Saturday, December 31, 2011

Say What You'd Like

about Paul Krugman but his blog has provided the most sustained and intelligent reporting and arguments about the Hungarian debacle. And, clearly, the official Hungarian response to this coverage suggests that he and his colleague are getting under their skin. The recent response to this response is, I think, worth reading.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review

I got Peter Englund's The Beauty and The Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War for Christmas; he claims that the book is not "about what" WWI "was . . . its causes, course, conclusion and consequences" but rather "what it was like" (xi).  His "focus remains primarily on the everyday aspects of the war" because the text is "a work of anti-history" with an emphasis on "the individual, and his or her experiences" (xiii). I don't think his book supports this claim, for reasons I explain below, and I am not sure why someone who has invested as much time and effort would avoid providing explicit argument, interpretation, and analysis.

The text is based on his reading diaries and letters of some 20 participants from different fronts, armies, and occupations: former opera singer and American married into the transnational eastern European aristocracy, left-wing French man of letters, reluctant Danish/German soldier, courageous British upper-class Red Cross volunteer, and so on. Englund doesn't offer any principle for selection of characters. Some of them are hyper articulate, Belgian flyer Willy Coppens for example, while Elfriede Kuhl is far too young to understand and analyze her war.  Paolo Monelli comes across as an Italian alpine Rambo. It seems to me that Englund's actors and the various excerpts he selects, forwards three distinct arguments: the war was badly managed at the top, popular enthusiasm waned rapidly under the pressure of events, and no one really understood the war.

The book is divided into year long sections in which Englund selects excerpts or offers extended paraphrases of diaries and letters for different days of each month. There is a sort of summing up for the characters in the end and, finally, a cleverly selected coda that orients the reader toward the future. This selection, it is Hitler's alleged response to the Armistice, cements, for me in any event, the extent to which Englund is making an argument about the war's consequence as well as course, nature, and causes.

Altagsgeschicte, the history of everyday life, focuses on the everyday and makes no claim to be an "anti-history"; rather it is a history in another key. Englund's claim here, it seems to me, is defensive: an attempt to obscure the extent to which his selection of voices and the diary or letter excerpts is completely conventional. For example, while he doesn't provide citations for the letters and diaries, he does provide explanatory footnotes. By attending to these, the reader finds Englund's argument about the war, that its start was written in the passive voice, that the hopes for a moral cleansing were misplaced, that the was a case of donkeys leading lions, etc, that accepts the consensus view of 10 or 20 years ago.

I would recommend this book primarily because its well-written. It is not for novices in the world of WWI studies. For advanced students the bibliography is probably its nicest feature.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Honesty Not The Best Policy Updated

One of the depressing aspects of the current level of intellectual debate is the mendacity of the conservatives. In the course of a remarkably incoherent, uncharitable, and badly-argued review of Corey Robin's book on conservativism, Mark Lilla, whose real purpose is not to review Robin but rather to insist that not all conservatives are crazy -- to which one points at the current crop of Republicans and their various crazy positions, argues that
[w]hat makes conservatives conservative are the implications they have drawn from Burke’s view of society. Conservatives have always seen society as a kind of inheritance we receive and are responsible for; we have obligations toward those who came before and to those who will come after, and these obligations take priority over our rights. Conservatives have also been inclined to assume, along with Burke, that this inheritance is best passed on implicitly through slow changes in custom and tradition, not through explicit political action. Conservatives loyal to Burke are not hostile to change, only to doctrines and principles that do violence to preexisting opinions and institutions, and open the door to despotism. This was the deepest basis of Burke’s critique of the French Revolution; it was not simply a defense of privilege.
As I've mentioned before, Burke view of society was essentially and fundamentally undemocratic. His argued for society's gradual improvement under the leadership of existing elites and institutions and feared common people's participation in political decision making unmediated by elite tutelage. This is a recipe for elite domination of political decision making and rests on the conviction that, as Lila suggests Robin's incorrectly argues, “some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others.” That "reasonable" Conservatives want to deny that their project rests on this horrid little principle doesn't change that fact.

If Lilla wants to get rid of the dark and dangerous forces he sees the first step is to admit the role and power of the Conservative desire to deny to most of us the right to decide our own fates. Of course, to do that means admitting the unpleasant reality of the Conservative and Neoliberal project.

The more I think about it the more I become convinced that Lilla had no interest in reviewing Robin's book but rather wanted to offer some kind of an anti-Tea Party conservative political ideology with a pinch f false equivalency thrown in.

For a good thrashing of Lilla's review see

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Robot or Sociopath?

Mitt Romney has to be one or the other. This article in the NYT is deeply disturbing. The man seems immune to the normal feelings we associated with humanity and, what strikes me as even worse, his success, such as it is, arises from this desert like moral and emotional inner life.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Parsing the 99%

Matt Taibbi argues that "[w]hat makes people furious" with the oligarchs "is that they have stopped being citizens." This is true.

But what motivates the petty-minded woe-is-us claptrap of the oligarchs? Neoliberalism,. In the course of   the neoliberals' long march through the institutions included and includes the notion that the oligarchs ought not be citizens of any state and that their, and really the only real, allegiance is to the market. This claim has been amplified by dimwits and useful idiots until it is now sacredly true. When, for example, Kevin Drum, a moderate neoliberal,writes of how the current economic collapse "radicalized" him, his response is a list of tepid moderate neoliberal responses that will do nothing to make the systemic changes necessary if we are going to created a just society.

When Dean Baker writes a book sternly taking liberals and progressives to task for their failure to take the system seriously and, consequently, blames them for allowing the oligarchs to seize control, he engages in the same kind of tepid reformism that is going to get us exactly nowhere in the short or long run.

Paul Krugman cites a Joe Nocera column in which the latter exposes hard core neoliberal lies about the economic wreck wrought by the neoliberal consensus. Krugman gives himself and Nocera props for being brave truth tellers in these dark times. True as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. Keynesism papers over the structural inequality built into market capitalism.

Why, one wonders, is it that exactly at that moment when reality exposes the fundamental idiocy of "market" capitalism that everyone on the "left" responds with reform ideas that range from lukewarm to ice cold?  It is a case of 1848 all over again. The centrists won't make common cause with radicals because? No idea.

What is to be done? If I had a vote it would be for market socialism.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Killing or Kisses

The New York Times reports on a horrific case of bullying and a resultant suicide of an American who was trying to serve his country. The world, one want to say, sucks. On the other hand, adults who love one another are increasingly able to show the love:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not Bad For an Economist

Paul Krugman has two nice posts up on Hungary from an actual expert. Go figure.

History Remains a Discipline; Economics is a Bunch of Blather

Over to Naked Capitalism there is a two part series on economics and how it got that way. One interesting point is that 
the grey- beards summarily expelled both philosophy and history from the graduate economics curriculum; and then, they chased it out of the undergraduate curriculum as well. This latter exile was the bitterest, if only because many undergraduates often want to ask why the profession believes what it does, and hear others debate the answers, since their own allegiances are still in the process of being formed. The rationale tendered to repress this demand was that the students needed still more mathematics preparation, more statistics and more tutelage in ‘theory’, which meant in practice a boot camp regimen consisting of endless working of problem sets, problem sets and more problem sets, until the poor tyros were so dizzy they did not have the spunk left to interrogate the masses of journal articles they had struggled to absorb.
In other words, if you want to assure that you will be wrong for evermore on any issue of importance assume that you are now and for evermore right and that this righness arose without and prolonged period of intellectual struggle.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Historians Rock

More reasons to adore Jill Lapore.

