Friday, January 13, 2012


Despite the wishes of all decent folks, it snowed yesterday. So on with the studs:

This will be the third season with these. If I had it all to do again tell me would I? Well sort of. I'd get the less aggressively treaded ones:

Regardless, they do make a world of difference in the snow and the sleet.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Guess What?

I was reading Mike Konczal's interview with Jos Kosman about the dangers of Bain-style capitalism. In the interview's course, Konczal mentions that even some "left neoliberals" defend the leveraged buy out. Guess what? It's Matthew Yglesias.

Here's how Yglesias defines himself and his concern. He is, he says,
something of a squishy centrist neoliberal, I’ve long been uncomfortable with the populist attack Democrats have been preparing to unleash on Mitt Romney as a job-destroying corporate raider.
Why is he "uncomfortable" with an honest critique of the excesses of venture capitalism? Because there might appear to be a
distinction between the good kind of businessman, the one who launches and grows firms, creating new products and jobs and opportunities, and the evil, Romney-style businessman, who makes millions by raiding and looting.
as is so often the case, the reality is more complicated. Almost every successful business career is built on the ashes of doomed factories, pink-slipped workers, and towns laid to waste.
See? What Mitt Romney did destroying companies for his personal profit even though it meant the destruction of who knows how many of his fellow citizens is fine because, after all, that just how capitalism works. 

So here's the thing. Konczol and the Roosevelt Institute are supposed to be some sort of a left/progressive dealio dedicated to making the world a better place. How, I wonder, can he contintue to misrepresent[1] Yglesias neoliberalism, which "left" only in the sense that despite all evidence to the contrary Yglesias maintains that neoliberalism shall set us free, and link to him without pointing out that Yglesias despises people.

Any decent human being after admitting that an economic system requires goodness knows how many of millions of ruined lives and destroyed cities, villages, and towns over the years would concluded that the system needs to be changed rather than, as Yglesias put's it, he is
happy to defend the layoff business as a legitimate and even useful element of a dynamic modern economy, I’m sure glad it’s not my job. Normal people, if put in a position where layoffs are necessary, find them to be emotionally arduous in the extreme.
 Of "productive" creative destruction Yglesias intones that
no one at Apple ever has to feel responsible for those layoffs. To walk into a dying factory or doomed corporate office and actually fire people, you need to be pretty callous.
If you ignore the whole Apple outsourced it manufactures to China, and that Steve Jobs wanted more pollution and child labor here so we could compete with China for his investment. Ygelsias' is absolutely right: no one at Apple is responsible for making the series of decisions that closed plants and offered no replacement because creative destruction did it unaided.

Were the world run along the lines of merit, in the sense of quality of argument, knowledge, and ability to think coherently, Yglesias would be writing celebrity biographical sketches for the Penny Saver.

See also.

Morning Message

His image is true.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I've gone back to trying to bake some bread. I am closing in on a nice loaf:

It needed five or so more mins in the oven and maybe the odd spray of water but this is just about the loaf I want. Huzzah bread. Oh yeah, as by the way, Scott Walker broke a bunch of contribution reporting rules, it looks like; also he hired an alleged kiddie porn aficionado, who used the clever nom de porn of Walker04 while working for Walker in, I assume, 2004.

How Not to Appologize For Mitt Romney

The Wall Street Journal has along article on the odious Bain Management that shows them to be not particularly competent, most of the profit came from a really small number of deals and nearly a quarter of the companies with which Bain invested came a cropper, looking at this date Megan McArdle "argues" the she
[t]hink[s that] you can tell two stories from this data--and without looking at each individual case in depth, it's really hard to tell which story is right..
Without looking, which path does she choose? Hard graft or hand waving and excuse making for the Galtian leaders of capitalism, long may they creatively destruct with a dollop of who can tell.

Castro Blogs

A recent email obliquely informed me that Fidel Castro blogs. In a recent post, Castor ponders the speed of information and asks us to
[i]magine. . . for one minute, this powerful quantum computer cable of processing an infinite number of times the data processed by modern computers.

Is it not, perhaps, obvious that worst of all is the absence in the White House of a robot capable of governing the United States and preventing a war which would put an end to human life?

I am sure that 90% of U.S. citizens registered, especially Latinos, Blacks and a growing number of those in the middle class, the impoverished, would vote for the robot.
Jesus, now the commies want to outsource the real work to robots.

