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Life in post apocalyptic NJ: gougers and bipartisan bullshit

Running off Generator Power!!
Riverdaughter’s — Free Charging Station

Courtesy of The Confluence

I’m about to head out for gas and firewood but not very confident about finding either. Last night,the lights flickered briefly, then went out again. The high voltage transmission lines cut through this section of new jersey about a mile from my house. The road beneath them is blocked off and it now occurs to me that there must be a major problem with one of the towers.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to the news on WNYC and everyone is marveling over the amazing bipartisanship display between Chris Christie and Barack Obama. Allow me to be cynical here. Christie is the governor who cancelled the new rail tunnel project underneath the Hudson between Hoboken and manhattan. That tunnel wouldn’t have saved Hoboken or the rail line this year but in future storms, it would have had modern anti flooding and pumping mechanisms so the catastrophe we’re now looking at with the rail system would be avoided.

Governor Christie has a particular loathing for NJ Transit. His budget cut $300 million from NJ Transit in the first year of his administration, causing fares to skyrocket and improvements to be cut. Instead, Christie’s administration gave $300 million to the developers of a white elephant shopping mall extravaganza in the Meadowlands. Those developers lost their shirts in 2008 before they could finish the mall that nobody wanted. So, to recap, NJ rail customers – 0, rich developers – 300. This is the same governor who yells at teachers and makes the rest of us feel like parasites. He belongs to the party that cut back unemployment bennies for people in this state by 26 weeks. Let’s not make a hero out of Christie.

And let’s not pretend that it is above Barack Obama to milk this disaster for all that it’s worth. Sometimes, I wonder if there really is a Satan and Obama is his guy. First there was the financial collapse of September 2008 and now this. In both cases, Obama looks like he’s cruisin for a bruisin and then voile! Catastrophe and loss. It’s perfect. Lots of free airtime with Obama hugging displaced elderly ladies in a shelter and distributing packs of White House stamped m&m’s to poor little kiddies missing Halloween. Did Michelle know he was going to do that? Message, “I care”.

Please.

Here’s what I imagined happened. Christie reads the signs on the national hurricane service maps, which his party is dying to privatize, and sees sandy heading right towards us. Knowing that re-election campaigning for him starts in January 2013, he swallows his pride and calls the White House. Obama drives a hard bargain. If you want a quick response, you’d better say nice things about us from the very start. You will appear at my side and fawn all over me. You will say I’m the nicest, bestest, most efficient and empathetic president you have ever met and my administration is on the ball.

So, Christie is.

I don’t expect Obama’s attention to New Jersey to last beyond election day. After that, Christie is on his own and so will the rest of New Jersey. If we’re going to get this state up and running again, it all has to happen before next Tuesday or we’re screwed. By the way, to change the date of a presidential election takes an act of Congress. Please let me know if you hear of representatives rising back to make the election fair for those communities at the shore who were obliterated.

In the New Jersey Hall of Shame add AT&T. Their response has been pathetic during the aftermath. Unlike the electric and gas utilities, they have been very tight lipped to reporters about the extent of damage to their cellular network. Service has been spotty at best although it looks like the local cell tower is finally back on line. But considering the fact that we still don’t have cable or any electricity and are living in a black out zone as far as news goes, I was more than a little infuriated that AT&T sent a “you only have 20% left on your data plan” message to my iPad. Amazing how they can keep track of that in the midst of a catastrophe that they are partially responsible for. I’ve heard that AT&T was finally forced to join forces with Verizon to get the data/cellular network going and the first thing they send out is a data limit notice.

In this emergency when we don’t know what’s going on or whether to boil our water or not or where we can get cheap firewood, the idea that AT&T is still putting artificial limits on the data plans is outrageous. Not only that but from what I heard in WNYC last night, back in 2008 after another cellular network failure in the aftermath of a catastrophe, there was a bill pending in Congress that would have mandated that the cell towers have an 8 hour back up generator plan and the telecoms killed that bill. Yep, they killed it. This is when many people such as myself have ,given up our landlines so the only way we can call first responders after and emergency is by using our cell phones and the immoral bastards killed the bill with their army of lobbyists.

There should be congressional hearings when this is all over. There need to be limits on how little regulation utilities and telecoms should be getting away with. We are talking about public safety now.

F}#^ers.

DNC to Arkansas Voters: “F%^& you”

Following West Virginia’s primary vote example, Arkansas voters are fixin’ to deliver a message to the Democratic party today.  Tennessee lawyer, John Wolfe, was running a mere 7 points behind Barack Obama in recent polls of the Democratic presidential primary there.

Oh, I know that a lot of people are going to call the voters of Arkansas racists or, even worse, conservatives.  But in 2008, Arkansas voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton and, well, we saw how that turned out at the convention.  So, maybe, they’re not racists or conservatives.  Maybe they’re just pissed that their primary votes last time meant absolutely nothing to the DNC and they are trying to communicate their extreme displeasure with the suck ass job that Barack “I would give myself a B+” Obama has done in the intervening four years.

The DNC has told Arkansas straight out that it doesn’t matter who it votes for in the Democratic primary, Barack Obama is getting all of the delegates.  Yep. They say he hasn’t complied with the delegate assignment rules.  I’m not sure the voters really give a flying f^&* what the delegate rules are. They just want to register their discontent and be counted.  As I recall, it was the DNC’s robotic adherence to The RULZ!, while feverishly working to undermine them, that lead to Obama’s nomination in the first place, voters for the other candidate be damned. But that’s the official decision.  Which leads me to wonder why states all over the country spend millions of taxpayer dollars to stage a primary where the results have already been determined by the party.  That’s money that could be used to hire some teachers or pave some roads or repair bridges or pay for some poor kid’s asthma medication.

