East have raised the specter of another supply shock.
But North America is "awash in a sea of crude reserves, both public and commercial, says Tyson Slocum director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a non-profit organization. "There's no supply-demand fundamentals that are justifying this huge price spike."
Concerns about unrest in Saudi Arabia are overblown, says Slocum, who believes the odds of a disruption to Saudi supplies are "unbelievably low."
Rather than geopolitics, Slocum says "speculators on Wall Street" are to blame for the recent spike in energy prices. "This is a case where speculators are driving the market rather than end users like refiners. [Speculators] use any excuse to push prices up beyond supply-demand fundamentals."
While it's impossible to specifically quantify the impact speculators have on prices, commodity speculation has risen dramatically in recent years thanks to the popularity of commodity-focused ETFs and institutional benchmarks like the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI). The net long position of non-commercial speculators hit an all-time high this month, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Speculators Gone Wild?
At the risk of becoming involved in the ongoing Paul Krugman/Yves Smith debate regarding the influence of speculators on commodity prices, I direct readers to Colin Barr at CNN Money:
Money appears to be flooding into energy markets to chase a sure thing, with potentially severe consequences for a global economy still on the mend.
The surge of speculative money into the oil futures pits shows that big financial players are expecting the price of WTI crude to surge well above the recent $105 or so seen last week. If they are right, it will bring $4 gasoline a step closer….
…"It does not get any clearer which way Wall Street is trying to take oil," says Stephen Schork, who writes the Schork Report energy markets newsletter in Villanova, Pa.
Schork notes that speculators now own nearly six times as many barrels of oil – 268,622 futures contracts representing nearly 269 million barrels – as can be stored at the WTI trading hub in Cushing, Okla. And since the CFTC numbers released Friday only go through last Tuesday, they likely underestimate the degree of speculative fervor building in the energy markets.
Libya, Gas Prices, and the Big Payday at Your ExpenseRead more.
by Michael Collins on Mon, 03/07/2011
The average price for a gallon of gas rose 30% from $2.69 in July 2010 to $3.49 as of March 6. Most of that 30% has come in just the last few days.
We're about to embark on another period of let the markets take care of it. The Money Party manipulators are again jerking citizens around in the old bottom-up wealth redistribution program. Their imagineers are writing the storyline right now.
The conflict in Libya is causing the spike in oil prices over the past ten days or so according to the media script. Take a look at the chart to the right. Can you find Libya among the top fifteen nations supplying the United States with crude oil?
By the Numbers: A Revealing Look at the Mortgage Mod Meltdown
For the past year, we've been digging into the administration's fumbling efforts . We've crunched a lot of numbers along the way, and now we're sharing what we found – including loads of previously unreported data.
Using new Treasury Department figures, previously unreleased documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, and new analyses of state and industry data, we have assembled the most detailed look yet at how the the mortgage industry  and the government's main effort, the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), have failed homeowners. It provides crucial context to the ongoing government investigation into mortgage servicing practices, which might lead to reforms  of how banks and servicers handle homeowner requests for modifications.
Here's what we learned:
- Only a fraction of struggling homeowners are getting help.…
- Mortgage servicers are only reaching a small fraction of struggling homeowners.…
- The largest servicers, especially Bank of America, have left most struggling homeowners in limbo without either modifying or foreclosing.
- HAMP itself hasn't made much difference: It hasn't led to an increase in modifications.…
- Just over one in five homeowners who applied for a HAMP mod have received a permanent modification…
- And in one quarter of rejections, mortgage servicers - notorious for losing documents - have cited missing documents as the reason.
- Here are your overall chances of getting a mod with each of the top servicers.
- Treasury claims servicers are improving, but its own data show otherwise.
- When servicers offer a mod, it's generally more affordable than mods used to be.…
- But instead of mods, servicers have recently been offering more repayment plans, which actually increase struggling homeowners' payments.
- In the end, most government funds set aside to help homeowners are still unused.
There are many great graphics in the rest of the article. Read more.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Even more telling here in Minnesota is the incredible abundance of food. Not only is it grown by the boxcar in much of the state, here in the Minneapolis suburbs food is distributed through a dizzying array of outlets from tidy farmer's markets to supermarkets that range from very nice to opulent. Our biggest employers spout names like General Mills and Cargill. And best of all, food is so cheap one wonders how anyone stays in business. Yesterday, I paid $1.98 for a gallon of milk--someone is working for free (or less) in that supply chain.
