• Tips gratefully accepted here. Thanks!:

  • Recent Comments

    riverdaughter on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Lady V on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    ghost2 on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    ghost2 on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Lady V on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    riverdaughter on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    rebeccasrapsblog on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Ga6thDem on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Ga6thDem on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    riverdaughter on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
    Ivory Bill Woodpecke… on #Brexit, appliances, eucatastr…
  • Categories


  • Tags

    abortion Add new tag Afghanistan Al Franken Anglachel Atrios bankers Barack Obama Bernie Sanders big pharma Bill Clinton Chris Christie cocktails Conflucians Say Dailykos Democratic Party Democrats Digby DNC Donald Trump Donna Brazile Economy Elizabeth Warren feminism Florida Fox News General Glenn Beck Glenn Greenwald Goldman Sachs health care Health Care Reform Hillary Clinton Howard Dean John Edwards John McCain Jon Corzine Karl Rove Matt Taibbi Media medicare Michelle Obama Michigan misogyny Mitt Romney Morning Edition Morning News Links Nancy Pelosi New Jersey news NO WE WON'T Obama Obamacare occupy wall street OccupyWallStreet Open thread Paul Krugman Politics Presidential Election 2008 PUMA racism Republicans Sarah Palin sexism Single Payer snark Social Security Supreme Court Terry Gross Texas Tim Geithner unemployment Wall Street WikiLeaks women
  • Archives

  • History

    July 2016
    S M T W T F S
    « Jun    
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930
    31  
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

  • The Confluence

    The Confluence

  • RSS Suburban Guerrilla

  • RSS Ian Welsh

    • The Control of Parties and the Rise and Fall of Ideologies
      All political parties have ideological beliefs. If it seems a party does not, it generally means they accept the status quo (invisible as an ideology) or they are a cult of personality, which is still an ideological position. (Originally published May 19, 2015. Back to the top. This is why the fight over Labour is […]
  • Top Posts

#Brexit, appliances, eucatastrophes and GoT crackpot theories

maxresdefault

What has the EU ever done for us?

Hi everybody, I have to go mow the lawn. It’s a nice day out today and I want to get it over with so I can do more fun things. But first, some thots about Brexit.

David Cameron is a ditz. He called his voters’ bluff one too many times. Unfortunately, the people who voted for exiting the EU are dragging all of the young and well educated with them. It’s funny how this turned out to be a referendum on immigration and all those furiners taking jobs. Why is it that the well connected who are making out like bandits in the globalization deal escape scrutiny time after time?

I blame Rupert Murdoch. Wherever his “news” channels are strongest so is the redirection of righteous indignation onto the backs of the people who are least able to defend themselves.

Anyway, I wanted to point out that this globalization meme is truly stupid and well-meaning politicians should stop cuddling up to the propagators of this nonsense. Instinctively, we know that globalization is the excuse that is being used to tear down social safety nets. The reasoning is that goods for Americans, for example, are cheaper when they are made elsewhere. But is that really true?

Here’s a challenge: next time you’re in Lowes or Home Depot, go visit the appliance department. Try to figure out which refrigerators and ranges are made here in the US and which are made in Korea by price. There are brands that are made here in the US but they do not carry a premium price. In fact, the most expensive appliances, the ones that everyone wants and needs, are made in Korea. Not only that but sales reps will tell you confidentially that the current generation of those $3200 refrigerators are not supposed to last more than 7-10 years.

That’s globalization for you. And people buying new appliances know this in their bones. They know they’re being conned. What can you do? You can’t let your food spoil. But you gotta wonder where all the cost savings went. If the appliances are no longer cheaper but the labor is, then the difference is pure profit and it’s going into someone’s pocket. Not ours, obviously.

