peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)

There's a lot of crap at the TED talks, given how many tiny splinters have formed; but the good stuff is really, really good.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Which rumors, you ask? Why, those would be about the recent bad press Amazon has been getting.

You know about Amazon, don't you? It's that place online that is sucking the profit from every corner of our economy. Everyone complains out loud about Wal*Mart sucking profit; but that's because it pays and treats its employees so poorly. Amazon treats its employees as bad or worse, but at least they don't work for Bentonville. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)

A helicopter pilot here in the Northwest gets caught in thick fog. His instruments are on the fritz. He has no idea where he is. Luckily, he sees through a break in the fog an expanse of grass, and lands safely.

He is on a lawn in one of the "campuses" found in the 'burbs around here, businesses that surround themselves with lawns to avoid looking like businesses. Curious workers peek out at the pilot through their office windows. In a hurry, the pilot grabs a piece of paper and a marker and writes, "Where am I?" in the hopes that someone in the office park will give him an address so he can dead reckon his course back to the airport.

Someone does scrawl a note with an answer, but it says, "In a helicopter."

At first, he is a bit pissed, but then smiles. He gives his "helpers" thumbs up, revs the rotors, and takes off. He sets a compass course due South and manages to find Renton Airport with no problem.

When he gets to Renton, he tells them the story. They ask how he knew to plot the course without knowing where he was. "I did know where I was," he answers. "They gave me completely accurate but ultimately useless information. That's when I knew I had landed squarely in the middle of Microsoft headquarters."

I've done this before. I've read something posted by an LJ friend and found something… lacking. I did that here most recently, in response to a series [ profile] tacit was doing on GMO myths. I just re-read that response simply because [ profile] tacit has recently added to his GMO series with a post concerning Monsanto, creators of Roundup™ ready corn seed.

After reading my post again—which concerned aspects of GMO farming one might label "meta"—I realized I failed. I should not have questioned the specifics of (for example) separating farms with cows and farms without them. I should not have noted the economic impact of the new farms that do separate cows from corn.

Instead, I should have taken the tack opposite [ profile] tacit's. Instead of digging into the scientifically-relevant reasons surrounding myths about genetically modified organisms (as he did), perhaps I should focus instead on why people gravitate toward these myths.

I used to regard such people as willfully deluded for wanting a simple Good v. Evil explanation for why they don't like GMOs, and then crafting the rumors into the Myths of Evil, the "they create disease in people" and other such beliefs without evidence. I don't regard them as completely deluded, not anymore. No, I can't embrace their fallacies. Rather, I see that they are just a bit off-step on their vision quest, grasping at pieces of the world around them, frantically groping, if you will, looking for a future that, though they cannot articulate it well, "looks" right.

What looks right is difficult to explain; hence the fallacies. But what looks wrong? That is very, very easy to identify. Let's take a look at the picture I used to open this post. It's recognizable, to be sure. It's the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz meeting Dorothy. It is a movie set, to be sure. Movie set designers are probably the best people to get when you want something to look "right."

Okay, quiz time. Can you tell me specifically what in that movie set above you will not find in a "normal" farm today? Hint: think the Bible. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
The former Finance Minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis does not mince words. In the first interview given since he resigned, this tradition continued.

A short-term deal could, Varoufakis said, have been struck soon after Syriza came to power in late January. “Three or four reforms” could have been agreed, and restrictions on liquidity eased by the ECB in return.

Instead, “The other side insisted on a ‘comprehensive agreement’, which meant they wanted to talk about everything. My interpretation is that when you want to talk about everything, you don’t want to talk about anything.” But a comprehensive agreement was impossible. “There were absolutely no [new] positions put forward on anything by them.”

Things get interesting in the next few paragraphs:

Varoufakis said that Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister and the architect of the deals Greece signed in 2010 and 2012, was “consistent throughout”. “His view was ‘I’m not discussing the programme – this was accepted by the previous [Greek] government and we can’t possibly allow an election to change anything.

“So at that point I said ‘Well perhaps we should simply not hold elections anymore for indebted countries’, and there was no answer.

(Embolden I must!)

