Uncle Chump

As I warned a month ago, President Obama overplayed the scare tactics leading up to the Sequester. It now appears that the large polling advantage Obama had over the Republicans on the issue of the economy has vanished in the last month. As I wrote last month the protestations that the economy if the Sequester went through would collapse were hollow.

To say that an $85 billion cut out of a $3.7 Trillion budget is hardly cause for alarm. After the military budget doubled in 8 years under both Bush and Obama, reducing the Pentagon budget by 6% hardly qualifies for endangering our national security. This kind of scare talk should be left to John McCain and Lindsay Graham and will only backfire on the President when it turns out that the sky did not fall after the Sequester went through. Anyone who has run a business–big or small–knows that taking 5% out of a budget can be done without killing the enterprise.

Democrats have to be very careful they don’t get themselves in the position of defending Big Government against a natural reform movement that goes beyond party labels.Andrew Kohut wrote an amazing analysis of the Republican’s Presidential problems on Friday. He made it clear that the right wing media has painted the party into a corner, but he also noted the unique blend of opinion that was expressed in the November election.

Voters generally agreed with the GOP that a smaller government is preferable to a larger, activist one, and therefore they disapproved of Obamacare. However, exit polls showed popular support for legalizing same-sex marriage and giving illegal immigrants opportunities for citizenship.

This combination of conservative and liberal views is typical. To win, both parties must appeal to the mixed values of the electorate. But it will be very hard for the Republican Party, given the power of the staunch conservatives in its ranks.

What is so fascinating is that there is a natural constituency for a real reform movement that crosses party lines. It would take on issues of corporate welfare like farm subsidies, pentagon bloat and even such sacred liberal cows as the disability system. Channa Joffe-Walt’s NPR Planet Money series Unfit for Work chronicles the astonishing rise of disability claims in the last 15 years.

In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.

The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. People on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.

As she points out much of this astonishing rise has stemmed from law firms like Binder and Binder that advertise on daytime TV and take claims into a court system in which THE GOVERNMENT HAS NO REPRESENTATIVE THAT CAN QUESTION THE VALIDITY OF THE DISABILITY CLAIM!. Binder and Binder made $68.7 million last year representing disability claims. Here is the result.



One could look at the subsidies for the phony private college system (University of Phoenix, et al) and see equally galling scams in which the Federal Government is being played for a chump. Or how about one of the biggest corporate welfare scams–farm subsidies? These payments are not going to the little family farmer, they are going to Archer Daniels Midland , ConAgra and other Ag giants. As Taxpayers for Common Sense reported,

Taxpayers could save at least $100 billion over the next ten years by eliminating wasteful agricultural subsidies like direct payments, reining in out-of-control spending on the highly subsidized federal crop insurance program, rejecting new “shallow loss” income guarantee subsidies, and making other federal farm bill programs more transparent and accountable to the public.

And don’t get me started on the Military Industrial Complex. When even a hawk like former Reagan Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, says the pentagon is bloated, you know it’s time to take out the meat ax.

Lehman, who testified along with former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead, was asked for his views on the impact of upcoming budget cuts on Navy operations and ship programs. But Lehman said his biggest beef is not with the sequester but with Pentagon bloat that drains resources from combat forces.

“I think that there is a huge amount of overhead fat in the defense budget,” he said. “I don’t see sequester providing the flexibility to remove and cut that overhead that’s in both the uniform and the civilian sides of the Pentagon.” Roughead concurred.

So here is the deal. President Obama has got to find his inner Teddy Roosevelt. His last four years have to be a reform agenda to take on all of absurd waste in our Federal Government. The more he takes the side of defending the status quo, the more his credibility on fiscal matters will crumble. Now is the time. The troops are coming home from two disastrous wars. The economy is recovering and the housing market is once again recovering. Don’t tell us you can’t cut 5% of an incredibly bloated government.

That dog won’t hunt.


This entry was posted in Barack Obama and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Uncle Chump

  1. JTMcPhee says:

    Which part of the “incredibly bloated government” are you vouchersafing to cut, sir? The “cuts” are already happening — you yourself have noted the apparently doleful, baleful, destructive, anti”recovery” effects of “getting rid of” millions of “government workers,” which here in FL include teachers (maligned by a very conscious ALEC-et-al campaign of opprobrium, based on lies and a few bad examples) and health-care workers (I know one already grossly overworked public-health office where incoming Felon-in-Chief Scott’s “men in black” came in, did a fifteen-minute “desk audit” of the whole place, closeted with the office chief and announced that 20% of the staff was fired, effective immediately, get out now. Civil service be damned. There’s your fucking future of “cutting,” along with Chained CPI and Privatized SS and every kind of price-fixing of Maslow-grade necessities and so on and so forth. Do the people you do lunch with, hang out with, have any worries about how they can afford atenolol and rent and ramen-mac-cheese on SS, or guess what! well-warranted, in a whole lot of cases that I am very personally familiar with [and yes, there is some scamming — how does that stack up to your buddies’ activities on “Wall Street,” hey?] DISAB”IL”I>TY, the latest “welfare queeeeeens”-grade reactionary kleptocratic talking point? )

    Please, in this world of complexity, eschew enunciations of Large Principles that so easily become part of the makeweight “public discourse” created and managed by, for and of the Organized, who at this point are only the Kochs and those folks, in the “extractive: and “financial” and MIC and “Monsanto” industries… Remember, the F-V-22-35 is a JOBS PROGRAM, with some “good paying middle class jobs,” and all that shit that I am stupid enough to spend any of my little bit of time reading, that gets generated by the Welfare for the Generals system in the Pentagram, that so obviously is full of the greasiest kind of fat, the kind that is choking our humanity-as-organism arteries and will shortly result in an inevitable but impossible-to-poinpoint-as-to-which-one-and-when coronary, is just fuckiing IMMUNE due to what the British Imperialists called “interest” from any of your “5% cutting.”

