Monday, October 31, 2011

Your Obligatory Occupy Wall Street-Oriented Article

Just a couple of the things from around the Internet on the economy. Both mention the Occupy movements, so there's a theme, I suppose.

The first is a video of Bill Black, a former bank regulator comparing the Savings and Loan Scandal, which he investigated, and the current financial mess:

Some of the more interesting points he makes:
  • During the Savings And Loans mess, they prosecuted a thousand or so "elite bankers", as Black calls them.
  • Most of the people who went to jail were in the positions most responsible for causing the crisis, the people who ran those banks that kept misleading or fraudulent records.
  • All those prosecutions happened between 1989 and 1993, which means they were largely conducted by the George H.W. Bush Administration. Republicans, in other words.
  • The S&L crisis was about 1/70th the size of the current financial mess. I don't know if that's an accurate number, and can think of no quick way to verify it, but this crisis is far bigger than the S&L crisis. That was a few hundreds of billions of dollars in losses. Losses from the current crisis will almost certainly be in the trillions, maybe tens of trillions. (see NOTE 1)
  • This financial crisis was caused by an "even bigger wave" of fraud than the S&L crisis. He has made the point before that what has happened is control fraud, and there has been a lot of it.
  • By 2006, "liars loans" represented one out of three of all loans made. That amounts to two million fraudulent loans.
I've made this point before, and I'll make it again - there has not been a single prosecution for fraud by the Obama Administration in this area. The only cases they have prosecuted that are related to finance are in the area of insider trading, and con artistry like Bernie Madoff's. The scale of fraud is mind-boggling, and the current Administration has completely ignored it. They've left it to state attorneys general like New York's Eric Schneidermen and Delaware's Beau Biden to prosecute these things. The level of malfeasance on the part of the Justice Department for this is breathtaking.

But I suppose I'm a racist for pointing that out. Oh, and I'm not a realist, either, because I noted that a relatively recent Republican Administration did far better at prosecuting the sort of fraud that has gotten us into this mess at a rate that would put the Obama Administration to shame if, indeed, it had any sense of shame.

Meanwhile, down near the bottom of an article discussing the Occupy movements, Robert Reich dropped this little bombshell:
The jobs depression shows no sign of ending. Personal disposable income, adjusted for inflation, was down 1.7 percent in the third quarter of this year – the biggest drop since the third quarter of 2009. Housing prices have stalled, home sales are down.

The only reason consumer spending rose in September is because we drew from our meager savings – mostly in order to pay medical bills, health insurance, and utilities. That’s the third month of savings declines, according to the Commerce Department’s report last Friday.

This can’t and won’t continue. Savings are now down to 3.6 percent of personal disposable income, their lowest level since the recession began.

The Occupiers’ Responsive Chord
If Reich is correct about that, it means that the "recovery", that period when people who still have jobs can at least pretend to themselves that things aren't screwed up like a drunk walking through a china shop, are about over. They will start getting worse in a few months, or maybe a year. They will not start to get better again for a long time, because neither party wants to do what needs to be done to make them better, and no one is inclined to make them.

If there were somewhere in the world that wouldn't be affected by the resulting collapse, I'd recommend anyone who can should move there. Unfortunately, given the craziness of what's been going on in Europe, I don't think there's any place that's safe.

Afterword: I don't do obligatory posts, just in case you're wondering. I just couldn't think of a good title, and so that one wrote itself. Really. It just wrote itself right into the Title: field, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I'm the Barack Obama of bloggers, I guess.

NOTE 1: As that FDIC link notes, the write offs in the S&L crisis amounted to about $101 billion.

UPDATE: Forgot a h/t to lambert at Corrente for the Bill Black video.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Quote Of The Day

David Swanson, in discussing the relationship that the Occupy movements and politics should have to each other:
The best way to improve the elections is to improve the society. The best way to destroy the society is to focus too heavily on elections. The rational choice between two bums who are both worse than the two who were offered up in the previous election cannot possibly be rational.

Occupy the Winter of Our Discontent
I love the bit about rational choices. As I've noted, Ralph Nader's admonition that when you choose between two evils, what you end up with is evil, is just as true today. When you're in the habit of just choosing the lesser evil, the evils will get worse over time.

The other interesting thing to note about this quote is in the first sentence, and in the paragraphs preceding it. It's that it's becoming very clear now that the Occupy movements are determined to stay out of partisan politics. I think this is probably a good move. The archives of this blog are littered with tales of progressive organizations and publications that no longer do anything but serve the will of the people who have the real money. These people, whatever their motivations, control the debate that most of us see and hear. You really have to go looking for points of view, for instance, that don't accept the economic inevitability of cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. They're there, and they make more sense than what you see on TV, even on Al Jazeera or the BBC.

The Occupy movements are about confrontation, largely because they don't see any other way of affecting political discourse. I don't know if they're right about that, but I certainly understand the reasons.