I just got back from a camping visit/fireside drinky fest with friends and friends of friends. Myself and one such friend of friend, a finance professional and very nice guy, got to talking over beer and bourbon over things financial. If this guy is any indication, finance in general has been taken over by folks who wish to eliminate local control over currencies and, if necessary, maybe make this possible by moving to a post-state world.

BTW, "Post State" means you don't get to vote. Technocrats take care of you.

I voiced my complete and utter disagreement, of course. Still, after that illuminating conversation, I have to say I cannot be too surprised at what Varoufakis encountered. Continuing with his interview:

It is well known that Varoufakis was taken off Greece’s negotiating team shortly after Syriza took office; he was still in charge of the country’s finances but no longer in the room. It’s long been unclear why. In April, he said vaguely that it was because “I try and talk economics in the Eurogroup” – the club of 19 finance ministers whose countries use the Euro – “which nobody does.” I asked him what happened when he did.

“It’s not that it didn’t go down well – there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on, to make sure it’s logically coherent, and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply.”

(Bold words, I hope you agree!)

Exactly. The economics has been agreed upon for those at the top; alternate economic positions—even ones backed by empirical evidence—need not apply. The Technocrats rally 'round their own, and ignore the rest.

Expect shit to get interesting. Everywhere. Well, everywhere finance professionals continue to be Wrong and In Charge.

Thanks to [ profile] solarbird for the link and interest in following this shit once again!
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
The other day, a friend forwarded me this link. It opens:

Ira Glass, the man who captivates countless National Public Radio (NPR) listeners with his quirky accounts of daily life around the country, recently asserted that NPR should be supported by free market capitalism and advertising.

Glass came under fire for this presentation, essentially a pitch to advertisers. He later wrote:

Numbers like that mean that companies will come on our shows and pay lots of money for what the rest of the world calls “advertising” and what we call “underwriting.”

I’m talking about the 10- to 15-second announcements during public radio shows that say “Support for this program comes from . . . .” Public radio and TV have always had them.

Yes, they have noted "underwriters," but for the record these were most often charitable foundations, not pitches for car companies and breweries as Glass pitches every week on This American Life. Sorry, Ira, those are ads, not underwriting spots. Suck it up.

I got pretty bummed about the whole thing, including the slickster hip webpage that touted the event. A lot of energy was going into wooing advertisers to public media.

And then I realized I shouldn't be bummed. This has been building for quite some time. Why? Public media in the United States lacks definition as to what public media is.

What follows is my attempt to clarify. Enjoy? )

Yes, it's a biggun. Still, I could use some feedback. And it ain't done yet.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Ever since the "New Democrats" have installed themselves in the political scene, many of the standard rallying calls of the Progressive Movement have been sidelined into being mere tropes and tall tales. The problem, as I see it, is that these New Dems are, rather than the raging bull liberals of our past, merely steers who mewl rather than snort with rage and charge into the breeches. They have adopted meek standards, weak tea compared with the heady strong stuff of former years, and have in pursuing these standards continued to survive the increasingly competitive political environment forced upon all potential candidates.

What might these weak standards be? )

X-Posted to [ profile] liberal.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I very recently finished a pretty darned good book, Henry George's Progress and Poverty from 1879. In it, he asks some serious questions of the class of scholars then known as "political economists," specifically why more people starve where civilization is most developed, and not less.

This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education grapple in vain. . . . So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent. The reaction must come. The tower leans from its foundations, and every new story but hastens the final catastrophe. To educate men who must be condemned to poverty, is but to make them restive; to base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions under which men are theoretically equal, is to stand a pyramid on its apex.

(Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1879, Book I, Chapter I, Paragraph 5.)

NB: Since Mr. George's book is available online in its entirety, I have decided to reference not the page numbers, but the Book, Chapter and Paragraph to make cross-referencing that much easier.

This might be the first any of you have heard of this connection between progress, also known as the development of civilization, and poverty. But throughout his book George points out example after example supporting his initial observation. Where civilization goes, poverty and want follow.

