-- Badtux the Saddened Penguin
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
In my previous post, I noted that the UK government is set to protect its schoolchildren from pedophile zombies. Perhaps the Earthbound Misfit has located one of those brainless zombies. Oh wait... no, that's a brainless school principal. Ooops! You understand how easy it is for a penguin to mistake these things, I mean, both zombies and school principals lack brains, so what can I say?!
- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
Bwahahahah!. Seems that the British pedophile database (the one where a quarter of the UK population is required to register with it) doesn't remove dead people, despite the fact that this will result in more false positives and is, well, useless. Unless you think there's an invasion of dead zombie pedophiles, anyhow.
-- Badtux the Security Penguin
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Over $3 *TRILLION* in assets and spending disappeared from the economy last year. Clearly the Obama stimulus, at only $800B, was woefully insufficient. So what's the argument against more stimulus? The argument appears to be, "we can't keep doing this forever!"
But we don't need to do it forever. We need to do it until we create enough jobs building bridges and roads and highways to jumpstart the rest of the economy as those people go out and spend the money they're getting building bridges and roads and highways. As long as a) people are willing to buy U.S. government bonds (right now they're rushing to buy at effective 0% interest rates, so clearly we're nowhere near exhausting the demand for U.S. bonds), and b) people are willing to accept freshly-printed U.S. dollars in exchange for their goods (and since dollars are the default currency of oil clearly that will take a while), the U.S. government can effectively run unlimited deficits. I agree there is a limit at some point in the future, but given that over $3 TRILLION disappeared out of the economy as a result of the collapse of the real estate bubble, we know that the USG can print at LEAST $3T before people start looking askance at the dollars they're getting in exchange for their goods... ah yes, the printing press, that thing which the right wing appears to be unacquainted with!
One thing I *do* say is that right now would be a *very* good time for at least a one-time tax on the wealthy to fund the stimulus. Right now the wealthy are basically stashing their wealth under mattresses rather than use it to buy goods and services, thereby failing to employ people since they're not buying or investing in productive enterprises. I.e., they're buying those U.S. bonds at effectively 0% interest rather than using the money in ways that would create employment. The problem is that we have to re-pay those bonds at some point in the future. Taxing the wealthy right now would basically not change the current money flows -- the money would still be moving from the wealthy to the U.S. government just as it is today -- but would solve the future money flows problem where at some point in the future the USG is going to have to drastically hike interest rates in order to "roll over" the bonds currently being sold. That drastic hike in interest rates would hit just as inflation from printing all that money hit. Can anybody say "stagflation"? Yeah, I knew you could!
-- Badtux the Economics Penguin
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
I decided not to give The Mighty Fang the keys to the blog, but here's another cat.
Chan is so drunk she can barely stand, and the pain in her voice is so clear that you want to wince. It was around this time period 1998-1999 that she pretty much fell apart and people would come to her shows just to see which Chan they would get that day, the one who would play a set pretty much all through, or the one who would do something... crazy. Schizophrenia as performance art, I suppose, is why people kept showing up at her shows. Somehow she kept booking shows and showing up for them (yes, *she* booked them, she didn't have an agent or manager booking shows for her). I suppose staying home and facing her demons was even less appealing to her than going on the road and trying to shout them away.
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My fertile imagination created a nightmare last night. We have the stereotypical horror movie teens standing around in the surf, and suddenly one turns around and says, "Where's Bobby? Wasn't he standing right behind us?" And swiftly everybody starts bounding out of the surf, thinking "SHARK!" and heading up a nearby bluff. When they make it up the bluff, a girl screams "Where's Joe?!" and yes, *another* one has disappeared.
So the teens flee, and huddle, and we do a scene shift and we finally get our first glimpse of the killer. He's kind of humming and talking to himself, "bumble bee, bumble boh, fresh meat fresh meat dum dum doh" and bounces on-camera, bounding up the slope. His narrow lips are working, showing his fine teeth underneath, and he has a long neck and four hooved feet (splashed with blood) and a wooly brown coat and is... a llama.
Yes, a llama. As in, wooly South American pack animal. My imagination created a freakin' killer llama! A more unlikely movie villain I cannot imagine, other than perhaps killer bunnies :).
So anyhow, our intrepid band of heros builds a tree house to get away from whatever is picking them off one by one. In one scene we see the llama bumbling along, and a cute blond thing sees it and says "ooh, you're cute!" and goes over to pet it or some shit, and the llama sticks its hoof through her chest and before we can see blood spurting we cut to the look of horror on her face as she dies a movie death (hey, it's a late-night TV movie nightmare from the early 70's, okay?).
While the treehouse is still being built, the hero is out investigating the ruins of an old cabin that was on the edge of the bluff. He lies down on one of the few boards left of the front porch to watch the ocean and glances to the side and sees... cats. Yes, common house cats, tabbies, mackerels, black-and-white, just a random assortment of cats, sitting on shelves created by old crates. He's baffled because they're not sitting in the sun, and waves his hand toward one of them, an orange tabby, "hey, kitty kitty!" The cat sort of dodges his hand, then points down with its paw. Something makes him roll off the board into the crawl space under the porch just as the llama's hoof comes down on where his head would have been. At which point he pulls out the .45 ACP he had strapped to his hip and starts blasting away, and the llama runs off, apparently unhurt.
And then I woke up. So we'll never know how this bad horror movie ended, heh.
