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Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Con versus the reality

Like I said, (last post) I love Paul Krugman, he's fighting valiently to expose the con that masks itself as conservative. I hope people will start listening to him, because he knows what he's talking about. Krugman continues that thread in his latest post Krugman notes:

"..... Romney’s “plan” is a sham. It’s a list of things he claims will happen, with no description of the policies he would follow to make those things happen. “We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget,” he declares, but he refuses to specify which tax loopholes he would close to offset his $5 trillion in tax cuts.

And his private speeches talk to his real base, the folks he compares to the 47% who depend on Government(s) [such as their private ones] to function. He says government can't create jobs, private enterprise does. He reaffirms the trope that letting himself and his fellow monied-aristocrats have the money will somehow put people back to work. And he does it in the same voice and using the same deceptive methods he uses when selling workers at factories he's acquiring on his buyouts and how he'd never send their jobs to China -- before he promptly does so. People shouldn't be fooled. Krugman isn't. He offers an alternative plan that is as simplistic as the other. Krugman is tongue in cheek but there is a serious point underneath.

"Here it is: Every American will have a good job with good wages. Also, a blissfully happy marriage. And a pony."

Romney is full of stuff

"Romney is faking it. His real plan seems to be to foster economic recovery through magic, inspiring business confidence through his personal awesomeness."

Romney says as much "Government doesn't create jobs;" Only the magic of oligarchy does. Sure, right, in China.

"Where Mr. Romney says he’ll achieve energy independence, never mind how, Mr. Obama calls for concrete steps like raising fuel efficiency standards. Mr. Romney says, “We will give our fellow citizens the skills they need,” but says nothing about how he’ll make that happen, pivoting instead to a veiled endorsement of school vouchers; Mr. Obama calls for specific things like a program to recruit math and science teachers and partnerships between businesses and community colleges."

And this represents traditional Democratic Republican policies. It's kind of "Field of Dreams" for politicians. "If you build it, they will come. Romney's dreams all involve dumping the business of the commons on aristocrats. It's an old vision. It was the kind of capitalism you saw in France before Louis the 16th lost his head. When the business of government, the commons, public systems, are put in the hands of private citizens you get dysfunction, usury, and corruption; because such folks are usually after rent, not achieving a mission of the public good. Naturally. This is a lesson of history.

"So, is Mr. Obama offering an inspiring vision for economic recovery? No, he isn’t. His economic agenda is relatively small-bore — a bunch of modest if sensible proposals rather than a big push. More important, it’s aimed at the medium term, the economy of 2020, rather than at the clear and pressing problems of the present."

But Obama's vision is better than Romney's. It's just not "left" enough to push back much against all the ground we've lost. The Center usually is a mid point between aristocrats and commoners. Our current system is a mid point between aristocrats with a conscience and commoners with no conscience; and trying to hold onto what few gains the rest of us commoners have made. When the right pushes back it is usually pushing for elitism and aristocracy. That is what they are trying to conserve; their own wealth and privilege. Not general common rights, etc...

...."If you didn’t know what was actually going on in the U.S. economy, you’d think from reading the Obama plan that America was a place where workers with the right skills were in high demand, so that our big problem was that not enough people have those skills. And five or 10 years from now, America might actually look like that. Right now, however, we’re still living in a depressed economy offering poor prospects for almost everyone, including the highly educated.

... And nobody is willing to call a spade a spade, not democrats not republicans, not most of our comfortable well fed pseudo reporters sitting in chairs in the corporate media. We are in a depression.

Indeed, these have been really bad years for recent college graduates, who all too often can’t find anyone willing to make use of their hard-won skills that were expensive to attain. Unemployment and underemployment among recent graduates surged between 2007 and 2010, while far too many highly trained young people found themselves working in low-skill jobs. The job market for skilled workers, like that for Americans in general, is now gradually improving. But it’s still far from normal.

And here is where I disagree with Krugman. He writes:

"In a better world, the president would be proposing bold short-term moves to move us rapidly back to full employment. But he isn’t."

Underlying that is power and ownership, not just short term ameliorating proposals. The fact is that we are suffering a financial and debt driven depression, and behind that is the raw power of elites. For things to move forward the common folks; folks like you and me have to have some savings and income, and we have to be relieved of unfair debts. And that is a power issue not just something that can be fixed with short term Keynesian fixes. But we are facing a steady diet of lies and propaganda. Krugman writes:

O.K., we all understand why. Voters have been told over and over again that the 2009 stimulus didn’t work (actually it did, but it wasn’t big enough), and a few days before a national election is no time to try to change that big a false belief. So all that the administration feels able to offer are measures that would, one hopes, modestly accelerate the recovery already under way.

