Tuesday, February 28, 2012

William Nordhaus joins the scientific consensus on climate change

He may already have been there, but this article in NY Review of Books is as definitive a statement as one may make.

I still believe Nordhaus' initial economic cost-benefit analysis (1) failed to understand that worst-case scenarios have a higher probability than the phrase "worst-case scenarios" would imply and (2) does not give sufficient credit to the point that environmental degradation can easily cause deficit spending and environmental regulations can produce real growth and further innovation.

Nordhaus at least was engaged in a rational, public policy driven conversation, unlike some of these ideologically driven deniers.

Also, see David Brin's short, polemic drawing a distinction between skeptics and deniers....


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bell Labs and the question of economic motivation

This NY Times essay on the history of Bell Labs, and its president Mervin Kelly, is a fascinating read. It confirms my understanding of the innovative nature of the entity, which was essentially protected by a government regulated monopoly.

The question the author of the article (and forthcoming book) does not quite address in the essay is the question of economic motivation. The assumption in American culture today is that we should pay the executives of technology companies hundreds of millions of dollars or there will not be innovation in pharmaceutical products, technological products and the like.

Yet, people in lab coats tend to do most of the innovation, and those people are generally employees who make middle class to the lower end of upper class wages--yes, mostly wages. Mervin Kelly, the 1950s era president of Bell Labs, who died in 1971, would probably be bewildered to hear that Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates or the now late Steve Jobs are somehow worth a few billion dollars each.

And yet, the assumption persists--deeply embedded in our culture--that we must allow for this economic state of affairs because these "innovators" need monetary incentive. Somehow if they made only 1,000th of the money they had, they would not have done what they did to pursue their businesses? To start to think about this in any sociological or anthropological manner, with any sense of practicality about the multiple motivations of human beings is to realize the silliness of the assumption about monetary incentives.

I bet the author of the article knows what I am saying. However, he also knows that what I'm saying is a dangerous insight for anyone who expects to be well received by corporate media executives and management who make decisions about what to cover and what not to cover as a news story. So, we remain propagandized as a people as corporate executive power steamrolls us into serfdom.

Ah, at least I am of the vassal class in our New Feudalism as opposed to a mere serf....

ADDENDUM: Another NY Times article, this time from the NY Times Magazine, this morning about how people will give up money for the multiple lures of power, prestige, sex with beautiful actresses/actors and the like, and yes, future money to ascend the ranks of film studio and production companies. Again, limit the money to that of say 5 times what a school teacher makes, and the people will still do what this article is talking about. And that's because power, prestige and sex are really, really significant societal lures.

And if we recognized that, maybe we'd have enough money to fund education and jobs programs elsewhere. Maybe if we recognized that, and stopped funding stupid imperial wars, and rationally allocated health insurance for all, we'd balance our government budgets as well.

I think that is what is most frustrating as we watch another presidential election season of endless horse race talk, endless talk about cultural issues and the underlying assumptions that the current economic situation is simply something we have to accept when we really don't have to accept it at all.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Target is not my kind of place anymore...

I don't shop at Wal-Mart because of its poor treatment of workers and strong anti-union stance.

I used to say Target was non-union, not virulently anti-union. After reading this post, and watching the frankly creepy video, I can't say that anymore.*

It's gonna be tough for our family to not go to Target. It's convenient and the store is open more hours than Costco. I think we're going to have a meeting about at least cutting down some of our purchases at Target, if the family can't completely stay away.

I'm deeply disappointed in Target. Deeply disappointed.

*I am embarrassed as a fellow lawyer to say the vice president/general counsel for Target, seen in the video, looks like a thuggish sort of fellow. I can't believe Target's leaders thought he would project a positive image...unless they liked him looking menacing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Outstanding list of links explaining why invading or bombing Iran is the wrong idea

What is really surprising about this post is that it is from the Washington Post, which has an op-ed page notoriously and consistently pushing for war with Iran.

When one reads all the links, one is struck by how much propaganda for war against Iran exists in our corporate media compared to the sorts of voices and articles identified in the links.

