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Lying to yourself

Justin Wolfers at the NYTimes The Upshot is trying not to take the new GDP numbers too seriously:

An economic report issued this morning provides a good example of the hazards facing election forecasters. The Bureau of Economic Analysisreported that in the first quarter of this year, Gross Domestic Product, a broad indicator of the health of the economy, shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent. Even worse, an alternative and more accurate measure, called Gross Domestic Income, shrank at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. If that persisted, we’d call it a sharp recession.

But no one is using the R-word. Nor should they. Markets have taken the news in their stride, and few economists have changed their view that the economy is growing and will continue to through 2014. Likewise, consumers remain confident about their economic prospects. Their confidence rests partly on other indicators that suggested far better growth throughout the quarter, such as nonfarm payrolls, which grew by 569,000 over the same period.

And the economy motored along after that bad quarter ended, with employment growing strongly and unemployment falling in April, and new claims for unemployment insurance falling through May. Importantly, we know that the weakness in G.D.P. is partly due to one-off factors — it snowed heavily, keeping many of us indoors, rather than out making and buying stuff — and it partly reflects influences, like the inventory cycle, that don’t have an enduring effect.

In any case, G.D.P. data are known to be noisy, and subject to a lot of later revision — so much so that the difference between the first and the final reading of G.D.P. growth is typically 1.3 percentage points. For all we know, the recent measured decline in output may be revised away.

But many election forecasters rely on quite mechanical models, linking their forecasts to a single economic indicator. The worst of these models assert that a single quarter’s G.D.P. growth is sufficient; others average G.D.P. growth over several quarters, but they still put a lot of weight on very recent data. Because these computer models read the data so literally, they overreact to statistical noise. If the election were to be held next month, they would have no choice but to interpret this morning’s data as evidence of a recession, leading them to forecast a huge swing against the president’s party.

Oh, Lord, we can’t have that.  “We must protect Obama at all costs” has been the operative slogan since 2008.  Let’s all pretend that he’s a genius, playing 11 dimensional chess and his speeches are the bomb-diggity. (I just learned that phrase from number 1 child and I intend to use it all the time now).

Wolfers needs to get out more.  I meet very few people who are prospering and I meet a LOT of people these days in my part time job.  From what I can see, we are all pinching pennies.  The reason the economy is sucking is not all weather related, unless you see working people as crops that need to be periodically harvested for the last teensy bits of disposable income they have.  I swear that every industry has a meeting with some Wharton graduate giving a presentation where the numbers have been run to predict the threshold of the pain point where the consumer will be forced to fork over their hard earned dollars for gas, salad, auto insurance, health insurance, tuition, rent/mortgage.  It’s all been carefully modeled.  And each industry thinks it’s the most important one that the consumer can not live without.  We all have to have food and insurance and a place to live, amirite?  Where else are they going to go?

But income is part of a closed system these days.  It can’t be created out of nothing.  Every penny is accountable to the shareholder.  And if there is no money going into the system, it’s difficult to see how the economy continues to expand.  The contraction is real and it’s coming from the top.  The money is being hoarded or spent on the biggest yachts in the world.

The Great Recession or the Little Depression has dragged on too long but a person like Wolfers or Paul Krugman or some smart ass Democratic operative might not know it.  It’s dragged on and people are diving into the corners of their nests for a few eggs that are left, if there are any.  But this hasn’t stopped the MBAs and marketing dudes from creating new and improved ways of getting those last remaining dollars first.

So, color me unsurprised if the numbers that Wolfers finds so easily dismissible right now turn out to have real impact in November.  The economic contraction is real.  Whatever expansion was in the works may be getting strangled by the effects of the endless winter and the impact of the Obamacare individual mandate.  If you see your part time hours getting cut, you might not be quite so confident as a consumer.  Every item in a store starts to look like a moment of pain requiring a careful calculation of how many hours of work are required to buy it.

Wolfers can’t even use the R-word but I can.  It’s called a recession.  If I were a Democrat running a campaign, I’d be worried.