That, far more than the pithy observation about our political choices, is what makes this a worthy quote of the day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Rich And The Power To Demand

Caption: A rich kid who gets it. If there were more like her, we wouldn't need protests.

Image credit: Buzz Feed

A week or so ago, Expat, someone who often leaves interesting comments here, wrote this regarding an article I'd written on the Occupy Wall Street protests:
The lower photo probably is the best depiction of the greater part of the upper class elite that I have ever met; conscientious, caring, secure in their person and most often generous in some form or another. These qualities are not those of the MOTU corporate CEO type pathologically driven psychopaths endeavoring to accumulate dynastic levels of wealth from their privileged positions of management.

Unfortunately the word wealth doesn't distinguish between these types, and neither do those who rage against the rich.

Quote Of The Day [Oct. 12, 2011]: Comment by Expat
He was referring to the photo that leads this article, which is of an apparently wealthy young woman speaking out against the injustices that the Occupy people are protesting. That's the original caption, and I daresay I still think it's an accurate one. Whatever they may feel about this, I don't see a great many of her fellow "one percenters" joining in on this.

Why I'm An Atheist

Caption: What does God need a bad movie for?

Image credit: Screenshot art of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier John Kenneth Muir

It seems to be all the rage right now to explain why one is an atheist. Before I read anyone else's story, I thought it might be a good idea to tell my own. Don't want to be accused of plagiary, now do I?

Unfortunately, why I'm an atheist is rather difficult to explain. There are no inspiring stories of being rescued from a cult by deprogrammers, or some deep insight that just suddenly struck me one day while I was trying out some new mutant strain of peyote. It was all pretty much done by the time I was ten. I don't remember a lot from when I was that age.

Must have been that peyote...

You might think that would mean that my parents were atheists, but that's not true. Neither were. My father was largely uninterested in religion, and my mother was turned into an agnostic thanks to the foolish nonsense the Catholic church of her day thought that all young women should naturally want to do. While we were growing up, they "experimented" with different religions, most based on Christianity. There was a Lutheran church for a while, and a Moravian one, I think, and then we went all Unitarian for a while. None of that seems to have made much of an impression on me.

The truth is that after learning that there was no such thing as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or all the things in Grimm's Fairy Tales, that all those Bible stories just sounded like more magical stories people told each other. I'd read enough about science by then to learn how scientists thought the universe began, and that it was composed of matter, which behaved according to well-understood rules. That made a lot more sense to me.

You might wonder at this point how a ten year old boy, who should have just barely been at the stage of mental development where he could do abstract reasoning, could have worked all this out. The answer is that I don't know. Yet I know it happened. I remember arguing about it with other boys in the Boy Scouts a year or so later, trying to explain how the universe was supposed to have began, and how much of what we saw in the world around us worked by natural laws. I'm not that much of a prodigy. I suspect that I was able to do it because there weren't a lot of adults around telling me not to.

That's the one other thing that my parents did that contributed to my being an atheist - they believed that everyone should make up his own mind about things. I just went ahead and did it.

It certainly wasn't until later that I worked out a lot of the other reasons for being an atheist, like that it wasn't necessary for there to be gods for the universe to exist. Nor were they necessary to explain random chance, as I learned when I took probabilities in high school. It wasn't until even later that I finally realized that not only was it not necessary, but it actually made no sense that they should be required to make this complex thing we live in. After all, if that were true, then something would have been needed to have made them, too. And just what would that be?

And it wasn't until the fifth Star Trek movie came out, in fact, that I finally really realized that I would never believe in such things. For those who may have managed to forget that movie, let me remind you that in it, there is a scene where Kirk and Spock are meeting some alien who is posing as God, the creator of the universe, etc. Kirk eventually works out that this isn't really God, because God wouldn't need a space ship, now would he? Sometimes even bad art can be thought-provoking, though, because it was in that moment that I finally realized that if I were ever actually in that situation, I'd be assuming that I was being confronted with some sort of trick or illusion, or at best by an entity that was a lot more technically advanced. I figured that people who are inclined to believe in that sort of thing would assume that this was their god or one of their gods, or maybe it reminded them more of someone else's, but I wouldn't have been a convert.

I would have been trying to figure out what the trick was. That's when I finally knew that I'd never be anything but an atheist, and that religion was mostly boring nonsense that other people needed to talk about for some reason.

So, that's why I'm an atheist - because my parents let me make up my own mind, and I did. Nothing more to it than that, really. Still, I managed to find a picture that fits in with the tale. Maybe that makes up for the lack of drama.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And People Wonder Why I Don't Do Social Media

Caption: Believe it or not, my furry mug is now on Twitter.

There's a reason I don't do social media, and it mostly boils down to that it's just another way of reminding me what creepy little shits some people can be. As JT Eberhard reports:
Kenny Flagg, a leader with the Freethinkers of The University of North Dakota put this image on the r/atheism subreddit after 1am this morning. Overnight we get a gaggle of international traffic.