Globalization as we know it is really about a global casino, shareholder value, 401K’s. Did you notice that on Friday when the market dropped, we were all told not to look at our 401Ks? That’s what the gamblers would prefer. They don’t want you to look at how the value of your hard earned money, your retirement plan, is taking a plunge and will continue to do so. “Leave it alone, don’t think about it” is the message we get. Otherwise, you might get angry and they don’t want you to get angry and pull YOUR money out of THEIR market. Don’t look until we have to retire and find that all these monumental shocks left us with a lot less than the financial consultants said. They won’t promise you a guaranteed rate of return or even that you’ll have any principal left.And it’s all up to you. If you don’t plan, if you’re not playing the game correctly, well, it’s you’re fault for not being them.

I don’t buy the idea that nothing can be done about this kind of globalization. As Larry Elliott writes in his post in The Guardian:

The risk is that if the mainstream parties don’t respond to the demands of their traditional supporters, they will be replaced by populist parties who will. The French Socialist party has effectively lost most of its old blue-collar working class base to the hard left and the hard right, and in the UK there is a danger that the same thing will happen to the Labour party, where Jeremy Corbyn’s laissez-faire approach to immigration is at odds with the views of many voters in the north that supported Ed Miliband in the 2015 general election, but who plumped for Brexit last week.

There are those who argue that globalisation is now like the weather, something we can moan about but not alter. This is a false comparison. The global market economy was created by a set of political decisions in the past and it can be shaped by political decisions taken in the future.

A smart politician is one who will see Brexit as the eucatastrophe it is, no pun intended. It might be too late for a do-over in Britain, but the American election is months away. It is not too late to turn this ship around. Even if Hillary is ahead of The Donald, she should take a good look at how the landscape has changed and take advantage of it to craft new policies, policies that will ensure lasting political change. Obama failed to take advantage of his opportunities from 2008-2010. Hillary should sieze on hers now even at the risk of offending some of her donors in Silicon Valley.  The pressure on regular non-rich Americans has been building for years now. It got significantly worse in the last 8 years as the finance industry and big business benefitted from lax oversight to push more and more people into a Gig Economy. That’s where you’re valuable when you’re young and single and willing to job hop. But as soon as you grow up and want a steady job and a family and a house, the jobs mysteriously dry up.

Brexit shows us what can happen when voters have a chance to express themselves. Voters are angry and they are motivated and they want to make a point. David Cameron thought throwing them a bone of a referendum would be just another Scotland independence vote where the whiners and complainers would get trounced and shut up about it already. But he seriously misread the electorate. They’re sick of being taken advantage of and if they’re going down, they’re going to take everyone else with them. And just like the UK, we have a bunch of angry white guys with big erections that they are going to parade all the way to the voting booth. The economy is not booming, we aren’t doing well and unlike the angry Bernie supporters, who at least know who to blame, the Trump supporters will lash out at anyone who isn’t a white male American.

Better to give them policies that will curb the malefactors of great wealth and stop expecting the working class to foot the bill all time than to see us all wake up after the conventions feeling like we’ve been thoroughly f^&*ed.

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

Tonight is the season finale of Game of Thrones. Here are my crackpot theories about how what’s going to happen:

  1. We will find out tonight just who was the recipient of Sansa Stark’s letter and plea for help. Everyone assumes it was Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger. But I think Sansa has grown a clue in the last six years. She made a deal with someone in the Vale. Was it Lord Royce or SweetRobin? In any case, Littlefinger may be losing his edge. If you’re planning to come to someone’s rescue, make sure you get the specific reciprocal rewards on paper, preferably signed in blood.
  2. Whatever Sansa does, there will be a faction of fans who will be critical. They’ve been complaining for years now that she’s been too much of a passive pushover. But since she started taking control of her life this season and making some controversial decisions, they’ve become even more hostile and critical that “She’s doin’ it wrong”. Also, there are some fans who are very negative that she might be losing her girlish innocence to be replaced by a calculating survival mode. Thus Game of Thrones continues to reflect current political realities. Even in the fantasy realm, Cenk Uygar is tiresome, sexist asshole. The pattern is obvious, Cenk. Your slip is showing. Calm your tits already.
  3. What is in the crypts of Winterfell? I mean, seriously, there’s some secret lurking down there that we don’t know about. And why is it that “there must always be a Stark at Winterfell”? The first book opened in the crypts when Ned took Robert down there to check out Lyanna’s grave. But various characters are always finding some excuse to go down there and light some candles. Maybe this is what Littlefinger is truly interested in. Sansa’s just the cheesecake dessert.** Whatever is down there is what he’s really after.
  4. Tonight, we will probably get confirmation that R+L=J. Was Jon reborn last week under a bleeding star of the circular pattern of dead and dying bodies? Was the “salt and smoke” from the Ramsay’s burning victims and the sweat of battle? Will Melisandre be the ultimate sacrifice? Will she finally understand the signs she sees in the fire?