Perhaps someone running for president in the two wings of the Property Party (Democratic and Republican), besides Ron Paul, may heed the warning points of these links...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More on college debt and young adults lack of net assets

This Crooked Timber post is outstanding. It is well worth the read, including the links.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

If you are worried about Social Security, then worry about payroll tax cuts

Mike Hiltzik has said what Robert Reich and I said about the original payroll tax cut. If people worry about the long term fiscal health of Social Security, then why cut the revenue stream it receives today?

Jill Stein keeps looking better...even as I know how binary American voters are. And don't listen to Jeb Bush's denials of interest in becoming a presidential candidate. It's carefully worded. He isn't running. He will wait to be crowned. And Tea Partiers, Wall Streeters and religious zealots will sing a unified hymn to him even if he is traveling abroad to China....As I have said, Republican operatives' and elite players' Plan B is now in swing...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another article showing the intersection of economics and culture in raising children

The phenomenon of different ways of raising children according to class more than race status is one that is finally getting the attention it deserves. See this post by former political science professor Laura McKenna in The Atlantic.

My wife and I definitely fit the mold of the upper middle class parents shepherding the children off to various things.

I note too Ms. McKenna's belief that pushing the kids is not good. What is it with the academicians who think we should not push our kids to do well, like Bryan Caplan and some others? Those folks say, "It's mostly in the genes, so why worry about it? They'll find their way--in their own way..."

I think these sorts of academicians conclude this because they live in the bubble of academia. They don't realize how difficult it is for those outside academia to enter and that having the right cultural cues is important from how to study for and excel in testing to college interviews. My children live with someone, me, who is a fish out of water. I belong in an academic environment, and have ingested its values. My wife fits the mold as well of public service, parks and recreation. Thus, we gave our children cultural cues that have led our son to do extremely well in most of his college interviews and national testing (However, on local public school testing, he fought us and ended up with far more Bs than As). Whether the cultural tools of elite academic institutions he "naturally" learned from living in our home will make any difference remains to be seen, and maybe not enough for some schools. We're going to know in about a month as the responses from the colleges arrive.

If we want our children to advance to the best colleges, my advice is not to listen to the "let 'em wander" advice of the academics engaged in pop parental psychology. The answer is closer to, but obviously not completely, the "Tiger Mom." Training our children to think critically, linearly and yet have a deep appreciation for literature, music and art, and to excel in mathematics or science, is an important parental goal. If we don't have it, join the museums where you live and take them there. Let them hear what classical music sounds like. Read a classic novel together.

On the other hand, the one important caveat I tell my children is that if they do not want to succeed in school, then they need to find a way into the business world--mostly through sales. Sales is the last place where credentialing has not completely erected a Great Wall of China. Sales is where being smart, aggressive and effective, again without credentials, can raise you to the executive level. Another way to economic success, though here it is the rare bird that flies through the challenges unscathed, is through entertainment--whether dancing, acting, singing or playing music. We have said these things to our children and told them we will support those endeavors in any way they wish. ADDENDUM: And I forgot one more thing I tell the kids: As Warren Buffett famously said, no matter how much we get into computers and other technologies, we still need plumbers, electricians, and other building trade persons as well as folks who know how to fix a motor vehicle (cars, busses, trains and planes). It is my fervent wish that we would find work for those people in a mass infrastructure rebuilding and redevelopment, as most readers of this blog know.

The key reason that propels me toward this active sort of parenting is that American society is becoming more coarse, more heartless and frankly more insane in its discourse and its policies, whether it is the gibberish of business libertarians (pace Caplan) or the outright hateful, rigidness and anti-intellectualism exemplified in Rick Santorum. We must equip our children to deal with the world of 20 years from now, when we may reach a Balkanization of our society into regions, and the breakup of the United States as we Baby Boomers knew it. To be at the economic elite level of society gives our children true choices, including the choice to leave our fair land if things get too out of hand....

Welcome to Presidents' Day, 2012, or am I really talking about Presidents' Day, 2032? :-)


Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Amazing Randi

Randi. James Randi.

See the trailer (tip o' the hat to PZ Myers, science blogger extraordinaire) for what will be a great documentary once it is completed. I first heard of James Randi in the early 1980s when I learned about the Skeptical Inquirer. Randi had also somewhat earlier gone after Uri Geller, a popular "psychic," and exposed him. Geller eventually sued Randi in 1991, but Randi ultimately prevailed and won costs against Geller.