This morning it hits the front page of reddit and we start getting domestic traffic. Also, Christians start hammering it with downvotes.

Matching Offer For The SSA
This is creepy and stupid on levels I don't want to explore. Go to the linked article if you want to know more, and/or do something.

How did I learn about this? Via Twitter, of course.

By the way, I'm registered with Twitter now as Cujo359. Mostly, what I do is announce new articles on it, so no one is following. It's just another way for the world to ignore what I have to say, which seems to suit the world just fine, and doesn't bother me as much as it perhaps ought to.


This photo was taken near Watkins Glen, NY, in a state park there:
Image credit: Amerikaan314/Wikipedia

As you can see from the image credit, it's not one of mine. Of course, that link leads to the Wikipedia page explaining the photo and offering larger images, if any.

I love the look of the sedimentary rock being cut by the stream. Waterfalls that last are made of relatively hard rocks layered on top of softer rock. As the underlying rock is cut away, the rock on top breaks off, preserving the drop. The rocks could be either limestone, slate, or shale, plus sandstone. All are pretty common in that region. There are fossil ripples and waves there.

This waterfall is one of nineteen at the park.

Whatever it is, it's lovely.

Yes, all that because someone mentioned auto racing in the New York area.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Protest Sign Of The Day

Via Twitter, I found this little gem:

Image credit: Twitter image via Matt Stoller

What's all that then? Turns out the person who wrote this sign is referring to this article by Think Progress writer Zaid Jilani, who put our current economic disparity in focus with an article drawn from a number of sources.

All of which would be way too technical for some folks, as Matt Stoller observed:
You're even providing citations. What a well-sourced revolution. #OccupyDC I bet other revolutions give you wedgies.

Twitter message from Matt Stoller
That's probably true. I mean, the sorts of guys who go around carrying signs like this:
Image credit: Look At This Teabagger

(Just how many czars did the Soviet Union have? Talk about a trivial criticism.)

and this:

Image credit: Look At This Teabagger


Image credit: Look At This Teabagger

(I guess three out of four isn't too bad, if you're grading on the Teabagger curve.)

and everyone's favorite:

Image credit: story at Know Your Memes

never paid much attention to stuff like percentages and sourcing.

Yes, I think all those jocks and prom queens who never needed to learn things like spelling and grammar probably would have hung the person who wrote that first sign up by his suspenders in the classroom closet all night.

After they took his lunch money, of course. Probably why they never needed to worry about health care or retirement.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday Entertainment: Terra Nova

Caption: Shannon (Jason O'Mara) is starting to feel nostalgic for life in prison, and Taylor (Stephen Lang) wishes he had a bigger gun on an episode of Terra Nova

Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359

At the moment, I'm about to watch another episode of Fox's new series Terra Nova. It's a science fiction show, sort of, about people who go back in time to live with the dinosaurs. Why would they do that, you might ask? Well, because apparently just not polluting the Earth so much that it became uninhabitable was so complicated that they had to invent a time machine. Or something like that.

Which, I have to say, may not be as far fetched as it sounds. I suspect it might actually be easier to defy the laws of physics than to make Congress and the world's other legislative bodies do something that isn't abjectly stupid.

Still, one expects a bit more logic out of a fictional program.

Which, I'm afraid, is an expectation that's going to bring nothing but pain while watching this show.

The series is centered around the Shannons, a family who made the mistake of having an extra child in the 22nd Century, which apparently someone finally decided was something that they should try to avoid. So, they break Pa Shannon out of prison and escape to the past. I mean, what else are you gonna do?

As a family, the Shannons are about as compelling a subject as a typical Disney family, which is to say that the most interesting things they do are stay out late when they're not supposed to. Sometimes the kids do that, too, which is a bit more exciting. Ma Shannon has a paramour of sorts in one of her colleagues, who has about as much chance of scoring with her as I do. By that I mean, I have as much chance of scoring through the TV screen as he does in person. Not much drama there, either.

The settlers came back to the time of the dinosaurs, yet the weapons they brought with them seem barely adequate for hunting gophers. Emptying entire magazines from these oversized but underpowered firearms doesn't seem to get these creatures' attention. Yet somehow, we're told that their leader, Taylor, survived on his own there for four months.

It must be true, though, because otherwise the nearby predators would have consumed the whole camp by now. Maybe we'll discover later that they're all really vegetarians.

Taylor is about the only interesting character, since he seems to have some secret or another up his sleeve. I'm guessing it will probably turn out to be about as interesting as the Shannons, but you never know. Plus, he's kinda grouchy, because he was trapped by himself in the jungle with a bunch of vegetarian dinosaurs.

Sometimes you have to accept your pathos wherever you can find it.

