Archive for the 'Greedy Bastards' Category

Jun 27 2016

New Words for the dictionary

Watching markets tank again, makes me want to keep beating the Brexit horse. Once again, thank you voters of the UK for giving me an opportunity to keep working well into my 60's. That night job as an Uber driver in a couple of years will be a hell of lot of fun.

Meanwhile, as the United Kingdom's corpse is being embalmed, a new word has joined the English language:

 

Meanwhile down under, there is a revision being considered to the Australian flag:

 

In more good news, it appears one's Brexit vote comes with a money back guarantee.

 

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in words that were eerily reminiscent of Hank Paulson's in 2008, reassured British citizens that the "fundamentals of the economy are sound".

Pro-tip. It didn't work for Paulson back then either.

Meanwhile, there are those who cling to the rather vain hope that this nightmare can all be undone:

 

While other people are realizing just how bad things are:

 

David Cameron, realizing his days as a government employee are limited, begins working on his resume:

Seriously though, this referendum proves H.L. Menken's old quote and one I have used before, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Of course, we Americans should not get complacent. Especially the peculiar species of American voter that spouts the same old tired lines about " sticking it to the elites", "throwing of totalitarianism" and "sticking it to unelected policy makers"   Here is a serious point, if you, as an American, support Brexit-besides being wrong you may be just one of these people:

 

 

That's my best summation of the why, of American conservatives who support either / or Trump or Brexit.

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And this is only Monday. Tip your waitress well, I may be bashing this insanity all week.

 

 

6 responses so far

Jun 23 2016

What was it all for?

June 23rd this year is a big day.

Its a big day because the United Kingdom is about to potentially make a really stupid decision and leave the EU. ( A really stupid decision).

It's also a day that I made a really stupid personal decision and it set the course of the rest of my life, and not necessarily for the better. Six weeks after graduation, I foolishly got married. Now its 37 years later and the damage that one decision caused still lingers.

I remember senior year, imagining what the future was going to be like. I had envisioned getting married and having children, but it certainly was with a very different idea of what that was going to be like.

I of course also envisioned going into the Navy, but the idea of being an NFO in a twin engine propeller aircraft was not in that dream. ( Fortunately, that decision was not one I have to take responsibility for-and all things considered, worked out all right).

When I imagined what the country and the world was going to be like, well my vision of the future was nothing like the way the future actually turned out.  Certainly I never expected the country to fall into the political morass the first 16 years of the 21st century have proven to be.

Being the Star Trek fan that I am, I expected the world to improve and not just in technology. I believed that the country would continue to be true to a baseline set of principles and that the American Dream would come true for not just me, but most of my fellow citizens too. I knew that economics would go up and down, but I always expected, in the long haul that things would get better. Technology was going to improve our lives-and we would all be better for it.

Boy, that train sure went off the tracks, didn't it?

One of the benefits of living 14 of the last 17 years overseas, is that it gives you a chance to see how other countries do mundane things like infrastructure, and daily life in general. As a typical xenophobic American, I always had assumed that America would always do things better. 

14 years overseas experience have disabused me of that notion. If anything the US is barely treading water, if not being slowly pulled down beneath the surface of the water.

If you are an optimist deep down like me, to come to that realization that country is not advancing, but failing, is truly a sad one.

Because what kind of world have we left for our children? Clearly not a very good one-even if they will be able to document the journey across the river Styx with their cell phones and Go-Pro cameras.

Now some people  want to put the blame for the decline on just one generation, the baby boomers. Of which I am proudly a part. I reject that notion-because the evidence clearly shows it is cross generational. Boomers to Millennial,we all bear a piece of the blame for not creating the world that we could have. And should have.

And so the end result is that we have not left a better world for our children at all. And we have no one to blame for that but ourselves. We failed to keep our eyes fixed on progress, after a certain subset of Americans decided it was more satisfying and more profitable in the short term to destroy companies and people, rather than work together for a better long term view. I believe that came about due to the acceptance of a vision of the future that should never have been acceptable, no matter what generation you were a part of.

Little decisions, that seem inconsequential at the time, rise up and become your fate. That happens to individuals and to nations.

And for what? What has 37 years service to a nation been for? It can't have been for this. Or this.

Alternative histories talk about a "point of departure", the point where the timeline changed. Certainly this happens in people personal lives and it happens in the lives of nations too.

But what was it all for? It can't have been for the rotten place the United States is in today. It has to have been for something more?

It should have been for something more.