    Sorry — too much coffee on a Sunday morning, after reading the local formerly balanced, now rich-folk-apologist newspaper. I need to take a deep breath, remember that there are the Blessed, who have figured out how to Succeed or been lucky in their Life Placements, and there are The Rest of Us, who need to work on our grovelling techniques and learn to say “Please, sir, may I have just a tiny little bit more out of the stewpot filled with the vegetables I grew and the meat I husbanded and the spices I traded for, or would you please take just a little bit less off my plate, but if you really want and need my little mite, well clearly God has favored you over all others, so please have all you want… I will go back to reading my Bible and comforting myself that Peacemakers are Blessed and that the Meek Shall Inherit Whatever Is Left Of The Earth.”

    India: speaking of complexity, and starvation, and murder, and greed, and that overwhelming sense of the spiritual world… “A Passage to India.” Why did the Beatles go there, again?

  2. John Papola says:

    Good post.

    “the more his credibility on fiscal matters will crumble.”

    He doesn’t have any credibility left to crumble. It’s gone.

  3. JTMcPhee says:

    @John Papola
    Yeah! So I got it: Let’s put Dimon or Blankfein in charge. Or wait! How about a boika, I guess that’s two thirds of a troika right?: the Koch Brothers, those perfect exponents of the Libertarian Model! With Ron Paul as Chancellor of the Exchecquer, and Rand Paul as Secretary of State!

  4. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Thanks for this, Jon. Interesting point, too, about TR as a model of tough-love relations with Industry. As I said when Jonah’s brought out his book I’m afraid that TR’s charismatic ambivalence toward industry and economics probably died in Germany around 1941, so the prospect of a present day seance kinda scares me. So how would that work? How would you wish to cherry-pick it?

    The other thing about this post that puzzles me: what would be the most thoughtful–honest, accurate, caring–way to account for e.g. the Bureau to account for those on disability? This has eluded me for 15 years.

    Jon I no longer have any sense of what’s coming in any of my fields. For me that’s a disability. It’s debilitating in any case. Not Interegnum but Vertigo.

  5. Hugo St. Victor says:

    JTM, a hint re India: a burgeoning capitalist democracy with 28 states and 28 languages, it’s still the World’s crossroads. I think we all know why the Fabs and Donovan went there, but Harrison sure pulled the fat out of the fire. And oh my, how fat it is~~~

  6. Brian says:

    Nassim Taleb’s new lecture, er, book called Antifragile speaks to the point that we are entirely undone by complex systems. Our parade of quaint habits and reckless sociopaths, indeed, is without managing. For Taleb, honor is our only tool.

  7. Brian says:

    Posting a follow-on link.
    Taleb in-person on Reddit.
    Summarizes his newest essays. “Decentralization is where we start. Vote for that and for people promoting it.”

  8. len says:

    Note Jon doesn’t go after the oil subsidies. He’d be a dead man if he did.

    Put complexity theories aside for a minute. You have zero ability to rearchitect the complexity of modern society. The same forces that made rulers in ancient Greece powerful are still at work: bullies with the money to buy the strong to keep those without the money to buy the strong from uncovering the truth of their status. Income inequality is the single force at work.

    Costume scale matters when disguising crime and arrogance. Academics are the make-up artists.

  9. Rick Turner says:

    Subsidies, tax breaks, and back room deals is what the “free market economy” has been all about in this country since the days of canal building…before the railroad robber barons ruled. And Obama is a part of the history of this whole machine. Just look at who his main financial guys are… Robber barons of the 21st century is who they are. And talk about who feels “entitled”!

  10. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Brian, thank you for the cite. A crucial subject.

    Len, Jon’s gone hard against the oil subsidies right along, as you know. Shouldn’t he be permitted not to bring those tax breaks in on this round? You tell us. Why did Democats surrender Big Oil anyway? It’s dispiriting how the parties swap blocs. They do, though. Reminds me of Orwell’s creepy line, “The Party seeks power for its own sake”.

  11. JTMcPhee says:

    @Hugo St. Victor
    Think of all the literature that’s based on that “sudden awakening,” when all those certainties we live with are in an instant of insight, changed. “The scales drop from your eyes,” as they say. And what had been obvious but obscure becomes so painfully clear. Like my personal awakening from the long dream of patriotic bullshit, years of Presbyterian Midwest Boy Scouting immersion, in a place called An Khe in a country that used to be called “South Vietnam.” Eisenhower? Kennedy? Johnson? Nixon? Maybe 2, maybe 4 million dead, $4 trillion lost so far, and for what? So the fuckers who play power games with other people’s lives and money can keep on doing it, keep on getting richer and more powerful and Orwell had it pretty clearly right and here’s an interesting tidbit and loop-back:

    Eric Arthur Blair [Orwell, that is] was born on 25 June 1903, in Motihari, Bihar, in India…. His father, Richard Walmesley Blair, worked in the Opium Department of the Indian Civil Service. His mother, Ida Mabel Blair (née Limouzin), grew up in Moulmein, Burma, where her French father was involved in speculative ventures. Eric had two sisters: Marjorie, five years older, and Avril, five years younger. When Eric was one year old, his mother took him and his sister to England

    Another passage FROM India, did HE …

  12. Rick Turner says:

    I keep hearing that the past ten years or so of Middle East misadventures will wind up costing us…yes, us as in we the people…somewhere between 2.5 and 3 trillion dollars…and add that to the IndoChina miasmas. This is with the captains of free market industry at the helm. What’s the return on investment? And how did we get so little to say about how our money was being stolen? Ours, our kids’, our grand kids’, etc… money, that is. This has been one of the biggest cases of fraud in US history. If a group of entrepreneurs tried to start a business based on the kinds of lies we’ve been told about how these wars would work, they’d all be in jail. We’ve now got 50 plus years of being lied to by the MICC, and we’re broke and they aren’t.

    Was anyone really afraid that communism would work and sweep over the world? And won’t radical Islam just collapse of it’s own weight sooner or later? These are not world views that work except as enemies to fuel irrational spending of taxpayers’ money to enrich the usual suspects.