Anarcho-Syndicalism Isn't Chaos

Recently one or another of the nephews has been learning about various political whatchamacallits. The official answer for Anarchism is chaos. I've been reading Orwell on Spain. He does a really nice job of liming Anarcho-Sydicalism and, I think, Anarchism more generally in Chapter 5 of Homage. This post does a nice job of differentiating Hitchens from Orwell, although I think he underestimates Orwell condescension toward the "common man"; nonetheless, Orwell  was on the right side of this debate:

And this one:

Hitchens wasn't. More importantly, the one or another of the nephews' teacher fails entirely to understand that Anarchism is the logical culmination of buy local or think global act local arguments.It is also, pace theological nonsense, the logical culmination of Camus faith in humanity's ability to perfect the world, which is closely allied to Havel's notion of hope in the face of absurd death.

In short, the Anarchist argument hinges on the humanist impulse and the humanist impulse hinges on the "Enlightenment Project" of leaving self-imposed tutelage and thinking for one's self. It is true, as Hamann argued, that Kant suggests the tutelage of reason instead of the unreason of faith. It is also true that Kant was right and Hamann wrong.

These Are People Who Died

In the past couple of days several people died. One a deranged dictator, one a hack, and one a decent human being and humanist. From the last link we find this lovely and totally true argument:
But history is not something that takes place elsewhere; it takes place here. We all contribute to making it. If bringing back some human dimension to the world depends on anything, it depends on how we acquit ourselves in the here and now.
As to the hack, Elvis' point about Thatcher seems apposite:

He begins by arguing for her death but soon realizes that the outpouring of faux grief and disingenuous praise is more appalling. See also. The same is true about Greenwald's point about Hitchens and Reagan.

We all recognize that ridiculing the enforced public grief about Kim Jong-il is correct but for those men and women that ruined the world? Let us now praise famous men.

This is Not Going to End Well

America has been out of Iraq for what a day? And already the stable democracy we spent so much money and wasted sacrificed so many lives is paying those all important regional stability bonus points:
Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government was thrown into crisis on Monday night as authorities issued an arrest warrant for the Sunni vice president, accusing him of running a personal death squad that assassinated security officials and government bureaucrats.
Fortunately, the R2P doctrine means that we can re-invade with more freedom bombs when the Sunni on Shia or the opposite violence gets out of hand.

Friday, December 16, 2011


The other day we learned that the SEC doesn't have the money necessary to aggressively pursue cases of financial malfeasance. Today we learn that the DOJ has spent god knows how much money pursuing Barry Bonds for lying about cheating in a game that harmed no one.

Priorities people: sportsmen and women will cheat and this must be stopped even if it means a few miscreants cheat the world out of its life savings and face no punishment. Just like it's important for poor folks to shiver in winters deep dank darkness so long as we can continue to spend on failed jets and other luxuries necessary blowing up of things.

History's Got Rhythm

I mentioned recently that Hungary was looking more and more like much of 1930s Europe, i.e., fascistically inclined. Some years ago a guy wrote a short but convincing book about the censoring of Doblin's Alexanderplatz from Weimar's radio waves being an ideal way of understanding the forces that destroyed Weimar. In a recent article on Der Speigel online we learn of how Hungarian culture is being "reclaimed" by the fascists and authoritarians who now dominate its parliament. There are also hunger strikes on because of press "manipulation," unpunished violence against racial minorities, and other unpleasantness.
Perhaps becasue they are overly concerned with the non-democratic imposition of the neoliberal project, Europe and the US are essentially silent on the dangerous trends, they are more than willing to defend the sanctity of an independent central bank. A quick search of the NYT for Jobbik finds three results two of which are Krugman in an op ed and on his blog and one a straight news report from the most recent election. The same for Hungary gets a few more hits but nearly all of them on Hungary's economic circusmstances. There's very little on the Department of State's webpage on either and search of Secretary Clinton's remarks for the past year yields zero.

Why bring this up. The world is a dangerous place what with multiple American wars some declared, others undeclared, and at least two winding down and it's easy to get distracted and miss the real danger what with all the enforcing of austerity and pommeling poor people.

Heightening Their Own Damn Contradictions

Some years ago, controversial marxist Benny Levy, aka Pierre Victor, argued that 
[i]t can be normal to take as a starting point needs that have been covered over, fabricated and then turned to other uses by the bourgeoisie. And then from within institutions that are still accepted clearly show that there are contradictions, and then heighten these contradictions in order to arrive at their explosion, to arrive at the point where the masses create their own legitimacy and confront the law
The long march through institutions, in other words, is the best means of fomenting revolution by ruthlessly enforcing the worst aspects of any political or economic system.  The roots of neoconservativism in the radical left are well known.. Recently, Republicans cut money for poor people's education, heating, and related-whatnotery while protecting the super rich and the military.  With their allies the neoliberals they have been working on cutting the wages of everyone else and generally dedicated their lives to destroying the economy and ensuring that the many viewed the world with a kind of desperate hatred. Recent figures suggest that with nearly 46.2 million Americans in poverty, up from @ 32 million just 10 years ago the deadly duo has succeeded.

Clearly, the neos are heightening the contradictions in an attempt to overthrow the system. Other than being sociopaths, there is no explanation for the continuation of neoliberal economic and neoconservative foreign policies.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Remember the SEC/Citigroup case a judge threw out because, on the whole, he found it too lenient and wanted an admission of guilt? Instead of going to trial and convicting, the SEC is appealing the ruling. Why? Because:
The S.E.C. has long contended that it must settle most cases rather than take them to trial because its limited resources cannot afford much litigation. In addition, the commission says it frequently achieves in its settlements much the same result that it could hope to obtain in court, without enduring the expense of a trial.
It's the first half of the equation, not enough money to pursue crooks, rather than the I don't think we could have got more money half, that explains why prosecution for financial fraud is at a 20 year low.

This situation is, if you are wondering, by design.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

End College Athletics Now

The Historiann finds out that her university, Colorado, is giving its new football coach 1.5 million per year because that's the market and is outraged. She's right. Higher Education is supposed to be about education and yet some how or another the professional administrators and those who are assimilated to their bizarro world view "successful" athletics, climbing walls, CETLs, and other "learner" success crap means excellence in education.

We are going the wrong way. It's time to end technocratisme and end the notion that teachers and other educators don't know how to educate.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

6, 2, and Even

Belgium suffered a terrorist attack just now. If one can idly speculate as to the identity of the perpetrators, one would point in the direction of right-wing separatists. Because of Europe's recent history with right-wing terror, but jumping to conclusions is nearly always wrong.