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

In addition…

Apartmenttherapy has been doing a series of posts lately on the realities of living on a strict budget.  The posts on food shopping have generated quite a bit of controversy with some readers in what sounds like the Obama contingent scolding poorer readers for not buying the best organic foodstuffs from Whole Foods.  It’s gotten ugly at times.  Even the “calming the waters” post from Cheryl Sternman Rule at The Kitchn affiliate makes a lot of assumptions that would only occur to someone at the top of Maslow’s pyramid of needs.  It’s a tragedy that we’re even having food fights like this.  Maybe Justin Wolfers should hang out in some of the blogs I visit regularly.

As for me, I have discovered Aldi, I buy bags of frozen chicken breasts at Trader Joe’s (because they are that good for that price), I am learning to avoid the “fuel perks! for food” scam at my local Giant Eagle and I am gardening this year.  Yes, yes, the weather sucked last year and all I got was squash, which I hate.  (So, I’m not planting any squash this year).  Call it the triumph of hope over experience.  I have a lot of yard and there’s no excuse for not turning it into a food manufacturing facility.  There’s a farmer’s market in East Liberty on Saturday mornings that I will visit when I can and when I’m in Target, I will look at whatever is on sale.  So there.  :-pppp

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Monday: The instapaper queue

Turkey Tetrazzini for dinner? hmmm...

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving?  Did everyone get enough to eat?  I brought the desserts this year and much to my surprise, no one in my family likes Lemon Meringue but me.  I’m not complaining but I did find it weird when my sister told me that it was a summer pie and why didn’t I know that??  Not to fear, we had pumpkin as well.  And a custard fruit tart brought by someone else that was also delicious.  It went fast.

My sister and her husband are into this foodsaver gadget and they shrinkwrapped the leftovers into neat little packages.  I have to get one of those suckers.  They gave me a package of turkey (white meat, yummmm) to take home with me.  Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

Anyway, I have a lot to do today.  I need to finish reading some papers, return a coat I decided I could live without and basically take care of some other stuff that I’ve been putting off.  So, I thought I’d let you in on my instapaper queue.  For those of you not familiar with instapaper, it’s an app/utility that allows you to save links to interesting webpages so that you end up with something like your own frontpage.  It comes with a button that you put on your browser bar and when you see something you want to read later, you just click on “read later” and it saves it to your instapaper account.  Later, you can peruse your links at your leisure.  Highly recommended.  They even have a Browse section of recommended links of things you may be interested in reading based on your current selections.

So, here’s a few things in my instapaper queue:

How do you define who’s homeless during a recession?  The Atlantic

All the Angry People- The New Yorker

Estee Lauder Heirs Tax Strategies Typify Advantages for Weathy- The New York Times (I guess they don’t need my money after all.  Did you know that Estee Lauder owns Clinique, M.A.C., and Origins as well?)

Team Obama Gears Up for 2012 – The New York Times (This one is unsettling.  Milk Bars and droogs come to mind)

So, What did Lipitor do for Pfizer? Or its Shareholders?- In the Pipeline (Or, “How the finance MBA executive class screwed the pooch in pharma, destroyed research, set the shareholders up for HUGE losses later and made the entire world hate drug discovery’s guts”  It’s hard to believe a group of arrogant, hierarchical Ivy League educated individuals could botch things this badly but it’s become clear to me that the Democrats have been taking lessons from them.)

More Parents are Opting out of Vaccines – The Atlantic  (Did you know that Raold Dahl’s 7 year old daughter Olivia died from encephalitis because she was not vaccinated against measles?  True story.  It’s hard to believe there are selfish, ignorant and arrogant parents out there who would expose other very young children to that because they won’t vaccinate their own kids.  It’s immoral.)