 

No responses yet

Apr 28 2016

Running with the devil…….

If you have been following my sparse postings lately ( and judging by the hit counter, you haven't) you will know that I am no fan of the junior Senator from the less than great state of Texas, Ted Cruz. In my lifetime, I have seldom seem an individual more vile, self serving, selfish bastard in American politics-and that is saying a lot. Especially when consider the long history of vile, self serving bastards we have had in American politics over the last 240 years.

Ted Cruz

myopic self-righteous, power hungry asshole who won't listen to anyone or change his views no matter the circumstances.

That guy you're dating is a total Ted Cruz. Run for the hills before he defunds your abortion savings account.

by wonkette2016 October 01, 2013

If a bus ran him over on the road, I would really have to think hard about running over to help him, or giving the bus driver a 100 dollars for performing a public service. Even the father of the underworld is wondering about this guy:

25hhhg

My Canadian Counterpart, whose writing I dearly miss ( and I wish was commenting on this election) had him sized up pretty well back in 2013:

I've never met Ted Cruz, so I can't say as an absolute certainty that he's a psychopathic retard. But because he's a Republican and a Tea Partier, he can't honestly object to either characterization, since both are such a central part of his political base. 

Republicans and Teapers get awfully pissy when I say things like that, but I'm hardly the one that's been in the trenches finding new and ever more self-defeating ways to turn superstition and stupidity into conservative virtues. 

Even before the advent of the Tea Party, supposedly conservative politicians have equated self-promoting ignorance as folksiness, which explains the non-sexual appeal of Sarah Palin perfectly. Christ, when I try to explain to reasonable, intelligent people why I hold conservative positions, I have to bend over backwards to demonstrate that I'm not a fucking yahoo. And that's exhausting because people like Ted Cruz have made it their life's mission to make it exhausting. ………….

But people with normal cognitive functions – including most rational Republicans – have come to loathe Cruz with the power of a thousand suns.

I don't want to see Cruz turned into Robert Taft, the serious conservative that wasn't given a chance. He needs to be Alf Landon, the guy who got beaten within an inch of his fucking life.

 

 

And those are just the printable sentiments I have for him. Under the influence of Scotch I have a whole different view point.

So imagine my surprise when I read that even people who are supposed to be on his side, truly hate the guy. And he really may be spending his summers in the 7th circle of hell:

Much of the discussion – and laughs – focused on Boehner’s views on the current presidential candidates. Segueing into the topic, Kennedy asked Boehner to be frank given that the event was not being broadcasted, and the former Speaker responded in kind. When specifically asked his opinions on Ted Cruz, Boehner made a face, drawing laughter from the crowd.

“Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

On which, Mr Boehner and I are in complete agreement. Wow. Vindication from an very unlikely source.

So given that Satan's image picked a running mate, just the day after he was mathematically eliminated from having a realistic shot at enough delegates to win the nomination, what does Mr. Boehner's pronouncement make Carly Fiorina?

'

No responses yet

Apr 13 2016

New Job Opportunity

What could possibly go wrong with this?

The story of how Prince secretly plotted to transform the two aircraft for his arsenal of mercenary services is based on interviews with nearly a dozen people who have worked with Prince over the years, including current and former business partners, as well as internal documents, memos, and emails. Over a two-year period, Prince exploited front companies and cutouts, hidden corporate ownership, a meeting with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout’s weapons supplier, and at least one civil war in an effort to manufacture and ultimately sell his customized armed counterinsurgency aircraft. If he succeeded, Prince would possess two prototypes that would lay the foundation for a low-cost, high-powered air force capable of generating healthy profits while fulfilling his dream of privatized warfare.

I cans see the job advertisements now:

International firm seeks experienced pilots. Must have 1200 hours flight time, half of that at night and be fully instrument rated. Prior military experience a must. May involve some personal risk. Salary? HUGE. Must be available immediately and look the other way when shady financial and maintenance practices encountered.

And of course you must be able to dodge the inevitable question from your friends and steady girlfriend (s): Why isn't this fucking guy in jail?

I mean really. What the hell does it say when the CEO of the firm gets voted out by his own board and has shady financial dealings with the Chinese?  Isn't that the same as playing for the bad guys?

That source, who has extensive knowledge of Prince’s activities and travel schedule, said that Prince was operating a “secret skunkworks program” while parading around war and crisis zones as FSG’s founder and chairman. “Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary,” said the source. “He’s off the rails exposing many U.S. citizens to criminal liabilities. Erik hides in the shadows … and uses [FSG] for legitimacy.”

