Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Yesterday as I was riding with a fellow worker, who is retiring this year, the recent decline in the markets came up within the context of a discussion of our pension, social security and standards of living. The teacher I was driving with is retiring relatively early, 58, with the average retirement age for people in the US being 62 (2002). Said teacher mentioned, quite nonchalantly, that he had "lost" hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2000 to 2003 in the markets and that in the late nineties he had been able to pay off both his property taxes and a club membership with dividends gained as a result of the booming stock market. This teacher had followed the common wisdom of the day and invested in his 403(b) every check and felt, at least for around 5 years that this was the prudent option. These days however, as the market has stagnated, and as of yesterday and today declined, he has lost almost all of the gains that he had acrued during his over 30 years as an investor to say nothing of his opportunity cost.

The obvious point, which most people in the US seem to understand, was if this is the case for someone who played by the rules and was very active (I am sure a libertarian would claim not active enough) in the "ownership society" then what will happen to billions in savings for millions of retirees if we privatize Social Security?

Beyond the ease with which the plebes can so easily lose their entire savings under such a scheme the undemocratic nature and irrationality of financial markets also rises to the surface at such times? Who is making the major decisions about what happens to billions in savings in the current regime? Answer: a very small group of institutional investors, unaccountable government officials, large individual investors and traders. The line on the "new economy" in the new Gilded Age is that we are now all democratic decision makers because we "all" own a piece now that more are involved in the markets with 401(k)'s, 403(b)'s, IRA's and individual investing as a result of new technologies like online trading. In moments like this the falseness of such a line becomes clear and we all to spread the word for times when the markets are on the upswing and the Motley Fool and other propagandists start to blather on about the the liberation of the market and "empowerment" through capitalism.

Check out NPR's reporting on the dip. Just another day when the iron laws of capitalism rule our lives in a rational way. Really quite an astonishing report.

"Tuesday, the idyll came to a crashing end. All day prices fell, and fell more. Then, at about 3 p.m., there was a sudden dizzying drop in the Dow that called to mind the 1987 crash. And market strategist Kevin Caron of Ryan Beck wasn't sure what to make of it.

"It was a very fluky thing to watch, we were looking at the market down roughly 290, 295, 300 points," Caron said. "And suddenly within a very short period of time, literally half a second, we saw the markets were down over 400 points. At first glance, it looked like it might have been a misprint."

At Standard and Poor's, chief investment strategist Sam Stovall was equally bewildered.

"I was quite taken aback by the magnitude of the numbers reeling off — it was almost as if somebody was spinning an odometer illegally," Stovall said."

Nothing illegal about it! It's actually the way the laws are written!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come

As the boom continues in China a new architecture is being born. Here's a story on the new influences. A revolution more powerful than the Cultural Revolution!

BBC Story Stresses "Cost" of Dementia to Taxpayers

Check out this article. I think this journalist must be on loan from the Economist! I count 11 references to how this will be a burden on the taxpayer.

Study Says College Students Are More Narcssistic These Days

Self centeredness on the rise. My favorite bit from the article:

"We need to stop endlessly repeating 'You're special' and having children repeat that back," said the study's lead author, Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. "Kids are self-centered enough already."

I wondering if marketing has anything to do with that?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Three Exhibits

Had the pleasure of visiting the Chazen Art Museum in Madison, WI this weekend to see an exhibit of
John Sloan and the Ashcan School, in particular images of New York life in the early 20th century.

Lots of the prints were from the the Federal Works Art Project of New Deal fame. Great realist stuff of street scenes and urban life/landscapes with a conscience.

Also at the museum were two other temporary exhibits of colored wood cut prints from Japan, the US and Great Britain and the work of Peter Gourfain. The latters' work dealt with all kinds of peoples struggles and environmental themes.

This is to say nothing of the permanent collection at the Chazen. I can't believe this was my first time there given I lived in the city for 5 years.

Check out the Joseph E Davies Russian and Soviet paintings.

The Myth of Anti-Competitivness

Again and again we are told that "we" need to become more competitive and with an ever-changing global economy we can no longer afford the generous days of old when we were all on the dole and there was a free lunch for all. We all know their vision of the past is bunk but even more importantly their line on what is the solution; tightening the belt, lowering wages, more fees for services like parks, privatization, etc... is also bunk. How do we know this? because the countries (mostly northern European) that actually have something actually approaching social equality with high wages, universal health care and education, strong labor laws and a generous welfare state ARE ACTUALLY MORE COMPETITIVE THAN THE US!

Because of this we need to change the debate from where we should be cutting to where we should be spending more. Here's Harold Myerson on the competitiveness debate.