Told ya not to speculate:
Authorities have not pinpointed a motive for the attack, but have ruled out ideological terrorism.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rhyming History

People often forget the number and kind of fascist regime that rose in the inter-war period. It wasn't just Italy and Germany. The new democracies created by Versailles didn't last long and, indeed, the war really didn't stop in 1918. Fighting in the east, between freikorps and commies, between indigenous fascists and commies, and so on, continued and relatively rapidly fascist movements sprang up from Finland to Portugal and, in many cases, rose to power. Salazar was no more an outlier than Mussolini.

One of the hallmarks of a fascist party is its reliance on brute force. All the fascists had some kind of a paramilitary force, brown  or black shirts for example, on which it relied to beat up opponents and generally stop the mouths of critics. Right now the 3rd largest party in Hungary has this:

Yes that's right a paramilitary force associated with a legitimate, in the sense that it garners votes, political party. Worse still even yet 
[o]n May 14, 2010, Gábor Vona, the chairman of Jobbik, was about to make an appearance at the Hungarian parliament, whose seat is probably the world’s most beautiful parliament building, a domed, neo-Gothic structure protected by bronze lions. Everyone was concerned that Vona would appear dressed in a fascist uniform from the past. As it happened, he showed up in a black suit, to the relief of many in the audience. But shortly before the swearing-in ceremony, the radical right-wing politician threw off his jacket to reveal a vest reminiscent of the uniforms of the Arrow Cross Party. Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described it as “sort of a Nazi outfit.”
 The far right ruling party recently passed legislation that granted it unusual censorship powers and, in general, things look to be going to hell in a handbasket.

Why bring this up? Hungary is a member of the EU and NATO. Right now either or both of those institutions could act to isolate an increasingly undemocratic state in a way that makes it clear that Hungary's future in both or one or the other hinges on a re-commitment to democracy and  rejection of both authoritarianism and its near cousin technocratisme.

What, you wonder, is the likely outcome? Given that the democratic United States and the democratic, kind of, EU are pushing for an expansion of technocratisme and are rejecting democracy, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict nothing consequential.

History Remains a Discipline, Economics Remains a Bunch of Stuff People Assert

Over to Crooked Timber, Daniel Davis ends a long post with this claim: economics isn’t a morality tale. This is something Krugman likes to say as well. It is, of course, wrong. If we accept that modern economics starts with Smith, which we might not want to but many do, he was explicitly using Jansenist arguments about how God created greed to substitute for "real" charity and how this allowed society to continue despite humanity being depraved. Smith clearly thought that a market based system provided the greatest good for the greatest many. So did Hume. So, in fact, did all the early pro-market capitalism economists. Indeed, it is difficult to find, or to even imagine, an economist arguing that his or her preferred economic policy doesn't provide the greatest good for the greatest many.

In other words, economics is so a morality tale but contemporary economics is a morality tale told by a sociopath.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books, Bikes, and Freedom

I've mentioned how the bicycle liberated women and, just as importantly, terrified men. The freedom engendered by the bike offer women a way out. It also, so the medical profession insisted, turned them into lesbians because of the friction of the seat and women's unmentionables.  The other day, I returned to this site and discovered that it now offers all manner of versions of the various texts it hosts. I found there this H.G. Wells story, which concerns a draper's assistant, a run away half orphan and several different kinds of bicycle.

What's interesting is that in this story it's not just that bikes promote women's freedom but also that it breaks down class barriers and shows how a low-born assistant draper is both better than a well-born intellectual. Crucially, I think, the assistant draper realizes that he's screwed and the brief taste of social equality he enjoyed is unlikely to transform his miserable existence and, in fact, the whole episode, viewed from the Hoopdriver's perspective, achieves nothing but the realization of actual existing misery.

So in this case the bike frees Hoopdriver from a form of false consciousness, lets call it, that he cultivated especially to avoid the actual existing misery of his life.

Odd little morality tale.

Sort of Like Robots

So this video suggests that some kind of a replicator is in the works.

 Unfortunately, or so it seems to me, this will not led to a more egalitarian society but rather, given the 21st century's political dynamic, more stuff for the one percent and decreased life expectancy for the rest of us.

I think the time has come to refocus on political and social arrangements before creating the next shiny  bit of technology.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mail Call

I had to mail a bunch of letter sized documents; I sent them out of Friday and it cost me nearly nothing; I received confirmation that they had been processed today, which might mean they arrive on Monday. Since the foundation of these United States the Post Office, mandated by the Constitution, has made life for the average citizen better. Thanks to the machinations of neoliberals bent on destroying anything that makes life better, the USPS is on its way to the ash heap of history.

In one stroke they remove more decently paying jobs from a struggling economy and offer the private sector a chance to overcharge for an essential service. Will, one wonders, the average Chuck Todd get the story right? Or will he or she make stuff up and generally miss the point? My bet's on the latter.

Being Right is No Excuse for Being a Horrid Little Man, But Still

 Over to TPM, Donald Trump correctly correct Chuck Todd on two important issues and they suggest that it is Trump who looks stupid.

Trump's essentially vulgarity and stupidity is beyond a doubt. But the points to take away from the first is that the NRO employes people who are actually dumber and more ideologically committed than Gingrich. And the second is that Chuck Todd is such an incompetent reporter that Trump, poster boy for ignorance, can school him on matters of fact.

Image the things of greater importance that Todd gets wrong or makes up. No wonder people vote against their interests; the press is incapable of reporting the time of day acurately. Why, one wonders, does TPM miss the point on this fundamentally key issue?

It's Not the Intellecutal Dishonesty;It's the Faux Heroism

Over to Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram mocks Greg Mankiw for prizing method over substance and, to prove his liberal bona fides, mocks Marxists for the same reason. Leaving the latter alone and agree with the former, I would like to highlight this bit of silliness from Mankiw. On the day of the now famous walkout of his overly large course, 750 students in a class at an Ivy seems idiotic and counterproductive, he mentions that
[t]he university administration, which had heard about the planned protest, sent several police officers to sit in my class for the day as a precautionary measure. Luckily, they weren’t needed.
He feared, it would seem, for his life. Those violent nudniks who know nothing of the intricacies of a fictitious science might well have stormed his podium and torn him limb from limb in an excess of rage at being unnaturally privileged.

With a grasp of reality as keen at that, it's no wonder he's an economist.

Oh For Dumb

David Brooks on regulation:
Nor is it clear that these additional regulations have had a huge effect on the economy. Over the past 40 years, small business leaders have eloquently complained about the regulatory burden. And they are right to. But it’s not clear that regulations are a major contributor to the current period of slow growth.
So even if the evidence doesn't support the complaints about "burdensome" regulations, he argues, people should complain. Why, you ask, because Brooks is an idiot. Recent events showed that the libertarian/conservative/neoliberal conceit about the genius of the market is simply wrong.

Brooks recognizes that the whingeing about regulations is over the top and, one assumes, realizes that a narrow focus on regulations as unnecessary obscures their salutary role in protecting us from the ravages of profit-minded sociopaths, yet he can't bring himself to admit it.