Last October, FSG’s corporate leadership grew so concerned about Prince’s efforts to sell paramilitary programs and services that the board passed a series of resolutions stripping Prince of most of his responsibilities as chairman.

FSG also terminated the contracts of two of Prince’s closest associates within the company after management became suspicious that they were assisting Prince in his unapproved dealings, according to two people with knowledge of FSG’s inner workings. Smith declined to comment on internal FSG personnel matters.

In recent months, FSG employees became alarmed when they began to hear reports from sources within the U.S. government that their chairman’s communications and foreign travel were being monitored by U.S. intelligence. According to three people who have worked with Prince, his colleagues were warned not to get involved with his business deals or discuss sensitive issues with him. “I would assume that just about every intelligence agency in the world has him lit up on their screen,” said one of the people advised to avoid Prince.

And then , of course, there is this little matter to deal with.

race2

3 responses so far

Mar 15 2016

The Big Short

If you have not seen The Big Short, you really should. I am a big fan of Michael Lewis' books and this was as good a book as any he has ever written.

For those who don't know, the Big Short is about a group of folks who independently realized in 2005 that the real estate market was headed for big trouble. As a result they decided to short real estate bonds and securities, in a big way. They turned smaller amount of money ( in one case  $120,000 into $449 million).

This type of finance is rather complicated, so one of the devices they use is to "pause" the movie for explanations like this one:

 

 

And this one:

 

Fortunately the cameraman never panned down on her shirt or I would never have understood the explanation. 

If you have not seen the movie go see it-It's a great way to understand how the system is rigged.

Finally, here is a good explanation of how mortgage bonds worked:

 

 

Mark Baum: The banks have given us 25% interest rates on credit cards. They have screwed us on student loans that we can never get out from under. Then this guy walks into my office and says those same banks got greedy, they lost track of the market, and I can profit off of their stupidity? Fuck, yeah, I want him to be right!

 

2 responses so far

Mar 13 2016

A convenient dodge

The forces of He, Trump conspired to tear apart a piece of Chicago, last night. Never mind that Trump has spent months and months stoking up his crazed supporters to be just this violent-somehow in the minds of many Americans it is the media's fault. Which is how we get such brilliant tidbits of local wisdom like this:

yeah, it's Chicago. Thug City

Not that the Democrats would instigate anything. Chicago politics. A Rahm & BHO special.

If the MSM can inflame it they will.

The media gave rise to Donald Trump simply because he's interesting. The news media have been forced into a 24 hour news cycle that needs to entertain as much or more than provide information. It’s all about ratings and advertising… Nothing better than a cat fight no??

 

It's an interesting point of view and I am quite sure the writers of those phrases have gotten a lot of mileage out of trite little sentences like those. At a minimum, it makes them feel better and it gives them someone to blame. There is just one major problem.

That point of view is 100 percent wrong.

It's wrong for a bunch of reasons and when one gives voice to it, they are showing a real lack of understanding of how news works in the 21st Century. It also shows a complete disregard for the history of journalism and how we got here to where we are today. As I said, its really a convenient dodge to avoid having to admit the truth. Namely, that it was people just like themselves that gave rise to Trump and the sooner they accept responsibility for that societal failure, the better off the rest of us will be. To borrow a phrase from 2012-you built this.

There is no Main Stream Media. Let me repeat that for the learning impaired, THERE IS NO MAIN STREAM MEDIA and there has not been for about 20 years. The term main stream media is just plain flawed. Lets replace it with a more accurate terms. 1) News outlets, 2) crossover outlets and 3) opinion outlets.  The marketplace of news expanded and enabled by the internet, is an immensely diverse place.  Its more like a giant COSTCO. You can get anything in this market. Its up to you the shopper to make intelligent choices. Or not so intelligent choices. Each news product being sold or posted has its strengths and its weaknesses.  Some outlets have quality. Many do not.

Since the dawn of the television age there have been three developments that have forever destroyed the idea of a monolithic news media, liberally biased. The first major development was the tearing down of the "firewall" that existed between News directorates and the corporate end of the broadcasting business. Now in the 50's and 60's there were a limited number of channels and there was a clear division between news and entertainment. The three broadcast networks did news because they understood that as custodians of publicly granted airwaves they owed a public service. Also too-there was still a great number of news reporters who had cut their teeth in print and radio and were committed to a certain set of journalistic standards. Even then there were outliers such as Hearst Papers, but they were few and far between and public opinion combined with a lawsuit or two could usually put them in their place. The key element of journalism, on the whole,  in the period from the 50's to the end of the 70's was the recognition of the idea that producing quality reporting was end to itself-regardless of cost. The quality of the story was what mattered, not the company bottom line or the audience level which, it was assumed would come if you produced a quality product.