    And Obama has always been a fool and a puppet for them… We just got fooled by his skin color and by the hope that it meant a sea change in America. I’ll take a patrician white FDR anytime over another pseudo man of the people of any color. Let’s face it, many of us voted for Obama at least in part just because he is African American; we thought that would bring some new ways of thinking to the Washington. We saw a White House and we wanted it painted black.

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

  13. JTMcPhee says:

    @Rick Turner
    …and where was BHO educated, steeped, and all that? Some midwestern Big City? Some place that used to support people like some fella named Saul Alinsky, an ACTUAL “community organizer,” http://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2012/04/13/12_ways_to_use_saul_alinskys_rules_for_radicals_against_liberals/page/full/, and at another tone and scale, Mike Royko, who gave us as one of his masterworks, a book entitled, of all things, “BOSS!”? http://www.amazon.com/Boss-Richard-J-Daley-Chicago/dp/0452261678

  14. Hugo St. Victor says:

    @ JTM: your schoolboy-to-soldier experience is the stuff of my nightmares growing up, right down to the Presbyterianism. I’ll tell you again that as a boy I couldn’t remember other than Peace-before-Christmas, so I grew up with ceremonial lying and figured your war was never ending. From Age Six I prepared. No kidding. That’s as fucking Orwellian as it gets, I agree. The neverending ending of Big Brother’s narrative. Jesus, these wimp journalists are powerless to clock shit.

  15. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Your kind of weird cynical idealism and their diseased Liberalism somehow should make common cause over some mutually recognized Truth. Doesn’t matter to me which one it is. Trillin likes hot dogs. So choose.

    You know that I choose to go another way. My thing is to look Back, for some rectifying element. Culturally, who knows, maybe we’ll all meet in some kind of redemptive crossroads.

    A Pharmakos, John. A Catharsis. An invasive surgery. Make The Body worse to make it better.

    Sick thought that happens to work~~~

  16. Rick Turner says:

    The one thing that keeps me from wholeheartedly wanting my kid to go to Harvard is that part of it called the Business School which seems to have birthed the puppeteers who control the graduates of Harvard Law School. The kid spent seven weeks there as an intern in the bio-medical engineering department, and his mentor really wants him to be admitted and for him accept the (perhaps) invitation, but I look at what the Harvard/Chicago axis has done to our country…as a continuation of a noted Yalie, and I shudder.

  17. Rick Turner says:

    And: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/26/charts-health-care-costs-americans_n_2957266.html

    So why are we in the 30s in the world when it comes to results as exemplified by longevity or infant mortality?

    Because the powers that be have us totally scammed into thinking that a) Spending more is The American Way because we are Exceptional and we Can, and b) That invariably, spending more means better quality results. And those who would defend the cult of competitive advantage to all (reading this Pap?) will say that it’s the illegal immigrants who bring our numbers down. Yeah, blame it on the Mexicans…

    No, folks, it’s the other MICC…the Medical Insurance Company Complex…those who cover up monopolistic practices incredibly effectively so there’s gravy and bakshish galore for an ever increasing number of executives and administrators who wouldn’t know which end of a stethoscope to shove up their asses…

    Listen to David Lindley’s “Talk to the Lawyer…”

    I’ll grant that Obama probably does think that Universal Healthcare would be a good thing. But then, he also thinks that war in the Middle East is a good thing. Can’t have it all, I guess… I voted not for Obama but rather against the Republicans…and I didn’t care who I was voting against. Lesser of two evils, but still on the dark side from my point of view. It was like having to answer the question, “Would you rather have untreatable tuberculosis or MS?” Slow death either way with a chance of a longer life with the MS…

  18. John Papola says:

    Yep, you nailed it JTM! Because Dimon and Blankfield would be so much more powerful without the Treasury and Fed standing in the way…. or wait… they’d be bankrupt.

    We could do alot worse than Rand Paul as Secretary of State (or any other serious post). The guy is a champion of rational, open immigration reform, he’s fighting against unjust mandatory sentencing, and has been a lone voice on civil liberties and due-process.

    But never mind that. Let’s trot out the wicked Koch Brothers ™ bugbear. Because THAT is the foundation of every good conversation.

  19. Fentex says:

    [Rand Paul] has been a lone voice on civil liberties and due-process

    Unless you pay attention to his oddly patriarchal religious attitudes.

  20. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Well yeah. What JTM and Rick posted, basically feels so sound, this end. JP I love each of them but can’t marry the GOP with Rothbard. I’m not sure which should reach for the rubber first. But certainly Fentex is right in that Rand Paul will remain merely Rand Paul, Gadfly. So it’s the same as where Jon left off. Where does that get us?

  21. Rick Turner says:

    Well, one of my major issues with the illness of Washington is the health care thing; I’ve written about it here a fair amount, and I just cannot see why universal health care is not seen as the best alternative to our currently broken system. I have friends in Australia, Canada, England, and France, and NONE of them would trade their system for ours, and they ALL have better health care metrics and lower costs than we do here. Why is it an issue for me? Well, I’m fine…I’ll be 70 this summer, I’ve been on MediCare for going on five years…an “entitlement” to which I am entitled because I fucking paid for it and continue to pay for it since I’m a working man. But…I have a 17 year old son who has a life long “pre-existing condition”…Marfan Syndrome, and until ObamaCare that could very well have boxed in his work options for his future and made it utterly impossible for him to even ever consider being self-employed. It’s for him and his generation and the ones following that I speak up on behalf of Universal Health Care…which we could easily afford if waste, fraud, corruption, and wars were not sucking us dry.

    Eat the rich…

  22. len says:

    The vertical wall of money cannot be sustained. If you fall off a ladder it’s too late to pick where you will land after your feet leave the rungs. Still, it’s not a bad idea to deactivate your Facebook pages.

    The coming catastrophe will be like so many before it: the people chosen to choose will choose the technology that gives them numbers by which they believe they can micromanage people who control resources instead of choosing technology by which resources are managed and amplified. In so doing they will lose the right to the power by which they themselves are sustained.