It’s also just hints at what Katiebird has been saying about how the party could make a change in the lineup if it wanted to.  If primary results are meaningless and the party has decided who will get the delegates, then that means that if they get enough of these messages from primary voters who are disgusted with Obama, they could have a serious discussion with their candidate and maybe even bring in a relief pitcher.

Nothing is certain, not even Obama’s name on the ticket, until the balloons drop at the convention.  That’s not being a fantasist or crazy.  That’s seeing an opportunity to put pressure on the party that most other activists seem to have missed.  You don’t have to settle.

But one thing is for damn sure, if the party ignores its voters during primary season this year, they may not have a chance to make amends before the general election in November.  And there’s no amount of bad mouthing Romney you can do to make them ignore their anger at the party and Obama.  If I were the party, I’d get out front of the problem early and find out exactly what it is that voters want.  Because Arkansas is not an isolated example.  Kentucky is also having a primary today and while Wolfe isn’t on the ballot there, voting “uncommitted” is an option.  Then there’s Texas next week where Wolfe is on the ballot, and New Jersey in June where write in candidates are allowed.  Guess who I’m writing in? So, there are plenty of opportunities left for voters to slow the party down from rolling right over them.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

*************************************

I read this post yesterday at Digby’s about how the Democrats have made themselves a party of special interests and now the rest of the country is rejecting it.  While I understand the hypothesis, I disagree with it.  It just gives progressives an excuse to whine that no one understands them and all the good stuff they are trying to do.

The problem with this argument is that in 2008, the party had a humongous opportunity to break out of the perception that it is beholden to special interests but it passed on it.  By electing Clinton, they would have gotten back all of the working class people (by the way, that would include everyone not working on Wall Street).  The biggest pull they had was that millions of women from both sides of the aisle would have voted for her.  And this is why what happened to the party in 2008 was a self-inflicted wound that has festered: women are NOT a special interest.  Women are 53% of the population.  By electing Hillary, they would have acknowledged that fact.  By electing Obama, they aerosolized their base into a bunch of competing factions and then proceeded to gleefully neutralize the power of those factions.  The party has now become exactly what Digby fears it is.  It is perceived as being the refuge of the culturally disenfranchised groups who have no power and are completely at the mercy of the party fundraisers.  Those fundraisers have all the real power to direct policy, and they have- for their own benefit.  Without the money, Obama and the party is left to pander for the support of the groups it has gone out of its way to weaken in the past four years.  And the rest of the country, under stress economically is just tired of the austerity, unemployment and their dismal future prospects.  Republicans have seized on this situation by pouncing on those disenfranchised groups making it necessary for Obama to go after them, albeit weakly, and that makes him look even more beholden to them while paradoxically not being able to offer them much more than lip service.  It’s a fricking disaster.

The struggle is not between the liberal Democrats and the rest of the country.  The struggle is between the liberal Democrats and the moneyed interests that have taken control of the party.  The rest of the country *loves* liberal policies like Medicare and Social Security.  They’d love a modern New Deal initiative too, if only the party had a candidate who would put one together.  That’s never going to happen as long as one weak president is beholden to the guys who funded his campaign the first time.  With Obama, we get the worst of all worlds.  He’s a moderate Republican disguised as a liberal Democrat.  Karl Rove couldn’t have designed it better.

It could have all been avoided if the DNC had actually allowed a real roll call and floor fight at the convention in 2008 instead creating the false illusion that one candidate was soooooo far ahead of the other that there wasn’t a contest.  Too late to redo 2008 but 2012 is still available, and as we have seen above, primary votes are fungible to the Democrats…

As for whether African Americans would have abandoned the Democrats, I have my doubts.  *Maybe* the party might have lost the male portion but African American females would have won with either candidate. I think they would have come around. Then there were all of the Republican women I met when I was canvassing and phone banking who couldn’t cross lines in a closed primary but were determined to vote Democrat in the general.  That would have been more than historic.  That would have been a complete cultural shift and we missed it.

Oh well.

And Gallup says that Hillary Clinton is incredibly popular.

The Democrats’ Monty Hall Problem

Decisions, decisions.  Democrats have a tough choice this year and most of us are scared to death to make a wrong move. We have to choose between a booby prize of Romney or a booby prize of Obama.  Is there a third choice?  Yes. Let me show you why it is better not to go with a sure thing:

Ok, so how does this apply to 2012?  Well, you already have a door.  You don’t know whether it is the same old Obama for four more years or the big prize that the Democratic party has yet to offer you.  Let’s imagine that the prize is a.) the Democrats start to vigorously act like Democrats on the economic front and reject austerity or b.) Obama gets serious about dialing back all of the unitary executive crap or c.) Obama tells the religious misogynist homophobes to kiss his ass and makes genuine and effective efforts to curtail their recent advances or d.) the party sees the writing on the walls and tells Obama to step down for a better candidate. (This could happen.  As we have seen before, primary results are fungible. It’s what happens at the convention that counts.) Whatever it is that you think would be a gigantic, event changing prize that would make you feel proud to be a Democrat is hidden behind one of those doors.

The host opens door #3 and tells you that if you had chosen that door, you would have gotten a goat.  The goat’s name is Mitt.