This viewpoint began dying in the late 70's and the sickness spread in the 80's due to a number of reasons. One was the deregulation fever that swept the country under Reagan. The number of broadcast outlets increased as cable came online. A key development was the beginning of 24 hour cable news, which meant that speed to the screen became one of the key benchmarks by which is news outlet was judged. It had been that way earlier in TV, however technology, prior to the 80's had kind of acted as an "editor" if you will. The time lag also allowed real editors to correct misinformation and get copy right. All that went out the window in the age of CNN.

The final nail in the journalistic coffin was the advent of the internet, smartphones and the world wide web.  The latter gave rise to blogs and to social media. Suddenly, anyone could be a reporter or an opinion maker. Special training in the skills of writing and editing were no longer required.Coupled with that development was the creation of a news network that was "news" in name only. Its real mission, as Jon Stewart later pointed out to his audience and anyone else who would listen,  was to be a 24 hour a day propaganda delivery system. Thus the "crossover" outlet was created. A network whose business model was to lure advertisers, and to espouse a particular point of view. After a shaky start in 1996, the network took off in the administration of George Bush and pretty much left the "news" part of the business behind.  Because Fox was successful from a money standpoint, other networks like MSNBC followed their business model.

One other point about technology. Smartphones and social media meant that people took in their news in smaller and smaller chunks. The goal for many outlets was click bait.  Reading for content became to many Americans, something they no longer had time for-or they were no longer smart enough to do. Another ugly development in the early 2000's was the advent of news fabricators like Andrew Breitbart. Now it was acceptable to make up the news if it did not meet the criteria of what one wished to report. 

By the end of 2010 the whole mess had become a sad shadow of the journalistic world Edward R. Murrow had created.

So what does all of this have to do with the advent of Trump?

I'm glad you asked. While it is true that the quality of journalism has declined due to technology and the rise of a certain category of fact free blogs, mostly on the conservative side-but also on the left, and it has created a less discerning electorate; it would be wrong to cite that as a reason for Trump's rise to demagogic heights. The role of certain media outlets is merely a symptom of a much bigger disease.

First of all, the "blame it on the media" crowd ignores the reality of the Trump phenomenon. Like it or not-the fact that Trump has been able to make the hideous statements that he has made-and pay no political price for it at the ballot box- is news. And this turn of events has long term implications for the American political system. The news outlets have an obligation to report it. Some outlets do it well and a lot of others do it poorly. Some fan like Fox  the flames.

But the news media is not the ones making Trump successful. They don't have that power. Only voters do and when they vote for Trump they are squandering that power in a manner the Republican party has been fostering for a very long time. A very specific subset of the American people created Trump and they have no one to blame but themselves. They laid the foundations of Trump's no nothing beliefs back during the Bush administration with the "dissent is treason" lines regarding opposition to the Iraq war. They amplified in 2008 when many of them behaved like thugs at Sarah Palin's rallies and not one person in a leadership position stood up to brand it as the criminality it was.

From that point in time, it just went careening over a cliff. As John Cole pointed out in a rebuke to a National Review  worthless piece of shit columnist Charles Cooke:

Either they are too stupid to recognize it, or they don’t want to take the blame, or some combination of both, but they built Trump. It was decades of these stupid mother fuckers shouting about Obama being a secret Muslim or Hillary murdered Vince Foster and Dan Burton shooting a fucking watermelon to prove it to another melon based theory about Mexicans having calves the size of cantaloupes and women wanting to abort babies for shits and giggles and sending rock salt to Olympia Snowe and claiming there is no global climate change because LOOK RIGHT FUCKING HERE I HAVE A SNOWBALL IN FEBRUARY or convincing America that welfare and food stamps only go to young bucks buying t-bone steaks or welfare queens with big screen tv’s or that public transportation is totalitarianism or that the main cost cutting technique of health care reform will be Death Panels or that prison makes you gay or that man and dinosaurs lived together in harmony or that women can magically abort pregnancies created by rape or that scientists are genetically creating human/mice superbrains or that agribusiness is using aborted fetuses in soda or that if gay people marry pretty soon people will be marrying dogs or that Presidents Lincoln and Washington used electronic surveillance and actually writing, promoting, and believing a fucking book that said liberalism is fascism and running this person as a Vice Presidential candidate to claiming with no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism.