Randi is a national treasure and one hopes the documentary is one that can be shown in various school science classes once it is completed.

ADDENDUM: Love that YouTube! Here is an earlier documentary, which deals in part with Uri Geller and a local Southern California evangelical healer, Peter Popoff. I remember the latter in real time, and hate to say Popoff was wounded, but never really went away...

Alan Dershowitz smears Media Matters and deserves a hard pushback

I just received this article about Dershowitz from one of my Dad's old Jewish guy friends who is wrapped around the Likud Party line axle. My Dad's friend is one of those people I was talking about in an earlier post today who sacralize Israel and the Holocaust.

My feeling about Dershowitz is that he is an extraordinary legal mind. Also, his analysis of American Jewry in "The Vanishing American Jew" is first rate and worthy of the term profound. However, when he bullies and smears people on matters involving Israel, one often wants to hit back and say:

Alan, go register as a foreign agent when you talk about Israel.

There, Alan. How do you like bullying in reverse? Not enjoying it? Then cool it.

For the record, I've followed Media Matters since it began and have found it far more fair to its opponents in most instances than other media advocacy groups. Media Matters has nearly always provided the context of an opponent's words and the video surrounding the person's broadcast statements, which again makes them a cut above so many spin artists. The organization does not simply cite and twist the single sentence that offends them.

Have I agreed with everything MM has said? Not at all. But I should not expect that, any more than anyone should always agree with anyone else.

Media Matters has been an effective organization that does good in policing corporate media, which as we know, spins must more often on behalf of the wealthy and powerful in our society. This latest demonization which right wing neo-conservatives and their Israel Above All Else supporters such as Dershowitz have begun will unfortunately make some inroads, but it won't succeed.

Still, it is an ugly game Dershowitz is playing and, again, the time has come to call out and perhaps hit back against people like Dershowitz for their bullying. It is the least that should be expected when Dershowitz misleadingly paints an organization like Media Matters as aligned with Nazis, especially when M.J. Rosenberg is their Senior Policy Fellow...who used to work for the American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), a notorious pro-Likud-oriented lobbying group. The irony is that Rosenberg was more extreme when he worked for AIPAC than he is working with Media Matters.

It's gonna be a long rest of the election year...

Return of the Review of Book Reviews

After a hiatus forced almost completely by the NY Times starting its article quota policy, I decided to take a chance and enter, with some days left in the month, the NY Times Book Review. My review of book reviews now follows:

This review by Candice Millard, who wrote a smart and enlightening book about James Garfield, left me scratching my head. She wrote movingly about the American atrocities in the Philippines, but failed to mention that over 200,000 Filipinos died in less than three years (many from an outbreak from cholera that was the culmination of our activities there). And at the end, she makes it sound as if we lost the war to subdue and colonize that land of islands--when in fact we established a series of puppets who gave at best a fig leaf of democracy, and more often acted dictatorially over most of the 20th Century. Our nation still maintains troops and at least one military base against the will of the Filipino people.

Second, Douglas Brinkley read Jodi Kantor's breezy, gossipy book on the Obamas so we don't have to slog through it. Brinkley nicely sums up Michelle Obama, though, as having Jackie Kennedy's fashion sense (and beauty), Lady Bird's sense of community action and Nancy Reagan's mother-bear protection of her husband. These are all good qualities for a First Lady and Michelle Obama remains one of my favorites of all time. Still, I may be voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party this fall for president...

Third, we have a too short review of Wael Ghonim's memoir of becoming the Tom Paine of the Egyptian revolt of the past year. As the Egyptians start to find they are fooled again ("meet the new boss, same as the old boss..."), one realizes the whole late 60s ethos of "no leaders" usually leads to a leader that looks like the dictators they had pushed aside--except the new dictators are fresh and ready for more blood spilling.

