Monday, September 27, 2010

A Clockwork Orange

"...our wisdom, too, is a cheerful and a homely, not a noble and kingly wisdom; and this, observing the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions, forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire any man's happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change. For the uncertain future has yet to come, with every possible variety of fortune..." - Solon

Amazing to believe that this incredibly astute and honest observation was from 2500 years ago.  The majority of the "elite" running the present day Idiocracy never stop long enough to question the hubris of their own inane decisions - bad assumptions built on a pyramid of other bad assumptions.  Similar to conditions that attended during the Dark Ages after the Fall of Rome, science and culture are now entering secular decline, as subjectivity and theology are on the rise.  The only known antidote for anarchy is religion (i.e. mind control), and therefore we will soon receive both (anarchy/theology) in large doses.

We are on the verge of experiencing a monumental transfer of power from the 50+ Baby Boomer generation which has presided over the age of decadence, greed and hedonism that started in the late 1960s.  Consider this last forty year period the Age of Greed.  What we are now entering is the Age of Fear.  What is needed in this new age is a set of tools far different than those found valuable in the prior age.  Power in this age will be held by young men between the ages of 18 and 35 who have copious amounts of testosterone, an underdeveloped conscience, and tremendous cardio capacity, attributes amply exhibited in the UFC generation.  Historically, these have been the Wild Boys who have ruled (violently) during ages of turmoil, for obvious reasons.  The Boomers will quickly yield control albeit unwillingly, having long since grown soft and decadent.   These 50-70 year old over-fed comfort seekers raised during the longest stretch of prosperity in human history will be no match for the new younger breed that ironically the Boomers themselves will have raised.  In short, the Boomers were raised to believe in the triumph of optimism over reality, "vision" over commonsense. Poor qualities to bring to a knife fight.

Combined with the predilection towards messianism and religion described above, there will be new "Taliban" springing up everywhere across the globe.  Be they Muslim, Christian, Sikh or otherwise, they will all exhibit very similar goals and methods.  This process is already well underway not just in the Middle East, but here in the U.S. with the burgeoning militia movement.

The bottom line is that some people are prepared for what comes next, others, not so much...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Faux News

I am constantly amazed by the hypocrisy of all of these hard Right Wingnuts reincarnating themselves as Free Market Libertarians.

From Larry Kudlow, to Michelle Caruso Cabrera, Glenn Beck and all of the hypocritical, wingnut demagogues in-between, these newly minted Libertarians have all put their (very) recent past
behind them to jump on the burgeoning Tea Party bandwagon. Beck, Limbaugh, and the various CNBC propagandists (Kernen, Caruso-Cabrera, Kneale, Kudlow etc.) prove daily that there is nothing quite as rabid as a man (or woman) seeking to protect his own pocketbook regardless of who else may be affected. Granted we should not be surprised in the least to see these newly converted Libertarians wanting to put distance between themselves and their profligate Supply Side past, but their 180 degree about face on spending policy is enough to induce whiplash and takes hypocrisy to all new levels.

To review, the central tenets of the Tea Party are:
1) Fiscal conservatism/Reduced Deficits
2) Return to hard money (gold standard)
- Abolishing the Federal Reserve
3) Smaller government/less regulation
4) International Isolationism
- Downsize U.S. military commitments
5) Dismantling and/or Privatization of Social Programs (e.g. Social Security)
6) Anti-immigration

Some of these are good ideas, which should have never been discarded, that I won't deny. What is galling however, is the fact that the very people who now embrace these newfound ideals are the ones who have been undermining them for the past 30 years.