Obama's efforts will work some, but not because they put people back to work until the economy fixes itself, but because the processes and income transfers involved in putting people back to work shift resources back to where the 30% at the bottom are a little less dispossessed and while the top 1% will continue to own all the improvements in our financial positions at least we won't be dispossessed by them as much as before. Money makes money, and money and power multiply; maybe even multiply by factors of 10 or 100. That was Vilfredo Pareto. Krugman knows that, but what is he going to do? The right knows that, but they think there is nothing wrong with the rich morphing into nobility and they are practicing the big lie. So Krugman is also right when he says:

It’s disappointing, to be sure. But a slow job is better than a snow job. Mr. Obama may not be as bold as we’d like, but he isn’t actively misleading voters the way Mr. Romney is. Furthermore, if we ask what Mr. Romney would probably do in practice, including sharp cuts in programs that aid the less well-off and the imposition of hard-money orthodoxy on the Federal Reserve, it looks like a program that might well derail the recovery and send us back into recession.

So it's a choice between survival, and protecting the current system, and radical change for the worse. For now we have to accept survival.

And you should never forget the broader policy context. Mr. Obama may not have an exciting economic plan, but, if he is re-elected, he will get to implement a health reform that is the biggest improvement in America’s safety net since Medicare. Mr. Romney doesn’t have an economic plan at all, but he is determined not just to repeal Obamacare but to impose savage cuts in Medicaid. So never mind all those bullet points. Think instead about the 45 million Americans who either will or won’t receive essential health care, depending on who wins on Nov. 6.
I'm just an amateur, but I've been following this subject since High School and practically minored in it in college.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Money isn't a Bubble or a Ponzi Schemes

Paul Krugman is my favorite economist. I've been arguing this same subject for a while, and it's nice to see professor Krugman encapsulate the same arguments I've been making for years without the same gravitas.

Paul Krugman: "Noah Smith, who is a better human being than I am, wades through an anti-Krugman rant to find an interesting nugget: the claim that money is a bubble. It isn’t, of course; but my explanation of why it isn’t is a bit different from his, and has wider implications."
We've got these idiots who want "real money" -- which means money with intrinsic value that someone can stick in a mattress and hide. But Paul notes the distinction, what a Bubble is:
"I’d start by asking, what do we mean when we talk about bubbles? Basically, I’d argue, we mean that people are basing their decisions on beliefs about the future that are based on recent experience but can’t be fulfilled. E.g., people buy houses because they expect home prices to keep rising at a pace that would eventually leave nobody able to buy a first home."
Professor Krugman knows how to explain things so even a drop out can understand:
"Bubbles don’t have to involve prices. You can have a local construction boom driven by rapid growth in an area’s population and employment, when the main thing driving that rapid growth is … the local construction boom, which will eventually collapse when enough houses are completed. The point, whether prices are involved or not, is that the expectations of individuals add up to an aggregate impossibility."
Yes a bubble is similar to a Ponzi scheme except that usually a lot of folks are in on the risk and self-deception. Paul notes:
"This sounds a lot like what happens in a Ponzi scheme, where people are relying on an ever-growing number of new subscribers, and are doomed to disaster when the pool of potential suckers runs dry. And as Robert Schiller taught us long ago, bubbles are in fact “natural Ponzi schemes”, in which Bernie Madoff’s place is taken by the invisible hand of confusion."
The invisible hand of confusion is supplemented by people who do understand what is happening and plan to get their fill and get out before the whole thing collapses. Paul shows that fiat money is not a bubble:
"Is fiat money a bubble in this sense? Not at all. It’s true that green pieces of paper have no intrinsic value (except that they can be used to pay taxes, which is actually important), so that my willingness to accept green paper from you is based only on my belief that I can in turn hand that green paper over to someone else. But there’s nothing to prevent that process of monetary circulation from going on forever."
Except of course human herd behavior and human self destruction (the hurd running off a cliff):
"So what is fiat money? It is, as Paul Samuelson put it in his original overlapping-generations model (pdf), a “social contrivance”. It’s a convention, which works as long as the future is like the past. Obviously, such conventions can break down — but then so can things like property rights. In fact, you could argue that almost every asset in a modern economy owes its value to social convention; green pieces of paper could become worthless, but then so could any paper claim, which is, after all, worth something only because laws say it is — and laws can be repealed."
I downloaded the Real Economists article.
"And once you realize that a social convention is not at all the same thing as a bubble, several related fallacies fall into place."
A lot of our prices, and the wages we pay people are based on social convention. Which is a fancy word for generally accepted habits. It may make no sense that teachers are paid less than stock market cons, but the stock market cons pay themselves and someone pays the teachers and society might claim they are worth more, but refuses to pay them more.