Why? He cannot think straight is why. If he could his conclusion would not be a generic
Obama’s regulations may be more intrusive than some of us would like. They are not tanking the economy.
But rather an example of an "intrusive" regulation. Bloomberg, galtian ubermensch and general all around authoritarian sludge pile, passes intrusive dietary regulations. Republicans pass intrusive laws about what medical decisions women can make and, if they could, they regulate which adult could marry which other adult and which adult can do what with some other adult. Those are intrusive regulations that limit liberty of action for no good reason. Telling an industry that they need to provide ramps for wheelchairs, or that pizza isn't a vegetable or that you have to stop dumping toxic waste in the river isn't intrusive; its the state functioning to protect individuals from unnecessary harm.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Irony Dies

According to the NYT, Republicans think that Americans are dumber than dirt:
In addition, Senate Republican leaders would go after “millionaires and billionaires,” not by raising their taxes but by making them ineligible for unemployment compensation and food stamps and increasing their Medicare premiums. Democrats said that this part of the Republican proposal was not serious, pointing out that high earners were already ineligible to receive food stamps.
The world is really horrid, although the majority of people, as opposed to sociopaths, who live in are pretty pleasant most of the time. Things like this, however, force us all to recognize that the sociopaths are in charge of the world and they would just as soon as not launch some sort of killing spree.


The Headless Horseman

I've mentioned on more than one occasion that one of the real problems of higher education is  bloated and over-paid administrations. From Marc Bousquet comes the news that some high schools are doing away with their administrations in an attempt to democratize school governance. This tactic and/or strategy needs to be implemented more widely.

It's not just that administrators are grossly overpaid, have used their power to increase the number of administrators at the expense of educators, and generally louse up the joint; it's that they are more interested in showing the necessity of administration by introducing all manner of badly thought ought blueprints for the future, which don't work and cause the rest of endless agony. It's also that they are just so damned bad at administering. Seriously, I know of various ad hoc faculty who are waiting to find out if they will teach next semester when their current semester ends in three weeks because the administrator hasn't contacted them. Even worse, when asked directly when it might please the king do deign and tell his vassals when he and or she will make the decision no definite answer is forth coming.

This state of uncertainty, as you might imagine, means that morale is low as the semester draws to a close and that there will be only limited time to prepare for next semester's courses. Indeed, the deadline, so I am told, for ordering next semester's books was November 1.

Think about that if you would.

This situation and others like it are whats missing in the discussion of educational reform: The very real harm caused by increasing the power and authority of administrators over educators. If Arne Duncan and President Obama want to do something positive, as opposed to doing something because something needs to be done, they should work on re-balancing the power differential between administrators and educators.

I said this before and I'll say it again, all you educational reformer professionals tell us how you  plan on giving educators as educators a seat at the table when the discussion turns to reforming schools? Until administrators and know-nothing do-gooders, like Bill Gates, are forced to include educators in the process of reform, nothing beneficial is going to come of it.

Haven't They Got BetterThings To Do?

From StatCounter comes this bit of oddity. Granted who ever it was didn't stick around long.

Visitor Analysis & System Spec
Referring URL:
Host Name:
Browser:IE 8.0
IP Address: — [Label IP Address] Operating System:WinXP
Location:Washington, District Of Columbia, United States Resolution:1680x1050
Returning Visits:0 Javascript:Enabled
Visit Length:0 seconds ISP:Executive Office Of The President Usa


Year and years ago, I had several dozens of box sets of John Carter of Mars, Tarzan, and
Conan and the rest of that clapish trapish stuffish. Recently, I discovered that great masses of it is available for free on the Kindle.  So I decided to read some of the Mars series.  Man o man are they bad; badly written idiotically plotted, and just generally weird in their racial, gender, and cultural politics. Now today I find that

It will be, of course, worse than Dune; but still, I swear, somebody needs to hire me as a cultural weather vane.

Undiplomatic German

I'm not saying he's right but Marc Pitzke  makes an interesting case in one of Germany's leading magazines:
Africa is a country. In Libya, the Taliban reigns. Muslims are terrorists; most immigrants are criminal; all Occupy protesters are dirty. And women who feel sexually harassed -- well, they shouldn't make such a big deal about it

Welcome to the wonderful world of the US Republicans. Or rather, to the twisted world of what they call their presidential campaigns. For months now, they've been traipsing around the country with their traveling circus, from one debate to the next, one scandal to another, putting themselves forward for what's still the most powerful job in the world.

As it turns out, there are no limits to how far they will stoop.

It's true that on the road to the White House all sorts of things can happen, and usually do. No campaign can avoid its share of slip-ups, blunders and embarrassments. Yet this time around, it's just not that funny anymore. In fact, it's utterly horrifying.

It's horrifying because these eight so-called, would-be candidates are eagerly ruining not only their own reputations and that of their party, the party of Lincoln lore. Worse: They're ruining the reputation of the United States.

If I recall correctly John Danforth had a quite a bit to do with foisting Clarence Thomas onto the Supreme Court. Still, this echos our friends in Berlin:
DANFORTH: What have been the big applause lines in these debates? Well, a statement that the governor of Texas is responsible for killing 234 people on death row. Or that we favor torture. Or that we’re creating a fence on the Mexican border that electrocutes people when they try to cross it. Or when people show up at the emergency room at hospitals and they’re not insured don’t treat them. And that, I mean these are the big applause lines, people just hoop and holler when they hear all that. [...]
It doesn’t have anything to do with the republican party that I was a part of. This is just totally different. And all of these people who are saying this, y’know, and claiming that, y’know, they’re for all this stuff, they also sort of ostentatiously say, “Oh, we’re very religious people. We really, we’re just very pious, Christian people.” They were for torture, and electrocution of the people on along the border and all of that. That doesn’t have anything to do with, is contrary to the Christianity that I understand.
Obama disappoints, as it were but better him then the anyone running as a Republican. And I include Jon Huntsman in that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fascist or Authoritarian? Who Cares.

Mike Bloomberg great American fascist or authoritarian crows that
I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world  I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have.
 Having made a bunch of money doing god knows what, the little twit has overturned constitutional amendments design to make his dominance of NYC politics impossible, he now trumpets his control over the police who, recent events have shown, he can use to end the peaceable exercise of the First Amendment rights to assemble for the purpose of redressing grievances.

Market's Don't Exist

Paul Krugman wonders why the "markets went wild" on what he thinks is a "nonevent." The answer is that the markets didn't, because they don't exist. A bunch of people who, recent events have proved, ought not be allowed around sharp objects took the opportunity of a something or another happening to try and make more money actually took the opportunity of something or another happening to make more money. Economics isn't a science and, even more so, investment in stock markets isn't based on science; it's based on, let's call it, the Madoff principle of cheating someone else so that a smaller circle of people can make money by shuffling bits of paper around. Time for a change.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Now I Understand

Herman Cain, whose intellectual negligibility is as boundless as he ego, was fine corporate whatchamacallit; however, as has become abundantly clear  he knows next to nothing about everything other than making a buck. I was, consequently, shocked to find that he
joined the board of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank and became its chairman in 1995 and 1996—the most impressive item on his résumé.
I really do think that this fact explains the idiocy of creating an economic system in which failure is rewarded and hard work punished. A bunch of dunderheads took over the government and gave their dunderheaded pals a bunch of money so that they could all enjoy the dunderhead christmas.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Biking Bots

Recently I drew attention to robotic snakes and spiders, which -- should science fiction movies predict the future -- will lead to all manner of mayhem. Today, I want to mention that robot makers want robots to enjoy the rude good health of your average cyclist:

 So now solar  powered robots will be able to survive the loss of man made power and ride their cycles from city to city while enslaving the remaining humans who will be forced to construct nuclear power plants because robots are immune to the environmental damage those mechanical monstrosities cause. Hurray scienctist types.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In a Nutshell

This is from They Might Be Giants; however, I think it applies to all manner of current problems from technocratisme to OWS

Who Do You Think You Are

Was Kennedy a "great" president? I really have no idea. He pursued a militarized foreign policy and made some particularly inapt remarks about segregation. He died, of course, well before his second term. Does anyone actually think that Ross Douthat possesses the nous and information to judge Kennedy? Why does this shallow lout of an ill-informed boob have a place on the national newspaper of record? Surely, there are better candidates than this dim bulb.