-- Badtux the Horror Penguin
Monday, October 19, 2009
First he states the obvious -- that Fox "News" is a partisan propaganda organization, not a legitimate news organization -- and basically states that he will treat Fox "reporters" the same way that he treats any Republican operatives, not as if they were real journalists. Then he says about the phony "study" that the insurers dropped like a horses head upon the American public, "Every time we get close to passing reform, the insurance companies produce these phony studies as a prescription and say, 'Take one of these, and call us in a decade.'" Has somebody been spiking Obama's Wheaties with some extract of spine?
Of course, since he's a Democrat, I don't expect it to last. It is well known that Democrats are invertebrates of order Teuthida genus Mollusca -- i.e., spineless, grasping, and with a bad habit of fleeing while spewing ink whenever they perceive something even the least bit threatening or even when you just say "boo!" to them. I'm sure that some Republican will say "Boo!" to him Real Soon Now, and then Obama will whimper and apologize or something. That's what always seems to happen with Democrats, anyhow...
-- Badtux the Vertebrate Penguin
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Posting is going to be slow to non-existent over the next week because of my annual fall migration to the desert. I'll try to leave The Mighty Fang and Mencken in charge again, we'll see :-).
- Badtux the Migratory Penguin
Friday, October 16, 2009
Using this to get into the right mood for one of my own songs, which is moody but not angry (more the sort of song where I have to wipe my eyes at the end because it's sad). Okay, I know I keep saying I'm going to record more of my own songs but I never seem to find the time, sigh...
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Not much more to say about that.
-- Badtux the Evil-scryin' Penguin
Over at Why Now, we talked about the T-Mobile / Microsoft Sidekick data loss and veered off into Microsoft's technological decline since Bill Gates left in 2000. The speculation is that the changeover from having a manager who was an actual technology person, to having a manager who has no technology background (Steve Ballmer, who came up through the business office, not through engineering), meant that Microsoft's upper management lost the ability to actually evaluate the technology proposals and projects and manage their development, and the result is a series of products which are increasingly late, bloated, slow, and buggy, if they manage to ship at all.
This is, this is true of most big companies today in the United States. They're run by salesmen, cronies of the oligarchs who control half the wealth of the US, and salesmen are not by nature reflective souls and are chosen for loyalty, not for intelligence. They arrogantly believe it is not necessary to understand technical details of what they're selling in order to make proper judgements about its content and scope, all they have to do is sell, sell, sell and it all works out in the end. The problem is that since they don't understand the technology and worse yet have no desire to understand the technology, they're ill equipped to make critical decisions about product direction and feasibility. They fall prey to yes men, fads, and scams, and pour company resources into directions that are not productive. Furthermore, if it's not a product they can sell they aren't interested in it. Pure R&D is not something that they can sell, so they don't spend any money on it. This produces better quarterly profits for a while, but eventually their product line gets stale because it's just bigger/faster/smaller variants on the same old same old, not anything new and fundamentally different (see: Cisco Systems). And that's the state of the economy in the US today -- not competitive because it's been starved of core R&D. What innovation is being done is being done by foreigners, or by leftover relics of the 80's, and even that is just rehashing of old concepts that we had in the late 70's/early 80's. We basically have created nothing (zero) new in the past thirty years -- all we've done is implement things that we had already designed thirty years ago, but needed time to make smaller/faster/cheaper before it was practical to build them.
Now I hear you say, "iPhone!". But the iPhone contains not a single concept we didn't already have in 1979. Hand an iPhone to a Bell Labs researcher from 1979 (Bell Labs being another of those things no longer around), and he'd say, "huh, Unix in a telephone handset with an iconic touchscreen interface, why'd it take you thirty years?" Not a single concept there that would be new to him. Take him to the Google and YouTube web sites, and he'd say something like, "interesting, looks like someone finally got Douglas Engelbart's NLS deployed with a fuzzy content-crawling search algorithm similar to grep and find for locating content." There is nothing -- zero, nada, ixnay -- sold today that would surprise that Bell Labs researcher from 1979. He would be amazed at how small and fast processors and memories had become, but there are no fundamental architectural differences between the Vax 780 being sold in 1979, and the ARM processor inside an iPhone -- all that has happened is incremental improvements to make what took a couple of filing cabinets worth of equipment in 1979 fit into a phone case, not new concepts.
We've been feeding on seed corn for these past thirty years, mining thirty-year-old ideas for things worthy of implementation on the incrementally improved hardware. And crap, we haven't even matched some of the accomplishments that were around thirty years ago. Neither Linux, MacOS, nor Windows include the security features of Multics that made exploits virtually impossible, for example... a case where innovation has gone backwards since 1979. The problem with munching on seed corn is that eventually you run out of corn... and we're pretty much there now. Incrementally improving the hardware is arriving at fundamental physical limits (the speed of light, the size of individual molecules), and we're running out of thirty-year-old ideas to implement on this hardware. In short, we're reaching the end of innovation thanks to emphasizing selling over creating and manufacturing... and we all know what happens to civilizations that cease to innovate. They die.
- Badtux the Innovation Penguin
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
They've forgotten why they existed, and created a new site that has nothing of what I used them for (mostly, finding other people who were linking to me, and seeing who was linking to some of my favorite blogs, so I could discover new blogs for my blogroll). Reminds me of when yahoo.com moved from having a directory of the web, to being 100% paid advertising in their results... I said "fuck that" and haven't been back since.