The Branding of the Occupy Movement- The New York Times (There’s a better article on Kalle Lasn somewhere but I neglected to instapaper it.  Try The New Yorker, New York Magazine or The Atlantic)

Payroll Tax Cut will Top Political Theater- Roll Call (yes, Virginia, they *are* still playing games instead of raising taxes on the rich)

Iran: We’ll Fire 150,000 Missiles at Israel if attacked- YNet (and we’ll turn Iran into a smoking cinder if it does.  I think there was a cold war term for that)

Pakistanis burn Obama in Effigy and US Flag- Sky News Australia (Ok, now I think we know why we have marines stationed in Australia.)

Cozy Winter Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli– The Kitchn (Apartment Therapy)

Charge Separation in Molecules Consisting of Two Identical Atoms: Size Matters – Science Daily (For the hard core polarity fans)

Finally, here’s a video on Pittsburghese, which is a distinct American dialect.  The host of this video is fresh, energetic and cute, but her accent is not anywhere near as heavy as my cousins’.  Still, if you ever wondered what it meant to “red up your house”, pay attention.

She forgot to say “keller” when she really means “color”.  And is it “UM-brella” or “umBRELLa”?

Finally, “Physician, Heal Thyself”.  Digby is absolutely right about dehumanization but it’s really odd that she and the rest of the left had no problem with it when the 2008 elections made old, uneducated, unattractive, working class, racist, latently Republican, menopausal women out of Hillary Clinton voters.  I mean, when you think of them *that* way, no wonder the Obama hooligans piled on.  Who wants to sit at that lunch table?  Dehumanizing those voters made it a lot easier to ignore their votes and violate their delegates with harrassment and threats at the convention.  They almost deserved it. Right, Digby?  Right, Duncan?  Right, Jay?  If you don’t take your own side to task for acting like flaming assholes, then others might find your newfound concern with “dehumanization” a bit hypocritical.  It was an election with far-reaching consequences not only to the economy but to voting in general. (Didn’t you guys ever figure out why Obama is ignoring his voting base now?  The answer is that you let him get away with it in 2008 so he knows he can do it again.) You guys should have been a lot more vigilant.

(No, I am not going to get over it.  If it were Howard Dean’s voters who got the Hillary treatment, you’d be all over this for decades to come. “Oh, but they’re different”, you’ll say. Exactly.  I rest my case.  “An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere”.  Also, Karma is a bitch.)

Thursday Morning News: Reading the entrails

Brittany is still not over The Clintons

Hey, all you Glee fans, did you catch this gem on Tuesday night?

Artie: I thought I was over someone, but I still think I have feelings for them.

Brittany: The Clintons?

Yeah, you and half of the country.

So, sports fans, are you ready to dive right in?

Let’s start with the latest cave from the Obama administration.  The NYTimes reports today that Obama will allow insurance companies to charge more for families with sick children. like parents of juvenile cancer patients or chronic asthmatics don’t have enough to worry about:

The Obama administration, aiming to encouragehealth insurance companies to offer child-only policies, said Wednesday that they could charge higher premiums for coverage of children with serious medical problems, if state law allowed it.

Earlier this year, major insurers, faced with an unprofitable business, stopped issuing new child-only policies. They said that the Obama administration’s interpretation of the new health care law would allow families to buy such coverage at the last minute, when children became ill and were headed to the hospital…

“Unfortunately,” Ms. Sebelius said, “some insurers have decided to stop writing new business in the child-only insurance market, reneging on a previous commitment made in a March letter to ‘make pre-existing condition exclusions a thing of the past.’ ”

The White House has been tussling with insurers for months, trying to get them to provide coverage for children with cancerautism, heart defects and other conditions.

In a letter Wednesday to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Ms. Sebelius said the decision of some insurers to stop issuing child-only policies was “extremely disappointing.”