Still, there's a more interesting question that I'm quite sure we will never see the answer to, no matter how long the show is on. That question is this:

They replaced The Chicago Code with this? What were they thinking?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Fodder For The Bankers

If it's any consolation, America isn't the only country that's run by the toadies of big financial institutions. David Dayen summarizes conditions in Greece:
Greek MPs ignored a 48-hour general strike, the first in the country in decades, and a march of nearly 100,000 on the Parliament building, by preparing to approve another round of austerity measures that continue to cripple the world’s oldest democracy. An initial test vote on the austerity bill passed 154-141, along party lines. The ruling PASOK only has an 8-vote majority among the 300-seat Parliament.
Large, Violent Protests Fail to Sway Greek Leaders From More Austerity

I wrote in a comment at yesterday that however all this Occupy stuff plays out, it's going to be the work of years. The Greeks have been doing this for a year now, yet things seem no different than when they started, except that it's gotten violent now.

The likely trajectory here isn't a pleasant one.

This article originally appeared as a diary at

Profiles In Fierce Advocacy: People Think You Should Be At Least As Good As Some White Guy

Image credit: Rep. Maxine Waters official website

More of an indirect quote via Politico, but I love it anyway:
[Rep. Maxine Waters CA-35] had expressed out loud the sense of frustration that a president whose election was hailed as a crowning moment in African-Americans’ struggle for equality has not resulted in the sweeping change pioneered by a white Southern Democrat’s Great Society four decades earlier.

President Obama learns perils of roiling Maxine Waters
Ouch! Oh, and snap! I added that emphasis, of course, and the link.

Nothing quite captures how useless Barack Obama has been as President, both to African Americans and the rest of us. Taylor Marsh adds:
Whether Pres. Obama is comfortable addressing this specific reality head on or not, minority unemployment is a ticking bomb.

For the first African American president to not be able to speak directly to the plights of minority unemployed, which is Rep. Waters’ home base, represents the mirror image of Obama’s lack of connection with the blue collar working class, whose economic plight is also turning downward.

The Perils of Pissing off Maxine
There’s a lot of trouble out here in the land beyond the Beltway. Unemployment is worst in minority communities, I expect, but there are predominately white ones that will be getting there soon. Nothing makes a country unstable like lots of young unemployed men contemplating their bleak futures. Just ask Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Greece.

Maxine Waters isn’t Barack Obama’s problem – she’s just one of the least problematic symptoms.

If President Fierce Advocate weren't so utterly uninterested in our problems out here, I suspect he'd be hearing a lot less from Rep. Waters.

He'd definitely be hearing a lot less from me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cartoon Of The Day

Via Joyce Arnold, a cartoon that encapsulates the television and radio discussion of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations:

Image credit: Occupy Wall Street

Because learning stuff is just so darned hard when you don't really want to ...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Where We Are

Two things on my new Twitter feed caught my attention this morning. The first was this photo, via Kevin Gosztola:

Image credit: We Are The 99 Percent

No, I haven't done the due diligence to find out if this particular photo is genuine. It came from We Are The 99 Percent, a website where people, mostly young ones, send in web cam images of themselves with their stories. Is this particular one true? I have no idea, but there are hundreds of thousands of stories just like hers in America these days. This is what high long-term unemployment does. It creates stories like these. This young lady's story was one of the last ones posted last Sunday, and I had to go through sixteen pages of other stories to get there.

The way things are going, we'll all be posting our stories there someday.

The other story was this one, via Ophelia Benson:
Sixty-six children under the age of 15 die from physical abuse or neglect every week in the industrialised world. Twenty-seven of those die in the US - the highest number of any other country.

Even when populations are taken into account, Unicef [sic] research from 2001 places the US equal bottom with Mexico on child deaths from maltreatment.

In Texas, one of the states with the worst child abuse records, the Dallas Children's Medical Center is dealing with a rising number of abused children[.]

America's child death shame
None of this is particularly surprising. The United States had one of the highest levels of infant mortality in the developed world even before the crash of 2008. With the depression we're now in, that's just going to get worse as both the privation and stress of long-term unemployment continue to take their toll.

Nor is it surprising that one of the worst places is Texas, one of those places where people go on about "family values". That's a phrase that mostly seems to mean that people have to share the particular prejudices of the people uttering it.

But this is where we are in America in 2011. We have one political party that doesn't give a damn about anyone who is out of the womb. The other one doesn't give a damn about anyone. And anyone who wants to believe otherwise can kiss my furry ass. Ultimately, people are defined by their actions, and both parties have stood by and let all this happen, when they haven't been trying to make things worse.

Little wonder that there's a pretty high correlation between the people who think that the Occupy movement is incoherent and the ones who long ago stopped asking themselves whether either party has done anything to make our society better lately.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Lambert Strether, at Corrente:
I'm so old, I remember when the Washington Post ran stories I wanted to read
If nothing else, it's another handy rejoinder to "how old" jokes.