Oh, and some "inside baseball" for historians and history buffs: The letters page contains two sharp retorts to Francis Fukuyama, one from Timothy Snyder, who has written a definitive book about the killing fields of Europe and Russia in the period of the 1920s through 1940s, and a fellow from Aspen, Colorado, who I doubt is very popular among the jet set skiiers...:-) I admit I was not initially a Tony Judt fan, when he began his career bashing French Marxists and leftists, as if that was something earth-shattering. I always though EP Thompson did it better than Judt ever did, but anyway, Judt turned out to be a much more original thinker as time went on.

Finally, some real inside baseball of things Jewish. Stacy Schiff, the biographer of Cleopatra, seems to like Nathan Englander's book of short stories, though I felt a cloying claustrophobia just reading about them. Still, I'd probably like the guy, and I'd get a kick out of inviting him to the synagogue where I remain president. He sends up the American-Jewish experience in ways that might actually penetrate the consciousness of those American Jews who have sacralized the Holocaust and Israel.

And that is enough for the day...though who knows if something else tickles my fancy...:-)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

David Graeber is someone worth reading. Period.

The Boston Review has just published a two part interview with David Graeber. I've blogged about him before when his book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, was released.

His anthropological study of debt in various societies over 5,000 years is fascinating and more important, illuminating. He proves the original point ol' Karl Marx was making about the way money in modern capitalism hides the power relations that resemble the old feudalism that came before it. He also proves that there was nearly always some coinage and very little in the way of any "barter" society among any group of individuals beyond the most primitive...and even then...

Graeber deserves to be on the Sunday television shows in the US, but of course, that is not going to happen. The middle managers know to stack their shows with Republicans and corporate Democrats (with Paul Krugman the one elite member who is allowed to say some things that are not very polite about capitalism) and Graeber would look like he was from Mars compared to the other talking heads.

That is why we should all read the interviews...

What the Frack?

Bill McKibben decides he's against fracking processes after all....Read it here at the NY Review of Books.

And why not listen to "Out of Season" by Soft Machine while we're at it?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Garry Wills lays out the complexities inside Catholic contraception doctrines

Garry Wills in the NY Review of Books stridently sets the plate for a fight with other experts on Catholic philosophy and history regarding contraception. He has obviously had enough of the rigid mindset that places abstract "principles" over a woman's body and her autonomy.

Still, there is a "get off my lawn" tone to the piece, but I guess, Why not? He's earned it. See the short Wiki entry for Wills and his various books on Catholicism...

Friess was joking, but not in the way he wants us to now believe

Get a load of Rick Santorum's sugar daddy telling women that aspirin is a birth control method they can use once his preferred candidate moves to outlaw "The Pill."

He sure did not look like he was joking, though he was smiling. I decided to search the Internet for aspirin, birth control, old wives' tale to see what popped up. And lo and behold, I found this link from a female doctor who was talking about the myth that orally ingesting aspirin is not a good "morning after" pill once conception occurs. But at the end of her article, written in 2010, she said this:

Going back to the aspirin belief, if you are determined to use it as a form of birth control, I will leave you with the following suggestion: the only way that an aspirin can prevent pregnancy is for a woman to carefully place it between her knees and HOLD it there (by keeping her knees and therefore her legs) closed. ☺

Interesting. So Freiss was likely joking after all. But what he was saying was, "Ladies, keep your legs shut." This is his own mindset he was exposing, and it was the mindset that stands foursquare against women's sexual autonomy. That is what drives his socially conservative positions, and it is likely what drives most of these sorts of folks to be so against abortion and now birth control.

That most commentators are not speaking about the fact that many women use contraceptives for health reasons, as opposed to stopping pro-creation, is a significant failure in our corporate media. But that's another story...and ultimately more important than some old wealthy jerk telling women to close their legs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Seed Merchants

This is an interesting article by Vandana Shiva on the seed patent industry and how it exploits peasant farmers in India and other still developing societies.

It reminds me of the brilliant early 1950s satirical sci-fi novel, "The Space Merchants," by Cyril Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl. As I've long said, rather than Orwell's "1984" (which is used more for self-congratulation than really thinking about the society we really live in), students in high school should read "The Space Merchants." It's about us. It's a prophecy about our time. And it has a sense of humor lacking in Orwell's book that fits our modern cultural sensibility.

Some handy charts to start our week...

Courtesy from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Congressional Budget Office and Mother Jones, among others.

