The Capitalist Assault against Individuality

Google’s Brin: Individual car ownership needs to go | CNET

What’s the difference between Google and socialism? Not much.

A long time ago an excellent mathematician and member of the Southern California Federation of Scientists (whom I had the privilege of knowing very well) had made the shocking argument that by eliminating automobiles and levying a tax that is equivalent to approximately half the average of cost of individual car ownership, it is possible to fund a complete fare-free transit system that can pickup everyone within 100 yards of their residence and drop them off within 100 yards of their place of work with less than a few minutes of waiting time and use a lot less gas than having a million cars on the road daily.

In fact, he was not the only one. Numerous “idealists” had crunched the numbers and demonstrated expanded bus service could be a much more efficient transit system,

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Why Do Texans Enjoy Stepping into This?

Texas governor says he stepped right in it on gay comments | Reuters

It’s difficult to pinpoint Rick Perry’s most revolting attribute, but the ersatz modesty he projects in defense the asinine notions he espouses may be the one. As the Reuters article cites, this comparison of homosexuality with alcoholism is his second assertion in nearly a decade. He really seems to believe it.

The “it” into which he seems to have stepped seems to be the hostility of the masses who lack the good sense to understand his apt analogy: how can anyone not understand that homosexuality is like addiction to a drug? It would be interesting to know what the gateway drug for this addiction is. The glory hole? Teletubbies? Organic tomatoes? The feather boa? If he could argue for such a gateway, then there would be nothing to step into.

Election results show that the man has received more than 50% of the vote on three elections. Why, oh, why do Texans insist on forcing the rest of the country step into this over, and over, and over?

I need to clean my browser while Perry cleans his boots.

No Freedom in Industry, or from Industry

Freedom Industries: other chemical is ‘proprietary’ | MSNBC

The reasons why this company calls itself “Freedom Industries” become less apparent by the moment. They enslave entire populations by polluting their water supplies, they don’t believe in freedom of information, and they don’t give any of their product away for free.

If the management of this company were following any logical argument, then it might declare that the disaster is “proprietary”: theirs, and theirs alone, just like the identity of this chemical. To the contrary, Freedom industries seems happy to claim ownership of everything except their responsibility in this mess. It is only in this sense that the name of the company makes sense. They are free from any responsibility for what they do.

Adios, Chris Christie

Christie Fires Aide in Bridge Scandal as U.S. Opens Inquiry – NYTimes.com.

The man always came off as as big talker, anyway. He never impressed me as a particularly edgy intellectual or an especially skilled manager who can delegate authority prudently towards the efficient accomplishment of tasks. His choice of operatives, however, is his undoing in my mind, and it should be his undoing in the minds of everyone else.

Given that a successful Presidency, even more so than a governorship, is vitally dependent on appointing the right people to the right positions, Christie’s career is now officially over. His apology today impugns him. In this very long mea culpa, he effectively is saying that he appointed idiots to the most important posts, and that it took him over three years to discover that they are idiots. (His specific words are “abject stupidity”.) In a presidency, three years is enough time for idiots to destroy the world.

The company one keeps, they say, says a lot about one, Mr. Christie’s company have said absolutely nothing good about the politician or the man. People should take note.

To Which Crime Will Rob Ford Confess Next?

Rob Ford, embattled Toronto mayor, admits he has bought illegal drugs | CBS News

“What is this man thinking? What was this man thinking?” Those are the questions that every human being on earth asks after each Rob Ford revelation. How could an avowed conservative and ostensibly scrupulous man commit the lowest of crimes and then confess to them? Worse yet for the man–but absolutely wonderful for the entertainment starved world–each crime confessed is more outrageous than the last: getting drunk too often, smoking crack cocaine, buying crack cocaine! To what will he confess to next? Here is a list submitted for consideration, in no apparent order.

  • Shooting heroin.
  • Speed balling every time one of his initiatives pass the city council.
  • Running over a hobo before every Canadian Thanksgiving.
  • Acting as a mule for free joint.

Somewhere in the United States, former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry is assuredly sitting, aghast, mouth open, and utterly incensed that a pasty Canadian honky is flourishing under the spotlight for the same acts for which Barry was jailed.

Marion Barry ultimately reclaimed his elected position, and Rob Ford’s appeal seems not to be waning. Yet, this feels decidedly different from the apparent maturity we ascribe to the French populace when they wisely ignore their politicians’ dalliances.