Then the host tells you that the prize, whatever it is to you, is behind one of the other doors.  There’s a pretty good chance (66%) that at the beginning of this game you had the door with the goat named Barack behind it but you know that you absolutely do not want to be stuck with a goat.  The host offers you a choice.  Do you want to swap the door you have, whatever it is, for what is behind door #2?  All you have to do is reject the door you have.

The crowd at this point becomes unhelpful.  “Stay!, you moron.  Don’t take any chances.  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to lose this game?!?”

“Ummm…”, you say, hesitating.  So much pressure.

Then, the host says, “I’ll give you $500 if you stay with the door you have.”  Ahhh, now he’s haggling.

“I don’t know, Monty.  I think I might want to swap…”

“I’ll give you $1000 if you stay with the door you have.”

This is what the LGBT bloc did last week.  It got the host to fork over a sweetener.  But note that they didn’t get a prize because Obama said he is content to let the states make their own discrimination laws regardless of his personal feelings.  They just got a cheap tchotchke compared to whatever the prize they really want is.  They may still be stuck with the goat because they didn’t tell the host that they were firm about swapping.

The crowd is getting really loud and obnoxious and the noise is making it hard for you to think.

What do you do?

The answer is, you increase your chances of winning substantially if you reject the sure thing, and swap it for the unknown door, whatever it turns out to be.

This was a test that we failed in 2008.  We did not make the host bargain and we didn’t say, “Screw it, I’m a good Democratic base.  I deserve something better than what I’m being offered.”

In fact, we acted like a conservative Republican would act.  We took a sure thing after May 2008 and did not challenge the host.  We didn’t make him haggle with us and so we got nothing.  And this year, we know from four years of bitter experience that getting a goat sucks.

So, if you don’t like your choices this year, and I know that there is a lot of discontent about Obama, don’t act like a conservative who is afraid to choose and likes things black and white.  Act like a brave, open minded liberal and choose uncertainty.  Hold out for what you deserve and make them haggle with you.  You can win this.

The election isn’t over.  It’s just beginning and if you accept what you think is inevitable and do nothing, you will lose.

So, what are you going to do? Stay or swap?

Still not convinced?  You’re not alone.  Even some Nobel prize winners and mathematicians failed to see the logic of it at first.  So here’s how it works out if you do the experiment:

Sunday: Taking the Top off the Mountain

Digby wonders why the bankers are whining.  They’ve gotten everything they wanted but they’re all upset that Obama is speaking harshly to them.  So, now they’re going to sit on their money and not give him any for his re-election.

Wait!  Why is that a *bad* thing?  If they’re not contributing to his campaign, maybe he and other Democrats will have to start paying attention to what the voters want.  Would that be such a crime?  After all, there are more voters than bankers.  Seems to me that banker money has made it too easy for Democrats to coast instead of doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  So, ok, then, let the bankers keep their money.  And if they give it to Republicans to run a bajillion campaign ads, then Democrats better get on it and do some legislatin’.  But I digress.

So, Digby’s question is a valid one: What drives the bankers to be such whiny Verulka Salt’s who want it all NOW!?  She has a couple of theories that glance at the truth tangentially.  They explain the whininess but not what drives the bankers.  They’re either naive, resentful of populism or arrogant twits.

But if you’ve read my Strategy of No Strategy series, you’ll see if from a different point of view altogether.  The finance class actually consists of a bunch of overqualified strip miners.  They’re overworked, which might explain the number of bad decisions they make, and their compensation system decouples the consequences of their actions from the actions themselves.  They are being paid to make “deals” and the purpose of those deals is to extract “wealth”.  In a way, it’s not that much different from getting into the cab of some giant piece of earth moving equipment and mowing down the side of the mountain and then loading that potential ore onto a conveyor belt to be separated from dirt.  They live in a “company” town and are paid “company scrip”.  It’s a truck system for them as well.  The compensation is not proportional to the amount of work they do, they can be fired at will and they’re never going to leave that mountain because they owe their souls to the company store.  The more they work, the more compensation in bonuses they are promised but it’s never enough.

That’s not to make you feel sorry for them.  That’s just the way it is.  And seeing it for the way it really is can help us get over the very legitimate emotion of wanting to ring their skinny necks right out of their Brooks Brothers suits. We need to separate our feelings of hatred towards them from our understanding of what’s really going on here.

What I see is really going on here with Obama is that he was hired because he is one of them.  He comes from the right school, he has the right pedigree, he had the right connections.  It didn’t matter if he knew nothing about finance.  Just like them, he would get a crash course and learn on the job.  And they have taken this deal with him as far as it would go.  Just like them, Obama has stripped the top of the mountain.  There is no more wealth to be extracted.  Now, the middle class has been mined to death.  It’s exhausted and can no longer generate the wealth that they have been paid to retrieve.  They’re screwed.  The owners (ironically, that would be some of us shareholders through our 401Ks) want more money.  There’s no more to give.  It’s a vicious circle because generating more wealth for us, the shareholders, means laying more of us off, which means less wealth going into the 401Ks.  When Obama finally signs the Grand Bargain, he will be creating an environmental catastrophe but before that happens, he has to win this election and people are hurting so badly, he may not be able to do it.