Yes, I have found that sternly worded letters are always effective at achieving what is, apparently, voluntary compliance with the law.  “I’m terribly disappointed.  No beets for you.”  Hmmm, let’s see, the Democrats have slashed food stamps during a recession and now they’re allowing insurance companies to suck the last penny from between the cushions of parents’ worn out couches.  I’m beginning to think they don’t like kids.  Well, it’s not like they vote or anything…

Next up, Obama apologizes for being a Democrat, er, as defined by Republicans? Peter Daou found this revealing insight into Obama’s brain in a review of a NYTimes magazine article:

[President Obama] reflects on what he called the “tactical lessons” of his first two years: He let himself look too much like “the same old tax-and-spend Democrat,” realized too late that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” [see reference to Hudson Tunnel project below] and perhaps should have “let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts” in the stimulus. He said he and his team took “a perverse pride” in focusing on policy while ignoring the need to sell it to the country and that he realizes now that “you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.”

I’ll wait a minute for you to recover the jaw you just dropped.  That last sentence is really funny.  It’s almost like he was projecting or something.  Read Daou’s post.  There’s more where that came from.  Maybe Obama doesn’t understand how the game is played.  Or he *does* understand how the game is played and you are really not going to like the next two years as he takes the country down and tries to pin it on the Republicans.

Speaking of Republicans, some of you may be wondering what it’s like living under the regime of Chris Christie in NJ.  I am happy to report that property taxes are still as high as ever and he has made no attempt to reform the state funding system.  But wait!  There’s more.  Christie has been going gangbusters trying to bring the densest state in the union, in more ways than one, to heel.  He’s been having a blast taking on the teacher’s unions and slashing and burning through school district expenditures.  Take online books, for example.  My district could afford them last year.  This year, Brook’s slender frame is being permanently warped from schlepping 80 lbs of books back and forth to school each day.  We have already had one catastrophic book bag failure and the sucker didn’t even make it through September.  Here’s a sampling of our Governor’s education “policy”:

Students have less, parents pay more as new school year begins in N.J.

Ex-education chief Schundler openly blames Gov. Christie for Race to the Top loss

N.J. school funding scores high marks, but does not account for Christie’s $820M budget cuts

Gov. Christie reveals plans to limit N.J. superintendents’ salaries, base pay on merit

The last item is clearly  Christie pandering to the spoiled Republican suburbanites who sit on their fat asses all day, leave at 3:00pm in the afternoon and don’t do 1/10th the amount of work that I witnessed superintendents doing when I was a school board member.  Running a school district is like running a company with hundreds of employees.  It’s a tough, demanding job but some Republicans I know cannot imagine why we pay our superintendents $150K/year.  Our own superintendent quit this year and we have an interim superintendent.  In all likelihood, the good citizens of —–villeburg thought that the guy should eke out a living on 100K/year or less. In New Jersey??  That will get you a decent but unspectacular condo and a second hand car here.  Would YOU want to run a large company but live like a worker in communist East Germany?  Seriously.  $100K isn’t even the average salary in my township.  But leave it to the short sighted burghers here to turn their anger on the schools instead of the property tax inequities.  Thank God we have all the school buses we can eat.  We wouldn’t want to charge for courtesy bussing.  New Jerseyans have their priorities all screwed up.  But the budget cuts have an unexpected benefit.  Whenever you ask why the school district doesn’t do X when we had X last year, the person behind the desk smiles sweetly and says, “The budget didn’t pass.  This is what people wanted.”  Ergo…

Then there’s the tunnel under the Hudson that Christie wants to cancel.  The tunnel project is a no-brainer so we can safely assume that Christie has no brain.  Commuting to and from NYC from Jersey is time consuming and expensive.  The tunnel would have made it a less arduous ordeal.  But Republicans are not into infrastructure.  That’s long term thinking.  They don’t do long term.  So, the commuting ordeal will continue until the state thoroughly hates Republicans with a passion.  It may be happening sooner than they expected.