    Geronimo wants his skull and their bones. Osama bin Ladin didn’t intend to collapse the US economy. He intended to burn an example into our collective memory. So before another visitor comes to my home studio to rearrange the blinds as a warning and a courtesy, let me say I don’t direct or plan or steal. I’m a dammed good analyst. It’s up to you what you do with the product.

    You don’t have much time.

  23. len says:

    Hey Rick, how’d the gig go at SXSW? Was it fun?

  24. JTMcPhee says:

    “I’m a dammed good analyst.” Yes indeedy.

    Query whether anything other than that usual collapse is evitable. No doubt there is a butterfly wing just waiting to flutter somewhere in all of this. What vector, from what geocoordinates, would trigger off the fall of all those carefully assembled dominos? (I know, bad analogy, but fun, sort of, if you don’t have to clean up…) In 3, 2, 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDy2xWpZWVc

  25. JTMcPhee says:

    Rothbard (as interpreted and extended by those tuned to that set of frequencies) + Paul + Paul + Papola = (dominos)

  26. len says:


    If you accept that the values of a company are the primary driver of business, you have to answer two value-derived questions at every opportunity: How much is enough? What is not worth doing?

    If you get either of these wrong and you see 1.618 appearing in your spreadsheet repeatedly, you are about to discover why golden is also mean.

    Spreadsheet managers are destroying wealth. They don’t understand the problem of increasing throughput when the channel is at maximum capacity. They scry numbers in rows and columns looking for clues to individual performance without understanding the technologies that create the products or the product itself. So when it comes time to adjust or evolve their organizations they do too much to achieve too little and ultimately the culture becomes a reflection of their paranoia and opinion instead of an artfully rendered vision. Art is a mirror with an opinion.

    To fail, remove the wrong domino or leave two dominos that are too close together. It isn’t a domino’s weight but it’s position on the curve and it’s distance to the next domino that determines it’s importance.

  27. JTMcPhee says:

    The things I liked about that domino video were the Wild Children, the ones that because of “random” kind of kicked out of line as though trying to express some originality or maybe escape the clack-clack-clack, though they did their duty in transferring energy doewngradient, and next, the fall of The Wall in the back there. And finally the very tail end where there were three dominoes left standing — I guess that’s what passes for “hope” in the system.

    I’ve babbled about the Beer Game here before, I’m sure you know what that is, the “supply chain simulation” that’s taught in B-school and various econooooomics classes. Where players or teams take various roles in the production, marketing, distribution and sale of good old Duff Beer.

    The nominal ideal, I guess, is a steady-state flow of beer to bellies, where in = out (plus profit, of course). Far as I can read, the result is always the same: Greed and optimism lead the players to always, >ALWAYS< over-produce and crash the "market." The folks who say this is just illustrative of communications issues in the "supply chain" seem oblivious to the results' implications or flat-out slap-in-the-face lesson about the patent problem in "market" operations as conducted by humans in the world the way we've built it. That "values of a company" thing is such a slippery bit to start off from… I guess "we" have to hope that the Assigner-in-Chief is not, you know, oh what was his name again, it's been so easy to forget — oh yeah, Mitt Romney. Or Jamie Dimon, or that other guy. Or even Meg Whitman.

    Spreadsheet Vision is another manifestation of stuff designed to fail as applied by greedy, emotional humans in ways the tool just does not fit. Not even like trying to use a "US" socket wrench on a "BS" nut, speaking as the former conservator of a 1968 MGB — all you get is busted knuckles and a chance to practice your profanity. And then you have to drill out the stud or whatever, and do a Helicoil, or some other huge increase in workload…

  28. len says:

    Yeah, although it helps to know that feedforward is superior to feedback if undoing a knot. The wealth imbalance is only a domino system if it is so fragile that a single pulse will be applied linearly to all members in sequence. A non-linear system, or Feigenbaum scaling in Fibonnaci ratio is bifurcating. It may go to chaos but only if left untamped or tightened such that we can’t land without breaking something. What you really want to avoid catastrophe is to loosen the knot. When your power cords are tangled you don’t pull; you push.

    We can either destroy the money or redistribute it. There aren’t any other options. Right now the Fed keeps pumping money and that will destroy it. The ideology of redistribution is not necessarily antithetical to capitalism. It is antithetical to top dog power abduction. As I’ve mentioned before simply favoring employee owned companies has a positive effect. Instead, those companies and their pensions plans have been systematically looted and broken up to favor the Hahvard/Yalies and the 922 crowd.

    And that makes me pessimistic about their future unless they begin to calculate how much is enough and what is not worth doing. That requires values the elites simply don’t have and as Rick notes, a black president is just a token. Poor bastard; he probably believes he is a symbol of progress when in effect, he is the sign that we can always promote a field hand to being an overseer but come harvest time, he dare not think he gets to divide the crops.

  29. Jon Taplin says:

    @len I’m willing to go after the oil subsidies. My lab is not financed by oil companies and even if it was, it wouldn’t make any difference.

    Len, give me credit for saying Cheney and his oil task force, set the table for the Iraq War. I just want a reform agenda. A throw bums out agenda. I donh’t care if they are from the MIC, the AFT, the Sugar lobby, the disability lawyers, the anti global warming deniers, the Internet Ad and Piracy scammers, the failing mortgage bond architects. I don’t give a fuck what side of this false right left political divide they are on.

  30. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola JP-Sadly you are totally right on the Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein issue. Without the US Treasury, they both would be bankrupt.

  31. Jon Taplin says:

    @JTMcPhee OK-Do you think Steady State Economics can work? Rick Turner and I have been arguing for that a lot in the last few years, but everyone else seems to think that growth is the only solution.

  32. Jon Taplin says:

    @Rick Turner See my comments above to JTM on the notion of a steady state kind of economics. “Spending more is the American way” is the disease that has us addicted to credit, with high grade mall fever.