Add your own crackpot theories in the comments.

* *  Here’s another crackpot theory. We all know how Ramsay Bolton had a thing for cutting off various body parts from his victims. What if Ramsay did a bit of FGM on Sansa? I’ve been watching too much Game of Thrones to even be imagining this but I could see him doing it, considering what he cut off of Theon Greyjoy. In that case, Sansa may decide to become a born-again virgin and get her kicks from wielding power instead. Oooo, Cenk isn’t going to like that.

Dracarys.

Filibuster on guns. Have you had #Enough?

From Lady V in the comments:

9 pm Weds: Live stream of gun control filibuster happening now in the Senate:http://livestream.com/accounts/300260/events/4963928

“Senate Democrats led by Chris Murphy of Connecticut ground the Senate floor to a halt Wednesday, vowing to speak as long as necessary to force the Senate to take action to address gun violence.
‘I am prepared to stand on the Senate floor and talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can. I’ve had #Enough,’ he tweeted. For hours, Murphy and other Democratic senators took turns demanding the Senate take up a variety of gun control measures, though it is not clear any of them would have the votes to pass.
Murphy listed off mass shootings and talked about expanding background checks for gun buyers and banning gun sales to people on terror watch lists.’ (USA Today)

Since Orlando shooting, 100 people have been murdered with guns.

This is going to be a tough nut. Fox News and other right wing media has promoted an atmosphere of Learned Helplessness where gun control is concerned.

America makes rest of world nervous

We are a train wreck in progress. Some observations in the past couple of days:

1.) Donald Trump is like the ultimate blog troll before you figured out how to keep him from posting in your comments section.He camps out there with his other annoying droogs and writes inflammatory jackassery.

2.) “I am not politically correct” is just another way of saying “I don’t give a flying f^&* about anyone else’s feelings”. I used to think it was a response to Democratic operatives using accusations of racism to shut up critics of Obama and maybe it started out that way. But this has gone way beyond that. Now it’s just an excuse to use the worst bullying behavior.

3.) According to Republicans, “All Constitutional Amendments are equal except some are more equal than others.” I actually heard one on CNN say something to the effect that sure, we should have investigated the shooter more thoroughly to stop him from doing his worst but he was a native born American citizen and, therefore, his right to buy assault weapons could absolutely not be violated.

WTF, Republicans. Seriously. There is nothing sane or rational about this position. Ok, nevermind. Most of you still don’t believe in evolution or climate change either.

4.) It took 8 years but I am finally on Obama’s side. His righteous indignation yesterday was the correct response to Donald’s stupid self-aggrandizing belligerence. I only wish that he had been able to muster as much passion over the fate of the long term unemployed or the monumental greed and callousness of the bankers.

The bad thing is that we have to continue to witness this battle of the politicians in the wake of a tragedy. Unfortunately, it’s necessary. The Democrats can’t be cowed by an orange blowhard into looking passive. It’s a power dynamics thing.

 

 

Maybe not the most tasteful metaphor in light of the massacre in Orlando but still apt. You can’t meet overt aggression with passivity. Donald and his droogs will jump all over that.