I can understand the desire to monetize. But now they're just another "social media" site, just as yahoo.com became "just another advertising site". Worthless.
-- Badtux the Geeky Penguin
We have achieved regulatory capture, with the top four banks that control 60% of the money supply using that to bludgeon Washington into giving them whatever they want. We have an economy that has outsourced most of its good-paying jobs elsewhere, leaving only jobs selling overpriced real estate to one another and that's not exactly a growth industry these days if you haven't looked at the real estate market lately. We have a set of oligarchs, the top 1% of the population, who control over 50% of the assets of the nation and who have instituted "crony capitalism" here in America where in order to be leader of a major corporation you need to be a crony of one of the oligarchs. The economy is in free fall because we make nothing, because cronies are selected for loyalty to their oligarchs rather than competence, because we're simply too effective at creating and distributing goods to have sufficient jobs to absorb all those goods and the resulting job losses mean that we have even less demand for those goods, resulting in a downward spiral of employment whose bottom I cannot see.
So how do we get out of this? The right wing's notion is that the downward spiral of job losses will stop once labor becomes cheap enough to bring jobs back home from overseas is complete fail. The problem is that $1 a day, what someone in Vietnam might make,isn't enough money to survive on here in the United States, so we will never arrive there -- people will have starved to death first. In addition it's not just wages that are lower overseas -- it's regulatory framework entirely. Dangerous factories where one or two people lose their lives every day are common in China. The Chinese government shrugs and points out they have a billion Chinese peasants to bring into the modern era so what's a few dead peasants in the greater picture of things? But we have this strange allergy to volunteering for unnecessary death here in the USA and have thus enacted worker safety laws. Republicans attempted to eliminate these safety regulations via gutting OSHA and via tort reform but haven't completely accomplished that, so the point is that those jobs aren't going to come back just because wages decline. This right-wing talking point is a non-starter.
So, are we destined for Communism? Hardly. Communism has been discredited as an economic system for one simple reason: Because it has been an utter failure every time it has been attempted. Either it is incapable of competing with capitalism on an organizational and military basis (e.g. the communes of Spain, which were utterly crushed by fascists) or if organized with a central committee to handle defense, inevitably ends up falling to strongman rule and runaway military expenditures that destroy the economy because there's no checks and balances. Even without that self-defense flaw, Communism as an economic system overproduces some commodities and underproduces others because it has no real-time feedback system for adjusting supply and demand such as the feedback system provided by money, and has extreme difficulty with producing complex products that have many intermediaries, typically resorting to extremely inefficient mechanisms to produce those profits. For example, the Ural motorcycle factory, prior to the fall of Communism, produced its own engine castings and stampings, had its own steel mill and tubing factory on site to create the steel for its motorcycles, had its own machine shop on site to build the tooling for its motorcycles, etc. None of these could take advantage of the economies of scale the way a steel mill in the West could, but it was the only way the Ural factory could assure that it got sufficient supplies of these materials to build its motorcycles.
So if Communism isn't the answer because of its inefficiency and the problem of military capture, and capitalism isn't the answer because it is too efficient and the problem of regulatory capture by the capitalists (remember, power grows from the barrel of a gun, and money buys a lot of guns, thereby rule by capitalists is always exactly identical to rule by gun once you dig down the layers to the core of a capitalist's power), what is the answer? I suppose a mixed system like in Europe might be one answer. It adds sufficient inefficiency to the capitalist system to keep most people either employed or at least in a position where if there is every a need for their services they could be employed (as vs. starved to death). The problem is that this sort of pragmatic mixing of systems is immune to slogans. "We're going to have a socialist revolution, except with some Communist parts to counter the power of capitalists to rule by gun and some capitalist parts to insure that the standard of living doesn't decline!" doesn't exactly pour trippingly off the tongue. And unfortunately, demagoguery -- getting masses of people to follow you -- typically does require some sort of talking points or slogans to fire up the masses.
The end game here in the United States? I don't see it being anywhere as tidy as in Europe. The US is too big and too ethnically diverse, too difficult to institute changes that require national unity and too easy to institute changes via control of mass media, which is owned by and serves the interests of the oligarchs. What I suspect, in the end, is that someone like Glenn Beck is going to go off the reservation and lead a fascist revolution against convenient scapegoats -- Mexicans, liberals, Muslims, whatever. And as with Nazi Germany, the majority of people will go along with it either out of fear or because they agree with him. And as with Nazi Germany, average wages will continue to fall, but because more people are employed (it takes a lot of manpower to round up all them Messicans and liburahls and put them into extermination camps!), nobody will seem to notice. And of course the end result will be national disaster, as it always is with fascism -- national stagnation, economic uncompetitiveness, endless wars that deplete the resources of the nation -- but I see no FDRs in the wings to stop it.
Let us hope I'm wrong. I was wrong about the chances of Obama getting elected, after all -- I was sure that America would never elect a black President because of all the closet racists who will insist they have a black best friend but never seem to produce him at any gathering you meet them at. But if I'm right... we're in for a ride, friends, and it's a ride straight to Hell.
-- Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
How to deal with the fact that banking is now an oligopoly, with four banks holding the majority of deposits:
REPEAL RIEGLE-NEAL AND BAN INTERSTATE BANKING ONCE AGAIN.