The reason? The fact that property is allowed to be held in private hands. Take this section from Book X, Chapter V, Paragraph 19: "In the very centers of our civilization to-day are want and suffering enough to make sick at heart whoever does not close his eyes and steel his nerves." Is there something we could do? How about a full-blown miracle?

Dare we turn to the Creator and ask Him to relieve it? Supposing the prayer were heard, and at the behest with which the universe sprang into being there should glow in the sun a greater power; new virtue fill the air; fresh vigor the soil; that for every blade of grass that now grows two should spring up, and the seed that now increases fifty-fold should increase a hundred-fold! Would poverty be abated or want relieved?

Any bets out there how a sudden increase in the harvests would be met by us, we mere civilized people? I doubt the answer will surprise. )

X-Posted to [ profile] liberal.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
This is a pile of frustration I've been saving up for a good weekend dumping. Therefore, as all good LJ posters should, I will now include an LJ cut. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Hey, LJ, remember me? Been off ranting less with keys lately and more with my voice. More work, less of an audience. I decided to come back here because this rant, which has stewed quite long enough without my attentions, just won't work well on that other format.

For this one, I need to get back to good Ol' Henry George, the original leftist, the guy people listened to before Karl Marx got in any way known, let alone popular. (That was a subject that worked well in the other medium.) When last I considered George. . . . )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Hello, LJ. How've ya been? I've been busy doing things. One of those things is trying to digest Thomas Picketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. It's thick, almost as thick as I am. Which is why it is taking a while.

While I'm letting some time hopefully help stew the meaty data and theories found within, I wrongly decided to look up some thoughts on the book from other readers. My mistake. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Every time a shooter pulls a gun nowadays and uses it with lethal force, donations to political organizations dedicated to restricting firearms in some way skyrocket. No one can blame the donors; they see an out-of-control situation and seek a means to staunch the bloodshed.

Here's the kicker, though: after each of these incidents, donations to the NRA and other pro-Second Amendment organizations also spikes. The reason is fairly simple. If the gun restriction crowd gets its way, the lifestyle of the gun rights crowd might well go away, no matter what positive benefit to society the restriction on guns might have. Which leads to the real split, as author Dan Baum puts it:

Data bout the effects of gun-control measures could be compared and contrasted. When it came to whether restrictive gun laws did good or did harm, reasonable people could disagree.

Finding reasonable people was the problem.

(Dan Baum, Gun Guys, Borzoi Books, 2013, p. 205.)

My point here is not to debate the rise or fall in gun-related violence, though, but to note that any rise in violence should be noted with equal focus. Which leads me to last Monday. )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Not long ago, I mentioned Henry George and my desire to find his book, Progress and Poverty. I did! And now I am plowing through it as I can. George's writing can best be described as Victorian; long sentences with a flow quite unlike today's more preferred writing style. You'll see for yourself in some of the excerpts (should you continue reading).

Before you click away, he let me know about a controversy dating way back to 1887 of which I had never heard, but which tells me that the state of economics education/dissemination has not really changed that much. I've made it past Book III of P&P, and much of it has been dedicated to George's hating on a name still quite familiar today; Reverend Thomas Malthus. Decrying that Malthus was wrong or whatever is not the anomaly here; George is pointing out what errors he finds in Malthus because of a unique reading of Malthus apparently quite popular in ways I had never, ever heard. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Some years ago, I asked myself a question: What is an investment, and how does it differ from an act of speculation? I'm getting closer to an answer, especially after hearing Seth and Justin interview two authors on the topic of a man who has become largely myth, and about whom we know almost nothing: Henry George.

It turns out Mr. George. . . . )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Do yourself a favor. Watch a short movie.

Real Estate 4 Ransom from Real Estate 4 Ransom on Vimeo.

I have never heard of this Land Tax concept, yet it has been around since the late 1800s. It was so revolutionary, in fact, the modern configuration of neo-classical economics was created to bury it. Rockafeller funded the foundation of the Chicago School of Economics to promote the idea that land shouldn't be taxed as Henry George proposed; this largely allowed him to keep the revenue he extracted from his many natural resource properties.