Marion Barry was indignant even after he was re-elected. Ford is repentant to the extent that he seems to be preparing to offer “I was on crack” as an excuse for any poor decisions he may make or may have made as mayor. He and Barry are the only two politicians in all of history who could use that excuse. This is rarefied company, indeed.

I extended my warmest thanks to the citizens of Toronto for having provided the distraction that I desperately needed, as did countless overworked Americans.

Seminal Act of Civil Disobedience

Artist nails his scrotum to the ground in Red Square | World news | theguardian.com

Picture of the act from The Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky, the artist in the photo, has a substantial history of employing self mutilation in performance pieces that protest the increasingly repressive nature of the Russian regime, according to The Guardian article above. About the man’s possession of boundless will power and tolerance for pain, no doubts can be harbored. One only hopes that this act is more successful than his previous protests. This writer certainly wishes that this extraordinary act of self mutilation inspires the tsunami of rebellion that the artist desires to incite against a political system that has indeed become a shadow of the Soviet autocracy against which so many people like the artist gave their lives.

The most unfortunate question thus arises. Is a mere scrotum enough of a sacrifice? Should he have gone as far as being incarcerated without due process like Pussy Riot, a cause for which he mutilated himself to no apparently productive ends? Should he have immolated himself like the many Tibetans who do so annually in a final, desperate expression of defiance and self determination against an omnipotent, malevolent government? Must roads to freedom and self determination be paved with entire corpses, not just limbs and valuable appendages like the scrotum?

The political artist’s expression will forever be deconstructed. The desire for attention will forever confound any legitimate expression he or she may have made. It will be a shame if Mr. Pavlensky’s remarkable act of defiance is dismissed as a shameless act of self promotion. It rings sincere, in this writer’s mind, in its desperate expression of a desire for rights and dignity for every citizen in Russia.

Should its impact and distribution be limited to the pages of odd news sections and blogs like this, then the inescapable conclusion is that it is more effective to stick one’s neck out than it is to go balls out in the quest for freedom. Given how extraordinary it is to see a man go balls out like Pyotr, it is hard to imagine that anyone will stick their necks out. This may be the ultimate sign of resignation in the western world and the ultimate assertion of the current price of progress.

It is, perhaps, time to contemplate Syria, Chechnya, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia and myriad other countries where necks are slashed in plain sight of western citizens far too apathetic to vote to protect their own interests. Political and military power are tools we developed to stroke our own balls, it seems, rather then to save necks.

Pyotr, may your balls be safe and your scrotum whole again someday.

The American Economic Revelation: We’re Like Europe

UCLA Anderson Forecast paints dismal picture of economic recovery | latimes.com

Five years after the credit bubble burst, the best experts in the country are still wondering why the robust recovery isn’t happening. They employ pessimistic words to avoid the one truth that is perhaps less convenient than Al Gore’s.

“Growth in GDP has been positive, but not exceptional,” UCLA economists wrote in their quarterly Anderson Forecast. “Jobs are growing, but not rapidly enough to create good jobs for all.”

The report, which analyzed long-term trends of past recoveries, found that the long-anticipated “Great Recovery” has not yet materialized.

That truth is that that the American economy has finally become like the European economy. Whether we like it or not, the American economy is going to resemble that of France and Germany, with slow, sluggish upturns and mild downturns punctuating vast seas of stability.

Fierce competition from Europe and Asia put upward pressure on wages brought by aggressive inflation are enforcing the regime that “socialistic” policies have been enforcing in Europe for over forty years: efficiency. The high wages that strong unions have enforced for decades in Europe are finally coming to the US as businesses that need stability for successful operation realize that they must pay wages that alleviate some of the effects of inflation in order to keep their best employees. Consequently, gone are the most meaningless jobs that one scarcely sees in Europe: parking attendants, valet parkers, bus boys, etc. The most mundane jobs have been automated and the remaining ones ultimately demand a living wage. This level of operational efficiency will not drive job growth.