Because of a recent interaction with a NYT reporter, it is becoming clearer to me that knowledge takes a back seat to something else and what that some thing else is, isn't exactly clear.

A Market Forces Thanks Giving

I've mentioned Graeber's notion of homo economicus as being like a sociopath at an orgy before; but, this post via on the rational application of the iron laws of supply and demand makes the point in a more elegant way:
First, whatever Alice has spent preparing the turkey is a sunk cost, and irrelevant to deciding what to do next.

Second, Alice would be better of selling the turkey to either Dives or Lazarus than keeping it for herself, and either trade would also benefit the buyer, so that's a win-win. Either trade would be Pareto-improving. However, neither trade is strictly better for everyone than the other: if she sells to Lazarus, Dives is disappointed, and if she sells to Dives, Lazarus starves. Of course, if we are being exact, Lazarus starves to death whether Alice keeps the turkey or sells it to Dives, so that trade makes Lazarus no worse off.

Third, Lazarus can only offer ten cents. Since Dives would be willing to spend up to $5000, Alice will prefer to sell to Dives. Since Dives, being a rational agent, knows how much Lazarus can pay, he will offer 11 cents, which Alice will accept as the superior offer. (Alternately, we add in a Walrasian auctioneer, and reach this price by tatonnement.) The market clears, Alice is 11 cents better off, Dives enjoys a consumer surplus of $4999.89, and Lazarus starves to death in the street, clutching his dime. Nothing can be changed without making someone worse off, so this is Pareto optimal.
Neoliberalism in a nutshell: they don't want you to starve it's just the logic of market forces at work.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Economic Chaos Explained

By an Irishman no less


The Paterno Problem

Way back in 2005 Vicky Triponey, compliance officer for the university, wrote to the PSU president that Paterno was secretive and insisted on disciplining his "student-athletes" as he saw fit not as required by PSU's rules and regulations. She also pointed out that
Coach Paterno would rather we NOT inform the public when a football player is found responsible for committing a serious violation of the law and/or our student code . . . despite any moral or legal obligation to do so.
And of course nothing was done.[1] How bad do you think things are on one of the bigger income generating teams? At some point, the steady drip of yearly corruption, and I don't mean the nonsense like Ohio State's tattoo scandal, is going to sink the whole mess. My suggestion for the various college administrations is to privatize their athletic departments; sell the whole mess to the NFL and the NBA as  pre-made audience filled minor league sport leagues for multiple billions of dollars and then use the money to rebuild higher education.

[1]To be fair the article linked quotes others from Triponey's time at PSU, she quit in  2007, saying na uh, we did so oversee Paterno's football factory and everybody was hyper ethical and really good. Given what we now know, I'll leave it to you to decided if anything was, in fact, done to rein in Paterno's protection of criminals.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UC Davis and How It Got That Way

From the LRB Blog:
Like most US universities, Davis maintains its own police force, employing (as of 2009) 101 people (including administrators), far more than the largest academic departments. The officer wielding the spray is on record as earning $110,000 in 2010, more than all but the better paid full professors. The idea of a campus police force, established across the UC system in 1947, came about to reflect jurisdiction over university property and, perhaps, to apply somewhat more tolerant standards to minor student misdemeanours than might be expected from the public force.
So now those who protect and serve, much like the athletic departments, are bigger and wealthier than the schools of which they are supposed to be a part.

It's not just the brutality and stupidity; it's the venality and cupidity of the both these campus cops and all athletic departments. The primary mission of any university or college is the creation and dissemination of knowledge and skills for creating new knowledge and assessing the validity of arguments and evidence. How is it, exactly, that the primary mission is now seen as silencing students when they act as citizens and pandering to the socially constructed desire to root, root, root for the home team?

Can you imagine if politically active students chanted EAT SHIT; FUCK YOU as do the those at Camp Randall? Would the administration's response be a sternly worded email? Or a hastily administered tasering? Or what about the semi-perminant K-town at Duke? How is that students camping on university land is somehow cute when it's associated with sport but a disaster in the making when the student as citizen engages in political activity?

The world remains a horrid place; although most of its inhabitants are pleasant bunch.

On Luxury

In class last week we were discussing the luxury debate in the 17th and 18th centuries using  Hume and Rousseau as our points of entry. I hadn't really thought about it but Hume's contribution simply ignores the substantive moral and existential questions Rousseau makes. Whether Hume was responding directly to Rousseau or no, Rousseau's position is pretty much bog standard when it comes to the pro-luxury theorist.

This got me to thinking about David Graeber's Debt . I mentioned this text before, but this time I want to mention Brad DeLong's response to Graeber destruction of homo economicus as a natural being. He accepts, it seems, that Graeber is right but that's it. The Rouseavian idea that institutions create, he would have said corrupt, human nature doesn't seem to require rethinking economic policy. Put it this way, neoliberals like DeLong have been arguing about the naturalness of their preferred economic policies when those policies are creating or attempting to create a world that offers the greatest good to the greatest many.

This last desire lay behind Smith's argument for unleashing humanity's, he would have said man's, desire to fulfill the infinite wants of the mind.  Hume, in "On Commerce," is clear that the mindless pursuit of luxury will provide the greatest good for the greatest many and, even better, offer the state endless funds and the superfluous hands necessary to staff an army should war be necessary. Yet if Graeber is right, the wants of the mind aren't infinite until somebody or set of somebodies has come along and convinced us that they are.

When you think about it, who really does get up in the morning and say: "Today I want more than I can use and I don't care who gets it in the neck, so long as I have more tonight than I have right now; ideally with gold leaf." Surely then the neoliberal project to create the reverse Omelas in which we all live is tied up in convincing all of us that the unnatural is the natural, which requires a kind of glib contrarianism designed to show that left is, in fact, right.

So why is it that the economists cannot or do not engage with the historians, anthropologists, and other of the humane sciences when it is clear as a bell that economists are just making stuff up? This last point explains the continued assault on education as the a humanist project. If students learn how to think and write, how to research and analyze, they will become the kind of citizens with whom neoliberals and their followers cannot deal.

In other words, I need a full time job an DeLong needs to retire or the future gets in the neck. Neoliberals are dedicated to a project that avoids looking at things as they are in favor of making stuff up; historians are dedicated to looking at things as they are and avoids making stuff up.