Right Wing Critique of Capitalism

Lots of neoliberals, conservatives, and the right more generally are up in arms about the Perry/Gingrich/Huntsman assault on Romney because they think that assailing "vulture capitalism" is a left/radical critique of capitalism. This is the bunk. Fascists and Nazis offered critiques of capitalism that decried its excesses and plutocrats while lauding "authentic" capitalism. Gingrich is the most explicit in this maneuver because he insists that
[t]he question is whether or not these companies were being manipulated by the guys who invest to drain them of their money, leaving behind people who were unemployed,” Gingrich said on Bloomberg. “Show me somebody who has consistently made money while losing money for workers and I’ll show you someone who has undermined capitalism. … That’s an indefensible model.
This critiques of capitalism asserts that it cannot fail but rather can only be failed. This ignores, of course, the actual left/radical critique of capitalism which is that Romney and Co are the logical culmination of capitalism and that the only way to fix it is to fundamentally transform the ownership model by democratizing it.

It's true that "moderate" and "left" neoliberals might be troubled by the criticism, if only because they might realize how silly they sound in defending the indefensible.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Capitalism, the Right-Wing Critique, and Context

Right now the strong desire of "real" conservatives and the Tea Party Patriots to end sociopathic robot Mitt Romney's path to the White House is creating an entirely favorable moment for the critique of neoliberalism that Romney represents. It's not just Newt but now Alan West (R-Crazed Loon) is accusing the former Bain Capital economic hit man of destroying the economy in order to line his pockets. To be sure, West wants to associate neoliberalism with the center and center left; this position, however, falls to the ground what with Hyak's Road to Serfdom and the various virtues of selfishness the Right, conservatives, and neoliberalism misappropriated from Smith.

Consider Romney's "I like to fire people." He insists that in "context" all he meant was "choice is good." Sure, but the idea of choice as "firing" is telling. It speaks directly to the neoliberal and conservative desire to economize all social relations; to degrade interpersonal relations by making each and everyone about masters and servants. 

Oddly enough, something like 99% of the population doesn't think this way. Most of us think of our relations, even those mediated by economic transactions, as being multilayered affairs in which the personal, the political, and the economic each in the own way and proper sphere condition, without determining, decisions about keeping or changing any other individual, organization, or institution off our On Notice Board or, even more important, from being dead to us.

The Romneys and his neoliberal cohorts see the world as one big round of economically rational decision-making in which the key determinate of economic rationality is the extent of their share of the haul.  Conservatives add to this toxic mix of anti-human policies and slow-motion suicide a conviction that the way things are currently organized, political, economically, socially, and culturally, is best of all possible worlds and that those currently maintaining the worlds as it is are the onliest ones who can do the job properly.

It is now time for the forces of positive change, as opposed to creative destruction and reactionary change, to insist on the something else.

Complaints? That's My Department.

From Letters of Note:
In May of 1872, having recently travelled twice to watch Aida, a disappointed Italian gentleman named Prospero Bertani decided to write a letter of complaint to the opera's composer, Verdi, and ask for his money back; not just for the show, but for his expenses too. Amused, Verdi responded by forwarding the letter to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, with instructions. The chain of correspondence can be seen below, along with a written promise from Bertani never to watch the opera again.

To Bertrani's dismay, Verdi later arranged for his letter of complaint to be published in a number of Italian newspapers.

. . .

Verdi to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi:

St. Agata, 10 May 1872

Dear Giulio,

Yesterday I received from Reggio a letter which is so amusing that I am sending it to you, asking you to carry out the commission I am about to give you. Here is the letter:
Reggio, 7 May 1872

Much honored Signor Verdi,

On the second of this month, attracted by the sensation your opera Aida was making, I went to Parma. Half an hour before the performance began I was already in my seat, No. 120. I admired the scenery, listened with great pleasure to the excellent singers, and took great pains to let nothing escape me. After the performance was over, I asked myself whether I was satisfied. The answer was in the negative. I returned to Reggio and, on the way back in the railroad carriage, I listened to the verdicts of my fellow travellers. Nearly all of them agreed that Aida was a work of the highest rank.

Thereupon I conceived a desire to hear it again, and so on the forth I returned to Parma. I made the most desperate efforts to obtain a reserved seat, and there was such a crowd that I had to spend 5 lire to see the performance in comfort.

