Nobel Prize

Posted in Uncategorized on 15 October, 2009 by salutiferous

While the Obama row over the Nobel Prize was not surprising given the state of screeching panic that FOX News is in these days, what was a bit strange was the flack from the left. Noami Klein appeared on Democracy NOW! several days ago to add her voice to those criticizing the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. While my first impression was that Obama received the prize for simply not being Bush as a kind of European joke on the American right, listening to all of the criticism has led me to weigh in on the issue with several points.

The first is that the Nobel Prize Committee is simply executing the will of a deceased arms merchant who set the trust up as a way to spin his legacy clean. The committee is under the direct influence of the Norwegian parliament and as such, not only do Americans have no say in the matter, but neither does the rest of the world.

The second is that the committee has clearly been prone to this sort of hopeful enthusiasm before, such as with the Arafat, Perez and Rabin award. Their selections have missed out on individuals commonly accepted as giants in this area like Ghandi and honored outright war criminals like Kissinger. Klein’s point that Obama’s award cheapens the Nobel Peace Prize is confusing in light of this history because I expect Ms. Klein is aware of it.

Question everything

Posted in Uncategorized on 12 October, 2009 by salutiferous

According to the mainstream media, economics rules reality even more so than science. We’re constantly being told what is possible or impossible and why certain events happen based on commonly accepted economic theory. “The US deregulated investment and commercial banking to create new efficiencies.” or “We had to bail out the rich investment bankers and their companies because otherwise the economy as a whole would suffer.” That’s nice. But whatever happens, the average American always loses out. We lost due to deregulation and the bailout. So these efficiencies we were promised simply lead to another bubble scam whose cleanup was paid for by Joe Taxpayer. The sad part was that this was totally predictable and Wall Street got its way because the national debate never questioned their logic or their power for that matter.

So it is nice to see a piece over at The Baseline Scenario destroying the logic behind the “need for big banks”. The Baseline Scenario has been getting some media exposure from the likes of Bill Moyers. Let’s hope that when it comes to restructuring this economy again, we can at least start by sorting through all of these paradigms and using only the useful.

Unemployment rate antics

Posted in Uncategorized on 7 August, 2009 by salutiferous

Now that the unemployment rate is being gamed, the labor force participation rate should be used as the true measure of the economy’s employment. While this report adds momentum to the media’s spin that the recession is over, it is extremely hard to use inflection points within trends to forecast the future.

Fixing this economy

Posted in Uncategorized on 17 June, 2009 by salutiferous

Six ways out of this recession:

  • Deregulate all business activity. Even schoolchildren know that you can either have safe air travel and bacteria free meat or a growing economy but not both.
  • Properly incentivize executives. I don’t think it’s just a simple coincidence that CEO’s started taking pay raise cuts around the same time that stuff hit the fan.
  • Invade some new countries. Economic benefits only come from invasions and not quagmires. The armed forces are structured to be an expeditionary force for a reason. It’s no longer camping when the RV’s tires are flat and one side is mossy.
  • Cut taxes. Just taking a breath between sentences about tax cuts hurts the economy.
  • Invent an immediate horrifying threat. Kim Jong is funny but his son might be more frightening than Ming the Merciless and then everyone can start spending money on their fallout shelters while we cut social services to build more ICBM’s.
  • Beef up domestic security. You don’t want progress to a glorious capitalist future hindered by a bunch of hippies who opted out of the economy to depress everyone else about climate change and animal rights. They’ll need their own incarceration facilities to avoid organizing the general prison population.

Deregulating, invading, cutting taxes, etc, can only fail if we try them half-heartedly. Dismiss all naysayers for the sake of the economy.

AIG redefines “greed”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 23 March, 2009 by salutiferous

In addition to the financial meltdown, the bottomless pit of taxpayer money that AIG is mining, the executive bonus scandal and the fact that AIG’s counterparties like Goldman and B of A are being bailed out of AIG’s contracts on top of AIG’s own bailout, comes this story of AIG suing the US government for back taxes. AIG is asking for $306 milllion over the $62 million that they overpaid (no typo there) through their offshore tax shelters.