Democracy Explained

Piet Hein Grooks on:

His party was the Brotherhood of Brothers,
and there were more of them than of the others.
That is, they constituted that minority
which formed the greater part of the majority.
Within the party, he was of the faction
that was supported by the greater fraction.
And in each group, within each group, he sought
the group that could command the most support.
The final group had finally elected
a triumvirate whom they all respected.
Now, of these three, two had final word,
because the two could overrule the third.
One of these two was relatively weak,
so one alone stood at the final peak.
He was: THE GREATER NUMBER of the pair
which formed the most part of the three that were
elected by the most of those whose boast
it was to represent the most of the most
of most of most of the entire state --
or of the most of it at any rate.
He never gave himself a moment's slumber
but sought the welfare of the greater number.
And all people, everywhere they went,
knew to their cost exactly what it meant
to be dictated to by the majority.
But that meant nothing, -- they were the minority.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011



It does capture the nonchalance with which those paid to protect and serve behave toward the innocuous. From the comments in the above link, a tumblr dedicated to the visual. If the pen were, in fact, mightier than the sword, the 99% would own the world.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What's Wrong With College Sports

The University of Miami football team was involved in a scandal because of its association with a Ponzi
schemer who also provided prostitutes and related etc for football players. In a move designed, one assumes, more meaningful punishment, they have voluntarily forgone post-season play. Oh, yeah:
The Hurricanes have tepid support for their football team even in the best of times, so the decision will probably end up saving Miami a significant amount of money in travel costs and unsold tickets.
That's some kind of punishment: if you all will just leave us alone we agree to not cost the university millions of dollars.

College sports breed, were told, character. It is becoming increasingly clear that it isn't a character you'd want.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mistakes Were Made

This police chief is either a clueless fool or a sociopath:

This chancellor is beneath contempt and the student prove that by treating as someone beneath contempt:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Good Reads

This webazine is very good.

What Are They Afraid Of?

So we have all seen this:

And probably read this letter from a UC Davis professor demanding the chancellor's resignation. Ideally we've read the chancellor's inane letter on the police brutality seen in the video.

What I don't get is the end of the video. The cops look like they are surrounded by armed bandits when really it's just a bunch of kids chanting shame on you. What did they think was going to happen? Greeting with flowers and candy?

It's Got a Song and Everything

I'm sure there is a reason why we celebrate:


Friday, November 18, 2011

Policing the Police

Here's a video of the NYPD arresting a retired Philly police captain at Zucoti Park:

It seems he held a sign asking the NYPD not to mercenaries for wall street and engage in other such filthy hippy stuff. Serves him right and the 25 of so journalist who were arrested. How dare he dare to assemble and demand redress and they to cover it. It's not like this is supposed to be a democracy.

Bloat and Rot Start at the Top

There is a faculty strike out in California. The faculty are on strike because 1) they have been denied raises previously negotiated 2) higher fees and fewer classes for students. Who is responsible for this mess? Also:
There is also residual anger over the hiring of San Diego State president Elliot Hirshman last summer at a salary of $400,000 -- $350,000 in state funds and $50,000 from the school's fundraising foundation -- as well as a $1,000 monthly car allowance and free housing. Hirshman's predecessor was paid about $300,000 a year.
Jane Wellman, of the nonprofit Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, said, "These are tough times for higher education. The reality is that there is just not enough money to meet all the demands. It is a function of what happened with public revenues.
"Nothing is sacred in this environment," she said. "But cutting the chancellor's office will not solve money problems of this magnitude. No way."
Sure, but of course, it's a first step. let's say they cut all administrative leadership staff, president, chancellor, provost, deans, assistant deans, vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, junior assistant vice provost, etc, by 50% and take away half of their program assistants and reassign them to faculty, plus no car allowances, no free housing, and no guaranteed travel grants, they'd have to compete just like faculty do.

These steps would be an important first step in reigning in an out of control administration and its unnatural "compensation" packets, which would, or -- in any event -- could, foster a sense of shared responsibility and sacrifice between and among students, faculty, staff, and admin. The next step, obviously, is to raise taxes and fund higher education at an appropriate level.  

Church of Latter Day Saints

Over to the NYRB there is a nice and detailed discussion of the recent authoritarian crackdown of the rights of Americans to assemble and demand redress of their grievances; this bit struck me as especially interesting:
According to Ellick, 1,400 “faith-based leaders in and around New York” were throwing their support behind Occupy Wall Street. When I asked him what defined a “leader,” he answered, “anyone with a constituency.” But what did support mean? For Ellick and John Merz, an Episcopal priest at Ascension Church in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, it meant opening church kitchens and giving protesters a place to shower and sleep “even though we’re not a shelter.” It would involve public support as well, talking to the press and urging parishioners to join the protesters in their various anti-corporate actions.
What if the last of MLK's ideas for America's moral and material improvement is in the process of being realized?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oh Dear

It like today's robot engineers never ever watch movies:

Bright Young Things Are so Often Wrong

Matthew Yglesias and Dana Goldstein are two of the bright young things of our new media. Each in their own way fail to understand what the 99% versus the 1% means. It isn't about income as such. 

Yglesias' claim that NBA players are rich and therefore members of the 1% misses the point that your average NBA player isn't trying to create an oligarchical system. The Kochs, Bloomburg, and the Republican party's war on voting are. These folks are less interested in money then  they are in power. For them money is a means to an end and that end is creating a world in which the few dominate the many.  The 99% movement isn't some attempt to simply redistribute wealth but rather to end the creation of a market state in which the wealthy oppress the poor through a combination of the laws of supply and demand, which insists that markets follow the money, and the manipulation of the political system through the creation of a system in which the state functions solely as enforcers.

Goldstein makes a similar mistake in pooh poohing the linkage between the 1% and neoliberal educational reform when she concludes that
[t]The trouble with this narrative comes in comparing education reformers with greedy bankers. The dominant ethos of the school choice/Bloomberg/Obama reform movement is one borrowed not from Wall Street, with its desperate lust for profit, but from Silicon Valley, with its commitment to meritocratic innovation that—yes, of course—earns money, but also serves the public.
One suspects that she knows this as in a later post, she links to an article on the danger of the 1%ers drive to privatize and virtualize k-12. Privatizing education, much like the privatization of prisons, takes one of societies most important functions out its hands and gives it to corporations, whose ability to do anything right is of limited. The creation of public, as opposed to religious, education is one of the hallmarks of modernity; granting corporations and rich folks the right to "reform" and run our educational systems spell the end of critical thought and beginning of education as vocational training or, even worse, no education and no vocational training for the mass of humanity.

When people talk about a market state what they really mean is democracy's demise at the hands of technocrats.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

History Trumps Economic Theory

Megan Mcardle assumes that economic decisions are based on reason. This historical explanation of qwerty (via) shows that she is talking out of her fundament. In other words, she is wrong about everything.

Redress and Assemble

According to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights:
Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances
How is a forcible destruction of a peaceable assembly of citizens demanding the redress of their grievance not a violation of their right to assemble and demand redress?

You Can Go With This, Or You Can Go With That

Who's tricksier? or I pick the first.

