Day: 2014.12.08

A Quote: Blessed are the Whonow?

Money money money money ... money!

“Unhappy with the economic recovery in the United States? Could be worse.

“Specifically, we could be literally any other country in the world that also just went through a major financial crisis.”

Catherine Rampell

‘Tis a fair point.

Seven years after the credit bubble burst, just two of the 12 countries that went through systemic financial meltdowns in 2007 and 2008 have reclaimed enough ground to reach their previous peaks in per-capita GDP: the United States and Germany. And Germany isn’t looking so hot these days, given that it’s teetering on the edge of deflation.

Many of the other countries that also went through “systemic crises” — as categorized by the work of Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff — still have years to go before fully recovering. The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine will likely wait until 2018 before reaching their pre-crisis peaks in per capita GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund. Even countries that didn’t technically experience a systemic crisis when we did (such as China and Japan) appear to be in serious trouble. As the Economist recently put it, the United States is looking increasingly like a “lonely locomotive.”

It is something to bear in mind when we hear people complain about the economy. However, the flipside is pretty straightforward, as well: The gains are all going to the top. The idea that the economy is flying has little visible effect in the daily lives of many workers, though they have jobs and ought to be thankful and all that other stuff that we are supposed to acknowledge in lieu of pointing out that even still many to most workers are existing under conditions of wage stagnation while already being underpaid. That the economy is flying is a great reason for your rent to go up, and, apparently, a terrible reason for your wages to increase.

Still, though, the numbers are there; we cannot blame everything on the government. Some of this we need private-sector executives to answer for.

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Rampell, Catherine. “How the U.S. economy got its mojo back”. The Washington Post. 1 December 2014.

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Not A Joke: So the Devil and a Republican Walk Into a Bar ….

Tinfoil

A basic historical pattern, overlain with a veneer of myth: The Devil is found first in what oppresses, then what competes, then what shares.

An example of how this works in history: Once upon a time, a new sect emerged within a religious and cultural archetype; they found the Devil in the Roman government that oppressed them and their Jewish brethren who collaborated with the authorities. Over time, the new group developed its own distinct identity and began competing for new converts, investing the Devil in the pagan gods and goddesses; once this sect had its own power, though, the Christians they became turned on one another, finding the Devil within its own ranks and struggling internally for political power.

It is not just Jews and Christians; the process holds generally.

Which suggests one might wonder how that applies to other movements. The Tea Party arose, finding its Devil in liberalism; they competed against a form of authoritarianism, appealing to libertarians left and right with issues like drug reform—because you wanna get high, right?—and other such superficial appeals to freedom. But they also chose to compete within Republican ranks, which means much of that second stage involves peeling off votes from partisan allies. As a result, it might seem hard to distinguish at what point the Tea Party movement considers itself in charge and rolls against its own ranks.

Steve Benen’s blog post headline pretty much makes the point: “Republicans turn on each other over Benghazi conspiracy theories”. The punch line is nearly predictable:

That’s right, it’s come to this: Republicans have uncovered a conspiracy so vast, it involves Republicans who went looking for evidence of a conspiracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Republican Party, 2014 Midterm Edition.

The problem with humor is that it makes no difference if it does not relate to any identifiable stake; that is, in and of its own, this conduct would be kind of funny the way we all have to deal with the question about when it is appropriate to laugh at people who cannot help themselves. But the question of the stakes really sucks even the cruelest, pettiest humor away.

When I was a kid, we would say this sort of thing is “retarded”. And the word works well enough; much like flame-retardant pajamas, Republicans are truth-retardant politicians. Logic itself is retarded, distorted to the point of inhibition, by this tragic conservative perspective. But, you know, it’s a two-party system, so that means sometimes we have to throw them some bones. You know, wreck the hell out of some other people’s quality of life so that we don’t accidentally oppress Republicans by demanding they start dealing with reality.

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Benen, Steve. “Republicans turn on each other over Benghazi conspiracy theories”. msnbc. 5 December 2014.

Hope, Obscure, Refusing to Die

Detail of 'Animal Nuz #228' by Eric Lewis, 6 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Sometimes amid the noise and bluster we might feel an angry impulse toward something that seems almost absurd by comparison. Yet it also seems inevitable that there is a lesson waiting to be learned. Eric Lewis reminds us of something very, very important that happened this week; the United States is moving back toward its very own manned space program.

But no. We can’t possibly pause to celebrate that, can we? Because we’re all too busy giving attention-hungry cops exactly the sort of sycophantic celebrity they’re after.

It is worth noting that controversial professor Leonard Jeffries used to denounce the space program as an effort by white people to spread their filth across the Universe. It’s only about a quarter-century later, and perhaps the most disgraceful thing about that rhetorical temper tantrum is the effort American society has devoted to proving it true.

Space exploration is something to be celebrated; getting the hell off its rock is one of the fundamental purposes of the living endeavor. This arrangement of matter and energy can last as long as the Universe itself allows, unless Life destroys itself first. Yet Lewis makes an important point: When the time comes, can we please leave the racism behind?

Everybody wins that way; the human endeavor can properly advance, and the hatemongers can finally start feeling like they’ve got a place to call home. And when they look around at the wreck of whatever is left, they can celebrate that they finally got what they wanted, the whole trash heap of human existence on planet Earth all to themselves.

Evolution is supposed to coincide with progress. Oh, you romantic American rebels, you.