Yeah, it is so oppressive for us to go back to even a marginal top rate from the time of the presidency of Bill Clinton....or dare we say it, that commie-pinko President Eisenhower...

Give the kid a break. He's trying to live in the world you bankers and financiers have made.

So the bankers are laughing at this kid who wrote a hubris-laden cover letter for a job with JP Morgan?

Seems to me the kid is working very hard, and trying to be exactly the type of person who he sees succeed on Wall Street.

I'd have given the young person an interview, and found out whether he is teachable for a sensibility not so transparent. But one thing we know is that if we gave him (I assume it's a he and not a she) an assignment, it will be done and done well. He'll take the hill, in other words.

But since Wall Street bankers love ridicule as part of their rituals, they'd rather send around his letter and embarrass him--rather than, again, find out more about this young person and give him a chance for growth.

You know, if a revolution does finally occur in our land, especially the far more likely right wing or libertarian oriented revolution, the heads of these bankers will still end up on pikes. And their assistants or secretaries will be the ones who ratted on them and told the revolutionaries where to find them. The one thing the Tea Party and Occupy Wall St. folks really have in common is rage. I just happen to think the Occupy folks' rage is more properly directed at the real power base in this nation.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No equality of opportunity if there is deep inequality in a society

Read this post from Mark Kleiman, which points out the new gap in educational opportunity and achievement is not based upon race as much as family income.

Mark Kleiman also knows a thing or two about public higher education, as a professor of public policy at UCLA. He knows how important the UCs are for California from both an economic as well as social perspective. If there is no UC, with a quality education for middle class and working poor families, there is a main missing economic ladder to economic stability and success.

Jerry Brown's father, Edmund "Pat" Brown, and UC administrators including Clark Kerr and Roger Ravelle, created and implemented the 1960 higher education plan in order to provide a top quality public university education to middle and working poor students. The UCs have long succeeded beyond anyone's reasonable expectations. As taxpayers, we must not let the UCs fall from their perch as the crown jewels of public university education.

See the 2011 Washington Monthly listing of top schools, which includes the criteria of social mobility, but does not include endowments (which latter criteria is a significant criteria for the US News listings). Five of the top 10 national universities? UC San Diego, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Riverside and UC Davis. That is quite stunning, and we Californians should be proud. Yet, most California taxpayers don't even know of the UCs status and have been taught to ignore that success, and even denigrate that success.

(And I must add this: My son is a senior in high school, and is applying to UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Riverside and UC San Diego. He has already been accepted into UC Riverside and awaits decisions from the other schools. My son has also applied to various private colleges--ALL of which are amazing institutions and where I'd love to see him accepted. The point of this post is two fold: (1) significant income inequality does tend to undermine equality of opportunity and (2) we taxpayers have to find ways of doing more for the UCs.)


Friday, February 10, 2012

You're so right, Rick Santorum...but for a different reason...

Rick's right. It's not about "contraception."

It's about a group of religious zealots who want to control individual women's autonomy.

Good for Obama if he does not give in. If he does, he is foolish. The Komen saga has proven again that pro-choice is now the majority position. Not necessarily late term abortions, but certainly a clear majority of Americans are against criminalizing abortion at all stages.

In short, memo to Santorum: It's more complicated than you want it to be, and you need to step back and look in the mirror as to who really wants government control with respect to contraception and abortion.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Thoughts on the Super Bowl

I love watching the Super Bowl. In fact, one of the reasons I often hesitate to go to Super Bowl parties is that...I love watching the game itself. My wife and children are not into watching football, and I am somewhat saddened by their lack of interest.

Still, there are separately other things that occur during the Super Bowl Day that we who are fans should notice:

1. The glorification of drinking alcohol;

2. The promotion of tribalism;

3. A higher rate of motor vehicle accidents compared to any other Sunday in the year, and a possibly and slightly higher reported increase in women being punched or abused by often drunk men. See here;*

4. Materialist or commercial values hyped to a level of religious worship, as the commercials become as important as the game itself.

Not really very good, is it? If one wanted a sociological or anthropological theme for the Super Bowl, one would say it has taken on religious overtones without any religious spirit or love.