Do the number of ad buys really make a difference anymore?  We may see the effects of the internet on politics for real this election season.  Some of us have given up TVs altogether and no longer subscribe to newspapers.  I’m guessing that would affect the Democrats more.  Their base is younger and better educated (but not necessarily smarter).  The people who are moved by TV ads are older and less well educated.  That would favor Republicans.  I don’t know, this crap makes me crazy.  It’s all a bunch of political psych tricks that make no difference to how people live their lives.  But I suspect that the Osama bin Laden to-do this week had something to do with appealing to older and independent voters.  I could care less.  All I want to hear coming out of either candidates’ mouths is how they are planning to solve the unemployment problem and save our retirements without requiring even one more half penny of sacrifice from the late babyboomers.  Anything other than that might as well be speaking in some obscure language from a small isolated population in the Caucasus.  “Blah-blah-blah-SEALS! Blah-blah-blah-SHOT-IN-THE-EYE!” Who. Gives. A. FRACK.

So, as I was saying, the bankers are like strip miners and they’re not getting much out of the mountain anymore, their manager says the place is exhausted and they’re puzzled because this particular piece of real estate has been pretty rich for so long that it’s hard to take it all in that it’s gone.  It’s really gone.  And now, they have to go mine somewhere else and in those other places, the ore’s not so rich or it’s harder to get at or there are people standing in the way or it’s going to take time to get the permits and pay off the owners or make new deals.  They’re going to have to do a trickier kind of work now or they’re in big trouble because the deals they are about to make are a lot riskier.  Meanwhile, they’re leaving a big mess behind with lots of toxic runoff and the downstream people are angry because they have destroyed our economic ecosystem.  I guess they want Obama to keep the rabble down while they finish their work but it’s getting loud and noisy and not helping their concentration.  Maybe Mitt can keep a lid on it…

Anyway, that’s the way I see it.  They’re getting paid to stripmine.  Changing the way they behave will require the will to change the environment they work in.  If I were really interested in changing the way this works, I would have protected the employees that worked for Wall Street at the very beginning of this crisis.  I would have enforced workplace standards, required a limit on the number of hours worked, required mandatory overtime to be dispensed with the next immediate paycheck, enforced the minimum wage, tied salary to hours worked and prevented bonuses from rising to more than 20% of salary, mandated more 4 weeks of vacation per year, paid, and required every blessed transaction to undergo rigorous outside auditing, just to slooooow everything down.  Also, I might have had the EEOC or some other agency review hiring practices so that applicants were not discriminated on the basis of where they went to school or their genders.

From the money side of things, I would have begun the process of eliminating the 401K, reinstituted the defined benefit pension plan, and placed rigorous outside auditing checks on every blessed pension fund transaction.  One final thing: I would have made sure that I seized control of any fiber optic cable coming out of Wall Street.  We should never negotiate with terrorists.

Wall Street would have screamed bloody murder but such measures might have gotten a lot of support from workers including some of the workers on Wall Street.

Alas, Obama did not do this.  So now he is faced with having to do without finance sector money and will have to face the mountain this fall.

I kind of like the way this is playing out.

Tuesday: Reality Check

So, does anyone believe that the red beanie boys lost their case against no-cost contraceptives in the health insurance plan because Barack Obama has a deep commitment to women’s reproductive freedom or equality?

Or does he have a problem with women and he needs to throw them *just* enough of a bone to win their votes but not enough to piss off the religious too much?

It’s the latter.

While the percentage of Democrats who describe themselves as liberal has also increased since 2000, rising ten points, the Democratic Party remains much more ideologically diverse than the G.O.P. Roughly forty per cent of Democrats call themselves “liberal,” forty per cent call themselves “moderate,” and twenty per cent call themselves “conservative.”

“Such numbers explain why liberals seem destined to perpetual disappointment in Democratic presidents, who cannot lean too far left without alienating the party’s moderate-to-conservative majority,” Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute argues in a recent report.

So, if moderates are still crucial to Obama’s election, what do they look like? Over at Third Way, Michelle Diggles and Lanae Erickson take a deep dive into the data to show that the real swing vote for Obama is a group they call Obama Independents—voters who “liked and voted for [Obama] just 3 years ago… were the most ideologically moderate segment of the electorate,” and “are true swing voters, with one-quarter voting Republican in 2010 and one-quarter voting for President Bush in 2004.” This group, which we are likely to hear a lot about in the coming months, is disproportionately young, female, and secular, and it was hit hard by the recession. One quarter of its members are non-white.

If Obama goes, so does the free Lo-Ovral.

This is the problem with politicians who do not have a coherent worldview, and Obama never has had one.  He has not made any effort to craft policy that will advance women’s equality in the workplace or the doctor’s office.  It’s not one of his goals.  Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on his.  The problem with Democrats is not that their factions are all over the place.  The problem is that they try to cater to these factions without providing a coherent vision for the future.  There is nothing that sticks Democrats together under one united idea of how the country and world should work.  So, Obama careens from one interest group to another trying to thread the needle between pissing off the religious nutcases, who do have a particular worldview, whether we like it or not, and the rest of us.  Plan B is a contraceptive too far.  Women should get a majority vote from their family and pastors before an abortion.  But contraceptives are probably ok, according to the data mining algorithm.

He’s done the same on the banker/financial sector fiasco.  Instead of developing policy and solutions based on an understanding of what is wrong with the economy and having a vision of how it should work, he has taken an ad hoc approach and tries to cut deals with each player individually.  That is more of the Teddy Roosevelt model but it leaves us open to more misbehavior by the banks because there still aren’t any rules to keep them from gambling our money away and then expecting the government to bail them out.  He should have started with the premise that it is wrong to compensate gamblers for their losses and then figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

Well, you know the rest.  Obama is pandering here to his swing voters, who happen to be moderate, secular women of childbearing age, in order to get votes.  He’s going to save them a bunch of money between now and November.  But that won’t get them better jobs or jobs at all.  It won’t prevent Walmart from subtle sexism that prevents women from getting ahead.  It won’t make measurements of workplace parameters to prevent “he said/she said” accusations about discrimination that no one will take seriously.  He’s not interested in equality.  He’s interested in getting re-elected.