"These domestic policy proposals all have merit; the question is whether they're remotely sufficient to the challenge of a globalized economy. In fact, there are nations with advanced economies that trade even more than we do and have still managed, chiefly through domestic policies, to retain high levels of economic equality and vitality: the nations of northern Europe. Trade constitutes a higher percentage of Scandinavian nations' gross domestic product than it does ours, with little of the downward-leveling and, accordingly, anti-trade backlash that we experience. Their secret is a series of job-training and placement policies, a bigger and better-paying public sector than ours, and the fact that their leading trade partners are other high-wage European nations.

The cost of creating this economic security while remaining globally competitive isn't cheap. In the March issue of The American Prospect, my colleague Robert Kuttner calculates that these nations devote roughly 15 percent more of their GDP to governmental outlays than the United States does. That pencils out to roughly $2 trillion a year that we'd have to shift to the public sector to build an economy in which globalization wouldn't be viewed as so dire a threat. Neither Rubin, a true believer in balanced budgets, nor anybody functioning in the real world of American politics is calling for anything this far-reaching to reshape the U.S. economy."

Here's the entire article.

More Fallout from D'Aubuisson Assasination

Policemen arressted in relation to the killing of 3 Central American politicians and their driver are killed in prison in Guatemala.

The State of Welfare

Millions in the US have lost welfare, cash payments, but the welfare state, the most meager of the industrialized world, has actually gained ground since the attack on it since the 70's.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Senegalese Chimps Notch Up Arms Race with New "Spear" Technology

In their never ending quest to keep the war industry humming the chimpanzees of Senegal have once again found another way to keep the war makers happy and their feeble minded clansmen frightened. "A new age of Senagalese chimp supremecy is now upon us" claimed Dick Chimpy the leader of the war party as they went off to kill a Bonobo and a baby Sloth yesterday. A new age indeed.

Cheney and Howard Sabre Rattle Over Chinese Military Build-up

In Dick Cheney's never ending quest to keep the war industry humming, they had a banner year last year, and the masses frightened of a yet another unknown foe, the Dick spoke to support his junior in Oceania yesterday to thank him for sending troops to Iraq. China was the enemy du jour for the Aussies given their penchant for xenophobia as a result of their geography. I'm not sure how much Cheney helps Howard however given the unpopularity of the war in Rooland.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Free Abdel Kareem Soliman!

Egyptian thrown in the clink for insulting Islam and the President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak whom he had the temerity to call a dictator.

Give to the campaign.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Hilarious drama about a 400 unknown Flemish (actually Dutch) painter and his friendship with Oneira, a museum docent.

This atmospheric sci fi series, commissioned specially for BBC 7, gets its first broadcast this week. Written in five parts by Robert Easby it follows the escapades of Oneira, a museum attendant, and a 400 year old Dutch alchemist depicted in one of the museum's paintings, as they set out on a daring quest. Directed by Liz Webb, the cast includes: Lyndsey Marshal and Peter Marinker,

A Day in the Life of the

the "surge."

A series of insurgency attacks in and around the capital have already shown the difficulties of trying to stem the tide of violence.

A chemicals tanker was blown up in Taji, killing six and causing 148 people to inhale noxious fumes

Two car bombs killed at least eight people and wounded 30 in south-west and south Baghdad

A suicide bomber attacked a funeral in Baghdad, killing seven mourners

Five US soldiers died in attacks on Monday, the military said.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A Giant Sucking Sound?

The trade deficit continues to explode so the Dems are going to hold hearings. Labor standards to be enforced in the future? In a country without decent labor standards.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How to Write Anti-Union

A boiler plate:

Wage deal could end Harley strike

*Make sure you don't mention that the workers were locked out, stress the word STRIKE

The strike is the first at the firm in 16 years
Iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has reached an outline agreement to end a two-week strike at its largest US factory.
Harley gave no details of its offer to workers but said it expected staff to vote on proposals in the next few days.

About 2,800 workers at Harley's plant in York, Pennsylvania downed tools on 2 February in protest at proposed changes to salary and benefits conditions.

*They "downed tools" to " resist cuts. Make sure you use words like change because as we know, change is inevitable and good and resistance to such backward and conservative.

Although its profits are rising, Harley is worried about long-term prospects.

Cost burden

It is concerned that the burden of rising pension and healthcare costs could erode its competitiveness in the same way as it has affected the leading US car companies.

*Pensions are a burden you know? Actually Harley has very few competitors in US made icons that sound like old airplanes and use archaic technology. It's a brand in of itself sold as a symbol of individualism and nationalism.

Analysts believe the strike has cost Harley up to $11m (£5.6m) a day in lost sales, while also hurting the company's many suppliers.

*Use words like "hurt and loss."

Unions representing the striking workers confirmed that a tentative agreement had been reached and that picketing at the plant was expected to stop this weekend.