"Take the common claim on the right that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme because the system has few real assets. It’s true that Social Security is mainly a system in which each generation pays for the previous generation’s retirement, in the expectation that it will receive the same treatment from the next generation. But like monetary circulation, this process can go on forever; there’s nothing unsustainable about it (yes, demography, but that’s about the levels of taxes and benefits, not the fundamental nature of the scheme). So there’s nothing Ponziesque at all."
But it makes a good argument for those who would prefer most of us rout around in garbage dumps for our meals.
Paul: "A final thought: the notion that there must be a “fundamental” source for money’s value, although it’s a right-wing trope, bears a strong family resemblance to the Marxist labor theory of value. In each case what people are missing is that value is an emergent property, not an essence: money, and actually everything, has a market value based on the role it plays in our economy — full stop."
The ponzi scheme is the idea that any of the thefts committed by right wing ideologues will ever trickle down to the people ripped off.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Outsourcing to China: Thanks Romney

Texas Instruments Sensors & Controls becomes Sensata

I started writing this post last week, but if anything the subject has gotten hotter, so I'm glad I'm glad I already started this because all that reading I did last week helps contextualize what is happening. Context? If you go to Sensata Technologies you find this on their "about" us page:

The name Sensata comes from the Latin word sensata, meaning “those gifted with sense”. To complement our business and name, our logo is inspired by Braille, the writing system based on touch.

That's nice. But if you dig a little you find this was originally an all American company that did cool things for our country. But now it's been internationalized. Though most of its market is still here in the USA.

Our highly engineered devices satisfy the world’s growing need for safety, energy efficiency, and a clean environment. These are devices that improve safety, efficiency and comfort for millions of people every day and are used in automotive, appliance, aircraft, industrial, military, heavy vehicle, heating, air conditioning, data, telecommunications, recreational vehicle and marine applications.

Gosh, I remember an American Company that used to do that sort of thing. I loved that company. Wonder what happened? Oh:

Until 2006, we were called Texas Instruments Sensors & Controls. Today we are the world’s leading supplier of sensors and controls across a broad range of markets and applications.


Gosh, this was Texas Instruments? No, fortunately that company is still around. It's webpage is here: What happened? Why didn't we get an international company and still have Texas Instruments? I thought that the purpose of competition was to have multiple companies competing with each other to make an ever more satisfied and happy consumer? What happened to Texas Instruments Sensors and Controls?

They are being shipped to China. Indeed as the Daily Kos said in an article, Romney is an expert of creating jobs. Just not in the USA.

Sensata creating jobs--overseas

Today they claim that Sensata has created lots of jobs, way more than the 170 they are outsourcing from Illinois to China.

Yes, Sensata has created thousands of jobs. The problem is, they are all overseas.

Read More at Daily Kos

Well what can you expect? Romney is conducting a hostile takeover of what he sees as a corporation named the US. The tried and true methodology of hostile takeovers, is that you pitch your real intentions to the owner/investors of the company, because you'll make lots of money from what you are going to do and they need to be onboard. And you lie to everyone else. What Romney is doing to Sensata, through his lawyer and "blind trust" is what he seems to plan to do the country.

The Debate

The particular factory that is forming the epicenter of this atrocity is located in Freeport Illinois. This is one of the central locations for the famed Lincoln Douglas Debates, which took about 7 hours and really didn't end until Lincoln won election. As between then and now some folks were claiming that the founders wanted to restrict the Federal Government from regulating oppression, and Lincoln dug up facts that revealed their arguments as lies. The South got violent largely because they were already a violent place that used slavery and oppression as a pillar of their economy. And the notion that the words of Jefferson might apply to women and blacks was foreign to their worldview. The logic was as incontrovertible then as it is now, and the tyranny of a corporation moving a factory to China so they can pay slave wages to their employees is every bit as much tyranny as that of slaveholders. "Power exercised,...for private, separate advantage" [John Locke]. And Sensatta is being outsourced to China by Bain Capital which is doing the buyout and outsourcing. Blind trust? Wanna buy a bridge? This needs to be debated

The workers at Freeport might have thought that accepting to work for a non-union operation would protect them from outsourcing, but no it didn't. Huffington post reports that:

"several workers from Sensata have pleaded with the former Massachusetts governor to intervene at the private equity firm and prevent the offshoring of their jobs, so far without success."