I used to beat up on the WaPo fairly often. Now, I've gotten to the point where I have to ask why anyone would bother. With an exception of one reporter or two, it gave up on the idea of doing real journalism a long time ago. Now it's just a propaganda outlet for conservatives and "middle of the road" Democrats - more conservatives, in other words. The scandal a couple of years ago, when it literally tried to sell access to reporters to advertisers, was something I thought barely worth noting at the time. It just formalized an arrangement that was clearly in place for some time.

It used to be a decent paper, if a tad sensationalist. Now, it has no useful place in our society beyond lining the cages of particularly incontinent parrots. Yes, I wouldn't even wrap a fish in it.

Yes, Something's Changed

This will be the lead article through Monday. New content, if any, will be below.

Image credit: Emilian Robert Vicor/Flickr

I'm trying out a new template for the blog. The old one wasn't doing any number of things properly, and I was tired of trying to figure out why things weren't working.

It's quite likely this won't be the end of the changes, but it's a step in a better direction.

Let me know in comments or via e-mail if something isn't working for you.

UPDATE (Oct. 15): I've changed the CSS so that blockquotes and tables are set off with slightly different background colors.

Now that the "share this" widget appears at the bottom of articles like it's supposed to, I've removed the "Twitterize Me" widget along the side. Thanks for using it, and now you have even more ways to let the world know about all the fabulous stuff you've found here. ;)

Hopefully, that's all the changes...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Quote Of The Day

From theflamingmaiden, writing about her experience occupying Louisville today:

As a small business owner, I need affordable healthcare, food, gas, and housing so I can keep my job and do cool things like feed my kid.

Occupy Wall Street Running Smoothly in Louisville
It's the caption that does it for me.

Personally, I like being able to heat my place and eat. But one of the prices of freedom is having to figure out what we do with our disposable income.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Image credit: Mark M./Occupy Together

Economist Nouriel Roubini is sounding an awful lot like David Frum today in an essay published at Al Jazeera:
[T]he rise of the social-welfare state was a response (often of market-oriented liberal democracies) to the threat of popular revolutions, socialism, and communism as the frequency and severity of economic and financial crises increased. Three decades of relative social and economic stability then ensued, from the late 1940’s until the mid-1970’s, a period when inequality fell sharply and median incomes grew rapidly.

Some of the lessons about the need for prudential regulation of the financial system were lost in the Reagan-Thatcher era, when the appetite for massive deregulation was created in part by the flaws in Europe’s social-welfare model. Those flaws were reflected in yawning fiscal deficits, regulatory overkill, and a lack of economic dynamism that led to sclerotic growth then and the eurozone’s sovereign-debt crisis now.

But the laissez-faire Anglo-Saxon model has also now failed miserably. To stabilise market-oriented economies requires a return to the right balance between markets and provision of public goods. That means moving away from both the Anglo-Saxon model of unregulated markets and the continental European model of deficit-driven welfare states. Even an alternative “Asian” growth model - if there really is one - has not prevented a rise in inequality in China, India, and elsewhere.

The Instability Of Inequality
Or, he's sounding a lot like me when I talk about the free market fairy. Take your pick.

Anyone who thinks that markets are going to work to the betterment of people in them all the time is not only mistaken, but clearly has chosen to ignore much of modern history. As Roubini suggests when he discusses the "flaws in Europe's social-welfare model", government involvement isn't always a good thing, either, but a truly enlightened society will use its government to keep its markets working the way they should, and make up for the situations when they clearly can't.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Guess where this quote comes from:
[I]n politics and public policy there are better and worse answers. There are things that work and things that don't work. Right now we're watching state governments try to balance all of their budgets at the same time in the middle of this crisis. We've seen half a million public sector jobs disappear. Now, if these were good times, I would applaud that. We need to see a thinner public sector -- especially at the state and local level. But we're seeing what happens when you do that as an anti-recession measure and you make the recession worse. And even though we're in a technical recovery, incomes and employment -- all of that remains lagging for people -- I think that we've rediscovered in this crisis something that I think we all knew. Which is, there's a reason why the people of the 1930s built some kind of minimum guarantee -- unemployment insurance, health care coverage and things like that. And it's not because they wanted to be nice. It's because in a crisis when people lose their jobs, if there is no social safety net they loose 100 percent of their purchasing power.

NPR Marketplace Interview
Who was that raving liberal? Paul Krugman? Dean Baker? Oh, wait it's NPR's Marketplace, that means it must be Robert Reich, right?

Wrong. This is David Frum, Robert Reich's right-wing opponent on Marketplace, or I should say is erstwhile opponent. That interview is his announcement that he can no longer represent the Republican Party in these broadcasts.