I came to the following conclusion: the opera contains absolutely nothing thrilling or electrifying, and if it were not for the magnificent scenery, the audience would not sit through it to the end. It will fill the theatre a few more times and then gather dust in the archives. Now, my dear Signor Verdi, you can imagine my regret at having spent 32 lire for these two performances. Add to this the aggravating circumstance that I am dependent on my family, and you will understand that his money preys on my mind like a terrible specter. Therefore I address myself frankly and openly to you so that you may send me this sum. Here is the account:

Railroad, going: 2.60
Railroad, returning: 3.30
Theatre: 8.00
Disgustingly bad dinner: 2.00

Twice: 15.90

Total: 31.80

In the hope that you will extricate me from this dilemma,

I am yours sincerely,


My address: Bertani, Prospero; Via St. Domenico, No. 5.
Imagine, if to protect a child of a family from the horrible specters that disturb his peace, I should not be disposed to pay that little bill he has brought to my attention! Therefore by means of your representative or a bank, please reimburse 27.80 lire in my name to this Signor Prospero Bertani, 5 Via St. Domenico. This isn't the entire sum for which asks me, but... to pay for his dinner too! No. He could very well have eaten at home!!! Of course he will send you a receipt for that sum and a note, by which he promises never again to go to hear my new operas, to avoid for himself the danger of other specters and for me the farce of paying him for another trip [...]
Ricordi to Verdi:
Milan, 16 May 1872

Dear Giuseppe,

As soon as I received you last letter I wrote to our correspondent in Reggio, who found the famous Signor Bertani, paid the money, and got the proper receipt! I amc opying the letter and receipt for the newspaper, and I shall return everything to you tomorrow. Oh, what fools there are in this world! But this is the best one yet!

The correspondent in Reggio writes me: "I sent immediately for Bertani, who came to me right away. Advised of the reason for my invitation, he first showed surprise, but then said: 'If Maestro Verdi reimburses me, this means that he has found what I wrote fim to be correct. It's my duty to thank him, however, and I ask you to do it for me.'"

This one is even better!

Pleased to have discovered this rarity of the species, I send the most cordial greetings to you and Signora Peppina.

Prospero Bertani to Verdi:
15 May 1872

I, the undersigned, certify herewith that I have received the sum of 27.80 lire from Maestro Giuseppe Verdi, as reimbursement of my expenses for a trip to Parma to hear the opera Aida. The Maestro felt it was fair that this sum should be restored to me, since I did not find his opera to my taste. At the same time it is agreed that I shall undertake no trip to hear any of the Maestro's new operas in the future, unless he takes all the expenses upon himself, whatever my opinion of his work may be.

In confirmation whereof I have affixed my signature.

Bertani, Prospero

This is a thousand times cleverer than "Cancel your own goddamn subscription" about which Buckley was so damned proud. After all how else was a subscriber to cancel a subscription without writing to the magazine.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oh For Gods' Sake

So the other day, police in Texas shot a 15 year old 8th grader because he was armed. Armed, it is now clear, with a b.b. gun.

Enjoy the week.

Warring Robots

I read somewhere that in WWII the percentage of combat to logistics was 30/70 and, it seems fair to argue, that the logistics played a role in winning that if not every war. Recently, the US has privatized logistics out of concern for the neoliberal ideal of making a buck off of everything especially those things that increase human misery and particularly if someone's crony or another makes that buck.

Today, however, I read an interesting article about how
[t]he Navy, on behalf of the Marines, launched the so-called Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System program late last year. According to program documents, the goal of the six-year-program is to produce an “unmanned and potentially optionally-manned” robot to “provide affordable and reliable rapid response cargo delivery to distributed small units in demanding, austere locations and environments.”
At first I thought this would be opposed by Halliburton et alia on the grounds that they need the dough. But then it occurred to me that this is a win win win for the forces of private wars and police. Once the US taxpayers spends trillions to perfect robot pilots and drivers, the Pentagon can sell the methods to make the machines for a buck two eighty and then Halliburton et alia can fire all their employes boost while keeping their contracts at the same level and reap not, as one might hope, the whirlwind but rather the windfall.

With crap brilliant examples of human ingenuity like this, is it any wonder that we hare fighting five or six wars? The business of America is business and war is where the money is.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I've been reading Zola's The Belly of Paris and, although I suspect this is not his purpose, am nearly crazed with desire for the various foods he mentions. I guess that his larger point has to do with materialism and how wrong it is to be trapped by the good things of the world while suffering abounds, or some such. None the less, I found that I had to have an onion tart:

What's for dinner by you?

In addition, neither the Falcons nor the Giants knows how to win.