  33. len says:

    @Jon Taplin

    That’s fair, Jon. Apologies. It isn’t just the MIC getting hit by the sequester. Special ed teachers, for example, are losing jobs. The whole sequester approach took both sides off the hook for rotten tactics. Even Richard Shelby says he doesn’t want to reverse it and his districts are being hammered in ways no one expected. Meanwhile as we hit the tax season with increases that are boggling, our jobs disappear and the IRS wants a payment plan. If I seem less than “progressive”, I’m at the cadence of the progression.

    And scared witless. Seven of the six jobs that showed up from CareerBuilder today saying I should apply were all counter-intelligence positions for which I have neither the clearances nor the experience not to mention the enthusiasm. So it’s unemployment and gigs for tips and that won’t close the gap. Health? Can’t even worry about that. It’s not gentlemanly to whine and apologies for that too, but it’s a reality show here.

    My contribution to Internet piracy was to shut down as many of my own videos on YouTube as I could where they place ads. They aren’t paying so up their snouts.

    We all want a reform agenda. If we don’t know what’s not worth doing at this point, I’m not sure how we can say what is enough. I heard a remark on PBS today: the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth; it’s justice. I don’t know how to parse that. I’ve worked my butt off through cancer, theft and career rape. So I pay for this interregnum with what I don’t have and I really don’t know why I deserve it or what the hell I’m going to do about it.

    I can’t endure more justice. Mercy. Mercy.

  34. Fentex says:

    Do you think Steady State Economics can work? Rick Turner and I have been arguing for that a lot in the last few years, but everyone else seems to think that growth is the only solution.

    Steady State Economics does not exist so there’s no need to ask if it can work. It’s a hypothetical that will never be realised.

    But that doesn’t mean that growth must be encouraged, only that change must be experienced.

    Hopefully our combined efforts to improve our lot grows our the sum of wealth and I don’t think people angered by the financial industries faux growth really want real effective increase in everyones wealth prevented.

    Just the fake, nonsensical, invention of wealth that ultimately is a theft from individuals stopped.

    Usually the discussion of theft is obscured by academic debate of tax levels, incentives, public spending and private debt, currency backing, manipulation and bond pricing etc.

    But in Cyprus today we see it naked and exposed – innocent depositors seeking little more than safe housing of savings in what should be socially useful lending corporations are having their wealth stolen directly, without even the arguably socially contracted arrangement of taxation authorised through democratic representation.

    My own government faced with a choice of requiring banks to insure their deposits has chosen instead to advance legislation that should banks fall would let them draw directly on their depositors savings with the preposterous suggestion that depositors ought know if they can trust the solvency of banks or not on the ludicrous presumption a tired worker has enough time and knowledge to better the grand investors in tracking the ultimate position of a corporations trades.

    While also virtually, and soon I expect actually, insisting people be paid and taxed through bank accounts as physical currency gradually fades.

    Banks should never be protected before their bond and share holders have been wiped out.

  35. Fentex says:

    Do you think Steady State Economics can work? Rick Turner and I have been arguing for that a lot in the last few years, but everyone else seems to think that growth is the only solution.

    Don’t allow legislation to favour unsecured creditors (such as credit card companies), enforce the law, and don’t worry about it. It’ll take care of itself.

  36. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Let me say that I don’t give a fuck what side of this false right left political divide they are on.

    Oh, shit, len just said that already. I wish I’d said it but I didn’t do. He said it, nobody else did. Now he wonders why anybody wants him to be restored to positions of influence.

    It’s because we respect you, len, even those who disagree. Go ahead, be analytical. Reread. You’ll see. You’ve gotta have somebody who’ll call you on your shit, and Tag you’re it.

    Most each of us represents immensely complex shit. To some of us–just to recapitulate–Holy Jesus! More than 124 tracks are too many for one mixing board.

  37. Rick Turner says:

    “GROWTH” for the sake of growth is an absurd concept if it is based on unchecked consumerism…as it is in our current political world view. Malthus will out eventually, if “growth” is unchecked. Just because Malthus’ projections didn’t happen quite on schedule doesn’t mean that it won’t…sooner than later. Moore’s Law…well, it doesn’t inflate world population wealth as fast as computer speed and power, does it? We can see a wold of hurt faster than computing power can advance, folks. Like it or not…

    There is nothing inherently wrong with an evolving view of a steady state economic situation. OK…it might just involve wealth redistribution. A bit more than we currently have…

    So? The opposite…wealth concentration at the highest doesn’t seem to have worked…ever…in the history of mankind. And now…with this very tool…the Internet… Well, how are you going to keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Paree? Sorry, folks, but the Afghan villagers can see how life is in Dallas…or Hollywood. They may want it. They may be repulsed by it. But they’ll never forget it ’til blown away by some wet behing the ears kid in Iowas with his finger on the trigger of a video game called “Drone”.

  38. JTMcPhee says:

    Seems to me “economics” is way too greasy a notion to try to apply to going-on-7-billion humans ‘interacting.’ As long as the physics and emotics of the ol’ limbic system are what they are, as long as you have Carnegies and Fords and Gates’s and Blankfeins and who’s that Russian “oligarch,” they actually call them that over there I hear, the one found “drowned in his bathnaturalcuases,” and the guys who CEO Northrop-Grumman and Lockheed-“We Never Forget Who We’re Working For, You Dumb Fucks”-Martin, and Sam Walton and his progeny and even the avuncular Warren Buffett, who my neighbor here says is NOT universally loved or respected in his home town, you just have a complex system with local behaviors with local and/or far-reaching effects that will impoverish both the less “skilled” at extraction and exaction, and augment the positive-feedback loops that are what you might call “humans shitting in their own burrow.”

    The notion of “steady state” is attractive. I don’t have more than a window-shopper’s acquaintance with the kinds of wordys that Papa Olla has mastered in his personal quest for identity. But just sort of by observation, drawing from perceptions and stuff I learned in K-through-12 and Joseph Heller and Frank Herbert and sources like that, the species’ ability to procreate, form tribes, consume and all that far outstripped whatever negative-feedback control rods were in the original specs. Locally, people can sort of do OK depending on the quantum of homeostasis and social pathology in the mix of individuals. http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-vigilantelist5.html Look at “Silicon Valley” in all its little details for clues about what might be… and glaring examples of what’s short-term “success” and long-term predatory failure.