Take fiscal conservatism as the primary example. It's all well and good to talk about fiscal conservatism when the "other party" is in power. The reality is that up until Obama was elected, these newly minted Libertarians were all ardent "Supply-Siders". For all of the past 30 years, starting with Reagan, the key Supply Side mantra has been "Deficits Don't Matter" (a direct quote from Dick Cheney), and as such they spent accordingly. The Supply Siders have always been closely or directly aligned with the Neo Conservatives (Neo Cons) who advocated for a strong American presence on the International stage - a "Pax Americana", if you will. The Neo Cons were the behind-the-scenes architects of the failed Iraq "Strategy" and the egregious over-commitment of U.S. military resources worldwide. It was an asinine policy that went into overdrive during the Bush Administration leading to two simultaneous wars AND a massive tax cut for the ultra-wealthy. That unsustainable tax cut alone increased the national debt by $2.5 trillion !, yet even as I write this is Congress debating whether or not it should be extended! That's like being bankrupt and debating whether or not to take the annual trip to Club Med. The cost of the two failed wars meanwhile, now exceeds $1 trillion in direct costs. Of course this does not count the coming costs from the downstream fallout as these failed nations turn the entire Middle East into a terrorist safe haven and jeopardize the world oil supply. The bottom line is that as long as the ultra-wealthy and Military Industrial Complex are the primary beneficiaries, then the Right Wingnuts really have had no problem with unlimited Federal Government spending.

Clearly, the Neo Con agenda, supported by most conservatives over the past 30 years is at extreme odds with the Libertarian Tea Party agenda, especially with respect to overseas military commitments and fiscal and monetary conservatism. After all, without the unprecedented fiscal and monetary expansion of the past 30 years, the accompanying military buildup would have never been possible. Ironically, it was another venerated conservative, Milton Friedman who was a key proponent for the U.S. severing the last remaining ties to the gold standard in the early 1970s. That closing of the gold exchange window is what set off the past 30+ years of monetary hyper-expansion culminating in this nascent Deflationary Depression. To a hardcore Libertarian advocating any form of currency other than a gold standard is purely heretical, as indicated by this diatribe against Friedman dating back to 1971. In this battle of ideologies, the Tea Party has the benefit of fiscal sanity and reality working for it, so one can reasonably expect the Neo Con thought dealers to be relegated to the historical dust heap of self-important morons masquerading as intellectuals.

Just as likely, the Neo Cons will merely join their conservative brethren as new born Libertarians. After all, it would not be the first time the Neo Cons reinvented themselves. The fascinating book "They Knew they were Right"Neo Cons starting all the way back in the 1930s when they were Trotskyite Communists (yes, you read that right). Not only that, they opposed U.S. involvement in World War II because it was an "Imperialist War" (whatever that means). You can't make this shit up - somehow the "intellectual" founders of the Neo Con movement migrated from the Far Left to the Far Right over the span of several decades, basically reinventing themselves along the way. Talk about pseudo-intellectualism reduced to basically a meaningless parlour game. The U.S. faces off daily against Taliban fanatics who live in caves, shit in buckets and risk their lives daily for their "cause". Meanwhile, the U.S. side is led by shape shifting thought dealers who change their ideologies like a teen girl changes her hair style.

Objectivity is as dead as a door nail
Before you get the idea that I am some sort of Left Wing Liberal nihilist, I don't regard watching CNN and BBC in one ear and Fox News in the other as some form of moderation. I get it that objective journalism is dead on all sides, which is why traditional media is in a death spiral. As the content of newspapers, television news becomes more degraded and biased, viewership becomes polarized and sectarian, with limited outreach. That in turn feeds back into content cuts leading to more hyperbolic propagandists and even less traditional research and journalism. It now literally takes about only about 5 minutes to read the Wall Street Journal once you skip past the three Opinion/Editorial sections, the Letters to the Editor and the Lifestyle section - basically you are left with about 3 pages of hardcore business content, including the front page.

My overall point is that you can't solve a problem unless you objectively face a problem. Yet, with the overall low quality thought dealership we get from all sides, conveniently reinventing history every four years, and pushing simple answers to complex issues, the U.S. is a LONG WAY from ever finding its way out of this mess.

And lest you think this is a politically motivated diatribe, I do not underestimate the Tea Party movement in the least. They will undoubtedly be the dominant political force for the next decade, if not longer. And either Sarah Palin will be the next President or it will be a demagogue just like her, that is a foregone conclusion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Those Damn Unions

The latest manifestation of escalating social acrimony is in the form of union bashing, especially public sector unions. Certain blogs and far right journalists have taken upon themselves to launch a vindictive crusade against a sector of the economy that is the last bastion of the American Middle Class. We've hollowed out the private sector middles class, so why not get to work on the public sector as well? Amazingly and appallingly, these "journalists" (to the extent such a profession still exists) and bloggers who attack the public sector unions are seeking to blame the sorry state of the economy on organized labour.