Romney claims that he can't intervene because of his blind trust, but that is a lie. He has his personal Lawyer running the trust with the power of client confidentiality. I don't believe for a second that if he thought an investment was a loser he wouldn't intervene. This is his philosophy. He's said he'd have preferred Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation) for Detroit [City and the Automobile industry]. He is darwinist about economics. His vision of free enterprise is that the strong survive and the losers don't count. This is what he said to his wealthy backers in Florida last year, and he's repeated it in debates.

Clearly Americans need to see where this debate is heading. Jobs don't magically appear when we are competing with folks paid far less than we are paid, even educated people, and policies and laws that give all the advantages to oligarchs and corporate monarchs. And a Takeover Artist is not going to fix something he makes all his money from.

We should all support the petition to get them to debate in Freeport Illinois on outsourcing. If Romney won't show up, Obama should anyway;

The Freeport City Council passed a resolution Monday, July 16, urging former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, to take a stand for the 170 American workers facing outsourcing by Bain Capital-owned Sensata Technologies in Freeport. The resolution passed unanimously in an 8-0 vote.

The workers at Sensata in Freeport are protesting. And the full power of the state is enforcing the private power of corporate tyrants. Do we stand for this, or do we stand up for ourselves.

Six people were arrested Wednesday morning at a north central Illinois plant run by Bain Capital-owned Sensata Technologies, where 170 workers are set to lose their jobs by the end of the year.

If Obama doesn't mention Freeport and Sensata between now and Monday, we need to pressure him too. Thom Hartman's "Brunch with Bernie" segment today had him reminding us that we need to support Obama for reelection, but also pressure him on the issues of importance to all of us. Stopping outsourcing, and making it unprofitable to eff our workers ought to be a priority. It is amazing that a man who has every intention to eff all of us is running for President. I just wish more people understood what is happening.

We need to demand respect, work to earn those demands by working our tails off, and to stop standing aside and letting those who would be tyrants instead of people with a trust from us, run us over and dictate to us.

Further reading:
Mitt profits as workers are effed:
CNN visits Freeport
This article has good details:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Using the war against Women to Abolish Liberty Part I

There really is a war against Women. Of course you'll never hear most of the folks prosecuting it admit it. This is because they need women to vote for them.

This is nothing new ....When the USA first was created, our elites were involved in a struggle to create a republic that would give them power, but were also trying to avoid a return to aristocracy and monarchy. The Right likes to portray our founders as being clear on the subjects they were arguing, but they weren't. They extolled democracy, and lamblasted it, at the same time. What they wanted was a system that would embody rule of law, protect their contracts with the government and each other, and protect themselves against both the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of emerging aristocrats. Events in the USA like the Shays revolution terrified them, and the French Revolution sent some of them into fits of apoplexy. They often were pushing back against the people, even as they sought to manipulate people into keeping them in office. This is still true to this very day. They couldn't get elected unless they found a way to link their special interest with their victims own interest.

Thus it was that Southern Slave Holders were able to enlist poor, non-slave owning, whites - who couldn't compete with the wages paid to skilled blacks - to help them protect their "peculiar institution" and then later got the descendents of those same people to help them create a regime of terror and oppression that also was used to oppress working white folks. Folks identify with the wealthy and powerful. In this country they think that "one day they'll be rich and powerful." Folks let the powerful transfer their narrow expertise in conning people and making money into the idea that the folks who have those attributes are also wise and experts on things totally unrelated. Thus demagoguery and business go together in our society whether we are talking about religious politics, business politics or business politics. You can talk about "welfare queens driving Cadillacs" and folks will believe what you are saying even if others think you are nuts. It's called "coded language" and it works like a dog whistle for those whose fears are tuned into the notes being sounded. Fear makes people band together, and our right has been expert at manipulating people for a long time.

So there is a lot of coded language within the right in this day, because the power model hasn't changed... When the right goes after an issue, the goal is power, and the main goal of that power is "private, separate interest" of the private actors who constitute the wannabe aristocrats of the Republican party. They may not be literal teabaggers, but their goals involve teabagging people, including the people they convince to support them.