    “Steady state” is an aspiration, that has to be moderated and regulated into existence. I incline more to my notion of “slack,” what an engineer might call “play:” over the years I have rebuilt engines and transmissions, and there are specs for minimum axial and radial “play” and “clearance” and how gear teeth interact. Too tight a fit, there’s friction and wear and much sooner destruction of the assembly. Too loose, you get wobble and vibration and wear that comes from parts being too “freeeee” and so battering and wearing down the softer parts they run on. Use the wrong lube (“money,” particularly “notional value dollars?”), let water or grit into the system (corruption?) and pretty soon all you got is a bunch of blackened shattered metal that gets pitched into that corner of the property that eventually the Code Enforcers make you “clean up” by “properly disposing of (all that.)”

    Some things can be fixed, there are skilled mechanics who can keep the machinery running, install replacements for worn bits, all that. But they work by a combination of intuition and “the shop manual,” which in turn often was written by people inspired by the notion of building something that not only functions, it LASTS. Like the 35-year-old Perkins 4-banger diesel that powers my boat. With a little care, filters, clean the injectors every so often, change the oil (yes, externalities), change out hoses and pump impellers and coolant, and she still starts first kick.

    But neither she, nor I, will last forever. Blankfein and DImon and Petraeus and even Obama are grit. They make “slack” in quantities that the machinery cannot tolerate, on the way to making more grit for their discards pile. http://www.desorg.org/

  39. len says:

    We don’t have a means to protect value. As long as the Fed can inflate currrency and that currency has no constant value, that is, it is declared not defined, and then people of influence by dint of educational and social background can immediately own that inflated value and use it to take control of tangible assets, then we who do not have that power are immediately and permanently fucked. It is that simple.

    So car bombs are ignited in front of mosques and airliners are flown into buildings. Rogue capitalism is creating its mirror other. They may wear the trappings of religion and that becomes the fall guy but strip the makeup away and as I said, it is the mean seizing the power and using it to create of hire more bullies to make it safer to do more of that.

    See the abandoned temples. See the kings buried in them with the wealth of nations.

    A steady state economy requires a known and finite value system without artificial means to constrain the sinks (banking fraud) or to use leverage to seize assets.

    What is enough and what is not worth doing? These questions imply that you will not use leverage to destroy competitors. Try to wrap your head around Microsoft insisting on the survival of Google if Google insists on paying the Youtube publishers a fair rate. Push the rope. Tightening it strangles the market.

    Those people putting up billboards in New York City saying “Piracy is progress.” are not the heroes of innovation; they are the enemies of civilization itself. Identify them, name them in public, and point out their home email addresses. Find the builders and users of the DNoS Bots and put them in jail.

    Write legislation that sets the minimum values and maximum penalties without loopholes.

    Remove the oil subsidies once and for all. If they respond with more manipulation of energy costs, hang them in the public square by nationalizing.

  40. Fentex says:

    “Steady state” is an aspiration

    In a comment that begins by noting that billions of people compete and will never be a homogenous whole this statement aspires to change that.

    You can’t.

    Stead State Economics fails for the same reasons Communism fails. People.

    Especially the people charged with enforcing the rules.

    We need all of cooperation, discipline and liberty which all will always be in tension with each other.

    Imagining utopia is to pretend to change people. And right there, right at the beginning, you want to force your will on others.

  41. JTMcPhee says:

    I hope you aren’t addressing me with the bit about forcing my will on others. As an aging “economic failure” and dedicated Futiltarian, I am the last person to have any interest in or incentive to try to force my will on others. Papola would have us living in that “Libertarian paradise” the actual nature of which I have linked to numerous times (http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/11/journey-into-a-libertarian-future-part-i-%E2%80%93the-vision.html) for all his noise about how “free” his “aspirational world” would be under those “government-like organizations.”

    Your government, and our government, that congeries business interests, reactionaries and revanchists and a lot of people who are either trying real hard against a flood of vituperation to Do The Right Thing from keeping toxins and pathogens out of our food and medicines to, well, you pick the stuff that “government” actually ought to do, plain people who are fighting against a bunch of “managers” who have risen in the civil “service” since Reagan. Those “managers,” and the shits who run the Pentagram and over to Langley and down in Foggy Bottom and in the Treasury and yes, the West Wing and C and K Streets, etc., ARE “forcing their will on others.” Because their “aspirations” are all about SELF, and their “cooperation” is all about combining to steal from the rest of us, and to use “the law” that we all have to believe in to beat us to death.

    My little point above is only that corruption is inevitable, the “cheerful corruption” of the old Royal Navy docks for example, the little lies on tax returns and the people who add rooms to their houses without building permits, the little mordidas, etc. There’s a quantum and a form that’s tolerable, the “slack,” but when it goes beyond that amount, there’s some kind of reaction that sets in. Like in the Mexican community ravaged by drug dealers “forcing their will” to the point of horrible mass murders on others, banding together into a vigilante group and kicking the drug dealers out. Brave people. Who in the nature of things will have a certain number of corruptniks amongst their number, who will form a little power group and start the cycle of “legitimate” violence all over.

    I think the “aspiration” of Jesusanity (“Christianity” to me is an invention of a sharpie named Paul, swollen and battered out of all recognition by “The Church” and its many hypocrisies and hypocritical “reformed” offshoots) was to universalize the Golden Rule, in its most eleemosynary understanding. A notion of right conduct that is at the nominal spiritual center of every faith I am aware of. And it would, maybe you would agree, be a Good Thing if “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” was the operative aspirational inclination of every one of those 7 billions. Not gonna happen, not even close, as the few of us who have learned to enslave the rest of us to “Consumption” and “Growth” and now “Forever War” have pretty much ensured. By the elevation of wants over needs, the murder of meaningfulness in life, the “liberation” of the limbic system’s cruelest, worst and darkest parts.