So it is hard to convince anyone around here that a shortage of food is even possible, let alone a subject worth starting revolutions over. Ironically, the folks MOST likely to worry about the food supply are those who still work in agriculture or food processing. I have known farmers all my life and some of them wonder darkly when this whole system will collapse in the face of a hungry planet.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Well, it's not turning out that way. The New York Times reported that just in the next year, the drug industry faces the expiration of patents on more than 10 "megamedicines" that alone account for almost $50 billion in sales, about seven percent of the industry's world wide sales. And the kicker is - despite all the tens of billions the industry raked in the past decade, there are no new drugs that can be introduced to replace the massive revenue streams from the "megamedicines" with expiring patents. Instead, the industry repeatedly cut back its research and development staff, no doubt to become "more profitable." Though, of course, the New York Times correspondent lists a host of other problems afflicting the industry, such as "over-regulation."
Drug Firms Face Billions in Losses in ’11 as Patents EndRead more.
by Duff Wilson
At the end of November, Pfizer stands to lose a $10-billion-a-year revenue stream when the patent on its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor expires and cheaper generics begin to cut into the company’s huge sales.
The loss poses a daunting challenge for Pfizer, one shared by nearly every major pharmaceutical company. This year alone, because of patent expirations, the drug industry will lose control over more than 10 megamedicines whose combined annual sales have neared $50 billion.
The Harrowing Chart The Shows How Close We Are To The Oil Spike That Caused The Last Recession
Gregory White | Mar. 7, 2011, 8:48 AM
Oil prices are rising and taking up a larger amount of U.S. GDP, in a similar way to how they did in 2008, according to Lazard Capital Markets.
And now they're in the 5 percent of GDP range, which has the potential to destroy demand.
From Lazard Capital Markets:
Oil prices likely to go higher but entering demand destruction range; time to get more cautious. In contrast to the 2008 superspike, where oil prices spiked on runaway emerging market demand, the latest spike has been driven by supply issues as Middle East instability worsens. With unrest spreading from Egypt to Libya and Oman (and concern over possible unrest in Saudi Arabia), we believe oil prices could go significantly higher from current levels. Our price elasticity models indicate oil prices could spike to $160+/Bbl if we lost all Libyan production and one half of Saudi production.
That said, we are near levels where the market begins to worry about negative impacts on the economy (~ 5% of global GDP), which we believe warrants a more selective investment stance based on our analysis of the prior oil price spike cycle in 2008. more
Monday, March 7, 2011
I will not quote from the excerpt here, just urge you to go read the entire piece. But, here are two sentences that moved me to tears:
Read the entire post. And, keep in mind Chris Hedges' articles about the need to resist the corporatist state.
. . . when everyday institutions and ordinary rules harm people right in front of you, that provokes a kind of soul searching, looking for what some called their “roots” or their “true self.”
I heard a murmur of history, voices from generations who taught that the survival of tomorrow’s children matters more than rules or laws.
The quote goes on for a few more paragraphs, then Kimel gives you the kicker:
Cross posted at the Presimetrics blog
I really don't understand this post by Tyler Cowen. He begins by noting:
The median earnings of full-time Canadian workers increased by just $53 annually -- that's right, $53 annually -- between 1980 and 2005.He then links to two documents, one of which says this: A more likely explanation is that the rich have used their clout to get governments in the United States, Britain and Canada to change the rules, redirecting economic benefits to themselves
The very next sentence Cowen writes: This is one reason why I do not adhere to some of the progressive or "class struggle" explanations of relative stagnation in median income growth. Canada is not ruled by the so-called Republican Right.(Jonathan here. No Canada was NOT ruled by the Republican Right. However, this makes absolutely ZERO difference because economically, it was ruled by the same neoliberal foolishness that has informed all of the governments of the English-speaking world since about 1975. Example, Bob Rae of the so-called "far left" New Democratic Party became the Premier of Ontario and yet was a thorough-going neoliberal. His supporters were roughly as horrified to discover this as Obama's were to discover that Larry Summers would guide economic policy. Of course since Cowen is one of the bloggers for The Economist--the house organ of neoliberalism-- he is paid to NOT understand the critiques of his magazine's official position and clearly, he does not.)
Barry Ritholz shines a light on an alternative to the current meme on public sector unions:
In a Labor Day address in 1980, Ronald Reagan said:Reagan as above, in video.