And finally, here is the Podcast of the Day:  Yesterday, Terry Gross interviewed Sean Wilentz from Princeton, just down the road a spell.  Wilentz talks about how Glenn Beck is channeling the John Birch society.  I’m not sure he completely nails the current national problem though.  He thinks the roots of Democratic failure is in the 60’s.  I think it faced its steepest decline in 2008 when the Democrats jettisoned the working class for snobby Obama and his droogs.  Some of the working class, in anger and confusion, allied themselves with the Becks and Tea Partiers.  Well, if the Democrats have the “We don’t need no stinkin’ working class” attitude, they shouldn’t be surprised at the consequences.  We don’t like Beck either but we aren’t calling the working class bitter, guntotin’, holy rollers.  They’re simply acquiring power in a way that will cause distaste for the genteel Democrats.  Or as Wilentz puts it, in GlennBeckistan, it will be a “dog eat dog world, mitigated by religious charity”.  Doesn’t that sound delightful?

Don’t you miss the Clintons?

Ok, Conflucians, I’m off!  There’s a hot Swedish colleague giving a seminar this morning and I don’t want to miss it.

 

 

Things not to say

Today is the last day of work for a friend who is very dear to me.  I’ve known him since he started his career.  We worked across the hall from each other and through the years have collaborated, strategized, hung out and horseplayed.  I learned a lot from him.  Eventually, he was relocated to a different site and I left for a better position at another company.  But we remained best friends.

His company was sold about a year ago.  Happens all the time.  Cuts were made.  Layoffs followed.  Tens of thousands of people  lost their jobs, including my friend.  Things just didn’t work out.

A couple of days ago, another former colleague of ours send me this list of things not to say to someone who has been laid off.  These tips are good advice.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to let people know that in this Mother of all Recessions, it’s not their fault.  They haven’t done anything wrong.  Their performance was most likely excellent.  But even when you know this intellectually, it’s hard to accept this blow to your ego, especially if you really like work and enjoy what you’re doing.

In these days of fear, uncertainty and dread, I find it difficult to believe that there are people who think that the recently unemployed have somehow brought this on themselves, that they don’t deserve unemployment insurance and that a job, any job, is preferable to nothing at all.  Somehow, it’s not enough for the Glenn Becks of the world to want to strip these people of support, they have to deprive them of their dignity and bring the condemnation of the country down on them as well.  It leads to misunderstanding of the nature of this Recession and insensitivity.  If you can’t say anything supportive, please say nothing at all.

Leaving it all behind is going to be hard.  Facing an uncertain future is going to be hard.  Scaling back is going to be really hard.  But I’ve made my mind up that my friend won’t have to face it alone.

Let’s stick by our friends.

ping

Primary Responsibility

I just realized the other day that Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias are still in their twenties.  When I was their age, I was working full time and caring for a kindergartner.  My life was full of routine and responsibility, paying my bills and making sure the kid was well fed, dressed and safe.  I could still have fun, within boundaries.  The constrictions on by time and life were not too much to ask, though the money was tight.   I was the first person in my working class family, ever, to get a degree and that in a fairly difficult subject.

Things are different for the Matt and Ezra types who, it appears, never had to struggle economically for their ivy league sheepskins or current cushy positions behind the megaphone.  Now, that could be interpreted as a bitter remark, full of class resentment.  But to be honest, I see them as perpetual adolescents who have yet to feel the environmental stresses that would force them to grow up.  These immortals are going to live forever.  They just don’t live on the same tier of Maslow’s pyramid that the rest of us are occupying, or sliding down.  Their decision making processes, what and who they support and why, are radically different from ours. What they write about will not affect them personally.  They have the luxury of distance.

Of the most frequent contributors to The Confluence, half of us have either been laid off or have had an immediate family member laid off.  We have seen our salaries disappear, our health benefits gone or become prohibitively expensive, seen our family support team disintegrate.  The Mother of All Recessions is very real to us.  And we are not the steelworkers and industrialized disadvantaged, the low skilled workers of thirty years ago, not that there’s anything wrong with working with your hands.  No, the frontpagers of The Confluence who have lost their jobs are economists, academics, mathematicians.  Their laid off family members are chemical engineers and cheminformaticists.  These jobs require years of training and education and experience.  In this Recession, there is a fundamental shift in the nature of the jobs being lost.