In 1927 the McFadden Act made it illegal for national banks to operate across state lines, a prohibition strengthened in 1935 with the Banking Act of 1935. The goal was to insure that no bank got big enough that it could threaten the financial system of the entire United States, and it worked. This system remained in place until it was repealed in 1994 by the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994.
So what happened after that? Well, the biggest banks, having enormous capital to work with, went on an acquisition spree. One of my former employers was on the board of directors of a community bank that was bought up by one of these huge banks. He said their modus operandi was simple: They would come in and pay the members of the board of directors a huge amount of money to be employees for a certain amount of time of the national bank in order to "facilitate the consolidation", then the board of directors would vote to sell the bank to the national bank for generally an amount somewhat less than its true value. The national bank would then swoop in, loot all the assets, and use that to buy up the next community bank in their list of acquisition targets, finally resulting in what we see today: looking at FDIC reports and bank asset reports, I calculate that the top four banks have 61% of U.S. deposits, and truly are too big to fail.
So you say, "why not just let them fail anyhow? Nobody is too big to fail!" Well, banks are special in that they create and destroy money via the operation of fractional reserve lending. If they collapsed, 50% of U.S. money would simply evaporate -- poof, like ghosts in the wind, leading to an unstoppable deflationary spiral creating a Great Depression that would make the one of the 1930's look only like the "sort of bad depression, in a minor sort of way" and an end to capitalism as a viable system of organizing society. That might sound good, but command economies have a poor record over time, history shows, and we don't have any record of a viable industrial economy based on any other system other than command or capitalism. The natterings of anarchists of either the socialist or anarcho-capitalist variation simply don't scale to the size needed for a modern economy. It requires over $2.5 billion in capital to build a modern semiconductor foundry... only capitalism or a command economy has thus far proven capable of accumulating sufficient capital (either via market operations, or by commanding capital to move) to do something of that scale. And the failure of the Soviet Union should tell you just how effective a command economy is at that long-term... i.e., not very.
How to deal with this? Well, if we repeal Riegle-Neal, we then require all interstate banks to split up into 50 individual banks. All deposits and assets and liabilities associated with facilities in a particular state or by residents in a particular state will go to that individual state's bank. Credit card customers in a particular state for example would be assigned to Bank of America-Kansas or whatever. The end result would be much smaller banks, some of which would be bankrupt but the majority not. And because banks would now be headquartered in the actual states where they operated, they would be more in tune with the needs of their particular state and more able to respond to local needs rather than with all policy being dictated from some corporate headquarters a long, long ways away.
Will it happen? Of course not. We have achieved regulatory capture in a way that the railroads and banks of the robber baron era of 130 years ago only dreamed about. All major policymakers have a stake in making sure that the repeal of Riegle-Neal doesn't happen, they're all bankers who participated in passing Riegle-Neal and the takeover orgy that followed it. Congress is bought and sold. And the American people seem to not care at all, or shrug their shoulders and say "there's nothing to be done." But of course, it COULD be done. If we wanted it. If we demanded it. If we marched on our Congressman's offices and told them to do it. If we voted them out if they didn't. But as long as people keep voting the same bastards into office year after year, or their clones from the other party, you'll continue seeing SNAFU: Situation Normal, All F**ked Up.
-- Badtux the Banking Penguin
Monday, October 12, 2009
That's a question often asked by folks like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong, who decry the ridiculous state of economic reporting in our newspapers. So why is the output of our newspaper industry, when talking about economic policy, so often one-sided propaganda? Well, that's simple: That's what they get paid to produce by the people who pay their bills. It's called the Golden Rule: I.e., he who has the gold, rules.
We cannot have a better press corps because they are bought and paid for by corporate America. The fundamental problem is that advertising dollars, not subscription dollars, pay the freight at newspapers. Expecting newspapers to report accurately upon news affecting major advertisers is like expecting tobacco companies to accurately report the risks of smoking. It simply is not in their best interests to do so, and thus they do not, regardless of any theoretical "firewalls" between the editorial and advertising departments.
Given the realities of news distribution it seems unlikely that this will change anytime soon. Newspapers are a natural monopoly. There are only a certain number of places that you can place newspaper bins in a city, and whoever gets there first gets first-mover advantage and can crowd out possible competitors. For subscriptions, the newspaper with higher circulation will have lower per-subscriber costs because it costs a certain amount per mile to run newspaper routes across a city regardless of how many subscribers you have per mile, so the newspaper with more subscribers per mile will have a lower per-subscriber cost and thus a competitive advantage. And finally, advertisers will advertise in the paper that reaches the most people, meaning that the #2 paper in a given market will be starved of advertising funds. The end result is what you would expect -- single-newspaper cities are now the rule, not the exception, and anybody desiring to start up a new newspaper to compete with the established monopoly faces some daunting realities -- *IF* we're talking about a subscriber-supported newspaper delivered in print.
Is the future of real journalism (as vs. corporate boot-licking) on the web? If so, what will it look like? Current attempts at online journalism have been rather laughable, nowhere near as professional as even the most unprofessional hick newspaper. But as the print industry continues to spin down into irrelevancy, that may change...
-- Badtux the Press Penguin
Sunday, October 11, 2009
As I previously noted, we are now in the worst recession since the Great Depression if you look at job losses. And as Michael Klamperman points out, Democrats are sweating, rightfully so because their notion of a recovery program has been halfway measures intended to appease Republicans rather than a full-fledged program that was large enough to do any good.