Similarly, the marketplace is making US capital markets like Europe’s by enforcing stability. Another speculative bubble in the US won’t just be disastrous for the public at large who will be fleeced by opportunistic, well connected executives. It will be disastrous for American institutions who now have to compete globally for the dispensation of capital against mighty institutions in Europe, Asia and Middle East. Short term speculative gains are likely to cause long term annihilation for firms that undertake the Ponzi schemes of the real estate bubble, whether the institution is bailed out or not. Banks’ reluctance to lend even to the most credit-worthy borrowers underscores this fact. Corporate cash hoarding also underscores this fact. They all realize that the next mistake can have existential ramifications whether the government plays savior or not. The core functions of the company matter again. As has always been the case in Europe, a car company has to be a car company again, and a bank has to be responsible.

All of which sums up to a European existence: mild fluctuations peppering vast seas of incredibly boring stability. Global competition enforces a high unemployment rate in such regimes. Companies running efficiently will never effect full employment. This is why Europe has persistent, high unemployment. It is not because they have trouble creating wealth or because they are economically and fundamentally lazy. It is because they are closer to the economic endgame that the US is. Forbes Magazine laments the fact that no path to full employment is visible on the most distant horizon, but, beholden to staunchly conservative owner, it will be the last source to admit that the Europeans were right, that they are ahead.

Let us end this stupid, emotional and utterly vapid debate about the state of the economy and focus on what matters: quality of life. The economy is finally stable. Like Europe, we have the resources to make life better for those who work and for those who do not work. We have the resources to fix our bridges, to build new railroads, to provide healthcare to everyone, to ensure that those willing to work will eventually find a job that will provide a decent living, and to ensure that those who cannot or do not want to work will not be condemn to the oblivion of homelessness and marginalization that will demobilize them from the work force.

We have a stable economy. What do we do about life? Forward, march!

Unscientific Poll Concludes That Iraq Invasion Was a Mistake

Tom Toles: Political Cartoons from Tom Toles | The Washington Post

I voted in this little sideline survey on the Washington Post’s political cartoons web site just to see what the outcome would be. At least with the Post’s well defined demographic, there is near unanimity. I somehow doubt that Fox viewers are quite as polarized. Had Fox any balls, they probably would ask.

iraq_invasion_mistake

The United States Justice Department Are Beer Drinkers

BBC News | Budweiser-Corona beer merger opposed by US

The writer does not write this piece out of a sense of anger, a feeling of resentment or sheer snootiness. The writer is, indeed, grateful–positively, unreservedly and absolutely thankful–that the United States Department of Justice has taken a step to prevent further consolidation in the beer brewing industry in order to keep the market for that elixir that the writer loves competitive.

It is easy to be cynical about this apparently responsible act on the part of a governmental agency that has hardly acknowledged the anti-competitive nature of the telecommunication industry, that did absolutely nothing during the financial meltdown, that refuses to undertake any substantial prosecution of top executives in the aftermath of the financial meltdown, that doesn’t dare prosecute the hierarchy in the Catholic Church responsible for fostering centuries of sex abuse, that threw the book at a defenseless young idealist and drove him to suicide, and that is all to happy to use the PATRIOT act to collect unwarranted data. The same DOJ elected to intervene forcefully, however, to protect the public from higher beer prices. Why is beer so important? So special?

Beer, Benjamin Franklin proclaimed, is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. It is easy to argue that the “happiness” induced by beer is desirably by the DOJ. Given its failures in restraining large corporations from preying on the general populace and its appetite for harassing those who would entertain the notion of counteracting the prevailing corporate order (as enumerated above), a sober populace might be tempted to take the federal department ostensibly dedicated to the dispensation of justice to task. Absent any relief from inflation driven by a devaluing dollar and high oil prices, a cheap high, one might argue, is the only escape left for the average citizen. If it were to disappear, she or he might finally build enough anger and thus gather enough energy to inquire as to why it is that she or he must forfeit every penny earned to profitable concerns that are never held accountable to moral, ethical or economical standards. Why the average citizen must take pleasure–when the citizen’s prospects in the absence of a job are concerned–in toiling arduously daily under the strictest of supervision and face the most dire consequences for his or her failure to dispense his or her duties while the reckless disregard of the most powerful corporations for moral–not even ethical–behavior is rewarded with impunity and material wealth?

The posing of the question is a demoralizing. Pondering its answer is petrifying. It is, therefore, indeed, better to drink beer and to be merry. The DOJ has in this rare instance of wisdom and charity preserved this right for the average citizen. Let’s not drink to that.

Let’s just drink.

virtual but permanent

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