My bad. That last one is a Democrat. Fuck you, Robert Kennedy, you fucking stain on our party and your family name.

But that list is real. I didn’t make any of it up. And that’s just a list of things they BELIEVE IN, and not a comprehensive list of the stupid shit they’ve actually done or the vile things they have said. That’s just too depressing to actually tabulate.

 

That, despite its profanity ( which I actually think helps make the point), is a pretty good summary of the descent of the modern GOP into madness over the last 20 years. And again, these points would never have gotten as much traction as they did, had there not been fertile ground to plant the seed in. The seeds of anti-intellectualism found purchase because a great many people stopped learning.

I am always amazed, that for people who claim to love the free market so much, conservatives never understand this particular reality. If the stupidities put forth by outlets like Fox News, the reprehensible dregs of the Liars Club-assholes like the not so dearly departed Breitbart, John Hinderaker, William Jacobsonworthless whore Michelle Malkin and the rest were not well received by a large audience, they would stop publishing them. If one or two of them actually got nailed in a multi-million dollar lawsuit ( as the estate of Breitbart has) it might make them think twice. One has only to read the slime that passes for their comment sections to know that is not the case. The media, with the exception of Fox is biased towards sensationalism and scandal-but it is the consumer ( yes that is you) who makes that possible.  A large number of people have joined the anti-intellectual bandwagon that the GOP has used to propel itself to electoral victories in areas where stupid people tend to thrive.
 

Could the "media" be better as a whole? Sure it can-but it does not have to be now because it's doing perfectly fine in the garbage pit that is American electoral discourse. That doesn't mean there are not quality news outlets still out there-but one has to be diligent about finding them. And few Americans these days  seem to have the knowledge or abilities to do so.

What about MSNBC or Daily Kos? It happens on the left too!

When someone says that, I know they have no real curiosity whatsoever. The facts just don't support the statement. Only one party is jumping like lemmings over the side of a cliff:

Yes, both parties have become more polarized, but one more than the other. Republicans are more conservative than they have been in over 100 years, have fewer moderates than Democrats, and have changed more, political science research shows — and it’s only getting worse.

While 54 percent of Republicans told Pew last month that their party’s leaders in Washington should be more conservative, most Democrats — 57 percent — say their leaders should be more moderate. Just 35 percent of Democrats say the party should be more liberal.

“While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post,” Norm Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution wrote in a Washington Post Op-Ed on congressional dysfunction titled “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem.”

The current GOP is now well to the right of George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and even Richard Nixon.

 

Blaming the "media" is not just cop out by the folks who do it, it is a failure of people to accept responsibilities for their own actions. We The People-we created Trump by not participating in our democracy and by not being more selective in our choice of elected officials. In the aggregate, The United States of America has a selfish and ill-informed electorate that makes bad choices. And the results are on display this year for all the world to see.

The media didn't do it.

We did.

As the news industry evolves toward a new era, we could do far worse than looking to Ed Murrow again for guidance. Murrow believed that "to be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful." The hard fact is that truth doesn't come tailor-made for any one ideology or political party. More examples of independence and character might be what it takes for the news industry to again be trusted as the honest brokers of American politics.

 

Tomorrow: How to be a better news consumer like me. laugh

2 responses so far

Feb 24 2016

Pouring gasoline on an open fire

So, it would appear a portion of America really wants to prove to the rest of the world how ignorant they really are. Donald Trump won Nevada. Yet another shameful moment that is the United States election of 2016.

Now the media is all over Mr. Trump, calling him unstoppable. Which is interesting since he has not yet broken the threshold of 100 delegates. If I was not seeing the land of my birth self destruct before my eyes, I simply would not believe it.

And probably what is more shocking is that people are pretending to that they did not see this coming.

The truth is Trump has been a long time coming. The rise of the sense of victimhood among a certain percentage of Americans aided by a certain "news" network and a blogosphere that made it its life's mission to vilify both a democratically elected president and the processes that got him there, and here we are.

 

 

 

Now personally I don't think the Trump bandwagon is moving as fast as the Pundits say it is-especially since , in theory, Super Tuesday could change the balance. So too,  could a late entry in California by Rmoney, trying to force a brokered convention.

