Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Giant Sucking Sound of History Disappearing

I won't have a chance to write a post before the final episode of CSPAN's The Contenders airs tomorrow night, so I'll just copy an email that I sent a friend a couple of weeks ago:

Hey C..,

I saw this guy on TV back in Sept when the 3rd medicine was really wiping me out. I saw him a few times, and he always said something like:
Mr. Smith said he perceived "The Contenders" to be an alternative to the constant coverage of the current Republican primary campaign, but relevant to the coverage too. Take Mr. Perot, for instance. "Perot put the deficit on the agenda in a way that made it virtually impossible for whoever won to avoid doing something about it," he said. New York Times Sept. 8, 2011

He also implied that Perot gave the election to Clinton, which seems plausible, perhaps likely (to most people), but isn't backed by polling data. He never got challenged on either point. I don't really care about the election part, except or the fact it's a Republican talking point to try make Conservative Republicanism seem like the mainstream. If you look at the guy's bio, you'll see that he's a Repub at a school (a state school) that conservatives and libertarians are taking over.

Anyway, you were a Perot supporter, didn't he talk about two deficits? In fact, didn't he talk about the trade deficit at least much as, probably more than, the budget deficit? I'd have a lot more respect for Tea Party supporters if people who are old enough to remember when there was concern about two deficits, showed concern for both deficits.

The rest of the email was personal, but of course the answer was yes, Perot was at least as concerned about the trade deficit as the federal budget deficit. My memory is that from 1980 (the first election in which I was old enough to vote) until some point in the 1990's* there was roughly equal concern over both deficits, but I'll have more on that in another post.

I can't call Richard Norton Smith a lazy researcher with a biased memory or a partisan hack until tomorrow night's episode airs and I can see how much attention he pays to Perot's concern with both deficits, but the September promos all left out the same thing, and I thought I heard a giant sucking sound.

*Concern over trade imbalances possibly started fading with 1985 Plaza Accord, but I don't think it completely disappeared from the sphere of legitimate discourse until the passage of NAFTA divided the Democratic Party and globalization protesters were marginalized as kooks in the Nineties.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Theme Song of the Professional Center-Left

I guess some thoughts are obvious, but hearing people who can't even admit that they were duped when they joined the Obama Fan Club express scorn, or even just skepticism, toward people who at least understand that much*...

*Certainly not a description of everybody involved in OWS, but a partial description of a sizable percentage.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Suicides in China, unemployment in Silicon Valley

In July of 2010, Andy Grove wrote a commentary for Business Week titled "How to make an American job (before it's too late)." The article created a stir last year, but seems to have been totally forgotten a year later, so I'd recommend that you read (or re-read) the whole thing.*

However, due to recent events, I'm reminded of a particular passage in the article:
Today, manufacturing employment in the U.S. computer industry is about 166,000, lower than it was before the first PC, the MITS Altair 2800, was assembled in 1975. Meanwhile, an effective computer-manufacturing industry has emerged in Asia, employing about 1.5 million workers.

The largest of these companies is Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn. The company's revenues last year were $62 billion, larger than Apple or Intel. Foxconn employs more than 800,000 people, more than the combined worldwide head count of Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard.

Until a recent spate of suicides at Foxconn's giant factory complex in Shenzhen, China, few Americans had heard of the company. But most know the products it makes: computers for Dell and Hewlett-Packard, Nokia, cellphones, Microsoft Xbox 360 consoles, Intel motherboards and countless other familiar gadgets.

Some 250,000 Foxconn employees in southern China produce Apple's products. Apple, meanwhile, has about 25,000 employees in the U.S. That means for every Apple worker in the U.S. there are 10 people in China working on iMacs, iPods and iPhones. The same roughly 10-to-1 relationship holds for Dell, disk-drive maker Seagate Technology and other U.S. tech companies.

Everybody's upset about Steve Jobs' illness; I'm more upset about lives destroyed in China and livelihoods ruined in America.

*Alternate one page link that might be somewhat abbreviated.

Monday, June 13, 2011


From The New York Review of Books:
Cassandra Among the Banksters
June 23, 2011
Benjamin M. Friedman

The banksters, as some people have taken to calling them, have had a mixed run lately.1
1 I first encountered the word in John Lanchester's I.O.U. (Simon and Schuster, 2010).

Is he serious? A writer for the New York Review, a professor of Political Economy at Harvard, first encountered the word "bankster" in a book that was published in 2010. Is that possible?

On the other hand:

The National Journal reports:
Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who has run for president before, did little to shake his image as a fringe candidate by talking too fast and dropping obscure subjects like “Keynesian bubble" and “monetary policy" into the conversation.

Is it possible that "Washington's premier source of nonpartisan insight on politics and policy" considers "monetary policy" an obscure subject?

I know, if you read blogs, you've seen that kind of thing pointed out a zillion on the Internet, but sometimes the unintentional self-parody is impossible to ignore.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I hate typed sighs

But I exhaled audibly when I read James Gill's column today:
So many voters had pegged Ray Nagin for a doofus by 2006 that he could barely raise a dollar for his re-election campaign.
There can be little doubt that we'd all have been better off had Nagin lost. It is highly unlikely, for instance, that Landrieu would have wrecked Armstrong Park by entrusting its renovation to a company owned by a felon and staffed by incompetents. Get rid of Nagin, the concrete gets poured properly and Satchmo's statue keeps all his toes.
If Meffert and St. Pierre did push Nagin over the top in that election, they bear a more terrible responsibility than one ruined park. Without Nagin, there would have been no Ed Blakely to screw up the Katrina recovery.
Meffert and St. Pierre were cock-a-hoop when Nagin was re-elected, but they must now rue the day. They could never have dug themselves into this deep a hole if we hadn't had a doofus for mayor.

James Gill wishes Nagin hadn't been re-elected, but "doofus" is the worst name he can call Nagin -- he still can't bring himself to question Nagin's integrity. I guess the poor doofus was just led astray by the suave, smooth-talking Greg Meffert.

One problem with that theory is that we've heard it before. In early 2005, the local press began to question Nagin's integrity, but quickly decided he had been taken advantage of by Charles Rice and his "Billy Carter brother-in-law". Billboard Ben isn't the only forgotten man in this story.

At any rate, prior to Katrina, the local press corps, including James Gill, knew that there had been ethical lapses within the Nagin Administration but somehow decided that Nagin was not personally involved. After Katina, questions about Nagin's personal integrity were, for some reason, off limits, and it would be at least a couple of years before local journalists even questioned the integrity of Nagin's associates.

How did that doofus get re-elected?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Nothing that a rich conservative says is too much for Joe Kernan

The really venomous stuff starts about seven minutes in. Notice how strongly Kernan agrees with Faber when it gets to be a little too much for Becky Quick. If I understood Faber correctly, the hard-working rich are punishing the lazy, illiterate poor by exporting the jobs that they're too lazy to do.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'll bet on the computer

I didn’t watch Jeopardy yesterday, but I suspect that one human would have a better chance against two computers than two humans would have against one computer. Actually, I think that having IBM's Watson palying one game against Brad Rutter and one against Ken Jennings would be a better test than having the computer play two games against both. I'll expalin why after today's match.

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