I also think Vince Lombardi would be upset at this spectacle, particularly the commercial hype. Lombardi didn't like the Super Bowl from the start, largely because he did not like the upstart American Football League (AFL), which he saw as treason to the older National Football League (NFL). His hostility to the AFL was amusing since the NFL was only about 25 years older than the AFL and at the time of the first Super Bowl, Lombardi was at best a general manager, I believe, not even a significant owner of the Green Bay Packers whom he coached. For Lombardi, apart from his eclectic feelings about the first Super Bowl, football was about individuals coming together as a team to do their best. Football was a game he adored for all of its human, not religious glory. He cared about his players, as Jerry Kramer, his offensive guard, wrote about in at least two books that are well worth the read (see here and here). Also, David Maraniss' biography of the man I love calling St. Vince (the religious imagery affects me, too) is one of the best biographies I've ever read.

So today let's not drink so much alcohol. Let's not exult the commercials, and maybe let's mentally skip past them the way we normally do when watching television. And let's be careful driving home after the party.

* Snopes.com says the claim about increased abuse is false, but as the above quoted link for the proposition says, not so fast. See also this defense of the original report from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). The evidence of increased abuse is enough for thoughtful people to notice and consider, regardless of our political opinions.


Friday, February 03, 2012

Komen: We're goin'...

My wife has made small donations for the pink ribbon over the years.

No more.

And this is just icing on the pink cake.

I feel badly we did not feel strongly enough about Planned Parenthood in the past years. However, the attacks on that venerable organization really have reached fever pitches the past 12 months or so, and it does need our support.

Donate here. We just did.

Final thoughts: To give us a sense of how far right the Republican Party leadership has gone, consider that Ross Perot's wife, Margot, was a long time member of the Advisory Board for Planned Parenthood in Texas. She was friends (scroll down article) with Ms. Brinker, the embattled and hopefully soon to be replaced co-founder of the Komen Foundation. Of course, corporate media pundits loved calling Ross Perot crazy. Bet some of them wish they could take that back now...Still, Ross was not very supportive of the Empire, and that is always an unforgivable sin to corporate media folks...

ADDENDUM: 02/04/12: Oh my God. Watch this trailer for Pink Ribbon, Inc. (My hero, Barbara Ehrenreich is one of the talking heads in the trailer). The Komen Foundation could not have done more to give publicity to this soon to be released film. I have a sense that many women across America are going to watch this with more intensity than before this illuminating episode with Planned Parenthood.

FURTHER THOUGHT SEPARATE FROM ABOVE: I hope this film does succeed for the simple and perhaps only reason to begin a larger debate about how scientific research is funded, how corporate values and the exultation of profits distort and often waste the money that should go to pay scientists to perform research and...how it might well be better to stop giving any tax incentive largess to, and instead promote price controls for BigPharma and instead let the NIH do nearly all of the work of research (as if the chemist employees in their lab coats at Allergan would behave any differently than if they worked for the NIH directly) with no patent except maybe the federal government's. Too much to hope for, I know. But let's start saying it now.

And if you think me too far out here, start with this interview with Dr. Marcia Angell and then this article by her in the Boston Review and this article by her in the NY Review of Books. She is the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

And when you are done absorbing that, try this article and this article by economist Dean Baker.

Connect the dots, folks. Connect the dots.

It's a Wonderful Life...A danger to economic conservatives indeed

I love the poster Sadly No!'s blog post includes with the smackdown of the right winger who ripped into "It's a Wonderful Life."

When I read the right winger's article, I was struck by how he used quotes for statements George Bailey never said. Weird, that. And I was also struck that the fellow is so intent on making his point that he forgets Potter, the businessman, had refused to acknowledge that he had received the $8,000 for the Bailey Building & Loan's bank deposit in Potter's bank, but then falsely swore out the criminal arrest of George Bailey and his Uncle Billy for criminal embezzlement.