No, Obama’s decision to cover contraceptives is a one time only deal.  There’s no systemic change to the culture.  He is not an agent of change.  He is an agent of Obama and women are the worse for it.

Sunday: Ok, I think we’re on to something here

We few, we happy, happy few Conflucians might be a shrieking band of paranoid holdouts, or some such Kossakian nonsense, but we have something the rest of the left blogosphere doesn’t have with few exceptions (corrente, Ian Welsh and Avedon Carol, for example): The pain of independence.  What the heck does that mean?

Well, it’s just a single point right now and I need to collect more data.  (“fricking scientists”, they mutter)

The term “pain of independence” is what psychologists say  people experience when they refuse to conform to peer pressure.  Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” cites a psych experiment where a group of people are shown a couple of 3D objects and are asked to decide whether the first object can be turned into the second.  Think of it as an exercise in group mental paper folding.  You have to turn the object around in your head and look at it from all angles.

There were a couple stand out features of this experiment.  First, the subject didn’t know that the group was seeded with people who knew the right answer but deliberately gave the wrong answer.  The other thing was that everyones’ brains were being monitored. The experimenters already knew in advance that a certain percentage of people were going to go along with the group and give the wrong answer too.  The question that the experimenters were asking was, did the subjects choose the wrong answer because they knew that it was wrong but consciously decided to go with the group to fit in (pointing to the prefrontal cortex) or were their perceptions changed unbeknownst to them (pointing to the parietal and occipital lobes)?

The disturbing answer is that the subject’s perceptions were changed and they weren’t even aware of it.  Yep, peer pressure affects your sense of space.  Maybe this is not entirely mysterious.  A sense of space would seem to be important to how you fit into a group of individuals.  Think of herds or flocks of birds.  People presumably once travelled in such pods before, hundreds of thousands of years ago.  So maybe this is an artifact of that.

The question that next occurred to the experimenters is: what was happening to the brains of the people who didn’t go along with the crowd?  Ahhhh, this is interesting.  It turns out that their amygdala was activated.  The amygdala is the small almond shaped structure located near the middle of the brain that processes emotions.  If you were a holdout, your amygdala lit up indicating the emotion of knowing you were alone on this one.  Sending this signal to the prefrontal cortex is too cold and logical.  No, to be a dissenter means you know the emotional pain of not fitting in.

And that, my friends, appears to distinguish the dissenters from the joiners.  The dissenters appear to be able to tolerate that pain better than the joiners.

If you were a Hillary holdout in 2008, because you had used the rest of your brain to process the information about the candidates, you likely knew the pain that comes with resistance to peer pressure.  And it *is* painful.  No one likes to be left out from that emotional tug that enveloped everyone else.  That’s why love bombing is so effective.  It alleviates the pain of being alone and drops your resistance to peer pressure.  If you attempt to dissent later in the indoctrination process, the love is withdrawn and you know the pain of independence.  It is not pleasant.  Ask the many former Hillary supporters who changed their allegiance in 2008 because they didn’t want to be ostracized.  Oh, yes, the emails I got during that summer when the pain got to be too intense for some people.  Talk about embarrassing.

Cain reports that something like 40% of the people in peer pressure experiments will go along with the group.  It’s hard to believe that there are 60% of us who won’t because we always seem to be on the losing end.  On the other hand, our elections have been really close over the past 12 years.  Gore actually won, Kerry probably did, we know that Hillary beat Obama in the primaries by a slim margin in spite of the horrific peer pressure tactics.  So, there are more people resisting than it appears but the bad guys keep winning anyway.  I suspect that’s because there are a lot more people who experience the pain of independence than care to admit.

According to Cain, the reason why democracies exist is because  of the dissenters.  That would be the 2008 PUMAs who were mocked and humiliated, and the Occupiers who were treated like radical, lice ridden troublemakers.  And maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to have counted myself in both groups’ numbers.  A Jehovah’s Witness child knows all too well the pain of independence from the group.  We have been brought up to be isolated.  Our very first day in the classroom is a lesson in dissent when we are instructed by our parents to not salute the flag.  (when I think about it, it’s a shitty thing to do to a 5 year old, but I digress.)  Our amygdalas have been exercised so much throughout our childhoods that we are used to the sensation, even if it is still unpleasant.  We realize that we aren’t going to die of embarrassment or ridicule if we don’t go along with the crowd.  I’ve said in the past that my purpose here at The Confluence is to give people a place where it is safe to be unpopular.  I knew it was important but until today, I didn’t know why.  Same with Lambert, Avedon and Ian.

The left blogosphere might want to think about that for awhile.  If it thinks that nothing it does makes a difference to the powers that be, maybe it should try dissenting and allow the pain of independence work its magic.  DON’T say you’re going to vote for the bastards even if they treat you like shit.  And then mean it. They’re counting on you to go along with the crowd in order to alleviate that pain and fear.  Peer pressure only works if you let it.  And those of us who have resisted from the beginning can’t reason with you to make you see our point of view.  Resisting peer pressure is something you need to come to grips with on an emotional level your own.  It *is* painful but worth it when your thoughts are your own. It’s sometimes physically disorienting and nauseating, I won’t lie to you. People aren’t going to like you.  They’re going to call you stupid or mentally ill.  They’ll say they were wrong about you and you’re not as sexy and smart as they thought you were.  They’ll tell you that you will bring Armageddon down on everyone’s head if you let the Republicans win.  They know how the brain game works because they’ve read the studies and it’s always worked this way.  If you give in to them, they win and they can do whatever they like because they know you will go along in order to feel good about yourself.