This time, there is a plague of locusts, out of control, eating the seed corn.

The reason why this is happening is not because there are structural changes in the economy.  No one who has been paying attention to the pattern of unemployment believes that.  The reason why this is happening is because no one is stopping it from happening.  Congress and the White House have taken a very hands off approach to dealing with this problem. It’s not even good for business, although it will take a few years for that reality to sink in.  The result is a severe weakening of the economy.  If you are in constant fear of losing your job, you don’t spend money.  If you don’t spend money, more people lose their jobs.  It’s a vicious cycle that leads to deflation and depression.  You don’t have to be an economist to understand this, though Dakinikat can explain it to us now that she has plenty of time on her hands, when she’s not shopping for a salary.

I get very angry when I read about our expectations of the 2012 and 2016 elections.  There is a resignation that Obama has the Democratic nomination all sewn up.  There won’t be any money for a challenger.  That small evil group to which no one we know belongs has already made the decision for us.  We aren’t invited to participate in our own democracy.  It’s the Matt’s and Ezra’s and BTD’s out there who have crafted this conventional wisdom because there is no stress on them to perceive things differently.  To them, it goes without saying that Obama will get the nomination.  It’s tradition.  It’s his turn still; no one else gets their turn until Obama is through with his two terms.  It’s just incomprehensible to contemplate that anyone else would have the rudeness and incivility to challenge him.  And besides, all of the African Americans would abandon the Democrats.

That last statement is an indication of how disconnected the progressive blogosphere really is.  Do they really think that people who can’t get decent jobs are going to pass up the opportunity to vote for someone who they think can actually help them?  That they are so wedded to identity politics that they would forget which politician shoved them aside for the wealthy and well connected and which politiician has a history of doing the right thing?

It’s always been a mystery to me why the Matt, Ezra, Kos, and Chris Bowers types of the self identified “creative class” hate the Clintons so much.  They excoriate the Senator from New York for voting for the Iraq War Resolution even as they give John Edwards and now, Barack Obama a pass.  They complain about NAFTA, when North America is not the problem.  They lament the welfare reform bills without having any conception of how damaging welfare is for families.  No one *wants* to be on welfare, even if there will always be a tiny subpopulation of people who will need ongoing support because they are mentally or emotionally unable to cope with the outside world.  But somehow, the harshness of the actual bills, get attributed to the Clintons when their terms were actually hammered out by movement conservative Republicans.  They forget that the last truly liberal justices appointed to the Supreme Court were Clinton appointees.  Elena Kagan is no Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

And now, I am receiving emails blaming the Republicans in advance for proposed cuts in Social Security.  I have an idea, Jim Dean, why don’t you ask Barack Obama to disband the commission he put together to decide where the cuts will be?  And by the way, I’ve been paying into social security and the babyboomer trust fund since I started my career.  My retirement investment decisions were based on a portion of my income coming from social security.  It is too late for millions of us who are still decades away from retirement to make a course correction, nor do we want to.  We paid into it, we believe in it and we want Barack Obama and the Democrats to stop using it as a political football.

Social security has taken the place of abortion in scaring voters to the polls.  The curtain has been pulled back on the abortion issue.  This incarnation of Democrats doesn’t really care about women.  All they care about is manipulating enough of the people most of the time.  It is the same with Social Security.  I’m calling it out.  This is beyond reprehensible.  There’s an element of political calculation here that is evil.  If Republicans retake Congress this fall, it sets Obama up as a hero for defending social security from their most draconian cuts. Democrats may think they have the media eating out of their hands and can push this meme down the throats of every voter out there but voters are getting wise to them.  They see the disconnect between words and their lives.

