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“Things Are Going To Hell Faster Than When That Son-of-a-bitch Roosevelt Was In Charge.”

[ 96 ] October 7, 2014 |

Syndicated columnist William F. George is very excited about a Republican hack about to be trounced in a Senate election. Why? His exciting old ideas:

Because Bell speaks incessantly about the dangers of fiat money and the wisdom of the gold standard, some people dismiss him as a one-issue candidate whose issue is an anachronism. He calls this “chronological snobbery”: The gold standard is a bad idea because it is an old idea and because the economics profession opposes it. Besides, his supposed single issue (actually, he has many) is the declining value of money, which affects everything.

His audiences, he says, are not just disgusted by today’s feeble economy, they are puzzled by it. So he explains that Wall Street “has been having a party” paid for by near-zero interest rates, which have had their intended effect of driving liquidity into stocks in search of higher yields, a bonanza for the 10 percent of Americans who own 80 percent of the directly owned stocks. This “wealth effect” is supposed to prompt spending and investing that will trickle down to the 90 percent. Meanwhile, near-zero interest rates punish savers.

Bell wants to alert the nation before the government again has to pay 4 percent interest on its borrowing, thereby adding, he estimates, $400 billion to the deficit. He is running because “something substantive ought to be offered before the 2016 cycle.”

Shorter Jeff Bell: “After a period of extended unemployment, government policy should make unemployment worse while punishing debtors. We therefore need interest rates to go up before interest rates go up — it’s totally going to happen any year now — and add to the deficit. GOLD!!!!!!!!! I am not a crackpot.”

Kramer: “Hmm! Oh! Yeah. I’ll tell you who is an attractive man; George Will.”

Jerry: “Really!”

Kramer: “Yeah! He has clean looks, scrubbed and shampooed and….”

Elaine: “He’s smart….”

Kramer: “No, no I don’t find him all that bright.”

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The Internet Is Real

[ 39 ] October 7, 2014 |

If you’re going to be in the LA area, please try to check out the art installation “A Woman’s Room Online” by Skepchick and artist, Amy Roth.  It’s a project that tries to put a tangible face on the abuse and harassment that women–especially prominent feminists–face online.

Too often women are told that the internet is “not real,” but it is real. As Greta Christina explains here, not only is it real, it’s where many of us–for all intents and purposes–live our lives. Saying that internet harassment is too ethereal and fleeting to count is bonkers. To women who are deluged with ugliness, it certainly does not feel light and ethereal, it feels suffocating and oppressive. I’m glad Ms. Roth  found a way to make something both beautiful and awful with that feeling.

In funnier news, please get your Social Justice Warrior buttons here. I still call “Social Justice Warlord.”

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Come around tomorrow and I’ll take you again

[ 179 ] October 6, 2014 |

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Rich Boy” (1926)

There’s a rich tradition in American culture of celebrating wealth and the possibility of achieving it. This tradition is built upon something of a paradox: the belief that, on the one hand, rich people deserve their economic and social status because they have always had the rare personal qualities that led to their acquisition of wealth uncountable, and on the other, that you — the purchaser of this book, or lecture series, or self-improvement DVDs etc. — can now acquire these rare personal qualities, through sheer discipline and effort (and with the help of a few, very reasonably priced, authorial tips).

The whole power of positive thinking racket is based on ignoring the latent tension between these beliefs. The Gospel of Prosperity, The Millionaire Next Door, The Secret — it’s all the same grift in the end, and yet we the people never seem to tire of it. Consider this delightful specimen of the genre from Steve Siebold, author of, among other works, Problems in Kierkegaard and How Rich People Think.

The truth is successful people are confident because they repeatedly bet on themselves and are rarely disappointed. Even when they fail, they’re confident in their ability to learn from the loss and come back stronger and richer than ever.

This is not arrogance, but self-assuredness in its finest form.The wealthy have an elevated and fearless consciousness that keeps them moving toward what they want, as opposed to moving away from what they don’t want. This often doubles or triples their net worth quickly because of the new efficiency in their thinking. Eventually they begin to believe they can accomplish anything, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As they move from success to success, they create a psychological tidal wave of momentum that gets stronger every day, catapulting their confidence to a level so high it is often interpreted as arrogance.