Bikes Free Us

Zwickau Prophets

The gradual unraveling of the neo-Nazi criminals in Germany and the likely complicity of those in high office, particularly the police, serves to remind us that way back in the bad old days of Bader Meinhof, the right was more active in terrorizing Europe than was the left. Even today it is difficult to look at the face of terror


in Europe and not fear the right. All of which is along way round of saying that kicking peaceful protesters out of semi-public and public parks through violence and militarized police force is a sign of missing the point. The problems we confront right now are the result of too little democracy not too much. The dangers confronting the continuation of democratic societies isn't the 99% trying to raise the issues of inequality, economic mismanagement in the public and private sectors while insisting on human dignity. It's the right and the reactionaries who never liked modernity to begin with.


I can't decide if this, despite being right, is annoying or if it is a clever way of making a complicated point.

What's Wrong With Football: St. Joe Pa

Famously Bobby Jones brushed off a compliment on his following the rules of golf with the comment that you might as well thank someone for not robbing a bank. As near as I can figure those pushing Joe Pa for saint of nice guy and patron of his university are, in fact, thanking him for not robbing a bank. The logic of having football programs with universities attached is that it's a situation that benefits the university in its core mission: educating students. Consequently, it ought to be the case that PSU's football prowess led to increases in its endowment, better libraries, and improved its rank, to the extent that means anything.  This claim of do-gooderism isn't, or shouldn't be, a canonization of Joe Pa but rather an indictment of his colleagues, who don't engage in the same sustained commitment to improving the universities core mission, which is educating students. Other than doing what he is supposed to do, it is unclear to me what all the noise is about.

Given that doing his job is sufficient to catapult Joe Pa in the stratosphere of great moral leaders among college football coaches (I cannot think of single profession in which doing what is expected of you leads to canonization) the rest of them must be pretty bad at fulfilling the minimum standards of either creating profit or ensuring that the basics of the contract, ensuring that that profit goes to the university's core mission. A fact that is underscored by the steady drumbeat of scandals emitted by the various big and small athletic programs.

Consider this collegiate athlete's experience in the women's basketball program at a Div II school. Her coach was so verbally abusive that she and
numerous scholarship players, including former Monroe standout Marissa Young and former Milton standout Kassi Blumer, either transferring or quitting the team after the season, [the coach] resigned in August 2008.
Indeed, so scarred was she that
[h]elping Gerber put her experience at St. Joseph's behind her proved to be an ongoing process for Whitewater coach Greg Henschel.

"When I initially met with her, it was clear she was just not going to, in my opinion, trust a college coach because of her experience," Henschel said.

"I just felt like I was walking the finest line I had ever walked with a recruit. … I felt on some levels we were still even recruiting her a little bit once she was here."
 So a no name college which -- almost assuredly makes no money -- hires a coach who is so driven to succeed that she ruins several students lives for a, at least, a short period of time.

What, I wonder, does the pressure to succeed do to the rest of this stalwart shapers of young men and women.

Ode To Joy


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Administrative Bloat and Incompetence

This post on the role of administrative bloat as a destructive force in higher education is right on target; I would add that, in my experience howsoever good at gaming the system administrators are they are not smart. Small minded and vindictive, more like.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How to Lose an Argument

Megan McArdle has a longish post up on the Paterno affair in which, as usual, she insists that it's complicated and besides Nazis. One obvious response is if I did what Joe Pa and co did then I would be a moral failure. A second response is that when anybody argues something along the lines of
We are evolved to live in small groups, with very deep loyalty to the other members.
They lose the argument. Why? Because just so stories about evo psych that support your position are the Freidman cab drivers of ignorance. Fear of men with sticks is a much better explanation of failure to act as we know is right; love of men with carrots works as well. Relying on the hand waving of pseudo-science is a sign of intellectual dishonesty.

What's Wrong With College Football: Liars

Some guy named Robert Lapchick runs a program dedicated to keeping collegiate athletics honest and unbiased. Using NCAA info his program releases a study of graduation rates for whites and blacks at major football programs with universities attached. As he points out, the definition of timely  graduation is flawed; however, both Miami and Auburn report a 100% graduation rate for white football players. That is, to be blunt, impossible. Or the graduation requirements for white football players rely heavily on whiteness and football playerness.

This Man is so Smart He Earned Millions on Merit

As further to the idiotic idea that personal success results from personal merit, Herman Cain on Libya or something or another

Oh For Dumb

 When Herman Cain says something like this:

we all laugh.

When Eric Loomis writes this
I am a graduate of the University of New Mexico. This is not an elite institution. It is marginally a top-50 Ph.D. program. It has strengths in certain areas (Latin America, U.S. West, U.S.-Mexico borderlands) but you wouldn’t want to go there for anything else. Theoretically, it should be really hard to get a job with a UNM Ph.D.
However, every single person I know who was a serious student at UNM and who wanted to go into academia has a job. Every single one. Without exception (at least on the U.S. side of things). Almost all of these are tenure-track jobs with a few newer scholars presently in very fine visiting positions. And I know people from several other less-than-elite institutions who are doing very well for themselves too (Arizona, UNLV, and Nebraska come to mind). Those who chose to do something else other than academia have also succeeded in their chosen fields. So what’s the deal with this? 
 I gnash my teeth and wish him harm. He and Cain aren't that far apart on this issue. Loomis is or was a  "serious student" not like all the slackers who haven't found work. Then there is the  the on the "US side of things" caveat, which ignores Latin America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and etc. Then there is the radical subjectivity of those he knows. It's almost like he never heard of adjuncts, causulization of labor, the over supply of PhD, the persistent and consistent underfunding of higher education, and etc.

Finally, and to repeat, Loomis got his job, he argues, because he deserved it those unnamed others at UNM who weren't serious, or at least not as serious as he, didn't deserve a job. He did and does. Up, to be blunt, yours. Two stories, one I know 5 serious and smart students who didn't get jobs of any nature because the market sucks, two of them have already published their disses with big names university presses. Second story, an ex-friend was on a hiring committee and they had all work diligently to come up with a ranking of the top 12. As they got up to leave the meeting somebody said: 'wait, why'd we pick this one?" They sat down in two hours had inverted the list. The idea that Loomis and his known serious students objectively merited their tt, one year and other (chosen? why because they couldn't get tt or one year gigs?) fields are other than the lucky ones who got this or that job is Cainism with a vengeance.

For goodness sake. Tell you what Loomis go down to the adjunct  bull pen at wherever it is you work and tell them that they weren't serious enough.