So the latest gee-whiz thing to come out of Congress is the notion of job creation credits of $2500-$3000 per job created. At which point both Michael and I come to a screeching halt and say: What the fuck? What good is that going to do? The only way a job is going to be created here in the USA is if either a) demand increases (which isn't happening), or b) we un-outsource previously outsourced jobs and bring those jobs back. How are these job creation credits supposed to do that?!
Let's look at the demand side first. People aren't spending. They aren't spending for a damned good reason: They fear for their jobs, and are saving money as rapidly as they can rather than consuming in order to create their own half-assed unemployment insurance program because state unemployment benefits are a joke. I mean, $265 per week isn't going to pay the typical mortgage, much less provide enough money to buy food, pay for health insurance, and every other expense a family has. That's not even poverty level for a family of four, for cryin' out loud. We need to provide security to people before they can feel safe spending money again, and the only way to do that is to guarantee to people that if they lose their job, they do not lose their house, they do not lose their car, they do not lose their health insurance, and they do get sufficient money to live on while they search for a job. Without these kinds of guarantees, people are scared shitless, and are doing what they always do when they fear for their jobs: they save to create their own unemployment insurance, thereby costing themselves their own jobs due to the Paradox of Thrift.
The other possibility on the demand side is that if consumers aren't consuming, we can make government take over the consuming. Spend trillions on infrastructure projects, for example, and that puts people back to work building stuff, selling food to the people building stuff, and so on and so forth, and once it's built then we have the infrastructure to replace our current decrepit and decaying infrastructure. It's not as if we have any shortage of infrastructure projects, we've been trying to scrape together the money to extend BART to Santa Clara for the past twenty years here in the SF Bay Area for example, BART needs new rail cars because their current ones are thirty years old, Caltrain needs to be electrified and needs new rail cars because the current diesel locomotives are too slow and can't be sent into underground tunnels to get to the Transbay Terminal as well as needing to be triple-tracked to Gilroy to allow regular service there and again we've been trying to scrape up the money to do this for the past ten years, then there's the high-speed bullet train proposed between San Francisco and Los Angeles and San Diego, there's seismic refitting of the delta levees and rebuilding the levees that protect low-lying areas of the South Bay (said levees were built by salt companies 50+ years ago to empound salt evaporation pools and are woefully inadequate to protect the homes and businesses that now lie landward of these levees), and so on and so forth. But again, the Democrats in Congress are too busy trying to appease Republicans to do the kind of spending needed to replace the fall in consumer demand.
Okay, so we're not consuming more, and nobody in Congress is proposing anything to increase consumption, so the only way jobs are going to be created is if we un-outsource previously-outsourced jobs. And for that purpose, a job creation credit of $2500 to $4000 is... laughable. A joke. Seriously, a joke. Look, our international competitors will generally pay a FULL YEAR'S SALARY for any job we outsource to their country, as well as providing one to three years of free rent in a government-owned R&D complex. My previous employer opened an R&D lab in China for that reason -- it simply made more sense than trying to expand in the United States. $2500 to $4000 is not going to bring a single job back home from India or China. It's a joke, utterly a joke. If we're going to bring those jobs back to the United States, we're going to have to provide at least the incentives that our international competitors are providing... or at least provide some disincentives for outsourcing, perhaps via changes to the tax code to make it more expensive to outsource. But again, the Democrats in Congress are a chamber of Neville Chamberlains more interested in appeasing the Republicans than in behaving like Democrats.
So I guess we're fucked, good and hard. The Republicans want the Great Recession to continue because deflation is good for the wealthy -- it makes their cash increase in value and allows picking up the assets of the masses for pennies on the dollars as those assets are forcibly liquidated via foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc. And the Democrats are too busy channeling Neville Chamberlain and trying to appease the Republicans in order to do what has to be done in order to get demand jump-started again or bring outsourced jobs back to America. What's the end game? I don't know, but I'm starting to get shudders down my fine-feathered back about the possibilities, because the F word (Fascism) has been a traditional response to depressions, indeed FDR avoided a fascist coup against him only because of a single patriot who blew the whistle and the lucky(?) assassination of another incipient fascist. Well, that and because FDR's programs were much more ambitious and larger in scope than anything the Democratic Congress and President Obama have proposed. What's going to happen if the job losses continue into the mid-term elections and beyond? Well, you know the answer to that. What happened to George H.W. Bush (or Jimmy Carter) when the economy went into the crapper during his first term? Can you say "one term President"? Yet Washington keeps fiddling while Rome burns, and when the house burns around them, will say "what? It's just a flesh wound!". And we're the flesh :-(.
-- Badtux the Economics Penguin
Beth Gibbons is yet *another* of those redheads. This is "We carry on" off of Portishead's recent album Third. This is some dense music. Like listening to a fugue, a lot of things going on. And Beth's exquisite voice is tying it all together nicely.
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Suzanne Vega, off of her album Nine Objects of Desire. This live video from the Jools Holland show isn't as good as the album version, which was produced by her then-husband Mitchell Froom and was difficult to reproduce live, but good enough. Suzanne is the epitome of cool. You get the notion that she never raises her voice, ever, just slides the cool right through even when talking about some sweet sexy loving. She has referred to this trait of hers obliquely in interviews where she notes that even as a child and a teenager she was reserved and polite even when she was in trouble and that wasn't the best way to be, but she's not one of those artists who goes out and bares all so we never get the details.