They need you more than you need them.  They still need the momentum of the crowd, the frenzy of the mob, the mounting pressure as the election gets nearer.  They need your vote.  If you refuse it, you monkeywrench their entire peer pressure apparatus and then they have to start paying attention to you and addressing your demands.  They’d rather not have to do that.  They have other people to win over.  It’s easier for them to know that they have checked you off their list so they can move on to tougher nuts.  Don’t make it easy for them.

Accept the pain of independence, learn to dissent and triumph over them.  Think of it this way, dissenting is the best way to preserve our democracy.  That’s an idea that is worthy of the pain.

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The dissenter’s theme song since 2008:

 

Thursday: Assholes R Us

Did you see this list of the top majors for the 1%?

We got an interesting question from an academic adviser at a Texas university: could we tell what the top 1 percent of earners majored in?

The writer, sly dog, was probably trying to make a point, because he wrote from a biology department, and it turns out that biology majors make up nearly 7 percent of college graduates who live in households in the top 1 percent.

According to the Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, the majors that give you the best chance of reaching the 1 percent are pre-med, economics, biochemistry, zoology and, yes, biology, in that order.

Undergraduate Degree Total % Who Are 1 Percenters Share of All 1 Percenters
Health and Medical Preparatory Programs 142,345 11.8% 0.9%
Economics 1,237,863 8.2% 5.4%
Biochemical Sciences 193,769 7.2% 0.7%
Zoology 159,935 6.9% 0.6%
Biology 1,864,666 6.7% 6.6%
International Relations 146,781 6.7% 0.5%
Political Science and Government 1,427,224 6.2% 4.7%
Physiology 98,181 6.0% 0.3%
Art History and Criticism 137,357 5.9% 0.4%
Chemistry 780,783 5.7% 2.4%
Molecular Biology 64,951 5.6% 0.2%
Area, Ethnic and Civilization Studies 184,906 5.2% 0.5%
Finance 1,071,812 4.8% 2.7%
History 1,351,368 4.7% 3.3%
Business Economics 108,146 4.6% 0.3%
Miscellaneous Psychology 61,257 4.3% 0.1%
Philosophy and Religious Studies 448,095 4.3% 1.0%
Microbiology 147,954 4.2% 0.3%
Chemical Engineering 347,959 4.1% 0.8%
Physics 346,455 4.1% 0.7%
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration 334,016 3.9% 0.7%
Accounting 2,296,601 3.9% 4.7%
Mathematics 840,137 3.9% 1.7%
English Language and Literature 1,938,988 3.8% 3.8%
Miscellaneous Biology 52,895 3.7% 0.1%
Source: 2010 American Communty Survey, via ipums.org
{{hangs head in shame}}

See??  This is yet another reason to invest in research.  If you don’t keep us in the lab and pay us well, we’ll go to work on Wall Street.  Nice economy you’ve got there.  Be a shame if something *happened* to it.

I suspect that the large number of geeks on Wall Street represents the number of quants hired to construct and run the dynamic models.  Take D. E. Shaw, billionaire biologist, for example. While he’s running a hedge fund, he’s got a sideline creating molecular dynamics simulations programs on proteins.  I can definitely see the crossover but what the top dogs probably fail to realize is that to the geeks, the programs are just research, as in “what would happen if we tweaked this parameter?” and there goes the Euro. God, help us.

Ironically, major pharmaceutical companies are run by former ketchup company executives and salesmen.  Go figure.  What we really need is for everyone to stick to their own kind.  No more of this mixing of the majors.  It’s unnatural.

However, this study just confirms my suspicions that it is much easier for a hard sciences major to learn business and finance than a business major to learn the hard sciences. And we in the research industries are going to pay for that lack of intellectual reciprocity.

***********************************

Did you catch the article in Vanity Fair titled National Public Rodeo about the Juan Williams at NPR fiasco?  There’s a sad little tale of karmic justice in it, considering the way the candidates and Fox treated him in South Carolina.  His story sounds vaguely familiar.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Flashy African-American dude with gigs at prestigious institutions gets hired by a bunch of solidly middle class, no-nonsense, Minnesota-type liberals.  They’re thrilled to be adding to the diversity of their lineup; he thinks he’s doing them a favor.  Turns out he’s an “idea rat”, not a workhorse, he’s considerably more conservative than they realize, and he has a history of lack of respectful treatment of women.  They would have known this if they had bothered to check out his background a bit more thoroughly but they’re blinded by their instinct to do good or fear of looking unfairly and tastelessly bigoted.  The staff and management try to accommodate his quirks and his moonlighting for their arch enemy.  But after half a decade, it’s just not working out.  They try talking to him but whenever they try to rein him back in, he starts accusing them of racism.  Everything is racism to him.  Racism, racism, racism.  So, they sit and wait until he royally fucks up in some spectacular way and then they fire him.  And the ones who fire him who end up losing their jobs in a firestorm of conservative vs liberal rhetoric- and accusations of racism.