The irony of the right winger's poorly written article is that he is correct about his main theme: "It's a Wonderful Life" is one of the greatest Marxist analyses ever to come out of Hollywood. It is not the "Communist Manifesto" sort of Marxism, nor is it the Leninist or egad, Stalinist interpretation, either. Instead, the film's actual dialogue and plot represent a much more serious, scholarly Marxism. A Marxism which reveals the hidden human power and relationships behind what would appear to be objective money relations, the cultural effects of a capitalist economy (particularly Daniel Bell's thesis that libertine behavior often arises from an excess of money as much as a lack of money), and how important it is for non-wealthy citizens to band together to challenge individual or oligarchical wealth and power.

George Bailey was important because of his position of authority in the countervailing collective institution in the town, i.e. the co-operative largely non-profit building and loan. Had Bailey been his same nice guy but been the taxi driver, for example, the town would have still become "Pottersville," as in the nightmare alternative history scenes near the end. I love, for example, how, in "Pottersville," the Building & Loan becomes the location of a burlesque oriented nightclub, and the movie house is reduced to a strip joint. When the movie house is back in the time of George Bailey and the building and loan, the movie house is playing "Bells of St. Mary's."

Still, it's nice to see certain right wingers reveal their fangs against traditional values and embrace the lying, corrupt Potter as their own. Also, the manner in which the article is written, with the use of false dialogue and poor reasoning, is also emblematic of the tone and structure of the American economic conservative's increasingly desperate narrative--especially as we all increasingly begin to live in Pottersville.

Final thought: If I could find that poster for purchase and framing, I would love it! The irony and pathos of it is truly remarkable. It is somewhat akin in its ironic style to the infamous "F---K Communism" poster from Paul Krassner and The Realist magazine in the 1960s.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

An actual comedian runs for president...as opposed to the inadvertent comedians

Roseanne Barr is running for president on the Green Party ticket.

My first thought was...Damn, the wrong comic is running for president. If it was Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart or Bill Maher, I'd vote for one of those fellas in a New York minute.

With Roseanne, however, I will have to think more about her candidacy and hear her out for awhile...She is surely funny and her situation comedy show was a definite trailblazer in respectfully depicting working class sensibilities. I also believe she is more knowledgeable about policy issues than half the current members of Congress and most of the Republican candidates for president, who have often been inadvertent comedians.

If any Republican Party stalwarts ridicule her candidacy, we may wish to remind them of the movie stars and also ran television stars they have brought us as candidates over the decades.

Olivia Wilde's uncle understands the problem of lost jobs quite well...

So the late Steve Jobs said to President Obama that manufacturing jobs will never come back?

Sorry, Steve. It was a bunch of political decisions that caused those jobs to leave. And there are a few important political decisions that, if implemented, will ensure manufacturing jobs will return.

Read this short, sharp article in the latest issue of The Nation by Alexander Cockburn. And yes, he is Olivia Wilde's uncle.

And her grandfather was a solid Red journalist who was a really a wonderful investigative reporter. See one of his memoirs, which in the US was called "A Discord of Trumpets." I am privileged to own a copy of that book, and read it cover to cover way back in the 1980s when I discovered it in a now long gone used bookstore.

Another academic confuses the definition of "liberalism" and overreaches

Jonathan Haidt thinks "liberals" and Democrats need to realize that "conservatives" and Republicans are basically correct. Huh?

Read this article about the University of Virginia's psychologist's research and analysis and one sees almost immediately that his definitions of "liberal" and "conservative" are actually corporate media cutouts of "liberal" and "conservative" that are based upon a cultural stance more than anything economic.

To state that "liberals" need to be "chided" "for a moral vision that alienates many working-class, rural, and religious voters," is to expose his own shallow understanding of the term "liberal." What he is really talking about is a "cultural liberalism" that describes any number of rich business oriented Republicans, Hollywood elitists who tend toward the libertarian (often libertine) or and any number of other sub-groups that do not fit the political group known as "Democrats" in any meaningful way.

Haidt the psychologist needs to read more sociologists like William Julius Wilson and Christopher Jencks. He needs to read and analyze Daniel Bell's formulation of dividing "liberal" and "conservative" into the economic, political and cultural. To put it another way, Haidt the psychologist has a Chris Matthews' view of the world and wonders why his prescription sounds more like a memorandum from the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) from the 1980s.

Poor guy. And he's writing a book that will be rightly ridiculed for its shallowness and ultimate worthlessness because his assumptions that he never investigates are at odds with reality.