Nice to see Hillary making the point about how we can’t take shampoo on a plane but anyone in American can buy an assault weapon. Can we get Bernie to join in?

We can’t all get along until we can make Donald STFU.

Religious Extremism, Guns and Public Safety: Pick 2

You can’t have all three.

Discuss.

BTW, when I say “Religious Extremism”, I am referring to any religion. There are many more Christian extremists in this country than there are Muslims. A lot of them have guns.

Mountain Meadows Massacre? 120 people killed

David Koresh? 76 people killed

 

Soft Targets

It’s horrible what has happened in Orlando.

But no one should be surprised. We’re the stupidest country on the planet for passing the Patriot Act but allowing just about anyone to buy guns.

The right wing noise machine and The Donald are going to start whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment. But anyone who thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq (for the oil, let’s be honest. The WMDs were just a convenient excuse) and then destabilize the country by withdrawing before the country could defend itself against ISIS, should know that they exacerbated the possibility of terrorism.

No one, including overbearing right wing, belligerent gun nut Americans deserves to have their innocent children gunned down in a nightclub. But you have to wonder if they thought that soft targets are only located in Europe.

How about that 2nd amendment?

Phase out the 401K

401k-624x416There is a post in the NY Times today about the way companies that layoff their workers and replace them with H1B visa holders also require those workers to keep their mouths shut about what is going on.

The non-disparagement clauses might be partially responsible for the conventional wisdom that we need more STEM graduates when clearly we don’t. Long time readers of this blog know that I and my colleagues were laid off in NJ when our site closed. In fact, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, the Northeast Corridor, laid off hundreds of thousands of invaluable researchers and replaced them with… nothing. In some cases, brand new research facilities, some built for very specific studies that cost millions of dollars to build, were mothballed or even destroyed.

That’s right, it made more sense to the bottom line to destroy valuable lab space than keep the facilities with the upkeep, maintenance and taxes on the books. The people? What about them? It’s interesting to me that the braintrusts who decided to lay off all those scientists and planned to rent out the buildings to new start ups had a hard time finding renters. Who did they think they were going to rent to? The same scientists who were laid off didn’t have the funds for the start ups that were meant to replace the large corporate labs. They were too stressed trying to find any work in any state while keeping their families in the expensive northeast and mortgaged houses out of foreclosure. So, the “rent the labspace to the old labrats” scheme turned out to be a bust and now the buildings have to come down.

There are a couple of states that benefitted from the destruction of the research industry. Those would be Massachusetts and California. The business models were changed from small molecule research to biologicals. But number of jobs created is small. Only a tiny fraction of those laid off were invited to go to Cambridge. Medicinal chemistry in this country is decimated. Compounds can be made very cheaply in India. There’s still research in graduate school labs but it does not begin to make up for what has been lost.

It’s not like there’s not enough biology to research and anyone in the research industry knows that training is not the problem. These are some of the most highly trained people in the world who have to continue reading the latest papers to keep up. Soooo, that’s not it.

What could be driving the frenzy to dismantle the country’s research industry? Hmmm, what could it be, what could it be.

Well, in some companies, the decision to close the site was followed a few days later by an email to all employees from the finance department that congratulated itself on reducing costs and creating a nice quarterly profit. Sort of a “You who are about to die, we salute you!” email.

When they say it’s not about money, it’s about money.

Working Americans have been forced to participate in their own destruction through the 401K. We invest in funds that are rewarded when companies merge, consolidate and layoff. Companies are sold like baseball cards, drained of their assets and left as hollow shells of what they used to be. Research is expensive. Paying for experience is expensive. Better to ship that out if you can, hire only short term contractors, buy up companies with a promising drug lead and lay off their early research staff.

In the meantime, the portfolios will grow and now the masters of the financial universe have brought us into the game, some of us unwillingly. We are now complicit, watching the quarterly earnings reports and demanding more shareholder value. Because there are no pensions in our old age. This is how we make our money- on the backs of our fellow Americans.

