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Tuesday Turn Around

The Black Bloc contingent of the Occupy Chicago Seniors?

There may be a teensy bit of progress on the job front.  We are sloooooowly moving away from a state of complete inertia there.  No income yet but progress.  This is good.

In the meantime, seniors in Chicago are getting arrested at an Occupation type event.  Whoo-hoo!  Let’s give it up for the septugenarians!:

More than 1,000 senior citizens and their supporters marched from Chicago’s Federal Plaza to the intersection of Jackson and Clark Street Monday morning to protest proposed cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Housing and Urban Development (HUD). At the intersection, more than 40 protesters, 15 of them seniors affiliated with the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, stood or sat in the street, arms linked, blocking traffic.

Amid chants demanding that the cuts be forestalled — with suggestions for alternatives, including tax hikes — 43 demonstrators were escorted from the intersection (see video, above) by police and issued citations for pedestrian failure to “exercise due care,” or for blocking traffic. Those cited included four protesters using assisted mobility devices and at least one centenarian.

Judy Moses said she was glad to receive the citation–her second in her quest to maintain funding for programs that benefit seniors, following an arrest for blocking traffic in December at a similar protest.

“When I was younger, I never did protests,” she said. “I was a silent majority. Now, I’m ready to make noise.”

Yes, but can we get them to wear bell bottoms, love beads and flowers in their hair?  It’s never too late, you know.

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

On the Supercommittee front, there is a proposal to raise taxes.  Yay!, you say, finally the rich are going to have to cough it up.  Au contraire.  It will be US, ie the middle class who will have to cough it up:

Super Committee Republicans are floating a trial balloon that would produce new tax revenue, in apparent contravention of Grover Norquist’s taxpayer protection pledge, according to Wall Street Journal editorialist Stephen Moore.

But as Moore explains that the offer has a catch:

“One positive development on taxes taking shape is a deal that could include limiting tax deductions, perhaps by capping write-offs on charities, state and local taxes, and mortgage interest payments as a percentage of each tax filer’s gross income. That idea was introduced on these pages by Harvard economist Martin Feldstein.In exchange, Democrats would agree to make the Bush income-tax cuts permanent. This would mean preventing top rates from going to 42% from 35% today, and keeping the capital gains and dividend tax rate at 15%, as opposed to plans to raise them to 23.8% or higher after 2013.”

Let that sink in for a sec.  Uh-huh, apparently, the committee members have never heard of Turbo-Tax and the internet, or they think that the great unwashed masses haven’t.  Nowadays, we download all of our forms, let the laptop do the number crunching and e-file half an hour later.  We take every deduction.  No short forms for us when it’s this easy to get every penny back.  This proposal is just another way to stick it to taxpayers in high cost of living states like New Jersey where housing is expensive and local property taxes are ridiculous.  Pass this proposal and watch our housing market drop through the floor.  While people making $250,000 in this state are doing pretty well, anyone making about $100,000 around here is barely middle class.  No, seriously, it only LOOKS like a big number until you try to buy a house in the burbs.  What you want and what you can afford are two different animals.  Think condos and townhouses, condos and townhouses we will never be able to unload if this proposal passes.

What morons would vote for this “compromise”??  Oh, yeah- Democrats.

{{rolling eyes}}

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

I’m with Ta-Nehesi Coates on this one, the attack on Elizabeth Warren for actually working for her wealth makes no sense to me.  What is Politico trying to say here?  That it is natural for rich people to act like sociopaths, sit on the money of the people who work for them and watch them suffer when the 99% can’t meet basic needs like housing, nutrition and healthcare?  Is that how rich mamas raise their children these days?  These people need to be taught some manners.  As for Elizabeth Warren making money, she does it the old fashioned way, she earns it.  We like that about her.  It has honor and dignity and signifies a good work ethic that has been justifiably rewarded.  Her personal history demonstrates that it has not been an easy ride for her.  She wasn’t born with a silver foot in her mouth.  That seems to have given her a certain empathy for the pool of people from whence she came.  (I’ve been waiting all year to use the word ‘whence’)  Franklin D. Roosevelt came from money but he developed compassion as well.  Was he a one off?  Mentally ill?  Or just a hypocrit?  Beats me but working people who lived through the Great Depression loved him.  Go figure.

So, what’s wrong with the people who read Politico?  Are they all a bunch of Ebeneezer Scrooges?  Are their Grinchy hearts so small that they can’t remember the last time they thought stealing from working people was wrong?

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

Speaking of FDR, Ezra Klein wrote an article in WaPo titled Why Obama is no FDR that suggests why Obama was such a disastrous pick in 2008:

The left and the right don’t agree on much these days, but they do agree on this: Barack Obama is no FDR.

For liberals, this is a disappointment. They had hoped for, as Time magazine put it after Obama’s victory, “a new new deal.” Instead, they find themselves mounting an unexpected rear-guard defense of Medicare and Keynesian economics.

For conservatives, it’s a relief. Two short years ago, they feared an FDR-like realignment. Today, they thrill to the idea of undoing much of the original New Deal, or at least the Great Society.

2008 was the break the movement conservatives had been waiting for since FDR died almost 70 years ago.  And Democrats handed them this break on a silver platter when they nominated the candidate who was *least* likely to know how to control an economic crisis without a bunch of slick economic advisors.  If you hire him for four more years, you will get four more years of the same poor negotiation skills, amateurishly developed policy and indifference to the suffering of the middle class.  I’m betting that it won’t be long before the party starts to realize that the middle class isn’t going to go along with it for another four years.