Perhaps if she'd been a splashier person instead of being so reserved and private she would not have disappeared from public perception so fast after her initial splash with Luka and Tom's Diner. On the other hand, her cool intellectual music probably would never have been more than a passing fancy for the average American anyhow, given we're talking about the same public that adores Ted Nugent and elected George W. Bush at least once...
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Friday, October 09, 2009
This morning I opened up my web browser, cruised to one of my favorite blogs, and saw... "President Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize". I laughed. "There they go, posting links to articles at The Onion again!" Because after all, why in the world would President Obama get a Nobel Peace Prize? It isn't as if peace has suddenly broken out on his watch, after all. We're still in Iraq, and still in Afghanistan, and he hasn't brokered a peace deal between two seemingly-intractable enemies like Carter did with Egypt and Israel. So there was no reason in the universe why I would go to a web site today and see "President Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize", it had to be a joke.
Except, of course, it wasn't.
So I can understand why people would be surprised, and maybe a bit dubious. I mean, this was so unexpected -- and probably undeserved -- that any rational human being's first reaction to being told the news should have been "No! Are you reading the Ironic Times again, and the next paragraph is about how he's brought peace to Iraq and Afghanistan?" The reaction of the right-wing blogosphere, on the other hand, has been utterly atrocious. Whether you agree with the Nobel committee's choice or not, it is a great honor for the President and for the nation that he is President of. The only reasonable negative reaction even if you disagree with Obama's policies, is polite acknowledgement and then STFU. Instead, they keep nattering on and on and on and on about how this is bad for Obama, puts pressure on him, yada yada yada. What a buncha baloney, there's only one group putting pressure on Obama right now, and that's the Democratic base that wants him to act like a Democrat rather than like a Republican Lite. What, you think he got up in front of the nation and did that speech about health care because of Republican pressure? Oh STFU, it was because the Democratic base was rebelling and driving his positives down into the toilet. It's not the Republicans that Obama is whacking with a baseball bat to try to get them in line. It is the Democratic base. The Nobel is irrelevant to that. It might give the Democratic base some level of encouragement, but in the end, Nobel prizes don't vote.
In the meantime, at the moment I feel like I'm living within an Onion article. But a good one, not one like this one. Hopefully the feeling will stay for a while...
-- Badtux the Quietly Acknowledging Penguin
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Back when socialists like Eisenhower ran the country, and taxes on the rich were much higher, there was less temptation to run big risks with other peoples’ money in search of giant bonuses.
Heh. This actually ties in to a couple of posts that Brian has done over at Why Now:
- The American rich are not contributing to the American economy. They're using their wealth for useless unproductive things like investing in Bernie Madoff, not in creating products and services. It is the Indians and Chinese who are creating products and services now -- and taking the profits.
- Rent-seeking behavior on the part of our elites is destroying our economy. Enterprises that should be profitable are drowning in debt and having to declare bankruptcy because leveraged buy-outs have so burdened them with debt that it is impossible to continue operations. But the people who profited from these leveraged buy-outs are sitting pretty with all the "fees" they collected to do all of this destruction.
It was a totally different system, one that was capable of designing and building products that took five years to create and another five years to get them into large numbers of homes. That system has completely fallen apart because of the short-term rent seeking encouraged by low marginal tax rates at the top income brackets, instead the incentive now is to get in quick with borrowed money, sell off assets for profits and extract those profits as fees, then sell the decrepit corpse to new owners who have no real alternative but to declare bankruptcy, the invariable result of which is either the corporation is dissolved or so greatly reduced in size that only a tiny fraction of the work force remains. This sort of rent-seeking behavior is only possible because we no longer tax the wealthy at 90% of their income. If we did, they would have no incentive to do it -- 90% of your profit from a short-term flip going to taxes means you aren't going to invest short-term. Instead, you're going to go long-term, and wait to take your profit until you really need it because your income has declined... and long-term is exactly what we're missing from the U.S. economy today, and is why our foreign competition is whipping our butts.
-- Badtux the Economics Penguin
Chan Marshall a.k.a. Cat Power, during her "mess" days. She was an adorable young lady who didn't know it, like many products of abusive and unstable homes, and likely was so drunk when this was recorded that she could barely stand because that is the only way she could drown the feelings of unworthiness enough to brave the lights. She is much happier now thanks to sobriety and antidepressants and years of healing that have buried the scars deep under layers of experience, but has lost something with that happiness, her latest music seems curiously bland. Still, I cannot feel bad about that. Everybody deserves to have some time of happiness in their life.
This song is about her abortion. She says. It's never quite certain whether Chan is telling you the truth, the truth as she has re-written it in her mind over the past two decades, or simply making things up that she thinks you want to hear. I doubt whether even she knows what's true anymore, after so many years of surviving by telling people what they wanted to hear in order to get what she needed to get out of them to survive.
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Monday, October 05, 2009
I have something to say about the economic news and what it means, but it's rather depressing. So here's some Rilo Kiley. For the male of the species, watching Jenny Lewis enunciate will cheer you up quickly :).