And let us now turn our attention to the H1B visa holders who unfortunately have no rights here. If they lose their jobs, they can be sent back to their home countries. It doesn’t matter if they have lives, relationships or property here. Those are risky luxuries. And it doesn’t help that these people may eventually get green cards. Some green cards are so narrowly tailored so as to make getting a new job after a layoff very difficult for the bearer.

It’s all because of the vast amounts of money that used to be tied up in safe, boring but reliable pensions that are now splashing around the world like colored scrip in a global game of Life. The greed of the financiers and titans of industry is gargantuan. The analysts who work for them on Wall Street are incentivized to accumulate as much wealth as possible, with as much risk as possible in as short a time as possible. If they lose money, the government will cover it or some stupid firefighter will take the hit. It’s their fault if they didn’t go to Harvard and make the right connections.

The 401K is at the heart of everything that is wrong with the current economic system. It encourages risk taking, it incentivizes avarice, it propels the short term investment cycle, it causes the outsourcing, it destroys industries and it is now starting to affect productivity. Because when you sacrifice your talent for youth and low wages, and then force everyone to account for every billable minute, you force the workforce to reinvent the wheel and cause anxiety and distraction in the offices with endless paperwork and minute swapping.

Phase it out. Get rid of the pyramid scheme. Disincentivize short term investment and greed. If we don’t tackle the 401K, all the unions in the world won’t make a dent. There will be no need for them when we are all independent contractors in the gig economy looking over our shoulders for the next layoff and becoming more angry by the minute.

This is the legacy of the last eight years when no bankers were held responsible and no hearings were conducted to ferret out the root causes of so much risk and destruction while the companies held revolvers to the heads of their laid off staff and told them to not say a word about what was happening to them. Funny, the CEOs don’t have any problem telling the researchers what they think of them and how expendable and exploitable they are.

It’s about the money. The 401K fuels the Gig Economy. It’s the Gig Economy, Stupid that’s undermining the middle class, causing income instability, family instability and a drag on spending. Get rid of it.

Quick Takes on @SenWarren etc

1.) Lizzie Warren took an ax and gave The Donald forty whacks:

That’s going to leave marks.

2.) It’s the Gig Economy, Stupid. In the last week, I have heard both Grover Norquist and Gary Johnson praising the Gig Economy or the 1099 economy as if it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and everyone’s secret wish is to be a small business owner.

I don’t think anyone in the research industry really wants to be in the Gig Economy and be in a start up funded by vulture capitalists. Small businesses are great for people who are bakers or accountants. For scientists? ehhhh, not so much.

And then there is the paperwork and the taxes to manage. Plus, you lose your Obamacare subsidy and have to pay it all back if you underestimate your income. And income can be variable. Then there’s saving for retirement, saving for future bouts of unemployment, because most self-employed people do not get unemployment benefits.

The Gig Economy will ruin the middle class faster than anything. It leads to income instability. When you can’t count on your income, you can’t buy cars or houses. It’s hard to have kids because you may not be able to afford them throughout the 18 years of their early lives. The gig economy means having to pick and follow your job, something I saw happen to a lot of my former colleagues who had their jobs in one state and their families in another. In short, it sucks and very few people want to live this way.

I can’t imagine why Grover and Gary keep pushing this. It only appeals to young single guys. Well, there you go.

If I were Hillary, I would steer clear of praising the self-employed and small business person too much. Most of us don’t want to go there.

3.) I still like Bernie. Seriously. If I weren’t such a cold hearted pragmatist, I could have felt the Bern. I certainly got warm enough. He’s right on so many issues and that’s why he got so much support.

He went off the tracks by not realizing that the rest of us had a right to our own votes and opinions. Our votes are legitimate too. Delegitimizing Hillary’s voters has been a feature of Bernie’s supporters. They share that with the Obama supporters of 2008. Some of them are probably the same people. Bernie should ditch these people. They are ruining his reputation.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 627 other followers