The ideological function of this sort of hokum is fairly clear. What’s less clear, perhaps, is what continues to make it so attractive, in a culture in which the increasingly vast differences in life circumstances between people born into different classes ought to make the concept of some sort of pseudo-Darwinian meritocracy increasingly implausible.

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Deciding to Let Others Decide on SSM

[ 73 ] October 6, 2014 |

If you choose not to decide, a Canadian philosopher once observed, you still have made a choice. When it comes to the Supreme Court and same-sex marriage, it’s at least a second-best-case scenario.

…Lithwick is right on what the Court should have done.

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New England is Rejecting Loomis Like a Bad Kidney

[ 134 ] October 6, 2014 |

As some of you may know from twitter, last Thursday Erik’s new apartment was burglarized.  He lost two computers (one from URI, one of his own), two external harddrives, and a truckload of digitized primary documents and music.  The loss of hardware amounts to roughly $2000, but the losses in documents and music are far more significant.  The trove of primary docs is the main source for the final chapters of Erik’s book manuscript on labor relations, environmentalism, and logging, and can be reconstructed only at considerable time and expense.  The music is permanently gone.

In support of Erik, we’ve decided to launch a short fundraising drive.  Aside from (small) overhead, all donations for the next week will go directly to Erik, in order to make up for some of the loss.  Your support is deeply appreciated.

The above links are acting a bit twitchy, so if they’re not working just click on the Donate button on the near right sidebar.

Best,

The Management

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Pujols? Trout? That Kind of Luxe Just Ain’t For Us. We Crave a Different Kind of Buzz.

[ 75 ] October 5, 2014 |

o-LORDE-ROYALS-facebook

Sweeep! If the Mariners couldn’t be involved, an Orioles-Royals ALCS is certainly my second-best scenario.

There was a recent discussion in comments about the recently modified wildcard system. I feel more strongly than ever that if there must be a wildcards, the two-wildcard sudden-death format that preserves much of the value of a division title is vastly preferable to the status quo ante. But the very worst argument against it one game is just a random crapshoot, so there should be at least a 3 game play-in series. The rather obvious problem is that a 3-game playoff would for all intents and purposes be just as much of a random crapshoot. The fact that a 5-game series that was easily the biggest mismatch on paper resulted in a sweep by the underdog should make pretty clear that if you disapprove of playoff formats in which the best team doesn’t reliably win, you’re just against the concept of MLB playoffs altogether.

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“I Heartily Endorse This Event or Product.”

[ 48 ] October 5, 2014 |

There’s phoning it in, there’s not being able to muster up the energy it would take to dial a number, and then there’s whatever it is that Samuel L. Jackson is doing here:

[via]

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Have we had an asshole of the day yet?

[ 131 ] October 5, 2014 |

If not, I’m gonna nominate this guy.

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“That’s the real question isn’t it: why? The how and the who is just scenery for the public.”

[ 175 ] October 5, 2014 |

Shorter Verbatim Naomi Wolf: “A Pakistani lawyer who is a fourth-generation scion of a major Pakistani political family explained what I keep hearing from many parts of the plugged in educated elite of the Middle East: ISIS, he said, is grassroots Wahabism – the extreme and brutal “version” of Islam (many moderates say it bears no likeness to Islam.) But these grassroots, uneducated, extremist people are funded heavily by a) Saudi Arabia b) Israel (!) and c) America.”

And don’t kid yourself, that American funding must be comeing from the evil feds, not our benevolent local overlords. And surely Ed Snowden is involved somehow.

…I should also say, for those who haven’t seen it, that I’m sort of burying the lede here: Wolf has strongly implied that the ISIS beheadings were staged and both the victims (“just happened to go into humantarian work?”) and their parents are actors.