It’s either a misunderstanding of worldviews or it’s a clever, common strategy to accuse your detractors of the most vile, prejudicial instincts in order to get what you want.  Too bad it bit him in the ass in South Carolina.  I almost feel sorry for the guy.  But he took the bait from Fox News and they own him now.

****************************

I’ve been following Jeff Jarvis’s Tweets from Davos, Switzerland.  He snarked this tweet late yesterday:

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

Now in the more fun part of #WEF: brainstorming sessions. Surprising that execs will play.

Jeff seems astonished that there is still no sense of responsibility among the uber rich.  They either don’t realize or callously don’t care about all of the misery they’re causing.  Or, maybe it’s all part of the plan.  What strikes me as odd about the very rich is that it seems like they live in a California-esque paradise of self-esteem programs.  No one has ever told them what stupid, selfish excuses for human beings they are.  They’ve never had any “character building” experiences.  You know the kind?  Whenever you needed something really badly, like a college education, and your parents didn’t have the cash to at least keep you from starving, they always said it would build your character?  I should have a rock solid foundation of character by now.  Not so the uber rich.  Their voices are “full of money” and they have no sense of guilt for running over people who get in their way.

jeffjarvis Jeff Jarvis

BofA’s Moynihan responds that bankers will bear their scars for many years to come. So will we all. #wef

Somewhere, I hear the world’s tiniest violin…

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The right’s boogieman, George Soros, says that if Mitt Romney is the nominee, there won’t be much of a difference between a Obama administration and a Romney administration.  The best shot Democrats have to retain the White House is for Santorum or Gingrich to get the nomination.  I happen to disagree with this.  Republicans, well, movement conservatives, will pull out all of the stops if Gingrich gets the nomination.  They want to win and all of the misery of the past three years will be dumped on Obama, some of it for good reason.  He squandered his opportunity to drag the country leftwards to the middle when he first took office and had a filibuster proof majority.

And why did he fail to do that?  It’s because he doesn’t believe in it.  He told you on Tuesday night that he was a moderate Republican.  He’s been saying that for four years now.  His heros are Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  Doesn’t anyone ever notice that he doesn’t cite any Democrats as his role models?  Well, for one thing, no one believed that crap about him being the second coming of FDR so he had to drop it.  I think that forcing him to actually say he is a Democrat supporting strong Democratic values is physically and psychologically painful for him but I encourage the doubters to try.  Try to make him say something nice about LBJ or Bill Clinton.  Watch him flinch.

Anyway, Soros says he’s worried about the Supreme Court.  I’m not too worried.  I suspect that Ruth Bader-Ginsburg will announce her retirement before the election and will be replaced.  That leaves the composition of the court stable.  It would be different if Alito or Thomas or Kennedy stepped down but for some reason the Supremes have a history of living to a ripe old age whether we like it or not.

Here’s the rest of Soros’ interview from Davos, who, by the way, is also suffering from the failure to imaginate any other contest than the one between the Republicans and the Republican disguised as a Democrat. There are simply no other alternatives, like, replacing the Republican running as a Democrat with a real Democrat. I’m beginning to think that Soros is the one playing 11 dimensional chess here.:

State of the Union- Live Blog

Post SOTU summary: The general election this November will pit two Republicans against each other.

Remember, this is a campaign speech. Obama is going to catapult some propaganda and see what sticks. He says a lot of things people want to hear but he has very poor follow through. I don’t have anything to drink tonight but hot chocolate. If anyone wants to play a drinking game, add your words in the comment section and I’ll play along, at the risk of scalding my throat. The text of the speech can be found at the NYTimes but if you read it in advance, that’s cheating.

Will there be any surprises? Will he get booed? Can I get a Mic Check? Predictions?

Have at it!

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Occupy Congress

Lambert is making fun of me for being a geek and posting on my iPad. Marsha is here as well. beeyoutiful and has eyes the color of purple pansies.
So far, we have been interviewed by Agence France Press, met the guys from San Diego who got thrown off the Greyhound bus in Amarillo, Texas and some nice seniors from Wallace Wallace Washington who are stirring up other seniors over medicare. This is a mixed age group.

We’re just now starting the GA. They’re going over the finger signals right now. I’m attaching some pics to the bottom of this post. We will have a lot more stuff to share a little later.

Weather here is gray and lightly rainy. The ground is a mud pit. We are having fun.

Occupy Appliqué

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Clap harder, CLAP HAAAARDER!!!

Typed “daily” into the Google search bar looking for the Daily Show, got DailyKos instead.  What the heck, let’s see what they have on the first page.  Oh, it’s a post by DemFromCT titled “What if the Economic News Gets Better?

{{faceplant}}

First, there’s an oh so brief blurb on the Greek sovereign debt crisis, that looks like it’s going to turn out ok anyway!  Isn’t that great??  The stock market is doing ok and the Euro bounced back, but we still hate Wall Street.  But our 401Ks are doing well, not that any Kossacks care about materialism and filthy lucre made on the backs of working people all over the world.  Dayum, do you see the slope on that curve?  It’s f%c^ing *awesome*!

But then, the post gets serious and discusses the GDP.

Right, who are we fooling?  Oh, right, these are Kossacks, who were used as a giant male fraternity party clueless focus group for the Obama campaign in 2008.  So, the bad news is that GDP was only 0.7% for the first half of the year.  The good news is that it was 2.5% in the 3rd quarter!  Isn’t that great?  That will keep those nasty wasty Republicans (boo!, hiss!  boo!) at bay next year because if this keeps up for the 4th quarter, we’ll have an average annual GDP for 2011 of …

… wait for it…

.

