Sign of the Times: Bunker Mentality in Davos

Heh-heh-heh:

Presidents, prime ministers and other government officials are gathering for five days of discussions with captains of industry, bank bosses and heads of non-governmental organisations.

So the streets of this Swiss ski resort have been effectively cordoned off by a series of roadblocks and there is airport-style security checks all over the place.

To many, perhaps most, this is understandable. Many of the leaders here have dangerous enemies.

But the way this rarefied gathering of global leaders has decided to create large gaps between themselves and the outside world is also symbolic, perhaps even symptomatic, of deep distrust.

The BBC article is accompanied by pictures of the heighten security around these so-called “leaders”.

So, to recap, the Smaug Elite* deregulate the world, blow up economies all over the place, ruin innocent peoples’ lives, act like making obscene gobs of cash is the loftiest pinnacle of human endeavor to which we can aspire, treat everyone else like lazy parasitical scum who don’t deserve to get paid to eat and live, and as a result, they have to hire small armies to huddle behind when they take to tiny Swiss ski towns to talk about how hard it is to find good help anymore.

I’d say this experiment with the unregulated  free market system is racing towards its inevitable conclusion quite well.  Party on, Ayn Rand!

* Hat tip Hamfast Ruddyneck for the term Smaug Elite to refer to the uber wealthy and their financier class allies.

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Something about this situation felt eerily familiar.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  Where else had I seen a bunch of super wealthy, arrogant, self-centered sociopaths with a maniacal impulse to rule the world as our leaders, but who also felt obliged to hire battalions of jack booted thugs to provide security against intruders?  Then it hit me:

Saturday: Banging

The siding guys arrived a little before 9am.  They’re banging on the house right now.  The walls are vibrating.  The side of the house that needs to be replaced is right outside Brooke’s bedroom so I warned her there would be some noise.  But teenagers are like chrysallises.  She’s sleeping right through it and will probably emerge at the crack of noon to go foraging.

In the meantime, I’m emptying my instapaper queue again this morning.  Let’s see, what do we have here:

1.) I LOVE apartmenttherapy.  If you’ve never visited the site you really need to.  Apartmenttherapy is inspiration for decorators on a budget, a place to check out new gadgets, a resource for greener living and growing kids, and kitchen/cooking site.  They also appear to have a social conscience.  I’ve seen more than one post hinting at sympathies to the Occupy movement.  Here’s another.  An apartmenttherapy editor, Sara Gillingham-Ryan, who lives close to Zuccotti park documents the kitchen and food of Occupy Wall Street.  Her piece reaffirms my own impression of Zuccotti during the fall.  It was a vibrant, welcoming place that attracted visitors off the street to come in, find community and talk about what was going on.  Therefore, it was radical, dangerous and had to end.  But don’t worry, Spring is Coming.

2.) I hear they have snow in Davos this year.  If you have the time and money, you might want to check out the “luxury” igloo hotel at Davos.  The concept is interesting.  I just don’t think I would refer to temperatures lower than 68° F as a luxury.  Your mileage may vary.  I think that Occupy has a remote outpost at Davos as well and that Jeff Jarvis was going to go visit.  Check his twitter stream to see if he made it.

3.) Or not.  Twitter just announced that it would abide by the laws in countries where there are proscriptions on certain kinds of twitters.  You mean the effective kind?  Just askin’.  Which is what Jeff Jarvis is getting at in his tweet this morning on Twitter’s announcement:

@jeffjarvisJeff Jarvis
My problem w/#Twitter’s new national capability is that it is a slippery slope of censorship. We need to know its principles.

It’s all part of a pattern.  SOPA, PIPA, Twitter.  Someone has it in for the internet and wants to stomp it dead, dead, dead.  Oh sure, it wouldn’t go away.  But it would devolve into a place where companies sell you stuff on every corner of every page.  You could use it as a reference tool, maybe.  Or as a media consumption device.  Sort of like a giant TV with a zillion channels, all carefully regulated for your protection.  God help you if you try to incite a little insurrection and accidentally reference a bit of copyrighted material.

I think the powers that be suddenly realized that the internet gave people the opportunity to communicate without a filter and circumvent billions of dollars of thought shaping ads and screed.  Well, we can’t have that.  Here comes the crackdown.  This could be the end of a brilliant 20 year experiment that many of us cut our grown up teeth on.  Or it could mean a new opportunity for creativity.  If all that copyrighted material is suddenly off limits, we may see a boom in new, creative content that is royalty free, er, except to anyone in the media.  I’d love to see that kind of intellectual property agreement.

But sooner or later, the bastards will get what they want by buying the right lawmakers.  It goes without saying that we need to get rid of them and it starts at the top with Obama.  No, no, don’t try to scare me with Newt Gingrich.  There are times when you have to stop being afraid that you will not succeed.  There are third party candidates out there.  Pick one, everyone get behind that person and pull.

4.) Jay Rosen says that Republican voters are living in a different reality:

So I’m not saying that the Democrats and progressives are the ones who are in touch with reality, while conservatives and Republicans are not. (But I guarantee you some will read it that way.) I’m saying that the tendency toward wish fulfillment, selective memory, ideological blindness, truth-busting demagoguery and denial of the inconvenient fact remains within normal trouble-making bounds for the Democratic coalition. But it has broken through the normal limits on the Republican side, an historical development that we don’t understand very well. That is, we don’t know the reasons for it, why it happened when it did, or what might reverse it. (We also need to know the degree to which it is a global phenomenon among conservative parties in mature democracies, or an American thing.) Political scientists: help!

I think wish fulfillment is at the core of the religious Republicans’ worldview.  If you are wishing soooooo hard that the Rapture is going to come and destroy all of your enemies and family members who wouldn’t listen to you, then what does it matter how crazy your politics get?  Any thought that leads you closer to that eventuality is permissible.

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings was “Wishing doesn’t make it so.” He must have driven social conservatives nuts with that kind of clear thinking. {{snicker}}

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Argghhhh!  It’s always something.  The siding looks like a perfect match, even though it’s vinyl and the rest of the house is aluminum.  But the trim was ordered in the wrong color.  They delivered white, I need Navajo White.  It’s in the covenant.  And even if it were the right color, we’re a box short.  So, it’s not going to get finished today.  It’s on the side of the house that is not visible to the street but *is* visible to my neighbor, the cul-de-sac busy body and general itch with a B.  She’s got me fined before when I left cabinets on the sidewalk from my kitchen demo.  Most of them got taken by Craigslist foragers but there were two that were not and I pulled my back last summer so I couldn’t lift them to the dumpster, which I am not allowed to leave them in anyway.  $25.00/day until I could get someone to help me get rid of them.  You would think that someone so obsessed with the condition of the neighborhood would lend a helping hand.  No, not this one.  It’s much more fun to leave nasty anonymous notes on your neighbors door and sic the association on them.   I can just picture the fine that will be in my mailbox if the siding is left unfinished one second longer than Mrs. NebbyNose can tolerate. I can not *WAIT* to get out of NJ and the damn townhouse association strike force.

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.

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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.

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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.:

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