But if Trump does become the Republican nominee, the party will have no one to blame but itself. They created this monster, starting in 2008 when Caribou Barbie let her adoring fans get out of control, and no one in the Republican party had the decency to call them out as they thugs they were. Or again in 2009 when hordes of tea swilling freaks took over parks and other venues. Year after year it got worse. 

And now the party elders are trying to pretend they had nothing to do with creating the mess.

Well, over in Israel, they know better. Chemi Shalev wrote in Haaretz today:

In the seven and a half years since they lost the White House in 2008, Republican leaders have been wary of their voters’ rage and have thus tried to stoke it in their favor. With the assistance of the all-powerful broadcasters of right-wing media, they have savaged the evil administration, stirred resentment, incited against minorities and immigrants and portrayed an enfeebled America that has been brought to its knees. They poured more and more fuel on the fire, until Donald Trump came in to spread the flames, in their direction as well. Dumbstruck, they are now helpless as he burns down their house.
 

 

And now it would appear, like Doctor Frankenstein, they are upset that the monster escaped the laboratory:

But the voters’ wrath isn’t directed only at President Barack Obama and the Democrats, but at their own party leaders as well. They want fresh blood, someone new, an “outsider,” as the polls phrase it. Trump promises them to stick it to one and all, with no holds barred, and they, like the children of Hamelin, follow his tune in ever increasing numbers.


Trump handily broke the 35 percent ceiling that experts had imposed on him, based on his previous performances, and reached 45 percent instead. He beat Marco Rubio by a whopping twenty points, in the fourth consecutive state that the so-called savior Florida senator has now lost. Republican bigwigs who had been pressing Ohio Governor John Kasich to suspend his campaign in order to join forces with Rubio against Trump could have saved their breath: based on Tuesday’s results, it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference.


Cruz, who was once again losing his fight with Rubio over second place, was in an even greater bind in advance of next week’s Super Tuesday battle royale. Cruz, whose position as the GOP’s angry prophet has been usurped by Trump’s all-out tirades, had hoped to win at least a few of Southern Evangelical states that are participating in next week’s face-off. Now Trump’s momentum is threatening to erase Cruz’s lead in his home state of Texas as well. That’s a blow from which he would not recover.

I genuiely fear I watching the democracy of America self-destruct right in front of me.Six years ago I wrote a post based on an article in the New York Book Review that pointed out :

Americans have not caught up yet with the changes that are going on in the world. They are two slow witted, for the most part,  to recognize them. The 20% or so of us who do recognize it-are castigated for having the gall to point it out. As I have pointed out before-the Tea Bag revolution bears little resemblance to the American revolution and a lot of resemblance to the French one.

 

Welcome back Monsieur Robspierre, your table is waiting.

3 responses so far

Dec 28 2015

200 dollars well spent.

If there are only two news outlets you can subscribe to, I recommend the following: The Economist ($139.00/yr) and the products of STRATFOR ($99.00/yr). It is money well spent and when you think about it is just a years worth of Netflix and Hulu.

STRATFOR recently published its 10 year forecast for the decade through 2025. It makes for an interesting read. Its worth the time and effort to read and understand-and even better, right now you can get it for the low , low, price of ZERO dollars. That's right you can download it free.

STRATFOR makes not pretensions of trying to be 100% accurate. "We do not forecast everything. We focus on the major trends and tendencies in the world." Nonetheless they get it right more than they get it wrong:

This is the fifth Decade Forecast published by Stratfor. Every five years since 1996 (1996, 2000, 2005, 2010 and now, 2015) Stratfor has produced a rolling forecast. Overall, we are proud of our efforts. We predicted the inability of Europe to survive economic crises, China's decline and the course of the U.S.-jihadist war. We also made some errors. We did not anticipate 9/11, and more important, we did not anticipate the scope of the American response. But in 2005 we did forecast the difficulty the United States would face and the need for the United States to withdraw from its military engagements in the Islamic world. We predicted China's weakness too early, but we saw that weakness when others were seeing the emergence of an economy larger than that of the United States.

So now its the end of 2015. What do they have to say?

The European Union- STRATFOR projects a weaker Europe. 

The European Union will be unable to solve its fundamental problem, which is not the eurozone, but the free trade zone. Germany is the center of gravity of the European Union; it exports more than 50 percent of its GDP, and half of that goes to other EU countries. Germany has created a productive capability that vastly outstrips its ability to consume, even if the domestic economy were stimulated. It depends on these exports to maintain economic growth, full employment and social stability. The European Union's structures — including the pricing of the euro and many European regulations — are designed to facilitate this export dependency.