The strike was triggered by workers' decision to reject a three-year pay and benefits deal, which union officials said created a 'two-tier' system of remuneration.

*Raise the question of unreasonableness or doubt when refering to any position uttered by union members, leardership or staff by alluding to their position on proposals such as "two tier systems." Is this at all in doubt?

The walkout has dented shipments of models such as the Touring and Softail which are made at the factory.

*Constantly remind the reader of the terrible hardship endured by well off/overweight/balding/middle-aged men everywhere.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Tortured Logic of Liberal Imperialists

Take a look at this article by Harold Meyerson on how Hillary Clinton is the Edmund Muskie of the 2008 presidential election. Here's what he says of Hillary on Iraq:

"She opposes the U.S. military presence in Iraq but not with the specificity, fervor or bona fides of her leading Democratic rivals."

Here's how HC "opposes the the US military presence in Iraq...":

*She voted for the war
*She has never voted against one dollar for the war
*She has never oppossed the appointment of Generals, State Department, intelligence or any other executive branch nominees
*She opposes immediate withdrawal
*She has tried to position herself as the "moderate" on the issue to keep the internationalist component of the party as well as the Zionist Hawks happy

With this record how can Meyerson seriously claim that HC opposes the war? I propose he really knows this but like many in the pundit class or politicos in general we want our horse or our ideas to triumph so we massage the ideas to suit our desires. Nothing new here but as we watch the weekly news programs or Fox or CNN we accept the nimble ideologue (journalists included) as the norm. If we reach outside the parameters we are not called back to give our thoughts on this or that.

Hillary was for the war. She voted for it and its continuation in every fashion. She has a problem because everyone knows this but they like power and like Bill they know that she will do anything possible to gain the prize except maintain some principled position on anything.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Republicanism Lives!

King of Nepal stoned by angry crowd. Onward with the ideas of the US, French, Russian, Chinese and Nicaraguan revolutions.

Italy to Try 26 US Citizens for Kidnapping

In another sign of lagging US hegemony Italy will put on trial 26 US citizens for kidnapping Osama Mustafa Hassan, an Egyptian citizen. Bella Ciao!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Not Xenophobia

US to admit tens of thousands of Iraqi's asplan to deal with mayhem. A repeating pattern here?

Vancouver's "Dirty Little Secret"

Like Juarez Vancouver had a problem with women disappearing for decades.

City of Clay?

Mike Davis, "Marxist" academic that supports the Democratic party, has written some great books on LA, imperialism and megacities. I was just doing a little rooting around and found this critique in Salon.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

20 and 21

The Reagan/Thatcher revolution has finally born fruit as UNICEF now declares the US and UK 20 and 21 repectively in a ranking of 21 industrial countries in their quality of life for the young.


Cold Warrior/imperialist Zbigniew Brezinski blows his top on the neo-colonial Iraq policy.

Wall Street Whines

This means they are making a killing. Ralph Nader on the parasitic userpers and their phony complaints.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Guardian Films

The Lost Whale. A bottlenose whale in the Thames! Well made short documentary.

Traveling with US soldiers in Iraq.

NC on Democracy and Iraq

"There is another issue: even the most dedicated scholar/advocates of "democracy promotion" recognise that there is a "strong line of continuity" in US efforts to promote democracy going back as far as you like and reaching the present: democracy is supported if and only if it conforms to strategic and economic objectives. For example, supporting the brutal punishment of people who committed the crime of voting "the wrong way" in a free election, as in Palestine right now, with pretexts that would inspire ridicule in a free society. As for democracy in the US, élite opinion has generally considered it a dangerous threat which must be resisted. But some Iraqis agreed with Bush's mission to bring democracy to the world: 1 per cent in a poll in Baghdad just as the noble vision was declared in Washington."

Free elections when they vote the "right way."

The Technological Revolution and Time

Creative destruction at work. The new processor, by Intel, teraflop, is hella more powerful than the chip in your machine now.

"The first time teraflop performance was achieved was 11 years on the ASCI Red Supercomputer built by Intel for the Sandia National Laboratory.
That machine took up more than 2,000 square feet, was powered by almost 10,000 Pentium Pro processors, and consumed more than 500 kilowatts of electricity."

Only 11 years ago!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Stories from the Front

The York, PA Harley workers need your support. Check out their site. Make a donation.

The QT Cult of Violence

Smokin Aces and the emptiness of the stylized gore of Tarantino and company. Why do these films repulse so? The self-conscious use of racist lingo? The piggy backing on old genres; blacksploitation, noir and Asian martial arts? The feminist pose while dealing exclusively in adolescent male themes of titilation, revenge and shoot em' up? Journeying into the land of Huston, Wilder, Lang, Scorcese, et. al. where character was king and the larger morality, or lack there of, is the currency, the QT genre style's it up with technicolor and yellow leather and motorcycles but in the end the suit is the only remnant.