"These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland … They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost."
(Hat tip to Dan Crawford at Angry Bear.)
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Moreover, the public investment in infrastructure required is massive. Obama's $700 billion stimulus package of two years ago is a joke compared to what we actually need. It might have been a good down payment - if it not half of it had gone for tax cuts, which provide very little economic stimulus, and if it had been part of a national commitment to a huge, bold national goal, such as getting 100% of our electricity from renewable sources within twenty years. Such programs easily come in with price tags measured not in billions, or even hundreds of billions, but in trillions of dollars. The May 2008 U.S. Department of Energy report "20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030," estimated the U.S. needs to invest $2.4 trillion to meet projected electricity demand of 2030 - and note, that is on our current pathway of continued dependence on fossil fuels. In December 2009, I sketched a national infrastructure program that would create over 14 million new jobs, but which requires nearly six trillion dollars in funding.
Last month, many of us heard the story of Brett Hallman. Hallman's mother was early in her pregnancy when she learned her son would have spina bifida, a neurological disease that affects the spinal cord's development and, in the worst cases, makes children with the disorder unable to walk and have brain damage. But the Hallmans enrolled in a trial that allowed doctors to operate on Brett in utero. The procedure had already used on newly born babies, but doctors found that babies who had surgery before they were born had dramatically improved effects with no increased risk. When Brett was 17 months old, he took his first steps, and doesn't have any of the serious problems usually associated with spina bifida.Read more.
The trial was funded through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the largest provider of public funding for medical research. Each year, the NIH issues millions of dollars in grants to universities, clinics and research outfits around the country, funding research that private, profit-seeking companies wouldn't want to do because of the lack of immediate financial gain.NIH funding is just one of the components on Republicans' budget chopping block. Obama's budget proposal would increase NIH funding by $1 billion, but the Republican plan to extend federal operations through the end of the year would reduce total funding for the NIH by nearly 6 percent, and cut funds for research grants by as much as half.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Some people just can’t wrap their minds around how utterly destructive the conservatives’ agenda is. A few days ago, daveinchi tried to get a grip on this with his DailyKos diary, DESTROY EVERYTHING: Nihilism on the "Right".
But what is really hard to comprehend is that the conservative attack on education is actually a quite coherent part of conservative ideology. To understand this, you first have to understand that the conservative ideology is intended to create a society based on strict class lines. As Philip E. Agre wrote in his classic August 2004 essay, What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?: "Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy."
Today, conservatives hide their true anti-democratic oligarchic agenda behind the rhetoric of balanced budgets and budget cuts. But, back in the period right after the Civil War, conservatives were much more honest and forthright in explaining why they attacked education and teachers.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
What we need as a society are banks that specialize in the useful stuff. Banks that are interested in the growth and prosperity of the real economy. Such banks would operated as a regulated utility and have civil service pay grades. They would be the only banks backstopped by the taxpayers. The private "banks" that insisted on operating as casinos would be on their own.
Ideas like this have been around awhile here in USA. In fact, much about the real economy that still works is based on them.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Charles Ferguson's Oscar Speech Rips Wall Street: 'Inside Job' Director Levels Criticism During Acceptance
02/28/11 11:54 AM
"Inside Job" won the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary on Sunday night. The film's director used his acceptance speech to deliver pointed criticism of Wall Street and the financial industry. moreOnce again, the most interesting movie to win an Oscar sunday night was a documentary. As someone who promotes non-fiction video at every opportunity, the rise of the documentary is a welcome alternative to the utter tedium of the movies that have but a passing nod at any reality any of us could ever experience. It is not that I have religious objections to fiction--it is just that I want my storytelling to be believable.
While a good documentary should have professional-level photography, sound capture, and editing so as not to distract from the idea that the videographer is trying to convey, these elements have become essentially commoditized. One of the reasons we seem to have entered the golden age of documentaries is that the cost of making one has become almost trivial. With the playing field leveled, the great docs are distinguished by superior content.
And so it was with Inside Job--the most recent documentary to win an Oscar. In roughly two hours, the financial meltdown of 2008 is essentially explained in a way even the thickest of us can understand. Doc maker Charles Ferguson is so thorough, he even covers the roles played by the academic economists, those frauds who manage to transmute their uber-nerd understanding of the world into policy positions that have triggered economic calamities.
Inside Job has been on my radar for some time. In fact, it or Ferguson have appeared six times on this blog since last July.