We are invisible, Hillary told us in 2008.  We are still invisible.  But we are not powerless.  And we need not be helpless and drifting, waiting for the next wave to propel us towards some predetermined outcome.  If Matt and Ezra and the rest of the progressive blogosphere are disappointed by Obama, they should know by now that he’s not going to change.  He is what he is.  This is the guy they married.  He’s careless, inexperienced, immature, self-agrandizing, manipulative and selfish.  More time with him, persuading him to be better than he is, isn’t going to work.  He isn’t a secret progressive.  He is a political opportunist.  If your lives aren’t getting better *now* when he has all of the votes he needs and all of the money to influence people and all of the crisis required to exert his power, then your lives are not going to get better.  He is saving it all up for the moment when he thinks you will abandon him and then he will scare you into staying.  That’s what’s going on here.

If you stay with him, you are irresponsible.  If you don’t threaten him with a primary challenger, you accept the system as it is.  If you don’t allow someone else to take over the reigns and actually govern for the benefit of all of the people, then you allow the continued suffering of millions of families who will lose their tether to the middle class.

No one is entitled to four more years in order to check some accomplishment off of their life list.  Those four years have meaning to the rest of us.  And even if it is hard, we owe it to each other to not allow our country to be squandered and consumed by the ravenous few to the detriment of the many in order to preserve some kind of conventional wisdom.  That may mean voting for a third party, or one that already exists or it could mean insisting that Barack Obama step aside in 2012.  If we wait until 2016, it could be too late.

We all need to accept responsibility for what happens to us in 2012.

Starting now.

The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Triumph of The Cyclop’s Values Over Democratic Citizenship

{The first essay in this series introduced a model I created to explain the cycle of corruption that plagues US politics. This essay looks into the roots of this corruption. It takes a long time to get to the payoff. Further, the conclusion is somewhat ex nihilo if you have not read the first essay. This said, for those who dare, I hope you find it worth the read.}
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Polyphemos the cyclops would have eaten Odysseus, if his survival was dependent on the moral virtues of Silenus’s satyrs. Fortunately for Odysseus, and Silenus and his lot, Odysseus could depend on his fellow citizens. If Polyphemos had the majority of America’s elected representatives depending on him for their survival in his cave, the way that they are presently beholden to lobbyists’ money for their electoral survival, he could have had a ready supply of citizens for his daily meals.

Cyclopean virtues regularly triumph over the virtues of democratic citizenship in the political landscape of the United States. Given that the Declaration of Independence embodies the spirit and principles that ground the virtues of democratic citizenship, why is it that cyclopes, who eat humans, win the day in America? Answering this question requires that we journey back to Attic Greece and her proto-democratic foundations. Continue reading

Common Sense and the sensus communis: anatomy of an American pressure cooker

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Gay-Lussac

The pressure of a fixed mass and fixed volume of a gas is directly proportional to the gas’s temperature.

This relationship is known as the Gay-Lussac’s Law and a pressure cooker is an example of the law in practice. Cooking under pressure creates the possibility of cooking with high temperature liquids because the boiling point of a liquid increases as its pressure increases. High pressure and high heat can result in delectable dishes.

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Cooking under pressure can be also dangerous because as liquids change phase into gases their volume expands greatly. For example, at atmospheric pressure the volume of steam is about 1700 times greater than the volume of water. To prevent pressure cookers from becoming bombs, relief devices (pop safety valves) are employed that are capable of relieving all of the steam the vessel is capable of producing.

America the Beautiful Pressure Cooker

The political pressure cooker is beginning to heat up. The power brokers and institutions that drive the nation have arrived unannounced on the doorsteps of America like a gaggle of unwanted, high maintenance relatives that demand hospitality for an unforeseeable time and that won’t take no for answer. Furthermore, they’ve announced that more relatives are on the way. Whatever plans America’s householders had, they’ve just gone out the window, with their household budgie and the relatives’ cat in hot pursuit.

People are justifiably angry with this incursion. Their budgie might not have been much, but it was “their budgie”, nurtured from birth into what it had become. Justifiably angry householders are trying to work out why the relatives arrived on their doorsteps and why they brought their fucking cat. Continue reading