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Neko Case was far more popular than I could imagine. I never got anywhere close to seeing more than a halo of red hair. She sang all her latest tunes, of course. And while I couldn't see her, at least I was line of sight with the speakers.
I didn't even bother trying to get close enough to Emmylou's gig to even hear the speakers clearly. There were around 40,000 people in Golden Gate Park at that time (40,000 is a lot for the relatively small venues afforded by the various meadows). Every single one of them was trying to get close to see either Emmylou or Little Feat (playing on the next stage). It was just complete traffic jam.
Marianne Faithfull... wow, she's old. Just this fat dumpy gray-haired old lady still with that delightful British accent whose voice is completely gone, and, if you're listening, the most outrageous stories to tell. I remember when she was young and yummy. Siiiigh! But she makes absolutely no excuses for anything. She is what she is, she comes out and she sings what she wants to sing, and if you don't like it, that's your problem, not hers. One of her minders placed a set list on a podium near her so she wouldn't lose track of what was next. After the first song, she ordered the podium and the setlist removed in a most authoritative way that brooked absolutely no argument. Someone removed it, and she announced the songs herself from thence onward so that the band would know what to start playing. To tell you the truth I couldn't stand her singing, but I was in awe of the trainwreck and stuck around far longer than I probably should have, that's why I couldn't get close enough to actually see Neko Case.
Rodney Crowell... ah yes. A professional set of well done songs. I am baffled as to why he never got any airtime from mainstream country radio, he had the tunes, was it that he didn't have a "gimmick" of some sort to hang his hat on?
Booker T and the Drive By Truckers was a bizarre set. They alternated instrumental songs and lyrical songs, and on the lyrical songs, they alternated Truckers songs and Booker T songs. I was trying to get close to see Rodney Crowell so I sat through it, but I was baffled.
I'm sort of kicking myself for not seeing the real bluegrass guys, yes I wanted to see Rodney Crowell and Neko Case but they're going to be around next year. Same can't be said of Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Ralph Stanley. They're *old*, and could kick the bucket at any time. But so much good music playing, all at the same time... siiiiigh!
I jump over a log and scramble down a slope, and find a space where I can see through the trees to the stage below, and there you are, sitting in the forest duff watching the show beside your father. You are sixteen or seventeen years old, with ivory skin and wispy blond hair tied back in a bun. You are wearing a white dress with lace fringe, and a tan jacket with white pseudo-fur collar and cuffs to deal with the cold, and soft tan suede leather boots that look very comfortable. The fragility of your jaw, the fine bones of your face, fascinate me as do your thin wrists and the fragile bones of your hands. You are like a porcelain figurine, settled on the forest floor.
Then the musician on stage says to the audience, stand up! And you stand. The musician says jump. And you jump. The seat of your white lace dress is covered with dirt and leaves but you do not seem to notice. Your knees are thin and fragile looking under the dirty lace, but beneath them swell your calves, the calves of an athlete, participating eagerly in jumping. And I recall that porcelain can cover steel, as with porcelain-covered steel bathtubs or a roasting pan. Then I know.
You will go home, and change from your ruined dress to fresh clothing. Only the best. Your mother and father are determined that you shall not fail, that you will be the best at everything you do, and they will give you only the best to make sure there is no reason for failure. You throw yourself into it eagerly, basking in the approval of your parents. You are not built like a natural athlete but they enrolled you in soccer and so you do everything possible to excel and you do. You study late at night to make straight A's in school and if you are sometimes dizzy with exhaustion you do not show it because that is simply not done. You are Going Somewhere. But where? You don't know. You don't care, yet. You care only that your parents adore you and shower you with approval for performing.
One day you will graduate from college, a good college, and then what? The good jobs are being outsourced now, outsourced to China, outsourced to India. Perhaps graduating from a top college after several summer internships with major companies will land you a full time job. Then you will be on track to rise in the corporate hierarchy. Until one day you look around and look at your life and realize it has been one long pointless attempt to earn from the world the same approval that you once got from your parents. Then what?
Or you do not find that job, and, humiliated, move back in with your parents. You spend hours crying in your room as your disappointed parents flutter about outside urging you to go look for a job, clean yourself up, get a haircut, lose some weight, get some exercise. Then one day you go to the park just to leave the house and there is music playing, and you stop, and you listen. You listen. For the first time, you truly listen.
All stories should have a happy ending. But I do not know which ending, of the two above, is the happy one.
-- Badtux the Fiction Penguin
Saturday, October 03, 2009
You were standing near the rail at the edge of the pit, your braided hair brown under the sun, wearing bare feet and a pair of cargo pants and a white t-shirt that bared your arms to the sun. You were in your early twenties, young, full of life, full of energy, dancing to the music feeling free. Your happy face, cheeks sunburned, alternated staring at the stage and closed eyes like an orgasm of music had overwhelmed you. As you danced to the music your braids jumped up and down as if alive. And you were free. For a time.
And afterwards... ah yes, afterwards. You went back to the small flat that you share with four other people, eyes glowing with excitement, saying "Did you hear what I just heard?" to your roomies, then all of you draw straws to figure out who will sleep where tonight, who gets the bed, who gets the couch, who gets to sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor. You draw the short straw so you shove some anarchist screeds to the side to make a clear space, and sleep a sleep of contentment. Then tomorrow, you will go to work at the organic coffee house where you make minimum wage but, the owner says, it's all he can do because of the Seattle competition driving his prices down so far, and worry about what will be for supper because you ate the last of the food yesterday and you don't get paid until next Friday. You try to figure out who owes you, or whether there is a food bank that is giving out free food, or maybe you can scrape enough coins from behind the sofa to buy a few packages of ramen noodles. But you are free, you say to yourself. You're not a bought-and-sold slave to corporate America, you say to yourself. You are free.