So let’s get this straight. AIG was using offshore tax shelters to defraud the IRS. It turns out that the offshore tax shelters should have protected $62 million dollars that AIG ended up paying. So that is why AIG wants $306 million as settlement.

Yeah, I think that pretty much redefines greed by several orders of magnitude.

Torture

Posted in Uncategorized on 10 February, 2009 by salutiferous

From the wikiedia entry on torture:

On December 10, 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Article 5 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”[6] Since that time a number of other international treaties have been adopted to prevent the use of torture. Two of these are the United Nations Convention Against Torture and for international conflicts the Geneva Conventions III and IV.

It is hard to argue against the UDHR at least without ridiculous mental gymnastics which result in logic which can never be universally applied.

Therefore, however noble or pragmatic Obama’s intentions, executive orders are inappropriate for governing torture.

Finally, one can apply Obama’s “looking forward and not backward” to argue against the Nuremberg Trials. When bank robbers are caught, we don’t just take the money and move on. They are tried for bank robbery. When Saddam was deposed in Iraq, a search for him commenced in order to bring him to justice. Obama’s stance is not only weak here, it is inappropriate. The only way to move forward is to bring criminals to justice.

Take these jobs and shove them

Posted in Uncategorized on 3 February, 2009 by salutiferous

There is a silver lining to this economy, or the second gilded age as some have called it. There are several actually but all are being completely missed by the media, Obama and most employees around a water cooler.

The most important one is that this economy reduced the amount of work required. That’s right, less work is a good thing. The problem is that the system responds to this by slashing jobs.

When someone buys a dish washing machine, they don’t lament the loss of work washing dishes and go over to the neighbor’s to wash dishes there. They relax, put their feet up and turn on the boob tube. When the economy decides  to do less, people start to run around with concern on their faces because the system requires that everyone still be employed the same amount. This is a psychosis. When a job is done early, you don’t undo it and redo it because you had a couple hours left, you’re done. You quit working.

The proper reaction in times like these is to reduce the work load across the entire economy and not dump it all on a few individuals by cutting their jobs. What is now a detriment to all, the few that lost their jobs and the rest that will see their benefits slashed, should actually be a benefit to everyone. If there is 10% less work, then the standard work week should become 36 hours. If there is 20% less work, then the new standard work week should be 32 hours. Need more flexibility? You can mandate more paid time off. The current standard is two weeks a year with 10 paid holidays but three weeks a year with the same holidays is a 2% reduction in work. There is a lot of flexibility in this method to match the loss of work appropriately.

This is not rocket science but the system pretends it is immutable to get the middle class to suffer through a recession or depression because the rich stand to gain from it. Employees will lose mightily in this recession while the poor will find it downright hard to survive. They will lose numerous benefits like 401k matching, health insurance, job security, paid time off benefits, wages, pensions if they still have them and so on. This is a huge windfall for corporations whether they are in fact cash strapped and need to make such cuts or not. Many companies who have the cash to weather the storm benefit from this economy by slashing employee benefits right along side those companies letting people go. This is a cruel reality as more and more employees dance around fewer and fewer chairs.

So who says that we have to work the same amount when there is a clear indicator that we don’t? The system does and it goes unquestioned.

There are other benefits to a contracting economy. It’s good for the environment because of reduced resource depletion and reduced pollution generation. It’s good for many markets because they find their balance. Does attaching an Italian name to a cup of joe really cost $4??? It’s also good for people who can afford to return to school to further their education.

It’s good ideologically, because it puts an end to the fallacy that has been solidly implanted in Americans that a capitalist democracy is the end point of human history. That this system is the pinnacle of human development as a civilization and all we have left to do is resolve some minor issues like the Middle East crisis. It brings into focus the unsustainable nature of systems like capitalism and fractional reserve banking.

This is not a cyclical recession but rather the onset of pain during a heart attack. If the system survives, then the very few at the top will be so much better off going into the next upturn. The problem with heart attacks however is that there’s a good chance of fatality and should you survive, you’re likely to suffer more heart attacks in the future. So the rich play their game until they kill the golden egg laying goose and the torches and pitchfoks come out.

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