This has already fragmented Europe into at least two parts. Mediterranean Europe and countries such as Germany and Austria have completely different behavioral patterns and needs. No single policy can suit all of Europe. This has been the core problem from the beginning, but it has now reached an extreme point. What benefits one part of Europe harms another.

 

As a result they see a division at the Alps with Poland becoming stronger and the Europe south of the Alps becoming disenfranchised from the rest of Europe. Germany will suffer because of this-but Poland will gain. ( Which probably does not bother the Poles so much).

What will define Europe in the next decade is the re-emergence of the nation-state as the primary political vehicle of the continent. Indeed the number of nation-states will likely increase as various movements favoring secession, or the dissolution of states into constituent parts, increase their power. This will be particularly noticeable during the next few years, as economic and political pressures intensify amid Europe's crisis.

Russia- Putin may think he is strong now, but STRATFOR says it can't last. It is not structurally stable enough to do so and low oil prices will exacerbate that situation.

It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form. Russia's failure to transform its energy revenue into a self-sustaining economy makes it vulnerable to price fluctuations. It has no defense against these market forces. Given the organization of the federation, with revenue flowing to Moscow before being distributed directly or via regional governments, the flow of resources will also vary dramatically. This will lead to a repeat of the Soviet Union's experience in the 1980s and Russia's in the 1990s, in which Moscow's ability to support the national infrastructure declined. In this case, it will cause regions to fend for themselves by forming informal and formal autonomous entities. The economic ties binding the Russian periphery to Moscow will fray.

The problem of course, as they go on to point out is that Russia falling apart is not just Russia's problem, it's every one else's too. After all, Russia has nukes.

Middle East- Pessimism rules the day.

The Middle East — particularly the area between the Levant and Iran, along with North Africa — is experiencing national breakdowns. By this we mean that the nation-states established by European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries are collapsing into their constituent factions defined by kinship, religion or shifting economic interests. In countries like Libya, Syria and Iraq, we have seen the devolution of the nation-state into factions that war on each other and that cross the increasingly obsolete borders of countries.

This process follows the model of Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s, when the central government ceased to function and power devolved to warring factions. The key factions could not defeat the others, nor could they themselves be defeated. They were manipulated and supported from the outside, as well as self-supporting. The struggle among these factions erupted into a civil war — one that has quieted but not ended. As power vacuums persist throughout the region, jihadist groups will find space to operate but will be contained in the end by their internal divisions.

This situation cannot be suppressed by outside forces. The amount of force required and the length of deployment would outstrip the capacity of the United States, even if dramatically expanded. Given the situation in other parts of the world, particularly in Russia, the United States can no longer focus exclusively on this region.

Their is a lot more to read. I'd publish a link to the article itself, but that's not how you get to read it. STRATFOR gets you to sign up for their e-mail list and then they send you the article via e-mail. The key takeaway, however, is one that readers here have heard me say many times before: the rise of the multi-polar world is happening and the US will have to be able to compete in a world where it is not alone as the predominant power anymore. We can't stop its rise, and in fact -we will its rise into overdrive through the reckless and uncalled for invasion of Iraq. That-as they say in alternate history stories-is the point of departure. It probably would have happened anyway, but probably slower. Our friend George W. Bush put an end to all that.

So, big times ahead for China, right?

Not really.

China has ceased to be a high-growth, low-wage economy. As China's economy slows, the process of creating and organizing an economic infrastructure to employ low-wage workers will be incremental. What can be done quickly in a port city takes much longer in the interior. Therefore, China has normalized its economy, as Japan did before it, and as Taiwan and South Korea did in 1997. All massive expansions climax, and the operations of the economies shift.

And since international capitalism thrives on screwing little people, China's slave labor farms will be replaced by new ones they project. In Africa and Southern Asia."No one country can replace China, but we have noted 16 countries with a total population of about 1.15 billion people where entry-level manufacturing has gone after leaving China."

So it will be a heady decade if you are a rich oligarch. For the rest of us-the next ten years are going to suck.

 

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Jul 01 2014

The 140 character summary of the Hobby Lobby decision.