And for a few hours, you were.
-- Badtux the Fiction Penguin
Tom Morello did this song today live, but with a lot more passion.
Dar Williams did this song:
Tom did this song, pretty much the same way as in this video:
Steve Earle did Christmas in Washington and a couple of others. Not bad, but he was not on fire. Allison Moorer sang pretty. That's damning with faint praise, but pretty much it -- no passion, no energy, just really pretty singing. Or as Tom might say, "it's got no soul."
Tomorrow I get to see Rodney Crowell (and I have a funny feeling Emmylou might come out from behind the scenes and join him on the stage for a song or two), and of course there's Emmylou's set at the end. -- Badtux the Music Penguin
Friday, October 02, 2009
Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Neko Case, Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, The Chieftains, ... and many many more, all playing for *FREE* in Golden Gate Park tomorrow! I am *pumped*! The hardest thing to decide on is whether I'll listen to The Chieftains, Rodney Crowell, or Doc Watson, they're all playing at the exact same time (and the exact same time as Billy Bragg and Kimmie Rhodes, grrr!). Bummer!
I was wanting to embed a video by Rodney Crowell here, but Sony-BMG went on one of its periodic jihads and disabled embedding on all of them. Morons. Idiots. Fools. Here I was, going to give free advertising for Rodney Crowell, and they stick the middle finger at that effort. So instead, here's the Chieftains with a guest singer. They did this in *ONE TAKE*...
-- Badtux the Music Penguin
Yes, I am talking about Victor Davis Hanson, the mad prune farmer of Modesto. In his latest editorial, he says we should stop supporting evil dictators by buying their oil. He then names three of these "evil dictators": Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.
Uhm, one of these three is not like the others. Which one is it? I'll give you a hint. He runs the only country that we actually do buy oil from, of the three countries listed above. Still unsure? Okay, another hint. Unlike the other two, who are either outright dictators or were "elected" in elections that were clearly fraudulent, this guy was elected by an overwhelming majority of his people in elections that third party observers say were free and democratic. Even today, in various ballot referendums and such, it is clear that the majority of the people of his nation support him and want him to remain President. Still having problems figuring out the name of this guy who's not like the others? Well, he's the only one of the three above that the United States has sponsored a coup attempt against, the typical U.S. response to democratically elected leaders who irritate the U.S. by not kow-towing to U.S. demands. The two dictators? Well, the U.S. hasn't sponsored any coup attempts against them.
You should have figured it out by now, but in case you're as stupid as Victor Davis Hanson, here's a hint: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was elected by his people in a free and democratic election, and his people support him and his agenda. "Dictator"? Puh-LEEZE. Chavez isn't a nice guy, but it takes more than being a nasty character to be a dictator. Heck, George W. Bush was a piece of work too, but he was just as much a dictator as Hugo Chavez -- i.e., not at all.
I find it amusing that right-wingers like Victor Davis Hanson hate democracy so much that they call democratically-elected leaders implementing the agenda they were elected to implement "dictators". It is like calling war, peace. Or hate, love. It is Orwellian in its sinister implications, Newspeak for the Republican set, and makes clear just how ideologically bankrupt, vile, and just plain evil the current Republican leadership and punditry are...
-- Badtux the Newspeak-scryin' Penguin
Safely ensconced in their ivory towers at the New York Times, Washington Post, and other mainstream media outlets, the Villagers have happily joined in on assisting the rabble rousing and sideshow screeching that characterizes the modern Republican Party in the aftermath of Obama's victory in November. They haughtily proclaim that they're merely reporting, not inciting, but you can almost see their hands rubbing in glee at the notion that they can create controversies to report upon and therefore justify their existence.
But the Villagers, like Dr. Frankenstein, are now starting to look upon their creation -- a rabid right-wing rabble that is becoming increasingly rowdy and perhaps even violent -- with alarm. Even Thomas Friedman of "Friedman Unit" fame, most famous for being the world's dumbest pundit due to his pronouncement every six months since March 2003 that "the corner has been turned and in six months Iraq will be paradise", is expressing alarm. And when The World's Dumbest Pundit acknowledges the obvious -- that these right-wing lunatics are, well, nuts -- then you know it's obvious.
But will the Villagers ever accept their own responsibility in winding up the right by faithfully reporting nonsense like "Death Panels" and "free healthcare for illegals"? Of course not. They're the Villagers, after all, isolated in their insular Village where nobody has to take responsibility for anything because, well, they just don't, that's all. Responsibility is for the little people, not for them. So it goes in the United States of Irresponsibility, where it's always someone elses's responsibility -- not ours.
-- Badtux the Nervous Penguin
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Let me get this straight. A middle-aged man gets a 13 year old girl high on quaaludes, has sex with her despite the fact that she says "No!", and... it's not really rape, Whoopie Goldberg claims, because the middle-aged man was in the entertainment business like herself rather than being a typical white trash pedophile?
Whoopie Goldberg just made my World's Worst Person list...
-- Badtux the "Rape is rape" Penguin