I am not a union member, never have been in one and do not personally have use for one. That said, to blame the perceived or real union bureaucratic inefficiencies in any way for this current economic debacle is absolute and total disinformation. Basic commonsense indicates that the incidence of some nurses, teachers and police officers earning $100k/year after 25 years of service is not at the root of this economic disaster. I fully understand that state and local governments are de facto bankrupt. After all, I predicted that scenario 3 years ago and I am constantly amazed that so few have officially declared bankruptcy at this juncture. Therefore, I also understand that public sector unions will no doubt bear their share of the economic pain, however, that does not mean that they share a proportionate share of the blame for this ongoing fiasco, nor should we think that adding more job losses and salary cuts is going to fix the economy.

Here are a few facts to correct the purveyors of this line of bullshit:

1) Unions and their members did not create the Subprime/financial debacle

Remember, that was Wall Street and their well heeled minions who on average make as much in a month as the average American family earns in a year. That's a lot of pay for adding exactly zero value to the economy and yet being permitted to fuck it (the economy) up all at the same time. Wall Street made tens of billions securitizing garbage loans of all types and then stuck the American Tax Payer with the clean-up bill of roughly $11 trillion. How much is $11 trillion dollars you ask? Well, it's enough to pay all 6 million teachers in the U.S. $60k per year for the next 30 years ! i.e. according to the union-bashing bloggers, we can't afford to pay teachers, but Wall Street can get the equivalent of 30 years of teacher salary basically overnight. Is this a great system or what ! There are some serial disinformers who think that $11 trillion is way overestimated because it includes all of the "assets" (shitty loans) that the Federal Reserve purchased and will eventually sell back to the markets. Ok, whatever...I happen to own this bridge over here...

2) Public sector union members make more money than the average worker: This became true only very recently, since for most of U.S. history it was the other way around. This "crossover" in pay scales is more a function of declining private sector pay as it is from rising public sector pay.

Total (private/public sector) union membership has declined steadily for the past 60 years from a peak of around 36% in 1945 to where it is now at around 12%. During this time, public sector union membership has actually risen from 10% to 36% i.e. public sector union membership is the last holdout of what's left of the American Middle Class. Those who decry "high" union wages apparently want public sector employees to suffer the same fate as their private sector brethren i.e. outsourcing, relentless job turnover/job insecurity and stagnant or declining wages. Contrary to popular assertions, forcing all Americans to have their pay checks slashed in half is not going to fix the economy. Back in the Roaring '90s when Dot Coms were all the rage and many private sector employees were enjoying the fruits of their stock options and bonuses, I don't recall too many people wanting to become a teacher at a $30k/year starting salary. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, public sector employees who have been steadfastly working with little or no upside relative to the economy will be obliged to share in the economic pain of the private sector i.e. no upside, all downside.

3) Public Sector Unions did not outsource millions of jobs to China and India and otherwise liquidate the private sector middle class.

Remember, that was the country-club salesmen CEOs (at the behest of Wall Street), who knew nothing about engineering or manufacturing and took the easy way out by handing all of this country's IC (Intellectual Capital) to America's competitors.

Now we have official unemployment stuck at 10% (unofficially at 16%) with absolutely no sign whatsoever of robust job creation on the horizon. Total debt equating to 350% of GDP is just too big a burden to offset, despite having thrown unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus at the economy - way beyond anything attempted during the Great Depression ! So, you can full well expect that unemployment will only continue to rise inexorably from here.

I have said it before and will say it again, any country that trades openly with nations that do not have a labour or environmental standard, will itself substantially degrade its own labour and environmental standards. That my friends is called industrial arbitrage.

Again, I personally don't care about unions, but behind these big bad unions are every day people trying to make ends meet, who do not need to be vilified by half-baked bloggers and pseudo-journalists who are just redirecting vast bottomless reservoirs of rage at the last vestige of the middle class.