.

.

… it’s going to be good…

.

1.6%!!

{{cue the bad magician music}} Da-da-DA-DA-da-DA-da-DA-DA, Da-da-DA-DA-da-DA-da-DAAA!!

Uhhh, guys?  That’s not that good.  And you know what?  9.2% unemployment is a bigger number and likely to stick in the public’s mind a lot longer.  Just think about it: next year, presidential candidate’s debate, Obama gets up there and announces a sensational 1.6% GDP, pats himself on the back, because that is so Barry. Romney furrows his brow (provided he can actually move it) and says, almost sotto voce “9.2% unemployment”, shakes his head, glances at Obama, looks down at his podium, shuffles his notes, shakes his head again, sighs.

See where I’m going with this?   A GDP of 1.6% is anemic.  Check out this post from Brad Plumer at WaPo.  Here’s the money quote:

The economy grew at a 2.5 percent annualized pace in the third quarter of 2011, according to new Commerce Department data released this morning. Seeing as how plenty of economists were grumbling about a double-dip recession not too long ago, even modest growth counts as cheering news. But 2.5 percent growth won’t bring us back to full employment anytime soon. So how much growth do we actually need?

Short answer: A lot more. Back in August, the Congressional Budget Office released its revised GDP forecasts and predicted that the economy would gallop along with 3.6 percent growth between 2013 and 2016. Now, as Jeffrey Frankel has shown, government forecasters tend to err on the optimistic sign, but even in the CBO’s sunny scenario, we wouldn’t hit full employment until 2017.

It’s not enough to keep Social Security payroll taxes streaming in to keep the system going.  One year or two maybe we can make up the difference.  But four?  With another four more years of Barry at the wheel carrying on the Bush legacy and trying to make Grand Bargains with the Republicans to give away virtually all we have left?  What are you guys smoking over there?

The next part of the post is the funniest:

Sure, none of this changes the huge need for jobs or fixes the housing crisis, but with Obama pounding jobs bills and student relief (and some of it actually getting into the headlines and onto the news), it might just reverse the bad news coverage Obama has been getting this year.

It’s of special importance because the GOP really has nothing beyond economic frustration to run on. Their plan, be it this week’s flat tax, last week’s 9-9-9 or Paul Ryan’s disastrous roadmap is all the same: coddle the rich and screw the middle class. No one likes their plan, but with a tanking economy, no one is going to reward incumbents.

So what happens if a year from now, the economy isn’t tanking? Keep in mind the Republicans have no Plan B if America does well.

So, we admit that Obama has been a failure, just as we Conflucians predicted him to be back in 2008, given that he was an inexperienced, political unknown who seemed to flinch whenever anyone called him a Democrat and was being funded by Wall Street in vast quantities (We HATE Wall Street! Remember? But look at my 401K!!).  And we admit that he clusterf^&*ed the housing foreclosure crisis and the unemployment crisis and sure, it looks bad.  But that’s just because Obama keeps getting bad news coverage.  If he gets *good* news coverage, we unemployed people who can’t pay our mortgages will just let bygones be bygones.

And what’s this about the GOP plan to “coddle the rich and screw the middle class”?  I thought that was Obama and the Congress’s plan.  Isn’t it?  Because that’s what it looks like to me.  If Obama and the Democrats have the same plan as Romney and the Republicans, how are we supposed to tell them apart?  Better yet, why should I vote for either of them?  There are other options on the ballot and, who knows, by this time next year, there may be a third viable candidate.  The Occupy movement has unveiled a deep dissatisfaction with both parties.

What is Obama’s Plan B anyway?  I mean, if he wins re-election in 2012, he doesn’t have to have one, you nitwits.  Which is why you shouldn’t be giving him a pass.  You should be on his case and vowing not to vote for him unless he does something for you *before* the election.  Unless all you care about is your 401K.  (Didja see the slope on that graph??)  Even Steve Jobs told Obama that his poor performance on the economy was going to cost him the White House in 2012.  True story.  It’s in Jobs’ new biography by Walter Isaacson.  And we know that Jobs was pretty damn good at getting a feel for what people want.  (Have you checked the quarterly earnings for Apple these days??  Amazing!  Oh, but we HATE Wall Street)

Look, you Kossacks screwed up good in 2008 and as a result, the pain and misery for millions of Americans is going to continue for a long, long time if either Romney OR Obama wins next year. Yes, YOU, You are responsible. The best thing you can do is stop trying so hard to make this sound better than it is.  Stop lying to yourselves and each other.  If you want to make this better, tell Obama to step down now and let someone else with longer coattails take on the Republicans.  Even you guys can’t possibly be as delusional as DemFromCT’s post.

By the way, he could have stopped what happened in Oakland on Tuesday night if he really cared about citizens and their first amendment rights.  There’s an Iraq War veteran who is now in the hospital in critical condition because of this out of control overreaction by “riot police”, if that’s what we’re calling them these days.

I don’t know what is worse, that they knocked this poor guy out and seriously injured him or that they tried to prevent other people from helping him.  I haven’t been so disgusted with the behavior of police in a long time.  This is outrageous.

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In a bit of good news, apparently, Elizabeth Warren’s embrace of the Occupy Movement hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of the people of Massachusetts who want to work for her senate campaign.  This is a picture of the people who volunteered on Tuesday to lend her campaign a hand.

Golly!  Can we clone her??

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