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May 23 2014

Musings of a moron

David Brooks, also known here by the not so affectionate moniker of “Chunky Bobo”, has written a column so absurd that you just have to shake your head in stupefaction that this man still has a job-much less a respected position in American journalism. Like McMegan-it appears that Chunky Bobo has thrown in the towel on making democracy work-and has instead decided to go down the path that Lenin led the Russians down almost a 100 years ago.

According to Brooks,  it is all the government’s fault-while the actual voters who are the machine that makes a good democracy work, are to be held guiltless:

It’s now clear that the end of the Soviet Union heralded an era of democratic complacency. Without a rival system to test them, democratic governments have decayed across the globe. In the U.S., Washington is polarized, stagnant and dysfunctional; a pathetic 26 percent of Americans trust their government to do the right thing. In Europe, elected officials have grown remote from voters, responding poorly to the euro crisis and contributing to massive unemployment.

According to measures by Freedom House, freedom has been in retreat around the world for the past eight years. New democracies like South Africa are decaying; the number of nations that the Bertelsmann Foundation now classifies as “defective democracies” (rigged elections and so on) has risen to 52. As John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge write in their book, “The Fourth Revolution,” “so far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the Western model.”

 

Brooks’ solution. Send for the sycophants and call on the wisdom of Lee Kwan Yeu:

A new charismatic rival is gaining strength: the Guardian State. In their book, Micklethwait and Wooldridge do an outstanding job of describing Asia’s modernizing autocracies. In some ways, these governments look more progressive than the Western model; in some ways, more conservative.

In places like Singapore and China, the best students are ruthlessly culled for government service. The technocratic elites play a bigger role in designing economic life. The safety net is smaller and less forgiving. In Singapore, 90 percent of what you get out of the key pension is what you put in. Work is rewarded. People are expected to look after their own.

These Guardian States have some disadvantages compared with Western democracies. They are more corrupt. Because the systems are top-down, local government tends to be worse. But they have advantages. They are better at long-range thinking and can move fast because they limit democratic feedback and don’t face NIMBY-style impediments.

Really? China? A model for free people to follow? It is hard to believe Brooks actually wrote that line and believes it. Yet it would appear he does.

There is just one big problem with Brooks’ prescription-he has not examined all the side affects that come with the cure. While I am a believer that some of the Singaporean programs could be applied to good effect in the US- it is important to remember that Singapore is not, by any remote stretch of his Gaultian imagination a real democracy-or a place where equality and freedom of speech are thriving. There are more than a few facts that Brooks is leaving out of his narrative.

Specifically, Brooks slants his narrative to make it look like the Sinagaporean system does not have anything in place that he hates, such as universal access to health care. Or mandated ( and strongly enforced) mandates to pay in to both employers and employees. Ask yourself how that is going to go down with his teabagger friends. When Brooks makes the statement that 90% of Singapore’s pensions come from employees, he is either flat out lying, or showing his ignorance once again. ( A citizen is required to provide 20% of his income to his CPF fund, but he also gets an employer contribution of at least 5 and mostly 14%.). And it has to be looked at in context-Singapore provides services to its people that , based on Chunky Bobo’s other pronouncements, are an anathema to the true believer in Burkean Bells. Well financed and run public transportation for one.

And of course, either through ignorance or just plain deceitfulness-he ignores the fact that there is a tiered system of Singapore’s populations that would not welcome American ideas of equality of all under the law. Or put another way-a lot of Singapore’s progress is built on the backs of people who don’t enjoy the benefits of the government he suggests, and are in fact marginalized by the same government. Ask Filipinos and Bangladeshis how much of this Guardian State idea benefits them. This as they work for wages that are well below what their Chinese employers would ever see.

And you could also ask Mr. Brooks how much he enjoys a one party state, where criticism of the government is allowed, but only to a certain point. And folks who try to bring opposite view points are harassed and or sued out of existence. Kind of forgot that little detail, didn’t you David?

Brooks is wrong about what is broken. American Democracy is not broken-at least the model of it is not. The participants in that model however are badly broken-especially those residents of one political party, that to put it idly has gone completely insane. Our country used to get things done, now we have the most unproductive Congress in years. And its because of a collective freak  out by people who ought to know better-over the election of a black man to the white house. As I have said before, I don't think it is necessarily racist-but it is part of an effort to marginalize one political party. It is crazy. And it happens because a certain percentage of the American population proves itself to be really stupid.

However, this is typical Bobo. He fancies himself as a member of the elite. He forgets that under Singaporean rules-he can't. He's not Chinese. But Bobo would never take the time to learn that.

 

 

 

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