Then Klein twists his defense of Obama into a knot by putting some of the blame on Congress.  This Congress is not like the one that FDR was blessed with, he argues.  THAT Congress thought that FDR hadn’t gone far enough.  He ends with:

This is not a defense of Obama [yes it is but it’s caused by a failure to imaginate any better Democrat for some bizarre reason that only Klein can explain], nor an attack on FDR. It is simply the reality of the American presidency. Congress can write legislation and pass it over the president’s veto. The president cannot write legislation nor pass it without congressional assent. The president comes after the Congress in the Constitution and is indisputably less powerful. Yet we understand American politics primarily through the office of the president and attribute, say, things that happened between 1933 and 1945 to FDR, or from 1981 to 1988 to Ronald Reagan. But Congress is always there, and so is the economic context that’s driving the agenda. We’d do well to pay more attention to both.

Sure.  Let’s just forget that in 2008, Obama had enough money and played enough hardball politics with state campaigns for legislature and other offices that he was able to buy all of the superdelegates he needed, whip all of the elected delegates he needed and buy off all of the RBC committee members he needed to get the nomination.  It is hard to believe that a man so unscrupulous and ruthless would have so much trouble getting Congress to pass the legislation he wanted especially when money is no object.  So, we have to assume that money *is* no object and that it is being used to get the legislation that somebody wants or that Obama really is that bad as a president.  Or, maybe he had a conscienceless campaign staff in 2008 who did what it needed to do and once he was in office and had to switch from campaigning to policy, his liabilities, that were conveeeeeniently glossed over by Klein types in 2008, became glaringly obvious.  Whatever the case may be, he is in office at a time in our country’s history when the effects of a weak president will have profound effects on the middle class for generations to come.  I wonder if Klein and his friends considered that possibility in 2008.  Probably not.

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

Malcolm Gladwell has an article in the New Yorker about the Genius of Steve Jobs.  But I’m not sure that Gladwell gets it:

In 1779, Samuel Crompton, a retiring genius from Lancashire, invented the spinning mule, which made possible the mechanization of cotton manufacture. Yet England’s real advantage was that it had Henry Stones, of Horwich, who added metal rollers to the mule; and James Hargreaves, of Tottington, who figured out how to smooth the acceleration and deceleration of the spinning wheel; and William Kelly, of Glasgow, who worked out how to add water power to the draw stroke; and John Kennedy, of Manchester, who adapted the wheel to turn out fine counts; and, finally, Richard Roberts, also of Manchester, a master of precision machine tooling—and the tweaker’s tweaker. He created the “automatic” spinning mule: an exacting, high-speed, reliable rethinking of Crompton’s original creation. Such men, the economists argue, provided the “micro inventions necessary to make macro inventions highly productive and remunerative.”

Was Steve Jobs a Samuel Crompton or was he a Richard Roberts? In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh—the mouse and the icons on the screen—from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit there, in 1979. The first portable digital music players came out in 1996. Apple introduced the iPod, in 2001, because Jobs looked at the existing music players on the market and concluded that they “truly sucked.” Smart phones started coming out in the nineteen-nineties. Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, more than a decade later, because, Isaacson writes, “he had noticed something odd about the cell phones on the market: They all stank, just like portable music players used to.”

I just finished the biography of Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  Jobs was a pain in the ass perfectionist tyrant of a boss but he also could make the mental leaps that many other people couldn’t.  Isaacson’s comparison of Sony, Microsoft and Apple demonstrates what made Jobs so important.  Both Sony and Microsoft had the components to make the kind of products that Apple made famous.  But those two companies took a very conventional approaches to product innovation and integration and these approaches were themselves products of the way their companies were constructed.  They saw new technology and tried to work it into their current product lines.  Jobs saw new technology and applied it to our lives in new and different ways.  You could almost see the thought bubbles above Gates’ and Jobs’ heads when presented with something new.  Gates is making mental calculations of how to use the thing to improve the stuff he already had, how to make money, FTEs, manufacturing, while Jobs is having a mental orgasm, his mind racing in forty different directions at once, thinking of the people he could bounce his ideas against to see if any of them stuck, doing mental paper folding and turning the suckers around in his head.  Imagine giving two people a brick at the dawn of time and asking them to come up with ways to use it.  Gates might have made a whole bunch of them in different colors and sizes to be used to smash things.  Every few years, he would release a new, not quite ready for primetime version of brick that would require a new industry of people to service and repair them.  Jobs would have built a house.  Both would have been extremely successful, especially if the smashers were used to bust heads of the people who had things you want.  But the advantages of having a house are obvious once you build one and live in it.  After the house, you tend to not look at bricks in the same way again.

The cranky among us can’t figure out why Jobs is deified.  I guess you would have to work in a dysfunctional corporate research setting for a few years to really understand why Jobs means so much to some of us.  The atmosphere he created at Apple and Pixar is the way we want to work so that we too can produce wonderful magical things that the world can use and appreciate, even if it is hard and initially seems impossible.  But we are living in a world where the business guys just want to sell smashers and are busily getting highly compensated jobs for their friends to sell smashers and corner the smasher market for themselves and please the shareholders of the smasher industry.  Those of us who just want to create good products are SOL.