    This is all just words, of course — humans are picking over and living on the garbage dumps of Cairo and Cadiz and Mexico City and even a few US towns and cities. The US MIC has divided the planet up into “areas of operation” called really cool stuff like “USAFRICOM” and “USEUCOM” and the others on this map, http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2009/0109_unifiedcommand/, a claim of OWNERSHIP of the whole fucking planet, “our” will to be enforced by Hellfire from drones and “special ops.’ And a gazillion other examples of Stupid and Mean and Greedy and Destructive.

    Let us not drift off into those vain definitional jousts about hypostatizations of “failed economic systems.” Communism and capitalism and socialism are just pasteboard figures that are used to hide the realities of the richness and poverty of all those femtillions of interactions that make up the human planetary presence — what they actually comprise. They are rallying points for people who want to “impose their wills,” either in the nominal name of the named “entity,” or by raising fear of the Evil of the Other.

    I have this sick hope that maybe by some magic, the Golden Rule will become the “rule” that actually gets “enforced,” best by willing and wise compliance by people who actually become educated enough and altruistic enough to see that actually, it’s in their own best interest and in the interest of people they should care about (their offspring and other family members?) to expect others to “comply” and reinforce “compliance” by honesty and kindness and generosity on their own parts.

    “We”, the species, need a lot more nouns than cooperation, discipline and liberty, if we are going to survive. But as long as self-pleasing is so well rewarded and so immune to the consequences of the getting of it, this species has not got a snowball’s chance in the overwarmed Hell that it looks like the path WE HAVE BEEN FORCED BY THE FEW OF US to head on down is going to make of this world. Time to re-read “Catch-22,” and chase it with “On The Beach…”

  42. Fentex says:

    It was a generic ‘you’, as in people who wish to establish utopia – which I imply a Steady State of Economics is – must first change peoples behaviour, and that will be an imposition fatally undermining a hope of establishing a cooperative result.

  43. JTMcPhee says:

    Got it. But what of the pressing point that people of a certain persuasion (we reify it as “capitalism”) are perforce destroying cooperation, suborning “liberty,” and imposing the kind of “discipline” made artistic in the movies of Leni Riefensthal, consciously, actively, and with what to the most of us is really bad intent? If we were not so subject to being suckered into “growth” and “consumption” which seems to offer a little “pleasure” and “luxury,” as bait to suck us into the trap of DEBT? I would rather have to worry about people who might go too far in wanting to “establish utopia,” presuming that is the state of cooperation, discipline and liberty-in-tension that you have in mind, apparently, as a goal?

    SOMEbody is telling the rest of us how we are to behave, and enforcing and re-enforcing that set of behaviors that’s got us crapping in our own nests to the point that maybe we have already pulled the trigger on the “externalities” pistol we’ve pointed at our own idiot heads, the hammer’s dropped, the primer’s fired, the powder has burned, the bullet’s all the way down the barrel, and all that’s left, as the femtoseconds tick away, is the question of whether it will blow out the other side of our skull or just ricochet around inside the noggin, destroying those God-crafted neurons and ripping the blood vessels to shreds. I am a lot more afraid of the Koch brothers than I am of say Noam Chomsky… or even Marx, or Adam Smith, both of whom have been so freely misinterpreted…

    THAT is “liberty?”

    I’m holding my breath…

  44. JTMcPhee says:

    Oh, and for breakfast reading for anyone who’s interested in INNOVATIO, there’s this little item courtesy of Yves Smith:


    Speaking of reasons to be fearful about people trashing “cooperation, discipline and liberty,” in the name of crafting THEIR version of “utopia” complete with billion-dollar megayachts (Kim Dotcom is a piker in that competition) and private islands and private armies and all that, and all the sexy chicks or little boys or Fabios that their predilections could possibly desire…

  45. Fentex says:

    what of the pressing point that people of a certain persuasion (we reify it as “capitalism”) are perforce destroying cooperation, suborning “liberty,” and imposing the kind of “discipline” made artistic in the movies of Leni Riefensthal, consciously, actively, and with what to the most of us is really bad intent?

    You describe fascists. Fascism is a constant threat to us all and every organization of government must confront fascists efforts to undermine it.

    I often dispair at the dismissive attitude people have when I describe fascists at work as if it can only mean the irrefutable violent crimes of WW2 and not a constant effort to conscript people as tools of the privileged.

    People need to say ‘no’ to power and if not listened to, well, pressure builds.

  46. Hugo St. Victor says:

    JTM, you know I’m an old chaplain, right? Specifically of the Pauline “stripe”? Yet your wisecracks about the Apostle and the Church make sense. No offense taken. The red letters spell that the Father can take it; the Son, as proved, can take it; but what the Maker can’t or won’t tolerate is betrayal of what we have left for now, the Spirit we express in dealings with one another. Nothing to do with ChristenDumb. So, no hard feelings. Apples&thistles. Paul’s ministry ended, as did with him the Acts of the Apostles, at a home church, in Rome. The Underground.

  47. len says:

    Then Hugo, to celebrate the season, this evening I’ll put a video of an old Irish hymm up for you. Arranged in the traditional style….

    Happy Easter.

  48. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Thanks, man. Today’s the day we live without God, and I feel truly bereft. Probably you reckon I’m kidding. No. Not at all.

  49. len says:

    Video should be there in about an hour. Without God? Hmm. Prescient. We are capable of believing we can wall our souls away.

  50. JTMcPhee says:

    Maybe the “day without God” day is the day in biblical mythology when Jesus lay a-mouldrin’ in the Tomb, before the Resurrection we all want to believe happened sometime around the vernal equinox, since pagan observation over a whole lot longer than Christians have been in business leads one to believe that miracles can in fact happen, and if you get your living by eating the fruits and roots and seeds of the mature plants that spring up from those hopeful little green and sickly shoots, out of the dirt your forefathers were and you will be buried in, all from soils that partake of the stardust from main-and-off-sequence novas and supernovas, it’s kind of irreverent NOT to believe in miracles?