The Economy Doesn't Work Like That

Matthew Yglesias finds it
pretty frustrating to hear DC officials explicitly talking about the idea of making public service provision less efficient as a job-creation scheme.
The idea is that DC might
rely[] on manpower, not mechanization—countering a civilizational trend that's left us with more people than jobs to occupy them. "We are starting to reconsider some of those choices," Tregoning said, and "might choose a path that has a lot more labor."
It's wrong, he argues, for the state to increase job creation by downplaying mechanization because it will offend the neoliberal market state's ideal of efficiency over people. His preferred solution? Supply side economic because, from the first link,
even in models that lead to very strong negative conclusions about supply-side actions in severe recessions, these considerations don’t apply on the municipal level.
He provides no link to an article but does link to Boston considering ending its ban  on happy hours. And concludes that
[t]his is exactly the kind of thing state and local governments should be looking at. If Massachusetts makes it easier to tempt people into the bar with drink specials, that means more work for bartenders and bar-backs, more work for delivery guys, etc. It’s more glamorous for politicians to talk about high-end jobs, but as Tregoning says, you need employment for people with low levels of formal education too. Many commentators seem to me to be irrationally biased against working class service sector occupations relative to working class manufacturing works, but even leaving that aside, there’s just no way a big expensive city like DC or Boston is ever going to play home to giant factories.
So a couple of things, if Boston has happy hours there will be no extra jobs created. How do I know? I''ve worked happy hours and bartenders just work harder for a couple of hours. And, as by the way, it's not the case that those who deliver ardent spirits, wine, and beer would suddenly find that their 40 hr weeks are now 50 or that some much increased demand means that their boss has to hire more workers, it just means that they will drop off an extra keg, case, or whathaveyou on their regular rounds. In short, they will work harder for the same money. Relying on manpower and not mechanization isn't some yearning for decently paid union jobs at the factory but rather that instead of one garbage man driving a mechanized truck for 8 hrs a day three guys, one driving and two hoisting, will work for a semi-decent wage for 8hrs a day five days a week. That means that two guys and/or gals who previously had no or a crappily-paid job will have decently paid job. They can buy things, things they need: food, shelter and clothing, and -- who knows -- maybe go to a bar or restaurant.

The reason supply side economics don't work is because they don't create jobs that pay enough money for the workers to live a decent life. Supply side economics creates a situation within which a decreasing number of people have more money then they need which they then spend on luxury and other nonsenses. Yglesias might find the increased number of bars in which he can imbibe for less an attractive proposition but it is not an economic policy.

Like Douthat, he can't think.

Oh For God's Sake, He's Dumb

David Brooks on why nobody thinks child rape is wrong:
MR. BROOKS: I don't think it was just a Penn State problem. You know, you spend 30 or 40 years muddying the moral waters here. We have lost our clear sense of what evil is, what sin is; and so, when people see things like that, they don't have categories to put it into. They vaguely know it's wrong, but they've been raised in a morality that says, "If it feels all right for you, it's probably OK." And so that waters everything down. The second thing is a lot of the judgment is based on the supposition that if we were there, we would have intervened.
 Yes and if you let the gays marry next stop man on dog town. It's not just that this is wrong but that Brooks' position has to arise from a nearly complete subjective state, which is to say he is a moral monster. Unlike, let's say, 99.9% of the population, he thinks that being permissive about sexual mores and abiding by the notion that the less interference into private lives the better includes the notion of rape and, explicitly, child rape. Who thinks that way? And a better question might be: why on earth would anyone employ someone who "thinks" that way?


Sunday, November 13, 2011

What's Wrong With College Football

In 2009 the median income in Wisconsin was 49,994 and it is, presumably, a bit lower now. On Thursday we learned that among the coaches at the UW-Madison football team
[t]wo of the biggest raises from last season, according to new salary information obtained by the State Journal, went to strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, who got a bump of $75,800 to $200,000, and tight ends coach Joe Rudolph, who got a $65,000 raise to $210,000.
 And that
It was previously reported [offensive coordinator Paul Chryst 's] compensation package increased by $100,000 to $405,000. He also has a five-year annuity, which went into effect in 2007 and will pay him $250,000 once he finishes this season.

Offensive line coach Bob Bostad received a $53,050 increase to $250,000, while wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander received a $13,800 raise to $135,000.
So these are state workers, who are essentially creators of entertainment. They make too much money.  Wisconsin is among the 22 programs that make a profit; however the vast majority don't. It seems obvious that the recent debacle at Penn State resulted at least in part from the 50 million per year profit the football program brought in. What dark secrets, one wonders, are the UW hiding?

Meanwhile at Marquette a coverup, or an alleged coverup, of a series of sexual assaults, or alleged sexual assaults, led to a federal government investigation.

Sure according to the neoliberal consensus on state workers teachers, as one example, who only help in the creation of educated citizens, make too damn much money and  their salaries have decreased by something like 500 per month. After all  a starting teacher in Wisconsin makes around 25K with an average of 45k per year, that clearly is too much money for such luxuries as kids who can read, write, and possibly think.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

This Just In: Ross Douthat is Still Silly

Why, you ask, did a wealthy and pampered man refuse to step in when an act of pure evil occurred in his shop, on his watch, and by an ex-colleague? Because he was a moral monster, you might think. Well, as it turns out, no. At least According to Ross Douthat. It is because Paterno like many
good people, heroic people, are led into temptation by their very goodness — by the illusion, common to those who have done important deeds, that they have higher responsibilities than the ordinary run of humankind. It’s precisely in the service to these supposed higher responsibilities that they often let more basic ones slip away.
That right, it was Joe Pa's essential goodness and heroism that led him to allow a serial child raper to continue child raping for nearly a decade if not longer. He has higher responsibilities than protecting children from a child raper. According to Douthat, a rich man giving some small or large percentage of his wealth to create funds, professorial chairs, and buildings that bear his name is the kind of heroism that quails before the minor matter of stopping child raping. The NYTimes ought properly be ashamed of the voice of the turtle they have unleashed on the land.

 Let alone the question does he think that it is actually the case that ignoring great evil is evidence of being either good or heroic? When he writes these hot messes, do you think he actually thinks?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Hunger Chancellor

Italy and Greece are set 
to replace elected leaders with respected, veteran officials known for their expertise rather than their political skills
 in order to enforce more austerity, which is now the neoliberal orthodoxy, despite the fact that it makes no sense.

It seems to me that Bruening's failure at the end of Weimar was less a failure of technocratisme as such but rather the limitations of technocratisme in a time crises, which undermine political legitimacy more generally. In the case of Weimar the Negative Majority created a situation in which governmental action was impossible. Increased reliance on unelected technocrats to resolve the serious economic problems through a doctrinaire neoliberalism will be a disaster. Why? The neoliberal global economy didn't fail because of some exogenous shocks combined with inflation; it failed because unregulated profit-maximization leads to this state of affairs.

1) Fewer people have more money and need to get some kind of a return on that money
2) They all begin investing in the same set of things
3) The "value" of those things rises
4) The Bubble Emerges
5) Nonregulation lets the bubble grow
5) The bubble bursts
6) Socialize the Losses

If you could get rid of 6, the problem of the bursted bubble would be the loss of some small number of rentiers' incomes.  But because of 1, the politics are such that 6 has to happen.

So if our technocrats are going to succeed, they are going to have to overcome 1 and 6, which at this stage of the game means abandoning neoliberalism and the notion of the market state. This strikes me as unlikely and, as a consequence, we might find the European periphery at the least in a crisis of political legitimacy that could end in a more democratic, which is to say authentically social democratic moment. Or not.

The point is if they are really technocrats and not zombie ideologues, they will realize that the failure to create a climate of democratic legitimacy will fatally undermine their attempt to "fix" the mess in which those seeking profit maximization led the world. This means, doesn't it?, either some kind of pr campaign explaining why austerity is necessary or shifting their preferred policies to a mix of austerity combined with tax increases in order to preserve public employment and/or public services.