So the war on women isn't really a war on women. It is just another way to use dog whistles and coded language to keep, project and extend power, for the folks who want to be oligarchs in this country, and at this point, have acquired the kind of power to let them exercise oligarchic powers. But it is a real war nonetheless. When Romney talks about "life starting at conception" he is appealing to people's emotions on behalf of laws aimed at locking down women's rights.

Life begins at conception is part of a "reductio ad absurdum" that has some almost comical implications. For one thing, if a fertilized ovum is a "person" then the life of a sperm or an ovum can be equally "constructed" to be "persons" as well. For literalists this could lead to the felony criminalization of masturbation for men, or miscarriages or even the annual period. In the article: In the Anniston Star, called "When life is legal: The meanings and implications of ‘life begins at conception’ belief" by Jim Vickrey, where he writes:

If a fertilized human egg is “alive,” as many of my Christian friends claim to believe, so are the ovum and spermatozoa constituting it. If the latter be not so, then secular evolutionists must be right: Life can be created from life-less stuff.

So if the religious literalists get their way then:

Accordingly, if a conceptus is a “person,” as many believe, then its constituent parts must be alive or, at the very least, “quasi-persons,” likely deserving of equal protection under the law.

Read more: Anniston Star - When life is legal The meanings and implications of ‘life begins at conception’ belief

And he notes it gets worse. Nothing that Leviticus condemns masturbation, so if life is defined to begin at conception and sperm and eggs are defined as persons, then conceivably masturbation could once again be a criminalized activity. This could lead to a lot of men getting locked up. Hooray for Prison industries! But seriously, life at conception is mainly targeted at women:

"First, we should insist that the proper health and medical authorities investigate the facts of every miscarriage occurring anytime near the now-mystical, medically unjustified, 20th week of an expected 36-week-long pregnancy in order to satisfy ourselves that the miscarriage was not, in fact, induced."

So, witch hunts here we come!

"Second, we should insure that 100 percent of all miscarriages are reported to the Alabama Departments of Health, Records, et cetera, for data maintenance of death statistics; to proper law-enforcement agencies for information purposes; to the newspapers for obituary purposes; and to the funeral homes of choice for the purpose of picking up and delivering the remains prior to the funeral. Moreover, if the fetus is a person, in fact, why are we not now reporting such news routinely? Could it be because most people, in fact, don’t consider miscarriages to “really be the death of a person,” thereby requiring such, preferring to deal with their grief in private ways?"

Oh, yes, and not to mention criminalizing birth control and even efforts to control menstration. Keep the women at home! And it would be a boon to newspapers:

"Third, we should insist that the survivors, those responsible for creating the “person” who’s just died, be issued a birth as well as a death certificate, identifying the “person” by name and the cause of death."

But of course that all shows why even Christian folks with common sense used to have common law ideas about conception and abortion:

"It’s easy to see why the common law, historically, has not tried to identify the moment of conception or fertilization (since there isn’t one), which terms are not even precisely or consistently synonymous in medical dictionaries, and why it opted to define a legally protected fetal interest as arising at viability, the new thinking of our “activist” highest state court to the contrary notwithstanding. It’s just as easy to see why, while reading statutes purportedly based upon identifying when life begins and so when “personhood” arises, the above-stated list of “horrors” now includes as well as new ones born of religious zealotry, such as requirements for “transvaginal” or other sonar examinations before legal abortions."

But of course, as the author notes:

"After all, just as the state once had the legal right to restrain and retain black citizens as slaves, now the very men who usually decry the “intrusive hand of big government” into our lives seek to assert the legal right to intrude literally into the sanctity of a woman’s womb to enslave any zygote found there. Defining a one-celled, virtually invisible to the naked eye, conceptus as a “person” or a “baby” leads one to all sorts of strange places. If you, Dear Reader, are a self-described “pro-life” person, which we all are, why should not what is written above become standard operating procedure?"

Okay, with all that, there is still a war on women going on. And the absurd effort to define life starting at conception is part of it. Think I'm joking? Romney is for it:
And Rand Paul,
"Akin, Ryan and others are original cosponsors of HR 3, which sought – before a public outcry prompted a reversal – to create a legal difference between “rape” and “forcible rape.” The bill still eliminates tax breaks for health insurance premiums on policies that cover abortion-related expenses and prevents women from paying for an abortion from a health savings account. A complete explanation of the bill from the Christian Science Monitor is available at"

Text of HR 3:

And this says nothing about their war on working people's pay:

Wisconsin Senator/liar:"Women paid less because money is more important to men"