At first, I was mystified as to why he can't continue, even though he clearly doesn't agree with the GOP's current prescription for the economy. I can't blame him there, because it's batshit insane. It's also President Obama's strategy, though, which ought to give him some room to argue. His erstwhile counterpoint doesn't understand, either:
I don’t feel any obligation to represent liberal Democrats. Over the years I’ve argued, for example, in favor of getting rid of the corporate income tax, creating school vouchers inversely related to family incomes, and extending free-trade agreements — positions not exactly favored by liberal Democrats.

The American public doesn’t want or need to hear “representatives” from the so-called right or left. It wants insight into what’s best for America.

The Triumph Of Dogma
Beside the idea that cutting corporate income taxes is a good idea, there's another idea in this quote that I take exception to: While I want to hear insights about what's best for America (or whoever the subject is), I can't remember having heard that on the news analysis programs I've watched lately. At least, if you look at something like This Week, Meet The Press, Face The Nation, or even The News Hour, what you are treated to almost entirely are the talking points of one party or the other. It's a rare day when there's actual analysis about what's best for our society in those discussions.

So, I'm glad that David Frum is smart enough to realize that more bleeding isn't going cure this gushing head wound of an economy, but I can sort of understand his lack of interest in discussing it on the radio.

I'd rather he gave it a try, though.

Dennis Ritchie: RIP

Caption: C language source code - Dennis Ritchie's gift to the world. This particular bit is part of the Linux operating system.

Image credit: Screenshot by Cujo359

The other day, I left a comment at another site regarding Steve Jobs' death, pointing out that, while Jobs certainly helped popularize the computer, he didn't "democratize" it. What he did, in fact, was the opposite - closing the technology of Apple products, so that only a small oligarchy could determine its direction.

In rebutting this idea, I mentioned some of the people who have worked to make computer technology more open and available, Linus Torvalds, Tim Berners-Lee, Richard Stallman, and Eric Raymond being the ones I can remember. Sadly, there was at least one giant omission from that list:
Dennis Ritchie, creator of the C programming language and co-creator of the Unix operating system, has died aged 70.

While the introduction of Intel's 4004 microprocessor in 1971 is widely regarded as a key moment in modern computing, the contemporaneous birth of the C programming language is less well known. Yet the creation of C has as much claim, if not more, to be the true seminal moment of IT as we know it; it sits at the heart of programming — and in the hearts of programmers — as the quintessential expression of coding elegance, power, simplicity and portability.

Dennis Ritchie, father of Unix and C, dies

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Image credit: Joel Gehman/Occupy Together

Ian Welsh is often good for a quote of the day, a thought that sums up some subject remarkably well in few words. A comment of his yesterday at his own blog is a case in point. Discussing how the Wall Street elite have been handling the Occupy Wall Street protests so far, he wrote:
I find the way the elites are acting incredibly stupid. If I were them and didn’t want fundamental changes, I’d pat the protestors on the head, tell the cops to be nice to them, and even go say sympathetic things to them. Smile, nod, be supportive of the encampments themselves, but don’t make any changes to how business is actually done. Let winter and disillusionment deal with them. Give them nothing to rally against.

They are incompetent even at this.

I see the police are providing an education (comment)
Arrogance makes you stupid, and I suspect this is the case here. Not too long ago, their peer among Presidential candidates, Herman Cain, had this to say about the 99 percent of us who aren't rich:
The Tea Party favorite then argued that the plight of the unemployed was their own fault.

"Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks, if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself. It is not someone's fault if they succeeded, it is someone's fault if they failed," the ex-Godfather's Pizza CEO declared.

Herman Cain to Occupy Wall Street protesters: If you're not rich 'blame yourself'
How much of an arrogant jackass do you have to be to not recognize how much good fortune has to do with whether you're rich or not? If nothing else, all those signs about "the other 99%" should be a clue. Being rich is a rare thing, and there are many reasons. You have to win the genetic lottery, for starters - be given enough brainpower and good health to be able to achieve your ambitions. You have to live in a stable society, at least assuming you're not a sociopath. And you have to be able to get enough support from those around you to at least get started.

Caption: A rich kid who gets it. If there were more like her, we wouldn't need protests.

Image credit: Buzz Feed

Yet Herman Cain, and the arrogant clowns like him who are running Wall Street these days, seem to think that there's no such thing as not being smart enough, not being able to stay healthy, or not being able to catch a break when you need it.

So, yes, while I agree with Ian's assessment of what they should do, they're so arrogant that I'd be very surprised if they ever did. They just don't seem to be able to get over themselves.

(h/t Joyce Arnold for that Buzz Feed photo)

How Ignorant Do You Have To Be?

Caption: The American Revolution, as envisioned by Rick Perry.

Image credit: Walter Lantz

Wow. I thought after the last Republican primary things couldn't get any worse for that party's presidential candidates. I was wrong:
[Texas Governor Rick] Perry, a favorite of tea party Republicans, replied, “Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C., to be the fount of all wisdom. As a matter of fact, they were very much afraid of that because they’d just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought process and planning and what have you, and then it was actually the reason that we fought the Revolution in the 16th century, was to get away from that kind of onerous crown if you will.”