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100 Years of Counter-Air

[ 18 ] October 5, 2014 |

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first aerial combat victory:

On August 25, Roland Garros and Lt. de Bernis became the first flyers to damage an enemy aircraft. Flying a Morane Parasol, they shot at a German airplane, which escaped in a dive, although one of the two men onboard was wounded. On September 7, Russian Pyotr Nesterov was the first pilot to destroy an enemy airplane, but he did it by ramming his Morane into an Austrian Albatros. Both air crews died as a result.

Then, on October 5, French pilot Sgt. Joseph Frantz and his mechanic/gunner, Louis Quénault, shot down a German biplane near Reims to record what is considered the first official aerial combat victory. Méchin tells the story in detail in this month’s edition of the French aviation history magazine Le Fana de l’aviation.

 


Histoire De L’Aviation -Ep02- Le Temps Des… by Fabinou92
French, but with some interesting footage of the machines of the time.

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This Day in Labor History: October 5, 1886

[ 13 ] October 5, 2014 |

On October 5, 1886, Henry George accepted the nomination of the United Labor Party for the mayor of New York City. Although a quixotic effort, both labor’s attempt to create an alternative to the two party system and the reformist ideas of Henry George were emblematic of how Americans attempted to understand the shock of industrial capitalism during the Gilded Age.

The rise of industrial capitalism after the Civil War disturbed many Americans, not because they opposed capitalism but because they thought it was going to create a relatively fair system. The promises of free labor ideology turned out to be lies for most Americans, as the power of corporations to control all aspects of American life meant that both factory labor and farm labor were denied the fruits of their work.

Into this void came many ideas. Most Americans believed the system of capitalism worked, but that it just needed a single tweak to reconstitute the equality of opportunity they believed it would bring. As the analysis of capitalism was not very sophisticated among most native-born Americans, the solutions to these problems tended to focus on the one thing that we could do that would fix everything. That could be the 8-hour day, Chinese exclusion, Bellamyism. Obviously Marx and Engels, not to mention many other socialists, had developed far more complex analyses of the problems of capitalism, but those would not become prominent in the U.S. for another decade, as they tended to arrive with the waves of immigrants that would begin in the 1880s.

Henry George made one of the most important forays in solving the problem of industrial capitalism. George started his political life as a Lincoln supporting Republican in the Civil War but soon came to criticize the growing system of industrial capitalism, especially the dominance of railroads over American life, as well as the perfidious influence of Chinese labor on white wages. In 1879, George published Progress and Poverty, arguing for the Single Tax as the surest way to bring corporations under control. The single tax was a basic property tax. At its core was the idea that people earned the value of own their own labor, but that land was a common resource for all and should essentially be quasi-socialized with very high taxes on large landowners. George’s ideas quickly spread beyond the U.S. and were especially popular with the English and Scottish working classes, as well as the Irish resisting British domination.

cartoon_george-henry_fighting-corruption-1886

Cartoon of Henry George fighting corruption, 1886

George had moved to New York in the early 1880s and became an obvious candidate when laborites and socialists decided to form a working class challenge to the duality of Tammany Democrats and plutocratic Republicans who both disdained a strong labor movement. His mayoral campaign generated a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. His campaign lasted less than a month, but he gave over 100 speeches around the city. Here is a bit from his acceptance speech, which you can read in full here. It gives you a good sense of George’s appeal:

See how we are crowded in New York. London has a population of 15,000 to the square mile. Canton, in crowded China, has 35,000 inhabitants within the same area. New York has 54,000 to the square mile, and leaving out the uninhabited portion it has a population of 85,000 to the square mile. In the Sixth Ward there is a population of 149,000 to the square mile; in the Tenth Ward, 276,000; in the Thirteenth, 224,000, including roads, yards, and all open places. Why, there is one block in this city that contains 2,500 living beings and every room in it a workshop. There is in one ward a tenement covering one quarter of an acre, which contains an average of 1,350 people. At that rate a square mile would contain 3,456,000. Nowhere else in the civilized world are men and women and children packed together so closely. As for children, they die almost as soon as they enter the world. In the district known as the Mulberry Bend, according to Commissioner Wingate’s report, there is an infant death-rate of 65 per cent, and in the tenement district he says that a large percentage of the children die before they are five years of age.