Later, if you want a bit more, head over to Seth & Justin's site and hear two pretty good interviews on the topic (though the second interview with one of the writer/directors for the above movie, I've got to say, is painfully sibilant; dude needs a new mike badly). Sadly, the few Henry George books I've found online are pretty crappy, so badly scanned text that it is all but unreadable. I may have to see what I can do about that.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
When last I shared, I noted that we in the United States have no liberal media bias, at least not when it comes to the mainstream, commercially-supported variety so dominant in our society. No sooner did I dare to mention this then the trickle of disclaimers dripped in. "Ah!," some deigned to note, "but look at these examples! Your thesis is therefore bunk!" And indeed, a link had helpfully collected the most egregious examples of pinko commie liberalism from broadcast and major print outlets.

I invite you to check them out. It won't take long; the examples run from September, 2009 to October 2013. All 13 examples.

And here we find a sampling error, exactly the same kind that failed to note the sudden extinction of ammonites following the Chicxulub asteroid impact that also killed the larger dinosaurs. Shall we sample more properly? )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Just yesterday, I read that the belief "that we could have utopian prosperity if we got rid of private businesses and had the government run everything" should be marked down to "stubborn stupidity." Fair enough. As hyperbolic and Straw Manned-up as that statement is, thwarting all independent economic activity would be a bit delusional, given that nobody even agrees upon the definition of "individual", let alone of "collective."

That said, I find it fascinating how many screeds railing against "statism" (again, whatever that might be) completely ignore the actual clear and present danger that non-state actors are continuously exacting on the right of countries to exercise any semblance of sovereignty, and all under the geas of "free trade." Don't these folks know that given enough size, a corporation today has—via the power granted by over-reaching trade agreements—greater legal right than most countries? )
peristaltor: (Orson "Approves")

When it comes to historical events, it's best to refer to the older sources. The Tea Party? Not a revolt against the Crown, but against the corporation that the Crown gave power.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
The sheer silliness of even casting a shadow of a glimmer of a sliver of blame on the Democratic Party members in Congress regarding this shutdown thing is laughable enough. There is more than enough evidence that the Tea Party has run with this ball all the way. I won't bother recounting it here.

What I found interesting was a very conservative political person suggesting why default may be the ultimate aim, not a stated consequence. Regarding the debt:

What I don’t think [the Obama administration and those on Wall Street] understand is that there has been a movement under way for some years among right-wing economists and activists not merely to default on the debt, but even to repudiate it.

Those making this argument are largely unknown to professional economists and journalists, but their research permeates the obscure Web sites where Tea Party members get their ideas. And not all are obscure.

As with most weirdnesses in our country, much of this can be traced back to the Civil War. )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Last February, NPR's Planet Money examined a unique strategy by Ecuador's government to preserve its Yasuni National Park, an isolated and wild place reached best by hours in a canoe. This is one of those places with amazing biodiversity, with more tree species in a hectare than most more northern countries have within their borders.

The problem threatening the Yasuni? It has oil, and President Correa, seeing the destruction other Latin American countries have suffered for oil exploration/extraction, wanted to avoid a similar fate for his most wild of national places. His solution: ask for money to preserve the park as is.

Seriously. Planet Money interviews those seeking to preserve the park by asking for money:

As payment for preserving the wilderness and preventing an estimated 410 million metric tons of fossil fuel-generated carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, Correa has asked the world to ante up in the fight against global warming. He is seeking $3.6 billion in compensation, roughly half of what Ecuador would have realized in revenues from exploiting the resource at 2007 prices. The money would be used, he says, to finance alternative energy and community development projects.

So, how'd that all work out? )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Fun time! I got to receive two very different posts on two very different topics today in the same Friend's Feed. Trouble is, they aren't "different" at all.

The first comes to us from our Friends at Faux News.

Oh, a surf bum who eats well on the taxpayer dime! The horrors! I haven't heard about this since . . . the 1970s. Lobster-eating food stamp recipients were a common trope back then, too.

Next, compare poor Jason's chosen fate to that of others, like you and I, perhaps. Jesus, Perry, down what rat hole are you scurrying now? )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.


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