Tea Party Favorite Perry Gets Revolution Date Wrong
This isn't just nitpicking. He didn't say it was 1776, when Concord, Bunker Hill, and all the early battles in Massachusetts happened in 1775. Nor is this a case of saying "17th Century" because the Revolution happened in the 1700s. By any reasonable criterion, he's off by more than a century. Columbus didn't reach the Western Hemisphere until the end of the 15th Century (1492). The 16th Century was when the Spaniards set about stealing all the gold they could from the locals.

It wasn't until the 17th Century, the 1600s, that the first English and Dutch settlements were founded, which were the first efforts by Europeans to settle what became the original thirteen colonies. The American Revolution was still more than a century and a half away.

This isn't Perry's first time being on the wrong side of reality. Like the idiots of 2007, he doesn't "believe" in evolution. He's the one who implored his state to pray for rain when droughts brought fires to much of Texas, when he had not long before cut funding for fire fighting. Which, one would have to think, was due to the fact that he doesn't "believe" in climate change, either.

Rick Perry is the answer to the question "How ignorant do you have to be to be the Tea Party's favorite?" The answer is not very flattering to either Perry or the party.

Cartoon Of The Day

The curve isn't quite so steep in my case, but it goes in the same general direction:

Image credit: xkcd

If you're not sure what this is about, perhaps this Wikipedia article can shed some light.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Image credit: Rayna Daine/Occupy Together

After starting out much as I did, noting that there seems to be no end of people willing to criticize the Occupy Wall Street movement for not making specific policy demands, The New York Times editorial concludes:
It is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation. That’s the job of the nation’s leaders, and if they had been doing it all along there might not be a need for these marches and rallies. Because they have not, the public airing of grievances is a legitimate and important end in itself. It is also the first line of defense against a return to the Wall Street ways that plunged the nation into an economic crisis from which it has yet to emerge.

Protesters Against Wall Street
That's the problem in a nutshell. Why in the world should these people come up with policy demands? They want jobs, a safety net, decent schools, and no doubt other things that a just and honorable society would provide already. They're protesting at the place that is the center of everything that is preventing that from happening. There's really no other message necessary, provided you're not motivated to believe otherwise.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

September's Job Numbers

Image credit: Clipped from this U.K. Guardian photo by Cujo359

There's not much to say that hasn't been said already. The basic problem, as has been true for all but a couple months of the Obama Administration, is that job growth has not even kept pace with the increase in the available supply of labor. Hugh put the bottom line pretty well over at Corrente:
In conclusion, 30 million is the number this month and it doesn't appear in the jobs report. 30 million Americans is a lot of Americans. It is a lot of families, a lot of hopes and dreams. The Republicans don't care at all. Neither do Obama and the Democrats. Even by Obama's own best case scenario, his jobs plan would create 1.9 million jobs (lasting about a year). The truth is the way his package is structured he would be lucky to create one million, but most of the plan is just an election campaign gesture. It is not meant to be enacted but to provide campaign talkingpoints. But even if it were, 1.9 million temporary jobs would, after taking into account population growth, improve the U-3 unemployment rate by maybe 0.4%. Take my estimate of one million jobs and it would not cover population growth and have no positive effect on the U-3 rate at all. And this is the response of our political Establishment to a problem whose size they say is 14 million. Only it is more than twice that big, 30 million. To be blunt, we are so screwed. Not only do we have a huge jobs crisis that is getting worse but our political duopoly is committed to doing nothing about it beyond some short term exploitation of it to score a few political points.

The BLS Jobs Report Covering September 2011: 30 Million Disemployed
What Hugh calls "disemployment" is all the people who either don't have jobs and want them, or have jobs that provide less than they need financially. If I were calculating that number, it would be higher, because I don't assume that the new batch of potential workers is like all potential workers. They're generally younger, and I assume that most, if not all of them, need a job. That may not be a valid assumption, either, but if my numbers are higher than Hugh's, that's why.

Still, by Hugh's calculation there are 30 million of us who either want a job or need a better one. That's as high as that number has ever been. People who tell you the economy is improving, in my opinion, are profoundly mistaken, and it's really hard to look at these numbers and not realize that. We have been losing ground nearly every month since President Obama took office, and we lost millions of jobs in the year before he arrived.

On the subject of the "jobs bill", I don't disagree one bit. What I wrote a couple of weeks ago:
If they had been serious about getting the economy kick-started, they would have proposed at least $2 trillion - the amount of the output gap to date, minus the $800 billion of the stimulus bill. They're off by almost an order of magnitude.