Now, is there any reason for such overcrowding? There is plenty of room on this island. There are miles and miles and miles of land all around this nucleus. Why cannot we take that and build houses upon it for our accommodation? Simply because it is held by dogs in the manger who will not use it themselves, nor allow anybody else to use it, unless they pay an enormous price for it—because what the Creator intended for the habitation of the people whom He called into being is held at an enormous rent or an enormous price. Did you ever think, men of New York, what you pay for the privilege of living in this country? I do not ask what you pay for bricks and mortar and wood, but for rent, and the rent is mainly the rent of the land. Bricks and mortar and wood are of no greater value here than they are in Long Island or in Iowa. When what is called real estate advances it is the land that is getting more valuable; it is not the houses. All this enormous value that the growth of population adds to the land of this city is taken by the few individuals and goes for the benefit of the idle rich, who look down upon those who earn their living by their labor.

But what do we propose to do about it? We propose, in the first place, as our platform indicates, to make the buildings cheaper by taking the tax off buildings. We propose to put that tax on land exclusive of improvements, so that a man who is holding land vacant will have to pay as much for it as if he was using it, just upon the same principle that a man who goes to a hotel and hires a room and takes the key and goes away would have to pay as much for it as if he occupied the room and slept in it. In that way we propose to drive out the dog in the manger who is holding from you what he will not use himself. We propose in that way to remove this barrier and open the land to the use of labor in putting up buildings for the accommodation of the people of the city. (applause) I am called a Socialist. I am really an individualist. I believe that every individual man ought to have an individual wife, and is entitled to an individual home. (applause) I think it is monstrous, such a state of society as exists in this city. Why, the children, thousands and thousands, have no place to play. It is a crime for them to play ball in the only place in which they can play ball. It is an offence for them to fly their kites. The children of the rich can go up to Central Park, or out into the country in the summer time; but the children of the poor, for them there is no playground in the city but the streets; it is some charity excursion which takes them out for a day, only to return them again to the same sweltering condition.

The United Labor Platform also had a provision against police interference in strikes, a reaction to police repression during the Haymarket violence, not to mention the remembered police violence of Tompkins Square a decade prior. George faced a rising Republican by the name of Theodore Roosevelt, a man who also stood for reform, albeit of a different kind. The Democrats responded the George threat with Abram Hewitt, who attacked Roosevelt as a tool of the plutocrats and set himself as a responsible working class voice, claiming that socialists and anarchists controlled the ULP. In the end, Hewitt won with 41 percent of the vote. George finished second with 31 percent and Roosevelt trailed in third with 28 percent.

cartoon george campaign 1886sm

Anti-George image counseling labor to shed anarchists, 1886

This was an auspicious start for an independent labor political movement, but, like most 3rd party challenges in American history, it was made up of diverse forces that collapsed almost immediately after the election. Specifically, it split over socialism in 1887, with the expelled socialists creating an alternative political party. The ULP tried to revive in some form for several years, but it never again made a serious run as a real labor challenge to the 2-party system. George slowly migrated to the Democratic Party in the last years of his life, supporting Grover Cleveland because they both opposed high tariffs. George suffered a stroke in 1890, recovered enough to campaign for William Jennings Bryan in 1896, and then died of another stroke in 1897, a week before another mayoral election in New York where he became a candidate on an anti-Tammany Democratic ticket.

photograph_george-henry_mayoral-campaign-poster-1897

Henry George campaign poster, 1897

This is the 120th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

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“Let me introduce my twin girls, Less Filling and Tastes Great”

[ 151 ] October 4, 2014 |

Someone call CPS. From an interview with Robert Duvall:

Do you intend to keep working for as long as you can?

Well, somewhat. I just finished directing a movie called “Wild Horses.” All we had was 2.2 million bucks and 23 days, but we had terrific people. Matthew McConaughey’s nephew, Miller Lyte McConaughey, is 8 years old, and he’s terrific in it. He has that wacko streak that that whole family has.

Miller Lyte McConaughey. I feel that some of you outraged by the LGM naming wars of the past will reconsider your position.

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