    “Be Thou my vision…” But as CS Lewis offered as what seems to me to be a wiser, humbler form of obeisance and prayer, “Let my prayer not be to what I think You are, but to what You know Yourself to Be…”

  51. len says:

    @jtmc: If it lifts them up, compels them to turn a kindlier eye, commit a more compassionate act for those who need it, I’m happy to sing it. Music doesn’t bring me wealth. It lets me love.

    The fact checkers miss the point of faith. In the video, a prisoner has a vision of freedom, of those who care for his family, of leaving the bars behind and walking home. But he is still imprisoned.

    Three things that scare the wealthy elites: your votes, your guns and the possibility however remote that the christians, jews and muslims might start practicing what they say they believe, and that the values of humility and compassion might crowd out their next scheduled fear fest with love.

  52. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Good God, James Brown. From now on I’ll call it the day poets live without poetry. The hypocrisies pile like bridge trestles.

    Anyway our Host smells possible detente vis-a-vis America’s hateful lovers and loving haters. If anyone here would not like either the Democratic or the Republican party to modernize its name more accurately, let her please now raise her hand. With the shit we’ve all been through, for more than ten years, I actually have to say to the table that we’re ludicrously inter-accusatory.

    You guys have to ask who outside this inquiry deals in higher purpose with persons of the other party, and who never would dare do such a thing, and who just doesn’t care any longer.

    Doesn’t hurt to talk, usually.

  53. JTMcPhee says:

    @Hugo St. Victor
    Hugo, it’s just the endless end-of-empire stuff, humans don’t seem capable of doing anything else. Having built a structure on consuming the resources it “owns’ by “right of occupation,” the ores, oil, soil and water of the Continental US or the Italilan Peninsula, etc., established a growing flux of *money* and a set of kleptocrats smart enough to take full advantage of the flux and extend the imperial reach where possible for new “resources,” the Few can continue selling the myths of the Republic for a while, to sucker the cannon fodder and field hands into (increasingly grudgingly) performance of their G_D-mandated Duties to the Elect, and with the need for ever more Serious Scapegoats and “external enemies.” Secure in the knowledge that They, The Few, Even TV Preachers Who Fuck Little Boys And Girls For Secret Sacred Fun, Will Get Theirs, whatever else, and like the fucking Nazis that chose comfortable middle and old age in South America, funded by the gold they stole from the teeth of Lesser Breed corpses in Europe and all the art treasures that would fit in a U-boat, rather than assimilation into the Secret US Badguys Business, they will die comfortable and cossetted by the best of everything that money and concentrated evil can attract. Any reason “Dallas” and “Days of our Lives” and horror movies are so very popular? And of course “Jerr-EE! Jerr-EE! Jerr-EE!”

    I bet you are only too well aware of How It Works, ineffably and inevitably. Humans bear only a very few Charmed Children who are what we grudgingly call “wise” enough and kindly enough to want to, and know how to, encourage the meta-stability of “political economies” leading to “enough for everyone,” eschewing the seductions of consumption and the blandishments of greed, seeing through the bullshit that is “there have to be iNcentives for people to innovate and improve and GROW and come up with serial iConsumed devices in lieu of enough cereal for every kid to have a good breakfast without fear of starvation, exploitation, or a Hellfire our guys in the latest iteration of camo field gear blowing in the front door and “clearing the room.” The rest of us are stem cells, and the tissues that end up, by force of stereoisometric seduction or compulsion, and thus get to order our development intuo “mature somatic cells,” sure look an awful lot like “carcinoma.”

    Talk? “act like grownups?” Not when there’s a chance of personal and tribal Victory! and what we so ambiguously and incalculably call “profit!” “We” could do better, a whole lot better by the nominal measures of Goodness. But We won’t. At the Big Scale, at least.

    Onward! Progress! Success! “I am Ozymandias!”

  54. Hugo St. Victor says:

    You’re right that we no longer settle down and talk, on the “big scale”. Not much any longer. Seems even ominous now. Bilderburger or Rosicrucians or No Girlz AlLowd treehouses, or some bestselling Dan Brown woo-woo. I just think this current one is a weak crop of U.S. politicians. What strikes me is their lack of humor. In any nation the political crop bumper or bust, over time.

    Is politics determined by Physical Geography, the Earth’s shapings of humans and vice versa? Is it defined by avarice, violence and lust for “resources” from Art to zinc? Of course. Both. However, politics is also a function of the individual character of each political player. The impinging factors are as interior as external. The most obvious recent example of this, in our country, is the odd friendship of President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill, two old bucks mutually tired of sparring. Tip’s blunt biography gives a really memorable account of how that happened: they decided to go with what each liked about the other, and each found that there was stuff to like.

    But that story, of how the two came to enjoy each other’s company and grand practical jokes, took place when both men shared genuinely felt enemies they agreed upon, the Soviets abroad and economic struggle at home. Nowadays we have no common hymnal shared by the parties. Most days it seems that the whole fight is over the song sheet. It’s so petty. Why, for example, was Simpson/Bowles such the nonstarter as a launch for creative negotiations?

    I tend to think that these leaders are just a bunch of Lilleputians. That that’s all it is. Unfortunately, China and North Korea, Russia and Syria, Iran and Pakistan and everybody else from Matamoros to Micronesia seems to have drawn the same conclusion.

  55. Hugo St. Victor says:

    JTM, in social theory across a broad front it’s felt increasingly that “small group relations” are most promising. Some theorists in my own field of Anthro History conclude that small-group dynamics always have made the happening scene. (Shakespeare obviously thought that such relations determined the fate of nations. Current feminist theory and also high-hat exegesis simililarly point in this direction, once you skim the fat). I’m biased in favor, however, as I specialize in a somewhat intimate phenomenon, the history of Western childrearing–so feel free to discard me with the salt . . … .

Leave a Reply