Hey, I Don't Want To Brag, But...
can now be confirmed by Hugh's calculation. My approach was essentially the same as Christy Romer's and Paul Krugman's. I looked at the difference between what the economy should have produced since 2007 and what it actually did, then assumed that the government would have to make up most of the difference. Hugh's was to look at the size of our disemployment problem and compare it to the number of jobs the bill is claimed to be capable of creating. In both cases, the answer is that the bill is a tenth what it ought to be.

And, as Hugh says, there isn't a chance that even this pitiful excuse for a bill will pass. It's a talking point, and what that talking point says to me is that even if the Democrats were free to do whatever they wanted, they wouldn't do anywhere near enough.

ite magna aut ite domum - it's definitely not the Democrats' motto.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs Shuts Down

Roughly six weeks after resigning as Apple Computer's CEO, Steve Jobs died today at 56. Wired magazine's obituary did a good job of describing his impact on the computer industry:
A visionary inventor and entrepreneur, it would be impossible to overstate Steve Jobs’ impact on technology and how we use it. Apple’s mercurial, mysterious leader did more than reshape his entire industry: he completely changed how we interact with technology. He made gadgets easy to use, gorgeous to behold and essential to own. He made things we absolutely wanted, long before we even knew we wanted them. Jobs’ utter dedication to how people think, touch, feel and interact with machines dictated even the smallest detail of the computers Apple built and the software it wrote.

Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011
The Mac, originally known as the Macintosh, the iPod, iPad, and iPhone weren't revolutionary because of the technology they used. They were revolutionary because they were packaged so well. The devices he helped inspire were easier to use and more stylish than the competition's.

Few have had more of an impact on the industry. It's open to question how long Apple can survive without him.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cool Web Page Of The Day

The wonders of modern technology:

View Occupy Everywhere in a larger map

That's a Google map of most of the places Occupy Together is trying to organize protests of one sort or another.

Let's see how long it is before this site has technical difficulties, shall we?

(h/t hipparchia)

UPDATE (11:45 PM PDT): That didn't take long. It appears it wasn't the forces of Big Internet that did this one in, but lack of interest:
Occupy Everywhere

Due to lack of interest from people to volunteer to help place new pins and update other. I have no choice but to abandon this project. If you and or a group would like to take it over please contact me and I can assign the privileges. Just keep in mind its not a 1 person job.
If you have a group who'd like to help, just click on the "Occupy Everywhere" link above to learn more.

Quote Of The Day

Montana Maven, in a comment at Corrente about the state of progressive activism in America:
They have been "campaigning" for America's Future since the 1980s. How has that worked out with all that "campaigning"?

In 2004 we were introduced to George Lakoff and he was a rock star with people fervently reframing everything in sight. I mentioned at the time to the Professor that no amount of "reframing" was going to make the introverted aristocratic Kerry a charismatic speaker. I said it was better to go with serious and solid issues like ending poverty and bringing back manufacturing jobs i.e. appealing to working Americans. ( I had worked for Edwards in Iowa because of these ideas and seeing for myself the misery of the Maytag workers).

Silly me. We Democrats just had to point out how superior we were because we were nurturers. We were mommies and daddies. Ugh.

I finally caught on that the same people were there every year and the same people would rail against the system and then herd everybody into the the voting booth for the lesser of two evils.

Warn the people of OWS about the OBorg machine for sure
The OBorg machine the title refers to is the Obama Administration's noise machine, but this is a comment that applies a lot more generally. I remember thinking, back in 2004, that Kerry and Gore before him, hadn't done enough to differentiate himself from George W. Bush on a whole host of issues, particularly how we would handle the two wars we'd gotten ourselves into. The answer we got was that he'd do it the same way, only better.

This was my own brief experience with progressive and Democratic activists. They were always telling us how stupid we were for not doing things their way, or not understanding the brilliance of their strategy. They were always getting their asses handed to them. They never seemed to be able to put those two thing together to reach the obvious conclusion.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Place Is The Message

Image credit: Matt Stoller

We tried to speak between lines of oration
You could only repeat what we told you.
Your axe belongs to a dying nation,
They don't know that we own you.
You're watching movies trying to find the feelers,
You only see what we show you.
We're the slaves of the phony leaders
Breathe the air we have blown you.

Lyrics to "The Punk Meets The Godfather (NOTE 1)
Back when I worked for a relatively large defense firm, I had a boss who when we were making up slides for a presentation, would insist that we only have three "bullet points", meaning three thoughts or concepts to discuss, per slide. "What happens if there are four things to talk about?", I'd ask. "Remove one of them", was the response. Needless to say, most of those slides had either two or three bullet points, since almost never made sense to make a slide with only one. I suspect this sameness didn't help hold peoples' interest very much.

Why did my boss insist on this rule? It turns out that someone did some research into how best to hold an audience's attention in these sorts of presentations, and that was a rule they came up with. Too many thoughts at once, or too few slides, and people lose focus. All of which, I can tell you as a member of those audiences, is largely true. The problem wasn't the rule itself. The problem was in the application.