Must See A/F

The Akron/Family are on tour. Not to be missed. Good times to be had for all.

Is Iran Going to be Bombed?

Alex Cockburn on possible scenarios for the war party.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Where a Wall Once Stood

Good murder mystery set in today's eastern Germany. Very well done exploration of re-unification and its discontents.

War on the Shia?

Pat Cockburn on the escalation:

"The United States is stepping up the war in Iraq. For almost four years, it has been fighting the Iraqi Sunni community. Now it has started to confront the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the nationalist Shia cleric who leads the powerful Mehdi Army militia."

The entire article.

R and B

David Cross style.

$12 Bill: No Chump Change

"The US flew nearly $12bn in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent."

In the old days we called this a high crime and misdemeanor.

How to spend $12 billion quick.

Fiscal conservatives at work.


Here's the reportage from the free media:

"The U.S. military has said it did not believe the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter was shot down in the crash Wednesday northwest of Baghdad."

You be the judge.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yeah See

Classic noir from Sam Zuller. Peters is snappy and Widmark is snappier.

Modern Romance

Modern Romance, truly one of the funniest movies ever. The Quallude scene alone worth the price.

Venezuela Buys Main Power Company

Hugo Chavez nationalizes electric company that serves most of Caracas.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Harry Shearer on the death of celebrities and other such non-stories.

FAIR's view. A national disgrace.

FU says FU to Life!

Ian Richardson, brilliant actor of House of Cards and the Shakespeare Theatre Company dies at 72. The House of Cards series is an amazing attack on the Thatcher years and the sniveling Prince Charles, a classic piece of political satire pulled off primarily because of Richardson.

The Guardian's take.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Millennial Scientific Mystery Solved!

Beer goggles formula cracked.

Floyd the Dope

Floyd Landis will not take part in this year's Tour de France. The Amish (sorry ex-Mennonite) Wonder will not fly.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rogue Herries

A radio adaptation of Hugh Walpole's, I hadn't heard of him either, Rogue Herries. The story of a family of homesteaders in Cumberland in the 18th century and thier tyrannical patriarch. This is the second time I have listened. Classic radio drama.

Manifest Destiny Today

"This is a national conceit that is the comprehensible result of the religious beliefs of the early New England colonists (Calvinist religious dissenters, moved by millenarian expectations and theocratic ideas), which convinced them that their austere settlements in the wilderness represented a new start in humanity's story. However, the earlier Virginia settlements were commercial, as were those of the Dutch, and the proprietary colonies in Pennsylvania and Maryland were Quaker and Catholic, and had no such ideas. Nor did the earliest colonies, the Spanish in Florida and the Southwest, and the French on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi."

Like many liberal imperialists Pfaff identifies the historical, moral and economic reasons for US intervention but then talks about how "we" should manage the empire to its full potential.

Syria Shuts Border to Iraqi Refugees

The end of Pan-Arabism?

Science Fact

A few ideas science fiction has gotten right, and wrong.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Rober Barons

Microsoft goes after Russian school teacher for $10,000 for "piracy." Gorby and Putin weigh-in in support of the scalawag.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Or their equivelant? As 4 US helicopters are shot down in Iraq the US military has to alter tactics. Anti-aircraft weapons have had an interesting and profound history in the recent past with the Stinger missle shooting down lots of helicopters in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and Wisconsin's own mercenary Gene Hasenfus being shot down over Nicacragua leading to the Iran-Contra affair. We'll see the impact in Iraq?


BBC7 is reading from an OK novel by Michael Frayn, Headlong, a story about the art world and such which turns on a painting by the Flem Pieter Bruegel. It got me looking up Bruegel and his paintings, amazing stuff.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who WantsTo Go?

Festival in the desert. And we ain't talking the Burning Man.

Full board and plane.

Giant Wabbits


North Koreans seek giant rabbit trainer in Germany.

*Giant rabbit asked his opinion on move to North Korea

York Harley Workers Say 'Hell No' To Cut Backs

Harley workers at York, PA., a hangover from the AMF days, vote to go out on strike over the demand by management for givebacks on wages, benefits and the structure of their contract. Management's answer: we will lock you out. It looks like they are playing hardball like their buddies down the street at Caterpillar.

Now here's a radical idea for all Harley workers, co-ordinate your job actions and contracts! It's also a lesson for the Milwaukee union leadership and membership. Your fellow workers at Harley will fight, so let's not cave particularly when your company is making record profits.

All out in support for the York Harley workers!